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September 2007
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November 2007

$15 million gift boosts MU: Generac founder, wife designate funds for planned engineering center

Posted: Oct. 29, 2007

Marquette University's College of Engineering has received a $15 million gift from Generac Power Systems Inc. founder Robert Kern and his wife, Patricia, to help pay for a new building, college officials announced Monday.

When completed, the Discovery Learning Complex on W. Wisconsin Ave. between N. 16th and N. 17th streets will integrate classrooms, teaching labs, research facilities and office space to encourage hands-on, multidisciplinary learning and will help produce graduates who are more entrepreneurial and innovative, officials said. Administrators hope to break ground on the project in the 2008-'09 academic year.

"The Kerns have long recognized the important role science, technology, engineering and mathematics education play in the future of our community - and our country," said Stan Jaskolski, dean of the College of Engineering at Marquette. "Their generosity brings us closer to the dream of a new building that will blend theory and the real-world practice of research and development."

The Kerns declined to be interviewed Monday but released a written statement: "We are pleased to be a part of this exciting commitment by the Marquette University College of Engineering," they wrote. "It is compatible with our belief that future generations will be increasingly dependent on expanding science and engineering technology by talented, educated engineers."

Full story.

Medical College Receives NIH Grant to Study Role of Amino Acid in Regulation of Kidney Function

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to study the role of the amino acid L-arginine (L-Arg) in the regulation of kidney blood vessel function.

David L. Mattson, Ph.D., professor of physiology, is principal investigator for the grant.

Nitric oxide (NO) regulates arterial blood pressure and kidney function by influencing systemic and kidney blood flow. L-Arg is a critical modulator of NO production in the cells of kidney blood vessels. L-Arg is also an important regulator of kidney blood flow resistance.

Dr. Mattson will use unique cellular and molecular techniques to identify the L-Arg uptake transporters in blood vessels of the kidneys and then determine the functional importance of these transporters on NO production in normal and diseased models.

The results of these studies may provide important insights into the causes of high blood pressure and related complications that are a leading cause of death and disease in the U.S.

Researchers discover important tool in understanding differentiation in human embryonic stem cells

Differentiation in human embryonic stem cells

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute have described how an existing genetic tool can be used to study how human embryonic stem cells differentiate. The research appears in the November 2007 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine.

Researchers know very little about how human embryonic stem cells (hESC) self-renew. To fully understand these cells’ self renewal capacity and pluripotency, and their regulation, it is necessary to efficiently generate genetically modified cells and analyze the consequences of elevated and reduced expression of genes.

The research team, led by the University of Minnesota’s Meri Firpo, Ph.D., included gene therapy researchers at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, and developmental biologists at the University of Michigan.

The researchers used “knockdown” technology to reduce the expression of oct4, a gene known to be necessary for self renewal of mouse and human embryonic stem cells. As seen in work done with mouse cells by knockdown and other genetic means, they showed that reducing the amount of oct4 in human ES cells induced differentiation. The researchers then used a plasmid vector to transiently increase levels of oct4 in hESC. This also resulted in differentiation as expected, but with differentiation patterns similar to those seen with the knockdown. This was an unexpected result, because when expression of oct4 is up-regulated in mouse ES cells, they differentiate into a different type of cell than if the expression of oct4 is down-regulated.

"This suggests a key difference in the regulation of early development between mouse and human embryos" Firpo said. “While animal models are clearly important, this research shows that scientists need human models to truly understand what happens in early human development.”

Continue reading "Researchers discover important tool in understanding differentiation in human embryonic stem cells" »

Report: Ease nuclear power plant construction

A preliminary report to the Governor 's Task Force on Global Warming calls for repealing the state 's so-called moratorium on nuclear power plant construction.

Initial recommendations from a work group on electricity generation include a call to drop a requirement, passed by the Wisconsin Legislature more than 20 years ago, that no new nuclear plants can be built until a permanent site is established to store their radioactive waste.

Full story.

Medical College Receives $2.7 Grant To Study Function of Cone Pigment Genes

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the biological processes of photopigment genes in the cone photoreceptor cells of the eye. Light absorption by the cone photopigments is the first step in vision. The award is from the NIH’s National Eye Institute.

Jay Neitz, Ph.D., the R.D. & Linda Peters Professor in Ophthalmology, and professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, is principal investigator for the grant.

