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

25/12/07

Permalink 09:59:38 am, by Tom, 47 words, 1653 views   English (UK)
Categories: News

Merry Christmas

From everyone at Pro-Test we wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

The upcoming year will see the third Oxford rally in support of animal research in Oxford. So come one, come all - and stand up for the lifesaving research.

Many Regards

Tom

18/12/07

Permalink 01:31:37 pm, by Tom, 118 words, 2380 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

Nobel Laureates explain their work

As we reported earlier the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for
2007 went to Sir Martin Evans, Professor Mario Capecchi and Professor
Oliver Smithies for "their discoveries of principles for introducing
specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells".

At the award ceremony on the 7th December 2007 the three laureates gave
lectures discussing their work and its relevance to medical progress.
We heartily recommend these talks to anyone curious about gene targeting
and embryonic stem cells, and their myriad applications in 21st century
medical research.

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2007/evans-lecture.html
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2007/capecchi-lecture.html
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2007/smithies-lecture.html

Paul Browne

07/12/07

Permalink 11:32:43 am, by Tom, 357 words, 3190 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

"Miracle in a Test-Tube" Revisited

In a post a couple of weeks back we highlighed the key contributions made
by animal research to the development of techniques to create induced
pluripotent stem cells by using genetic modification to reprogram human
skin cells.

http://www.pro-test.org.uk/b2evo/index.php?blog=7&title=miracle_in_a_test_tube_thanks_to_animal_&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

At the time we noted that a major problem identified during mouse studies
by Professor Shinya Yamanaka was that a significant proportion mice
produced from reprogrammed cells developed tumours. It was thought that
one of the four genes that Prof. Yamanake used to reprogram the cells, a
notorious oncogene called c-Myc, was responsible for the problem.

In a study published online in the journal Nature Biotechnology Prof.
Yamanaka has demonstrated a new protocol that does not involve c-myc.
With this new protocol he has been able to produce induced pluripotent
stem cells from both mouse and human skin cells. What is more these new
stem cells were not only of high quality, but mice derived from them did
not develop tumours.
http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nbt1374.html

In another study published online in Science this week Professor Rudolf Jaenisch and Professor Tim Townes have used reprogrammed cells to successfully treat sickle cell anemia in mice. They first produced induced pluripotent stem cells from the skin cells of mice with sickle cell anemia, next they replaced the defective hemoglobin gene in with a healthy gene and coaxed these mended stem cells to become blood stem cells. Finally they injected the blood stem cells into sickle cell mice whose own defective blood producing system had been partially destroyed by radiation. Subsequently the symptoms of sickle cell anemia were found to be much reduced in the treated mice, and their general health was much better than untreated sickle cell mice.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/dec/07/stemcells
http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/1120/1

This is excellent news and provides further evidence that reprogramming cells may be a practical way to produce stem cells for therpeutic purposes.

Paul Browne

Permalink 11:31:59 am, by Tom, 454 words, 1542 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

A little help for the heart, part 2

In an article on the BBC website Professor Peter Weissberg, medical
director of the British Heart Foundation, made the following statement:

“This is a vital insight, only possible from animal studies, which should
help direct current research using stem cells to prevent the dangerous
consequences of heart attacks in people”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7129376.stm

It is always gratifying to read such a clear statements of support for
animal research from the medical director of one of Britain’s leading
research charities, and a look at the research being discussed shows why
he is so enthusiastic.

The last decade has seen great interest in harnessing the power of stem
cells to repair heart tissue that has been damaged by heart attack. While
results from both animal studies and human clinical trials have
demonstrated that stem cell transplants can result in modest improvement
in heart function there have been concerns that they do not prevent a
condition called ventricular tachycardia (VT), where the heart beats with
an unusually fast rhythm, and in the case of transplanted skeletal
myoblasts (SM) may even increase the likelihood it happening. VT is the
main cause of sudden death in patients after a heart attack, so reducing
its’ incidence is a priority for researchers.

In a study published in the scientific journal Nature this week Dr Bernd
Fleischmann and colleagues at Bonn University examined whether the
transplantation of embryonic cardiomyocytes (eCMs) could prevent VT in
mice which had previously had an induced heart attack (1). They compared
this treatment with SM transplant. The results were clear, while SM
transplantation slightly increased the risk of VT eCM transplantation
decreased vulnerability to VT, and it was found that the transplanted eCMs
grafted to the heart muscle tissue and helped to regulate the heart
rhythm. They next examined whether transplanting skeletal myoblasts
expressing the connexin 43 gene, a gene that is normally only expressed in
embryonic cardiomyocytes, could also graft into heart tissue and reduce
the risk of VT, and discovered that they were almost as good at
preventing VT as eCMs.

The importance of this research is that it shows that the use of stem
cells to treat heart attack patients is potentially far more useful than
previously thought, and may even be able to replace electronic pacemakers
in some patients. Not only that but it also shows that adult skeletal
myoblasts can be modified so that they can reduce the incidence of VT,
such adult cells may be a more practical source than those derived from
embryos.

A very significant advance indeed, and one that would have been impossible
without animal research!

1) Roell W. et al. “Engraftment of connexin 43-expressing cells prevents
post-infarct arrhythmia” Nature Vol. 450, pp. 819-824 (2007).

Paul Browne

06/12/07

Permalink 01:39:59 pm, by Tom, 313 words, 1549 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

A little help for the Heart

The BBC reported this week that Peter Houghton, the first patient in the
UK to be fitted with a ventricular assist pump, has died. Back in June
2000 his heart was down to 10% of its normal capacity and he had only
weeks to live when the miniature Jarvik 2000 pump, which uses a turbine
to increase the power of each heartbeat, was implanted in his left
ventricle; with its assistance he lived for another seven years.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/7125387.stm

Ventricular assist pumps which use continuous-flow such as the Jarvik
2000 have an advantage over other "artificial hearts" because they work
with the patient's own heart rather than replacing it, and their smaller
size allows them be fully implanted. These advances enable doctors to
provide support to many heart failure patients for far longer periods
than was previously possible.

The results of studies using calves were crucial to the development of
prototypes of the Jarvik 2000 and evaluation of the final design (1),
and a pediatric version is now under evaluation in sheep (2) . In its
first few years of clinical use the ventricular assist pump has helped
to save the lives of several hundred patients suffering from severe
heart failure, resulting in it gaining approval in Europe both as a
bridge to keep patients alive until a heart becomes available for
transplant and for lifetime use.

Peter Houghton was himself a great campaigner for more research into
treatments for heart failure, and would no doubt be pleased to know that
scientists are working hard to improve the technology that kept him
alive for many years.

1) Frazier O.H. /et al./ "Research and Development of an Implantable,
Axial-Flow Left Ventricular Assist Device: The Jarvik 2000 Heart,"
/Annals of Thoracic Surgery/ Vol. 71, pp. S125-S132 (2001) .
2) Kilic A. /et al./ "Early in vivo experience with the pediatric Jarvik
2000 heart." /ASAIO J./ Vol. 53(3), pp. 374-378(2007)

Paul Browne

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