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March 25, 2007, 8:40 PM CT

Molecular tools make the cut

Molecular tools make the cut
Scientists in Japan have developed a pair of molecular-scale scissors that open and close in response to light. The tiny scissors are the first example of a molecular machine capable of mechanically manipulating molecules by using light, the researchers say.

The scissors measure just three nanometers in length, small enough to deliver drugs into cells or manipulate genes and other biological molecules, says principal investigator Takuzo Aida, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and biotechnology at the University of Tokyo.

Chemists and biochemists may also use the scissors to precisely control the activity of proteins, Aida says. He presented details of the new technique today at the 233rd national meeting of the American Chemical society, the worlds largest scientific society.

Researchers have long been looking for ways to develop molecular-scale tools that operate in response to specific stimuli, such as sound or light. Biologists, in particular, are enthusiastic about development of such techniques because it would provide them with a simple way to manipulate genes and other molecules.

It is known, for example, that near-infrared light can reach deep parts of the body, says Kazushi Kinbara, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and biotechnology at the University of Tokyo and co-investigator of the study. Thus, by using a multi-photon excitation technique, the scissors can be manipulated in the body for medicinal applications such as gene delivery.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


March 25, 2007, 8:09 PM CT

New Superbug Weapon

New Superbug Weapon
Imagine the desperation of trying to fight lethal infections when antibiotics fail to work.

That scenario usually found with "hospital superbugs" may well improve thanks to a discovery by a research team at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with UBC spin-off company Inimex Pharmaceuticals, that has identified a peptide that can fight infection by boosting the body's own immune system.

"Antibiotics are now under threat because of the explosion in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A third of all deaths on this planet are the result of infection so there is an urgent need to create new therapies," says Robert Hancock, principal investigator and Canada Research Chair in Pathogenomics and Antimicrobials. "The beauty of this peptide is that it acts on the host to trigger a protective response and doesn't act on bacteria directly. That means it's unlikely bacteria will become resistant to it".

The team observed that a peptide, or chain of amino acids, they have dubbed innate defense regulator peptide (IDR-1), can increase innate immunity without triggering harmful inflammation, and offer protection both before and after infection is present.

The discovery, in animal models, will be published March 25 in the journal Nature Biotechnology.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


March 25, 2007, 7:20 PM CT

Targeting tumors the natural way

Targeting tumors the natural way
By mimicking Nature's way of distinguishing one type of cell from another, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers now report they can more effectively seek out and kill cancer cells while sparing healthy ones.

The new tumor targeting strategy, presented today (March 25) at the annual national meeting of the American Chemical Society, cleverly harnesses one of the body's natural antibodies and immune responses. "The killing agent we chose is already in us," says UW-Madison chemistry professor Laura Kiessling, who led the work with postdoctoral researcher Coby Carlson. "It's just not commonly directed toward tumor cells."

In a series of cell-based experiments, the researchers' system recognized and killed only those cells displaying high levels of receptors known as integrins. These molecules, which tend to bedeck the surfaces of cancer cells and tumor vasculature in large numbers, have become important targets in cancer research.

In contrast, an established tumor-homing agent associated with the cell toxin doxorubicin destroyed cells even when they expressed very little integrin, indicating this strategy has the potential to kill malignant and healthy cells indiscriminately.

"This study suggests that the cell recognition mode we used can direct an endogenous immune response to destroy cancer cells selectively," says Kiessling. "We think this could lead to a new class of therapeutic agents not only for cancer but also for other diseases involving harmful cells".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


March 25, 2007, 7:06 PM CT

Novel therapy for lipid disorders shows mixed results

Novel therapy for lipid disorders shows mixed results
Preliminary research suggests that use of a novel, potent drug to treat cholesterol disorders decreases triglycerides and increases HDL-C, the "good" cholesterol, but also raises some safety concerns, as per a research studyin the March 28 issue of JAMA. The study is being released early to coincide with its presentation at the American College of Cardiology's annual conference.

Several different classes of drugs are used to treat lipid disorders. Fibrates reduce the liver's production of a triglyceride-carrying particle and speed up removal of triglycerides from the blood. Statins reduce cholesterol levels by inhibiting an enzyme that produces cholesterol in the liver. New, more potent and selective medications are being developed to treat lipid disorders within the class of drugs known according tooxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-alpha agonists - drugs that turn on one of several cellular switches, as per background information in the article. None of the new PPAR-alpha agonists has achieved regulatory approval.

