Wisconsin doctor's invention could benefit patients, investors

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Nearly 10 years ago, Bradley Glenn, a Green Bay doctor, saw a need for a less-invasive way to deliver chemotherapy, antibiotics and nutrients to his patients.

His solution has become the core of a small Wisconsin start-up that is aiming to deliver a big payday to investors.

Stealth Therapeutics Inc. on Tuesday will begin a trial at two Wisconsin health care organizations to determine the best potential market for the company's Invisiport, a vascular access port that is implanted under the skin in a patient's arm.

"Our goal is to use the results from the study to ramp up use of the Invisiport throughout the country," said Sam Adams, Stealth's general manager. "Future commercial success will help us to create a return for our shareholders."

In essence, the study is intended to show potential acquirers how much value the device could add to their product mix, said Ken Johnson, a director of Stealth and the managing director of Kegonsa Capital Partners. Kegonsa is a major investor in Stealth, which has raised a total of $3.35 million, Adams said.

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Elastic Gel to Heal Wounds

A team of bioengineers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), led by Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, and Nasim Annabi, PhD, of the Biomedical Engineering Division, has developed a new protein-based gel that, when exposed to light, mimics many of the properties of elastic tissue, such as skin and blood vessels. In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials, the research team reports on the new material’s key properties, many of which can be finely tuned, and on the results of using the material in preclinical models of wound healing.

“We are very interested in engineering strong, elastic materials from proteins because so many of the tissues within the human body are elastic. If we want to use biomaterials to regenerate those tissues, we need elasticity and flexibility,” said Annabi, a co-senior author of the study. “Our hydrogel is very flexible, made from a biocompatible polypeptide and can be activated using light.”

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Research Paves Path for Hybrid Nano-Materials That Could Replace Human Tissue or Today's Pills

Brooklyn, New York—A team of researchers has uncovered critical information that could help scientists understand how protein polymers interact with other self-assembling biopolymers. The research helps explain naturally occurring nano-material within cells and could one day lead to engineered bio-composites for drug delivery, artificial tissue, bio-sensing, or cancer diagnosis.

Results of this study, “Bionanocomposites: Differential Effects of Cellulose Nanocrystals on Protein Diblock Copolymers,” were recently published in the American Chemical Society’s BioMacromolecules. The findings were the result of a collaborative research project from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) Montclare Lab for Protein Engineering and Molecular Design under the direction of Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Jin K. Montclare.

Bionanocomposites provide a singular area of research that incorporates biology, chemistry, materials science, engineering, and nanotechnology. Medical researchers believe they hold particular promise because—unlike the materials that build today’s medical implants, for example—they are biodegradable and biocompatible, not subject to rejection by the body’s immune defenses. As biocomposites rarely exist isolated from other substances in nature, scientists do not yet understand how they interact with other materials such as lipids, nucleic acids, or other organic materials and on a molecular level. This study, which explored the ways in which protein polymers interact with another biopolymer, cellulose, provides the key to better understanding how biocomposite materials would interact with the human body for medical applications.

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UW-Madison model of common cold virus could lead to better drugs

DAVID WAHLBERG | Wisconsin State Journal | dwahlberg@madison.com | 608-252-6125

UW-Madison scientists haven’t cured the common cold, but they may have explained why nobody has — in a discovery that could lead to better drugs against sneezes and sniffles.

Campus researchers constructed a model of rhinovirus C, a particularly problematic strain of cold virus identified just seven years ago, and showed how it differs from rhinoviruses A and B.

Rhinoviruses cause about 85 percent of colds and account for some ear and sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma attacks.

Drugs against rhinoviruses haven’t done well in clinical trials. That is likely because they didn’t protect against rhinovirus C, according to the new study in today’s edition of the journal Virology.

“There was always a high failure rate,” said Ann Palmenberg, a UW-Madison biochemistry professor who led the research. “The drugs didn’t work against the Cs.”

The three-dimensional model Palmenberg’s lab designed of the protein shell of rhinovirus C could help scientists find a receptor that could be targeted by new drugs, she said.

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U.S. to study whether to use genome sequencing for newborns

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

The U.S. government has launched a $25 million program to explore the possibility of using whole genome sequencing for newborn babies, a development with the potential to transform American health care.

The five-year research program will involve reading the entire genetic scripts of some 2,000 newborns, a step that could someday lead to vast troves of electronic medical records describing the details of every person's health from day one.

Genetics experts have long discussed this futuristic possibility, but the idea came under serious discussion at the National Institutes of Health about two years ago in the wake of Nic Volker's sequencing and treatment by the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Volker was 4 years old in 2009 when doctors read his genetic script and traced the cause of his disease to a single error in the sequence of 3.2 billion chemical bases. As a result of the diagnosis, Volker received an umbilical cord blood transplant that appears to have saved his life.

"We could each see that this was something looming over the horizon," said Eric D. Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, whose group is collaborating with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development on the newborn genome sequencing program.

Under the program, researchers at four institutions around the country will examine the benefits and risks of sequencing babies, looking at the accuracy and cost of the tests and the effect they would have on parents and doctors. Their efforts represent a first step into a complex world of new medical possibilities.

