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KSTX 89.1 FM to Air Special Series on San Antonio’s Bioscience Community, Partnership with BioMed SA Expands Series’ Awareness
August 24, 2010


SAN ANTONIO, August 24, 2010 – Texas Public Radio’s KSTX 89.1 FM will air “Bioscience Breakthroughs,” a special series highlighting innovations from San Antonio’s bioscience community. The series, hosted by TPR news director David Martin Davies, will air throughout the day from August 30 to September 10.

“The healthcare and bioscience sector is the largest industry in our city,” said Davies. “But the sheer number of cutting-edge developments coming out of San Antonio tends to fall under the radar. We want to report on some of these homegrown scientific breakthroughs that can potentially impact all of us.”

These minute-and-a-half “Bioscience Breakthroughs” segments are scheduled to air at 5:50 a.m., 7:50 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. Everyday, the series will highlight a specific innovation from a bioscience organization in San Antonio, from developments in treating cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, to treatments for heart disease and chronic pain.

Click here to listen

The series is part of Texas Public Radio’s aggressive expansion of its local news coverage, including broadened science and tech reporting, to supplement its revered national news programming. KSTX has recently added Eileen Pace and Brian Kirkpatrick – two veteran journalists – to its news team. This fall, KSTX will add another reporter who will have a regional focus on the U.S. border and Latino issues and culture.

"As a collaborative industry organization, BioMed SA's vision is that San Antonio be recognized as a global leader in healthcare and bioscience.  This series on KSTX provides an excellent forum for getting that message out – right here in our own backyard,” said Ann Stevens, president of BioMed SA.  She continued, “We are pleased to partner with Texas Public Radio to raise awareness and pride about the significant innovations coming out of San Antonio's biomedical sector."

Stevens said, "This is a perfect time to focus on breakthroughs from San Antonio's biomedical sector, leading up to BioMed SA's annual Julio Palmaz Award dinner September 16, which honors innovators from around the world in healthcare and bioscience. This year's honoree is Dr. Mauli Agrawal, Dean of Engineering at UTSA, who perfectly embodies the qualities of innovation and leadership the award is designed to celebrate.  Dr. Agrawal has built a world-class reputation from right here in San Antonio, and we look forward to recognizing him."

“Bioscience Breakthroughs” is made possible by funding from BioMed SA, UT Health Science Center San Antonio, KCI, and Cappy and Suzie Lawton of Cappy’s Restaurants in support of Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. Reports from this series can be found at, beginning August 30.

About Texas Public Radio

 Texas Public Radio (TPR) is a community of listener-supported, non-commercial radio stations in South Central Texas and the Hill Country. KSTX 89.1 FM is a regional source for in-depth news, information and entertainment programs, and the only local source for National Public Radio’s flagship newsmagazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. KPAC 88.3 FM is the only source for 24/7 classical music in San Antonio. KTXI 90.1 FM offers a blend of classical music, news and information programming in the Hill Country. More information is available at

BioMed SA President Ann Stevens Overviews of the San Antonio's BioScience Sector

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Ann Stevens is the president of BioMed SA. She sits down with David Martin Davies to provide an overview of the biomedical community in San Antonio and her organization's role in organizing and promoting San Antonio's diverse network of healthcare and bioscience assets.




Henry Cisneros on San Antonio's Biomedical Sector

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Much of the credit for making San Antonio a leader in the bioscience sector can be given to the city's former mayor, Henry Cisneros. He sits down with David Martin Davies to share is vision for the local biomedical community. Cisneros is the Chair of the Executive Committee for BioMed SA, a nonprofit community organization he helped found in 2005 to promote San Antonio's extensive healthcare and bioscience industry.



Helping Time Heal All Wounds

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September 10, 2010 - San Antonio-based Kinetic Concepts, Inc., is on the cutting edge of healing wounds. Their VAC Therapy System chanced the way slow to heal wounds are treated.

“What surgeons will tell you is, it helps heal wounds faster with less risk of infection so the patient can return to quality of life sooner, which is what we want,” said Mike Genau, the president of Active Healing Solutions Division of KCI.

Presently VAC therapy is used in hospitals to treat mainly severe injuries that you might find after a car crash.

But KCI is working towards a future when VAC technology can be more easily available to help diabetics and others with slow healing cuts.

“So through miniaturizations ? so that the patient can be more mobile. Our goal is to eventually get VAC Therapy in some form to the home in a retail kind of version, so you can go maybe to a drug store as you would buy 4X4’s or some other kind of technology and maybe someday we have a form of VAC Therapy in a small low-cost package that will help the healing process for all kinds abrasions and wounds.”


Fighting Bio-Terrorism With Llama Blood

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September 9, 2010 - If there were ever a bio-attack using a disease causing microbe or toxin, authorities would need a quick and easy method to identify that threat.

That’s what scientist Andrew Hayhurst is working on at the San Antonio-based Southwest Foundation for Biomedical research.
He’s found the key pumping through the veins of llamas.

