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Science in the News

Page history last edited by COliver 13 years, 2 months ago

 

Cellular On and Off Switch for Allergies and Asthma Discovered

 

 

 

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2009, May 4)

 

 

 

This time of year, millions of people walk around sneezing, coughing, and having miserable headaches that seem to have come on for no reason.  Others wheeze and have trouble breathing, whereas at other times of the year they have no respiratory troubles whatsoever.  Well, some interesting work has been done on the topic of allergies and asthma by a group of American scientists.  A study appearing in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology reveals some of their work in identifying a cellular switch that seems to turn allergies and asthma on or off.  They have hypothesized that those people afflicted by allergies or asthma may have a defect in the gene that controls this switch, and that the defect prevents the switch from working properly.  The research could be helpful in developing new medicines and strategies to combat these common ailments.  One of the lead scientists, John Ryan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University quoted, "This understanding opens new avenues for treating these and other related diseases."

            He and his colleagues arrived at the discovery when they were examining cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood in mice.  The study showed that these cells help make a type of immune cell called a mast cell.  An excess amount of these mast cells can lead to excessively aggressive immune responses that result in asthma and allergies in the organism in question.  When certain chemicals were added to the mast cells to initiate the immune response, which they called the “on switch”, the cells died.  They concluded that these cytokine chemicals serve as the “on switch” for the immune system, while bone marrow cells use them as the “off switch” to stop mast cells from being overexpressed.  Furthermore, they found that certain strains of mice prone to allergies or asthma had the genes that affected the synthesis of the chemical “off switch” in their bone marrow.  This study is an example of self-regulation of the immune system and how imbalances in mast cell regulatory processes may contribute to allergies, asthma and disease.  It is a very interesting topic and will certainly involve future research and perhaps the development of therapeutic agents to control allergies, asthma, and certain diseases.

 


 

Women who keep ovaries live longer

NYtimes Full txt article: Women who keep ovaries..

Published: April 27, 2009

                Each year many women undergo a procedure called a hysterectomy which consists of removal of ovaries and uterus in order to prevent ovarian cancer.  However, a new study shows women who keep their ovaries tend to live longer.  Women who had their ovaries removed had  fewer breast cancers develop and almost entirely reduced their risk of ovarian cancer over the 24 years of follow-up.  However, they were more likely to develop heart disease than women who had their ovaries, and they were more likely to die. The study examined data on 29,380 women who had participated in the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study: 16,345 who had hysterectomy with both ovaries removed, and 13,035 who had hysterectomy but kept their ovaries.  After 24 years of follow up women with ovaries removed had a 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer and 96 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer.  There risk of heart disease was 17 percent higher and a 17 percent chance of dying from cancer.  The study also raises questions about estrogen and its role in heart disease and women.

 


Gene Variations Could Predict Ovarian Cancer Risk

 

    Researchers have found that gene variations could help predict the chances of a woman getting ovarian cancer.  They found that women with more than seven of these variations could increase a women's chance of getting this cancer by nearly five times.  The research was done at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  They examined and tested 834 patients, half with cancer and half of them healthy.  They found twelve variations that were connected with ovarian cancer.  Researchers hope to use this information for testing women and seeing how high their chances are for getting ovarian cancer.  More than 15,000 women died of ovarian cancer last year.  The tumors are usually not noticed until it is too late, so doctors hope to develop this test to help women learn if they have the cancer.  A lot of factors would have to be accounted for, but for the most part, this discovery could help many women around the world.  

 

CNN.com

Video


 

 

SUMO Protein Guides Chromatin Remodeler

 

     Chromatin, which makes up chromosomes, is made up of DNA and protein.  Grace Gill, from Tufts University School of Medicine, discovered that SUMO(small ubiquitin-related modifier) is a protein that regulates gene expression through the alteration of chromatin structure.  It alters chromatin structure through its interaction with an enzyme complex (LSD1/CoREST/HDAC).  This conclusion could prove to be very important because gene expression is an important process by which cell types are turned on or off.  Gill and the other researchers found that the SUMO and enzyme complex interaction prevent aberrant gene expression, which is a commonality with cancer.  Hopefully, their research will lead to some important discoveries involving gene expression and its involvement with cancer.

 

Bovine Sequence

 

     Scientists have completely sequenced the bovine genome.  They sequenced the DNA of a female Hereford cow named L1 Dominette.  The bovine genome showed at least 22,000 genes with an estimated 2,870 billion DNA building blocks.  The research project, named The Bovine Genome Sequencing Project, was conducted by scientists from over 25 countries.  The scientists were originally interested in determining how the genes were organized compared to other mammals.  Based on the sequenced bovine genome, scientists have said that cows and humans have more proteins in common than mice and humans.  The results have been shown to be greater than originally expected.  Scientists believe that this will lead to more sustainable food production, as well as producing a more energy-efficient animal.  Scientists conclude that their research will have a profound effect on the beef cattle industry as a whole.

 

Men treated for localized prostate cancer could benefit from pomegranate juice consumption

Published: April 26,2009

          Recent research suggests that pomegranate juice may slow the progression of post treatment prostate cancer reoccurrence in men.  Men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer could benefit from consuming pomegranate juice.  This was discovered in a two stage clinical trial including 48 participants studied over 6 years.  Patients drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily.  Researchers compared active patients with non active patients.  Overall the study suggests that drinking pomegranate juice may slow the progression of prostate cancer after unsuccessful treatment.  The future hopes suggest that maybe they will find that pomegranate is as effective as a preventative agent for prostate cancer.  Phases of this study are still undergoing.

EuerkAlert! Article: Men treated for localized prostate cancer could benefit from pomegranate juice consumption 


 

 

Drinking diet soda may reduce the risk of forming kidney stones

 

Published:April 26, 2009

 

     Patients suffering with stone disease could profit from drinking diet soda. Recent research from the University of California, San Francisco shows that the citrate and malate in common  sodas may be ample to inhibit the development of calcium stones. At the 104th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA), the study was presented.  The increased alkalinity is proven to amplify citraturia, a known factor for calcium stones. Malate increases the alkali delivered. Researchers measured the citrate and malate amount of 15 diet sodas. The researchers found that Diet Sunkist Orange had the highest amount of total alkali and Diet 7-Up had the highest amount of citrate as alkali.  Overall this study suggests that patients with stone disease could benefit from moderate consumption of diet soda, however patients with reoccurring kidney stones should not trade in their water for soda.

 

EuerkAlert! Article: Drinking diet soda may reduce the risk of forming kidney stones


 

 

Some Stem Cell Research Limits Lifted

Published: April 17, 2009

The Obama administration made an announcement that they had plans to lift some not all of the federal financing restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research.  However it is not with out criticism from the most liberal stem cell research supporters as well as abortion activists.  Research will be allowed only using federal financing and stem cells derived from excess embryos at fertility clinics. The money would still be barred for stem cell lines created only for research purposes as well as embryos created through a technique called therapeutic cloning.  Interestingly, in a campaign last year Obama supported therapeutic cloning of stem cells and his administration rejected this.  The new guidelines will be published in the Federal Register and the rules will be finalized July 7th.

 

NY Times Full Txt Article: Some Stem Cell Research Limits Lifted


 

Future Office-Seekers May Have to Disclose DNA

Thursday, November 13, 2008, Foxnews.com

          As the understanding of the human genome is more completely known, and faster methods are found to find a person's genome, it may become a requirement for a political candidate to make his DNA public knowledge.  This is, atleast, what this article is proposing.  It is evident that the cost in determining a person's genome is coming down.  The example used in the article is the case where it took 13 years and $2.7 billion to determine all the DNA in the first complete human genome, finishing in 2006.  Yet, recently, a company called Complete Genomics has announced that within the next year it will be able to analyze and determine a person's genome for $5,000.  There are actually hundreds of diagnostic tests on the market, and the availability is what leads some experts to believe that political demands for DNA disclosure may be only a matter of time.  However, a person's DNA is still part of their medical record, and no person has to give up that information legally without their own concent.

 

 

 

 

Scientists Unravel Cow Genome to Improve Milk, Meat

Friday, April 24, 2009, Foxnews.com

          Taking 300 scientists six years, researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have outlined the genetic sequence of a Hereford cow, "L1 Dominette 01449," living on a research farm in Montana.  The researches hope their findings will help improve the quality and safety of beef and dairy products.  They also hope that their findings will help them with developing treatments for diseases that affect cattle.  The research group published their findings in 20 papers appearing in the journal Science and other journals including Genome Biology.

          As for the results, the researchers found that domestic cattle have approximately 22,000 genes, as compared to the 20,000 to 25,000 genes in humans, and of these, cattle and humans have about 80% of their genome in common.  Another odd results is that the genetic difference between humans and cattle is less than the difference between humans and mice or rats, which are more commonly used in lab tests for drugs intended for use on people.

 

 

Cystic Fibrosis

 

          Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that occurs due to a particular defective gene in a person's DNA.  Known as a life-threatening disease, it causes a mucus build-up in the lungs and possibly throughout the body leading to infections.  Over the last 50 years, scientists have been gradually progressing toward finding better therapies to manage the disease.  The average lifespan for someone with cystic fibrosis has been extended from early childhood to now early adulthood.  This increase is due to the many ways in which the disease can now be managed on a daily basis.  Newborn screening programs are starting to gain prevalence throughout the United States.  Scientists believe that if the disease is caught early enough that it may be able to be treated for good.  A new drug, VX-770, has been developed to possibly fix the defective protein that causes dehydration in the lungs (a common consequence of the disease).  This breakthrough is believed to be very effective in the management of the disease and possibly a cure if used early enough.  On a good note, scientists believe that the disease will be able to be cured in the next 5-10 years.

 

Stem Cell Limits Lifted

     Human embryonic stem cell research has been a controversial topic since its introduction.  Now, President Obama has lifted some federal restrictions that limit the way that stem cell research is both conducted and financed.  Although this seems like a step in the right direction for stem cell research, some scientists believe that this will actually hinder their ability to conduct certain types of research involving embryos.  Therapeutic cloning and somatic cell nuclear transfer, however, are two techniques that will continue to not receive any type of government funding.  Consequently, the idea of lifting these limits on stem cell research is guaranteed to be a heavily debated topic in the upcoming months.

