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Archive for August, 2013

GROWING NEW LIVERS FROM STEM CELLS IS SAID NOW TO BE POSSIBLE BY SCIENTISTS

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

MANUFACTURING NEW BODY PARTS [INC LIVERS] FROM STEM CELLS

LIVEROP CLOSE UP

(Reuters) – Scientists have for the first time created a functional human liver from stem cells derived from skin and blood and say their success points to a future where much-needed livers and other transplant organs could be made in a laboratory.

While it may take another 10 years before lab-grown livers could be used to treat patients, the Japanese scientists say they now have important proof of concept that paves the way for more ambitious organ-growing experiments.

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“The promise of an off-the-shelf liver seems much closer than one could hope even a year ago,” said Dusko Illic, a stem cell expert at King’s College London who was not directly involved in the research but praised its success.

He said however that while the technique looks “very promising” and represents a huge step forward, “there is much unknown and it will take years before it could be applied in regenerative medicine.”

Researchers around the world have been studying stem cells from various sources for more than a decade, hoping to capitalize on their ability to transform into a wide variety of other kinds of cell to treat a range of health conditions.

There are two main forms of stem cells – embryonic stem cells, which are harvested from embryos, and reprogrammed “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS cells), often taken from skin or blood.

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Countries across the world have a critical shortage of donor organs for treating patients with liver, kidney, heart and other organ failure. Scientists are keenly aware of the need to find other ways of obtaining organs for transplant.

The Japanese team, based at the Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, used iPS cells to make three different cell types that would normally combine in the natural formation of a human liver in a developing embryo – hepatic endoderm cells, mesenchymal stem cells and endothelial cells – and mixed them together to see if they would grow.

They found the cells did grow and began to form three-dimensional structures called “liver buds” – a collection of liver cells with the potential to develop into a full organ.

When they transplanted them into mice, the researchers found the human liver buds matured, the human blood vessels connected to the mouse host’s blood vessels and they began to perform many of the functions of mature human liver cells.

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“To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating the generation of a functional human organ from pluripotent stem cells,” the researchers wrote in the journal Nature.

Malcolm Allison, a stem cell expert at Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in the research, said the study’s results offered “the distinct possibility of being able to create mini livers from the skin cells of a patient dying of liver failure” and transplant them to boost the failing organ.

Takanori Takebe, who led the study, told a teleconference he was so encouraged by the success of this work that he plans similar research on other organs such as the pancreas and lungs.

A team of American researchers said in April they had created a rat kidney in a lab that was able to function like a natural one, but their method used a “scaffold” structure from a kidney to build a new organ.

And in May last year, British researchers said they had turned skin cells into beating heart tissue that might one day be able to be used to treat heart failure.

That livers and other organs may one day be made from iPS cells is an “exciting” prospect, said Matthew Smalley of Cardiff University’s European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute.

“(This) study holds out real promise for a viable alternative approach to human organ transplants,” he said.

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Chris Mason, a regenerative medicine expert at University College London said the greatest impact of iPS cell-liver buds might be in their use in improving drug development.

“Presently to study the metabolism and toxicology of potential new drugs, human cadaveric liver cells are used, ” he said. “Unfortunately these are only available in very limited quantities”.

The suggestion from this new study is that mice transplanted with human iPS cell-liver buds might be used to test new drugs to see how the human liver would cope with them and whether they might have side-effects such as liver toxicity.

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Henry Sapiecha

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BIOACTIVE GLASS GROWS NEW BONE SAYS MISSOURI UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE

Monday, August 26th, 2013

ENGINEERING INPUT FOR GROWING NEW BONES

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Sometimes medical advances don’t come from the medical field at all.

Engineers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have designed a super-strong glass implant with a scaffolding-like structure that is able to grow new bone.

“We have good material and engineering skills,” said lead researcher Len Rahaman, “and when you put those two together, it’s allowed us to use our skills to produce a bioactive glass that is strong enough to repair large structural bone defects.”

Bioactive means the material reacts with body fluids and converts into living bone, so it does not need to be removed.

In previous work, the engineers proved the glass implant they developed using robocasting – a computer-controlled technique to ensure a uniform structure – could withstand the weight and pressure experienced by long bones in the body like those in the arms and legs.

Their latest research using the skulls of rats, showed that the porous scaffolding design quickly bonded to the bone and promoted a significant amount of new bone growth within six weeks. The research was published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

“You can have the strongest material in the world, but it also must encourage bone growth in a reasonable amount of time,” Rahaman said.

The material could someday be used to repair large bone defects that are the result of cancer, war or car crashes.

Current treatments to structural bone repair involve either porous metal, which can heal poorly and become infected; or a bone transplant from a cadaver, which carries risk of disease. Bone also can be taken from one part of the body to another, but the amount is limited, and the result can be pain and poor healing at the donor site.

The materials for the glass implant are inexpensive and easy to obtain, Rahaman said. “If it turns out to be a viable solution, we could actually reduce health care costs.”

Next, the researchers are testing the glass implant in the large leg bones of rats, which bear more weight. “Now that we know the bone will grow into the scaffold, we are testing it under more realistic conditions,” Rahaman said.

The next steps would be studying the implant in larger animals and winning approval to test the design in humans.

Problems may arise, but the engineering team is ready with solutions: adding small amounts of silver to the glass implant could prevent infection, and doping it with copper should promote the growth of blood vessels if needed to keep the bone healthy.

Rahaman said he’s working with an orthopedic surgeon and a bone biologist, but the research “requires use of our engineering skills”.

MCT

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Henry Sapiecha

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IS ENGLAND THE TB CAPITAL IN ALL OF EUROPE

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

TUBERCULOSIS CAPITAL OF EUROPE MAKES IT ONE OF THE WORST IN THE WORLD

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(Reuters) – Rates of tuberculosis (TB) in Britain are among the highest in western Europe and London is struggling to shed its status as the “TB capital” of the region, according to data released on Wednesday.

If trends of infection continue, within two years Britain is likely to have more new cases of TB each year than the United States, according a report from the government’s health agency, Public Health England (PHE).

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More than 8,750 TB cases were reported in Britain in 2012, or around 14 per 100,000 population, slightly fewer than in 2011 but still enough to put it among the worst-hit countries in its region.

“TB remains a critical public health problem, particularly in parts of London and among people from vulnerable communities, said Paul Cosford, PHE’s director for health protection.

He said controlling the contagious and often drug-resistant lung disease was now one of the key priorities for PHE, which is developing a stronger national approach to be implemented in a few months’ time.

“We are determined to see a sustained reduction in TB and will work tirelessly to support local partners in those areas where the burden is greatest,” he said in a statement.

Often misconstrued as a disease of the past or one restricted only to marginalized communities, TB in fact inflicts annual direct health costs of more than 500 million euros ($670 million) on European governments, and costs another 5.3 billion euros in productivity losses.

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The bacterial infection usually affects the lungs, and s spreads when someone who has TB coughs or sneezes.

According to the PHE report, London had the main burden of TB infections in Britain in 2012 with 3,426 cases – almost 40 percent of the national total.

“Despite considerable efforts to improve prevention, treatment and control, TB incidence in the UK remains high compared to most other Western European countries,” it said.

Almost three-quarters of cases were in migrants from places such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where TB is common. Although the proportion of TB cases resistant to one of several drugs was low at under 2 percent, drug-resistant TB “remains a problem”, the report added.

“TB is a preventable and treatable condition, but, if left untreated, can be life-threatening,” said Lucy Thomas, PHE’s head of TB surveillance.

She said good access to TB screening and diagnostic services for new immigrants was essential to stem the spread of the disease.

($1 = 0.7490 euros)

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Henry Sapiecha

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POST MORTEMS TO BE DONE WITH COMPUTER SCANNERS & TOUCHSCREENS SAYS MALAYSIAN ENTREPRENEUR

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

‘BODIES OF EVIDENCE’ USE COMPUTER TECH INSTEAD OF SCALPELS

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(Reuters) – Malaysian entrepreneur Matt Chandran wants to revive the moribund post-mortem by replacing the scalpel with a scanner and the autopsy slab with a touchscreen computer.

Forensic Medical Officer Dr Karuppanan shows the Digital Autopsy forensic application at a mortuary at Hospital Kuala Lumpur

He believes his so-called digital autopsy could largely displace the centuries-old traditional knife-bound one, speeding up investigations, reducing the stress on grieving families and placating religious sensibilities.

He is confident there’s money in what he calls his Autopsy as a Service, and hopes to launch the first of at least 18 digital autopsy facilities in Britain in October, working closely with local authorities.

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Around 70 million people die each year, says Chandran, and around a tenth of those deaths are medico-legal cases that require an autopsy. “That’s a huge number, so we’re of the view that this is a major line of services that is shaping up around the world,” he said in an interview.

The poor common perception of autopsies has undermined their commercial appeal. “Unfortunately, because the process of the post-mortem is seen as gruesome, one tends to ignore that,” says Chandran.

Humans have been cutting each other open for at least 3,000 years to learn more about death, but the autopsy has never been widely embraced outside TV crime dramas. Surgeons in 18th century Britain, for example, robbed graves for corpses to dissect, some even commissioning murders when supplies dried up.

