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New Advancement in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Research

Posted: October 17, 2017 at 3:29 pm

A recent change in how well we understand stem cells may make it easier for scientists and researchers to gather stem cells for use in scientific research as well as medical application. A new study was released in the research publication, Cell, which was performed by representatives from the University of California San Francisco.

One of the issues which hinder the use of stem cells as a more widespread treatment or field of research is that researchers and patients have a bottleneck of available healthy stem cell lines which can be used for research. Researchers hope that this new discovery will allow future scientific discoveries and applications in the areas of creating new and healthy tissue for patients with kidney failure or any other form of organ tissue failure. The future of medical therapy lies with Stem Cell Research, but many other forms of treatment, including Hormone Replacement Therapy, are already in practice today.

Researchers have discovered that it is possible to essentially “flip a switch” in an adult cell, reverting it back to the preliminary state at which cells existed in one of the earliest stages of development—the embryonic stem cell. Medical researchers hypothesize that Stem Cell treatments could be used for a variety of medical health issues which plague the world today, including kidney failure, liver disease, and Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes.

Use of Embryonic Stem Cells Contentious

There is an ethical issue in Stem Cell Research today. Many Pro-Life Advocates are vociferously against the use of Embryonic Stem Cells harvested from procedures such as fertility treatments designed for conception. They believe that the use of embryonic stem cells harvested from donors and couples looking to conceive is unethical.

Using current research, it may be possible to bypass this ethical quandary completely by using adult cells and converting them into embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, because these stem cells are genetic derivatives of the patient from which the adult cells were harvested, this potentially paves the way for patient-specific medical treatments using stem cells.

After adult cells have been converted back into Embryonic Stem Cells, it will be possible to convert them into any possible cell that the patient needs or would benefit from.

Hijacking the Blueprint of the Cell Allows Scientists to Revert Adult Cells to their Earliest State

Researchers have increased the capacity to produce Embryonic Stem Cells by identifying previously unrecognized biochemical processes which tell human cells how to develop. In essence, researchers have discovered how the body blueprints cells, and can change the blueprints so that a new cell is made.

By utilizing these newly recognized pathways, it is possible to create new stem cells more quickly than ever before. One of the researchers explains the implications of this research. Dr. Miguel Ramalho-Santos is an associate professor of obstetrics, medicine, and cancer research at the University of California San Francisco. Dr. Ramalho-Santos is also a member of the Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research.

He explains that these stem cell discoveries have the ability to alter the way that the medical sciences can take advantage of stem cells with regard to both cancer research and regenerative medicine. Dr. Ramalho-Santos was the lead researcher for this study, and the research was largely funded by the Director of the National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award, granted to promising young researchers which are leading highly innovative and promising medical research studies.

Dr. Ramalho-Santos’ research builds off of earlier research which discovered that it was possible to take adult cells and turn them back into embryonic stem cells. These stem cells don’t have any inherent aging processes, and they can be turned into any other kind of tissue. In the process of this conversion, the adult cells lose all of their unique characteristics, leaving them in an ultimately immature and malleable state.

This earlier research was conducted by researchers from UC San Francisco in partnership with Dr. Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University and Gladstone Institutes. These entities all gained a piece of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine from their part in the study.

Pluripotent Stem Cells vs. Embryonic Stem Cells

Thus far, we’ve described these cells as Embryonic Stem Cells, but in fact, the more accurate term for these cells are Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPS). These cells are biologically and functionally similar to Embryonic Stem Cells, but have a different name because they are sourced from adult cells. The difference between Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and Embryonic Stem Cells is that Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells do seem to retain some of the characteristics of their previous state, which appears to limit their ability to convert into any other type of cell. This new research identifies new pathways by which it may be possible to increase the number of cells that an individual IPS Cell can turn into, perhaps allowing them to convert into any other kind of human cell.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells are not explicitly considered an alternative to Embryonic Stem Cells, but are considered a different approach to produce similar cells. If researchers fully uncover the mechanisms of how to reprogram these cells, it will lower many barriers to stem cell research and the availability of stem cell treatments.

As of today, researchers have figured out how to make these Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, but the percentage of adult cells which are reverted successfully is quite low, and frequently, these cells still show some aspects of specialization, which limits their use.

