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Dec 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 21)

Finding the Right Outsourcing Balance

Guidelines on Deciding which Chemistry Development Programs to Off-Shore

  • Sidebar: Mesothelial Cell Research

    CROs are generally not known for running their own research projects. But ZenBio, working under a phase II SBIR NIH grant, reports that company scientists are studying reciprocal signaling between human mesothelial cells and visceral adipocytes.

    “Our objective is to develop a new system for discovery in metabolic disease, dyslipidemia, and complications related to obesity,” says Peter Pieraccini, president and CEO. “Traditionally, research in these areas has been focused on either adipocytes themselves or the neurological aspects of obesity, while mesothelial cells have been largely overlooked.”

    Peritoneal mesothelial cells are the attachment points for metastasizing ovarian cancer cells, thus making them a potential target for cancer therapeutics. Peritoneal mesothelial cells from the omentum and the mesentery may also have effects on liver function, given their proximity to the hepatic portal vein. Visceral adipose tissue is the “bad fat” known to be associated with poor obesity outcomes.

    Mesothelial cells are highly active. They secrete factors that can have local and systemic effects on several medical indications, from cancer to metabolic diseases.  These cells appear to be a catalyst in the functioning of visceral adipocytes, as they produce an assortment of inflammatory cytokines and other soluble factors that influence adipogenesis and lipid metabolism.

    “ZenBio is finding a new target for researchers in the metabolic disease arena,” continues Pieraccini. “Ultimately, what we discover will be used to make well-characterized human primary mesothelial cells available to researchers."

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Scientifically Studying Ecstasy

MDMA (commonly known as the empathogen “ecstasy”) is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which is reserved for compounds with no accepted medical use and a high abuse potential. Two researchers from Stanford, however, call for a rigorous scientific exploration of MDMA's effects to identify precisely how the drug works, the data from which could be used to develop therapeutic compounds.

Do you agree that ecstasy should be studied for its potential therapeutic benefits?

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