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January 12, 2009, 11:40 PM CT

New weapon in battle against HIV infection?

New weapon in battle against HIV infection?
Scientists have discovered a potentially important new resistance factor in the battle against HIV: blood types. An international team of scientists from Canadian Blood Services, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Lund University in Sweden have discovered that certain blood types are more predisposed to contracting HIV, while others are more effective at fending it off.

A carbohydrate-containing antigen, termed Pk blood group which is distinct from the well-known ABO and Rh blood grouping systems, is present at variable levels on the surface of white and red blood cells in the general population. A study published recently in Blood, which is currently available online, shows that cells from rare individuals (≈ 1 in a million) who produce excess of this blood group antigen have dramatically reduced sensitivity to HIV infection. On the other hand, another slightly more common subgroup of people who do not produce any Pk (≈ 5 in a million) was found to be much more susceptible to the virus.

"This study is not suggesting that your blood type alone determines if you will get HIV," says main author Dr. Don Branch of Canadian Blood Services. "However, it does suggest that individuals who are exposed to the virus, appears to be helped or hindered by their blood status in fighting the infection".........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 12, 2009, 11:32 PM CT

New Clues To Understanding Cancer

New Clues To Understanding Cancer
In the 13th January print edition of the journal Current Biology, Instituto Gubenkian de Ciencia scientists provide insight into an old mystery in cell biology, and offer up new clues to understanding cancer. Ins Cunha Ferreira and Mnica Bettencourt Dias, working with scientists at the universities of Cambridge, UK, and Siena, Italy, unravelled the mystery of how cells count the number of centrosomes, the structure that regulates the cell's skeleton, controls the multiplication of cells, and is often transformed in cancer.

This research addresses an ancient question: how does a cell know how a number of centrosomes it has? It is equally an important question, since both an excess or absence of centrosomes are linked to disease, from infertility to cancer.

Each cell has, at most, two centrosomes. Whenever a cell divides, each centrosome gives rise to a single daughter centrosome, inherited by one of the daughter cells. Thus, there is strict control on progeny! By using the fruit fly, the IGC scientists identified the molecule that is responsible for this 'birth control policy' of the cell a molecule called Slimb. In the absence of Slimb, each mother centrosome can give rise to several daughters in one go, leading to an excess of centrosomes in the cell.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 12, 2009, 11:30 PM CT

Nanoparticles based drug delivery system

Nanoparticles based drug delivery system
Pictured are micrographs of microcapsule syringes. a) Blue laser light shows lithographic microcapsule shell in green. Hole in the encapsulation can be seen as discontinuous circle. b) Green laser light shows the red dye loaded into the microcapsule. c) Differential Interference Contrast microscope image of microcapsule. d) Overlay of a) and b) showing image of filled capsule.

Credit: Darrell Velegol, Penn State

A tiny particle syringe composed of polymer layers and nanoparticles may provide drug delivery that targets diseased cells without harming the rest of the body, as per a team of chemical engineers. This delivery system could be robust and flexible enough to deliver a variety of substances.

"People probably fear the effects of some therapys more than they fear the disease they treat," says Huda A. Jerri, graduate student, chemical engineering. "The drugs are poison. Treatment is a matter of dosage so that it kills the cancer and not the patient. Targeted therapy becomes very important".

Newer approaches to drug delivery include particles that find specific cells, latch on and release their drugs. Another approach allows the cells to engulf the particles, taking them into the cell and releasing the drug. However, the requirements for these delivery systems are complicated and challenging to implement.

The Penn State researchers' approach produces a more universal delivery system, a tiny spherical container averaging less than 5 microns or the diameter of the smallest pollen grains.

The spheres are formed around solid microparticles that are either the drug to be delivered or a substance that can be removed later leaving a hollow sphere for liquid drugs. They reported their results online in Soft Matter........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


January 8, 2009, 9:08 PM CT

Genes and Crohn's disease

Genes and Crohn's disease
Scientists at McGill University, the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) and the McGill University and Gnome Qubec Innovation Centre, along with colleagues at other Canadian and Belgian institutions, have discovered DNA variations in a gene that increases susceptibility to developing Crohn's disease. Their study was reported in the recent issue of the journal Nature Genetics

The study was led by McGill PhD candidate Alexandra-Chlo Villani under the supervision of Dr. Denis Franchimont and Dr. Thomas Hudson. Dr. Franchimont, now with the Erasme Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, was a Canada Research Chair formerly affiliated with the Gastroenterology Dept. of the MUHC. Dr. Hudson, former Director of the McGill University and Gnome Qubec Innovation Centre, is now the President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), located in Toronto.

