bbccells.jpgIt may be possible to use a patient's own skin to repair the damage caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), which is currently incurable, say researchers.

Nerves struggle to communicate in MS as their insulating covering is attacked by the immune system - causing fatigue and damaging movement.

Animal tests, described in the journal Cell Stem Cell, have now used modified skin cells to repair the insulation.

genecutting.jpgA simple, precise and inexpensive method for cutting DNA to insert genes into human cells could transform genetic medicine, making routine what now are expensive, complicated and rare procedures for replacing defective genes in order to fix genetic disease or even cure AIDS.

Discovered last year by Jennifer Doudna and Martin Jinek of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and University of California, Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine-Sweden, the technique was labeled a “tour de force” in a 2012 review in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

That review was based solely on the team’s June 28, 2012, Science paper, in which the researchers described a new method of precisely targeting and cutting DNA in bacteria.

brainTissues.jpgBorrowing from microfabrication techniques used in the semiconductor industry, MIT and Harvard Medical School (HMS) engineers have developed a simple and inexpensive way to create three-dimensional brain tissues in a lab dish.

The new technique yields tissue constructs that closely mimic the cellular composition of those in the living brain, allowing scientists to study how neurons form connections and to predict how cells from individual patients might respond to different drugs. The work also paves the way for developing bioengineered implants to replace damaged tissue for organ systems, according to the researchers.

“We think that by bringing this kind of control and manipulation into neurobiology, we can investigate many different directions,” says Utkan Demirci, an assistant professor in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

Demirci and Ed Boyden, associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT’s Media Lab and McGovern Institute, are senior authors of a paper describing the new technique, which appears in the Nov. 27 online edition of the journal Advanced Materials. The paper’s lead author is Umut Gurkan, a postdoc at HST, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

microbefuels.jpgA humble soil bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha has a natural tendency, whenever it is stressed, to stop growing and put all its energy into making complex carbon compounds. Now scientists at MIT have taught this microbe a new trick: They’ve tinkered with its genes to persuade it to make fuel — specifically, a kind of alcohol called isobutanol that can be directly substituted for, or blended with, gasoline.

Michael Snyder, PhDby Krista Conger

Like homing in to an elusive radio frequency in a busy city, human embryonic stem cells must sort through a seemingly endless number of options to settle on the specific genetic message, or station, that instructs them to become more-specialized cells in the body (Easy Listening, maybe, for skin cells, and Techno for neurons?). Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown that this tuning process is accomplished in part by restricting the number of messages, called transcripts, produced from each gene.

Qilin Cao, MDResearchers at UTHealth have demonstrated in rats that transplanting genetically modified adult stem cells into an injured spinal cord can help restore the electrical pathways associated with movement. The results are published in today’s issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

In spinal cord injury, demyelination, or the destruction of the myelin sheath in the central nervous system, occurs. The myelin sheath, produced by cells called oligodendrocytes, wraps around the axons of nerves and helps speed activity and insulate electrical conduction. Without it, the nerves cannot send messages to make muscles move.

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