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    You are here : Home » MS Research News » Stem Cell Research & Treatment » General Stem Cell Research

    General Stem Cell Research

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    Within this section you will find the latest general Stem Cell Research news, not appertaining to a specific area of research. Below are links to research into the 4 currently accepted "lines" of SCT Research:


    Further Information

  • Umbilical Cord And Placental Stem Cells
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPS) 
  • Adult Stem Cells 
  • Placental Implant Stem Cell Technology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Neural Stem Cells
  • Stem cell therapy shows prospects for severe neurological diseases

    Stem CellsAccording to experts at the Meeting of the European Neurological Society in Prague, current research findings give reason to hope that different types of stem cells could open up new prospects in therapy for severe neurological diseases such as stroke, Parkinson's or MS. But given the many unresolved issues, neurologists warn about dangerous promises of cures from unscrupulous providers.

    "There are a number of highly promising research findings today, which could pave the way to completely new types of stem cell therapies for severe neurological diseases," Prof Dr Gianvito Martino (San Raffaele Hospital, Milan) said at the 22nd Meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) in Prague. "But we need more time to clarify the many unresolved issues on safety and benefits. At the moment, there is one central message for neurological patients: These therapies are still in an experimental stage.

    We must urgently warn affected patients not to spend large sums of money to undergo treatments against Parkinson's, MS or stroke that have not yet been adequately tested." Prof Martino went on to say that specialised practitioners in countries inside and outside Europe are enticing severely ill people with false hopes of cures even though the therapies are not yet approved and central safety issues are still not clarified, such as the possibility that stem cell implantation might cause cancer or infections. The market is lucrative. Experts estimate that several billion US-dollars are spent every year worldwide for stem cell treatments.

    "Despite all the advances, we are still not yet at the point in neurology where the use of stem cells is part of everyday clinical routines. Lawmakers are called upon to protect sick people from stem cell tourism and unscrupulous providers. If patients undergo treatment, they should make sure to do so as part of serious clinical studies approved by the respective bodies." A number of such studies were just presented at the ENS Congress in Prague, where about 3,000 neurologists from around the world are gathering to share the latest findings in their field.

    Stroke: Neural stem cells improve sensorimotor functions

    According to British researchers, patients in the Pilot Investigation of Stem Cells in Stroke (PISCES) trial are being treated for the first time with a new type of procedure. It involves implantation of neural stem cells in the area of the stroke to trigger the regeneration of damaged nerve cells. There will be an intensive follow-up on patients for ten years.

    Neural stem cells are cells that can renew themselves through cell division and differentiate into various types of cells. In animal studies, cells manufactured in a special genetic engineering process by a research team from Glasgow have proved effective. Rats that had suffered a stroke and impaired sensorimotor functions as a result showed substantial improvement after several weeks.

    Parkinson's: Fibroblasts for the brain

    Researchers have not yet reached the point of application on human beings for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. But a team of experts from Milan were able to report in Prague on advances in this area, too. The goal of stem cell therapy in patients with Parkinson's is to re-trigger the impaired production of dopamine in the brain by implanting neuronal cells. Italian researchers have now developed a method of circumventing the ethically controversial use of embryonic stem cells to produce neuronal cells.

    Through the addition of three special proteins, researchers succeeded in converting cells from connective tissue (fibroblasts) into dopaminergic neuronal (iDAN) cells, i.e. into the type of dopamine-producing cells that are lacking in the brains of patients with Parkinson's. In a next step, researchers will have to determine how best to transplant these cells into the corresponding areas of the brain.

    Multiple sclerosis: Double the effect

    Prof Martino reported at the ENS Congress in Prague that several current studies on humans are already underway for multiple sclerosis (MS). "Cell-based therapies are considered a highly promising way to induce the regeneration of myelin sheaths on nerve fibres damaged when MS occurs. Stem and progenitor cells of neural and mesenchymal origin have proved suitable tools in this context."

    According to the expert, current studies show that the way they function is more diverse than originally thought: "We have observed that in patients with MS, this form of stem cell not only replaces destroyed cells but also has an additional effect by releasing neuroprotective molecules."

    Source: Medical News Today © MediLexicon International Ltd 2004-2012 (13/06/12)

    New strategies to restore function in myelin-based disorders

    Stem CellsPaul Tesar, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University, a member of the inaugural class of The New York Stem Cell Foundation - Robertson Investigators, published his research on the ability to isolate epiblast stem cells from preimplantation mouse embryos. This research enhances our understanding of the many forms of pluriportent stem cells that scientists use for researching so many debilitating diseases.

    "I think that this paper will change the way people think about what human ES cells represent from a developmental perspective," said Dr. Kevin Eggan, NYSCF Chief Scientific Officer and Associate Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

    The study, "Isolation of Epiblast Stem Cells from Preimplantation Mouse Embryos", was published in Cell Stem Cell. In 2007, Dr. Tesar was the lead author on the study that first isolated mouse epiblast stem cells from post-implantation mouse embryos when he was a graduate student in the NIH-Oxford Biomedical Research Scholars program, splitting his time between the two institutions.

    Dr. Tesar's research focuses on understanding how different cell types in the nervous system are initially formed during development and how they are maintained throughout adult life. "My hope is that by understanding these basic questions we will be able to prevent or repair damage caused by disease, aging, and injury," said Dr. Tesar. "Research in my lab has the potential to impact a number of devastating neurodegenerative and mental health conditions such as Parkinson's disease, ALS, Hungtington's disease, autism, and multiple sclerosis."

    Research in the Tesar lab aims to develop new strategies to restore function in patients afflicted with myelin-based disorders. Loss of myelin results in an impairment in the body's ability to send signals along the neurons. "Dr. Tesar is a wonderful young scientist and the research he is doing will provide significant advances for patients with myelin-based diseases," said Susan L. Solomon, Chief Executive Officer of The New York Stem Cell Foundation. "We are delighted to support Dr. Tesar's critical research, which has the potential to accelerate the path from bench to bedside. He is well on his way to a successful career."

    Notes:

    NYSCF named Dr. Tesar as one of six NYSCF Investigators at its Fifth Annual Translational Stem Cell Research Conference last October as an expansion of its ongoing efforts to promote the next generation of stem cell scientists. Each of the NYSCF - Robertson Investigators receive $1.5 million over the next five years to expand their own laboratories, train other scientists and foster innovative high-risk/high reward research to explore the therapeutic potential of stem cells derived from humans and model organisms. This funding will support the most promising and creative scientists whose research projects have the potential to accelerate the path from bench to bedside.

    Source: Medical News Today © 2011 MediLexicon International Ltd (11/03/11)

    Stem cell therapy 'damage' seen in kidney disease case

    Stem CellsA new complication has been seen in a patient with kidney disease who received stem cell therapy, scientists have warned.

    Stem cells were injected into the kidney, but the patient suffered tissue damage and died from an infection.

    The Canadian and Thai researchers said the findings published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology showed caution was needed.

    Experts said there was a gap between research and treatment.

    Many scientists hope stem cell therapy can be used to treat a wide range of diseases.

    It has been shown that it is possible to reprogram adult stem cells, taken from bone marrow, to become a range of specific cell types - including kidney cells.

    And animal studies have indicated that injecting stem cells directly into organs, including the kidney, is safe.

    The patient in this case had been treated by a private clinic.

    Researchers from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and Paul Scott Thorner, from the University of Toronto, were involved in removing and analysing the kidney.

    They found that the patient had not benefited at all from the treatment, but had actually developed tissue damage called angiomyeloproliferative lesions at the injection sites. These were found to be clusters of blood vessels and bone marrow cells.

    Enthusiasm 'premature'
     
    Dr Duangpen Thirabanjasak, from Chulalongkorn University, who led the research, said: "This type of lesion has never been described before in patients, and we believe that this is either formed directly by the stem cells that were injected or that the stem cells caused these masses to form."

    And she warned that, because they had not been seen before, no-one knew how the lesions might have developed over time.

    The authors conclude that their findings should serve as a warning to clinical investigators that the development of blood vessel and bone marrow masses may be a possible complication of stem cell therapy.

    And they said more work was needed to identify why the masses formed, and how this could be avoided.

    Writing in the journal, Andras Nagy, of Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, and Susan Quaggin, of the University of Toronto, said caution was needed over stem cell therapies - especially if they were being offered by unregulated private clinics.

    They added: "Premature enthusiasm and protocols that are not fully vetted are dangerous and result in negative publicity for the field of stem cell research, and more importantly, may result in disastrous outcomes with no benefit to the patient.

    "Although there is promise, a large gap still exists between scientific knowledge and clinical translation for safe and effective stem cell-based therapies."

    Source: BBC News © British Broadcasting Corporation 2010 (18/06/10)

    Call for Irish stem cell research legislation

    Stem CellsThe Irish Stem Cell Foundation is holding a news conference in Dublin later this morning to deal with issues raised in a recent RTÉ Prime Time report on stem cell treatments.

    The Foundation wants legislation to be brought in this year for the use of human embryonic stem cells in Ireland, allowing what it says is vital medical research to be accelerated.

    Supporters say the research has the potential to provide treatments for conditions including multiple sclerosis, spinal injury and Parkinson's disease.

    Opponents raise concerns that the technology can devalue human life.

    The Irish Stem Cell Foundation is claiming a lack of legislation is putting patients at unnecessary risk and preventing international investment and expertise coming to Ireland.

    Source: RTÉ © RTÉ Commercial Enterprises Limited 2010 (24/05/10)

    EU agency prepares to assess first stem cell drug

    Stem CellsThe first regenerative medicine based on stem cells could be filed for approval in Europe later this year, bringing the groundbreaking medical technology a step closer to reality.

    The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said on Wednesday it had been informed about the "intent of a European manufacturer to submit the first application for marketing authorization for a stem cell-based product."

    Drugmakers typically send a letter of intent to the London-based watchdog four to six months before a formal application, a spokeswoman said, so this would imply a filing toward the end of 2010.

    The EMEA declined to name the company involved.

    In preparation for the first of a possible wave of applications, officials from the EMEA met this week with drug company officials, regulators from the United States and Japan, and academic scientists to discuss guidelines for approving such treatments.

    Research into stem cells has increased dramatically in recent years and there are currently some 40 clinical trials underway in the European Union exploring the use of stem cells to regenerate lost or damaged tissues and tackle various cancers. The majority use adult mesenchymal stem cells.

    Stem cells -- which are particularly flexible when taken from days-old embryos -- are the body's master cells and can potentially be used to repair the heart, spinal cord, liver, pancreas, eyes and other parts of the body.

    But their use is controversial and involves risk -- notably the danger that foreign cells might be rejected or could proliferate uncontrollably, leading to tumors.

    MANAGING RISKS

    To address some of these issues, the EMEA has drafted a "reflection paper" on the process for approving stem cell-based therapies, which will be finalized by the end of 2010.

    "Stem cells hold the promise of an unlimited source of cells for therapeutic applications to treat patients who have no or only unsatisfactory treatment options," said Christian Schneider, chairman of the agency's Committee for Advanced Therapies.

    "However, these therapies bear certain risks, such as tumourgenicity and immunorejection, and hence need to be carefully regulated with the input from multi-disciplinary expertise."

    For many investors, stem cells remain off the radar screen for now after early excitement about the science was followed by delays and disappointments in the clinic.

    But companies pioneering the technology have not given up and a growing number of large pharmaceutical companies are also starting to dip their toes in the water.

    Believers see a parallel between the evolution of stem cell treatment and monoclonal antibodies. Antibody technology was first developed in the 1970s but it is only recently that such drugs have become blockbusters.

    Among listed companies, Britain's ReNeuron is about to start the world's first stroke trial using foetal stem cells, while U.S.-based Geron hopes to restart a study using embryonic cells to treat spinal cord injuries in the third quarter of 2010.

    Any stem cell treatment filed with the EMEA later this year could, in theory, become commercially in 2011.

    The agency's scientific committee has instructions to issue an opinion within 210 days of receiving an application, or 120 days in the case of an accelerated procedure, although this regulatory clock can be stopped if more information is needed.

    Source: Reuters © Copyright 2010 Thomson Reuters (13/05/10)

    Adult eyes cells can be transformed into pluripotent stem cells without introducing foreign genetic material

    Stem CellsScientists have overcome a key barrier to the clinical use of stem cells with a technique which transforms regular body cells into artificial stem cells without the need for introducing foreign genetic materials, which could be potentially harmful. The research, published in Stem Cells, suggests that cells taken from a patient's eye can be "reprogrammed" to replace or restore cells lost to degenerative diseases.

    The research, led by Professor Iqbal Ahmad and co-authors from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is the first proof in principle that somatic, or body cells, can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) simply through the influence of the microenvironment in which the sampled cells are cultured. Until now genetic materials were introduced into somatic cells to re-programme them to become pluripotent, enabling them to generate cells of all three embryonic lineages.

    "Our findings provide evidence for an emerging view that somatic cells may be reprogrammed safely and simply by defined chemicals and other factors, which may facilitate their clinical use," said Ahmad. "The next step is to know how robust the reprogramming is and what existed within the microenvironment to cause it."

