Greater Disability Follows Congestive Heart Failure, Increased Nursing Home Admissions

Medical breakthroughs in recent decades have allowed heart attack survivors and other heart-disease patients to live longer. But as their hearts decline into congestive heart failure, an increasing number will experience disability and the need for nursing-home care.

A new study from the University of Michigan Health System and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System sheds light on the degree of disability among people with CHF, as well as the implications for the health care system, community care facilities, families and the patients themselves.

In particular, the study found that CHF patients were much more likely to be disabled than people without the condition. They were found to be much more likely to have difficulties with activities of daily living, such as grocery shopping and walking across the room. And they were more likely to require care from nursing homes and family members.

“The prevalence of congestive heart failure imposes a substantial burden on patients, families and the long-term care system,” says lead author Tanya Gure, M.D., a lecturer in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the U-M Health System. “The degree of disability in this group is quite high, and their caregiving needs are extensive. We need to make sure, in the medical community and society in general, that we are adequately meeting their health and social needs.”

The study appears in the January issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It is based on data from the 2000 data of the Health and Retirement Study, a national survey conducted by U-M’s Institute for Social Research and funded by the National Institute on Aging. Data in the new study are based on responses from 10,626 survey respondents ages 65 and older.

Among the findings:

(Note: All of the items below cite the CHF number first, followed by the percentage of people with coronary heart disease but no CHF, then people without coronary heart disease)

* People with CHF were much more likely to receive informal (unpaid) home care from a relative or another unpaid person (42 percent) than the other groups (18 percent and 11 percent).

* Formal (paid) in-home care also was more common; it had been utilized by 13 percent of people with CHF, compared with 4 percent and 2 percent in the other groups.

* Ten percent of people with CHF were in a nursing home in the prior two years, compared with 3 percent and 2 percent.

* People with CHF were much more likely to have difficulty with activities of daily living. For example, in the category of “walking across the room,” about 42 percent of people with CHF reported limitations, compared with 21 percent and more than 12 percent.

* Activities such as grocery shopping were found to be much more difficult for people with CHF than others: more than 35 percent of people with CHF reported a limitation related to grocery shopping, compared with more than 14 percent and 8 percent.

* Geriatric conditions, clinical conditions which are highly prevalent in older adults – such as urinary incontinence, dementia and injury due to falling – were more common in people with CHF. In the CHF group, 36 percent had experienced urinary incontinence, compared with 23 percent and 19 percent in the other groups.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans currently have heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. Within six years of having a heart attack, about 22 percent of men and 46 percent of women will be disabled with CHF.

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In addition to her appointment in the Division of Geriatric Medicine, Gure also was a member of the RWJ Clinical Scholars Program at U-M while working on this study. Along with senior author Kenneth M. Langa, M.D., Ph.D., Gure is affiliated with the VA Center for Practice Management & Outcomes Research at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the U-M Division of General Internal Medicine. Other authors of the paper are Mohammed U. Kabeto, M.S., of the U-M Division of General Internal Medicine; and Caroline S. Blaum, M.D., M.S., of the U-M Division of Geriatric Medicine and the VA Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center.

Funding came from the National Institute on Aging, a Paul Beeson Physician Faculty Scholars in Aging Research award (Langa), the VA Center for Practice Management & Outcomes Research and the RWJ Clinical Scholars Program (Gure), and the Ann Arbor VA Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (Blaum).

Reference: Journal of General Internal Medicine, Jan. 2008, Volume 23, Issue 1, “Degree of Disability and Patterns of Caregiving among Older Americans with Congestive Heart Failure.”

For more information about geriatric medicine at U-M, visit med.umich.edu/geriatrics/.

For more information about the Health and Retirement Study, visit hrsonline.isr.umich.edu/.

Source: Katie Vloet

University of Michigan Health System

Blood in Kids’ Urine Common, Still Requires Monitoring

INDIANAPOLIS – Visible and microscopic traces of blood in children’s urine are not uncommon, but youngsters with these
conditions should be closely monitored, reports an Indiana University School of Medicine researcher.

“We suggest that, in otherwise healthy children, microscopic hematuria does not require a full evaluation because
clinically significant abnormalities are rarely detected. However, long-term follow-up is mandatory,” says Jerry Bergstein,
M.D., principal author of an article appearing in the April issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent
Medicine.

