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November 14, 2008, 8:20 PM CT

Tiny backpacks for cells

Tiny backpacks for cells
MIT researchers have developed a technique to attach tiny polymer "backpacks" to cells.
MIT engineers have outfitted cells with tiny "backpacks" that could allow them to deliver chemotherapy agents, diagnose tumors or become building blocks for tissue engineering.

Michael Rubner, director of MIT's Center for Materials Science and Engineering and senior author of a paper on the work that appeared online in Nano Letters on Nov. 5, said he believes this is the first time anyone has attached such a synthetic patch to a cell.

The polymer backpacks allow scientists to use cells to ferry tiny cargoes and manipulate their movements using magnetic fields. Since each patch covers only a small portion of the cell surface, it does not interfere with the cell's normal functions or prevent it from interacting with the external environment.

"The goal is to perturb the cell as little as possible," said Robert Cohen, the St. Laurent Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and an author of the paper.

The scientists worked with B and T cells, two types of immune cells that can home to various tissues in the body, including tumors, infection sites, and lymphoid tissues -- a trait that could be exploited to achieve targeted drug or vaccine delivery.

"The idea is that we use cells as vectors to carry materials to tumors, infection sites or other tissue sites," said Darrell Irvine, an author of the paper and associate professor of materials science and engineering and biological engineering.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


November 14, 2008, 5:36 AM CT

Families, friends, schools and neighborhoods

Families, friends, schools and neighborhoods
Characteristics present in the four social environments in which young people livefamilies, peers, schools, and neighborhoodscontribute both positively and negatively to whether teens misuse alcohol, with risk from one area possibly being magnified or decreased by attributes of another.

That's the finding of a new longitudinal study conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of California at Davis, and the University of California at Irvine. The study appears in the November/December 2008 issue of the journal Child Development

Prior research on teen drinking has focused mostly on individuals' ties to friends and family members. This study suggests the need for a more inclusive view of the social world of adolescents and highlights the importance of examining the connections between all of the social environments in which they live.

The scientists used data from 6,544 teens ages 11 to 17 enrolled in three public school systems in North Carolina, surveying them every six months for a total of five times. The adolescents were in grades 6, 7, and 8 when they were first surveyed, and in grades 8, 9, and 10 at the end of the study. The study used information from the teens to measure their misuse of alcohol, including heavy drinking, and to gauge negative consequences linked to drinking, such as getting into fights.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 14, 2008, 5:34 AM CT

Relationships with caregivers key to children's stress

Relationships with caregivers key to children's stress
How children are affected by out-of-home care depends not only on the qualities of their teacher and the classroom, but also on the nature of the children's relationship with their caregivers. That's the finding of a new study on the level of the stress hormone cortisol in children in full-day child care.

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone in humans, tends to be at its highest levels in the early morning and gradually declines over the course of the day. But recent research has observed that a number of preschoolers in full-day child care have increases in cortisol from morning to afternoon.

This study observed that children in classrooms with closer to 10 children were more likely to show cortisol decreases from morning to afternoon, while children in classrooms with closer to 20 children tended to show greater increases in cortisol across the day. Children with more clingy relationships with their teachers showed greater rises in cortisol from morning to afternoon, and children with more conflicted relationships with their teachers showed greater cortisol boosts during a one-on-one session with their teachers. Conflicted relationships were said to occur when teachers tried to control resistant children, when children perceived their teachers as unfriendly, or when teachers or children reported that the teachers found the interaction frustrating.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 14, 2008, 5:26 AM CT

New program teaches preschoolers reading skills

New program teaches preschoolers reading skills
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies shows that it's possible to teach preschoolers the pre-reading skills they need for later school success, while at the same time fostering the socials skills necessary for making friends and avoiding conflicts with their peers.

The findings address long standing concerns on whether preschool education programs should emphasize academic achievement or social and emotional development.

