Previous month:
September 2011
Next month:
November 2011

Artificial Intelligence Pioneer John McCarthy Dies at 84

by Stan Schroeder

John McCarthy, the inventor of programming language Lisp and the man who coined the term “artificial intelligence,” has died at the age of 84.

Born in 1927, McCarthy had a PhD in mathematics and was a long-standing professor at Stanford University. He was the first to use the term “artificial intelligence” at a conference at Dartmouth College in 1956 and is one of the founders of the field of A.I. research.

His programming language, Lisp, together with its dialects, is often the language of choice for artificial intelligence applications.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Institutions need to collaborate to turn research into jobs, report says

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

Institutions must work together to transfer technologies from academic research laboratories to those who will use them to create businesses and jobs, and ultimately boost southeast Wisconsin's economy, says a report released Monday by the Public Policy Forum.

"It is clear that the region's academic research institutions have yet to capture the full economic development potential of their research," says the report by the nonpartisan, nonprofit group. "By collaborating more closely to identify local discoveries that fill gaps in the global market, and by working together to help create or grow local players in that market, academic leaders could take better advantage of their rapidly emerging research prowess."

Academic researchers seeking to bring new technologies to market may or may not get assistance from their institution, if the institution doesn't have a strong entrepreneurial climate, the report says. The greatest opportunity for economic impact comes from start-ups and spin-outs, which tend to be local, it says.

"There is consensus that the quality of the research is high, but that there is more potential for economic impact in these discoveries than is currently realized," the report concludes. "The regional data, as compared to national averages, seem to bear this out."

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Vatican signs deal to collaborate on adult stem cell research

The unusual agreement with NeoStem allows the church, which opposes embryonic stem cell use, to be seen as taking a constructive role in one of the most promising areas of medical research.

By Mitchell Landsberg,

Los Angeles Times October 20, 2011

As chairman and chief executive of her own company, Dr. Robin Smith is a significant player in the world of biopharmaceutical products and research. Self-confident, poised and well traveled, she is used to dealing with movers and shakers.

But when she negotiated an agreement with her company's latest business partner, she didn't deal directly with the top executive.

He is, after all, the pope.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Legislation to fund biotech firms introduced

Bill would invest bioscience payroll taxes in growth

By Kathleen Gallagher and Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

With a venture capital plan still being debated, two Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would use payroll taxes from biosciences firms to fund Wisconsin companies in industries ranging from drug development to soybean processing.

The Next Generation Jobs Reserve bill would divert payroll tax revenue from jobs added by bioscience companies into a fund that would provide grants, loans and direct investments to selected companies in the industry.

"If this bill does what we think it will do, you'll have legislators champing at the bit to do it for information technology, 3-D printing - whatever the next industry cluster is in Wisconsin," said Scott Kelly, chief of staff for Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), one of the bill's sponsors.

The Assembly sponsor is Rep. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green). Reps. Louis Molepske Jr. (D-Stevens Point) and Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) also signed onto the bill.

If the measure had been passed a year ago, the fund would be receiving its first injection of cash, about $15 million, based on the state's bioscience job growth of about 3%, said Bryan Renk, executive director of BioForward, the trade organization for Wisconsin's bioscience industry. BioForward worked with legislators to develop the bill and will support it, Renk said. Money for the bioscience fund would be capped at $50 million a year, or $500 million in total.

Full story.

 

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

IMAGING BIOMETRICS AND THE MEDICAL COLLEGE OF WISCONSIN AWARDED NIH GRANT

Milwaukee, WI – Imaging Biometrics, LLC (IB) and investigators at The Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have been awarded a Phase I STTR grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop much-needed magnetic resonance (MR) image analysis tools for reliable and automated determination of brain tumor burden. The result of this combined effort will be the integration of key technologies into an easy-to-use application which may significantly enhance accuracy in evaluating a tumor’s response to various treatment therapies.

