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Friday Science Review: March 6, 2009

Cool Canadian science stories this week…

Stem Cells: The big Canadian science news this week was the report by Dr. Nagy’s lab at the Lunenfeld that they have found a much safer way to make pluripotent stem cells from adult tissue.  Their publication (co-authored with Keisuke Kaji’s team at the University of Edinburgh) appeared in Nature this week.

Also on the stem cell front, Dr. Kremer, the co-director of the Musculoskeletal Axis of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, used Interferon gamma to induce the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into osteoblasts in vitro, and that IFNγ knockout mice also show reduced bone density and that isolated mesenchymal stem cells from the knockout mice show a differentiation defect.  Long story short: a potential new target for improving bone density.

Clinical Trials: Good news for GSK and for scientists at McMaster University, who showed that GSK’s Mepolizumab (pdf), an anti-IL5 humanized antibody that blocks eosinophil production, helps severe asthmatics improve asthma and reduce their need for prednisone by close to 90 per cent, a result that was seconded by a group in the UK.

Nanotechnology Costs: We noted a few weeks ago that there were changes coming to nanotechnology regulatory environment, and now researchers in BC and Minnessota estimate that testing the toxicity of existing nanomaterials in the United States could cost between $249 million and $1.18 billion and that full-scale testing could take decades to complete. They propose a tiered approach, similar to the EU’s REACH program for testing toxic chemicals, to define priorities.  Hat tip to ScienceInsider.

Hosted Services: Canadians, being hospitable types, are hosting World Diabetes Congress in Montreal in October, as well as a new Occupational Cancer Research Centre — charged with “improving knowledge and evidence to help identify, prevent and ultimately eliminate exposures to cancer-causing substances in the workplace.”

Musical Chairs: A group at Ryerson University’s centre for learning technologies in conjunction with the science of music, auditory research and technology (SMART) lab have developed a chair that allows the hearing-impaired to experience music by using the skin as a hearing membrane. 

Global Issues: An Amazon drought caused a major release of carbon dioxide; but don’t worry, because we’ll find a new planet in no time.  Sound painful? Don’t worry — a spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.

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