‘Dr. Death’ and ‘Bad Batch’ Host Laura Beil on the Future of Podcasts – ELLE.com

Laura Beil was skeptical when Wondery called her two years ago. The sensationalistic podcast hitmaker behind Dirty John needed a host for its new series about Christopher Duntsch, the infamous Dallas neurosurgeon accused of maiming his patients. Beil, a veteran Dallas Morning News medical reporter, hadn't listened to a true crime podcast in full, let alone reported one. She'd certainly never heard of Wondery. "I said, 'I'm a print journalist,'" she tells ELLE.com. "Why are you calling me?" With some hesitation, she agreed to do it. Today, she's grateful she did.

Since airing last September, Dr. Death has been downloaded more than 50 million times and ordered as a television series. On the heels of its massive success, Wondery greenlit a second Beil-led podcast, Bad Batch, now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. In the six-part investigative series, she takes listeners through the crazy, complicated world of stem cell medical treatment. Like Dr. Death, there's a narrative arc (corrupt system, suspicious CEO, unsuspecting victims); unlike Dr. Death, she says, it serves a real purpose. "The chances of you coming across a horrible neurosurgeon are pretty slim," she says, "but the chances of you or someone you love wanting to spend a bunch of money on stem cells because you're promised a miracle cure? That's much higher. This has a greater chance of having an impact on listeners."

Bad Batch has already garnered 3 million listeners since it debuted three weeks ago, and is now the fourth most popular show on Apple podcasts, ahead of rival My Favorite Murder.

On the phone, Beil and I discuss her transition to audio from print journalism, the future of true crime content in a frenetic digital age, and her secret sauce to producing a hit podcast.

Apparently a Dirty John listener had emailed Wondery saying, "Hey, have you heard of Christopher Duntsch?" They wanted a journalist who had knowledge of the healthcare system in Dallas, where Duntsch practiced, to look into him, and that's a pretty short list. When they called, I hadn't even heard of Wondery. But I decided to take a chance on it.

Journalism is journalism. There are some things I had to get used to, of course. For example, in print journalism, if you need something else, you can go back and get it from a source. You'll email or you'll text somebody to follow up as you find out you need more details. With audio, you just have one shot. It's a lot harder to go back and reinterview someone. You have to make the one interview really count, and that means asking the same question over and over again in a different way, to get details that draw people out. It's something that I'm still learning how to do, frankly.

The feedback about my voice has been all over the place. I didn't get so much with Dr. Death, but for Bad Batch I am. Listeners will say, "Oh, the narrator's too dramatic." And then someone else will say, "Oh, the narrator's too robotic." It's all conflicting. My favorite bit of feedback was from a listener who said they preferred the host of Dr. Death to Bad Batch.

I don't see true crime being dethroned anytime soon. It will always dominate, because people love it. That said, Bad Batch doesn't necessarily fit in the true crime box. There wasn't really a crime, and nobody died. What you need, just like in a print piece, is a good central narrative to hang your story off. The stem cell story is complicated, because you can't just say it's all a big con job. There's legitimate stem cell research going on. The business is growing so much and most of the information about it is coming from people trying to sell it. There's a lot to explore and explain.

In this business, so much is contracting, like newspapers, so it's nice to see one aspect of journalism that's expanding. To see more demand for audio journalism is heartening. It's reviving a lot of the long-form storytelling that's been cut in other places. Dr. Death had 50 million downloads. The same story was told in print on ProPublica, which is a hugely popular website, and yet the response from our audio was so much greater. A lot of things that we're told people want nowadaysshorter stories that are more clickable and scannablewell, you can't do that with a podcast. I can't explain it, but people can't get enough of podcasts.

I do enjoy doing the audio stuff, but I have to say, in my heart of hearts, I'm still a print writer. If I had to give up one or the other, I'd give up the audio.

[Laughs] With two number one podcasts out in a row, Wondery is like, "Do you have anything else?" After Dr. Death, I had so many emails from people saying, "Here's another horrible doctor to look into." It was depressing. I don't want to do another bad doctor story, I want to do something completely different. I want it to be the right story. It'll be something medical of course.

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Arizona the "wild west" of stem cell therapy; experts say promising therapy ripe for exploitation – ABC15 Arizona

Arizona has been called "the wild, wild west" of regenerative medicine.

The Valley is one of the most popular places in the country for stem cell clinics. The new and controversial therapy is being marketed and practiced all over Phoenix and Scottsdale.

The less invasive procedure promises to heal pain, nearly anywhere in their body. It is advertised as effective, safe, and ethical, but outside experts and industry insiders say consumers need to do their research to avoid being exploited, and potentially spending thousands in cash on a worthless injection.


The world of regenerative medicine is still being explored and developed.

"It actually gives you really good results," explained Dr. Matthew Hernandez, a naturopathic physician with Ethos.

"There's a lot of hope and promise, generally around the prospects for stem cells," said ASU Professor Emma Frow.

"Were still in the developmental stage. Stem cell therapy has been around for less than ten years. Thats new in medicine," said Dr. Steven Sorr, a naturopathic physician who runs Source of Health in Scottsdale.

"It encourages your own body to heal itself," said Janet McConnell, a 63-year-old bodybuilder who "had cartilage damage several years ago."

Instead of a surgery that would have derailed her competition training for months, she opted for injections.

"Three years ago, instead of the surgery, I had a PRP treatment," said McConnell. "It was very effective."

Years later, she returned to Dr. Hernandez for another round.

For most, Stem Cell and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy is a mystery. "It's kind of controversial and experimental," said Matthew Riddle, Director of Sales for Celling Biosciences.

The treatments concentrate platelets or stem cells, usually from the patient's own blood. Experts say it is important to always ask the doctor or provider where the "growth factors" are coming from, because in order to ensure they are alive they should be coming from the patient's own blood, fat, or bone marrow. Otherwise, patients can receive "dead" stem cells, which are not nearly as effective.

"We are very adamant to use the patient's own cells," said Riddle, who uses a centrifuge to separate out the blood, saline and growth factors that will be re-injected. "When we inject that into an area, we are telling your body to go heal that spot," said Dr. Hernandez.

"Stem cell treatment is really about trying to take the stem cells out of your body and...inject them back into another part of your body, in order to try and heal whatever part of the body is suffering," said Professor Frow.


According to researchers, Scottsdale and Phoenix are two of the seven "hot spot" cities in the country.

Arizona State University professors Emma Frow and Dave Brafman spent years studying the industry , and mapping out dozens of clinics in the Valley. They believe there are many more, as some intentionally practice under the radar. "I don't believe right now that there is enough evidence to suggest that they work," said Professor Frow.

"They are unregulated, unproven and for-profit," added Professor Brafman.

The profits are plentiful. "There's cash involved, so this isn't covered by insurance," said Dr. Hernandez.


The thousands in cash is one of many reasons the burgeoning industry is ripe for exploitation.

"The other piece too, it is it is new and upcoming," said Dr. Hernandez.

Many potential patients do not know the first thing about the procedure they are being sold, and doctors say many fall for sales tactics that are practiced at traveling seminars.

"They are preying on people's pain," said Dr. Sorr. "I think its really unethical and it upsets me."

Dr. Sorr believes the seminars are "a scam" that specifically targets an elderly clientele.

"They wine you and dine you. They go through a little dinner presentation and it is not the doctor, it's a marketing agency," he said.

The doctor told ABC15 he has had clients who have been duped, even after he told them they were not ideal candidates for stem cell or PRP therapy.

"It really broke my heart that he spent thousands upon thousands of dollars for something that was worthless.

"I don't agree with how they are done," said Dr. Hernandez. "They inject people and they get money. That's not practicing medicine, that is selling."

Both naturopathic physicians told ABC15 that some patients do not need the treatment, or will get subpar results from the injections. They say it is well known in the industry that some practices will continue to sell in order to reap the thousands in cash.


Right now, there is little regulation or oversight of the industry in Arizona.

"Really all of it the falls on the patient, with very little recourse if things go wrong," said Dr. Emma Frow.

During the course of our investigation, ABC15 discovered the Arizona Medical Board and County Health Department do not take complaints or oversee the people performing injections. The federal government has also been slow to implement widespread regulation.

"The FDA has their hands tied," said Dr. Sorr. "There are too many people out there that are doing this that havent had the proper training, they dont have the right experience, the right tools and all that."

There are some larger regulations in Arizona, governing who can handle a needle and perform injections.

Unlike other industries though, including massage therapy, there is no board that checks on licensing or investigates complaints involving botched procedures or alleged fraud.

"The state medical boards, need to become a little bit more involved in sort of identifying, or responding to claims," said Professor Brafman.

"I don't think it would hurt to have it, for sure. At the end of the day it's about protecting the public," said Dr. Hernandez.

For thousands of Arizonans, like Janet McConnell, regenerative medicine has helped heal chronic pain. Before spending thousands thousands though, do your research. "Always get a second opinion," said Dr. Sorr.

"I think this is really a case of buyer beware, or consumer beware," said Professor Frow.

If you are planning on undergoing a stem cell or PRP treatment, click here for questions experts say you should always ask ahead of time.

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The final frontier? Studying stem cells on the International Space Station – Scope

It's not often I get to write about astronauts and space travel. In fact, it's happened exactly... never. But now, thanks to a high-flying collaboration of Stanford researchers past and present, I get to write about something that's really out of this world.

Since 2006, iPS cells (short for induced pluripotent stem cells) have been at the forefront of groundbreaking research in biology and medicine. The cells' ability to become nearly any tissue in the body makes them an invaluable resource for physicians wishing to study the effect of drugs on specific, hard-to-obtain tissues or for researchers wanting to delve into the molecular missteps that lead to all manner of diseases.

Now iPS-derived human heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes have found their way into space, as part of a study by cardiologist and stem cell researcher Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, graduate student Alexa Wnorowski and former Stanford graduate student Arun Sharma, PhD. With the help of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, PhD, (also a former Stanford graduate student!), Wnorowski and Sharma studied the effect of the low gravity of the International Space Station on the heart cells' structure and function.

