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Reprogrammed cells retain some identity in embryonic state, study shows

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: July 19, 2010 12:08 p.m.

Several years after scientists found a way to manipulate biology and send skin cells back to their embryonic origin, they are now learning that nature is not so easily tricked.

A reprogrammed skin cell retains a memory of its original identity as skin. Moreover, after the skin cell has returned to the embryonic state, it appears more willing to turn back into skin than to adopt a new identity.

The new findings by the lab of stem cell researcher George Daley at Children's Hospital Boston, were described Monday in a paper published online in the journal Nature and begin to address one of the mysteries surrounding reprogramming.

Since 2007 when the labs of James Thomson at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University first used a cocktail of genes to create an alternative to human embryonic stem cells, scientists have been puzzled by subtle differences between actual embryonic stem cells and these engineered versions.

The differences are important because the engineered cells were hailed as an alternative to embryonic stem cells that would allow scientists to make all of the cells in the human body while bypassing the ethical controversy that surrounded embryonic stem cells.

Daley said his team's work overthrows the assumption "that when you reprogram a skin or a blood cell you erase its memory of being skin or blood … Researchers have to appreciate the potential for this memory and erase it further or exploit it."

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Quincy Bioscience awarded patent on jellyfish protein

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: July 8, 2010 9:10 a.m.

Quincy Bioscience said it has received a patent on its use of a protein derived from jellyfish that it uses for products to fight the aging process.

The patent covers the use of aequorin-related compounds for preventing and alleviating symptoms and disorders related to calcium imbalance, Mark Underwood, the Madison biotech company's president, said in a statement.

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Mequon firm seeks to put the brakes on cancer cells

James Yarger, who owns a drug development company in Mequon, had an idea brewing in his head for some time.

If cancer cells are regular cells run amok - cells with failed brakes, as it were - there must be a way to fix those brakes.

With help from $12 million of investor funding and a $250,000 loan from the state's Technology Venture Fund, Yarger thinks he has figured it out.

His young company, Endece LLC, is prepared to begin clinical trials next year on a compound he says could potentially turn off any kind of cancer cell.

"We can stop any cancer from replicating. The cell is trying to replicate and essentially tearing itself apart because of the blocks we put in place," said Yarger, 58.

Yarger with his wife, Jean, started Endece four years ago. The company has a staff of five.

The compound Endece will bring into clinical trials, called NDC-1308, is one of more than 40 the company has developed. In animal trials, it has shown the ability to stop a tumor's chromosomes from replicating and to inhibit the so-called hedgehog signaling pathway that is present in many aggressive tumors.

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