Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Players storing children's stem cells as "repair kit": paper

LONDON (Reuters) - Some leading English soccer players are storing stem cells from their newborn babies as a potential future treatment for their own career-threatening sports injuries, according to a report in the UK Sunday Times newspaper.

Players are freezing the cells taken from the umbilical cord blood of their babies as a possible future cure for cartilage and ligament problems. Stem cells can be used to regenerate damaged organs and tissue because they are the earliest form of cells.

The paper quoted one unnamed Premier League player from a north west club as saying: "We decided to store our new baby's stem cells for possible future therapeutic reasons, both for our children and possibly for myself.

"As a footballer, if you're prone to injury it can mean the end of your career, so having your stem cells - a repair kit if you like - on hand makes sense."

link to full article

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

'Ethical' stem cell lines created

from our friends at BBC news...

Human embryonic stem cell lines have been generated without embryos being destroyed, according to researchers.
A US team created stem cell lines by removing single cells from embryos, a process that left them intact, they report in the journal Nature.

At present, growing this type of stem cell results in embryo destruction.

The researchers say their findings may remove some of the ethical barriers to this field and provide a way of bypassing current US legislation.

In 1995, the US congress passed an amendment stating that the government would not fund research in which human embryos were destroyed.

And in 2001, President Bush declared federal funding would only be available for research using the 61 human embryonic stem cells lines already in existence, where a "life or death decision had already been made".

This meant that no new lines could be created, whether from existing embryos or cloned embryos.

US stem cell researchers said the funding limits had ensured the US lagged behind in this field of research, limiting new studies to private companies, while pro-lifers hailed the decision.

Scientists believe stem cells may one day help to combat a range of diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, or to repair spinal cord injury.

link to full article

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Proton Therapy Used More to Treat Cancer

HOUSTON (AP) -- Francis Maloy lay on his back on a narrow, metallic table, waiting for a giant machine to bombard the tumor in his chest with proton beams.

"The last time I heard about protons I was in college taking physics," said Maloy, a 68-year-old retired Army colonel from Stuart, Fla., just before the procedure.

Maloy, who has advanced lung cancer, is one of the first patients being treated at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's new $125 million Proton Therapy Center.

It is the largest of the nation's four centers that treat cancer by targeting proton beams narrowly on the tumor itself, sparing the healthy tissue that with typical X-ray radiation would be blasted along with the cancer cells.

While newer forms of traditional radiation, with the help of computers, also allow doctors to precisely target a tumor, proton therapy allows higher levels of radiation. For a patient like Maloy, it could be his best hope at this stage of his cancer.

Dr. James Cox, chief of radiation oncology at M.D. Anderson, wasn't always a believer in the technology. But he said studies have shown proton therapy allows a higher level of radiation on the tumor, with less damage to healthy tissue and fewer side effects, such as loss of appetite, diarrhea and headaches. "That was the breakthrough, what changed my mind," he said.

"Anytime you have cancer in any location where it requires a high dose for control and it's close to sensitive normal structures (such as the eye, the skull, the spinal cord) that's an indication for proton therapy," said Cox. It also is useful for treating cancer in children, who are more sensitive than adults to the side effects of radiation.

Doctors at M.D. Anderson are using proton beam treatments mostly on patients whose cancers are so early in development that a cure is possible. But it is also being used on people like Maloy, who have relatively advanced cancers, Cox said.

Proton therapy has been around since the mid-1950s but was done mostly at research facilities, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy. The world's first hospital-based facility opened in 1990 at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California.

link to full article

Friday, August 18, 2006

Scientists hail breakthrough in bird flu drug quest

LONDON, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Scientists said on Wednesday they had made a breakthrough in the race to develop a drug for the H5N1 bird flu virus if it mutates into a form that can jump from human to human.

But they warned that it could take five years or longer to convert their discovery of a potential weak point in the N1 part of the virus into an effective drug.

So far the 238 cases of human infection have been from direct contact with infected birds, and scientists have said there is no evidence the virus is mutating towards making the leap between humans, though this could happen at any time.

