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Pro-Test: standing up for science
Pro-Test: Standing Up For Science
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Archives for: November 2007

21/11/07

Permalink 01:30:30 pm, by Robin Email , 326 words, 3043 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

"Miracle in a test tube" thanks to animal research!

The media is buzzing with reports today of the publication of two papers describing how pluripotent stem cells have been derived from human skin cells reprogrammed by genetic modification.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7101834.stm
http://news.independent.co.uk/sci_tech/article3179631.ece

The achievements of Professor Shinya Yamanaka and Professor James Thomson will hopefully yield methods that allow the generation of stem cells specific to individual patients that can be used to treat disease, and also facilitate the creation of cell lines for use in drug testing that better reflect the diversity of human populations.

This work in human cells builds on previous work by Professor Yamanaka and Professor Rudolf Jaenisch which used mice to identify the genes whose expression was required to reprogram the skin cells (1, 2).

While the newspapers have welcomed this advance they've also sounded a note of caution as to whether this technique will be able to replace embryos as a source of pluripotent stem cells, with good reason since the mouse research found that the reprogrammed cells can cause tumours. A lot of work remains to be done before this technique can be considered safe and efficient enough for use in humans, much of which will depend on animal testing.

There is still great uncertainty as to which method of creating pluripotent stem cells will deliver in the long run, so research into cloning should continue. It's good to see that recent research using monkeys has solved some of the technical difficulties associated with cloning primates, which should make production of stem cells from cloned human embryos a more practical proposition.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7094215.stm

1) Okita K., Ichisaka T., Yamanaka S. "Generation of germline-competent induced pluripotent stem cells." /Nature /Vol. 448:313-317 (2007).
2) Wernig M., Meissner A., Foreman R., Brambrink T., Ku M., Hochedlinger K., Bernstein B.E , Jaenisch R. "In vitro reprogramming of fibroblasts into a pluripotent ES-cell-like state" /Nature /Vol. 448:318-324 (2007).

Paul Browne

20/11/07

Permalink 02:04:24 pm, by Robin Email , 182 words, 2173 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

Gene therapy breakthrough for Parkinson's disease

The BBC and Guardian newspaper today report that the results of a clinical trial to evaluate a gene therapy technique for the treatment of Parkinson's disease have been published in the scientific journal /Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. /

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7103127.stm
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/nov/20/medicalresearch.health

The results of the study conducted by Dr. David Eidelberg and colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine are very promising; not only does the treatment appear to be safe but in the majority of patients significant clinical improvements were observed that persisted a year after treatment.
Pro-Test have discussed Dr. Eidelberg's work before in an essay on the role of animals in research on gene therapy for Parkinson's disease http://www.pro-test.org.uk/facts.php?lt=aa
Development and pre-clinical evaluation of this therapy relied heavily on research using rats and monkeys, and Dr. Eidelberg's work is further proof if any were needed that animal research continues to have a vital role alongside brain imaging techniques such as PET.

Paul Browne

19/11/07

Permalink 09:20:22 pm, by Robin Email , 199 words, 1968 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

New Drug to Combat HIV

There was welcome news for HIV patients and the doctors who treat them
in the news today; the new anti-HIV drug Maraviroc (Celsentri),
developed by British scientists, has been approved for use in the UK.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7096317.stm

As with most anti-HIV drugs he development of Maraviroc relied heavily
on structural analysis and computer modeling of the interactions between
HIV and the CCR5 receptor to help design drug candidates, and in vitro
studies to test the anti-viral activity and toxicity of the drug
candidates. Animal experiments using mice, rats, and dogs were also
crucial, enabling scientists to assess pharmokinetics and toxicity as
early drug candidates were screened and redesigned. The results of
animal tests were a crucial factor in the decision to proceed to
clinical trials.

The paper below is worth a read as it is an unusually detailed account
of the iterative process of testing, redesign and re-testing during drug
development, and of the various complementary techniques used by scientists.

Wood A. and Armour D. "The discovery of the CCR5 receptor antagonist,
UK-427,857, a new agent for the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS."
Prog Med Chem. Vol. 43, pp. 239-271. (2005) PubMed: 15850827

Paul Browne

14/11/07

Permalink 12:20:33 pm, by Tom, 211 words, 1590 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

Illuminating Cancer Targets

Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are the most frequent cancer
treatments, but in recent years another technique known as Photodynamic
therapy (PDT) has established itself in the clinic. PDT destroys cancer
cells, but unlike radiotherapy and chemotherapy it also stimulates the
immune system to attack cancer cells. This phenomenon inspired
scientists to examine whether it can be used to manufacture therapeutic
vaccines that stimulate the immune system to specifically target
cancer cells.

In the British Journal of Cancer this week Dr Mladen Korbelik and
colleagues discuss a series of studies using a mouse model of squamous
cell carcinoma which demonstrate that /in vitro /PCT treatment of tumour
cells isolated from mice produces a vaccine that greatly reduces the
size of tumours and mouse mortality. They also identified the
conditions necessary for efficient vaccine production and use, for
example that the vaccine is more effective when injected close to the
site of the tumour, and is very effective when used alongside
conventional radiotherapy.

http://news.independent.co.uk/health/article3157784.ece
http://www.nature.com/bjc/journal/v97/n10/abs/6604059a.html

Developing treatments that can be tailored to an individuals cancer has
become a priority for cancer researchers, this novel use of PCT is a
welcome advance towards that goal.

Paul Browne

Stand Up For Science

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