Health,Stem Cells, and Technology

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Future Therapeutics - Hijacking Natural Genetic Circuits To Create Synthetic Cells

Biologists at Stanford University, using a systems biology approach, have constructed a programmable genetic 'circuit' that can rewire cells to respond on demand to defined and easily applied signals. The technique could have a wide range of uses, for example coaxing stem cells, either native or exogenous, to release their "healing molecules," often referred to as the SRM, once inside the body and/or within defined space and time parameters.

One version of the circuit makes human cells susceptible to an antiviral drug, but only if the cells are making abnormal amounts of a protein implicated in cancer. Thus, synthetic genetic devices that interface with native cellular pathways can be used to change natural networks to implement new forms of control and behavior. Previously, the engineering of gene networks has been limited by an inability to interface with native components. The Stanford group describes a class of RNA control devices that overcome these limitations by coupling increased abundance of particular proteins to targeted gene expression events through the regulation of alternative RNA splicing. They engineered RNA devices that detect signaling through the nuclear factor κB and Wnt signaling pathways in human cells and rewired these pathways to produce new behaviors, thereby linking disease markers to noninvasive sensing and reprogrammed cellular fates. Similar to "hackers" who enter into and perturb a computer network, or circuit, the Stanford scientists were able to enter into and perturb a natural biological circuit. Their work provides a genetic platform that can build programmable sensing-actuation devices enabling autonomous control over cellular behavior.

Although "cell-hacking" circuits described in these studies by Dr. Smolke are years away from any possible use in the clinic,the methodology could eventually be combined with other experimental treatments to control where and when therapeutics act within the body. One such possibility is that stem cells capable of generating and releasing a multitude of molecules (SRM) that induce tissue repair could be instructed to respond to protein cues within the body that cause the stem cells to release their SRM into the damaged tissue within defined space and time parameters. These studies were reported in Science (2010) 330, 1251-1255.

Monday, November 29, 2010

US Food Supply Tainted With Bisphenol A

The November 1, 2010 edition of Environmental Science & Technology reports that Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used for lining metal cans and in polycarbonate plastics, such as baby bottles has been found in many US foods. In rodents, BPA is associated with epigenetic alterations, early sexual maturation, altered behavior, and effects on prostate and mammary glands. As I reported earlier, BPA is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and male sexual dysfunction in exposed workers. Food is a major exposure source. No previous studies have reported BPA in U.S. fresh food, canned food, and food in plastic packaging in peer reviewed journals. Dr. Schecter and team measured BPA levels in 105 fresh and canned foods, foods sold in plastic packaging, and in cat and dog foods in cans and plastic packaging. They detected BPA in 63 of 105 samples, including fresh turkey, canned green beans, and canned infant formula. Ninety-three of these samples were triplicates that had similar detected levels. Detected levels ranged from 0.23 to 65.0 ng/g ww and were not associated with type of food or packaging but did vary with pH. BPA levels were higher for foods of pH 5 compared to more acidic and alkaline foods. Detected levels were comparable to those found by previous studies. These data once again show that fresh is best; avoiding processed and packaged foods as much as possible is a means for limiting BPA intake.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Full Body X-Ray Scanners At The Airport Are Potentially Dangerous - We Should Use Alternative Technology

Fifty-two state-of-the-art scanners are currently screening passengers at 23 U.S. airports. By the end of 2011, there will be 1,000 machines and two out of every three passengers will be asked to step into one of the new machines for a six-second head-to-toe scan before boarding. About half of these machines will be X-ray back-scatter scanners. They use low-energy X-rays to image beneath passengers' clothing.

Ionizing radiation such as the X-rays used in these scanners have the potential to induce chromosome damage that can lead to cancer. The stated dose, about .02 microsieverts, a medical unit of radiation, is averaged over the whole body. But if the dose is calculated as what is incident at the skin, the number would be higher, though how much higher is unclear.

