Currents: News Briefs

    Iraq Soldiers Come Home Via Satellite

    The San Diego Supercomputer Center, based in UCSD, announced last week that it will allow families with loved ones in Iraq to meet virtually face-to-face, using satellite uplink technology to conduct live video teleconferencing sessions.

    SDSC is collaborating with the organization Freedom Calls, which provides the uplink at Camp Fallujah and the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, and is working to establish a third uplink site at Camp Taqaddum. Volunteers will staff the 30-minute weekly conferencing sessions.

    People who want to request a time slot at the SDSC to meet with their loved ones can log on to http://www.freedomcalls.org to sign up.

    Diabetes Cure Moves One Step Closer

    A new method allowing normal adult pancreatic cells to be converted into insulin-producing beta cells has been developed by UCSD researchers, providing hope for an eventual cure for diabetes.About 21 million Americans have the disease, which is a result of the loss or malfunction of beta cells or the body rejecting insulin it produces.

    Using mice, the team, led by Rebecca and John Moores Cancer Center pediatrics professor Fred Levine, discovered that when mixed with cells from pancreatic fetal tissue, certain adult pancreatic cells could be developed into beta cells. The report was published in the March issue of Nature Medicine.

    The results indicated that the experimental method could, in theory, be adapted to benefit people with type-II diabetes because, with this form of the disease, the body develops resistance to insulin. Type-II patients could be helped by a reactivation of beta cells.

    UC Settles Bovine Patent Case

    The University of California announced last week that it had reached a settlement with the company Monsanto, which it had accused of infringing on a UC patent for recombinant DNA used to manufacture the dairy growth hormone somatotropin.

    Under the deal, Monsanto will pay the university $100 million up front, plus 15 cents for every dose of Posilac — Monsanto’s version of somatotropin — given to dairy cows annually by the company until the university’s exclusive patent expires in 2021. The annual Posilac royalty would be capped at $5 million.

    Somatotropin, also known as bovine growth hormone, was developed by UC San Francisco researchers and is used by dairy farmers to improve the efficiency of bovine milk production.

    Outreach Director Returns to Post

    After leaving his position to serve as an admissions director at San Diego’s Alliant University, Brett Wellington returned to his post as assistant director of UCSD’s Early Academic Outreach Program, designed to prepare low-income students for higher education.

    “I’m thrilled about being able to give people the means to improve their chances for higher education, and thereby their chance for a better life,” Wellington stated in a press release.

    Prior to his hiatus, Wellington worked for EAOP from 2000 to 2004.

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