Nanomotors Placed Inside Live Human Cells

Tiny Nanomotors Successfully Placed Inside Live Human Cells For The First Time:

Tiny Nanomotors Successfully Placed Inside Live Human Cells For The First Time

Tiny Nanomotors Successfully Placed Inside Live Human Cells For The First Time

Scientists have successfully placed tiny synthetic motors in live human cells through nanotechnology. Using ultrasonic waves as the power source and magnets to steer, the nanomotors can zip around the cell and perform tasks.

The main obstacle for placing nanomotors in cells is the power source. Previous nanomotors needed toxic fuels to propel them. It wouldn’t move in a biological environment.

The researchers at Penn State University and at Weinberg Medical Physics found that ultrasonic waves can be used to power these motors and that magnetic fields can be used to steer them.

The image above is that of a HeLa cell with some gold-ruthenium nanomotors inside it. The arrows indicate the trajectories of the nanomotors, and the solid white line shows its propulsion. There are several nanomotors is spinning at the center. HeLa cells are a line of human cervical cancer cells that are used in research studies. Image credit: Mallouk lab, Penn State University.

Bionanotechnology is fast becoming popular in medical and scientific research. Implants and devices hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair, can be integrated into cells. This technology can open up various medical applications such as surgery, deliver medication, and even eradicate cancer cells. Because of its microscopic size, bionanotech devices are non-invasive and results in fewer complications normal open surgery would have.

For the first time, a team of chemists and engineers at Penn State University have placed tiny synthetic motors inside live human cells, propelled them with ultrasonic waves and steered them magnetically. It’s not exactly “Fantastic Voyage,” but it’s close. The nanomotors, which are rocket-shaped metal particles, move around inside the cells, spinning and battering against the cell membrane.

“As these nanomotors move around and bump into structures inside the cells, the live cells show internal mechanical responses that no one has seen before,” said Tom Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Penn State. “This research is a vivid demonstration that it may be possible to use synthetic nanomotors to study cell biology in new ways. We might be able to use nanomotors to treat cancer and other diseases by mechanically manipulating cells from the inside. Nanomotors could perform intracellular surgery and deliver drugs noninvasively to living tissues.”

The researchers’ findings will be published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition on 10 February 2014. In addition to Mallouk, co-authors include Penn State researchers Wei Wang, Sixing Li, Suzanne Ahmed, and Tony Jun Huang, as well as Lamar Mair of Weinberg Medical Physics in Maryland U.S.A.

Up until now, Mallouk said, nanomotors have been studied only “in vitro” in a laboratory apparatus, not in living human cells. Chemically powered nanomotors first were developed ten years ago at Penn State by a team that included chemist Ayusman Sen and physicist Vincent Crespi, in addition to Mallouk. “Our first-generation motors required toxic fuels and they would not move in biological fluid, so we couldn’t study them in human cells,” Mallouk said. “That limitation was a serious problem.” When Mallouk and French physicist Mauricio Hoyos discovered that nanomotors could be powered by ultrasonic waves, the door was open to studying the motors in living systems.

For their experiments, the team uses HeLa cells, an immortal line of human cervical cancer cells that typically is used in research studies. These cells ingest the nanomotors, which then move around within the cell tissue, powered by ultrasonic waves. At low ultrasonic power, Mallouk explained, the nanomotors have little effect on the cells. But when the power is increased, the nanomotors spring into action, moving around and bumping into organelles — structures within a cell that perform specific functions. The nanomotors can act as egg beaters to essentially homogenize the cell’s contents, or they can act as battering rams to actually puncture the cell membrane.

While ultrasound pulses control whether the nanomotors spin around or whether they move forward, the researchers can control the motors even further by steering them, using magnetic forces. Mallouk and his colleagues also found that the nanomotors can move autonomously — independently of one another — an ability that is important for future applications. “Autonomous motion might help nanomotors selectively destroy the cells that engulf them,” Mallouk said. “If you want these motors to seek out and destroy cancer cells, for example, it’s better to have them move independently. You don’t want a whole mass of them going in one direction.”

