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February 2006
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New processing steps promise more economical ethanol production

New processing steps promise more economical ethanol production

Blacksburg, Va., March 30, 2006 -- Why isn't ethanol production growing by leaps and bounds in the face of higher gasoline prices? Ethanol production from cornstarch is a $10 billion dollar business in the United States and 4 billion gallons of ethanol will be produced in 2006. In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush called for doubling ethanol production by 2012, and replacing 75 percent of Middle Eastern oil with bioethanol from renewable materials by 2025.

"We have the technical ability, but making ethanol production economical is the problem," said Y.H. Percival Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Zhang has developed a more cost effective pretreatment process that he will report on at the 231st American Chemical Society National Meeting in Atlanta March 26-30.


. . .

Zhang's cost-effective pretreatment process that integrates three technologies – cellulose solvent pretreatment, concentrated acid saccharification, and organosolv, and overcomes the limitations of existing processes. Instead of a high pressure system that operates at between 150 and 250 degrees C, Zhang's "modest reaction" operates at atmospheric pressure and 50 C (120 F) to pretreat corn residue to free the solid polymeric sugars. In a several-step pretreatment system, Zhang uses a strong cellulose solvent instead of highly corrosive chemicals, high pressure, and high temperature to breakup the linkages among lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose.

During Zhang's gentler process, there is no sugar degradation and inhibitor formation. In the following step, he creatively uses a highly volatile organic solvent to precipitate dissolved cellulose, extract lignin, and enable effective chemical recycling. After pretreatment and reagent recycling, lignocellulose can be fractionated into four products: lignin, hemicelluose sugars, amorphous cellulose, and acetic acid. "Co-products can generate more income, making biorefinery more profitable, and enable satellite biorefineries that fully utilize scattered lignocellulose resources," said Zhang. "For instance, lignin has many industrial uses, from glue to polymer substitutes and carbon fiber; and xylose can be converted to a healthy sweetening additive – xylitol, or to the precursors for nylon 6."

Amorphous cellulose, which is converted from crystalline cellulose, is another advantageous product from Zhang's process because in this form the cellulose material is more accessible for further hydrolysis, resulting in a higher sugar yield, higher hydrolysis rate, and less enzyme use. Zhang tested amorphous cellulose hydrolysis by adding special enzymes (Trichoderma cellulases) from Genencor International. The result is that about 97 percent of the cellulose is digested after 24 hours of the hydrolysis process.

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3D Ultrasound Device Poised to Advance Minimally Invasive Surgery

Advance might lead to more precise and safer endoscopic surgeries
Thursday, March 30, 2006

Durham, N.C. -- Three-dimensional ultrasound probes built by researchers at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering have imaged the beating hearts of dogs. The engineers said their demonstration showed that the probes could give surgeons a better view during human endoscopic surgeries in which operations are performed through tiny “keyhole” incisions.

If the probes prove beneficial in human testing, the advance might lead to more precise and safer endoscopic surgeries, said the Duke engineers. The researchers reported their advance in the latest issue of the journal Ultrasonic Imaging, which was issued in late March 2006, but dated July 2005. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.


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'Even a moron in a hurry' knows which Apple is which

'Even a moron in a hurry' knows which Apple is which, lawyer says
By Matt Dunham, AP

LONDON (AP) — Lawyers for Apple Computer (APPL) on Thursday asserted the company's right to distribute music through its iTunes music store, rejecting claims by The Beatles' Apple Corps that doing so violated a 1991 trademark agreement.

Apple Computer lawyer Anthony Grabiner said the "distribution of digital entertainment content" was permitted under the agreement, in which the two companies promised not to tread on the other's sphere of business.

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Proposed school would specialize in engineering

Proposed school would specialize in engineering
Health academy success inspires Waukesha South

By AMY HETZNER
ahetzner@journalsentinel.com
Posted: March 30, 2006

Waukesha - Following the success of their school's health professions academy, South High School leaders hope to launch another specialty school, this time aimed at preparing students for careers in engineering.

The proposal for the charter school will get its first public airing at a School Board committee meeting next week, according to district officials.