Microscopic hematuria is a condition where blood is visible only through magnification; asymptomatic gross hematuria
is when the blood can be seen with the naked eye.

“On the other hand, children with gross hematuria deserve a thorough evaluation because the detection of clinically
significant abnormalities is common,” says Dr. Bergstein.

No cause was discovered in 274 of 342 children with microscopic hematuria. Of the 86 of 228 children with gross
hematuria, the most common cause was hypercalciuria, or excessive urinary calcium excretion.

Sharon Andreoli, M.D., professor and director of the Section of Pediatric Nephrology at Riley Hospital for Children, and
Jeffrey Leiser, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, were co-investigators of the study.

IU School of Medicine

Ultrasound Could Boost Tissue Implant Success

When we think of ultrasound, it’s usually imaging the inside of the body that springs to mind. However, while ultrasound imaging typically requires frequencies that are 50 to 2500 times higher than those human ear can detect, recent increasing evidence indicates that ultrasound at lower frequency can also be used to help certain body tissues to heal and regenerate. Now research that appears in Open Access Journal of Tissue Engineering published by SAGE-Hindawi suggests that ultrasound could also help tissue grafts to survive and thrive following surgery.

Ultrasound can improve cell viability, thanks to its ability to get molecules moving, and researchers have used it to increase blood flow to tissues in the process of healing and regenerating. In particular, low-intensity ultrasound (LIUS) has been used to help regenerate cartilage and bone, and in tissue engineering to stimulate cells.

Surgeons use a patient’s own fatty tissue (adipose tissue) in procedures including facial plastic surgery, treating burn victims, breast reconstruction and surgery on the vocal cords. But how well these tissue grafts survive can vary, and the time period after the surgery before a blood supply is re-established is particularly critical. If the graft doesn’t get sufficient oxygen and glucose, and clear away waste, the grafted tissue will wither and die.

An international research team, including researchers from MIT, the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston and Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, Israel, set out to test whether ultrasound could improve the viability of grafted tissue during the post-op period.

The researchers used adipose cells cultured from tissue left over from tummy-tuck operations as well as mouse muscle cells (C2C12 cells) for their experiments. Over a six-day period, the test cells were treated with LIUS at 30mW/cm2 for short bursts of three or ten minutes. They assayed for the number of cells, metabolism (by observing how much glucose they consumed and how much lactate they produced), viability and for signs of damage to the cells.

The C2C12 muscle cells stimulated with LIUS showed greater cell numbers and better viability than controls. Also for the first time the researchers obtained preliminary evidence that LIUS can influence the viability of the cultured adipose cells (known as organoids) in an in vitro organ culture model. Adipose tissue treated with LIUS showed significantly increased metabolic activity, and had fewer markers for tissue damage than tissue not treated with LIUS.

If the technique was used on a patient, the way that ultrasound might enhance molecular motion would probably depend on local variations in tissue density.

“Depending on the location of the probe, one can expect variable effects of LIUS,” says senior author Steven Zeitels, MD, Director of the Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation.

It’s also not clear whether the increased metabolic activity and proliferation of the cells seen in this experiment was simply due to LIUS’s mechanical and thermal effect in stimulating molecules to move around more. “In the context of using LIUS to enhance autograft survival, the possibility that the LIUS can directly activate signalling pathways in implanted cells needs to be taken into account. It may eventually be possible to manipulate cellular responses by fine-tuning this technique.” says lead author Hyoungshin Park, PhD, from MIT.

It remains to be seen whether these laboratory results will hold up in in vivo studies, but these preliminary results suggest important avenues to pursue in efforts to improve graft survival.

Source: SAGE Publications

Do all cats love catnip? Apparently, half of them don’t care

Have you ever met a cat that doesn’t go crazy over catnip? As it turns out, half of the cats in the world don’t respond to it at all, according to the “What’s That Stuff” column in the Aug. 1 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine published by the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Catnip sensitivity is inherited, says Carolyn M. McDaniel, a veterinarian at the Feline Health Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. A kitten with only one catnip-sensitive parent has a one-in-two chance of developing the sensitivity; if both parents have the sensitivity, the chances rise to at least three in four, she says.

There is a chemical cause for the response to catnip (Nepeta cataria), available in pet shops as a raw herb or essential oil, says McDaniel. Nepetalactone is one of several compounds known to set off the characteristic set of behaviors associated with exposure to catnip. These behaviors generally start with sniffing, licking and chewing, followed by head shaking, body and head rubbing, and then repeated head-over-heels rolling, McDaniel explains. While neurologists don’t yet have a thorough knowledge of why catnip works in some felines, they generally agree that a cat receives the necessary stimuli from receptors in its nose and mouth, she says.

C&EN offers one tip for cat owners: Store catnip in your freezer to preserve its potency. Nepetalactone is volatile and will degrade over time otherwise.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 158,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishes numerous scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To access the C&EN What’s That Stuff? column on Catnip, go to
pubs.acs/cen/whatstuff/83/8331catnip.html

Michael Bernstein
m_bernsteinacs
202-872-6042
American Chemical Society
acs

Fatigue, how sleep affects safety, avoiding tragedy during the night shift

The tragedies of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and the Exxon Valdez all occurred during the night shift.

Fatigue is a critical occupational safety concern for shift workers, especially workers in the transportation industry. Off the job, being overtired creates a risk for anyone who undertakes an activity that requires concentration and quick response — from driving, to home repair, to skiing. And exhaustion is one of the most common health complaints for Canadian workers, especially women.

How sleep affects safety

Irregular working hours, monotonous work, long shifts, vibrations and drugs increase drowsiness and reduce alertness. The costs are devastating in human terms, and the economic consequences are enormous. Worldwide, the National Institute for Working Life, a Swedish organization, estimates that sleep-deprived workers cost $350 billion US per year.

Sleep is as basic to survival as food and water. Losing as little as two hours of sleep can negatively affect alertness and performance. Sleep deprivation affects a person’s carefulness and ability to respond to an emergency. Symptoms can include: decreased judgement, decision-making and memory; slower reaction time; lack of concentration; fixation; and worsened mood.

Studies monitoring brain activity show that one shift worker in five dozes off during the shift. Often, they do not realize afterwards that they have done so. Drowsy drivers, according to sleep researchers, may cause as many crashes as impaired drivers. Regardless of motivation, professionalism, training or pay, an individual who is very sleepy can lapse into sleep at any time, despite the potential consequences of inattention.

The circadian clock

The body’s processes have peaks and low points during every 24-hour period. These are called circadian rhythms. Time cues — such as sunlight and work/rest schedules keep the circadian clock “set.” Crossing time zones or changing from a day shift to a night shift forces the circadian clock to move to a different schedule. Time is required to adjust to the new schedule. During the transition, symptoms similar to sleep loss can occur.

Disruption of the circadian rhythm when combined with loss of sleep can create a dangerous increase in fatigue.

Factors in the work environment

The environment and nature of the work can further magnify the effects of sleep debt and circadian rhythms. Environments with dim lighting, limited visual acuity (e.g. due to weather), high temperatures, high noise and high comfort tend to enhance fatigue. Also, a worker’s susceptibility to fatigue is increased by tasks where attention must be sustained for long period, and those which are long, repetitive, paced, difficult, boring and monotonous.

MORE….nada Safety Council

Global Fund Executive Director Kazatchkine Discusses Funding Shortfall, Harm Reduction Programs

Michel Kazatchkine — executive director of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — on Monday at the opening of the Harm Reduction 2009 conference in Bangkok, Thailand, discussed the Global Fund’s budget shortfall and efforts to curb the spread of HIV among injection drug users, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports. According to Kazatchkine, the Global Fund faces a shortfall of $4 billion next year. “We are facing a financial crisis,” he said. According to Kazatchkine, the Global Fund has requested $2.7 billion from the U.S., which typically contributes about 30% of the organization’s budget. He added that the Global Fund is uncertain about how much the U.S. and other wealthy nations will contribute because of the economic downturn. “Times of crisis are times when we should supply more funding, not less,” Kazatchkine said (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 4/20).

He added that the global financial crisis could undermine years of progress in addressing HIV/AIDS and providing treatment access. “The financial crisis obviously is affecting the rich countries, and, therefore, I am very concerned about their ability to keep up development aid commitments,” he said, adding, “In global health, it is a slow slope to make progress, it takes you time to actually see the gains. If the efforts are not sustained, we will lose a lot of gains that we have made in the last six to eight years” (AFP/Gulf Times, 4/21).