The ability of nanomotors to affect living cells holds promise for medicine, Mallouk said. “One dream application of ours is Fantastic Voyage-style medicine, where nanomotors would cruise around inside the body, communicating with each other and performing various kinds of diagnoses and therapy. There are lots of applications for controlling particles on this small scale, and understanding how it works is what’s driving us.”

quantumday.com

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Artificial Bone Marrow

Researchers Develop Artificial Bone Marrow:

 Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Hematopoietic Stem Cells

Blood cells such as erythrocytes or immune cells are continuously replaced by new supplied hematopoietic stem cells are found in a specialized bone marrow niche . Hematopoietic stem cells can be used for treatment of blood diseases such as leukemia. Patient affected cells are replaced by healthy blood stem cells from a donor eligible .

However, not all leukemia patients can be treated in this way, as the appropriate number of transplants is not enough. This problem could be solved by the reproduction of hematopoietic stem cells. These cells maintain their stem cell properties in their natural environment only , that is, in its bone marrow niche . Out of this niche market , properties are modified. Therefore, stem cell reproduction requires a similar stem cell niche in the bone marrow environment .

Stem cell niche, is a complex microscopic environment that has specific properties . The relevant areas are highly porous bone and spongelike . This not only accommodate dimensional environment of bone cells and hematopoietic stem cells, but also various other types of cells with which signal substances are exchanged. The space between the cells has a matrix ensuring a certain stability and provides cells with anchorage points. In the stem cell niche , cells with nutrients and oxygen are supplied.

Young Investigators Group “Stem Cell- Material Interactions ” led by Dr. Cornelia Lee- Thedieck composed of scientists from the Institute of Functional Interfaces GAME (IFG ), the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems , Stuttgart, and the University of Tübingen. Artificially reproduces the main properties of natural bone marrow in the laboratory. With the aid of synthetic polymers , scientists created a porous structure simulating cancellous bone structure in the area of the bone marrow blood forming . Building blocks of proteins similar to anchor the cells are added to those in the matrix of the bone marrow. Scientists also insert other types of cells of the stem cell niche in the structure in order to ensure the exchange of substances .

Researchers then introduced hematopoietic stem cells isolated from cord blood in this artificial bone marrow. Subsequent breeding of the cells took several days . Analyzes with different methods revealed that the cells actually play in the newly developed artificial bone marrow . Compared with standard cell culture methods , more stem cells retain their specific properties in the artificial bone marrow.

The newly developed artificial bone marrow has significant properties of natural bone marrow , can now be used by scientists to study the interactions between the materials and the stem cells in the laboratory in detail . This will help you discover how the behavior of stem cells can be influenced and controlled by synthetic materials. This knowledge could contribute to producing an artificial stem cell niche for the specific reproduction of the mother and the treatment of leukemia cells ten or fifteen years from now .

Red Blood Cells Take On New Geometry During Clotting

Red Blood Cells Take On Many-Sided Shapes:

Red Blood Cells Take On Many-Sided Shape During Clotting

Red Blood Cells Take On Many-Sided Shape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red blood cells are real levers of change in body shape, perhaps the most malleable of all cell types , transformation – among other forms – in compressed discs able to pass through capillaries with diameters less than the cell itself blood . While the study of how blood clots John W. contract Weisel , Ph.D. , Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues discovered a new geometry that red blood cells are supposed to when compressed during clot formation .

Although red blood cells were visualized for the first time in the mid-17th century and studied extensively since then , this new study , published online ahead of print in the journal Blood, describes a previously unknown and new function potential of red blood cells . The Penn team found that red blood cells can be compressed into multifaceted structures close together – polyhedral – instead bi – concave , free-flowing form of the disc.

What is more , contrary to expectations , the fibrin and platelet aggregates which form highly clots are mainly employed on the outside of clots , with red blood cells crowded into the clot , while the content of clots are more homogeneous before shrinkage occurs .

Hired clots can form a watertight seal and help prevent vascular obstruction, but confer resistance to penetration of drugs that break down fibrin, the structural component of blood clots , one common treatment option for heart attacks and strokes.

” When I first saw this, he thought :” This can not be biological , ‘”says Weisel . The team first saw the red blood cells shaped polyhedron – when the coagulation process of contraction is studied using a novel MRI technology , with the co -authors of T2 Biosystems, along with co -author Douglas Cines , MD , director of the Coagulation Laboratory and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Penn. They observed a signal indicating tight red blood cells.

