Biosingularity

Archive for July 2007

A study reported in the August 1, 2007 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that men who consume more cruciferous vegetables, particularly broccoli and cauliflower, have a lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer. The cruciferous family of vegetables, which also includes cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts, has been associated in previous research with protection from colon, breast, prostate, thyroid, cervical, and other cancers, as well as with slower disease progression.

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In the rancorous public debate over federal research funding, stem cells are generally assigned to one of two categories: embryonic or adult. But that’s a false dichotomy and an oversimplification. A new University of Michigan study adds to mounting evidence that stem cells in the developing fetus are distinct from both embryonic and adult stem cells.

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A condition that has to be met for the body to be able to keep warm, move and even survive is that the mitochondria – the cells’ power stations – release the right amounts of energy. Scientists at Karolinska Institutet have now identified the first known factor that acts as a brake on cellular energy production.

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found a way to overcome a major stumbling block to developing successful insulin-cell transplants for people with type I diabetes.

Traditional transplant of the cells, accompanied by necessary immune-suppressing drugs, has had highly variable results, from well- to poorly tolerated. Part of the problem, the Hopkins researchers say, is an inability to track the cells—so-called pancreatic beta cells—once they’re inside the body.

Now a new technique encapsulates the insulin-producing cells in magnetic capsules, using an FDA-approved iron compound with an off-label use, which can be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The product, tested in swine and diabetic mice, also simultaneously avoids rejection by the immune system, likely a major reason for transplant failure. The work will be published online next week in Nature Medicine.

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A large-scale genomic study has uncovered new genetic variations associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), findings that suggest a possible link between MS and other autoimmune diseases. The study, led by an international consortium of clinical scientists and genomics experts, is the first comprehensive study investigating the genetic basis of MS. Findings appear in the July 29 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Regular exercise and little or no caffeine has become a popular lifestyle choice for many Americans. But a new Rutgers study has found that it may not be the best formula for preventing sun-induced skin damage that could lead to cancer. Low to moderate amounts of caffeine, in fact, along with exercise can be good for your health.

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Taking a break in the middle of your workout may metabolize more fat than exercising without stopping, according to a recent study in Japan. Researchers conducted the first known study to compare these two exercise methods—exercising continually in one long bout versus breaking up the same workout with a rest period. The findings could change the way we approach exercise. Who wouldn’t want to take a breather for that”

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University of Delaware scientists have invented a novel biomaterial with surprising antibacterial properties that can be injected as a low-viscosity gel into a wound where it rigidifies nearly on contact–opening the door to the possibility of delivering a targeted payload of cells and antibiotics to repair the damaged tissue.

Regenerating healthy tissue in a cancer-ridden liver, healing a biopsy site and providing wounded soldiers in battle with pain-killing, infection-fighting medical treatment are among the myriad uses the scientists foresee for the new technology.

 

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One route to a long and healthy life may be establishing the right balance in insulin signaling between the brain and the rest of the body, according to new research from Children’s Hospital Boston. The study, published in the July 20 issue of Science, not only reinforces the value of exercising and eating in moderation, but also helps explain a paradox in longevity research.

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Researchers from MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have uncovered a molecular mechanism that governs the formation of fears stemming from traumatic events. The work could lead to the first drug to treat the millions of adults who suffer each year from persistent, debilitating fears – including hundreds of soldiers returning from conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Abdominal fat, the spare tire that many of us carry, has long been implicated as a primary suspect in causing the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes the most dangerous heart attack risk factors: prediabetes, diabetes, high blood pressure, and changes in cholesterol.

But with the help of powerful new imaging technologies, a team of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers at Yale University School of Medicine has found that insulin resistance in skeletal muscle leads to alterations in energy storage that set the stage for the metabolic syndrome.

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n article published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides strong evidence for a novel type of communication between nerve cells in the brain. The findings may have relevance for the prevention and treatment of epilepsy, and possibly in the exploration of other aspects of brain functions, from creative thought processes to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

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Selenium, an antioxidant included in multivitamin tablets thought to have a possible protective effect against the development of type 2 diabetes, may actually increase the risk of developing the disease, an analysis by researchers at the University at Buffalo has shown.

Results of a randomized clinical trial using 200 micrograms of selenium alone showed that 55 percent more cases of type 2 diabetes developed among participants randomized to receive selenium than in those who received a placebo pill.

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A multi-institutional consortium including Duke University has created startlingly crisp 3-D microscopic views of tiny mouse brains — unveiled layer by layer — by extending the capabilities of conventional magnetic resonance imaging.

“These images can be more than 100,000 times higher resolution than a clinical MRI scan,” said G. Allan Johnson, Duke’s Charles E. Putman Distinguished Professor of radiology and professor of biomedical engineering and physics. He is first author of a report describing the innovations set for publication in the research journal NeuroImage. View it online 

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Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified a long-sought “master switch” in mice for the production of brown fat, a type of adipose tissue that generates heat and counters obesity caused by overeating.

