A researcher works with stem cells in a laboratory.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hebrew University researchers have developed a new cocktail that is highly effective at coaxing adult cells to become quality pluripotent stem cells. Regenerative medicine is a new and expanding area that aims to replace lost or damaged cells, tissues or organs through cellular transplantation. Because stem cells derived from human embryos can trigger ethical concerns, a good solution is reprogramming adult cells back to an embryolike state using a combination of reprogramming factors.
The resulting cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), could be used to replace those lost to damage or disease. Scientists have discovered, however, that the process of reprogramming adult cells can introduce genetic abnormalities that limit the cells’ usefulness in research and medicine.
To make iPSCs, scientists expose adult cells to a combination of genes that are active in embryonic stem cells.
iPSCs can then be coaxed to differentiate into other cell types such as nerve or muscle. The standard combination of factors used to reprogram cells, however, leads to a high percentage of serious genomic aberrations in the resulting cells.
The Jerusalem researchers’ cocktail contains reprogramming factors that produce high-quality iPSCs.
Dr. Yosef Buganim, at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at HU’s Faculty of Medicine, worked with scientists in the lab of Whitehead Institute founding member and biology professor, Rudolf Jaenisch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The researchers reasoned that changing the reprogramming factors could reprogram the adult cells in a more controlled way and yield high-quality iPSCs. Working with mouse cells, the team created a mix of reprogramming factors and showed that a different combination of these can in fact produce a much higher quality product. This study takes the regenerative medicine field one step closer to the clinic, where it may be able to help patients in need of cellular transplantation therapy.
MIGRAINE WITH AURA COULD LEAD TO PARKINSON’S
Migraine suffers may be at greater risk for developing Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders later in life, according to a new study published the journal Neurology.
Those who have migraine with aura may be at double the risk for developing these disorders, according to epidemiology Prof. Ann Scher, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Migraine is the most common neurologic disorder in both men and women,” she said. “It has been linked in other studies to cerebrovascular and heart disease. This new possible association is one more reason research is needed to understand, prevent and treat the condition.”
Her team studied 5,620 residents of Iceland between the ages of 33 and 65 for more than 25 years. At the beginning of the study, 3,924 of participants did not suffer from headaches, 1,028 had headaches without migraine symptoms, 238 had migraine with no aura, and 430 had migraine with aura. They later assessed whether participants had any symptoms of parkinsonism, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, or had symptoms of “restless legs syndrome.”
The study found that sufferers of migraine with aura were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s than people with no headaches. A total of 2.4 percent of those with migraine with aura had the disease, compared to 1.1% of those with no headaches. People with migraine with aura, had 3.6 times the odds of reporting at least four of six parkinsonian symptoms, while those with migraine with no aura were 2.3 times the odds of these symptoms. Overall, 19.7% of those with migraine with aura had symptoms, compared to 12.6% of those with migraine with no aura and 7.5% of those with no headaches. “These findings suggest that there may be a shared vulnerability to migraine and parkinsonism in a small number of people. This could be related to dysfunction in the brain messenger dopamine, head injury, cerebrovascular disease, or some other mechanism. More research should focus on exploring this possible link through focused longitudinal studies.
NEW HEALTH LOBBY IN KNESSET
A Knesset lobby – this time to “strengthen the health system” – has been established by Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Miller. It joins the Knesset Health Lobby that Meretz MK Ilan Gilon has been chairman of for some time.
Miller’s assistant, Ron Yarkoni, said that the new lobby was not superfluous, as “it will deal with other issues.”
Invitations to join Miller’s lobby were sent out in the past few days, but as the plenum is shut down due to the summer vacation, the assistant said no replies have yet been received.
When enough lawmakers sign up, he said, “we will decide when to hold the first session.” There are several dozen other Knesset lobbies, from one to reduce food prices to another for supporting Israeli music.
Miller said that his lobby will “deal with many issues connected to medicine in Israel and recommend ways of solving the problems. Bringing together many relevant forces can significantly improve the country’s health system.
I call on all MKs to join, and together we will work for the strengthening of [public] medicine.” Among the topics to be discussed will be the hospital crisis, the doctor shortage, dental medicine, health fund deficits, private medical insurance and the status of patients.