“Currently, radiologists must make time-consuming manipulations using conventional tools. Our goal is to provide clinician with an automated application that makes it easier for them to make the best decisions and perform more precise treatment planning for their patients.” said Timothy Dondlinger, Chief Operating Officer at IB.

Advances in treatment therapies, specifically those that target tumor vessels, are making the tracking of tumor progression increasingly challenging. “The ability for clinicians to distinguish recurrent tumor from radiation necrosis from pseudo-progression is critical because those decisions ultimately dictate the treatment course for patients,” added Dondlinger. “Providing this information quickly, accurately, and non-invasively is what we plan to achieve”.

Figure 1: One key technology that will be integrated is IB’s “delta T1” method, shown as the center image. It provides much greater tumor delineation than simple difference maps. This is due to the incorporation of IB's exclusively-licensed standardization technology.

IB Neuro

Continue reading "IMAGING BIOMETRICS AND THE MEDICAL COLLEGE OF WISCONSIN AWARDED NIH GRANT" »

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

EU bans patents of stem cells if embryo destroyed

AFP - Europe's top court on Tuesday banned researchers from patenting any process to extract stem cells when it leads to the destruction of a human embryo.

In a ruling that could affect medical research, the EU Court of Justice court said the use of human embryos "for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable."

"But their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable," the court ruled.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Tech trend brings growth for start-up

By Guy Boulton of the Journal Sentinel

When Jim Prekop joined TeraMedica Healthcare Technology as president and CEO in 2005, the Wauwatosa company's investors asked him first to determine whether closing the start-up would be the best course.

The company opted to push ahead, and its investors now may be rewarded for their patience as the market recognizes the need for TeraMedica's software.

TeraMedica sells software for managing the millions of diagnostic images stored throughout health care systems.

The size and number of those images - digital X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, mammograms, ultrasounds - have grown exponentially with advances in technology.

They typically are stored on different systems in various departments and locations throughout a health care system. Yet they need to be accessible through the electronic health records now taking hold throughout health care.

TeraMedica's software enables those images to be stored and managed - more efficiently and for less money - from one central repository. That repository, in turn, can be linked to an electronic health record.

The company, founded in 2001, knew that image storage would become a headache at some point for health systems. But it acknowledges that it was a bit ahead of the market.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Carbon nanotube muscles generate giant twist for novel motors

Twist per muscle length is over a thousand times higher than for previous artificial muscles and the muscle diameter is ten times smaller than a human hair.

New artificial muscles that twist like the trunk of an elephant, but provide a thousand times higher rotation per length, were announced on Oct. 13 for a publication in Science magazine by a team of researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Wollongong in Australia, The University of British Columbia in Canada, and Hanyang University in Korea.

These muscles, based on carbon nanotubes yarns, accelerate a 2000 times heavier paddle up to 590 revolutions per minute in 1.2 seconds, and then reverse this rotation when the applied voltage is changed. The demonstrated rotation of 250 per millimeter of muscle length is over a thousand times that of previous artificial muscles, which are based on ferroelectrics, shape memory alloys, or conducting organic polymers. The output power per yarn weight is comparable to that for large electric motors, and the weight-normalized performance of these conventional electric motors severely degrades when they are downsized to millimeter scale.

These muscles exploit strong, tough, highly flexible yarns of carbon nanotubes, which consist of nanoscale cylinders of carbon that are ten thousand times smaller in diameter than a human hair. Important for success, these nanotubes are spun into helical yarns, which means that they have left and right handed versions (like our hands), depending upon the direction of rotation during twisting the nanotubes to make yarn. Rotation is torsional, meaning that twist occurs in one direction until a limiting rotation results, and then rotation can be reversed by changing the applied voltage. Left and right hand yarns rotate in opposite directions when electrically charged, but in both cases the effect of charging is to partially untwist the yarn.

