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Embryonic stem cells used to grow cartilage

Rice method is first to yield cartilage-like cells, engineer human cartilage

HOUSTON, Sept. 6, 2007 – Rice University biomedical engineers have developed a new technique for growing cartilage from human embryonic stem cells, a method that could be used to grow replacement cartilage for the surgical repair of knee, jaw, hip, and other joints.

“Because native cartilage is unable to heal itself, researchers have long looked for ways to grow replacement cartilage in the lab that could be used to surgically repair injuries,” said lead researcher Kyriacos A. Athanasiou, the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Bioengineering. “This research offers a novel approach for producing cartilage-like cells from embryonic stem cells, and it also presents the first method to use such cells to engineer cartilage tissue with significant functional properties.”

The results are available online and slated to appear in the September issue of the journal Stem Cells. The study involved cells from an NIH-sanctioned stem cell line.

Using a series of stimuli, the researchers developed a method of converting the stem cells into cartilage cells. Building upon this work, the researchers then developed a process for using the cartilage cells to make cartilage tissue. The results show that cartilages can be generated that mimic the different types of cartilage found in the human body, such as hyaline articular cartilage — the type of cartilage found in all joints — and fibrocartilage — a type found in the knee meniscus and the jaw joint. Athanasiou said the results are exciting, as they suggest that similar methods may be used to convert the stem cell-derived cartilage cells into robust cartilage sections that can be of clinical usefulness.

Tissue engineers, like those in Athanasiou’s research group, are attempting to unlock the secrets of the human body’s regenerative system to find new ways of growing replacement tissues like muscle, skin, bone and cartilage. Athanasiou’s Musculoskeletal Bioengineering Laboratory at Rice University specializes in growing cartilage tissues.

The idea behind using stem cells for tissue engineering is that these primordial cells have the ability to become more than one type of cell. In all people, there are many types of “adult” stem cells at work. Adult stem cells can replace the blood, bone, skin and other tissues in the body. Stem cells become specific cells based upon a complex series of chemical and biomechanical cues, signals that scientists are just now starting to understand.

Unlike adult stem cells, which can become only a limited number of cell types, embryonic stem cells can theoretically become any type of cell in the human body.

Athanasiou’s group has been one of the most successful in the world at studying cartilage cells and, especially, engineering cartilage tissues. He said that for his research the primary advantage that embryonic stem cells have over adult stem cells is their ability to remain malleable.

“Identifying a readily available cell source has been a major obstacle in cartilage engineering,” Athanasiou said. “We know how to convert adult stem cells into cartilage-like cells. The more problematic issue comes in trying to maintain a ready stock of adult stem cells to work with. These cells have a strong tendency to convert from stem cells into a more specific type of cell, so the clock is always ticking when we work with them.”

By contrast, Athanasiou said his research group has found it easier to grow and maintain a stock of embryonic stem cells. Nonetheless, he is quick to point out that there is no clear choice about which type of stem cell works best for cartilage engineering.

“We don’t know the answer to that,” Athanasiou said. “It’s extremely important that we study all potential cell candidates, and then compare and contrast those studies to find out which works best and under what conditions. Keep in mind that these processes are very complicated, so it may well be that different types of cells work best in different situations.”

Athanasiou began studying embryonic stem cells in 2005. Since funding for the program was limited, he asked two new graduate students in his group if they were interested in pursuing the work as a secondary project to their primary research. Those students, Eugene Koay and Gwen Hoben, are co-authors of the newly published study. Both are enrolled in the Baylor College of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program, a joint program that allows students to concurrently earn their medical degree from Baylor while undertaking Ph.D. studies at Rice.

“Eugene and Gwen are both outstanding students,” Athanasiou said. “Each earned their undergraduate degree from Rice and each worked in my laboratory as undergraduate students. They have chosen to do this research because they think this may represent the future of regenerative medicine.”

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The research was funded by Rice University.

Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University

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September 7, 2007 Posted by | Global Health Vision, Global News, Health, Health Canada, HIV, Hospital Epidemiology, News UK, News USA, RSS, Science, Stem Cells | Leave a comment

Methamphetamine study suggests increased risk for HIV transmission

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – New findings that one in 20 North Carolina men who have sex with men (MSM) reported using crystal methamphetamine during the previous month suggests increased risk for spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD), according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.

The rate of methamphetamine use among 1,189 MSM was 30 times higher than levels reported in the general U.S. population over the same period. Methampehtamine, or “meth,” is a highly addictive stimulant that has been found to impair judgment, decrease inhibition, increase impulsivity and enhance sexual sensitivity – which can all increase the potential for transmitting HIV.

The study’s authors found that participants who reported using methamphetamines were more likely to report inconsistent condom use during anal sex within the past three months, a history of STD infection, being HIV-positive and using medications designed to treat erectile dysfunction.

“Until now, there has been little data on meth use in the Southeast,” said lead author Scott D. Rhodes, Ph.D. M.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy. “Our findings, including that meth users were more likely to be HIV-positive, suggest that prevention, intervention and treatment efforts are urgently needed.”

Rhodes noted that some of the men reported having sex with both men and women, which means the risk of HIV extends to both sexes.

The study’s results will be published on Aug. 20 in AIDS Patient Care and STDs, a leading AIDS journal that provides the latest research for clinicians and researchers. It is among the first to document meth use among MSM in the South, which carries a disproportionate HIV, AIDS, and STD burden, with 46 percent of newly identified cases.

“The findings underscore the need for further research and intervention,” said Rhodes. “The HIV/AIDS epidemic is clearly not over. We must develop innovative intervention approaches designed to reach communities at highest risk. Men who have sex with men, whether or not they identify themselves as gay, who use drugs like methamphetamines are clearly at higher risk. Yet currently nothing is being done in the Southeast.”

Participants were recruited in 2005 in five gay bars and in five geographically defined internet chat rooms in central North Carolina (primarily rural/suburban areas) and were asked to complete a brief assessment of drug use and other risk behaviors. Of the 1,189 MSM, two-thirds self-identified as black or other minorities, and 25 percent as bisexual. The mean age was 29 years.

In addition to being more inclined to risky sexual behaviors, the study participants who said they used methamphetamines were also more likely to report having higher education and health insurance coverage.

“Because users of methamphetamines were more likely to have higher educational levels and report having health insurance, we must change the way we think about meth users and develop sophisticated prevention strategies that are appropriate for these types of users,” noted Rhodes. “In addition, the link between meth use and the use of drugs for sexual dysfunction among a young population deserves attention. Meth use in combination with one of these medications may be having an even more profound impact on the HIV and STD disease epidemics in the South.”

Rhodes is also affiliated with the Maya Angelou Research Center on Minority Health at Wake Forest. In 2006, Rhodes won the New Investigator Award in Clinical Sciences at Wake Forest.

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The study’s co-authors include Emily Knipper and Aimee M. Wilkin, M.D., M.P.H., both with Wake Forest, Kenneth C. Hergenrather, Ph.D., M.S.Ed., M.R.C., of George Washington University, Leland J. Yee, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Pittsburgh, and Morrow R. Omli, M.A.Ed., of the University of Florida.

Media Contacts: Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, or Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, 336-716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 18th in family medicine, 20th in geriatrics, 25th in primary care and 41st in research among the nation’s medical schools. It ranks 35th in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.

Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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August 27, 2007 Posted by | Drug Abuse, Global Health Vision, Global News, HIV, University of Florida, University of Pittsburgh, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Washington DC, Washington DC City Feed, Washington University | Leave a comment