McMaster University, March 12, 2009 — How messages sent within stem cells through a specific communication pathway can trigger the cells to specialize and become blood cells in humans, has been discovered by scientists of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

The finding, to be published in the March 6 issue of Cell Stem Cell, marks the first time scientists have demonstrated the importance of the pathway, known as the noncanonical Wnt, in inducing blood formation in humans or any other species. The pathway works by organizing the cells so that they can respond to signals for blood development.

Mick Bhatia, director of the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, is the lead investigator of the study, which involved researchers from McMaster University, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Randall T. Moon Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Washington.

“By directing cell differentiation, this method provides the most efficient way to produce blood cells that we are aware of to date,” said Bhatia, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster.

“The work also provides a new way to make blood from human stem cells that could be used for clinical applications to regenerate the immune and blood system in patients, including those with leukemia or undergoing cancer therapies that indirectly destroy the immune and blood system.”

Stem cells are the building blocks of every organ and tissue in the body. Through the process of cellular differentiation, moving from a less specialized cell to a more specialize cell, stem cells have the ability to become any type of cell in the body including bone, muscle and blood cells.

In addition to the primary finding, the researchers also looked at second pathway and found that, unlike the first, it did not trigger the formation of blood cells. However, the second pathway did play a role in temporarily increasing the production of blood cells.

This project was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society with additional support from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Stem Cell Network.

“If a tear (in the shoulder labrum) is present, a patient’s own expanded mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are injected directly into the damaged areaand will differentiate into the cartilage which makes up the labrum.”

Labral Tears in the Shoulder

The labrum is a cartilaginous cup which circles the shallow shoulder socket (the glenoid) to make the socket deeper. The labrum supports and stabilizes the shoulder joint.

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Shoulder Labrum

Injury to the labrum typically occurs from repetitive trauma in overhead throwers, such as in baseball. It can also occur from a traction injury to the arm, such as lifting a heavy object off the ground or getting your arm jerked.

Typical symptoms include pain in the front of the shoulder or deep inside the joint.

Treatment options initially include physical therapy which is designed to restore range of motion and strength to the shoulder. Often times shoulder arthroscopy is recommended where the damaged labrum is identified and then repaired using suture anchors to sew the labrum back in place.

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Surgical Repair of Labrum

At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic we have developed x-ray guided techniques to safely inject the labrum. Once a small needle is appropriately placed, we inject a very small amount of contrast(dye) to confirm accurate placement. The x-ray pictures below illustrate the labrum being outlined with contrast. There are two pictures one of which is looking from the side where you can see the thin black line outlining the labrum and an oblique view in which you are looking down into the cup.

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Oblique View of Labral Injection

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Lateral View of Labral Injection

If a tear is present, a patient’s own stem cells can then be injected. Regenexx allows a patient to have their own expanded mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) injected directly into the damaged area. Mesenchymal stem cells will differentiate into the cartilage which makes up the labrum.

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ScienceDaily.com, March 16, 2009 — Nutritionists are nearly unanimous in recommending that Americans should eat significantly more omega-3 fatty acids and consume them in foods, not in vitamin pills. The health-promoting fats are found in fish and some other food sources. But if we don’t like fish, can’t prepare it well, can’t afford it more often, or all of the above, what are we to do?

Food scientist Julian McClements and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Center for Health & Wellness are now investigating more economical and reliable ways to incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into foods. They’re developing new microgel capsules to trap the omega-3 fatty acids, chemically stabilize them to prevent spoilage, and allow them to be easily incorporated in beverages, yogurts, dressings, desserts and ice cream, for example. All this without sacrificing taste, appearance or texture. Among other things, omega-3s are essential for normal growth in children and a recognized aid to heart health in adults.

In previous studies, McClements, an expert in food-based delivery systems, and his co-workers found that certain milk and soy proteins are good at preventing omega-3 fatty acids from going rancid. The researchers now want to find a way to economically produce large amounts of powdered omega-3 microgel particles rich in these anti-oxidant proteins from food-grade materials. To do this, they’re concentrating on new “structural” techniques for surrounding the delicate fish oils in a protective biopolymer microgel of water, antioxidant protein, and dietary fiber. These microgel particles resemble the familiar gelatin dessert, Jell-o, except that they’re microscopic.

Food as medicine is an unfamiliar concept to many American consumers, according to McClements and Eric Decker, chair of the UMass Amherst food science department and co-director of its Center for Health & Wellness. Many don’t remember the first wave of nutraceuticals introduced in the 1940s and 1950s when vitamin-fortified flour, cereals and milk were “unbelievably successful” in eliminating once-common diseases such as goiter and rickets caused by vitamin deficiencies, Decker notes.

While it’s becoming more common to hear of consumers picking up blueberry juice as a hedge against memory loss or whole-grain bread to ward off colon cancer, the United States remains one of the least receptive societies to the idea of food as preventive medicine compared to places like Japan and New Zealand. Nevertheless, because of their public health value, nutraceuticals are becoming a “hot topic” among North American nutritionists and food scientists.

