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Attacking cancer's sweet tooth is effective strategy against tumors

Attacking cancer's sweet tooth is effective strategy against tumors

Mice lacking sugar-metabolizing pathway outlive four-month experiment

Boston-An ancient avenue for producing cellular energy, the glycolytic pathway, could provide a surprisingly rich target for anti-cancer therapies. A team of Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers knocked down one of the pathway's enzymes, LDHA, in a variety of fast-growing breast cancer cells, effectively shutting down glycolysis, and implanted the cells in mice. Control animals carrying tumor cells with an intact glycolytic pathway did not survive beyond 10 weeks. In striking contrast, only two of the LDHA-deficient mice died, one at 16 weeks, another at just over 18 weeks. Eighty percent of the mice outlived the four month experiment. The findings by Valeria Fantin, Julie St-Pierre, and Philip Leder appear in the June Cancer Cell.

"This is an exciting contribution that reveals a surprising Achilles heel in cancer cells. It also adds to our sense of opportunity for new avenues of cancer therapeutics," said Stuart Schrieber, Morris Loeb professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University.

As a tumor grows, cells crowd one another and may be cut off from oxygen-carrying blood vessels--a distinct disadvantage since most cells require oxygen to produce the bulk of their energy-storing adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In the 1920s, Otto Warburg proposed that some cancer cells evolved the ability to switch over to an ancient, oxygen-free route, the glycolytic pathway. What is more, they continue to use this pathway even when access to oxygen is restored. Though the so-called Warburg effect has since been confirmed, the role played by glycolysis in cancer has been largely ignored. Few have attempted to attack specific points along the glycolytic pathway to gain a therapeutic effect.

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Senate to Consider Stem Cell Proposals

Senate to Consider Stem Cell Proposals
Fertility Patients Could Donate Embryos

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 30, 2006; Page A05

Senate leaders from both parties agreed yesterday to schedule a vote on a package of bills that would loosen President Bush's five-year-old restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research.

With head counts suggesting there are enough votes to pass the legislation and with Bush having promised he would veto it, yesterday's action sets the stage for what could be the first full-blown showdown between the chamber and the president.

Full story.

Researchers seek share of seed money

Researchers seek share of seed money
220 apply for funds from UW institute
Posted: June 30, 2006

Researchers from a wide range of disciplines, universities, and companies such as 3M, Amgen and GE Healthcare have submitted 220 applications for $3 million in seed money from the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

The proposals include more than 1,225 potential collaborations between University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and their counterparts at other academic institutions and private industry, Andrew Cohn, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, known as WARF, said Thursday.

A committee led by Paul Peercy, dean of the UW-Madison engineering college, will evaluate the proposals by August, and invite successful applicants to submit full proposals by October 1, Cohn said.

WARF and other organizers of the planned $150 million Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery hope to create a center for interdisciplinary research, and to help commercialize discoveries.

The seed grant program is the first step toward the establishment of that center where researchers from across the UW-Madison campus can work with others from private industry and schools around the world to attack disease and other issues, and advance regenerative medicine using tools such as embryonic stem cells.

Full story.

New process makes diesel fuel and industrial chemicals from simple sugar

New process makes diesel fuel and industrial chemicals from simple sugar

MADISON - The soaring prices of oil and natural gas have sparked a race to make transportation fuels from plant matter instead of petroleum. Both biodiesel and gasoline containing ethanol are starting to make an impact on the market.

But the oil price hike has also fueled a race to find new sources for chemical intermediates - compounds that are the raw material for many modern plastics, drugs and fuels. Behind the scenes, American industry uses millions of tons of chemical intermediates, which are largely sourced from petroleum or natural gas.

James Dumesic, a University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical and biological engineering professor, reports in the June 30 issue of the journal Science on a better way to make a chemical intermediate called HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) from fructose - fruit sugar. HMF can be converted into plastics, diesel-fuel additive, or even diesel fuel itself, but is seldom used because it is costly to make.

The new process goes beyond making fuel from plants to make industrial chemicals from plants. "Trying to understand how to use catalytic processes to make chemicals and fuel from biomass is a growing area," says Dumesic, who directed the HMF research. "Instead of using the ancient solar energy locked up in fossil fuels, we are trying to take advantage of the carbon dioxide and modern solar energy that crop plants pick up."