South Principal Mark Hansen said he hopes to get the board's permission to seek a state grant to help plan for the school, which could open in the fall of 2007.

The design of the school would be similar to that of the Waukesha Academy of Health Professions, which opened in 2004 and has about 75 students enrolled for this school year.


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Neurognostics signs a strategic partnership with Medical Numerics

Neurognostics signs a strategic partnership with Medical Numerics

Milwaukee, WI, March 29, 2006 – Neurognostics, Inc., a Milwaukee-based company specializing in functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) products and services, has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Medical Numerics, Inc., a software development company specializing in medical image visualization and analysis.

Working to provide the clinical community with the most comprehensive functional MR Imaging fMRI tools and applications, Neurognostics and Medical Numerics today announced a strategic alliance to deliver a new line of products to enhance fMRI’s utility in a clinical setting. The new product line will be based on Medical Numerics’ proprietary fMRI tool set, and Neurognostics’ MindState fDPD fMRI application software.

“We are thrilled about the opportunity to work with Medical Numerics,” said Neurognostics’ CEO, Douglas M. Tucker, Ph.D., M.B.A. “Both of our goals include advancing fMRI technology into clinical practice. It made sense for us to collaborate on our efforts to develop clinically useful fMRI tools and make them available to the clinical community. We explored a range of options to deliver fMRI tools into the hands of clinicians worldwide and concluded that Medical Numerics’ fMRI software solutions were by far the best. By partnering with Medical Numerics, we have the opportunity to add value by integrating our fMRI applications knowledge and expertise into one of the leading image visualization and analysis applications, and ultimately, leverage our expertise into the marketplace through Medical Numerics’ software applications and its scanner OEM relationships.”

“I am very excited about working with Neurognostics,” said Bob Steagall, Chief Operating Officer of Medical Numerics. “In combining their domain expertise in fMRI for detecting and staging central nervous system disorders with our expertise in software engineering and fMRI for neurosurgical planning, we will be able to offer our scanner OEM partners a set of fMRI applications of unmatched clinical utility. Our OEM partners will in turn be able to provide leading-edge clinical fMRI tools of the highest quality to their customers, ultimately benefiting the patient.”

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Attack on stem-cell patents

Attack on stem-cell patents
RON SEELY rseely@madison.com

Powerful patents on human embryonic stem cells held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation may be more of an impediment to research on the prized cells than restrictions imposed by President Bush, an article in today's journal Science charges.

Written by a California stem-cell researcher and a Washington, D.C., patent attorney, the Science article charges that WARF's patents on the cells are so broad that they are inhibiting distribution of the cells to other researchers, whether at universities or private laboratories.

It's not a new allegation. But the authors are more strident than past critics and go so far as to say the patents are "a more daunting barrier to progress in the field" than controversial federal restrictions, which limit the number of stem-cell lines that qualify for federal research dollars.


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In Mouse Experiment, Cells From Testes Are Transformed

Embryonic Stem Cell Success
In Mouse Experiment, Cells From Testes Are Transformed

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 25, 2006; Page A11

Scientists in Germany said yesterday that they had retrieved easily obtained cells from the testes of male mice and transformed them into what appear to be embryonic stem cells, the versatile and medically promising biological building blocks that can morph into all kinds of living tissues.

If similar starter cells exist in the testes of men, as several scientists yesterday said they now believe is likely, then it may not be difficult for scientists to cultivate them in laboratory dishes, grow them into new tissues and transplant those tissues into the ailing organs of men who donated the cells.

The technique would have vast advantages over the current approach to growing "personalized" replacement parts -- an approach that has stirred intense political controversy because it requires the creation and destruction of cloned human embryos as stem cell sources. The new work suggests that every male may already have everything he needs to regenerate new tissues -- at least with a little help from his local cell biologist.

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Adult cells in mice shown to mimic embryonic stem cells

LONDON (Reuters) - German scientists said on Friday they had isolated sperm-producing stem cells that have similar properties to embryonic stem cells from adult mice.

If the same type of cells in humans show similar qualities the researchers from the Georg-August-University of Goettingen believe they could be used in stem cell research which would remove the ethical dilemma associated with stem cells derived from human embryos.