Recent research indicates that about 5 percent of the population is especially sensitive to radiation. These people have gene mutations that render them less able to repair X-ray damage to their DNA. Two examples are the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations associated with breast and ovarian cancer, but many more such defects are likely. Children are also more vulnerable to radiation damage, because they have more dividing cells at any time. A radiation-induced mutation in their cells can lead to cancer decades later. The most likely risk from the airport scanners is a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, which is usually curable and frequently occurs on the head and neck

The simple solution to this potential health hazard is to use millimeter-wave scanners that, as far as we know today, don't have any associated radiation risks. Millimeter-wave scanners use a different technology that produce images using radio waves, not X-rays, and these waves are not a type of ionizing radiation. The images are comparable in quality to the X-ray scanners. The cost is also comparable to the X-ray scanners.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spinal Implant Will Help People With Paraplegia To Exercise Paralysed Limbs

Scientists and engineers have developed a new type of microchip muscle stimulator implant that will enable people with paraplegia to exercise their paralysed leg muscles.

For the first time researchers have developed a device of this kind that is small enough to be implanted into the spinal canal and incorporates the electrodes and muscle stimulator in one unit. The implant is smaller than your fingernail. As a historical note, the enabling technology for the implant,the microprocessor, was invented in 1968 by Dr. Ted Hoff while he was a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, and first commercialized by Intel in 1971.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) project is being led by Professor Andreas Demosthenous from University College London, and includes scientists and engineers from Freiburg University and the Tyndall Institute in Cork.

The work has the potential to stimulate more muscle groups than is currently possible with existing technology because a number of these devices can be implanted into the spinal canal. Stimulation of more muscle groups means users can perform enough movement to carry out controlled exercise such as cycling or rowing.

The new device may also be used for a wide range of restorative functions such as stimulating bladder muscles to help overcome incontinence, and stimulating nerves to improve bowel capacity and suppress spasms.

The research and engineering team has overcome previous limitations by micro-packaging everything into one tiny unit. Latest laser processing technology has been used to cut tiny electrodes from platinum foil. The foil is then folded into a 3D shape, which looks like the pages of a book, earning the device the name "Active Book." The foil pages close in around the nerve roots, and are micro-welded to a silicon chip which is hermetically sealed to protect against water penetration, thus protecting against corrosion of the electronics.

Although electrical stimulation of leg muscles has been used for years, the previous methods usually attach electrodes to the outside of the legs and then connect the electrodes to an external stimulator. This is too time consuming to be used every day, therefore few people with spinal cord injury continue with this method despite the clear health benefits. The new chip technology should enable patients to perform stimulations routinely and thus greatly benefit their quality of life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Quantity and Variety of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Lowers Cancer Risk

Eating five to ten portions of fruit and vegetables per day is one of the means that experts most frequently recommend for preventing cancer. Now, the European EPIC study carried out by researchers from 10 countries has shown that, in the case of lung cancer, the important thing is not just the quantity but also the variety of fruit consumed, which can reduce the risk by up to 23%.

The results of this study, which have been published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, show that eating "more than eight sub-groups" of vegetables cuts this risk by 23% compared with eating "less than four sub-groups". In addition, this risk falls by a further 4% for each unit added to the diet from another sub-group.

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) involves 23 centres from 10 European countries (Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Holland, Italy, Norway, the United Kingdom and Sweden, working with a sample of 500,000 European subjects.

Lung cancer continues to be one of the most common cancers in developed countries. For this reason, despite the encouraging results of this study, the most effective way of preventing lung cancer continues to be reducing the prevalence of tobacco consumption among the populace.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Darvon Is Pulled From The Market

Once a heavily marketed and almost fashionable painkiller, Darvon is coming off the market. Many of us have seen the drugs benefits as an excellent pain reliever.

The Food and Drug Administration said Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals, the current producer of the brand-name pills Darvon and Darvocet (a combination of Darvon with acetaminophen), has agreed to stop selling the two drugs. The agency also asked makers of generics (the active ingredient is propoxyphene) to follow suit.

Why is this occurring after 50 years? The FDA says it pushed to remove the medicine, prescribed since the late 1950s, from the market after new data showed "patients at risk of potentially serious or even fatal heart rhythm abnormalities." Overall, the drug's risks to patients outweigh its benefits, FDA said.

Early last year a panel of outside experts voted to recommend that propoxyphene, a mild opioid, be withdrawn. Overdoses and lingering questions about the drug's effectiveness in relieving pain were some of the issues.

In July 2009, the FDA decided to leave propoxyphene on the market but required the companies that sold it to beef up warnings about overdose hazards. Xanodyne also had to study how the drug affects heart rhythms, and the results were shared with FDA recently. The new study results, for the first time have data showing that the standard therapeutic dose of propoxyphene can be harmful to the heart.

