Preemptive strike against planetary microbes, using adult stem cells to treat PD, and major strides in creating built-to-order lungs

Novel Trial Is Using iPS Cells to Treat Parkinson’s

(Science, 7/30/18, Dennis Normile)

Researchers in Japan today announced the launch of a clinical trial to treat Parkinson’s disease with neurological material derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, mature cells chemically manipulated to return to an early stage of development from which they can theoretically differentiate into any of the body’s specialized cells. The researchers derive stocks of iPS cells from healthy donors with specific cell types that are less likely to cause immune rejection. The study team will inject dopaminergic progenitors, a cell type that develops into neurons that produce dopamine, directly into a region of the brain known to play a key role in the neural degeneration associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Preventing a Real-Life Andromeda Strain

(The Scientist, 8/1/18, Ashley Yeager)

Researchers at NASA, other nations’ space agencies, and academic institutions worldwide are working to ensure that missions designed to return asteroid or comet samples to Earth don’t also bring back unwanted alien life. At the same time, they’re working to prevent extremely resilient bacteria from hitching a ride on spacecraft to Mars, the moons of Saturn and Jupiter, and other orbs in the solar system. Decontamination methods have been tweaked over the years, and the Committee on Space Research now requires that spacecraft carry no more than 300,000 bacterial spores—in some cases, no more than 30, depending on the mission. As a spacecraft is being built, it goes through tests—usually swabs to collect bacteria—at various construction stages to ensure that there aren’t too many spores clinging to its inner and outer edges.

Moving Closer to Customized Lungs

(Wired Science, 8/1/18, Robbie Gonzalez)

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Lung Lab reported this week in Science Translational Medicine four porcine procedures that are bringing us closer to producing lab-grown lungs. Over the past four years, the scientific team led by Joan Nichols implanted a single lab-built lung into a pig, grew three more pig lungs using cells from their intended recipients, and transplanted each of them successfully without the use of immunosuppressive drugs. Taken together, the four procedures, which they described in the journal, are a major step toward growing human organs that are built to-order, using a transplant recipient’s own cells.