    The team sampled progenitor eye cells, which regenerate the eye's cornea, from laboratory rats. By reprogramming them to resemble stem cells they acquired the properties necessary to replace or restore neurons, cardiomyocytes, and hepatocytes, cell types which are degenerated in Parkinson's disease, heart disease, and liver disease.

    This reprogramming technique may allow 'autologous cell transplantation', where the donor of the cells is also the recipient. This is preferable to using cells from another person which may cause the patient's immune system to reject the transplanted cells.

    Also, because this technique involves the use of iPSCs derived from adult eye cells and not embryonic stem cells (ES) it side steps many of the ethical dilemmas which have embroiled stem cell research.

    "This research shows that it is possible to take cells from a patient's eye without affecting vision and reprogram them for use in autologous cell therapy to replace or rescue degenerating cells," concluded Ahmad, "this would allow us to circumvent ethical issues and the problems caused by the immune system rejecting foreign cells."

    Source: 7th Space Interactive © 2009 7thSpace Interactive (26/10/09)

    Massachusetts scientists make stem cell discovery

    Stem Cells

    Cell Multiplication Controlled by a Surprising set of Genes.

    Stem cell researcher Dr. Ann Kiessling announced the discovery of cell characteristics that may explain important differences between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Scientists have for years been frustrated in their efforts to grow the trillions of adult stem cells needed for therapies, which is why embryonic stem cells seem promising -- they can multiply endlessly and also develop into any cell in the body.

    Kiessling discovered that early human embryo cells express CLOCK, and other circadian genes, that other human cells growing in laboratories did not. This was a surprise. Although scientists have recently become aware that human tissues have a circadian oscillator that cycles every 24 hours, in phase with the master circadian pacemaker in the brain that responds to light and dark, early embryos seemed too small to function like a tissue.

    Kiessling also discovered that the RB gene, a powerful cell blockade, was turned off in the early embryo cells. This was also a surprise because RB is a well-studied blockade that prevents cells from multiplying unless needed and stimulated by growth factors. The lack of RB in the early embryo cells, in combination with the circadian oscillator, are unique characteristics that together enable independent, continuous cell duplication.

    "These are exciting discoveries," stated Dr. Kiessling. "To understand the cell machinery needed for independent, highly accurate cell multiplication, we need to understand early embryos, because they are the true stem cells. CLOCK expression and RB silence may be key elements in continuous cell duplication, and important to consider in the design of patient-specific stem cells capable of the expansion needed for therapeutic quantities."

    Developing conditions to inhibit RB and support the circadian oscillator may the combination long sought by scientists to multiply adult stem cells to the trillions needed for therapies for diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, AIDS and cancer. "These findings are also essential to our research to improve the efficiency of deriving stem cells from unfertilized eggs, called parthenote stem cells. Parthenote stem cells do not have the ethical issues that embryos have, and appear to be as robust in multiplication as embryonic stem cells. Women with serious diseases, such as Huntington's Disease, spinal cord injury, and Chrone's disease, have volunteered to donate their eggs for stem cell research and derivation, a procedure well worth undertaking when this new knowledge can be implemented. Strategies to silence the RB gene will need to be carefully planned to allow it to turn back on when the cells are differentiated to specific cell types, " Dr. Kiessling said.

    This ground-breaking work was the result of a collaboration between Dr. Kiessling's team of scientists at the Massachusetts based Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation with a team of clinician scientists at the University of Athens in Greece. The work is the first of its kind and was possible through the use of cutting-edge microarray technology. BRF scientists examined expression of 44,000 gene elements in discarded early-stage (8 cells of development) human embryos.

    Professor Dimitris Loutradis, the clinician scientist leading the Greek team, adds "This new understanding of human embryos may, finally, help develop ways to determine which embryo is developing normally and should be selected for transfer to patients undergoing assisted reproduction."

    According to Professor Jose Cibelli of Michigan State University, "This is a seminal paper. I am sure we will be referring back to it 10, 20 years from now."

    Source: PR.com (31/03/09)

    Drugs unlock the body's own stem cell cabinet

    Stem cells

    The scope for patients to be treated with their own stem cells has been boosted by discovery of drug regimes that liberate specific types of stem cells from the bone marrow.

    The discovery could lead to simple new treatments to accelerate repair of broken bones and ligaments, or damaged cardiac tissue following heart attacks.

    Instead of injecting patients with stem cells from donors, embryos or stem cell banks, doctors could simply inject the drugs and the patients would produce the cells themselves. This would avoid complications of tissue rejection and sidestep ethical objections to using stem cells originating from embryos.

    "It's promoting self-healing," says Sara Rankin of Imperial College London, and a member of the team that discovered the stem-cell liberating effects. "We're simply boosting what's going on naturally."

    It has been previously possible to promote the release of stem cells that develop into blood cells. Now, for the first time, stem cells have been liberated that regenerate other tissues, such as bone and blood vessels, widening options for treatment.

    Twin approach
    The researchers used a two-prong approach to produce - in mice - each type of stem cell. First, they gave the mice a natural growth factor for four days or so. Finally, they administered a drug called Mozobil, which unlocks the cells so they can escape into the bloodstream from the bone marrow.

    To boost levels of haematopoietic stem cells, which create all blood cells, the researchers first gave the mice granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF) followed by Mozobil.

    This procedure is already well known and has been practised extensively in trials to boost blood stem cell production in patients undergoing treatment for various forms of lymphoma. It boosts blood stem cell production so that enough can be saved and transplanted back into the patient once their cancer, which destroys blood cells, has been eradicated.

    However, the real breakthrough of the work at Imperial was to show that by giving a different combination - Mozobil preceded by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) - they could boost levels of two other types of stem cell.

    Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) promote regeneration of bone and tissue, and so could be used for bone repair. They also damp down inflammation, and could be used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

    Epithelial progenitor cells (EPCs), meanwhile, stimulate the growth and repair of blood vessels, and could prove useful in restoring blood flow to the heart or brain following heart attacks or strokes.

    Mystery cells
    Intriguingly, Rankin and her colleagues also found that both treatments block production of other types of stem cells in the bone marrow. They found, for example, that the GCSF-based treatment doesn't stimulate production of any MSCs for tissue repair. This could explain the failure of attempts to stimulate stem-cell repair with GCSF in patients with heart attacks.

    Likewise, no blood stem cells were produced when the mice received the VEGF-based treatment.

    This is the first time, says Rankin, that anyone has demonstrated that different mechanisms release different types of stem cell. She says that there are other types of stem cell produced in the bone marrow, but not enough is known yet about what they do.

    Rankin says that through further research it might be possible to identify other stem cells that work even better. She and her colleagues also hope next to do experiments in mice demonstrating that the additional cells accelerate healing. They are also investigating whether these natural repair processes become less efficient with age.

    'Powerful tool'
    Other researchers were impressed by the breakthrough. "The ability to selectively stimulate a patient's own stem cells could be a powerful tool for treating disease, and to speed up the repair of damaged and worn-out tissues," says Robert Lanza, chief scientist at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcestor, Massachusetts.

    Lanza stresses, however, that the work was done in mice, not humans. "And we still don't know if, or to what extent, this approach can actually orchestrate repairs in the body."

    Lanza, whose company has developed ways of making red blood cells from stem cells, says that it may be possible to combine the two methods - using stem cells in the lab to make a new organ, for example, then using the Mobozil treatment to provide it with a blood supply by stimulating blood vessel formation.

    One boost for possible trials in humans is that Mozobil's manufacturer - Genzyme in Cambridge, Massachusetts - received approval in December to sell the drug for this purpose in the US.

    "Mozobil is already out there on the market, so it's feasible that trials could happen in the next five to 10 years," says Rankin.

    Source: New Scientist © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.(09/01/09)

    Gene that keeps stem cells healthy

    Stem cells

    Carnegie Institution scientists in the United States say that a gene, named scrawny, seems to play a significant role in keeping a variety of stem cells in their undifferentiated state.

    Writing about their observations in the journal Science, the researchers said that understanding how stem cells maintain their potency has implications both the knowledge of basic biology and for medical applications.

    "Our tissues and indeed our very lives depend on the continuous functioning of stem cells. Yet we know little about the genes and molecular pathways that keep stem cells from turning into regular tissue cells—a process known as differentiation," says Allan C. Spradling, director of the Carnegie Institution''s Department of Embryology.

    Along with his colleagues Michael Buszczak and Shelley Paterno, Spradling has found that the fruit fly gene scrawny—so named due to the appearance of mutant adult flies—modifies a specific chromosomal protein, known as histone H2B, which is used by cells to package DNA into chromosomes.

    The researchers say that scrawny can by controlling the proteins that wrap the genes, scrawny can silence genes that would otherwise cause a generalized cell to differentiate into a specific type of cell, such as a skin or intestinal cell.

    During the study, the researchers observed that mutant flies without functioning copies of the scrawny prematurely lost their stem cells in reproductive tissue, skin, and intestinal tissue.

    Stem cells function as a repair system for the body, and maintain healthy tissues and organs by producing new cells to replenish dying cells and rebuild damaged tissues.

    "Losing stem cells represents the cellular equivalent of eating the seed corn," says Spradling. He adds that the results of the study are an important step forward in stem cell research because genes that may carry out the same functions as scrawny are known to be present in all multicellular organisms, including humans.

    "This new understanding of the role played by scrawny may make it easier to expand stem cell populations in culture, and to direct stem cell differentiation in desired directions," the researcher says.

    Source: Zeenews.com © Zee News Limited.(07/01/08)

    Bogus stem cell therapies sold on internet

    Stem Cells

    Expensive, sham stem cell therapies are being hawked directly to desperate patients over the Internet, experts say.

    In response, the leading organization of stem cell scientists issued guidelines to steer research in the field toward responsible, practical uses.

    "Stem cell research is progressing so rapidly and has sparked a lot of interest in translational research [including] among patients in hopes for therapies," said Insoo Hyun, lead author of the paper outlining the guidelines and an associate professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.

    "At the same time," he said, "legitimate science is speeding ahead and getting to the point where there needed to be more of a road map to take the basic knowledge to clinical applications."

    Although Hyun had not heard of patients actually been harmed by so-called stem cell therapies, he said he feared that "it's only a matter of time."

    The new guidelines were published in the December issue of Cell Stem Cell.

    Experts hailed the move.

    "We clearly need guidelines for around the world to make sure that appropriate research is done before clinical work is undertaken in patients," said Paul Sanberg, distinguished professor of neurosurgery and director of the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair in Tampa. "We see desperate patients all the time and want to make sure that any therapies they take come from responsible research groups."

    "There is tremendous confusion about the two types of stem cells -- embryonic stem cells and adult progenitor stem cells. The difference is monumental, and needs to be clarified," said Dr. Darwin J. Prockop, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White, who also holds the Stearman Chair in Genomic Medicine at the center.

    In an accompanying commentary, Canadian researchers analyzed 19 Web sites unearthed by a regular Google search, all of which peddled expensive stem cell therapies for everything from stroke to allergies.

    Different clinics in China (Beike Biotech), the Ukraine (ACT) and elsewhere claim to have treated thousands of patients for neurological disorders including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury and Alzheimer's disease, congenital conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy, as well as allergies, heart conditions and even cosmetic procedures. However, the University of Alberta team was unable to find any studies that had even investigated stem cell therapy for Parkinson's disease or for Alzheimer's, for example.

    Nowhere, apparently, was there any authentication of whether the stem cells actually were stem cells, or where they had come from.

    Stem cells most often, but not always, came from the patient's own bone marrow. Others reportedly came from aborted fetuses, animal tissues or donor tissues.

    Web site information tended to be heavily skewed toward the alleged benefits of the process, and away from its risks. And the price? According to the paper, when advertised, the average cost of these therapies -- excluding airfare and accommodation -- was $21,500.

    The new guidelines are meant to guide research toward what is practical and responsible, Hyun said. Previous scientific guidelines and regulations have regulated human-subjects research and clinical research in general, as well as gene transfer research, but not stem cell research, which poses a number of independent issues.

    "Most of the time, stem cell products are presenting entirely novel products that are unpredictable in humans," Hyun said. "Unlike drugs, you can't just create a batch and put them on the shelf and expect they will be the same. We need uniform quality control and manufacturing. And if they're embryonic or pluripotent stem cells, they could form unwanted tissues or tumors. So, we have to be very careful about following up and monitoring patients."

    Accordingly, the guidelines, written by a task force of stem cell specialists from 13 countries, addressed issues of ethical review, quality and safety of the stem cells; voluntary informed consent of participants in research projects along with careful monitoring of these volunteers and caution in using stem-cell-based therapies outside a research context.

    Despite its promise, stem-cell based treatment is the standard of care for only a few diseases and conditions. These include hematopoietic stem cell transplants for leukemia and epithelial-stem-cell-based treatments for burns and corneal (eye) disorders.

    Still, the potential of stem cell research is vast, experts said. Although research has not yet translated directly into abundant therapies for patients, the gains have been substantial, albeit indirect.