Darvon's ability to fight pain has long been questioned. Back in 1972, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared marketed pain relievers and found aspirin to be the best. Darvon was no better than a sugar pill.

At the time, the authors noted pointedly that propoxyphene had a "dubious record" in controlled clinical tests. Their own work, they said, represented the eighth published study that showed the drug wasn't better than a placebo.

Public Citizen's Health Research Group twice petitioned the FDA to withdraw propoxyphene drugs. In a statement today, the consumer group faulted the agency for taking so long to act, saying the delay since the U.K. decided to ban the drugs in 2005 resulted in the death of at least 1,000 Americans. Regardless, the drug is off the market and the FDA has done its job....often a difficult job when weighing risks versus benefits!

E. Coli Linked To Kidney Problems, Heart Disease, And High Blood Pressure

People who become infected with E. Coli have a higher risk of developing hypertension, heart disease and kidney problems, Canadian researchers published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal). The authors say their study underscores how important it is to have clean water and food, as well as monitoring infected people carefully. E. coli is the same as Escherichia coli.

Health authorities in America believe that approximately 120,000 people each year develop gastro-enteric illnesses from E. coli 0157:H7 infections. About 2,000 are admitted to hospital 60 sixty die each year.

However, very little is known about the long-term outlook for people with E. coli infection, the researchers explained.

William F. Clark, MD, professor of nephrology at Victoria Hospital, London, Ontario, Canada, and team set out to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney problems and hypertension within eight years of becoming infected with E. coli as a result of consuming contaminated water.

They gathered data from the Walkerton Health Study, which evaluated the long-term health of 1,977 individuals who had developed gastroenteritis from a tainted municipal water system in May 2000. The water had been infected with Campylobacter and E. Coli 0157:H7 bacteria. 1,067 of them became ill with acute gastroenteritis, and 378 went to see a doctor about it.

The researchers discovered that those who had developed gastroenteritis symptoms had a 1.3 higher risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) compared to those who had not become infected. Renal impairment (kidney problem) risk was 3.4 times higher, and the chances of having a cardiovascular event, such as stroke or heart attack was 2.1 times higher.

The authors concluded that there is a need for following up individual cases of food or water poisoning by E coli O157:H7 to prevent or reduce silent progressive vascular injury.

The long term consequences of the E Coli exposure emphasise the importance of ensuring safe food and water supply as a cornerstone of public health.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The End of Influence By Drs. Cohen and DeLong - A Must Read To Understanding Our Economic Crisis

The End of Influence is excellent and should be read by Democrats and Republicans alike. One of the key virtues of the book is the attention Cohen and DeLong give to some of the assumptions we make about the American economy: they note that while the postwar mixed economy model of the United States, including a strong relationship between business, government, and academia, was very different from the models developed in Europe, the US model was just as statist and interventionist as those in Europe. Indeed, this is one key reason why the US prospered.

The current mantra of "free enterprise, small government, and the government is the problem" is not what led to our once great US economy. Many of our great industries were developed by a strong government; indeed the great industrial empires that are now building in Asia rely on a very strong relationship between governemnt, industry, and academia. If you think, for example, that the US' biotech, semiconductor, and aerospace industries were born of free enterprise...think again. Government enabled these great industries through funding and other support, including a great research base at many academic institutions (UC Berkeley, UCSF, Stanford, Harvard, and MIT to name a few).

Before you pull the handle for your local, yocal tea party candidate, aka unknowing pawns of the overseas multinationals who are ready to eviserate our research institutions, cut support for business innovation, and pull the plug on our manufacturing base, please read this book. Also see an interview with Dr. Stephen S. Cohen at (a live stream from UCTV):

Also, please see my related article at:

Will it be Cin Cin, Bottoms-up, Salute, Kampai, L'chaim, Fisehatak, A votre sante to the American dream for all of us......or do we let it go away with the likes of Sarah Palin, Jim Demint(ed), Joe Scarborough, not to mention the Fox News people (the fox appears in folklore as a symbol of cunning and trickery, how apropos) and other anti-intellectuals.

We're in good hands with Jerry Brown next year at the helm in California, but can Obama pull it together in the next two years for America? I suggest Obama stand up, be the man he said he was in his campaign, forget about being relected, and just do the rational thing to bring the US economy back. America be brave, take risks, fund those people and entities that will bring us prosperity, and understand that we are not entitled, and we are no longer the leader of the world in many areas...we need to earn these things again. We are very talented and can do it with good politics.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Surgerical Technique/Device Dramatically Lowers Blood Pressure

Ardian, a medical device company based in Mountain View, California has shown how to dramatically lower blood pressure in hard-to-treat patients by destroying nerves in the kidney. The nerves are located inside the main arteries leading to the kidney, and affect blood pressure by controlling the release of sodium and an enzyme called rennin. The nerves also control blood flow from the kidneys themselves.

Previous studies have shown that these nerves are overactive in many people with high blood pressure. By destroying these nerves in about 50 people, Dr. Murray Esler and team could reduce those patients' uncontrolled high blood pressure by nearly 30 percent. A study describing the work was presented November 17, 2010 at the American Heart Association, and the work is published in The Lancet.

Hypertension affects about 1 in 3 adults. Previous research has suggested that high blood pressure dramatically increases the risk of death. But effective medication may only reduce blood pressure up about 10 percent. This is the first controlled trial to explore the impact that destroying these nerves would have on high blood pressure.

The procedure can be performed in 40 to 60 minutes with an overnight hospital stay. The company is awaiting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to begin a similar research trial in the United States with 350 patients whose high blood pressure isn't controlled by medication. The company already has permission to do the procedure in Europe, and will begin commercializing the device and procedure early in 2011.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heart Attack And Stroke Risk Factor Linked To Arterial Stiffness In Children

A new study from Dr. Urbina at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center shows that arterial stiffness in youth is associated with increased mass of the left ventricle, the pumping chamber of the heart. This increase in left venrtricular mass raises the risk for heart attack and stroke. The study comes just weeks after another Cincinnati Children's study demonstrating that arterial stiffness can be present in children as young as 10.

The study was presented Nov. 15, at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago. Arterial stiffness is measured using a variety of non-invasive tests, including ultrasound and pulse transducers, which measure an artery's ability to expand and contract as the heart pulses and relaxes. Screening for arterial stiffness may be useful to identify high-risk youth in need of early treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke.

Arteries stiffen as a result of atherosclerosis. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include obesity and being overweight, smoking, high amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood, high blood pressure and high amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes. Related studies have demonstrated that obese children have increased thickness and stiffness of their carotid arteries, both of which are factors associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart attacks in adults. Moreover, abnormal carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain, are found in obese adolescents who do not yet have type II diabetes

More aggressive preventive measures, especially the treatment of cardiovascular risk factors in children and teens, is needed now to prevent the current epidemic of obesity from making this the first generation of children to have a shorter life expectancy and poorer health than their parents. Exercise and diet can help most people, where fat intake is controlled, and sugar and simple carbohydrate intake is limited.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family

Dr. Devra Davis, the founding director of the toxicology and environmental studies board at the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, presents an array of recent and long suppressed research in her new book entitled, Disconnect. According to Davis, cell phone radiation is a national emergency. She illuminates how the most popular gadget of our age has now been shown to damage DNA, break down the brain's defenses, and reduce sperm count while increasing memory loss, the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and even cancer. The growing brains of children make them especially vulnerable. And half of the world's four billion cell phones are used by people under twenty.

Davis leads readers through the dark side of this trillion-dollar industry. Health experts have long been frozen out of policy-making decisions about cell phones; federal regulatory standards are set by the cell phone industry itself. Cell phone manufacturers are using the playbook of the tobacco industry. One secret memo reveals their war plan against reports of cell phone dangers.

Among a host of fascinating characters, Davis introduces Om P. Gandhi, a world expert on how cell phone radiation penetrates the human brain. Once a consultant to major cell phone companies, Gandhi now refuses to work with them. Franz Adlkofer led the multi-lab study showing that brain cell DNA is unraveled by cell phone microwave radiation,and as Davis dramatically portrays, it nearly cost Adlkofer his career.

Let's all plan to use an earbud (reduced power output to the head compared to the cell phone placed at the ear) or the speaker phone instead of placing the mobile phone next to your head.

Even Reusable Bags Made In China Carry Environmental Risk

According to the NY Times, synthetic, reusable grocery bags, another must-have accessory for the socially conscious, have been reported from around the country to contain potentially unsafe levels of lead. The offending bags were made in China and identified at several stores, including some CVS pharmacies; the Rochester-based Wegman’s grocery chain recalled thousands of its bags, made of recycled plastic, in September.