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Insect-inspired super rubber moves toward practical uses in medicine

The remarkable, rubber-like protein that enables dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects to flap their wings, jump and chirp has major potential uses in medicine, scientists conclude in an article in the journal ACS Macro Letters. It evaluates the latest advances toward using a protein called resilin in nanosprings, biorubbers, biosensors and other applications.

Kristi Kiick and colleagues explain that scientists discovered resilin a half-century ago in the wing hinges of locusts and elastic tendons of dragonflies. The extraordinary natural protein tops the best synthetic rubbers. Resilin can stretch to three times its original length, for instance, and then spring back to its initial shape without losing its elasticity, despite repeated stretching and relaxing cycles. That’s a crucial trait for insects that must flap or jump millions of times over their lifetimes. Scientists first synthesized resilin in 2005 and have been striving to harness its properties in medicine.

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Steering stem cells with magnets

Quinn Eastman

July 16, 2013

Magnets could be a tool for directing stem cells’ healing powers to treat conditions such as heart disease or vascular disease.

By feeding stem cells tiny particles made of magnetized iron oxide, scientists at Emory and Georgia Tech can then use magnets to attract the cells to a particular location in a mouse's body after intravenous injection.

[...]

The type of cells used in the study, mesenchymal stem cells, are not embryonic stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells can be readily obtained from adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat. They are capable of becoming bone, fat and cartilage cells, but not other types of cell such as muscle or brain. They secrete a variety of nourishing and anti-inflammatory factors, which could make them valuable tools for treating conditions such as cardiovascular disease or autoimmune disorders.

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Researchers create the inner ear from stem cells, opening potential for new treatments

July 10, 2013

Indiana University scientists have transformed mouse embryonic stem cells into key structures of the inner ear. The discovery provides new insights into the sensory organ's developmental process and sets the stage for laboratory models of disease, drug discovery and potential treatments for hearing loss and balance disorders.

A research team led by Eri Hashino, Ph.D., Ruth C. Holton Professor of Otolaryngology at Indiana University School of Medicine, reported that by using a three-dimensional cell culture method, they were able to coax stem cells to develop into inner-ear sensory epithelia—containing hair cells, supporting cells and neurons—that detect sound, head movements and gravity. The research was reportedly online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Previous attempts to "grow" inner-ear hair cells in standard cell culture systems have worked poorly in part because necessary cues to develop hair bundles—a hallmark of sensory hair cells and a structure critically important for detecting auditory or vestibular signals—are lacking in the flat cell-culture dish. But, Dr. Hashino said, the team determined that the cells needed to be suspended as aggregates in a specialized culture medium, which provided an environment more like that found in the body during early development.

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Nanoparticles could power 'electronic skin' in the future

By Devin Coldewey

July 10, 2013

A new development in nanotechnology may enable "electronic skin" for robots and prosthetic limbs, offering sensitivity not just to pressure, but to humidity and temperature — and it's even flexible.

The new material is developed by chemical engineers at the Israel Institute of Technology, who found that a certain type of gold nanoparticle changed how it conducted electricity based on pressure.

These nanoparticles are only 5-8 nanometers in diameter, comprising a gold core and a spiky, protective outer layer. When sandwiched into a special film, the way that film is bent or pressed may cause the nanoparticles to spread out or bunch together, changing how well electricity passes between them.

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Study Challenges Long-held Assumption of Gene Expression in Embryonic Stem Cells

July 3, 2013

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that the transcription factor Nanog, which plays a critical role in the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells, is expressed in a manner similar to other pluripotency markers. This finding contradicts the field’s presumptions about this important gene and its role in the differentiation of embryonic stem cells.

A large body of research has reported that Nanog is allelically regulated—that is, only one copy of the gene is expressed at any given time—and fluctuations in its expression are responsible for the differences seen in individual embryonic stem (ES) cells’ predilection to differentiate into more specialized cells. These studies relied on cells that had a genetic marker or reporter inserted in the DNA upstream of the Nanog gene. This latest research, published in this week’s edition of the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggests that results from studies based on this approach could be called into question.

To quantify the variations in Nanog expression, Dina Faddah, a graduate student in the lab of Whitehead Institute Founding Member Rudolf Jaenisch, looked at hundreds of individual mouse ES cells with reporters inserted immediately downstream of the Nanog gene. One Nanog allele had a green reporter, while the other had a red reporter, allowing Faddah to determine which of the two alleles was being expressed.

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Merck Has Solid Results in a Cancer Drug Trial

CHICAGO — An experimental drug from Merck that unleashes the body’s immune system significantly shrank tumors in 38 percent of patients with advanced melanoma, putting the company squarely in the race to bring to market one of what many experts view as the most promising class of drugs in years.

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Regaining Lost Brain Function

By Susan Young on April 23, 2013

How do you make an electronic brain prosthesis that could restore a person’s ability to form long-term memories? Recent experiments by Theodore Berger and his colleagues, including Sam Deadwyler at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and researchers at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, have begun to describe how it might be done.

