Archive for December, 2009

VITAMIN C BOOSTS THE REPROGRAMMING OF ADULT CELLS INTO STEM CELLS

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Famous for its antioxidant properties and role in tissue repair, vitamin C is touted as beneficial for illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer and perhaps even for slowing the aging process. Now, a study published online on December 24th by Cell Press in the journal Cell Stem Cell uncovers an unexpected new role for this natural compound: facilitating the generation of embryonic like stem cells from adult cells. Over the past few years, we have learned that adult cells can be reprogrammed into cells with characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells by turning on a select set of genes. Although the reprogrammed cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), have tremendous potential for regenerative medicine, the conversion is extremely inefficient.

“The low efficiency of the reprogramming process has hampered progress with this technology and is indicative of how little we understand it. Further, this process is most challenging in human cells, raising a significant barrier for producing iPSCs and serious concerns about the quality of the cells that are generated,” explains senior study author Dr. Duanqing Pei from the South China Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

>>>>>Read the full Press Release in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

HEART DRUGS SHOW PROMISE FOR FIGHTING COLON CANCER

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Scientists in Sweden are reporting for the first time that a group of drugs used to treat heart failure shows promise for fighting colon cancer. The study is in ACS’ Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, with more than 150,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Oriental Foxglove Plant
The leaves of the oriental
foxglove plant contain digitoxin,
a drug used to treat heart disease.
It is in a family of medications
that now show promise for fighting
colon cancer
photo: Wikimedia Commons

Jenny Felth, Joachim Gullbo, and colleagues note that cardiac glycosides are a family of naturally derived drugs used to treat congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Scientists have suspected for some time, based on previous research, that these heart drugs may have promise for fighting many different types of cancer. Despite this, knowledge on effects in colon cancer or combination effects with other anti cancer drugs is lacking. But scientists know little about their potential anticancer effects and have not tested these substances against colon cancer.

As part of a larger study to screen and identify natural substances with activity against colon cancer, the scientists picked several cardiac glycosides for further study. They tested five of these heart drugs against laboratory cultures of human colon cancer cells and found that they were all effective, to varying degrees, at killing the cancer cells. The sensitivity, however, was rather low when compared to that of other cancer cell types reported previously. Several of the drugs also showed increased anticancer activity when combined with certain drugs used for standard chemotherapy. The findings suggest that these heart drugs may affect colon cancer outcome when used alone or in combination with conventional chemotherapy drugs, they say.

>>>>>Read more in our HeartVigor.com Main News Page.

SURGERY ON BEATING HEART THANKS TO ROBOTIC HAND

Friday, December 11th, 2009

If you’ve been waiting for the day to arrive when computers actually start performing surgery, that moment might soon be upon us. A French team has developed a computerized 3D model that allows surgeons to use robotics to operate on a beating heart, according to a report in The International Journal of Robotics Research, published by SAGE.

The robotic technology predicts the movement of the heart as it beats, enabling the surgical tools to move in concert with each beat. It means that the surgeon can perform a procedure as if the heart was stationary. This development could be very important for millions of patients who require less invasive surgical heart procedures, where stopping the heart from beating would cause unnecessary risk.

Rogerio Richa, Philippe Poignet and Chao Liu from France’s Montpellier Laboratory of Informatics, Robotics, and Microelectronics developed a three dimensional computerized model that tracks the motion of the heart’s surface as it beats. In addition to the heart, this model also accounts for the movement of a patient’s chest wall during breathing. Known as the “thin-plate spline deformable model”, this new computerized approach allows the robotic arm to continually adjust to heart and chest movements during surgery.

>>>>>Read the full Press Release in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

UT HOUSTON RESEARCHERS LAUNCH PHASE II TRIAL OF STEM CELLS AND ACUTE HEART ATTACK

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

HOUSTON - The second phase of a clinical trial testing a new stem cell based therapy on injured heart muscle has been launched by researchers at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. It is the only study site in the Texas Medical Center.

Dr. Ali Denktas, Patient Melvin Dyess
Patient Melvin Dyess, far right,
participates in phase II of a stem
cell trial at the University of
Texas Medical School at Houston,
where Dr. Ali Denktas, center,
is the lead investigator.
photo: Deborah Mann Lake

Results from Phase I of the trial are published in today’s issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Researchers reported that patients were treated safely with intravenous adult human mesenchymal stem cells (Prochymal) after a heart attack. In addition, they had fewer arrhythmias, improved heart and lung function, and improvement in overall condition.

“We are able to use a stem cell product that is on the shelf without prior preparation of anything from the patient, and this product appears to be able to help the heart muscle recover after a heart attack,” said Ali E. Denktas, M.D., the trial’s Houston site principal investigator and assistant professor of cardiology at the UT Medical School at Houston. “This means patients have the potential to recover quicker with less risk of an immediate secondary attack.”

In many cell based therapies, doctors harvest the patient’s own cells, process them and then return them to the patient. Prochymal, developed by Osiris Therapeutics, Inc., contains adult mesenchymal stem cells from healthy donors. The cells can be stored at an emergency center until needed. For purposes of the Phase II study, Prochymal must be administered within seven days of a heart attack.

>>>>>Read the full Press Release in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

ADULT STEM CELLS MAY HELP REPAIR HEARTS DAMAGED BY HEART ATTACK

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

(CHICAGO) - Adult stem cells may help repair heart tissue damaged by heart attack according to the findings of a new study to be published in the December 8 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Results from the Phase I study show stem cells from donor bone marrow appear to help heart attack patients recover better by growing new blood vessels to bring more oxygen to the heart. Rush University Medical Center was the only Illinois site and one of 10 cardiac centers across the country that participated in the 53 patient, double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase I trial. Rush is now currently enrolling patients for the second phase of the study.

Researchers say it is the strongest evidence thus far indicating that adult stem cells can actually differentiate, or turn into heart cells to repair damage. Until now, it has been believed that only embryonic stem cells could differentiate into heart or other organ cells.

“The results point to a promising new treatment for heart attack patients that could reduce mortality and lessen the need for heart transplants,” said Dr. Gary Schaer, head of the Rush Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and study principal investigator at Rush.

>>>>>Read the full Press Release in our HeartVigor.com News Page.

HEART FAILURE LINKED TO GENE VARIANT AFFECTING VITAMIN D ACTIVATION

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Study suggests future way to identify vulnerable people

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Previous studies have shown a link between low vitamin D status and heart disease. Now a new study shows that patients with high blood pressure who possess a gene variant that affects an enzyme critical to normal vitamin D activation are twice as likely as those without the variant to have congestive heart failure.

“This study is the first indication of a genetic link between vitamin D action and heart disease,” says Robert U. Simpson, professor of pharmacology at the University of Michigan Medical School and one of the authors of the study in the journal Pharmacogenomics.

“This study revealed that a critical enzyme absolutely required for production of the vitamin D hormone has a genetic variant associated with the development of congestive heart failure,” Simpson says. “If subsequent studies confirm this finding and demonstrate a mechanism, this means that in the future, we may be able to screen earlier for those most vulnerable and slow the progress of the disease.” Such a screening test would be years away.

>>>>>Read the full Press Release in our HeartVigor.com News Page.