Scientists identifies gene that regulates blood-forming fetal stem cells

In the rancorous public debate over federal research funding, stem cells are generally assigned to one of two categories: embryonic or adult. But that’s a false dichotomy and an oversimplification. A new University of Michigan study adds to mounting evidence that stem cells in the developing fetus are distinct from both embryonic and adult stem cells.

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Risk genes for multiple sclerosis uncovered

A large-scale genomic study has uncovered new genetic variations associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), findings that suggest a possible link between MS and other autoimmune diseases. The study, led by an international consortium of clinical scientists and genomics experts, is the first comprehensive study investigating the genetic basis of MS. Findings appear in the July 29 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Link found between immune system and high plasma lipid levels

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found an unsuspected link between the immune system and high plasma lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood) in mice. The finding could lead to new ways to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering elevated lipid levels.
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Study uncovers a lethal secret of 1918 influenza virus

In a study of non-human primates infected with the influenza virus that killed 50 million people in 1918, an international team of scientists has found a critical clue to how the virus killed so quickly and efficiently. Writing this week (Jan. 18, 2007) in the journal Nature, a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka reveals how the 1918 virus – modern history’s most savage influenza strain – unleashes an immune response that destroys the lungs in a matter of days, leading to death.

The finding is important because it provides insight into how the virus that swept the world in the closing days of World War I was so efficiently deadly, claiming many of its victims people in the prime of life. The work suggests that it may be possible in future outbreaks of highly pathogenic flu to stem the tide of death through early intervention.
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Cellular pathway yields potential new weapon in vaccine arsenal

When a cell has to destroy any of its organelles or protein aggregates, it envelops them in a membrane, forming an autophagosome, and then moves them to another compartment, the lysosome, for digestion. Two years ago, Rockefeller University assistant professor Christian Münz showed that this process, called autophagy, sensitizes cells for recognition by the immune system’s helper T cells. But he didn’t know how often this pathway is used or how efficient it is. Now, a new study published online today in the journal Immunity goes a long way toward addressing these questions and shows that the pathway is so common that it could be a valuable new way of boosting vaccine efficacy.

DCs
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Molecule linked to autoimmune disease relapses identified

The ebb and flow of such autoimmune diseases as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis has long been a perplexing mystery. But new findings from the Stanford University School of Medicine bring scientists closer to solving the puzzle, identifying a molecule that appears to play a central role in relapses.
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‘Tribbles’ protein implicated in common and aggressive form of leukemia

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have identified a new protein associated with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Several lines of evidence point to a protein called Tribbles, named after the furry creatures that took over the starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. Tribbles was first described in fruit flies.

“Tribbles had never been directly linked to human malignancy,” says senior author Warren S. Pear, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “This is a new protein to human cancer and has a specific and overwhelming effect when expressed in hematopoietic stem cells, the cell type that gives rise to all elements of the blood.”
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Vaccine for brain tumors shows promising results

A vaccine for treating a recurrent cancer of the central nervous system that occurs primarily in the brain, known as glioma, has shown promising results in preliminary data from a clinical trial at UCSF Medical Center.

Findings from the first group of six patients in the study, being conducted at the UCSF Brain Tumor Research Center, showed that vitespen (trademarked as Oncophage), a vaccine made from the patient’s own tumor, was associated with tumor-specific immune response in patients with recurrent, high-grade glioma.
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Scientists provide insights into how the immune system avoids attacking itself

finding by University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers about how immune cells “decide” to become active or inactive may have applications in fighting cancerous tumors, autoimmune diseases, and organ transplant rejection. Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Professor Gary A. Koretzky, MD, PhD, director of the Signal Transduction Program at Penn’s Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute describes, in the current issue of Nature Immunology, one way in which T cells may develop tolerance to host cells and proteins. Koretzky and colleagues found that small fatty acids called diacylglycerols (DAGs), and the enzymes that metabolize them, are critical players in the molecular pathway that leads to activity versus inactivity.
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Researchers map out networks that determine cell fate

A two-step process appears to regulate cell fate decisions for many types of developing cells, according to researchers from the University of Chicago.

This finding sheds light on a puzzling behavior. For some differentiating stem cells, the first step leads not to a final decision but to a new choice. In response to the initial chemical signal, these cells take on the genetic signatures of two different cell types. It often requires a second signal for them to commit to a single cellular identity.
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Researchers genetically transform immune cells into tumor fighters

A team of researchers has genetically engineered normal immune cells to become specialized tumor fighters, demonstrating for the first time that these engineered cells can persist in the body and shrink large tumors in humans.
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Researchers develop T-cells from human embryonic stem cells

Researchers from the UCLA AIDS Institute and the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine have demonstrated for the first time that human embryonic stem cells can be genetically manipulated and coaxed to develop into mature T-cells, raising hopes for a gene therapy to combat AIDS.

The study, to be published the week of July 3 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that it is possible to convert human embryonic stem cells into blood-forming stem cells that in turn can differentiate into the helper T-cells that HIV specifically targets. T-cells are one of the body’s main defenses against disease.
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Drug that battles resistance to leukemia pill Gleevec ‘extremely effective’ against cancer

An experimental therapy that battles drug resistance in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) has proved "extremely effective" in fighting cancer, giving patients for whom all conventional therapies have failed another option, researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center reported.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb therapy, Sprycel (dasatinib), treats CML that has mutated and becomes resistant to the leukemia pill Gleevec, said Dr. Charles Sawyers, a professor of hematology/oncology, a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and lead author of the study, published in the June 15, 2006 issue of the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.
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HIV-1’s high virulence might be an accident of evolution

The virulence characteristic of HIV-1–the virus predominantly responsible for human AIDS–might amount to an accident of evolution, new evidence reveals. A gene function lost during the course of viral evolution predisposed HIV-1 to spur the fatal immune system failures that are the hallmarks of AIDS, researchers report in the June 16, 2006 Cell.

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AIDS vaccine research offers new insights on survival in monkey models of HIV infection

New insights into how a subpopulation of helper T-cells provides immunity and promotes survival following infection with an AIDS-like virus offer a new means of predicting an AIDS vaccine's effectiveness, a discovery that could help scientists as they test these vaccines in clinical trials.

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