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Amid massive security, bird flu virus research awaits approval

University of Wisconsin-Madison center aims to prepare people for possible mutations

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

 

Madison - A bird flu virus at the center of an international debate sits in a padlocked freezer, deep inside a University of Wisconsin-Madison lab, waiting for new government guidelines that will allow researchers to continue unlocking its secrets.

The virus is protected by alarms.

It isn't deadly.

But government anti-terrorism rules dictate tight security around any biological agent that poses a potentially severe health threat.

Similar H5N1 avian influenza viruses circulating in nature don't follow anyone's rules.

They may be mutating into deadly threats capable of causing great loss of life, UW-Madison scientist Yoshihiro Kawaoka says, as he leads a hand-picked group of scientists, FBI agents and journalists on a rare tour of the $12.5 million Influenza Research Institute built exclusively for his research.

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FluGen studies show progress toward universal flu vaccine

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

FluGen Inc., a Madison vaccine and vaccine delivery product company, said it has done studies in animals suggesting a vaccine it has in development could be taken every three to five years and protect against a wide range of flu viruses - even those it was not designed to prevent.

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Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, IBM reveal new antimicrobial hydrogel

Researchers from IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology revealed today an antimicrobial hydrogel that can break through diseased biofilms and completely eradicate drug-resistant bacteria upon contact. The synthetic hydrogel, which forms spontaneously when heated to body temperature, is the first-ever to be biodegradable, biocompatible and non-toxic, making it an ideal tool to combat serious health hazards facing hospital workers, visitors and patients.

Traditionally used for disinfecting various surfaces, antimicrobials can be found in traditional household items like alcohol and bleach. However, moving from countertops to treating drug resistant skin infections or infectious diseases in the body are proving to be more challenging as conventional antibiotics become less effective and many household surface disinfectants are not suitable for biological applications.

IBM Research and its collaborators developed a remoldable synthetic antimicrobial hydrogel, comprised of more than 90% water, which, if commercialized, is ideal for applications like creams or injectable therapeutics for wound healing, implant and catheter coatings, skin infections or even orifice barriers.

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Super-fine sound beam could one day be an invisible scalpel

ANN ARBOR—A carbon-nanotube-coated lens that converts light to sound can focus high-pressure sound waves to finer points than ever before. The University of Michigan engineering researchers who developed the new therapeutic ultrasound approach say it could lead to an invisible knife for noninvasive surgery.

Today's ultrasound technology enables far more than glimpses into the womb. Doctors routinely use focused sound waves to blast apart kidney stones and prostate tumors, for example. The tools work primarily by focusing sound waves tightly enough to generate heat, says Jay Guo, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science, mechanical engineering, and macromolecular science and engineering. Guo is a co-author of a paper on the new technique published in the current issue of Nature's journal Scientific Reports.

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Scientists create 'endless supply' of myelin-forming cells

In a new study appearing this month in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers have unlocked the complex cellular mechanics that instruct specific brain cells to continue to divide. This discovery overcomes a significant technical hurdle to potential human stem cell therapies; ensuring that an abundant supply of cells is available to study and ultimately treat people with diseases.

"One of the major factors that will determine the viability of stem cell therapies is access to a safe and reliable supply of cells," said University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study. "This study demonstrates that – in the case of certain populations of brain cells – we now understand the cell biology and the mechanisms necessary to control cell division and generate an almost endless supply of cells."

The study focuses on cells called glial progenitor cells (GPCs) that are found in the white matter of the human brain. These stem cells give rise to two cells found in the central nervous system: oligodendrocytes, which produce myelin, the fatty tissue that insulates the connections between cells; and astrocytes, cells that are critical to the health and signaling function of oligodendrocytes as well as neurons.

Damage to myelin lies at the root of a long list of diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and a family of deadly childhood diseases called pediatric leukodystrophies. The scientific community believes that regenerative medicine – in the form of cell transplantation – holds great promise for treating myelin disorders. Goldman and his colleagues, for example, have demonstrated in numerous animal model studies that transplanted GPCs can proliferate in the brain and repair damaged myelin.

However, one of the barriers to moving forward with human treatments for myelin disease has been the difficulty of creating a plentiful supply of necessary cells, in this case GPCs. Scientists have been successful at getting these cells to divide and multiply in the lab, but only for limited periods of time, resulting in the generation of limited numbers of usable cells.

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Environmentally safe electronics that also vanish in the body

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Physicians and environmentalists alike could soon be using a new class of electronic devices: small, robust and high performance, yet also biocompatible and capable of dissolving completely in water – or in bodily fluids.

Researchers at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with Tufts University and Northwestern University, have demonstrated a new type of biodegradable electronics technology that could introduce new design paradigms for medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices.

“We refer to this type of technology as transient electronics,” said John A. Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Professor of Engineering at the U. of I., who led the multidisciplinary research team. “From the earliest days of the electronics industry, a key design goal has been to build devices that last forever – with completely stable performance. But if you think about the opposite possibility – devices that are engineered to physically disappear in a controlled and programmed manner – then other, completely different kinds of application opportunities open up.”

