February 27, 2014

Strides Made in Generation of Kidney Cells from Stem Cells

Here at The CECON Group, our experts and consultants are constantly updating their skills and expertise. This means that they keep their eye on the news in their fields to learn of the latest developments.

One of our consultants in the medical device  sector informed us of new developments in kidney cell research.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston have published an article announcing a recent advancement in the ability to generate kidney cells from embryonic stem cells, as well as from adult skin stem cells. The article appeared in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and represents a leap forward in kidney cell research after a long period of relative stasis.

According to Albert Lam, M.D., lead author of the study, his team was able to identify a protein that would differentiate the stem cells into the early cells that eventually turn into kidneys, called the intermediate mesoderm. Additional manipulations led those early cells into further differentiations and the expression of marker SIX2, which heralds kidney cell differentiation.

The specific treatment involved the application of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta inhibitor CHIR99021, as well as the same treatment followed by introduction of fibroblast growth factor 2 and retinoic acid.

Though Lam is quick to point out that medical science is still many years away from being able to regenerate functional kidneys, once the results of this research can be reliably recreated, it will be very useful in kidney-related research in the laboratory. 

According to Lam, headway in kidney regeneration has been running behind that of similar work involving other organs, but there have recently been several studies that have collectively moved the research forward. “It feels like we’ve been behind for a decade and suddenly within a few weeks, four papers come out. This should certainly spur interest and move the field more quickly.”

The other studies that Lam referenced came from a December 2013 study by Melissa Little, PhD, of the University of Queensland in Brisane, Australia, a study published in November 2013 from researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, and a study published in January 2014 by Japanese researchers. He dismissed the idea that any of the studies had approached the growth of functional kidneys. “It’s one thing to make the cells of the developing kidney and another to make three-dimensional structures that can replace diseased kidneys. We may be closer, but we have a long way to go before we get there.”

The experts and consultants at The CECON Group strive to bring you the most current and in-depth information and assist you in moving your projects forward, saving you time and money. CECON has been helping customers find subject matters experts in the fields of science and engineering since 1985.

February 18, 2014

Vitamins: Don’t Take Them for Granted

Here at The CECON Group, our experts and consultants are constantly updating their skills and expertise. This means that they keep their eye on the news in their fields to learn of the latest developments.  One of our Project Managers, Chemistry Expert Boyd Sorenson, commented on the recent controversy concerning vitamin supplements. 

Are vitamin supplements necessary?

We don’t think much about vitamins, except that they are important for our health and we should take them.  But what are vitamins, why do we need them, and are vitamin supplements necessary?

Vitamins are small organic molecules that are essential for all life, animals, plants, fungi and even bacteria.  Vitamins look like small molecule drugs, pharmaceuticals, with chemical structures shown here. Vitamins in fact serve like drugs as biochemical regulators, promoters or antagonists in living organisms.  They are particularly important in relation to protein systems and functions in an organism.

What is interesting about vitamins is that they are essential for living processes, but only a small amount of each chemical is necessary to keep an organism healthy.  For example, in humans, just a small amount of vitamin C will prevent scurvy and, likewise, a small amount of vitamin D will prevent rickets.  But if vitamin C or D is not in a human’s diet, these diseases can appear and can be devastating.

The human organism requires about 20 vitamins to survive.  Interestingly, of these 20 vitamins, the body only manufactures vitamins D and K.  All the other vitamins must come from the diet, like vitamin B1 (thiamine) from meat or vitamin C from fruit and vegetables. The New York Times published a recent science article about vitamins discussing their evolutional history as related to living organisms. One theme of the story was that early life forms could make their own vitamins but, over time and evolutionary cycles, many organisms lost the capability to make these essential vitamins.  This is because the vitamins became so plentiful in the diet and food sources that genes specific to the manufacture of vitamins in the organism’s DNA mutated and became inoperative, and not needed.

The article discussed the pioneering work of Dr. Harold White of the University of Delaware, defining the role of vitamins in living systems and their critical roles in RNA functions and protein synthesis.  Dr. White’s early theories have recently been validated by more scientific studies.

The Value of Vitamins Questioned

A recent editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine has the headline “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”  The editorial reviews many recent studies of multivitamin supplements trials with collectively more than 400,000 participants.  The conclusion is that there is no “clear evidence of a beneficial effect of supplement (vitamins) on all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.”  The article concludes that the average diet in the United States is generally adequate to provide the small amounts of vitamins actually needed, and that U.S. supplement consumption of nearly $28 billion in annual sales (2010) is not supported by scientific study and fact.  In fact, in some cases such as vitamin E and beta carotene, high dosage levels can be harmful to humans.

So, even though the value of supplements is being questioned for those with well-balanced diets, it is important to realize how vital vitamins are to health, whether they come from food or a supplement. It is equally important to pay attention to the amount of each vitamin being consumed, via supplements or through food.

Since 1985, The CECON Group has been placing experts in over 200 scientific disciplines. CECON Consultants include pharmaceutical consultants, clinical trials experts, and chemistry experts.

February 5, 2014

How to Hire an Expert

Selecting the best expert for your case or project can be challenging if you are not an expert in the subject matter yourself. Candidates’ websites and resumes may all look good; how do you know which expert is the most qualified?

Click here for a whitepaper offering strategies for expert selection.

CECON’s project managers are available as a free resource to assist in expert searches. CECON project managers are all technically trained, several with Ph.Ds, and have many years of real-world experience. Their backgrounds will help you discern which candidates’ qualifications are best suited for your case or project.

The CECON Group has been providing free, custom expert searches since 1985.