According to Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the Global Fund is the leading multilateral donor of harm-reduction initiatives — including methadone substitution, needle-exchange programs and antiretroviral drug access — for IDUs worldwide (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 4/20). During his address to the conference, Kazatchkine said that drug use should be decriminalized to help curb the spread of HIV. “I am talking about decriminalization of drug users,” he said, adding, “I am not talking about decriminalization of drug trafficking, there should not be any misunderstanding. Drug users have been looked towards as criminals, they are arrested, harassed, they are imprisoned, they have no access to services, they are not respected in the very basic human rights perspective” (AFP/Gulf Times, 4/21).

Pratin Dharmarak, Thailand’s country representative for Population Services International, said that about 30% to 40% of the country’s estimated 200,000 IDUs are living with HIV. “Services for [IDUs have] been overlooked,” Pratin said. Thailand this year received $100 million from the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS efforts, some of which will be allocated to harm-reduction efforts among IDUs, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur. However, because of next year’s funding shortfall, such programs in the region likely will see reductions, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports. Kazatchkine said that the Global Fund is “facing challenges in being able to fund the next applications that are coming in what we call Round 9″ (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 4/20).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

© 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

National Study Finds 70 Percent Increase In Basketball-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries

A new study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital examined basketball-related injuries treated in emergency departments among children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 19 from 1997 to 2007. According to the study, more than 4 million basketball-related injuries were treated in emergency departments during the 11-year study. While the number of injuries decreased 22 percent over the course of the study, the average number of injuries per year (375,350) remained high.

Data from the study, being released online September 13 and appearing in the October 2010 issue of Pediatrics, revealed that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), which carry significant risk, increased 70 percent over the study period despite the overall downward trend in basketball injuries.

“We found a dramatic increase in the number of basketball-related TBIs over the 11-year study period,” said study co-author, Lara McKenzie PhD, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “In addition, the proportion of TBIs doubled for boys and tripled for girls during this time. Many athletes do not recognize the symptoms of concussions or do not report them to coaches and trainers. Educating athletes, coaches and parents to recognize and report on suspected concussions is vital to managing them effectively and helping to prevent future injuries.”

The study also showed that the most common injuries were sprains and strains to the lower extremities (30 percent), especially the ankle (24 percent), and fractures or dislocations to the upper extremities (15 percent), specifically to the finger (8 percent). Adolescents aged 15 to 19 years were more likely than younger athletes to have strains and sprains and cuts. Children aged 5 to 10 years were more likely to be diagnosed with a TBI than athletes aged 11 to 19 years. Boys were more likely to sustain cuts, fractures and dislocations, while TBIs and knee injuries were more common among girls.

“Basketball is a very popular sport and we want to encourage children to continue playing while also reducing the risk of injury,” said Dr. McKenzie, also a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “There are some precautions such as having young children use age-appropriate basketballs, which may decrease the rates of concussions and finger-related injuries.”

This is the first national study of basketball-related injuries for school-aged children and adolescents treated in U.S. emergency departments. Data for this study were collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS dataset provides information on consumer product-related and sports and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

Source:

Nationwide Children’s Hospital

100% Of People Carry At Least One Type Of Pesticide From The Air, Water Or Food In Their Bodies

A study carried out by researchers from the Department of Radiology and Physical Medicine of the University of Granada, in collaboration with the Andalusian School of Public Health (Escuela Andaluza de Salud PГєblica), found that 100% of Spaniards analyzed had at least one kind of persistent organic compound (POCВґs), substances internationally classified as potentially harmful to one’s health, in their bodies. These substances enter the body trough food, water or even air. All of them tend to accumulate in human adipose tissue and easily enter into the organism through the aforementioned mediums.

The study, conceived by Juan Pedro Arrebola Moreno and directed by professors Piedad MartГ­n Olmedo, NicolГЎs Olea Serrano and Mariana F. FernГЎndez Cabrera, measured the contamination levels of some persistent organic compounds (POC’s) in a sample of the adult population from two areas, an urban one (Granada capital city) and a semi-rural one (Motril), and intended to find the determining factors associated with such levels: diet, lifestyle, activities or residence.