The clot network clots are dimensional network of fibers , mainly consisting of the blood protein fibrinogen , which is converted to fibrin during coagulation , and platelets , which aggregate by binding to fibrin once activated . A blood clot must have the proper degree of rigidity and plasticity to stop the flow of blood when tissue is damaged , however , be flexible enough that it does not block the blood flow .

After a clot forms , actin and myosin in platelets initiate the contraction process and cause the clot is reduced to about one third of its original size. This is an important step to stop bleeding , to reduce the blockage in the blood vessel , and to provide a matrix for the migration of cells involved in wound healing . Red blood cells are involved in the contraction process , especially in the venous system , and get pulled by platelets into the clot, blood and the study indicated .

Little is known about the structure of the contracted clots or the role of red blood cells in the contraction process . “We found that the contracted blood clots develop a remarkable structure with a mesh of fibrin and platelet aggregates outside the clot and close packing , tiled matrix of polyhedral erythrocytes compressed inside ,” says Weisel .

The team also saw the same morphology of compacted clots after initiating coagulation activators and also with several clots formed from reconstituted human blood cellular components and blood plasma and mouse . Such matrices polyhedral packing of erythrocytes or polyhedrocytes as researchers dubbed them , were also observed in human arterial thrombi taken from patients who had heart attacks . This form is likely taken up by the red blood cells when contracted or compressed together when platelets clot in order to decrease the volume , surface energy , or the energy of bending , the authors assume .

Cines notes that these findings may have clinical implications . Doctors need to inject tPA as thrombolytic agents to quickly break thrombi , clots that obstruct blood flow , for example, in the coronary arteries to treat a heart attack or arteries leading to the brain to treat stroke. It is well known that thrombi develop time be broken , which is one reason why early intervention resistance is important . The nearly impermeable barrier formed by the red blood cells within contracted clots was observed in the study of the blood can help explain why . Clot contraction could be a target of intervention to prevent the formation of densely packed array polyhedrocytes .

3-D Printed Cells from Eye

3-D Tissue Printing: Cells from the Eye Inkjet-Printed for the First Time:

3-D Tissue Printing: Cells from the Eye Inkjet-Printed for the First Time

3-D Tissue Printing: Cells from the Eye Inkjet-Printed for the First Time

 

The breakthrough could lead to the production of artificial tissue grafts made from the variety of cells found in the human retina and may aid in the search to cure blindness.

At the moment the results are preliminary and provide proof-of-principle that an inkjet printer can be used to print two types of cells from the retina of adult rats―ganglion cells and glial cells. This is the first time the technology has been used successfully to print mature central nervous system cells and the results showed that printed cells remained healthy and retained their ability to survive and grow in culture.

Co-authors of the study Professor Keith Martin and Dr Barbara Lorber, from the John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair, University of Cambridge, said: “The loss of nerve cells in the retina is a feature of many blinding eye diseases. The retina is an exquisitely organised structure where the precise arrangement of cells in relation to one another is critical for effective visual function.”

“Our study has shown, for the first time, that cells derived from the mature central nervous system, the eye, can be printed using a piezoelectric inkjet printer. Although our results are preliminary and much more work is still required, the aim is to develop this technology for use in retinal repair in the future.”

The ability to arrange cells into highly defined patterns and structures has recently elevated the use of 3D printing in the biomedical sciences to create cell-based structures for use in regenerative medicine.

In their study, the researchers used a piezoelectric inkjet printer device that ejected the cells through a sub-millimetre diameter nozzle when a specific electrical pulse was applied. They also used high speed video technology to record the printing process with high resolution and optimised their procedures accordingly.

“In order for a fluid to print well from an inkjet print head, its properties, such as viscosity and surface tension, need to conform to a fairly narrow range of values. Adding cells to the fluid complicates its properties significantly,” commented Dr Wen-Kai Hsiao, another member of the team based at the Inkjet Research Centre in Cambridge.

Once printed, a number of tests were performed on each type of cell to see how many of the cells survived the process and how it affected their ability to survive and grow.

The cells derived from the retina of the rats were retinal ganglion cells, which transmit information from the eye to certain parts of the brain, and glial cells, which provide support and protection for neurons.

“We plan to extend this study to print other cells of the retina and to investigate if light-sensitive photoreceptors can be successfully printed using inkjet technology. In addition, we would like to further develop our printing process to be suitable for commercial, multi-nozzle print heads,” Professor Martin concluded.

Scientists Grow Human Brain

Scientists Grow Human Brain From Stem Cells:

Scientists Grow Human Brain From Stem Cells

Scientists Grow Human Brain From Stem Cells

Ear, eye, liver, windpipe, bladder and even a heart. The list of body parts grown from stem cells is getting longer and longer. Now add to it one of the most complex organs: the brain.

A team of European scientists has grown parts of a human brain in tissue culture from stem cells. Their work could help scientists understand the origins of schizophrenia or autism and lead to drugs to treat them, said Juergen Knoblich, deputy scientific director at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and one of the paper’s co-authors.

The advance could also eliminate the need for conducting experiments on animals, whose brains are not a perfect model for humans.

To grow the brain structures, called organoids, the scientists used stem cells, which can develop into any other kind of cell in the body. They put the stem cells into a special solution designed to promote the growth of neural cells. Bits of gel interspersed throughout the solution gave the cells a three-dimensional structure to grow upon. In eight to 10 days, the stem cells turned into brain cells. After 20 days to a month, the cells matured into a size between three and four millimeters, representing specific brain regions such as the cortex and the hindbrain.

Growing brain tissue this way marks a major advancement because the lab-grown brain cells self-organized and took on growth patterns seen in a developing, fetal brain.

Currently, the organoids are limited on how big they can get because they do not have a circulatory system to move around nutrients.

Knoblich’s team didn’t stop at growing the brain organoids, though. They went a step further and used the developing tissue to study microcephaly, a condition in which the brain stops growing. Microcephalic patients are born with smaller brains and impaired cognitive development. Studying microcephaly in mice doesn’t help because human and mouse brains are too different.

For this part of the study, the researchers used stem cells from a microcephalic patient and grew neurons in a culture. They found that normal brains have progenitor stem cells that make neurons and can do so repeatedly. In microcephalic brains, the progenitor cells differentiate into neurons earlier, said Madeline A. Lancaster, the study’s lead author. The brain doesn’t make as many neurons and a child is born with a much smaller brain volume.

Yoshiki Sasai, a stem-cell biologist at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, garnered headlines last year by growing the precursors to a human eye.

“The most important advancement is that they combined this self-organization culture with disease-specific cells to model a genetic disease of human brain malformation,” he said.

“Everything we have done with other organs starts with this stage,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who has done years of research on using 3D printers to build organs. Atala was not involved in this study, but he noted that before he could build organs, he needed to grow the pieces in order to get the cells to differentiate in just the right way. So though it’s unlikely anyone will print brains the way he did a kidney, this kind of experiment is where organ regeneration starts.

Knoblich said the next step is studying other brain disorders, but it will take some time to grow enough brain tissue. One factor is maximum size and how far the brain can develop in the culture. Brain cells develop in layers, and there are several by the time a baby is born. The cortical cells Knoblich’s team grew only had one such layer. Another factor is getting blood vessels inside the tissue. That problem could be solved some time in the future, though he said he couldn’t predict when.

It is tempting to think one day there will be whole brains in vats, but that isn’t likely to happen.

“Aside from the severe ethical problem, I do not think this will be possible,” Knoblich said. To form actual functioning neural circuits, a brain needs sensory input. “Without any sensory input, the proper organization may not happen.”

Nutrition and Health based on flimsiest evidence.

The Surprising Reason People Get Fat:

 

The Surprising Reason People Get Fat

The Surprising Reason People Get Fat

 

