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From zero to a billion electron volts in 3.3 centimeters

From zero to a billion electron volts in 3.3 centimeters
Highest energies yet from laser wakefield acceleration

BERKELEY, CA -- In a precedent-shattering demonstration of the potential of laser-wakefield acceleration, scientists at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working with colleagues at the University of Oxford, have accelerated electron beams to energies exceeding a billion electron volts (1 GeV) in a distance of just 3.3 centimeters. The researchers report their results in the October issue of Nature Physics.

By comparison, SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, boosts electrons to 50 GeV over a distance of two miles (3.2 kilometers) with radiofrequency cavities whose accelerating electric fields are limited to about 20 million volts per meter.

The electric field of a plasma wave driven by a laser pulse can reach 100 billion volts per meter, however, which has made it possible for the Berkeley Lab group and their Oxford collaborators to achieve a 50th of SLAC's beam energy in just one-100,000th of SLAC's length.

This is only the first step, says Wim Leemans of Berkeley Lab's Accelerator and Fusion Research Division (AFRD). "Billion-electron-volt beams from laser-wakefield accelerators open the way to very compact high-energy experiments and superbright free-electron lasers."

In the fall of 2004 the Leemans group, dubbed LOASIS (Laser Optics and Accelerator Systems Integrated Studies), was one of three groups to report reaching peak energies of 70 to 200 MeV (million electron volts) with laser wakefields, accelerating bunches of tightly focused electrons with nearly uniform energies.

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Researchers Report Growing Stem Cells From Dead Embryos

Researchers Report Growing Stem Cells From Dead Embryos

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 23, 2006; Page A03

Researchers reported Thursday that they had cultivated a colony of human embryonic stem cells from an apparently dead embryo, a strategy some have suggested might be less controversial than conventional approaches that require the destruction of living embryos.

But other stem cell scientists and ethicists quickly raised a host of reasons that the advance may have little practical impact on the stormy research field. Among them are concerns that cells from dead embryos may be genetically abnormal, and the lack of a definitive test for proving that an embryo has no lingering potential for life.

"How do you know when an embryo is dead?" asked Eric M. Meslin, director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics.

The work, reported in the online journal Stem Cells, was led by Miodrag Stojkovic of Sintocell in Serbia and the Centre for Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at England's University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The team started with 13 embryos that had been created in a fertility clinic by in vitro fertilization (IVF) and had stopped developing after a few days. When those "arrested" embryos showed no progress after 24 hours, the team deemed them "generally regarded as dead," dissected them and cultivated their cells.

The hope was that a few cells might still have the potential to grow, even if the embryo as a whole did not -- just as viable organs can be retrieved from dead people. And it worked: From those cells, one healthy colony of stem cells grew.

"Usage of arrested embryos offers an attractive option," especially in countries where research on live embryos is restricted, the team concluded.

Many IVF embryos fail to develop, suggesting that the approach might boost the supply of stem cells for study, some experts said. But many of those embryos have abnormalities -- the very reason they stopped developing -- and so would be of questionable value in research, several said.

Full story.

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Stem cell breakthrough turns out to be a lot less than first advertised

Stem cell breakthrough turns out to be a lot less than first advertised
Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Some fuzzy statements to the press have landed the stem cell field back in the soup just when researchers appeared to be winning new public acceptance.

Missouri polls signal a probable win in November for a pro-research ballot initiative. Stem cell advocacy has become a wedge issue all over the country for Democrats angling to retake Congress. In California, the Proposition 71 effort finally has some real money to throw around after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger loaned $150 million to get the lawsuit-entangled program running.

Then came word that a biotech company, Advanced Cell Technology, which has moved its headquarters from Massachusetts to Alameda to take advantage of Prop. 71's $3 billion grant program, had produced stem cell lines a new way, by manipulating single cells, known as blastomeres, taken from embryos at the very early stage when they typically have only eight cells.

This was big news all over the world because it meant that human embryonic stem cells might be produced without destroying embryos.

Single blastomeres are taken all the time from eight-cell embryos in order to diagnose disease genes prior to in vitro fertilization, a technique known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Even with only seven cells remaining, the biopsied embryos appear to be capable of developing normally once they are implanted in the womb.

Scientists say stem cells made this new way could have some interesting properties. But the seeming ethics breakthrough isn't so clear-cut.

Advanced Cell Technology's scientists were trying to work out a nondestructive recipe for producing stem cells, but the initial stage of the work still required the sacrifice of some embryos. In fact, the company used 91 cells from 16 donated embryos to get the first two stem cell lines. None 0f those embryos, of course, could be implanted afterward -- all were destroyed.

