Wisconsin and others
Wow, it’s amazing how much time disappears when your kid comes home 2 1/2 hours earlier from school…
Anyway, just a little bit of interesting information related to WARF, the Wisconsin foundation connected with the University of Wisconsin Madison that handles the business side of stem cells. According to an article in Wisconsin Technology today, a review of the stem cell patents is expected after a legal challenge filed in July by a California group. The US Patent office will announce whether or not it will review next month. WARF expects a review and expects that the review will uphold the patent.
Also, the WiCell part of WARF has made an agreement with ACT in Alameda to distribute cells from the new so-called “ethical” stem cell lines. This could be interesting if ACT gets money from the CIRM, because of the profit sharing goals for the CIRM. It makes sense from a logistical stance for ACT to partner with WiCell, as WiCell already houses the national stem cell bank and distributes many other stem cell lines, both federally-approved and not, so researchers can get their material from a single source. But who collects any profit could be a legal knot.
It will also be interesting to see how much research gets done on these new stem cells, given all the negatives that have been voiced by scientists. Will there be sufficient interest in doing research for it to be worth it to produce them? With only two samples so far, there’s not much to work on comparatively.
Way Back When
Lost in the mists of my vanished time was a press release on EurekAlert saying that Harvard researchers have discovered a compound that increases the natural production of one’s own stem cells in the brain (at least, if one is a mouse). The research on the LTB4 compound also showed that when stem cells are stimulated to proliferate by the LTB4 compound, the cells have more LTB4 receptors. I presume this would make them more likely to proliferate further themselves when they are exposed to this molecule.
And in another story, European researchers have found out that when the cellular pathway known as “Wingless” is overactive—essentially, stuck in the on position—in hematopoietic stem cells, bizarre things happen—some cells disappeared, some occurred too frequently, some were unable to produce B or T cells or to develop into new kinds of cells. The key appears to be a protein called beta catenin, which kept the pathway open. This may be a clue as to what goes wrong in blood cancers.
And, in research you may have already heard about, three different papers on the aging of stem cells were published last week showing that a gene called Ink4a is key to the process by which stem cells shut themselves down. The suggestion is that this keeps them from accumulating and passing on mutations which could eventually lead to cancer. The gene was already known to be a tumor suppressor gene, but when scientists knocked it out in mice, the mice stem cells continued to repopulate. However, the mice developed cancer. While trading a short lifespan for a cancer-filled longer one doesn’t seem like a great deal, the research could give important directions to go in for cancer research and medicine.