    "For patients, it's not surprising that there are not direct applications, but what is often lost to public is that so much knowledge had been gained from stem cell research," Hyun said. "The advancements for patients are going to come sooner through these indirect routes, not direct cell-based therapy, from the expansion of knowledge."

    More information

    There's a patient handbook on the new guidelines at the International Society for Stem Cell Research.

    Source: The Washington Post © 1996-2008 The Washington Post Company (04/12/08)

    Stem cells are more flexible than previously thought, research suggests

    Stem Cells

    Research by British scientists has shown the body is more flexible in its production of stem cells than previously thought.

    The discovery widens the possibilities for the use of such cells in surgical procedures for treating damaged tissue and organs.

    Stem cells are immature cells that can grow into a range of different tissue types. They work in one of two modes - either producing numerous copies of themselves to increase supply, or transforming into specific kinds of cell for which there is a need.

    Scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that the 'decision' is taken when stem cells reach a crucial stage of development. At this point, they either go on to differentiate into specialised cells, or revert back to their original form and start duplicating. The latter choice is made if the available "pool" of stem cells is running too low. Previously it was thought that once stem cells started to change they were committed to turn into specialist cells.

    Dr Ian Chambers, from the university's new Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said: "If there is too much self renewal, the capacity to generate specialist cells to repair damaged tissues and organs is diminished. Yet if you don't have enough self renewal going on you will run out of stem cells, which could otherwise have been converted into specialist cells to help the body heal.

    "This is a fine balance but gaining greater understanding of how stem cells work will help us develop therapies for a range of diseases."

    Dr Chambers and his colleagues in Edinburgh are looking at ways of mending damaged bones and cartilage using stem cells and repairing livers without the need for transplantation.

    The new work involved the use of embryonic stem cells taken from early-stage human embryos, but the researchers believe the findings could also apply to adult stem cells.

    Source: Telegraph.co.uk © Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008 (24/11/08)

    Testicles may provide 'ethical' stem cells

    StemcellsMen may wince at the thought, but biopsies from human testicles have yielded stem cells that can be turned into virtually any cell in the body.

    The hope is that tissue created from stem cells derived from a patient's testicles would not be rejected when implanted elsewhere in the body. What's more, such cells would avoid the ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which have the same therapeutic potential.

    A team led by Thomas Skutella at the University of Tübingen in Germany harvested spermatogonial cells, which normally mature into sperm, from men and used a series of chemicals to turn them into various cell types (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature07404). "We made them into skin, structures of the gut, cartilage, bone, muscle and neurons," says Skutella.

    Taking cells from the testicles sounds painful, but Skutella says such biopsies are routine in men undergoing infertility treatment. "Skin biopsies might sound more acceptable, but it hurts just as much as from the testes," he says.

    In 2006, it was shown that mouse spermatogonial cells are ESC-like. Skutella's corresponding feat in humans is "a home run" that "bypasses the ethical and immunological problems associated with ESCs", says Robert Lanza, a stem-cell specialist at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts.

    Other researchers caution that more work is needed, as Skutella's cells do not express all the molecular markers associated with ESCs. "They are not identical to embryonic stem cells," says Austin Smith of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge.

    Source: Issue 2677 of New Scientist magazine, 08 October 2008, page 4 © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd (09/10/08)

    Induced pluripotent stem cell advance

    The Harvard Stem Cell Institute said yesterday that it is one step closer to creating induced pluripotent stem cells that would be safe for human use.

    Konrad Hochedlinger and other scientists from HSCI, Mass. General Hospital and the Joslin Diabetes Center announced that they have created mouse iPS cells using adenoviruses, according to a press release.

    Researchers have previously attempted to create iPS cells using retroviruses, though it was feared these could activate cancer genes.

    Adenoviruses do not implant in the DNA of their human host and, thus, pose a reduced threat of cancer. Thus far, none of the mice in the study have shown any sign of tumor growth.

    Pluripotent stem cells can potentially create any human cell. Those of the induced variety are lauded for not involving the use of controversial embryonic cells and are believed to have therapeutic uses.

    Hochedlinger and his team have therefore proven that viruses do not need to be integrated into the human genome in order to create iPS cells, according to the release.

    He said he hopes to make the leap to working with human specimens in order to test whether iPS cells may serve as a substitute for embryonic stem cells.

    Source: The Harvard Crimson © 2008, The Harvard Crimson, Inc. (26/09/08)

    Stem cell scientists urge clinical trials in U.S.

    At a talk on stem cells and spinal cord injuries, professor Wise Young of Rutgers University described what happened once he began a series of five clinical trials in China.

    Americans told him they wanted to go to China to join the clinical trials.

    “It got me deep down,” said Young, chairman of the Rutgers department of cell biology and neuroscience. “We should not be sending Americans to clinical trials in China. We should be doing clinical trials here in the U.S. It’s shameful.”

    On the closing day of the World Stem Cell Summit, speakers confronted a complex but inevitable question. After all of the talk about promising results when stem cells have been placed in animals and in laboratory dishes, has the science reached the point when stem cells can be tested in human patients?

    “I really believe that stem cell technology is at or approaching the tipping point, where this technology is really going to start to bring new therapies to patients,” said John McNeish, the executive director of regenerative medicine at the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

    “We believe that in the future, and perhaps not so far in the distant future, cells will actually be therapies.”

    While stem cells transplants are an accepted therapy for a few illnesses such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia, they have yet to reach human patients with many other ailments. The result is a series of complex dilemmas that confront patients, scientists and policy-makers.

    Patients with spinal cord injuries and many other conditions can wait for the slow process of clinical trial approvals to grind forward, or they can go overseas, where the multibillion dollar medical tourism industry offers treatments that often come with a high price tag and without rigorous studies to show they actually work.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has steered back and forth between caution and aggression, said Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The FDA risks a patient uprising when it moves slowly, and debacles such as Vioxx, the troubled arthritis/pain-relief medication, when it moves more rapidly.

    And then there are the scientists. If their stem cell therapies show some success in animals, they face a daunting task in proceeding to clinical trials.

    Young said it was easier to begin clinical trials in China than in the United States. The reason, he said, “is simple. Money. There’s currently no source of funding for clinical trials (in the U.S.).

    “You’re really talking about an issue of priorities for this country. There’s plenty of money to bail out investment houses and insurance companies. But there is not money to do the clinical trials for therapies for spinal cord patients.”

    The clinical trials in China are costing about $30 million, money that was raised privately in Hong Kong, Young said. The trials would cost five times more to run in the U.S., in part because the process here is longer. The spinal cord injury trials are not cheap because they involve not only a week of treatment but an additional three months of rehabilitation and physical therapy.

    Young said many of the patients who seek stem cell treatment overseas are not desperate — they’re determined.

    “No matter what we do or what we say, it will occur until we start satisfying the demand for therapies,” he said.

    Clive Svendsen, co-director of the UW Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center, agreed that it is more difficult to reach clinical trials in the U.S. than in other countries.

    “They’re expensive. A lot of people are skeptical that they’ll work,” Svendsen said. “But they are coming.”

    To keep public support for stem cells, he said, “we have to fund some large-scale clinical trials, particularly with childhood diseases and spinal cord injuries. I think America needs to do it. The question is: Who’s going to pay for it?”

    McNeish, the Pfizer executive, said it generally costs $1 billion to bring a medical therapy to the market, but he could not say whether a stem cell therapy is likely to be more costly than a drug. One promising sign, he said, is that most of the major pharmaceutical companies now have formal stem cell policies.

    “Clearly,” he said, “the pharmaceutical industry is making the move to enter the stem cell field.”

    Source: JS Online © 2005-2007, Journal Sentinel Inc (24/09/08)

    Japan university gets patent for stem cell breakthrough

    Japan has given Kyoto University a patent for groundbreaking stem cell research in what is believed to be a world first for such scientific research, officials said Friday.

    The move is aimed at preventing a pharmaceutical company from taking its own patent and then seeking money from researchers for their work, university officials said.

    Teams at Kyoto University and at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the United States last year discovered how to use skin to produce stem cells -- which can develop into various organs or nerves.

    The finding was hailed by the Vatican and US President George W. Bush because it can circumvent an ethical row over conventional stem cell research using human embryos.

    "It is important for the university to keep a patent so it can conduct medical research and treatment at low costs in the future," said Naoko Takasu, who is in charge of intellectual property issues for the university.

    She said it was the first patent in the world for stem cells and that the university in western Japan would also seek patents in other major developed countries.

    Shinya Yamanaka, the head of the research team, said he was "delighted" at the issuance of the patent.

    "This is a first step," he said in a statement. "I will continue my utmost efforts in this research... so as to accelerate its practical application in clinical treatment."

    Stem cell research is seen as having the potential to save lives by helping to find cures for diseases such as cancer and diabetes or to replace damaged cells, tissues and organs.

    But religious conservatives argue that research on embryos destroys human life, albeit at its earliest stage of development.

    Anticipating growing international competition in the field, Japan -- the largest spender on research after the United States -- in December announced a 10 billion-yen (92 million-dollar) plan to advance stem cell studies.

    Another group of Japanese scientists said last month they had derived stem cells from wisdom teeth, opening another way to study deadly diseases without the ethical controversy of using embryos.

    Source: ABS CBN 5 News © 2008 ABS-CBN Interactive (12/09/08)

    Breakthrough in stem cell technology announced
    A new breakthrough in stem cell technology is set to speed up vital drug development and help reduce the number of animals used in laboratory research.

    A team of scientists from Durham University and the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESC) has designed, developed and tested new molecular tools to induce stem cells to transform into other forms of tissue.

    The new molecules called EC23 and EC19 have say scientists been found in "robust scientific tests to be far more stable than the naturally-occurring molecule'' currently used in the process.

    Significantly the EC23 molecule was found to be particularly effective at producing neurons (nerve cells) which can be used in laboratory testing for drugs for brain disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease.

    While EC19 was found to be particularly effective at producing epithelial cells - the cells that line the inner and outer surfaces of the body.

    Stem cells are a special type of cell which has the ability to renew other cells in the body.

    One of the challenges facing the stem cell scientists is to find out how these may be re-programmed to become different tissue types.

    The scientific team includes synthetic chemists Dr Andrew Whiting and Professor Todd Marder and stem cell biologist Dr Stefan Przyborski and their research groups at Durham University, who are all members of the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI).

    Dr Przyborski said: "The key thing about these synthetic molecules is that they remain stable and are exactly the same every time you use them ensuring more reliable scientific experiments.

    "Because the results will be more scientifically robust this will accelerate drug development using human stem cell-derived tissues and potentially reduce the number of animals used in such research.''

    Dr Whiting added: "We've set out to make stable mimics of natural compounds which control cell development, but in this case, not only have we uncovered a compound which is not only stable and does what the natural system does, but actually seems to be better as well. It's a real bonus and shows the validity of the approach.''

    The scientists are now developing a "molecular toolkit'' of synthetic compounds which are tailor made for specific stem cell and drug development work.

    Source: The Nothern Echo © Copyright 2001-2008 (03/09/08)

    Scientists Develop Method to Identify Pluripotent Stem Cells

    An international team of investigators determined that pluripotent stem cell lines display significant chemical similarity. The cell samples used in the study all had a particular protein-protein network in common. The network, named PluriNet by the team, points to the factors that enable these cells to differentiate into multiple cell types.

    Using a collection of about 150 human cell samples, the researchers created a database of global gene expression profiles using Illumina’s BeadArray technology.

    “Our results offer a new strategy for classifying stem cells by their molecular machinery,” says Jeanne Loring, Ph.D., director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Scripps Research Institute. “We show that pluripotence and self-renewal are under tight control by specific molecular networks.”

    In the first phase of the study, the group compiled transcriptional profiles from several hundred human stem cell preparations including both pluripotent stem cells and multi-potent stem cells. These included human embryonic lines, neural stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, differentiated cell types from donors, and differentiated cells derived from pluripotent cells.

    The research team coupled a computer approach with systems biology tools and found the profiles uniquely characteristic of the pluripotent populations, whether they came from embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent cells. The researchers also found these profiles were shared by mouse embryonic stem cells, induced mouse pluripotent stem cells, and human oocytes.
    Detailed analysis showed that the interacting protein elements can be used to predict whether genetically induced stem cells will be pluripotent, the scientists report.

    “Stem cell preparations can now be categorized with great accuracy based on their transcriptional phenotypes without any scientists’ preconceptions or bias,” according to first author Franz-Josef Mueller, M.D., a visiting investigator at Scripps Research. Next, the researchers plan to investigate the regulation of this protein network.

    Source: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News © 2008 Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (26/08/08)

    Immune response may hinder stem cell treatments
    Human embryonic stem cells trigger an immune response in mice, a new study finds. If the same thing happens in humans, it could prove a big roadblock to stem cell-based treatments, researchers say.

    Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that common anti-rejection medications could counter the mice's immune response. However, the new finding dashes prior hopes that the immune system gave foreign embryonic stem cells a "free pass" through the body.

