‘Stressed’ Stem Cell Breakthrough

Researchers have transformed specialized cells into an embryonic-like state simply by stressing them out a bit—an unexpected finding that may offer an easier route for treating diseases with patient-specific stem cells.

Stem cells that can become all other tissue types are typically obtained in two ways. One requires the destruction of an embryonic clone of a patient, which is ethically controversial. The other, which uses genes to reprogram a patient\’s mature cells into an embryonic-like state, carries the risk of cancer.

Now, in a series of pathbreaking experiments done over five years, scientists have shown that merely exposing blood cells from newborn mice to a low-acid environment—the source of stress—changes them to an embryonic-like state. The key advantage is that no potentially risky genetic manipulation was needed.

via ‘Stressed’ Stem Cell Breakthrough – WSJ.com.


3D Imaging of Live Cells

New Technique Shows Living Cells In 3-D

A new method of creating 3-D images of living cells without disturbing them promises to open an unprecedented view into how they operate.

University of Illinois engineers say the technique, called white-light diffraction tomography, will let researchers watch cellular processes as they unfold, the effects of drugs and how stem cells change into specialized cells.

The technique uses conventional microscopes and white light, so scientists don’t have to bathe bacterial or other cells in dyes, other chemicals, radiation or mechanical forces that would destroy them.


Angioplasty and its revolutionary impact over 50 years

In the 1960s patients with a blocked artery would have required major open surgery and a hospital stay of a week or more.

Half a century on, patients are treated in a matter of hours and return home the same day – and it\’s all thanks to the angioplasty procedure.

Dr Duncan Ettles, president of the British Society of Interventional Radiology and a consultant vascular radiologist, says it has had a revolutionary impact on medicine.

Instead of opening up blood vessels to remove a blockage, doctors can access and treat them simply by inserting a catheter into an artery and following its movements on an X-ray screen.An image of a stent inserted into a coronary artery to keep it open

via BBC News – Angioplasty and its revolutionary impact over 50 years.

Neural prosthesis restores behavior after brain injury

Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and University of Kansas Medical Center have restored behavior—in this case, the ability to reach through a narrow opening and grasp food—using a neural prosthesis in a rat model of brain injury.

Ultimately, the team hopes to develop a device that rapidly and substantially improves function after brain injury in humans. There is no such commercial treatment for the 1.5 million Americans, including soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or the nearly 800,000 stroke victims who suffer weakness or paralysis in the United States, annually.

The prosthesis, called a brain-machine-brain interface, is a closed-loop microelectronic system. It records signals from one part of the brain, processes them in real time, and then bridges the injury by stimulating a second part of the brain that had lost connectivity.

Their work is published online this week in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Human brain









via Neural prosthesis restores behavior after brain injury | PsyPost.

‘Beige’ cells key to healthy fat

“Beige fat” cells found in healthy subcutaneous fat in mice play a critical role in protecting the body from the disease risks of obesity, report researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who say their study findings may have implications for therapy of obesity-related illness in humans.

A report in the journal Cell suggests that the presence of beige fat, a type of fat cell that can burn energy to release heat, is what makes subcutaneous obesity relatively healthy compared with visceral fat inside the abdomen, which largely lacks beige fat cells and is associated with increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, and death.

Excess calories in overweight people are stored in fatty tissues mainly composed of white fat cells. Beige fat is present in scattered deposits in adult humans, mixed in with white fat. Beige cells can activate a “thermogenic” mechanism that burns stored fat to make heat. When this occurs within white fat, the process is called “browning.”

via ‘Beige’ cells key to healthy fat | Harvard Gazette.

Obesity and Diabetes: Why There Is No Obesity Paradox

Recent studies suggesting that heavier people with diabetes have lower death rates than normal weight patients may be a myth.

A strong body of research shows that being overweight or obese puts people at risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even early death. But several small studies connecting obesity to a protective effect against type 2 diabetes-related death have raised questions about a possible ‘obesity paradox,’ and whether weight can be a benefit in preventing progression of the disease. A 2012 study published in the journal JAMA, for example, studied 2,625 people recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, of which only 12% were normal weight. But the larger people with diabetes lived longer than their thinner peers.

Why the heavier people lived longer wasn’t clear; the researchers speculated that genetics, or the type of fat that certain obese people accumulated compared to normal weight individuals could be responsible.

