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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Can we reprogram cells with DNA so they can make a pair of electric blue pants?

Gosh, so long since I posted.  This would be because I've been working like crazy helping out Dr. B and Dr. I with their projects (more excitement...I get a small little part as a co-investigator on a NIH grant--a first for me...moving up in the science world I guess).  Most of it involves background research reading papers, papers and more papers, and actually finding just the magic key words that will get me the info I am looking for.  By the time I put this mental energy for numerous hours in a day, the last thing I want to do is use words. I could've used an assistant.


And my sis and her kids came in town, as did my friend from New York, so no escaping talking, either.....so writing has been sacrificed....which is slowing down the sample I would like to write of a layman's book about Tissue Engineering based on a beautiful technical book by some leaders in the field called Translational Approaches in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine.  The authors are 100% behind me but now I need to find a publisher.  I envision a book like Stem Cell Now.  I imagine there would be a market among science hobbyists, students needing to write science papers or just curious members of the public wondering where the field stands. Wouldn't you like to know of alternatives to xenograph (from animal) or allograph (from other humans) tranplantations? Want a better ACL repair strategy all you weekend warriors and football players? What are the pros and cons of all of this? Where do stem cells fit in?  The great thing about the appearance of Translational Approaches is that the background research is done and I just need to 'translate' it and find some info on creating artificial blood vessels because that seems to have been overlooked.


Back to my papers and DNA:  As I was reading all of these papers, trying to find how we can influence epithelial cells to become cancerous through epigenetic changes from chemicals secreted by the supporting stromal cells and then test to know they ARE indeed cancerous, I kept running across papers I thought would be useful until I realized the researcher had added a plasmid to the cells to make them do what they want!  I was looking for epigenetic changes that could be consistently relied on and instead had to read about transfections and plasmids instead. I know full well that manipulating the DNA to create a model in which to work is valid, but it was not helping me, and had me thinking long and hard about purity in biology.  Where is the point where we have manipulated an organism so it is no longer a valid model, where the results we get can no longer possibly represent any in vivo condition?  And then I think of the breakthrough released in February where the researchers created a "stem cell" from a skin cell by inserting four genes, causing the cell to revert to a pluripotent state, saving many embryos from destruction..... BUT...... two of the genes turn these cells cancerous!  A small snag to say the least....but at least we've shown it can be done. Read about it at Science Daily. Something to think about.


My student evals came back for the semester.  Positive overall and I thank you guys for that. I read some of the comments aloud to the professor whose home I am staying at while the mold saga continues and he thought some of the comments were inappropriate, but I though they were sweet and harmless because they were in addition to the more constructive comments I always hope are there.  Maybe I will scan in some of the comments and make a powerpoint to post just so people can see what really goes on in the minds of students. Here's one:


"Never repeated an outfit! My favorite involved the electric blue pants--way cool!"    Yeah, I like the electric blue pants, too!  Until next post,


Kindly, Joanne

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