Concerns have proliferated so much that Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, sent a letter on Sunday to the Food and Drug Administration, urging the agency to investigate the issue.

Reusable bags have maintained their popularity even amid charges that they become hothouses for bacteria. The recent studies, none of which were conducted by the government, found that the lead in some bags would pose a long-term risk of seeping into groundwater after disposal; over time, however, paint from the bag could flake off and come into contact with food.

Do not buy resuable bags that have been made in China.

Poor Sleep Tied To Inflammation, A Risk Factor For Heart Disease, Stroke & More

Dr Alanna Morris, a cardiology fellow at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, presented on Sunday at the American Heart Association (AHA) 2010 Scientific Sessions in Chicago a study showing that poor sleep quality, that is not having a good night's sleep or not enough sleep, is linked to higher levels of inflammation, a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke..

The study is part of the Emory-Morehouse Partnership to Reduce CV Disparities (META-Health), a joint initiative between Emory and Morehouse School of Medicine, also in Atlanta. An abstract of the study is published in the 23 November issue of Circulation, an AHA journal.

Previous studies have shown a link between acute lack of sleep and inflammation markers and changes in blood vessels, but there is not enough research information on the physiological effects of chronic lack of sleep. Most of the studies monitor the body's response to lack of sleep in subjects who have been acutely sleep deprived for more than 24 hours in experimental sleep laboratories, and epidemiologic studies have been needed.

Morris and colleagues examined data on 525 middle-aged participants of the META-Health study who had filled in the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) questionnaire. 47 per cent of the participants were African American, and 61 per cent were female. The PSQI asked the participants detailed questions about sleep duration and sleep quality. The researchers defined poor sleep as a total PSQI score of six or more, based on the median score. They also analyzed data according to hours of sleep, in three groups: less than 6 hours per night, between 6 and 8.9, and 9 hours or more.

The participants' levels of three inflammatory markers were also examined as continuous values: fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP). C-reactive protein (CRP) is often used as a marker of inflammation and heart disease risk. According to the AHA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people whose CRP is above 3 mg per litre, that is the upper third of the US population, have around twice the risk of a heart attack compared to those with lower levels.

After adjusting the results to take into account potential demographic (age, gender, race) and health (smoking, diabetes, blood pressure, glucose, waist size, blood fat levels) confounders, the researchers found that:
1. Participants with poor sleep quality had significantly higher levels of fibrinogen, IL-6, and CRP than participants with good sleep quality.
2. Levels of the three inflammatory markers also differed across the three categories of sleep duration.
3. Sleep duration of 6 to 8.9 hours was linked to significantly lower levels of mean fibrinogen, median IL-6 and CRP compared to sleep duration of under 6 hours.
4. Comparisons between 6 to 8.9 and nine hours or more of sleep duration did not show any statistically significant effects.

These studies suggest that poor sleep quality and short sleep durations are associated with higher levels of inflammation, and that improving sleep quality and duration may be impotant for reducing cardiovascular disease risks. Because many diseases are associated with inflammation, these data have implications for disease such as neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzeheimer’s Disease where inflammation is an important factor.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Clinical Trials Using Stem Cells For Heart Conditions At Texas Heart Institute

Patients are currently being recruited for clinical trials using injected stem cells for the treatment of heart conditions at the Texas Heart Institute (THI) in Houston, TX.