Three application areas appear particularly promising. First are medical implants that perform important diagnostic or therapeutic functions for a useful amount of time and then simply dissolve and resorb in the body. Second are environmental monitors, such as wireless sensors that are dispersed after a chemical spill, that degrade over time to eliminate any ecological impact. Third are consumer electronic systems or sub-components that are compostable, to reduce electronic waste streams generated by devices that are frequently upgraded, such as cellphones or other portable devices.

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Red blood cells converted into chemical sensors

20 Aug 2012 by Daniel Cressey

Chemists have turned red blood cells into long lived sensors that could be put back into circulation to monitor the make up of patients’ blood in real time.

Many patients require monitoring of their blood, such as diabetics who must prick themselves with needles to elicit blood for determining their glucose levels. But extracting blood is both invasive and provides only a one-off measurement. At the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia on Sunday, Xiaole Shao explained how her team have built sensors that may one day allow both non-invasive and long-term monitoring of crucial aspects of blood chemistry.

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Eye research could preserve patients' vision

By Amanda Alvarez of the Journal Sentinel

In a dark room, ocular biologist Joseph Carroll stares at a pulsing, speckled, black-and-white image on a computer screen. It's the back of Keri Gerlach's right eye - the retina, to be specific. A high-tech, expensive camera is taking pictures of her eye to follow the progression of a blinding disease called retinitis pigmentosa.

Outside it is sweltering, but inside the imaging room it is quiet and cold; machinery hums, dials are slowly turned to reach optimal focus, and the only words spoken are requests to "blink blink!" Carroll and the team at the Medical College of Wisconsin have been tracking Gerlach's eyes for 18 months, in anticipation of upcoming gene therapy trials that could restore vision to patients.

Taking extremely detailed pictures of the retina is a crucial first step in determining if a patient could benefit from treatment. With eye diseases on the increase, and therapeutic opportunities opening up through advances in genetics, seeing inside the eye is vital, and the pioneering work in this field is being done in Milwaukee.

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Chemical makes blind mice see

A team of University of California, Berkeley, scientists in collaboration with researchers at the University of Munich and University of Washington, in Seattle, has discovered a chemical that temporarily restores some vision to blind mice, and is working on an improved compound that may someday allow people with degenerative blindness to see again.

The approach could eventually help those with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that is the most common inherited form of blindness, as well as age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of acquired blindness in the developed world. In both diseases, the light sensitive cells in the retina — the rods and cones — die, leaving the eye without functional photoreceptors.

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Artificial jellyfish built from rat cells: Reverse-engineered life form could be used to test drugs.

Ed Yong

22 July 2012

Bioengineers have made an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart.

“Morphologically, we’ve built a jellyfish. Functionally, we’ve built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat,” says Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the work. The project is described today in Nature Biotechnology1.

Parker’s lab works on creating artificial models of human heart tissues for regenerating organs and testing drugs, and the team built the medusoid as a way of understanding the “fundamental laws of muscular pumps”. It is an engineer’s approach to basic science: prove that you have identified the right principles by building something with them.

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Northwestern Researchers Create “Rubber-Band Electronics”

For people with heart conditions and other ailments that require monitoring, life can be complicated by constant hospital visits and time-consuming tests. But what if much of the testing done at hospitals could be conducted in the patient’s home, office, or car?

Scientists foresee a time when medical monitoring devices are integrated seamlessly into the human body, able to track a patient’s vital signs and transmit them to his doctors. But one major obstacle continues to hinder technologies like these: electronics are too rigid.

Researchers at the McCormick School of Engineering, working with a team of scientists from the United States and abroad, have recently developed a design that allows electronics to bend and stretch to more than 200 percent their original size, four times greater than is possible with today’s technology. The key is a combination of a porous polymer and liquid metal.

A paper about the findings, “Three-dimensional Nanonetworks for Giant Stretchability in Dielectrics and Conductors,” was published June 26 in the journal Nature Communications.

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Light-powered bionic eye invented to help restore sight

By James Gallagher

Health and science reporter, BBC News

A retinal implant - or bionic eye - which is powered by light has been invented by scientists at Stanford University in California.

Implants currently used in patients need to be powered by a battery.

The new device, described in the journal Nature Photonics, uses a special pair of glasses to beam near infrared light into the eye.

This powers the implant and sends the information which could help a patient see.

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Mequon company - Endece LLC - may be on the verge of CURING MS

By Alysha Schertz

Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating, often deadly disease that attacks the body's central nervous system. It can devastate a victim's brain, spinal cord, optic nerves and vision.

Approximately 400,000 people in the United States are living with MS. Worldwide, more than 2.1 million people are afflicted with the disease, many with different symptoms and levels of severity.

The disease is unpredictable. While treatments and medication currently on the market can help slow down the attacks, there is no cure.

Yet.

But the cure for MS just might be sitting right in southeastern Wisconsin's backyard.

Endece LLC, a Mequon-based drug discovery company, recently formed Endece Neural, a subsidiary company focused on neurological drug development. More specifically, Endece Neural is pursing the development of a drug that could help repair and even reverse the damage caused by MS.

