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Tiny flies could lead to understanding potential for non-embryonic stem cells

Tiny flies could lead to understanding potential for non-embryonic stem cells
CONTACT: Vince Stricherz 206-543-2580

It has long been thought that cells that regenerate tissue do so by regressing to a developmentally younger state. Now two University of Washington researchers have demonstrated that cells can regenerate without becoming "younger."
Biologists for years have studied stem cells, the ones responsible for replenishing and regenerating an organism's structures, aiming to find the means to selectively regenerate tissue such as that of the heart or liver in much the same way that the body heals a broken leg.

Much hope rests with non-embryonic stem cells, which can renew themselves and, within limits, produce all the specialized cell types from the type of tissue in which they originate. But scientists have puzzled over just how such cells function, how they can be spurred to create new tissue, and just when in their development it is determined what tissue they can produce.

Gerold Schubiger, a UW biology professor, and Anne Sustar, a research technician in his laboratory, used groups of cells, called imaginal discs, in fruit fly larvae to provide an easily controlled system to study regeneration. Imaginal discs convert genetic information that determines the specific tissue into which the cells will develop in the adult fly. For example, leg discs form only adult legs and wing discs form only adult wings. Normally, all of those cells develop into that specific tissue, either when the fly reaches the adult stage or when regenerating a lost structure, such as parts of a leg disc.

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WI Follows MI in Internet Cigarette Tax Crackdown

Doyle targets cigarette sales over the Internet
Posted: Feb. 27, 2005
Madison - Gov. Jim Doyle wants to crack down on Internet sellers of cigarettes, which Wisconsin officials say are not paying the 77-cent state tax on a pack of cigarettes and may be illegally selling to minors.

Lobbyists for grocers and convenience stores say they've been pushing for years for some type of state crackdown on Internet sellers who undercut their tobacco prices and mail directly to Wisconsin smokers. They said they are pleased that Doyle included changes in state law as part of his 2005-'07 budget.

"There are hundreds - probably over 1,000 - Internet sites that compete with lawful bricks-and-mortar retailers," said Bob Bartlett, president of the Wisconsin Association of Convenience Stores.

"Many of these out-of-state Internet sites charge no state excise taxes or have no quality age verification to prevent underage sales," he said.

"On behalf of over 2,500 retailers, we support putting a stop to this tax evasion."

Full story.

Earlier story on Michigan's Crackdown.

For GE, image is everything

For GE, image is everything
GE Healthcare's interventional cardiology division has had double-digit growth in orders since 2004
Posted: Feb. 27, 2005

When Laura King took over half of GE Healthcare's fastest-growing business a year ago, she made sweeping changes.

King, one of the highest-ranking women at the company, modified the way its interventional cardiology division sells to and communicates with customers, including doctors and others using its equipment.

She put more emphasis on GE Healthcare remotely monitoring more than 3,000 of these systems, which are used for diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease. The equipment is repaired remotely whenever possible, she said.

Customers say King has made a difference.

Full story.

Seminar uses humanities to teach students to think about non-technical side of medicine

Rounding out new doctors' training
Seminar uses humanities to teach students to think about non-technical side of medicine
Last Updated: Feb. 26, 2005

As Ludwig von Beethoven's doctor, you have the power to cure his deafness, but your cure will almost certainly end his career.

Do you cure him?

That's one of the questions five would-be doctors grappled with this month at a Medical College of Wisconsin seminar exploring the relationship between medicine and the humanities.

Full story.

WHO members urged to sign Kyoto-style medical treaty

WHO members urged to sign Kyoto-style medical treaty
By Andrew Jack in London
Published: February 25 2005 02:00 | Last updated: February 25 2005 02:00

Countries around the world should sign up to a Kyoto-style treaty designed to boost medical innovation and affordable treatment, according to a petition submitted yesterday to the World Health Organisation by non-governmental organisations, academics and politicians.

Member states should pledge to invest a percentage of their gross domestic product in medical innovation, and would be allowed to trade "credits" with others through a mechanism similar to that in the Kyoto protocol designed to reduce environmental emissions.

They should also consider redirecting funding away from a traditional model based on intellectual property protection, and encourage the use of open sourcing to stimulate the sharing of information among medical researchers.

The letter, which draws on a draft medical research and development treaty drawn up over the past two years, is part of a broader debate on how to boost innovative research and development at a time when the "pipelines" of new medicines of the large pharmaceutical groups have been drying up.

