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MSOE receives grant to upgrade chemistry labs

     Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) received a grant of $250,000 from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Inc. to renovate and upgrade its general and organic chemistry laboratories in the Physics and Chemistry Department.

     "In today's academic climate, especially at MSOE, the demand for state-of-the-art general and organic chemistry laboratories is vital to our educational endeavors," said MSOE President Hermann Viets, Ph.D. "More than ever, employers are requiring more chemistry as many Wisconsin companies are becoming actively involved with the bio-chemical and bio-technical aspects of a growing industrial base for the state."

     "Every day new technologies with the potential to dramatically improve our lives are finding their way from the research bench to real-life applications," said Dr. Matey Kaltchev, associate professor and chair of the Physics and Chemistry Department. "The upgrade of the chemistry labs will create an excellent opportunity for providing our students with the unique laboratory experience necessary to meet these new challenges."

     The grant from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Inc. will benefit nearly all of MSOE's students, as chemistry and physics are required courses in most majors. Those studying biomedical engineering, biomolecular engineering, nursing, perfusion and medical informatics rely on laboratories that facilitate the highest level of teaching and learning.

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Mequon company helps smash subatomic particles

Mequon - John DeFord has a red-blooded American boy's dream job:

He helps people get things going really fast so they can smash them and watch what happens.

In a bland suburban office building shared with an accountant, a lawyer and a psychic adviser, DeFord maintains a remote outpost in the quest to understand the most fundamental forces and structure of nature.

His small company, Simulation Technology and Applied Research Inc., works with physicists and engineers at the country's leading particle accelerators - massive complexes designed to hurl bits of atoms through tubes at 600 million mph or so, then ram them into a target and break them into even tinier pieces.

The idea is to find out what the universe is really made of.

A couple thousand years ago, we thought it all broke down to fire, water, earth and air. Today, we're beyond protons, neutrons and electrons to even tinier bits of matter, but there's still a long way to go.

"Our role in this is not to understand the particle physics part of it, but to help engineers design the machine that the particle physicists use," DeFord said.

Simulation Technology, he said, is one of a handful of firms creating software for modeling and designing components of particle accelerators. The company's software has been used at such facilities as the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif.

Physicists at these places study such subatomic things as neutrinos, bosons and quarks. Should one of them identify the Higgs boson, a long-theorized but as-yet-undetected bit of cosmic dust that would answer some of the most puzzling questions about matter, they'll probably win the Nobel Prize.

Full story.

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Single factor converts adult stem cells into embryonic-like stem cells

<p>Single factor converts adult stem cells into embryonic-like stem cells</p>

The simple recipe scientists earlier discovered for making adult stem cells behave like embryonic-like stem cells just got even simpler. A new report in the February 6th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, shows for the first time that neural stem cells taken from adult mice can take on the characteristics of embryonic stem cells with the addition of a single transcription factor. Transcription factors are genes that control the activity of other genes.

The discovery follows a 2006 report also in the journal Cell that showed that the introduction of four ingredients could transform differentiated cells taken from adult mice into "induced pluripotent stem cells" (iPS) with the physical, growth, and genetic characteristics typical of embryonic stem cells ( Pluripotent refers to the ability to differentiate into most other cell types. The same recipe was later shown to work with human skin cells as well (

Subsequent studies found that the four-ingredient recipe could in some cases be pared down to just two or three essential ingredients, said Hans Schöler of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Germany. "Now we've come down to just one that is sufficient. In terms of the biology, it's really quite amazing."

The discovery sheds light on centuries-old questions about what distinguishes the embryonic stem cells that give rise to egg and sperm from other body cells, Schöler said. It might also have implications for the use of reprogrammed stem cells for replacing cells lost to disease or injury.

Other researchers led by Shinya Yamanaka showed that adult cells could be reprogrammed by adding four factors – specifically Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc. Recently, Schöler and his colleagues demonstrated that Oct4 and Klf4 are sufficient to induce pluripotency in neural stem cells.

By omitting Klf4 in the new study, they have now established that Oct4 is the "driving force" behind the conversion of the neural stem cells into iPS cells. The lone transcription factor is not only essential, but it is also sufficient to make neural stem cells pluripotent.

Those cells, which Schöler's team calls "1F iPS" can differentiate into all three germ layers. Those primary germ layers in embryos eventually give rise to all the body's tissues and organs. Not only can those cells efficiently differentiate into neural stem cells, heart muscle cells, and germ cells, they show, but they are also capable of forming tumors when injected under the skin of nude mice. Those tumors, or teratomas, contain tissue representing all three germ layers. When injected into mouse embryos, the 1F iPS cells also found their way into the animals' developing organs and were able to be transmitted through the germ line to the next generation, they report.

The results show that adult stem cells can be made pluripotent without c-Myc and Klf4, both of which are "bona fide" oncogenes that can help turn normal cells into cancer cells, Schöler said. Limiting the number of factors is also a bonus because it means fewer genes must be inserted into the genome, where they can potentially have detrimental effects.

"Strikingly, Oct4 alone is sufficient to induce pluripotency in neural stem cells, which demonstrates its crucial role in the process of reprogramming…" the researchers concluded. "Future studies will show whether other sources of neural stem or progenitor cell populations such as mouse or human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells or dental pulp can be reprogrammed to iPS cells and whether expression of Oct4 can be induced by non-retroviral means, a prerequisite for the generation of iPS cells of therapeutic value."

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