Unlike conventional motors, whose complexity makes them difficult to miniaturize, the torsional carbon nanotube muscles are simple to inexpensively construct in either very long or millimeter lengths. The nanotube torsional motors consist of a yarn electrode and a counter-electrode, which are immersed in an ionically conducting liquid. A low voltage battery can serve as the power source, which enables electrochemical charge and discharge of the yarn to provide torsional rotation in opposite directions. In the simplest case, the researchers attach a paddle to the nanotube yarn, which enables torsional rotation to do useful work – like mixing liquids on "micro-fluidic chips" used for chemical analysis and sensing.

The mechanism of torsional rotation is remarkable. Charging the nanotube yarns is like charging a supercapacitor - ions migrate into the yarns to electrostatically balance the electronic charge electrically injected onto the nanotubes. Although the yarns are porous, this influx of ions causes the yarn to increase volume, shrink in length by up to a percent, and torsionally rotate. This surprising shrinkage in yarn length as its volume increases is explained by the yarn's helical structure, which is similar in structure to finger cuff toys that trap a child's fingers when elongated, but frees them when shortened.

Nature has used torsional rotation based on helically wound muscles for hundreds of millions of years, and exploits this action for such tasks as twisting the trunks of elephants and octopus limbs. In these natural appendages, helically wound muscle fibers cause rotation by contracting against an essentially incompressible, bone-less core. On the other hand, the helically wound carbon nanotubes in the nanotube yarns are undergoing little change in length, but are instead causing the volume of liquid electrolyte within the porous yarn to increase during electrochemical charging, so that torsional rotation occurs.

The combination of mechanical simplicity, giant torsional rotations, high rotation rates, and micron-size yarn diameters are attractive for applications, such as microfluidic pumps, valve drives, and mixers. In a fluidic mixer demonstrated by the researchers, a 15 micron diameter yarn rotated a 200 times larger radius and 80 times heavier paddle in flowing liquids at up to one rotation per second.

"The discovery, characterization, and understanding of these high performance torsional motors shows the power of international collaborations", said Ray H. Baughman, a corresponding author of the author of the Science article and Robert A. Welch Professor of Chemistry and director of The University of Texas at Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute. "Researchers from four universities in three different continents that were born in eight different countries made critically important contributions."

Continue reading "Carbon nanotube muscles generate giant twist for novel motors" »

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Precision with Stem Cells a Step Forward for Treating M.S., Other Diseases

Scientists have improved upon their own previous world-best efforts to pluck out just the right stem cells to address the brain problem at the core of multiple sclerosis and a large number of rare, fatal children’s diseases.

Details of how scientists isolated and directed stem cells from the human brain to become oligodendrocytes – the type of brain cell that makes myelin, a crucial fatty material that coats neurons and allows them to signal effectively – were published online and in the October issue of Nature Biotechnology by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University at Buffalo.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Stem cells from cord blood could help repair damaged heart muscle

At least 20 million people survive heart attacks and strokes every year, according to World Health Organisation estimates, but many have poor life expectancy and require continual costly clinical care. The use of patient's own stem cells may repair heart attacks, although their benefit may be limited due to scarce availability and ageing. The researchers have found heart muscle-like cells grown using stem cells from human umbilical cord blood could help repair heart muscle cells damaged by a heart attack.

The study, led by Professor Raimondo Ascione, Chair of Cardiac Surgery & Translational Research in the School of Clinical Sciences at the University of Bristol, is published online in Stem Cell Reviews & Reports.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), found that it is possible to expand up to seven-fold, in vitro, rare stem cells (called CD133+) from human cord blood and then grow them into cardiac muscle cells.

The findings could have major implications on future treatment following a heart attack given that cells obtained from adults following a heart attack may be less functional due to ageing and risk factors.

Professor Ascione said: "We believe our study represents a significant advancement and overcomes the technical hurdle of deriving cardiac muscle-type cells from human cord blood. The method we have found has the attributes of simplicity and consistency. This will permit more robust manipulation of these cells towards better cell homing and cardiac repair in patients with myocardial infarction.