    "It's getting harder and harder to believe that these cells are immunoprivileged," senior author Dr. Joseph Wu, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology at Stanford, said in a news release issued by the university. "In fact, the rejection of these cells confirms our suspicions that they do cause an immune response."

    The findings were to be published in the Aug.18 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Embryonic stem cells form all cells in an embryo. Many researchers have suggested that the immune system ignores them to allow the growth of a fetus that contains both maternal and paternal genetic material. Such an immunological exemption would counter concerns about using cells therapeutically that don't exactly match the recipient's immune system.

    After injecting human embryonic stem cells into mice, those cells died within 10 days in mice with good immune systems but survived and multiplied in the mice with impaired immune responses. Further injections into the normally functioning mice led to more rapid cell death, a sign that the mice's immune system was getting better at recognizing and rejecting the cells.

    "The data is quite convincing," Wu said. "Based on these results, we believe that transplanting these cells into humans would also cause an immune response."

    Medicating the mice with normal immune systems with a combination of two common anti-rejection compounds -- tacrolimus and sirolimus -- allowed those cells to survive for up to 28 days, the team said.

    Source: US News and World Report © 2008 U.S. News & World Report (19/08/08)

    GlaxoSmithKline promises $25m to Harvard stem cell research
    GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to sponsor at least $25 million in work at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Cambridge, one of the largest investments in stem cell research ever by a major pharmaceuticals company.

    As part of the five-year agreement, GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to support research at Harvard University and four Harvard-affiliated hospitals to try to find cures for cancer, obesity, diabetes, and neurological, cardiac, and musculoskeletal diseases. The company also agreed to help fund Harvard's "seed grant" program, which supports early stage research.

    "We think stem cell research has huge potential to aid in the discovery of new medicines," said GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman Melinda Stubbee.

    Brock Reeve, executive director of the stem cell institute, said the pact marks a turning point. Until recently, most major pharmaceutical companies shied away from investing significant amounts of money in stem cell work because they thought the research wasn't mature enough to create life-saving drugs.

    "Now we have started to see that change," Reeve said.

    For instance, Pfizer Inc., one of the world's biggest drug companies, launched a stem cell research unit in April with offices in the United Kingdom and Cambridge. Pfizer says it hopes to have 20 scientists in the Cambridge office soon.

    And GlaxoSmithKline signed a pact with OncoMed Pharmaceuticals Inc. last December to develop drugs that attack cancer stem cells.

    The company's collaboration with Harvard will also involve researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Joslin Diabetes Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Harvard officials said the parties will share the rights to any discoveries they make together, even though GlaxoSmithKline is funding the work.

    Some smaller companies were quicker to focus on stem cell research, such as Advanced Cell Technology Inc. of Worcester and Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif. But they have faced challenges.

    Advanced Cell Technology recently warned that it will be forced to sharply curtail its operations or close altogether if it can't raise additional cash by July 31. In May, the Food and Drug Administration ordered Geron to postpone a clinical trial for its first embryonic stem cell product because of safety concerns. Last month, however, Geron chief executive Thomas Okarma told investors the company is working through the issues with the FDA and expects to launch the trial later this year.

    Source: boston.com © 2008 NY Times Co. (25/07/08)

    Lonza to produce world’s first stem cell drug
    SWISS FINE CHEMICALS maker Lonza has signed a manufacturing agreement with biotech company Osiris Therapeutics for the production of the stem cell-based treatment prochymal.

    Lonza will build a brand-new production plant for the drug at its Walkersville, US site. The plant will include the world’s first-ever commercial-scale allogeneic (using biological material taken from different individuals of the same species) cGMP manufacturing facility and additional capacity to manufacture cGMP-grade cell culture media for therapeutic applications, Lonza says. The company will produce tens of billions of cells at the site to produce prochymal. “Our agreement with Osiris solidifies Lonza’s leadership in the cGMP manufacturing of cellular therapeutics,” says David Smith, head of Lonza’s bioscience cell therapy business.

    If approved, prochymal will be Osiris’ first commercialised product based on its proprietary adult stem cell technology. The company uses adult stem cells, extracted from the bone marrow of third party donors, to develop active ingredients for a range of different treatments. The company uses a technology developed by Arnold Caplan, professor of biology at Case Western University in Cleveland, US, to isolate and expand mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow for therapeutic drugs.

    Prochymal is currently in phase III clinical trials for three indications, including acute and steroid refractory graft versus host disease (GvHD) – a potentially life-threatening condition affecting half of all patients who receive a hematopoietic stem cell transplant, and the bowel condition Crohn's disease.

    Source: The Chemical Engineer copyright IChemE (07/07/08)

    Harnessing the healing power of stem cells in medicine will be tougher than first thought
    A Nobel Prize-winning scientist says it could be tougher than first thought to harness the healing power of stem cells in medicine.

    It had been hoped a single "master" cell could potentially be used to repair all damage in a single organ.

    Professor Mario Capecchi, from the University of Utah, found surprising clues that different stem cells might be working together in the same organ.

    This means experimental treatments relying on the wrong type might fail.

    Professor Capecchi, writing in the Nature Genetics, said the finding suggested stem cell biology could be "more complicated" than previously thought, which could be bad news for patients hoping for the swift arrival of new therapies.

    Cell maker

    Unlike the majority of cells in the body, stem cells have special qualities.

    They not only reproduce themselves, but can produce a wide variety of the cells needed in different parts of the body.

    In their most potent form, in the embryo, they have the ability to create any tissue in the body, but cells with more limited, but still useful, abilities have been found in the organs of adults.

    Some scientists believe that if these "adult stem cells" could be found and extracted, they could form the basis of treatments, without the controversy surrounding the use of embryos.

    However, Professor Capecchi's work means that identifying the most useful cells will not necessarily be straightforward.

    He developed a new way of tracking the position of adult stem cells in the intestines of mice.

    Unexpectedly, however, he found the cells not spread evenly through the organ, but clustered mostly in the upper third of the intestine.

    Complex picture

    This means, he said, that other as yet unidentified adult stem cells are likely to be at work renewing tissues elsewhere in the gut.

    Creating therapies using one type might have only a limited effect on the organ as a whole.

    Professor Capecchi said: "People always thought about a uniform stem cell population in each organ, but now we are saying there are multiple stem cell populations in a given organ, so if you're going to do therapy, you have to recognise this complexity.

    "It's important because people are talking about stem cell therapy, they want to stick in stem cells to treat disease."

    He said that there was no reason why it should be different in other organs under investigation.

    Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, a stem cell specialist from the Medical Research Council, said the finding fitted with other evidence suggesting the presence of different stem cell types.

    "This says we actually have two populations of stem cells in the same organ."

    He said: "I can see no reason why this also won't be the case in other parts of the body, such as the central nervous system.

    "It's important that we find out which is the most useful cell in these organs, if we want to use them in therapies."

    Source: BBC News © BBC 2008 (09/06/08)

    Companies Racing to Use Stem Cells to Find and Test New Drugs
    Two companies that produce different types of stem cells have signed contacts to sell their products to drugmakers, showing the new technology will be used to help discover medicines not just to repair or replace damaged cells.

    California Stem Cells Inc., an Irvine, California, biotechnology company that turns embryonic stem cells into neurons, said today it's selling the brain cells to researchers trying to find drugs to treat Lou Gehrig's disease. CellDesign Inc., of New Haven, Connecticut, said it has contracts with four drugmakers seeking to use its product to find new medicines for conditions such as Parkinson's disease and schizophrenia.

    The efforts of these two closely held companies indicate stem cells will aid in the search for old-fashioned drugs long before they're infused into patients. It also suggests that the first businesses to benefit from stem cell technology will be traditional pharmaceutical companies and their suppliers not developers of new kinds of therapies.

    "It's similar to what happened in the last century with molecular biology'' and gene therapy, said John Hambor, CellDesign's founding chief executive officer, in a telephone interview yesterday. "We're now going down a similar path with stem cell biology. While it may lead to cures by itself, it will drive the next generation of drug discovery.''

    California Stem Cell will provide hundreds of batches of its neural cells over the next year to BioFocus DPI, a unit of the Belgian drug discovery company Galapagos NV, said Chris Airriess, the California company's chief operating officer, in a telephone interview yesterday.

    Manipulating Cells

    BioFocus researchers will manipulate the neurons so they match the damage found in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, said Katherine Hilyard, BioFocus vice president for biological sciences. Then researchers will run the altered neurons through machines that can rapidly test huge libraries of so-called gene silencers -- bits of genetic material that can block the action of proteins -- to see if they can fix the damage.

    "Stem cells let us create systems that mimic what's happening in the patient so we can find a better drug,'' Hilyard said in a telephone interview yesterday.

    The project is funded by the ALS Association, a nonprofit research and advocacy group that works to develop treatments for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The condition kills nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, robbing patients of muscular control and eventually leading to paralysis.

    "This is a quick way to look for potential targets,'' said Lucie Bruijn, the association's science director. "To test all these things in an animal model is so much more expensive.''

    Airriess said the agreement with BioFocus is one of many he and his colleagues are developing. The company also is negotiating with drug companies to supply neural and heart cells.

    `Very Profitable'

    "It's potentially a very profitable business,'' he said.

    Three European pharmaceutical companies, Roche Holding AG, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, announced last October they'd work together to develop ways to use stem cells for drug screening. The work will be coordinated by a new London-based organization, Stem Cells for Safer Medicines, funded by the companies and the British government.

    The group's goal is to find more efficient ways to identify new drugs and test them for potential side effects earlier in the drug development process, said Philip Wright, the group's executive director.

    "If you look at attrition or failure of drugs in clinical development, by far the largest cause is through unexpected toxicities that haven't been predicted'' in animal tests, Wright said.

    Mouse Cells

    Drug companies already use mouse embryonic stem cells to search for and test drugs and some are interested in using human embryonic cells, Wright said.

    "But they're taking a very conservative approach'' because of the ethical controversies that surround the use of cells from human embryos, he said in a telephone interview yesterday.

    Until recently, scientists recognized two basic types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, derived from embryos in the first few days after they're fertilized, have the potential to become any of the body's roughly 210 cell types. Extracting the cells with current methods kills the embryo, prompting opposition from critics including President George W. Bush. Adult stem cells, found in developed tissue, have more limited potential to become other cells.

    If scientists can refine a new technique that reprograms cells found in mature organs to give them the power of embryonic cells, drug companies will be interested in the method as a way to develop heart, liver and other cells that can be used to test drugs, Wright said.

    Funding Research

    Wright's group will soon award 1 million pounds ($1.97 million) to back research into the use of stem cells for drug testing to be followed with another 10 million pounds ($19.7 million) over five years.

    Hambor, the chief executive of CellDesign and a former Pfizer Inc. scientist, said the potential for stem cells to find new medicines helped attract a venture capital firm, Toucan Capital Corp. of Bethesda, Maryland, to invest in his fledgling company. Toucan Capital, which confirmed its investment, declined to say how much.

    "The immediate impact of stem cell technology will be as a tool for discovering new drugs,'' Hambor said. "Where else could you get human brain at the scale needed to do drug discovery?''

    Source: Bloomberg.com © 2008 Bloomberg LLC (21/05/08)

    German parliament opens debate on future of stem-cell research
    German lawmakers are debating whether the country should alter a 2002 law that imposes strict limits on the use of stem cells for medical research.

    The lower house of parliament opened discussion today on whether the rules should be changed to better facilitate scientific research - a debate that cuts across party lines and is expected to end with a vote in mid-March.

    The existing law bans the creation of embryonic stem cells in Germany purely for research purposes.

    However, it does allow for the importation of stem cells produced abroad before 2002 for use in projects of "overwhelming significance" where no other research method can be used.

    Researchers, however, have argued that cells produced before 2002 are now unusable for their efforts to understand diseases ranging from Parkinson's to multiple sclerosis. They say they require access to more recently produced cells.

    Because stem cells can turn into any cell in the human body, many scientists think understanding how they work could help cure numerous genetic diseases.

    Annette Schavan, Germany's research minister, advocates allowing cells produced until May 1, 2007, to be imported for research.

    Schavan, a conservative Roman Catholic, insisted the change should be viewed not as easing the rules but as reflecting rapid advances in technology. She argued that Germany must keep pace to remain competitive.

    "I have to acknowledge that researchers need significantly better cells to come up with alternatives," Schavan told ZDF television. "I am urging for the current law to be further developed. I don't believe that it is a liberalization, because we are only making it possible to do what was not possible in 2002."

    Some parliamentarians argue that the cutoff date should be scrapped entirely, while still others are pushing for stem cell research to be banned entirely.

    But critics say the existing legislation must not be changed, arguing that stem cell research so far has failed to make significant breakthroughs.

    "The wish that embryonic stem cell research will produce a cure for severe illnesses remains just that, a wish," Priska Hinz, a member of the opposition Greens, told lawmakers.

    Source: The Canadian Press © 2008 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved. (15/02/08)

    US Scientists Make Human Stem Cells from Skin

    US scientists said they have successfully reprogrammed human skin cells to behave exactly as embryonic stem cells. The research was published in the Feb. 11 edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. This is the third such confirmation that the technique is feasible.

