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Lab bits -- August 2006

the University of Wales, Bangor, are trying to solve the problem by creating artificial versions of these cells using the tools of nanotechnology. About 1-2% of the cells in the pancreas are contained in structures called islets of Langerhans. These islets secrete insulin, which regulates the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. In Type 1 diabetes, the islets do not properly make insulin, leading to excessive blood sugar. Scientists could use the artificial islets of Langerhans to study insulin release, but also to test diabetes treatments or even potentially to use as implants for people with defective islets.

The quest for synthetic blood

Transfuse the wrong blood type and the patient's immune system may destroy the new blood cells, in some cases leading to death. John Harrington, professor and dean of the School of Science and Engineering at SUNY-New Paltz, hopes to one day develop a red blood cell substitute that would make matching blood types for transfusions irrelevant. Harrington is especially interested in a primary component in red blood cells called hemoglobin, the chemical that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues where it is needed. He is researching the possibility of synthetic substitutes for hemoglobin, which would not have the molecules that cause blood type rejections in natural blood. At the MBL, Harrington studies the chemical properties of hemoglobin from the lugworm, a marine organism, to understand why it has a more stable structure than mammal hemoglobin. Understanding what properties make it more stable could lead to developing safe substitutes, reducing the problems that result from blood shortages and mismatched blood types.

Mom, where do stem cells come from?

Much ado has been made about the ethical issues regarding embryonic stem cells, but we don't have much of an understanding of just what stem cells are and where they come from. David Albertini, professor of molecular medicine at
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Contact: Gina Hebert
ghebert@mbl.edu
508-289-7725
Marine Biological Laboratory
3-Aug-2006


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