In an interesting bit of scientific serendipity, researchers at North Carolina State University have found that a chemical compound useful for studying the origins of intestinal birth defects may also inhibit the growth and spread of cancerous tumor…
A cell type with the potential for making the four major types of human tissue has been found in the stomach and small intestine by a Medical College of Georgia researcher. These VENT cells have been found in addition to the three sources of cells typically associated with gastrointestinal development, says Dr. Paul Sohal, MCG developmental biologist, who first identified these cells nearly a decade ago. Identification of VENT — ventrally emigrating neural tube — cells within the stomach and small intestine is another piece in Dr. Sohal’s effort to fully define and describe the cells that he first found migrating out from the neural tube of a chick embryo. If Dr. Sohal’s studies are on target, he’s found the first source of new cells identified in the embryo since 1868 and what might be the precursor for adult stem cells.
A gene known for its ability to form blood vessels has been found to be a key player in a chromosomal abnormality that causes potentially devastating birth defects in the heart and throughout the body. In a study published in the February 2003 issue of Nature Medicine, a group of collaborators from across the globe reports that abnormalities in vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, is a cause of DiGeorge syndrome. The syndrome can cause a wide range of heart defects, many of which are vascular in nature, as well as problems with the thymus and parathyroid gland, craniofacial abnormalities and mental retardation.
They are proteins that cut other proteins, enabling a wide range of essential functions such as wound healing, blood clotting and formation of muscle and nerve cells.
But serine proteases also can cut a path of destruction, contributing to the plaques involved in heart disease and Alzheimer’s and to extensive birth defects as well when something goes awry. Understanding this sort of physiological crescendo called a protease cascade is a goal of Dr. Ellen K. LeMosy, developmental biologist at the Medical College of Georgia.
Employing high-tech, digital X-ray microtomography (microCT), Northwestern University scientists have discovered the way in which newts form new bone and cartilage during limb regeneration. Newts are a type of salamander, the only vertebrates capable of rebuilding lost structures such as limbs throughout their lifetimes. Reporting in the January issue of Developmental Dynamics, Northwestern researchers Hans-Georg Simon and Stuart Stock showed that bone formation in a regenerated forelimb combines elements of embryonic development and of adult wound healing.
Biologists have shown for the first time in the laboratory that they can convert some adult human neural stem cells to brain cells that can produce dopamine, the brain chemical missing in Parkinson’s disease. If the researchers can better understand the process and harness this ability, the work may someday lead to new strategies in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.