But in a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists say that’s unlikely. “We didn’t see this protective effect at all,” the study’s leader, Diedre Tobias of the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Associated Press. “The lowest risk was seen in the normal-weight category.”

via Obesity and Diabetes: Why There Is No Obesity Paradox | TIME.com.

Epigenetics: A timeline

Researchers are clarifying epigenetic intricacies such as missing heritability, disease markers, methylated proteins, and imprinted genes. Learn about the history of epigenetics in this timeline spanning 130 years.

Researchers take step toward developing ‘universal’ flu vaccine

Every year, the approach of flu season sets off a medical guessing game, with life or death consequences.

There are many different strains of flu, and they vary from year to year. So each season, health authorities must make an educated guess and tell manufacturers which variants of the flu their vaccines should target.

Even when this system works, flu-related illnesses kill 3,000 to 49,000 Americans annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A bad guess or the unexpected emergence of a virulent strain can send the death toll higher than expected.

Against this backdrop, Stanford researchers report promising steps toward the creation of a universal flu vaccine, one that could be produced more quickly and offer broader protection than the virus-specific inoculants available today.

via Researchers take step toward developing ‘universal’ flu vaccine – Office of Communications & Public Affairs – Stanford University School of Medicine.

Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.

The breast is made up of lobes and ducts. Each breast has 15 to 20 sections called lobes, which have many smaller sections called lobules. The lobes and lobules are connected by thin tubes called ducts.

Drawing of female breast anatomy showing  the lymph nodes, nipple, areola, chest wall, ribs, muscle, fatty tissue, lobe, and ducts.

Anatomy of the female breast. The nipple and areola are shown on the outside of the breast. The lymph nodes, lobes, lobules, ducts, and other parts of the inside of the breast are also shown.

Each breast also contains blood vessels and lymph vessels. The lymph vessels carry an almost colorless fluid called lymph. The lymph vessels lead to small, bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes that help the body fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are found throughout the body. Clusters of lymph nodes are found near the breast in the axilla (under the arm), above the collarbone, and in the chest.

via Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy (PDQ®) – National Cancer Institute.

How Our Minds Went Viral

Did viruses help make us human? As weird as it sounds, the question is actually a reasonable one to ask. And now scientists have offered some evidence that the answer may be yes.

If you’re sick right now with the flu or a cold, the viruses infecting you are just passing through. They invade your cells and make new copies of themselves, which burst forth and infect other cells. Eventually your immune system will wipe them out, but there’s a fair chance some of them may escape and infect someone else.

But sometimes viruses can merge into our genomes. Some viruses, for example, hijack our cells by inserting its genes into our own DNA. If they happen to slip into the genome of an egg, they can potentially get a new lease on life. If the egg is fertilized and grows into an embryo, the new cells will also contain the virus’s DNA. And when that embryo bebrain virus.001

via How Our Minds Went Viral – Phenomena: The Loom.

▶ Atherosclerosis

This 3d medical animation illustrates the story of how the buildup of cholesterol plaque causes a heart attack (myocardial infarction) from a blocked coronary artery due to atherosclerosis, which is chronic inflammation of the blood vessels. Beginning with damage to the endothelial arterial wall, the animation shows how a white blood cell entering the wall of the artery differentiates (changes) into a macrophage, grabbing and digesting cholesterol.

As the cell does its job, it transforms into a foam cell, which, unfortunately, becomes part of the plaque within the blood vessel wall. Ultimately, over a period of years, the plaque grows and ruptures the blood vessel wall, spilling into the blood stream and eventually blocking the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) supplying the left ventricle.

via ▶ Atherosclerosis – YouTube.

With Help of Victims From 1849, Scientists Decode Early Strain of Cholera

Using bits of human intestine stored in a Philadelphia medical museum in 1849, scientists have decoded the genes of an early form of cholera, the deadly diarrheal disease that first swept the globe just a few decades earlier.

The disease is still a lethal menace, as was shown in Haiti four years ago, when an unexpected outbreak after an earthquake killed more than 8,000 and hospitalized hundreds of thousands more. But it has evolved since the 19th-century pandemics, which killed millions; the new work, by scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, creates the first chance to study the genome of the pandemic “classical” strain and understand its roots.

via With Help of Victims From 1849, Scientists Decode Early Strain of Cholera – NYTimes.com.