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March 18, 2009, 5:19 AM CT

Lung cancer: Molecular scissors in action

Lung cancer: Molecular scissors in action
In the past few years, many anti-cancer drugs have been developed which are directed selectively against specific key molecules of tumor cells. Among these is an antibody called cetuximab, which attaches to a protein molecule that is found in large amounts on the surface of a number of types of cancer cells. When this surface molecule, called epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGF-R for short, is blocked by cetuximab, the cancer cell receives less signals stimulating cell division.

Clinical studies of non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most frequent type of lung cancer, have shown so far that only part of the patients treated with cetuximab benefit from the therapy. Therefore, doctors are urgently searching for biomarkers which reliably predict responsiveness to the antibody treatment.

Professor Heike Allgayer heads the Department of Experimental Surgery of the Mannheim Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg and the Clinical Cooperation Unit "Molecular Oncology of Solid Tumors" at DKFZ. The scientist suspects that the therapeutic antibody can disarm, in particular, individual cancer cells that have detached from the primary tumor, invade other tissues and grow into secondary tumors there. Therefore, Allgayer and her team focused on lung cancer cells' ability to metastasize. Indeed, the researchers were the first to show in lung cancer cell lines that cetuximab inhibits growth and invasion of cancer cells and reduces the frequency of metastasis.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:17 AM CT

Flu Infection and Pneumonia

Flu Infection and Pneumonia
A joint venture from scientists from the Helmholtz-Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, the Otto-von-Guericke-University in Magdeburg, and the Karolinska institute in Sweden have taken an in-depth look at the correlation between flu infection and pneumonia. Their results, recently released in the scientific journal "PLoS One", have disproven a common theory about flu-like pneumonia.

Some viral infections trigger a decrease of immune cells in the blood a so-called "lymphopenia". The reasons behind it and whether this is the case with influenza are unknown. To investigate the latter, HZI scientists infected mice with flu viruses and measured the amount of immune cells in the animal's blood every day. Some days later, flu-infected mice received a dosage of pneumonia bacteria commonly harmless for healthy mice. While the flu-infected mice did develop a superinfection & subsequently died, surprisingly, they were not suffering from lymphopenia. The healthy, non-flu-infected mice defeated the bacteria successfully and recovered.

To discover whether a lack of immune cells encourages an infection with pneumonia bacteria in general, an artificial drug-induced lymphopenia was established in the mice. Without infecting these lymphopenic mice with flu viruses, they received pneumonia bacteria. Despite a severe lack of immune cells, the mice recovered completely.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:16 AM CT

The most natural of all skin creams

The most natural of all skin creams
Scientist working on the DUBBLE beamline
Even after nine months soaking in the womb, a newborn's skin is smooth - unlike an adult's in the bath. While occupying a watery, warm environment, the newborn manages to develop a skin fully equipped to protect it in a cold, dry and bacteria-infected world. A protective cream called Vernix caseosa (VC), which covers the fetus and the newborn, aids in the growth of skin both before and after birth. VC provides 'waterproofing' in utero, allowing skin to grow in wet conditions, while after birth it hydrates and cleanses, even healing when applied to ulcers. Prof. Joke Bouwstra, a specialist in the skin barrier and its synthesis at Leiden University, and her colleague Robert RiƟmann set out to study VC in detail and has produced a synthetic version of this natural buttery ointment which shows the same structure and unique properties. As well as helping pre-term babies develop essential protection against temperature changes, dehydration and infection, artificial VC could also benefit sufferers of skin disease.

Like most moisturising creams, VC is mostly water. Its outstanding properties come from the addition of just 10% each of lipid molecules and dead skin cells (corneocytes), so the exact composition of the mixture is important.

For the lipids, X-ray diffraction measurements at the Dutch/Flemish DUBBLE beamline at the ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility) allowed the Leiden scientists to find the proportions of the various forms in the cream, even distinguishing between complex molecules differing in chain length.........

