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MIT bioengineer advances survival, promise of adult stem cells

Anne Trafton, News Office

February 27, 2007

 

MIT researchers have developed a technique to encourage the survival and growth of adult stem cells, a step that could help realize the therapeutic potential of such cells.

Adult stem cells, found in many tissues in the body, are precursor cells for specific cell types. For example, stem cells found in the bone marrow develop into blood cells, bone cells and other connective tissues, and neural stem cells develop into brain tissue.

Those stem cells hold great promise for treatment of injuries and some diseases, says MIT professor of biological engineering Linda Griffith.

Griffith is the senior author of a recent study showing that when presented in the right physical context, certain growth factors encourage the survival and proliferation of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells grown outside of the body.

The work offers hope that one day, stem cells removed from a patient could be transplanted to an injury site and induced to grow into new, healthy tissue. The research appears in the January 18 online issue
of Stem Cells.

Full story.

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Sixth Annual International Bioethics Forum

Gehrke & Associates, S.C. is proud to be a Silver Sponsor of the Sixth Annual International Bioethics Forum: From Therapy to Enhancement on April 19- 20, 2007, at the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center at 5445 East Cheryl Parkway in Madison, WI.

For more information, please visit the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute.

Overview
Focusing on the interface between molecular biology, medical applications and ethics, keynote presentations and break-out sessions are designed to facilitate participants’ understanding of:

  • The process of developing new medical therapies – research lab to market
  • Uses of the term “enhancement,” including “therapeutic” and “non-therapeutic” enhancement
  • The diversity of viewpoints regarding these issues; how policies and regulations are developed and implemented
  • The complexities associated with both the scientific and ethical
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Scientists triumph in battle over ban on hybrid embryos

Mark Henderson, Science Editor
From The Times
February 27, 2007

Scientists triumph in battle over ban on hybrid embryosMark Henderson, Science Editor
Plans to outlaw the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for potentially life-saving stem cell research are to be dropped after a revolt by scientists.

The proposed government ban on fusing human DNA with animal eggs, which promises insights into incurable conditions such as Alzheimer’s and motor neuron disease, will be abandoned because of concerns among senior ministers that it will damage British science.

While ministers will not endorse the research in full yet, they are no longer seeking legislation to prohibit it, The Times has learnt. The Government will instead provide the fertility watchdog with funds for a public debate on the subject before new laws are drafted.

Government support for an interim ban had been announced by Caroline Flint, the Public Health Minister, in December, in a White Paper reviewing the fertility laws. It provoked outrage in the scientific community, with researchers describing the proposal as “an affront to patients” that would jeopardise Britain’s position as a world leader in stem cell science.

Last month 45 scientists, ethicists and politicians, including three Nobel prizewinners, wrote to The Times to support the hybrid embryo work. It has been backed by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, Britain’s two biggest funders of medical science, and by the Human Genetics Commission, which advises ministers on genetic matters.

Full story.

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First direct electric link between neurons and light-sensitive nanoparticle films created

Development could lead to creation of an artificial retina

GALVESTON, Texas — The world's first direct electrical link between nerve cells and photovoltaic nanoparticle films has been achieved by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and the University of Michigan. The development opens the door to applying the unique properties of nanoparticles to a wide variety of light-stimulated nerve-signaling devices — including the possible development of a nanoparticle-based artificial retina.

Nanoparticles are artificially created bits of matter not much bigger than individual atoms. Their behavior is controlled by the same forces that shape molecules; they also exhibit the bizarre effects associated with quantum mechanics. Scientists can exploit these characteristics to custom-build new materials "from the bottom up" with characteristics such as compatibility with living cells and the ability to turn light into tiny electrical currents that can produce responses in nerves.

That's what the UTMB and Michigan researchers did, using a process devised by Michigan chemical engineering professor Nicholas Kotov, one of the authors of a paper on the research appearing in the current issue of Nano Letters. The process starts with a glass plate and then builds a layer-by-layer sandwich of two kinds of ultra-thin films, one made of mercury-tellurium nanoparticles and another of a positively charged polymer called PDDA. The scientists then added a layer of ordinary clay and a cell-friendly coating of amino acid, and placed cultured neurons on the very top.