 

Malaria Vaccine

Sanaria Inc. has developed a new malaria vaccine that is set to begin human trials. Bioengineers have been growing millions of mosquitoes in a sterile environment, letting them feed on malaria-infected blood, irradiating the bugs, extracting the disease-causing parasites and storing them for use in vaccines. This vaccine uses the entire parasite, not just part of it.  This effective design was available back in the 1970’s, but up until now was not able to be mass produced effectively. In the Sanaria vaccine, the body recognizes the malaria parasite as a foreign material. It goes to the liver, where a lot of the immune response is generated, but does not develop into a disease because the mosquito was irradiated.

Other trials, by GlaxoSmithKline, are developing a vaccine based on recombinant proteins. These have been effective in 65% of African infants up to 3 months later.  The US military also has a vested interest in both of these projects. Malaria is a major concern for troops deployed in countries with malaria problems, especially tropical locations.

 

 

 

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New Method Developed by UC San Diego Bioengineers Gives Regenerative Medicine a Boost

Link to full-text article.

 

Researchers at UC San Diego, led by Kun Zhang, have discovered a new biotechnological profiling method.  An assay was developed to test the process of DNA methylation, which is the addition or removal of methyl groups on a gene.  Removal of the groups activates the gene, while addition inactivates the gene.  Current methylation tests are extremely costly, but the new method developed by Zhang will be more cost-effective.  Zhang claims that his new method is applicable to many different types of genomes and could be used to test stem cells, cancer, and Alzheimer's, to name a few.  Zhang and his team are currently using their new method to determine the usefulness of real embryonic versus artificial stem cells.  This method they have developed sounds like it will be an important contributor to future disease research, and Zhang and his team hope to continue their venture. 

 

 


 

Eat Berries, Don't Wrinkle...

Ji-Young Bae, a graduate student in the Kang Laboratory found that ellagic acid, an antioxidant found in numerous fruits, vegetables, nuts and especially in strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and pomagranates have a photoprotective effect. MMP's (matrix metalloproteinase) are enzymes that break down collegen in damaged skin cells and ICAM is a molecule involved in inflammation. This research shows that ellagic acid can help to protect against UV damage by blocking the production of MMP's as well as reduce the expression of ICAM's. Ellagic acid was also found to prevent an increase in epidermal thickness. This research shows that ellagic acid works to prevent wrinkle formation and photo-ageing that is caused by UV-damage via the destruction of collagen and the inflammatory response.

 

A Secret to Nightvision Found in DNA's unconventional "architecture"     

Published April 16, 2009

 

Researchers have found an important factor that makes night vision possible in nocturnal animals.  The DNA that is found within the photoreceptors responsible for low light vision is packaged differently than normal DNA.  The way the DNA is positioned turns the rod cell nuclei into light-collecting lenses.  Animals that are not nocturnal have the conventional packaging arrangement of the DNA in their rod cells.  Only nocturnal animals that need to see at night have this unconventional arrangement of DNA.  This arrangement allows light to travel deeper into the eye where it can be perceived.  In normal cells, DNA is arranged with heterochromatin around the outside and euchromatin near the center.  In nocturnal animals the opposite is true: the heterochromatin is in the center and the euchromatin is around the outside.  This inverted DNA arrangement is an evolutionary trait that nocturnal animals developed over time to be able to see in the dark.

       

 

New Supercomputer Designed for Molecular Mysteries

By: L. Jordan

 

A newly designed supercomputer is in the making to help increase the performance of complex molecular models.  It is used to figure out problems involved in simulations like protein folding and interactions between proteins and medicinal drugs.  It's a large improvement in computers that are helpful in molecular biology and also pharmaceutical purposes.  The computer's name is Anton, named after Anton van Leeuwenhoek, who discovered the first microscope.  Anton is capable of running approximately 512 processors all at the same time, each specialized for a certain application.  The team of researchers is hoping to discover biological processes not previously seen in this decade. Anton will be able to view processes that happen less than a millisecond, which will be a major advancement in biology and medical fields.

 

NYTimes Article

ACM Digital Library

 

 


 

 

A Coat of Many Proteins May Be This Parasite’s Downfall

Published: December 15, 2008

 

 

Giardiasis is an infection by parasites that affect the digestive tract and have a very useful mechanism in fighting its host’s immune defense system. The parasite has a coat of proteins that can be changed. Every time the host generates antibodies to identify and destroy them, the protein coat is altered. Biologists at the University of Cordoba in Argentina have found a way to force the parasite to wear all of its coats at the same time in hopes that it could serve as a vaccine for all of Giardia’s protein coats. The parasite has 190 genes that code for these coats which are all turned on allowing for a mRNA copy of itself to be made. The parasite then destroys all but one of the mRNAs and the surviving mRNA makes the proteins for that coat. Giardia uses RNAi to regulate its own RNA, rather than it’s typical role of destroying foreign RNA. By interrupting this pathway of RNAi in giardia, these mRNAs are not destroyed, and therefore they are all made. These findings are believed to potentially have similar applications for Malaria.

 

Seeing color in sounds has Genetic Link

By Elizabeth Landau

CNN

Video

Julian Asher published his findings from research at the Imperial College London on the genetic analysis of synesthesia in the American Journal of Human Genetics. Synesthesia, the mixing of senses causing numbers and movement to appear in sounds, is a hereditary neurological condition. He found that this condition was linked to chromosomes 2, 5, 6, and 12. He also found that people with synesthesia have cross linking in their brain. Infants have this cross linking in their brains which are usually excised away as they develop, thus it is hypothesized that a mutation in the genes that excise these additional brain connections may lead to synesthesia. The genes in these chromosomes also correlate with other mental disorders such as autism so Asher believes there is a correlation between the two disorders. Synesthesia is still vastly unknown, but Asher shares his own personal symptoms and says noises trigger images and colors for him.


RNA Used To Reprogram One Cell Type Into Another

NewsDaily

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "RNA Used To Reprogram One Cell Type Into Another." ScienceDaily 17 April 2009. 21 April 2009 <http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/04/090416144643.htm>.

 

Instead of trying to make the cell pleuripotent, meaning it can be made into any of three tissue types, these researchers injected RNA into the cell directly, allowing the RNA to be uptaken and thus transforming the cell's function. By injecting mRNA into a nerve cell, which normally functions to process and transmit chemical signals from stimuli responses, these researchers changed this neuron into an astrocyte-type cell which is a star shaped cell found in the brain and spinal cord. This cell's function was converted to provide nutrients to nervous tissue, repair brain damage, and maintain the blood-brain barrier. Phototransfection was the process used to insert the mRNA into the neuron, which is creating temporary pores in the cell membrane for the mRNA to be inserted. They inserted enough mRNA so that there was an excess of astrocyte mRNA over neuron mRNA. The astrocyte mRNA then acted as a virus, translating into astrocyte proteins that get into the nucleus and cause more astrocyte genes to be expressed, overtaking the cell and changing it's function.

 


Horse stem-cell Technique to be Tested in People

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Holmes

NewsDaily

http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre53e4wj-us-stemcells/

 

A privately owned British biotech firm called MedCell Bioscience Ltd is preforming clinical tests in several European hospitals testing a stem-cell repair technique to fix damaged Achilles tendons. This procedure has been used to fix over 1,500 injured racehorses. This stem cell therapy is now being tested on humans by injecting patients with their own stem cells that were extracted and multiplied in a laboratory. The result in animals has been that the cells regenerate new tissue to replace the damaged tendon tissue cells. This is the goal they are hoping to achieve with human injuries.

 


Lab Creates an All-It-Can-Eat Mouse

Author: Melissa Healy

Published: March 21, 2009

Location: LA Times

 

Dr. Hei Sook Sul, at UC Berkeley, has created a gene-knockout mouse, lacking the protein DNA-dependent kinase.  Lacking this gene allows the mouse to eat carbohydrates without gaining weight.  DNA-PK has been previously studied for it's ability to repair the DNA backbone, but no one had any idea that the protein aided in the conversion of excess glucose to fatty acids in the liver.  When fed a high-carb/low-fat diet, these knockout mice were 40% leaner than normal mice, as well as had much better blood-lipid profiles, which indicates that they would have a lower risk for developing heart disease. 

 

Although no one is looking at gene-therapy as a way to reduce obesity, researchers are now looking at developing a technique that will allow them to disrupt DNA-PK's activity in the liver.


 

Study identifies genes that protect against aging

Published: Monday, April 20, 2009

 

A new method has been developed by the scientists at the University of Liverpool in help researchers help to protect the body during the aging process. This method analyzes genes in from various tissue types during different stages of ageing. Multiple mechanisms were identified, each mechanism used by the body in order to protect itself from cellular change that occurs with age, such as muscle degeneration and cognitive ageing. Some of the mechanisms used by the body to fight ageing are to increase key protein levels, which allows the body to with-stand the ageing process more effectively. The new method provides some insight into anti-ageing interventions by identifying genes that indicate biological changes as a result of ageing. The genes that increase protein levels can be used as biomarker, a sign of ageing, which scientists can target by developing treatments to return the levels to "normal" while still managing the ageing process effectively.

 

 

 


 

Small RNAs can play critical roles in male infertility/contraception

Published: April 9, 2009

Source: University of Nevada, Reno

 

Researcher Wei Yan, from the University of Nevada School of Medicine, has found that in developing sperm cells, the  X chromosome codes for numerous microRNAs even though most of the genes encoded for on the X chromosome are supressed. This findings indicate that these small RNAs play a crutial role in inactivation of the X chromosome as well as sperm formation. These findings give rise to new questions as to how small RNAs are involved in sperm production. Because small RNAs have now been linked to sperm formation, they may be the key factor in male infertility and may also be able to be used as non-hormonal male contraceptive targets.

