Biosingularity

Archive for June 2006

Carnegie Mellon University researchers Kris Noel Dahl and Mohammad F. Islam have made a new breakthrough for children suffering from an extremely rare disease that accelerates the aging process by about seven times the normal rate. Researchers found that children suffering from Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS) have an excessively stiff shell of proteins.

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Scientists are making headway in exploring the potential future use of stem cells to treat heart disease, according to a review article in the current issue of Nature (June 29, 2006).

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Two gene discoveries announced in separate reports in the June 30, 2006 issue of Cell highlight one way to speed through the human genome in search of those genes most important for spawning cancer. Both groups say that a critical element in the enterprise to efficiently characterize the “human cancer genome” –a comprehensive collection of the genetic alterations responsible for major cancers–is the strategic comparison of human tumors with those of mice.

As a demonstration of the value of such strategic comparisons between species, the researchers report promising finds: one of the research teams identified two genes that can–in some circumstances–conspire to produce liver cancer, while the second uncovered a gene important to the spread of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Such functionally important genes, and the larger genetic pathways of which they are a part, are also those with the most promise as potential targets for cancer drugs, according to the researchers.
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Osteoporosis, a disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass and density and which makes people more susceptible to bone fractures and deformities, afflicts some 10 million Americans over the age of 50. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have discovered that eliminating a protein, Schnurri-3 (Shn3), in mice led to profound increases in bone mass throughout their skeletal system. The results may have implications for the treatment of osteoporosis. The study was published in the May 26 edition of Science.

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Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a novel pathway that regulates the body's ability to store or burn fat, a discovery that suggests new ways to reduce obesity, diabetes and other fat-related human diseases.

Genetically engineered mice, in which the pathway was constantly revved up, were protected from the ravages of a high-fat diet, the Salk team led by Marc Montminy, Ph.D., a professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology reports in this week's issue of Science.
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The brain filters what we hear. It can do this in part because particular groups of neurons react to specific frequencies of sound. Neurobiologists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen have now created a "frequency map" for numerous areas of the brain. They used magnetic resonance imaging to identify which neuronal fields are activated by single frequencies and by mixtures of frequencies (PLoS Biology, June 20, 2006).
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For many years, researchers believed that stem cells in the bone marrow spent most of their existence in a slumber-like state, unaware of — and unaffected by — the daily battles fought by the body's immune system.
Not so.

Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have discovered that marrow stem cells — undifferentiated cells that eventually give rise to the blood cells that fight infection — possess receptors that recognize bacteria and viruses. When activated, these receptors kick the stem cells and immature blood cells into action, enlisting them to help fight whatever pathogen is attacking the body.

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