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February 2008
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April 2008

Medical College Receives NIH Grant To Study New Chemotherapy Target

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences to investigate potential new pathways for targeting cancer drugs.

Robert Deschenes, Ph.D., the Joseph P Heil, Jr. Professor in Molecular Oncogenesis, is principal investigator for the grant.   Dr. Deschenes is one of the nation's leading researchers in the genetic and biochemical mechanisms of cellular cell growth regulation.

The project focuses on the Ras oncogene protein that has been found in nearly 30% of all cancers, with the incidence of Ras mutations appearing in some cancers being considerably higher. The normal Ras protein serves as a molecular switch, controlling cell growth and division. In cancer, mutations cause the switch to remain on, leading to uncontrolled growth of malignant cells. The Ras protein "switch” must be correctly delivered and assembled into active complexes within the cells.

The delivery pathway is poorly understood, but recently the Deschenes laboratory discovered an enzyme that attaches a lipid signal required for targeting Ras to the membrane where it acts. This grant will clarify the details of this novel pathway using yeast as a model system for cancer cells. The ultimate goal is to develop novel inhibitors of this pathway that can be developed into novel cancer chemotherapeutic drugs.

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Tiny buckyballs squeeze hydrogen like giant Jupiter

Carbon cages can hold super-dense volumes of nearly metallic hydrogen

Hydrogen could be a clean, abundant energy source, but it's difficult to store in bulk. In new research, materials scientists at Rice University have made the surprising discovery that tiny carbon capsules called buckyballs are so strong they can hold volumes of hydrogen nearly as dense as those at the center of Jupiter.

The research appears on the March 2008 cover of the American Chemical Society's journal Nano Letters.

"Based on our calculations, it appears that some buckyballs are capable of holding volumes of hydrogen so dense as to be almost metallic," said lead researcher Boris Yakobson, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Rice. "It appears they can hold about 8 percent of their weight in hydrogen at room temperature, which is considerably better than the federal target of 6 percent."

The Department of Energy has devoted more than $1 billion to developing technologies for hydrogen-powered automobiles, including technologies to cost-effectively store hydrogen for use in cars. Hydrogen is the lightest element in the universe, and it is very difficult to store in bulk. For hydrogen cars to be competitive with gasoline-powered cars, they need a comparable range and a reasonably compact fuel system. It's estimated that a hydrogen-powered car with a suitable range will require a storage system with densities greater than those found in pure, liquid hydrogen.

Yakobson said scientists have long argued the merits of storing hydrogen in tiny, molecular containers like buckyballs, and experiments have shown that it's possible to store small volumes of hydrogen inside buckyballs. The new research by Yakobson and former postdoctoral researchers Olga Pupysheva and Amir Farajian offers the first method of precisely calculating how much hydrogen a buckyball can hold before breaking.

Full story.

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Medical College of Wisconsin discovery alters longstanding concept of fixed protein structure

May advance cancer and neurological diseases research

The thousands of proteins found in nature are simply strings of amino acids, assembled by genes, and scientists have long believed that they automatically fold themselves into uniquely fixed, 3-dimensional shapes to fire the engine of life. In the era of genetic research, identifying those shapes and their functions has become a worldwide focus of biomedical science.

Now, researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have found that a protein, lymphotactin, which plays a vital role in the body’s immune response, can rapidly shift its shape --up to ten times a second-- between two totally unrelated structures, each with a unique role in defending the body.

Their discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, March 17, alters a fundamental concept of biochemistry established in the 1960s. It may also inspire the search for other proteins with the ability to change form, and help address diseases of misfolded proteins such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, mad cow disease and many cancers.

“While our discovery raises more questions on the protein folding enigma, we hope it generates intensified research to learn the complex processes of these devastating diseases,” says team leader Brian Volkman, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry.

Dr. Volkman’s team is using highly sensitive nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to solve three-dimensional protein structures. NMR provides information on the number and type of chemical entities in a molecule, and can measure distances between pairs of atoms within the molecule to produce a computer-generated 3-D model of its structure.

They discovered that human lymphotactin, a regulatory protein released by the immune system to attract and activate white blood cells, exists naturally in two distinct structures, and that the newly-identified form has no similarity to any other known protein. They also learned that each form has a unique role, one attaching to the interior wall of the blood vessel, and the other reaching out to grab white blood cells. This means that converting from one lymphotactin structure to the other is likely essential for its activation, according to Dr. Volkman.

“Proteins often have multiple functional states that are closely related to a single structure” he says. “In its natural state however, we found that lymphotactin adopts two equally-populated but unrelated structures that rapidly change from one to the other.”

Continue reading "Medical College of Wisconsin discovery alters longstanding concept of fixed protein structure" »

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Medical College of Wisconsin Receives NIH Grant To Study New Pathways for Cancer Chemotherapies

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences to investigate potential new pathways for targeting cancer drugs.

Robert Deschenes, Ph.D., the Joseph P Heil, Jr. Professor in Molecular Oncogenesis, is principal investigator for the grant. Dr. Deschenes is one of the nation’s leading researchers in the genetic and biochemical mechanisms of cellular cell growth regulation.

