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(Nanowerk News), December 21, 2009  —   “Improving the quality of life of people the world over – that´s what drives me in all my work,” says Professor Samuel Stupp, who visited Göteborg last week to sign a new cooperative agreement between the University of Gothenburg and America´s renowned Northwestern University of Chicago. It is a very prominent visit and an important agreement that has been signed. Because Professor Stupp is the man who has made paralysed mice walk again!

Reversal and prevention of paralysis through spinal cord regeneration, curing Parkinson´s and Alzheimer´s diseases, universal repair of all bone fractures and production of new cartilage. These are only some of the areas which Professor Stupp and his research team have on their daily agenda. The team seems to be quite close to finding the key to solving many of today´s diseases, by using the most cutting-edge technology – nanotechnology and regenerative medicine.

Professor Samuel Stupp started his research in regenerative medicine about ten years or so ago but has worked with and researched in the field of molecular biology for far longer. Today he is Director of the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine (IBNAM) at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he leads a highly successful thirty-strong research team. Professor Samuel Stupp has succeeded in making paralyzed mice walk again through nanotechnology and spinal cord regeneration. In simple terms, Professor Stupp´s success in nanotechnology and regenerative medicine hinges on the fact that he has found a way of signalling nanomolecules so that they form the molecular chains needed to build new cells for a specific purpose within the body. This takes place through a process known as self-assembly, whereby the molecular structures quite simply attach themselves around cells in the body and in this way repair an injury.

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Professor Samuel Stupp has succeeded in making paralyzed mice walk again through nanotechnology and spinal cord regeneration.

 

Spinal injury is one of many important areas with which Professor Stupp and his research group are working. It is usually younger people who are involved in serious accidents that lead to spinal injuries. The consequences are often catastrophic for both the individual and the family, and the cost to society is usually very high and most often lifelong.

To date Professor Samuel Stupp has conducted his research on mice and obtained good results. The treatment involves injecting a liquid substance with special properties into the spine. The material´s negatively charged molecules then combine with the blood´s positively charged calcium and sodium ions. The result is a tubular structure of nanofibres that attract nerve cells and recreate connections in the material of the body to be repaired.

Professor Stupp and his team have thus succeeded in restoring mobility to paralysed mice. The injection of nanofibres into their spines causes the nerve tissue to start growing. Six weeks after the operation, they are able to walk once again. “I see real opportunities to regenerate tissues in organs in adult humans in the future,” says Professor Stupp. “It could impact the quality of life for many people, and also reduce costs for medical care.”

Professor Stupp´s research results on mice have also shown that with the right treatment, mice with Parkinson´s can regain a considerable degree of both mobility and bodily functions after a few months´ treatment. He explains that his research could well become a significant benefit to the growing proportion of older people in modern society. “The older we get, the greater our care needs since the number of illnesses increases with age. Using active treatment to reduce the effects of conditions such as Parkinson´s or Alzheimer´s would be fantastic for both the patient´s quality of life and cost to society since care for the ailing is a major cost,” explains Professor Stupp.

Professor Stupp also conducts research into the possibility of regenerating cartilage. “Cartilage does not, for some reason, regenerate in the human body after the age of 18 or 20,” says Professor Stupp. “And knee prosthesis is a very complicated surgery with long recovery, therefore a costly operation for society as well as the patients involved,” explains Professor Stupp. “If we could succeed in regenerating cartilage, we could also work in preventing diseases to a larger extent in order to avoid surgery later on in life. When it comes to knee operations for instance, it would be successful if we could find a way to prevent these kinds of operations,” explains Professor Stupp. “The same goes for amputations. If we could learn how to regenerate bones, we could also avoid amputation. That could really improve quality of life for a lot of people all around the world,” explains Professor Stupp.