When light shines on them, the mercury-tellurium nanoparticle film layers produce electrons, which then move up into the PDDA film layers and produce an upward-moving electrical current. "As you build up the layers of this, you get better capabilities to absorb photons and generate voltage," said UTMB research scientist Todd Pappas, lead author on the Nano Letters paper. "When the current reaches the neuron membrane, it depolarizes the cell to the point where it fires, and you get a signal in the nerve."

Continue reading "First direct electric link between neurons and light-sensitive nanoparticle films created" »

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Don't put all eggs in biomedical basket

Posted: Feb. 24, 2007
John Torinus

There is every reason to be excited about the expansion of biomedical business in the metro Milwaukee area. But it isn't the only horse we should be betting on.

The region now has 10,800 jobs in that sector, led by GE Healthcare with 6,800. Most of the 68 biomedical firms identified in a recent Milwaukee 7 survey are new and small, but optimistic.

To some extent, big parts of the health care cluster can be looked at as part of the biomedical picture. Health care has passed the $2 trillion mark in the country, pushing toward 20% of Gross Domestic Product, making it the No. 1 industry in America.

Mike Bolger, president and chief executive of the Medical College of Wisconsin, points out that health care represents 8% of Wisconsin jobs and will increase its employment by 30% by 2012. Over the next 25 years, from 30% to 40% of all new jobs will be in health care, he said.

A recent article in Health Affairs predicts annual health care growth over the next decade at 6.9%, meaning $4 trillion in volume by 2016.

So, while the emerging biomedical cluster does not yet have critical mass in the metro area, if you link it to health care in general, it merits being a strategic bet for the region.

And that is what is happening. A bonafide biomedical cluster is taking shape. Four universities have added degrees in biomedical disciplines and medical informatics. And more academic muscle is being built.

Full story.

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Dean says no to cloned cow milk

By Libby Quaid
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Milk from cloned cows is no longer welcome at the nation's biggest milk company.

Although the government has approved meat and milk from cloned animals while it conducts further studies, Dean Foods Co. of Dallas said Thursday that its customers and consumers don't want milk from cloned animals. The $10 billion company owns Land O'Lakes and Horizon Organic, among dozens of other brands.

"Numerous surveys have shown that Americans are not interested in buying dairy products that contain milk from cloned cows and Dean Foods is responding to the needs of our consumers," the company said in a statement.

Federal scientists say there is virtually no difference between clones and conventional cows, pigs or goats. The Food and Drug Administration gave preliminary approval to meat and milk from cloned animals and could grant final approval by year's end.

Full story.

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Biotech leader joins Caden

Cellectar chief Clarke will be on board
By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Feb. 22, 2007

A little more than two years ago, William Clarke was telling more than 300 people at the state biotech association's annual meeting about Wisconsin's potential to help "design and weave" the dramatic changes on the horizon for medicine.

Now the man who oversaw technology development at GE Healthcare has thrown himself into the front lines of the young Madison companies aiming to make those changes happen.

Clarke in December left his position as chief technology officer and chief medical officer at GE Healthcare to run Cellectar LLC, a company aiming to bring to market drug-based radiation treatments that it believes will kill cancer tumors.

Caden Biosciences Inc., another Madison company, said Thursday that Clarke, who is 55, has joined its board of directors. Caden is developing screening tools to sell to pharmaceutical and biotech companies to help identify new drugs for a variety of diseases.

Clarke's move signals that Madison is becoming the kind of biotech center that can attract high-caliber managers.

Full story.

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Record power for military laser

By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

A laser developed for military use is a few steps away from hitting a power threshold thought necessary to turn it into a battlefield weapon.

The Solid State Heat Capacity Laser (SSHCL) has achieved 67 kilowatts (kW) of average power in the laboratory.

It could take only a further six to eight months to break the "magic" 100kW mark required for the battlefield, the project's chief scientist told the BBC.

Potentially, lasers could destroy rockets, mortars or roadside bombs.

For many years, solid state, electrically powered lasers like SSHCL were only able to operate at a fraction of the 100kW mark.

Full story.

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First embryonic stem cell research grants approved under California Proposition 71

Medical Research News
Published: Thursday, 22-Feb-2007

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee on Friday announced the approval of the first human embryonic stem cell research grants provided under Proposition 71, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Hall, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/17).

Full story.

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Cancer is a stem cell issue

There is an urgent reason to study stem cells: stem cells are at the heart of some, if not all, cancers. Mounting evidence implicates a clutch of rogue stem cells brandishing ‘epigenetic’ marks as the main culprits in cancer. Wiping out tumours for good, some biologists believe, depends on uprooting these wayward stem cells.

