March 6, 2009, 9:19 PM CT
All in praise of turmeric
Revered in India as "holy powder," the marigold-colored spice known as turmeric has been used for centuries to treat wounds, infections and other health problems. In recent years, research into the healing powers of turmeric's main ingredient, curcumin, has burgeoned, as its astonishing array of antioxidant, anti-cancer, antibiotic, antiviral and other properties has been revealed.
Yet little has been known about exactly how curcumin works inside the body.
Now, University of Michigan scientists led by Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy have discovered that curcumin acts as a disciplinarian, inserting itself into cell membranes and making them more orderly, a move that improves cells' resistance to infection and malignancy.
"The membrane goes from being crazy and floppy to being more disciplined and ordered, so that information flow through it can be controlled," said Ramamoorthy, a professor of chemistry and biophysics. The findings were published online March 3 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society
The research project melds Ramamoorthy's past with his current scientific interests. As a child in India, he was given turmeric-laced milk to drink when he had a cold, and he breathed steam infused with turmeric to relieve congestion. Now as researcher he is fascinated with proteins that are linked to biological membranes, and he uses a technique called solid-state NMR spectroscopy to reveal atom-level details of these important molecules and the membranous milieu in which they operate.........
Posted by: Scott Read more Source
March 5, 2009, 6:15 AM CT
Antibody treatment for sever asthma
McMaster University scientists have found patients with a very severe asthma benefit from injections of the antibody, mepolizumab.
The study by Dr. Param Nair and his colleagues based at The Firestone Institute for Respiratory Disease, St. Joseph's Healthcare, found patients who require a lot of medication, including prednisone, to control their disease benefit from the injections.
The research reported in the New England Journal (NEJM)
), investigated asthmatics with a persisting type of airway inflammation with inflammatory cells called eosinophils. It is estimated there are 60,000 to 120,000 Canadians with this condition.
"Mepolizumab works by blocking the production of eosinophils," said the study's senior author Dr. Paul O'Byrne. "By preventing their production, we were able to improve asthma, reduce the need for prednisone and really show that eosinophils are important in causing asthma symptoms in these patients." O'Byrne is the E. J. Moran Campbell Professor in Respiratory Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, and executive director of the Firestone Institute of Respiratory Health at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.
Of three million asthmatics in Canada, about five to eight per cent are severe asthmatics. About half of these have severe asthma with persistent eosinophilia. Eventhough these asthmatics are fewer in number, they represent huge costs to the health care system because frequent flare-ups which can require admission to hospital.........
Posted by: JoAnn Read more Source
March 5, 2009, 6:07 AM CT
The blind mole rat and the fight against cancer
Middle East Blind Mole Rat
If someone ever calls you a "dirty rat," consider it a compliment. A new discovery published online in the FASEB Journal
(http://www.fasebj.org) shows that cellular mechanisms used by the blind mole rat to survive the very low oxygen environment of its subterranean niche are the same as those that tumors use to thrive deep in our tissues. The net effect of this discovery is two hundred percent: first the blind mole rat can serve a "living tumor" in cancer research; andperhaps more importantthat unique gene in the blind mole rat becomes a prime target for new anti-cancer drugs that can "suffocate" tumors.
"President Obama said in his February 24 address to the U.S. Congress that he wants to put an end to cancer, and the boost to basic science in the stimulus package is a great start," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal
"But if he wants to end the longest ongoing war in U.S. historya War on Cancer we've been fighting since before Nixon declared it in 1971then building on this discovery is a good place to start".
To reach their finding, American and Israeli researchers from the Universities of Illinois and Haifa conducted experiments in multiple groups of "dirty" mole rats and "regular" rats. For each type of animal, a control group was exposed to normal levels of oxygen while the experimental groups were exposed to oxygen levels ranging from 3 percent to 10 percent. In the regular rats exposed to low levels of oxygen, the gene that becomes active to protect their bodies from low oxygen (BNIP3) was shown to be active in heart and skeletal muscles. In the mole rats, however, it was discovered that their version of the BNIP3 gene was much more effective at helping them tolerate low levels of oxygen than the version of the gene in "regular" rats.........
