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Publication: Health Tips Weekly
Mast Cells Have A Good Side

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, September 6, 2007 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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              Mast cells have a good side

STANFORD, Calif., -- U.S. medical scientists say mast cells 
-- known to trigger inflammation associated with allergies 
-- can also help resolve such reactions. Stanford University
School of Medicine researchers have discovered that, in 
mice, mast cells help decrease skin damage over time from 
exposure to sun or from poison oak. "These reactions are 
much worse if mast cells aren't present," said senior author
Dr. Stephen Galli, the school's chairman of pathology. Galli
said the findings, which might lead to new treatment for 
such maladies, contradict mast cells' reputation for causing
allergic reactions. Located beneath the skin and in the 
body's connective tissue, mast cells contain inflammation-
inciting molecules such as histamine and sometimes also react
to non-threatening materials such as pollens or plant oils.
Such interactions cause allergic reactions and, in extreme 
cases, a life-threatening overreaction of anaphylaxis. Mast 
cells also affect the severity of eczema and asthma, giving 
rise to some therapies that focus on counteracting their 
activity. But Galli's lab has shown mast cells can help 
fight, rather than just produce, distress.

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         Stomach illness outbreak in Colorado

DENVER, -- Colorado authorities are trying to identify the 
sources of a large outbreak of cryptosporidiosis, a stomach 
illness caused by a microscopic parasite. About 50 cases 
were reported in August, more than four times the usual 
number said officials at the Colorado Department of Public 
Health and Environment. The cryptosporidium parasite moves 
through human and animal feces, often in swimming pools, 
water parks, lakes and streams and, less frequently, in 
drinking water, The Denver Post reported Tuesday. Symptoms 
include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps and nausea, which 
usually pass in a few days. The reported Colorado cases are 
spread along the Front Range and Western Slope and don't 
appear to have one common source, health officials told the 
Post.


         Nanowires might improve drug-delivery

MOSCOW, Idaho, -- U.S. and Korean scientists have devel-
oped a protein coating that might result in the use of 
nanowires to improve drug delivery.  Gregory Bohach at 
the University of Idaho and colleagues at Seoul National 
University found the coating enabled silica nanowires to 
enter cultured human cells and deliver a lethal dose of 
toxin.   The researchers said nanowires and other nanomat-
erials coated with the protein fibronectin can penetrate 
tumors more easily and could be coated with antibodies or 
other materials that home in on target cells while sparing 
normal cells.

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         Sponge bacteria makes new pharmaceuticals

EDINBURGH, Scotland, -- Scientists meeting this week in 
Scotland said thousands of interesting new compounds have 
been discovered in the bodies of marine sponges. The res-
earchers attending the Society for General Microbiology's 
161st meeting said more than half of the bodyweight of 
living sea sponges consists of different bacteria that live
inside them. "Marine sponges are the most prolific and imp-
ortant source of new active compounds discovered in the last
20 or 30 years in our seas," said Detmer Sipkema of the 
University of California-Berkeley. "We thought it likely 
that many of the interesting new compounds we were discov-
ering inside sea sponges were actually being made by the 
bacteria inside their bodies, not the sponges themselves."
He said the next step would be to identify which bacteria 
are responsible for the production of the most medically 
interesting compounds and try to culture them on a larger 
scale. "Most attempts to properly test these important bio-
active compounds in hospital patients have failed because 
doctors simply cannot get enough of the products to prove 
that the clinical trials are effective or safe," said Sip-
kema.
  
  
           Nanotubes make good germ fighters

NEW HAVEN, Conn., -- U.S. scientists have discovered that 
carbon nanotubes have powerful antimicrobial activity -- 
a discovery that could help fight antibiotic resistant in-
fections. Menachem Elimelech and colleagues at Yale Univers-
ity note previous research involving the toxicity of single-
walled carbon nanotubes, or SWINTs, focused on their adverse
human and environmental effects. "Surprisingly, however, no 
published studies exist on the direct interaction of SWNTs 
with microbes," the researchers said. "Our experiments pro-
vide the first direct evidence that highly purified SWNTs 
exhibit strong antimicrobial activity and indicate that 
severe cell membrane damage by direct contact with SWNTs is 
the likely mechanism responsible for the toxicity to model 
bacteria. "These observations point to the potential use 
of SWNTs as building blocks for antimicrobial materials," 
they said.
 
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        Scientists report major stem cell advance

PITTSBURGH, -- U.S. medical scientists have discovered a 
group of adult stem cells derived from human muscles that 
might be used to treat muscle injuries. Children's Hospital 
of Pittsburgh researchers -- led by University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine Professors Johnny Huard and Bruno Peault 
-- have identified a unique population of adult stem cells 
that could also treat such diseases as heart attack and mus-
cular dystrophy. The scientists isolated and characterized 
myoendothelial stem cells that are easily isolated using 
cell-sorting techniques, proliferate rapidly and can be 
differentiated in the laboratory into muscle, bone and car-
tilage cells. "Finding this population of stem cells in a 
human source represents a major breakthrough for us because 
it brings us much closer to a clinical application of this 
therapy," said Huard. The scientists said 1,000 myoendothe-
lial cells transplanted into the injured skeletal muscle of 
immunodeficient mice produced, on average, 89 muscle fibers,
compared with nine and five muscle fibers for endothelial 
and satellite cells, in that order. The myoendothelial cells
also showed no propensity to form tumors, which is a concern
with other stem cell therapies.
  
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