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Is it time to lift the nuclear ban?

Is it time to lift the nuclear ban?
Aging nuclear plants generate one-fifth of the state’s electricity. But new facilities are outlawed. Coal faces environmental worries. Natural gas prices are soaring. And demand keeps growing.
By THOMAS CONTENT
tcontent@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Sept. 23, 2006

Worldwide, 28 nuclear power plants are under construction. In the United States, where the last new reactor was completed in 1996, 16 plants are on the drawing board, mostly in the South.

In Wisconsin, which relies on nuclear power for one-fifth of its electricity, the state's two nuclear plants are aging, both more than 30 years old.

With concerns growing about the greenhouse gases released by coal-fired plants and about the tripling of natural gas prices in recent years, and with electricity demand growing at 2% a year, is it time for Wisconsin to overturn its ban on new nuclear plants and consider plans to build a new one here?

"There will come a day, sometime in the next five to eight years, when I think the state will have to have the debate (on a new plant)," said Gale Klappa, chairman, president and chief executive of Wisconsin Energy Corp., the state's largest utility.

The moratorium itself already is being debated. A legislative committee assessing the role of nuclear power in Wisconsin's future will tour the Point Beach nuclear plant this week. The radioactive issue is also entering the political arena as the Nov. 7 election nears: Gov. Jim Doyle and Republican challenger Mark Green are divided over whether Wisconsin should explore new nuclear plants.

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UW is ninth in biotech patents

UW is ninth in biotech patents
MARV BALOUSEK mbalousek@madison.com 608-252-6135

The University of Wisconsin System ranks among the top 10 universities worldwide in biotechnology patents but falls behind several other Big Ten universities in transferring that technology to commercial uses, according to a study released today by the Milken Institute of Santa Monica, Calif.

Local biotechnology officials, however, dispute the study's findings on technology transfer.

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Cardiologist's 'living chip' changes science of disease monitoring

Cardiologist's 'living chip' changes science of disease monitoring

For patients living with heart failure and other health conditions, blood draws and diagnostic tests are commonplace in order to evaluate their condition. Often, though, chemical or physiologic changes silently cause damage that is not detected until much later.

But what if in the future a tiny device, one the size of a nickel or significantly smaller, could be implanted in the patient to monitor and detect abnormalities, and could then relay data to physicians, or provide therapy on the spot, in real time?

It may sound like science fiction, but this concept is moving toward reality at Physiologic Communications LLC, a biotech company founded by University of Rochester Medical Center cardiologist Spencer Rosero, M.D., who specializes in heart rhythm disorders. The company is developing implantable biosensors – integrating living cells with electronics – to create a "biological chip." When implanted, this chip can detect physiologic and chemical changes with faster, improved accuracy. These more accurate results, retrieved without invasive testing, allow for better and timely response and, the hope is, a healthier patient.

How it works Ultimately, cells specific to the patient can be engineered to live on and function as part of the miniature electronic chip. The wireless biosensor is placed within and around blood vessels and nerves to provide detection and stimulation of the surrounding tissues or organ systems, with the ability to detect changes. A change triggers a message to a wireless device to alert the patient early on about a problem. The patient can then contact their physician.

For a patient with heart failure, for example, the biosensor could detect a change in blood protein levels at an early stage, prompting the physician to alter medications to correct the problem. Currently, without blood work being done, the patient or physician would not suspect an issue until the patient began having symptoms or underwent pre-scheduled testing at a routine visit. Catching the problem earlier means the patient remains healthier, and greatly lessens the chance of a hospital stay.

The initial application for this technology is expected to involve pharmaceutical companies, which could use the biological chips to test potential drugs in the lab more quickly and accurately. In later generations, the chip ultimately could command implanted devices – for example, a wireless defibrillator/pacemaker or an insulin pump – to take action to correct a detected abnormality. The device would communicate with the living chip in real time, making adjustments as a direct result of the chip's ability to detect changes.

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UC Santa Barbara and Intel develop world's first Hybrid Silicon Laser

UC Santa Barbara and Intel develop world's first Hybrid Silicon Laser
Chip that emits and guides light could drive silicon photonics

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Sept. 18, 2006 – Researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Intel Corporation have built the world's first electrically powered Hybrid Silicon Laser using standard silicon manufacturing processes. This breakthrough addresses one of the last major barriers to producing low-cost, high-bandwidth silicon photonics devices for use inside and around future computers and data centers.