    "Our reprogrammed human skin cells were virtually indistinguishable from human embryonic stem cells," lead author Kathrin Plath, an assistant professor of biological chemistry at UCLA and a researcher with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, said in statement.

    "Our findings are an important step towards manipulating differentiated human cells to generate an unlimited supply of patient specific pluripotent stem cells. We are very excited about the potential implications."

    Nuclear reprogramming creates stem-like cells from the patient's own cells, avoiding both medical and ethical problems. Two other research teams in Japan and the US said they were also able to successfully "rewind" adult cells back to their embryonic state in November last year using the nuclear reprogramming technique. However, it will take many years for the process to be deemed safe for actual use of the resulting stem cells in humans.

    "Reprogramming normal human cells into cells with identical properties to those in embryonic stem cells without SCNT may have important therapeutic ramifications and provide us with another valuable method to develop human stem cell lines," said Lowry, an assistant professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCLA and first author of the study.

    The two research groups managed last year to obtain stem cells without the ethical problems posed by destroying human embryos. Through different techniques, they managed to turn human skin cells into cvasi-stem cells which appear to be pluripotent, having theoretically the ability to develop into any cell type.

    Both experiments essentially replaced four genes in adult cells to make them behave like they were still embryonic stem cells. The two teams used viruses to force these genes into the cells' DNA and reprogram them. These results which used human tissue are a big step up from similar breakthroughs in mice, separately reported last summer by Dr. Yamanaka's group and two other research teams in the U.S.

    Dolly's cloner also endorsed this technique and declared last year he abandoned human cloning in favor of nuclear reprogramming.

    While "therapeutic" cloning produces stem cells, the technology involves the creation and destruction of embryos, which is ethically unsound. The stem cells created also run the high risk of being rejected by the recipient's body. In turn, nuclear reprogramming, creates stem-like cells from the patient's own cells, avoiding both medical and ethical problems.

    Meanwhile, Geron said it applied for a license with the Food and Drug Administration to perform experiments using human embryonic stem cells in human subjects. The tests, if approved, would involve up to 40 human patients. This is the first time that a human embryonic stem cell application is being submitted to the FDA, the company said.

    Source: eFluxMedia © 2007 - 2008 - eFluxMedia (13/02/08)

    Bush backs more funds for 'ethical' stem cell research
    President George W. Bush said Monday the US is increasing funds for "ethical" stem cell research that does not involve destroying human embryos.

    In his annual State of the Union address before Congress, Bush hailed the discovery announced last November of methods to re-program adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells.

    Such developments show "the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life," Bush said, referring to the creation of stem cell lines for research that involves destroying human embryos.

    "So we are expanding funding for this type of ethical medical research."

    But the US president also insisted that "moral boundaries" be respected in sensitive genetic research and called for a ban on human cloning.

    "On matters of science and life, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries," he said.

    "So I call on the Congress to pass legislation that bans unethical practices such as the buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life," he told a joint sitting of the US legislature.

    Bush meanwhile asked Congress to double federal government support for research in the physical sciences to "ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on earth."

    "To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow."

    Bush has sought several times during his administration to ban cloning and to restrict research on human embryos that involves their destruction.

    On January 17 Stemagen Corp. a California biotech firm, said it had cloned human embryos from adult skin cells.

    The breakthrough has the potential to help develop cures for ailments like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, and other untreatable genetic-related afflictions.

    Source: AFP Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved (29/01/08)

    UK proposes strict stem cell rules
    UK scientists are objecting to a new law that would require researchers wishing to work on embryonic stem cells to obtain consent from the cells' donors.

    Yesterday, 29 researchers, including three Nobel laureates, published a letter in the Times arguing that while such consent should be required in the future, obtaining it retroactively for cell lines and disease-specific tissue banks already inexistence would be impossible, since many donors were anonymous.

    The requirement is part of a revised version of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill currently going through Parliament.

    Another part of the bill, the Times reports, will forbid embryonic stem cell work on tissue taken from children, even if their parents consent. Parliament is debating two amendments to overturn both measures.

    "We consider express consent from a gamete or cell donor is necessary to reflect the special status of the human embryo," a spokesman for the Department of Health told the newspaper.

    Source: The Scientist.com © 1986-2008 The Scientist (23/01/08)

    UCI Researchers Find Stem-Cell Breakthrough

    A group of UC Irvine scientists recently published a study on a more efficient way to differentiate stem cells in the international journal, “Stem Cells.”

    This new method will significantly enhance opportunities to examine stem cells, which have the ability to self-renew and develop into numerous different types of mature cells. Stem cells have the potential to reverse the effects of widespread diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by relieving the loss of brain cells, spinal cord injuries and various other conditions through the replacement of dying cells.

    The new DEP device uses dielectrophoresis to sort neural cells using their electric charges. The study found that different types of cells have different electric properties; therefore, stem cells intended to become astrocytes would react differently than those intended to become neurons. Specific frequencies will attract only certain types of cells.

    “We have electrodes and if the cells are attracted to the electrodes and others are repelled, that’s a way to pick yours,” said Lisa Flanagan, a stem-cell biologist and head author of this study.

    These findings overcome one of the crucial obstacles to realizing the vast potential of stem cells: identifying them from the numerous mixtures of various cells.

    Flanagan explained that after experimenting with several different sources, the group of researchers decided to try DEP.

    “[Although] it has been around for a while … most of the people using it are engineers, so the cell biologists weren’t familiar with it at all,” Flanagan said. “The reason we were able to make this project work was because we had such a strong collaboration between engineers and biologists.”

    The key researchers on this project were Flanagan and Ed Monuki, pathologists at the School of Medicine, and Abraham Lee and Noo Li Jeon from the biomedical engineering department. Jente Lu, Lisen Wang and Steve A. Marchenko also contributed to the study.

    The traditional process for differentiating stem cells is through the use of FACS, a method involving the fluorescent molecules attached to the surface of cells. Scientists then analyze the surface of the cells and the differences on those surfaces with a laser that weighs hundreds of pounds and is very expensive. Consequently, such lasers are found in limited numbers and only at core facilities; therefore, anyone needing to run samples would have to go to those specific facilities and pay a fee to use the laser.

    Flanagan described the DEP device as a miniaturized inch-long platform that “uses very small volumes of liquids, sending them through small channels.” The device is faster, more cost effective, and can potentially be produced en masse so that every lab can have its own. Furthermore, the DEP device allows scientists to separate cells without knowing what is on their surface because the device merely uses electrical charges to differentiate between them.

    Developmental cell biologist and senior author of the study Ed Monuki said that their new device sheds light on stem cell biology.

    “[It] will be a different way to discern the basic biology of stem cells, which is important to taking advantage of stem cells for future therapies,” Monuki said.

    Now that stem cells have been identified and separated, they can be studied and put through the traditional method more efficiently to produce a purer population of cells.

    Monuki explained that further research would be needed. “[The research] needs more development on the engineering side, in terms of having the right sort of design [and] whether there will be a general stem cell, or if [the device] applies to just our neural stem cells,” Monuki said.

    The study was funded through the Roman Reed program at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. The Roman Reed Research Fund of California is administered to promote seedling innovative research projects focusing on nerve cell regeneration or spinal cord injuries. The center was established in the name of actor Christopher Reeve, a well-known advocate of embryonic stem-cell research since his paralysis due to spinal cord injury.

    UCI is now competing for another fund in order to construct additional buildings for further stem-cell research.

    “To do research that is not funded by the federal government … you have to have a very separate stream of how things are paid for,” Flanagan said.

    According to Flanagan, having separate facilities would make this less complicated and provide more space and resources for UCI’s stem-cell research.

    Source: University of California, Irvine (14/01/08)

    Skin transformed into stem cells
    Human skin cells have been reprogrammed by two groups of scientists to mimic embryonic stem cells with the potential to become any tissue in the body.

    The breakthrough promises a plentiful new source of cells for use in research into new treatments for many diseases.

    Crucially, it could mean that such research is no longer dependent on using cells from human embryos, which has proved highly controversial.

    The US and Japanese studies feature in the journals Science and Cell.

    Until now only cells taken from embryos were thought to have an unlimited capacity to become any of the 220 types of cell in the human body - a so-called pluripotent state.

    But campaigners have objected to their use on the grounds that it is unethical to destroy embryos in the name of science.

    In the US only limited use of embryonic stem cells is allowed by scientists receiving public funding.

    The Japanese team used a chemical cocktail containing just four gene-controlling proteins to transform adult human fibroblasts - skin cells that are easy to obtain and grow in culture - into a pluripotent state.

    The cells created were similar, but not identical, to embryonic stem cells, and the researchers used them to produce brain and heart tissue.

    After 12 days in the laboratory clumps of cells grown to mimic heart muscle tissue started beating.

    The US team, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, achieved the same effect by using a slightly different combination of chemicals.

    They have created eight new stem cell lines for potential use in research.

    Cloning superceded

    Using skin cells should mean that treatments could be personalised for individual patients, minimising the risk of rejection.

    Not only does the new technique remove the need to create embryos in the lab, it is also more simple, and more precisely controlled than current cloning technology.

    Professor Ian Wilmut, of the University of Edinburgh, who led the team which created Dolly the sheep in 1996, has said it represents a significant advance.

    However, the researchers have warned more work is needed to refine the process, and ensure its safety.

    At present both techniques rely on viruses to introduce new material into the cells, which carries a potential risk.

    Researcher Professor James Thomson said: "The induced cells do all the things embryonic stem cells do.

    "It's going to completely change the field."

    Dr Shinya Yamanaka, of Kyoto University, a member of the Japanese research team, said: "These cells should be extremely useful in understanding disease mechanisms and screening effective and safe drugs."

    Positive reaction

    Professor Azim Surani, of the University of Cambridge, said the research should allow scientists to create a large range of human stem cell types, which could prove invaluable in studying disease.

    He said: "It is relatively easy to grow an entire plant from a small cutting, something that seems inconceivable in humans.

    "Yet this study brings us tantalisingly close to using skin cells to grow many different types of human tissues."

    Dr Lyle Armstrong, of the International Centre For Life at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, called the studies a "major development".

    He said: "Although it is early days for this technique it may well prove to be every bit as significant as the first derivation of human embryonic stem cells nine years ago."

    Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, of the Medical Research Council's National Institute For Medical Research, said the work was exciting, but work was required to end the reliance on viruses, and to tease out why two different techniques produced similar results.

    Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: "News that embryonic stem cells can be created successfully from human cells without cloning, without using human embryos or human eggs, or without getting involved in the creation of animal-human embryos, is most warmly welcomed.

    "We congratulate these world-class scientists who have had the courage to state their change of tack so cogently.

    "For once we have better science coinciding with better ethics."

    Stem Cell Creation

    Source: BBC News - Health © BBC 2007 (21/11/07)

    Professor who created Dolly the sheep to abandon cloning
    • New method creates stem cells without embryo
    • Technique is less likely to stir controversy

    The creator of Dolly the sheep is to abandon cloning in favour of a new technique that can create stem cells without an embryo, it was reported last night. Professor Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly from an adult cell a decade ago, has decided that cloning no longer provides to most effective means of curing medical conditions.

    Wilmut will switch to a new and less controversial technique developed in Japan, which creates stem cells from fragments of skin.

    The scientist said the new technique was "easier to accept socially" than the cloning process he helped pioneer, according to the Daily Telegraph. He said: "I decided a few weeks ago not to pursue nuclear transfer [the method by which Dolly was cloned]." He will no longer use a licence to clone human embryos, which he was awarded two years ago.

    The news will come as a blow to scientists who believe that the use of embryos to create stem cells is the best way to develop treatments for serious medical conditions such as stroke, heart disease and Parkinson's disease.

    Unlike current stem cell research, the new method does not require the use of human embryos, which has caused controversy in the past decade. Full details of the new technique have not yet been unveiled but Wilmut described it as "extremely exciting and astonishing".

    Wilmut, who works at Edinburgh University, is said to have been inspired by the work of Professor Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University who, in previous research on mice, created stem cells from skin fragments. He is now thought to have achieved this with human cells.

    Wilmut has been a leading light in the field of stem cell research since he and his team presented Dolly, the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell, in 1997. It provoked fierce ethical debate among religious groups and politicians.

    It is thought the new technique will open up the possibility of harvesting a patient's own cells, which, when injected back into the body, could be "reprogrammed" to try to repair damage caused by disease.

    Source: Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007 (17/11/07)

    Stem cell 'scaffold' developed

    Scientists have developed simple technology to grow stem cells in the lab in conditions similar to the human body.

    The development at Durham University allows the cells to grow in three dimensions, rather than just two on the flat surface of a Petri dish.

    It means drugs can be more successfully tested in the lab, and could reduce unnecessary testing on animals.

    Cells are grown on a scaffold the size of a 10p piece made out of highly-porous polystyrene, and which looks like a thin white disc. The design, which has been developed and patented by the university and its company ReInnervate, has the structure of a sponge and allows cells to develop in the holes inside.

