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Marquette lands $5 million for engineering facility

By Amy Hetzner of the Journal Sentinel

Marquette University's new engineering facility got another big boost on Tuesday, with Gov. Jim Doyle announcing that the school will receive a $5 million grant from the Wisconsin Energy Foundation thanks to funding by the state.

"We know this is what we need," Doyle said during a morning announcement held in Marquette's current engineering building, across from its new home at N. 16th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. "For us to compete, we need more engineers."

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Congress deals funding blow to Patent Office

Budget strips $100 million provision for backlogged agency

By John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Dec. 29, 2009

The $1.1 trillion spending bill that Congress passed this month bankrolls thousands of pet projects: the World Food Prize in Iowa, a farmers market in Kentucky, and a 12-mile bike path in Michigan, among many others.

And to pay for a fraction of its largesse, Congress added one late change to the budget: It slapped a restrictive spending ceiling on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, further cramping an agency that was already incapacitated by more than a decade of congressional raids on its fees. 

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GE Healthcare to Evaluate and Develop Novel Imaging Technology Invented by Medical College of Wisconsin Researcher

A novel molecular imaging technology aimed at rapid diagnosis of cell death in organs such as the brain and heart has been licensed by The Medical College of Wisconsin to GE Healthcare.  Under the license GE will further evaluate and develop the technology and will have an option to commercialize the technology. The technology, using imaging probes with a radiopharmaceutical compound, was invented by Ming Zhao, Ph.D., assistant professor of biophysics.

The probes bind to dead and dying cells making them useful for detecting acute cell injury and cell death.  When the active component of this molecule is attached to a radioactive tracer, it can be used in nuclear medicine imaging techniques, such as PET (positron emission tomography) or SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography), to produce three-dimensional images of where this cell death is occurring. 

“We are pleased to be working with GE on this technology,” said Dennis Devitt, the director of marketing and licensing for the Office of Technology Development (OTD), the technology transfer arm of the Medical College. “Working with the market leader in medical imaging allows this technology to be quickly moved from the research laboratory into patient care,” Devitt said. 

According to Dr. Zhao, “Imaging agent discovery and development is an important aspect in molecular and medical imaging research. The process is critical for the improvement of existing imaging technologies and for early detection of acute cell death, cancerous tissue growth and major vessel diseases.”

The ability to image dead and dying cells can have major clinical benefits, pointed out Dr. Zhao. For example, it could allow oncologists to rapidly monitor tumor response to a specific therapy.  Another potential application is for rapid diagnosis of myocardial infarction. Often patients come into ER complaining of chest pain and need to have an expensive overnight hospital stay so they can be monitored while their lab results are being processed. This compound could allow clinicians to non-invasively image the heart and determine within a few hours if the patient actually had a heart attack or something else.

Joseph Hill, vice president for technology development, added that Dr. Zhao’s research was supported by a “Proof-of-Concept” grant administered by the College’s OTD.  They have filed several patent applications on the technology. 

The OTD patents intellectual property generated by faculty and staff at the Medical College and licenses it in line with its mission to commercialize as many inventions as possible to help patients.  Its “Patents to PatientsSM” brand best describes its mission. 

New questions are being raised in stem-cell debate

by Carmen Leibel and Lisa Willemse

December 10, 2009 - (Edmonton) The University of Alberta's Timothy Caulfield is questioning some of the ethical and legal barriers facing a new stem cell procedure.

It was two years ago when a groundbreaking discovery turned ordinary skin cells back into an embryonic or "pluripotent" state. This was recognized as the solution to the controversial ethical question that has plagued stem-cell science for the past decade.

But is it the solution? Or have iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) added a new dimension to the legal, social and ethical debates that are an important and necessary part of stem-cell advances?

Caulfield, research director at the U of A's Health Law Institute and principal investigator at the Stem Cell Network, says that while iPS technology eliminates some of the ethical issues specific to embryonic stem-cell research it also adds new challenges.

"From a legal perspective, iPS technology is fascinating and complex. For example, if an iPS cell can be made into a functional human gamete, the potential exists for reproductive purposes. What would this mean for donor consent, concerns about cloning and rights of a potential child to know its parents," said Caulfield.

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Coaxing injured nerve fibers to regenerate by disabling 'brakes' in the system

Brain and spinal-cord injuries typically leave people with permanent impairment because the injured nerve fibers (axons) cannot regrow. A study from Children's Hospital Boston, published in the December 10 issue of the journal Neuron, shows that axons can regenerate vigorously in a mouse model when a gene that suppresses natural growth factors is deleted.

Adding to a previous study published in Science last year (, research led by Zhigang He, PhD, of the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Children's Hospital Boston provides further evidence that axon regeneration is limited by a reduced or lost responsiveness to injury-induced growth factors -- and also suggests some ways of overcoming the problem to help people recover from brain or spinal cord injury.

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New skin stem cells surprisingly similar to those found in embryos

New skin stem cells surprisingly similar to those found in embryos

Scientists have discovered a new type of stem cell in the skin that acts surprisingly like certain stem cells found in embryos: both can generate fat, bone, cartilage, and even nerve cells. These newly-described dermal stem cells may one day prove useful for treating neurological disorders and persistent wounds, such as diabetic ulcers, says Freda Miller, an HHMI international research scholar.

Miller and her colleagues first saw the cells several years ago in both rodents and people, but only now confirmed that the cells are stem cells. Like other stem cells, these cell scan self-renew and, under the right conditions, they can grow into the cell types that constitute the skin's dermal layer, which lies under the surface epidermal layer. "We showed that these cells are, in fact, the real thing," says Miller, a professor at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist in the department of developmental biology at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The dermal stem cells also appear to help form the basis for hair growth.The new work was published December 4, 2009, in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

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