The new agreement on cooperation between the University of Gothenburg and Northwestern University in Chicago was signed on December 8 at a formal yet warm ceremony. The agreement was signed by Professor Samuel Stupp and Olle Larkö, Dean of the Sahlgrenska Academy. The ceremony was attended by twenty or so people with connections to the University of Gothenburg, GöteborgBIO and some of the major pharmaceutical companies in Göteborg.

In practical terms, the agreement signals the official start of already launched cooperation in the field of biomaterials between the University of Gothenburg and Northwestern University of Chicago. However, it also signals the start of a fresh joint venture in the field of neuroscience and there is considerable future scope for extended cooperation within other research spheres too.

Like Göteborg, Chicago is a city that was long an industrial centre but is now undergoing major changes. In Chicago just as in Göteborg there is a long tradition of research, development and entrepreneurship in the fields of biomaterials and regenerative medicine. Both cities have the stated policy of investing in a wide range of operational areas today so as to be able to maintain sustainable growth tomorrow. Closer cooperation between the two cities is therefore highly welcome.

The biomaterials field is thus a highly significant industry for the future growth and both cities are now working together to face an exciting future.

Source: GöteborgBIO

The New York Times, December 21, 2009, by Andrew Pollack  —  Pfizer said Sunday that it was buying the rights to a somewhat controversial cell therapy from Athersys, a biotechnology company – a sign of big pharmaceutical companies’ growing interest in stem cells.

Pfizer will have the rights to develop Athersys’s cells to treat inflammatory bowel disease, the companies are expected to announce on Monday. It will pay Athersys $6 million initially and up to $105 million in the future.

The relatively small payment reflects that “it’s really early for cell therapy and there’s more research to be done,” said Ruth McKernan, chief scientific officer of Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, a unit created by the company about 18 months ago to develop treatments based on stem cells.

Athersys’s cells, derived from human bone marrow, have not yet been tested in people with inflammatory bowel disease, a term that encompasses ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. But the product, called MultiStem, is in early human testing as a treatment for heart attacks and for cancer patients receiving bone marrow transplants.

Athersys, founded in 1995 and based in Cleveland, is publicly traded and still unprofitable. Its shares closed at $1 on Friday.

Stem cells can form different types of tissue in the body. Pfizer and Athersys envision the cells being infused into patients not to replace damaged tissue but rather to produce various proteins that would help existing tissues heal or prevent them from being damaged.

Stem cells derived from adult tissues, like MultiStem, are less ethically controversial than stem cells from human embryos. But MultiStem has been dogged by scientific controversy.

The cells were initially developed at the University of Minnesota, which said they were multipotent adult progenitor cells – almost as versatile as embryonic cells. But some scientists had trouble replicating those findings, and some papers published by the Minnesota researchers were retracted or corrected.

Dr. McKernan said that those controversies were “in the past now” and that scientists have been able to replicate the findings.

Big pharmaceutical companies have been cautious about stem cells because of the ethical controversies and the early stage of the research. Also, some cell-based therapies must be tailored to each patient, a departure from the business model of producing one-size-fits-all pills.

But as the science of stem cells has advanced, drug companies are taking an interest.

Pfizer is also developing a stem-cell treatment for macular degeneration, an eye disease, working with University College London. It is doing research with Novocell, a San Diego company trying to turn embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes.

Novo Nordisk is working with Cellartis on stem-cell treatments for diabetes. Johnson & Johnson has invested in Novocell and Tengion, another regenerative medicine company. GlaxoSmithKline is providing $25 million to Harvard’s stem-cell institute. And Novartis and Roche have invested in Cellerix, a Spanish stem-cell company.

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A panel of the US Food and Drug Administration has been appointed to consider whether or not the popular cancer medicine Tarceva should be approved for wider and expanded use in patients who are suffering from advanced lung cancer.

Co-marketed by OSI Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Roche’s Genentech division, Tarceva is, as of now, approved for treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, but only after a treatment with chemotherapy has failed to stop the disease’s progress.