A team in the Netherlands has uncovered a key protein that could stop these stem cells from becoming malignant. “This is a hot topic in the cancer field,” Maarten van Lohuizen of The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam told participants at a EuroSTELLS workshop, held in Montpellier, France, 23-24 January. “To be successful in cancer therapy you need to target these stem cells: they are intrinsically resistant to chemotherapy.”

Polycomb proteins have emerged as key players in cancer pathogenesis. They are powerful epigenetic regulators that normally silence genes without altering the cell’s DNA. Compounds that regulate polycomb could result in novel anticancer drugs that shrink malignant tissue, and prevent cancer recurrence, a common problem with most chemotherapies.

That tumours and stem cells have much in common has been known for many years. Both self-renew and both spawn many different types of cells. But only recently, new techniques have enabled biologists to identify stem cells buried in tumours.

Van Lohuizen has found that stem cells in cancerous tissues are locked in an immature state in which they carry on multiplying instead of maturing into specific tissues. “Some resistant cancer cells don’t listen to the ‘stop’ signal any more,” he explains. That stop sign is delivered by the polycomb proteins. They silence several genes at once by affecting the way the DNA is compacted into chromatin fibres, without altering the DNA sequence.

Full story.

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Liposuctioned fat stem cells to repair bodies

Expanding waistlines, unsightly bulges: people will gladly remove excess body fat to improve their looks. But unwanted fat also contains stem cells with the potential to repair defects and heal injuries in the body. A team led by Philippe Collas at the University of Oslo in Norway has identified certain chemical marks that allow him to predict which, among the hundreds of millions of stem cells in liposuctioned fat, are best at regenerating tissue.

Uncovering the nature and location of these molecular tags could allow scientists to pull off the ultimate trick of taking a patient’s own fat cells and using them for therapy, Collas told researchers gathered at the EuroSTELLS Workshop ‘Exploring Chromatin in Stem Cells’ held on January 23-24, in Montpellier, France.

“Fat tissue is an underappreciated source of stem cells,” Collas pointed out. Unlike other sources of adult stem cells, such as bone marrow, fat is abundant and there is no shortage of donors. “It’s wonderful, we have litres and litres of material from cosmetic surgery clinics and end up with bucketfuls of stem cells to work with,” he notes.

Full story.

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Scientists produce neurons from human skin

Breakthrough could lead to revolutionary advances in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases

Quebec City, February 22, 2007 -- Scientists from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine have succeeded in producing neurons in vitro using stem cells extracted from adult human skin. This is the first time such an advanced state of nerve cell differentiation has been achieved from human skin, according to lead researcher Professor François Berthod. This breakthrough could eventually lead to revolutionary advances in the treatment of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease. Berthod and his team described the method used to produce these neurons in a recent issue of the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

The researchers used skin obtained from plastic surgery procedures. They subjected these skin samples to various treatments in order to extract neuron precursor cells, which they then proceeded to cultivate in vitro. Skin itself does not contain neurons, which are hosted in the spinal cord, but contains only their extensions, called "axons." The researchers’ challenge was thus to produce neurons from undifferentiated cells rather than multiply neurons from nerve cells.

Tests conducted by the researchers demonstrated that stem cells from the skin can proliferate and differentiate in vitro when placed in the appropriate environment. They progressively took on the oblong shape typical of neurons. At the biochemical level, researchers discovered that in the days following the start of the experiment, the cells began producing markers and molecules associated with the transmission of nerve impulse between neurons. "This suggests the beginning of synapse formation between neurons," points out Professor Berthod.

In the short term, this breakthrough might have an impact in the field of neuroscience research. "Producing neurons from skin cells could solve the problem of human neural cell availability for research," explains Berthod. "Since neurons do not multiply, researchers now have to rely on laboratory animal neurons to perform their experiments."

In the longer term, the ability to produce neurons from skin cells opens the door to revolutionary therapeutic applications. "We could take a patient’s skin cells and use them to produce perfectly compatible neurons, thus eliminating the risk of rejection. We could then transplant these nerve cells in the diseased areas of the brain," explains Berthod. "This type of procedure seems particularly interesting for diseases such as Parkinson’s, but it’s all theoretical for now. Before we can think of doing such things, we’ll have to improve nerve cell differentiation and prove that they can transmit nerve impulses," concludes the researcher.

