Scientists turn fat into muscle

Los Angeles: Scientists have turned fat cells into muscle cells in an experiment published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers said that although they would not be able to use the cells to turn fat tummies into flat ones the experiment showed how fat can be a source of master cells which could be used to repair organs. These cells are of a type that help the heart beat and blood flow, push food through the digestive system and make bladders fill and empty.

Assistant Professor Larissa Rodriguez from the Department of Urology at the University of Los Angeles medical school said the cells may prove a source to regenerate and repair damaged organs.

Rodriguez and colleagues incubated adipose-derived stem cells in a nourishing mixture of growth factors, human proteins that encouraged the cells to become smooth muscle cells.

The researchers said scientists have been looking for sources of smooth muscle for organ repair and treating heart disease, gastrointestinal diseases and bladder dysfunction. Previous studies that used cells from a patients own organ failed because the organ was damaged or diseased.

But transplants grown from a patient’s own fat could be used with no need for anti-rejection drugs. Smooth muscle cells have been produced from stem cells found in the brain and bone marrow, but acquiring stem cells from fat is much easier.

The stem cells found in fat are known as multipotent stem cells. They can produce a variety of cell and tissue types, but are not as flexible as embryonic stem cells.

Last week, President George W. Bush vetoed a bill that would have broadened federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, saying he preferred that researchers pursue so-called adult stem cells, such as those used at UCLA.

Many groups have been looking to fat as a source of stem cells. In April, Cytori Therapeutics Inc. said it was starting a clinical trial to test whether stem cells derived from fat can be used to regenerate breast tissue.

Other researchers have been trying to get stem cells from liposuction specimens.

In a second study published in the same journal, British researchers said they found one important protein that keeps stem cells in a quiescent and non-dividing stage.

Fiona Watt of Cancer Research UK and colleagues studied stem cells from human skin and found a protein known as Lrig1 kept the skin cells from proliferating. When Lrig1 production was silenced, the stem cells began growing and dividing.

The finding may not only offer important information to stem cell researchers, but may also offer insights into cancer, Watt’s team said. In cancer, cells ignore the normal signals from the body and proliferate uncontrollably. The protein is also involved in psoriasis.

Stem cell hope for stroke victims

New York: scientists may have discovered a new way to use stem cells to make the brain repair itself after a stroke, which brings much hope for stroke victims.

The research, by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Maryland, was published on Sunday in Nature magazine.

Rats, whose brains had been starved of oxygen to simulate having a stroke, were studied by scientists. By stimulating a brain receptor known as “notch,” researchers were able to promote new stem cell growth in the brains of the rats, thus partially reversing the effect of the stroke simulation.

The discovery will raise hopes for new treatments for stroke, using the body’s own stem cells to aid healing.

Other treatments using embryonic stem cells have been restricted because implanted cells come under attack from the body’s immune system.

The researchers wrote: “New cell therapies based on embryonic stem (ES) cells are supported by work in animal models of human disease.

They are difficult to implement, however, because it is hard to grow tissue-specific precursors in the laboratory and it is difficult to deliver them to diffuse disease sites in the body without stimulating an immune response.”

Brain stem stells may restore walking ability

Toronto: Spinal-cord damage resulting in paralysis may soon be treated with brain stem cells allowing patients to walk again, according to a new Canadian study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Although the study has been carried out on rats, human research is predicted to begin in five to ten years.

Neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Fehlings, of the Krembil Neuroscience Center at Toronto Western Research Institute led a team that injected stem cells extracted from mouse brains to the injury site of paralysed rats with spinal injuries.

The rats were also given a drug cocktail including growth hormone, cyclosporine to prevent rejection and the anti-inflammatory minocycline, which researchers believe attributed to the success of the therapy by reducing the spinal cord inflammation and cell damage and boosting the survival of stem cells.

Researchers found that rats receiving the stem cells restored their walking ability although the injections of stem cells could not completely restore the lost capability.

Fehling said the team had not aimed to regrow the spinal cord but to attempt replacement of one cell type.

The type of cells used in the study was neural precursor cells, which are extracted from mouse brains and ready to turn into a central nervous system cell. Researchers said 30 percent of the stem cells could survive the t ransplant process and help the recipients repair the spinal cord damage.

The researchers said it was necessary for the recipients’ to have viable nerve fibres for the stem cell therapy to work. The stem cells injected in the spinal cord work to develop myelin, the insulating layer around nerve fibers that transmits signals to the brain. About 50 percent of patients have the nerve fibers intact when they get injured. The sooner the therapy is administered also assists in a more effective outcome.

The treatment may as well be applicable to humans, according to the researchers, because the stem cells used for the injection may be extracted from the patients’ own brains using a biopsy needle. Stem cells can be extracted from brains other people donate.

Stem cells are present in many parts of the body such as bone marrow, fetuses, embryos, u mbilical cord b lood and even t eeth. Stem cell research is a hot issue because much of the research would involve fetuses and or embryos, which draws objections from many people. But researchers said the neural precursor cells used are adult stem cells that only help produce nerve cells.

Nose stem cells may be used to repair spinal cord damage

London: British scientists are developing a technique to aid paralysed patients to walk using stem cells to repair spinal cord damage. It may also benefit stroke victims and allow some blind and deaf people to see and hear.

It takes self-regenerating stem cells from nerves in the lining of the nose and injects them into damaged points in the spine.

