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Grant will help UCSD-led team speed lab discoveries to the clinic

New tools, such as integrated software for data collection and management and sophisticated technologies that measure patient responses to therapies in ways that are far more sensitive than standard clinical assessments, are at the heart of an emerging field of medicine known as translational research.

These advances, however, have added complexity in turning scientific discoveries into improved healthcare as academic researchers often must identify resources in order to create their own infrastructure to advance medical findings. What is needed is a common infrastructure that emphasizes “group science” through shared research and resources and institutional support.

Research Report: Software allows PCs to work while they sleep

Personal computers used by large companies and institutions can save energy and money by “sleep-working,” thanks to software called SleepServer created by UCSD computer scientists. When a PC goes into low-power mode at night or over the weekend, SleepServer creates a lightweight virtual image of the system, which responds to network events on behalf of the sleeping PC. Hundreds of lightweight virtual images can populate a single commodity server.

Stem cell research tackles Lou Gehrig’s disease

Embracing the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts, an $11.5 million “disease team” grant has been awarded to UCSD to fast track stem cell research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The goal is to advance basic research to human clinical trials within four years.

$11.5 million grant to aid UCSD stem cell researchers tackling Lou Gehrig’s disease

Embracing the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts, an $11.5 million “disease team” grant has been awarded to UC San Diego to fast track stem-cell research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The goal is to advance basic research to human clinical trials within four years.

Scientists: ‘Smell of fear’ is linked to compound

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have found a chemical compound secreted by predators that provokes a fear response in mice.

Mice — even those that have never before encountered other species — will act fearfully when exposed to the odor of cats, rats, snakes, ferrets, weasels and foxes. Mice have two sensory organs: the vomeronasal organ (VNO), located above the roof of the mouth in the nasal cavity; and the main olfactory epithelium (MOE), found under the eyeball at the top back portion of the nasal cavity.

When normal (wildtype) mice possessing both sensory organs were placed in a cage with a cotton ball swabbed with rat, cat or snake odor, the animals avoided the cotton ball, struck a ready-to-run posture, and had elevated levels of stress hormones. The experiment was repeated using mice with a genetic mutation that left them without a functioning VNO. These mice displayed curiosity about the cotton balls but showed little fear.

Forum explores health care in Mexico for Americans

Health care reform, when fully enacted, will provide an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans with access to medical coverage. But where will cost-effective services come from to meet the needs of this influx of patients into the medical system? Part of the solution could be south of the border.

That’s the goal of government officials, medical providers and the private section in Baja California who have joined forces in a coalition to enhance and promote cross-border health care to U.S. retirees living in Mexico (many of whom return to the United States for health care), baby boomers (looking to manage health care costs) and Southern California’s large Latino work force (who are comfortable crossing the border and familiar with the culture).

“Cross-border health care may turn out to be a blessing to California,” said Frank Carrillo, chief executive of SIMNSA Health Plan at a daylong conference on April 21 sponsored by the Institute of the Americas, on the UCSD campus. SIMNSA is the first Mexican HMO to be licensed as a health-care service plan by the State of California and sells group insurance to U.S. employers whose workers receive medical care in Mexico.

New data gathered on Easter earthquake

In the weeks since the magnitude 7.2 Easter Sunday earthquake was felt throughout northern Mexico and Southern California, the steady stream of real-time data continues to be collected. This is accomplished through the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), which includes backbone nodes at the UCSD and San Diego State University campuses.

HPWREN’s roughly 20,000-square-mile area of connectivity is enabling researchers to receive real-time data from thousands of aftershocks. The data sets are shared with agencies in the region, with the hope of developing more effective hazard response as well as enable engineers to better mitigate the damaging effects of temblors. In the area of emergency response, for example, the ability to analyze seismic data in real time allows the generation of epicenter “strike maps” that highlight which areas shook the most. This is valuable to first-responders who use this information to help rescue people trapped in collapsed structures.

Advancing cancer drug delivery

Therapeutic drugs generally have a difficult time penetrating cancer tumor tissue. The result of delivering a less-than-optimal dose to a tumor is an increased risk of cancer recurrence and drug resistance.

Researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have shown that a particular peptide can be used to make tumors more porous, allowing medicines (including small molecules, nanoparticles and antibodies) to penetrate the entire tumor. This makes treatment more effective at a lower dose. The peptide has been shown to substantially increase treatment effectiveness against human breast, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancers in mice models.

The paper is published in the online edition of the journal Science. News release: http://bit.ly/dfFBBk.

Research Report: Cigarette marketing targets girls

The tobacco industry is prohibited from advertising practices that encourage teenagers to smoke, yet research out of the Moores Cancer Center at UCSD has found that a 2007 cigarette marketing campaign was effective in encouraging young girls to start smoking.

Study looks at brain cooling after stroke

Researchers at UCSD Medical Center are collaborating with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston on the largest clinical trial to date of hypothermia (super cooling) following stroke. Brain cooling has been shown to decrease brain swelling and reduce loss of neurologic function after an acute stroke. The trial will look specifically at whether hypothermia improves patient outcomes.

Cooling is achieved by inserting a special catheter into the inferior vena cava — the body’s largest vein. No fluid enters the patient; instead, an internal circulation within the catheter transfers heat out. Study participants are covered with a warming blanket to “trick” the body into feeling warm, and temperature sensors in the skin and a mild sedative help suppress shivering. In the study, body temperature will be cooled to 92.4 degrees F and maintained at that level for 24 hours. At the conclusion of the cooling period, participants will be re-warmed over a period of 12 hours.

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