“I want to convince you that the conventional wisdom about weight gain is wrong,” declared Gary Taubes. The idea that eating too much and exercising too little is the culprit is, he said, “as obsolete as the belief that the sun rotates around the earth.” Thus began the most revolutionary presentation in the five-year history of the Nutrition and Health Conference, an annual three-day event co-sponsored by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (founded by Dr. Weil in 1994). Held most recently in Phoenix, Arizona in April of 2008, it attracted some 500 health care professionals from around the world, and the packed house at Arizona Grand Resort made it clear that Taubes was a headliner. The writer, trained in applied physics at Harvard and aerospace engineering at Stanford, specializes in parsing hot science controversies in articles and books (such as 1993’s Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion). He is widely credited with kicking off the national low-carb diet trend with his July 2002 New York Times Magazine article, What If It’s All Been a Big, Fat Lie? In 2007, he published Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease, a book that led the New York Times to assert that “Gary Taubes is a brave and bold science journalist” who shows that “much of what is believed about nutrition and health is based on the flimsiest evidence.” Taubes’ message: political pressure and sloppy science over the last 50 years have skewed research to make it seem that dietary fat and cholesterol are the main causes of obesity and heart disease, but there is, in fact, little or no objective data to support that hypothesis. A more careful look (Taubes researched his book for five years, its 450 pages include 60 pages of footnotes) reveals that the real obesity-epidemic drivers are increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, mainly sugar and white flour. Further, as he stated in his conference presentation, obesity is not “a disorder of energy imbalance,” in which weak-willed people eat too much and exercise too little, but rather “a disorder of excess fat accumulation” in which the body, not the brain, is the primary culprit. Eating too much and exercising too little are side effects, not causes, of the active role of carbohydrate-driven hormones on the whole organism, including the brain. Much of Taubes’ presentation was devoted to illustrating the central role that glucose and insulin – both of which are products of carbohydrate metabolism – play in fat deposition. A chemical compound derived from glucose, he said, turns fatty acids – the “burnable” kind of fat – into triglycerides, the “storable” form of fat. Consequently, “Anything that works to transport glucose into fat cells works to deposit fat.” And what transports glucose into fat cells? Insulin. “When insulin is secreted or chronically elevated, fat accumulates in fat tissue,” he said. “When insulin levels drop, fat escapes from fat tissue and the fat depots shrink.” Bottom line: “Carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat deposition.” So when it comes to accumulating fat, carbohydrates are indeed “bad calories,” as they are the only ones that boost insulin and make fat accumulation possible. Highly refined carbohydrates are even worse, as they lead to insulin surges and subsequent drops, which creates a hunger for more – hunger so voracious that, for most people, it can’t be overcome by willpower. Refined carbohydrates, Taubes contends in his book, are literally addictive. So what’s the scientific weight-loss solution? Taubes asserted that since the fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be, our diets should emphasize meat, fish, fowl, cheese, butter, eggs and non-starchy vegetables. Conversely, we should reduce or, preferably, eliminate bread and other baked goods, potatoes, yams, rice, pasta, cereal grains, corn, sugar (both sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) ice cream, candy, soft drinks, fruit juices, bananas and other tropical fruits, and beer. Excluding carbohydrates from the diet, he said, derails the insulin peak/dip roller coaster, so one is never voraciously hungry, making weight loss and healthy-weight maintenance easy. “When you eat this way, the fat just melts off,” he said after his speech – and Taubes is indeed a lean fellow. While Dr. Weil agrees with most of Taubes’ research, he draws the line at the writer’s specific dietary recommendations: “I don’t agree that the way to respond to this information is to eat a diet that is mostly meat and no carbohydrate.” He said instead that people should eat animal protein two to three times per week – mostly as fatty, cold-water fish to reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids – and otherwise eat carbohydrate foods that rank low on the glycemic load scale. “All carbohydrates are not the same, nor do all people react to them in the same way,” he said. “That needs to be taken into account.” But overall, Dr. Weil, like the other assembled health-care professionals, came away impressed. “I invited Gary to speak, and I’ve been recommending the book to my medical colleagues and students. It’s important to get this information out to the medical community, because a lot of the ways that we try to prevent and treat obesity are based on assumptions that have no scientific evidence.”

 

Monsanto’s Roundup is causing DNA Damage

Monsanto’s Roundup Ultra Max, is causing both DNA and cellular damage to cells found in the mouth and throat:

Monsanto’s Roundup Ultra Max, is causing both DNA and cellular damage to cells found in the mouth and throat

Monsanto’s Roundup Ultra Max, is causing both DNA and cellular damage to cells found in the mouth and throat

There is a reason that masks are worn while applying herbicides and warning signs are erected upon recently sprayed land plots — herbicide exposure is known to cause serious health complications. New research has recently been released showing that glyphosate, the main active ingredient found in Monsanto’s Roundup Ultra Max, is causing both DNA and cellular damage to cells found in the mouth and throat. Seeing as the inhalation of herbicides and ingredients like glyphosate is very common, this research alone is enough to raise concern over the safety of such substances which are used on a major scale. The Institute of Science in Society reports:

…Monsanto’s formulated version of glyphosate called Roundup Ultra Max caused cellular damage and DNA damage including chromosomal abnormalities and ultimately killed the cells at higher concentrations. Importantly, DNA damage occurred at concentrations below those required to induce cell damage, suggesting that the DNA damage was caused directly by glyphosate instead of being an indirect result of cell toxicity.

