"Living Ink" Bioprinter Could Revolutionize Transplant Medicine
The laboratory of a University of Minnesota researcher has been selected as one of 20 worldwide to receive one of the first bioprinters. In today's Star Tribune, Prof. Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari is interviewed about the machine, which researchers hope will solve a major problem in transplant medicine: a lack of healthy, compatible organs for patients who need them. The article notes, "At labs across the country, researchers have used bioprinters like hers to produce transplantable ears, bone and muscle."
Stem Cell "Wild West" Raises Regulatory, Ethical Questions
An article in the New York Times describes a worrying trend: for-profit stem cell clinics that harvest bone marrow and fat, then inject or infuse them back into patients to treat conditions as various as asthma, Parkinson's disease and aging. While stem cells are known for their powerful regenerative qualities and therapeutic flexibility, these procedures have not been tested through standard research protocols or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nevertheless, stem cell clinics require patients to sign extensive waivers and represent a "mushrooming business [that's] almost wholly unregulated." Prof. Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics calls this approach "unauthorized, for-profit human experimentation" and has asked the FDA to investigate.
Avian Flu: "We're in Totally Uncharted Territory"
The current outbreak of avian flu -- the largest in US history -- has affected more than 30 million poultry so far. An article in Science quotes Michael Osterholm, director of Consortium member center CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy), about the rapidly evolving situation. The H5N2 strain of the virus is spreading in an "unprecedented" way, challenging received wisdom and thwarting efforts to contain the outbreak. Read the entire Science article here.
Infant Antibiotic Use Linked to Adult Diseases
A new study led by researchers at the University of Minnesota has found a three-way link among antibiotic use in infants, changes in the gut bacteria, and disease later in life. The imbalances in gut microbes have been tied to infectious diseases, allergies and other autoimmune disorders, and even obesity, later in life. The study was led by Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology program graduate student fellow Pajau Vangay, who works in the laboratory of Dan Knights, the study's senior author. Dr. Knights is also on the faculty of Consortium member center the Biotechnology Institute. The findings of the study were published in Cell Host & Microbe.
BioTechnology Institute Research Sparks New Water Purification Company
A startup based on research by researchers at the University of Minnesota's BioTechnology Institute, a Consortium member center, has landed its first research and development contract from a multibillion-dollar global company headquartered in Europe. Scientific discoveries by researchers Alptekin Aksan, PhD and Larry Wackett, PhD led to the development of a process that uses small, sponge-like silica beads to purify water contaminated by chemicals from industrial processes and agricultural runoff, naturally breaking these compounds down into environmentally harmless byproducts. The R&D funds will allow the company, Minnepura, to develop and launch its first product based on the U of M-patented silica bead technology.