Archive for the ‘Biotechnology’ Category
We’re much better at saving the lives of those who suffer a heart attack these days. Sadly, many people survive a heart attack only to later succumb to heart failure from the damage it caused. Modern methods help heal the heart somewhat after a heart attack, but cardiologists think stem cell therapy might one day offer a far superior alternative.Stem cells aren’t just good for growing new organs, they can also heal old or damaged ones from the inside.
Thousands of patients whose hearts were damaged in a heart attack have undergone some form of stem cell therapy worldwide, and the results are promising. But there’s a problem. Once in the heart, the cells don’t tend to stay put.Dr. W. Robert Taylor, professor of medicine at Emory and Georgia Tech and director of Emory’s cardiology division, recently co-authored a paper on a new technique that may significantly increase the efficacy of stem cell therapy in the heart.
University of Toronto researchers have developed a method that can rapidly screen human stem cells and better control what they will turn into. The technology could have potential use in regenerative medicine and drug development. Findings are published in this week\’s issue of the journal Nature Methods.
“The work allows for a better understanding of how to turn stem cells into clinically useful cell types more efficiently,” according to Emanuel Nazareth, a PhD student at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto.
Scientists at the NYU Langone Medical Center report the discovery of a novel mechanism by which Staphylococcus aureus bacteria attack and kill off immune cells. They say their findings “Staphylococcus aureus Leukotoxin ED Targets the Chemokine Receptors CXCR1 and CXCR2 to Kill Leukocytes and Promote Infection”, published today in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, explain a critical survival tactic of a pathogen that causes more skin and heart infections than any other microbe, and kills more than 100,000 Americans every year.
“The Staphylococcus aureus leukotoxin ED LukED is a pore-forming toxin required for the lethality associated with bacteremia in murine models,” wrote the researchers. “LukED targets the chemokine receptor CCR5 to kill T lymphocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells. LukED also kills CCR5-deficient cells like neutrophils, suggesting the existence of additional cellular receptors. Here we identify the chemokine receptors CXCR1 and CXCR2 as the targets of LukED on neutrophils.”
In this compassionate video, the monaco humanitarian aid organization describes a 12 year old girl, Aminata Keita who lives in Barnako, in the African country of Mali with a heart condition. Aminata suffers from cardiomyopathy, which results in failure of the heart and requires complicated and dangerous open heart surgery. Cardiomyophathy results from the deterioration of the heart muscle (called myocardium). This in turn results in heart failure, because the heart can not pump enough blood, thus results in edema, breathlessness and irregular heart beat which can lead to sudden death. In this case Aminata’s condition was caused by a defective heart valves, which progressively causes the heart muscle to deteriorate. In order to reverse Aminata’s heart problem this defective valve has to be fixed, which would result in complete cure of her condition.
This sort of surgery is not possible in Mali and thanks to Monaco humanitarian organization, she was taken to cardio thoracic center of Monaca to perform this life-saving operation. This thoracic cardiac center is world-wide known and performs state of the art heart surgeries in children. This sort of surgery can be very costly, in the United States for example, it can cost up $100,000 ! Even if the surgery was possible to perform in Mali, clearly it would be beyond the means of most of their citizens who live below poverty levels and even the government of this country could not afford to provide. It is important to recognize the importance of these charities who provide this sort of health aid to poor nations.
Link to video: http://unr.ly/15XFdDG
A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that a version of a gene coding for a receptor for the brain chemical dopamine was 66% more common among people who lived to be 90 or older than among a group of younger people who were otherwise similar. The variant leads to a weaker response to the neurotransmitter, lowering the activity of the dopamine system that is responsible for generating feelings of pleasure, desire and reward, as well as for regulating movement.
This 3d medical animation illustrates the story of how the buildup of cholesterol plaque causes a heart attack myocardial infarction from a blocked coronary artery due to atherosclerosis, which is chronic inflammation of the blood vessels. Beginning with damage to the endothelial arterial wall, the animation shows how a white blood cell entering the wall of the artery differentiates changes into a macrophage, grabbing and digesting cholesterol. As the cell does its job, it transforms into a foam cell, which, unfortunately, becomes part of the plaque within the blood vessel wall. Ultimately, over a period of years, the plaque grows and ruptures the blood vessel wall, spilling into the blood stream and eventually blocking the left anterior descending coronary artery LAD supplying the left ventricle.