The new generation of food scientists hopes to build on the earlier successes to address modern public health problems, more widespread but perhaps no less disabling and costly to society – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer. Specifically, UMass Amherst researchers like McClements are not only looking at cheaper, more reliable ways to incorporate nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids in food, but at molecules known as phytosterols from oats, for example, that can lower cholesterol, and flavonoids in orange peel that show promise for killing cancer cells.

With recent new grants from the USDA, McClements is already looking ahead to the next big thing in nutraceuticals: Time-release nanolaminated coatings around fat droplets for delivery at different levels in the human body. For example, he and colleagues are learning to coat droplets with dietary fibers so some will break down in the mouth to deliver flavor immediately while others break down in the stomach or small intestine to deliver peptides that signal fullness or satiety.

Still others might be designed not to break down until they reach the large intestine, where the laminated droplets would deliver anti-hypertensive or cancer-fighting food compounds that can’t survive digestive acids in the stomach. By manipulating food structure, McClements and other food scientists are also exploring ways to increase solubility in the small intestine so more of the nutrients are absorbed.

“More studies are needed before we can justify further work on tailoring foods to match an individual’s genetic makeup,” McClements adds, but that’s coming, as well, he predicts.

Europeans will readily pay more for food that promises to boost health, Decker observes. And in the past 20 years Japan has launched one of the most far-reaching public health campaigns anywhere, to increase nutraceutical consumption to control heart-disease-related health care costs and other problems.

Adapted from materials provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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Food Chemist Develops Protein-Based Batter for Healthier Frying

Deep-fried fish could get healthier with a new protein-based batter extracted from the muscle of discarded fish parts. When coated onto the fish it forms a barrier, locking in taste and moisture while blocking out fat.

GLOUCESTER, Mass.–Low-fat, fried food sounds like a contradiction, but those types of products may soon be popping up at your local grocer.

Fish sticks slathered in oil and deep-fried are tasty, but the after-effects can take a toll on your waistline. The love affair with food usually ends when it’s time to weigh in. Now, a new discovery may tip the scales in your favor when it comes to eating some of your favorite fried foods.

Stephen Kelleher, a food chemist at Proteus Industries in Gloucester, Mass., says, “People like fried food, but there’s a lot of bad things associated with fried food.” Understanding the bittersweet fondness for fried cuisine, Kelleher invented a way to cook low-fat, fried food.

The protein solution is extracted from fish muscle. When coated onto the fish it forms a barrier, locking in taste and moisture, but blocking out fat and carbohydrates. “These protein molecules after we treat them and extract them the way we do, they form these very, very, micro-thin films that — when they are sprayed onto the surface — become this invisible, impenetrable, film that forms on the surface,” Kelleher says.

The protein molecules go through a treatment process. Water and other ingredients are filtered then added to the batter. Kelleher says the finished product has 25-percent to 75-percent less fat. Plus the added protein cuts down the carbohydrates by 15 percent.

When put to the test, comparing traditional fried batter to the special protein coating, both food tasters agreed there was nothing fishy about the low-fat, fried meal.

The process is FDA approved and can be used to fry low-fat chicken, too. They are also testing the application on other foods, like potato chips.

BACKGROUND: A chemist has created a protein solution that can be used to coat chicken. When the chicken is then deep-fried, it contains 50 percent less fat than if it had been deep-fried without the coating.

HOW IT WORKS: Chicken is bathed in a liquid of water and protein molecules that have been taken from a slurry of chicken or fish tissue. This forms a thin shield around the meat, and when it is then submerged in oil, the coating keeps fat from being absorbed from the fryer.

GOOD FATS VS. BAD FATS: Fats should account for no more than 30 percent of the total calories we consume, but good health also depends on whether those are “good” fats or “bad” fats. Mono-unsaturated fats, like olive oil and canola oil, are considered good because they can help lower cholesterol. Saturated (animal) fats are thought of as bad because they clog the arteries. A third type of fat is made when corn oil or other fats that are usually liquid at room temperature are solidified through heating. This type of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, called trans fatty acid, is a main ingredient in vegetable shortening and margarine. It is the worst kind of fat. In the body, the enzymes responsible for processing fats have trouble breaking down trans fatty acids and spend so much time trying to do so that it interferes with the processing of essential fatty acids.

WHAT ARE EFAs? There are two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs): Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like fish, flax and pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in corn oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil, for example. EFAs have been shown to protect against heart disease, but the body can’t make them, so we must consume them in food. Ideally, these should be balanced in the diet at a ratio of 2-to-1; in most Western diets, that ratio is 20-to-1.

WHERE THE BODY STORES FAT: Men and women store fat differently because they have difference sex hormones: testosterone and estrogen. Adult men store fat in the chest, abdomen, and buttocks, producing an apple shape. Adult women carry fat in the breasts, hips, waist and buttocks, creating a pear shape.