Posted by: George      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:12 AM CT

Cloning major sperm-binding proteins

Cloning major sperm-binding proteins
New treatments for infertility could be closer to reality, thanks to a discovery from scientists at the University of Montreal and Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Center. According to a study published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, the researchers have become the first to clone, produce and purify a protein important for sperm maturation, termed Binder of Sperm, which may have implications for both fertility treatments and new methods of male contraception

Credit: University of Montreal and Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Center

Dr. Manjunath and his colleagues have tried to isolate human BSPs for more than 10 years. In most mammals, these proteins are typically produced by the seminal vesicles and added to sperm at ejaculation. Yet this is not the case for humans, primates and rodents. As per Dr.Manjunath and his team, these species produce small amounts of BSPs only in the epididymis, a duct that connects the testes to the urethra.

"For a few years, we were looking in the wrong place," says Dr. Manjunath. "In addition, the minute quantities of BSP produced in humans has made it impossible to isolate and characterize".



Cloning leads to purification


Dr. Manjunath and his team went back to the basics. Using molecular biology technique they cloned the gene (DNA) that encodes human BSP. Through cloning, they were able to produce and purify this protein.

"After considerable troubleshooting, we were able to produce functional human BSP. Our next steps are to confirm its biological role in human fertility," says Dr. Manjunath.



Role of BSPs in other animals


Following ejaculation, sperm undergo a complex series of modifications inside the female reproductive tract. The changes sperm undergo during this process include redistribution of surface proteins, loss of sperm membrane lipids and increased sperm movement. A family of sperm-binding proteins (BSPs) secreted by the seminal vesicles has been shown to be essential for sperm maturation in female reproductive tracts of cows, sheep, pigs and other hoofed animals.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:08 AM CT

Engineering flu vaccines

Engineering flu vaccines
Iinfluenza virus.

Credit: NIAID
A new computerized method of testing could help world health officials better identify flu vaccines that are effective against multiple strains of the disease. Rice University researchers who created the method say tests of data from bird flu and seasonal flu outbreaks suggest their method can better gauge the efficacy of proposed vaccines than can tests used today.

Rice's Michael Deem, the lead scientist on the project, will present the group's results March 19 at the American Physical Society's 2009 meeting in Pittsburgh. The results are also slated to appear in the forthcoming book "Influenza: Molecular Virology" from Horizon Scientific Press.

Avian flu, or bird flu, is a especially deadly type of flu that's transmitted from birds to humans. It hasn't yet evolved into a form that can be transmitted readily between humans, but researchers and world health authorities are trying to prepare for a potential outbreak. Because the virus mutates continually, creating a vaccine in advance is problematic. For example, researchers have already observed that a vaccine designed for the 1997 strain of bird flu does not work against a 2003 strain.

"Current vaccines contain only a single version of a given flu subtype," Deem said. "We wanted to gauge the effectiveness of a vaccine that contained multiple versions of a given subtype".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:06 AM CT

Mussels glue for faster surgical wound healing

Mussels glue for faster surgical wound healing
Using the natural glue that marine mussels use to stick to rocks, and a variation on the inkjet printer, a team of scientists led by North Carolina State University has devised a new way of making medical adhesives that could replace traditional sutures and result in less scarring, faster recovery times and increased precision for exacting operations such as eye surgery.

Traditionally, there have been two ways to join tissue together in the wake of a surgery: sutures and synthetic adhesives. Sutures work well, but require enormous skill and longer operating times. Additionally, the use of sutures is linked to many surgical complications, including discomfort, infection and inflammation. Synthetic adhesives are also widely used, but they are the source of increasing concerns over their toxicological and environmental effects. One such concern with some synthetic medical adhesives is that because they are not biodegradable they do not break down in the body and therefore may cause inflammation, tissue damage, or other problems.

But new research shows that adhesive proteins found in the "glue" produced by marine mussels appears to be used in place of the synthetic adhesives without these concerns, because they are non-toxic and biodegradable, as per co-author of study Dr. Roger Narayan. In addition, the mussel proteins can be placed in solution and applied using inkjet technology to create customized medical adhesives, which may have a host of applications. For example, Narayan says this technique may "significantly improve wound repair in eye surgery, wound closure and fracture fixation." Narayan is an associate professor in the joint biomedical engineering department of NC State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:01 AM CT

Genetic Basis of Exercise

Genetic Basis of Exercise
'Adaptation to exercise' is a familiar phenomenon, even if the phrase is not: A sedentary person takes up jogging and can barely make it around the block. After jogging regularly for a few weeks, the person can jog a mile, then two, then three. With regular exercise, the body adapts, becoming fitter and more efficient. The heart can pump more blood, delivering more oxygen to the muscles. The muscles get stronger, and so on.

