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September 12, 2007, 8:11 PM CT

Putting stem cell research on the fast track

Putting stem cell research on the fast track
Dordick's team is able to use this 3-D platform to test millions of stem cells in one experiment.

Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/Tiago Fernandez
Engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed tools to help solve two of the main problems slowing the progress of stem cell research how to quickly test stem cell response to different drugs or genes, and how to create a large supply of healthy, viable stem cells to study from only a few available cells.

The scientists have created methods to study millions of stems cells on devices the size of a standard microscope slide. The techniques enable thousands of individual stem cell experiments to be carried out quickly and in parallel on one small device.

Rensselaer is quickly establishing itself as leader in the development of stem cell technology that hastens the speed and accuracy of stem cell research, Provost Robert Palazzo said. Our researchers and engineers are filling a vital niche in the global scientific effort to develop medical therapies using stem cells. Tools like these, which enable high-throughput study of stem cells, will quickly advance stem cell research in medical labs around the world.

The two groups of scientists used microarrays to develop miniaturized stem cell laboratories. With this technique scientists can perform high-throughput analysis of the material or cells on a single slide, analyzing tens of thousands of samples in one experiment. Each of the teams developed separate specialized microarray platforms.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 8:03 PM CT

Taxol bristle ball: a wrench in the works for cancer

Taxol bristle ball: a wrench in the works for cancer
Using gold nanoparticles, Rice chemists have created tiny spheres that literally bristle with molecules of the anti-cancer drug Taxol.

Credit: Eugene Zubarev/Rice University
Rice University chemists have discovered a way to load dozens of molecules of the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel onto tiny gold spheres. The result is a tiny ball, a number of times smaller than a living cell that literally bristles with the drug.

Paclitaxel, which is sold under the brand name Taxol, prevents cancer cells from dividing by jamming their inner works.

"Paclitaxel is one of the most effective anti-cancer drugs, and a number of scientists are exploring how to deliver much more of the drug directly to cancer cells," said lead researcher Eugene Zubarev, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Young Investigator and assistant professor of chemistry at Rice. "We looked for an approach that would clear the major hurdles people have encountered -- solubility, drug efficacy, bioavailability and uniform dispersion -- and our initial results look very promising".

The research is available online and will appear in the Sept. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007, vol. 129, pgs.11653-11661).

First isolated from the bark of the yew tree in 1967, paclitaxel is one of the most widely prescribed chemotherapy drugs in use today. The drug is used to treat breast, ovarian and other cancers.

Paclitaxel works by attaching itself to structural supports called microtubules, which form the framework inside living cells. In order to divide, cells must break down their internal framework, and paclitaxel stops this process by locking the support into place.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 8:01 PM CT

Clinical Trials Present Better Alternatives for Dialysis Patients

Clinical Trials Present Better Alternatives for Dialysis Patients
But an unhealthy kidney costs more-about $16 billion more, as per Prabir Roy-Chaudhury, MD, PhD, associate professor in the division of nephrology and high blood pressure at the University of Cincinnati (UC).

"It costs about $17 billion a year to care for patients with end-stage kidney disease," he said.

There are currently over 320,000 people undergoing hemodialysis in the United States, a process that costs taxpayers a minimum of $60,000 per patient annually,.

Hemodialysis is a technique in which a machine filters wastes out of a patient's blood once the kidney fails.

"In order to perform successful dialysis, it's critical to have a functioning vascular access," Roy-Chaudhury said.

There are two main types of permanent dialysis access: an arteriovenous fistula, which connects the artery and the vein directly, and an arteriovenous graft, which connects the artery and the vein using a plastic tube.

Unfortunately, these connections may only last between six and 12 months due to stenosis, or narrowing of the veins.

As a result, hemodialysis patients often have repeated hospital admissions and surgeries in order to keep their dialysis access open.

In fact, problems linked to vascular access are probably the biggest factors that reduce the quality of life for hemodialysis patients, Roy-Chaudhury said.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 7:02 PM CT

Best solution for managing chronic pain

Best solution for managing chronic pain
Approximately 30% of Canadians suffer daily from chronic pain. Patients may be affected differently depending on the intensity, but all chronic pain is debilitating and difficult to treat. A study carried out by Louise Lamb, a physician nurse at the Pain Centre of the Montreal University Health Centre (MUHC), and Dr. Yoram Shir, the Director of the Centre, shows that methadone in combination with innovative and high-quality case management can provide relief for a number of patients. The study results are reported in the recent issue of Pain Management Nursing.

