- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

CREATING T CELL TUMOR KILLERS

Scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have figured out how to genetically instruct human immune cells to recognize and kill cancer cells in a mouse model. The team genetically engineered an antigen receptor, introduced it into cultured human T cells, and infused the T cells in mice with tumor cells. The modified T cells recognized the targeted antigen on the tumor cells and killed the cancer. Investigators genetically instructed the T cells to target cells that express CD19, a protein found on the surface of normal and cancerous B cells, a type of white blood cell. In addition, researchers were able to show that T cells obtained from patients with advanced tumors could be targeted in this manner to efficiently kill their own tumor cells in vitro.

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LOUD NOISE CAN INJURE FISH HEARING

Loud noise can damage the ears of fish. University of Maryland Professor Arthur N. Popper says experiments using an air gun show the extent of the injury to fish hearing was greater than expected. Fish have ears similar to other vertebrates, including mammals, and use hearing to sense their acoustic environment. Many use sounds to detect predators, find prey and communicate to find mates. The research team used a seismic air gun, routinely used to search for underwater oil deposits, and fired it at varying distances from a cage containing pink snapper. "When we examined the ears of the fish, we found holes in the hearing part of the ear, in the regions where we expected to find sensory hair cells," Popper explained. "The hair cells had either been ripped away, or we found evidence that the cells were dying."

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CHALLENGING THE HOMOGENOUS THEORY

Professor Einar rnason at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik says claims that Icelanders are a genetically homogenous population are not accurate. Iceland has been said to be an "island so inbred that it is a happy genetic hunting ground," ideal for gene mapping, and that "nowhere else has such a pure — and predictable — genetic inheritance," he noted. rnason found anomalies and errors in previous studies and databases so he made a new analysis of mtDNA variation from original sources for 26 European populations. It shows Icelanders actually are among the most genetically heterogeneous Europeans, Arnason writes. He says a published literature on blood group and allozyme variation does not support the idea of special genetic homogeneity of Icelanders.

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STICKY DNA FOR INFO STORAGE

University of Minnesota researchers are developing the next generation of information storage — using nature's own storage molecule — DNA. Professor Richard Kiehl and his team used the "stickiness" of DNA to construct a scaffolding for closely spaced nanoparticles that could exchange information on a scale of only 10 angstroms — one angstrom is one 10-billionth of a meter. "In a standard silicon-based chip, information processing is limited by the distance between units that store and share information," he says. "With these DNA crystals, we can lay out devices closely so that the interconnects are very short. If nanoparticles are spaced even 20 angstroms apart on such a DNA crystal scaffolding, a chip could hold 10 trillion bits per square centimeter — that's 100 times as much information as in the 64 Gigabit D-RAM memory projected for 2010." To make the scaffolding, the researchers took advantage of the fact each (DNA) base spontaneously pairs up with, or sticks to one of the other bases to form the DNA double helix. The team synthesized four different two-dimensional "tiles" of DNA, each having an extension that sticks to the extension on another tile.

(EDITORS: For more information on T-CELLS, contact Esther Carver at (212) 639-3573 or e-mail mediastaff@mskcc.org. For FISH NOISE, Arthur N. Popper, (301) 405-6884 or ap17@umail.umd.edu, for ICELAND, Einar Arnason, (354) 525 4613 or einar@lif.hi.is, and for STICKY DNS, Richard Kiehl, (612) 625-8073)

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