Staff member carries out a CT scan on a corpse at a mortuary at Hospital Kuala Lumpur

By the 1950s, the autopsy was at its zenith, with pathologists performing post-mortems on more than 60 percent of those who died in the United States and Europe – helping uncover more than 80 major, and perhaps thousands of minor, medical conditions.

But the number of autopsies has fallen steadily: Today, fewer than 20 percent of deaths in Britain are followed by autopsy, and most of these are ordered by coroners in cases where the cause of death is unclear or disputed.

The fall has been blamed on a growing distaste for a procedure regarded by some as crude and outdated – a feeling fanned by the public discovery in Britain in 1999 that medical institutions had been retaining organs and tissue after post-mortems for decades.

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DIGITAL MAKEOVER

Chandran, 45, wants to change all this by simply connecting his company iGene’s 3D imaging software to any standard medical CT or MRI scanner. An expert can then inspect the virtual cadaver in 3D, removing layers of cloth, skin and bone with a mouse or by gestures on a tabletop touchscreen.

The advantages, Chandran says, are considerable.

The digital evidence remains intact and can be reviewed; experts can more easily spot and identify fracture, foreign objects such as bullets, and the tips of knife wounds; and grieving families can swiftly learn how their loved ones died and without having to cut open the body.

A doctor shows the Digital Autopsy forensic application in Kuala Lumpur

iGene isn’t the first to run a scanner over a corpse. Radiology has been used on skulls for 30 years, and Israel first introduced the concept of a virtual autopsy in 1994. The U.S. military started conducting CT scans of all soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004 in addition to traditional autopsies.

The results have been encouraging. Researchers from University College London concluded that in fetuses and individuals aged 16 and younger, a minimally invasive autopsy incorporating an MRI scan identified the same cause of death as 90 percent of traditional autopsies.

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But iGene is, Chandran says, the first to package the process and offer it commercially as a suite of services that stretches from the moment of death to the delivery of a post-mortem report.

His company provides a software suite that uses existing medical scanners from the likes of Siemens, General Electric, Toshiba and Philips. These form the heart of iGene’s digital autopsy facilities which the company plans to build close to UK mortuaries. The first will open in October in the northern English city of Sheffield.

A doctor shows the Digital Autopsy forensic application in Kuala Lumpur

A spokesperson for Sheffield City Council confirmed it was working with iGene on such a centre, but declined to give details.

Chandran says his company will spend around $77 million to build and run the facilities and will make its money from those cases where a coroner demands a post-mortem. About 200,000 deaths require autopsies each year in Britain, he said.

Next of kin will be given the option of a classical autopsy, paid for by the state, or a digital autopsy, costing about 500 pounds ($780) and paid for by the family.

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SKEPTICS

Not everyone believes the digital autopsy is ready for prime time. Some question whether it can spot some diseases. And even a pioneer like Guy Rutty, chief forensic pathologist at the University of Leicester and the first to use CT images as evidence in a criminal trial, says that while demand may be growing there are limits to what a digital autopsy can do – particularly determining where and in some cases when a patient died.

“There are centers providing such services, but others have been more cautious and are still at a research stage,” he said in an email interview.

A doctor shows the Digital Autopsy forensic application in Kuala Lumpur

Chandran and his team are undeterred. They say the digital autopsy facility combines with other non-invasive diagnostic tools such as angiography and toxicology.

Pramod Bagali, chief operations officer of iGene’s parent company InfoValley, says the system is “a complementary method, not a complete replacement” to traditional autopsies, but could handle 70 percent of routine cases. The others could be done digitally to start with and then a decision could be made about whether to open up the body. “It’s not replacing one flawed system with another,” he says.

Crucially, iGene offers a business model that overcomes concerns that scanning corpses is expensive, says Chandran. He estimates his UK operation will be profitable within three years. But that, he says, is just the start. By then, he says, he hopes to have built at least 10 more facilities in his native Malaysia, with interest also from the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere in Asia.

“The potential for this is global,” said Mark Rozario, CEO of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia, a government body which this year bought a 20 percent stake in iGene for $21.5 million.

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SUPPORTERS

Chandran and his supporters see this as the beginning of his innovation, not the end of it. The digital autopsy facilities are nodes in a broader ecosystem Chandran likens to Apple Inc’s iTunes.

Michael Thali, a Swiss academic who has been promoting a “virtual autopsy” for more than a decade, said he tried and failed to get the scanner makers interested in developing such services. Now an adviser to iGene, Thali says this leaves open the field to other companies to deliver improvements in the chain of examination.

Infovalley staff member shows digital autopsy forensic application at the company's office in Kuala Lumpur

“The future will be for smaller companies who are bringing a service for this niche,” he says. “The most important thing is that you have a real chain based on IT.”

This is some way off – and may never happen.