The researchers were able to combine the light-emitting properties of Indium Phosphide with the light-routing capabilities of silicon into a single hybrid chip. When voltage is applied, light generated in the Indium Phosphide enters the silicon waveguide to create a continuous laser beam that can be used to drive other silicon photonic devices. A laser based on silicon could drive wider use of photonics in computers because the cost can be greatly reduced by using high-volume silicon manufacturing techniques.

"This could bring low-cost, terabit-level optical 'data pipes' inside future computers and help make possible a new era of high-performance computing applications," said Mario Paniccia, director of Intel's Photonics Technology Lab. "While still far from becoming a commercial product, we believe dozens, maybe even hundreds of hybrid silicon lasers could be integrated with other silicon photonic components onto a single silicon chip."

"Our research program with Intel highlights how industry and academia can work together to advance the state of science and technology," said John Bowers, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. "By combining UCSB's expertise with Indium Phosphide and Intel's silicon photonics expertise, we have demonstrated a novel laser structure based on a bonding method that can be used at the wafer-, partial-wafer or die-level, and could be a solution for large-scale optical integration onto a silicon platform. This marks the beginning of highly integrated silicon photonic chips that can be mass produced at low cost."

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Biotechs see big danger in patent rules changes

Biotechs see big danger in patent rules changes
East Bay Business Times - September 15, 2006by Marie-Anne Hogarth

Neal Gutterson, president of Hayward-based Mendel Biotechnology Inc. is more than a little worked up about a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office proposal.

The proposal to limit a key portion of the patent application process, aimed at reducing the patent office's backlog of more than 700,000 cases by limiting continuations, could go into effect before the end of the year and has raised the ire of biotech and agri-technology companies.

Continuations allow companies to apply for protection of different aspects of the same invention without risking having old claims cited against them in a patent search.

Many biotech - and other tech companies - rely on continuations because they may not know for years what eventual form their products will take.

"The reason this is potentially negative is that the big breakthroughs are not how the tech economy runs," said attorney Gregory Scott Smith, who runs GSS Law Group, a patent prosecution firm in Newark. "The tech economy runs on constant incremental improvement and this would hinder that ability."

The patent office, which is reviewing public comment on the rules, says the continuation measure could improve productivity by 5 percent. It faces a growing backlog of cases, which is expected to increase by 100,000 this year.

"Some companies have had conversations about legal avenues for potentially an injunction," Gutterson said. "One of the questions is whether the U.S. PTO has full scope to make the changes, since the continuation practice is part of the patent law."

Industry groups, such as the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and companies, including Amgen Inc., Genentech Inc., GlaxoSmithKline and Mendel Biotechnology, have expressed their opposition through commentary on the patent office's Web site.

Groups including BIO, which, according to The Center for Responsive Politics, spent more than $2.8 million in 2005 on lobbying activities, are talking to White House and patent officials.

"It is quite possible it will be up for a court to decide if the patent office will limit continuation practice," said Kenneth Goldman, an attorney with Berkeley-based Dynavax Technologies Corp.

Although biotech companies have overwhelmingly opposed the rule change, that sentiment is not as strong in other industries.

Full story.

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RedPrairie chief slams city, state

RedPrairie chief slams city, state
Business environment 'going downhill,' he says
By RICK ROMELL
rromell@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Sept. 15, 2006

Software executive John Jazwiec on Friday continued his blunt talk about Wisconsin and Milwaukee, telling a business group that "our state and our city are going downhill."

But state Commerce Secretary Mary Burke took issue with Jazwiec, saying his well-publicized views are those of one person and are not representative of the business community as a whole.

Jazwiec, the top executive with Waukesha's RedPrairie Corp., got the ear of business and civic leaders in June when he said the fast-growing software firm was considering leaving Wisconsin.

Among his stated reasons: high taxes, high crime, difficulty persuading talented people to move here and difficulty finding homegrown talent.

In short, Jazwiec contended Friday, Milwaukee is ill-equipped to attract or hold the creative people who he said now drive the economy.

"This is not about handouts," he told a meeting of the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin. "I want everybody to start admitting that our state and our city are going downhill. We have a brain drain."

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For 1st Woman With Bionic Arm, a New Life Is Within Reach

For 1st Woman With Bionic Arm, a New Life Is Within Reach

By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006; Page A01

The first time Claudia Mitchell peeled a banana one-handed, she cried.

It was several months after she lost her left arm at the shoulder in a motorcycle accident. She used her feet to hold the banana and peeled it with her right hand. She felt like a monkey.

"It was not a good day," Mitchell, 26, recalled this week. "Although I accomplished the mission, emotionally it was something to be reckoned with."

Now, Mitchell can peel a banana in a less simian posture. All she has to do is place her prosthetic left arm next to the banana and think about grabbing it. The mechanical hand closes around the fruit and she's ready to peel.

Mitchell, who lives in Ellicott City, is the fourth person -- and first woman -- to receive a "bionic" arm, which allows her to control parts of the device by her thoughts alone. The device, designed by physicians and engineers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, works by detecting the movements of a chest muscle that has been rewired to the stumps of nerves that once went to her now-missing limb.

Mitchell and the first person to get a bionic arm -- a power-line technician who lost both arms to a severe electric shock -- will demonstrate their prostheses today at a news event in Washington. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is part of a multi-lab effort, funded with nearly $50 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create more useful and natural artificial limbs for amputees.

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Adult Stem cells: Chemistry paves way toward promising therapies

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 14 -- Chemists are developing new insights and techniques in an effort to expand the therapeutic potential of stem cells, which includes possible treatments for Parkinson's disease, diabetes, spinal cord injury and other devastating conditions. The American Chemical Society will explore some of these latest developments, including new findings on the transformation potential of adult stem cells, during a special symposium, "Emerging Technologies: Stem Cells," on Thursday, Sept. 14, in San Francisco during the Society's 232nd national meeting. All papers in this symposium, which begins at 1:30 p.m., will be presented at the Hilton San Francisco, Yosemite B.

Shown below are selected papers from this symposium:

Adult stem cells show wider potential than previously thought -- Embryonic stem cells are the most versatile stem cells, capable of being transformed into any other cell type, depending on their desired therapeutic use. Now, researchers at Northwestern University have found new evidence that hematopoietic stem cells, a type of adult stem cell derived from the bone marrow that gives rise to blood cells, is capable of undergoing more diverse transformations than previously thought and could be transformed into a wide variety of tissue types, not just blood cells. In recent laboratory tests, human megakaryocytes (bone marrow cells that produce blood platelets that are responsible for blood clotting) derived from adult hematopoietic stem cells were, for the first time, reprogrammed into neutrophil-like cells similar to the white blood cells that are responsible for fighting infections, according to study leader E. Terry Papoutsakis, Ph.D., a chemical engineer at the University. Insights from this study could help guide similar adult stem cell transformations in other cell types in the future, he says. (BIOT 459, Thursday, Sept. 14, 1:30 p.m.)

Elasticity of tissue environment plays role in determining stem cell growth --Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that the elasticity of a stem cell's environment is a major determinant of what type of tissue the stem cell becomes. In laboratory tests, Dennis Discher, Ph.D., and Adam Engler, Ph.D., grew mesenchymal stem cells (derived from adult bone marrow) in polymer hydrogels with either soft, medium or rigid elasticity. Based on resulting cell shapes as well as messenger RNA and protein markers, stem cells grown in softer environments -- such as brain tissue -- tended to produce nerve-like cells; those grown in environments with medium elasticity -- similar to muscle -- produced muscle-like cells; and stem cells grown in more rigid environments -- like bone -- produced bone-like cells. The study provides new clues on how chemical and mechanical factors interact to influence stem cell growth, the researchers say. (BIOT 463, Thursday, Sept. 14, 3:10 p.m.)

'Stretched' stem cells have potential to be transformed into blood vessel cells -- Scientists have searched for years for a renewable cell source to craft blood vessels that can be used for heart bypass surgery and perform more like natural arteries. Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have shown that mesenchymal stem cells from adult bone marrow can be repeatedly and mechanically stretched -- in a manner similar to a taffy pull -- into patterns that could potentially transform them into smooth muscle cells similar to blood vessel tissue. These newly-formed smooth muscle cells, which can expand and contract, could be used as a component of a tissue-engineered graft that may provide superior performance over conventional grafts that are used for bypass surgery, says study leader Kyle Kurpinkski, a doctoral candidate in the University's Department of Bioengineering. (BIOT 464, Thursday, Sept. 14, 3:30 p.m.)


###
The American Chemical Society -- the world's largest scientific society -- is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

[Ed. Note: The summaries are embargoed to coincide with an ACS News briefing on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 10 a.m., Pacific Time. Reporters are asked to call in five to ten minutes prior to the scheduled start time. Reporters will be asked to identify themselves, their affiliations and the topic of the briefing. Call 800-967-7187 (domestic); 719-457-2635 (international).]