Methadone is most often linked to drug addiction therapy, yet this opioid is regularly used in hospital settings to relieve acute pain from cancer or arthritis or following an accident.

Because the body metabolizes methadone slowly, intense monitoring is mandatory to avoid toxicity. As an ambulatory centre, we needed a way to monitor patients effectively after they go home with their prescriptions, explained Ms. Lamb. The centre implemented an innovative program and then measured its precise impact by following 75 patients over 9 months. Patients, with their family members, began with an education session. They received medicine information and therapy guidelines, as well as a diary so they could note any related changes of the pain intensity, and its associated impact on mood and activities. The pain diary is a very important tool as it allows us to track symptoms. Also, paying attention to bodily changes helps patients become more aware of their physical state, stated Ms. Lamb.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 6:41 PM CT

building blocks of memory

building blocks of memory
A new contact is established between nerve cells within minutes after a learning stimulus. Yet it takes up to one day until information can be exchanged. It is highly probable that already existing contacts will be displaced by the new connection.
Image: Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology, Martinsried
"I really have to strain my brain to understand this!" - Who hasn't experienced this, or something like it, when it comes to trying to understand something complicated? Researchers have only recently been able to show that this is not very far-fetched. For whenever we learn something new, regardless of how complicated it is, our "little grey cells", or neurons, grow new contacts to their neighboring cells. If the new information is retained, then such contacts become stable. However, what is the time frame for the development of these connections? Is the exchange of information possible immediately after two nerve cells make contact? And what happens in the brain when new information dispels old information, for example, when learning a new language, which can result in the fading of knowledge of a previously learned language? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology are now able to provide some answers to these questions.

The Martinsried-based neurobiologists, in cooperation with colleagues in Zurich, have been investigating the relation between the development of new cell contacts, called "spines", and the creation of functional synapses. Synapses enable the transfer of information between cells. The researchers have been focusing their experiments on nerve cells from the hippocampus, the brain region that is essential for learning and memory processes. In order to intentionally cause the nerve cells to react, the researchers stimulated a group of neurons via a short electrical impulse of high frequency. It is a known fact that this type of electrical stimulation causes the formation of new spines - similar to what happens during learning processes. The key question, however, whether and when these new spines actually form functional synapses and thus play a role in memory functions has, thus far, remained unanswered.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 6:39 PM CT

Area responsible for self-control

Area responsible for self-control
Brain area in the fronto-median cortex that was activated when participants intentionally withhold a planned action in the last moment

Image: Max Planck Instiute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
The results illuminate a very important aspect of the brain's control of behavior, the ability to hold off doing something after you've developed the intention to do it-one might call it 'free won't' as opposed to free will," says Martha Farah, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania. "It is very important to identify the circuits that enable 'free won't' because of the a number of psychiatric disorders for which self-control problems figure prominently-from attention deficit disorder to substance dependence and various personality disorders." Farah was not involved in the experiment.

The findings broaden understanding of the neural basis for decision making, or free will, and may help explain why some individuals are impulsive while others are reluctant to act, says lead author Marcel Brass, PhD, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and Ghent University. Brass and Patrick Haggard, PhD, of University College London, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brain activity of participants pressing a button at times they chose themselves. They compared data from these trials to results when the participants prepared to hit the button, then decided to hold back or veto the action.

Fifteen right-handed participants were asked to press a button on a keyboard. They were asked to choose some cases in which they stopped just before pressing the button. Participants also indicated on a clock the time at which they intended to press the button or decided to hold back. When Brass and Haggard compared fMRI images of the two scenarios, they observed that pulling back yielded activity in the dorsal fronto-median cortex (dFMC), an area on the midline of the brain directly above the eyes, which did not show up when participants followed through and made the action. In addition, those who chose to stop the intended action most often showed greatest contrast in dFMC activity.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 6:07 PM CT

Probing History Of Genes With New Tool

Probing History Of Genes With New Tool
A scanning electron micrograph of one of the seventeen fungal species analyzed in the study. Image courtesy / Janice Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The wheels of evolution turn on genetic innovation -- new genes with new functions appear, allowing organisms to grow and adapt in new ways. But deciphering the history of how and when various genes appeared, for any organism, has been a difficult and largely intractable task.

Now a team led by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has broken new ground by developing a method, described in the September 6 advance online edition of Nature, that can reveal the ancestry of all genes across a number of different genomes. First applied to 17 species of fungi, the approach has unearthed some surprising clues about why new genes pop up in the first place and the biological nips and tucks that bolster their survival.

