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January 4, 2010, 8:04 AM CT

Experimental drug shows promise against cancers

Experimental drug shows promise against cancers
An experimental drug currently being tested against breast and lung cancer shows promise in fighting the brain cancer glioblastoma and prostate cancer, scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in two preclinical studies.

The drug's actions, observed in isolated human cells in one trial and in rodents in the other, are particularly encouraging because they attacked not only the bulk of the tumor cells but also the rare cancer stem cells that are thought to beresponsible for most of a cancer's growth, said Dr. Jerry Shay, professor of cell biology and a senior co-author of both papers. The glioblastoma study appears in the recent issue of Clinical Cancer Research The prostate cancer study is available online in the International Journal of Cancer.

In the glioblastoma study, performed in mice, the drug also crossed from the bloodstream into the brain, which is particularly important because a number of drugs are not able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

"Because it attacks a mechanism that's active in most cancers, it might prove to be widely useful, particularly when combined with other therapies," said Dr. Shay.

Dr. Shay and colleagues study telomeres, bits of DNA that help control how a number of times a cell divides. Telomeres are protective "caps" of DNA on the ends of chromosomes, the structures that contain the body's genes. As long as telomeres are longer than a certain minimum length, a cell can keep dividing. But telomeres shorten with each cell division, so a cell stops dividing once the telomeres are whittled down to that minimum.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 3, 2010, 10:51 AM CT

Promise for high-speed genetic sequencing

Promise for high-speed genetic sequencing
In the current issue of Science, Stuart Lindsay, director of Arizona State University's Center for Single Molecule Biophysics at the Biodesign Institute, along with his colleagues, demonstrates the potential of a new DNA sequencing method in which a single-stranded ribbon of DNA is threaded through a carbon nanotube.

Credit: The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

Faster sequencing of DNA holds enormous potential for biology and medicine, especially for personalized diagnosis and customized therapy based on each individual's genomic makeup. At present however, sequencing technology remains cumbersome and cost prohibitive for most clinical applications, though this appears to be changing, thanks to a range of innovative new techniques.

In the current issue of Science, Stuart Lindsay, director of Arizona State University's Center for Single Molecule Biophysics at the Biodesign Institute, along with his colleagues, demonstrates the potential of one such method in which a single-stranded ribbon of DNA is threaded through a carbon nanotube, producing voltage spikes that provide information about the passage of DNA bases as they pass through the tubea process known as translocation.

Carbon nanotubes are versatile, cylindrical structures used in nanotechnology, electronics, optics and other fields of materials science. They are composed of carbon allotropesvaried arrangements of carbon atoms, exhibiting unique properties of strength and electrical conductivity.

Traditional methods for reading the genetic script, made up of four nucleotide bases, adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine (labeled A,T,C,&G), typically rely on shredding the DNA molecule into hundreds of thousands of pieces, reading these abbreviated sections and finally, reconstructing the full genetic sequence with the aid of massive computing power. A decade ago, the first human genomea sequence of over 3 billion chemical base pairswas successfully decoded, in a biological tour de force. The undertaking mandatory around 11 years of painstaking effort at a cost of $1 billion dollars. In addition to the laboriousness of existing techniques, accuracy is compromised, with errors accumulating in proportion to the number of fragments to be read.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 29, 2009, 8:56 AM CT

Genetic Causes in Lipid Metabolism troubles

Genetic Causes in Lipid Metabolism troubles
The research team determined the concentrations of 163 metabolic products in blood samples. Photo: Fotolia

Researchers of Helmholtz Zentrum München led by Professor Karsten Suhre have identified new gene variants linked to disturbances in the lipid metabolism. Some of these common human gene variants are already known to be risk factors for diabetes mellitus. The pathomechanisms of diabetes have intrigued physicians and been the subject of much debate for a number of decades. These new research results may contribute to a better understanding of the clinical picture of diabetes and its pathogenesis - and could lead to new approaches in early diagnosis and treatment. The findings have been reported in the current online issue of the renowned journal Nature Genetics.

The research team, made up of researchers of the Institute of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology at Helmholtz Zentrum München and of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) and led by Professor Karsten Suhre, identified variants in nine different genes which could be linked to disturbances in the lipid metabolism. Together with Dr. Christian Gieger and Assistant Professor Thomas Illig of the Institute of Epidemiology at Helmholtz Zentrum München, Professor Suhre succeeded for the first time in associating variants in the well-known diabetes risk genes MTNR1B and GCKR with changes in the metabolism. "The results of our study bring us a decisive step closer in our search for markers for the early detection and treatment of serious metabolic diseases such as diabetes," Professor Suhre explained.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 29, 2009, 8:11 AM CT

Schizophrenia mouse model

Schizophrenia mouse model
Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia have created what appears to be a schizophrenic mouse by reducing the inhibition of brain cells involved in complex reasoning and decisions about appropriate social behavior. Pictured is Dr. Lin Mei, a developmental neurobiologist who directs MCG's Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics.

Credit: Medical College of Georgia

Researchers have created what may be a schizophrenic mouse by reducing the inhibition of brain cells involved in complex reasoning and decisions about appropriate social behavior.

Findings by Medical College of Georgia scientists, published Dec. 28 in PNAS, elucidate the critical balance between excitation and inhibition of these cells that appears to go awry in schizophrenia. They also provide the first animal model for studying the disabling psychiatric disorder that affects about 1 percent of the population.

"We believe the mouse, which exhibits some of the same aberrant behavior as patients with this disorder, will help identify better therapies," said Dr. Lin Mei, a developmental neurobiologist who directs MCG's Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics. "We are doing testing to see if antipsychotic drugs already on the market are effective in treating the mouse".

MCG researchers made the mouse by deleting a candidate gene for schizophrenia, ErbB4, from interneurons, which are brain cells that help shower larger decision-making neurons, called pyramidal cells, with inhibition.

In their earlier work, they identified how ErbB4 and another candidate gene, neuregulin-1, work together to balance the activity of these pyramidal cells. They reported in Neuron in May 2007 that the two help keep a healthy balance between excitation and inhibition by increasing release of GABA, a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the inhibitory synapses of the brain's prefrontal cortex. Seven years earlier, they showed the two also put a damper on excitatory synapses, communication points between neurons where the neurotransmitter glutamate excites cells to action.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 24, 2009, 10:14 PM CT

Vitamin C boosts the reprogramming of adult cells into stem cells

Vitamin C boosts the reprogramming of adult cells into stem cells
Famous for its antioxidant properties and role in tissue repair, vitamin C is touted as beneficial for illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer and perhaps even for slowing the aging process. Now, a study published online on December 24th by Cell Press in the journal Cell Stem Cell uncovers an unexpected new role for this natural compound: facilitating the generation of embryonic-like stem cells from adult cells.

Over the past few years, we have learned that adult cells can be reprogrammed into cells with characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells by turning on a select set of genes. Eventhough the reprogrammed cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), have tremendous potential for regenerative medicine, the conversion is extremely inefficient.

"The low efficiency of the reprogramming process has hampered progress with this technology and is indicative of how little we understand it. Further, this process is most challenging in human cells, raising a significant barrier for producing iPSCs and serious concerns about the quality of the cells that are generated," explains senior study author Dr. Duanqing Pei from the South China Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 23, 2009, 7:58 AM CT

Success with new anti-cancer drug

Success with new anti-cancer drug
A study conducted at Scott & White Healthcare in Temple, Texas, observed that a new drug stopped the growth of breast tumors in mice. This drug is unique in that it works both by stopping the cancer cells from growing and metastasizing to other organs, and by stimulating the immune system to destroy breast cancer cells and keeps them from coming back. This is the only drug that's able to work in both ways, while all other therapys work in one way or another. And, this research initiative not only involves physicians and biologists working together to bring therapys from the laboratory to the bedside, but a unique third component agriculturalists.

Researcher Alexzander Asea, Ph.D., the Effie and Wofford Cain Endowed Chair in Clinical Pathology, and division chief of investigative pathology at Scott & White Healthcare and the Texas A&M Health Science Center, said "we observed that some of the mice were essentially cured".

"All anti-cancer drugs broadly fall into two categories; either directly killing cancer cells (often healthy cells as well), or vaccines that help sick patients by boosting the immune system to better fight off cancer. This new drug works both ways, as a vaccine by taking away the cancer cell ability to grow, multiply and spread to distant organs, and by educating the immune system to recognize the breast cancer cells as 'foreign invaders' that need to be attacked and destroyed and to continue that process over time," Dr. Asea said.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 23, 2009, 7:57 AM CT

Nanotechnology Heals Abscesses

Nanotechnology Heals Abscesses
Joshua Nosanchuk, M.D.; Joel M. Friedman, M.D.,
Ph.D.; Adam Friedman, M.D.
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have developed a new approach for treating and healing skin abscesses caused by bacteria resistant to most antibiotics. The study appears in the journal PLoS One.

Abscesses are deep skin infections that often resist antibiotics and may require surgical drainage. For their new therapy strategy, the Einstein researchers developed tiny nanoparticles - smaller than a grain of pollen - that carry nitric oxide (NO), a gas that helps in the body's natural immune response to infection.

When topically applied to abscesses in mice, the particles released NO that traveled deep into the skin, clearing up the infections and helping to heal tissue.

