Some Developments in Biomedicine

  • Thanks to Wired,
    I was tipped off on an article published in Nature about a type of stem
    cell that
    seems to be at the heart of the most advanced
    brain tumors in adults and children
    . It is considered stem-cell like
    since its
    chief marker, CD133, is a protein associated with embryonic nerve cells,
    and because
    it has tremendous ability to reproduce. In one dramatic experiment, 16
    of 19 mice
    injected with CD133-positive human tumor cells developed tumors. Of the
    15 that
    received tumor cells negative for CD133 markers, none developed tumors,
    though traces
    of the cells were still found in the mouse brains during dissection,
    implying that
    while these human cells could live in the mouse, they could not develop
    a tumor
    on their own. This opens a new dimension into how cancer develops (and
    where these
    so-called “stem cells” really come from), and also hints that
    a CD133
    blocker may be a new weapon against cancer. Considering that an advanced
    brain tumor
    right now is more or less a death sentence within a year, this could be
    quite important!
    Dysfunctional stem cells were previously known to be at the
    heart of leukemia
    , but this is the first solid tumor with a stem
    cell as its
    apparent source.
  • There’s some interesting Type I diabetes research where Harvard
    researcher Denise
    Faustman seems to have suppressed the autoimmune reaction against
    beta-cells in
    the pancreas which leads to insulin depletion and diabetes. What’s
    really neat is
    that beta cells seem to spontaneously regenerate when the autoimmune
    reaction is
    suppressed, promising a knock-down cure for that disease. I read about
    this on the
    NY Times, but it’s now no longer open for free access, so check out this
    blurb from
    No Harm
    about the research and Lee Iacocca’s funding initiative for
    Dr. Faustman.
  • Check out the
    Public Library of Science
    , an organization that publishes
    peer-reviewed scientific
    journals that are free to the public and entirely online.