A team headed by Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, suggests in the July issue of Cell Metabolism that turning up the equivalent switch in people might be a new strategy for treating overweight and obesity. The investigators said their next step is to rev up the control in mice and overfeed them to see if they are resistant to becoming obese.

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Scientists studying one of nature’s simplest organisms have helped to unravel the structure of a key molecule that controls pain in humans. The findings – published in the top scientific journal Nature – could rapidly advance research into the next generation of painkillers for relief of chronic conditions such as migraine and backache.

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A startling discovery on the development of human embryonic stem cells by scientists at McMaster University will change how future research in the area is done.

An article published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature this week reports on a new understanding of the growth of human stem cells. It had been thought previously that stem cells are directly influenced by cells in the local environment or ‘niche’, but the situation may be more complex. Human embryonic stem cells are perpetual machines that generate fuel for life.

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In a paper published online this month in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, researchers report that they have developed a way to determine the function of some of the hundreds of thousands of proteins for which amino acid sequence data are available, but whose structure and function remain unknown.

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Biology textbooks are blunt—neutrophils are mindless killers. These white blood cells patrol the body and guard against infection by bacteria and fungi, identifying and destroying any invaders that cross their path. But new evidence, which may lead to better drugs to fight deadly pathogens, indicates that neutrophils might actually distinguish among their targets.

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Genes account for only 2.5 percent of DNA in the human genetic blueprint, yet diseases can result not only from mutant genes, but from mutations of other DNA that controls genes. University of Utah researchers report in the journal Nature Genetics that they have developed a faster, less expensive technique for mutating those large, non-gene stretches of DNA.

 

 

 

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A probe of the upper echelons of the human brain’s chain-of-command has found strong evidence that there are not one but two complementary commanders in charge of the brain, according to neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

It’s as if Captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard were both on the bridge and in command of the same starship Enterprise.

In reality, these two captains are networks of brain regions that do not consult each other but still work toward a common purpose — control of voluntary, goal-oriented behavior. This includes a vast range of activities from reading a word to searching for a star to singing a song, but likely does not include involuntary behaviors such as control of the pulse rate or digestion. 

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Patients with type 2 diabetes may soon be able to control their glucose and their cholesterol levels with a single drug, according to a study led by Vivian A. Fonseca, professor of medicine and pharmacology at Tulane University School of Medicine and chief of the Tulane University Health Sciences Center Diabetes Program.

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Although a number of studies have suggested that regular exercise reduces inflammation – a condition that is predictive of cardiovascular and other diseases, such as diabetes – it is still not clear whether there is a definitive link. And if such a link exists, the nature of the relationship is by no means fully understood.

A recent study by kinesiology and community health researchers at the University of Illinois provides new evidence that may help explain some of the underlying biological mechanisms that take place as the result of regular exercise.

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This is an excellent video by Alan Russell, who studies regenerative medicine.

Regenerative medicine is a breakthrough way of thinking about disease and injury by helping the body to rebuild itself. He shows how engineered tissue that “speaks the body’s language” has helped a man regrow his lost fingertip, how stem cells can rebuild damaged heart muscle, and how cell therapy can regenerate the skin of burned soldiers.

This presentation is hosted at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design). It is a very nice site that hosts talks by world’s greatest thinkers and doers.

In this cool animation the mode of action of a novel HIV drug, a protease inhibitor, is explained. Protease inhibitors revolutionized treatment of HIV infection by enabling drug combinations with inhibitors of another HIV enzyme the reverse transcription. Thus, this made it more difficult for virus to develop multiple mutations simultaneously to escape the effects of a single drug.

Amazing chemistry and rational drug design is involved in creating these new drugs.

Prof. Mordechai “Moti” Liscovitch and graduate student Oran Erster of the Weizmann Institute’s Biological Regulation Department, have recently developed a unique “switch” that can control the activity of any protein, raising it several-fold or stopping it almost completely. The method provides researchers with a simple and effective tool for exploring the function of unknown proteins, and in the future the new technique may find many additional uses.

The switch has a genetic component and a chemical component: Using genetic engineering, the scientists insert a short segment of amino acids into the amino acid sequence making up the protein. This segment is capable of binding strongly and selectively to a particular chemical drug, which affects the activity level of the engineered protein by increasing or reducing it. When the drug is no longer applied, or when it is removed from the system, the protein returns to its natural activity level.

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Human resistance to a retrovirus that infected chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates 4 million years ago ironically may be at least partially responsible for the susceptibility of humans to HIV infection today.

“This ancient virus is a battle that humans have already won. Humans are not susceptible to it and have probably been resistant throughout millennia,” said senior author Michael Emerman, Ph.D., a member of the Human Biology and Basic Sciences divisions at the Hutchinson Center. “However, we found that during primate evolution, this innate immunity to one virus may have made us more vulnerable to HIV.”

