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November 2007
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January 2008

Human embryonic stem cell lines created that avoid immune rejection

New Rochelle, NY, December 19, 2007—In a groundbreaking experiment published in Cloning & Stem Cells, scientists from International Stem Cell (ISC) Corp. derived four unique embryonic stem cell lines that open the door for the creation of therapeutic cells that will not provoke an immune reaction in large segments of the population. The stem cell lines are “HLA-homozygous,” meaning that they have a simple genetic profile in the critical areas of the DNA that code for immune rejection. The lines could serve to create a stem cell bank as a renewable source of transplantable cells for use in cell therapy to replace damaged tissues or to treat genetic and degenerative diseases.

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Stanford's nanowire battery holds 10 times the charge of existing ones

BY DAN STOBER

Stanford researchers have found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices.

The new version, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours, a boon to ocean-hopping business travelers.

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Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer

It has been 50 years since scientists first created DNA in a test tube, stitching ordinary chemical ingredients together to make life's most extraordinary molecule. Until recently, however, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA -- an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought.

Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.

Scientists in Maryland have already built the world's first entirely handcrafted chromosome -- a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce.

In the coming year, they hope to transplant it into a cell, where it is expected to "boot itself up," like software downloaded from the Internet, and cajole the waiting cell to do its bidding. And while the first synthetic chromosome is a plagiarized version of a natural one, others that code for life forms that have never existed before are already under construction.

The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial -- and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive.

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College Receives Grant to Study Mechanisms Affecting Chemical Production in Vascular Disease

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a four-year, $1.14 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study how the chemical compound tetrahydrobiopterin influences the development of vascular disease.

Jeannette Vasquez-Vivar, Ph.D., associate professor of biophysics, is principal investigator for the grant. Dr. Vasquez-Vivar will investigate mechanisms altering normal tetrahydrobiopterin supply in the endothelium which is essential for enzymatic nitric oxide (NO) production.

NO is an important component of normal vascular function. It serves as a messenger that can “inform” the smooth muscle in the blood vessel to relax, thereby dilating the vessel and increasing blood flow. This process depends on the availability of tetrahydrobiopterin, however, and decreasing tetrahydrobiopterin supply impairs NO’s ability to perform this task.

A decrease in tetrahydrobiopterin is also linked to blood vessel oxidative injury, which is a feature of vascular atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in the arterial blood vessels sometimes referred to as “hardening of the arteries.”

According to Dr. Vasquez-Vivar, “understanding these fundamental mechanisms should lead to improved strategies in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.”

This competitive renewal award will fund years five through nine of the project. The study is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Matthew Picklo at the University of North Dakota, Dr. Nickolas Alp at the Wellcome Trust Centre in Oxford, UK, and Dr. Pavel Martasek at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

For more information, contact:
Toranj Marphetia (toranj@mcw.edu)
Director of Media Relations
Office: 414-456-4700


Medical College Receives NIH Grant to Develop Glioma Imaging Detection

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a two-year, $333,300 grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a new imaging technique to detect the spread of tumor cells in the brain.   

Glioma is a tumor of the central nervous system that infiltrates brain tissue. Currently, there does not exist any non-invasive way to detect invading brain tumor cells.  This is believed to be a primary reason why brain tumors are so incurable. A brain tumor imaging approach that is capable of such detection should dramatically improve the prognosis and treatment for patients with brain tumors, according to Kathleen M. Schmainda, Ph.D., associate professor of radiology research, and principal investigator for the grant.

Dr. Schmainda hopes to develop a diffusion-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to detect glioma invasion. The goal is to provide physicians with information specific to invading tumor cells that is not confused by the presence of other conditions such as excessive fluid or radiation effects, both of which are commonly present in glioma patients.

For more information, contact:
Toranj Marphetia (toranj@mcw.edu)
Director of Media Relations
Office: 414-456-4700


State seeks new breed of biofuel

Papermakers, researchers lead the way in development

By THOMAS CONTENT and JOEL DRESANG
tcontent@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Dec. 8, 2007

Seventh part in an occasional series

Wisconsin already leads the nation in making electricity from cow manure. Now it hopes to tap its farm and forest resources to develop the next generation of biofuels in the race to curb global warming emissions.

Cars and trucks are the second-leading contributor of greenhouse gas emissions after coal-fired power plants, so around the state, efforts are under way to juice up production of renewable fuels.

But the main renewable fuel in Wisconsin and other states today - ethanol derived from corn kernels - doesn't yield big savings in greenhouse gas emissions because so much petroleum is needed to grow corn and refine it into ethanol.

The quest to find a better fuel has led Madison researchers and northern Wisconsin papermakers to hatch plans to make alternative fuels out of all sorts of materials, from wood chips in the paper sector to switchgrass or poplar trees.

The growing list of potential fuel sources can be summed up as ABC - anything but corn.

"While the state may not be able to match Silicon Valley as a high-tech leader, it could be the Cellulose Prairie and Forest for biopower and biofuels," environmental consultant Brett Hulsey wrote in a recent report.

The fuels being developed hold the dual promises of reducing dependence on imported oil and curtailing emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas.

"So much of the attention has been on corn ethanol," said Judy Ziewacz, executive director of the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence. "And I've been trying to get the message out there for the state, 'No, we've got other feedstock.'

"The paper industry and the forestry industry are going to be big players," she said. "They need to be."

Biofuels that aren't made from corn kernels won a big boost last week when the U.S. House of Representatives approved a renewable fuels standard as part of an energy bill that also requires new cars to get significantly better gas mileage. The energy bill stalled Friday in the U.S. Senate, however.

Interest in next-generation ethanol, known as cellulosic ethanol, is percolating because of the federal government's goal to produce 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017, said Masood Akhtar, president of the nonprofit consulting firm CleanTech Partners Inc. in Middleton. The energy bill in Congress is aiming for 36 billion gallons by 2022.

"All the experts that we talk with, they agree that corn-based ethanol can't meet that goal," he said. Competition with feed mills has caused a handful of corn ethanol plants to close recently, Akhtar said, underscoring the advantage of energy crops that aren't eaten.

Full story.