Continue reading "Scientists produce neurons from human skin" »

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RedPrairie acquires Canadian company

RedPrairie Corp. announced today it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire GEOCOMtms Inc. of Quebec, Canada.

The combined companies, operating under the name RedPrairie Corp., will integrate and support all products and services from both organizations within RedPrairie's end-to-end E2E suite.
The acquisition will help RedPrairie, which is based in the Town of Brookfield, to meet the fleet requirements of many industries, including food and grocery, petroleum, retail, courier and health care delivery.

Full story.

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GenTel's chips are up, thanks to deal

Angel groups invest $2 million in company
By KATHLEEN GALLAGHER
kgallagher@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Feb. 20, 2007

Madison-based GenTel BioSciences Inc. said Tuesday it has raised more than $2 million, the majority from two state-based investment groups.

The privately held maker of chips that test for proteins is using the money to hire two key employees for a small, new lab in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, said Alex D. Vodenlich, the company's president and chief executive officer.

GenTel is also using the money to move to a new facility in Fitchburg and acquire rights to a key patent, Vodenlich said.

The two new North Carolina employees previously worked in GlaxoSmithKline's protein chip group. They will add pharmaceutical and biotech industry experience and know-how to GenTel, Vodenlich said.


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Penn Researchers Replace Organ in Adult Mice Using "Single-Parent" Stem Cells From Sperm or Egg Alone

PHILADELPHIA -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have derived uniparental embryonic stem cells - created from a single donor's eggs or two sperm - and, for the first time, successfully used them to repopulate a damaged organ with healthy cells in adult mice. Their findings demonstrate that single-parent stem cells can proliferate normally in an adult organ and could provide a less controversial alternative to the therapeutic cloning of embryonic stem cells.

"Creating uniparental embryonic stem cells is actually much more efficient than generating embryonic stem cells by cloning," said K. John McLaughlin, an assistant professor in Penn's Department of Animal Biology and researcher at the Center for Animal Transgenesis and Germ Cell Research at Penn's New Bolton Center. "The fact that we are not destroying a viable embryo in the process also avoids certain ethical issues that currently surround embryonic stem cell science."

McLaughlin and his colleagues report their findings in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Genes & Development.

Full story.

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Romney defends position on stem cells

By HENRY C. JACKSON, Associated Press Writer
Mon Feb 19, 3:15 PM ET

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday defended his opposition to most embryonic stem cell research despite its scientific promise to cure diseases like multiple sclerosis that afflicts his wife, Ann.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the former Massachusetts governor said he was confident that research on adult stem cells and the existing embryonic stem cell lines could eventually provide the medical answers.

"I believe that science is able to receive the stem cells necessary for research through means that don't represent a serious, moral problem," Romney said.

Full story.

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Stem Cells Determine Their Daughters’ Fate

Baltimore, MD – From roundworm to human, most cells in an animal’s body ultimately come from stem cells. When one of these versatile, unspecialized cells divides, the resulting “daughter” cell receives instructions to differentiate into a specific cell type. In some cases this signal comes from other cells. But now, for the first time, researchers at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Embryology have found a type of stem cell that directly determines the fate of its daughters.

The finding, reported in the January 25 online edition of the journal Science, could transform our basic understanding of stem cells by demonstrating that some tissues maintain themselves throughout life. It could also prove valuable in the fight against some cancers.

“We found that stem cells can participate actively in determining what type of cell their daughters will become right at the moment of stem cell division,” said Embryology director and study co-author Allan Spradling. “This suggests that tissue stem cells might not just be a source of new cells, but could actually be the ‘brains’ of the tissue—the cells that figure out what type of new cell is needed at any given moment.”

Because they truly can become any cell in the body, “embryonic” stem cells tend to receive a lot of attention. Yet “adult” stem cells remain in fully-developed organisms, where they replace specific cell types lost to age or disease. Spradling and postdoctoral researcher Benjamin Ohlstein performed the study using intestinal stem cells (ISCs), a type of adult stem cell in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster that they discovered only a year ago.

Full story.

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HIV protein enlisted to help kill cancer cells

By Gwen Ericson

Cancer cells are sick, but they keep growing because they don't react to internal signals urging them to die. Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found an efficient way to get a messenger into cancer cells that forces them to respond to death signals. And they did it using one of the most sinister pathogens around — HIV.

