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January 2012
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March 2012

Injectable gel could repair tissue damaged by heart attack

University of California, San Diego researchers have developed a new injectable hydrogel that could be an effective and safe treatment for tissue damage caused by heart attacks.

The study by Karen Christman and colleagues appears in the Feb. 21 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Christman is a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and has co-founded a company, Ventrix, Inc., to bring the gel to clinical trials within the next year.

Therapies like the hydrogel would be a welcome development, Christman explained, since there are an estimated 785,000 new heart attack cases in the United States each year, with no established treatment for repairing the resulting damage to cardiac tissue.

The hydrogel is made from cardiac connective tissue that is stripped of heart muscle cells through a cleansing process, freeze-dried and milled into powder form, and then liquefied into a fluid that can be easily injected into the heart. Once it hits body temperature, the liquid turns into a semi-solid, porous gel that encourages cells to repopulate areas of damaged cardiac tissue and to preserve heart function, according to Christman. The hydrogel forms a scaffold to repair the tissue and possibly provides biochemical signals that prevent further deterioration in the surrounding tissues.

Full story.


Bad Cable May Be to Blame in Flawed Faster-Than-Light Experiment

By GAUTAM NAIK

A malfunctioning cable may have been responsible for the claim that some particles may be able to travel faster than light speed, a potentially embarrassing outcome for physicists who had publicized the findings with great fanfare just a few month ago.

In September, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said that ghostlike particles called neutrinos zapped from a lab in Geneva to one in Italy had seemingly made the trip in about 60 nanoseconds less than light speed—a finding that garnered headlines around the world. It also induced much head-shaking among skeptical scientists who said they were convinced that the result was an error.

It turns out the only ghost may have been in the machine after all. CERN says it had identified two possible effects that could have affected the experiment: one relates to an oscillator used to provide time stamps for estimating particle speeds, and a possible glitch in a fiber-optic cable.

"If this is the case, it could have led to an underestimate of the time of flight of the neutrinos," CERN said in a one-paragraph "update" posted on its website. It plans new measurements in May.

Full story.


Nanotube therapy takes aim at breast cancer stem cells

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Feb. 9, 2012 – Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers have again proven that injecting multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) into tumors and heating them with a quick, 30-second laser treatment can kill them.

The results of the first effort involving kidney tumors was published in 2009, but now they've taken the science and directed it at breast cancer tumors, specifically the tumor initiating cancer stem cells. These stem cells are hard to kill because they don't divide very often and many anti-cancer strategies are directed at killing the cells that divide frequently.

The Wake Forest Baptist research findings are reported online ahead of April print publication in the journal Biomaterials. The research is a result of a collaborative effort between Wake Forest School of Medicine, the Wake Forest University Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, and Rice University. Lead investigator and professor of biochemistry Suzy V. Torti, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist, said the breast cancer stem cells tend to be resistant to drugs and radiotherapy, so targeting these particular cells is of great interest in the scientific community.

"They are tough. These are cells that don't divide very often. They just sort of sit there, but when they receive some sort of trigger – and that's not really well understood – it's believed they can migrate to other sites and start a metastasis somewhere else," Torti explained. "Heat-based cancer treatments represent a promising approach for the clinical management of cancers, including breast cancer."

Link to the study.


Hormel Institute study makes key finding in stem cell self-renewal

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (02/06/2012) —A University of Minnesota-led research team has proposed a mechanism for the control of whether embryonic stem cells continue to proliferate and stay stem cells, or differentiate into adult cells like brain, liver or skin.

The work has implications in two areas. In cancer treatment, it is desirable to inhibit cell proliferation. But to grow adult stem cells for transplantation to victims of injury or disease, it would be desirable to sustain proliferation until a sufficient number of cells have been produced to make a usable organ or tissue.

The study gives researchers a handle on how those two competing processes might be controlled. It was performed at the university's Hormel Institute in Austin, Minn., using mouse stem cells. The researchers, led by Hormel Institute Executive Director Zigang Dong and Associate Director Ann M. Bode, have published a report in the journal Nature: Structure and Molecular Biology.

Full story.