    The developers said growing cells in 3D allows them to behave more similarly to how they function in the body.

    Many drugs fail at the testing stage, costing the pharmaceutical industry millions of pounds, and many of the failed products are trialled on cells in a Petri dish.

    A study of the effectiveness of the technology appears in the Journal of Anatomy, and it found that cells grown on the plastic scaffold stood up more robustly to the toxic effect of a liver cancer drug called MTX when compared to the cells grown on the flat.

    Dr Stefan Przborski, a senior researcher at Durham University and chief scientific officer at ReInnervate, said: "Our results suggest that testing drugs on liver cells using our 3D culture system may be more likely to reflect true physiological responses to toxic substances.

    "Because the 3D cells are cultivated under more realistic conditions, it means that they function more like real tissues.

    "Scientists are therefore able to gain a more accurate idea of how a drug will behave in the human body - knowledge which can contribute to improving the efficiency of drug discovery, reducing drug development costs, and may help reduce the number of animals in research."

    Source: The Press Association Copyright © 2007 The Press Association. All rights reserved. (19/09/07)

    Patients may be misled on stem cell benefits
    Some people with incurable diseases may be misled about how stem cell research can help them, a leading neurologist has told Irish Medical Times.

    Speaking ahead of next week’s annual Neurology Update Meeting, focusing on the use of stem cells in neurology, Dr Orla Hardiman said some of her patients have been “exploited” by the stem cell industry, and have travelled to places like Ukraine in the hope that stem cell therapy will cure their disease.

    “It is important to put into context the potential benefits, but also the current limitations, in the use of stem cells,” said Dr Hardiman, a consultant neurologist in Beaumont Hospital.

    “I’ve had patients who have raised money to go to places like Ukraine or Rotterdam in the vain hope that stem cell therapy is going to cure their incurable disease. I think it’s very important to be clear about what stem cells can do. What we want to do, with this conference, is inject a bit of realism into the media coverage about stem cell research.”

    She said although it is “very premature” to think about stem cells curing certain neuro-degenrative disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis,  there is potential in the future for this to happen.

    “There are just a lot of technical and logistical problems in figuring out how best to manage stem cells, where to get them, and, when you get them, how to manipulate them to turn into the cells you want them to turn into,” she said.

    Prof Arnold Kriegstein, from the University of California, San Francisco, will describe the potential use of stem cells in neurology.

    Source: Irish Medical Times Medical Publications (Ireland) Ltd. (17/07/07)

    President Vetoes Embryonic Stem Cell Research Bill – Adult and Umbilical Cord Cells Investigations Still Funded

    President Bush vetoed the second embryonic stem cell research bill that passed Congress while he has been in office.

    The only spending bill the President vetoed while the Republicans controlled the congress was the other previous embryonic stem cell research bill.

    Many Democrats and some Republicans in congress promised voters they would support the legislation if elected. It is very unlikely the House of Representatives or Senate can muster the votes for an override.

    To help squash some of the criticism, the President issued an executive order to encourage scientists to work on ways to derive stem cells without harming the embryo. Whitehouse spokesman Tony Snow said "This is, certainly not an attempt to muzzle science. It is an attempt, I think, to respect people's conscience on such an issue."

    Critics say he should have signed the bill. Some polls have shown that 60 percent of American voters want Federal funding into embryonic stem cell research.

    Robert Moffit, Ph.D. Director of Health Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation said that although there have been some advances in umbilical cord blood and adult stem cell research, very little has been accomplished from the embryonic stem cell research in the 20 years prior to George Bush taking office.

    “So far, more than 6,000 patients and 66 diseases have been successfully treated with stem cells from cord blood,” Moffit said in 2005. “The clinical advantages of cord blood are promising. A recent study found a survival rate of around 70 percent among high-risk adults treated with cord blood. Results are even more promising with children, with clinical trials showing an 80 percent survival rate for children with immunodeficiency diseases. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine last year showed a 90 percent success rate in treating a disease called Hurler syndrome that affects the brain.”

    Earlier this month scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) were able to create stem cells identical to embryonic stem cells by genetically reprogramming adult stem and tissue cells.

    Source: Best Syndication Copyright © 2006-2007 By Best Syndication All Rights Reserved (21/06/07)

    Genes that give stem cells their oomph identified
    Canadian researchers say they have identified the genes that give embryonic stem cells their superhero-like abilities.

    In developing embryos, stem cells have an unlimited capacity for self-renewal and give rise to all the different types of cells that make up the body – skin, muscle, nerve, brain, blood and roughly 250 other specialised cells.

    Many scientists believe that the flexibility and regenerative powers of embryonic stem cells hold enormous promise in treating disease and that, one day, they may be used to repair damaged hearts, kidneys, livers or other tissue, or even to grow new organs for transplant.

    Working with mice, the University of Ottawa's Michael Rudnicki and his colleagues have figured out what makes stem cells so special – at a molecular level. They say they have identified the network of genes at work during the unique period when stem cells are building a body.

    There are 1,155 of these genes, says Dr. Rudnicki, but they are all ultimately controlled by a single gene called Oct4.

    “It is the stick shift” he says.

    The Canadian work, published Tuesday in the online journal Public Library of Science, adds detail to the understanding of the mysterious circuitry of stem cells. It may help scientists turn normal adult cells into embryonic stem cells by turning on specific genes.

    Earlier this month, researchers in the United States and Japan announced they had done just that with a mouse skin cell. They inserted four genes – including Oct4 – and the cell returned to its embryonic state.

    But Harvard University researcher Konrad Hochedlinger, one of the researchers, isn't sure exactly how it happened.

    “It is a bit of a black box.”

    Researchers are now working on turning adult human cells into stem cells. The kind of work done by Dr. Rudnicki may prove helpful in this endeavour, Dr. Hochedlinger says.

    If they could reprogram adult cells, researchers wouldn't need to use cells derived from aborted fetuses, allowing them to sidestep the ethical debate over embryonic stem cells.

    Returning adult cells to their embryonic state offers an alternative to therapeutic cloning, which involves taking an egg, sucking out the nucleus, and putting in the nucleus from a patient. Not only is therapeutic cloning controversial, but it has never worked in humans.

    If the researchers succeed, one day patients may be treated with modified versions of their own cells. Their skin cells, for example, could be used to grow new heart, liver, kidney or muscle cells.

    The Canadian team isn't the first to look at which genes are active in different types of stem cells. But Dr. Rudnicki and his colleagues mined a database of the results from those kinds of experiments, and focused on genes that were part of the Oct4 network.

    Many researchers believe Oct4, which is named for a protein, not for the fourth day of October, is what keeps stem cells in their flexible, primitive state. It orchestrates the genes that keep stem cells primed to assume a new identity and ready to reproduce.

    Oct4 is not active in healthy adult cells, but it may be reactivated in cancerous cells. In many ways, cancer cells act like stem cells, says Dr. Rudnicki, reproducing quickly and not dying like normal cells.

    Understanding more about how stem cells work may lead to new approaches to fighting cancer, he says. But the work is still at an early stage.

    Mick Bhatia, a stem cell researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, says the findings of Dr. Rudnicki and his colleagues are interesting. But he cautions that human stem cells may work in different ways than embryonic stem cells in mice.

    Source: Globeandmailccom © Copyright 2007 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.(20/06/07)

    Stem cells from cloned primates
    US scientists say they have for the first time created stem cells from cloned primate embryos, bringing human therapeutic cloning one step closer.

    The announcement, by Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon National Primate Research Centre in Portland, was made at the International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting in Cairns, this week.

    The development means that human therapeutic cloning is a step closer to reality, says Australian stem cell expert Professor Alan Trounson, who was at the meeting.

    Scientists can't properly judge the work until it has been published, says Trounson, but he is "cautiously optimistic" about its potential.

    "It's exciting, because it looks terrific," says Trounson, who is director of the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories at Monash University in Melbourne.

    Until now, scientists have been able to clone other animal species, such as Dolly the sheep, but have failed at all attempts to do the same for primates, our closest animal cousins.

    Mitalipov himself would not speak to the media, but his conference presentation showed that his group had successfully created a cloned embryo from a rhesus monkey.

    The team inserted the nucleus from an adult monkey skin cell into a monkey egg that had its own nucleus removed - a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

    By encouraging that cells like this to divide, the scientists were able to create early-stage embryos, called blastocysts, from which they could extract stem cells.

    They were then able to use those cells to create two self-replicating stem cell lines.

    Trounson says Australian scientists will be interested in the news, particularly since they have recently been granted legal right to use SCNT to produce stem cells.

    "This will give us some confidence to proceed, now that the law is enabling in Australia," he says.

    Scientists lobby for human-animal embryos

    In related news this week, the UK Academy of Medical Sciences says scientists in the UK and the US should maintain the legal right to create human-animal embryos using SCNT.

    Australian laws do not permit this option for generating stem cells.

    The UK academy said the embryos should never be implanted into either a woman or an animal.

    Researchers routinely make chimeras - animals that contain the genetic material from more than one individual. These include animals that carry human genes, most commonly mice engineered with human genes that are used to study disease.

    "We found no current scientific reasons to generate 'true' hybrid embryos by mixing human and animal gametes [eggs and sperm]," said Professor Martin Bobrow of Britain's Wellcome Trust, who chaired the panel making the recommendations.

    "However, given the speed of this field of research, the working group could not rule out the emergence of scientifically valid reasons in the future."

    Source: News In Science © 2007 ABC (19/06/07)

    Stem cells without the embryo
    Scientists say they have developed a method in mice for creating the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without using eggs or destroying an embryo, a finding that could help circumvent the controversy surrounding the promising research. The finding, which was published online by Nature, comes as the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill relaxing restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and a separate bill that would authorise cloning for therapeutic purposes.

    Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an organisation that supports embryonic stem cell research, said the new research, while important, probably won't have a significant impact on the current political debate.

    "It will change the talking points a little, but I don't think it's going to change any votes," Tipton told United Press International.

    He predicted Congress would pass the stem cell bill, setting up a repeat of last year's situation in which President Bush used his first veto to reject the legislation.

    Bush opposes the research because it requires destroying an embryo, but the consensus of biomedical researchers is that it has the potential to lead to disease treatments, and at least two companies -- Advanced Cell Technology and Geron -- have said they plan to file investigational new drug applications this year to take their stem cell-based therapies into the clinic.

    Whether Bush will once again block efforts to relax limits on federal funding he put in place in 2001 remains uncertain because the new legislation contains provisions the president said he would require in order to endorse it.

    "He has changed his mind a little bit on at least one scientific issue," Tipton said, referring to Bush's recent switch on dealing with global warming. "Maybe there's somebody giving some science advice over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

    As it is, Tipton said, Bush's current policy may be inhibiting research, such as the current study, that would enable scientists to develop ways of obtaining human embryonic stem cells without embryos.

    "If people really want to allow the research to develop, we need to lift the restrictions on embryonic stem cells," he said.

    In the new research, two teams of scientists -- one led by the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the other by Japan's Kyoto University -- used viruses and genetic engineering to reprogram mice skin cells to an earlier stage where they appeared to have the capability of giving rise to all the different cell types of the body.

    Genetic tests showed the cells to be indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells, and further research showed they could give rise to a live mouse when injected into an embryo and implanted into a uterus.

    "The work shows that you can take any specialised cell and turn it back into a cell that can generate all the different cell types," Alex Meissner, a scientist involved in the research at the Whitehead Institute, told UPI.

    The technique still has to be modified to work in human cells, and there are several challenges to doing that, such as the fact that the viruses used to reprogram the mice cells cause cancer, but researchers agree the technique holds promise for treating human illness.

    George Daley, a stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital Boston, said the work is "incredibly exciting" and scientists may be close to finding a way to make it work with human cells because his lab and other groups have previously been looking at that aspect.

    "There are many labs worldwide attempting this strategy in human cells," Daley said. "I would be surprised if this doesn't lead fairly rapidly to a similar breakthrough in human cells."

    Still, Daley said the new technique does not negate the need to pursue other embryonic stem cell research.

    "I think it's going to be seized upon by opponents of embryonic stem cell research to say we don't need to go forward with work already under way," he said. "That would be a real mistake."

    For one reason, it could take some time to figure out how to apply this technique to human cells and get it to the current state of embryonic stem cell research.

    Noting that there are more than 200 embryonic stem cell lines, Daley said, "It would take a number of years before the equivalent number of lines is ever developed from this alternative procedure, so I wouldn't put the other research on hold."

    Another reason for continuing embryonic stem cell research is there are lots of phenomena that can be studied with embryonic stem cells, such as understanding development, birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities, that can't be done with cells generated by the new technique, he said.

    Source: United Press International © Copyright 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. (08/06/07)

    Hybrid embryos get go-ahead
    The government has announced a U-turn on its ban on the creation of human-animal embryos and has now proposed allowing them to be used to develop new treatments for incurable diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. The proposal in a new draft fertility bill published today would allow scientists to create three different types of hybrid embryos.

    Scientists would be allowed to grow the embryos in a lab for no more than two weeks, and it would be illegal to implant them in a human.

    The first kind of hybrid allowed under the bill, known as a chimeric embryo, is made by injecting cells from an animal into a human embryo. The second, known as a human transgenic embryo, involves injecting animal DNA into a human embryo.

    The third, known as a cytoplasmic hybrid, is created by transferring the nuclei of human cells, such as skin cells, into animal eggs from which almost all the genetic material has been removed.

    This is this type of human-animal embryo that is being developed in British universities. Scientists say that developing these embryos will provide a plentiful source of stem cells - immature cells that can develop into many different types of tissues - for use in medical research.

    The move is a reversal of previous proposals to outlaw all types of human-animal embryos set out by ministers in a white paper published last December.

    But the proposed law will not allow the creation of so called "true hybrid" embryos, which would involve fertilising a human egg with animal sperm or vice versa.

    The government was criticised by the Commons science and technology committee for proposing an outright ban following objections by pro-life groups opposed to any research on embryos.

    The draft bill, which also covers fertility treatment, will overhaul the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

    British scientists have already applied to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which regulates embryo research, for a licence to use human-animal embryos for medical research.

    Professor John Burn, head of the human genetics institute at Newcastle University, welcomed the government's U-turn.

    "I'm delighted that common sense has prevailed. I fully understand the knee-jerk reaction that creating human-animal embryos is worrying," he said.

    "But what we're talking about here are cells on a dish not a foetus. We're talking about something that looks like sago under the microscope. And it's illegal to ever turn these cells into a living being."

    A team led by Dr Lyle Armstrong at Newcastle University's stem cell institute has applied to the HFEA to use cow eggs to develop stem cells for the treatment of diabetes and spinal paralysis.

    Another team led by Professor Stephen Minger, director of the stem cell biology laboratory at King's College London, wants to use human-bovine embryos to study degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

    Source: EducationGuardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007 (17/05/07)

    German Scientists Plead for More Access to Stem Cells
    A group of top German scientists called for lawmakers to relax restrictions on stem-cell research, warning that Germany risks losing its status as a leader in research -- not to mention lucrative contracts.

    The group of esteemed German researchers appeared before a parliamentary committee in Berlin on Wednesday including neurolobiologist Oliver Brüstle, the first German researcher to apply to import embryonic stem cells, in 2000.

    Brüstle and others urged lawmakers to give them increased access to the stem cells -- cells at an early stage of development, which have the potential to turn into different types of tissue. But stem-cell research is controversial because the cells are culled from human embryos.

    In 2001, the Bundestag passed a law that banned the production of stem cells from human embryos. They also ruled that research on human stem cells was only allowed if the cells were imported to Germany before Jan. 1, 2002.

    Restrictive law

    The law is considered to be one of the most restrictive in the world. Brüstle and 23 of his fellow scientists were in Berlin Wednesday to appear before the Bundestag committee debating the topic. They urged lawmakers to relax the 2002 cutoff date for imports.

    “What we need is to get rid of the current cutoff date we have in Germany. So we need to have access to all existing cell lines which are available at an international level," Brüstle said.

    The newer cell lines are of a better quality and they have no contamination in contrast to the old cell lines, Brüstle argued. And, he noted, "we need access to these cell lines to be competitive at an international level."

    Danger of prosecution

    The solution, according to Brüstle, is to use "supernumerary" embryos from fertility clinics -- which otherwise would be discarded -- for the creation of cell lines and the development of medical therapies.

    Moreover, if they wouldn't allow this kind of research in Germany, Brüstle said legislators should at least limit the law's geographic reach to Germany alone. Currently, German scientists abroad run the risk of being criminally charged at home if they take part in international projects that use recent embryos. This should not be the case, the scientists argued.

    Many researchers accuse the German government of inhibiting scientific success. Some believe that stem-cell research holds the key to cures for genetic diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, and patents to cures for these diseases could be very lucrative.

    Jörg Hinrich Hacker, the vice president of the German Research Association, noted that there were currently hardly any pre-2002 embryos available to do research on, and that those that were available were culled with outdated methods.

    Theologist, lawmakers stand steady

    But Frankfurt theology professor Hille Haker spoke out against changing the law. Nothing had changed in terms of ethics since 2002, he argued, and added that the state was justified in limiting scientific advancement in favour of moral protection of human embryos.

    And German Minister for Research Annette Schavan argued that principles -- such as the sanctity of human life -- come before scientific milestones.

    "It has been our firm conviction that human embryos should not be destroyed to get stem cells," she said. "And then it is totally clear that we need this cutoff date. Just because other countries have other perceptions, we cannot abandon our own German conviction."

    In parliament, only the liberal FDP and the Left parties have stood behind the notion of changing the current law on stem-cell research.

    Useful debate

    The Green party refuses to alter the 2002 date, and the ruling SPD and CDU fractions have sent mixed signals.

    While Research Minister Schavan has said the government would make no move to abandon the regulation altogether, a postponement of the current cutoff date nonetheless seems probable.

    The debate over the cutoff date will show "whether or not we can find new ways to combine the protection of human life with the expectations of scientists," Schavan told ZDF television.

    Source: DW-World.de © 2007 Deutsche Welle (10/05/07)

    EU cuts deal on controversial gene-therapy rules
    MEPs have approved new EU rules for testing and authorising modern medical therapies and rejected calls by conservative members to exclude ethically-sensitive medicines from the bill's scope.

    The legislation passed on Wednesday sets out the technical details on regulating at EU level so called "advanced therapies" - gene therapy, adult stem cell therapy and tissue engineering.

    Stem cell therapy - which experts believe could in future be crucial for the treatment of blindness, spinal cord injury, as well as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's - is the most controversial as it can involve cells being extracted from human embryos.

    The practice is currently legal only in a few countries, such as the UK, and the new rules uphold the right of individual member states to ban both research and sales of medicines developed from embryonic cells from human beings.

    But MEPs did not support amendments promoted by the Slovak conservative deputy Miroslav Mikolasik - the parliament's main expert on the issue, who argued that the EU stamp should not be granted to products banned by some countries on moral grounds.

    "Today's vote shows where Europe stands in terms of ethics," he said, adding "we could see a victory of purely utilitarian and absolutely commercial approach to what will be Europe's reality of tomorrow."

    Mr Mikolasik maintains that once all products are registered at EU level, it will be difficult for national governments to prevent their spread.

    Moreover, he believes that if companies producing controversial medicines took countries to the European court for blocking their products, member states would most likely lose the case on internal market grounds.

    Deal-making in Brussels
    But German socialist MEP Dagmar Roth-Berendt rejected the argument. "Countries like my own did ban embryonic stem cell research in the past and they will continue to do so as this legislation does not prevent them from it," she said.

    The European Commission and German presidency expressed the same opinion and took the rare move of clinching a deal ahead of Wednesday's vote with MEPs from socialist, liberal and leftist groups, ignoring Mr Mikolasik.

    The new rules are now set to enter a fast-track legal procedure and could go into force as early as mid-2008.

    Bioindustry groups welcomed the decision, saying it will remove Europe's differences in rules on the authorisation of the new therapies, which hampers research.

    "I know it's controversial in some countries but they should realise that for the sake of current and future patients research must go on - at least in those member states that allow it, even on cells extracted from human embryos," Stefanie Pingitzer from Europa Bio told EUobserver.

    At the moment, there are no medicines based on embryonic stem cells available in the European markets, as none have been developed yet.

    Source: EUobserver.com © 2007 EUobserver, All rights reserved (26/04/07)

    Gene plays key role in embryonic, adult stem cells
    One gene directs both embryonic and adult stem cells to perform the self-renewal function that is crucial in their potential broad use in medical treatments, researchers said yesterday.

    While the biology of these types of stem cells is very different, a study published in the journal Cell showed that they share at least this one key feature — a gene called Zfx that controls their ability to self-renew.

    Stem cells are a kind of master cell for the body, capable of transforming into various tissue and cell types, offering hope that they can be used to repair tissue damaged by disease or injury. One reason they are valuable to medical researchers is because they can self-renew — living and dividing in a lab dish for months or even years without differentiating into specific cell and tissue types.

    Working with mouse cells, researchers led by Boris Reizis of Columbia University Medical Centre in New York found that the gene Zfx governed self-renewal in embryonic stem cells and in blood-generating hematopoietic adult stem cells. Reizis said it is quite likely this gene does the same thing in people that it does in mice. The finding expands the understanding of the biology of these cells. Embryonic stem cells are present during early embryo development and give rise to all cell types in the body.

    Advocates say embryonic stem cell research may offer revolutionary new ways to treat conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries. But this research requires destruction of days-old embryos, and opponents call it immoral.

    In adults, the body is replenished by adult stem cells that continuously generate all the cell types that comprise specific types of tissues. They may not be as malleable as embryonic stem cells but scientists think they also are potentially useful for medical purposes.

    “For quite a while, one outstanding question in the field was whether this self-renewal of embryonic stem cells and adult tissue-specific stem cells has a common molecular basis,” Reizis said.

    Source: The Penisula © 2007 The Peninsula. All Rights Reserved.(20/04/07)

    EU may miss boat on stem cells: biotech industry
    Europe may miss the boat on promising new stem cell and other advanced therapies unless a deadlock over regulation is broken, leaders of the biotech industry said on Tuesday.

    Informal talks between the European Parliament, Council and Commission over a centralised process for approving new tissue and cell engineering therapies were terminated two weeks ago by lead negotiator Miroslav Mikolasik of Slovakia.

    The Eurordis group, representing patients affected by rare diseases, said the move was triggered by his personal religious beliefs and was unacceptable.

    Aisling Burnand, chief executive of Britain's BioIndustry Association, said Europe faced a block on potentially vital new medicines, unless the European Parliament could salvage the situation in a vote next week.

    "It will mean there is not a European pathway by which these products can reach the marketplace," she said, following a media briefing by leaders of several biotech and patient groups to highlight the issue.

    The earlier talks collapsed when Mikolasik insisted on the inclusion of two amendments that would have excluded certain advanced therapies -- such as treatments using embryonic stem cells -- from the centralised approval process.

    Stem cell therapy is still a long way from the market but the potential therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells is a politically charged issue in many countries.

    Proponents say it offers major hope of cures for such ailments as Parkinson's disease, diabetes and spinal cord injuries. But research requires destruction of days-old embryos that is condemned by many anti-abortion advocates.

    Source Reuters © Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. (18/04/07)

    Public asked about stem cell research
    The Irish public is being asked to give its opinions on stem cell research.

    The Irish Council for Bioethics is launching a consultation forum on Monday (05/03/07) to get as many views as possible on whether this research should be allowed in this country.

    Stem cell research is valuable for devising therapies and treatments, but has been controversial when it involves embryonic stem cells (ESTs). These are a basic form of cell which can be manipulated into becoming any of a variety of mature tissue cells.

    Adult stem cells from tissue such as bone marrow, brain and skin, are already legally used in research in Ireland.

    The Council for Bioethics has compiled a questionnaire, a hard copy of which can be obtained from its offices at Regus House Block, Harcourt Road, Dublin 2. Submissions can also be made to its website, www.bioethics.ie .

    Questions include: 'Should Ireland permit the undertaking of embryonic stem cell research?' and 'At what point does an embryo require full moral status?'

    Embryonic stem cell research has been controversial around the world, with a partial ban in force in the United States. This is largely because embryos are destroyed after cells needed have been taken from them.

    Last November the Irish High Court ruled that the protection of the unborn does not include embryos outside the womb. Its adjudication came on a case in which a separated couple differed over what should be done with embryos they had created artificially during their marriage.

    The Irish Council for Bioethics was set up by the government in 2002 to consider ethical questions in areas such as euthanasia, stem cell research, and genetic modification.

    Source: IrishHealth.com Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved(04/03/07)

    Natural supplement can boost your stem-cell count
    A recent discovery that a natural botanical extract can increase the number of stem cells released into the blood stream may offer a non-controversial way to benefit from stem-cell research.

    Christian Drapeau, director of research and development at Desert Lake Technologies in Oregon, is the co-inventor of StemEnhance, a natural botanical extract that triggers the release of adult stem cells from bone marrow into the bloodstream.

    Through a natural process, those stem cells then travel to areas of the body where they are most needed, said Drapeau, who holds a master’s degree from the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery of the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University.

    StemEnhance, a blend of two compounds extracted from the aquatic botanical aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), affects the stem-cell system of regeneration, added Drapeau, who has more than 13 years of research experience in the fields of natural foods and nutrition.

    “Stem cells have life in the bloodstream anywhere between six minutes and six hours, the average being one hour. When stem cells are released from the bone marrow, they patrol the body… for a part of the body that is having a problem,” he said, adding that circulating stem cells become cells of an organ that needs repair, helping it maintain optimal health.

    The controversy over stem-cell research usually surrounds the use of embryonic stem cells, because starting an embryonic stem-cell line requires the destruction of a human embryo – a process that is opposed by members of the pro-life movement.