Steven E. Nissen, M.D., of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine, Cleveland, and his colleagues conducted two multi-center, randomized trials to examine the safety and efficacy of a PPAR-alpha agonist known as LY518674. In one study, 309 patients with atherogenic dyslipidemia (elevated triglycerides and low HDL-C) received LY518674 (in one of 4 doses, 10, 25, 50 or 100 micrograms), placebo, or the fibrate drug fenofibrate. In the other study, 304 patients with hypercholesterolemia (elevated LDL-C, the "bad" cholesterol) received placebo or the statin drug atorvastatin for four weeks, then placebo or LY518674 (in one of 2 doses, 10 or 50 micrograms) for 12 more weeks. The patients were randomized between August 2005 and August 2006.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 10:36 PM CT

Experience affects new neuron survival

Experience affects new neuron survival
Experience in the early development of new neurons in specific brain regions affects their survival and activity in the adult brain, new research shows. How these new neurons store information about these experiences may explain how they can affect learning and memory in adults.

A team of scientists headed by Fred Gage, PhD, of the Salk Institute, observed that experience enhances the survival of new neurons in a brain area called the dentate gyrus, and that more of these new neurons were activated when exposed to the same experience later. This change in function may be a mechanism for long-term memory. The findings appear in the March 21 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience

"The results identify a critical period for experience-induced enhancement of new neuron survival in the hippocampus," says Elizabeth Gould, PhD, of Princeton University, who was not affiliated with the study. The hippocampus contains the dentate gyrus.

After injecting mice with a chemical used to mark proliferating cells, the scientists exposed the animals to an "enriched cage" environment, containing tunnels, shelters, and a running wheel. After several weeks, the scientists again exposed the mice in the same enriched experience. They discovered that the enriched experience increased new neuron survival and that more new neurons were activated by re-exposure to the same environment. To determine if the increase in neuronal activity was due to having the same experience or if any new experience was sufficient to achieve this effect, the scientists exposed mice to the enriched cage first and then a water maze task. While both cases promoted new neuron survival, more new neurons were activated in mice that had repeated the same experience but not in those that were exposed to the different experience (the water maze).........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 10:16 PM CT

Robotic brace for stroke recovery

Robotic brace for stroke recovery Maggie Fermental, a stroke survivor and study participant, regained full motion at the elbow after 18 hours using the device and has maintained her progress to date. Photo courtesy / Myomo, Inc.
At age 32, Maggie Fermental suffered a stroke that left her right side paralyzed. After a year and a half of conventional treatment with minimal results, she tried a new kind of robotic treatment developed by MIT engineers. A study to appear in the April 2007 issue of the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation shows that the device, which helped Fermental, also had positive results for five other severe stroke patients in a pilot clinical trial.

Fermental, a former surgical nurse, used the rehabilitation device 18 times over nine weeks. After 16 sessions, Fermental, now a stroke education nurse at Beth Israel Hospital, was able to fully bend and straighten her elbow on her own for the first time since the stroke. "It was incredible to be able to move my arm again on command," she said. "Cooking, dressing, shopping, turning on light switches, opening cabinets--it's easier now that I have two arms again".

The device--which sensed Fermental's electrical muscle activity and provided power assistance to facilitate her movements--also altered her brain.

Following a stroke, the destruction of brain cells leads to loss of motor function. With painstakingly repetitive exercise treatment, other neurons can take over some of the lost function. Devices such as the MIT-developed robotic brace can help people exploit their neural plasticity--the increasingly recognized ability of the brain to rewire itself in response to experience and training.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 22, 2007, 4:55 AM CT

Energy supplement for Parkinson's disease

Energy supplement for Parkinson's disease Dr. Kapil D. Sethi, Medical College of Georgia
Credit: Medical College of Georgia
Whether a supplement used by athletes to boost energy levels and build muscle can slow progression of Parkinsons disease is the focus of a North American study.

Creatine, under study for many neurological and neuromuscular diseases such as Lou Gehrigs and muscular dystrophy, may help Parkinsons patients by giving an energy boost to dying cells, says Dr. Kapil D. Sethi, neurologist and director of the Movement Disorders Program at the Medical College of Georgia.

