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Patent Watch: Dec 5, 2008

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Arryx has been awarded US Patent 7,460,240, “Apparatus and method for detecting deformability of cells using spatially modulated optical force microscopy.”
 
The inventor listed on the patent is Osman Akcakir
 
As stated in its abstract, the patent uses spatially modulated optical force microscopy, with either single-beam optical force probing capability or a holographic optical trapping system capable of multi-beam optical force probing, coupled to a microscope objective, to generate a probe beam as a force probe to perturb the object that is adhered or resting on a surface, so that deformations of the object may subsequently be quantified. This quantification is performed by imaging a sequence of four phase-shifted replicas of the image using a computer-controlled spatial light modulator, and calculating the pixel-by-pixel optical path length using existing algorithms. The change in optical path lengths, and consequently the viscoelastic or elastic response elicited, is an indication of damage or disease when the objects are cells. In another application, the optical deformability of the cells may be measured and correlated with measurements of cytoskeletal/structural protein expression.
 

 
The University of Edinburgh has been awarded US Patent 7,459,600, “Isolation, selection and propagation of animal transgenic stem cells.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Austin Smith and Peter Mountford.
 
The patent describes how animal stem cells are obtained and maintained by culturing cells containing, in the genome, a selectable marker, according to its abstract. Differential expression of the selectable marker enables preferential survival and/or division of the desired stem cells compared to the non-stem cells.
 

 
Acea Biosciences has been awarded US Patent 7,459,303, “Impedance based apparatuses and methods for analyzing cells and particles.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Xiaobo Wang and Xiao Xu.
 
Its abstract states that that the patent describes a device for monitoring the migration or invasion of a biological particle, such as a cell. The device includes an upper chamber adapted to receive and retain a cell sample, a lower chamber having at least two electrodes, and a biocompatible porous membrane through which cells can migrate. This porous membrane separates the upper and lower chambers from one another. Migration of cells through the porous membrane permits contact between the migrating cells and one or more electrodes of the lower chamber. The contact provides a detectable change in impedance between or among the electrodes.
 

 
Solvay Pharmaceuticals has been awarded US Patent 7,459,279, “Binding assay employing IGS4, a human G-protein coupled neuromedin receptor.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Jakob Venema, Claudia Berger, Christiane Loken, Willy Deleersnijder, and Guy Nys.
 
The patent discloses novel identified polynucleotides, polypeptides encoded by them, and the use of such polynucleotides and polypeptides, and their production, according to its abstract. The polynucleotides and polypeptides of the present invention relate to the G-protein coupled receptor family known as ISG4. The invention also describes the inhibition or activation of such polynucleotides and polypeptides, a vector containing said polynucleotides, a host cell containing such a vector, and transgenic animals where the IGS4-gene is overexpressed, misexpressed, underexpressed, or suppressed. The invention further discusses a method for screening compounds capable of acting as an agonist or an antagonist of IGS4. The invention also relates to the identification of the cognate ligand of the IGS4 polypeptides. High-affinity binding to said IGS4 polypeptides is found for the neuropeptides known as neuromedin U.
 

 
Daiichi Pharmaceuticals has been awarded US Patent 7,459,268, “Method for screening agent acting on cell wall.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Akihiro Kitamura and Ryohei Nakajima.
 
Its abstract states that the patent claims a method for screening an agent acting on a cell wall, which comprises the following steps: culturing a microorganism having a reporter protein fixed on a cell wall as a GPI-anchored protein in the presence of a test agent acting on a cell wall; analyzing a saccharide chain of a substance derived from the reporter protein released in a culture fluid of the microorganism; and estimating a targeting site of the test agent on the cell wall on the basis of information of the saccharide chain of the substance derived from the reporter protein. An agent acting on a cell wall directed to a particular targeting site can be efficiently screened by conveniently and suitably determining a targeting site of an agent having an inhibitory action on a cell wall.
 

 
Geron has been awarded US Patent 7,455,983, “Medium for growing human embryonic stem cells.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Chunhui Xu, Yan Li, and Ramkumar Mandalam.
 
The patent provides an improved system for culturing human pluripotent stem cells, its abstract states. Pluripotent stem cells are usually cultured on a layer of mouse embryonic fibroblast feeder cells to prevent them from differentiating. In the system claimed here, the feeder cells are replaced by defined components added to the culture environment that support rapid proliferation without differentiation. As described in the abstract, this medium contains an isotonic buffer, a blend of essential nutrients such as protein and lipids, and an effective growth factor or combination of factors that promote proliferation while inhibiting differentiation. Culturing human embryonic stem cells in fresh medium on an extracellular matrix causes the cells to expand rapidly, yet be able to differentiate into cells representing all three embryonic germ layers. This new culture system allows for bulk proliferation of iPS cells for commercial production of important products for use in drug screening and human therapy.
 

 
Washington University has been awarded US Patent 7,455,969, “Highly permissive cell lines for hepatitis C virus RNA replication.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Charles Rice and Keril Blight
 
The patent generally relates to cells and cell lines that allow hepatitis C virus replication, and the methods and materials for making and using them, its abstract stated. The cell line referred to in the patent as Huh-7.5 has the ATCC designation number PTA-8561, having been deposited on Aug. 1, 2007.
 

 
NMI Naturwissenschaftliches und Medizinisches Institut an der Universitaet Tuebingen has been awarded US Patent 7,455,816, “Support plate for carrying out functional tests on biological cells and method for coating the support plate.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Heiko Steuer, Markus Templin, Britta Kanzok, Cornelia Kuschel, and Brigitte Angres.
 
According to its abstract, the patent relates to a method for coating a support plate for carrying out functional tests on biological cells, to the support plates, and to their use for carrying out the tests.
 

 
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has been awarded US Patent 7,452,973, “Cell-permeable fluorescent proteins.”
 
The inventors listed on the patent are Ronald Raines and Stephen Fuchs.
 
This patent relates to methods and compositions for designing novel fluorescent proteins, preferably green fluorescent proteins, as discussed in the abstract. The engineered GFPs are modified by substituting negatively charged amino acids with positively charged amino acids on the exterior of the protein to make the protein cell permeable. The ability of the engineered fluorescent proteins to permeate cells obviates the need for transfections.

The Scan

Shape of Them All

According to BBC News, researchers have developed a protein structure database that includes much of the human proteome.

For Flu and More

The Wall Street Journal reports that several vaccine developers are working on mRNA-based vaccines for influenza.

To Boost Women

China's Ministry of Science and Technology aims to boost the number of female researchers through a new policy, reports the South China Morning Post.

Science Papers Describe Approach to Predict Chemotherapeutic Response, Role of Transcriptional Noise

In Science this week: neural network to predict chemotherapeutic response in cancer patients, and more.