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Using microbes to fuel the US hydrogen economy

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - "If the U.S. is to have a future hydrogen-based economy, we'll need a way to generate abundant quantities of hydrogen safely and economically," said Daniel (Niels) van der Lelie, a biologist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. Van der Lelie will discuss the prospect of using vats of microbes to brew up the hydrogen in a talk at the 232nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, California, at 3:35 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday, September 12, 2006, in the Telegraph Hill room of the Sheraton Palace.

The focus on hydrogen as a future fuel source is compelling given dwindling supplies of oil and natural gas, as well as escalating costs and the fact that burning fossil fuels releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, a "greenhouse" gas, into the atmosphere. In contrast, burning hydrogen gas (for example, in a fuel cell) produces no pollution. And hydrogen, a constituent of water, is widely abundant. However, finding simple, inexpensive ways to extract that abundant element and produce it in a pure gaseous form -- a crucial step toward making the "hydrogen economy" a reality -- has been a technological challenge.

Van der Lelie's group reports that experimental setups using Thermatoga neapolitana bacteria given a simple glucose feedstock can generate copious amounts of hydrogen gas at temperatures between 158 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit at atmospheric to elevated pressure. In his talk, van der Lelie will describe the complex biochemistry of these reactions as well as the potential to scale up this system for continuous, farm-based, economical hydrogen production. One significant finding was that Thermatoga neapolitana produced hydrogen most efficiently in a moderately low-oxygen environment. Previously, hydrogen production by bacteria has only been reported under anaerobic, or oxygen-free, conditions.

"Oxygen normally kills anaerobic microbes like Thermatoga neapolitana," van der Lelie said. That would be a problem for any real-world production facilities, as eliminating all oxygen from production lines could be very expensive. "Our research provides the first evidence that bacteria can efficiently produce hydrogen gas when oxygen is present."

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Brown Team Creates Uncanny Cell Replicas for Treatment, Research

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Call them genuine fakes. Brown University biomedical engineer Diane Hoffman-Kim and her research team have made plastic replicas of real cells through a novel two-part molding process. The copies looked so authentic, Hoffman-Kim couldn’t tell if they were real or rubber at first.

“When I saw the images from the microscope, I said, ‘OK, I can’t tell the difference,’” Hoffman-Kim said. “It was pretty amazing – and just what we wanted.”

A description of the replicas, their ability to support cell growth, and their possible applications in science and medicine are published in Langmuir, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

The main cells used in the experiments were Schwann cells, which protect peripheral nerves by wrapping around their axons to create insulating myelin sheaths. Schwann cells also direct axon growth during cell development and repair.

Hoffman-Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology and the Division of Engineering, said the realistic replicas could be used in laboratories to help scientists understand how these critical support cells sustain and direct nerve growth.


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Brain Images of Woman in Vegetative State Hint at Awareness

Brain Images of Woman in Vegetative State Hint at Awareness
By Thomas H. Maugh II and Karen Kaplan, Times Staff Writers
September 8, 2006

Sophisticated brain-imaging techniques suggest that a young woman in a vegetative state five months after a traffic accident had some mental functioning, even though she was unable to physically respond to her environment, British researchers report today.

The woman's brain showed mental activity virtually identical to that of healthy people when she was addressed in complex sentences and when told to imagine activities such as playing tennis, the physicians reported in the journal Science.

The findings challenge the standard diagnosis of a vegetative state, implying that some patients may have what Dr. Lionel Naccache of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research called "a rich mental life" in an accompanying editorial.

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Stem cells could be next generation of sports doping

Stem cells could be next generation of sports doping
Associated Press

LONDON -- For athletes, stem cells have much more than the potential to cure disease and save lives -- they may be able to heal injuries, boost strength and endurance, and provide a lasting edge over the competition.

If it sounds like stem cells are next frontier for doping in sports, it's because they very well may be.

"There's a spin-off technology from stem cells that could produce super-athletes," said Paul Griffiths, managing director of CryoGenesis International, which stores umbilical cord blood in its bank for potential later therapeutic use.

He thinks injecting stem cells into healthy muscles might increase their size and even restore them to their youthful capacity.

"You could potentially find a 40-year-old man with 20-year-old legs," Griffiths said.

While such applications could be years away, their potential use raises more ethical questions about doping in sports.

Full story.

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Organic semiconductors make cheap. flexible photovoltaics and LEDs

Organic semiconductors make cheap. flexible photovoltaics and LEDs
By Bill Steele

Imagine T-shirts that light up, or a beach umbrella that collects solar energy to run a portable TV. How about really cheap solar collectors for the roof?