"These isolated spermatogonial stem cells respond to culture conditions and acquire embryonic stem cell properties," Gerd Hasenfuss and his colleagues said in report published online by the journal Nature.

Stem cells are master cells that have the potential to develop into any cell type in the body. Scientists believe they could act as a type of repair system to provide new therapies for illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's.

But their use is controversial because the most promising stem cells for treating human disease are derived from very early human embryos left over from fertility treatments.

In the report Hasenfuss and his team described how they isolated the sperm-producing stem cells from mice testes.

The cells, which they call multipotent adult germline stem cells (maGSCs), under certain conditions, acted like embryonic stem cells. When the researchers injected the cells into early embryos they found the cells contributed to the development of different organs.

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B vitamin case reaches Supreme Court

B vitamin case reaches Supreme Court
ANDREW BRIDGESAssociated Press

WASHINGTON - B vitamin deficiencies can cause a range of serious health effects, including spinal defects in children born to women with below-normal levels of folic acid and anemia in people not getting enough B12. That's why a two-step method of diagnosing those deficiencies that three medical school doctors patented in 1990 has become so widely used. It's performed tens of millions of times a year, at a cost of just a dollar or two, by laboratory testing companies nationwide.

Now, to the surprise of patent attorneys, a case involving one of those companies, sued after it stopped paying some royalties, has landed in the Supreme Court, where arguments will be heard Tuesday.
Even more surprising is that the Supreme Court may dredge up a bombshell question not asked when the lower courts considered the case: Have inventors been busy patenting laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas?

At stake, attorneys on both sides of the case say, are 25 years of patent law and literally tens of thousands of patents on drugs, medical devices, computer software and other inventions. If the court reins in what can be patented, they say, it could be among the most important patent law decisions ever made.

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Nanofibres help nerves in brain regrow

Nanofibres help nerves in brain regrow
16 March 2006

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, Hong Kong University and Fourth Military Medical University, China, have used a nanofibre scaffold to help nerve cells regenerate in the brains of hamsters. The technique restored at least some sight to around three quarters of the animals.

"Our self-assembling peptide nanofibre scaffold created a good environment not only for axons to regenerate through the site of an acute injury, but also to knit the brain tissue together," said Shuguang Zhang of MIT.

Zhang and colleagues injected a solution of the peptides into the animals' brains. The fibres then self-assembled into a network in the void in the animal's brain caused by injury. The technique could ultimately help people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and stroke.

"If we can reconnect parts of the brain that were disconnected by a stroke, then we may be able to restore speech to an individual who is able to understand what is said but has lost the ability to speak," said Rutledge Ellis-Behnke of MIT. "This is not about restoring 100% of damaged brain cells, but 20% or even less may be enough to restore function."

The nanofibre scaffold consists of peptide nanofibres around 10 nm in diameter. The fibres form a network that is similar in scale to the surrounding matrix. The researchers believe that the presence of the network promotes cell migration into the region, which creates a "growth-permissive environment".

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Researchers find viable new sources for stem cell transplants to the heart

Potential heart benefit found in stem cells
Researchers find viable new sources for stem cell transplants to the heart

ATLANTA, GA (March 12, 2006) -- Stem cell transplantation is among one of the most exciting and hotly debated areas of medical research today. While the promise of personalized medicine and effective treatments for debilitating diseases drive progress in this area, moral and ethical dilemmas about embryonic cells continues to cloud the field. In research presented today at the American College of Cardiology's 55th Annual Scientific Session, scientists continue to explore mature stem cell sources for potentially significant cardiovascular benefits. ACC.06 is the premier cardiovascular medical meeting, bringing together over 30,000 cardiologists to further breakthroughs in cardiovascular medicine.

"We hope that the exploration of stem cells derived from new sources may bypass some of the debate that is preventing research progress right now," said Sharon A. Hunt, M.D., Stanford University. "The research presented here is extremely promising, and should be followed by more in-depth and patient-focused studies to determine the true feasibility of this treatment method."