Posted by: Janet Read more Source
February 27, 2009, 6:28 AM CT
Helping to mobilize MS patients
The experimental drug fampridine (4-aminopyridine) improves walking ability in some individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). That is the conclusion of a multi-center Phase 3 clinical trial, the results of which were published recently in the journal The Lancet
"This study indicates that fampridine could represent an important new way to treat multiple sclerosis and perhaps become the first drug to improve certain symptoms of the disease," said neurologist Andrew Goodman, M.D., chief of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and main author of the study. "The data suggest that, for a sub-set of MS patients, nervous system function is partially restored while taking the drug".
The study reviewed a sustained-release formulation of the drug, Fampridine-SR, which is being developed by Acorda Therapeutics, Inc. The company, which funded the study, submitted a new drug application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month. Goodman has been a consultant and advisor to Acorda for its fampridine studies in MS.
Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system and is the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults. Worldwide it is estimated that more than a million people are affected by MS which is typically characterized by recurrent relapses followed by periods of remission early in its course. The symptoms of the disease vary from person to person, but usually consist of muscle weakness, gait difficulties, numbness or tingling in arms and legs, difficulty with coordination and balance, blurred vision, and slurred speech. Over time, the effects of the disease tend to become more permanent and debilitating.........
Posted by: Daniel Read more Source
February 26, 2009, 11:11 PM CT
Why teeth form in a single row?
A system of opposing genetic forces determines why mammals develop a single row of teeth, while sharks sport several, as per a research studypublished recently in the journal Science
When completely understood, the genetic program described in the study may help guide efforts to re-grow missing teeth and prevent cleft palate, one of the most common birth defects.
Gene expression is the process by which information stored in genes is converted into proteins that make up the body's structures and carry its messages. As the baby's face takes shape in the womb, the development of teeth and palate are tightly controlled in space and time by gene expression. Related abnormalities result in the development of teeth outside of the normal row, missing teeth and cleft palate, and the new insights suggest ways to combat these malformations.
The current study adds an important detail to the understanding of the interplay between biochemicals that induce teeth formation, and others that restrict it, to result in the correct pattern. Specifically, scientists discovered that turning off a single gene in mice resulted in development of extra teeth, next to and inside of their first molars. While the study was in mice, past studies have shown that the involved biochemical players are active in humans as well.........
Posted by: Scott Read more Source
February 26, 2009, 6:26 AM CT
New piece in Alzheimer's puzzle
Yale scientists have filled in a missing gap on the molecular road map of Alzheimer's disease.
In the Feb. 26 issue of the journal Nature
, the Yale team reports that cellular prion proteins trigger the process by which amyloid-beta peptides block brain function in Alzheimer's patients.
"It has been a black box," said Stephen M. Strittmatter, senior author of the study and the Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and director of Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair at the Yale School of Medicine. "We have known that amyloid-beta is bad for the brain, but we have not known exactly how amyloid-beta does bad things to neurons".
After an extensive gene expression analysis, the first step in amyloid-beta damage appears to involve cellular prion proteins. These proteins are normally harmless and exist within all cells, but on rare occasions they change shape and cause notorious prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt- Jacob disease, or its well-known variant, mad cow disease.
When the Yale team searched hundreds of thousands of candidates for potential disease-mediating receptors for the specific amyloid-beta form known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease, the most likely candidate was cellular prion proteins. It seems that amyloid-beta peptides latch onto these cellular prion proteins and precipitate the damage in brain cells.........
Posted by: Daniel Read more Source
February 26, 2009, 6:12 AM CT
The genes you inherit and your risk of stroke
A Bayesian network showing the relationship and interactions between individual genetic predictors (blue spheres) and stroke (red sphere). The predictive influence of race on stroke is also included (yellow sphere).
A new statistical model could be used to predict an individual's lifetime risk of stroke, finds a study from the Children's Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP). Using genetic information from 569 hospital patients, the scientists showed that their predictive model could estimate an individual's overall risk of cardioembolic stroke -- the most common form of stroke -- with 86 percent accuracy. The findings are published in the recent issue of Stroke.
"For complex diseases like stroke, it's not just a single mutation that will kill you," explains CHIP researcher Marco Ramoni, PhD, the study's senior author, who is also an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. "More likely it is an interaction of a number of factors".
Ramoni, in collaboration with Karen Furie, MD, the director of the stroke unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Rachel Ramoni, DMD, ScD, of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, identified 569 patients that had presented to MGH's emergency department and outpatient neurology clinics between 2002 and 2005 with symptoms of suspected stroke. They collected genetic information from the 146 patients with confirmed cardioembolic stroke, and 423 controls who were followed and found not to have stroke, and looked for 1,313 genetic variants (called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) known to correlate with stroke. The SNPs that each patient had were then entered into the model -- known as a Bayesian network -- which not only identified the genetic variants that correlated with stroke, but also determined how these factors interplayed and the strength of these interactions.........