How Do Scientists Make Stem Cells From Adult Cells?

There are genes within every cell which have the ability to induce pluripotency, reverting the cell to an earlier stage of specialization. The initial stage of this process is the result of activating Yamanaka Factors, specific genes that initiate this reversion process.

As of today, this process of de-maturation is not completely understood, and researchers realized from the start that the cells they created were not truly identical to Embryonic Stem Cells, because they still showed signs of their former lives, which often prevented them from being successfully reprogrammed.

The new research conducted by Dr. Ramalho-Santos appears to increase our knowledge regarding how these cells work, and how to program them more effectively. Dr. Ramalho-Santos and his team discovered more genes associated with these programming/reprogramming processes, and by manipulating them, they have increased the viability and range of particular stem cells.

It appears that these genetic impulses are constantly at play to maintain the structure and function of a cell, and that by systematically removing these safeguards, it is possible to increase the ability to alter these cells.

This research increases researchers’ ability to produce these stem cells, by increasing the ability of medical scientists to produce adequate numbers of stem cells, while also increasing the range of potential treatment options by more effectively inducing the total pluripotency which is available in Embryonic Stem Cells. This research may also help scientists treat certain forms of cancer which are the result of malfunctions of these genes.

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New Stem Cell Cancer Treatment on the Horizon?

Posted: at 2:51 pm

Stem Cell Research is an amazing field right now, and promises to be a powerful and potent tool to help us live longer and healthier lives. Just last month, for example, Stem Cell Therapy was used to restore sight in patients with severe retinal deterioration, allowing them to see clearer than they had in years, or even decades.

Now, there is another form of Stem Cell Treatment on the horizon—this one of a very different form. Stem Cells have now been used as a mechanism to deliver medical treatment designed to eliminate cancer cells, even in hard to reach places. One issue with current cancer treatments is that, treatments that are effective at treating tumors on the surface of the brain cannot be performed safely when the tumor is deeper within the brain’s tissues.

Stem Cells have the fantastic ability to transform into any other kind of cell within the human body, given the appropriate stimulation. As of today, most of these cells come from Embryonic Lines, but researchers are learning how to backwards engineer cells in the human body, reverting them back to their embryonic state. These cells are known as Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.

How Does This Stem Cell Cancer Treatment Work?

Using genetic engineering, it is possible to create stem cells that are designed to release a chemical known as Pseudomonas Exotoxin, which has the ability to destroy certain tumor cells in the human brain.

What is Pseudomonas Exotoxin?

Pseudomonas Exotoxin is a compound that is naturally released by a form of bacteria known as Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. This chemical is toxic to brain tumor cells because it prevents polypeptides from growing longer, essentially preventing the polypeptides from growing and reproducing. When used in a specific manner, this toxin has the ability to destroy cancerous and malignant tissue without negatively impacting healthy tissue. In addition to its potential as a cancer treatment, there is also evidence that the therapy could be used for the treatment of Hepatitis B.

PE and Similar Toxins Have been Used Therapeutically in the Past

As of now, this chemical, which we will refer to for the rest of the article as PE, has been used as a cancer treatment before, but there are major limitations regarding the use of PE for particular cancers, not because of the risks of the treatment, but because of the lack of an effective method to deliver the medication to where it is needed.

For example, similar chemicals have been highly effective in the treatment of a large number of blood cancers, but haven’t been nearly as effective in larger, more inaccessible tumors. The chemicals break down or become metabolized before they can fully do their job.

How do Stem Cells Increase the Effectiveness of PE Cancer Treatment

Right now, PE has to be created in a laboratory before it is administered, which is not very effective for these embedded cancers. By using Stem Cells as an intermediary, it is possible to deliver the medication to deeper areas of the brain more effectively, theoretically highly increasing the efficacy of the treatment.

The leader of this Stem Cell Research is Harvard researcher Dr. Khalis Shah. His goal was to find an effective means to treat these deep brain tumors which are not easily treated by methods available today. In utilizing Stem Cells, Dr. Shah has potentially found a means by which the stem cells can constantly deliver this Cancer Toxin to the tumor area. The cells remain active and are fed by the body, which allows them to provide a steady stream of treatment that is impossible to provide via any other known method.