Human Menstrual Blood Derived Stem Cell Has a High Cardiomyogenic Potential; Possible New Cell Source for Cardiac Stem Cell Therapy (Abstract 921-105) / Human Umbilical Cord Blood Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cell Has A Powerful Cardiomyogenic Potential in Vitro; A Novel Cell Source for Cardiac Stem Cell Based Therapy (Abstract 921-107)

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Scientists have 'moral duty' to help us live beyond 100

Scientists have 'moral duty' to help us live beyond 100
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

HUMANITY has a “moral duty” to pursue scientific research that could enhance intelligence and allow people to live well beyond 100 years as a matter of routine, according to an expert on medical ethics.
John Harris, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester, will argue tomorrow that the human race has not only the right but the responsibility to embrace contentious technologies such as genetic engineering and drugs that improve mental capacity.

The moral imperative to extend human life for as long as conceivably possible, and to improve its quality by artificial means, is no different from the responsibility to save lives in danger of ending prematurely, Professor Harris will say. Any technology that can achieve this should be actively pursued.He will spell out his controversial position in Tomorrow’s People, the Princeton Lectures organised by the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at Oxford University. His views will stir fresh debate about the ethics of medical technologies that aim not simply to restore normal functions that are impaired by disease or injury, but to improve basic natural capabilities.

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Nominations Sought for 2006 Small Business Technology Transfer

Governor Jim Doyle today encouraged nominations for the 2006 Small Business Technology Transfer
Award. Governor Doyle established this award in 2003 to recognize and reward the Wisconsin small
business that shows outstanding achievement in moving a technological innovation from idea to market.
Governor Doyle will present the award during the 2006 Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference in
Milwaukee on June 8-9, 2006.

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UW scientist finds more ways to fight diseases

UW scientist finds more ways to fight diseases
"Isn't just for bones anymore" says DeLuca
By Samara Kalk Derby

In the beginning, vitamin D research at the University of Wisconsin was all about building better bones, especially for children.

But "vitamin D therapy isn't just for bones anymore," pioneering UW-Madison scientist Hector DeLuca told a crowd of 250 at the Overture Center Tuesday night in a rare public lecture.

Now, he said, the vitamin D frontiers include developing treatments for psoriasis, dialysis patients, diabetes, osteoporosis, prevention of hip fractures, and even cancer.

DeLuca, who holds more than 200 U.S. patents, led his audience through the story of vitamin therapy, beginning in the 1850s, when German biochemists dominated science.

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Liquid crystal mixture might aid stem-cell research

Liquid crystal mixture might aid stem-cell research
DAVID WAHLBERG dwahlberg@madison.com
608-252-6125

Liquid crystals, which help display information on cell phones and laptops, could also prove handy in growing stem cells, UW-Madison researchers say.

The crystals, which transmit various colors of light depending on their alignment, could offer a new way to monitor differentiation - the process by which blank-slate stem cells evolve into other cell types, such as skin, muscle, kidney or brain.

"They could give a visual readout of cell-differentiation state and viability, so if you look at a plate (of cells) you could tell where they're at," said Sean Palecek, a UW-Madison chemical and biological engineer.

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Waste to wattage: Landfill gases create power

Waste to wattage: Landfill gases create power
By Mike Ivey

MIDDLETON - Hidden on a one-lane road behind a dirt-covered mountain of trash is the possible future of electric generation.

In the first installation of its kind in North America, technicians with Madison Gas & Electric are turning waste into watts by burning methane gas from a closed landfill off County Q.

Methane gas is created by decaying landfill material and has long been burned off to power conventional electric generators. The Dane County Rodefeld landfill off U.S. 12-18, for example, generates about four kilowatts of electricity burning methane gas.

But the MGE demonstration project uses a new type of technology that allows methane gas to be used in much smaller quantities and burned efficiently, making it more viable as an alternative fuel source. The system is currently generating 55 kilowatts of electricity, enough for about 50 residential customers.

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Doctors divided on 'fake blood' study

Doctors divided on 'fake blood' study

Web Posted: 03/02/2006 05:15 PM CST
Wendy Rigby
KENS 5 Eyewitness News

You could call it the holy grail of emergency medicine. What if there were a blood substitute that could be carried on helicopters and ambulances to keep bleeding patients from going into shock and dying?