The research comes shortly after Monsanto’s all-to-popular Roundup has been shown to be killing off human kidney cells – even at low doses. Scientists demonstrated in the research that Monsanto’s ‘biopesticide’ Bt, in addition to Roundup, cause direct toxicity to human cells. They found that at only 100 parts per million (ppm), the biopesticide led to cell death, while it only took 57.2ppm of Roundup to kill half of the cell population in their research. Turns out that the amount of Roundup shown to cause this damage is 200 times below agricultural use. Although harm caused by glyphosate and Roundup is thought to be experienced only by those spraying the herbicide, Roundup may actually causing harm to millions of people. Roundup is not only sprayed on the food we eat, but it is also used by countless households as a consumer herbicide product. Roundup is so prevalent that it has been found in 41 percent of the 140 groundwater samples tested from Catalonia Spain. Even more concerning, a recent German study found glyphosate in all urine samples tested in concentrations at 5 to 20-fold the limit established for drinking water. Despite the evidence stacking up against Monsanto, they continue to push their health-damaging products on the public through personal and commercial use.

Injecting neural stem cells bring back feeling for the paralysed

Stem cells bring back feeling for paralysed patients:

Stem cells bring back feeling for paralysed patients

Stem cells bring back feeling for paralysed patients

For the first time, people with broken spines have recovered feeling in previously paralysed areas after receiving injections of neural stem cells. Three people with paralysis received injections of 20 million neural stem cells directly into the injured region of their spinal cord. The cells, acquired from donated fetal brain tissue, were injected between four and eight months after the injuries happened. The patients also received a temporary course of immunosuppressive drugs to limit rejection of the cells. None of the three felt any sensation below their nipples before the treatment. Six months after therapy, two of them had sensations of touch and heat between their chest and belly button. The third patient has not seen any change. “The fact we’ve seen responses to light touch, heat and electrical impulses so far down in two of the patients is very unexpected,” says Stephen Huhn of StemCells, the company in Newark, California, developing and testing the treatment. “They’re really close to normal in those areas now in their sensitivity,” he adds. “We are very intrigued to see that patients have gained considerable sensory function,” says Armin Curt of Balgrist University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, where the patients were treated, and principal investigator in the trial. The data are preliminary, but “these sensory changes suggest that the cells may be positively impacting recovery”, says Curt, who presented the results today in London at the annual meeting of the International Spinal Cord Society. Persistent gains. The patients are the first three of 12 who will eventually receive the therapy. The remaining recipients will have less extensive paralysis. “The sensory gains, first detected at three months post-transplant, have now persisted and evolved at six months after transplantation,” says Huhn. “We clearly need to collect much more data to demonstrate efficacy, but our results so far provide a strong rationale to persevere with the clinical development of our stem cells for spinal injury,” he says. “We need to keep monitoring these patients to see if feeling continues to affect lower segments of their bodies,” says Huhn. “These are results after only six months, and we will follow these patients for many years.” Huhn says that the company has “compelling data” from animal studies that the donated cells can repair nerves within broken spines. There could be several reasons why the stem cells improve sensitivity, says Huhn. They might help to restore myelin insulation to damaged nerves, improving the communication of signals to and from the brain. Or they could be enhancing the function of existing nerves, replacing them entirely or reducing the inflammation that hampers repair. Abandoned trial. The announcement comes almost a year after the world’s only other trial to test stem cells for spinal injury was suspended. Geron of Menlo Park, California, had injected neural stem cells derived from embryonic stem cells into four people with spinal injuries when it announced that it was going to focus on cancer therapies instead. The company also abandoned its other stem-cell programmes combating diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Huhn hopes that the results from the StemCells trial will revive the enthusiasm that evaporated following Geron’s bombshell. “It’s the first time we’ve seen a signal of some beneficial effect, so we’re moving in the right direction, and towards a proof of concept,” he says. The news was welcomed by other pioneers of neural stem-cell research. “It looks encouraging and has some parallels with what we’ve seen in our trial in stroke patients,” says Michael Hunt, CEO of ReNeuron, in Guildford, UK, which in 2010 became the first company in the world to treat strokes with stem cells. They appear to be making progress, and that’s good for the stem-cell field generally, and for neural stem-cell research in particular,” says Hunt. He says that seven people who have had strokes have now been treated, and that some have shown signs of functional improvement without adverse effects. “It’s early days, and we are proceeding cautiously before hopefully moving to more substantive trials,” says Hunt. “These initial data certainly indicate that stem-cell transplantation may help remediate some of the severe functional loss associated with spinal cord injury,” says George Bittner of the University of Texas at Austin, who has developed a polymer-based system for rapid treatment of damaged nerves. But, he says, a single mode of treatment is unlikely to be enough to restore function after spinal cord injuries. We will need “combinations of approaches including stem cells, polymer-based treatments, retraining and physical therapy”. Other researchers were intrigued but cautious. “It’s work in progress,” says Wagih El Masri, a spinal specialist at the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries in Oswestry, UK, who attended Curt’s presentation. “We need larger numbers of patients treated to confirm whether this interesting finding has any future.” He says that about 3 per cent of patients show similar improvements spontaneously at about 6 months, but seldom beyond that. Testing the therapy on patients who were injured more than six months before would help to confirm that the stem cells are responsible for the results.