"Our work shows that nitric oxide-releasing nanoparticles developed here at Einstein can effectively treat experimental skin abscesses caused by antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, even without surgical drainage," says Joshua D. Nosanchuk, M.D., senior author of the study and associate professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology.

"This is important," he notes, "because several million people are treated for staph infections every year in the U.S. Increasingly, these infections are caused by methicillin-resistant Staph aureus - or MRSA - the serious and potentially fatal "superbug" that we tackled in this study".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


December 23, 2009, 7:50 AM CT

Switching off hunger hormone

Switching off hunger hormone
A Faculty of 1000 assessment examines how a stomach-produced hormone that influences the desire to eat and consume alcohol could be switched off to control drinking problems.

The study, carried out by Jerlhag et al. at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, showed that the hormone ghrelin, typically released by the stomach and known to promote appetite and therefore the intake of food, also influences the consumption of alcohol.

The results, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, showed that mice injected with ghrelin and then given the choice of alcohol or water to drink, were more likely to choose alcohol. At the same time, mice treated with ghrelin antagonists, as well as knockout mice (mice with the hormone's receptor removed), proved resistant to the effects of alcohol.

Faculty of 1000 Biology reviewer Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan says the ghrelin-injected mice showed more than a typical appetite for calories in choosing alcohol and the findings might influence therapy strategies for alcoholism.

Professor Berridge says, "These results seem to suggest a role for the effects of ghrelin on the brain in the motivation for alcohol consumption".........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 15, 2009, 11:36 PM CT

Chip capable of growing cardiac tissue

Chip capable of growing cardiac tissue
Johns Hopkins researchers developed this chip to culture heart cells that more closely resemble natural cardiac tissue. Photo: Will Kirk/homewoodphoto.jhu.edu .
Johns Hopkins biomedical engineers, working with colleagues in Korea, have produced a laboratory chip with nanoscopic grooves and ridges capable of growing cardiac tissue that more closely resembles natural heart muscle. Surprisingly, heart cells cultured in this way used a "nanosense" to collect instructions for growth and function solely from the physical patterns on the nanotextured chip and did not require any special chemical cues to steer the tissue development in distinct ways. The researchers say this tool could be used to design new therapies or diagnostic tests for cardiac disease.

The device and experiments using it were described in this week's online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work, a collaboration with Seoul National University, represents an important advance for scientists who grow cells in the lab to learn more about cardiac disorders and possible remedies.

"Heart muscle cells grown on the smooth surface of a Petri dish, would possess some, but never all, of the same physiological characteristics of an actual heart in a living organism," said Andre Levchenko, a Johns Hopkins associate professor of biomedical engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering. "That's because heart muscle cells-cardiomyocytes-take cues from the highly structured extracellular matrix or ECM, which is a scaffold made of fibers that supports all tissue growth in mammals. These cues from the ECM influence tissue structure and function, but when you grow cells on a smooth surface in the lab, the physical signals can be missing. To address this, we developed a chip whose surface and softness mimic the ECM. The result was lab-grown heart tissue that more closely resembles the real thing".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 15, 2009, 11:27 PM CT

Decoding memory-forming brain cell conversations

Decoding memory-forming brain cell conversations
The conversations neurons have as they form and recall memories have been decoded by Medical College of Georgia scientists.

The breakthrough in recognizing in real time the formation and recollection of a memory opens the door to objective, thorough memory studies and eventually better therapies, said Dr. Joe Tsien, neuroscientist and co-director of MCG's Brain & Behavior Discovery Institute. He is corresponding author on the study published Dec. 16 in PLoS ONE (see http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0008256).

"It's a beginning, a first glimpse of a memory," Dr. Tsien said. "For the first time it gives us the ability to look at the brain dynamic and tell what kind of memory is formed, what are the components of the memory and how the memory is retrieved at the network level." The finding could help pinpoint at what stage memory formation is flawed and whether drugs are improving it.

For their studies, MCG researchers combined new technology and computational methods with century-old Pavlovian conditioning.

In the memory center of the brain, they used 128 electrodes capable of monitoring a handful of neurons each to simultaneously record the conversations of 200 to 300 neurons as mice learned to associate a certain tone with a mild foot shock 20 seconds later.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Yale have brought to light a mechanism that regulates the way an internal organelle, the Golgi apparatus, duplicates as cells prepare to divide, according to a report in Science Express.Graham Warren, professor of cell biology, and colleagues at Yale study Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes Sleeping Sickness. Like a number of parasites, it is exceptionally streamlined and has only one of each internal organelle, making it ideal for studying processes of more complex organisms that have a number of copies in each cell.

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