They published their findings today in Stem Cell Reports.

As Sharma, now a senior research fellow at Cedars-Sinai, explained in an email:

This project represented an opportunity for biomedical researchers to collaborate with astronauts and engineers in order to learn more about how a very unique environment, microgravity, affects the cells of the human heart.

Sharma, Wnorowski and Wu found that the cardiomyocytes cultured on the space station exhibited different patterns of gene expression than did their counterparts grown back here on Earth. They also displayed changes in the way they handled calcium -- an important regulator of contraction rate and strength.

Interestingly (and perhaps reassuringly for astronauts like Rubins), the cells appeared to return to normal when their five-and-a-half week jaunt into low Earth orbit ended.

"Working with the cells that launched to and returned from the International Space Station was an incredible opportunity," Wnorowski said. "Our study was the first conducted on the station that used human iPS technology, and demonstrated that it is possible to conduct long-term, human cell-based experiments in space."

All in all, the researchers were interested to see how nimbly the cells adjusted to their new, free floating life.

"We were surprised by how quickly human heart cells adapted to microgravity," Sharma said. "These results parallel known organ-level adaptations that happen to the heart during spaceflight."

Photos of Kate Rubins by NASA

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Oct4, Considered Vital for Creating iPSCs, Actually Isnt Needed – The Scientist

Since 2006, when Shinya Yamanaka, now the director of the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University, discovered a method that could guide fully differentiated cells back to their pluripotent state, scientist have been using his recipe to produce induced pluripotent stem cells. The protocol relies on overexpressing the so-called Yamanaka factors, which are four transcription factors: Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and cMyc (OSKM). While the technique reliably creates iPS cells, it can cause unintended effects, some of which can lead to cells to become cancerous. So researchers have worked to adjust the cocktail and understand the function of each factor.

No one had succeeded in creating iPS cells without forcing the overexpression of Oct4. It was thought that this was the most crucial factor of the four. At least until now.

If this works in adult human cells, it will be a huge advantage for the clinical applications of iPS cells.

Shinya Yamanaka, Kyoto University

Four years ago, Sergiy Velychko, a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Hans Schlers lab, and his team were studying the role of Oct4 in creating iPS cells from mouse embryonic fibroblasts. He used vectors to introduce various mutations of the gene coding for Oct4 to the cells he was studying, along with a negative controlone that didnt deliver any Oct4. He was shocked to discover that even using his negative control, he was able to generate iPS cells.

Velychkos experiment was suggesting that it is possible to develop iPS cells with only SKM.

We just wanted to publish this observation, Velychko tells The Scientist, but he knew hed need to replicate it first because reviewers wouldnt believe it.

He and his colleagues, including Guangming Wu, a senior scientist in the lab, repeated the experiment several times, engineering vectors with different combinations of the four factors. SKMthe combination that didnt include Oct4was able to induce pluripotency in the cells with about 30 percent of the efficiency of OSKM, but the cells were of higher quality, meaning that the researchers didnt see evidence of common off-target epigenetic effects. They reported their results yesterday (November 7) in Cell Stem Cell.

Efficiency is not important. Efficiency means how many colonies do you get, explains Yossi Buganim, a stem cell researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who was not involved in the study. If the colony is of low quality, the chances that eventually the differentiated cells will become cancerous is very high.

Finally, the team employed the ultimate test, the tetraploid complementation assay, in which iPS cells are aggregated with early embryos that otherwise would not have been able to form a fully functional embryo on their own. These embryos grew into mouse pups, meaning that the iPS cells the team created were capable of maturing into every type of cell in the animal.

Whats more is they found that the SKM iPS cells could develop into normal mouse pups 20 times more often than the OSKM iPS cells, suggesting that the pluripotency of iPS cells can be greatly improved by omitting Oct4 from the reprogramming factor cocktail.

The results will need to be verified in human cells, Buganim cautions. His team has developed methods for creating iPSCs that worked well in mouse cells only to be completely ineffective in humans.

Yamanaka himself was enthusiastic about the results, telling The Scientist in an email that his team would definitely try the method in other cell types, especially adult human blood cells and skin fibroblasts. If this works in adult human cells, it will be a huge advantage for the clinical applications of iPS cells.

S.Velychkoet al.,Excluding Oct4 from Yamanaka cocktail unleashes the developmental potential of iPSCs,Cell Stem Cell,doi:10.1016/j.stem.2019.10.002,2019.

Emma Yasinski is a Florida-based freelance reporter. Follow her on Twitter@EmmaYas24.

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Novel Molecule Reduces the Aggressiveness of Pediatric Cancer – Technology Networks

In Brazil, scientists affiliated with the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center (HUG-CELL) at the University of So Paulo (USP) have identified a molecule capable of reducing the aggressiveness of embryonal central nervous system tumors. These are malignant tumors that start in fetal cells in the brain and mainly affect children up to four years old.

The results arepublishedin the journalMolecular Oncology.HUG-CELLis one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) supported by So Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP. Its principal investigator isMayana Zatz, Professor of Human and Medical Genetics at USP's Institute of Biosciences (IB).