Human Cells Powerful as Lighting Bolts

Human Cells have Electric Fields as Powerful as Lighting Bolts:

Human Cells have Electric Fields as Powerful as Lighting Bolts

Human Cells have Electric Fields as Powerful as Lighting Bolts

Using newly developed voltage-sensitive nanoparticles, researchers have found that the previously unknown electric fields inside of cells are as strong, or stronger, as those produced in lightning bolts. Previously, it has only been possible to measure electric fields across cell membranes, not within the main bulk of cells, so scientists didn’t even know cells had an internal electric field. This discovery is a surprising twist for cell researchers. Scientists don’t know what causes these incredibly strong fields or why they’ are there. But now using new nanotools, such as voltage-sensitive dyes, they can start to measure them at least. Researchers believe they may be able to learn more about disease states, such as cancer, by studying these minute, but powerful electric fields. University of Michigan researchers led by chemistry professor Raoul Kopelman encapsulated voltage-sensitive dyes in polymer spheres just 30 nanometers in diameter. Testing these nanoparticles in the internal fluid of brain-cancer cells, Kopelman found electric fields as strong as 15 million volts per meter, up to five times stronger than the field found in a lightning bolt. However, this discovery goes beyond being incredibly interesting; the finding will likely change the way researchers look at disease. “They have developed a tool that allows you to look at cellular changes on a very local level,” said Piotr Grodzinski, director of the National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer in Technology Review. Grodzinski believes many developments in cancer research, for example, over the past few years have been “reactive” rather than proactive. Despite how far cancer treatments have come, the way that cancer, and other diseases, progresses at the cellular level in the first place is still not well understood. With a better understanding, researchers could improve diagnostics and care. “This development represents an attempt to start using nanoscale tools to understand how disease develops,” said Grodzinski. Kopelman has developed encapsulated voltage-sensitive dyes that aren’t hydrophobic and can operate anywhere in the cell, rather than just in membranes. Because it’s possible to place his encapsulated dyes in a cell with a greater degree of control, Kopelman likens them to voltmeters. “Nano voltmeters do not perturb [the cellular] environment, and you can control where you put them,” he says. The existence of strong electric fields across cellular membranes is accepted as a basic fact of cell biology. The fact that cells have internal electric fields as well, however, is a whole new revelation. Scientists previously did not know of the existence of internal cellular energy fields, and are just in the earliest stages of understand the phenomenon. Kopelman presented his results at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology this month. “There has been no skepticism as to the measurements,” says Kopelman. “But we don’t have an interpretation.” Daniel Chu of the University of Washington in Seattle agrees that Kopelman’s work provides proof of concept that cells have internal electric fields. “It’s bound to be important, but nobody has looked at it yet,” Chu says.