“The llamas are immunized without anesthetic. They are quite happy getting immunized. And the llamas go out to pasture and it’s a very nice route to generate antibodies,” said Hayhurst.

Scientists have found that llama blood can quickly detect a harmful agent due to an unusual molecular structure of their antibodies. These llama antibodies are tougher than the antibodies now used in medical tests and biosensors. They don’t need refrigeration and can be used over and over again.

“The idea is to engineer a very simple dipstick-type test, much the same as a preganancy test. Then to go out to Africa and actually have these stay very stable in a very hot environment,” said Hayhust.

The funding for the research comes from the Department of Defense, but there is this the potential for broader applications to deal with other maladies including detecting cancer.


Shining Light on Predicting Heart Attacks

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September 8, 2010 - Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. Victims don't get warning of an impending heart attack because atherosclerosis has no symptoms until it’s too late.

But Dr. Marc Feldman at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio working with engineers at UT Austin has developed the technology that can give warning of a heart attack.

“Most people are familiar with using sound or ultrasound ,but light is much faster than sound. It has a much greater resolution. It has the potential to see single cells in the body. Where all the other technologies like sound or MRI or CATscan can not do that,” said Feldman.

Feldman created a light-based diagnostics technology that can view the thickness and topography of arterial plaques and determine their risk of rupture.

“Heart attacks, which is our area of interest, play out on the surface of blood vessels inside your heart. So we can actually see and hopefully predict future heart attacks before they occur,” said Feldman.

In May 2006 Feldman’s startup Cardiospectra received $1.35 million from the state’s emerging technology fund. less than a year later, the company was sold to the Volcano Corporation for $25 million. That’s a 500 percent return on the investment.

There’s evidence that the Cardiospectra can also be used to diagnose other ailments hiding in the body, including gastrointestinal disease.


Exploring Inner Space with Helenita

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September 7, 2010 - Helenita is very popular with the scientists at the University of Texas at San Antonio. That’s because Helenita is the most powerful electron microscope in the nation.

The second generation aberration corrected electron microscope was a gift to UTSA from the Robert Kleberg and Helen Kleberg Foundation of the King Ranch, thus the nice name for the instrument.

“To have a close encounter with Helenita,” said Miguel Yacaman, the microscope’s supervisor and chair of the College of Sciences' Department of Physics and Astronomy.

And he says in many ways Helenita is like the Hubble telescope.

“When the Hubble was working it gave us new information about the universe that we didn’t know. Now this is doing the same thing in the other direction ? in the nanoscale,” said Yacaman.

Helenita is helping nanotechnology researchers develop new cancer therapies and treatments that combat a variety of human diseases.

The microscope is not just for UTSA. It is being used by scientists around the globe and across many disciplines.


Bioscience Progress Means Bioscience Jobs for San Antonio

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September 6, 2010 - Last month when BD announced it was setting up shop in San Antonio, it was another cause for celebration in the San Antonio Bioscience community.

BD, also known as Becton, Dickinson and Company, is a Fortune 500 medical technology company. They will be opening a support-services operation in San Antonio that will employ 296 people.

Mario Hernandez of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation says BD coming to SA is more than just adding jobs to the city. It adds to the city’s growing reputation as a leading center in the bioscience industry.

Mayor Julian Castro says City Hall has a role to play in keeping San Antonio on track for future progress in the Bioscience industry.

“Biosciences and health care is just fantastically important to San Antonio. It has a $16 billion impact on the local economy. With the addition of Medtronic, InCube Lab, cancer research companies in San Antonio, the city is distinguishing itself more and more in the biotech sector, and we are going to have to make important investments in education and incentives for local businesses to keep the momentum going,” said Castro.

To help bring BD to San Antonio there was a package of incentives and property-tax abatements from the city, the county and the state ?- totaling over $6 million.


Putting the Fountain of Youth in a Pill

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September 3, 2010 - There is the Greek myth of Tithonus. He was granted eternal life, but not eternal youth, so he grew old and withered.

As modern science gets better at beating so many ailments and extending life, we face the Tithonus generation.

We need an anti-aging drug, and they may have found one at the Barshop Institute For Longevity and Aging Studies at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.

“One of the things we are asking is can we prevent or slow down age related diseases,” said Dr. Arlan Richardson of the Barshop Institute.

He is looking into the benefits of the drug Rapemycin. When they gave Rapamycin to mice it gave them an equivalent of about 15 years of extra vigorous life.

“So they found that it extended lifespan, but the other thing that just blew the scientists minds was that this occurred when the mice were given the Rapamycin relatively late in life. It would have been like giving this drug to people who were 60 or 70 years of age,” said Richardson.

This is the first time that a drug has appeared to have extended the youth span of a mammal.

Rapamycin is already approved by the FDA as a cancer treatment drug and reduce organ transplant rejection. It appears to mimic the effects of calorie restriction.

Barshop is looking to see if Rapamycin will work on people. But, even if it doesn’t, it’s the first sign that youth extension is actually possible, and Rapamycin is a big clue on how to make that happen.


Breaking the Cycle of One of the World's Worst STDs

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September 2, 2010 - Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that affects more than 90 million people around the world.