"Our research suggests that in the future stem cells derived from cord blood bank facilities might be used for repair after a heart attack."

The study focused on a rare type of stem cells, called CD133+, which is also present in adult bone marrow. There is also strong experimental evidence these cells derived from bone marrow may help with the regeneration of damaged heart muscle.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Regenerative medicine research in the lab, alongside studies of patients, is absolutely crucial. Right now, the damage to the heart caused by heart attack cannot be reversed. Through research like this across the UK, we hope to bring our vision of mending broken hearts to reality.

"There has been interest for some time in the potential use of blood from the umbilical cord as a source of stem cells for therapy in a variety of diseases. This study has shown for the first time that it's possible to turn cord blood stem cells into cells that look like heart muscle, in the lab. The results are encouraging, but there are still lots of questions to answer before we'll know whether these cells can be used successfully for heart repair in patients."

In 2007, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) awarded Professor Ascione, over £200,000 for the world's first clinical trial, TransACT, to test whether bone marrow derived CD133+ stem cells can repair heart muscle cells damaged by a heart attack. Recently, funding for the trial has been extended to 2013.

The double blind placebo-controlled trial has successfully recruited 50 per cent of its patients with no safety concerns. Under Professor Ascione's leadership, 31 out of 60 patients, who have suffered a major heart attack, have been injected to date at the Bristol Heart Institute with stem cells from their own bone marrow or a placebo into their damaged hearts during routine coronary bypass surgery.

Continue reading "Stem cells from cord blood could help repair damaged heart muscle" »

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Steps towards the use of adult stem cells for gene therapy

This research, published on Oct. 12 on the Nature review website, provides evidence of a major concept could pave the way for the future use of these stem cells to treat humans, through perspective gene therapies. For several years now, scientists have been able to produce cells with stem cell properties, by using specialized and mature cells from our body, such as skin cells. These 'iPS' stem cells are said to be "pluripotent': they can provide specialized cells, upon demand, with the same gene pool as the original cells. iPS cells represent a potential basis for the exploration of several therapeutic areas, particularly transplants or gene therapy. However, to date research conducted on these cells had not provided proof of their potential in vivo efficiency for the aforementioned types of use.

For the first time, researchers from the Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), with collaboration from an Institut Pasteur/Inserm team in France, have demonstrated that the cells derived from iPS stem cells may be used within the framework of gene therapy to help counter pathological effects in a mice model with liver failure.

The researchers focussed on a rare genetic disease affecting the liver. It is caused by a point mutation in the a1-antitrypsin gene, which is essential for hepatic cells to function correctly. Children display varying degrees of mild symptoms (jaundice, abdomen distension, etc.), but, in adulthood, these symptoms may progressively develop into a pulmonary emphysema and cirrhosis, where the only hope of a cure is a liver transplant.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, directed by Ludovic Vallier and David Lomas, and from the Sanger Institute, coordinated by Allan Bradley, began by sampling patients' skin cells, which were then cultured in vitro for "differentiation" before applying the properties of the pluripotent stem cells: this is the "iPS cells" stage. Through genetic engineering, scientists were then able to correct the mutation responsible for the disease. They then engaged the now "healthy" stem cells in the maturation process, leading them to differentiate to liver cells.

Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and Inserm, led by Hélène Strick-Marchand in the mixed Institut Pasteur/Inserm Innate Immunity unit (directed by James Di Santo), then tested new human hepatic cells thus produced on an animal model afflicted with liver failure. Their research showed that the cells were entirely functional and suited to integration in existing tissue and that they may contribute to liver regeneration in the mice treated.

This groundbreaking work, published in Nature, thus strengthened hopes in scientific and medical communities regarding the use of iPS cells to treat humans.

Continue reading "Steps towards the use of adult stem cells for gene therapy" »

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Middleton biotech Lucigen receives research grants

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Lucigen Corp., a Middleton biotech firm, said Monday it has been awarded $350,000 in grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund additional research and development.