"Fostering academic achievement in preschoolers need not come at the expense of healthy emotional development," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which provided much of the funding for the study. "This study shows that it's possible to do both at the same time".

The study appears in the November/recent issue of Child Development and was conducted by Karen Bierman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Psychology at Penn State University.

In recent years, education officials and scientists who study early childhood education have struggled with whether to emphasize academics in preschool programs or to instead try to advance preschoolers' social skills, explained the NICHD project officer for the study, James Griffin, Ph.D., deputy chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch. The current study marks the first attempt to develop a curriculum that addresses both concerns equally, Dr. Griffin added.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


November 13, 2008, 10:45 PM CT

Proton therapy and concurrent chemotherapy in lung cancer

Proton therapy and concurrent chemotherapy in lung cancer
Patients treated for locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer who receive chemotherapy and proton beam treatment have fewer instances of bone marrow toxicity than patients who receive the standard therapy of intensity-modulated radiation (IMRT) and concurrent chemotherapy, as per scientists from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The findings were reported today at the 2008 Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology, sponsored by ASTRO, ASCO, IASLC and the University of Chicago. It is the first study to examine the benefits of proton beam treatment and concurrent chemotherapy in advanced patients with lung cancer.

The conventional therapy for locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer is intensity-modulated radiation with concurrent chemotherapy. The majority of patients with lung cancer who receive this treatment are at risk of bone marrow toxicity, a debilitating side effect of therapy that further weakens a patient's already vulnerable immune system. The occurrence of bone marrow toxicity - the reduction of hemoglobin, neutrophils, lymphocytes and white blood cells - results in a patient's inability to withstand aggressive therapy, rendering it less effective. This condition often leads to infection, bleeding, fatigue and even death.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


November 13, 2008, 10:41 PM CT

Antibody Poses A Double Threat to Breast Cancer

Antibody Poses A Double Threat to Breast Cancer
ErbB2 (blue) combines with ErbB3 (yellow) on the surface of the cancer cell. When a signaling molecule (red) attaches to ErbB3, ErbB2 sends a pro-cancer message within the cell. The ALM antibody forces ErbB2 and ErbB3 apart.
Credit: Fox Chase Cancer Center For a high resolution version
A small, antibody-like molecule created by scientists at Fox Chase Cancer Center can successfully attack two separate molecules on the surface of cancer cells at the same time, halting the growth of breast cancer cells in laboratory tests, the scientists say. The molecule, nickname "ALM," might be a means of slowing cancer spread or, as the scientists believe, a guidance system for delivering more aggressive drugs directly to cancer cells. Their findings are published in this month's British Journal of Cancer.

Unlike naturally occurring antibodies, which only bind to one specific target at a time, ALM is bispecific, meaning it attaches to two separate targets simultaneously. ALM's targets are two signaling proteins, ErbB2 and ErbB3, which connect to form a growth-promoting complex on the surface of a number of cancer cells, including head and neck cancer and drug-resistant breast cancer.

"ALM grabs the ErbB2-ErbB3 complex strongly with both hands, as it were, providing a solid grip on the tumor and blocking the transmission of a growth signal within the cell," said lead investigator Matthew Robinson, PhD, an associate member of Fox Chase and a researcher in the Fox Chase Head and Neck Cancer Keystone Program. "Potentially, it can become a platform for delivering therapeutics directly to cancer cells or a way of detecting the presence and location of individual tumors."........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


November 13, 2008, 10:36 PM CT

Antibodies to cockroach and mouse proteins

Antibodies to cockroach and mouse proteins
A study released by scientists at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health shows that developing antibodies to cockroach and mouse proteins is linked to a greater risk for wheeze, hay fever, and eczema in preschool urban children as young as three years of age. The study, reported in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is the first to focus on the links between antibody responses to cockroach and mouse proteins and respiratory and allergic symptoms in such a young age group.