Nearly 60 percent of those infected have died, and the best known drugs to tackle H5N1 infection in humans are oseltamivir known as Tamiflu and zanamivir known as Relenza, both originally developed to fight other forms of human 'flu. Now a team of scientists lead by John Skehel of London's National Institute of Medical Research say they have found a cavity in the N1 or neuraminidase part of the H5N1 virus that could be exploited as a potential weak point.

link to full article

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pfizer's Next Problem

Pfizer had a problem???...beyond my chloresterol medication going generic?...

Roche's competitor to Pfizer's much-anticipated "good cholesterol" pill torcetrapib may be more powerful than anyone thought, diluting the potential advantage for Pfizer's most important experimental drug.

Researchers who have seen data on the Roche drug say that it is far more potent when given with food, potentially complicating the gamble Pfizer has made on torcetrapib, which it is spending a record $800 million to develop.

Pfizer, the world's largest drug firm, is desperately in need of new firepower. Its $12 billion cholesterol pill Lipitor, the world's best-selling drug, is under siege from cheap generic copies of rival Zocor and the highly effective branded medicines Crestor and Vytorin. To make matters worse, an appeals court ruling just stripped a year of patent protection from Lipitor, meaning generics of the mega-blockbuster could be available in March 2010.

Torcetrapib is Lipitor's heir apparent. The drug is designed to boost high-density lipoprotein (HDL), nicknamed "good cholesterol" because it appears to actually clear plaque from the arteries and reduce the risk of heart attack.

In clinical studies alongside Lipitor, torcetrapib raised HDL by 60%. If everything goes as planned, a combination pill containing both torcetrapib and Lipitor will hit the market in the first half of 2008, and some analysts forecast 2009 sales of more than $1 billion. In a recent research note, analyst Barbara Ryan of Deutsche Bank called the drug "critical to Pfizer's future cash flows."

link to full article

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Experimental RNA-Based Drug Kills Prostate Cancer Cells Effectively and Safely

I keep waiting for the breakthru, sort of like this...

DURHAM, N.C. -- Acting as a genetic Trojan horse, an experimental RNA-based drug -- the first of its kind -- tricks its way into prostate cancer cells and then springs into action to destroy them, while leaving normal cells unharmed.

The drug, developed at Duke University Medical Center, uses one type of genetic material, called targeting RNA, to enter cancer cells, and another type, called silencing RNA, to stop the expression of a protein that keeps the cells alive.

In tests in mice with prostate cancer, the drug shrank the size of their tumors by half, while the tumors in control mice that did not receive the drug continued to grow, said study co-author Bruce Sullenger, Ph.D., director of Duke's Translational Research Institute and chief of the Division of Experimental Surgery.

The mice showed no side effects from the treatment, Sullenger said.

"This study represents the first step in creating an RNA-based drug for cancer," said lead author James McNamara, Ph.D. a postdoctoral fellow in experimental surgery. "It provides a 'proof of principle' that an entirely RNA-based drug can work with minimal side effects, and it shows it is possible to overcome many of the obstacles that have hampered the development of RNA-based drugs."

link to full article

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bill and Melinda- Fund's $500M targets diseases

I haven't seen this info in any US new outlets...

TORONTO -- The battle against three diseases that are a scourge of sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions -- HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- got a $500-million US boost from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The couple will give the cash over five years to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"The Global Fund is one of the most important health initiatives in the world today," Bill Gates said in a statement announcing the gift ahead of the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto that starts Sunday.

Providing antiretroviral drugs to people infected with HIV/AIDS is a major feature of the fund's work.

Gates Foundation


link to full article

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Vaccine slows hunger hormone, keeps rats slim

There may be hope for me after all...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A vaccine that slows down a key hunger hormone kept rats from gaining weight, even when they over ate, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

The team at The Scripps Research Institute in California cautioned that such a vaccine is a long way from being tested in human volunteers, and that it may not work in people.

But the study shed light on how hunger and weight gain work, they reported in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The vaccine targeted ghrelin, a hormone discovered in 1999 that helps control appetite in animals and people.

"It appears that active vaccination against ghrelin is one avenue that can slow weight gain and fat build-up in the body," said Kim Janda, a chemistry professor who helped direct the study.

link to full article