"HIV knows how to insert itself into many different types of cells," says senior author William G. Hawkins, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and a member of the Siteman Cancer Center at the School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "A portion of the HIV protein called TAT can transport biologically active compounds into cells. TAT is small, but it can move massive molecules. You could almost hook TAT up to a train, and TAT would drag it inside a cell. So we've taken advantage of this ability."

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Plasma wakefield "turbocharges" particle accelerator

14 February 2007

Physicists in the US claim to have doubled the 42 GeV electron-beam energy of the three-kilometre-long Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre (SLAC) by simply adding a metre-long device on the end. The device, which uses a plasma wakefield to accelerate a small fraction of the electron beam, could allow conventional particle accelerators to reach higher energies (Nature 445 741).

By the time CERN's Large Electron-Positron (LEP) collider was dismantled to make way for the forthcoming Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2000, it had pushed the record for accelerated electron energies over 100 GeV. But such energies are not easy to come by, and the LHC will come with a final price tag of about $8 billion.

Now, Mark Hogan and his team from the SLAC and two Californian universities have shown that devices based on "plasma wakefields" – a much smaller and potentially cheaper technology – can supplement existing, conventional accelerators by "turbocharging" the particles as they leave. They have developed a device just 85 cm long that took the 42 GeV electron beam at SLAC up to 85 GeV.

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LSU Professor Resolves Einstein’s Twin Paradox

Subhash Kak, Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at LSU, recently resolved the twin paradox, known as one of the most enduring puzzles of modern-day physics.

. . .

Kak’s findings were published online in the International Journal of Theoretical Science, and will appear in the upcoming print version of the publication. “I solved the paradox by incorporating a new principle within the relativity framework that defines motion not in relation to individual objects, such as the two twins with respect to each other, but in relation to distant stars,” said Kak. Using probabilistic relationships, Kak’s solution assumes that the universe has the same general properties no matter where one might be within it.

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TomoTherapy makes radiation machine used to fight cancer

Madison tech firm files for IPO
By RICK ROMELL
rromell@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Feb. 12, 2007

TomoTherapy Inc., one of the state's most promising young tech firms, Monday filed to sell stock to the public.

The Madison company, maker of a highly precise system for treating cancer with radiation, is seeking to raise up to $201.3 million in an initial stock offering. The share price and number of shares to be offered haven't been determined.

The IPO could enhance the prospects of a 7-year-old firm that already has grown to 500 employees, developed markets in the U.S. and abroad, and raised more than $40 million in several rounds of private financing.

Company executives are limited in what they can say while the offering is pending. But the firm's plans, and its financial performance of the last few years, are laid out in a prospectus filed Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

TomoTherapy would use money raised in the stock sale to strengthen its marketing, increase research, expand international service and support, and other general corporate purposes.

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Teraflops chip points to future

A chip with 80 processing cores and capable of more than a trillion calculations per second (teraflops) has been unveiled by Intel.

The Teraflops chip is not a commercial release but could point the way to more powerful processors, said the firm.

The chip achieves performance on a piece of silicon no bigger than a fingernail that 11 years ago required a machine with 10,000 chips inside it.

The challenge is to find a way to program the many cores simultaneously.

Current desktop machines have up to four separate cores, while the Cell processor inside the PlayStation 3 has eight (seven of them useable). Each core is effectively a programmable chip in its own right.

But to take advantage of the extra processing power, programmers need to gives instructions to each core that work in parallel with one another.

There are already specialist chips with multiple cores - such as those used in router hardware and graphics cards - but Dr Mark Bull, at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, said multi-core chips were forcing a sea-change in the programming of desktop applications.

"It's not too difficult to find two or four independent things you can do concurrently, finding 80 or more things is more difficult, especially for desktop applications.

"It is going to require quite a revolution in software programming.

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Scientists clone mice from adult skin stem cells

Embryonic stem cells have received the most press for their potential to generate healthy cells and tissues that could replace damaged or diseased organs. “Scientists are well aware that tissue derived from someone else’s embryonic stem cells would be recognized as foreign and rejected by the patient,” says senior co-author Elaine Fuchs, the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor at Rockefeller and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “This is one of the reasons why scientists have focused so much attention toward using nuclear transfer, which would allow us to use adult stem cells from the same patient rather than those harvested from an unrelated embryo.” Fuchs and her colleagues tested the method in adult stem cells taken from the skin of mice.

Using purification methods developed in Fuchs’s Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, postdocs Valentina Greco and Géraldine Guasch isolated stem cells from the mice’s hair follicles. They gave these stem cells to Jinsong Li, a postdoc in Rockefeller’s Laboratory of Developmental Biology and Neurogenetics headed by senior co-author Peter Mombaerts. To execute the nuclear transfer procedure, Li took unfertilized mouse oocytes and replaced the nucleus of each oocyte with a nucleus from the adult skin stem cells.

A main hurdle in nuclear transfer with adult cells has been its efficiency – out of a hundred attempts, only a handful may succeed – with reported success rates never reaching into double digits. “The efficiency of nuclear transfer is very low,” says Li. “Using purified adult skin stem cells as our source of nuclei, we have found that higher nuclear transfer efficiencies can be achieved.”

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Medical College of Wisconsin to Host 8th World Congress for Microcirculation, Aug. 15-19

The Medical College of Wisconsin will host the 8th World Congress for Microcirculation, Aug. 15-19, at the Midwest Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee. The Medical College is hosting the event in conjunction with the Microcirculatory Society. Julian H. Lombard, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the Medical College, is serving as chair of the planning committee.

According to Dr. Lombard, this is the first time since 1991 that the congress, which occurs at four-to-five-year intervals, is being held in the United States. It is expected to draw approximately 1,200 biomedical researchers and exhibitors from the U.S. and abroad.

Dr. Lombard’s own research is focused on the molecular and cellular physiologic mechanisms by which changes in oxygen availability regulate active tone in microscopic blood vessels and small resistance arteries, and how increased salt intake in the diet affects the regulation of the cardiovascular system.

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Forward Wisconsin faces uncertain future

The future of Forward Wisconsin, a 20-year-old public-private economic development initiative, is uncertain as it faces uncertain funding and the loss of its executive director.
Pepi Randolph, an attorney who has been head of Forward Wisconsin for two-and-one-half years, will become national vice president of sales and marketing for the Potawatomi Business Development Corp., starting April 1.

The corporation handles investments for the Forest County Potawatomi tribe, which runs Milwaukee’s the Potawatomi Bingo and Casino in Milwaukee.

Tony Hozeny, a spokesman for Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Mary Burke, said the Forward board of directors will meet Feb. 16. “Beyond that, we have no comment,” he said.

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Medical College Wins Grant to Study Cost Effectiveness of Preventing Acute-phase HIV Transmission

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a three-year, $829,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the cost-effectiveness of preventing acute-phase HIV transmission. This information is needed by decision makers at federal, state, and local levels who must prioritize HIV prevention intervention development and implementation.

The highly-infectious acute phase of initial infection is a promising, but relatively unexplored, target for behavioral change interventions, according to lead investigator Steven D. Pinkerton, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry in the Medical College’s Center for AIDS Intervention Research.
His team will provide estimates of the magnitude and consequences of acute-phase HIV transmission, and the potential economic efficiency of various intervention strategies to prevent transmission during the acute phase of infection.

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Physicists set 'speed limit' for future superconducting magnet

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A research team led by a Northwestern University physicist has identified a high-temperature superconductor -- Bi-2212, a compound containing bismuth -- as a material that might be suitable for the new wires needed to one day build the most powerful superconducting magnet in the world, a 30 Tesla magnet.

The material currently used in magnetic resonance (MR) imaging machines in both hospitals and research laboratories -- a low-temperature superconducting alloy of the metallic element niobium -- has been pushed almost as far as it can go, to around 21 Tesla. (Tesla is used to define the intensity of the magnetic field.) There are no superconducting magnet wires currently available that can generate 30 Tesla.

"A new materials technology -- such as a technology based on high-temperature superconductivity -- is required to make the huge leap from 21 Tesla to 30 Tesla," said William P. Halperin, John Evans Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, who led the team. "We have shown that Bi-2212 could be operated at the same temperature as is presently the case for magnets made with niobium -- 4 degrees Kelvin -- and also achieve the stable state necessary for a 30 Tesla magnet."