This research is still in its early stages, and has not yet reached human trials, but in mice, the PE Toxin worked exactly as hypothesized and was able to starve out tumors by preventing them from replicating effectively.

Perhaps this might seem a bit less complicated than it actually is. One of the major hurdles that had to be overcome was that this Toxin would normally be strong enough to kill the cell that hosted it. In order for the Stem Cells to release the cancer, they had to be able to withstand the effects of PE, themselves. Using genetic engineering, Dr. Shah and his associates were able to create a cell that is capable of both producing and withstanding the effects of the toxin.

Stem Cell delivered medical therapy is a 21st century form of medical treatment that researchers are just beginning to learn how to effectively utilize. Essentially, this treatment takes a stem cell and converts it into a unique symbiotic tool capable of feeding off of the host for energy in order to perform a potentially life-saving function. It’s really quite fascinating.

How Does PE Not Damage or Kill Brain Cells Indiscriminately?

You might be concerned about the idea of a patient having a toxin injected into the brain to cure a disease. It sounds almost like a dangerous, tribal, homeopathic remedy. In reality, the researchers have been able to harness the destructive power of the toxin and re-engineer it so that it directly targets cancer cells while having limited negative effects on healthy, non-cancerous tissue.

The toxin does its damage after it has been absorbed by a cell. By retooling the toxin so that it does not readily absorb into healthy cells, the dangers associated with having such a potentially dangerous toxin in the brain are seriously and significantly mitigated.

Beyond that, Dr. Shah and his associates have been able to take steps to effectively “turn off” PE while it is inside the host stem cell, and only activates when it has entered the cancerous tissue. Dr. Shah explains that, although this research has only been conducted in animal subjects, there is no known reason why the effectiveness and safety of the treatment would not be applicable to human patients.

In this treatment, surgeons remove as much of the tumor as possible from the brain, and insert the engineered Stem Cells submerged in a sterile gel in the area where the tumor was removed or partially still exists. Researchers found that, when they used this treatment on laboratory rats, they could tell through imaging and analysis that the modified PE toxin effectively killed the cancer cells, and that this cancer treatment effectively lengthened the life of the rat, as compared to control subjects.

What’s the Next Step?

Of course, cancer treatment is far more complex than a single treatment, no matter how effective that treatment may be. Because human cancer treatment is a comprehensive therapy approach, the end goal of this research is to create a form of therapy in which the method used in animal subjects is combined with other existing approaches, increasing and maximizing the effectiveness of the comprehensive treatment.

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AbbVie’s positive eczema study drags down Regeneron’s shares – Reuters

Posted: September 7, 2017 at 5:50 pm

(Reuters) – AbbVie Inc said on Thursday its experimental drug to treat adults with moderate-to-severe eczema met the main goal in a mid-stage study, dragging down shares of rival U.S. biotech firm Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin inflammation, which in severe cases causes constant and often unbearable itching.

Regenerons eczema drug, Dupixent, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March.

AbbVies mid-stage trial data for its drug, upadacitinib, seemed comparable to Dupixents late-stage data, but the difference in the two studies sample sizes made direct comparisons imprecise, Jefferies analyst Berin Amin said.

Nonetheless, we expect upadacitinib to compete with Dupixent, Amin added.

Upadacitinib showed a statistically significant improvement in reducing both the severity of eczema in patients and the amount of body area affected by the disease, AbbVie said.

Shares of AbbVie, which plans a late-stage study for upadacitinib next year, were up 2.8 percent at $79.23 in late morning trading.

Regenerons shares were down 5.2 percent at $474.08.

Reporting by Akankshita Mukhopadhyay in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar

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AbbVie shares rally on positive eczema study, competitor Regeneron drops –

Posted: at 5:50 pm – AbbVie Inc ‘s (NYSE:) shares climbed on Thursday after the company announced that its mid-stage trial data for its drug, upadacitinib, to treat moderate-to-severe eczema met its primary endpoint.

