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July 10, 2008, 9:48 PM CT

GNicotine addiction may be in your genes

GNicotine addiction may be  in your genes
Common genetic variations affecting nicotine receptors in the nervous system can significantly increase the chance that European Americans who begin smoking by age 17 will struggle with life-long nicotine addiction. Published July 11 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, this research led by researchers at the University of Utah together with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin highlights the importance of preventing early exposure to tobacco through public health policies.

These common genetic variations, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are changes in a single unit of DNA. A haplotype is a set of SNPs that are statistically linked. The scientists observed that one haplotype for the nicotine receptor put European American smokers at a greater risk of heavy nicotine dependence as adults, but only if they began daily smoking before the age of 17. A second haplotype actually reduced the risk of adult heavy nicotine dependence for people who began smoking in their youth.

The scientists studied 2,827 long-term European American smokers, recruited in Utah and Wisconsin, and to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Lung Health Study. They assessed the level of nicotine dependence for all smokers, recording the age they began smoking daily, the number of years they smoked, and the average number of cigarettes smoked per day. DNA samples were taken from all smokers, and the scientists recorded the occurrence of common SNPs, grouped into four haplotypes, which had been identified earlier in a subset of participants.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 10, 2008, 9:45 PM CT

Teaching old drugs new tricks

Teaching old drugs new tricks
Scientists from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) discovered a new way to make use of drugs' unwanted side effects. They developed a computational method that compares how similar the side effects of different drugs are and predicts how likely the drugs act on the same target molecule. The study, published in Science this week, hints at new uses of marketed drugs.

Similar drugs often share target proteins, modes of action and unpleasant side effects. In reverse this means that drugs that evoke similar side effects likely act on the same molecular targets. A team of EMBL scientists now developed a computational tool that compares side effects to test if they can predict common targets of drugs.

"Such a correlation not only reveals the molecular basis of a number of side effects, but also bears a powerful therapeutic potential. It hints at new uses of marketed drugs in the therapy of diseases they were not specifically developed for," says Peer Bork, Joint Coordinator of EMBL's Structural and Computational Biology Unit.

The approach would prove especially useful for chemically dissimilar drugs used in different therapeutic areas that nevertheless have an overlapping, so far unknown protein target profile. Similar strategies have proven successful in the past. For example, the drug marketed as Viagra was initially developed to treat angina, but its side effects of prolonged penile erection led to a change in its therapeutic area.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


July 9, 2008, 9:13 PM CT

A short and sweet diagnosis for cancer?

A short and sweet diagnosis for cancer?
A high-resolution structure of a prostate-specific protein with a tumor associated sugar linkage. The sugar molecule is shown in green.
In order to provide the most effective therapys for cancer patients, it is essential to develop methods of sensitive and specific early detection of the disease. A team of researchers from the NIBRT Dublin-Oxford Glycobiology Laboratory at UCD has developed a system which aims to pinpoint potential "biomarkers" of early forms of the disease. They do this by looking at the structures of specific sugar molecules which are attached either to proteins made by malignant cells or to proteins involved in the host response. It is hoped that the availability of such cancer biomarkers would also allow disease progression and response to treatment to be monitored more accurately than is currently possible. Professor Pauline Rudd, who is leading the team, will be presenting some of their results on Thursday 10th July at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille [Session C4].

It is known that cancer cells not only have different sets of proteins from normal human cells, but that their proteins have changes in the types and numbers of sugar molecules that are attached to them. Dr Rudd and her colleagues think that being able to detect these changes holds the key to developing a new approach for diagnosing cancer. "We have observed that there are alterations in sugars attached to proteins in blood serum from all cancers we have looked at, and some of these appear to be early markers of the disease processes. What is more, we have been able to isolate several sugar-linked variants of particular proteins which are linked to different types of cancer, including prostate, pancreatic and ovarian and breast cancers," she reveals. "In the long term, we envisage that by finding more specific sugar variants, we will be able to use combinations of these as biomarkers to allow very accurate early diagnosis of particular cancers". These techniques could act alongside or even replace physical methods, such as scanning, which are less dependable for early diagnosis.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 8, 2008, 6:38 PM CT

Insect warning colors aid cancer drug discovery

Insect warning colors aid cancer drug discovery
Colorful beetle may indicate useful plant chemicals.

Credit: Don Windsor, STRI
Brightly colored beetles or butterfly larvae nibbling on a plant may signal the presence of chemical compounds active against cancer cell lines and tropical parasitic diseases, as per scientists at Smithsonian's Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Such clues could speed drug discovery and provide insight into the ecological relationships between tropical-forest plants and insects that feed on them. The report is reported in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

"These findings are incredibly exciting and important," said Todd Capson, STRI research chemist, who directed the project. "The results of this study could have direct and positive impacts on the future of medical therapy for a number of diseases around the world".

For this research researchers used plants already known to have anti-cancer compounds; those proven to be active against certain disease-carrying parasites; and plants without such activity. The study showed that beetles and butterfly larvae with bright warning coloration were significantly more common on plants that contained compounds active against certain diseases, such as breast cancer and malaria. There was no significant difference in the number of plain-colored insects between plants with and without activity, as per the study by the Smithsonian's Panama International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 7, 2008, 10:07 PM CT

Schizophrenia linked to dysfunction in molecular brain pathway

Schizophrenia linked to dysfunction in molecular brain pathway
Alterations in a molecular brain pathway activated by marijuana may contribute to the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, as per a report in the recent issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Expression of the cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1R), the site of action of the main chemical ingredient of marijuana, is significantly reduced in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia. Activation of CB1R impairs signaling by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an important neurotransmitter essential for core cognitive processes such as working memory. The use of marijuana in individuals with schizophrenia appears to worsen this deficit in GABA synthesis.

Since reduced GABA is known to be present in schizophrenia, these findings suggest possible new drug targets that could help to improve function in people with the mental illness, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists report.

"Heavy marijuana use, especially in adolescence, appears to be linked to an increased risk for the later development of schizophrenia, and the course of illness is worse for people with schizophrenia who use marijuana," said David A. Lewis, M.D., corresponding author of the study and UPMC Endowed Professor in Translational Neuroscience, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "We wanted to understand the biological mechanisms that could explain these observations, and with this study, I think that we can narrow down at least part of the 'why' to CB1R, the receptor for both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and the brains own cannabinoid chemical messengers".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 7, 2008, 9:56 PM CT

Can recycling be used to treat cancer?

Can recycling be used to treat cancer?
We already know that recycling benefits our planet; and now new research suggests that the cellular version might be useful for battling cancer. Researchers at Stanford University have identified a molecule that uses this unexpected pathway to selectively kill cancer cells. The research, published by Cell Press in the July 8th issue of the journal Cancer Cell, may drive therapy strategies for cancer in an entirely new direction.

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common form of kidney cancer, is nearly always caused by mutation of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene and often does not respond well to therapy.

"Since RCCs have a poor prognosis and are refractory to standard chemotherapies, there is a need to develop new therapies for kidney cancer," says senior author Dr. Amato J. Giaccia. Dr. Giaccia and his colleagues used a sophisticated screening procedure to search for molecules that could selectively destroy VHL-deficient kidney cancer.

"Specifically identifying and targeting the cancer cells, while leaving normal cells intact should have great therapeutic impact. Most side effects people associate with chemotherapy, such as nausea and hair loss, are due to toxic effects of drugs on normal tissues. Exploiting a feature of cancer cells should spare the normal tissue and decrease these awful side effects," explains Dr. Giaccia.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 3, 2008, 9:03 PM CT

Statins have unexpected effect on brain cells

Statins have unexpected effect on brain cells
Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins have a profound effect on an elite group of cells important to brain health as we age, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found. The new findings shed light on a long-debated potential role for statins in the area of dementia.

Neuroresearchers observed that statins, one of the most widely prescribed classes of medicine ever used, have an unexpected effect on brain cells. Scientists looked at the effects of statins on glial progenitor cells, which help the brain stay healthy by serving as a crucial reservoir of cells that the brain can customize depending on its needs. The team observed that the compounds spur the cells, which are very similar to stem cells, to shed their flexibility and become one particular type of cell.