Currently, both the pharma companies are jointly looking for an FDA approval for administration of the drug immediately after chemotherapy “as a maintenance treatment in patients whose disease remained stable after chemotherapy”.

The appointed FDA panel, which consists of various outside medical experts, is all set to meet on Wednesday and make recommendations about the granting wider use to the drug. According to the agency, both Tarceva and Docetaxel can “extend lives about three months when given to patients who have seen their cancer progress after taking first-choice chemotherapies. This raises the question whether treatment with single agent erlotinib (Tarceva) or Docetaxel after progression are better options than treatment with erlotinib as maintenance”.

A daily pill, Tarceva is also marketed as a “first-line treatment” for pancreatic cancer.

December 21, 2009

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Boston DbTechNo.com – Results of a new clinical trial are positive for an experimental drug to treat hepatitis C.

The drug, called ANA598 is in its experimental phase and is manufactured by Anadys Pharmaceuticals.

The study pitted patients given the drug against those given a placebo, with the results proving without a doubt that the drug works.

After only 4 weeks of treatment, 56% of patients with hepatitis C who received the drug showed no signs of the virus in their blood, compared to 20% of the group on placebo treatment.

The only main side effect associated with the drug was a rash.

News of the positive drug study has done wonders for the company’s shares sending them up by 9 percent.

The Next Big Thing is Closer Than You Think

By Steve Christ
December 21, 2009

Tall, dark, and handsome… Anthony Atala is not a guy you could easily mistake for Dr. Frankenstein.

Yet, in his white lab coat, Dr. Atala is doing exactly what author Mary Shelley wrote about so long ago. A mad scientist in his own right, Dr. Atala is busy growing body parts in his Wake Forest lab.

A finger here, a bladder there… Dr. Atala is currently growing dozens of different tissues. And from heart valves to muscles to ears, his Institute for Regenerative Medicine is literally about to turn the world on its head.

Working at one of the world’s largest research facilities dedicated to regenerative medicine, the modern Dr. Frankenstein is adamant that his research will one day replace diseased or damaged tissue using homegrown replacement parts.

After all, as Dr. Atala often pondered, “A salamander can grow back its leg, why can’t a human do the same?”

Now some twenty-four years later, that notion is no longer just a wild hypothetical, but a scientific fact, stripped from the pages of a 194-year-old novel.

Today, regenerative medicine stocks are the companies to watch as this amazing new technology unfolds.

The Promise of Regenerative Medicine

Take the story of Claudia Castillo, for instance.

In 2008, this 30-year-old mother of two became the first patient to receive a whole organ transplant without the need for powerful anti-rejection drugs. Damaged by a bout of tuberculosis, her entire windpipe was repaired with an entire replacement part, created with the help of her own stem cells.

And given the choice between losing a lung or becoming a guinea pig for a radical new medical technique, Castillo chose the latter – becoming one of the pioneers for future regenerative surgeries.

Her life these days is not only back to normal, but she recently called her doctors from a nightclub to them she had been dancing all night. Before the ground-breaking surgery, Castillo could barely climb the stairs.

“The reason this technology works is that it’s not really surgery,” Dr. Atala explains; “we’re just priming the pump” by putting the appropriate cells into the appropriate place and asking the body to do the rest.

The magic, in this case, is provided by stem cells – an often controversial approach.

Stem cells are “unprogrammed” cells in the human body that have the ability to become other types of cells. And because these unique cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage, and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases – including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer.

However, because a portion of stem cells are found in embryos at very early stages of development (embryonic stem cells), research into their use has largely been limited, due to executive order. Adult stem cells found in organs (such as bone marrow and the brain) are the stem cells making most of the recent headlines.

Regenerative Medicine Companies Get a Boost

The obstacles faced by stem cell research have recently changed, beginning with the stroke of the president’s pen on March 9, 2009. Obama signed Executive Order 13505, enabling further embryonic stem cell research, and giving additional hope to millions of people living with diabetes, heart disease, and countless other diseases.