Now, scientists at the University of Texas at San Antonio are one step closer to beating it by developing a live attenuated vaccine. Bernard Arulanandam is an associate dean of research for scientific innovation at the UTSA College of Sciences.

“The consequences of Chlamydia in women, apart from the STD, is that it may in some cases develop and cause pelvic inflammatory damage and infertility,” said Arulanandam.

The goal of their study is to find ways to counteract the side effects of the disease, in particular, damage to the reproductive system.

“We’ve been working in lock step with the University of Texas Health Science Center particularly with Dr. Guangming Zhong for the last 10 years or so in trying to identify targets vaccine candidates that look promising against an organism called Chlamydia trachomatis which essentially is the cause of bacterial sexually transmitted disease and is actually the leading cause of bacterial sexually transmitted disease world wide,” he said.

“Chlamydia is a difficult organism to work with. It’s an intercellular organism ? it lives inside of cells. And so we are breaking barriers in trying to come up with an effective vaccine against an organism that lives inside of cells,” said Arulanandam.“We’ve really have come quite aways along. We know what we are looking for, I think, in terms of what looks promising. We know the immune response that is required to generate an effect vaccine. So as we’ve progressed we’ve learned a lot of things that help us develop a rational vaccine."


When There's Smoke, There's Damage To Gene Function

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September 1, 2010 - We already knew that smoking tobacco is an unhealthy choice. The habit knocks years off your life by causing heart disease, damages the lungs, degrade the skin, and increases the risk of cancer.

But scientists at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research have discovered that smoking also has a significant influence on genes and how well they work.

“This study shows you ? you should avoid cigarette smoke ? there are some very important genes that are altered here.”

John Blangero is the principal investigator in the study and a scientist at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. What they found is the smoking gun ? connecting cigarettes to a wide range of health issues.

“It turns out that a lot of the genes that we see as being influenced by smoking revolve around an area that we know are very important for heart disease risk. Things like immunity where we know that genes are involved in the natural policing of cells, in terms of getting rid of garbage that accumulates, etc., are depressed by smoking. So they work less efficiently,” said Blangero.

This is that largest study of its kind. It’s part of their San Antonio Family Heart Study which is tracking the health of 40 families in the Mexican American Community.

So what happens when you kick the habit?

“When you stop smoking, you reverse this effect ? the output of the genes returns back to normal. Except there’s always a couple of genes that don’t seem to bounce back even after you stop smoking." Blangero said.


Finding the Key to Turn Off Pain

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August 31, 2010 - Bite into a habanero pepper, and you’ll feel the burn of capsaicin. Get your hand caught in a car door, and you’ll feel the pain of a similar substance ?- an endo-capsaicin produced by the body. Now San Antonio scientists have discovered how to block the endo-capsaicins.

This is new class of non-addictive painkillers. The senior investigator is Doctor Kenneth Hargreaves professor and chair of the Department of Endodontics at the Dental School at the UT Health Science Center.

“What we discovered is that, because we have learned the structure of these endogenous capsaicins and how our body makes them, we’ve discovered two classes of drugs that block them, blocking either the synthesis or blocking the actions of the OLAMS. And what we’ve tested so far has been very exciting because they have shown that these are profoundly analgesic drugs so it inhibits pain,” said Hargreaves.

Because the pain is being blocked directly at its source ?- the TRIP V-1 receptor -- there is no addiction such as with morphine.

“We would see that it could be given on the battlefield in a bandage or in a spray for wounded soldiers, Or for automobile victims, or for burn victims. Or it could be given intravenous or even as a pill.” said Hargreaves.

Nearly 50 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by disease or injury. Testing is now underway with animals. It will be years before it’s available on the marketplace. But Hargreaves promises they’re working as fast as they can.

The findings were published April 26 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


San Antonio Study Measures Benefits of Aspirin Use For the Elderly

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August 30, 2010 - Can an aspirin a day keep the doctor away ? even in the golden years?

For years doctors have told their healthy middle-aged patients to get into the habit of popping a low dose aspirin to help ward off heart disease or even a stroke. And there’s growing evidence that a daily aspirin could help delay other effects of aging.

But what about patients who are 70 years and older?

Doctor Sara Espinozas is a geriatrician and professor at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.

“As people get older their risk of heart attack and stroke go up and that’s the main cause of disability for older adults, what we are trying to prevent. But also the risk of adverse events from taking aspirin, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke, also go up. So in this particular age group we don’t know if the benefit of taking aspirin outweighs the risks.” Said Expinozas.

There’s a study underway in San Antonio looking for healthy seniors to solve that riddle.

The ASPREE study, or "Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly" needs about a thousand elderly San Antonians to participate in the five year federally-funded study.

“San Antonio was added as one of the sites in the U.S., primarily to increase enrolment of Hispanic subjects. However, I do want to say that we are not limiting enrolment to only Hispanics,” she said.

To participate you have to be 70 years or older and in good health. In exchange participates receive routine check-ups and an H-E-B gift card for each visit.



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