The study showed positive results for upadacitinib with no new safety signals detected, and all doses achieved the primary endpoint of greater mean percentage change from baseline in eczema area and severity index versus a placebo. Clear or almost clear skin was achieved by 50 percent of patients receiving 30 mg once-daily dose of upadacitinib.

Upadacitinib is being studied as a once-a-day therapy in eczema (atopic dermatitis) and across multiple immune-mediated diseases.

AbbVies shares jumped on the news, but Regeneron Pharmaceuticals shares fell on the potential for new competition for Regeneron’s eczema drug, Dupixent, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March.

AbbVies shares were recently up 6.2%, Regenerons were down 6%.

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Focus on Stem Cell Research | National Institute of …

Posted: at 5:48 pm

Stem cells possess the unique ability to differentiate into many distinct cell types in the body, including brain cells, but they also retain the ability to produce more stem cells, a process termed self-renewal. There are multiple types of stem cell, such as embryonic stem (ES) cells, induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, and adult or somatic stem cells. While various types of stem cells share similar properties there are differences as well. For example, ES cells and iPS cells are able to differentiate into any type of cell, whereas adult stem cells are more restricted in their potential. The promise of all stem cells for use in future therapies is exciting, but significant technical hurdles remain that will only be overcome through years of intensive research.

NINDS supports a diverse array of research on stem cells, from studies of the basic biology of stem cells in the developing and adult mammalian brain, to studies focusing on nervous system disorders such as ALS or spinal cord injury. Other examples of NINDS funded research include using iPS cells to derive dopamine-producing neurons that might alleviate symptoms in patients with Parkinsons disease, and using ES cells to generate cerebral organoids to model Zika virus infection. To search the complete list of stem cell research projects funded by NIH please go to NIH RePORTER. The NIHs total investment in SCI can be found in categorical spending.

For information on NINDS clinical trials please see the Clinical Research section, or search

A complete, searchable list of funding opportunities is available under Funding. Please be aware that if you plan to request $500,000 or more in direct costs you must contact the appropriate Program Director at least 6 weeks before submission to obtain approval. For more information please see the eRA User Guide ($500K requests).

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Researchers Turn Skin Cells into Motor Neurons Without Using Stem Cells – Futurism

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Cellular Renovation

Why build something from the ground up when one can just renovate an already existing structure? Essentially, thats what researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis had in mind when they developed a method for transforming adult human skin cells into motor neurons in a lab. They published their work in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

In this study, we only used skin cells from healthy adults ranging in age from early 20s to late 60s, senior author Andrew S. Yoo said in a press release. Our research revealed how small RNA molecules can work with other cell signals called transcription factors to generate specific types of neurons, in this case motor neurons. In the future, we would like to study skin cells from patients with disorders of motor neurons. Our conversion process should model late-onset aspects of the disease using neurons derived from patients with the condition.

They did this by exposing skin cells in a lab to certain molecular signals usually found at high levels in the human brain. They focused on two short snippets of RNA: microRNAs (mRNAs) called miR-9 and miR-124, which are involved in repurposing the genetic instructions of the cell. These mRNAs, combined with certain transcription factors, successfully turned skin cells into spinal cord motor neurons within just 30 days. These new cells closely resembled normal mouse motor neurons in terms of which genes were turned on and off, and how they functioned.

Usually, when researchers find ways to replace damaged cells or organs, they resort to using stem cells. In particular, they use embryonic stem cells (a type of pluripotent stem cells) to grow the cells or organs needed.

While this type of stem cell has the potential to grow into whatever adult cell type is needed, the procedure carries some ethical concerns. In bypassing a stem cell phase, the new cell transformation technique doesnt have any of these ethical issues.

Keeping the original age of the converted cells can be crucial for studying neurodegenerative diseases that lead to paralysis, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular atrophy, the condition the new research focused on. In particular, researchers hope that it could enhance the understanding of these diseases in order to improve regenerative medicine.

Going back through a pluripotent stem cell phase is a bit like demolishing a house and building a new one from the ground up, Yoo explained. What were doing is more like renovation. We change the interior but leave the original structure, which retains the characteristics of the aging adult neurons that we want to study.

