Possible Insight

Archive for the ‘Medical Breakthroughs’ Category

Killing Cancer Stem Cells

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My second cancer post in a row.  Rafe must have made my news antennae more sensitive to the issue.

The Broad Institute announced that they have identified a compound that kills breast cancer stem cells: salinomycin.  What’s particularly cool is the way they went about it.  Evidently, cancer stem cells tend to lose their “stemness” in the lab, making it hard to run tests on them.  The Broad team overcame this challenge by figuring out how to convert regular cancer cells to stem-like cells to get a stable population.

With this foundation in place, they constructed a large-scale screening operation and searched for activity in thousands of compounds.  Once they identified active compounds, they tested them on mice.  Lo and behold, salinomycin dramatically reduced (100 to 1) the cancer stem cell population in mice with breast cancer.

Even better, they can apply this same technique to any cancer that produces solid tumors maintained by stem cells.


Written by Kevin

August 18, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Looking Forward to the Sports Injury Revolution

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When I was 16, I dislocated my elbow.  The ensuing re-injuries and calcification of the ligaments ended my competitive wrestling career.  Last year, I separated my shoulder and while it’s pretty well healed, it’s going to have some annoying weaknesses the rest of my life.

I’m not the only one.  Most of the people I know who have been reasonably active through age 40 have some sort of permanent impairment from a ligament, cartilage, or tendon injury.  Today, I was wondering if extracellular matrix (ECM) might be the answer.

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Written by Kevin

April 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Approaching the Singularity from Two Points

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I happened to come across two interesting posts with Singularity implications that I thought you might be interested in.  First, the Singularity Hub reports that Osiris has a promising phase II trial underway for a treatment that uses foreign stem cells to repair the muscle damage from heart attacks.  If you’re about 40 like Rafe and I, this means your chances of dying from heart disease could go way down.  Now if we can just make some progress on cancer, we’ll be centenarians.

Second, via Prometheus, Wired reports on a robot-software combination that was able to generate, test, and refine it’s own hypotheses to identify coding for orphan enzymes in yeast. Obviously, this is a very special purpose kind of science.  But the fact they got a closed loop is very impressive.  I also like the fact that it’s in the biological sciences. Hey, maybe some descendant of this program can solve the aformentioned cancer problem.

Written by Kevin

April 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm