at the Winship Cancer Institute, along with NuTec Sciences, Inc., and
IBM, are developing an information system that will enable physicians
to tailor cancer treatments based on a patients specific genetic
makeup. This systemwhich brings the genomics revolution out of the
lab and closer to patientswill pinpoint genes and gene combinations
that cause cancer in individual patients and highlight genetic risk factors
that might require early cancer screenings. Determining the genetic fingerprint
of a patients cancer will allow physicians to select the treatment
that has been shown most effective against similar tumors, taking some
of the guesswork out of cancer treatment.
will be able to retrieve complex analyses of tens of thousands of tumor
genes in the same time frame it now takes for a CT scan. Pharmaceutical
companies will be able to offer patients with genetically specific cancers
the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of tumor-specific drugs,
speeding those drugs to market. Jonathan Simons, director of the Winship
Cancer Institute, calls the system a monumental step in personalized
medicine for cancer. (BACK
A high school
track star suddenly collapses during practicehis heartbeat inexplicably
thrown into quivering, life-robbing chaos. How and why did his heart suddenly
produce this electrical storm of deadly irregular beats?
To find answers
to such questions, Emory researcher Samuel Dudley Jr. (top left)
and his research team at the Cellular Therapy Center of the Atlanta VA
Medical Center are studying mice stem cells (like the one below left),
manipulating them through gene targeting into perfect replicas of human
cell mutations linked to arrhythmias.
we can understand how heart cells develop, he says, then we
may be able to understand congenital heart defects.
currently studying Long QT syndrome and Brugadas syndrome, two relatively
rare autosomal dominant heart diseases that may model more common acquired
heart diseases. He is looking specifically at sodium ion channelspores
that control the rate of electrical conduction through cardiac tissuein
hopes of characterizing events in these channels that trigger fibrillation.
He and his
colleagues are also studying the feasibility of using stem cells as cell
replacement therapy after organ damage. They are studying the potential
of engrafting stem cells in the myocardium to form new, healthy tissue
where the heart has been damaged by a heart attack, for example. Stem
cells need blood flow to grow and appear to be able to cause blood vessel
formation. We might be able to enhance that ability by making cells that
contain vascular growth factors, he says.
also want to see if placing genetically altered stem cells in the heart
can increase its strength and possibly repair the interior surface areas
of vessels injured by balloon angioplasty. Cell therapy also may prove
useful in helping prevent or alter restenosis.
that technology involving stem cells holds even more promise than gene
therapy. We can alter the genome of these cells before putting them
into peopleand we can do it in the culture dish where we know exactly
what weve done. Unlike gene therapies so far, this is a long-lasting
change. We can even design cells sensitive to a certain medication so
we can make sure the altered cells die on command if something goes wrong.
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