A total of 387 adults, from both sexes, were volunteers for surgeries in hospitals taking part in the study (Santa Ana de Motril and San Cecilio de Granada Hospitals). Once the volunteers had given consent, a sample of their human adipose tissue (fat) was taken during surgery and they answered a questionnaire about their place of residence, lifestyle, eating habits and activities throughout their life.

Analysis of 6 POCВґs

The researchers analyzed the samples and measured 6 different POC concentration levels: DDE, a principal metabolite in DDT (a pesticide used in Spain until the 80Вґs); hexachlorobenzene, a compound used as fungicide and currently released by industrial processes; PCB’s: compounds related to industrial processes; and Hexaclorociclohexano, used as an insecticide and currently used in scabies and pediculosis treatment.

The study carried out by the University of Granada concluded that 100% of subjects analyzed had DDE in their bodies, a substance banned in Spain, and other very frequent components such as PCB-153 (present in 92% of people), HCB (91%), PCB-180 (90%), PCB-138 (86%9) and HCH (84%).

Juan Pedro Arrebola Moreno explains that higher levels of toxic substances were detected in women compared to men and in older volunteers compared to younger people, “possibly due to the great persistence of these substances in the environment, which results in their biomagnification in the food chain and in their bioaccumulation over time”. The scientist added that there is another theory known as “Efecto Cohorte” (Cohort effect) that explains the high quantities of these substances in older people. According to this theory, those born in periods of higher contamination suffered the consequences more than those born with the current bans on such pesticides.

The impact of diet

This study indicates that diet is an important factor in POC concentration, as the ingestion of some aliments, particularly those of animal origin and high fat content, triggers a greater presence of these toxic substances in the human organism. Juan Pedro Arrebola Moreno states, “There are few studies in Spain measuring POC levels in wide samples of the population, which means that some compound levels in the general population are unknown”. Consequently, this study will improve the knowledge of such levels, and will identify those groups at higher risk of exposure, which is the first step for subsequent follow-up studies determining the cause-effect relations.

This study is part of a project subsidized by the FIS (Sanitarian Investigation Fund) and by the Andalusian Regional Government, and in which the University of Granada, the Andalusian School of Public Health, and the Santa Ana de Motril and San Cecilio de Granada Hospitals take part.

UNIVERSITY OF GRANADA COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
Secretariado de ComunicaciГіn Universidad de Granada
Hospital Real – Cuesta del Hospicio s/n
ugr.es

News From BioScience, October 2008

Research articles that will be published in the October 2008 issue of BioScience are as follows:

Fungal Community Ecology: A Hybrid Beast with a Molecular Master.

Kabir G. Peay, Peter G. Kennedy, and Thomas D. Bruns.

DNA-based techniques have in recent years allowed the systematic exploration of fungal diversity for the first time. Results show extremely high diversity and variability of fungi in natural environments, the explanation for which is unknown. High-throughput DNA sequencing has the potential to characterize this diversity in a class of organisms that is ecologically hugely significant worldwide.

Consequences of More Extreme Precipitation Regimes for Terrestrial Ecosystems.

Alan K. Knapp and colleagues.

The authors present a scheme for analyzing the effects on ecosystems of expected changes in patterns of precipitation. Moist ecosystems can be expected to suffer more water stress, while arid ecosystems are thought likely to have increased water availability. Wetlands are predicted to experience low-oxygen conditions less frequently.

Modeling the Developing Drosophila Brain: Rationale, Technique, and Application.

Volker Hartenstein, Albert Cardona, Wayne Pereanu, and Amelia Younossi-Hartenstein.

Modern digital modeling programs provide the opportunity to develop detailed three-dimensional maps of even such a complex structure as a brain. Modeling the developing brain of the fruit fly, the favorite experimental animal of geneticists, is providing new insights into how the process unfolds, and can reveal the effects of particular genes at various scales. Eventually, complete brain maps showing the interconnections of individual neurons should be achievable.

Comparing Ecosystem Goods and Services Provided by Restored and Native Lands.

Walter K. Dodds, Kymberly C. Wilson, Ryan L. Rehmeier, G. Layne Knight, Shelly Wiggam, Jeffrey A. Falke, Harmony J. Dalgleish, and Katie N. Bertrand.