The Stem Cell Center at THI performs clinical and pre-clinical research in the specific area of cardiovascular disease.
We are currently enrolling patients with the following cardiovascular conditions:
• Heart Failure
• Heart Attacks
• Peripheral Vascular Disease
Important Considerations
If you are a patient or physician referring an interested patient into a research protocol there are a few important considerations:
• The primary concern for any investigation must be the safety of all participants.
• The Stem Cell Center conducts clinical trials in strict accordance with protocols which have been approved by institutional governing agencies including the FDA, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital Institutional Review Board.
• The Stem Cell Center is dedicated to conducting relevant, well designed, and safe clinical studies. The protocols, therefore, are very strict and no exceptions can be made regarding the criteria that are used to include or exclude patients.
• Patients are not given monetary compensation for enrollment into the different studies. Once enrolled in the trial, patients are not charged for any therapy or monitoring that is directly related to the research.
Please read below for more information on clinical trials being conducted at the Stem Cell Center.
Heart Failure Trials
The Stem Cell Center currently has several enrolling trials for patients with heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump blood efficiently. It usually results from countless heart attacks as a result of blockages in the arteries that feed the heart.
The Stem Cell Center has pioneered stem cell research in patients with heart failure and is actively enrolling patients who:
• are on maximal medical therapy.
• have a low ejection fraction.
• have exhausted all conventional therapy (i.e., bypass surgery and agioplasty).
If you are a Patient and wish to be considered for enrollment in a Heart Failure Trial, please call us toll free at 1-866-924-STEM 1-866-924-STEM (7836) or complete our secure online Patient Information Form.
If you are a Physician and would like to refer a patient for consideration, please contact the study coordinator at 832-355-9405 832-355-9405 .
Heart Attack Trials
A heart attack occurs when an artery that feeds the heart (coronary artery) becomes blocked and blood flow to that area of the heart is cut off leading to muscle damage. The usual course of therapy is to be admitted to hospital, open the blocked artery with a balloon, stent, or surgical bypass, then to be placed on medicines hoping the heart will recover.
The Stem Cell Center is enrolling patients who have had a recent heart attack treated with balloon/stents in order to see if stem cell therapy would aid in the recovery of heart muscle.
If you are a Patient and wish to be considered for enrollment in a trial for patients with recent heart attacks, please call us toll free at 1-866-924-STEM 1-866-924-STEM (7836) or complete our secure online Patient Information Form.
If you are a Physician and would like to refer a patient for consideration, please contact a study coordinator at 832-355-9405 832-355-9405 .
Peripheral Vascular Disease Trials
Peripheral vascular disease results from blockages in arteries that feed the muscles and tissues of the legs. If there are severe blockages, patients may develop severe pain in their leg muscles when walking (claudication), pain in their leg muscles at rest, or no blood flow leading to limb loss.
The Stem Cell Center is now investigating the effects of injecting stem cells directly into the leg muscles in legs affected by blocked arteries. The Stem Cell Center is now actively enrolling patients:
• with severe leg pain from blocked arteries in the legs (claudication).
• with evidence on non-invasive testing (i.e. ABI) of blockage.
• not amendable to conventional therapy including bypass or angioplasty.
• with no active infection in the affected leg.
If you are a Patient and wish to be considered for enrollment in the Peripheral Vascular Disease Trial, please call us toll free at 1-866-924-STEM 1-866-924-STEM (7836) or complete our secure online Patient Information Form.
If you are a Physician and would like to refer a patient for consideration, please contact a study coordinator at 832-355-9405 832-355-9405

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prototype High-Performance Nanoscale Transistor Produced At UC Berkeley

Dr. Ali Javey, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Dept of Engineering has reported in this week’s Nature (Nature Volume:468,Pages:286–289 Date published:(11 November 2010)) the implementation of a nanoscale, high-performance resistor. This work is of great importance, because of the rapidly approaching limitations of current silicon-based semiconductor technology in producing ever smaller microprocessors. Over the past several years, the inherent scaling limitations of silicon (Si) electron devices have fuelled the exploration of alternative semiconductors materials, with high carrier mobility, to further enhance device performance and reduce size. Much focus has been placed on compound semiconductors heterogeneously integrated on Si substrates, where such devices combine the high mobility of III–V semiconductors and the well established, low-cost of Si technology. The integration of the two has presented significant challenges, including complexity of production, high defect densities, and junction leakage currents. Using an epitaxial transfer method for the integration of ultrathin layers of single-crystal InAs on Si/SiO2 substrates, which can be thought of as a parallel with silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology, Javey and team used ‘XOI’ to represent their compound semiconductor-on-insulator platform, that is an Indium arsenide InAs XOI transistor. A high-quality InAs/dielectric interface was obtained by the use of a novel thermally grown interfacial InAsOx nanolayer (~1 nm thick). Fabrication techniques were derived from those used in optoelectronics and involved the use of an elastomeric stamp to lift off indium arsenide nanowires and transfer the wires to a silicon-based substrate. The Berkeley group has shown that transistors made from compound semiconductors can be grown on another surface and then transferred to a silicon wafer. The fabricated field-effect transistors exhibited a peak transconductance of ~1.6 mS µm−1 at a drain–source voltage of 0.5 V, with an on/off current ratio of greater than 10,000. This new technology has important implications for the fabrication of semiconductor devices in the hightech and biotech fields where high-performance in nanoscale devices will be critical to future developments.

Memory And Cognitive Function In Older Adults Improved By Omega-3 Fatty Acid (DHA)

In the November issue of Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, Dr. Yurko-Mauro and team demonstrate that a twenty-four week supplementation with 900 mg/day DHA improved learning and memory function in age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) and is a beneficial supplement that supports cognitive health with aging. The "Memory Improvement with Docosahexaenoic Acid Study" (MIDAS) was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the effects of DHA, which is the principle omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, on improving cognitive functions in healthy older adults with age-related cognitive decline. The study found that DHA taken for six months improved memory and learning in healthy, older adults with mild memory complaints.

The MIDAS study is in contrast to a previous study of DHA recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), conducted in a population that had previously been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, where DHA did not provide a statistically significant benefit to cognitive function. Based on the data of the MIDAS study, one can speculate that the patients in the JAMA study may have benefited from DHA had it been administered before the participants' disease progressed.

The MIDAS study indicates that we reap the most benefit from DHA supplements, as well as other supplements, when taken over time and before a health concern is imminent. As I have pointed out many times for emphasis, a preventative health regimen should include a well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, routine visits with a healthcare professional, and rational dietary supplementation based on good evidence. A preventative program will help support health in many systems of the body, including those systems supporting memory and cognitive function. Dietary supplemetation alone is not enough to maintain good health; we must also eat well and routinely exercise.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Semiconductor Implant Restores Partial Vision To Human Patients

A group of German scientist, engineers, and physicians led by Professor Eberhart Zrenner at the Universitat Tubingen have partially restored vision in three human patients with retinal degeneration using a light-sensitive, externally powered microchip that was surgically implanted subretinally near the macular region of the retina. The implant contains an array of 1500 active microphotodiodes, each with its own amplifier and local stimulation electrode. Light patterns from the enviornment are projected naturally through the eye's lens onto the chip under the retina, which is a transparent part of the brain in the eye responsible for absorbing light from the visual scene and transorming the light into electrical energy within the retina's neurons.

The chip generates a corresponding pattern of the visual scene using 38 × 40 pixels, each of which signals light intensity-dependent electric stimulation pulses. Following succesful implantation, three previously blind persons could locate bright objects on a dark table, two of whom were able to discern grating patterns. One of these patients was able to correctly describe and name objects like a fork or knife on a table, geometric patterns, different kinds of fruit and discern shades of grey with only 15 per cent contrast (this means, for example, looking at your shadow on the ground, the difference between the dark shadow and the surrounding light is only different by 15% in the light intensity between the two). These results were immediate without a learning period, and the resulting visual functions enabled one patient to localize and approach persons in a room freely and to read large letters as complete words after several years of blindness.

In my own work in the 1980s and 1990s at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, we collaborated with others at CalTech in Pasadena, CA and the Swiss institute CSEM in Neuchatel, Switerland to develop artificial retinas for commercial and military applications. At the same time, Dr. Zrenner's group in Germany has been working hard, often against naysayers whom argued he would never achieve any success with such implants. My congratulations to Dr. Zrenner and team for their remarkable achievement in restoring vision and hope to millions of visually imapaired patients.

In summary, Professor Zrenner and team's results demonstrate for the first time that implanted subretinal micro-electrode arrays in a mobile patient can create detailed meaningful visual perception in previously blind individuals and enable meaningful visual behaviors.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Is Argireline (Hexapeptide-8) Botox In A Bottle?

Many people have asked me if argireline, also called Hexapeptide-8, is the same as having botox treatment for facial lines and wrinkles. The short answer is no.

Botulinum toxin is a protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and is known to be extremely neurotoxic, and causes flaccid muscular paralysis seen in botulism. Physcians use this as a commercial product called Botox or Dysport to paralyze muscles; originally Botox was developed by Dr. Allan Scott, an ophthalmologist in San Francisco, and Edward Schantz for the treatment of strabismus and blepharospasm in the 1960s. I've used Botulinum toxin in my own research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA during the 1980s and 1990s and fully appreciate the power of the toxin to induce paralysis by irreversibly inhibiting acetylcholine neurotransmission at the neuromuscular junction. In 2002, the FDA announced regulatory approval of botulinum toxin type A (Botox Cosmetic) to temporarily improve the appearance of moderate-to-severe frown lines between the eyebrows (glabellar lines). When used for cosmetic surgery the Botox procedure is efficacious and safe and has only minor side effects.

