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Stem Cells from Amniotic Fluid May be More Versatile than Originally Thought

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that stem cells found in amniotic fluid meet an important test of potential to become specialized cell types, which suggests they may be useful for treating a wider array of diseases and conditions than scientists originally thought.

Reporting in Oncogene, a publication of Nature Publishing Group, the research teams of Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Markus Hengstschläger, Ph.D., from the Medical University of Vienna, have shown that these amnion stem cells can form three-dimensional aggregates of cells known as embryoid bodies (EBs). It is believed that cells at this stage of development can be directed to become virtually any cell in the human body.

“This finding suggests that the amnion cells have greater potential than we originally thought and may be able to form many cell types,” said Atala. “This could expand the number for diseases and conditions that they may be helpful for.”

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Boeing Laser Systems Destroy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Tests

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Nov. 18, 2009 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] in May demonstrated the ability of mobile laser weapon systems to perform a unique mission: track and destroy small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

During the U.S. Air Force-sponsored tests at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., the Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX), which was developed by Boeing under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, used a single, high-brightness laser beam to shoot down five UAVs at various ranges. Laser Avenger, a Boeing-funded initiative, also shot down a UAV. Representatives of the Air Force and Army observed the tests.

"The Air Force and Boeing achieved a directed-energy breakthrough with these tests," said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems' Directed Energy Systems unit. "MATRIX's performance is especially noteworthy because it demonstrated unprecedented, ultra-precise and lethal acquisition, pointing and tracking at long ranges using relatively low laser power."

Full story.


UCLA researchers create 'fly paper' to capture circulating cancer cells

New method may help improve diagnosis, prognosis and treatment monitoring


Your own stem cells can treat heart disease

Your own stem cells can treat heart diseaseTransplanting people's own stem cells into heart lessens pain, improves ability to walk

CHICAGO --- The largest national stem cell study for heart disease showed the first evidence that transplanting a potent form of adult stem cells into the heart muscle of subjects with severe angina results in less pain and an improved ability to walk. The transplant subjects also experienced fewer deaths than those who didn't receive stem cells.

In the 12-month Phase II, double-blind trial, subjects' own purified stem cells, called CD34+ cells, were injected into their hearts in an effort to spur the growth of small blood vessels that make up the microcirculation of the heart muscle. Researchers believe the loss of these blood vessels contributes to the pain of chronic, severe angina.

"This is the first study to show significant benefit in pain reduction and improved exercise capacity in this population with very advanced heart disease," said principal investigator Douglas Losordo, M.D., the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a cardiologist and director of the program in cardiovascular regenerative medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the lead site of the study.

Losordo, also director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute, said this study provides the first evidence that a person's own stem cells can be used as a treatment for their heart disease. He cautioned, however, that the findings of the 25-site trial with 167 subjects, require verification in a larger, Phase III study.

He presented his findings Nov. 17 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2009.

Out of the estimated 1 million people in the U.S. who suffer from chronic, severe angina -- chest pain due to blocked arteries -- about 300,000 cannot be helped by any traditional medical treatment such as angioplasty, bypass surgery or stents. This is called intractable or severe angina, the severity of which is designated by classes. The subjects in Losordo's study were class 3 or 4, meaning they had chest pain from normal to minimal activities, such as from brushing their teeth or even resting.

The stem cell transplant is the first therapy to produce an improvement in severe angina subjects' ability to walk on a treadmill. Twelve months after the procedure, the transplant subjects were able to double their improvement on a treadmill compared to the placebo group. It also took twice as long until they experienced angina pain on a treadmill compared to the placebo group, and, when they felt pain, it went away faster with rest. In addition, they had fewer overall episodes of chest pain in their daily lives.

In the trial, the CD34+ cells were injected into 10 locations in the heart muscle. A sophisticated electromechanical mapping technology identifies where the heart muscle is alive but not functioning, because it is not receiving enough blood supply.

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The study was supported by Baxter Healthcare Corporation. Losordo formerly was a paid consultant to Baxter.

Your own stem cells can treat heart diseaseContact: Marla Paul
marla-paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University


Small Nanoparticles Bring Big Improvement to Medical Imaging

If you’re watching the complex processes in a living cell, it is easy to miss something important—especially if you are watching changes that take a long time to unfold and require high-spatial-resolution imaging. But new research* makes it possible to scrutinize activities that occur over hours or even days inside cells, potentially solving many of the mysteries associated with molecular-scale events occurring in these tiny living things.

A joint research team, working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has discovered a method of using nanoparticles to illuminate the cellular interior to reveal these slow processes. Nanoparticles, thousands of times smaller than a cell, have a variety of applications. One type of nanoparticle called a quantum dot glows when exposed to light. These semiconductor particles can be coated with organic materials, which are tailored to be attracted to specific proteins within the part of a cell a scientist wishes to examine.

“Quantum dots last longer than many organic dyes and fluorescent proteins that we previously used to illuminate the interiors of cells,” says biophysicist Jeeseong Hwang, who led the team on the NIST side. “They also have the advantage of monitoring changes in cellular processes while most high-resolution techniques like electron microscopy only provide images of cellular processes frozen at one moment. Using quantum dots, we can now elucidate cellular processes involving the dynamic motions of proteins.”

Full story.