Biosingularity

Archive for August 2007

A new red fluorescent protein—derived from a brilliant red sea anemone purchased in a Moscow pet shop—can reveal body tissues more vividly than other fluorescent proteins in use today. The Russian researchers who developed the new protein said it can render cancers and other target tissues easily visible in living animals, making them glow like Christmas bulbs.

redprotein20070826_287.jpg
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An extensive swedish study from the Sahlgrenska Academy has established that surgery reduces premature death in patients with severe obesity. A long-term follow up has shown that mortality is significantly lower among patients who undergo surgery than among those who do not.

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A new study by NYU Medical Center researchers shows for the first time that the immune system can combat the pathological form of tau protein, a key protein implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers, led by Einar Sigurdsson Ph.D. at New York University School of Medicine, created a vaccine in mice that suppresses aggregates of tau. The protein accumulates into harmful tangles in the memory center of the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The vaccine successfully slowed the deterioration of motor abilities produced by excessive amounts of tau in the central nervous system of mice, according to the study published in the August 22, 2007 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Dr. Sigurdsson plans to conduct follow-up studies using mice that slowly develop tangles and cognitive impairments without movement problems.

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In the timeless quest for healthier, younger looking skin, scientists from the University of Cincinnati and Tokyo Medical University have made an important discovery toward manipulating skin tone and color. The implications of this research range from helping doctors develop more natural looking bioengineered skin grafts to helping cosmetics companies develop new products for achieving the “perfect” sunless tan.

 The research study, published in the September print issue of The FASEB Journal, shows for the first time how to manipulate skin color and tone using cells previously thought to play no significant role in this function.

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Reduce, recycle and rebuild is as important to the most basic component of the human body, the cell, as it is to the environment. And a University of Florida study shows just how much the body benefits when it “goes green,” at least if you’re a rat: Cutting calories helps rodents live longer by boosting cells’ ability to recycle damaged parts so they can maintain efficient energy production.

“Caloric restriction is a way to extend life in animals. If you give them less food, the stress of this healthy habit actually makes them live longer,” said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, chief of the division of biology of aging in UF’s Institute on Aging. Understanding how the process works at the cellular level in rodents could help scientists develop drugs that mimic the process in humans, Leeuwenburgh added.
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Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers. The experiments, described in the Science journal, offer a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people.

Two teams used virtual reality goggles to con the brain into thinking the body was located elsewhere.The visual illusion plus the feel of their real bodies being touched made volunteers sense that they had moved outside of their physical bodies. 

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In some ways, certain tumors resemble bee colonies, says pathologist Tan Ince. Each cancer cell in the tumor plays a specific role, and just a fraction of the cells serve as “queens,” possessing the unique ability to maintain themselves in an unspecialized state and seed new tumors. These cells can also divide and produce the “worker” cells that form the bulk of the tumor.

These “queens” are cancer stem cells. Now the lab of Whitehead Member Robert Weinberg has created such cells in a Petri dish by isolating and transforming a particular population of cells from human breast tissue. After being injected with just 100 of these transformed cells, mice developed tumors that metastasized (spread to distant tissues).

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Computer simulations and visualizations are performing the thought experiments of the 21st century and pushing the limits of human vision and imagination. In silico simulations are probably future of many complex biological experiments.

Hat tip to  reasonable deviations blog.

Colon cancer patients who eat a diet high in red meat, fatty products, refined grains, and desserts — a so-called “Western diet” — may be increasing their chance of disease relapse and early death, report researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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A new Joslin Diabetes Center-led study has identified a protein found in fat cells that may play a major role in how fat is produced and stored, offering a new target for treatments to prevent obesity and reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. This latest research appears in the August 2007 issue of Cell Metabolism.