"Having the ability to trace the history of genes on a genomic scale opens the doors to a vast array of interesting and largely unexplored scientific questions," said senior author Aviv Regev, an assistant professor of biology at MIT and a core member of the Broad Institute. Eventhough the principles laid out in the study pertain to fungi, they could have relevance to a variety of other species as well.

It has been recognized for decades that new genes first arise as carbon copies of existing genes. It is thought that this replication allows one of the gene copies to persist normally, while giving the other the freedom to acquire novel biological functions. Though the importance of this so-called gene duplication process is well appreciated -- it is the grist for the mill of evolutionary change -- the actual mechanics have remained murky, in part because researchers have lacked the tools to study it systematically.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


September 11, 2007, 11:37 PM CT

Aspartame is safe, study says

Aspartame is safe, study says
Looking at more than 500 reports, including toxicological, clinical and epidemiological studies dating from 1970s preclinical work to the latest studies on the high-intensity sweetener, along with use levels and regulations data, an international expert panel from 10 universities and medical schools reviewed the safety of aspartame for people of all ages and with a variety of health conditions. Their study is reported in the recent issue of Critical Reviews in Toxicology.

There have been continued questions in the media and on the internet about the safety of aspartame, said panel member and University of Maryland food and nutrition professor Bernadene Magnuson. Our study is a very comprehensive review of all of the research thats been done on aspartame. Never before has a group with the breadth of experience of this panel looked at this question.



Aspartame


A non-nutritive sweetener, aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose, the accepted standard for sweetness. Though aspartame has the same number of calories as sugar on a weight-to-weight basis, it can be added to food or pharmaceuticals at a fraction of what would be needed with sucrose to achieve the same sweetness, with far fewer calories.

Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965, and since then has become a popular sweetener in more than 6000 food and pharmaceutical products that range from soft drinks to ketchup.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


September 11, 2007, 11:36 PM CT

Glaucoma surgery in the blink of an eye

Glaucoma surgery in the blink of an eye
TAU Prof. Ehud Assia and Dr. Ami Eyel (IOPtima) use the laser in a pre-clinical trial.

Credit: AFTAU
Prof. Ehud Assia, of Tel Aviv Universitys Sackler School of Medicine is, quite simply, a rock star in the field of eye surgery.

One of a small number of surgeons in the world who currently perform a complicated form of glaucoma surgery, Prof. Assia has developed a novel laser device that promises to revolutionize therapy of the disease. The laser, called the OTS134 for now, is expected to give most practicing eye surgeons the ability to master complex glaucoma surgery very quickly.

Glaucoma, nicknamed the silent sight thief, is the second leading cause of blindness in the West. Glaucoma is a serious problem that starts to cause nerve damage to people without them realizing that anything is happening to their eyesight, often before it is too late, says Prof. Assia, who is also the director of Ophthalmology at Meir Hospital in Israel, which treats thousands of glaucoma patients each year.

The most common surgical therapy in use today perforates the wall of the eye, often resulting in collapse of the eyeball, infection, cataract formation and other complications. A more effective and elegant approach, a specialty of Prof. Assia's, involves penetration of the eye wall to a depth of only about 95 percent, leaving a razor-thin layer intact. The difference between success and failure may amount to just a few microns.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


September 11, 2007, 11:34 PM CT

New Clues to Breast Cancer Development

New Clues to Breast Cancer Development
Physicians who treat women with the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1 often remove their patients' ovaries to eliminate the source of estrogen they believe fuels cancer growth. Yet they also know that anti-estrogen therapies don't work to treat breast or ovary cancer that might develop. That paradox has led researchers to question exactly how, or if, estrogen is involved in cancer development and whether removal of ovaries makes sense.

Now, a team of scientists from Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center have shed light on the mechanism that makes ovary removal protective against tumor development in this unique population. They discovered that estrogen is needed to start the cancer process, but then the BRCA1 mutations somehow render the new tumors unresponsive to estrogen, producing cancer that is more aggressive and difficult to treat.

As per a research findings published electronically on July 23 in the journal Oncogene, Georgetown scientists observed that mutations of the BRCA1 gene can cause the estrogen-signaling pathway to go awry after cancer starts to grow. The mutated gene somehow causes the tumor cells to stop expressing the estrogen receptor, a protein that sits on the surface of the cell and recognizes the presence of the hormone. This means that these cancers lose sensitivity to estrogen (and potent anti-estrogen therapies like Tamoxifen) after tumors begin to form.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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