Gene flaw found in induced stem cells

Stem-cell researchers have puzzled over why reprogrammed cells taken from adult tissues are often slower to divide and much less robust than their embryo-derived counterparts.

Now, a team has discovered the key genetic difference between embryonic and adult-derived stem cells in mice. If confirmed in humans, the finding could help clinicians to select only the heartiest stem cells for therapeutic applications and disease modelling.

Mouse stem cells can be used to create neurons (above) for the screening of drugs.Y.SUN, UCSF/CIR

via Gene flaw found in induced stem cells : Nature News.

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Study: Chocolate may reduce heart risk

The Easter Bunny might lower your chances of having a heart problem. According to a new study, small doses of chocolate every day could decrease your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 40%.

German researchers followed nearly 20,000 people over eight years, sending them several questionnaires about their diet and exercise habits.

They found people who had an average of six grams of chocolate per day — or about one square of a chocolate bar — had a 39% lower risk of either a heart attack or stroke. The study is scheduled to be published Wednesday in the European Heart Journal.

via Study: Chocolate may reduce heart risk – USATODAY.com.

Prostate drug may work as a preventive

Men at an above-normal risk of prostate cancer may be able to reduce their risk of developing the disease by taking a drug already on the market.

In research reported Wednesday, the drug dutasteride, currently used to shrink enlarged prostates, was found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer by about a quarter in high-risk men. The medication, sold under the brand name Avodart, apparently caused small tumors to stop growing or even to shrink, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

via Prostate drug may work as a preventive – latimes.com.

Cancer vaccines may be on the verge of wider use

One of the persistent frustrations in cancer treatment has been the way that tumors can evade our immune systems as they grow and multiply inside our bodies.

Even though cancer cells have special surface markers, known as antigens, the body often doesn’t seem to be able to mount a full-fledged attack against the tumors, and the longer they last, the more they seem to suppress the immune response.

Yet it doesn’t have to be that way, says a dedicated band of scientists in universities and companies around the globe. In fact, they say, we may be on the verge of being able to vaccinate people against cancer in the same way we do with infectious diseases.

via Cancer vaccines may be on the verge of wider use.

Insulin-producing Cells Can Regenerate In Diabetic Mice

Replacements for some diabetics’ missing insulin-producing cells might be found in the patients’ own pancreases, a new study in mice suggests.

Alpha cells in the pancreas can spontaneously transform into insulin-producing beta cells, researchers from the University of Geneva in Switzerland report online in Nature April 4. The study, done in mice, is the first to reveal the pancreas’s ability to regenerate missing cells. Scientists were surprised to find that new beta cells arose from alpha cells in the pancreas, rather than stem cells.

f the discovery translates to people, scientists may one day be able to coax type 1 diabetics’ own alpha cells into replacing insulin-producing cells. Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, results when the immune system destroys beta cells in the pancreas. People with the disease must take lifelong injections of insulin in order to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high.

via Insulin-producing Cells Can Regenerate In Diabetic Mice – Science News.

Prostate Cancer Results While You Wait

In an office park in Woburn, MA, a volunteer presents his fingertip for a quick finger stick. A phlebotomist wicks up the small drop of blood with a specially made square of plastic, then snaps the plastic into a credit-card sized microfluidics cartridge and feeds it into a special reader. Fifteen minutes later, the device spits out the volunteer’s prostate specific antigen (PSA) level, a protein used to monitor the return of prostate cancer after treatment.

Detecting cancer: Claros Diagnostics has developed a microfluidics cartridge and reader (above) designed to detect PSA levels in prostate cancer patients in just 15 minutes.Credit: Claros Diagnostics

The rapid results are possible because of a novel microfluidics technology developed by startup Claros Diagnostics, which hopes to make quick PSA monitoring in the doctor’s office a reality. If approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the device will be one of the first examples of long-awaited microfluidics-based diagnostics tests that can be performed in the hospital or doctor’s office. While microfluidics–which allows for the manipulation of fluids on a chip at microscopic scales–has been around for a decade, the complexity and expense has kept it largely limited to research applications.

via Technology Review: Prostate Cancer Results While You Wait.

To starve a tumor

Since the 1920s, scientists have known that cancer cells generate energy differently than normal cells, a phenomenon dubbed the “Warburg effect” after its discoverer, German biochemist Otto Warburg. However, the field of cancer-cell metabolism has been largely ignored since the 1970s, when researchers flocked to study newly discovered cancer-causing genes.

Now a new generation of researchers is setting its sights on cancer cells’ bizarre and seemingly inefficient metabolism, which appears to be tightly linked to many of the genes already implicated in cancer.

via To starve a tumor.