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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Iowa Co. buys stem cell robot machine

CORALVILLE, Iowa -- An eastern Iowa company has acquired a robotic machine designed to isolate stem cells from ubilical cord blood or adult blood that scientists said will provide endless research opportunities.

Cellular Engineering Technologies Inc. bought the $50,000 Robosep machines on Dec. 29 and ran initial tests the same day.

Company officials said the machine advances scientific research by using two high-powered magnets on opposite ends to bind CD34 stem cells with an antibody.

The machine then separates the cell from its originating blood, isolating any immunological cell from either umbilical cord blood or adult blood. The goal is that, once treated, the stem cells can be reintroduced to a body to repair damaged areas.

"The possibilities for tissue engineering and tissue development are endless," said Anant M. Kamath, the company's chief operating officer.

Once isolated, the stem cells are treated with different growth factors, grown in an incubator and then evaluated for their response. The results can be used to better understand pharmaceutical drugs or genes' effects on cell functions, he said.

"We are attempting to see if we can rebuild cells after they've been damaged," Kamath said. "When treated with the right growth 'cocktail,' the cells can be differentiated into many kinds of cells - immunological, skin, cardiac."

In studies involving mice, researchers have seen artificial injuries reversed, Kamath said.

"But there is a leap between mice and humans. It is still in a very experimental stage on humans," he said.

The robot can do four simultaneous operations, which drastically increases productivity, Kamath said.

He said such research does not receive funding from the state. CET also does not conduct embryonic stem cell research, which is banned in Iowa.

"It's not necessary anymore," Kamath said.

He said the company wants to show that high technology for stem cells can be found in Iowa.

CET, founded in 2000 by its president and chief executive officer, Dr. Alan Moy, operated through the University of Iowa until July 2005. It then became an independent company and moved to Coralville.

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