The approach proposed by the group can be classified as a type of microRNA-based therapy. A microRNA is a small RNA molecule that does not encode protein but plays a regulatory role in the genome. In this study, researchers used a synthetic version of an inhibitor of microRNA-367 (miR-367) with anti-tumor activity.

"We demonstrated in an animal model of a central nervous system tumor that treatment with a microRNA inhibitor attenuates properties of tumor stem cells and prolongs survival," saidOswaldo Keith Okamoto, a professor at IB-USP and the principal investigator for the study.

Okamoto explained that embryonal central nervous system tumors such as medulloblastomas and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (AT/RTs) tend to contain cells with characteristics similar to those of stem cells, which boosts their tumorigenic potential and capacity to invade tissue while also making them more resistant to cell death.

These tumors are caused by genetic or epigenetic aberrations in stem cells and neural progenitors when the nervous system is being formed during embryonic development. The neural stem cells that undergo these alterations later give rise to tumor cells. They form aggressive, fast-growing tumors that may appear shortly after birth, in later childhood or in adolescence.

In a previous study, the group tested an approach that used the Zika virus to destroy tumor stem cells (read more atagencia.fapesp.br/27677).

Expression and inhibition

A more recent study was led byCarolini Kaid, a postdoctoral researcher at IB-USP with a scholarship fromFAPESP.

Previous research has already shown that OCT4A, one of the genes that encode pluripotency factors, is overexpressed in aggressive medulloblastomas and that this overexpression is associated with an unfavorable prognosis. During hermaster's research, Kaid detected the expression of miR-367, a gene that promotes stem-like traits in tumor cells, in parallel with overexpression of OCT4A (read more atagencia.fapesp.br/21959).

The researchers then tested a specific synthetic inhibitor of miR-367 containing minor chemical alterations that make it more stable in cells. A patent application has been filed for the invention.

After inducing the formation of central nervous system tumors in mice using three different strains of tumor cells, the researchers injected the miR-367 inhibitor into the brain's right lateral ventricle, a pathway to the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. From there, the miR-367 inhibitor was able to access the tumor cells.

Tumor size was reduced considerably, and survival improved in all groups of mice. The results confirmed what had previously been observed in cell cultures.

In this model, the researchers noted that when the synthetic molecule interacted with miR-367 in tumor cells, it prevented this microRNA from affecting the levels of proteins it normally regulates, such as ITGAV and SUZ12.

The latter is known to be involved in silencing pluripotency-related genes in embryonic stem cells.

While the role of ITGAV in embryonal central nervous system tumors is not fully understood, ITGAV is known to participate in the renewal of both normal and tumor stem cells.

"When miR-367 is inhibited in cancer cells, it stops regulating several proteins. This molecular alteration eventually affects the properties of these cells, resulting in an attenuation of the tumor's aggressiveness. This is what makes the strategy interesting," Kaid said.

The researchers believe that in humans, the synthetic molecule alone may be capable of at least containing the development of these tumors and improving survival. Even so, they are testing combinations of the molecule with drugs currently used to treat the tumors. They want to find out whether the approaches could be combined using lower doses of chemotherapy drugs.

Before clinical trials can be performed, however, pharmacology and toxicity studies will be necessary, as will pharmacokinetic testing to show how the molecule is metabolized and how long it stays in the organism (its half-life).

When embryonal central nervous system tumors are conventionally treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, morbidity and mortality rates for these patients are high. These tumors correspond to 10% of all central nervous system cancer cases in children.

Even patients who survive longer than most may suffer from permanent treatment-related sequelae that impair their quality of life, such as problems with development, cognition, locomotion and speech.

Reference: Kaid et al. 2019.miR367 as a therapeutic target in stemlike cells from embryonal central nervous system tumors. Molecular Oncology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/1878-0261.12562.

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

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At the American Academy of Stem Cell Physicians Live Congress 2019, FDA Safety Panel Says No to the Bad Actors – Yahoo Finance

The American Academy of Stem Cell Physicians hosted the panel on Nov. 2 to discuss safety standards for Physicians who practice stem cell medicine.

MIAMI, Nov. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Academy of Stem Cell Physicians (AASCP) was joined by the alliance leader Janet Marchibroda in hosting a safety standards panel on Nov. 2 at the AASCP Live Congress 2019. The panel which was moderated by Janet Marchibroda, the president of The Alliance for cell therapy now, and included attendance via Skypeby Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics and Evaluation and Research was well-received by physicians from around the world.

The panel discussed safety precautions and considered guidelines for the safety of patients, calling out the bad actors in the field. They noted that current safety guidelines are antiquated and need revision to meet the demands of new cutting-edge medicine such as stem cells, which is a growing field in medical biologics.

Dr. A.J. Farshchian, a spokesperson forthe AASCP, was honored with the 2019 Visionary Award for his pioneering work with the AASCP and the stem cell industry. He said, "There's been too much talk but no action. We need to change that to ensure the safety of the patients who receive care. AASCP will gladly point out the bad actors to the FDA, are we telling on each other? Yes. Are we breaking the Code? No, we are just preserving what's left of this industry."

Later he added, "Many physicians and scientists are starting to believe that some of the regulations regarding stem cells which have been written many years ago have not kept up with the rapidly advancing science. These regulations must be revisited because they are all pass."

At the AASCP Live Congress, board certifications were also provided. To receive the board certification, physicians must meet stringent qualifications, including attending weekly meetings and pass a written and oral exam. The AASCP congratulates those who were recognized, including Dr. Rene Blaha, Dr. Warren Bleiweiss, Dr. Paula Marchionda and Dr. Kalpana Patel, all of whom received diplomat status; and Dr. Max Citrin, who received associate diplomat status.

The American Academy and its board also granted the title of associate professor and all rights therein to Dr. Richard Hull and Dr. Leonid Macheret. Dr. Richard Hull, who also earned tenure with the AASCP, said of the conference, "It is a great pleasure teaching this group of physicians. I love to teach and these physicians are so eager to learn."

To learn more about the AASCP, their educational initiatives and certification, visit AASCP.net.


The American Academy of Stem Cell Physicians (AASCP) is an organization created to advance research and the development of therapeutics in regenerative medicine, including diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease related to or occurring within the human body. The AASCP aims to serve as an educational resource for physicians, scientists, and the public. To learn more, visit AASCP.net

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Experimental Cell Therapy Improves Cardiac Function in Mouse Model of DMD, Study Says – Muscular Dystrophy News

Treatment with a cell therapy candidate called dystrophin expressing chimeras (DECs) increased dystrophin levels in heart muscle and improved cardiac function in mice with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a study has found.

This cell therapy, by Dystrogen Therapeutics, will be tested in a clinical trial involving DMD patients, with first results expected by the end of 2020, the company announced.

The study, Cardiac Protection after Systemic Transplant of Dystrophin Expressing Chimeric (DEC) Cells to the mdx Mouse Model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, was published in the journal Stem Cell Reviews and Reports.

Due to mutations in theDMD gene, patients have little to no dystrophin, a key protein in providing structural support and protection to muscles.

In the heart, lack of dystrophin results in cardiac muscle disease, or cardiomyopathy. Although gene therapy can be used to treat DMD-associated cardiomyopathy, its ability to restore dystrophin levels in cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) has been limited.

Stem cell transplants may be more effective and include two types: autologous, which uses the individuals own stem cells, and allogeneic, which uses stem cells from a donor. As any transplant may induce an immune response, treatment with immunosuppressants is required. The data about the efficacy of these approaches, however, remain insufficient.

DECs are established ex vivo (meaning outside of the body) by fusing myoblasts intermediates between stem cells and mature muscle cells from a healthy human donor with myoblasts from a DMD patient. This cell therapy maintains the ability to produce normal levels of dystrophin.

Previous preclinical studies showed that transplant of DECs into a mouse model of DMD increased the levels of dystrophin and normal myoblasts, while also reducing inflammation. The treatment significantly improved muscle strength and function. Importantly, it reduced immune responses and the requirement for immunosuppression.

To better assess the treatments therapeutic potential, a team at the University of Illinois at Chicago used both myoblasts and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from a DMD patient to produce DECs. The researchers transplanted half a million DECs into the bone marrow of mice, which were analyzed at five months of age, before the onset of cardiac dysfunction.

Results showed that, after 90 days, dystrophin levels in cardiac muscles significantly increased 15.7% with myoblasts and 5.2% with the MSCs-based cell therapy when compared to the controls (2%).

Compared to results at 30 days of treatment, heart scans at day 90 showed an increase in ejection fraction (a measure of the hearts ability to pump blood) from 53.5% to 59.1% with myoblasts and from 61.4% to 70.4% with MSCs.

Fractional shortening, which assesses systolic function (the ability of the hearts ventricles to contract), also increased from day 30 to day 90 with DECs from 27.4% to 30.2% with myoblasts, and from 31.5% to 37.1% with MSCs.

In contrast, control mice showed continued decreases in both heart function measures at day 90.

Overall, our study confirms feasibility and efficacy of DEC therapy on cardiac function and represents a novel therapeutic strategy for cardiac protection and muscle regeneration in DMD, the researchers said.

These findings are potentially significant for the treatment of DMD, Maria Siemionow, MD, PhD, the studys lead author, Dystrogens chief scientific officer, and the therapys inventor, said in a news release.

Kris Siemionow, MD, PhD, Dystrogens CEO, added: These data add to the growing body of literature supporting the potential of our chimeric cell platform to restore systemic muscle function, with less potential side effects then gene therapy-based approaches.

We are very pleased to have these data published in a highly relevant journal for the field and look forward to further exploring this opportunity, he added.

Patricia holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from University Nova de Lisboa, and has served as an author on several research projects and fellowships, as well as major grant applications for European Agencies. She has also served as a PhD student research assistant at the Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York.

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Jos is a science news writer with a PhD in Neuroscience from Universidade of Porto, in Portugal. He has also studied Biochemistry at Universidade do Porto and was a postdoctoral associate at Weill Cornell Medicine, in New York, and at The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. His work has ranged from the association of central cardiovascular and pain control to the neurobiological basis of hypertension, and the molecular pathways driving Alzheimers disease.