The scientists pinpointed DNA sequence variants in a gene region called NLRP3 that are linked to increased susceptibility to Crohn's disease. Crohn's is a chronic relapsing inflammatory disease of the digestive system that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients can suffer from many different symptoms in various combinations, including abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, fever, vomiting and weight loss. Rarer complications include skin manifestations, arthritis and eye inflammation.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


January 8, 2009, 9:06 PM CT

For fats, longer may not be better

For fats, longer may not be better
Scientists have uncovered why some dietary fats, specifically long-chain fats, such as oleic acid (found in olive oil), are more prone to induce inflammation. Long-chain fats, it turns out, promote increased intestinal absorption of pro-inflammatory bacterial molecules called lipopolysaccharides (LPS). This study appears in the recent issue of JLR

While dietary fats that have short chains (such as those found in milk and cheese products) can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the intestines, long-chain fats need to be first packaged by the intestinal cells into particles known as chylomicrons (large complexes similar to HDL and LDL particles). Erik Eckhardt and his colleagues at the University of Kentucky wondered whether some unwanted LPS particles, routinely shed by the bacteria that inhabit the human gut, might also be sneaking in the chylomicrons.

Their hypothesis turned out to be correct; when they treated cultured human intestinal cells with oleic acid they observed significant secretion of LPS together with the chylomicron particles, a phenomenon that was not observed when the cells were treated with short-chain butyric acid. Similar findings were found in mouse studies; high amounts of dietary oleic acid, but not butyric acid, promoted significant absorption of LPS into the blood and lymph nodes and subsequent expression of inflammatory genes.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 8, 2009, 8:00 PM CT

What drives one of nature's powerful, nanoscale motors

What drives one of nature's powerful, nanoscale motors
Image of DNA entering the gp17 motor complex on the T4 capsid.

Credit: T4:2 - Motor Packing, © 2008 Seyet LLC
Peering at structures only atoms across, scientists have identified the clockwork that drives a powerful virus nanomotor.

Because of the motor's strength--to scale, twice that of an automobile--the new findings could inspire engineers designing sophisticated nanomachines. In addition, because many virus types may possess a similar motor, including the virus that causes herpes, the results may also assist pharmaceutical companies developing methods to sabotage virus machinery.

Scientists from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., collaborated on the study that appears in the Dec. 26, 2008, issue of the journal Cell.

"The discovery of how this virus motor functions represents a significant milestone in the investigation of viral processes," says David Rockcliffe, the program director who oversees a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that partly funded the research. "This research is a breakthrough that not only may lead to the development of a means of arresting harmful infections, but it also points to possible ways in which nano-devices could be fashioned,".

The virus in the study, called T4, is not a common scourge of people, but its host is: the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli). Purdue scientists studied the virus structures, such as the motor, while the Catholic University scientists isolated the virus components and performed biochemical analyses.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:54 PM CT

Genetic Determinants of ADHD

Genetic Determinants of ADHD
A special issue of American Journal of Medical Genetics (AJMG): Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics presents a comprehensive overview of the latest progress in genetic research of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The issue covers major trends in the field of complex psychiatric genetics, underscoring how genetic studies of ADHD have evolved, and what approaches are needed to uncover its genetic origins.

ADHD is a complex condition with environmental and genetic causes. Typically it is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that has an onset in childhood. It is one of the most common psychiatric diseases, affecting between 8-12 percent of children worldwide. The drugs used to treat ADHD are highly effective, making ADHD one of the most treatable psychiatric disorders. However, despite the high efficacy of ADHD medications, these therapys are not curative and leave patients with residual disability. Because ADHD is also has one of the most heritable of psychiatric disorders, scientists have been searching for genes that underlie the disorder in the hopes that gene discovery will lead to better therapys for the disorder.