Endece's work is getting some attention in the world of MS research.

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Injectable gel could repair tissue damaged by heart attack

University of California, San Diego researchers have developed a new injectable hydrogel that could be an effective and safe treatment for tissue damage caused by heart attacks.

The study by Karen Christman and colleagues appears in the Feb. 21 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Christman is a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and has co-founded a company, Ventrix, Inc., to bring the gel to clinical trials within the next year.

Therapies like the hydrogel would be a welcome development, Christman explained, since there are an estimated 785,000 new heart attack cases in the United States each year, with no established treatment for repairing the resulting damage to cardiac tissue.

The hydrogel is made from cardiac connective tissue that is stripped of heart muscle cells through a cleansing process, freeze-dried and milled into powder form, and then liquefied into a fluid that can be easily injected into the heart. Once it hits body temperature, the liquid turns into a semi-solid, porous gel that encourages cells to repopulate areas of damaged cardiac tissue and to preserve heart function, according to Christman. The hydrogel forms a scaffold to repair the tissue and possibly provides biochemical signals that prevent further deterioration in the surrounding tissues.

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Nanotube therapy takes aim at breast cancer stem cells

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Feb. 9, 2012 – Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers have again proven that injecting multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) into tumors and heating them with a quick, 30-second laser treatment can kill them.

The results of the first effort involving kidney tumors was published in 2009, but now they've taken the science and directed it at breast cancer tumors, specifically the tumor initiating cancer stem cells. These stem cells are hard to kill because they don't divide very often and many anti-cancer strategies are directed at killing the cells that divide frequently.

The Wake Forest Baptist research findings are reported online ahead of April print publication in the journal Biomaterials. The research is a result of a collaborative effort between Wake Forest School of Medicine, the Wake Forest University Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, and Rice University. Lead investigator and professor of biochemistry Suzy V. Torti, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist, said the breast cancer stem cells tend to be resistant to drugs and radiotherapy, so targeting these particular cells is of great interest in the scientific community.

"They are tough. These are cells that don't divide very often. They just sort of sit there, but when they receive some sort of trigger – and that's not really well understood – it's believed they can migrate to other sites and start a metastasis somewhere else," Torti explained. "Heat-based cancer treatments represent a promising approach for the clinical management of cancers, including breast cancer."

Link to the study.

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A Single Cell Endoscope Berkeley Lab Researchers Use Nanophotonics for Optical Look Inside Living Cells

An endoscope that can provide high-resolution optical images of the interior of a single living cell, or precisely deliver genes, proteins, therapeutic drugs or other cargo without injuring or damaging the cell, has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). This highly versatile and mechanically robust nanowire-based optical probe can also be applied to biosensing and single-cell electrophysiology.

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley attached a tin oxide nanowire waveguide to the tapered end of an optical fibre to create a novel endoscope system. Light travelling along the optical fibre can be effectively coupled into the nanowire where it is re-emitted into free space when it reaches the tip. The nanowire tip is extremely flexible due to its small size and high aspect ratio, yet can endure repeated bending and buckling so that it can be used multiple times.

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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.

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NorthStar finds way to produce medical isotope quickly, safely

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

As problems go, NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes LLC was founded on a big one.

Production issues at several nuclear power plants outside the U.S. during the last few years and worries about nuclear proliferation prompted the federal government in 2009 to look for ways to make a critical medical isotope more safely and closer to home.

Fortunately for NorthStar, its principals understood the situation and were already working on a solution.

Now the Madison company, which plans to eventually move its headquarters to Beloit, says it hopes to get approval from federal regulators and begin shipping that solution to nuclear pharmacies by the second quarter of 2012.

NorthStar is aiming to use that solution to produce as much as half of the required U.S. supply of the medical isotope, called technetium-99m, within the next two to three years, said George Messina, NorthStar's managing director. The company also could eventually hire as many as 150 people in Rock County, mostly for scientific positions, he said.

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New drug could cure nearly any viral infection

Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Lab have developed technology that may someday cure the common cold, influenza and other ailments.

Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them — including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. “In theory, it should work against all viruses,” says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Because the technology is so broad-spectrum, it could potentially also be used to combat outbreaks of new viruses, such as the 2003 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, Rider says.

Other members of the research team are Lincoln Lab staff members Scott Wick, Christina Zook, Tara Boettcher, Jennifer Pancoast and Benjamin Zusman.

Full story.

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Researchers' quest for gold

Scientists study element as nanoparticle, effect on female reproductive tract

By Kelly Hogan of the Journal Sentinel

July 18, 2011

For University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers studying the toxicity of gold nanoparticles - a minuscule material with potentially big biomedical applications - the road to a new medical advance may or may not be paved with gold.

These ultrafine metallic particles, which are 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair, hold great promise for treating diseases as diverse as cancer, diabetes or AIDS, but scientists must prove that new ways to treat disease will do no harm.

Reinhold Hutz, a professor of biological sciences at UWM, and graduate student Jeremy Larson are investigating whether gold nanoparticles target and disrupt the female reproductive tract - the only research of its kind in the United States.

