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Vol. LXII, No. 10
May 14, 2010
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Digest

  In work with mice, a team of researchers has pinpointed the location of bone-generating stem cells in the spine, at the ends of shins and in other bones.  
  In work with mice, a team of researchers has pinpointed the location of bone-generating stem cells in the spine, at the ends of shins and in other bones.  

NIH Study Confirms Location of Stem Cells Near Cartilage-Rich Regions in Bones

Working with mice, a team of researchers has pinpointed the location of bone-generating stem cells in the spine, at the ends of shins and in other bones. The team also has identified factors that control the stem cells’ growth. The research was conducted at NIH and other institutions.

“Identifying the location of bone stem cells and some of the genetic triggers that control their growth is an important step forward,” said NICHD acting director Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher. “Now, researchers can explore ways to harness these cells so that ultimately they might be used to repair damaged or malformed bone. Also, studies of this stem cell population could yield insight into the formation of bone tumors.”

Researchers have long known that stem cells from bone marrow give rise to bone cells and to red and white blood cells. The current study is the first to identify the location of bone stem cells in the adult mouse skeleton. The findings appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings open up two avenues for additional research. Studies to identify the chemical signals that initiate the formation of new bone tissue could lead to new techniques for regenerating damaged or injured bone. Similarly, studies of the chemical events that trigger the initial stages of tumor formation may lead to ways to prevent or treat bone tumors.

NIH Study Offers Hope to Patients with Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis

A daily dose of a specific form of vitamin E significantly improved the liver disease nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), according to a study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Results were published Apr. 28 online in the New England Journal of Medicine. In addition, Actos (pioglitazone), a drug used to treat diabetes, also improved many features of NASH but was associated with weight gain.

NASH is a chronic liver disease that is linked to weight gain and obesity and can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring, liver cancer and death. It resembles alcoholic liver disease but occurs in patients who drink little or no alcohol. NASH can occur in children, the elderly, normal-weight and non-diabetic persons. The disease is believed to be caused by abnormal metabolism of fats, which increases levels of oxidants, compounds that transfer oxygen in the liver. This disease affects about 3 to 4 percent of the U.S. population, leads to death from cirrhosis and increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. There is currently no approved treatment for NASH.

“This is an important landmark in the search for effective treatments for NASH,” said Dr. Pat Robuck, director of the clinical trials program in NIDDK’s Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition.

Scientists Find Genes That Influence Brain Wave Patterns

Scientists have identified new genes and pathways that influence an individual’s typical pattern of brain electrical activity, a trait that may serve as a useful surrogate marker for more genetically complex traits and diseases. One of the genes, for example, was found to be associated with alcoholism.

A report of the findings by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism appeared online Apr. 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This important advance sustains our hope for the potential of genome-wide association techniques to further the study of complex genetic disorders such as alcoholism,” said NIAAA acting director Dr. Kenneth Warren. Genome-wide association studies allow researchers to rapidly scan the complete set of DNA of many individuals to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease or condition.

Expression of Proteins Linked to Poor Outcome In Women with Ovarian Cancer

Scientists have established the presence of certain proteins in ovarian cancer tissues and have linked these proteins to poor survival rates in women with advanced stages of the disease. The study, led by scientists at the National Cancer Institute, appeared in Cancer online, Apr. 19.

The proteins in question belong to the nuclear factor kappa Beta (NF-kB) family. NF-kB controls many processes within the cell including cell survival and proliferation, inflammation, immune responses and cellular responses to stress.

“This study sheds light on the distinctive genetic features of the NF-kB pathway and may provide targets for the development of novel therapies for ovarian cancer,” said lead investigator Dr. Christina Annunziata, associate clinical investigator, Medical Oncology Branch.

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