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March 16, 2009, 7:57 PM CT

Catching the common cold virus

Catching the common cold virus
A BYU research team published a study on the genome of the rhinovirus, which causes about half of common colds.
A newly released study by Brigham Young University scientists on the virus behind nearly half of all cold infections explains how and where evolution occurs in the rhinovirus genome and what this means for possible vaccines.

The study is published in the recent issue of the academic journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

"There are a lot of different approaches to treating the cold, none of which seem to be effective," said Keith Crandall, professor of biology and co-author of the study. "This is partly because we haven't spent a lot of time studying the virus and its history to see how it's responding to the human immune system and drugs".

The BYU team studied genomic sequences available online and used computer algorithms to estimate how the rhinovirus is correlation to other viruses.

As per Nicole Lewis-Rogers, a postdoctoral fellow in the Biology Department and main author on the study, the rhinovirus is similar to the polio virus, whose vaccine was announced in 1955. But while the polio virus has just three subspecies, the rhinovirus has more than 100 subspecies, which continually evolve.

"These viruses could be under the same constraints and yet change differently," Lewis-Rogers said. "That's why it is so hard to create a vaccine".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 7:54 PM CT

Importance of healthy living

Importance of healthy living
Women who maintain a healthy weight and who have lower perceived stress appears to be less likely to have chromosome changes linked to aging than obese and stressed women, as per a pilot study that was part of the Sister Study. The long-term Sister Study is looking at the environmental and genetic characteristics of women whose sister had breast cancer to identify factors linked to developing breast cancer. This early pilot used baseline questionnaires and samples provided by participants when they joined the Sister Study.

Two recent papers published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention looked at the length of telomeres, or the repeating DNA sequences that cap the ends of a person's chromosomes. Telomere length is one of the a number of measures being looked at in the Sister Study. Telomeres protect the ends of chromosomes and buffer them against the loss of important genes during cell replication. Over the course of an individual's lifetime, telomeres shorten, gradually becoming so short that they can trigger cell death. The papers show that factors such as obesity and perceived stress may shorten telomeres and accelerate the aging process.

"Together these two studies reinforce the need to start a healthy lifestyle early and maintain it," said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The scientists who published these papers are from the NIEHS which sponsors the Sister Study.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 7:23 PM CT

A different perspective on obesity 'epidemic'

A different perspective on obesity 'epidemic'
Headlines tell us the nation is getting fatter, and that obesity has become an epidemic. But there is more to the story, as per one University of Houston sociologist.

While she acknowledges that there has been a shift in body weight over the years, assistant sociology professor Samantha Kwan looks at obesity from a different perspective.

The term obesity was constructed by the medical community, Kwan says. And the use of the Body Mass Index, which measures obesity, as the main factor to define obesity, has resulted in the media greatly overstating the rise of the condition.

"This epidemic has been constructed to the benefit of the medical industry that has in part medicalized the therapy of obesity over the years," Kwan says. "While there appears to be a rise in 'obesity,' the BMI is not always accurate. Some scholars describe this epidemic more as a moral panic. While there appears to be some truths to rising rates, they have been overstated".

Kwan, who has been studying gender and body image since 2001, examines how cultural beauty messages about fat interact with other cultural messages about fat, such as health discourses. This is summarized in her article "Framing the Fat Body: Contested Meanings between Government, Activists and Industry," published in February's Sociological Inquiry........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 5:20 AM CT

Is it really only our kidneys that control blood pressure?

Is it really only our kidneys that control blood pressure?
The problem of hypertension has reached pandemic proportions, causing premature death through heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease in a third of the UK population. For decades, researchers have battled at length over its cause yet still cannot agree; is the kidney or the brain to blame?.

This month, Experimental Physiology hosts a lively debate between two groups of world-leading experts. In the first ever published dialogue on the topic, Drs Montani & Vliet and Drs Osborn, Averina & Fink share their opinions with us and criticise each-others theories. Their frank exchange of views provides an interesting and informative summary of the latest research into how blood pressure is controlled.

When blood pressure increases the kidneys respond by extracting extra water and salts into the urine, causing blood volume and hence pressure to fall. But special nerve pathways mean the brain can also regulate urine production and hence influence blood pressure. So which organ is really in charge?

Montani & Vliet argue that controlling blood volume is the key, as the kidney automatically makes more urine as blood pressure increases.

However, Osborn and his colleagues remind us that the cardiovascular system is controlled by multiple mechanisms including the automatic part of the nervous system, which directly controls the kidney. They also update us on a plethora of new findings supporting a role of the nervous system in controlling blood pressure long term.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 5:17 AM CT

A natural approach for HIV vaccine

A natural approach for HIV vaccine
HIV
For 25 years, scientists have tried and failed to develop an HIV vaccine, primarily by focusing on a small number of engineered "super antibodies" to fend off the virus before it takes hold. So far, these magic bullet antibodies have proved impossible to produce in people. Now, in research to be published March 15 online by Nature, researchers at The Rockefeller University have laid out a new approach. They have identified a diverse team of antibodies in "slow-progressing" HIV patients whose coordinated pack hunting knocks down the virus just as well as their super-antibody cousins fighting solo.

By showcasing the dynamic, natural immune response in these exceptional patients, the research, led by Michel C. Nussenzweig, Sherman Fairchild Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, suggests that an effective HIV vaccine may come from a shotgun approach using of a wide range of natural antibodies rather than an engineered magic bullet.

"We wanted to try something different, so we tried to reproduce what's in the patient. And what's in the patient is a number of different antibodies that individually have limited neutralizing abilities but together are quite powerful," says Nussenzweig, who also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "This should make people think about what an effective vaccine should look like."........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 5:14 AM CT

Some men with prostate cancer doesn't require immediate treatment

Some men with prostate cancer doesn't require immediate treatment
A multi-center study of patients with prostate cancer appearing in today's Journal of Urology recommends that for some men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer, opting not to initially receive therapy can be safe if they are closely monitored.

The study addresses an important question for men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer and at minimal risk of cancer progression or metastases: when to actively treat versus when to observe and closely monitor. Radiation treatment and surgery are effective therapys but can be linked to serious long-term side effects such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Investigators in the study show that two separate biopsies are needed to determine optimal selection of patients for active surveillance, also known as "watchful waiting" when patients decide not to undergo immediate therapy.

Study author Scott Eggener, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center, notes there are no widely-accepted recommendations on which patients are appropriate candidates for active surveillance or when to perform second or "restaging" biopsies. The authors show that a restaging biopsy provides doctors with additional information regarding the cancer and is the best way to ensure the short-term success of active surveillance.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 12, 2009, 9:53 PM CT

How brain records memories

How brain records memories
It appears to be possible to "read" a person's memories just by looking at brain activity, as per research carried out by Wellcome Trust scientists. In a study published recently in the journal Current Biology , they show that our memories are recorded in regular patterns, a finding which challenges current scientific thinking.

Demis Hassabis and Professor Eleanor Maguire at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) have previously studied the role of a small area of the brain known as the hippocampus which is crucial for navigation, memory recall and imagining future events. Now, the scientists have shown how the hippocampus records memory.

When we move around, nerve cells (neurons) known as "place cells", which are located in the hippocampus, activate to tell us where we are. Hassabis, Maguire and his colleagues used an fMRI scanner, which measures changes in blood flow within the brain, to examine the activity of these places cells as a volunteer navigated around a virtual reality environment. The data were then analysed by a computer algorithm developed by Demis Hassabis.

"We asked whether we could see any interesting patterns in the neural activity that could tell us what the participants were thinking, or in this case where they were," explains Professor Maguire, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow. "Surprisingly, just by looking at the brain data we could predict exactly where they were in the virtual reality environment. In other words, we could 'read' their spatial memories".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 12, 2009, 9:52 PM CT

New way to explore DNA

New way to explore DNA
A team that includes scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found a new way of detecting functional regions in the human genome. The novel approach involves looking at the three-dimensional shape of the genome's DNA and not just reading the sequence of the four-letter alphabet of its DNA bases.

In a paper reported in the early online edition of Science, a team led by Elliott Margulies, Ph.D., of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), and Thomas Tullius, Ph.D., of Boston University, describes an innovative approach for detecting functional genomic regions. By combining chemical and computer analyses, the scientists survey the landscape, or topography, of DNA structure for areas likely to play a key role in biological function.

The method involves identifying all of the grooves, bumps and turns of the DNA that makes up the human genome and then comparing those structural features to those seen in the genomes of other animal species. Structural features that have been preserved across a number of species are likely to play important roles in how the human body functions, while those that have changed over the course of evolution may play a less central role or no role at all.

"This new approach is an exciting advance that will speed our efforts to identify functional elements in the genome, which is a main challenges facing genomic scientists today," said NHGRI Scientific Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. "Coupled with continued innovations in DNA sequencing, this topography-informed approach will expand our ongoing efforts to use genomic information to improve human health."........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


March 12, 2009, 9:51 PM CT

A new way to assess melanoma

A new way to assess melanoma
Every tumor, starting from a size of a few millimeters, depends on a supply of nutrients and oxygen. Therefore, using special growth factors, it induces vascular wall cells of neighboring blood vessels to sprout new capillaries in order to get connected to the blood circulation.

This process called angiogenesis involves many different growth factors and their respective receptors on the vascular wall cells. The departments of Prof. Dr. Hellmut Augustin and Prof. Dirk Schadendorf of DKFZ and Mannheim Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg have investigated the role of a growth factor called angiopoietin-2 (Ang2) in cancerous melanoma. The docking station of Ang2 is the receptor Tie2 on the surface of endothelial cells, which form the inner lining of blood vessels. Together with other signaling molecules, Ang2 induces sprouting of endothelial cells and the formation of new capillaries.

When measuring the Ang2 concentrations in blood samples of melanoma patients, the researchers discovered that larger tumors and more advanced disease stages correlate with high levels of Ang2. If one tracks the Ang2 levels of individual patients over time, a rise parallel to disease progression can be observed. In contrast, patients who have lived with the disease for a long time, i.e., whose disease is not or only slightly progressive, have lower Ang2 levels. The researchers found out that Ang2 concentration in blood serum is a more precise indicator of the progression and stage of the disease than previously used biomarkers.........

Posted by: George      Read more         Source


March 12, 2009, 0:24 AM CT

Learning difficulties for extremely premature children

Learning difficulties for extremely premature children
Children born extremely prematurely are at high risk of developing learning difficulties by the time they reach the age of 11.

A study carried out by the University of Warwick, in collaboration with University College London and the University of Nottingham, showed almost two thirds of children born extremely prematurely require additional support at school.

Extremely premature refers to children who are born below 26 weeks gestation.

Scientists looked at 307 extremely preterm children born in the UK and Ireland in 1995. 219 were re-assessed at 11 years of age and in comparison to 153 classmates born at term.

The scientists found extremely preterm children had significantly lower reading and maths scores than classmates. Also extremely preterm boys were more likely to have more serious impairments than girls.

This study, published recently (10) in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal Neonatal Edition , is the latest report from the EPICure study group. This group has produced two prior papers examining the children at aged two and a half and six years old.

Overall, just under half of the extremely premature children have serious disabilities, such as learning difficulties, cerebral palsy and impaired vision or hearing.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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