Gold nanoparticles range in size from 1 to 100 nanometers; a nanometer is about one-billionth the size of a yardstick. Noting the remarkable scale of nanoparticles, Larson put the particles in perspective: "If a nanoparticle were the size of a football, a virus would be the size of a person."

What distinguishes nanoparticles from particles of other sizes is their unique physical and chemical properties. The compatibility of other biological molecules with gold nanoparticles, for example, renders them prime candidates for tissue-specific drug delivery.

Full story.

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Shine Medical raises $11 million in venture funding

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Middleton-based Shine Medical Technologies said Tuesday morning it has raised $11 million of venture capital funding.

Knox LLC -- the investment vehicle for Frederick J. Mancheski, former chairman and chief executive of automotive parts supplier Echlin - led the round and contributed $10 million of the funding.

Fourteen other individual investors participated, Greg Piefer, Shine's chief executive, said in a news release.

Shine, formerly known as Phoenix Nuclear, is using its unique nuclear fusion technology to make molybdenum-99. The substance produces an isotope that's critical for certain medical imaging tests that diagnose, monitor and treat some cancers, as well as heart and brain diseases.

Two nuclear reactors in Canada and the Netherlands that are operating well past their design life provide the majority of the isotope used by Shine. Frequent shut-downs have created a worldwide shortage of the material.

Shine's nuclear fusion technology offers a possible alternative.

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Melanoma drug breakthroughs stir "celebration" among skin cancer patients

by David W Freeman

(CBS/AP) Two new drugs have shown dramatic results against melanoma, researchers announced yesterday, giving people with the deadly skin cancer reason to cheer.

"This is really an unprecedented time of celebration for our patients," said Dr. Lynn Schuchter, of the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center. The new drugs are not cures, she said, but "the future is going to be to build upon the success" by testing combinations of these newer drugs.

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Researchers inject nanofiber spheres carrying cells into wounds to grow tissue

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—For the first time, scientists have made star-shaped, biodegradable polymers that can self-assemble into hollow, nanofiber spheres, and when the spheres are injected with cells into wounds, these spheres biodegrade, but the cells live on to form new tissue.

Developing this nanofiber sphere as a cell carrier that simulates the natural growing environment of the cell is a very significant advance in tissue repair, says Peter Ma, professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and lead author of a paper about the research scheduled for advanced online publication in Nature Materials. Co-authors are Xiaohua Liu and Xiaobing Jin.

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ProCertus BioPharm raises $1.7 million

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

ProCertus BioPharm has raised $1.7 million to fund clinical trials to determine whether its products can safely help cancer patients avoid side effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

The funding round was led by Novartis Venture Fund and Venture Investors, both of which already were investors in the Madison company. A first-time investor, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, also joined in the financing.

ProCertus' products are applied to skin or the inside of the mouth minutes before cancer therapy to protect cells that will be exposed to chemotherapy and radiation.

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Virus-mimicking nanoparticles can stimulate long lasting immunity

Emory postdoctoral fellow Sudhir Pai Kasturi, PhD, created tiny particles studded with molecules thatturn on Toll‑like receptors. He worked with colleague Niren Murthy, PhD, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Vaccine scientists say their “Holy Grail” is to stimulate immunity that lasts for a lifetime. Live viral vaccines such as the smallpox or yellow fever vaccines provide immune protection that lasts several decades, but despite their success, scientists have remained in the dark as to how they induce such long lasting immunity.

Scientists at the Emory Vaccine Center have designed tiny nanoparticles that resemble viruses in size and immunological composition and that induce lifelong immunity in mice. They designed the particles to mimic the immune‑stimulating effects of one of the most successful vaccines ever developed – the yellow fever vaccine. The particles, made of biodegradable polymers, have components that activate two different parts of the innate immune system and can be used interchangeablywith material from many different bacteria or viruses.

The results are described in this week’s issue of Nature.

“These results address a long‑standing puzzle in vaccinology: how do successful vaccines induce longlasting immunity?” says senior author Bali Pulendran, PhD, Charles Howard Candler professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

“These particles could provide an instant way to stretch scarce supplies when access to viral material is limited, such as pandemic flu or during an emerging infection. In addition, there are many diseases, such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue, that still lack effective vaccines, where we anticipate that this type of immunity enhancer could play a role.”

One injection of the live viral yellow fever vaccine, developed in the 1930s by Nobel Prize winner Max Theiler, can protect against disease‑causing forms of the virus for decades. Pulendran and his colleagues have been investigating how humans respond to the yellow fever vaccine, in the hopes of imitating it.

Several years ago, they established that the yellow fever vaccine stimulated multiple Toll‑like receptors (TLRs) in the innate immune system. TLRs are present in insects as well as mammals, birds and fish. They are molecules expressed by cells that can sense bits of viruses, bacteria and parasites and can activate the immune system. Pulendran’s group demonstrated that the immune system sensed the yellow fever vaccine via multiple TLRs, and that this was required for the immunity induced by the vaccine.

“TLRs are like the sixth sense in our bodies, because they have an exquisite capacity to sense viruses and bacteria, and convey this information to stimulate the immune response,” Pulendran says. “We found that to get the best immune response, you need to hit more than one kind of Toll‑like receptor. Our aim was to create a synthetic particle that accomplishes this task.”

Emory postdoctoral fellow Sudhir Pai Kasturi, PhD, created tiny particles studded with molecules thatturn on Toll‑like receptors. He worked with colleague Niren Murthy, PhD, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“We are very excited about building on this platform to design improved vaccines for existing and emerging infectious diseases” says Kasturi, the primary author working in Pulendran’s lab at the Emory Vaccine Center. One of the particles’ components is MPL (monophosphoryl lipid A), a component of bacterial cell walls, and the other is imiquimod, a chemical that mimics the effects of viral RNA. The particles are made of PLGA—poly(lactic acid)‑co‑(glycolic acid)—a synthetic polymer used for biodegradable grafts and sutures.

All three components are FDA‑approved for human use individually. For several decades, the only FDA‑approved vaccine additive was alum, until a cervical cancer vaccine containing MPL was approved in 2009. Because of immune system differences between mice and monkeys, the scientists replaced imiquimod with the related chemical resiquimod for monkey experiments.

In mice, the particles can stimulate production of antibodies to proteins from flu virus or anthrax bacteria several orders of magnitude more effectively than alum, the authors found. In addition, the immune cells persist in lymph nodes for at least 18months, almost the lifetime of a mouse. In experiments with monkeys, nanoparticles with viral protein could induce robust responses greater than five times the response induced by a dose of the same viral protein given by itself, without the nanoparticles.

###

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Reference: doi:10.1038/nature09737 S.P. Kasturi et al. Programming the magnitude and persistence of antibody responses with innateimmunity. Nature (2011).

The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focusing on teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences: 
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com 
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci 
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

 

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Stratatech awarded $3.5 million to develop skin substitute

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 16, 2010

Stratatech Corp. said Tuesday it has received a $3.5 million federal innovation grant to expand development of its anti-infective living human skin substitute.

The privately held Madison company received the fast-track Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Stratatech was one of just a few companies that received awards to develop therapies and diagnostic tools for drug-resistant bacteria with selected partners.

The company will partner with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Waisman Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility.

Full story

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AST gets a boost

Start-up receives $450,000 from investors

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

A Milwaukee start-up that is developing tools to help researchers capture images of proteins in living cells has raised $450,000 from individual investors.

Aurora Spectral Technologies LLC is aiming to bring products to market that will help researchers and drug developers look more closely at proteins and better analyze them.

That could help researchers develop new drugs and diagnostic tests, and might eventually help provide more insight into cancer and other diseases, said Brian Thompson, the UWM foundation's president.

Aurora Spectral's technology comes out of the lab of Valerica Raicu, an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee physics department. Thomas Mozer is the new company's chief executive officer. Mozer founded Nerites Corp. and also previously ran Promega Corp.'s forensic business.

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IMAGING BIOMETRICS AWARDED PHASE II SBIR FROM NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE

Funding will extend the functionality and application of IB Neuro™

Elm Grove, WI –Imaging Biometrics LLC (IB), a biotechnology company specializing in the development of medical imaging software, has announced that it has received $800,000 in a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the continued development and distribution of novel and proven perfusion and diffusion analysis software for the evaluation of brain tumors and stroke. Funding during this two year program will be used to integrate key enhancements into IB Neuro™, the company’s flagship product.

Download Imaging Biometrics Phase II SBIR Final

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Elm Grove firm inks licensing agreement with university

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Sept. 8, 2010

An Elm Grove medical imaging software firm said Wednesday morning it has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the University of Pennsylvania.

The agreement gives Imaging Biometrics LLC the right to develop and commercialize technology that could provide a more automated way to accurately evaluate a tumor's response to different treatments, the company said.

Full story.

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Genetic technology moving from lab to medical practices

Now it's doctors' turn to learn how to use genetic testing

By Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: May 22, 2010

In January, practicing doctors and doctors-to-be entered a new class at the Medical College of Wisconsin with a futuristic name, "Translational Genetics." The idea was simpler than it sounded: We are fast approaching the time when doctors will use our genetic profiles to treat us.

One of the students was Kevin Regner, a practicing kidney doctor at Froedtert Hospital, who had been hearing for years, "Personalized medicine is just around the corner." Doctors will tailor treatments to each patient's genes and the risks they reveal. It will all be routine.

Regner had doubts. Sequencing of the first human genome in 2003 took more than a decade and cost about $600 million - an effort too herculean to assume doctors would repeat it with patients and insurance companies would foot the bill anytime soon.

But Regner was in for a surprise. As he and his classmates listened, Howard Jacob, head of the college's Human and Molecular Genetics Center, described what has happened since completion of the genome project. He showed two photos: a machine that helped sequence the first human genome in 2003, and then a machine the Medical College has today. The new model does the work of 200 of the old ones; it can sequence a human genome in a few months for several hundred thousand dollars.

And the Medical College has already ordered next-generation sequencers. Within less than a decade, a complete genetic blueprint could be attainable in 15 minutes for as little as $100.

