Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Brain Structure Adapts To Environmental Change

From the 14 June 2011 Medical News Today article

Scientists have known for years that neurogenesis takes place throughout adulthood in the hippocampus of the mammalian brain. Now Columbia researchers have found that under stressful conditions, neural stem cells in the adult hippocampus can produce not only neurons, but also new stem cells. The brain stockpiles the neural stem cells, which later may produce neurons when conditions become favorable. This response to environmental conditions represents a novel form of brain plasticity. The findings were published online in Neuron on June 9, 2011….

June 14, 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.

Related Links

***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

UCSF team finds new source of immune cells during pregnancy

Joseph M. McCune, MD, Ph.D. is a researcher at University of California – San Francisco.

From a December 16, 2010 Eureka news alert

UCSF researchers have shown for the first time that the human fetal immune system arises from an entirely different source than the adult immune system, and is more likely to tolerate than fight foreign substances in its environment.

The finding could lead to a better understanding of how newborns respond to both infections and vaccines, and may explain such conundrums as why many infants of HIV-positive mothers are not infected with the disease before birth, the researchers said.

It also could help scientists better understand how childhood allergies develop, as well as how to manage adult organ transplants, the researchers said. The findings are described in the Dec. 17 issue of Science and at

(Accompanying scientific commentary:

Until now, the fetal and infant immune system had been thought to be simply an immature form of the adult system, one that responds differently because of a lack of exposure to immune threats from the environment. The new research has unveiled an entirely different immune system in the fetus at mid-term that is derived from a completely different set of stem cells than the adult system.

“In the fetus, we found that there is an immune system whose job it is to teach the fetus to be tolerant of everything it sees, including its mother and its own organs,” said Joseph M. McCune, MD, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Division of Experimental Medicine who is a co-senior author on the paper. “After birth, a new immune system arises from a different stem cell that instead has the job of fighting everything foreign.”

The team previously had discovered that fetal immune systems are highly tolerant of cells foreign to their own bodies and hypothesized that this prevented fetuses from rejecting their mothers’ cells during pregnancy and from rejecting their own organs as they develop….

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to Ask at a Stem Cell Clinic

Are you considering stem cell treatment? Not sure what questions to ask?

The International Society for Stem Cell Research(ISSCR) has a list of questions to ask stem cell clinic health professionals.
The headings include:  The Treatment, Scientific Evidence, Safety & Emergencies, Patient Rights & Costs.

These questions come from the free online ISSCR Patient Handbook.

The ISSCR Closer Look at Stem Cell Treatments Web site strives to help you evaluate the claims of stem cell clinics and their procedures.
A sampling of their links:

**Top Ten Things to Know About Stem Cell Treatments

** The Different Types of Stem Cells

**From the Experts with video messages

**Submit a Clinic for Review
ISSCR is developing lists of clinics and other service providers that claim to offer stem cell treatments

August 11, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: