Scientists trigger muscle stem cells to divide
February 22nd, 2012
BY KRISTA CONGER
A tiny piece of RNA plays a key role in determining when muscle stem cells from mice activate and start to divide, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding may help scientists learn how to prepare human muscle stem cells for use in therapies for conditions such as muscular dystrophy and aging by controlling their activation state.
It’s the first time that a small regulatory RNA, called a microRNA, has been implicated in the maintenance of the adult stem cell resting, or quiescent, state.
“Although on the surface the quiescent state seems to be relatively static, it’s quite actively maintained,” said Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and neurological sciences. “We’ve found that changing the levels of just one specific microRNA in resting muscle stem cells, however, causes them to spring into action.”
5 Questions: Rando on resetting the ‘aging clock,’ cell by cell
January 20th, 2012
Advances in the study of stem cells have fueled hopes that someday, via regenerative medicine, doctors could restore aging people’s hearts, livers, brains and other organs and tissues to a more youthful state. A key to reaching this goal — to be able to provide stem cells that will differentiate into other types of cells a patient needs — appears to lie in understanding “epigenetics,” which involves chemical marks stapled onto DNA and its surrounding protein husk by specialized enzyme complexes inside a cell’s nucleus. These markings produce long-lasting changes in genes’ activity levels within the cell — locking genes into an “on” or “off” position. Epigenetic processes enable cells to remain true to type (a neuron, for instance, never suddenly morphs into a fat cell) even though all our cells, regardless of type, share the same genetic code. But epigenetic processes also appear to play a critical role in reducing cells’ vitality as they age.
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Huge VA project to boost med school mission
October 21st, 2011
A new $54 million mental health center is part of a $1-billion-plus renewal project under way at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and its flagship campus on Miranda Avenue.
BY JONATHAN RABINOVITZ
A dozen state-of the-art buildings that will advance the medical school’s clinical, educational and research missions are beginning to rise, but Stanford isn’t leading the effort.
With a construction budget of more than $1 billion, the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, or VAPAHCS, has launched an ambitious building project on its flagship campus on Miranda Avenue in Palo Alto, leaving almost no spot of the 93-acre site untouched. The plan includes a new mental health center; the Department of Veterans Affairs’ largest rehabilitation center, which will combine polytrauma and blind rehabilitation; additional research space; and additional lodging facilities for veteran patients and family members.
The project is driven by an emphasis on patient-centric care and concerns about seismic safety. The project is also part of a broader shift by the VA and health care in general toward more outpatient services, concentrating the most advanced tertiary care services at flagship facilities, such as the Palo Alto site. VAPAHCS, in addition to revamping and expanding its outpatient facilities outside the Palo Alto campus, is taking steps to ensure that its main campus continues to offer the latest treatment modalities and meet new and pressing needs, such as those of the increasing numbers of veterans who have suffered multiple injuries, including traumatic brain injury. As part of that process, VAPAHCS is enhancing its 50-year affiliation with the School of Medicine, adding space for the education of Stanford doctors who treat veterans and the research by Stanford faculty on injuries and illness that affect veterans and others.
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New center for research on aging established with grant from Glenn Foundation
February 22nd, 2011
BY RUTHANN RICHTER
The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research has awarded a $5 million grant to Stanford University to launch a new center on the biology of aging, focusing on the role of stem cells in the aging process.
At the new Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biology of Aging at Stanford, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine will look at how stem cells change as an individual ages and how that contributes to the development of age-related diseases and disorders.
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Longevity conference covers demographics, genetics, stem cells, Social Security
April 22nd, 2009
BY BRUCE GOLDMAN
Mortality: No matter who you are, where you’ve been, or what you’ve done, it’s one topic that takes on more significance with every waking moment.
At a conference on campus April 15-16, leading experts from places as far-flung as Manitoba and Hong Kong assembled with Stanford faculty to address longevity-related issues from multiple perspectives. The third annual East-West Alliance Conference was co-hosted by the Stanford
School of Medicine and the Stanford Center for Longevity. The School of Medicine is a member of the East-West Alliance, a global network of 10 universities receiving support from the Li Ka Shing Foundation.
Median life expectancy—the age to which one-half of a cohort of infants born in a given year can expect to reach or exceed—in the United States has risen from around 20 before the year 1800 to about 77 at the dawn of the 21st century, plenary speaker Laura Carstensen, PhD, director of the Center on Longevity, told the audience of some 60 people. "People age 65 or over accounted for 4 percent of all U.S. residents in 1900. They account for 13 percent of the population now and, by 2030, will constitute 22 percent of the total," she said.
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