"These findings increase our understanding of the relationship between immune responses to indoor allergens and the development of asthma and allergies in very young children," said lead author of the study, Kathleen Donohue, MD, fellow in Allergy and Immunology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The study found evidence that the likelihood of developing wheeze, hay fever, and eczema in preschool urban children was significantly increased among the children who were exposed to antibodies of both cockroach and mouse allergens.

This study is part of a broader multi-year research project launched in 1998 by CCCEH that examines the health effects of exposure of pregnant women and babies to indoor and outdoor air pollutants, pesticides, and allergens. The Center's previous research findings have shown that exposure to multiple environmental pollutants is linked to an increase in risk for asthma symptoms among children. These latest findings contribute to a further understanding of how the environment impacts child health.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 13, 2008, 10:29 PM CT

How eating red meat can spur cancer progression

How eating red meat can spur cancer progression
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, led by Ajit Varki, M.D., have shown a new mechanism for how human consumption of red meat and milk products could contribute to the increased risk of malignant tumors. Their findings, which suggest that inflammation resulting from a molecule introduced through consumption of these foods could promote tumor growth, are published online this week in advance of print publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Varki, UC San Diego School of Medicine distinguished professor of medicine and cellular and molecular medicine, and co-director of the UCSD Glycobiology Research and Training Center, and his colleagues studied a non-human cellular molecule called N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc). Neu5Gc is a type of glycan, or sugar molecule, that humans don't naturally produce, but that can be incorporated into human tissues as a result of eating red meat. The body then develops anti-Neu5Gc antibodies an immune response that could potentially lead to chronic inflammation, as first suggested in a 2003 PNAS paper by Varki.

"We've shown that tumor tissues contain much more Neu5Gc than is commonly found in normal human tissues," said Varki. "We therefore surmised that Neu5Gc must somehow benefit tumors".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


November 13, 2008, 10:28 PM CT

Protecting neurons could halt Alzheimer's

Protecting neurons could halt Alzheimer's
Scientists at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) have identified a group of chemical compounds that slow the degeneration of neurons, a condition behind old-age diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Their findings are featured in the November 2008 edition of Experimental Biology and Medicine SMU Chemistry Professor Edward R. Biehl and UTD Biology Professor Santosh D'Mello teamed to test 45 chemical compounds. Four were found to be the most potent protectors of neurons, the cells that are core components of the human brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

The most common cause of neurodegenerative disease is aging. Current medications only alleviate the symptoms but do not affect the underlying cause degeneration of neurons. The identification of compounds that inhibit neuronal death is of urgent and critical importance.

The synthesized chemicals identified by Biehl and D'Mello, called "3-substituted indolin-2-one compounds" are derivatives of another compound called GW5074 which was shown to prevent neurodegeneration in a past report published by the D'Mello lab. While effective at protecting neurons from decay or death, GW5074 is toxic to cells at slightly elevated doses, which makes it unsuitable for clinical testing in patients.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


November 13, 2008, 10:23 PM CT

Cigarette smoke could alter shape of heart

Cigarette smoke could alter shape of heart
Prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke can increase levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine and enzymes in the heart that have the potential to reshape the left ventricle, as per new research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In a study using rats as as animal model, five weeks exposure to cigarette smoke was linked to the activation of enzymes called mitogen-activated protein kinases that govern cell growth and survival in heart muscle. Activation of these enzymes may be a key event in cigarette smoke-induced heart injury, says Mariann Piano, professor of biobehavioral health science in the UIC College of Nursing and lead researcher of the study.

Heart disease probably develops as a result of complex interactions among a number of elements in cigarette smoke, she said.

"Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 different chemicals, one of which is nicotine," Piano said. "However, the effect of nicotine on the initiation and progression of cigarette smoke-mediated cardiovascular events remains controversial".

To date, small clinical trials of nicotine replacement therapies have not shown increased cardiovascular risk, even in patients with cardiovascular disease, Piano said. This suggested the need to study cigarette smoke as a whole.........

Posted by: Daniel      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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