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Human heart cells are altered by spaceflight, but return mostly to normal on Earth – Space Daily

Heart muscle cells derived from stem cells show remarkable adaptability to their environment during and after spaceflight, according to a study publishing November 7 in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

The researchers examined cell-level cardiac function and gene expression in human heart cells cultured aboard the International Space Station for 5.5 weeks. Exposure to microgravity altered the expression of thousands of genes, but largely normal patterns of gene expression reappeared within 10 days after returning to Earth.

"Our study is novel because it is the first to use human induced pluripotent stem cells to study the effects of spaceflight on human heart function," says senior study author Joseph C. Wu of Stanford University School of Medicine.

"Microgravity is an environment that is not very well understood, in terms of its overall effect on the human body, and studies like this could help shed light on how the cells of the body behave in space, especially as the world embarks on more and longer space missions such as going to the moon and Mars."

Past studies have shown that spaceflight induces physiological changes in cardiac function, including reduced heart rate, lowered arterial pressure, and increased cardiac output. But to date, most cardiovascular microgravity physiology studies have been conducted either in non-human models or at tissue, organ, or systemic levels. Relatively little is known about the role of microgravity in influencing human cardiac function at the cellular level.

To address this question, Wu and his collaborators (including graduate student Alexa Wnorowski, former Stanford graduate student Arun Sharma, now a research fellow at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, and former Stanford graduate student turned astronaut Kathleen Rubins) studied human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs). They generated hiPSC lines from three individuals by reprogramming blood cells, and then differentiated them into hiPSC-CMs.

Beating hiPSC-CMs were then launched to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX spacecraft as part of a commercial resupply service mission. Simultaneously, ground control hiPSC-CMs were cultured on Earth for comparison purposes.

Upon return to Earth, space-flown hiPSC-CMs showed normal structure and morphology. However, they did adapt by modifying their beating pattern and calcium recycling patterns.

In addition, the researchers performed RNA sequencing of hiPSC-CMs harvested at 4.5 weeks aboard the International Space Station, and 10 days after returning to Earth. These results showed that 2,635 genes were differentially expressed among flight, post-flight, and ground control samples.

Most notably, gene pathways related to mitochondrial function were expressed more in space-flown hiPSC-CMs. A comparison of the samples revealed that hiPSC-CMs adopt a unique gene expression pattern during spaceflight, which reverts to one that is similar to groundside controls upon return to normal gravity.

"We're surprised about how quickly human heart muscle cells are able to adapt to the environment in which they are placed, including microgravity," Wu says. "These studies may provide insight into cellular mechanisms that could benefit astronaut health during long-duration spaceflight, or potentially lay the foundation for new insights into improving heart health on Earth."

According to Wu, limitations of the study include its short duration and the use of 2D cell culture. In future studies, the researchers plan to examine the effects of spaceflight and microgravity using more physiologically relevant hiPSC-derived 3D heart tissues with various cell types, including blood vessel cells. "We also plan to test different treatments on the human heart cells to determine if we can prevent some of the changes the heart cells undergo during spaceflight," Wu says.

Research Report: "Effects of Spaceflight on Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocyte Structure and Function"

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Human heart cells are altered by spaceflight, but return mostly to normal on Earth - Space Daily

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UPS’s Lillis Scholarships Awarded to Outstanding Salt Lake City and Lafayette Students – The Suburban Times

TACOMA, Wash. Seth Ack of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Samantha Webb of Lafayette, Colo., have been named University of Puget Sound Lillis Scholars. The universitys most prestigious and competitive award honoring incoming students for their academic excellence, the Lillis Scholarship covers tuition, fees, and room and board for up to four years.

Lillis Scholarships are generously funded by a gift from Gwendolyn H. Lillis P05 and Charles M. Lillis P05 through The Lillis Foundation. Lillis Scholars thrive on learning and exploring ideas, and are chosen for their outstanding academic performance, intellectual independence, and drive to pursue excellence throughout their lives. Ack and Webb are members of Puget Sounds Class of 2023, and join a cohort of Lillis Scholars named since the program began awarding the scholarship in 2008.

Seth Ack says Puget Sound felt like home from the moment he stepped on campus. I chose Puget Sound because I love the Northwest, but more than that, I really felt welcomed by all the people I met, he says. When I visited for my interview, everyone was super warm and friendly, and I knew I could spend my college career here.

Ack says the thing he is most looking forward to in college is meeting new people. I have lived in Salt Lake City my whole life, so I am excited to be in a new area,exploringnew places and meeting new peopleoutside my bubble, he says.

I have always been a big biology nerd, says Ack. I plan to eventually get a graduate degree in biomedical engineering, so I am really excited to delve deeper into human biology.

Throughout his high school years, Acks many extracurricular activities ranged from interning at a stem cell research lab to playing first trumpet in jazz band. He also co-founded a charity called Young Men Making a Difference, which organizes community service projects in Salt Lake City.