All this and more could come from cutting-edge research at Cornell that demonstrates a new type of organic semiconductor device which shows electroluminescence and acts as a photovoltaic cell. The device is the first to use an "ionic junction," which researchers say could lead to improved performance. Since organic semiconductors can be made in thin, flexible sheets, they could create displays on cloth or paper.

"Flexible means low-cost fabrication," said George Malliaras, Cornell associate professor of materials science and engineering, in whose laboratory the research was done. And that means another result of the research could be mass-produced, inexpensive solar cells.

The work is described in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal Science in a paper by Cornell graduate researchers Daniel Bernards and Samuel Flores-Torres, Héctor Abruña, the E. M. Chamot Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell, and Malliaras.

Semiconductors -- organic or otherwise -- are materials that contain either an excess of free electrons (N-type) or "holes" (P-type). Holes are spaces where an atom ought to have an electron but doesn't, representing a positive charge. N- and P-type materials can be joined to form diodes and transistors. The Cornell researchers went a step further by making a diode out of organic semiconductors that also contain free ions (molecules with an electrical charge). They laminated together two organic layers, one that contained free positive ions and the other negative ions. They then added thin conducting films on the top and bottom; the top conductor is transparent to allow light in and out.

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Cell-sized 3-D structure could hold key for next-gen hard drives

Physicists trap, map tiny magnetic vortex
Cell-sized 3-D structure could hold key for next-gen hard drives

In a research first that could lead to a new generation of hard drives capable of storing thousands of movies per square inch, physicists at Rice University have decoded the three-dimensional structure of a tornado-like magnetic vortex no larger than a red blood cell.

"Understanding the nuances and functions of magnetic vortices is likely going to be a key in creating next-generation magnetic storage devices," said lead researcher Carl Rau, professor of physics and astronomy. "It's widely believed this technology will support storage densities in the range of terabits per square inch, and our group is equally excited about the potential for magnetic processors and for high-speed magnetic RAM."

The findings are available online and due to appear in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters.

Rau and postdoctoral researcher Jian Li used a one-of-a-kind scanning ion microscope to first create and then measure ultra-thin circular disks of soft magnetic cobalt. Their goal was to trap and image a single magnetic vortex, a cone-like structure that's created in the magnetic field at the disk when all the magnetic moments of the atoms in the disk align into uniform concentric circles. However, towards the core of the disk, the magnetic moments point more and more out of the plane of the disk, like a swirling cone. If the vortex spins in a right-handed direction, the cone points up, and if the vortex spins left, the cone points down.

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BioE Stem Cell to be Featured in Two Scientific Presentations at the Vatican

September 06, 2006 11:35 AM US Eastern Timezone
BioE Stem Cell to be Featured in Two Scientific Presentations at the Vatican; UK Scientists to Present Findings on Company's Cord Blood MLPC, a New Category of Versatile Stem Cells That Provide Vast Opportunities for Regenerative Medicine Research
BIOWIRE2K

ST. PAUL, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 6, 2006--BioE(R), Inc., a biomedical company providing human umbilical cord blood stem cells as enabling, high-quality cellular tools for drug discovery and therapeutic research, announced today its cord-blood-derived Multi-Lineage Progenitor Cell(TM) (MLPC(TM)) will be featured in two scientific presentations at the Vatican's Augustinianum Institute in Rome. Researchers from Newcastle University (United Kingdom) will present research data involving the MLPC during an International Congress about stem cells organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life to be held Sept. 14-16, 2006.


Specifically, Professor of Regenerative Medicine Colin McGuckin, Ph.D., at Newcastle University's United Kingdom (UK) Centre for Cord Blood, and Nicolas Forraz, Ph.D., clinical sciences business manager at Newcastle University and senior research associate in Professor McGuckin's group, will discuss the use and benefits of cord blood stem cells and data demonstrating the MLPC's similarity to embryonic stem cells with regard to its "high potential for multi-lineage tissue differentiation."

"It is a very exciting time to be working with cord blood stem cells," said Professor McGuckin. "Research continues to demonstrate these cells, and the MLPC in particular, can turn into multiple cell and tissue types once thought to only be derived from embryonic stem cells. As a result, the readily available MLPC is leading a new and exciting category of highly functional cord blood stem cells immediately suitable for a variety of research applications. And, with their documented successful use in human transplant settings, cord blood stem cells have widespread appeal and the future potential to enhance human therapeutics and drug screening in the very near term."

