ALSO NOTED: Mouse skin cells used in cloning; New approach to attacking tumors; PROs important in FDA approvals;

Stem cell research

Researchers have cloned mice from mouse skin cells, raising the prospect of gaining human stem cells for therapeutic use that would be free of immune reactions. Release

Japanese scientists have developed a process to use stem cell-enriched fat cells in breast augmentation procedures. They're hoping to develop a more natural looking alternative to breast implants. Report

Human nerve stem cells transplanted into rats' damaged spinal cords have survived, grown and in some cases connected with the rats' own spinal cord cells in a Johns Hopkins study. Release

Embryonic stem cell banks in the U.S. and U.K. say they'll work together to help encourage research in the field while improving efficiency in making lines available to scientists. Report

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center scientists have found a set of "master switches" that keep adult blood-forming stem cells in their primitive state. Unlocking the switches' code may one day enable scientists to grow new blood cells for transplant into patients with cancer and other bone marrow disorders. Release

The Iowa Senate approved a bill allowing embryonic stem cell research. Report

BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics has initiated a safety trial using an animal model of Parkinson's disease in primates. Release

Cancer research

A large animal study has shown that certain microsecond electrical pulses can punch nanoscale holes in the membranes of target cells without harming tissue scaffolding, including that in the blood vessels--a potential breakthrough in minimally invasive surgical treatments of tumors. Report

The same genetic mutations appear in several cancers, according to researchers, which raise the possibility that a drug for one may have multiple uses. Report

A team of scientists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore have used liposomes to carry cancer therapies into a tumor, raising the possibility of a fresh way to attack tumors. To speed the activity of liposomes and enhance the therapy, the used the bacterium Clostridium to break down the liposomes and release the drugs more quickly. Report

Genetic fingerprints that reveal where a brain cell came from remain distinct even after the cell becomes a brain tumor, an international coalition of scientists will report in the February 1 issue of Cancer Research. Report

A study undertaken by a group of Spanish scientists, among which were members of the University Clinic of the University of Navarra and the Centre for Applied Medical Research, have recently discovered a new line of treatment for patients with acute lymphoblastic leucemia. The conclusions of the research have been published in Blood, the official journal of the American Haematology Association. Report

An Italian study has concluded that breast cancer patients taking tamoxifene can improve their rate of survival by switching to an aromatase inhibitor. Report

Researchers have presented a mouse model of non-small cell lung cancer which will serve as a useful tool to test the efficacy of novel chemotherapeutic drug therapies in the early stages of lung tumorigenesis. Their paper provides evidence to support the use of a relatively new class of drugs, called MEK inhibitors, for lung cancer patients whose tumors contain mutations in the BRaf gene. Release

Researchers have discovered that the same genetic regulator that triggers growth of stem cells during brain development also plays a central role in the development of the lethal brain cancer malignant glioma. In experiments on mice with such gliomas, they showed that knocking out the function of a particular regulatory protein, Olig2, almost completely eliminated tumor formation. Release

A study finds that p38-alpha MAPK can sense oxidative stress in cells and respond by inhibiting tumor formation. The research provides insight into the specific mechanisms by which á suppresses the development of cancer and identifies possible targets for development of new anticancer therapeutics. Release

More Research

Patient-reported outcomes, or PROs, are playing an increasingly important role in determining whether or not the FDA approves a new therapy. Report

Scottish scientists were able to learn how to switch off and then slowly switch back on the MECP2 gene in mice, eliminating symptoms of Rett syndrome, an ailment quite similar to autism. The researchers are quick to point out that they're still uncertain of the procedure, but that it raises hopes for a long-term solution. Article

A second genetic defect has been uncovered that contributed to osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease which causes brittle, easily broken bones. Report

Three new studies show how a blood test can be used to determine if a fetus has any of a number of genetic diseases. And researchers involved in the studies say their work also points to the development of new therapies for in utero use. Report

A complex molecule and snake venom may provide researchers with a more reliable method of diagnosing human diseases and developing new drugs. Release

Scientists at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), the University of Iowa and Roche Molecular Systems are the first to identify a new gene variant that makes women more susceptible to developing heart disease. The affected gene is called Leukotriene C4 Synthase (LTC4S) and its variant could be identified through a genetic test at birth. The use of such a test would allow physicians to initiate preventative treatments to reduce or even eliminate the risk of heart disease in those women possessing the variant gene. Report

Researchers have shown for the first time that a mutated form of the human parkin gene inserted into Drosophila specifically results in the death of dopaminergic cells, ultimately resulting in Parkinson's-like motor dysfunction in the fly. Thus, the interaction of mutant parkin with dopamine may be key to understanding the cause of familial Parkinson's disease--Parkinson's that runs in families. Report

Université Laval Faculty of Medicine researchers have discovered that taking calcium and vitamin D supplements while on a weight loss program lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Report

In a finding that could have implications for AIDS vaccine design, researchers led by a team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have generated an atomic-level picture of a key portion of an HIV surface protein as it looks when bound to an infection-fighting antibody. Release

Just as homes have smoke detectors, cells have an enzyme that responds to a buildup of fatty acids by triggering the production of a key molecule in the biochemical pathway that breaks down these fatty acids, according to investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Release

Scientists know that a better understanding of how proteins bond could lead to more effective treatments for genetic disorders and other life-threatening conditions. Now, a pair of Florida State University researchers' new theory has been proven to accurately predict the association rate for proteins. Their theory is outlined in the February issue of the scientific journal Structure. Release

A completely new approach to the study of Alzheimer's disease, initiated by a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, may solve a critical piece in the puzzle of the disease. This tragic neurological illness progressively erases memory in its millions of victims. The key to the new approach is understanding the way certain proteins in the brain fold, or rather "misfold." Release

For those who pumped up the volume one too many times, UC Irvine researchers may have found a treatment for the hearing damage loud music can cause. A low-pitched sound, the researchers discovered, applied by a simple MP3 player suppressed and provided temporary relief from the high-pitch ringing tone associated with tinnitus. Report

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston believe they've found a way to spot the biochemical profile of an inappropriate immune response to viral infection--an important step toward developing new therapies that may stop the fatal immune system meltdowns caused by such deadly pathogens as the Ebola, Marburg and Lassa fever viruses, as well as the virus strain responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic. Report