ALSO NOTED: ESCs used to treat stroke damage; New hunt for diabetes genes; Early-stage trial for brain cancer therapy;

Technology

Stanford University scientists have achieved new, detailed understanding of how a polymer folds into a unique three-dimensional structure by using an "optical trap" to precisely unfold a functional RNA molecule. Report

V-Frog, the world's first virtual-reality-based frog dissection software designed for biology education--allowing not mere observation, but physically simulated dissection--has been developed and is being marketed by Tactus Technologies, a spinoff of the University of Buffalo Virtual Reality Laboratory. Release

Stem Cell Research

For the first time, researchers have used embryonic stem cells to reliably transform into neural cells that can be used to repair stroke damage without consistently spawning tumors. The key was a combination of growth hormones that prodded ESCs in a Stanford lab to form into mature neural cells that could avoid the tumor issue. Report

A new way to manipulate human embryonic stem cells offers hope for an eventual cell-based therapy to treat muscular dystrophies. Release

Scientists at Novocell converted ESCs into cells that produce insulin and controlled diabetes in mice. "I think this validates human embryonic stem cells as something that can be very valuable and used to produce islet-like cells for diabetes treatment, a very specific, very differentiated cell type that would be difficult to get otherwise," Emmanuel Baetge, Novocell's chief scientist, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. Report

Advanced Cell Technology reported a "robust and highly efficient process" for the generation of high-purity hepatocytes (liver cells). Release

A bill introduced to the California Senate seeks to eliminate "inherent" conflicts of interest at the state stem cell institute. Report

A company named Vet-Stem is using adult stem cell therapy to treat animals. Report

Legislative analysts in Maryland are questioning whether $23 million in state funds should be budgeted for stem cell research as planned. Report

Noted UW-Madison stem cell researcher James Thomson has joined the leadership of the new Morgridge Institute for Research at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Report 

 Genetics

The Beijing Genomics Institute has begun sequencing DNA samples in search of gene variants that trigger diabetes and five types of cancer. Report

Developers are engaged in several studies for new drugs that target the gene that causes muscular dystrophy. Story

Three new genetics studies released in the past week have shed light on how people, and diseases, have migrated around the planet. Article

Researchers at the University of Bonn have identified a gene that plays a key role in baldness, pointing the way to new therapies to treat the condition. Report

Cancer Research

Researchers are preparing a small Phase I human trial of a gene therapy for patients with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most aggressive types of brain cancer. Report

With a four-year, $707,000 grant from the American Cancer Society, Yanchang Wang, assistant professor of biomedical sciences in the Florida State University College of Medicine, hopes to learn how a particular enzyme could possibly help put the brakes on the runaway cell division process that occurs in many forms of cancer. Release

New findings show that a specialized virus with the ability to reproduce its tumor-killing genes can selectively target tumors in the brains of mice and eliminate them. Release

Patients with the inoperable brain tumor known as gliomatosis cerebri lacking the chromosomes 1p and 19q respond significantly better to chemotherapy than patients who have the chromosomes, surviving an average of four years longer. Report

A team of researchers spearheaded by Dennis Carson M.D. has identified a potent new anti-cancer drug isolated from a toxic blue-green algae found in the South Pacific. Release

More Research

Invitrogen spent $640,000 last year lobbying Congress to boost research spending. Report 

Znomics has expanded its facilities to include additional laboratory space in the new Biomedical Research Building on the campus of Oregon Health and Science University. Release 

A recent analysis released by Thompson Scientific's Essential Science Indicators, ranks the research conducted at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory among the most cited in the world. Release

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A trial of a retinal implant built from embryonic stem cells produced encouraging results in patients with dry age-related macular degeneration.