The new findings come at a time of increasing awareness among neurologists and heart specialists of the possible effects of statins on the brain. Several studies have set out to show that statins provide some protection against dementia, but the evidence has been inconclusive at best. Meanwhile, there is some debate among physicians about whether statins might actually boost the risk of dementia. The new research reported in the recent issue of the journal Glia by Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and first author Fraser Sim, Ph.D., provides direct evidence for an effect of statins on brain cells.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 2, 2008, 10:35 PM CT

Healthy or diseased?

Healthy or diseased?
Prof. Dr. Karsten Suhre
Researchers from the Institute for Bioinformatics and Systemic Biology of the Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Faculty for Biology of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have shown that biological indicators for diseases caused or influenced by environmental factors can be detected by the systemic analysis of the body's metabolism (metabolomics). The procedure presented here is also suitable for pre-clinical drug testing and allows for the early detection of possible side effects of a new medication.

Metabolomics aims to determine the totality of all small molecules of a cell or a tissue. The exponents of bioinformatics analyzed data collected in the framework of a pre-clinical metabolomics study in healthy and diabetic mice. In each case, a subgroup of the animals was treated with the diabetes drug RoziglitazoneTM. Then, more than 800 metabolites were quantitatively determined in a blood plasma sample of a total of forty mice, representing the factors "healthy/diabetic" and "treated/untreated".

Karsten Suhre, who led the work at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, explains the results: "It transpired that in a number of cases the ratios between the concentrations of certain metabolites were much more informative than their absolute concentrations." By a subsequent clustering of the test statistics of such metabolite pairs, it is possible to identify groups of metabolites which discriminate the animals by the factors "healthy/diabetic" or "treated/untreated".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 2, 2008, 10:16 PM CT

New Drug Candidates to Combat "Bird Flu"

New Drug Candidates to Combat
UC San Diego Researchers Identify Potential New Drug Candidates to Combat "Bird Flu"

Using protein structures generated by supercomputers, these renderings of the neuraminidase enzyme may help scientists identify potential new drug candidates to fight Avian flu, as strains of the disease become ever more resistant.
As the specter of a worldwide outbreak of avian or "bird flu" lingers, health officials recognize that new drugs are desperately needed since some strains of the virus already have developed resistance to the current roster of anti-flu remedies.

Now, a team of UC San Diego researchers - with the help of resources at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), also at UC San Diego - have isolated more than two dozen promising and novel compounds from which new "designer drugs" might be developed to combat this disease. In some cases, the compounds appeared to be equal or stronger inhibitors than currently available anti-flu remedies.

"If those resistant strains begin to propagate, then that's when we're going to be in trouble, because we don't have any anti-virals active against them," said Rommie Amaro, a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry at UC San Diego. "So, we should have something as a backup, and that's exactly why we're working on this".

Avian flu has provoked considerable concern since humans have little or no immune protection against the virus. While flu vaccines are being developed, it could take up to nine months for an effective vaccine to be developed against any new strains, and could still be rendered ineffective if any new strains arise over that time. Should the virus gain the capacity to spread from person to person, the result could be a worldwide outbreak or pandemic.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


July 1, 2008, 9:27 PM CT

Improving memory in Alzheimer's disease mice

Improving memory in Alzheimer's disease mice
Overactivation of proteins known as calpains, which are involved in memory formation, has been associated with Alzheimer disease. Ottavio Arancio and his colleagues, at Columbia University, New York, have now shown that two different drugs that inhibit calpains can improve memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer disease (APP/PS1 mice), leading them to suggest drugs that target calpains might stop or slow down the memory loss that occurs as Alzheimer disease progresses.

It is thought that dysfunctional signaling between nerve cells contributes to the impaired cognition experienced by individuals with Alzheimer disease. In the study, analysis of cells and tissue slices from APP/PS1 mice, specifically cells from the part of the brain known as the hippocampus and hippocampal slices, indicated that exposure to calpain inhibitors restored signaling between nerve cells to normal. The authors therefore suggest that calpain inhibitors improve memory in APP/PS1 mice because they reestablish normal signaling between nerve cells.........

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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