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New Research Findings Being Presented by University of Pittsburgh Faculty at The 41st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology

WASHINGTON, December 10, 2001 — Clinical and basic science research findings of nearly 50 studies are being presented by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers at the 41st annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. The scientific sessions are Dec. 9-12 at the Washington Convention Center. Dates of each relevant presentation can be found in parentheses. Highlights of the findings include:

  • Johnny Huard, Ph.D., associate professor of orthopedic surgery, molecular genetics, biochemistry and bioengineering, and his colleagues report that adult cells, also called somatic muscle stem cells that are derived from skeletal muscle also may be coaxed to form blood-cell precursors. Working with a strain of "mdx" mice, a rodent model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Dr. Huard's group also found reason to believe genetically-engineered stem cells may be used to deliver the essential missing protein dystrophin to musculature wasted by the congenital disease. Results of this study are under consideration for publication in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Cell Biology. Experiments injecting these cultured skeletal muscle cells into mdx mice revealed that while some cells migrated to the muscles, others found their way into bone marrow. Those in the bone marrow showed evidence of being able to produce new blood cells. (Monday, Dec. 10)
  • Gerard Apodaca, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and cell biology and physiology, and his colleagues have taken a closer look at the epithelial cells that line the inner surface of the urinary bladder. They discovered that there is far more going on than routine filling and emptying. By mounting pieces of bladder tissue in “stretch chambers,” and observing their behavior at the cellular level during simulated bladder filling, the researchers found that the bladder surface area is able to modulate to accommodate increased pressure in a unique way. Microscopic compartments called vesicles both expand to increase surface area and contract -- perhaps to remove old membrane that has been damaged by exposure to the toxic components of urine. A key role in this process is played by a molecule called cyclic adenosine monophospate or cAMP, which can regulate surface area -- in some cases without even stretching the tissue. The researchers believe the findings may provide insight into how other cell types respond to external mechanical stimuli. (Monday, Dec. 10)
  • Jean Latimer, Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, women’s health, biochemistry and molecular genetics; and Victor Vogel, M.D., professor of medicine and epidemiology, and their colleagues are trying to identify ways to predict which early-stage breast tumors are most likely to recur using live-cell imaging. They have developed a novel in vitro culture system for mammary epithelial cells that come from both normal and malignant tissues. Using this system, the cells can be propagated for three months or longer by maintaining primary cultures. Through imaging data collected by using time-lapse digital movie techniques, the researchers compared the behavior and “construction methods” of normal and malignant tissues. Preliminary results from this data support the possibility of a novel new indicator for breast tumor recurrence. (Monday, Dec. 10)
  • Researchers led by William Saunders, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences and Susanne Gollin, Ph.D., associate professor of human genetics, have shown that toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke directly interfere with the way certain cells prepare for division. These epithelial cells line the inside of the mouth and are called squamous cells. Cigarette smoke appears to negatively impact the cells when they separate their chromosomes. The researchers hypothesize that this may lead to a change in chromosome structure and contribute to the types of division defects seen in cancer cells. Saunders and his colleagues targeted the anaphase stage of cell division, when cellular chromosomes copy themselves and move in identical sets to opposite poles in preparation for division into two sister cells. By exposing these cells to cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) in the laboratory, the researchers observed serious errors in cell division. Sometimes a single chromosome was pulled in two different directions at once to form a bridge. These anaphase bridges may be an early precursor to malignancy. (Tuesday, Dec. 11)

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