    But stems cells have been proven to treat spinal-cord injuries, degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and cardiovascular diseases. While adult stem cells have demonstrated such potential, some believe that embryonic stem cells have more potential to benefit other parts of the body.

    StemEnhance, which was released onto the market in November 2005, claims to increase the number of stem cells circulating in the blood stream by releasing your own adult stem cells from the bone marrow.

    Most medical procedures involving stem cells are invasive techniques for cancer patients who are undergoing radiation treatment that depletes the bone marrow’s supply.

    “There is a compound injected in the blood called G-CSF, granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, which stimulates the release of stem cells from the bone marrow in a very significant way. Once the number of stem cells has increased in the blood, then it is possible to harvest them. We freeze them, and then later on after the radiation treatment, we can re-inject stem cells in the patient’s blood. It will migrate to the bone marrow, and this will reconstitute the bone marrow,” Drapeau explained.

    He said that his product is not meant to be a substitute for a transplant because StemEnhance stimulates the release of stem cells from the bone marrow and if you are receiving post-radiation treatment, you don’t have any stem cells to release. But, he said, StemEnhance can be a substitute for the process of injecting stem cells into the body to increase a person’s stem-cell count in the bloodstream.

    Drapeau said that people operating in the underground markets in countries like Mexico, Germany, Korea, China and to some extent, in the United States and Canada, will inject people with stem cells.

    “We’re talking about injecting umbilical-cord stem cells. Umbilical-cord stem-cell injections are problematic when it comes to supply and cost. It costs about $10,000 to get an injection of umbilical-cord stem cells… People can also get injected with embryonic pig stem cells, duck stem cells, sheep stem cells. People get injected with all kinds of embryonic cells.”

    But Drapeau believes that not only is StemEnhance as effective in increasing the number of stem cells in the blood stream, but that there is much less of a chance of complications.

    Injections of foreign stem cells can be rejected by the body, but one dose of StemEnhance naturally increases the number of your own circulating adult stem cells by 25 to 30 per cent, which corresponds to about three million cells, Drapeau claimed.

    And, he said, studies have shown that simply releasing more stem cells from the bone marrow into the bloodstream can lead to optimal health.

    Drapeau said that recent studies suggest that the higher the number of circulating stem cells, the greater the ability of the body to heal itself.

    He said that based on a study conducted last year, the number of stem cells in the bone marrow was one of the predictors of cardiovascular health. In other words, a person with a lower stem-cell count was more likely to suffer from a heart attack than someone with a higher count.

    “More stem cells mean the development of more blood vessels in any tissue that may lack oxygen a little bit,” he explained. “[Stem cells] simply repair the heart by rebuilding blood vessels that help the delivery of oxygen, so you can solve the problem as it comes.”

    Very careful not to portray StemEnhance as a drug, since it has not been approved by the FDA in the United States or by Health Canada, Drapeau said the reason he didn’t go the pharmaceutical route is because a product like StemEnhance doesn’t fit the “normal medical mentality,” which dictates that one product is good for one thing.

    “If you have a headache, you take a Tylenol. But you don’t take Tylenol to treat diabetes. Here you have a product that once it releases stem cells, if you have a heart attack, it can regenerate the heart. If you have Parkinson’s, it can repair the brain. If you have diabetes, it can repair the pancreas. If you have liver problems, it can regenerate the liver.”

    Drapeau said discovering a natural way to help your body heal itself is a major advantage.

    “By supporting the system, you are giving your body an edge to be as good as a body can be to reach an optimal state of health.”

    Source: The Canadian Jewish News (28/02/07)

    New group of proteins regulating function of stem cells
    Researchers from Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) at University of Copenhagen have identified a new group of proteins that regulate the function of stem cells. The results are published in the new issue of Cell.

    All living organisms, including human beings, consist of a number of specialised cell types that all originate from the same type of primal cell; the embryonic stem cell. Stem cells can develop into any type of cell through a carefully regulated process referred to as cellular differentiation. During differentiation, specific genes are switched on while other genes are switched off. The genes that are activated during differentiation determine which type of cell the stem cell will become. The result is that cells in a particular organ, e.g. a liver, only express genes specific to that organ.

    Director of BRIC, Professor Kristian Helin led the research team consisting of Jesper Christensen, Karl Agger and Paul Cloos. Last year, the same research group published an article in Nature on how a group of Jumonji proteins regulate the growth of cancer cells and are involved in the development of specific cancer types.

    BRIC’s new results show that a different subgroup of Jumonji proteins is essential for cellular differentiation. The Jumonji enzymes can turn off, or inactivate, particular genes that play an important part in embryogenesis. The conclusions are based on studies of the nematode (roundworm) C. elegans and studies of mouse embryonic stem cells. The C. elegans studies were carried out in collaboration with another of BRIC’s research groups, led by Associate Professor Lisa Salcini.

    The BRIC researchers are currently developing inhibitors to the Jumonji proteins. Their aim is to use these inhibitors to treat cancer patients with increased levels of the Jumonji proteins.-University of Copenhagen

    Source: Huliq Breaking News © Huliq.com 2006 (23/02/07)

    Branson Launches Stem Cell Venture
    Virgin boss Richard Branson is to launch a new hi-tech venture to collect stem cells from newborn babies. Parents will be charged a fee for storing the cells, which could one day be used to cure leukaemia and other diseases, . Some people, like multiple sclerosis patient Claudia Harrison, have already started to take advantage of the technology.

    When her son was born she wanted him to be able to take advantage of future medical advances, should he ever need them.

    Stem cells from his umbilical cord have been deep-frozen, in case he develops leukaemia, or a degenerative disease such as Parkinsons.

    It is hoped that in future doctors will be able to use the cells, which can reproduce many other types of cell in the body, to treat diseases that currently have no cure.

    Richard Branson's Virgin Group will offer a stem cell freezing service at a cost of at least £1,300 a time. So far, around 11,000 parents have signed up.

    However, the scheme has already come under fire from health professionals.

    Midwives say they do not have time to drain stem cells from the umbilical cord - they are already stretched ensuring the safety of mothers and their babies.

    Other experts are also uncomfortable about the service only being available to those who can afford to pay.

    In France and Italy, private stem cell storage is illegal.

    Most of the placentas from the 600,000 babies born each year in the UK are discarded as waste.

    Some scientists say it is now time to wake up to their potential for curing diseases in future.

    Source: Yahoo! News Copyright © 2007 Yahoo! UK Limited. All rights reserved. (01/02/07)

    Stem cell centre plan confirmed
    A world-leading centre in stem cell science and regenerative medicine is to be built in Edinburgh, ministers have confirmed.

    Additional Scottish Executive funding of £24m will allow Edinburgh University to develop the £59m centre in collaboration with Scottish Enterprise.

    The Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM) is thought to be equalled only one in Kobe, Japan.

    Prof Ian Wilmut, formerly of the Roslin Institute, will be the director.

    The state-of -the-art facilities are expected to house 220 academic researchers and will include a centre for "scale-up" development and manufacture of cells. Space will also be made available for commercial regenerative medicine.

    It is hoped that the SCRM, which will be part of the new Centre for Biomedical Research at Edinburgh's Little France, will create about 560 jobs and generate £18.2m per year for the Scottish economy.

    "This will be a fantastic development for Edinburgh, a significant boost to the Scottish economy and will be at the forefront of improving the lives of people right around the world for decades to come," said First Minister Jack McConnell during a visit to the site.

    The project will draw on the country's well-established strengths in regenerative medicine using stem cell technologies and allow Scotland to become a European leader in medical research, according to Mr McConnell.

    "The technologies and potential health treatments based on stem cell research have tremendous potential for both health and economic development, with the prospect of delivering significant breakthroughs in the clinical treatment of some of the most degenerative diseases," he added.

    The announcement comes as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is expected to make an announcement about research into hybrid embryos.

    The research, which involves the creation of part-animal, part-human embryos, has attracted controversy but leading scientists believe its use could help patients with serious diseases such as Alzheimer's and motor-neurone disease.

    Prof Wilmut, who joined other experts earlier this week in urging the fertility watchdog not to bar research into hybrid embryos, stressed his belief that it was necessary and claimed the procedure would be carried out using transplanting cells at the new centre, if allowed.

    Prof Timothy O'Shea, University of Edinburgh principal, said the centre would make a significant contribution to the health of many people across the world.

    "Scotland has a world lead in fundamental stem cell sciences," he added. "The most important area of application is regenerative medicine, particularly in relation to degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease."

    As well as the £24m package announced by the executive, the University will put in £19m and a further £16m will be provided by the Scottish Enterprise, subject to its board's approval later this month.

    "My colleagues within the Scottish Enterprise Network have been working extremely closely with our partners to bring this project to fruition and position Scotland as a global leader in stem cell research and development," said Jack Perry, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise.

    Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser for Scotland, added: "Scotland is internationally renowned for the breadth and depth of its stem cell expertise.

    "This initiative has the potential to significantly expand areas for research and development and further strengthens Scotland's international profile in this area."

    It is anticipated that the centre will be completed by 2010.

    Source: BBC News Copywrite BBC MMVII (11/01/07)

    Stem Cell Innovations Announces Issuance of Fundamental Human Stem Cell Patent
    Stem Cell Innovations, Inc. announced today the issuance of a key patent covering human pluripotent stem cells in the United States. “The patent provides a broad blocking position for the pluripotent cells of interest to Stem Cell Innovations as it covers isolated human primordial germ cell derived pluripotent cells,” said Stem Cell Innovations CEO Dr. James Kelly. “We believe that this is a fundamental patent in human stem cell biology and an important addition to our foundational IP.” The patent was issued in the United States as U.S. Patent No. 7,153,684 and is licensed exclusively to Stem Cell Innovations.

    Stem Cell Innovations is developing PluriCells™, a new human stem cell technology derived from primordial germ cells of fetal tissue. PluriCells are distinct from ES cells and are believed to be outside the competitive patents on human ES cells. Primordial germ cells are one of only two types of cells known to be able to produce any of the more than 200 cell types found in the human body. The primordial germ cells are the cells that eventually produce the sperm and the egg, passing the genome along to the next generation. Stem cell cultures generated from these cells are believed to have tremendous promise in advancing drug discovery and cell-based therapies for some of our most intractable health problems, such as neurodegenerative disease. Stem Cell Innovations is actively pursuing these applications, such as in the recently announced drug discovery program with the ALS Association.

    PluriCells™ is a Trademark of Stem Cell Innovations, Inc.

    Source: Stem Cell Innovations, Inc.(09/01/07)

    Human stem cells found in amniotic fluid
    Stem cells nearly as powerful as embryonic stem cells can be found in the amniotic fluid that protects babies in the womb, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday.

    They used them to create muscle, bone, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells in the laboratory and said they believe the placenta and amniotic fluid can provide one more source of the valued cells, which scientists hope will someday transform medicine.

    They would also provide a non-controversial source of the cells, which are found with difficulty throughout the body and in days-old embryos.

    Embryonic cells are considered the most malleable of the various types of stem cells, but these amniotic fluid-derived cells are a close second, said Dr. Anthony Atala, of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who led the study.

    "Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for engineered organs as well," Atala said in a statement.

    "I feel these cells are pluripotent like human embryonic stem cells."

    Pluripotent means the cells can give rise to any type of tissue in the body -- blood, nerve, muscle, and so on. Adult stem cells, found in the tissues and blood of fetuses, babies and adults, are already partly differentiated and are less adaptable.

    The use of human embryonic stem cells is controversial in some countries, including the United States.

    President Bush has restricted federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, although researchers using private money can do as they please and Congress, even before the Democrats took over, was planning ways to encourage more research.

    Proven properties

    Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Atala and colleagues described how they have spent seven years proving the properties of these cells.

    "It has been known for decades that both the placenta and amniotic fluid contain multiple progenitor cell types from the developing embryo, including fat, bone, and muscle," Atala said.

    "We asked the question, 'Is there a possibility that within this cell population we can capture true stem cells?' The answer is yes."

    They used discarded samples from amniocentesis, a test used to check fetuses for birth defects.

    The cells come from the fetus, which breathes and sucks in, then excretes, the amniotic fluid throughout pregnancy, Atala told reporters in a telephone conference.

    Tests in mice showed the stem cells could be used to replace damaged brain cells, and could be "printed" onto structures using technology similar to that seen in inkjet printers to make bone tissue.

    Like embryonic stem cells, they appear to thrive in lab dishes for years, while normal cells, called somatic cells, die after a time.

    "They are easier to grow than human embryonic stem cells," Atala added in a telephone interview. And, unlike embryonic stem cells, they do not form a type of benign tumor called a teratoma, he said.

    Atala said a bank with 100,000 specimens of the amniotic stem cells theoretically could supply 99 percent of the U.S. population with perfect genetic matches for transplants.

    They are not found in cord blood, a source of a different type of stem cell used mostly to treat leukemia. But they could be banked in much the same way cord blood is now banked, Atala said.

    "This is early work," Atala cautioned. "It is still several years away before we try this in a patient."

    Source: Zeenews.com Copyright © Zee News Limited. All rights reserved.

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