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Nano World: Nano for stem-cell research

June 15, 2005

Filed under: Stem Cell Research

From The Washington Times: Cutting-edge nanotechnology is beginning to help advance the equally pioneering field of stem-cell research, with devices that can precisely control stem cells and provide self-assembling biodegradable scaffolds and magnetic tracking systems, experts told UPI’s Nano World.
“Nanotechnology might show people once and for all that you really can help regenerate organs with stem-cell biology and help people walk again, help people after heart attacks, help people after stroke,” said John Kessler, a neurologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
“My own daughter had a spinal-cord injury, and the thought that I could contribute to helping my daughter with this is just overwhelmingly exciting to me,” Kessler added.
Stem cells are the primordial cells of the body; every other cell type originates from them. Embryonic stem cells have the power to become any other type of cell, while adult stem cells–those collected from adults, children or umbilical cords–only can become certain kinds of cells, such as blood or fat. Scientists hope to create new therapies based on stem-cell implants that repair damaged or lost organs and tissues.
In their natural environment in the body, stem cells transform into other cell types based on chemical triggers they receive from their surroundings.
The exact cues and the placement of those cues for most stem cells are not known, “and our ability to introduce specific chemicals at select locations on a cell is extremely limited,” said materials scientist Nick Melosh at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
Researchers currently must bathe the entire surface of stem cells in various chemicals to search for a response, so Melosh and colleagues are developing a nano lab–on the scale of billionths of a meter–to experiment with individual adult stem cells. Each lab essentially consists of a capsule on a silicon chip, around which up to 1,000 nanoreservoirs hold roughly a millionth of a billionth of a milliliter of liquid, comparable to the size of secretions cells use to communicate.
“We are in essence building an artificial cell-interface unit through which we can ‘talk’ to a stem cell, in much the same way real cells do, through chemical communication,” Melosh said. “Nanotechnology is essential for this project. Larger systems just couldn’t provide the number of different reservoirs and chemicals within a space small enough to select different areas on a cell.”
Future nerve-damage repairs could be accomplished with the aid of stem cells grown in self-assembling three-dimensional biodegradable scaffolds of nanofibers developed by Sam Stupp, a materials scientist working with Kessler at Northwestern.


The Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation’s New Membership Program

Filed under: Miscellaneous

From the HNF email newsletter:

The Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation has recently made changes to its website. Informative areas such as the FAQs, newsflash articles, e-newsletter and the forum discussions will remain available as no-cost interactive features allowing individuals to communicate with one another world-wide. The section housing articles however is now offered as a membership feature accessible through a donation-based subscription registration at a minimum of $35.00 per year.

Scientists Identify Molecular “Switches” Affecting Myelin Repair in Multiple Sclerosis

Filed under: Miscellaneous

From Genetic Engineering News:

The Myelin Repair Foundation today announced that its collaboration of five of the world’s leading neuroscientists has identified three new “switches,” or signals, operating in the brain and spinal column that appear to turn on and off the nerve cell’s ability to repair myelin. Myelin is the protective coating surrounding nerve cells that is damaged by MS. The scientists’ findings are a critical first step in understanding myelin repair and its role in treatments for MS and other demyelinating diseases.

This discovery focuses on myelin in the brain and spinal cord and not the peripheral nerves, so though it’s not directly applicable to Dejerine-Sottas research, it’s another step in the right direction.

Jericho Fights the Battle of Stem Cells

June 11, 2005

Filed under: Action Alerts

From Washington Post: Eric Yaverbaum, a New York PR executive whose wife is suffering from multiple sclerosis, is using his public relations acumen to start his own grass-roots campaign in support of stem cell research.
Yaverbaum is asking caretakers, patients and friends to send him their old shoes and notes (Jericho Communications, 304 Hudson St., Suite 700, New York, N.Y. 10013) for President Bush, urging him not to veto legislation supporting stem cell research. He’ll deliver the notes to the White House and donate the shoes to charity after making sure that they are seen.
“We can’t have a ‘Million-Caretaker Walk’ in Washington. We have to be home when we’re not working,” Yaverbaum said.