There are individual differences in the ability to adapt to exercise. Some sedentary individuals who take up jogging will be able to run three miles after a short training period, while others will take much longer to get to the same level. What accounts for this difference in a person's ability to adapt to exercise? One important factor is our genes.

Research into the role genes play in exercise has been gaining steam over the past few decades and is the topic of a symposium at the Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans on April 20. Mark Olfert of the University of California at San Diego and Claude Bouchard of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center have organized the symposium, the Genetics of the Adaptation to Exercise. The American Physiological Society is sponsoring the symposium.

Speakers at the symposium will include Eric Hoffman of the Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C. and Tuomo Rankinen of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Dr. Hoffman will discuss Genetics and skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise, while Dr. Rankinen will talk on Genetics and the response to exercise in human populations. The symposium will also include presentation of selected abstracts.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 4:59 AM CT

How clean are your hands?

How clean are your hands?
Epidemiologists and computer researchers at the University of Iowa have collaborated to create a new low-cost, green technology for automatically tracking the use of hand hygiene dispensers before healthcare workers enter and after they exit patient rooms. This novel method of monitoring hand hygiene compliance, which is essential for infection control in hospitals, was released recently at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA).

"We know that a range of pathogens are spread from healthcare workers to patients by direct touch and that the current rates of hand hygiene compliance are suboptimal," said Philip Polgreen, MD, University of Iowa Health Care. "Our new low-cost method of monitoring could potentially reduce cost while increasing compliance rates." The failure of healthcare workers to perform appropriate hand hygiene is one of the leading preventable causes of healthcare-associated infections.

This new technology marks a major shift from the current method of monitoring hand hygiene compliance that involves direct human observation, which is both costly and labor intensive. With human observation there is also the potential for a "Hawthorne Effect," which means workers will only clean their hands when being actively observed. Older automated monitoring technology, called radio-frequency identification (RFID) infrastructure, is available, but can be prohibitively costly and consumes far more power than Polgreen's method.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 8:22 PM CT

Waking up dormant HIV

Waking up dormant HIV
HAART (highly active anti-retroviral treatment) has emerged as an extremely effective HIV therapy that keeps virus levels almost undetectable; however, HAART can never truly eradicate the virus as some HIV always remains dormant in cells. But, a chemical called suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), recently approved as a leukemia drug, has now been shown to 'turn on' latent HIV, making it an attractive candidate to weed out the hidden virus that HAART misses.

Matija Peterlin at UCSF and his colleagues had previously identified another chemical called HMBA that could activate latent HIV, but the risk of several toxic side effects made HMBA clinically non-viable. However, the chemically similar SAHA had received FDA approval, making it a potentially safer alternate.

So, the scientists examined whether SAHA had any effect on HIV latency. They observed that SAHA could indeed stimulate latent HIV to begin replicating, which exposes the infected cell to HAART drugs. SAHA could activate HIV in both laboratory cells as well as from blood samples taken from HIV patients on antiretroviral treatment. Importantly, this successful activation was achieved using clinical doses of SAHA, suggesting toxicity will not be a problem.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 16, 2009, 8:08 PM CT

Obese woman and breast cancer risk

Obese woman and breast cancer risk
greater risk of breast cancer by not undergoing regular screening. As per new research by Dr. Nisa Maruthur and her team from The John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, USA, seriously obese women are significantly less likely to say they have undergone a recent mammography than normal weight women, particularly if they are white. Maruthur's findings are published online this week in Springer's Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the US. Mammography screening has been proven to reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer; current guidelines recommend that women over the age of 40 undergo a mammography every couple of years. Obesity is also an important risk factor for both the development of, and death from, postmenopausal breast cancer.

Maruthur and his colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 studies comprising over 276,000 participants, to look at whether overweight and obese women are less likely to have had a recent mammography than normal weight women. They also looked at the differences in mammography take-up between white and black obese women in three of the studies. They observed that severely obese women were 20 percent less likely to have had a recent mammography than normal weight women. However, this was not the case among black women.........

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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