The Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland has just announced an important partnership with San Diego-based bioprinting technology company Organovo. Research into the biology of cancer, especially how it metastasizes, has been complicated in the past by the limitations of animal models and cell cultures, which really don't tell us enough about the workings of cancer within a human being. Organovo creates living, 3-D human tissue using their bioprinting device, the NovoGen MMX (below). The partnership between OHSU and Organovo will allow cancer research at Knight Institute labs to much more closely model the complex architecture of malignancy within the human body, using in vitro tissue. Ultimately this will lead to the development of more accurate therapeutics and pre-clinical trials.
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Researchers trying to find ways to help cure children of disease before they are born with it face an uphill challenge, in part because research on human embryos (even research that might result in a human embryo) is limited by the federal government when federal funding is at issue. Yet progress is being made, notably in the case of mitochondrial diseases passed from mother to child. A gene therapy procedure being studied and tested at Oregon Health Sciences University puts the nucleus of an egg cell with the mother's DNA into the scooped-out mitochondrial shell of another, healthier woman's egg cell. Then the egg is fertilized in vitro and gestated in utero. When research on nonhuman primates three years ago was a success (the monkeys are all alive and well), they tested the basic steps of the procedure with donated human eggs. They brought the hybrid eggs to the blastocyst stage, then cultured lines and did testing on them. At least 20% of the fertilized samples would have been viable for placement in utero.
Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) recently received $245,115 in new NIH science research funding for a study of the effectiveness of two drugs commonly used to restore heart function in cardiac arrest victims. Researchers will be determining whether the drugs Amiodarone and Lidocaine actually improve cardiac arrest patients' chance of survival, and if so which is more effective. These drugs are both used to restore the loss of rhythmic and regular heartbeats that is a common cause of cardiac arrest, though their overall effectiveness at improving survival among patients has not been well documented. Typically first responders pick one or the other, but their decisions are not based on hard comparative evidence of the drugs' benefits.
The development of successful vaccinations can be considered among the most important discoveries in medicine. It has caused significant reduction in the occurrence of several major diseases and has virtually eliminated some pathogens such as smallpox. Even with previous developments, there is always the room for improvements.
OHSU life science researcher Jonah Sacha, Ph.D. (photo courtesy of OHSU), recently received $1 million in new funding for HIV research. He will be leading a team of researchers who will be investigating the possibility of developing a new AIDS vaccine.
The NIH has funded a five-year, $21 million Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism grant to support a multi-site consortium led by Oregon Health & Science University researchers Kathleen A. Grant and Betsy Ferguson. The grant represents the second competitive renewal for the INIA consortium (founded in 2001), which is made up of 15 lead investigators from 10 institutions in the United States and Europe. OHSU's share of the current funding is $6.3M. Dr. Grant is the head of neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC), where Dr. Ferguson is an associate scientist. The Division of Neuroscience at the ONPRC conducts research aimed at identifying and defining fundamental aspects of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying nervous system function.
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We’ve been writing a lot lately about real estate and the complexities of urban life science expansion. In terms of ingenuity and multi-agency collaboration, Portland’s expansion into the South Waterfront area in order to expand Oregon Health & Science University’s capacity and facilitate collaboration with other Oregon universities is uniquely impressive. Recognizing long ago that OHSU’s location offered limited growth opportunity in terms of surrounding real estate, officials looked down the hill to Portland’s South Waterfront district, and at a derelict salvage yard in particular. There was space there, between two bridges, but would it be a valuable expansion if researchers and students couldn’t get between the two campuses easily? How to convince the principal players that the locale would work?
All three major Oregon research universities (the University of Oregon, Oregon State, and Oregon Health and Science University) received record amounts of new funding during fiscal year 2009-2010. This record increase will likely spur the development of new programs and encourage new research innovation in Oregon.