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Senators Denounce Scientist's Stem Cell Claims

Senators Denounce Scientist's Stem Cell Claims
Confusion Over Harm to Embryos In Study at Issue

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 7, 2006; Page A04

Two senators who strongly support human embryonic stem cell research lashed out yesterday at the scientist who recently reported the creation of those cells by a method that does not require the destruction of embryos, saying the scientist and his company have harmed the struggling field by overstating their results.

"It's a big black eye if scientists are making false and inaccurate representations," a combative Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations labor, health and human services subcommittee, which he chairs.

Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in Worcester, Mass., defended his work and the company's statements. "Our paper is 100 percent correct," said the visibly shaken scientist, referring to the highly publicized article that appeared in the Aug. 24 issue of the journal Nature.

"You're on the ropes!" Specter retorted, capping one of several exchanges in which he and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a fellow advocate of stem cell research, repeatedly interrupted and scolded Lanza.

At issue was the initial publicity and resulting media coverage of ACT's widely reported experiment, which showed that a single cell taken from a human embryo can be coaxed to become a colony of stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells are prized for their medical and research potential, and until Lanza's experiment they had been grown only by methods that necessitated the destruction of an embryo.

Because the removal of a single cell from an early embryo is widely regarded as harmless (hundreds of apparently healthy children began as fertility clinic embryos that first had a cell or two removed for testing purposes), ACT characterized the technique as a way to make stem cells without destroying embryos.

But opponents of the research, most prominently representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, quickly attacked that claim as bordering on fraudulent. They noted that, in ACT's experiments, the scientists destroyed the embryos to get as many single cells as possible to work with.

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Appeals court upholds state anti-spam law

By CHELYEN DAVIS

RICHMOND--The Virginia Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the nation's first conviction under an anti-spam law.

The court rejected an appeal by Jeremy Jaynes, who was convicted in 2004 in Loudoun County of violating Virginia's anti-spam law, the nation's most restrictive law against Internet spam e-mails.

Jaynes, a North Carolina resident who was considered the eighth worst spammer in the world by Spamhaus, a spammer monitoring group, was accused of hiding and falsifying routing and domain information to send hundreds of thousands of unwanted e-mails.

Virginia's law allows for the sending of unsolicited bulk e-mail, but makes it a crime for senders to hide their identities if they're sending more than 10,000 pieces of e-mail in a single 24-hour period, or 100,000 in a 30-day period.

Evidence from his original trial showed that Jaynes had sent more than 12,000 unsolicited e-mails on a single day in July 2003--right after Virginia's law took effect--and more than that on two other days that month. He had also gone to lengths to hide the origin of those e-mails.

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Illinois biotech company will move to Fitchburg

An Evanston, Ill., biotechnology company that says it has a better way to discover drugs will move to the Fitchburg Technology Campus later this month.
Illinois biotech company will move to Fitchburg
JUDY NEWMAN jdnewman@madison.com

Caden Biosciences formerly Cue Biotech also is getting a new name and $5.85 million in first-round funding, including $500,000 from the state Investment Board.

"We're excited about (the move)," said chief financial officer Geoffrey Trukenbrod. "There's a significant scientific management and (biological) tool base in Madison. We think it's going to allow us to rapidly build the company."

With four employees now, Caden hopes to have 15 to 20 a year from now, Trukenbrod said, mainly scientists and support staff.

Cue Biotech was founded in 2000 based on discoveries in research labs at Northwestern University and at the University of Illinois-Chicago campus.

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Scientists crack genetic secrets of human egg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The human egg's ability to transform into a new life, or into new cells that may someday save lives, is well documented. The mystery lies in the mechanics - in how a single cell can transform so nimbly.

Scientists at Michigan State University report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they have identified genes unique to the human egg. The identification opens the way to understanding these genes' functions, which may lead to solving problems from infertility to degenerative diseases.

"What's in the egg to have that power?" asked Jose Cibelli, MSU professor of physiology and animal science. "Some of those genes are responsible for the magic trick that the egg has. This paper takes a peek at what genes are in the egg waiting to make these changes."

Combined with sperm, the egg divides and organizes cells to ultimately create a human being.

Combined with technology, the unfertilized egg might be coaxed to produce other specific cells, including stem cells, which can be directed to grow into new tissue. This potential could be used to combat diseases.

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Clue found to Epstein-Barr virus' ability to form and sustain tumors

MADISON - Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) have found a viral target that opens the door for the development of drugs to destroy tumors caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

The finding, published in the Sept. 4 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online, identifies the activity of a critical segment of a viral protein required to sustain EBV-related tumors. The researchers found that when they blocked this activity, the virus life cycle was broken.