A small, but vocal group of detractors is calling for an end to the study of this blood substitute, however, San Antonio doctors using this experimental therapy say the testing should continue because the stakes are so high.

University Hospital is one of more than 30 trauma centers in the country testing PolyHeme, an oxygen-carrying liquid that can be transported easily and given quickly to people of any blood type.

"Standard treatment has a 20 to 30 percent death rate," said Dr. Ronald Stewart, the director of University Hospital's trauma center and the principal investigator in the study. "So two or three patients out of 10 who meet the criteria for this study die in the hospital or in the field."

So far, 12 patients have been randomized for the study in San Antonio, a study which assumes informed consent, unless you're wearing a special bracelet that says you don't want the fake blood. Less then 1,000 of bracelets have been requested by South Texans.

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Marrow-derived stem cells deliver new cytokine to kill brain tumor cells, offer protection

Marrow-derived stem cells deliver new cytokine to kill brain tumor cells, offer protection

LOS ANGELES – Attaching a recently discovered cytokine to neural stem cells derived from bone marrow, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute have developed a tool to track and kill malignant brain tumor cells and provide long-term protection against their return.

Results of an animal study are published in the March 1, 2006 issue of Cancer Research, and the researchers are now applying to regulatory agencies to translate their work into human clinical trials.

Gliomas are highly invasive tumors with poorly defined borders that intermingle with healthy brain tissue, making complete surgical removal nearly impossible. Furthermore, cells separate from the main tumor and migrate to form satellites that escape treatment and often lead to recurrence.

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Stem Cell Treatment for Heart Attack Ineffective

Stem Cell Treatment for Heart Attack Ineffective

But experts say the field remains full of promise
By Ed Edelson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- One method of using bone marrow stem cells to repair the damage caused by a heart attack did not work in the largest trial of the therapy so far, German researchers report.

But U.S. experts say there is still a lot of promise in other stem cell therapies that are being tested.

"This should not dismay people or make them think stem cells will not work," said Dr. Robert E. Michler, chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, who also works in this field.

The German researchers described how a molecule that stimulates stem cell activity was given to half of 114 patients in the 12 hours after their heart attack was diagnosed. The molecule, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), was given in daily doses for five days.

The G-CSF therapy did mobilize stem cells, said the physicians at the Technische Universitat in Munich, where the study was done. But there was no difference in the amount of heart damage or the heart-pumping ability in the patients who got the treatment and those who did not.

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“Nano Skins” Show Promise as Flexible Electronic Devices

“Nano Skins” Show Promise as Flexible Electronic Devices

Troy, N.Y. — A team of researchers has developed a new process to make flexible, conducting “nano skins” for a variety of applications, from electronic paper to sensors for detecting chemical and biological agents. The materials, which are described in the March issue of the journal Nano Letters, combine the strength and conductivity of carbon nanotubes with the flexibility of traditional polymers.

“Researchers have long been interested in making composites of nanotubes and polymers, but it can be difficult to engineer the interfaces between the two materials,” says Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “We have found a way to get arrays of nanotubes into a soft polymer matrix without disturbing the shape, size, or alignment of the nanotubes.”

Nanotube arrays typically don’t maintain their shape when transferred because they are held together by weak forces. But the team has developed a new procedure that allows them to grow an array of nanotubes on a separate platform and then fill the array with a soft polymer. When the polymer hardens, it is essentially peeled back from the platform, leaving a flexible skin with organized arrays of nanotubes embedded throughout.

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State hopes to woo Abbott Labs

State hopes to woo Abbott Labs
Governor to discuss economic package
By TOM DAYKIN
tdaykin@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Feb. 28, 2006

Global pharmaceutical maker Abbott Laboratories Inc.'s long-range plans to expand into southeastern Wisconsin are expected to be the subject of a Thursday announcement by Gov. Jim Doyle.

Abbott recently bought almost 500 acres west of I-94 in Kenosha County. Sources said Tuesday that Doyle will discuss a state financing package to help Abbott acquire additional land for its planned development in Pleasant Prairie, a few miles north of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

Abbott anticipates using the Kenosha County site for future growth, company spokesman Jonathan Hamilton said, but Abbott does not now have any specific development plans in place for the property.


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