The new, patent-pending method for making HMF is a balancing act of chemistry, pressure, temperature and reactor design. After a catalyst converts fructose into HMF, the HMF moves to a solvent that carries it to a separate location, where the HMF is extracted. Although other researchers had previously converted fructose into HMF, Dumesic's research group made a series of improvements that raised the HMF output, and also made the HMF easier to extract.

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Business goes to bat for stem cell research

Business goes to bat for stem cell research
Cary Spivak & Dan Bice

Even before they get their names on the ballot, legislative candidates - even those who don't have a prayer of getting elected - are being thrust into the heated debate on one of the most emotionally charged issues:

Embryonic stem cell research.

A trio of business groups is so eager to stay at the front of the issue that it's firing off letters to every statehouse candidate urging support for the controversial research.

"At a time when Wisconsin is seeking to succeed in the new, knowledge-based economy, it is irresponsible for us to turn our backs on this life-saving research," wrote Mark Bugher, director of the University Research Park, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce President James Haney, and Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

"Supporting pioneering research on human embryonic stem cells sends a positive message to the scientists, science-based companies and communities that already call Wisconsin home. Without that support, attracting, retaining and nurturing new high-tech companies becomes extremely difficult if not impossible."

Bugher described the unusual effort as a pre-emptive strike to get candidates ready for the questionnaires they are sure to receive from special-interest groups on the other side of the issue.

"We're trying to be a little bit more responsive to the charges that will be leveled by the right-to-life groups," said Bugher, a former top aide to Gov. Tommy Thompson, an ardent supporter of the research. "It's sort of a counterbalance to the right-to-life groups."

The letter was even more pointed, noting that states such as California are throwing millions into research and recruitment in the burgeoning scientific field.

"This reality, coupled with the efforts of special interests opposed to such research, threatens to undermine and even criminalize the work of Wisconsin scientists and derail Wisconsin's ability to contribute in a meaningful way to life-saving stem cell research efforts," the letter says.

The reaction of Wisconsin Right to Life was predictable.

"We're very disappointed with them . . . very disappointed," said Susan Armacost, the chief lobbyist for the group best known for its opposition to abortion. "It is irresponsible to be calling this life-saving research when they have no idea whether it is or not."

She also tossed aside arguments that the work is needed to create and protect jobs.

"We all want economic development in our state," Armacost said. "But, you know, what length do we go to to get it?"

Full story.

Stealth radar system sees through trees, walls -- undetected

Stealth radar system sees through trees, walls -- undetected

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State University engineers have invented a radar system that is virtually undetectable, because its signal resembles random noise.
The radar could have applications in law enforcement, the military, and disaster rescue.

Eric K. Walton, senior research scientist in Ohio State's ElectroScience Laboratory, said that with further development the technology could even be used for medical imaging.

He explained why using random noise makes the radar system invisible.

"Almost all radio receivers in the world are designed to eliminate random noise, so that they can clearly receive the signal they're looking for," Walton said. "Radio receivers could search for this radar signal and they wouldn't find it. It also won't interfere with TV, radio, or other communication signals."

The radar scatters a very low-intensity signal across a wide range of frequencies, so a TV or radio tuned to any one frequency would interpret the radar signal as a very weak form of static.

"It doesn't interfere because it has a bandwidth that is thousands of times broader than the signals it might otherwise interfere with," Walton said.

Like traditional radar, the "noise" radar detects objects by bouncing a radio signal off them and detecting the rebound. The hardware isn't expensive, either; altogether, the components cost less than $100.

The difference is that the noise radar generates a signal that resembles random noise, and a computer calculates very small differences in the return signal. The calculations happen billions of times every second, and the pattern of the signal changes constantly. A receiver couldn't detect the signal unless it knew exactly what random pattern to look for.

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GEO600 starts continuous search for Gravitational Waves

GEO600 starts continuous search for Gravitational Waves
Sensitivity vastly improved

The joint German-British Gravitational Wave Detector GEO600 has now entered an 18-month run of continuous measurement. Researchers are optimistic that they will be able to observe a never before seen phenomena the Gravitational Wave which is one of the great untested predictions of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Gravitational Waves can be used to do "ark astronomy", studying those aspects of the Universe for which ordinary astronomy using light (and the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum) can provide limited information.

"If there is a supernova in our vicinity during the next couple of months, our chances of detecting and measuring the resulting gravitational waves are good. The first step towards gravitational wave astronomy has been taken, at last allowing us to observe the 96% of our universe which have been hidden to us up to now" says Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, head of the International Centre for Gravitational Physics which is jointly run by the Max Planck Society and the University of Hannover. Data is taken in conjunction with the two US LIGO observatories.

The sensitivity of the GEO600 detector has been continuously improved since the start of test runs in 2002. "We could only reach out towards a small fraction of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, in those days. Today our sensitivity has increased by a factor of 3000 and we can detect events in distances many times greater than the distance between us and our galactic neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy" Karsten Danzmann explains.

Full story.

Patients said to offer stem-cell solution

Patients said to offer stem-cell solution
'we can all live with'

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As the U.S. Senate prepared to consider competing proposals on the funding of stem-cell research, a representative of the U.S. bishops' pro-life office said the presence of four people on Capitol Hill showed that "there are solutions we can all live with."

Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information in the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, participated in a June 20 press conference organized by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and featuring four patients who have been treated successfully for a variety of illnesses with adult stem cells or those from umbilical-cord blood.

The four were Jackie Rabon of Waverly, Ill., a paraplegic who received a successful treatment with adult stem cells; Ryan Schneider of Chicago, who received a cord-blood treatment for cerebral palsy; Abby Pell of the Washington area, who was treated with her own cord blood for brain damage she suffered at birth; and David Foege of Naples, Fla., who was successfully treated for heart failure with adult stem cells.

"We praise these patients and families for their courage, their persistence and their willingness to come to Washington to present how ethically sound stem-cell research is paving the road to treatments," McQuade said.

"No one should think that the stem-cell debate forces us to choose between ethics and science," she added. "We can support both. There is no need to sell our souls in the quest to heal our bodies."

At the press conference Brownback said the four told "absolutely phenomenal stories of successes" using adult stem cells or cord-blood stem cells. "We need to do more of this," he added.

The Kansas senator called for a full floor debate on bioethics issues when the Senate considers H.R. 810, the Stem-Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which he and the Catholic Church oppose.

"I want you to see where we're seeing successes without bioethical questions involved," he said at the press conference.

Full story.

Disgraced South Korean scientist heads back to lab

By Jack Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - Disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk will open a laboratory in Seoul next month to resume his work on animal cloning, and perhaps restart research on human embryonic stem cells, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Hwang left his post at Seoul National University in December after an investigation panel said in a preliminary report Hwang's team had deliberately fabricated key data in two papers on embryonic stem cells that were once heralded but now debunked.

Hwang went on trial earlier this month, with prosecutors charging the man once hailed as a national hero with fraud and embezzlement.

Lee Geon-haeng, Hwang's lawyer, said private contributors had provided the funds to put Hwang back into a laboratory.

"It is Dr. Hwang's belief that the only way to reclaim his honor and repay the people who have helped him, and win their forgiveness, is to produce accomplishments in research," Lee said by telephone.

Hwang will open a research facility in Seoul and employ many researchers who have worked with him before, Lee said.

Medical researchers have said it will be nearly impossible for Hwang ever to publish again in a major journal because of the fraud perpetrated by his team.

Full story.

UW team in hot pursuit of elusive HIV vaccine

UW team in hot pursuit of elusive HIV vaccine

For David Watkins, the search for an HIV vaccine has as much to do with Darwin as disease.

Watkins heads up UW- Madison's HIV vaccine research team. With a new lab, expanded research funding and encouraging new results from a study in monkeys, the team is gaining prominence in the field.

An effective HIV vaccine, which scientists say is years or decades away, could prevent millions of deaths from AIDS. Though studies in people have presented numerous challenges, many experts believe a vaccine is the only way to end the epidemic that has killed 25 million.

Full story.