The cells provide a bridge enabling spinal nerves to grow and potentially to re-connect, alleviating or possibly curing paralysis.

The first ten patients will be treated next year at the National Hospital in Queen’s Square, London, following successful tests in dogs and rats.

The research has been called the ‘Superman’ spinal cure after actor Christopher Reeve, who played the superhero.

Reeve campaigned tirelessly for stem cell research after being paralysed in a horse riding accident in 1995.

He died last year aged 52 without seeing his dream come true.

Professor Geoffrey Raisman, who is leading the clinical trials, was presented with a research medal in the actor’s name by Meryl Streep in New York last week.

He told a London conference yesterday: ‘It will be historic if we can show it works. It will open the door.

‘There is enormous potential for treating injuries which at the moment cannot be cured.’

The stem cells used are in nerves which connect the nose with the brain, allowing us to smell.

Unlike most other cells in the body, these regenerate throughout adulthood.

The cells will be multiplied in the laboratory and injected into the spinal cord.

Harvesting the cells is difficult and currently only a small number can be retrieved, limiting the type of injury that can be treated.

‘At present we can only multiply the cells two or threefold,’ said Professor Raisman, who began his research 35 years ago.

‘We have to spread them as thinly as possible to form a bridge, so we can only treat small injuries.

‘If this works there will be a tidal wave of interest and we can then work to get bigger replication.’

The first patients will have suffered an injury where the nerves in their arm have lost their connection with the spinal cord, resulting in limited arm movement.

The injury normally occurs in motorbike accidents and never recovers of its own accord.

Professor Raisman, who is chairman of the committee on neurological regeneration at the Institute of Neurology, University College London, said: ‘We know that no one with this condition has ever recoveredso if we get one patient to recover it is important.

‘We are trying something that has never been done. This is a unique trial and we hope it will lead to an incredible advance.

‘There is no way currently of repairing damage to the spinal cord and nerves.

‘I have spent my lifetime on this, and this is the crucial step.’

Scientists in China are reported to have successfully treated spinal cord victims but this has not been independently corroborated.

Trials are being carried out in Australia, with results expected in 2007.

Professor Raisman added: ‘Stroke, blindness and deafness can all be caused by nerve damage and this is the first step towards a treatment.

It is something this country can absolutely lead on.’

Controversy has surrounded research on stem cells – which have the ability to become many different types of tissue in the body – where they are taken from embryos.

But the latest work uses the patient’s own stem cells – and it avoids the risks of rejection.

Professor Raisman’s team is funded entirely through donations raised by a consortium of charities including the British Neurological Research Trust.

‘Our programme costs half a million pounds a year which isn’t much in the great scheme of things, but I spend 90 per cent of my time fundraising,’ he added.

Former Dynasty star fronts marketing campaign for skin rejuvenation.


New York: Emma Samms, the former Dynasty actress, is the glamorous face of Isolagen, a unique skin rejvenation system, that harnesses a person’s own cells and grows them to rejuvenate wrinkles.

This is the Isolagen process in detail:

Isolagen’s patented autologous (a patient’s own cells) living cell therapy, or ACS, begins with the injection of a local anesthetic to numb a small section of skin behind the ear. This area was chosen because of its vascularity, lack of sun exposure, and the invisibility of any scarring.

A simple punch biopsy is used to obtain a small 3 mm piece of skin tissue, which is packed in an appropriate container and shipped overnight to the Isolagen laboratories. The minimal incision is closed with an adhesive or single absorbable suture.

At Isolagen, the tissue is cultured utilizing Isolagen’s patented ACS process. This process separates collagen-producing cells, called fibroblasts, from the rest of the tissue then stimulates them to multiply into tens of millions of new cells.

After approximately six weeks, 1 to 1.5 ml of cultured fibroblasts are sent back to the doctor for injection into the patient’s wrinkles, lines, and scars.

Generally three sets of injections will be performed, about two weeks apart, with tens of millions of collagen-producing cells being injected during each visit.

Within the patient’s skin, it is believed that the injected fibroblasts will continue to multiply and create new collagen that may fill dermal imperfections and wrinkles, and may reduce the signs of aging.

Cryogenic storage of cultured cells may also permit patients to receive future treatments with cells that were harvested when the patient was younger. It is unknown at this time whether this would represent a benefit to patients.

Benefits of facial rejuvenation

Since the Isolagen Process is an autologous system (exclusively using a patient’s own cells), it is anticipated that there may be a substantially reduced possibility of allergic reaction as compared to bovine collagen and other non-natural fillers.

Isolagen hopes to demonstrate that the use of autologous cells will result in prolonged beneficial effects, as the immune system should not reabsorb or reject them as it might with foreign materials and proteins. Patients may experience gradual and continued improvement as a result of the natural activity of the re-introduced cell structure.

Considering that the standard until recently has been bovine collagen, the three potential benefits below may represent substantial advances in facial rejuvenation.

1. Bovine collagen, a foreign protein derived from cows, is generally fully reabsorbed by a patient’s body within a few months after application, leaving the patient with no visible signs of correction.

2. As additional treatments with bovine collagen are performed, there is a gradual build-up of the body’s antibodies and the development of enzymes that compromise the treatment’s effectiveness.

3. Combined with the expense and the continued intrusiveness of ongoing treatments, the value and benefit of bovine collagen injections is ultimately diminished.

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