 

Many X-linked microRNAs escape meiotic sex chromosome inactivation

 

Gene Discovery Sheds Light on Childhood Cancer

Author: Maggie Fox

Published: April 19, 2009

Publication: Reuters

 

Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation responsible for a rare type of childhood cancer known as pleuropulmonary blastoma (PPB).  This cancer is only diagnosed in about 20 children in the US every year. The mutation is found in the gene that is responsible for producing DICER1, a protein involved in microRNA (which helps to regulate the production of other proteins).  If found and treated, the survival rate is approximately 90%, but if not treated, the survival rate drops to approximately 40%.  In the lungs, the tumor cells are actually able to turn neighboring cells into tumors as well, which is a novel finding, never seen before. Researchers hope to be able to develop a genetic test for families, in order to determine if children from high-risk families carry the mutation.


 

 

Heart Muscle Renewed Over Lifetime, Study Finds

Author: Nicholas Wade

Published: April 2, 2009

Publication: New York Times

 

Swedish scientists have recently been able to measure the rate at which heart muscle tissue is regenerated, which is a significant advancement in the treatment of heart disease.  It was previously thought that heart tissue was not regenerated, however scientists in Sweden recently discovered that, around age 25, the muscle fibers are renewed about 1%/year, and decreases to about half that by age 75. 

 

Since determining if this process occurs requires radioactively labelling the heart muscle cells, it dramatically limited scientists to only animal cells. However, Dr. Frisen realized that nuclear weapons (tested aboveground until 1963) actually sent radiation into the atmosphere, thereby radiolabelling the entire world's cells. Dr. Frisen used this method to determine the turnover rate for the production of new cells. Determining that heart cells actually do regenerat gives hope to researchers who could potentially develop a drug that will accelerate that process.  


 

New data on the breakdown of the KRas protein

Released April 20, 2009

Link: http://www.eurekalert.org/bysubject/biology.php

 

KRas is a protein that is mutated in 30% of all cancers. The article describes how the protein is actively transported in through the cell membrane then to the lysosome to be degraded and destroyed. Using a videomicroscopy techniques, observers were able to watch the Kras protein being transported into the cell and to the lysosome. This information is important because it is known that Kras remains active throughout the interior of the cell on its way to the lysosome and thus result in cancer. With this new data, researchers may be able to determine if the signals that the protein trasmits on its way to the lysosome are different than the signals it sends from the cell membrane.

 

I.Q. Harmed by Epilepsy Drug in Utero

By: Roni Caryn Rabin

Published April 15, 2009

 

A new study found that women who took the popular epilepsy drug, Depakote, gave birth to children who had I.Q.s significantly lower than women who took other antiseizure medications. The study will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine this coming Thursday. The researchers found that children whose mother's took Depakote instead of another antiseizure medication, Lamictal, had I.Q.s nine points lower on average. Even though the risks for taking these medications during pregnancy are still unclear, it has been warned that taking these medications can result in children with developmental delays and mild malformations.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/health/research/16child.html?ref=research

Genes show limited value in predicting disease

By: Nicholas Wade

Published April 15, 2009

 

Since the human genome was decoded only 6 years ago, researchers have been comparing DNA sequences of healthy people to people with disease with the hope of determining specific mutation sites linking to certain diseases. Despite the intial hope of this genomewide association study, there has been little research found to show that there is a specific link between disease and genetic variation. The question now lies with to continue the study. Some scientists are hypothesizing that disease may occur as a result of thousands of rare mutations instead of only a few like previously thought. If this is the case, then disease probably likes within unexpected biological mechanisms too complicated to study.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/health/research/16gene.html?ref=research

Brain metastases hijack neuron-supporting cells to resist chemotherapy

By: Scott Merville

Published: April 19, 2009

 

It has been previously established that, when cancer metastases into the brain, it is very hard to treat because they resist chemotherapeutic drugs. Dr. Fidler showed that this is because the tumors are able to re-route cells, called astrocytes, that normally supply oxygen and nutrients to neurons, as well as protecting them from toxins, to perform the same function for the tumors themselves.  Since chemotherapy is useless against brain metastases, the patients must undergo either radiation or surgery.  Fidler and Sawaya examined the best way to treat the tumors: tumors removed whole, tumors removed in pieces, and tumors treated with radiation.  Although there was little difference between radiation and surgery in which the tumors were removed whole, the two had a significant advantage over the tumors removed in pieces-tumors removed in pieces spread to the spinal fluid 14% of the time, as compared to 6% of the time with the other methods.

 

Article: Located on Eureka Alert!


 

Food Dance Gets New Life When Bees Get Cocaine

Published: January 5, 2009
 
     Researchers, hoping to gain insight on the mechanism of cocaine addiction, have turned to bees as test subjects.  To test addictions, Austrailian scientists have developed a method of exposing the bees to the drugs - by putting liquid cocaine onto the bees' backs so it can get directly into the blood stream and go to the brain.  They have found that bees react much like humans to the drug as well as to drug withdrawl.  When the bees were tested for normal bee functions such as the waggle dance for food, the bees on cocaine were more energetic and perhaps would have led other normal bees to not as high quality of food.  They were overexcited due to the presence of drug in their brains. 
     Now that researchers have a simple model for drug addiction in bees, they are hoping to study whether or not bees are constantly looking for more drugs.  They are excited to start this new research.

 


 


Deadly Stomach Bug

Researchers say a nasty, sometimes deadly stomach bug may be at least six times more common than previously thought. Clostridium difficile, a virulent strain of a common intestinal bacteria currently plaguing hospitals that now rivals the superbug Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as one of the top emerging disease threats to humans.  Both diseases are often resistent to antibiotics.  While the majority of cases are found in health care

settings, 20 percent or more may occur in the community. The illness kills an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people annually.

Doctors now warn about the overuse of antibiotics.  They might sugest that infections like tonsillitis or bronchitis, while quickly treatable with antibiotics, should now be allowed to heal on their own. Avoiding hospital patient's beds and bathrooms, as well as regular handwashing could curb the rapid spread of this disease.

 

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New Chemical Reaction Produces DNA Base in Bacteria and Viruses

Researchers at the University of Iowa discovered a new chemical reaction that is responsible for producing a DNA base by bacteria and viruses.  This reaction is orchestrated by the enzyme flavin-dependent thymidylate synthase (FDTS).  This reaction produces a base that is found in humans but the mechanism is vastly different.  The enzyme is coded for by the thyX gene and synthesizes the DNA base thymidylate.  This reaction adds a methyl group to a deoxyuridine monophosphate (dUMP) which is the same as the previous method.  The reaction was identified by using labeled isotopic substitution and contemporary form of mass spec with electron spray ionization.  Due to this discovery, new antibacterial and antiviral drugs may be developed.  Since the mechanisms in humans and bacteria/viruses is different,  a drug that attacks their mechanism won't damage the human mechanism which is responsible for the same base being produced.  These new drugs could combat pathogens such as anthrax, tuberculosis, botulism, syphilus, and pneumonia without harming human DNA synthesis.

 

News Article:

National Science Foundation. "New Chemical Reaction For DNA Production In Bacteria And Viruses Discovered." ScienceDaily 17 April 2009. 17 April 2009 http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/04/090416161133.htm.
Research Article:

 

Iraninan Scinetists Clone Sheep

 

Wednesday, April15, 2009 Hana was born the first cloned goat in the Middle East.  The Royan Research Institute of Isfahan, Iran, led by Dr. Mohammed Hossein Nasr e Isfahani, quest to use these animal clones to unveil a  possible treatment for stroke patients.  Iran sits alongside only four other countries who have been able to accomplish this feat of goat cloning.  Dr. Isfahani also suggests that these new advances in cloning these animals could also lead to human antigens to protect against diseases. The fact that Dr. Isfahani has won the backing of the Shiite Muslim religious leaders for more experiments of this nature, allude that a breakthrough concerning stroke treatment and anti-biotics for more diseases are just around the corner.

 

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 Full text article:

Yahoo News: 

Picture Emerging on Genetic Risks of IVF

Published: February 16, 2009
 
     Due to a study and paper published this past November on the effects of IVF on birth defects, scientists are starting to think harder about the risks of IVF, or in vitro fertilization.  Scientists wonder if the genes of IVF babies could possibly have minor changes due to the time spent growing in petri dishes.  With new techniques in molecular biology, it is becoming easier to test for these sorts of minor changes.  Researchers are also looking into the type of broth that embryos are grown in.  Because human embryos grow much slower in vitro, scientists have been constantly adjusting and perfecting the medium in which the embryos grow.  Most researchers agree that IVF does not carry huge risks for birth defects; however, they are unsure of what the chances are that an IVF baby will be born with defects.  Scientists simply would like to know more about the genetics and molecular biology of the process.   

 


 


Transformation of human adult skin cells into pluripotent stem cells

Scientists identify four factors that can be used to reprogram human somatic cells into viable pluripotent stem cells by influencing the frequency of reprogramming during the inital and expansion stages. These factors exhibit the "essential characteristics" of embryonic stem cells. The factors include OCT4, SOX2, NANOG, and LIN28 are trans-acting factors that are present in mammalian oocyte. During somatic cell nuclear transfer, these factors reprogram somatic cell nuclei into and undifferentiated state. Induced pluripotent human cell lines are important for research, especially in transplant medicine and therapy because they eliminate mutations through viral integration and largley decrease the immune rejection.

 

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells

 

Researchers identify specific lung cancer susceptibility gene

University of Cincinnati biologists have isolated a gene that is linked to cancer susceptibility and development.  The gene, RGS17, could result in a genetic predisposition to the development if lung cancer. The gene will hopefully be used in lung cancer screening to identify high risk patients whose families have a history of the disease.  The test could drastically change treatment and diagnosis and a genetic test could identify those at risk before the disease progresses. Lung cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer related death and disease and although it is largely due to smoking, there is a genetic influence as well. Research has shown that lung cancer occurs both randomly and hereditarily, with a susceptibility locus on chromosome 6. The use of a mouse model was used to determine that when RGS17 is suppressed, tumors shrank, and therefore it must be present for the growth and development of cancer.

 

http://www.healthnews.uc.edu/news/?/8427/

 

 Brown Researchers Create Novel Technique to Sequencing the Genome

The cost of sequencing the human genome has been reduced to $1000 or less which may lead to sequencing as a routine process. Physicists at Brown have been able to slow the movement of DNA through openings that are used to read the code. In order to do so, reseachers attached the DNA strand to a bead using a streptavidin-biotin bond and used an electric field to drive the DNA strand toward the pore. The DNA was able to pass through the opening while the bead was not, and a strand of DNA was suspended on the other side of the membrane. The bead was then removed using magnets which slowly moved the DNA along with it, at a rate slow enough for the reading of base pairs. In this way the speed at which the DNA is moving through the pore can be controlled. This new method is called “reverse DNA transloction”. They hope to continue their experiments by testing bacterial DNA.

http://news.brown.edu/

 

 

Key Protein for Cellular Respiration Found

     Celluar respiration is the process by which cells extract energy from nutrients.  This process mainly occurs in the mitochondria.  There are many disorders that arise when this process is impeded.  Scientist have found a protein that is crucial for mitochondrial protein synthesis, TFB1M, and also have found the gene that codes for its production, Tfb1m.  If this gene has a mutation then the mitochondria can not make any of the proteins it needs for cellular respiration.  Mice without TFB1M die in the fetal stage and mice without the protein in their heart develop heart failure and increased mitochondrial mass, like humans do.  Discovering the protein and especially the gene that controls this disorder will help scientists in the future to learn more about prevention and treatment.

 

Science Daily Article

Cell Metabolism Abstract

 

Mice May Be Able to Produce Egg Cells Throughout Their Life

     It is common knowledge that is accepted worldwide is that all egg cells are produced at birth and are used up slowly throughout life.  This may not be entirely true.  Scientists in Shanghai have found evidence that mice may be able to produce egg cells later in life.  First they determined the stem cell line that produces oocytes.  They scanned the mouse's ovaries for cells that contained a protein called vasa homolog that are only found in the stem cells.  Then they removed them and grew them in the lab, marked tham with green flourecent protein and later injected the stem cells into different adult mice ovaries.  These mice had offspring with marked oocytes in them meaning that the stem cells had produced egg cells in these adult mice.

     There is still a lot of conflict about whether this study is valid and many are angry that Nature magazine would publish such findings so soon.  Some believe that the scientists may have removed oocytes with the stem cells they took out and marked and consequently injected the new mice with the marked oocytes that they found later.  There is still a lot of research to be done on this topic before any conclusions can be made.

 

NY Times Article

 

How 'Silent' Mutations Influence Protein Production

 

          Recently, biologists at the University of Pennsylvania have made some very interesting discoveries.  They claim to have discovered how ‘silent’ mutations can influence protein production in cells.  The biologists found a ‘hidden code’ that determines levels of gene expression.  This discovery can now provide a way to distinguish genes that are efficient from those that are inefficient.  The research has centered on creating synthetic ‘green-glowing’ genes, to provide a hypothesis as to how a cell ‘knows’ how much of a protein to make.  This is important to the health of a cell because it has to know how much protein to make to maintain homeostasis, but have a mechanism capable of preventing excess production which could be toxic to the cell.

            The biologist examined how protein levels are managed by synonymous (silent) mutations in protein-coding regions on genes.  Since silent mutations don’t change the amino-acid sequence of a protein, they can still influence the production of a protein.  Researchers found that silent mutations determine mRNA folding and how this folding affects the protein levels in cells.  They also found a class of mutations that slowed bacterial growth without directly affecting protein levels.

            Silent mutations were previously considered to be evolutionarily neutral, but these findings suggest otherwise.  The scientists hope to use these finding to improve the effectiveness and design of many therapeutic drugs such as insulin.  The scientists are aiming to use optimized genes to produce larger amounts of these therapeutic proteins in transgenic cell lines without having detrimental affects on the cell lines.  All of this research is extremely interesting.  The human genome contains over 20,000 genes that encode proteins.  While some of these are needed in bulk, others are only needed in miniscule amounts, otherwise they would be toxic.  The central question at hand is how a cell knows how much of each protein to make.  Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with colleagues at Harvard University, and the University of Edinburgh have stepped up to the plate to try and determine exactly how these cellular processes may work.  They engineered a synthetic library of 154 genes that varied randomly at synonymous sites.  All of the genes encoded the same green fluorescent protein, allowing the researchers to study effects of mutations on protein levels when expressed in E. coli.

            Some of the silent mutations increased protein production by 250-fold without changing any of the properties of the protein.  At first, researchers thought codon bias (the probability that one codon of three adjacent nucleotides would code for one amino acid over another) was the cause of the variance in expression of proteins, but now they think otherwise.  They have now hypothesized that mRNA folding near ribosomal binding sites explain these variations in protein levels.  Through a series of experiments, they found that inefficient genes produce tightly folded mRNA molecules that aren’t easily accessed by protein-making machinery, and thus stability of mRNA folding explains most of the variation in protein levels.  They concluded that mRNA folding and the associated rates of translation initiation are extremely important in shaping expression levels of individual genes, and that codon bias influences global translation efficiency and cellular fitness.

 

 

      
University of Pennsylvania (2009, April 10). Biologists Discover How 'Silent' Mutations Influence Protein Production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 12, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/04/090409142258.htm
 

Full Text Article

 


           

 

DNA Test Outperforms Pap Smear

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

 

Published: April 6, 2009

Full-text article.

 

 

Researchers have discovered that a new DNA test is both more efficient and modest than the normal Pap smear used to test for Human Papillomavirus, or HPV.  HPV causes cervical cancer and the Pap smear is used to check cells for abnormalities.  A pathologist is needed to check these cervical cells and getting results can take up to three days.  An eight-year study in India of 130,000 women shows that the new test is thoroughly efficient at detecting precancerous or cancerous cells and only takes a few hours to get results.  The article explains that women are even able to swab themselves for the test if they are uncomfortable going to the doctor.

               Because this new test is so proficient, doctors are predicting that it will soon replace the Pap smear and will only have to be performed once every 5 to 10 years.  The test by Qiagen costs only five dollars and runs on batteries, which makes it useful for even impoverished countries where cervical cancer kills many women and pathologists are scarce.  Some gynecologists are skeptical about using this new test simply because it would upset the tradition of women getting their annual Pap smears, but because it is so promising, I believe the Pap smear will be replaced.    

 

 


Scientists Find Clues to Aging in a Red Wine Ingredient’s Role in Activating a Protein

By Nicholas Wade

Published November 26, 2008

Full Text Article- www.nytimes.com

 

 

     A research team led by David Sinclair at Harvard Medical School recently published an article on the possible health benefits of red wine. Resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, activates sirtuin, a protein that is thought to restore chromosomes and control a cell’s metabolism. Studies showed an improvement in physical fitness for mice on fatty diets and resveratrol, as opposed to those with no resveratrol, keeping them from becoming obese. 
     The way sirtuin works is that it keeps chromatin packed tightly so that the underlying genes are not exposed. Also, after injury such as a double stranded break in DNA strands the sirtuin aids in the repair. A side effect of this is that while performing this repair, the genes the sirtuin was keeping covered are temporarily exposed, potentially causing problems for the cell.
     In 1997 these repair techniques were discovered in yeast cells but the prospect of sirtuin being useful in mammalian cells is still under question but is believed its relocation plays a role in aging. Dr. Sinclair began taking doses of resveratrol since this discovery but believe it is still too early to tell if there has been any effect.

 

 

Beware the perils of caffeine withdrawal

 

Researchers from John Hopkins have discovered a pattern in human behavior that supports the idea that caffeine is a powerfully addictive drug. They concluded the higher the caffeine intake, the more likely a patient was to suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms when denied the ingredient.  While most studies support the idea of caffeine as a drug, other researchers question its true addictive nature. Michael Kuhar, chief of the division of neuroscience at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, prefers to use the word "dependent" rather than "addicted." [1]

 Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors, which normally increases blood flow to the brain. Caffeine is a competitive inhibitor, which in turn can cause headaches.  Other symptoms include fatigue, sleepiness, and inability to focus and concentrate.[2]

 Another related study showed that genetics could also play a role in pregnant women's inability to limit caffeine intake as many doctors recommend during pregnancy.  Researchers from the departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say, "Results of this study suggest that genetic vulnerability reflected in a family history of alcoholism may also be at the root of the inability to stop caffeine use."

 

Medical News

 

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=14823

 

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/06/hm.caffeine.withdrawal/index.html

 

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Gene Linked to Lupus Might Explain Gender Difference in Disease Risk

Link to article: www.utsouthwestern.edu/utsw/cda/dept353744/files/523279.html

 

Researchers used to believe that lupus affected women more frequently due to hormonal differences from males. Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have located a gene linked to lupus on the X chromosome that may explain why there is a gender difference in the disease. In an animal model, blocking the gene IRAK1 shut down the disease. To further the study of this link, researchers looked for 5 different variants of IRAK1 in individuals that were diagnosed with lupus as children, individuals diagnosed as adults, and controls. They found that 3 out of 5 variations of the gene were common in diagnosed individuals. Future studies are planned to further confirm the link between lupus and IRAK1 found in this study.

 

Cholesterol Drugs May Cut Risk of Clots

By: Pam Belluck

Published: March 29, 2009

 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/30/health/research/30heart.html?_r=1&ref=research

 

National medical panals are considering broadening guidelines to who should be taking statins, a drug known for lowering cholesterol. It has been proven beneficial for other health issues including reducing the development of blood clots in veins. A study presented at an American College of Cardiology convention found that individuals with normal cholesterol levels who took this drug were 43 percent less likely to get a blood clot known as venous thromboembolism that those who took a placebo. It is estimated that about 100,000 people die each year due to these venous clots. This study led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has found that the statin lowered the risk of heart attack and significantly lowered the risk of stroke, angioplasty, bypass surgery and death.

     The use of statin to reduce the risk of blood clots has shown to be effective with out the risks of triggering the bad side effects, such as hemorrhaging, that often occurs with the more traditional treatments used by those who experience blood clots. However, some say this statin, sold as Crestor, may have other side effects including muscle deterioration abnd kydney problems. It seems that more studies will have to be done before all doctors are comfortable with suggesting the use of statins to reduce blood cluts when high cholesterol is not part of the equation.

 

 

Rethink Stem Cells? Science Already Has

By: Nicholas Wade

Published: March 9, 2009

NY Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/science/10lab.html

 

Researchers concerned with human embryonic stem-cells have been given more freedom than what has been allowed in recent years. President Obama has lifted many of the restrictions on stem-cell research that had been enforced by President Bush. Now scientists can use federal money to set up and study stem-cell lines and they are no longer restricted to working with stem-cell lines that were derived before August 2001. Any stem-cell lines grown after that date were unapproved and could only be study through the use of privately financed labs. In the recent economic times, it has become more and more difficult to find such private funding and the ability to use federal money is being welcomed with opened arms.

     Although researchers no longer have this contraint, they can only use this federal money to do research on new stem-cell lines and cannot use the money directly towards creating new lines. These new lines will still have to be grown in privately funded labs. Despite this, the lifting of the law put in place in August 2001 will none the less make it easier for scientists to study stem-cells and to continue in their advancement of understanding how the body's cells interact with one another and how reprogrammed cells behave.

 

 

 

Scientists Identify More Breast Cancer Genes

Breast cancer is an increasing health risk among the human populace more today than ever.  Now, scientists say that there could be more gene variations that could increase the risk and expression of sporadic breast cancer. The rs11249433 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) appeared on chromosomes 1.  SNP's are noted to be the most common type of genetic variation and affect just one single building block of the human DNA.   The portion of chromosome 1 where this SNP is found associates estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer; also said to be the most common breast cancer.  On chromosome 14, the rs999737 SNP is thought to be breast cancer's pathway.  Other teams have also noted chromosomes 2, 5, 8, 10, and 16 to contain other polymorphisms associated with breast cancer. Furthermore, further studies and understanding of these variating genes directly related to breast cancer can ultimately provide new forms of therapy and possibly prevention of breast cancer. 

 

 

 

Article Abstract: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v41/n3/abs/ng.318.html

Health Day News Article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20090330/hl_hsn/scientistsidentifymorebreastcancergenes

 

Genes May Boost Harm to Kids From Secondhand Smoke

We all know that cigarette/cigar smoke is harmful to people and can cause a number of problems to the smoker and those around them.  Studies show that there could be a relation to genetics and the development and functionality of childrens'  lungs.  Scientists of the University of Southern California found that in a number of glutathione-s transferase (GST) genes, can affect the ability for the lungs to defend aginst free radical damage from cigarette smoke.  This ultimately reduces the lung's ability to detoxify harmful radicals which lead to a spectra of other agents that cause inflammation, bronchial construction, over-activity of airways, asthma, etc.  Next, researchers will investigate how these genes work in conjuction to further prohibit lung function and development.  Stop killing our kids!

 

 

Health Day News Article: http://www.healthfinder.gov/news/newsstory

Article Abstract: http://ajrccm.atsjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/179/7/601?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Genes+May+Boost+Harm+to+Kids+From+Secondhand+Smoke&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&volume=179&issue=7&resourcetype=HWCIT

 

"Novel Antibiotics That Don't Trigger Antibiotic Resistance Developed"

Artilce Published:  March 15, 2009

Science Daily

 

Antibiotic resistance in the bacterial population has always been slightly ignored and propagated by the indiscriminate use of antibiotics. (Breton et al. 2009)  But with the recent difficulties in treating resistant bacteria, like MRSA, more effort has been given towards finding a way to prevent resistance from occurring and treating resistant bacteria.  Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D., a proffesor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, may have found one of the best methods to solving this problem.  Dr. Schramm hypothesized that instead of attempting to kill the bacteria, if one could develop a way to minimize their infective functions, then the problem of antibiotic resistance would be eliminated.   Dr. Schramm and his colleagues focused on "quorum sensing" which is the process in which bacteria essentially "communicate" with one another.  The signaling molecules transmitted between bacteria are called autoinducers and coordinate bacterial gene expression in the community, with one of the coordinated functions being virulence.  The researchers are attempting to disrupt the communication between cells.  To do this, they looked at an bacterial enzyme call MTAN, which is directly involved in the production of autoinducers.  Their plan was to create an analog of the substrate that would act as a competitive inhibitor and permenantly bind to the MTAN enzyme.  Three analogs were tested in V. cholerae and E. Coli.  which resulted in the disruption of the quorem sensing.  The bacteria were allowed to replicated to the 26th generation, and that generation was just as sensitive to the effects of the analogs as the first generation.  Dr. Schramm also thinks that other aggressive bacteria, such as S. pneumoniase, N. meningitides, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and S. aureus, would also be affected since they utilize MTAN.  The team has now developed 20 potent MTAN inhibitors and expect all of them to be safe for use in humans, since they work on bacterial enzymes only.  The compounds have been licensed to Pico Pharmaceuticals, where they will begin development and clinical trials.

 

Science Daily Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090313150121.htm

Article Abstract: http://www.nature.com/nchembio/journal/v5/n4/abs/nchembio.153.html


 

Genetic Tests May Reveal Source of Mystery Tumors

Article Published: March 9, 2009

By: Andrew Pollack; NY Times

 

An English woman by the name of Jo Symons tragically died at age 46 due to cancer of unknown origin. Tumors from an unidentified origin had spread to her neck, chest, and lymph nodes. Due to a lack of definite origin, doctors were unable to provide Jo with proper treatment for her cancer. New genetic tests hope to drastically change the outcome for future patients with Jo's condition. Each test currently costs $3,000 and aims to identify the origin of such cancers. Dr. Anthony F. Greco of the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Nashville, TN stated that he has had patients experience tremendous success with the breakthrough tests. The importance of determining the origin of these mysterious tumors is that the drugs administered are for the specific site of origin. For example, breast cancer that had spread to the liver would still be treated with breast cancer drugs. When the origin is not determined, a general, less effective drug is utilized to treat the cancer. There are currently four tests on the market which are in the early stages of being used for the determination of cancer origins. The tests analyze the activity of genes present in the tumors. They compare a genetic fingerprint from the unidentified cancer to those of known cancers to develop a best match. The tests examine anywhere from 92 genes in the CancerType ID test by BioTheranostics to 1,500 genes in the Tissue of Origin test from Pathwork Diagnostics, and boast an 80-90% accuracy when used with tumors of known origin. Currently in the US, only the test by Pathwork is approved by the FDA. However, it should be noted that immunologists are now using a process called immunostaining in which antibodies latch on to indicator proteins in tumors. This process is successful for 2/3 of tumors which would at one time have been unidentifiable, leaving only a remaining 1/3 (1% of all cancers) which would benefit from the new tests.

 

NY Times Article: www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/health/10tumo.html

 

Cancer of Unknown Primary Origin www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/sites-types/unknownprimary

 


 

Rappin' For Science 

Article Published: March 9, 2009

By. John Tierney; NY Times

 

Two Stanford University "rappers" have made headlines due to their extremely creative, yet very informational rap on HOX genes. Derek Davis, a student in his junior year at Stanford, along with Tom McFadden, an instructor in the Human Biology department at Stanford, are the masterminds behind the YouTube video which has recieved over 33,000 views to date. The video gives an educational lesson on Hox genes in a way that is sure not to be forgotten. McFadden explains the importance of Hox genes to cell specialization, which is largely influenced by the transcription of genes in a particular cell. This process is controlled by Transcription factors, which are proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences regulating the process of transciption in which DNA is changed into RNA. HOX genes are a vital subset of transcription factors which determine where parts of the body are formed. HOX genes have been highly conserved in evolutionary processes and are extremely important in the proper formation of an organism.

 

NY TIMES ARTICLE: tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/09/rappin-for-science/

 

YouTube: Regulatin' Genes

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"Turmeric Ingredient Makes Membranes Behave for Better Health"

3-8-09

 

 

 

     A spice known for many years in India known as tumeric has been used in Hindu medicine to treat wounds, infections and many health problems.  Recent research into this "holy powder" has identified the main ingredient, curcumin, and has found that it has astonishing properties.  More specificially, it seems to have uses as an antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti viral, and antibiotic.  Although until recently, little has been known about curcumin and its exact effects, recent research holds the key to some of its amazing properties.   Recently, research headed up by Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, at the University of Michigan has found that curcumin acts like a “disciplinarian” in cells.  It inserts itself into cell membranes, and seemingly makes them act in a more orderly fashion.  This improves cells’ resistance to infection and malignancy and could be vital in controlling cancer in cells.  Researchers found that curcumin has properties that allow information flow in cells to be more orderly and controlled.  After using curcumin derivatives as a child, Professor Ramamoorthy became fascinated with the spice and other proteins which are associated with the biological membranes of cells.  Using solid-state NMR spectroscopy, he studies atom-level details of these molecules and how they operate in biological membranes.  He and his colleagues have recently developed a two-dimensional solid-state NMR technique to study curcumin-membrane communication.  They have hypothesized that curcumin works by directly interacting with membrane proteins, although some University of Michigan findings have challenged the idea.  Instead, they now believe that curcumin regulates membrane protein activities indirectly.  Simply put, they change the physical properties of the membrane.  Ramamoorthy and his colleagues have now been collaborating with Professors Masato Koreeda and Jason Gestwicki who are also at the University of Michigan.  They intend to study varieties of curcumin derivatives and have found that some have enhanced potency.  They intend to study how the various derivatives interact with biological membranes and to see if they have the same interactions that have been observed in Ramamoorthy’s current study.  The aim is the development of potent compounds to treat infections and other diseases.

          Ramamoorthy and his team are also using the same methods to observe and investigate effects of curcumin on the formation of amyloids, which are fibrous proteins believed to be involved in type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases.  They are also studying to see whether other natural products like polyphenols (compounds in plants that have antioxidant properties), and capsaicin (a pain reliever derived from hot peppers) interact with biological membranes in the same way that curcumin does.

         All of this research is being funded and supported by the National Institutes of Health and seems to be showing some promising results.  The future of these studies should be of great interest in fighting disease with natural occurring substances.