Samantha (Sam) Webb says choosing where to attend college wasnt easy, but shes confident in her decision to become a Logger. I really like the small,liberal arts aspects of Puget Sound, she says. I feel that Im going to get a very well-rounded and personalizededucation here in beautiful Tacoma!

Webb says she cant wait to arrive on campus and begin learning, connecting, and growing!

Im beyond excited to take classes on subjects that I find interesting and meaningful, and to meet other similarly passionate students, she says.

Academically, Webb plans to fully embrace the range of subject offerings at Puget Sound. I plan to study a wide range of things: computer science, mathematics, theater, and classicsespecially Shakespeare, she says. Im also considering the dual degree engineering program.

In high school, Webbs numerous scholastic activities included serving as president of the theater and improv companies and vice president of the technology student association, as well as being a member of the diving team and a math tutor.

The Lillis Scholars Program was established in 2007 through a generous gift made by The Lillis Foundation to recognize academic excellence and encourage intellectual independence. Gwen Lillis is chair of The Lillis Foundation; a trustee emerita of the University of Puget Sound; and chair of the board of advisors at the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business. Charles Lillis is former chair and chief executive of MediaOne Group, founding partner of LoneTree Capital Management, and chair of the board of trustees at the University of Oregon. Gwen and Charles are the parents of Puget Sound alumna Jessica Baker Isaacs 05. Each year, two Lillis Scholars are selected from the incoming first-year class.

For information about eligibility for the Lillis Scholars Program, contact the Office of Admission at 253.879.3211 or visitpugetsound.edu/scholarships.


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UPS's Lillis Scholarships Awarded to Outstanding Salt Lake City and Lafayette Students - The Suburban Times

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Stem cell therapy helped Owen Franks but there’s still plenty to prove – Stuff.co.nz

Stem cell therapy, which All Blacks prop Owen Franks used to help fix a damaged shoulder, is raising hopes of a whole range of medical breakthroughs.

But there's a way to go before the medical establishment is convinced.

In late 2017, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner ScottGottliebhad this to say:"We're at the beginning of a paradigm change in medicine with the promise of being able to facilitate regeneration of parts of the human body, where cells and tissues can be engineered to grow healthy, functional organs to replace diseased ones; new genes can be introduced into the body to combat disease; and adult stem cells can generate replacements for cells that are lost to injury or disease."


Dr Hassan Mubark takes blood from All Blacks prop Owen Franks.

Yet, as an indication of how far there is still to go, the FDA has also warnedpeople in the USagainst "unscrupulous providers" offering stem cell products that were unapproved and unproven.

READ MORE:*Rugby World Cup 2019: All Black Owen Franks thrown a stem cell lifeline*Owen Franks hits back at critics following omission from Rugby World Cup squad*Stem cell therapy for All Black Israel Dagg as he hits comeback trail with Crusaders*Experimental stem cell treatment shows results for Waikato woman with MSA Cerebella*Stem cell clinics accused of taking advantage of patients*Reported stem cell treatment could give hope to Michael Schumacher

"Researchers hope stem cells will one day be effective in the treatment of many medical conditions and diseases," it said, thenadded: "Stem cells have been called everything from cure-alls to miracle treatments. But don't believe the hype."

Looking at just the area of deteriorating joints, it's easy to see how stem cell therapies, if they deliver on the promise,could make life much better for many people with osteoarthritis who are in pain and have restricted movement.

Last week, Otago University researchers predictedthe number of knee replacement surgeries needed for osteoarthritis would increase from around 5000 a year in 2013 to abut9000 in 2038.


Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher received devastating head injuries in a ski accident six years ago. Last month it was reported he has undergone stem cell treatment in Paris.

Osteoarthritis is the area where ReGen Cellular,the clinic where Franks had the therapy, has done most of its work in the past two to three years, although ithas recently expanded its services to include a range of diagnosed auto-immune conditions, among them rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.

ReGensaid 55 per cent of its patients were aged over 60, 35 per cent were 40-60 and 10 per cent were sports-based.

Theclinic usesPure Expanded Stem Cell (PESC) therapy, which involves taking 40 grams - about a teaspoon - of fat from around a patient's stomach. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)in that sample are then multiplied in the clinic's Queenstown laboratory for about eight weeks. At the end of that process 100 million to 200 million cells have been produced.

Otago University

Otago University, Christchurch regenerative medicine research team have invented a bio-ink - a gel-like substance mixed with human stem cells - to be used with a bio-printer to make human body parts. Video shows the printer using bio-ink to make a body part.

For the treatment of osteoarthritis, between 50m and 100m stem cells are injected into larger joints, with 25m to 50m into smaller joints. ReGen said the therapy provided immediate pain reduction and increased mobility. MRI scans showed cartilage could and did regenerate.

ReGendescribedMSCs as the cells that "wake up damaged or lazy cells". Slightly more technically, Nature.com said MSCs wereadult stem cells present in multiple tissues, including the umbilical cord, bone marrow and fat.MSCscan self-renew by dividing and can differentiate into multiple tissues including bone, cartilage, muscle and fat cells, and connective tissue.

