Monday, June 30, 2008
Nerve Cells Derived From Stem Cells And Transplanted Into Mice May Lead To Improved Brain Treatments
ScienceDaily (June 26, 2008)
- Scientists at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research have, for the first time, genetically programmed embryonic stem (ES) cells to become nerve cells when transplanted into the brain, according to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Health & Medicine
Mind & Brain
Embryonic stem cell
Stem cell treatments
The research, an important step toward developing new treatments for stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurological conditions showed that mice afflicted by stroke showed tangible therapeutic improvement following transplantation of these cells. None of the mice formed tumors, which had been a major setback in prior attempts at stem cell transplantation.
The team was led by Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research Center at Burnham. Dr. Lipton is also a clinical neurologist who treats patients with these disorders. Collaborators included investigators from The Scripps Research Institute.
"We found that we could create new nerve cells from stem cells, transplant them effectively and make a positive difference in the behavior of the mice," said Dr. Lipton. "These findings could potentially lead to new treatments for stroke and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease."
Conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease destroy brain cells, causing speech and memory loss and other debilitating consequences. In theory, transplanting neuronal brain cells could restore at least some brain function, just as heart transplants restore blood flow.
Prior to this research, creating pure neuronal cells from ES cells had been problematic as the cells did not always differentiate into neurons. Sometimes they became glial cells, which lack many of the neurons' desirable properties. Even when the neuronal cells were created successfully, they often died in the brain following transplant--a process called programmed cell death or apoptosis. In addition, the cells would sometimes become tumors.
Dr. Lipton solved these problems by inducing ES cells to express a protein, discovered in his laboratory called myocyte enhancer factor 2C (MEF2C). MEF2C is a transcription factor that turns on specific genes which then drive stem cells to become nerve cells. Using MEF2C, the researchers created colonies of pure neuronal progenitor cells, a stage of development that occurs before becoming a nerve cell, with no tumors. These cells were then transplanted into the brain and later became adult nerve cells. MEF2C also protected the cells from apoptosis once inside the brain.
"To move forward with stem cell-based therapies, we need to have a reliable source of nerve cells that can be easily grown, differentiate in the way that we want them to and remain viable after transplantation," said Dr. Lipton. "MEF2C helps this process first by turning on the genes that, when expressed, make stem cells into nerve cells. It then turns on other genes that keep those new nerve cells from dying. As a result, we were able to produce neuronal progenitor cells that differentiate into a virtually pure population of neurons and survive inside the brain."
The next step was to determine whether the transplanted neural progenitor cells became nerve cells that integrated into the existing network of nerve cells in the brain. Performing intricate electrical studies, Dr. Lipton's investigative team showed that the new nerve cells, derived from the stem cells, could send and receive proper electrical signals to the rest of the brain.
They then determined if the new cells could provide cognitive benefits to the stroke-afflicted mice. The team executed a battery of neurobehavioral tests and found that the mice that received the transplants showed significant behavioral improvements, although their performance did not reach that of the non-stroke control mice. These results suggest that MEF2C expression in the transplanted cells was a significant factor in reducing the stroke-induced deficits.
The work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants and a Senior Scholar Award in Aging Research from the Ellison Medical Foundation.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Lou Gehrig’s Disease Protein Found Throughout Brain, Suggesting Effects Beyond Motor Neurons, Find Penn Researchers
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
what a joke..............if they were in my FUCKING shoes, I guarantee they would reconsider
Bishops condemn stem cell research
By Barbara ListonFri Jun 13, 2:45 PM ET
Catholic bishops on Friday condemned the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research as a "gravely immoral act" in the organization's first formal statement on the issue. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 191-1 to adopt the statement, without debate or discussion. "Harvesting these 'embryonic stem cells' involves the deliberate killing of innocent human beings, a gravely immoral act," the organization said. The identity of the one dissenter or the reason for his dissent was not made public at the gathering in Orlando. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said ballots are signed but are destroyed after they are counted. Naumann said the reason for the 'no' vote could be as simple as a disagreement with the phrasing in the document. "I'm assuming the person isn't going against the pope's teaching," Naumann said. The bishops' vote to adopt the statement, which will be distributed to Catholics in a brochure, came without debate. Hot button issues like abortion and stem cell research mobilized the Republican Party's conservative Christian base to help keep President George W. Bush in the White House in 2004. They may not have the same impact in the November election, as Republican candidate John McCain is viewed by many religious conservatives as soft on core issues like gay marriage and stem cell research. Individual bishops and conference officials have spoken out regularly over the years on embryonic stem cell research. But Bishop Arthur Seratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, said Catholics and the public generally remained confused about the moral and ethical implications of the research, and on the church's position. "U.S. Catholics and the general public deserve a clear, concise and unambiguous statement," Seratelli said. The formal statement on embryonic stem cell research is planned as the first of two related documents to be brought forward from the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, according to Archbishop John Myers of Newark. Myers said a forthcoming longer, more pastoral statement directed especially toward married Catholics and those dealing with infertility will tackle the issues of in vitro fertilization and the adoption of embryos by couples. The spare embryos eyed by scientists for research are a byproduct of in vitro fertilization. Myers said the Holy See is studying the issue of embryo adoption. The bishops cautioned that stem cell harvesting from spare embryos will spur the creation of additional embryos for scientific purposes and cloning, which the bishops said "reduces human procreation to a mere manufacturing process." "It now seems undeniable that once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point," the statement said. "We therefore urge Catholics and all people of good will to join us in reaffirming, precisely in this context of embryonic stem cell research, that 'the killing of innocent human creatures, even if carried out to help others, constitutes an absolutely unacceptable act,"' it added, quoting Pope John Paul II in "The Gospel of Life." (Editing by Michael Christie)
Sunday, June 15, 2008
This is an article I was asked to be a part of--More patients seek experimental stem cell therapy-the boston globe
US physicians warn of dangers
By Neil Munshi
Globe Correspondent / June 13, 2008
Drew Schemera's blog, "The Journey," begins, appropriately enough, with a post detailing preflight jitters.
"I have been tossing and turning all night wondering where I get my strength, but I dig deep and find the answer, always, somewhere in my mind's abyss," he wrote just about a year ago. "A friend told me yesterday that this will be my calling when I get better to breathe life back into people and talk about my experience with this illness and my journey to get better."
Schemera, 35, was on his way to Beike Biotechnology in China for experimental stem cell therapy six months after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS, and given a life expectancy of 2 1/2 years. His seven injections cost $42,500, including travel and food expenses, and he wrote that he noticed his breathing and swallowing improved afterward.
The Connecticut resident is part of a growing - and potentially dangerous - trend that has seen Americans traveling abroad for experimental stem cell treatments not allowed in the United States.
Leading stem cell researchers say the centers that offer these treatments are exploiting desperate patients. Research, they say, has not yet yielded treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's, ALS, or spinal cord injuries.
Yesterday, members of the International Society for Stem Cell Research began the process of setting professional standards for stem cell research. The guidelines, which will be finalized by year's end, advocate peer review for research, the informed consent of all patients involved in research, and scientific justification for the work. When finalized, the guidelines may help patients decide whether the treatment they seek meets professional standards.
"Because of the spotlight on stem cells, there's been a misconception by some patients that the cure is already here," said Dr. George Q. Daley, president of the research society and head of the stem cell program at Children's Hospital Boston. "We need to be clear that the path to cures is a long and arduous one."
Eden Laboratories, which runs a clinic in Belize, would not meet the stem cell society's proposed guidelines, but still supports them.
"These standards are being put out there to help patients and help the doctors become more educated when they are helping patients," decide whether to get stem cell treatment, said William Bodley, the company's chief operating officer. "The guidelines are absolutely critical and necessary to help in this process."
The clinic has not submitted research for peer review because it hasn't seen enough patients, Bodley said. Eden's website offers patient testimonials for its treatment of ALS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and skin cancer that has spread, among other ailments.
Still, Daley cautions against any expensive, experimental treatments that offer only anecdotal evidence.
"Patients should be highly suspicious if they are being asked to fly off to far-off places that don't operate under the jurisdiction of any regulatory agency," Daley said, given that only blood stem cell transplants have demonstrated any proven treatment benefits for diseases, including leukemia.
"When we move outside that realm, everything becomes highly experimental," Daley said.
Schemera feels he did the right thing by getting treatment, he wrote in an e-mail (because speaking is difficult for him).
There were "no clinical trials in the USA of any significance and no cure on the horizon," he wrote. "I made a choice to come to China and work my butt off in therapy and change my diet, and I'm slowing it (ALS) down. I'm realistic [enough] to know that I probably will die from ALS, but I'll be damned if I'm not going down swinging! What do I have to lose?"
Daley said the task force that issued the guidelines struggled with the notion that if patients are terminally ill, they should be allowed to choose experimental treatments. Ultimately, the task force had to decide whether the risk of taking such experimental therapy outweighed the benefits - and decided it was important to emphasize how dangerous such treatment can be.
Which is exactly what Dr. Jang-Ho Cha, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, does when dealing with his terminally ill patients, many of whom suffer from Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. He has never had a patient make the trip overseas for treatment after seeking his advice, but he can understand the mindset of those who do.
"I can't completely blame people because I think it's reasonable and normal to feel very frustrated at the pace of advancement," he said. "I really believe [stem cell therapy] is going to be very powerful one day, but there are a lot of people out there who feel like they don't have time to wait."
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
more stories like this
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor Sat Jun 14, 4:13 PM ET
Political controversy may have slowed the pace of stem cell science, but the field is still promising enough to attract many talented researchers, stem cell experts said on Saturday.
A meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Philadelphia this week attracted 2,500 delegates, something ISSCR president Dr. George Daley finds encouraging.
"Despite the political opposition to parts of stem cell therapy, the entire field has grown in a healthy way," Daley said in a telephone interview.
Stem cells are the body's master cells, giving rise to tissues, organs and blood. Scientists hope to harness their power to create a new field of regenerative medicine, offering cures for diseases of the brain, cancer and serious injuries.
Stem cells from bone marrow can reconstitute the immune systems of patients with leukaemia and rare diseases, but other uses of the cells are experimental.
The only controversial stem cells are those taken from human embryos. Most stem cells have partially differentiated -- started down a clear developmental pathway to becoming a blood cell or a muscle cell, for instance.
Stem cells taken from balls of cells that develop days after conception are far more powerful, giving rise to all tissues in the body. President George W. Bush and some religious conservatives oppose their use because they involve destruction of the human embryo.
The issue has led to annual battles in Congress, with Bush vetoing legislation to require more federal funding of such research. Many experts feared the field would wither, or that expertise would flee to places such as Britain or Singapore that actively encourage embryonic stem cell research.
Instead, it is flourishing, Daley said.
"There obviously has been a pent-up desire to do this work," Daley said.
The discovery last year of induced pluripotent stem cells -- ordinary skin cells that can be transformed into something that looks very much like an embryonic stem cell -- has energized the field, Daley said.
"Now that the technology is easy and free of any political complications, you have got hundreds of new scientists jumping in and calling themselves stem cell biologists," Daley said.
However, experts speaking at the conference agreed that work needs to continue on stem cells from all sources, including embryonic stem cells.
Researchers learned how to make induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells by studying which genes were turned on and off as embryonic stem cells developed.
One big hurdle with iPS cells is that they can only be transformed by using viruses to carry in new genes. Applications for adult stem cells are limited because they do not live for long in the body.
"This will require serious work over quite a long time before we can take it to the clinic," said Olle Lindvall of the University of Lund in Sweden.
"Most of the experience we have in treating patients with cells has involved short-term successes," added Ira Fox of the University of Nebraska.
Researchers reported on progress in regenerating pancreatic cells to treat diabetes, using stem cells in gene therapy and in creating new nerve cells.
Others are studying the role of cancer stem cells in a range of tumours. Los Angeles-based ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, Ltd. reported on an experimental a cancer stem cell vaccine aimed at treating deadly brain tumours called glioblastomas.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Genetics Behind Lou Gehrig's Disease Progression Uncovered
The genetics behind Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease has been identified by University of Tokyo researchers.
Lead researchers Dr. Hidenori Ichijo and Dr. Hideki Nishitoh describe ALS as a rapidly progressive, fatal neurological disease involving the degeneration and death of motor neuron cells. In their study paper, the researchers have highlighted how mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) enzyme lead to motor neuron cell death and the progression of ALS. The researchers say that they have characterized a molecular pathway by which mutated SOD1 contributes to the accumulation of malformed proteins inside the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) compartment of motor neuron cells. They point out that beyond a certain threshold, the ER stress induces cell death. Dr. Ichijo says that the study has revealed that the inactivation of certain key factors in the pathway could mitigate neurodegeneration, and prolong survival in a mouse model of inherited ALS. The researchers admit that all familial ALS cases are not due to the SOD1 mutation, and that all persons with a mutated form of SOD1 do not develop ALS. They, however, insist that further insights into the mechanism of the disease could aid in the development of an effective treatment for the disease.Source-ANIRAS/L