Like embryonic stem cells, the technique can also allow for converting human skin cells into other cell types by using different transcription factors. Before this technique can be applied to actual humans with neurodegenerative diseases, the researchers still need to find out how much the cells made in their lab match native human motor neurons. Still, its a promising start.

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Transformative technology: Encapsulated human cells to … – Medical Xpress

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Professor Che Connon and Dr Stephen Swioklo of Atelerix, a spin-out from Newcastle University, is offering the transformative hydrogel technology for the storage and transport of viable cells including stem cells and cell-based assays at ambient temperatures. Credit: Newcastle University

Atelerix, a spin-out from Newcastle University, UK is offering the transformative hydrogel technology for the storage and transport of viable cells including stem cells and cell-based assays at ambient temperatures. This overcomes the barriers presented by the current need for cryo-shipping as it is simple, cell-friendly and offers immediate access to stem cell therapy.

This opens up the market for the supply of cells and assays in a ready-to-use format, allowing suppliers to increase the range of assays available to consumers and to scale up their businesses.

The breakthrough, patented invention, provides dramatic improvements to an everyday process in a rapidly growing market.

Scientific founder, Professor Che Connon of Newcastle University, has been working on the underpinning technology for five years. He said: “Encapsulating cells in the alginate hydrogel is a simple, low cost system capable of preserving the viability and functionality of cells at temperatures between 4 and 21C for extended periods of time.

“Used as a method of cell storage and transport, it overcomes the acknowledged problems associated with cryo-shipping. Cells are encapsulated by in situ formation of the gel for shipping in plates or vials, and can be rapidly released from the gel by the addition of a simple buffer.”

Atelerix is set to revolutionise the market with their use of encapsulated stem cells as Dr Mick McLean, CEO for Atelerix explained: “Understanding both the technology and its commercial potential is essential for the translation of great science into an exciting business opportunity.

“Putting these elements in place by working together with the expert scientific team means that Atelerix has a clear value proposition – we enable the transport and storage of human cells at room temperature.”

The hydrogel technology allows immediate access to cells and can be used in a range of applications where high quality cells are essential.


The shipping of cells from one location to another for clinical and research use is a widespread and everyday practice, and consequently there are many potential commercial outlets for the hydrogel encapsulation technology.

Atelerix, the commercial spin-out from Newcastle University is targeting three key areas:

First Northern Accelerator spin-out company

Atelerix, is the first spin out company created under a new joint collaborative project between Newcastle and Durham Universities, UK.

The Northern Accelerator project, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is creating high technology spin-out companies by attracting talented business leaders to the innovative commercial opportunities both created and developed in the north east of England.

Through this, experienced life sciences business leader Mick McLean was brought in to work alongside the founder academics, Professor Che Connon and Dr Stephen Swioklo.

Dr McLean said: “Working alongside the University team on the strategy for the Intellectual Property and the corporate framework has really helped give the business a base from which to expand as it starts to move on from its academic roots.”

David Huntley, Head of Company Creation at Newcastle University and overall Project Manager, said: “Atelerix is an excellent example of the clear benefits of the Northern Accelerator programme. By combining Mick’s business skills with the technical excellence of the scientific team’s world-leading background research, we have created a brand new technology business that we believe will make a real and significant commercial impact.”

Explore further: Seaweed offers the solution to transporting stem cells and wound treatment

More information: Previous research: Stephen Swioklo et al. Alginate-Encapsulation for the Improved Hypothermic Preservation of Human Adipose-Derived Stem Cells, STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (2016). DOI: 10.5966/sctm.2015-0131

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Zika Virus Targets and Kills Brain Cancer Stem Cells – UC San Diego Health

Posted: at 5:48 pm

In developing fetuses, infection by the Zika virus can result in devastating neurological damage, most notably microcephaly and other brain malformations. In a new study, published today in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report the virus specifically targets and kills brain cancer stem cells.

The findings suggest the lethal power of the virus notorious for causing infected babies to be born with under-sized, misshapen heads could be directed at malignant cells in adult brains. Doing so might potentially improve survival rates for patients diagnosed with glioblastomas, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer, with a median survival rate of just over 14 months after diagnosis.

The Zika virus specifically targets neuroprogenitor cells in fetal and adult brains. Our research shows it also selectively targets and kills cancer stem cells, which tend to be resistant to standard treatments and a big reason why glioblastomas recur after surgery and result in shorter patient survival rates, said Jeremy Rich, MD, professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Rich is co-senior author of the study with Michael S. Diamond, MD, PhD, professor, and Milan G. Chheda, MD, assistant professor, both at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Transmission electron microscope image of negative-stained, Fortaleza-strain Zika virus (red), isolated from a microcephaly case in Brazil. Image courtesy of NIAID.

This year, more than 12,000 Americans will be diagnosed with glioblastomas, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. Among them: U.S. Senator John McCain, who announced his diagnosis in July. They are highly malignant. The two-year survival rate is 30 percent.

Standard treatment is aggressive: surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Yet most tumors recur within six months, fueled by a small population of glioblastoma stem cells that resist and survive treatment, continuing to divide and produce new tumor cells to replace those killed by cancer drugs.

For Zhe Zhu, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in Richs lab and first author of the study, the hyper-reproductive capabilities of glioblastoma stem cells reminded him of neuroprogenitor cells, which fuel the explosive growth of developing brains. Zika virus specifically targets and kills neuroprogenitor cells.

So Zhu, with Rich, Diamond, Chheda and other collaborators, investigated whether the Zika virus might also target and kill cultured glioblastoma stem cells derived from patients being treated for the disease. They infected cultured tumors with one of two strains of the virus. Both strains spread through the tumors, infecting and killing stem cells while largely avoiding other tumor cells.

The findings, the authors said, suggest that chemotherapy-radiation treatment and a Zika infection appear to produce complementary results. Standard treatment kills most tumor cells but typically leaves stem cells intact. The Zika virus attacks stem cells but bypasses ordinary tumor cells.

We see Zika one day being used in combination with current therapies to eradicate the whole tumor, said Chheda, an assistant professor of medicine and of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine.

To find out whether the virus could boost treatment efficacy in a live animal, researchers injected either the Zika virus or a saltwater placebo directly into glioblastoma tumors in 18 and 15 mice, respectively. Two weeks after injection, tumors were significantly smaller in the Zika-treated mice, who survived significantly longer than those given the placebo.

The scientists note that the idea of injecting a virus notorious for causing brain damage into patients brains seems alarming, but they say Zika may prove a safe therapy with further testing because its primary target neuroprogenitor cells are rare in adult brains. The opposite is true of fetal brains, which is part of the reason why a Zika infection before birth produces widespread and severe brain damage while a normal Zika infection in adults typically causes mild symptoms or none at all.

The researchers also conducted studies of the virus using brain tissue from epilepsy patients that showed the virus does not infect non-cancerous brain cells.

As an additional safety feature, the research team introduced two mutations that weakened the viruss ability to combat natural cellular defenses against infection, reasoning that while the mutated virus would still be able to grow in tumor cells, which have a poor anti-viral defense system, it would be quickly eliminated in healthy cells with a robust anti-viral response.

When they tested the mutated viral strain and the original parental strain in glioblastoma stem cells, they found that the original strain was more potent, but that the mutant strain also succeeded in killing the cancerous cells.

Were going to introduce additional mutations to sensitize the virus even more to the innate immune response and prevent the infection from spreading, said Diamond, a professor of molecular microbiology, pathology and immunology. Once we add a couple more, I think its going to be impossible for the virus to overcome them and cause disease.

Co-authors of the study include: Matthew Gorman, Estefania Fernandez, Lisa McKenzie, Jiani Chai, Justin M. Richner, and Rong Zhang, Washington University, St. Louis; Christopher Hubert, and Briana Prager, Cleveland Clinic; Chao Shan, and Pei-Yong Shi, University of Texas Medical Branch; and Xiuxing Wang, UC San Diego.

Funding for this research came, in part, from the National Institutes of Health (R01 AI073755, R01 AI104972, CA197718, CA154130, CA169117, CA171652, NS087913, NS089272), the Pardee Foundation, the Concern Foundation, the Cancer Research Foundation and the McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology of Washington University.

