Information about the identification of genes which may yield therapy on various illnesses.

Altered polio virus cures brain cancer

Professor Matthias Gromeier, a microbiologist at Duke University, North Carolina reports a use for an altered polio virus.

The virus operates by binding to a molecule produced in glioma, one of the commonest forms of brain cancer. Seven years ago the team discovered that polio binds to a molecule in glioma destroying the cancer cells. However the effects of the virus on the rest of the body would have been devastating.

By adding genetic material from rhinovirus (common cold) they were able to destroy it destructive capabilities without affecting its ability to  to fight cancer.

Mice and monkeys with malignant glioma were injected with the hybrid virus and recovered completely after one treatment.

Currently Professor Gromeier's team and preparing for human trials.

Alzheimer's gene's

notes from Daily Mail article 19th June 2001 - James Chapman, Science Correspondent

A new genetic marker for Alzheimer's has been reported in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry.

Dr. George Zubencko, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh, lead a team of researchers who studied 300 close relatives of 189 people who have the Alzheimer's condition.

A newly identified genetic variation along with another, already identified ApoE4 together increase the risk of the disease by 16 times.

The discovery has heightened fears that an insurance underclass will come into existence.

Professor Steven Sapp, an expert in medical Ethics at the University of Miami, welcomed the new research but added,
'Susceptibility means just that, not certainty.
'A test  based on this research can at best suggest a heightened risk.
'Furthermore, no meaningful treatment from Alzheimer's exists, and this, unlike with most cancers, for example, early detection offers no discernible therapeutic benefits.
'Indeed, it may come with certain costs, not least of which is having to worry that every lapse of memory is the beginning of the onset of Alzheimer's, resulting in an unnecessary or at least premature diminution of the quality of life.'

Dr. Harry Cayton, chief executive of the UK Alzheimer's Society, said the discovery mean the Government must now act to stop the insurance industry using the results of any genetic tests.
"There is no evidence that the insurers have the public interest at heart and it has become quit clear that the industry is incapable of regulating itself.
'We must now have legislation, We are deeply concerned that people's fears about potential discrimination my deter them from taking genetic tests which could lead to early diagnosis of disease and treatment.'

The UK's Human Genetics Commission has called for the use of genetic tests by insurers to be suspend for at least three years, saying there was deep concern that people vulnerable to hereditary disease such a breast cancer could be discriminated against.'

Dr. Philip Boyle, of the Park Ridge Centre for the study of Health, Faith, and Ethics in Chicago said, 'Ethical issues often go unnoticed in the rush to make test available.
'There is no proof either that with the gene you will get the disease or that without it   you have dodged the bullet for sure.
'Those tested could get it wrong in deciding major life decisions.'

The need for advanced somatic therapy. !!!

GM Embryonic Stem Cells avoid teratoma in transplants.

Report on work by Nissim Benevenisty, a geneticist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
New Scientist 30 June 2001.
One of the problems of using stem cells to generate tissues is that there are always stem cells left in the tissue formed, and if undifferentiated cells are left in the transplant it can lead to a form of tumour called teratoma.
Two processes have been devised to eliminate these unwanted cells.
1. The control portion of a gene only expressed in stem cells is marked with the gene for green fluorescent protein from jellyfish. Stem cells thus marked glow in UV light and can be removed by a cell sorter.
2. If you don’t want to use GM stem cells, the team has also created fluorescent antibodies that bind to particular sorts of cells. Add the relevant antibody and sort as before.
A third possibility is under development. The team intend to insert "suicide" genes into ECS to make them self destruct when exposed to an antibiotic. This means that if a transplant goes awry its could be killed of with a short course of drugs.

report by Claire Ainsworth.

Gene Mutation Causes Cancer Cell 'Suicide' - Copied from Reuters July 2001

July 02, 2001 06:42 PM ET
By Letitia Stein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The growth of cancer cells slowed to the point of cellular "suicide" when scientists inserted a small genetic mutation, researchers reported on Monday.

"It's almost like a poison spike," said Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study. "You only have to add a little bit to get a nasty effect."

The mutation targeted an enzyme highly active in cancer cells called telomerase, which helps to preserve chromosome structures during the corrosive process of cell replication.

The mutation used telomerase to destroy rapidly multiplying cancer cells -- a strategy Blackburn compared to the Japanese martial art jujitsu, where opponents use their rivals' force to defeat them.

In the study, scientists inserted a small mutation into the enzyme's genetic coding, composed of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The mutated RNA thwarted the normal activities of telomerase in translating RNA to DNA in order to rebuild portions of the chromosome lost in cell replication.

"Cancer cells are kind of famous for resisting signals that tell them to commit suicide, that's one of the things that makes them so dangerous," Blackburn said. "It was quite a surprise to have this small amount of telomerase be so effective."


Low levels of the mutant RNA dramatically decreased growth rates of breast and prostate cancer cells in the study and made more cells die.

The mutation resulted in smaller breast cancer tumours in live mice implanted with the mutated enzyme.

While an explanation for the impact of telomerase mutation on cancer cell growth remained unclear, Blackburn said future research may find that cancer cells from living humans are more susceptible to the mutant enzyme than the laboratory-grown cells used in the study.