Often linked to infectious mononucleosis, EBV also causes cancers that kill 100,000 people around the world each year. The virus, which infects the immune system's B cells and causes them to grow, is directly responsible for Burkitt's lymphoma, an often-fatal malignancy affecting thousands of African children annually. It is also causally associated with at least four other kinds of human cancers, including Hodgkin's lymphomas, lymphomas in AIDS patients and organ transplant recipients as well as nasopharyngeal carcinomas.

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Who gives stem cells their marching orders?

Who gives stem cells their marching orders?

Researchers from the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) have shown that a single gene involved in embryonic development is responsible for two seemingly contradictory activities -- maintaining stem cells after the embryo has implanted in the mother's uterus, and later providing cues to direct their differentiation in a coordinated fashion when the time is ripe.

The development of an embryo from a few seemingly identical stem cells is a truly awesome feat of nature. As they bathe in a chemical soup they've manufactured themselves, stem cells react to subtle changes in chemical concentration, moving apart and taking on distinct identities. The million-dollar question: How do these cells – all initially the same, and exposed to the same environment – end up acting in such different ways, and in so orchestrated a manner? Understanding the choreography involved in this mysterious cellular signaling dance is crucial to our ability to coax stem cells to grow into specific tissues outside the body. And it is also important if we are to understand and perhaps correct what goes wrong when the chemical signaling system goes awry and stem cells become cancerous.

Research has shown that the chemical soup in the developing embryo contains a protein factor called Nodal, a powerful "master chef" that controls the activity of a whole host of important regulatory genes. The ISREC group showed that embryos already need Nodal when they attach to the wall of the uterus, to expand their pool of stem cells, and to let individual cells know where they are with respect to their neighbors. However, to carry out these tasks, the Nodal protein must be cleaved by specific enzymes. The enzymes act as a sort of regulatory switch, increasing the stem cells' production of Nodal and preventing them from differentiating too early. Using mice engineered to carry an altered form of the protein, the ISREC group showed that if this switch is blocked, Nodal has the opposite effect: it triggers a cascade of molecular signals which stimulate differentiation.

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Significant Adult Stem Cell Advance Drew Modest Attention

Significant Adult Stem Cell Advance Drew Modest Attention
By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com International Editor
August 31, 2006

(CNSNews.com) - In contrast to the excitement generated by a U.S. company's claims to have created "ethical" embryonic stem cells (ESCs), relatively little interest met a Japanese finding that "adult" stem cells from mice can be reprogrammed to closely resemble ESCs -- a potential breakthrough in a field that is roiling politics in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The U.S. scientific journal, Cell, reported this month that scientists at Kyoto University found that four factors -- or genes -- turned the mouse cells into cells that behave like ESCs.

Proponents of ESC research hope cells from embryos will someday be used to treat injuries and degenerative diseases, but their origin -- the early-stage human embryo, which is destroyed in the process -- makes the research highly controversial.

The Japanese work, however, suggests it may be possible to obtain cells offering all the potential advantages of embryonic ones, but from non-embryonic sources. Human eggs would not be required, and embryos would not need to be created by somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) or destroyed.

Australasian Bioethics Information, a bioethics clearinghouse, commented that making an adult cell revert into an ESC would be "one of the great dreams of regenerative medicine."

"If this [Japanese] success can be replicated with human cells, it might indeed transform America's stem cell politics," the organization said.

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Modified cells zoom in to kill cancer, study says

Modified cells zoom in to kill cancer, study says
Gene therapy could treat many types of tumors, researchers report
Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Journal Sentinel Staff
Posted: Aug. 31, 2006

Scientists for the first time have genetically modified tumor-fighting immune cells, allowing patients to rid themselves of an aggressive form of cancer, according to a study released Thursday.

The technique, used to successfully treat two patients with advanced melanoma, paves the way for a new approach to fighting cancer by harnessing - and boosting - the body's immune system instead of relying on toxic chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

The researchers from the National Cancer Institute, whose findings were published online by the journal Science, say the strategy could be adapted to treat breast, prostate, lung, colorectal and other common cancers.

"It's obviously very exciting," said Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, who was not involved in the research. "It's a proof of concept of being able to develop a technique where they can use a patient's own blood cells to fight cancer."

Steven A. Rosenberg, chief of the National Cancer Institute's surgery branch and senior author of the study, said the results reaffirm the promise of gene therapy after several high-profile setbacks.

"We've been hyping gene therapy for a long time," he said. "This is the first example of where we can actually use it to treat a cancer patient."

Rosenberg and others cautioned that it would take several years to translate this initial success into a practical therapy.

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