Metastatic melanoma cells
What’s the News: Souped-up cells from a patient’s own immune system could one day be used to treat advanced melanoma, according to a preliminary study published in Science Translational Medicine investigating the safety of the technique. The researchers manipulated a patient’s immune system cells to better recognize cancer cells in the lab and then re-introduced those cells into the body—an approach called “adoptive T-cell therapy.”
Some like it hot. The bacteria Francisella tularensis is among them. It likes to live at the temperatures present inside human bodies, and give us the disease tularaemia. But Barry Duplantis figured out a way to make the body an unattractive destination for the bacteria: He injected it with the genes of a cold-lover.
In a study in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Duplantis brought in Colwellia psycherythraea, a bacteria that can survive in the icy temperatures of the Arctic, but would die at a temperature like the nearly 100 degrees inside our bodies. By transferring genes responsible for that temperature sensitivity into F. tularensis, he created versions of that bacteria with lower heat tolerances.
When he injected these microbes into mice, they couldn’t migrate to warm areas like the lungs and do damage. Plus, the presence of the incapacitated bacteria acted as a sort of vaccine, putting the animals’ immune systems at the ready. When the researchers later gave the mice large exposures to unaltered F. tularensis, they didn’t get as sick as control mice.
For plenty more on this study, check out Ed Yong’s post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.
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Image: Richard Finkelstein
For the first time, scientists have derived and cultured embryonic stem (ES) cells from rats, paving the way for genetically engineered rats that would more accurately model some human diseases than the currently available genetically engineered mice. Two collaborating teams developed a new approach to derive the ES cells, using a new cocktail of molecules to protect their precious pluripotency, the ability to differentiate into any type of cell. “This is a major development in stem cell research because we know that rats are much more closely related to humans than mice in many aspects of biology. The research direction of many labs around the world will change because of the availability of rat ES cells,” says Qilong Ying [Xinhua], who led one of the teams.
ES cells from mice have been available since 1981, and different researchers have created hundreds of different strains of “knock-out” mice—ones raised from ES cells in which certain genes are silenced to make apparent the genes’ functions. With mice, ES cells were grown with a mixture of growth signals to make them divide without differentiating. But transferring the same technique to rats and other mammals proved surprisingly difficult. To the great frustration of researchers, stem cells isolated from rat embryos and cultured with growth signals would quickly lose their pluripotency. The new strategy, reported in two studies in Cell [subscription required], involves growing the ES cells in a mixture of three key molecules that block the signals that normally induce differentiation. “Our discovery was that if you want to maintain cells in the undifferentiated state, you must block signals, not activate them,” says Ying… By repressing differentiation, the researchers could hold the cells in what they call a “ground state,” a blank slate ready to turn into any tissue in the body [Science News].