Biosingularity

Archive for February 2006

In a giant step towards understanding prostate disease, a study published in the March edition of Nature Methods describes how human embryonic stem cells were developed into human prostate tissue equivalent to that found in a young man, in just 12 weeks.
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Discoveries made during the first large-scale analysis of interactions between proteins in our cells hold promise for identifying new genes involved in genetic diseases, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Institute of Bioinformatics (IOB) in Bangalore.

The findings, reported in the March issue of Nature Genetics, were made using a database of more than 25,000 protein-protein interactions compiled by the Hopkins-IOB team. The result is believed to be the most detailed human “interactome” yet describing the interplay of proteins that occur in cells during health and disease.
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A team of investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital has developed a nanoparticle that signals when cells are undergoing apoptosis, the kind of cell death triggered by cancer therapies. The new nanoparticles could finally provide oncologists with a rapid assay that could tell them that a given therapy is working. This groundbreaking work was published in the journal Nano Letters.
Nanoparticles.jpg

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For the first time, researchers have linked mutations in a gene that regulates how potassium enters cells to a neurodegenerative disease and to another disorder that causes mental retardation and coordination problems. The findings may lead to new ways of treating a broad range of disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

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A recent study shows that hundreds of genes contribute to cell growth and cell division. For the first time these genes, many of which are potential contributors to cancer, have been mapped in a single systematic study.
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In a significant advance for regenerative medicine, researchers at Rice University have discovered a new way to culture adult stem cells from bone marrow such that the cells themselves produce a growth matrix that is rich in important biochemical growth factors.

The research, which appears online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is notable because of the science – researchers found they could coax bone cells into produce up to 75 times more calcium.
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Of all of the materials that make up our bodies, nothing is more ubiquitous than collagen. It is the most important structural protein in the body, reinforcing connective tissue, bones and teeth, and forming long, fibrous cables to strengthen tendons. Collagen forms sheets of tissue that support the skin and every internal organ. There is nothing in the body, in fact, that does not depend in some way on collagen.

In medicine, collagen from animals, principally cows, is used to rebuild tissue destroyed by burns and wounds. Commonly, it is employed in plastic surgery to augment the lips and cheeks of starlets and others seeking perpetual youth. Catgut, the biodegradable sutures made from cow or horse intestines and used in surgery to minimize scarring, is also a form of collagen.
But for such a commonplace and useful protein, collagen has defied the efforts of biomedical researchers who have tried mightily to synthesize it for use in applications ranging from new wound-healing technologies to alleviating arthritis. The reason: Scientists were unable to synthesize the human protein because they had no way to link the easily made short snippets of collagen into the long, fibrous molecules necessary to mimic the real thing.

But now a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writing this week (Feb. 13, 2006) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), reports the discovery of a method for making human collagen in the lab.
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Over a decade ago, a team led by Professor Axel Ullrich at Max Planck insitute discovered that by interrupting the oxygen and nutrient supply to tumour cells, it is possible to inhibit cancer development. The Max Planck scientists showed that tumour tissue just a few cubic millimetres in size can create vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which triggers blood vessel development. This fundamental principle led to the development of SUTENT®, whose active ingredient is Sunitinib.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved SUTENT to treat two advanced cancers, if standard therapies fail. The cancers are renal cell carcinoma (RCC; kidney cancer) and gastro-intestinal stromal tumours (GIST, a rare form of gastro-intestinal cancer). This is the first time FDA has approved a medication for two kinds of advanced cancers. Read the rest of this entry »

Biologists at Purdue University have taken a “snapshot” of a Velcro-like protein on a cell’s surface just after it attached to the dengue virus, a linkup thought to initiate the early stages of infection.

The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, infects more than 50 million people annually, killing about 24,000 each year, primarily in tropical regions.

dengue.jpg

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An innovative method of categorizing myosin—one of three molecular “motors” that produce movement within the cells of the body—has dramatically increased the amount of information available about these essential proteins. The studies lay the groundwork for development of treatments for conditions ranging from certain kinds of blindness and kidney disease to neurodegenerative disorders and parasitic diseases such as malaria.
myosin2.jpg
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In research that could significantly advance the pace of drug discovery in the fight against breast cancer, Harvard Medical School investigators announce in today’s online Journal of Proteome Research that they have created the first publicly available library of reliably expressible proteins of a human disease, in this case for breast cancer.

Perhaps more significantly, these researchers expressed a subset of the 1,300 protein-expressing complementary DNAs in the library into a model system mimicking cells of a human breast, allowing them to study on a broad scale how these proteins might contribute to the development of breast cancer. Through this comprehensive approach, they identified potentially novel functional activities for both well known and lesser-known breast cancer-associated proteins.
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Researchers have identified a key component of the mechanism spermatozoa use to abruptly convert their tail motion from a steady swimming undulation to the whip-cracking snap that thrusts them into an egg.

The finding opens a new research pathway that the researchers said could help scientists both recognize new forms of male infertility and design new contraceptives to thwart sperm entry into the egg.

sperm.jpg
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Scientists have determined the detailed structure of an essential piece of the telomerase enzyme, an important contributor to the vast majority of human cancers. Understanding the physical shape of the protein has led to a better understanding of how it acts to immortalize cells – and should help scientists design broadly effective cancer drugs.

3-dimensional structure of an essential domain of TERT (the telomerase catalytic protein subunit). Green highlights the groove that “anchors” the DNA near the end of the chromosome:

telemorase.jpg

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fightaging.jpg
Fight Aging! blog is a great site to get information on latest news and efforts to stop the ultimate scourage that face us, the aging itself. There are many excellent articles that provide ideas to stimulate future research in understanding and slowing aging process. This blog also does a good job in creating awareness for the fund raising efforts for aging research.

From Fight Aging! web site: “We are on the verge of a revolution in medicine: understanding, treating, and ultimately preventing the causes of degenerative aging. But medical revolutions only happen if we all stand up in support of funding and research. We did it for cancer. We’re doing it for Alzheimer’s. We can do it for aging – and create an era of longer, healthier lives!”
I fully support this motto!

Scientists have evolved a complex trait in the laboratory — using the pressure of selection to induce tobacco hornworms to evolve the dual trait of turning black or green depending on the temperature during their development. The biologists have also demonstrated the basic hormonal mechanism underlying the evolution of such dual traits.

Their experiments, they said, offer important insight into how complex traits involving many genes can abruptly “blossom” in an organism’s evolution.

Worms.jpg
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Brown University biologists have uncovered intriguing evidence to support the theory that old cells help make old bodies. In a study of baboons, scientists showed that as these animals age, the number of aging cells in their skin significantly increases.

Over time, cells lose their ability to divide, a state known as replicative senescence. The new research, published in an advanced online edition of Science, is the first to quantify the presence of replicatively senescent cells in any species.
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Researchers have found that a single brief memory is actually processed differently in separate areas of the brain – an idea that until now scientists have only suspected to be true. The finding will influence how researchers examine the brain and could have implications for the treatment of memory disorders caused by disease or injury.
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