Sep 14, 2009 | 1
Lizards are well known for snapping off their tails when a predator snags them from behind, but that defense strategy doesn’t mean it's game over for the disembodied tail. The abandoned appendage has a network of neurons that guides it to flail about even after losing its connection to the brain.
Biologists at Clemson University and the University of Calgary noticed that the movements of the luckless tails of leopard geckos seemed more complicated than those of other lizard tails. So the scientists tracked the gecko tails post-snap and found that they jump, flip and lunge, presumably to distract predators and give the gecko time to make its getaway.
"No one had ever documented anything other than simple swinging, sort of like a pendulum,” says Timothy Higham, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Clemson. Higham and Anthony Russell at the University of Calgary published their results last week in Biology Letters.
Jan 23, 2009 | 2
Federal regulators have green-lighted the first trial of an embryonic stem-cell treatment in humans.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the go-ahead for Geron Corporation to start a phase I safety trial of its therapy GRNOPC1 for spinal cord injuries, the Menlo Park, Calif.–based company announced today. It first sought permission for the trial four years ago and spent much of the last year trying to satisfy the FDA’s concerns about it.
"This marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics—one that reaches beyond pills to a new level of healing: the restoration of organ and tissue function achieved by the injection of healthy replacement cells,” Thomas Okarma, Geron's president and CEO, said in a statement today.
The trial will involve up to 10 patients and will test whether it is safe to inject nerve cells from embryos into the site of their injuries, according to Geron. A study published in 2005 in the Journal of Neuroscience found that giving rats the injections seven days after a spinal cord injury improved their motor function.
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