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1.  Stem cells: a model for screening, discovery and development of drugs 
The identification of normal and cancerous stem cells and the recent advances made in isolation and culture of stem cells have rapidly gained attention in the field of drug discovery and regenerative medicine. The prospect of performing screens aimed at proliferation, directed differentiation, and toxicity and efficacy studies using stem cells offers a reliable platform for the drug discovery process. Advances made in the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells from normal or diseased tissue serves as a platform to perform drug screens aimed at developing cell-based therapies against conditions like Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. This review discusses the application of stem cells and cancer stem cells in drug screening and their role in complementing, reducing, and replacing animal testing. In addition to this, target identification and major advances in the field of personalized medicine using induced pluripotent cells are also discussed.
doi:10.2147/SCCAA.S16417
PMCID: PMC3781757  PMID: 24198530
therapeutics; stem cells; cancer stem cells; screening models; drug development; high throughput screening
2.  Erg Channel Is Critical in Controlling Cell Volume during Cell Cycle in Embryonic Stem Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72409.
Abstract
The cell cycle progression in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) is controlled by ion fluxes that alter cell volume [1]. This suggests that ion fluxes might control dynamic changes in morphology over the cell cycle, such as rounding up of the cell at mitosis. However, specific channels regulating such dynamic changes and the possible interactions with actomyosin complex have not been clearly identified. Following RNAseq transcriptome analysis of cell cycle sorted mESCs, we found that expression of the K+ ion channel Erg1 peaked in G1 cell cycle phase, which was confirmed by immunostaining. Inhibition of Erg channel activity caused loss of G1 phase cells via non-apoptotic cell death. Cells first lost the ability of membrane blebbing, a typical feature of cultured embryonic stem cells. Continued Erg inhibition further increased cell volume and the cell eventually ruptured. In addition, atomic force measurements on live cells revealed a decreased cortical stiffness after treatment, suggesting alterations in actomyosin organization. When the intracellular osmotic pressure was experimentally decreased by hypertonic solution or block of K+ ion import via the Na, K-ATPase, cell viability was restored and cells acquired normal volume and blebbing activity. Our results suggest that Erg channels have a critical function in K+ ion homeostasis of mESCs over the cell cycle, and that cell death following Erg inhibition is a consequence of the inability to regulate cell volume.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072409
PMCID: PMC3732234  PMID: 23936540
3.  Small molecule screening platform for assessment of cardiovascular toxicity on adult zebrafish heart 
BMC Physiology  2012;12:3.
Background
Cardiovascular toxicity is a major limiting factor in drug development and requires multiple cost-effective models to perform toxicological evaluation. Zebrafish is an excellent model for many developmental, toxicological and regenerative studies. Using approaches like morpholino knockdown and electrocardiogram, researchers have demonstrated physiological and functional similarities between zebrafish heart and human heart. The close resemblance of the genetic cascade governing heart development in zebrafish to that of humans has propelled the zebrafish system as a cost-effective model to conduct various genetic and pharmacological screens on developing embryos and larvae. The current report describes a methodology for rapid isolation of adult zebrafish heart, maintenance ex vivo, and a setup to perform quick small molecule throughput screening, including an in-house implemented analysis script.
Results
Adult zebrafish were anesthetized and after rapid decapitation the hearts were isolated. The short time required for isolation of hearts allows dissection of multiple fishes, thereby obtaining a large sample size. The simple protocol for ex vivo culture allowed maintaining the beating heart for several days. The in-house developed script and spectral analyses allowed the readouts to be presented either in time domain or in frequency domain. Taken together, the current report offers an efficient platform for performing cardiac drug testing and pharmacological screens.
Conclusion
The new methodology presents a fast, cost-effective, sensitive and reliable method for performing small molecule screening. The variety of readouts that can be obtained along with the in-house developed analyses script offers a powerful setup for performing cardiac toxicity evaluation by researchers from both academics and industry.
doi:10.1186/1472-6793-12-3
PMCID: PMC3334682  PMID: 22449203
Heart; Screening; Zebrafish; Small molecule; Ex vivo; Ca2+ signaling

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