ReGen director of patient care Marcelle Noble said the clinic believed its treatments, if offered early enough, would save the public health system hundreds of millions of dollars through lessened replacement surgeries, and would save ACC millions of dollars in lengthy rehabilitation programmes.

The treatment for two knees was half the price of one knee replacement surgery within the public health system, she said. ReGen advertises osteoarthritis treatment for a single joint at $12,500 and for two joints at $15,000.


Former All Black Israel Dagg had stem cell therapy for an injured knee, but in the end had to give the game away because of the injury.

So far mainstream funding hadnot been offered for the therapy, Noble said. But the clinic had a "big breakthrough" earlier this year when two insurers in New Zealand accepted patients'PESC therapy claims. In July, ACC accepted consultation by ReGen's chief medical officer Dr Hassan Mubark.

ReGen only had data for the past five years on the success of its therapy, but the fact patients were returning to have other areas of their body treated was an indication of how people feltthe therapy was improving their quality of life, Noble said.

Globally, "massive" R&D spending was going into stem cell research. More therapies would become available and stem cell treatment would become "commonplace".

At any one time ReGen had 50-75 patients' cells growing in its incubators, Noble said. Of the patients treated, 40 per cent hadailments in therknees, 30 per cent in their hips, 20 per cent in their shoulders. The final 10 per cent were for sports and other issues, including problems with tendons, muscles, cartilage tears, fingers, elbows, ankles and hands.


Dr Ron Lopert undergoing part of the PESC treatment.

The first patient to undertake ReGen's PESC therapy was retired GP Dr Ron Lopert, who lives in Tauranga.

For five to 10 years, he had beengetting aches and pains in his hips after playing sport, and the problem was becoming more noticeable, he said. In 2013 he had an x-ray that showed he had moderate to severe osteoarthritis in both hips,more severein his right hip.

He stopped playing all sports and started researching different forms of treatment. Ideally, he wanted to be able to get some of his own cartilage back and reverse the osteoarthritis. It seemedPESCshould do that.

In 2015, aged 61, he had the therapy, with stem cells being injected into each hip joint.Within weeks henoticed an improvement in the range of motion and a decrease in pain, Lopert said.Some of that was just the anti-inflammatory component of stem cell injection, but he thought he also received a longer term benefit from cartilage regeneration.


Dr Lopert on his recent travels. He says he has much less hip pain.

He put the success of the procedure at75 per centin terms of symptoms and function, and100 per cent when it came to avoiding invasive surgery."I opted for a much more natural treatment where my own tissue is regenerating, instead of a metal prosthesis," Lopert said.

He was not sure all the improvement came from the stem cell treatment. As well as avoiding overuse of the joints, which meant he hadn't returned to playing sport, he had also switched to an anti-inflammatory diet.

His left hip continued to have hardly any symptomsbut he had started noticing the "odd twinge now and then" in his right hip.

"The vast majority of days it's fine provided I'm just walking and doing ordinary things. On the odd occasion I might carry something heavy, then I would notice it the next day and it (right hip) would stay painfulintermittentlyfor the next couple of days," Lopert said.

Sean Gallup

In this picture from February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks through a microscope at brain organoids grown from stem cells.

Some of his stem cells had been retained after the treatment, and he was booked in for a follow-up injection for his right hip at the end of October.

He expected the therapy would become a "go to" treatment, and would become an early intervention for osteoarthritis. But more independent research was needed to confirm the success of the treatment. "The evidence is slowly building up but there needs to be more before the Government will accept it," Lopert said.

In his case, he thought there had been cartilage regeneration in his hips, but that was based on his symptoms. "It would have been nice had I had MRI scans before and after the injection for objective evidence," he said.

From the perspective of the medical establishment, the New Zealand Orthopaedic Association said it supported a position statement on stem cell therapy produced by the Royal Australian College of Surgeons.

That paper, approved in mid-2018,noted stem cell therapy was a "rapidly advancing" area, but many proposed stem cell therapies were experimental and not yet proven. It did not support surgeons administering stem cell therapy outside of an ethically approved registered clinical trial.

"Whilst there may be scope for innovative treatment in the future, currently, the clinical effectiveness and safety of stem cell therapies remain scientifically unproven," RACS said.

In this country, an ACC spokesperson said ACC did not have an official position on stem cell therapy for the treatment of injuries. An internationally standardised evidence-based healthcare approach was used to help ACC decide how it covered injuries and funded treatments.

Dr HassanMubark, ReGen's chief medical officer, was a healthcare provider contracted to ACC in the specialty of rheumatology, and ACC had funded consultation fees with Mubark, the spokesperson said. Those consultations were for diagnostic and treatment planning purposes and did not need prior approval from ACC.

ACC had to consider legislative criteria when deciding whether to fund any particular treatment. There would be many reasons why ACC might decide to fund a client to see a rheumatologist for an opinion on the diagnosis and possible management of their condition. That would not commit ACC to funding any proposed treatment but would provide the client and ACC with information to help decision-making.

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Stem cell therapy helped Owen Franks but there's still plenty to prove - Stuff.co.nz

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