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Italian scientists welcome surprise 400 million boost for basic research – Science Magazine

Posted: at 5:48 pm

Italian Minister for Education, University, and Research Valeria Fedeli

AP Photo/Luca Bruno

By Marta PaterliniSep. 7, 2017 , 4:50 PM

Plagued by budget cuts and attacks on science, Italian scientists have had little to cheer about recently. But on Sunday, they received a welcome surprise when Valeria Fedeli, the minister for education, university, and research, announced that Italy will put an extra 400 million into its main basic science fund, the Research Projects of National Interest (PRIN). The money, to be spent over 3 years, will more than quadruple PRINs annual funding.

The biggest part of the increase, 250 million, will come out of unused reserves at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), a government-funded private foundation in Genoa that has recently come under criticism.

This is the largest investment in competitive funds for basic research of the last 20 years, says Elena Cattaneo, a stem cell biologist at the University of Milan and a senator for life in the Italian Parliament who had lobbied for the shift to basic science. PRIN funding has been going up and down since 2002, according to a group of academics calling itselfReturn On Academic ReSearch (ROARS), but overall has been modest. The latest funding round, in 2015, provided only 95 million for 3years.

Cattaneo had argued that IIT, founded in 2003 to foster innovation, could easily cough up the funds for a hike at PRIN. Scientists have criticized IIT for a lack of transparency in the way it allocates its fundingcurrently some 98 million annually from the Ministry of Economy and Financeand for its role in the creation of a new research hub at the site of the World Expo 2015 in Milan. Cattaneo has also been very vocal about the accumulation of hundreds of millions in public money in a private body.By reallocating the funds, the government has acknowledged the value of basic research, she says.

IITs scientific director, Roberto Cingolani, says the institutes large surplus is primarily the result of savings during its early years. Three years ago, we started to plan an expansion of the institute in Genoa, that would have cost about 200 million, he saysa plan that is now off the table. Cingolani says he is disappointed by the criticisms of IIT, but glad that the cut there will benefit basic research.

ROARS member Alberto Baccini, a professor of political economics at the University of Siena, applauds the decision as well and credits Cattaneo. We must acknowledge [her] crusade, he says.

A spokesperson for the research ministry could not provide details today about how the money will be spent. Its important that the process uses uniform assessment criteria and is transparent, Baccini says. (He notes that its impossible to find the projects awarded under the 2015 funding bolus for PRIN online.) The problem is not just the lack of money, but also that funding is handed out without a method, really, he says.

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Parkinson’s disease cure: THIS common drug could slow progression of condition –

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Researchers have found evidence that an antidepressant drug could slow progression of Parkinsons disease.

A study by Michigan State University discovered that a drug – nortriptyline – can stop the growth of abnormal proteins that can build up in the brain.

The drug has been around for more than 50 years and is used to treat depression and nerve pain.

However, scientists believe it could have a new purpose.

Depression is a very frequent condition associated with Parkinson’s, so we became interested in whether an antidepressant could modify how the disease progresses,” said Tim Collier, lead study author of the research published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease.

Scientists looked at whether patients who had been on antidepressants needed to go on standard Parkinsons treatment later than people who hadnt used antidepressants.

Parkinsons sufferers are commonly prescribed a therapy called levodopa.

It increases levels of dopamine, which is a natural chemical in the body that sends signals to other nerve cells.

The disease can cause levels of dopamine to significantly decrease.

“We found that those on a certain class of antidepressant, called tricyclics, didn’t need the levodopa therapy until much later compared to those who weren’t on that type of antidepressant medication,” said Collier.

They discovered that the antidepressant decreased the amount of abnormal protein build up in the brain in rats.

The protein – called alpha-synuclein – can cause the brain’s nerve cells to die when in a clustered state.

Researchers believe that understanding how these proteins clump together could help them develop other drugs for Parkinsons.

“What we’ve essentially shown is that an already FDA-approved drug that’s been studied over 50 years and is relatively well tolerated could be a much simpler approach to treating the disease itself, not just the symptoms,” added Collier.

In the future they hope to test the antidepressant drug in a human clinical trial.

Parkinsons disease affects 127,000 people in the UK.

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Parkinson’s disease cure: THIS common drug could slow progression of condition –

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