One patient who stands to benefit from continued biotech research is a paraplegic named Bart Hedges. On a football field last fall, Bart and his family got the brutal answer to their “what if” question, as a routine tackle sent Bart to the hospital on a stretcher.

Later that day, news was delivered to Bart and his family that a cracked fourth vertebra would leave him paralyzed from the neck down.

The sad part is that Bart was not the only one to take an ambulance ride that afternoon; a spinal cord injury is sustained by an individual every 41 minutes

In fact, 11,000 people join Bart each year – adding to the list of 250,000 Americans already living with a spinal cord injury.

And I don’t have to tell you that the cost of this national tragedy – both emotionally and financially – cannot possibly be measured.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is suffering a yearly economic drain of more than $ 20,383,466,000 from spinal cord injuries alone… the equivalent of two-thirds the entire budget of the National Institutes of Health for 2009!

Even still, we invest less than 1% of those costs into the research that will give Bart and others who share his condition a definitive solution: a life without a wheelchair.

That’s why efforts to advance regenerative medicine using stem cell research would not only create a new generation of life-saving products… but also create a tremendous new global industry, based right here in the United States.

And I don’t have to tell you that if these regenerative stem cell therapies allow for so much as a toe wiggle for someone like Bart Hedges, they would change the face of medical science forever – and earn biotech investors big bucks every step of the way.

The good news: this is much closer to becoming a reality than most people realize. Thanks to the work of Dr. Atala and numerous others, the biotech bull market continues.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

If you are interested in seeing for yourself how radical this new medical field is, check out this video from 60 Minutes.

by Mehmet Oz, MD and, Michael Roizen, MD |

 

Sometimes, it’s not what you take out of your diet but what you add to it that has the power to lower your lousy LDL cholesterol, raise your healthy HDL cholesterol, and maybe even chip away at your risk of diabetes.

The newest addition to your power arsenal (and your plate): Chickpeas — also known as garbanzo beans — the luscious legume that’s pureed to make hummus (and that tastes great whole, too). People eating roughly 25 ounces of chickpeas per week — that’s a little more than 3 ounces a day (just a hill of beans, not a mountain of them) — saw their total cholesterol and lousy LDL levels decrease and healthy HDL levels increase compared to 4 weeks on a chickpea-free diet. That’s not all: Their insulin levels also improved, and they lost a small amount of weight — without dieting OR exercising. Try this quick and easy hummus recipe.

Credit should go to the fact that these legumes fill you up with fiber (more than 5 grams in half a cup), protein (6 grams per half cup), and polyunsaturated fatty acids, all qualities your heart and your weight love. Plus, chickpeas are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytoestrogens.

Hummus isn’t the only way to get more chickpeas into your life. Try tossing the whole beans into salads and pasta dishes. Add a new dimension to tuna salad by stirring them right in — with some parsley and spices, if you want.. And make them a fixture in your three-bean salad. Easy. Healthy. Cheap. And you don’t have to give up a thing.

 

Try this quick and easy hummus recipe, with only 28 calories in each tablespoon.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 4clove(s) garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1large lemon
  • 1can(s) (15 to 19 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2tablespoon(s) tahini
  • 3tablespoon(s) olive oil
  • 2tablespoon(s) water
  • 1/2teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1/8teaspoon(s) ground red pepper, cayenne
  • 1/2teaspoon(s) paprika
  • 2tablespoon(s) chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Pita Bread Wedges
  • Olives

Directions

  • 1. In 1-quart saucepan, heat 2 cups water to boiling over high heat. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes to blanch; drain.
  • 2. From lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice. In food processor with knife blade attached, combine beans, tahini, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, water, salt, and ground red pepper. Puree until smooth. Transfer to platter; cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours. To serve, sprinkle with paprika and cilantro, if using. Serve with pita bread wedges and olives.