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Archive - Sep 16, 2015

Exosomes from Differentiating Nerve Cells Used to Cause Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hMSCs) to Differentiate into Neuron-Like Cells

Regenerative medicine using stem cells is an increasingly promising approach to treat many types of injury. Transplanted stem cells can differentiate into just about any other kind of cell, including neurons to potentially reconnect a severed spinal cord and repair paralysis. A variety of agents have been shown to induce transplanted stem cells to differentiate into neurons. Tufts University biomedical engineers recently published the first report of a promising new way to induce human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) (see image), which are derived from bone marrow, to differentiate into neuron-like cells. That new way is treating the hMSCs with exosomes. Exosomes are very small, essentially hollow (although often filled with all sorts of biomolecules) vesicles that are secreted from virtually every, if not every, type of cell. Exosomes can contain functional proteins and genetic materials and can serve as vehicles for communication between cells. In the nervous system, exosomes are known to guide the direction of nerve growth, control nerve connection, and help regenerate peripheral nerves. In a series of experiments reported online on August 6, 2015 in an open-access article in PLOS ONE, the Tufts researchers showed that exosomes from PC12 cells (neuron-like progenitor cells derived from rats) at various stages of their own differentiation could, in turn, cause hMSCs to become neuron-like cells. Exosomes had not previously been studied as a way to induce human stem cell differentiation.

Stanford Issues Urgent Call for Revised WHO Guidelines to Address Parasitic Worm Infections Worldwide; 1.5 Billion People Now Affected in Developing World; New Study Shows Large-Scale Treatment Programs Highly Cost-Effective

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers and their colleagues are calling for an urgent re-evaluation of global guidelines for the treatment of parasitic-worm diseases in light of a new study showing that large-scale treatment programs are highly cost-effective. Parasitic-worm diseases afflict some 1.5 billion people in the developing world, causing gastrointestinal problems, anemia, wasting, and cognitive and growth deficits in children, and in some cases, liver, bladder and intestinal problems that can be fatal. About 150,000 people die of complications from these parasitic infections every year. World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on treatment of the diseases focus only on school-aged children, as they are heavily affected by these diseases and can be easily treated in a school setting. The current guidelines call for annual or biennial treatment of children in high-prevalence areas. But the latest study, a modeling analysis of four different communities in the Ivory Coast, suggests that more frequent, community-wide treatment programs are far more beneficial, both for children and adults, and are cost-effective. "Most of the money spent on treating these diseases is focused on helping kids. But there are a lot of symptoms of disability in adults as well, and our results support the expansion of treatment to this adult population," said Nathan Lo, a third-year Stanford medical student and research associate. Moreover, treating adults benefits children by reducing the chances they will become re-infected, he said. "If you only treat children, it might help them, but they often come home to neighbors, parents, and teachers who may be infected, and the children can once again become infected," Lo said.

IRB Barcelona ID's Overexpressed MAF Oncogene As Key to Metastasis of Breast Cancer to Bone

Physicians currently have no tools to help them detect which breast cancer patients will suffer metastasis to the bone, a process that occurs in 15-20% of cases. A study led by ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies) researcher Dr. Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), and published online on September 16, 2015 in an open-access article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), has uncovered a gene that allows breast cancer cells to invade bones and create new tumors, or to metastasize. This discovery has been patented and transferred to Inbiomotion, a spin off from the IRB Barcelona and ICREA, founded at the end of 2010. Inbiomotion, led by the venture investor Ysios Capital, has developed the technology necessary to validate the marker in clinical trials, which are already underway. The JNCI article is titled “Enhanced MAF Oncogene Expression and Breast Cancer Bone Metastasis.” Bone metastasis is the only type of metastasis that can be controlled, but not cured, by drugs. Treatment is only given once the metastasis has been identified, which is normally too late. Preliminary studies indicate that the same drugs used to treat metastasis could also be used to prevent it, and identifying those patients at risk of developing bone metastasis is therefore very important. “This is where the discovery made at IRB Barcelona could be of great use to clinicians and would avoid unnecessary treatment of patients who are not at risk," suggests Dr. Gomis. About one million new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year.