Milos Todorovic, lead analyst at Lux Research and a specialist in medical innovation, says that while iGene’s approach is intriguing, it faces hurdles – not least the fact that the company is starting from scratch in an expensive business. “A lot of things would have to fall into place for them to be able to succeed with something like this,” he said.

That isn’t stopping Chandran from dreaming big – including the idea of scanning the living as part of any regular medical checkup.

“Just like a birth certificate starts with the birth of a baby, the end of a person’s life will end with a report in which the 3D body of a person is captured,” he said. “In that way we can archive every person born on this planet.”

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Henry Sapiecha

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TESTOSTERONE BOOSTER BASED ON THE FENUGREEK PLANT SHOWS PROMISE IN THE MANS WORLD

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

This New Natural Testosterone Booster

Has Men Everywhere Raving

This New Natural Testosterone Booster Has Men Everywhere Raving

Wow… I’m getting old.

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It’s a disturbing thought, one that usually hits after an unexpected physical challenge. Maybe you’ve been unable to maintain your usual workout levels, or recovery is taking a lot longer than it used to. Perhaps fixes to the house are just a bit more difficult, or you can’t perform in the bedroom the way you used to.

What’s most startling about this realization is that you don’t normally “feel old” but, nevertheless, you know you don’t look or feel like the man you used to be.

And the issue? You might not have enough free testosterone

A person’s bloodstream contains two types of testosterone: bonded testosterone and free testosterone. Bonded testosterone attaches to molecules in the body and is mostly ineffective. However, free testosterone can enter your cells easily and plays a vital role in libido, strength, stamina, and vitality—all of which are important to men.

Over the last few years the market has been flooded with questionable options for increasing a man’s free testosterone levels: useless pills, questionable supplements, and dangerous or illegal medical treatments. But now a group of researchers in Boston, Massachusetts have developed a dietary supplement that triggers the body to increase its levels of free testosterone naturally and safely.

This supplement primarily relies on an ingredient called Testofen®, which comes from the rare Fenugreek plant. Testofen® has been shown in clinical trials to boost free testosterone levels, increase sex drive, and improve libido. Adding to Nugenix’s potency are additional key ingredients like zinc and vitamins B12 and B6, which have been shown to improve physical performance and strength, increase drive, and aid in recovery.

It is claimed this product has no harmful side effects, is manufactured in the United States under FDA Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and has been shown to deliver improvements in strength and endurance in as little as a week.

This isn’t product hype delivered by a know-it-all enthusiast from the gym. According to studies held in both Irvine, California and Queensland, Australia, the results from Nugenix are nothing short of spectacular. From greater muscle definition and quicker recovery times, to increased sex drive and feelings of alertness, these users are reporting virtual transformations as a result of safely boosting their free testosterone with Nugenix.

Nugenix is the top selling men’s vitality product in GNC, outselling every other brand —many of which don’t contain the clinically substantiated amounts of Testofen® needed to see actual results.

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Henry Sapiecha

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NEW DRUG FOR TREATMENT OF PANCREATIC CANCER IMPROVES SURVIVAL

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Incyte pancreatic cancer drug improves survival in mid-stage trial

 

Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:35pm EDT

(Reuters) – Incyte Corp reported an improved survival rate in patients most likely to benefit from its experimental pancreatic cancer treatment, Jakafi, sending the company’s shares up 30 percent to its highest in almost 13 years.

Analysts said the data from a mid-stage trial suggested that the drug, already approved in the U.S. to treat a form of blood cancer, can work in a late-stage pancreatic cancer study, as well as on other cancerous tumors.

Among the subgroup of patients identified as most likely to benefit from the treatment, the six month survival rate of patients getting Jakafi along with chemotherapy was 42 percent.

The survival rate was 11 percent for the subgroup of patients treated with chemotherapy alone.

“We are encouraged by this data and model for peak U.S./E.U. sales in pancreatic cancer of $514 million in 2023,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Salveen Richter wrote in a note.

The combination of Jakafi, generically known as ruxolitinib, and chemotherapy drug, capecitabine, was generally well tolerated in the study.

Among the patients receiving the combination therapy, 12 percent discontinued treatment for an adverse event, compared with a 20 percent rate among patients who received capecitabine alone.

Jakafi is already approved in the United States to treat intermediate or high-risk myelofibrosis, a form of blood cancer.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG markets the drug outside the U.S., where it is sold under the brand name of Jakavi.

Incyte earned $54.1 million from Jakafi sales for the second quarter and expects 2013 revenues of about $220 million to $230 million, excluding any royalties from Novartis.

The National Cancer Institute, a part of National Institutes of Health, estimates that 38,460 people will die of pancreatic cancer in 2013 while 45,220 people will be diagnosed with the disease in the same period.

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Henry Sapiecha

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