The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Friday Science Review: October 21, 2011

CD34: Beyond A Stem Cell Marker

Biomedical Research Centre, Vancouver ♦ University of British Columbia ♦ Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, Ottawa ♦ Others..

Published in Stem Cells, October 13, 2011

Despite the fact that the cell surface marker CD34 is typically used to identify a diversity of adult stem cell types, no regeneration-related function has been attributed to it. In attempts to broaden our understanding of the protein’s contribution to regenerative biological processes, researchers at the University of British Columbia probed the effect that it has on muscle regeneration in mice. Knockout mice lacking the protein still developed properly, however exhibited an inability to regenerate muscle following both acute and chronic skeletal muscle injury. Researchers attribute this defect to a shortcoming in satellite cells; a small and rare progenitor cell type found in muscle that migrates to the site of injury to proliferate and restore muscle mass. In the absence of CD34, it appears that satellite cells are unable to migrate along muscle strands to relocate themselves and stimulate the growth of new tissue.

Black Death Reconstructed

McMaster University ♦ University of Tübingen ♦ Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology ♦ University of South Carolina ♦ Others..

Published in Nature, October 12, 2011

Scientists working out of McMaster University’s Ancient DNA Centre have managed to reconstruct the genome of Yersinia pestis. The rod-shaped microbe was responsible for the epidemic that killed an estimated 30-50% of the European population between the years 1347 and 1351; the infection was appropriately given the name the Black Death. The advent of high-powered sequencing technologies has allowed us to quickly and accurately map the genomes of ancestral microbes. Not only do these genomes provide valuable insight into their biology, they allow us to plot the evolution of pathogens and adaptations they have gathered over time. DNA samples were collected from the teeth of skeletons unearthed from old burial grounds in London. Contrary to what was originally believed, the sequenced genome revealed that the ancestral microbe was no more virulent than strains in existence today. Researchers believe the severity of the 14th century pandemic was brought on by the generally malnourished and immuno-compromised state of the population at that time. Poor hygiene and particularly wet conditions are likely to have exacerbated the spread of the microbe as well.

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