 

 

 

University of Michigan (2009, March 8). Turmeric Ingredient Makes Membranes Behave For Better Health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 8, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/03/090306172615.htm

 

 


 

Scientists discover why teeth form in a single row

February 26, 2009

 

Scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center have identified a gene that controls how the teeth are arranged in the jaw.  There are many that come together to get this job done, but the identified gene is called oddskipped related 2 (Osr2) gene.  When this gene was removed from mice they grew extra teeth, specifically extra third molars.  Knocking out this gene also resulted in cleft palate, when the two sides of the palate do not fuse together.  Osr2 works against the Bone Morphogenic Protein 4 (BMP4) which initiates tooth formation by being present in higher concentrations along the sides of the gums where teeth are not appropriate.  The gene also may control how close teeth are to one another, preventing them from coming in fused.  This study has significance because once scientists understand the genes responsible for tooth formation they may be able to figure out how to stimulate tooth growth in patients who lose their teeth for various reasons.

 

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News: www.genengnews.com/news/bnitem.aspx 

 

Abstract: www.urmc.rochester.edu/aab/oralbio/secure/documents/Gaoabstract.pdf

 


 

Scientists find gene that causes Drosophila speciation

February 9, 2009

 

Scientists from University of Rochester have identified a speciation gene found in Drosophila. Speciation genes cause groups to be reproductively isolated from each other so that they can't make viable offspring.  The gene found causes reproductive isolation between Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans.  The specific gene found is called Nup 160, which codes proteins that make up the nuclear pore complex which controls which molecules can come in and out of the nucleus.  There is one speciation gene that had been identified previously in Drosophila, Nup 96.  Scientists were very suprised to find that the newly discovered speciation gene was involved with the nuclear pore complex because the previously discovered gene, Nup 96, was also involved in the same thing.  All scientists know is that the loss of this gene causes speciation.  They are still unsure of how the nuclear pore complex may be related to speciation.  Evidence points to the fact that Nup 160 is incompatible with the X chromosome causing lethality.   

 

Scientific Article: www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5915/779

 

NY Times Article: www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/science/10species.html


 

 Scientists find gene that modifies the severity of cystic fibrosis lung disease

February 25, 2009

 

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have discovered a gene that modifies the severity of symptoms in patients who have a lethal genetic condition known as cystic fibrosis. This discovery could lead to innovative treatments. By correlating with researchers at the University of North Carolina and Johns Hopkins University, Christopher Karp M.D., the head of Molecular Immunology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that small genetic variances in a gene called IFRD1 correlate with lung disease severity. Researchers found that a protein that is particularly abundant in a type of white blood cell called neutrophils is responsible for encoding the IFRD1 gene. Neutrophils are part of the human immune system and are extremely important to the body’s response to infectious bacteria. Neutrophils are also however known to be particularly harmful to lung disease patients, as they aid in inflammation of air passages, eventually destroying the lung in cystic fibrosis patients.

Deleting the IFRD1 gene in mice confirmed its role in regulating the disease. This finding may be the sole basis for a new approach to treating cystic fibrosis, however further research is being conducted to determine the if IFRD1 itself could become a target for treatment. For more info, visit www.cincinnatichildrens.org.

 

EurekAlert Article: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/cchm-sfg022309.php

 


 

RNA interference Applied to Help Lower Cholesterol

 

The application of RNA interference (RNAi) has recently been considered to eliminate genes that are capable of causing disease, along with inactivating proteins to lower bad types of cholesterol.  After studying the concept of RNAi, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals have made a drug to inhibit certain types of protein production.  Although they have only tested this drug on monkeys, it lowered cholesterol levels by more than 50%.  Researchers have determined from these experiments that RNA plays an important part in the functionality of genes. Multiple RNAi drugs have recently been tested on humans to determine the drug's ability to eliminate genes causing cancer and other illnesses.  By nicking the strands of RNA in a cell, RNAi works by inactivating the the gene.  Research is still being conducted on whether or not a drug would work successfully in humans, since double-stranded RNA has a few setbacks.  In one experiment, instead of inactivating the protein, it actually increased its production.  Scientists hope that over time with more research, they can determine the exact activity of RNA interference and RNA activation in order to apply it to medical science.  

 

 

NYTimes Article: 

www.nytimes.com/2008/11/11/science/11rna.html

 

Press Release Article:

nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2006/press.html

 

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals:

www.alnylam.com/

 


 

 

Potential Universal Vaccine

 

Research funded by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has shown that human antibodies were able to protect mice from "Bird Flu" and Infulenza A viruses. Bird Flu has been a major epidemic scare in Asia, and human cases have been roported to have a 63% mortality rate.  Independent researches from China and France have identified key proteins in the H5N1 Bird Flu virus.  This area enables the virus to copy itself.  The antibodies have been shown to successfully provide protection, even when administered 3 days after beening exposed to the flu.  The next step will be to conduct testing in ferrets. Human trials are slated for 2011-2012, while a liscensed product would not be availble for several more years after that. These findings could provide a universal vaccine in case of a pandemic spread of bird flu in the future.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/02/20/flu.antibodies/index.html?iref=24hours

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/europeCrisis/idUST115796

 

http://www.biodesign.asu.edu/news/shades-of-1918-new-study-compares-avian-flu-with-a-notorious-killer-from-the-past

 

Warning: Video provides no germane educational information.

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Addition of Transcription Factors Causing Conversion of Cell Type.

 

Biologists at Harvard have successfully converted a cell from a mouse's pancreas into insulin-producing cells that are usually destroyed with diabetes.  This new technique of cell conversion could lead to a frontier in curing people of such diseases, but it has not yet been proven worthy of human use.  The technique involves the addition of transcription factors, which are molecules that enable a certain gene to be activated to produce a certain protein.  A japanese biologist that had simply added a transcription factor to an adult cell was able to turn it back to its embryonic state.  The biologists at Harvard used three transcription factors from an insulin-producing cell.  They inserted the genes for these three transcription factors into a virus, which then infected exocrine cells, another type of pancreatic cells.  These cells were infected in diabetic mice, enabling them to produce insulin.  They did not function exactly they same way as naturally insulin-producing cells, but they still made a large improvement.  This technique is becoming more popular as just last month biologists at the institute of Boston converted white fat cells into brown fat cells, which are very different from each other.  Although it is not ready for human use, it may one day help people with diabetes and other such diseases.

 

 

NYTimes Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/28/science/28cell.html

 

Nature:  http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v455/n7213/abs/nature07314.html

 

 

 

Possible Cure for the Common Cold Virus 

 

A possible cure is in the making for the common cold virus according to researchers at J. Craig Venter Institute, an organization built to focus on different types of genomic research.  Earlier this month, it was announced that the researchers had sequenced and decoded all strains of the human rhinovirus genome.  Rhinoviruses are responsible for the common cold virus, asthma attacks, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  Decoding and analyzing the 99 strains of the virus allowed researchers to develop a Rhinovirus family tree, showing which parts of the genome are altered over time and which areas stay the same.  The family tree also provides links to the virus' weaknesses, which could be useful for developing pharmaceutical drugs made to target the unchanging genomes.  Dr. Liggett from the University of Wisconsin believes that one region of the genome, which is a similar sequence in most strains and affects protein production, could be affected by the same pharmaceutical drug.  This could be a huge break-through in antiviral agent production against the Rhinovirus.  Although there is no cure for the common cold virus at this time, this advance in research allows more opportunities and possibilities that a cure can be made in the future.

 

NYTimes Article:  

www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/health/research/13cold.html

 

LATimes Article:

www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-cold13-2009feb13,0,6469591.story

 

J. Craig Venter Institute Press Release:

www.jcvi.org/cms/press/press-releases/full-text/article/complete-genomes-of-all-known-human-rhinoviruses-are-published/

 

 

 

 

 

Stem Cells Reverse Paralysis in Rats

 

Miodrag Stojkovic, lead researcher, found that transplanting progenitor stem cells from the lining of rats' spinal cords into rodents with serious spinal cord injuries was a means of paralysis recovery as fast as one week post injection.  The research was later featured in the journal Stem Cells.Stojkovic's team found that the transplanted cells regenerated up to 10 times faster while in the transplant subject than similar cells derived from healthy control animals. This proved to be a dramatic breakthrough although it does not insinuate a cure for paralysis.  It "open a new window on spinal cord regenerative strategies," says other researchers.  Ultimately, people want to know how this relates and can help the human populace?  Stojkovic hints that since the human body already possess the proper mechanics to repair damaged cells and spinal cords, reasearchers will need both adult and embryonic stem cells to fully understand the human body and apply this knowledge in regenerative medicine.  

 

 

Live Science News Article

http://www.livescience.com/health/090129-stem-cell-spine.html 

CNN Headline

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/23/stem.cell/

 

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Gene Mutation Linked to Fast Fat Breakdown

 

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine recently found that a mutation in the apoC-III that disables one of the two copies of this gene present in humans leads to an unusually fast metabolic breakdown of triglycerides. By studying a group of 809 people from the Old Order of the Amish it was found that after consuming a high fat milkshake 5% of the study had almost no change in the blood glyceride levels. They found that this 5% had the mutation of the apoC-III gene which is responsible for the prodution of APOC3 protein which is an intermediate protein that slows the breakdown of triglycerides. They also found that the subjects with the gene mutation have high levels of HDL cholesterol and low levels of LDL cholesterol. This reasearch is important because high fat and "bad" cholesterol levels are seen in those suffering from diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If at all possible there might be a way to turn off one of the two genes that produce the APOC3 protein and lower risks of heart disease and diabetes, but this is a long way off from being a practical method of reducing the development of these diseases.

 

NY Times article

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/health/research/12heart.html?_r=1&ref=health

 

OMIM page explaining the Gene and Protein function

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/dispomim.cgi?id=107720

 


 

Born to Run? Little Ones Get Test for Sports Gene

 

It appears as if the next big thing in Suburbia could be parents having their children tested to see what sports they are most suitable for. The $149 test consists of a cheek swab, necessary to collect DNA, which is then analyzed by a laboratory for ACTN3. In a 2003 study from Australia, ACTN3 was linked to athletic ability. The study revealed that the R variant of ACTN3 instructs the body to produce the alpha-actinin-3 protein, which is contained in the fast twitch muscles required for speed and power sports. Conversely, the X variant of the gene restricts the production of alpha-actin-3 protein. The study examined 429 elite white athletes (50 of which were Olympians), and discovered that 50% of them had two copies of the R variant. Results also showed that zero of the elite sprinters had the X variant, all male power sport participants evaluated had at least one copy of the R variant, and that 25% of the endurance athletes examined had 2 copies of the X variant. The supporters of the test claim that it allows for the determination as to if a child will be best at speed and power sports, or endurance sports. While researchers believe that the it is unlikely that the ACTN3 gene is only one of possibly 200 genes which determine athletic ability, its presence in the X or R variant is most likely a strong indicator as to athletic performance. The controversial test has been on the market since 2004 in Australia.

 

NY Times Article

www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/sports/30genetics.html

 

PubMed Australian Research Article

www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi

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Scientists Find Clues to Aging in a Red Wine Ingredient's Role in Activating a Protein

 

In a study published in the journal Cell by Dr. David Sinclair and his research team from Harvard Medical School, research has shown a possible link between red wine and aging. The specific ingredient in red wine under investigation is resveratrol, which has been shown to improve the health and longevity of lab rats. Results illustrated that mice on fatty diets were also protected from becoming obese and gained extended endurance in treadmill studies. Resveratrol was proven to activate the protein sirtuin, which is responsible for chromosome repair. It was discovered in 1980 that in cells, sirtuin is responsible for supressing genes by keeping chromatin tightly wrapped around DNA preventing a cell from acessing genes beneath it. However, sirtuin also functions in chromosomal repair. When a double stranded DNA break occurs, sirtuin moves to the site and repairs the strands, but is incapable of supressing genes in the process. It has been speculated that resveratrol could also play a role in the aging of humans due to the fact that as people age, the structural integrity of their chromosomes deteriorates. While the link to support such a hypothesis has not been directly made yet, studies are currently underway to provide this information. It should be noted that a company which Dr. Sinclair founded is currently producing chemicals which mimic the effects of resveratrol, yet are much more potent.

 

New York Times Article

www.nytimes.com/2008/11/27/health/27aging.html

 

Harvard Medical School Press Release

web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/11_1Sinclair.html

 

Barbara Walters Interview Clip with Dr. Sinclair

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F.D.A. Approves Drug From Gene- Altered Goats

 

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug produced by bioengineered livestock producing a human gene. Scientists working with GTC Therapeutics have utilized a herd of 200 bioengineered goats on a Massachusetts farm to produce antithrombin, a human anticlotting protein. GTC Therapeutics, the company responsible for this drug production, first linked the human protein antithrombin to goat DNA normally producing a milk protein. The gene was then injected into a one-celled goat embryo and implanted into the womb of a surrogate mother goat whose offspring produced antithrombin in its milk. After this initial goat was shown to produce the protein, subsequent bioengineered goats came about via traditional breeding. The protein is found in a drug, ATryn, which serves to prevent blood clots in people with a rare antithrombin deficiency. ALthough these patients are able to prevent blood clots regularly through the use of blood thinning medications, it is unsafe to utilize blood thinning medications under certain circumstances, such as during childbirth or surgical procedures, which is when ATryn is used. Although this approval has been met with varying responses, GTC emphasizes that this protein is often in short supply as it is extracted from donated blood plasma. One goat is able to produce in one year the same amount of antithrombin obtained from 90,000 human donations. In response to other questions raised surrounding animal treatment and sanitary conditions, GTC ensures that the animals are well taken care of, are fully vaccinated, and are surrounded by a double fence to prevent wildlife from entering or leaving the area.

 

New York Times Article:

www.nytimes.com/2009/02/07/business/07goatdrug.html

 

Graphic detailing the process of DNA implantation:

www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/02/06/business/20090207-goatdrug-graphic.html

 

 


 

New "Bubble" Targets Only Cancer Cells

 

There is a lot of work going on at the University of Tel Aviv, involving a new type of treatment for people suffering from cancer.  The treatment is being developed at the University of Tel Aviv's Department of Biochemistry and is being head up by Professor Rimona Margalit.  The focus of this new research is developing drugs that target only cancerous cells.  The new drugs specifically target cancerous cells and leave the surrounding healthy cells unharmed.  This is very important because the side effects of chemotherapy are painful and dehumanizing.  If the new drugs can specifically target the cancerous cells, and leave the healthy cells unharmed, we could drastically reduce the amount of side effects from chemotherapy, which primarily arise from the destruction of healthy cells as drugs target all the cells in the body, and not just the cancerous ones.  The whole idea behind the new drugs is the use of microscopic "bubbles" that contain the drugs needed to combat and destroy cancerous cells.  The new drugs are being called drug carriers.  In comparison with current chemotherapeutic treatment, in which cancer drugs travel throughout the body and deliver their payload to both healthy and cancerous cells, these new "drug carriers" or "bubbles" can distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells and thus deliver the toxic chemicals they contain specifically to cancerous cells and leave healthy cells intact, reducing side effects like hair loss and nausea that are common in chemotherapy.  The surface of the bubbles can distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells and thus delivers the drugs inside only to cancerous cells after they have been identified.  This ability to distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells has many benefits including more precise delivery of the drugs which enhances the drugs effectiveness, and healthy cells are left unharmed which reduces the side effects of chemotherapy.  This is remarkable reasearch and has done well in animal studies.  Professor Rimona Margalit is currently seeking funding from pharmaceutical research companies in the hope to begin human trials as soon as possible.  She claims that the science is here, but the money has yet to be found.  Hopefully, funding will arise soon so that this new technology can begin to be used in human trials.  This is very exciting research and will most defininitely be beneficial in the future treatment of cancer.  Also, this new "bubble" technology can be applied to other medical conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, wounds and infectious diseases.  This new technology could revolutionize the delivery of therapeutic drugs and have a great impact on the health of human societies.

 

 

Science Daily Article:

Tel Aviv University (2009, February 23). New 'Bubble' Targets Only Cancer Cells.ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219202835.htm


 

Ovarian Cancer Survival linked to two key proteins

The levels of two proteins, Dicer and Drosha, can affect a woman's chance of surviving ovarian cancer, according to a study by the University of Texas M.D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The proteins are important in shaping small pieces of RNA known as microRNAs. These microRNAs are important in RNA interference which turns genes on and off, controls cell growth and determines which cells live or die. It is thought that microRNAs may function in the suppression of tumors. Patients with high levels of the proteins survived an average of 9 years longer than those with low levels of the proteins. High levels of Dicer has also been oberved to enhance survival in cases of breast and cancer. In the study, 39% of 111 patients had low levels of both proteins. Biotechnology companies are trying to use RNA interference to fight disease by fabricating small interfering RNAs, but the research has not lead to an immediate treatment. This study will hopefully help doctors to determine which patients need more vigorous treatment depending on the levels of protein and eventually lead to the creation of drugs geared towards patients with low levels of Dicer and Drosha.

 

www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/12/17/healthmag.ovarian.cancer.mutations/index.html

 

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New Protein May Reverse Neurodegenerative Disease

 

Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have found a protein which may potentially aid in developing new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. The protein, rhTFAM (recombinant- human mitochondrial transcription factor A), was found to enter and energize the DNA of mouse mitochondria, allowing the mice to run twice as long on rotating rods as mice without the protein. This is relevant to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) because many of them cause mitochondrial malfunction, and researchers have been looking for a means of repairing and restoring mitochondrial malfunction in these patients. In order to produce rhTFAM, researchers have engineered TFAM, a naturally occurring protein, allowing it to pass through cell membranes and enter the mitochondria. Since mitochondria are known as the cellular "powerhouse", mitochondrial damage leads to extensive damage, including the over-production of oxygen free-radicals which attack many cellular components. Although these findings are preliminary, researchers agree that having access to mitochondria is an important step forward in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases as well as others caused by impaired mitochondrial function.

 

Medical News Today Article:

www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/140166.php

 

Science Direct Research Article:

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6W8G-4VJ09B8-1/2/c6ae1ad2860553ca6286e9fe71d9e144


From One Genome, Many Types of Cells.

 

The means by which the joining of many specialized cells with the same genome creates a single body has long been a mystery to sceintists. It is understood however that each set of cells is deciphering a different part of the DNA. The analogy that the cells are like actors all reading the same script yet assigned different parts which are blocked off from all others is applied in order to describe the process. Assignments are designated by an epigenome, the second layer of the genome. An individual has one genome but many epigenomes which control which cells activate which genes. Understanding the epigenome has become very important since the human genome was decoded. in 2003.Due to the epigenomes ability to control which genes are activated in cells, it is believed that any impedement on the epigenome can have serious consequences for the cell. Because of the epigenomes importance in understanding gene control, researchers are calling for an epigenome project with a scale equivalent to that of the human genome. The epigenome consists of many marks that are made on the chromatin, some are made directly on the DNA. The marks are recognized by regulator proteins that perform tasks designated by the marks.  Some of the marked domains are repressive to genes while some are permissive. Few domains have been identified so far but it is clear that there are over a hundred different kinds.THe epigenome was built on an old packkaging role which is comprised of histones that form nucleosomes which package DNA. Histone tails are a means of actively marking the genetic code.The epigenome is altered by various environmental signals that reach the cell. The epigenome is also shaped by chromatin regulators which read the marks. Scientists have shown that an introduction of master regulator genes can alter a cells epigenome relatively simply. Learning to control the epigenome can be a way to fight disease by returning cells to an earlier form, altough this will be difficult. Drugs can also be created that will target the epigenome as a means of disease treatment.In addition to reading the genome, the epigenome is also influenced by the environment. Researchers are trying to put together a set of epigenomic marks that will lead to the development of new approaches to aging and disease.

 

www.nytimes.com/2009/02/24/science/24chromatin.html

 


ALS Gene Discovery Could Open Door to New Treatments

 

Researchers, associated with the ALS association, have discovered a new gene that may be responsible for about 5 percent of all inherited cases of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS).  This gene has been named ALS6 and it joins a group of already identified genes that are known to cause ALS. Only 10 percent of all cases are due to heredity while the other 90 percent have no history of the disease.  The discovery was possible by studying families with ALS.  This gene codes for a protein that is located in the nucleus of the cell but when the mutation is present, the protein clusters outside the nucleus instead.  A missense mutation has been identified in the gene encoding for FUS (fused in sarcoma) which is related to ALS6. The next step is to create models of the gene to find out how it might cause the disease.  This research could lead to better treatments for ALS and save lives.

 

New Article:

www.charleston.net/news/2009/mar/03/als_gene_discovery_could_open_door_new_t73637/

Research Article:

www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sci;323/5918/1208


With Genomes, Bigger May Really Be Better

 

In the past, researchers have consistently favored species with small genomes due to them being cheaper to sequence and containing less repetitive "junk" than bigger genomes.  However, at Howard Hughs Medical Institute, researchers are discovering that bigger genomes are better when it comes to figuring out how genes function.  Bigger genomes make it easier to locate regions in the DNA that control gene activity.  The smaller genomes prove to be too tightly "packed" and harder to find these regions.  Only a small fraction of the regulatory sequences in humans have been identified and they are a result of comparing our genome with other animals.  But this technique doesnt work for smaller genomes such as Drosophila, because its hard to tell where one regulatory sequence begins and ends.  Tephritids proved to work better because their genome is five times larger than Drosophila.  Their DNA is much less "streamlined" and as a result easier to find the sequences.  By putting the tephritids regulatory sequences into the fly, they were able to identify some of the regulatory sequences in the Drosophila.   In conclusion, there seems not to be a fundamental difference between vertebrate and invertebrate genome complexity.  This idea is an illusion created by our bias.

 

News Article:

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090304091242.htm

Research Article:

www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0004688


Messenger RNA used to change cell types

     A new cell based therapy has been developed by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania.  Using mRNA, they have been able to successfully change one type of cell into another type of cell.  This is possible because the mRNA is responsible for the proteins that a cell makes and by inducing a cell with hundreds of thousands of copies of mRNA, the cells make the proteins of another cell type.  This process is called Transcriptome induced phenotype remodeling (TIPeR).  They were able to change a neuron in to functioning as an astrocyte.  The treatment is effective within a week and lasts throughout the life of the primary cell culture.  This therapy is similar to stem cell therapy but instead of having an intermediate step TIPeR can go strait from one cell to another.  This could also silence the huge controversy of stem cell research that is such a heated argument in the country today.  This therapy has shown that cells are not hardwired for a specific physiology permanently as once thought.  The most exciting thing about this news is that this may be another cell based therapy which can help treat neurodegenerative diseases and others.

 

News Article:
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "RNA Used To Reprogram One Cell Type Into Another." ScienceDaily 17 April 2009. 17 April 2009 http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/04/090416144643.htm.
Research Article:

(no article): James Eberwine, PhD, Junhyong Kim, PhD, Jai-Yoon Sul, PhD. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


 

Lab creates an all-it-can-eat mouse

By Melissa Healy

March 21, 2009

 

 

A UC Berkeley team of scientists discovered that knocking out a key gene, DNA-PK, prevents weight gain from carbohydrates.  Hei Sook Sul Nutrional Science and Toxicology Lab demonstrated this discovery by knocking out this specific gene in a mouse’s genome allowing him to eat all the carbs he could stand without gaining any weight. This mouse was actually 40% leaner once compared to the control mice. This gene involved, known as DNA-PK (for DNA-dependent protein kinase), is widely studied for its role in repairing breaks in DNA. Sul was surprised to discover this same gene’s ability in the liver’s conversion of excess glucose to fatty acids. This discovery could later lead to gene therapy for obesity in humans; which is a huge problem in the US population today. 

 

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-carbs21-2009mar21,0,6500843.story 

 


 

 

Naturally Occurring Compounds Selectively Deplete Mutant P53 In Tumor Cells

ScienceDaily (Apr. 24, 2009)

 

     A recent study demonstrated for the first time that PEITC (phenethyl isothiocyante), a natural compound, can selectively deplete mutant on p53.  P53 is a transcription factor which in humans is encoded as the TP53 gene.  p53 is a muti-cellular organism which regulates the cell cycle and thus functions as a tumor repressor.  p53 has been described as the "the guardian angel gene" referring to its ability in conserving stabilty and preventing genome mutations. Mutations on the p53 tumor suppressor gene are found in over half of human tumors. These mutations allow pre-cancerous cells to replicate without moderation.  This natural compound PETIC also has been shown to possess cancer preventive activity.  It reduces the amounts of p53 protein in cancerous cells but it has also been traced to restoring the wild-type of the mutated p53.  This study is a new beginning, leading researchers to the actual capability of different natural compounds such as PETIC which can all play an important role in cancer prevention.

 

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090420151225.htm


The Benefits of Breast feeding 

April 21, 2009

 

     Breast feeding has been found to not only be benefical to nursing babies but to mothers as well. Mothers who have breast feed have a lower risk in developing high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, years later during menopause. Health benefits have been found for mothers who breast feed for only a month. However, the study found that health benefits increase in duration of breat feeding time. Women who have breast fed for more that a year are 10% less likely in having a heart attack of stroke than those who have never breast feed. Additionally, they are less likely to develop high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

     Women who reported breast feeding more than a year were 20% less likely for developing diabetes, 19% less likely in developing high cholesterol, 12% less likely in hyper tension, and 9% less likely for having a stroke or heart attack.

     The physological mechanism is unkown however may be associated with the hormone crucial to milk production, oxitocin. Oxitocin is known to relax and make blood vessles more flexible. And making them less likely in having plaque build up. Furthermore, additional calories are burned during milk production, reducing body fat gained during pregnancy. These statistics could also be linked to the idea that women who breast feed could be healthier in general than those who do not.

 

article website 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/health/research/22breast.html?ref=research

 


Researchers find a positive side of having lice 

April 22nd, 2009

 

This results in autoimmune diseases such as arthritiis, asthma, diabetes, or multiple sclerocis result in the over-active response of the immune system. Certain paracites may have an affect on the key components of the immune system, reducing overall immune reactivity and decreasing likely hood of developing immune dysfunctions. Lice are capable of supressing the immune system in the wild wood mouse. The mechanism is unknown however, immune supressing substance may be transmitted through the saliva of the organism in to the host or by transmittance of bacteria.

 

 

http://communications.nottingham.ac.uk/News/Article/Lice-can-be-nice-to-us.html


Bovine Genome sequencing

April 22nd, 2009

 

Scientists sequenced the gemone of the cow named Dominnette, of the bovine species Hereford. In doing so, researchers discovered that a cows genome is 2,870 billion DNA building blocks. That these encode for a minimum of 22,000 genes. Additionally, the bovine genome has 14,000 genes in common with other mammals. Cows have a significanly rearranged immune genes. These enhance the cows natural defense abilities. The cow has a high risk of opportunistic infections in its mucus memebrans from bacteria or fungi living in the rumon. Additionally, cows live in large herds. This close proximation of cows increases the transmittance of disease. Sceintist have now sequenced the genome of six other cow species. With this information one can identify which genes are favorable for economic puposes (lactose production, weight gain, reproduction rate etc) and use it for artifical selection.

 

 

http://www.csiro.au/news/DNA-blueprint-4-healthier-cows.html 

 


Serious side effect of Valproate

April 15th, 2009

 

The drug Valproate is the second most popular anti sezure medication. It is also used to treat  migrains, pain, and psychiatric disorder. Half of the people who take Valproate are not epileptic. Pregnant women who took Valproate had children whose I.Q. scores were significantly lower than those children whose mothers took other anti-epileptic drugs. The average 2 to 3 year olds who were exposed to Valporate in the womb had an average I.Q. score of 91. Which is 9 points lower than the average I.Q. of children who were exposed to other anti-sezure medications. Additionally, unborn children exposed to this drug had developmental delays as well as major malformations.  

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/health/research/16child.html?ref=research 

 


Genes Show Limited Value in Predicting Disease

Article Published April 15, 2009

 

Despite the technical success of the Genomewide Association Study, recent results have shown that it may be less clinically relevant than was originally hoped. Since the human genome was decoded in 2003, researchers have been analyzing results and comparing genome information between clinical patients and healthy people to determine which variants are associated with certain diseases. Researchers had hoped to find that a reasonably small number of variants would show links to disease after analyzing a large number of cases, but results have shown that many diseases are characterized by a very large number of variants. Schizophrenia, for example, would be caused by a combination of over 1,000 rare variants. This, unfortunately, means that a specific drug may be useless in attempting to correct disease pathways because so much of the body's chemistry would be affected. Physicians are in some disagreement as to where the project should move from this point. Several physicans believe this research should be shifted to analyzing the complete DNA of individual patients, whereas others think the project still may have useful information to offer and should be continued.

 

 

 


 

U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu

 

American health officials declared a public health emergency on Sunday after 20 cases of the new Swine flu were diagnosed in the U.S. The new strain, called H1N1, has global flu experts attempting to predict how dangerous the outbreak could become. As it is not yet known how serious the infections become, World Health Organization representatives claim that we are in "a period in which the picture is evolving". The public health emergency announcement allows for previously non-FDA approved antiviral medicine to children as a preventative measure. Additionally, 1/4 of the 50 million flu drug stock in the U.S. will be released to treat the potential pandemic.

 

In analyzing the virus, experts say it looks identical to the virus which killed 103 people in Mexico, but as of Sunday night there was only one hospitalization officially due to Swine flu, and no official deaths. A potential next step would be raising the emergency level again, which would involve travel bans and additional preparedness measures. There is an H1N1 strain in this year's flu shots, but little will be known about its effectiveness or potential mutations until the CDC can test flu shot antibodies against the new virus.

 

Swine Flu latest developments

Footnotes

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