Posted by: Daniel Read more Source
February 23, 2009, 10:08 PM CT
Drug could help drinkers stay sober
A drug prescribed for male and female infertility and menstrual disorders could hold the key to a more effective therapy for alcoholism, as per a research studyby scientists at the UCSF-affiliated Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center.
The study showed that "alcoholic" rodents, when injected with the drug cabergoline, decreased their alcohol consumption and alcohol-seeking behavior and were less likely to relapse.
Cabergoline, which is marketed under the trade name Dostinex, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in pill form to treat conditions caused by excess of the hormone prolactin.
The study, led by Dorit Ron, PhD, a principal investigator at the Gallo Center and associate professor of neurology at UCSF, is now on line (February 20, 2009), in the journal "Biological Psychiatry." (See end of news release for link to paper.).
Notably, cabergoline did not impact the rats' consumption of sucrose and, in a subgroup of binge-drinking mice, the drug did not appear to significantly affect intake of water or saccharin.
"This is encouraging," says Ron, "because it demonstrates that cabergoline is specific for alcohol, but does not affect general reward or pleasure. One of the problems with some existing drugs to treat alcoholism is a side effect that decreases pleasure, making compliance an obstacle to sobriety".........
Posted by: Scott Read more Source
February 23, 2009, 10:03 PM CT
Enzymatic Activity and Alzheimer's Disease
(Mainz, Gera number of, 23 February 2009) In a project involving the collaboration of several institutes, research researchers of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have succeeded in gaining further insight in the functioning of endogenous mechanisms that protect against the development of Alzheimer's disease. It was observed that the activity of the enzyme α-secretase is mainly responsible for the protective effect.
"In the past, we postulated that the enzyme α-secretase was involved in preventing the formation of cerebral plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's disease and also enhanced cerebral functions, such as learning and memory," explained Professor Falk Fahrenholz of the Institute of Biochemistry. His research group has been working in cooperation with the Clinic of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the university's Faculty of Medicine and the Central Animal Laboratory Facility (ZVTE) to discover the mechanism for the beneficial effects of α-secretase. The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease
(JAD) presents the results of this project in its February 2009 issue.
α-secretase is an endogenous enzyme that is present in the nerve cells of the brain, where it is responsible for the cleavage of an Aβ into Aβ domain. The result is a soluble protein fragment that promotes the growth of nerve cells and thus prevents the development of cerebral deterioration caused by Aβ. However, if the enzyme β-secretase is active, a chain reaction is initiated that subsequently results in the development Aβ initializing the cascade of Alzheimer's disease through formation of Aβ. "You could say that α-secretase is the good enzyme, and β-secretase the bad en-zyme," Fahrenholz commented. "We now want to find out how to activate this 'good' enzyme or increase its concentrations in the brain as a way of combating this disease".........
Posted by: Daniel Read more Source
February 23, 2009, 10:00 PM CT
Breakthrough in HPV research
Scientists have developed a new, inexpensive and efficient method for producing and studying a type of human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. The process could speed understanding of how the virus functions and causes diseases, and lead to new prevention or therapy options.
In findings reported on-line and in print in January in Genes & Development,
the UAB team detailed a process for producing HPV-18 in the laboratory. Previously, the virus had proven resistant to propagation in a lab setting, making it extremely difficult for researchers to study the virus and its effects on the host cells that it infects.
"The old method for propagating papillomaviruses in the lab for study was compromised by several factors," said Louise Chow, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at UAB and a co-author of study. "We could only look at the viral DNA gene by individual gene, which gave us little insight into how the entire virus coordinated its replication program or how it interacted with the host cells and tissues that had been infected".
The new method, which Chow and co-author of study Thomas Broker, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics, have been developing for over 20 years, for the first time allows scientists to reproduce the entire infection cycle of HPV-18 in primary human skin cells, called keratinocytes. The breakthrough is the result of several years of intensive and creative efforts by graduate students Hsu-Kun (Wayne) Wang and Aaron Duffy, coauthors of the publication. Researchers now can observe how the virus behaves in the same cells it would infect in a human body.........
Posted by: Mark Read more Source