Monday, 18 February 2008

Weekly BioNews 11 - 18 Feb 2008

- Discovery Could Help Reprogram Adult Cells To Embryonic Stem Cell-like State

ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2008)

Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have taken a major step toward eventually being able to reprogram adult cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state without the use of viruses or cancer-causing genes.

In a paper released online today by the journal Cell Stem Cell, Konrad Hochedlinger and colleagues report that they have discovered how long adult cells need to be exposed to reprogramming factors before they convert to an embryonic-like state, and have “defined the sequence of events that occur during reprogramming.”

This work on adult mouse skin cells should help researchers narrow the field of candidate chemicals and proteins that might be used to safely turn these processes on and off. This is particularly important because at this stage in the study of these induced pluripotent (iPS) cells, researchers are using cancer-causing genes to initiate the process, and are using retroviruses, which can activate cancer genes, to insert the genes into the target cells. As long as the work involves the use of either oncogenes or retroviruses, it would not be possible to use these converted cells in patients.

- New Approach May Render Disease-causing Staph Harmless

ScienceDaily (Feb. 16, 2008)

Researchers at the University of Illinois helped lead a collaborative effort to uncover a completely new treatment strategy for serious Staphylococcus aureus ("Staph") infections. The research, published Feb. 14 online in Science, comes at a time when strains of antibiotic-resistant Staph (known as MRSA, for methicillin-resistant S. aureus) are spreading in epidemic proportions in hospital and community settings.

Among the deadliest of all disease-causing organisms, Staph is the leading cause of human infections in the skin, soft tissues, bones, joints and bloodstream, and drug-resistant Staph infections are a growing threat. By federal estimates, more than 94,000 people develop serious MRSA infections and about 19,000 people die from MRSA in the U.S. every year. MRSA is believed to cause more deaths in the U.S. than HIV/AIDS.

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