The hexapeptide C{46}H{56}N{12}O{6}, (CAS 616204-22-9) termed Argireline, was produced by the Barcelona-based research laboratory Lipotec as a result of a rational design program based on the Botulinum toxin molecule. Argireline is a shortened version of the Botulinum toxin molecule, designed to mimic the effect of Botulinum toxin in paralyzing muscles. There have been no double-blind studies of Argireline to prove an anti-wrinkle effect, and only one published study. Anedotal reports are mixed, with some suggesting that a generalized sagging of the skin results from long-term usage. Such an effect, i.e. sagging, is plausible given that the Argireline is applied topically without precise application to particular nerves as is performed in Botox injections. My opinion is to use products that create healthy skin and avoid products, such as Argireline, that are toxins. Beautiful, healthy skin can be achieved by nourishing the skin from within, including a good diet and proper hydration, and by applying topical products that are known to be safe and efficacious, such as anti-oxidants and naturally occurring factors found in healthy skin. New anti-oxidant and stem cell-based topical products are appearing on the market that show great promise.

The Neurogenic Niche: Patterns Of Nerve Cell Activity Trigger Stem Cell Pool To Develop Into Brain Cells

During human development, brain cells develop from a pool of stem cells where some stem cells continuously divide, replenishing the pool, and others differentiate into mature functioning nerve cells. Dr. Hollis Cline’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute has shown that as the newly formed nerve cells start their electrical signaling, this activity slows down stem cell division, emptying the stem cell pool in favor of nerve cell formation.

Professor Cline’s paper, published in the November 4 issue of the journal Neuron, shows that patterns of brain activity control the balance between stem cells and mature nerve cells. Implications of these data include that abnormal brain activity, as it occurs during seizures for example, may have long-lasting effects on brain development. The results also have implications for replacing brain cells that are damaged or lost through diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

One possibility is that to induce brain cells to form, a period in which brain activity is low followed by a period of higher activity is needed. The study suggests that just having high or low brain activity won't have the same outcome, rather the effect is through a pattern of activity.

In adult brains, we know that brain activity helps new nerve cells form and existing ones survive. That is why older people are often told to keep their brains active by doing crossword puzzles and other exercises. However, the connection between brain activity and nerve cell formation in the developing brain at an early stage was not well understood. Essentially the data suggests that a key reason why proliferation slows down during development is that brain activity turns off neuronal proliferation.

The study shows that proliferation and differentiation are regulated differently by brain activity during development, but we don't yet know whether these results apply to the adult brain, which contains a smaller number of stem cells. If the results are found to be true in the adult brain by future studies, one possibility is that to promote nerve cell formation, both brain activity and inactivity are necessary. That is, distinct patterns of activity and inactivity in the adult brain may lead to better cognitive function in the adult brain, including aged, damaged, and diseased brains.

The paper is available online at:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Phytonutrient Report: Large Deficiency In Americans

America's Phytonutrient Report was originally issued October 14, 2009, by Nutrilite, based upon an analysis completed by Exponent, a scientific consulting firm. Exponent has since revised its analysis, resulting in an updated version of America's Phytonutrient Report, available at:

The conclusion of both reports is that, on average, eight out of 10 Americans have a phytonutrient gap. Some of the original report's statistics, which demonstrate the number of Americans falling short in four of five color categories of phytonutrients, have changed.

America's Phytonutrient Report was developed from an analysis of data from NHANES (a CDC survey), surveys that capture what Americans eat daily, and supplemental nutrient concentration data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the published literature.

The affected percentages from the report include:

69% fall short in green (unchanged)

74% fall short in red

83% fall short in white

76% fall short in purple/blue

80% fall short in yellow/orange

Many Americans are missing the health benefits of a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, resulting in a phytonutrient gap with potential health consequences, according to the report, which looked at fruit and vegetable consumption in five color categories, specifically green, red, white, blue/purple and yellow/orange. The report focuses on 14 phytonutrients of interest to comprise the five color categories, and the percentages of Americans who have a gap in each of these phytonutrients also have been corrected in the revised report.

The health benefits of phytonutrients are believed to come from the compounds that give these foods their vibrant reds, yellows, greens and other rich colors. Americans have a large phytonutrient gap in every color category. Although the gap can be allieviated somewhat by ingesting supplements containing the nutrients, by far the most beneficial means for acquiring these nutrients is by eating more fruits and vegetables.