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Research Inspired by ‘Water Bears’ Leads to Innovations in Medicine, Food Preservation and Blood Storage

The study of microscopic tardigrades, also known as water bears, lead John Crowe and Lois Crowe to groundbreaking discoveries about the unique properties of a simple sugar known as trehalose. The Crowes’ method of preservation using trehalose allows the drug AmBisome® to be safely rehydrated after freeze drying.

The study of microscopic tardigrades, also known as water bears, lead John Crowe and Lois Crowe to groundbreaking discoveries about the unique properties of a simple sugar known as trehalose. The Crowes’ method of preservation using trehalose allows the drug AmBisome® to be safely rehydrated after freeze drying. (Carl Johansson/UC Davis Bohart Museum)

When John Crowe and his wife Lois Crowe were researching tardigrades in the 1970s and 1980s,  nobody knew much about how the speck-sized organisms — also known as water bears — were able to dry up completely, survive for years, and then somehow revive within a few hours when back in water.

Other organisms can do this as well. Brine shrimp, certain nematodes, baker’s yeast, and some desert plants can dry up for years and come back to life when there is water. The mechanism for this trick, though, was a mystery.

John was a professor in the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Lois wasa biophysicist in the UC Davis departments of Zoology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology. Together with their students and postdocs, they set out to discover how these organisms are able to survive in a desiccated form for years.

What they found is that nearly all these organisms produce a simple sugar known as trehalose. They also found that the organisms convert as much as 20 percent of their dry weight to trehalose before they can be dried.

The Crowes were able to show that trehalose acts as a water replacement — protecting cells by preventing cell membranes from falling apart and stabilizing proteins and nucleic acids in the dry state.

Their discoveries about the cell-protecting abilities of trehalose opened the door for a wide range of new innovations in food preservation, medicine and blood storage.

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Groundbreaking cancer research fueled by talent, funding and resources in Davis

Original post: selectsacramento.com/groundbreaking-cancer-research-fueled-by-talent-funding-and-resources-in-davis

ARIZ Precision Medicine is pioneering cancer research out of their lab in Davis. They’re working to create a safer alternative to chemotherapy by developing a drug that targets cancer cells. ARIZ modulates cancer-causing genes and proteins to induce a natural, biological death in cancer cells. So far, their data shows their drug can kill 90 percent of cancer cells in a dish while only affecting five to ten percent of normal cells, whereas traditional chemotherapy affects both types of cells equally. As we learned during a recent visit with ARIZ at their lab at the UC Davis-HM Clause Life Science Innovation Center, much of their success is tied to the resources they’ve been able to tap into in Greater Sacramento, including a wealth of support from the University of California, Davis.

The Greater Sacramento advantage

ARIZ has deep connections to Davis. Many of its staff are either from Davis, went to UC Davis or settled down there before joining the company. ARIZ Founder, CEO and Chairman Lonnie Bookbinder obtained his undergraduate degree in biology from UC Davis. After working around the country, he moved back to Davis to start ARIZ.

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Improving detection of breast cancer

Improving detection of breast cancer

Dr. John Boone is a recognized expert in the field of medical imaging, with a focus on improving breast cancer detection. He and his team have developed a device with the potential to detect tumors in the breast earlier and with less discomfort.

The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer among American women, following skin cancers. It estimates that about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.

Traditionally, mammograms have been used to detect breast cancers as part of aboonebreastct_300dpi-003 regular screening, but Boone has developed what could be a better approach, hopefully improving both detection and patient outcomes. Boone and his team have designed and developed an innovative computed tomography (CT) scanner designed specifically for imaging the breast (UC Case 2005-543). The intended advantage of this device is that it provides a true three-dimensional, highly-detailed image of the human breast, offering a less obstructed view of potential lesions than the current two-dimensional mammogram.

Unlike mammography, the scanner does not require compression of the breast. Instead, the patient lies face down on a padded table and places the breast in a circular opening. The scanner generates 300 to 500 tomographic image “slices” of the breast, which are then assembled into a three-dimensional digital model. The imaging procedure takes approximately 10 seconds.

Thanks to support from the National Institutes of Health, Boone’s team has assembled four scanners that have been used to image over 600 women at the UC Davis Medical Center.

The technology led to the formation of Isotropic Imaging Corporation, which intends to license the technology developed at UC Davis to commercialize a scanner.