Research by Blackburn and her colleagues was published in the current edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have been studying several approaches to treating cancer by disrupting telomerase activities, but this University of California study also may produce new therapy approaches, according to a commentary published with the study.

Among the options being studied, telomerase mutation offered "a clear theoretical advantage as an approach for treating cancer with immediate impact on tumour cells," Richard Hodes of the National Institutes of Health wrote.

Testing cells to see if they are cancerous.

(source New Scientist 15/March/03 pg. 25. Report of the American Physical Society 3-7 March 2003)

Cancer cells are less elastic and deform more easily than normal healthy cells.

Jochen Guck (a physicist at Leipzig University – Germany) Though that perhaps squeezing cells might prompt them to reveal their true nature.
The researchers pump cells one at a time through a narrow gap between two Laser Beams (optical tweezers – New Scientist 13 October 2001, pg. 22)
(Kishan Dholakia, an expert in Optical Tweezers at The University of St. Andrews in University, described the twin beam approach of J Guck as very innovative)

“The researchers have also found that while healthy fibroblast cells stretch by 4 per cent and quickly spring back to normal when the laser intensity is turned down, malignant fibroblasts stretch by 10 per cent and do not regain their original shape.” (New Scientist 15/March/03 pg. 25. Report of the American Physical Society 3-7 March 2003)

J Guck has now teamed up with researchers from the Leipzig Medical School to carry out trials to evaluate how well the process can be used to identify cancerous tissues and cells earlier than by other methods.

(Coverage of other scientific meetings  )

New Techniques May Offer Hope for Infertile Women

Implantation of frozen ovarian tissue

July 02, 2001 02:03 PM ET

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - In a development that could offer new hope for infertile women, French scientists said on Monday they have used frozen ovarian tissue from sheep to produce live animals.

Ovaries that had been removed from sheep, halved, frozen for up to three months, thawed and then grafted back into the same animals resulted in four pregnancies and six live lambs.

"These four pregnancies, after frozen ovarian autograft, give immense hope to women who become sterilised by cancer treatment," Professor Bruno Salle, of the Hospital Edouard Herriot in Lyon, told a fertility meeting.

Cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy can damage ovaries and eggs and leave young women infertile. By removing and freezing ovarian tissue before treatment and freezing it, scientists may one day enable these infertile women to give birth to children using their own eggs.

But Salle and his team said they are still a long way from doing the same procedure on humans.

"We are not ready to try this technique in women yet, as first of all the procedure has to be repeated by ourselves and other researchers, and secondly, we need to discover how long the ovarian graft continues to function," Salle added.

One of the lambs died just after birth and two others after a premature delivery. The remaining three are alive and healthy. None of the animals showed any signs of genetic abnormalities.

In a separate presentation at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) meeting, scientists from Cornell University in the United States said they are working on a technique that could allow women who no longer produce their own eggs to give birth using a donor egg but their own genetic material taken from another cell.

"Many women can't produce their own eggs, for example if they are past the menopause -- and many still want to have genetically related offspring," Dr. Takumi Takeuchi told journalists.

"This treatment might be able to help them contribute their own genome," he added.

But the technique is controversial, in its very early stages of development and raises ethical questions because it uses cloning techniques, although it would not produce a replica of a person.

Professor Lynn Fraser, the president of ESHRE, told the four-day conference that most infertile couples would benefit through improvements in existing fertility techniques.

Late Onset Parkinson's - Gene Link

Researchers at DeCODE genetics, the Reykjavik-based company studying the genetic records of the Icelandic population, announced last week that it had discovered a gene linked to the main form of Parkinson's disease. The gene was found on a small section of chromosome one after a study of data from 51 Icelandic families.
The scientists plan to use the information to develop new diagnostic tests and new treatments for the condition, although these will be many years away. Kari Stefansson, the chief executive of DeCODE, said that the gene discovery goes against the more commonly held belief that Parkinson's has no identifiable genetic component. Genes have been found for rarer forms of the disease but this is the first time a gene has been identified as having a causal link to the late-onset form of the disease.
- The Sunday Telegraph 28/10/2001 'Scientists find genetic key to Parkinson's'
- Yahoo Daily News 23/10/2001 'Icelandic firm finds Parkinson's disease gene'
- Yahoo Daily News:


 B i o N e w s 170  - Week 5/8/2002 - 11/8/2002
Subscribe to BioNews at
An online archive of all past BioNews commentaries and news summaries is available at .

Researchers in Japan have shown that sufferers of painful limbs could find relief from their own stem cells. The team discovered that stem cells injected into 45 people with severe blood circulation problems in their legs led to the creation of new blood vessel networks, a process called angiogenesis.
In two studies involving 20 and 25 patients respectively, participants were injected in one leg with bone marrow stem cells and in the other leg with saline solution. The treatment appeared to increase the creation of blood vessel networks, leading to the elimination of pain in 16 out of 20 stem cell injected legs and the prevention of toe amputation in 15 out of 20 legs.
At present, the researchers are unable to say whether the bone marrow stem cells became blood vessel cells or simply encouraged other cells to make new vessels. Once some of these basic questions have been answered, the researchers hope that the stem cell therapy might, in the future, be used to treat heart attacks and strokes, which are both caused by severe blood circulation problems.
- The Lancet 10/8/2002 'Therapeutic angiogenesis for patients with limb ischaemia...'
- The Lancet: