Monday, 14 January 2008

Weekly BioNews 7 - 14 Jan 2008

- Stem Cells Make Bone Marrow Cancer Resistant To Treatment

ScienceDaily (Jan. 14, 2008)

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center say they have evidence that cancer stem cells for multiple myeloma share many properties with normal stem cells and have multiple ways of resisting chemotherapy and other treatments. A report on the evidence, published in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research, may explain why the disease is so persistent, the Johns Hopkins scientists say, and pave the way for treatments that overcome the cells' drug resistance. Multiple myeloma affects bone marrow and bone tissue.

- Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Created Without The Destruction Of Embryos

ScienceDaily (Jan. 12, 2008)

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. together with colleagues announced the development of five human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines without the destruction of embryos. These new results have the potential to end the ethical debate surrounding the use of embryos to derive stem cells. In fact, the NIH report to the President refers to this technology as one of the viable alternatives to the destruction of embryos.The new method was published January 11 in the journal Cell Stem Cells, published by Cell Press. The peer-reviewed technique was initially carried out by ACT scientists under the direction of Robert Lanza, M.D., and then independently replicated by scientists on the West Coast

Scientists have announced the development of five human embryonic stem cell lines without the destruction of embryos. (Credit: iStockphoto/Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo)

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- Genomic Screen Nets Hundreds Of Human Proteins Exploited By HIV

ScienceDaily (Jan. 11, 2008)

In some ways, HIV resembles a minimalist painter, using a few basic components to achieve dramatic effects. The virus contains just nine genes encoding 15 proteins, which wreak havoc on the human immune system. But this bare bones approach could have a fatal flaw. Lacking robust machinery, HIV hijacks human proteins to propagate, and these might represent powerful therapeutic targets.Using a technique called RNA interference to screen thousands of genes, Harvard Medical School researchers have now identified 273 human proteins required for HIV propagation. The vast majority had not been connected to the virus by previous studies. The work appears online in Science Express on Jan. 10.

In the top panels, HIV (red) infects cultured human cells (cellular DNA is stained blue). In the bottom panels, HIV levels are lower, as researchers interfered with the production of a host protein called TNPO3. (Credit: Image courtesy of Harvard Medical School)

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- EU rethinks biofuels guidelines

Monday, 14 January 2008

By Roger Harrabin Environment Analyst, BBC News

Europe's environment chief has admitted that the EU did not foresee the problems raised by its policy to get 10% of Europe's road fuels from plants.Recent reports have warned of rising food prices and rainforest destruction from increased biofuel production.The EU has promised new guidelines to ensure that its target is not damaging.EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said it would be better to miss the target than achieve it by harming the poor or damaging the environment.

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- Universal flu vaccine works in humans

13 January 2008

New Scientist

Magazine issue 2638

A universal flu vaccine could save countless lives, and now it is one step closer. Ordinary flu vaccines have to change every year as the virus evolves, but the process can miss unexpected strains and is too slow to catch pandemics. However, vaccine targeting a protein called M2e might not have these problems, because the protein is virtually identical in all influenza A viruses - the type that cause pandemics and much ordinary flu.Ten companies are working on M2e vaccines, including Acambis of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which last week reported the results of a human trial. Its vaccine, which combines M2e with a protein from the hepatitis virus and another immune-stimulating chemical called QS-21, caused antibodies to be produced in 90 per cent of people tested.Because people with flu don't usually make antibodies against M2e, little is known about their effects. So to test whether they were protective, Acambis ...

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- University of Minnesota researchers have created a beating heart in the laboratory

B.N.N.January 13, 2008 05:21 PM

By using a process called whole organ decellularization, scientists from the University of Minnesota Center for Cardiovascular Repair grew functioning heart tissue by taking dead rat and pig hearts and reseeding them with a mixture of live cells. The research will be published online in the January 13 issue of Nature Medicine. “The idea would be to develop transplantable blood vessels or whole organs that are made from your own cells,” said Doris Taylor, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cardiovascular Repair, Medtronic Bakken professor of medicine and physiology, and principal investigator of the research.

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- Life from Scratch - Learning to make synthetic cells

Week of Jan. 12, 2008; Vol. 173, No. 2 , p. 27 Science News

Patrick Barry

Maggots don't arise spontaneously out of dead, rotting meat. Aphids never materialize within drops of morning dew. Aristotle and others who believed in the spontaneous generation of life were dead wrong. The only time life arose from nonlife, biologists believe, was almost 4 billion years ago, when simple living cells first appeared on Earth. But now, with the help of a microscopic parasite that infects people's genitals, researchers may rehabilitate the core of Aristotle's idea. Scientists are on the verge of creating living cells by piecing together small molecules that are themselves not alive. The result would be the world's first human-made life forms, synthetic cells made more or less from scratch.

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