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Using nanoparticles, in vivo gene therapy activates brain stem cells (press release)

Saturday, August 06, 2005
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)
Tags: health news, Natural News, nutrition


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Technique may allow scientists to repair brain cells damaged by disease, trauma or stroke -

Using customized nanoparticles that they developed, University at Buffalo scientists have for the first time delivered genes into the brains of living mice with an efficiency that is similar to, or better than, viral vectors and with no observable toxic effect, according to a paper published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The paper describes how the UB scientists used gene-nanoparticle complexes to activate adult brain stem/progenitor cells in vivo, demonstrating that it may be possible to "turn on" these otherwise idle cells as effective replacements for those destroyed by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's.

In addition to delivering therapeutic genes to repair malfunctioning brain cells, the nanoparticles also provide promising models for studying the genetic mechanisms of brain disease.

"Until now, no non-viral technique has proven to be as effective as the viral vectors in vivo," said co-author Paras N. Prasad, Ph.D., executive director of the UB Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics, SUNY Distinguished Professor in UB's Department of Chemistry and principal investigator of the institute's nanomedicine program. "This transition, from in vitro to in vivo, represents a dramatic leap forward in developing experimental, non-viral techniques to study brain biology and new therapies to address some of the most debilitating human diseases."

Viral vectors for gene therapy always carry with them the potential to revert back to wild-type, and some human trials have even resulted in fatalities.

As a result, new research focuses increasingly on non-viral vectors, which don't carry this risk.

Viral vectors can be produced only by specialists under rigidly controlled laboratory conditions. By contrast, the nanoparticles developed by the UB team can be synthesized easily in a matter of days by an experienced chemist.

The UB researchers make their nanoparticles from hybrid, organically modified silica (ORMOSIL), the structure and composition of which allow for the development of an extensive library of tailored nanoparticles to target gene therapies for different tissues and cell types.

A key advantage of the UB team's nanoparticle is its surface functionality, which allows it to be targeted to specific cells, explained Dhruba J. Bharali, Ph.D., a co-author on the paper and post-doctoral associate in the UB Department of Chemistry and UB's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics.

While they are easier and faster to produce, non-viral vectors typically suffer from very low expression and efficacy rates, especially in vivo.

"This is the first time that a non-viral vector has demonstrated efficacy in vivo at levels comparable to a viral vector," Bharali said.

In the UB experiments, targeted dopamine neurons -- which degenerate in Parkinson's disease, for example -- took up and expressed a fluorescent marker gene, demonstrating the ability of nanoparticle technology to deliver effectively genes to specific types of cells in the brain.

Using a new optical fiber in vivo imaging technique (CellviZio developed by Mauna Kea Technologies of Paris), the UB researchers were able to observe the brain cells expressing genes without having to sacrifice the animal. Then the UB researchers decided to go one step further, to see if they could not only observe, but also manipulate the behavior of brain cells.

Their finding that the nanoparticles successfully altered the development path of neural stem cells is especially intriguing because of scientific concerns that embryonic stem cells may not be able to function correctly since they have bypassed some of the developmental stages cells normally go through.

"What we did here instead was to reactivate adult stem cells located on the floor of brain ventricles, germinal cells that normally produce progeny that then die if they are not used," said Michal K. Stachowiak, Ph.D., co-author on the paper and associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Stachowiak is in charge of in vivo studies at the UB Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics.

"It's likely that these stem/progenitor cells will grow into healthy neurons," he said.

"In the future, this technology may make it possible to repair neurological damage caused by disease, trauma or stroke," said Earl J. Bergey, Ph.D., co-author and deputy director of biophotonics at the institute.

The group's next step is to conduct similar studies in larger animals.

The UB research was supported by the John R. Oishei Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the American Parkinson Disease Association and UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.


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About the author:Mike Adams (aka the "Health Ranger") is a best selling author (#1 best selling science book on Amazon.com) and a globally recognized scientific researcher in clean foods. He serves as the founding editor of NaturalNews.com and the lab science director of an internationally accredited (ISO 17025) analytical laboratory known as CWC Labs. There, he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for achieving extremely high accuracy in the analysis of toxic elements in unknown water samples using ICP-MS instrumentation. Adams is also highly proficient in running liquid chromatography, ion chromatography and mass spectrometry time-of-flight analytical instrumentation.

Adams is a person of color whose ancestors include Africans and Native American Indians. He's also of Native American heritage, which he credits as inspiring his "Health Ranger" passion for protecting life and nature against the destruction caused by chemicals, heavy metals and other forms of pollution.

Adams is the founder and publisher of the open source science journal Natural Science Journal, the author of numerous peer-reviewed science papers published by the journal, and the author of the world's first book that published ICP-MS heavy metals analysis results for foods, dietary supplements, pet food, spices and fast food. The book is entitled Food Forensics and is published by BenBella Books.

In his laboratory research, Adams has made numerous food safety breakthroughs such as revealing rice protein products imported from Asia to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium and tungsten. Adams was the first food science researcher to document high levels of tungsten in superfoods. He also discovered over 11 ppm lead in imported mangosteen powder, and led an industry-wide voluntary agreement to limit heavy metals in rice protein products.

In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Through the non-profit CWC, Adams also launched Nutrition Rescue, a program that donates essential vitamins to people in need. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.

With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource featuring over 10 million scientific studies.

Adams is well known for his incredibly popular consumer activism video blowing the lid on fake blueberries used throughout the food supply. He has also exposed "strange fibers" found in Chicken McNuggets, fake academic credentials of so-called health "gurus," dangerous "detox" products imported as battery acid and sold for oral consumption, fake acai berry scams, the California raw milk raids, the vaccine research fraud revealed by industry whistleblowers and many other topics.

Adams has also helped defend the rights of home gardeners and protect the medical freedom rights of parents. Adams is widely recognized to have made a remarkable global impact on issues like GMOs, vaccines, nutrition therapies, human consciousness.

In addition to his activism, Adams is an accomplished musician who has released over a dozen popular songs covering a variety of activism topics.

Click here to read a more detailed bio on Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, at HealthRanger.com.

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