Biosingularity

Archive for November 2012

A new vaccine strategy could make flu shots cheaper, safer, and easier to produce. Using synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) instead of proteins purified from viruses, German scientists have shown they can protect mice, ferrets, and pigs against influenza. “This is a very interesting new approach,” says Hans-Dieter Klenk, a virologist at the University of Marburg in Germany who was not involved in the work.

 

sn-fluvirus.jpg

via Making a Flu Vaccine Without the Virus – ScienceNOW.

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Vitamin D slows the progression of cells from premalignant to malignant states, keeping their proliferation in check

A team of researchers at McGill University have discovered a molecular basis for the potential cancer preventive effects of vitamin D. The team, led by McGill professors John White and David Goltzman, of the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Physiology, discovered that the active form of vitamin D acts by several mechanisms to inhibit both the production and function of the protein cMYC. cMYC drives cell division and is active at elevated levels in more than half of all cancers. Their results are published in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the rest of this entry »

Ss aging inevitable? What factors make older tissues in the human body less able to maintain and repair themselves, as in the weakening and shrinkage of aging muscles in humans? A new study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators and collaborators at King’s College London describes the mechanism behind impaired muscle repair during aging and a strategy that may help rejuvenate aging tissue by manipulating the environment in which muscle stem cells reside. The report will appear in the journal Nature and has received advance online release. Read the rest of this entry »

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine each day has generally been considered a good way to promote cardiovascular and brain health.  But a new Rutgers University study indicates that there is a fine line between moderate and binge drinking – a risky behavior that can decrease the making of adult brain cells by as much as 40 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

Findings from a study suggest that certain variations in vitamin D metabolism genes may modify the association of low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations with health outcomes such as hip fracture, heart attack, cancer, and death, according to a study appearing in the November 14 issue of JAMA.

Vitamin D status is defined by the circulating concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Lower serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations are associated with greater risks of many chronic diseases, prompting ongoing clinical trials to test whether vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of disease development. Certain complex metabolic pathways suggest that interindividual variability in vitamin D metabolism may alter the clinical consequences of measured serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, according to background information in the article. Read the rest of this entry »

A landmark project that has sequenced 1,092 human genomes from individuals around the world will help researchers to interpret the genetic changes in people with disease.

The first study to break the ’1000 genomes barrier’ will enable scientists to begin to examine genetic variations at the scale of the populations of individual countries, as well as guiding them in their search for the rare genetic variations related to many diseases.

The vast majority of genetic variation is shared with populations around the world but it is thought that a lot of the contribution to disease may come from rare variants of genes, found in 1 in 100 people or fewer. Researchers need to find these rare variants to see who has them and work out how they might contribute to a range of conditions from multiple sclerosis to heart disease and cancer.

Illustration of a DNA molecule

via ’1000 genomes barrier’ broken – University of Oxford.

While Omega-3 essential fatty acids—found in foods like wild fish and grass-fed livestock—are necessary for human body functioning, their effects on the working memory of healthy young adults have not been studied until now.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have determined that healthy young adults ages 18-25 can improve their working memory even further by increasing their Omega-3 fatty acid intake. Their findings have been published online in PLOS One.
Read the rest of this entry »

IT IS very rare for new evidence to question or even negate the utility of a well-established class of drugs. But after four decades as a standard therapy for heart disease and high blood pressure, it looks like this fate will befall beta blockers.Two major studies published within about a week of each other suggest that the drugs do not work for these conditions.This is a big surprise, with big implications.

The first beta blocker, Inderal, was launched in 1964 by Imperial Chemical Industries for treatment of angina. This drug has been hailed as one of great medical advances of the 20th century. Its inventor, James Black, was awarded the Nobel prize in medicine in 1988.

via Beta blockers are busted – what happens next? – opinion – 12 November 2012 – New Scientist.

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have mimicked pulmonary edema in a microchip lined by living human cells, as reported today in the journal Science Translation Medicine. They used this “lung-on-a-chip” to study drug toxicity and identify potential new therapies to prevent this life-threatening condition.

The study offers further proof-of-concept that human “organs-on-chips” hold tremendous potential to replace traditional approaches to drug discovery and development.Lung_on_a_Chip_605

via New way to model human disease | Harvard Gazette.

Proteins are an enormous molecular achievement: chains of amino acids that fold spontaneously into a precise conformation, time after time, optimized by evolution for their particular function. Yet given the exponential number of contortions possible for any chain of amino acids, dictating a sequence that will fold into a predictable structure has been a daunting task.

Now researchers report that they can do just that. By following a set of rules described in a paper published in Nature today1, a team from David Baker’s laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle has designed five proteins from scratch that fold reliably into predicted conformations. In a blind test, the team showed that the synthesized proteins closely match the predicted structures.

via Proteins made to order : Nature News & Comment.

UC Irvine researchers have created a new stem cell-derived cell type with unique promise for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Edwin Monuki of UCI’s Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, developmental & cell biology graduate student Momoko Watanabe and colleagues developed these cells — called choroid plexus epithelial cells — from existing mouse and human embryonic stem cell lines.

CPECs are critical for proper functioning of the choroid plexus, the tissue in the brain that produces cerebrospinal fluid. Among their various roles, CPECs make CSF and remove metabolic waste and foreign substances from the fluid and brain.

via UC Irvine Release: New cell type developed for possible treatment of Alzheimer’s :: UC Irvine TODAY.

IF a brain implant were safe and available and allowed you to operate your iPad or car using only thought, would you want one? What about an embedded device that gently bathed your brain in electrons and boosted memory and attention? Would you order one for your children?

In a future presidential election, would you vote for a candidate who had neural implants that helped optimize his or her alertness and functionality during a crisis, or in a candidates’ debate? Would you vote for a commander in chief who wasn’t equipped with such a device?

via How Science Can Build a Better You – NYTimes.com.

Habits are behaviors wired so deeply in our brains that we perform them automatically. This allows you to follow the same route to work every day without thinking about it, liberating your brain to ponder other things, such as what to make for dinner.

However, the brain’s executive command center does not completely relinquish control of habitual behavior. A new study from MIT neuroscientists has found that a small region of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, where most thought and planning occurs, is responsible for moment-by-moment control of which habits are switched on at a given time.

via How the brain controls our habits – MIT News Office.


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