The project focuses on the Ras oncogene protein that has been found in nearly 30% of all cancers, with the incidence of Ras mutations appearing in some cancers being considerably higher. The normal Ras protein serves as a molecular switch, controlling cell growth and division. In cancer, mutations cause the switch to remain on, leading to uncontrolled growth of malignant cells. The Ras protein “switch” must be correctly delivered and assembled into active complexes within the cells.

The delivery pathway is poorly understood, but recently the Deschenes laboratory discovered an enzyme that attaches a lipid signal required for targeting Ras to the membrane where it acts. This grant will clarify the details of this novel pathway using yeast as a model system for cancer cells. The ultimate goal is to develop novel inhibitors of this pathway that can be developed into novel cancer chemotherapeutic drugs.

Continue reading "Medical College of Wisconsin Receives NIH Grant To Study New Pathways for Cancer Chemotherapies" »

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Protein linked to cancer's spread

Study says it makes breast tumors more aggressive

By KAWANZA NEWSON
knewson@journalsentinel.com
Posted: March 13, 2008

Scientists have pinpointed a key protein that causes cancerous cells to spread throughout the body, a finding that could enable doctors to better predict how aggressive breast tumors might be.

The study's authors say the findings suggest a relatively straightforward way to halt cancer progression in women.

"This is really an important advancement," said Brian Volkman, an associate professor of biochemistry at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center. He was not involved with the study.

Full story.

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Madison wins international stem cell summit

City beats New York, D.C.; scientists, investors to attend

By STACY FORSTER and SUSANNE RUST
sforster@journalsentinel.com
Posted: March 13, 2008

Madison - Wisconsin's capital city will host an international stem cell research summit this fall, which will bring up to 1,000 of the world's top researchers, investors and industry representatives to Madison.

The World Stem Cell Summit, to be hosted by the Genetics Policy Institute, WiCell and the University of Wisconsin Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center on Sept. 22 and 23, will mark the 10th anniversary of James Thomson's isolation of human embryonic stem cells at UW-Madison.

The announcement Wednesday came on the heels of an important patent victory for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected three challenges to three key embryonic stem cell patents.

Thomson is expected to give a keynote address about his latest breakthrough using human skin cells. Stem cells are thought to hold the promise of treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

This is the fourth meeting of the World Stem Cell Summit. The first three were held at Baylor, Stanford and Harvard universities.

Full story.

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Two UW stem-cell patents upheld

By David Wahlberg

The federal government has upheld two more UW-Madison stem-cell patents, meaning all three patents under contention can stand.

But expected appeals on one of the patents could linger for years. And the government review caused the university to narrow some patent claims and loosen its licensing policies, the patent challengers say.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, UW-Madison 's tech-transfer organization, holds the patents, based on work by campus stem-cell pioneer James Thomson. The patents essentially cover all human embryonic stem-cell research in the country.

WARF, which has earned more than $3.2 million from patents, stands to gain many millions more. Scientists are using the cells to better understand and develop possible treatments for diabetes, Parkinson 's disease and other conditions.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 's decision to uphold the two patents, announced Tuesday, was made last week. The patent office upheld the third patent last month.

"This is a home run, " said Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF. "I said from the beginning that we feel they were patentable inventions and that we would ultimately prevail. "

Full story.

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Third Wave trials a success

By JUDY NEWMAN 608-252-6156

Third Wave Technologies has hit a major milestone, and at least one expert is predicting it will send the Madison biotechnology company's stock soaring today.

Third Wave said Tuesday it has completed human clinical trials on its test for the human papillomavirus (HPV), often a precursor of cervical cancer. More than 3,400 women were screened at 47 sites and Third Wave's test, which screens for 14 high-risk types of HPV, demonstrated a 99 percent likelihood that women with a negative test result do not have cervical disease, the company said.

The results will be submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April.

Full story.

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UWM lab crunches data to seek mysterious gravitational waves

By MARK JOHNSON

markjohnson@journalsentinel.com
Posted: March 9, 2008

From outside Room 223, you can hear Nemo roar.

Open the door and a deafening drone emanates from 780 gleaming metallic computers and the fans tirelessly cooling them, and the air conditioners keeping the whole room from cooking like a hundred space heaters. Blue lights blink like distant stars from one group of computers; green lights blink from another. The machines in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's physics building have been networked together to form the supercomputer dubbed Nemo.

Nemo represents mankind's best effort to find a gravitational wave.

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Congressional Budget Office: Patent bill cost exceeds expected revenue

Legislation making sweeping changes in patent law that is slated for Senate debate in the coming weeks would increase federal spending by $26.9 billion and boost revenue by $25.5 billion over a nine-year period beginning in 2009, according to a CBO analysis released late last week.

The legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would alter the rule that prioritizes the award of a patent from the "first to invent" to the first inventor to file; increase the Patent and Trademark Office's authority to collect and spend fees; and institute a number of litigation-related changes. A sizable shift on the federal balance sheet would result from language to make permanent the PTO's authority over money collected from patent and trademark applications, CBO said. Compliance costs could be $200 million annually starting in 2009, with most of the financial burden falling on the private sector, officials said.

Full story.

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