Developing nervous system sculpted by opposing chemical messengers

June 4, 2005

From Medical News Today: A newborn baby moves, breathes and cries in part because a network of nerves called motor neurons carry signals from the infant’s brain and spinal cord to muscles throughout its body.
Thanks to new research by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, we are closer to understanding how these complicated network connections are wired up during embryonic development. Salk researchers have discovered that the same chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that are responsible for nerve signals are also involved in the wiring of synapses, the network’s crucial contact points between nerves, or between nerves and muscle cells.
The study, published in the May issue of the journal Neuron, showed that as the motor neurons grow from their home base in the spinal cord towards muscles throughout the body, they release two opposing chemical signals. These signals act to preserve synapses that link a motor neuron to its correct muscle cell. ‘Spare’ sites for potential synapses that fail to team up with a motor neuron are dismantled.
“Our study provides the first evidence in a living animal system that the neurotransmitters themselves are sculpturing the developing nervous system,” said Kuo-Fen Lee, Associate Professor at the Salk, who heads the research team reporting its results in Neuron.


Role of toxins in inherited disease, Washington State University study

Filed under: Understanding the Cause

From Medical News Today: A disease you are suffering today could be a result of your great-grandmother being exposed to an environmental toxin during pregnancy.
Researchers at Washington State University reached that remarkable conclusion after finding that environmental toxins can alter the activity of an animal’s genes in a way that is transmitted through at least four generations after the exposure. Their discovery suggests that toxins may play a role in heritable diseases that were previously thought to be caused solely by genetic mutations. It also hints at a role for environmental impacts during evolution.
“It’s a new way to think about disease,” said Michael K. Skinner, director of the Center for Reproductive Biology. “We believe this phenomenon will be widespread and be a major factor in understanding how disease develops.”
The work is reported in the June 3 issue of Science Magazine.


Effect of sodium channel blocker (mexiletine) on pathological ectopic firing pattern in a rat chronic constriction nerve injury model

Filed under: Neuropathic Pain Management

J Orthop Sci. 2005;10(3):315-20.
We studied the efficacy of mexiletine as a sodium channel blocker for neuropathic pain by investigating the effect of mexiletine on the pathological ectopic firing pattern in a chronic constriction nerve injury (CCI) model. The experiment was conducted with 60 male Wistar rats. The CCI model was created by loosely ligating the sciatic nerve. After breeding 7 days, the frequency and pattern of ectopic firing antidromically recorded from the sural nerve and the amplitude of antidromic sensory nerve-evoked potential were analyzed. The CCI rats were given an intravenous injection of normal saline and mexiletine (5 or 15 mg/kg). Mexiletine significantly suppressed spontaneous firing frequency, an on-off firing pattern that consisted of cyclic bursting spikes and ectopic firing generation under the hypoxic condition. Mexiletine did not influence the amplitude of A-delta component in the antidromic sensory nerve-evoked potential. Mexiletine suppressed ectopic firing by blocking activity of the abnormal sodium channel at the nerve-injured site and dorsal root ganglion without blocking nerve conduction. This study suggests that mexiletine is useful for treating neuropathic pain in peripheral neuropathy.

Blocking Pain by Gene Transfer

June 2, 2005

Filed under: Neuropathic Pain Management

From Bioscience Technology: Researchers say they have developed a way to block the signals responsible for neuropathic pain. The group used a disabled form of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) as a vector to deliver genes to the nucleus of neural cells in rats.
“We use the vector to provide targeted gene delivery to the nervous system,” says David Fink, MD, professor of neurology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, and a neurologist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, who co-directed the research study. “In this case, we’re not trying to correct a genetic defect. Our goal is simply to deliver a gene to sensory nerve cells, so its product can be used to block transmission of pain signals from damaged nerves to the brain.”


Treatment of painful polyneuropathies

June 1, 2005

Filed under: Neuropathic Pain Management

From Current Pain and Headache Reports 2005, 9:178-183
The treatment of painful polpyneuropathies has begun to improve over the past several years. This is based on an evolving understanding of the pathogenesis related to the development of diabetic neuropathy and other diseases that may lead to peripheral nerve injury. Consensus on evaluation strategies for patients presenting with pain has furthered our ability to define neuropathic pain and accompanying signs and symptoms that may respond to particular therapeutic approaches. Recent therapeutic advances in medical management have demonstrated improved outcomes in pain relief. This, along with lower side effect-related issues, has led to improved compliance and patient satisfaction. The assessment and treatment of comorbid conditions, which include sleep, anxiety, and depression, have further advanced the management of painful polyneuropathies in patients. New antiepileptics, antidepressants, and topical therapies have contributed to improved patient outcomes.