Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Animals Containing Human Material: Time To Review The Ethics Say UK Scientists

From the 22 July 2011 Medical News Today article


Implanting mice with human tumors to test new anti-cancer drugs, injecting rats with human stem cells to find out how the brain repairs itself after a stroke, inserting human genes into the DNA of goats to make a protein that treats human blood clotting disorders; these are some examples of how science uses “animals containing human material” (ACHM). While they are invaluable tools for biomedical research, their use raises serious ethical questions, and a new report released on Thursday from the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences says it is time to revisit these questions, and recommends the UK government set up an expert body to oversee experiments that use animals containing human material.

The report’s authors say that although the vast majority of research that uses animals containing human material, or “ACHM”, does not raise new ethical or regulatory questions, they are concerned that some sensitive areas like exploring cognition and reproduction, and giving animals human-like physical characteristics, need to be controlled.[Flahiff’s emphasis]..

..An example of a key area they highlighted that concerns scientists and the public, is using ACHM in brain research. What if, inserting human cells into the brains of animals results in animals having human-like “cerebral” functions: to be capable of consciousness, awareness and show human-like behaviour, they ask?

Click here to read the entire news article

Click here to link to the above report (Animals Containing Human Materials)and related downloads 

July 22, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pitt team grows arteries with most elastic protein reported, big step for living vascular grafts (& a related article on stem cell research breakthrough)

Pitt team grows arteries with most elastic protein reported, big step for living vascular grafts

Arteries cultivated from baboon smooth muscle cells contain 20 percent of the protein elastin found in natural arteries, the most reported in vessels grown outside the body, team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Yadong Wang is a researcher at University of Pittsburgh.

From the January 31, 2011 Eureka news alert

PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh researchers have grown arteries that exhibit the elasticity of natural blood vessels at the highest levels reported, a development that could overcome a major barrier to creating living-tissue replacements for damaged arteries, the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.***

The team used smooth muscle cells from adult baboons to produce the first arteries grown outside the body that contain a substantial amount of the pliant protein elastin, which allows vessels to expand and retract in response to blood flow. Lead researcher Yadong Wang, a professor of bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, his postdoctoral researcher Kee-Won Lee, and Donna Stolz, a professor of cell biology and physiology in Pitt’s School of Medicine, cultured the baboon cells in a nutrient-rich solution to bear arteries with approximately 20 percent as much elastin as an inborn artery.

The Pitt process is notable for its simplicity, Wang said. Elastin—unlike its tougher counterpart collagen that gives vessels their strength and shape—has been notoriously difficult to reproduce. The only successful methods have involved altering cell genes with a virus; rolling cell sheets into tubes; or culturing elastin with large amounts of transforming growth factor, Wang said. And still these previous projects did not report a comparison of elastin content with natural vessels.

Wang and his colleagues had strong, functional arteries in three weeks. The team first seeded smooth-muscle cells from 4-year-old baboons—equivalent to 20-year-old humans—into degradable rubber tubes chambered like honey combs. They then transferred the tubes to a bioreactor that pumped the nutrient solution through the tube under conditions mimicking the human circulatory system—the pump produced a regular pulse, and the fluid was kept at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. As the muscle cells grew, they produced proteins that fused to form the vessel.

Mechanical tests revealed that the cultured artery could withstand a burst pressure between 200 and 300 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), the standard unit for blood pressure, Wang said; healthy human blood pressure is below 120 mmHg. In addition to containing elastin, the artery also had approximately 10 percent of the collagen found in a natural vessel, Wang said.

The process the Pitt team used to cultivate the artery resembles how it would be used in a patient, he explained. The cell-seeded tube would be grafted onto an existing artery. As the rubber tube degrades, the vascular graft would develop into a completely biological vessel.

The next steps in the project, Wang said, are to design a vessel that fully mimics the three-layer structure of a human artery and to prepare for surgical trials.

The project received support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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***For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here.

Related Eureka news alert (January 30, 2011) on stem cell research breakthrough

(Scripps Research Institute) Scripps Research Institute scientists have converted adult skin cells directly into beating heart cellsefficiently without having to first go through the laborious process of generating embryonic-like stem cells. The powerful general technology platform could lead to new treatments for a range of diseases and injuries involving cell loss or damage, such as heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

February 1, 2011 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Patient Handbook on Stem Cell Therapies

International Society for Stem Cell Research

Patient Handbook on Stem Cell Therapies

This guide by the International Society for Stem Cell Research answers the following questions:

  1. What are stem cells?
  2. What is a stem cell therapy?
  3. For what diseases or conditions are stem cell treatments well established?
  4. What are some of the special considerations for stem cell therapies?
  5. What is the usual process for developing a new medical treatment?
  6. What are the differences between an approved clinical treatment and an experimental intervention?
  7. What is a clinical trial?
  8. What is an informed consent form or treatment consent form?
  9. How do I know if an approved stem cell therapy is safe?
  10. What should I look for if I am considering a stem cell therapy?
  11. What should I be cautious about if I am considering a stem cell therapy?
  12. What else should I ask?
  13. Should I get a second opinion?
  14. How can I find out about clinical trials that use stem cells?

A Few More Consumer Oriented Stem Cell Therapy Web sites

December 19, 2010 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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