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18 Inventors Picked to Join Hall of Fame

By NATASHA T. METZLER

February 08, 2007

Inventors of the MRI, the Ethernet, the LP record and a popular weedkiller are among 18 people picked for induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The 2007 class of inductees, announced Thursday, join luminaries such as Thomas Edison, Velcro inventor George de Mestral and Charles Goodyear, developer of vulcanized rubber.

'Some of these inventors ... have literally changed the way we live our lives,' said Rini Paiva, spokeswoman for the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. But, she added, 'They are not household names.'

Among the latest inductees and their inventions are:

_Paul C. Lauterbur, for the MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging.

_Robert M. Metcalfe, for high-speed networking known as Ethernet.

_the late Peter C. Goldmark, for the long-playing record.

_John E. Franz, for the herbicide Roundup.


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Medical College Awarded NIH Grant For Kidney Stone Prevention Research

The Medical College of Wisconsin has been awarded a $248,000 National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease Grant for basic research that may ultimately lead to drug therapy for the prevention and/or treatment of kidney stones, one of the most common and painful disorders of the urinary tract.

The research, led by Jack G. Kleinman, M.D., professor of medicine in nephrology at the Medical College, is focused on identifying molecules that may prevent the crystals that form kidney stones from attaching to one another. It will be conducted at the VA Medical Center-Milwaukee, a major teaching affiliate of the College.

In 2000 alone, kidney stones accounted for 2.7 million visits to health care providers and over 600,000 emergency rooms visits.

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Physicists find way to ‘see’ extra dimensions

February 2, 2007

by Jill Sakai

Peering backward in time to an instant after the big bang, physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised an approach that may help unlock the hidden shapes of alternate dimensions of the universe.

A new study demonstrates that the shapes of extra dimensions can be "seen" by deciphering their influence on cosmic energy released by the violent birth of the universe 13 billion years ago. The method, published today (Feb. 2) in Physical Review Letters, provides evidence that physicists can use experimental data to discern the nature of these elusive dimensions — the existence of which is a critical but as yet unproven element of string theory, the leading contender for a unified "theory of everything."

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Using Nano-Magnets to Enhance Medical Imaging

Nanoscale magnets in the form of iron-containing molecules might be used to improve the contrast between healthy and diseased tissue in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—as long as the concentration of nanomagnets is carefully managed—according to a new report* by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and collaborators. Molecular nanomagnets are a new class of MRI contrast agents that may offer significant advantages, such as versatility in design, over the compounds used today.

Contrast agents are used to highlight different tissues in the body or to help distinguish between healthy and diseased tissue. NIST is working with two universities and a hospital to design, produce and test nanomolecules that might make MRI imaging more powerful and easier to perform. The new paper resolves a debate in the literature by showing that iron-containing magnets just two nanometers wide, dissolved in water, do provide reasonable contrast in non-clinical MRI images—as long as the nanomagnet concentration is below a certain threshold. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.) Previous studies by other research groups had reached conflicting conclusions on the utility of molecular nanomagnets for MRI, but without accounting for concentration. NIST scientists, making novel magnetic measurements, were able to monitor the molecules’ decomposition and magnetic properties as the composition was varied.

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NOVEL AMES LAB COMPOSITE MAY REPLACE DEPLETED URANIUM

Nanostructured Material Offers Environmentally Safe Armor-piercing Capability

AMES, Iowa – Armor-piercing projectiles made of depleted uranium have caused concern among soldiers storing and using them. Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory are close to developing a new composite with an internal structure resembling fudge-ripple ice cream that is actually comprised of environmentally safe materials to do the job even better.

Ames Laboratory senior scientist Dan Sordelet leads a research team that is synthesizing nanolayers of tungsten and metallic glass to build a projectile. “As the projectile goes further into protective armor, pieces of the projectile are sheared away, helping to form a sharpened chisel point at the head of the penetrator," said Sordelet. “The metallic glass and tungsten are environmentally benign and eliminate health worries related to toxicity and perceived radiation concerns regarding depleted uranium.”

Depleted-uranium-based alloys have traditionally been used in the production of solid metal, armor-piercing projectiles known as kinetic energy penetrators, or KEPs. The combination of high density (~18.6 grams per cubic centimeter) and strength make depleted uranium, DU, ideal for ballistics applications. Moreover, DU is particularly well-suited for KEPs because its complex crystal structure promotes what scientists call shear localization or shear banding when plastically deformed. In other words, when DU penetrators hit a target at very high speeds, they deform in a “self-sharpening” behavior.

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