Graduate student Vanessa Ridaura and colleagues at the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology, University of Washington School of Medicine reported in the September 6 issue of Science that mice lacking bacterial colonies of their own that received gut bacteria from obese humans put on more weight and accumulated more fat than mice that were given bacteria from the guts of lean humans.
To directly test the influence of the human gut microbiome on obesity, the investigators sampled microbes living in the guts of human fraternal and identical twins, one of whom was lean while the other, obese. They introduced these microbes into germ-free mice fed low-fat mouse chow, as well as diets representing different levels of saturated fat and fruit and vegetable consumption typical of the U.S. diet. Increased total body and fat mass, as well as obesity-associated metabolic phenotypes, were transmissible with uncultured fecal communities and with their corresponding fecal bacterial culture collections.
Anxiety disorders, which include posttraumatic stress disorder, social phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder, affect 40 million American adults in a given year. Currently available treatments, such as antianxiety drugs, are not always effective and have unwanted side effects.
To develop better treatments, a more specific understanding of the brain circuits that produce anxiety is necessary, says Kay Tye, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
The tips of long neuronal extensions from the amygdala (green) contact neurons of the hippocampus (blue). This communication pathway helps to modulate anxiety.
IMAGE: ADA FELIX-ORTIZ
Scientists have grown miniature human brains in test tubes, creating a “tool” that will allow them to watch how the organs develop in the womb and, they hope, increase their understanding of neurological and mental problems.
Just a few millimetres across, the “cerebral organoids” are built up of layers of brain cells with defined regions that resemble those seen in immature, embryonic brains.
The scientists say the organoids will be useful for biologists who want to analyse how conditions such as schizophrenia or autism occur in the brain. Though these are usually diagnosed in older people some of the underlying defects occur during the brain’s early development.
The organoids are also expected to be useful in the development and testing of drugs. At present this is done using laboratory animals or isolated human cells; the new organoids could allow pharmacologists to test drugs in more human-like settings.
Stem cell scientists at Edinburgh and the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna grew this organoid, or tiny ‘brain’, which measures just 4mm across. Photograph: Madeline A Lancaster/PA
Posted August 25, 2013on:
For most of the past 40 years, cancers have been treated by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. This last technique involves the use of cytotoxic drugs which can kill cells that they encounter. By carefully adjusting doses of these drugs, doctors have been able to kill off cancer cells while leaving normal cells unaffected – in many cases. But the considerable toxicity of chemotherapy drugs means they can only be administered for a few weeks, which limits their tumour-killing potential.
This 3D medical animation explains hyperlipidemia, commonly known as “high cholesterol.” The animation includes common diet and lifestyle treatments as well as cholesterol-lowering medications. The animation includes both LDL, what is called “bad” cholesterol, and HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
In this highly-unusual image, beta-catenin (green) was monitored moving into the nucleus, the round shape in the centre. The dark patches in the nucleus that bear an uncanny resemblance to a smiley face, with eyes and a mouth, are actually parts of the nucleus where the beta-catenin cannot enter.
“Are we there yet?”
As anyone who has traveled with young children knows, maintaining focus on distant goals can be a challenge. A new study from MIT suggests how the brain achieves this task, and indicates that the neurotransmitter dopamine may signal the value of long-term rewards. The findings may also explain why patients with Parkinson’s disease — in which dopamine signaling is impaired — often have difficulty in sustaining motivation to finish tasks.
The work is described this week in the journal Nature.
Previous studies have linked dopamine to rewards, and have shown that dopamine neurons show brief bursts of activity when animals receive an unexpected reward. These dopamine signals are believed to be important for reinforcement learning, the process by which an animal learns to perform actions that lead to reward.
Illustration of the chemical structure of a molecule of dopamine
Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.
One food expert said it was “close to meat, but not that juicy” and another said it tasted like a real burger.
Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.
The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown, from Cornwall, and tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald.
Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: “I was expecting the texture to be more soft… there is quite some intense taste; it’s close to meat, but it’s not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper.
Radical budget cuts are threatening not just US science, but its way of life
PESTILENCE, war, famine, death. I recently came face-to-face with all four at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in a rare viewing of Albrecht Dürer’s 15th-century woodcut Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
In Dürer’s time fear of the apocalypse loomed large. It wasn’t so different when I was a child. Fear of nuclear Armageddon was a constant presence, but it helped fuel the US government’s investment in science and science education, propelling the country to the top – and directly benefiting me.
Now the fears of the 1960s have receded, the US government – or parts of it – are reopening the door to the four horsemen through a radical retrenchment of the science programme.
Scientists are sometimes criticised for exaggerating the importance of their work, but I think they underplay it. Science is the main force that keeps the horsemen at bay. The US still leads the world in science spending overall. But if the spectacular shrinkage of government science funding continues, we will be inviting all four of them into our homes.
There are some smells we all find revolting. But toward a handful of odors, different people display different sensitivities—some can smell them, while some can’t, or some find them appealing, while others don’t. A pair of studies appearing online on August 1 in the journal Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, now identifies the genetic differences that underpin the differences in smell sensitivity and perception in different individuals. The researchers tested nearly 200 people for their sensitivity for ten different chemical compounds that are commonly found in foods. They then searched through the subjects’ genomes for areas of the DNA that differed between people who could smell a given compound and those who could not. This approach—known as a genome-wide association study—is widely used to identify genetic differences.
Read the rest of this entry »
The Nucleus team of graduate-degreed medical animators, writers, and designers specializes in creating accurate, cinematic 3D medical animations for patient and professional education.
The insertion of one gene can muzzle the extra copy of chromosome 21 that causes Down’s syndrome, according to a study published today in Nature1. The method could help researchers to identify the cellular pathways behind the disorder’s symptoms, and to design targeted treatments.
“It’s a strategy that can be applied in multiple ways, and I think can be useful right now,” says Jeanne Lawrence, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and the lead author of the study.
We really are a mutant race. Our genomes are strewn with millions of rare gene variations, the result of the very fast, very recent population growth of the human species. From an estimated 5 million individuals just 10,000 years ago, we ballooned to more than 7 billion. On average, every duplication of the human genome includes 100 new errors, so all that reproducing gave our DNA many opportunities to accumulate mutations. But evolution hasn’t had enough time to weed out the dangerous ones: gene variants that might make us prone to illness, or simply less likely to survive.
Stem cells at the base of finger and toenails act as coordinating centers to orchestrate communication between the nail, bone, and nerve tissues necessary to promote mouse fingertip regeneration after amputation, according to new research published today (June 13) in Nature. Researchers found that nail stem cells use a signaling pathway important for embryonic limb development to help nerves and new nail and bone cells coordinate signaling during tissue regeneration, providing insight that may enable future stem cell therapies.
“It’s a marvelous study” that described the molecular and cellular processes contributing to mammalian regeneration, said Hans-Georg Simon, a developmental biologist at Northwestern University who did not participate in the study. The findings show that the molecular program governing mammalian regeneration resembles that already seen in amphibians—suggesting a conserved regeneration program that could be harnessed in other tissues, he added.
This wonderful 3D medical animation of a baby’s birth shows a time lapse view of labor and delivery during normal vaginal birth in a simplified form with only the mother’s skeletal structures and the baby in the uterus. Also shown in detail is dilatation (dilation or dilating) and effacement (thinning) of the cervix during childbirth contractions.Vaginal Birth (Childbirth) – YouTube.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the National Institutes of Health have obtained ground-breaking new knowledge about proteases – important enzymes which, among other things, play a role in the development of cancer cells. The findings may be significant for the development of cancer drugs, and have just been published in Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Cancer cells can exploit an over-production of proteases to force their way into the body.
In a joint effort with the National Institutes of Health, a group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen have taken a step closer to being able to design a more effective anticancer treatment by mapping a previously unknown molecular mechanism. Read the rest of this entry »
The growth of new nerves in and around prostate cancers spurs tumours to grow and invade other tissues, studies in mice have shown.The results, published today in Science, could steer researchers towards novel approaches to treating cancer. Although it is not yet clear whether the mechanism occurs in humans — or in cancers affecting other organs — an analysis of samples from 43 patients with prostate cancer found that nerve density was high in patients who fared poorly in the clinic.
Two Houston researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital were part of an international team that developed a new gene therapy approach to treatment of Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, a fatal inherited form of immunodeficiency.
The new research, led by researchers at the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy in Milan, Italy was published in Science Express.
The disorder that weakens the body’s immune system is caused by a mutation in a gene that encodes the protein WASP. The most often used therapy is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant from a matching donor—often a sibling or relative. It can be curative for some patients – mostly those who have a strongly matching donor.
Chemists from North Carolina State University have performed a DNA-based logic-gate operation within a human cell. The research may pave the way to more complicated computations in live cells, as well as new methods of disease detection and treatment.
Logic gates are the means by which computers “compute,” as sets of them are combined in different ways to enable computers to ultimately perform tasks like addition or subtraction. In DNA computing, these gates are created by combining different strands of DNA, rather than a series of transistors. However, thus far DNA computation events have typically taken place in a test tube, rather than in living cells
Researchers have found that two per cent of the population have a genetic variant that means they do not suffer from under arm body odour yet more three quarters of them continue to use scents.
The ‘cultural norm’ in Britain is to use deodorant every day whether body odour is a problem or not, the researchers said. Where as elsewhere in the world most people with the genetic variant are aware that they do not smell and do not use deodorant, they said.
Why does obesity raise the risk of developing cancer? A new study suggests that the wrong mix of gut bacteria could be to blame. Researchers report that obese mice carry altered communities of intestinal bugs, which produce DNA-damaging acid that leave the mice more susceptible to liver cancer. The findings hint that bacteria help drive cancer development and may eventually help scientists better predict and prevent the disease.
Obesity increases the odds of falling victim to certain types of cancer, including colorectal and liver tumors, but scientists haven’t been able to identify the mechanism behind this link. They’ve suspected that our gut microbiota—the complex community of trillions of microbes living in our intestines—play a role. After all, gut bugs have been linked to other diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and even heart disease, and are known to differ between lean and obese individuals.
The ability to throw an object with great speed and accuracy is a uniquely human adaptation, one that Harvard researchers say played a key role in our evolution. In a paper published June 26 in Nature, a research team led by Neil Roach, who recently received his Ph.D. from Harvard, and Daniel Lieberman, the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences find that a suite of changes to the human body enabled early humans to throw — a skill that became critical to hunting, and helped our ancestors become part-time carnivores, and which later paved the way for a host of later adaptations, including increases in brain size and migration out of Africa.
A major study into the causes of migraine could offer hope for sufferers, experts believe.Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute say they have identified five regions of DNA containing genes linked to the onset of migraine.Studying these could “open new doors” to understanding the causes, the Cambridgeshire-based team says.About 14% of adults are affected by the condition – usually an intense headache at the front or one side of the head.It is difficult to study because, between episodes, people are otherwise healthy.The team compared DNA samples from more than 100,000 people, including those affected and healthy patients.
Geneticist Adam Rutherford: by ‘controlling living systems,’ synthetic biology will change the world
Posted June 24, 2013on:
As first books go, Dr. Adam Rutherford probably couldn’t have chosen a vaster topic: an investigation into both the origins of life itself, and the incredible potential of its man-made future. In Creation: How Science is Reinventing Itself, Rutherford offers a historical account of biology’s biggest breakthroughs, before introducing readers to what he perceives as the next one on that list: synthetic biology, loosely defined as the radical engineering of new or novel life forms.
Fortunately for readers, Rutherford is uniquely suited to write such a tome. A geneticist by training, Rutherford contributes regular science columns to The Guardian and recently ended an 11-year stint as an editor at Nature to host a new, weekly BBC show, Inside Science. We caught up with Rutherford, who resides in the UK, to talk about scientists playing God, the Supreme Court’s gene patent ruling… and his love affair with monochromatic clothing.
The surprise on 3-year-old Grayson Clamp’s face in the video is priceless. His mouth opens wide as he points to the person in front of him speaking.
It was the first time Grayson had heard sound. He was born without a cochlear nerve, which connects the brain stem to audio waves in the outside world. His parents had him fitted for a cochlear implant at a young age, but the device didn’t help.
Last month, Grayson became the first child in the United States to receive an auditory brain stem implant.
Using mouse eyes as a setting for directed evolution, scientists have created a new version of the gene therapy vector adeno-associated virus (AAV) that can deliver genes deep into the retina, according to a paper published online today (June 12) in Science Translational Medicine. Such a vector could improve therapeutic gene delivery to target cells and lead to safer and less invasive gene therapy treatments.
“This is a beautifully planned, executed, and powerfully presented paper,” said Jean Bennett, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study. “It shows the results of a very clever system to evolve AAV to target cells in the retina efficiently from an intravitreal injection.”
The prevalence of dangerous strains of the human papillomavirus — the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and a principal cause of cervical cancer — has dropped by half among teenage girls in the last decade, a striking measure of success for a vaccine that was introduced only in 2006, federal health officials said on Wednesday.
Posted June 16, 2013on:
Elderly mice suffering from age-related heart disease saw a significant improvement in cardiac function after being treated with the FDA-approved drug rapamycin for just three months. The research, led by a team of scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, shows how rapamycin impacts mammalian tissues, providing functional insights and possible benefits for a drug that has been shown to extend the lifespan of mice as much as 14 percent. There are implications for human health in the research appearing online in Aging Cell: heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming nearly 600,000 lives per year.
Rapamycin is an immunosuppressant drug which can be used to help prevent organ rejection after transplantation. It is also included in treatment regimens for some cancers. In this study, rapamycin was added to the diets of mice that were 24 months old – the human equivalent of 70 to 75 years of age. Similar to humans, the aged mice exhibited enlarged hearts, a general thickening of the heart wall and a reduced efficiency in the hearts ability to pump blood.
The Japanese freshwater eel (Anguilla japonica) has more to offer biologists than a tasty sushi snack. Its muscle fibers produce the first fluorescent protein identified in a vertebrate, researchers report in Cell.
Fluorescent proteins are as standard a tool for cell biologists as wrenches are for mechanics. They do not produce light themselves, but glow when illuminated. The 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for the discovery and development of such molecules, which are used to tag proteins or to track how genes are expressed. The molecules have been engineered to produce light in a variety of hues and brightnesses, but those discovered until now in nature all came from non-vertebrates, mainly microbes, jellyfish, and corals
Sperm doesn’t appear to forget anything. Stress felt by dad—whether as a preadolescent or adult—leaves a lasting impression on his sperm that gives sons and daughters a blunted reaction to stress, a response linked to several mental disorders. The findings, published in a new preclinical study in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, point to a never-before-seen epigenetic link to stress-related diseases such as anxiety and depression passed from father to child.
While environmental challenges, like diet, drug abuse, and chronic stress, felt by mothers during pregnancy have been shown to affect offspring neurodevelopment and increase the risk for certain diseases, dad’s influence on his children are less well understood. The effects of lifelong exposures to dad on children are even more out of reach.
This 3D medical animation describes Hepatitis A and B. This animation begins by showing a healthy liver and explaining its function. The animation then goes on to explain the causes of Hepatitis A and B, how these viruses may be transmitted, the effects the virus can have on the liver as well as possible treatments.
A series of studies conducted by an Iowa State University research team shows that it is possible to manipulate an existing memory simply by suggesting new or different information. The key is timing and recall of that memory, said Jason Chan, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State.
“If you reactivate a memory by retrieving it, that memory becomes susceptible to changes again. And if at that time you give people new contradictory information, that can make the original memory much harder to retrieve later,” Chan said.
One of the major findings from the studies, published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the impact on declarative memory – a memory that can be consciously recalled and verbally described, such as what you did last weekend. The effects are powerful because people are retrieving memory and then incorporating new information. Chan and Jessica LaPaglia, a graduate student at Iowa State, tested the impact of new information when presented at different time intervals after the retrieval of the original memory.
By activating a brain circuit that controls compulsive behavior, MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can block a compulsive behavior in mice — a result that could help researchers develop new treatments for diseases such as obsessive-compulsive disorder OCD and Tourette’s syndrome.
MIT neuroscientists used light to control the activity of neurons involved in compulsive behavior.
IMAGE: MCGOVERN INSTITUTE FOR BRAIN RESEARCH AND SPUTNIK ANIMATION
In 1953, a young man named Henry Molaison underwent an experimental operation that doctors hoped would control his frequent epileptic seizures. When the surgeon could not locate the origin of Molaison’s seizures, he removed a structure known as the hippocampus from both sides of his brain.
Soon after the surgery, Molaison’s doctors realized that the procedure had had a dramatic and unintended consequence: Molaison could no longer form new memories. This tragic loss for Molaison and his family turned him into one of the most important patients in the history of neuroscience. In fact, his case answered more questions about how memory works than the entire previous century of research, writes Suzanne Corkin, MIT professor of neuroscience emerita, in her new book, “Permanent Present Tense.”