Oxygen Key Switch in Transforming Adult Stem Cells From Fat Into Cartilage

In their ongoing research on turning adult stem cells isolated from fat into cartilage, researchers have demonstrated that the level of oxygen present during the transformation process is a key switch in stimulating the stem cells to change. Using a biochemical cocktail of steroids and growth factors, the researchers have “retrained” specific adult stem cells that would normally form the structure of fat into another type of cell known as a chondrocyte, or cartilage cell. During this process, if the cells were grown in the presence of “room air,” which is about 20 percent oxygen, the stem cells tended to proliferate; however, if the level of oxygen was reduced to 5 percent, the stem cells transformed into chondrocytes.

Removing Portion of Spleen Effective in Treating Inherited Childhood Anemias

Researchers have shown that removing a portion, instead of all, of the spleen, can successfully treat children with a variety of congenital anemias while preserving important splenic immune function. In the largest study of its kind in the U.S., the researchers performed the surgery, known as a partial splenectomy, on 25 children with congenital forms of anemia caused by abnormal red blood cells. Typically, these children suffer from fatigue, jaundice and extreme vulnerability to infections that can require repeated hospital or physician visits. Many also need repeated blood transfusions.

Procedure fixes heart defect that lets blood clots flow to brain

When 29-year-old Eric Lange suddenly experienced several hours of mental confusion last July, physicians at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center naturally ordered brain scans and carotid artery studies in their first search for a cause. With the initial exams turning out OK, Eric’s neurologist pursued other clues and ended up finding a heart defect called a patent foramen ovale, or PFO. A blood clot was believed to have slipped through the defect and out of the normal route of circulation that would have filtered it in the lungs. Instead, the clot traveled to Eric’s brain and temporarily blocked the flow of blood, causing a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, which is similar to a stroke but it does not cause permanent brain damage.

Sepsis on the rise in the United States

Severe sepsis, the leading cause of death in America’s non-coronary intensive care units, is a rapidly growing problem in the United States in terms of the number of patients afflicted by the condition and the complexity of their cases, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh reported Saturday, Feb. 1, at the 32nd Critical Care Congress in San Antonio, Texas. Investigating trends in severe sepsis over a seven-year period, this study is the first to identify the changing epidemiology of the life-threatening disorder and its potential financial impact on intensive care units (ICUs).

sepsis: (n) the presence of pus-forming bacteria or their toxins in the blood or tissues.

High sugar blood levels linked to poor memory

An inability to quickly bring down high levels of sugar in the blood is associated with poor memory and may help explain some of the memory loss that occurs as we age, according to a new study by NYU School of Medicine researchers. The study raises the possibility that exercise and weight loss, which help control blood sugar levels, may be able to reverse some of the memory loss that accompanies aging.

Restriction or ban of ephedra supported by first comparative herbal study

The first comparative study to examine the risk of taking ephedra with that of taking other commonly used herbs calls into question the herbal stimulant’s current standing as an unrestricted dietary supplement. Researchers found that products containing ephedra accounted for less than 1 percent of the herbal supplement sales in the United States in 2001. These products, however, were responsible for 62 percent of all herbal-related reports made to poison control centers nationwide that year, according to the study by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC).

Internet Peaks as America's Most Important Source of Information

The more than 70 percent of Americans who use the Internet now consider online technology to be their most important source of information, ranking the Internet higher as an information source than all other media including television and newspapers, according to findings in Year Three of the UCLA Internet Report. “Incredible as it may seem, for the vast majority of America that uses online technology, the Internet has surpassed all other major information sources in importance after only about eight years as a generally available communications tool,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, a unit in the Anderson School of Management and affiliated with the university’s College of Letters and Science.

Nano Breakthrough May Make Ultra-High Density Storage Possible

A simpler and more reliable manufacturing method has allowed two materials researchers to produce nanoscale magnetic sensors that could increase the storage capacity of hard disk drives by a factor of 1,000. Building on results obtained last summer, the new sensors are up to 100 times more sensitive than any current alternative technology, according to researchers Harsh Deep Chopra, University Buffalo associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Susan Hua, director of UB’s Bio-Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems Facility and adjunct professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Flash! Lightning emits X-rays

Anyone who has heard a radio crackle during a storm knows lightning emits radio signals. But in a series of unique experiments that involved firing wire-trailing rockets into storm clouds, a team of Florida researchers has found that “triggered” lightning also emits waves of energy much higher up the frequency scale – X-rays, or possibly gamma rays or relativistic electrons.

Study links yo-yo dieting to poor post-menopause heart health

The quest for a fashion model’s figure leads many girls and women to a cycle of weight loss and weight gain called yo-yo dieting. Some women never succeed in achieving or maintaining their desired weight, although some do. Researchers at the VA/Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System are cautioning all women who yo-yo diet. Those who gain and/or lose at least 10 pounds in a yearlong period at least five times over a lifetime may be setting themselves up for heart problems after menopause.

FDA approves psoriasis drug

Alefacept, a specially designed molecule that blocks a specific immune-system reaction involved in the painful skin condition psoriasis, was approved for marketing today under the name Amevive. Biogen, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., will market the drug. Alefacept traces its roots to research done at the U-M in the mid-1990s by a team led by former dermatology faculty member Kevin D. Cooper, M.D. The University and Biogen share the patent on the engineered molecule with Cooper, who is now chair of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.