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Week in Review: February 3–7

Federal stem cell regulations vary; Salmonella exploit host immune system; microglia help maintain synaptic connections; prosthesis re-creates feeling of touch

By | February 7, 2014

Federal agencies clash over stem cell regs

WIKIMEDIA, RYDDRAGYNMoving basic research discoveries into the clinic can be difficult even with regulatory considerations set aside. Researchers working with some National Institutes of Health-approved stem cells face an additional translational challenge: therapies using these cells are not be eligible for commercialization because they don’t meet Food and Drug Administration requirements. That’s according to an analysis published in Cell Stem Cell this week (February 6).

“The main concern is: How do we move this technology [to the clinic]? How do we translate it?” author Erica Jonlin, the regulatory manager at the University of Washington Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, told The Scientist.

Salmonella hijack host immune response

WIKIMEDIA, CDCBy outcompeting commensal E. coli, Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium can exploit a standard immune response in mice to promote their own growth, scientists from the University of California, Irvine, and their colleagues reported in Immunity this week (February 6).

“[This study] takes several counterintuitive observations in the field and connects them to a coherent picture—a daring ‘Battle of the Bugs,’” said microbiologist Sebastian Winter, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who was not involved in the work.

Synaptic maintenance improves connections

WIKIMEDIA, GRZEGORZ WICHERWithout microglia to perform “synaptic pruning”—in which unwanted neural links are disposed of—mouse brains develop with weaker connections, leading to altered social behavior. In a Nature Neuroscience paper published this week (February 3), researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and their colleagues proposed that their findings in mice could provide clues about human brain disorders that involve altered connectivity.

“The finding of a microglial role in synaptic pruning, and ultimately the emergence of efficient distributed networks, is very interesting,” said Ralph-Axel Müller from San Diego State University, who was not involved in the work.

Feeling touch with prosthesis takes some nerve

LIFEHAND 2/PATRIZIA TOCCIBy surgically implanting electrodes into the upper-arm nerves of a man whose limb had been amputated at the forearm, researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and their colleagues were able to partially and temporarily restore the man’s sense of touch, and to improve his ability to operate a motorized prosthesis, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine this week.

“For the first time, the amputee was able to modulate the force produced by him in real time according to the sensory feedback we were providing,” study coauthor Silvestro Micera told The Scientist.

Other news in life science:

First CRISPR-Tinkered Primates Born
Twin macaques are the first primates born whose genomes were edited using CRISPR technology.

New Bird Flu Threat?
Chinese officials report the first two human cases of H10N8 avian influenza, one of which is linked to the death of a 73-year-old woman.

Judges Side with FDA on Stem Cells
A US federal appeals court maintains that stem cells proliferated in a lab must be regulated as a drug.

Microbial Smog
Some 1,300 species of microbes, including some associated with allergies and lung disease, are adrift in Beijing’s thick smog.

Researchers Read Fewer Papers
A new survey shows that scientists are perusing the literature less now than they have annually for 35 years.

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