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April 2007
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June 2007

WARF questions relevancy of documents used to uphold patent challenge

By Joe Vanden Plas • 05/31/07

Madison, Wis. - Claiming that patents and publications used to uphold a challenge to its stem cell patents are irrelevant to the isolation and proliferation of human embryonic stem cells, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has filed a response refuting an initial determination by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Those observations on relevancy, made by Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, were supported by Dr. Colin Stewart, a stem cell researcher at the Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore.

Stewart submitted a declaration in support of the patents, emphasizing the differences between mouse stem cells, which were prominent in the PTO's rejections, and the human embryonic stem cells that were isolated and characterized by University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Jamie Thomson.

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New Fabrication Technique Yields Nanoscale UV LEDs

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in collaboration with scientists from the University of Maryland and Howard University, have developed a technique to create tiny, highly efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) from nanowires. As described in a recent paper,* the fabricated LEDs emit ultraviolet light—a key wavelength range required for many light-based nanotechnologies, including data storage—and the assembly technique is well-suited for scaling to commercial production.

Light-based nanoscale devices, such as LEDs, could be important building blocks for a new generation of ultracompact, inexpensive technologies, including sensors and optical communications devices. Ultraviolet LEDs are particularly important for data-storage and biological sensing devices, such as detectors for airborne pathogens. Nanowires made of a particular class of semiconductors that includes aluminum nitride, gallium nitride and indium nitride are the most promising candidates for nanoscale LEDs. But, says NIST researcher Abhishek Motayed, “The current nanowire LEDs are created using tedious nanowire manipulation methods and one-by-one fabrication techniques, which makes them unsuitable for commercial realization.”

The NIST team used batch fabrication techniques, such as photolithography (printing a pattern into a material using light, similar to photography), wet etching and metal deposition. They aligned the nanowires using an electric field, eliminating the delicate and time-consuming task of placing each nanowire separately.

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Adult stem cells from human cord umbilical cord blood successfully engineered to make insulin

GALVESTON, Texas -- In a fundamental discovery that someday may help cure type 1 diabetes by allowing people to grow their own insulin-producing cells for a damaged or defective pancreas, medical researchers here have reported that they have engineered adult stem cells derived from human umbilical cord blood to produce insulin.

The researchers announced their laboratory finding, which caps nearly four years of research, in the June 2007 issue of the medical journal Cell Proliferation, posted online this week. Their paper calls it "the first demonstration that human umbilical cord blood-derived stem cells can be engineered" to synthesize insulin.

"This discovery tells us that we have the potential to produce insulin from adult stem cells to help people with diabetes," said Dr. Randall J. Urban, senior author of the paper, professor and chair of internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and director of UTMB’s Nelda C. and Lutcher H. J. Stark Diabetes Center. Stressing that the reported discovery is extremely basic research, Urban cautioned: "It doesn’t prove that we’re going to be able to do this in people — it’s just the first step up the rung of the ladder."

The lead author of the paper, UTMB professor of internal medicine/endocrinology Larry Denner, said that by working with adult stem cells rather than embryonic stem cells, doctors practicing so-called regenerative medicine eventually might be able to extract stem cells from an individual’s blood, then grow them in the laboratory to large numbers and tweak them so that they are directed to create a needed organ. In this way, he said, physicians might avoid the usual pitfall involved in transplanting cells or organs from other people — organ rejection, which requires organ recipients to take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of their lives.

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Madison's Virent Energy teams up with Shell Oil

Jeff Richgels —  5/24/2007 1:01 pm


A unit of giant Shell Oil wants to use Madison-based Virent Energy Systems' technology to create hydrogen fueling stations.

A network of hydrogen stations akin to traditional gas stations will be needed if the world is to move to hydrogen cars.

A major hurdle in developing stations is that hydrogen is very difficult to transport and store, but Virent's "BioForming" technology that converts biomass into hydrogen -- as well other fuels and chemicals -- offers a way around that issue.

Virent and Shell Hydrogen LLC will work to develop fueling stations that feature Virent's technology, meaning the biomass would be transported to the stations and converted into hydrogen on site.

"These systems would be sized for the volume of hydrogen that would be dispensed at a fueling station," said Mary Blanchard, Virent director of marketing and strategy.

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Negative refraction gets natural

Physicists in Germany claim to have found the first naturally occurring material that has a negative, rather than a positive, refractive index. The material -- a metallic ferromagnet -- is very different from all other negative-refractive-index materials known to date, which have had structures that have been artificially engineered in the laboratory. The ferromagnets, which have been shown to exhibit negative refraction up to gigahertz frequencies, could be used in novel devices such as superlenses (Phys. Rev. Lett. 98 197401).