The two grants will be used to develop genetic sequencing tools, and to create an affordable tool to help researchers study data from genes and proteins within individual cells.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Medical College of Wisconsin researchers show molecule inhibits metastasis

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have shown that a protein can inhibit metastasis of colon and melanoma cancers. The findings are published in the October 10, 2011 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Michael B. Dwinell, Ph.D., director of the Bobbie Nick Voss Laboratory and associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, is the lead author on the paper.

Chemokines and chemokine receptors are extensively involved in metastasis of 23 different forms of cancer. The chemokine referred to as CXCL12 is naturally expressed in the bone marrow, lungs and liver, all organs where cancer commonly metastasizes, but is often repressed in colon, breast and lung cancers.

In previous studies, researchers from the Dwinell laboratory had shown CXCL12 to reduce tumor growth and metastasis in colon and breast cancers. In those experiments, CXCL12 was engineered to produce the protein. However, for this study, researchers administered wild-type CXCL12 (naturally occurring CXCL12) or different oligomeric structures, either "monomer" (single) CXCL12 or a "dimer," a paired CXCL12 protein molecule and compared the results for both tumor growth and metastatic suppression.

CXCL12 proteins effectively blocked metastasis of the colon cancer and dramatically improved survival time, with the dimer showing effectiveness in blocking melanoma metastasis as well. Together with their prior results, the laboratory has shown that repression of native CXCL12 expression is a key signature in colon cancer whose impact on tumor malignancy can be reversed by administering the chemokine proteins. They also demonstrated that the single or paired proteins blocked metastasis while initiating unique biochemical signals through the receptor CXCR4.

"These data establish CXCL12 as a potential avenue for the next generation of biologic therapies that specifically target metastasis, which is key in cancer treatment and the improvement of survival rates" said Dr. Dwinell.

Continue reading "Medical College of Wisconsin researchers show molecule inhibits metastasis" »

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

Scientists use cloning to make human stem cells

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO | Wed Oct 5, 2011 1:42pm EDT

(Reuters) - U.S. scientists for the first time have used a cloning technique to get tailor-made embryonic stem cells to grow in unfertilized human egg cells, a landmark finding and a potential new flashpoint for opponents of stem cell research.

The researchers were trying to prove it is possible to use a cloning technology called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT, to make embryonic stem cells that match a patient's DNA.

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is significant because such patient-specific cells potentially can be transplanted to replace damaged cells in people with diabetes and other diseases without rejection by the immune system.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.

'Microgrids' energy storage project announced

Universities, businesses work together to make Wisconsin a leader

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

A new project aimed at making Wisconsin a national center of expertise for energy "microgrids" was announced Monday by a team that includes the state's four largest engineering schools and several large Milwaukee-area employers.

By using sophisticated new energy storage devices and battery systems, microgrid "energy islands" could function for some time off a main power grid if it were disrupted - and they also could maximize use of energy harnessed from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.

Wisconsin companies are already working to develop technologies for advanced energy storage systems, including the state's largest company, Johnson Controls Inc., and one of its smallest ZBB Energy Corp. of Menomonee Falls. They see a market for using energy storage to overcome the challenges of renewable sources that stop making power when the sun sets or winds ease.

Military spending on microgrids is expected to grow fourfold between now and 2020, with Department of Defense spending alone expected to reach $1.6 billion by then, researchers at the market-research firm SB Energy said in a report this year.

Microgrids will be set up at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2012 and at UW-Madison's new Wisconsin Energy Institute Building, scheduled to open in 2013, according to the initiative by the Center for Renewable Energy Systems. The Center aims to conduct applied research to help Wisconsin companies develop projects for the renewable energy and energy storage markets.

Full story.

Please visit our sponsor Gehrke & Associates, SC to learn more about how to enhance and defend your intellectual property.  Thank you.