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Obesity and aversion to exercise have become hallmarks of modern society – and a new study suggests that a blood protein linked to these lifestyle factors may be an indicator for an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Researchers from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute report their findings in the August 15 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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 Brain imaging has revealed a breakdown in normal patterns of emotional processing that impairs the ability of people with clinical depression to suppress negative emotional states. Efforts by depressed patients to suppress their feelings when viewing emotionally negative images enhanced activity in several brain areas, including the amygdala, known to play a role in generating emotion, according to a report in the August 15 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

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What happens in our brains when we learn and remember” Are memories recorded in a stable physical change, like writing an inscription permanently on a clay tablet” Prof. Yadin Dudai, Head of the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department, and his colleagues are challenging that view. They recently discovered that the process of storing long-term memories is much more dynamic, involving a miniature molecular machine that must run constantly to keep memories going. They also found that jamming the machine briefly can erase long-term memories. Their findings, which appeared today in the journal Science, may pave the way to future treatments for memory problems.

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Two University of Chicago psychologists, Louise Hawkley and John Cacioppo, have been trying to disentangle social isolation, loneliness, and the physical deterioration and diseases of aging, right down to the cellular level.

The researchers suspected that while the toll of loneliness may be mild and unremarkable in early life, it accumulates with time. To test this idea, the scientists studied a group of college-age individuals and continued an annual study of a group of people who joined when they were between 50 and 68 years old.

Their findings, reported in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, are revealing. Consider stress, for example. The more years you live, the more stressful experiences you are going to have: new jobs, marriage and divorce, parenting, financial worries, illness. It’s inevitable.

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A new imaging technique developed at MIT has allowed scientists to create the first 3D images of a living cell, using a method similar to the X-ray CT scans doctors use to see inside the body.

The technique, described in a paper published in the Aug. 12 online edition of Nature Methods, could be used to produce the most detailed images yet of what goes on inside a living cell without the help of fluorescent markers or other externally added contrast agents, said Michael Feld, director of MIT’s George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory and a professor of physics.

 Images of a cervical cancer cell Read the rest of this entry »

Oregon Health & Science University researchers have figured out how to turn a mouse into a factory for human liver cells that can be used to test how pharmaceuticals are metabolized.

The technique, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, could soon become the gold standard not only for examining drug metabolism in the liver, which helps scientists determine a drug’s toxicity. But it also can be used as a platform for testing new therapies against infectious diseases that attack the liver, such as hepatitis C and malaria.

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The striking differences between humans and chimps aren’t so much in the genes we have, which are 99 percent the same, but in the way those genes are used, according to new research from a Duke University team.

It’s rather like the same set of notes being played in very different ways.

In two major traits that set humans apart from chimps and other primates – those involving brains and diet – gene regulation, the complex cross-talk that governs when genes are turned on and off, appears to be significantly different.

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Concentrated chemicals derived from green tea dramatically boosted production of a group of key detoxification enzymes in people with low levels of these beneficial proteins, according to researchers at Arizona Cancer Center.

These findings, published in the August issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggest that a green tea concentrate might help some people strengthen their metabolic defense against toxins capable of causing cancer.

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Trilogy Stereotactic Radiation Therapy to treat brain tumors. Trilogy precisely pinpoints the exact location of the cancer and treats it with a highly accurate beam of radiation.

In a study published in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience, researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland found that there are separate adaptable networks controlling each leg and there are also separate networks controlling leg movements, e.g., forward or backward walking.

These findings are contrary to the currently accepted theory that leg movements and adaptations are directed by a single control circuit in the brain. The ability to train the right and left legs independently opens the door to new therapeutic approaches for correcting walking abilities in patients with brain injury (e.g., stroke) and neurological disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis).

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Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered that a group of liver enzymes called proprotein convertases (PCs) may be the key to raising levels of good cholesterol (HDL-C). The pathway by which these proteins are able to achieve an increase in HDL cholesterol involves another enzyme that normally degrades HDL-C, and was also discovered at Penn. The newly recognized relationship between these enzymes and cholesterol represents another target for ultimately controlling good cholesterol.

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Part of an ongoing study into the impact of drinking milk after heavy weightlifting has found that milk helps exercisers burn more fat.

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Metastasis – when cancer cells dissociate from the original tumor and migrate via the blood stream to colonize distant organs – is the main cause of cancer death. A team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science has now revealed new details about the mechanisms controlling metastasis of breast cancer cells. Their findings, published recently online in Nature Cell Biology, add significantly to the understanding of metastasis and may aid, in the future, in the development of anti-cancer drugs.

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This 3D animation shows various surgical (mostly orthopedic) medical procedures performed to fix the problems in our bodies. Very nice done. 

I started the third in series of singularity blogs, Robosingularity. The focus, as you may guess, is advances in robotics.In similar vein to to this blog and nanosingularity I will be posting articles on recent advances related to robotics and artificial intelligence. The site will also feature many cool videos that showcase the amazing abilities of ever advancing robots and cyborgs. Enjoy :)

Japanese researchers from RIKEN and Kyoto University have demonstrated retinal regeneration in a mammalian model of retinal degeneration after stimulation of the Wnt signaling pathway, which functions as a regulator of some adult stem cell populations—in addition to its better known roles in embryogenesis and development.It is a discovery that may ultimately lead to new therapies for retinal diseases including the degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Read the rest of this entry »

MIT neuroscientists exploring how memory formation differs between children and adults have found that although the two groups have much in common, maturity brings richer memories.In the August 5 advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience, the MIT team reports that children rival adults in forming basic memories, but adults do better at remembering the rich, contextual details of that information. The MIT study provides new insights into how children learn that are not only theoretically important, but could also inform practical learning in everyday settings. Read the rest of this entry »

Two new studies show that a new drug called Cimzia may ease symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Cimzia hasn’t been approved by the FDA yet. Patients would give themselves injections of the drug, which targets an inflammatory chemical called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha.

The two new studies, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, highlight Cimzia’s clinical trials in Crohn’s disease patients.

Read rest of this article at WebMD site

 

With ethical issues concerning use of discarded embryos and technical problems hindering development of stem cell therapies, scientists in Korea are reporting the first successful use of a drug-like molecule to transform human muscle cells into nerve cells. Their report, scheduled for the August 8 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly journal, states that the advance could lead to new treatments for stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.

 

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In the past ten years, researchers in genome stability have observed that many kinds of cancer are associated with areas where human chromosomes break. They have hypothesized – but never proven – that slow or altered replication led to the chromosomes breaking.

In a Tufts University study published in the Aug. 3 journal “Molecular Cell,” two molecular biologists have used yeast artificial chromosomes to prove the hypothesis. The Tufts researchers have found a highly flexible DNA sequence that increases fragility and stalls replication, which then causes the chromosome to break.

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Three Boston University biomedical engineers have created a genetic dimmer switch that can be used to turn on, shut off, or partially activate a gene’s function. Professor James Collins, Professor Charles Cantor and doctoral candidate Tara Deans invented the switch, which can be tuned to produce large or small quantities of protein, or none at all

This switch helps advance the field of synthetic biology, which rests on the premise that complex biological systems can be built by arranging components or standard parts, as an electrician would to build an electric light switch. Much work in the field to date uses bacteria or yeast, but the Boston University team used more complex mammalian cells, from hamsters and mice. The switch has several new design features that extend possible applications into areas from basic research to gene therapy.

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People cry foul when fowl is undercooked, but what about red beans and rice?

Scientists have discovered how lectins, a family of proteins believed to be a natural insecticide that is abundant in undercooked legumes and grains, can make you feel temporarily miserable.

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MIT researchers have developed a model that could predict how cells will respond to targeted drug therapies. Models based on this approach could help doctors make better treatment choices for individual patients, who often respond differently to the same drug, and could help drug developers identify the ideal compounds on which to focus their research.

In addition, the model could help test the effectiveness of drugs for a wide range of diseases, including various kinds of cancer, arthritis and immune system disorders, according to Douglas Lauffenburger, MIT professor of biological engineering and head of the department. Lauffenburger is senior author of a paper on the new model that will appear in the Aug. 2 issue of Nature.

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