It is also designed to address concerns that the current system does not have the incentives to encourage research into finding treatments for many "neglected diseases" in the developing world, which affect millions of people with only modest means to pay for medicines.

Full story.

BTCI's Fourth Annual International Bioethics Forum to Focus on Biotechnology and the Brain

Fourth Annual International Bioethics Forum
Biotechnology and the Brain: From Therapy to Enhancement
April 21-22, 2005; BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute, Madison, WI

Focusing on the interface between neuroscience, molecular biology, medical applications and ethics, keynote presentations and concurrent sessions are designed to facilitate participants’ understanding of:
•Current scientific research related to neurological disorders
• Ethical issues related to this research and its potential applications
• The diversity of viewpoints regarding these issues
• The complexities involved in both the scientific and ethical dimensions of these topics

Link for more information.

WI Higher Education Consortium Formed to Attract "Classified and Sensitive" Federal Research Dollars

State covets classified research
Higher education consortium formed to draw federal money
Posted: Feb. 24, 2005

Several of Wisconsin's institutions of higher education have agreed to organize a consortium designed to attract classified and sensitive federal research funds to the state.

The Wisconsin Technology Council will be the administrative headquarters of the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium, according to a memorandum of agreement. Representatives of the University of Wisconsin System, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Marshfield Clinic have signed the agreement.

The idea of such a consortium has been talked about on and off for the last year, said Tom Still, the technology council's president, who also signed the memorandum. The council, based in Madison, is a private non-profit created by the state Legislature to act as a science and technology policy adviser to the governor and lawmakers.

A major job of the council in the consortium would be to connect university experts with Wisconsin companies that receive federal funds stipulating some sensitive or classified work. Policy-makers and others have long complained that the state does not attract nearly enough federal money.

There are no plans for the consortium to build specialized research facilities; if anything, it would be a "virtual" consortium, Still said.

Full story.

Lawsuits Filed to Stop CA's $3 Billion Stem Cell Institute

Lawsuits Filed to Invalidate California's $3 Billion Stem Cell Institute
By Paul Elias February 24, 2005

AP Biotechnology Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Conservative public interest groups with ties to Christian organizations filed lawsuits Tuesday seeking to invalidate the $3 billion stem cell research institution approved by California voters in November.

One lawsuit alleges the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine violates state law because it's not governed exclusively by the state government, and the committee that controls the research money it will dole out isn't publicly elected.

The institute was created by California voters when they approved a $3 billion bond to fund stem cell research over the next decade. Proposition 71 was passed by 59 percent of voters.

The suit was filed by the People's Advocate and the National Tax Limitation Foundation. A separate suit was filed by a newly created nonprofit called Californians for Public Accountability and Ethical Science.

Full story.

Pfizer to buy Idun Pharmaceuticals

Pfizer to Buy Idun Pharmaceuticals
02.24.2005, 10:42 AM

Pfizer Inc. reported Thursday that it agreed to buy privately held biopharmaceutical company Idun Pharmaceuticals Inc. for its caspase inhibitor technology, which is designed to help control cell death, and its patent portfolio.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Pfizer said it expects the transaction to close during the second quarter.

Caspases are a group of cellular proteases, or enzymes that cause the decomposition of protein, that are involved with inflammation and apoptosis, or cell death. The San Diego-based company's lead caspase inhibitor, IDN-6556, is in mid-stage clinical trials for use in liver transplant patients and patients infected with hepatitis C. Pfizer said the treatment is well tolerated and significantly improves markers of liver damage.

Full story.

Open-source heads called for Oasis standard boycott

Open-source heads called for Oasis standard boycott
Tensions over patents and royalties continue throughout industry.

By Matthew Broersma, Techworld

Open-source leaders have called for a boycott of standards from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), in response to a new OASIS policy on the use of patents in its standards.

In an open letter, more than two dozen prominent figures, including Tim O'Reilly, Bruce Perens, Eric Raymond, Lawrence Rosen, Richard Stallman, Lawrence Lessig and Stuart Cohen, said the patent licensing terms allowed by OASIS' policy "invariably and unreasonably discriminate against open source and free software to the point of prohibiting them entirely". The policy will "lead to the adoption of standards that cannot be implemented in open source and free software, that cannot be distributed under our licenses", the letter stated.

OASIS' revised policy, set to take effect on 15 April, allows standards to include patented technology if the technology is available for license under "reasonable and non-discriminatory" (RAND) terms. However, RAND terms effectively exclude open-source software, which by its nature must be free to distribute with no strings attached.

Full story.