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Increasing intake of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, found in popular fish-oil supplements, may protect against blindness resulting from abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye, according to a study published online by the journal Nature Medicine on June 24. The study was done in mice, but a clinical trial at Children’s Hospital Boston will soon begin testing the effects of omega-3 supplementation in premature babies, who are at risk for vision loss.

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Researchers have shown that bone marrow stem cells injected into a damaged inner ear can speed hearing recovery after partial hearing loss. The related report by Kamiya et al, “Mesenchymal stem cell transplantation accelerates hearing recovery through the repair of injured cochlear fibrocytes,” appears in the July issue of The American Journal of Pathology.

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Researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT have, for the first time, reversed symptoms of mental retardation and autism in mice.

The mice were genetically manipulated to model Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), the leading inherited cause of mental retardation and the most common genetic cause of autism. The condition, tied to a mutated X chromosome gene called fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene, causes mild learning disabilities to severe autism.

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A gene that is strongly associated with a risk of developing childhood onset asthma was identified by an international team of scientists, whose findings are published today in the journal Nature.

In a genetic study of more than 2,000 children, scientists from the University of Michigan and colleagues from London, France and Germany found genetic markers that dramatically increase a child’s risk for asthma. These markers are located on chromosome 17, and children with this marker had higher levels of a new gene called ORMDL3 in their blood, which occurs in higher amounts in children with asthma. The presence of the disease-associated version of ORMDL3 increases the risk of asthma by 60-70 percent, the study suggests.

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A search for the molecular clues of longevity has taken Mayo Clinic researchers down another path that could explain why some people who consume excessive calories don’t gain weight. The study, which was done in laboratory mouse models, points to the absence of a gene called CD38. When absent, the gene prevented mice on high-fat diets from gaining weight, but when present, the mice became obese.

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Can adopting a healthier lifestyle later in life help — or is it too late? In a study published in the July 2007 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston found that people 45 to 64 years of age who added healthy lifestyle behaviors could substantially reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and reduce their death rate. Once these people achieved 4 healthy behaviors, eating at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily, exercising at least 2.5 hours per week, maintaining their Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 30 kg/m, and not smoking, investigators saw a 35% reduction in CVD incidence and a 40% reduction in mortality compared to people with less healthy lifestyles.

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Facing a July 1 deadline, most restaurants have already eliminated artificial trans fat in oils used for frying, a new Health Department survey shows. The agency reported today that 83% of restaurants were not using artificial trans fat for frying as of June 1 – a full month before the new regulation will take effect

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In what they call a “stunning research advance,” investigators at Georgetown University Medical Center have been able to use simple, non-toxic chemical injections to add and remove fat in targeted areas on the bodies of laboratory animals. They say the discovery, published online in Nature Medicine on July 1, could revolutionize human cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery and treatment of diseases associated with human obesity.

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Psychologists from the University of Exeter have identified an ‘early warning signal’ in the brain that helps us avoid repeating previous mistakes. Published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, their research identifies, for the first time, a mechanism in the brain that reacts in just 0.1 seconds to things that have resulted in us making errors in the past.

Previous research has shown that we learn more about things for which we initially make incorrect predictions than for things for which our initial predictions are correct. The element of surprise in discovering we are wrong is conducive to learning, but this research is the first to show how amazingly rapid our brain’s response can be. This discovery was made possible through the use of electrophysiological recordings, which allow researchers to detect processes in the brain at the instant they occur.

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According to a pilot study released in the International Journal of Impotence Research (http://www.nature.com/ijir), POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice was found to have beneficial effects on erectile dysfunction (ED), a disorder that affects 1 in 10 men worldwide and 10 to 30 million men in the United States alone.1, 2 ED can be caused by several factors, including arterial plaque, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, nerve damage, endocrine imbalance or depression. Ultimately, ED is a condition that affects the blood flow to the penis during sexual stimulation.

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Fibrinogen, a blood-clotting protein found in circulating blood, has been found to inhibit the growth of central nervous system neuronal cells, a process that is necessary for the regeneration of the spinal cord after traumatic injury. The findings by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, may explain why the human body is unable to repair itself after most spinal cord injuries.

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During vigorous exercise, heart muscle cells take a beating. In fact, some of those cells rupture, and if not for a repair process capable of resealing cell membranes, those cells would die and cause heart damage (cardiomyopathy)

Researchers at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine have discovered a specific repair mechanism in heart muscle and identified a protein called dysferlin that is critical for resealing heart muscle cell membranes.

The study, led by UI researcher and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., also shows that loss of dysferlin causes cardiomyopathy in mice. Furthermore, heart damage in these mice is exaggerated by vigorous exercise or by inherent muscle weakness caused by a muscular dystrophy defect.

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