An analysis of eight categories of goods and services associated with native and restored lands in the lower 48 states finds that restored lands offer 31 percent to 93 percent of native land benefits within a decade of restoration, depending on the biome and the goods and services of interest. The results indicate conservation should be the first priority in planning, but that restoration can have substantial value across broad regions.

Synergies between Agricultural Intensification and Climate Change Could Create Surprising Vulnerabilities for Crops.

Brenda B. Lin, Ivette Perfecto, and John Vandermeer.

The intensification of coffee production that has occurred in recent decades has made that crop–and the millions of people who depend on income from it–more vulnerable to predicted temperature increases and changes in precipitation patterns. Sustainable farming that employs shade trees may improve crops’ resistance to temperature and precipitation extremes, according to the article. The authors write that their conclusions could apply to other economically important crops, including cocoa and tea. Note: this article is the subject of a separate BioScience press release dated 9/25/08 entitled “Shade Trees Can Protect Coffee Crops.”

The Cambrian Explosion: How Do We Use the Evidence?

Jeffrey S. Levinton.

This article, derived from a talk given to educators, summarizes the state of play in the long-running debate about the apparently very rapid radiation of animal forms around 530 million years ago. Molecular and fossil evidence do not agree precisely about the sequence of events, but indications now are that the “explosion” may have been less sudden than was once thought.

The Science-Policy Interface: What is an Appropriate Role for Professional Societies?

J. Michael Scott, Janet L. Rachlow, and Robert T. Lackey.

Scientists and their professional societies are seeking to increase their influence, but the authors urge caution. They argue that societies can be most effective by conducting rigorous research that is relevant to policy and conveying the results well to all interested parties, not by advocating for particular policy decisions.

The Resurrection Initiative: Storing Ancestral Genotypes to Capture Evolution in Action.

Steven J. Franks, John C. Avise, William E. Bradshaw, Jeffrey K. Conner, Julie R. Etterson, Susan J. Mazer, Ruth G. Shaw, and Arthur E. Weis.

Participants at a workshop advance a plan to systematically collect, preserve, and archive genetic material from plants for future studies of evolutionary change. The plan – distinct from preservation efforts based on existing seed banks – could help scientists understand and predict the effects on plants of global climate change.

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BioScience, published 11 times per year, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on “Organisms from Molecules to the Environment.” The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.

Source: Jennifer Williams

American Institute of Biological Sciences

Embryonic Stem Cell Culturing Grows From Art To Science

Growing human embryonic stem cells in the lab is no small feat. Culturing the finicky, shape-shifting cells is labor intensive and, in some ways, more art than exact science.

Now, however, a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reports the development of a fully defined culture system that promises a more uniform and, for cells destined for therapy, safer product.

Writing this week (Nov. 14, 2010) in the journal Nature Methods, a team led by Laura Kiessling, a UW-Madison professor of chemistry, unveiled an inexpensive system that takes much of the guess work out of culturing the all-purpose cells.

“It’s a technology that anyone can use,” says Kiessling. “It’s very simple.”

At present, human embryonic stem cells are cultured mostly for use in research settings. And while culture systems have improved over time, scientists still use surfaces that contain mouse cells or mouse proteins to grow batches of human cells, whether embryonic or induced stem cells. Doing so increases the chances of contamination by animal pathogens such as viruses, a serious concern for cells that might be used in therapy.

The new culture system utilizes a synthetic, chemically made substrate of protein fragments, peptides, which have an affinity for binding with stem cells. Used in combination with a defined growth medium, the system devised by the Wisconsin team can culture cells in their undifferentiated states for up to three months and possibly longer. The system, according to the new report, also works for induced pluripotent stem cells, the adult cells genetically reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells.

Cells maintained in the system, Kiessling notes, were subsequently tested to see if they could differentiate into desired cell types, and performed just as well as cells grown in less defined, commercially available cell culture systems.

Kiessling notes that the first clinical trials involving human embryonic stem cells are underway and that as more tests in human patients are initiated, confidence in the safety of the cells will be paramount.

“The disadvantages of the culture systems commonly used now are that they are undefined – you don’t really know what your cells are in contact with – and there is no uniformity, which means there is batch-to-batch variability,” Kiessling explains. “The system we’ve developed is fully defined and inexpensive.”

The work by Kiessling’s group was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the University of Wisconsin Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

Source:

University of Wisconsin-Madison