Moreover, in a case that suggests the technology is beginning the journey from research to medical practice, Jacob described how he and his colleagues used a targeted version of gene-sequencing to diagnose and treat an apparently new disease in a young boy at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

In the audience, Regner had a moment of recognition. "It's likely we'll see this kind of personalized medicine in my lifetime," he said, "and in the course of my medical practice."

Full story.

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Air Force Treating Wounds With Lasers and Nanotech

•By Katie Drummond •May 5, 2010

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Ultrasensitive imaging method uses gold-silver 'nanocages'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - New research findings suggest that an experimental ultrasensitive medical imaging technique that uses a pulsed laser and tiny metallic "nanocages" might enable both the early detection and treatment of disease.

The system works by shining near-infrared laser pulses through the skin to detect hollow nanocages and solid nanoparticles - made of an alloy of gold and silver - that are injected into the bloodstream.

Unlike previous approaches using tiny metallic nanorods and nanospheres, the new technique does not cause heat damage to tissue being imaged. Another advantage is that it does not produce a background "auto fluorescent" glow of surrounding tissues, which interferes with the imaging and reduces contrast and brightness, said Ji-Xin Cheng (pronounced Gee-Shin), an associate professor of biomedical engineering and chemistry at Purdue University.

Full story.

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As universities tighten ethics policies, drug firms turn to private physicians to promote products

By John Fauber of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: March 14, 2010

This article is part of an ongoing series about how money and conflicts of interest affect medicine and patient care.

When looking for a doctor to travel the country and tout its costly prescription fish oil pill, GlaxoSmithKline didn't select a heavyweight university researcher.

Instead, it wrote checks to Tara Dall, a Delafield primary-care doctor who entered private practice in 2001.

For just three months of speaking engagements last year, GlaxoSmithKline paid Dall $45,000, ranking her among the most highly paid of more than 3,600 doctors nationwide who spoke for the company, which released records for only one quarter of the year.

The practice of doing promotional speaking for drug companies has come under fire in recent years.

Full story.

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GE Healthcare to Evaluate and Develop Novel Imaging Technology Invented by Medical College of Wisconsin Researcher

A novel molecular imaging technology aimed at rapid diagnosis of cell death in organs such as the brain and heart has been licensed by The Medical College of Wisconsin to GE Healthcare.  Under the license GE will further evaluate and develop the technology and will have an option to commercialize the technology. The technology, using imaging probes with a radiopharmaceutical compound, was invented by Ming Zhao, Ph.D., assistant professor of biophysics.

The probes bind to dead and dying cells making them useful for detecting acute cell injury and cell death.  When the active component of this molecule is attached to a radioactive tracer, it can be used in nuclear medicine imaging techniques, such as PET (positron emission tomography) or SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography), to produce three-dimensional images of where this cell death is occurring. 

“We are pleased to be working with GE on this technology,” said Dennis Devitt, the director of marketing and licensing for the Office of Technology Development (OTD), the technology transfer arm of the Medical College. “Working with the market leader in medical imaging allows this technology to be quickly moved from the research laboratory into patient care,” Devitt said. 

According to Dr. Zhao, “Imaging agent discovery and development is an important aspect in molecular and medical imaging research. The process is critical for the improvement of existing imaging technologies and for early detection of acute cell death, cancerous tissue growth and major vessel diseases.”

The ability to image dead and dying cells can have major clinical benefits, pointed out Dr. Zhao. For example, it could allow oncologists to rapidly monitor tumor response to a specific therapy.  Another potential application is for rapid diagnosis of myocardial infarction. Often patients come into ER complaining of chest pain and need to have an expensive overnight hospital stay so they can be monitored while their lab results are being processed. This compound could allow clinicians to non-invasively image the heart and determine within a few hours if the patient actually had a heart attack or something else.

Joseph Hill, vice president for technology development, added that Dr. Zhao’s research was supported by a “Proof-of-Concept” grant administered by the College’s OTD.  They have filed several patent applications on the technology. 

The OTD patents intellectual property generated by faculty and staff at the Medical College and licenses it in line with its mission to commercialize as many inventions as possible to help patients.  Its “Patents to PatientsSM” brand best describes its mission. 
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Coaxing injured nerve fibers to regenerate by disabling 'brakes' in the system

Brain and spinal-cord injuries typically leave people with permanent impairment because the injured nerve fibers (axons) cannot regrow. A study from Children's Hospital Boston, published in the December 10 issue of the journal Neuron, shows that axons can regenerate vigorously in a mouse model when a gene that suppresses natural growth factors is deleted.

Adding to a previous study published in Science last year (http://www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom/Site1339/mainpageS1339P1sublevel477.html), research led by Zhigang He, PhD, of the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Children's Hospital Boston provides further evidence that axon regeneration is limited by a reduced or lost responsiveness to injury-induced growth factors -- and also suggests some ways of overcoming the problem to help people recover from brain or spinal cord injury.


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UCLA researchers create 'fly paper' to capture circulating cancer cells

New method may help improve diagnosis, prognosis and treatment monitoring

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