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Top 10 Cell Science News Stories of 2019

Top 10 Cell Science News Stories of 2019   content piece image
Credit: iStock

2019 has been an exciting year for cell science. In this list, we look at ten of the most-read news stories published on Technology Networks this year.

3D Heart Printed Using Patient's Own Tissue

Researchers from Tel Aviv University “printed” the world’s first 3D engineered heart using a patient’s own cells and biological materials. Importantly, the breakthrough saw success in printing vasculature, and the heart matched the immunological and cellular properties of the patient.

"This is the first time anyone anywhere has successfully engineered and printed an entire heart replete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers," said Professor Tal Dvir of TAU's School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology in a press release detailing the work.

Published in: Advanced Science
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Cinnamon Vape Flavor Most Damaging to Cells in Stem Cell Model

Human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived endothelial cells were used by researchers from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute to assess endothelial integrity after exposure to flavored e-cigarettes. 

The findings demonstrated that endothelial dysfunction was worsened by acute exposure to flavored e-cigarettes, and that the cytotoxicity varied between flavors, with cinnamon being the most damaging. 

“There is no safe way to vape,” said Dr. Won Hee Lee, co-lead and co-senior author of the study, in a press release. “It’s not as safe as originally thought, especially with the flavoring. Most people expect cigarettes to be worse for our health because of the nicotine. However, that’s not necessarily correct. Some of the effects of exposure to the e-liquids were dependent on the nicotine concentration but others were independent, showing a combined effect of nicotine concentrations and flavoring components.”

Published in: Journal of the American College of Cardiology
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Skin-derived Stem Cell Has Potential to Regenerate Myelin Sheath

A team of scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine discovered that melanocyte stem cells (a type of skin-related stem cell) could be used to help regenerate myelin sheaths. Unlike embryonic stem cells, these cells are harvested from the skin, offering a less invasive alternative source of cells.

“This research holds promise for treating serious neurodegenerative diseases that impact millions of people each year. Our researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered what could be a critical and non-invasive way to use stem cells as a therapy for these diseases,” said UMSOM Dean, E. Albert Reece, in a press release.

Published in: PLOS Genetics 
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Northern White Rhino Eggs Successfully Harvested and Fertilized

As part of on-going efforts to save northern white rhinos from extinction, an international team of scientists successfully harvested oocytes from the last two remaining females of the sub-species. Ten oocytes were collected from the rhinos living in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, seven of which were successfully fertilized by frozen sperm from two male northern white rhinos.

"The number of harvested oocytes is a wonderful success and proof that the unique cooperation between scientists, experts in zoos and conservationists in field can lead to hopeful prospects even for the animals that are imminently facing extinction," commented Jan Stejskal from Dvur Kralove Zoo in a press release. 

Read the full story here 

2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to William G. Kaelin, Jr., Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”

The trio, who also won the 2016 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, uncovered the mechanisms by which cells respond to varying levels of oxygen, a discovery which laid the groundwork for greater understanding of several biological processes and associated diseases. 

Read the full story here  

Bone Marrow May Be the Missing Piece of the Fertility Puzzle

A study by Yale researchers showed that bone marrow-derived stem cells play an important role in enabling a woman to start and sustain a pregnancy, by helping to transform the uterine lining for implantation. Without this transformation, the pregnancy is terminated.

“When you have a damaged endometrium leading to infertility or repeated pregnancy loss, all too frequently we have not been able to correct it. Bone marrow can be considered another critical reproductive organ. This finding opens up a new potential avenue for treatment of a condition that has been untreatable in the past,” Dr. Hugh Taylor, senior author and the Anita O'Keeffe Young Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at Yale explained in a press release.

Published in: PLOS Biology
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Meal Timing Can Make or Break Your Cells Circadian Rhythm

It is well known that exposure to daylight keeps our body clock in check. But what impact does meal timing have?  A study published in Cell helped answer this question and provided new insights on how cells keep a circadian rhythm. The study also has important implications for shift workers and travelers wanting to avoid jet lag. 

Published in: Cell
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids’ Health Benefit Linked to Stem Cell Control

The consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, has long been associated with a lower risk of certain diseases including heart disease and stroke. Scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine recently discovered a missing link between this association – the primary cilium (an ancient cellular antenna) senses omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, which act as signaling molecules to affect how stem cells in fat tissue turn into fat cells.

"When we saw that the cell was responding to omega-3 fatty acids, we realized that this had changed from just a molecular biology story to a story showing the molecular biology of how diet controls stem cells," said senior author Peter Jackson in a press release detailing the work.

Published in: Cell
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Multi-celled Animals Didn't Evolve the Way We Thought

Findings published in Nature by scientists at The University of Queensland revealed a surprising truth, contradicting the traditional idea that multi-celled animals evolved from a single-celled ancestor know as a choanocyte.  

“We’ve found that the first multicellular animals probably weren’t like the modern-day sponge cells, but were more like a collection of convertible cells,” Professor Degnan said in a press release. “The great-great-great-grandmother of all cells in the animal kingdom, so to speak, was probably quite similar to a stem cell.”

Published in: Nature
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Muscle Nuclei Gained in Training Persist During Atrophy

The adage “use it or lose it” may not strictly apply when referring to muscles, suggests recent research. In a review published in Frontiers in Physiology, scientists were able to show that nuclei gained during training are not lost when muscle cells shrink or break down. During retraining, the “myonuclei” enable muscle size and strength to recover more quickly than would be seen if starting completely from scratch.

Published in: Frontiers in Physiology
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While it's a bit late to put your orders in this year, now is your chance to have your say for 2020. What cell biology topics would you like to hear about next year?