ALSO NOTED: Geron touts clinical trials; Wisconsin start-up gets state funds; new artificial blood developed

Stem cell research

Geron CEO Tom Okarma used BIO 2007 as a setting to tout upcoming clinical trials of an embryonic stem cell therapy for spinal cord injuries. "The world's spotlight will be on this trial," he maintains, which some observers see as a possible blessing or a curse. Report

UC Irvine neurobiologist Hans Keirstead and his research team have launched a project to develop stem cell lines that genetically match human patients. These lines would allow scientists to better study conditions ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's disease, and they would provide the basis for potential patient-specific stem cell treatments. Report

Diabetes researchers, investigating how the body supplies itself with insulin, discovered to their surprise that adult stem cells, which they expected to play a crucial role in the process, were nowhere to be found. Many researchers had proposed that adult stem cells develop into insulin-producing cells, called beta cells, in the pancreas. Instead, the beta cells themselves divide, although slowly, to replenish their own population. Release

U.S. scientists have shown that bone marrow stem cells can switch roles and produce keratocan, a protein involved in the growth of the cornea. Release

The state of Wisconsin has given a $1 million combined loan and grant to Stemina Biomarker Discovery, which is involved in embryonic stem cell research. Stemina is in the process of raising $1.5 million in angel funds. Report

Cancer Research

A team of scientists at team at Queen Mary, University of London have developed a 3-D model of breast cancer in the laboratory - a development that should accelerate research in the field and possibly do away with the need for animal studies. Report

Working with a compilation of research studies, scientists pinpointed a list of more than 200 chemicals in the environment that are linked to breast cancer in animal tests. The team set out to assess the growing volume of environmental triggers for one of the deadliest forms of cancers. Report

A new study of Gardasil indicates that the HPV vaccine had only limited success in preventing cancer precursors in teen girls. But researchers noted that the problem was due to the fact that many of the girls in the three-year study had already been exposed to the virus. Report

HPV has also been linked to an increased risk of throat cancer. Report

Over the next three months scientists in Hong Kong and Australia will test an experimental cancer therapy that isolates and trains the white blood cells in nose and throat cancer patients to attack the disease. They're working on the theory that classes of t-cells have memory. Once they've fought an invader off, they can be re-injected back into a patient to spur a similar response. Report

Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have discovered inherited variations in certain genes that make children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia susceptible to the toxic side effects caused by chemotherapy medications. Release

More Research

Scientists at Sheffield University say they have developed artificial blood made from plastic molecules with an iron atom at the core that can carry oxygen throughout the body. Report

A research team at Columbia University Medical Center found that by manipulating a gene linked to cell growth they were able to spur mice to create new cells that could be used to repair damage from a heart attack. "We genetically engineered these mice to keep expressing this gene that becomes silent after birth," said researcher Hina Chaudhry. Report

Researchers at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine developed the first antibody that detects the only known cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease. Release

A glucosamine-like dietary supplement has been found to suppress the damaging autoimmune response seen in multiple sclerosis and type-1 diabetes mellitus, according to University of California, Irvine health sciences researchers. Release

A thin strip that dissolves in the mouth like a popular breath-freshener could someday provide life-saving rotavirus vaccine to infants in impoverished areas. The drug-delivery system was developed by Johns Hopkins undergraduate biomedical engineering students. Release

The identification of more than 200 new proteins that interact with the mutated protein that causes Huntington's disease opens the door to developing treatments for the fatal neurodegenerative disorder, says a Baylor College of Medicine researcher. Release

UCLA AIDS Institute researchers have found a peptide that encourages HIV infection. They say that the work opens the way to using peptides with HIV-based vectors for a new gene therapy approach to the disease. Release

The University of California, Los Angeles, and U.S. Veterans Affairs researchers say Parkinson's disease and narcolepsy share something in common. The findings suggest a different clinical course of treatment for people suffering with Parkinson's that may ameliorate their sleep symptoms, according to the report published in the June issue of the journal Brain. Release

A fundamental genetic mechanism that shuts down an important gene in healthy immune system cells has been discovered that could one day lead to new therapies against infections, leukemia and other cancers. Results of a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study on the mechanism, called a somatic stop-codon mutation, are being reported in the online journal PLoS ONE. Release

Federal officials have launched two new initiatives aimed at increasing the number of minorities in clinical trials. Currently, whites make up 89 percent of volunteers. Report

And finally… UK insurers say they may ask for permission to start using the results of genetic tests to set the rates for high-value policies. Report