Among the a number of studies in the issue are two from the first genomewide association study of individual ADHD patients. The study examined more than 600,000 genetic markers in over 900 families from the largest genetic study of ADHD, the International ADHD Multicenter Genetics (IMAGE) project led by Stephen V. Faraone of SUNY Upstate Medical Center. The authors have made these data publicly available to scientists who are interested in pursuing further studies.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 7, 2009, 11:35 PM CT

'Controlling the blood vessels to combat obesity

'Controlling the blood vessels to combat obesity
Mice exposed to low temperatures develop more blood vessels in their adipose tissue and metabolise body fat more quickly, as per a newly released study from Karolinska Institutet. Researchers now hope to learn how to control blood vessel development in humans in order to combat obesity and diabetes.

The growth of fat cells and their metabolism depend on oxygen and blood-borne nutrients. A possible way to regulate the amount of body fat in order, for instance, to combat obesity can therefore be to affect the development of blood vessels in the adipose tissue.

A team of scientists at Karolinska Institutet have now demonstrated the rapid development of blood vessels in the adipose tissue of mice exposed to low temperatures. This is followed in its turn by a transformation of the adipose tissue from 'white' fat to 'brown' fat, which has higher metabolic activity and which breaks down more quickly.

"This is the first time it's been shown that blood vessel growth affects the metabolic activity of adipose tissue rather than vice versa," says Professor Yihai Cao, who led the study. "If we can learn how to regulate the development of blood vessels in humans, we'd open up new therapeutic avenues for obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes".

Brown fat releases heat when it breaks down, and is mainly found in hibernating animals. In humans, it is found in newborn babies, but researchers believe by controlling blood vessel development that it might be possible to transform white fat to brown fat in adults as well.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 6, 2009, 9:04 PM CT

Seeing brain aging before symptoms appear

Seeing brain aging before symptoms appear
PET brain scans reveal plaque and tangle accumulation in patients with the APOE-4 gene, which increases risk of Alzheimer's.

Credit: UCLA
UCLA researchers have used innovative brain-scan technology developed at UCLA, along with patient-specific information on Alzheimer's disease risk, to help diagnose brain aging, often before symptoms appear. Reported in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, their study may offer a more accurate method for tracking brain aging.

Scientists used positron emission tomography (PET), which allows "a window into the brain" of living people and specifically reveals plaques and tangles, the hallmarks of neurodegeneration. The PET scans were complemented by information on patients' age and congnitive status and a genetic profile.

"Combining key patient information with a brain scan may give us better predictive power in targeting those who appears to benefit from early interventions, as well as help test how well therapys are working," said study author Dr. Gary Small, who holds UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Chair on Aging and is a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

Researchers took PET brain scans of 76 non-demented volunteers after they had been intravenously injected with a new chemical marker called FDDNP, which binds to plaque and tangle deposits in the brain. Scientists were then able to pinpoint where these abnormal protein deposits were accumulating.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 6, 2009, 7:08 PM CT

How do they do it?

How do they do it?
Stem cells
Stem cells are the body's primal cells, retaining the youthful ability to develop into more specialized types of cells over a number of cycles of cell division. How do they do it? Researchers at the Carnegie Institution have identified a gene, named scrawny, that may be a key factor in keeping a variety of stem cells in their undifferentiated state. Understanding how stem cells maintain their potency has implications both for our knowledge of basic biology and also for medical applications. The results would be reported in the January 9, 2009 print edition of Science

"Our tissues and indeed our very lives depend on the continuous functioning of stem cells," says Allan C. Spradling, director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Embryology. "Yet we know little about the genes and molecular pathways that keep stem cells from turning into regular tissue cellsa process known as differentiation."

In the study, Spradling, with colleagues Michael Buszczak and Shelley Paterno, determined that the fruit fly gene scrawny (so named because of the appearance of mutant adult flies) modifies a specific chromosomal protein, histone H2B, used by cells to package DNA into chromosomes. By controlling the proteins that wrap the genes, scrawny can silence genes that would otherwise cause a generalized cell to differentiate into a specific type of cell, such as a skin or intestinal cell.........

Posted by: Scott      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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