Biosingularity

Archive for September 2006

The results of the world’s first multicenter clinical trial of islet transplantation have confirmed the technique’s potential benefits in patients with difficult-to-control type 1 (or “juvenile”) diabetes. Published in the September 28, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the international team of investigators report that the Edmonton Protocol for islet transplantation can safely and successfully promote long-term stabilization of blood sugar levels in “brittle” diabetes patients and in some cases, relieve them of the need for insulin injections altogether for at least two years.
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An analysis of mice infected with the reconstructed 1918 influenza virus has revealed that although the infection triggered a very strong immune system response, the response failed to protect the animals from severe lung disease and death.
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A jumping gene first identified in a cabbage-eating moth may one day provide a safer, target-specific alternative to viruses for gene therapy, researchers say.

They compared the ability of the four best-characterized jumping genes, or transposons, to insert themselves into a cell’s DNA and produce a desired change, such as making the cell resistant to damage from radiation therapy.

They found the piggyBac transposon was five to 10 times better than the other circular pieces of DNA at making a home and a difference in several mammalian cell lines, including three human ones.
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-A Yale School of Medicine study shows for the first time that a high level of testosterone, such as that caused by the use of steroids to increase muscle mass or for replacement therapy, can lead to a catastrophic loss of brain cells.

Taking large doses of androgens, or steroids, is known to cause hyperexcitability, a highly aggressive nature, and suicidal tendencies. These behavioral changes could be evidence of alterations in neuronal function caused by the steroids, said the senior author, Barbara Ehrlich, professor of pharmacology and physiology.
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Boosting levels of a protein in the heart might help protect against the development of heart failure, particularly in those who have had heart attacks.

Cardiology researchers at the Center for Translational Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that increasing levels of the protein S100A1 above normal helped protect animal hearts from further damage after simulated heart attacks. In some cases, the animals’ heart function hardly changed at all. At the same time, other animals with heart cells lacking the gene for the protein couldn’t handle the stress of a heart blockage; they went on to develop heart failure.
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A two-step process appears to regulate cell fate decisions for many types of developing cells, according to researchers from the University of Chicago.

This finding sheds light on a puzzling behavior. For some differentiating stem cells, the first step leads not to a final decision but to a new choice. In response to the initial chemical signal, these cells take on the genetic signatures of two different cell types. It often requires a second signal for them to commit to a single cellular identity.
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A team of researchers has genetically engineered normal immune cells to become specialized tumor fighters, demonstrating for the first time that these engineered cells can persist in the body and shrink large tumors in humans.
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An article published in the August, 2006 issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes reported the findings of Xianwen Yi and Nobuyo Maeda of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that giving alpha-lipoic acid to mice in whom diabetes was induced prevented the increase in cholesterol, atherosclerotic lesions and health deterioration that the disease would otherwise cause. Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant nutrient that has been used to treat diabetic neuropathy, however, its effects in diabetic cardiovascular disease have not been completely evaluated.

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Three separate studies confirm a gene that suppresses tumor cell growth also plays a key role in aging. The researchers found increasing concentration, or expression, of the gene p16INK4a in older cells; these aging cells worked poorly compared to young cells and remembered their “age” even when transferred from old mice to young mice. The cells of mice bred without the gene showed less sluggishness as the animals aged and continued to function in a manner more similar to cells from younger mice.

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Scientists have completed the first draft of the genetic code for breast and colon cancers. Their report, published online in the September 7 issue of Science Express, identifies close to 200 mutated genes, now linked to these cancers, most of which were not previously recognized as associated with tumor initiation, growth, spread or control.

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For the first time, scientists have engineered yeast cells capable of producing a broad repertoire of recombinant therapeutic proteins with fully human sugar structures (glycosylation). These sugar structures ensure a glycoprotein’s biological activity and half-life and to date, have necessitated the expression of therapeutic glycoproteins in mammalian hosts. The accomplishment reported today has the potential to eliminate the need for mammalian cell culture, while improving control over glycosylation, and improving performance characteristics of many therapeutic proteins. Read the rest of this entry »

A new study directed by Mount Sinai School of Medicine extends and strengthens the research that experimental dietary regimens might halt or even reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).

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Taking vitamin D cut the risk of pancreatic cancer nearly in half, according to a new study that is being called the first to show such a benefit.

Vitamin D protects against colorectal and breast cancer, earlier studies have found. And lab and animal studies show it stifles abnormal cell growth and curbs formation of blood vessels that feed tumors.

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If you think that your daily cups of coffee only provide you with alertness after you wake up or during the day, think again. Long-term intake of caffeine, the major constituent in coffee and tea, has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s in mice that develop the disease.

In a study just published on-line in the Journal Neuroscience, researchers at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Tampa, Florida, are reporting that caffeine intake equivalent to five cups of coffee a day in humans, protects Alzheimer’s mice against otherwise certain memory impairment and reduces Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains.

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A protein once thought to play a role only in the immune system could hold a clue to one of the great puzzles of neuroscience: how do the highly malleable and plastic brains of youth settle down into a relatively stable adult set of neuronal connections?

Harvard Medical School researchers report in the August 17 Science Express that adult mice lacking the immune system protein paired-immunoglobulin like receptor-B (PirB) had brains that retained the plasticity of much younger brains, suggesting that PirB inhibits such plasticity.
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An Australian research team has identified a gene that could be used to stop tumours growing by blocking their blood supply.

A study led by Professor Peter Koopman, from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland, showed that tumours in mice with a mutant form of the gene SOX18 actually stopped growing and became benign, unlike the lethal tumours that grew in normal mice.
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For those who think that apple juice is a kid’s drink, think again. Apples and apple juice may be among the best foods that baby boomers and senior citizens could add to their diet, according to new research that demonstrates how apple products can help boost brain function similar to medication.
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I will start posting articles tomorrow after another long hiatus. I have been swamped moving my lab to New York for the last month. I hope to post regularly again, lots of cool stories accumulated!


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