“Our laboratory is interested in the relationships between genes and biological processes underling vision,” said Dr. Neitz. "Harmful mutations occur at a higher frequency in the photopigment genes than at any other location in the human genome."

Dr. Neitz will investigate the contribution of these mutation to common vision disorders such as age related macular degeneration and nearsightedness.

With his wife, Maureen Neitz, Ph.D., Dr. Jay Neitz has worked out the molecular mechanism by which amino acid changes tune the absorption spectrum of the photopigment molecule. Drs. Jay and Maureen Neitz share the ALCON award, considered to be the most prestigious award for ophthalmology research. Dr. Maureen Neitz is the Richard O. Schultz/Ruth Works Professor in Ophthalmology Research.

Researcher hopes new cells could bolster brain against crippling disease


Special to the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Oct. 14, 2007

While many researchers look to stem cells as a way to cure or improve treatment for such ailments as Parkinson's disease and diabetes, Clive Svendsen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is exploring the possibility that these cells may one day be able to treat depression.

Svendsen's idea to use these so-called progenitor cells, which can develop into any one of the body's many cell types, comes against a background of research findings that suggest anti-depressants, such as Prozac (chemical name fluoxetine), operate by causing the growth of new nerve cells in the brain.

"The idea is that new neurons can somehow provide a new environment under which depression dissolves away," said Svendsen, a professor of anatomy and neurology.

Full story.

'Electromagnetic Wormhole' Possible with Invisibility Technology

The team of mathematicians that first created the mathematics behind the "invisibility cloak" announced by physicists last October has now shown that the same technology could be used to generate an "electromagnetic wormhole."

In the study, which is to appear in the Oct. 12 issue of Physical Review Letters, Allan Greenleaf, professor of mathematics at the University of Rochester, and his coauthors lay out a variation on the theme of cloaking. Their results open the possibility of building a sort of invisible tunnel between two points in space.

"Imagine wrapping Harry Potter's invisibility cloak around a tube," says Greenleaf. "If the material is designed according to our specifications, you could pass an object into one end, watch it disappear as it traveled the length of the tunnel, and then see it reappear out the other end."

Full story.

Stop embryonic cell research, Pope urges

Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:40am EDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict appealed to scientists on Thursday to stop using human embryos in stem cell research, saying it violated the dignity of human life.

The Vatican supports stem cell research so long as it does not harm embryos, which the Catholic Church argues are humans from the moment of conception.

Full story.

GE enters venture with Eli Lilly

Three-year collaboration is intended to explore diagnostic cancer procedures

Posted: Oct. 1, 2007

Niskayuna, N.Y. - GE Healthcare, which built a global business in medical imaging hardware from a base in metro Milwaukee, showed how rapidly it has expanded into the emerging life-sciences industry when it announced a research venture Monday with pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly & Co.

GE Healthcare said the three-year collaboration with Lilly, meant to explore diagnostic cancer procedures that work on the molecular level, builds on GE's $9.5 billion acquisition of British biosciences group Amersham plc in 2004.

That acquisition accelerated change at GE Healthcare, broadening the company into what analysts call "personalized" and predictive medicine. Joe Hogan, president and chief executive officer of GE Healthcare, said the company often researches proteins and gene sequencing for its diagnostic business now as intensely as it does high-end scanners and ultrasounds.

Full story.

Medical College Receives Grant to Test Automated Self-Management Monitor

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a three-year, $1.14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to test an automated self-management monitor (ASMM) for people with poorly controlled diabetes. The device prompts patients to check blood glucose levels and take medication. This may be particularly effective in changing behavior because it is timely, regular, and used at home, where most self-management of blood glucose occurs.

            Edith A. Burns, M.D., associate professor of medicine in geriatrics and gerontology, is principal investigator for the grant. She practices at the Zablocki VA Medical Center.

Dr. Burns hopes to demonstrate that use of the ASMM will improve control over blood glucose levels and improve self-management behaviors. Two-hundred adults with poorly controlled diabetes will be recruited from senior housing sites in Milwaukee, and primary care and endocrine clinics staffed by medical college faculty. The ASMM will be installed in participants’ homes to provide audio reminders to perform blood glucose management and take medication, and feedback on whether individual readings are within target ranges.