The refractive index of a substance describes how light bends as it enters the material. Most substances have a positive refractive index, which means that light entering a block of glass at an angle to the surface bends towards the normal. But in 1968 Russian physicist Victor Veselago showed that if both the permeability and permittivity of the material were simultaneously negative, refraction would be negative too. In other words, light entering the material at an angle would be bent on the other side of the normal.

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Medical College Receives NIH Grant To Study Fetal Basis of Brain Disease

    The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a two-year $377,000 award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study the fetal basis of adult brain disease.  Hypoxia (oxygen deficit) in the preterm fetal brain is an important gestational complication leading to movement disorders such as cerebral palsy and muscle impairments.

    The research, led by principal investigator Jeannette Vasquez Vivar, Ph.D., assistant professor of biophysics, will examine the link between oxygen deficit and loss of a key agent, tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), in the regulation of the oxidation/reduction process and in neurotransmitter production in the brain. Congenital BH4 deficiency is known to cause motor deficits that, in some cases, can be treated with BH4.

    The mechanism by which hypoxia causes damage to the developing brain remains unknown, although evidence indicates that oxidative stress plays a role. This mechanism is being investigated in animal models and cell cultures, using several analytical techniques.   

Dr. Vasquez Vivar received her Ph.D. from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, in 1992, and her B.S., in 1988 from the University of Concepción, in Chile.

Continue reading "Medical College Receives NIH Grant To Study Fetal Basis of Brain Disease" »

New Waste Vegetable Oil Recycling And Distribution Center Combined With New Technology Promises To Save Wisconsin Businesses Thousands In Fuel Costs While Helping The Environment.

 Coulee Region Biofuels of Blair along with their sister group, PrairieFire Biofuels of Madison, today are proud to announce the opening of the new Coulee Region Biofuels Recycling and Distribution Center in Blair, Wisconsin. The new facility hosted an open house this morning that was attended by dozens of businesses and individuals interested in alternative fuels.

Download INOV8 Statement

Download Coulee Region Bio-Fuel Statement

Stem cells may look malignant, not act it

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Call it the cellular equivalent of big glasses, a funny nose and a fake mustache.

Bone marrow stem cells attracted to the site of a cancerous growth frequently take on the outward appearance of the malignant cells around them, University of Florida researchers report in a paper to be published in the August issue of Stem Cells.

But whether that enables them to fuel cancer's ability to develop and then spread, as some scientists suspect, is not entirely clear. The findings, available early in this month's online edition of the journal, actually contest the increasingly popular theory that bone marrow stem cells seed cancer. Instead, these cells might simply look like cancer, not act like it.

"They have the same kind of surface proteins," said study author Chris Cogle, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the UF's College of Medicine Program in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. "They have the same skin. The next question is 'Do they have the same guts"'

"Our results indicate these cells act as developmental mimics; they come in and look like the surrounding neoplastic tissue, but they aren't actually the seed of cancer," said Cogle, who also is affiliated with the UF Shands Cancer Center. "At the worst, these cells could help support cancerous tissue by providing it with growth factors or proteins that help the cancer grow and survive. At the very least, these marrow cells are just being tricked into coming into the cancerous environment and then made to walk and talk like they don't usually do."

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Hydrogen breakthrough could open the road to carbon-free cars

A new breakthrough in hydrogen storage technology could remove a key barrier to widespread uptake of non-polluting cars that produce no carbon dioxide emissions.

UK scientists have developed a compound of the element lithium which may make it practical to store enough hydrogen on-board fuel-cell-powered cars to enable them to drive over 300 miles before refuelling. Achieving this driving range is considered essential if a mass market for fuel cell cars is to develop in future years, but has not been possible using current hydrogen storage technologies.

The breakthrough has been achieved by a team from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, under the auspices of the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium (UK-SHEC). UK-SHEC is funded by the SUPERGEN (Sustainable Power Generation and Supply) initiative managed and led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Fuel cells produce carbon-free electricity by harnessing electrochemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen. However, today's prototype and demonstration fuel-cell-powered cars only have a range of around 200 miles. To achieve a 300 mile driving range, an on-board space the size of a double-decker bus would be needed to store hydrogen gas at standard temperature and pressure, while storing it as a compressed gas in cylinders or as a liquid in storage tanks would not be practical due to the weight and size implications.

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Sugar holds sweet promise

Start-up will use chemistry to improve drugs

By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER Posted: May 23, 2007

A Madison biotech start-up is hoping to build a drug discovery franchise that leverages its chemistry expertise to improve a variety of existing and failed drugs.

Centrose LLC says it has a proprietary technology that uses sugar molecules to make drugs less toxic and more effective.

"This idea of drugs that are improved by adding sugars to them is kind of an untapped area," said Troy Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Intellikine, a San Diego drug development company. Wilson, who has founded several biotech companies, agreed to be on the advisory boards for Centrose and just one other company, he said.

"If you can take properties of existing drugs and make them better using this technology, you've got a pretty good recipe for success."

Full story.