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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Turning the Stem Cell Ship

As a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds the majority support declining for using taxpayer funds for embryonic stem cell research, two new non-ESCR breakthroughs have been announced.

A method of growing pure neural stem cells could lead to the development of new drugs to treat diseases of the nervous system, according to scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Milan who developed the technique. To date, scientists have been unable to sustain the ability of neural stem cells to produce ample copies of themselves for study. With the additional samples provided using this technique, researchers will be able to study the cellular and molecular pathologies of neurological disorders diseases such as Huntington's and Parkinson's, marking this as an important step in developing effective, safe therapies.

A Korean husband-and-wife scientist team has discovered the gene, TAZ, which differentiates parent cells in human bodies. They found that TAZ regulates adult stem cells’ growth into bone cells, while the protein prevents adult stem cells from maturing into fat cells. This opens a path for follow-up research to develop a way to make drugs with the substance that regulates the differentiation of adult stem cells, which could be an effective means of treating patients suffering from obesity, osteoporosis, or other diseases in which the bones become thin and susceptible to fracture.

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