We think it may help cells that are damaged or overworked, says Dr. Sethi, a site principal investigator on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke study. MCG hopes to recruit 45 patients for the study that will enroll 1,720 patients at 51 sites in the United States and Canada.

Mitochondria, the powerhouse for cells, become dysfunctional in the brain, muscle and platelet cells of a number of patients with Parkinsons disease, Dr. Sethi says. Powerhouse dysfunction is discernible in postmortem brain studies and in muscle biopsies and measures of platelet activity in the living.

By giving more energy to the cell, you are giving them a safety margin, Dr. Sethi says. If a cell is dying, it takes another route and that would be surviving.

The goal is to slow progression of a disease that affects about 1 million people in North America. Hallmarks include tremors, rigidity and slowed movement. Late in the disease, the majority of patients also develop dementia and behavior disorders.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 21, 2007, 5:13 AM CT

Genetic Risk for Schizophrenia

Genetic Risk for Schizophrenia
Psychiatric scientists at The Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have uncovered evidence of a new gene that appears to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, a disorder characterized by distorted thinking, hallucinations and a reduced ability to feel normal emotions.

Working in conjunction with scientists at the Harvard Medical School Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics in Boston, MA, the Zucker Hillside team utilized a cutting-edge technology called whole genome association (WGA) to search the entire human genome in 178 patients with schizophrenia and 144 healthy individuals. WGA technology was used to examine over 500,000 genetic markers in each individual, the largest number of such markers examined to date, and the first published study to utilize WGA technology in a psychiatric illness. Prior studies have been much more limited in scope, often incorporating less than 10 markers.

The study results are scheduled would be published online Tuesday in Molecular Psychiatry, which can be accessed at http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html.

Of the 500,000 genetic markers, the scientists observed that the most significant link with schizophrenia came from a marker located in a chromosomal region called the pseudoautosomal region 1 (PAR1), which is on both the X and Y chromosomes. The marker was located adjacent to two genes, CSF2RA and IL3RA, which previously were thought to play a role in inflammation and autoimmune disorders. Those two genes produce receptors for two cytokines, GM-CSF and interleukin-3. Cytokines are involved in the body's response to infection, and may play a role in the brain's response to injury.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 20, 2007, 9:10 PM CT

Tracking Cells In The Body

Tracking Cells In The Body
Scientists' inability to follow the whereabouts of cells injected into the human body has long been a major drawback in developing effective medical therapies. Now, scientists at Johns Hopkins have developed a promising new technique for noninvasively tracking where living cells go after they are put into the body. The new technique, which uses genetically encoded cells producing a natural contrast that can be viewed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), appears much more effective than present methods used to detect injected biomaterials.

Described in the February edition of Nature Biotechnology, the method was developed by a team of scientists from Johns Hopkins' Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, the Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, and the F.M. Kirby Research Center for Functional Brain Imaging at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

In their study, the scientists used a synthetic gene, called a reporter gene, which was engineered to have a high proportion of the amino acid lysine, which is particularly rich in accessible hydrogen atoms. Because MRI detects energy-produced shifts in hydrogen atoms, when the "new" gene was introduced into animal cells and then "pelted" with radiofrequency waves from the MRI, it became readily visible. Using the technique as a proof of principle, the scientists were able to detect transplanted tumor cells in animal brains.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


March 19, 2007, 10:00 PM CT

Stem Cell Signaling Pathway

Stem Cell Signaling Pathway
A newly discovered small molecule called IQ-1 plays a key role in preventing embryonic stem cells from differentiating into one or more specific cell types, allowing them to instead continue growing and dividing indefinitely, as per research performed by a team of researchers who have recently joined the stem-cell research efforts at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Their findings are being published recently in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This discovery takes researchers another step closer to being able to grow embryonic stem cells without the feeder layer of mouse fibroblast cells that is essential for maintaining the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells, says the studys primary investigator, Michael Kahn, Ph.D., who was recently named the first Provosts Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at USC. Such a layer is needed because it is currently the only proven method to provide the stem cells with the necessary chemical signals that prompt them to stay undifferentiated and to continue dividing over and over.

Still, growing human embryonic stem cells on a layer of mouse fibroblasts has never made much sense to the researchers forced to do just that. Stem cells that grow on feeders are contaminated with mouse glycoproteins markers, Kahn says. If you use them into humans, youd potentially have a horrible immune response.........

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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