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October 2, 2006, 9:38 PM CT

How White Blood Cells Eat Virus-infected Cells

How White Blood Cells Eat Virus-infected Cells
Scientists at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) at Oregon Health & Science University have demonstrated how certain white blood cells literally eat virus-infected cells while fighting disease at the microscopic level. The research not only helps provide a clearer understanding of the body's immune system, it also offers hope of a new method for gauging vaccine effectiveness. The research is reported in the current edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

CD8 T-cells are specialized white blood cells that serve an important role in the body's immune system. The cells attack and destroy disease "invaders" such as viruses in the body. Prior studies indicated that T-cells may consume parts of cells with which they interact, but this new research shows this can happen in response to a systemic viral infection.

"If you use a fluorescent dye to stain infected cells, you can literally watch T-cells consume membranes and outer surfaces of diseased cells. As they destroy and cannibalize the fluorescently labeled cells, they become labeled with the fluorescent dye themselves," explained Mark Slifka, Ph.D., a researcher in the VGTI who led the research. Slifka is also a scientist in the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and holds a concurrent appointment in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


October 1, 2006, 7:27 PM CT

Antibiotic Inhibits Cancer Gene

Antibiotic Inhibits Cancer Gene
Have you ever heard of antibiotic called siomycin A? Probably not, but this antibiotic would probably find a place in the fight against cancer. At least that's what the scientists say.

This little-known antibiotic, siomycin A shows early promise as an anti-cancer agent, inhibiting a gene found at higher-than-normal levels in most human tumors, as per scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.

Their findings are reported in the lastest issue of Cancer Research.

"We chose to target a gene thought to beover-expressed in cancer cells to screen for promising anti-cancer agents," said Andrei Gartel, assistant professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology at UIC and principal investigator on the study.

The FoxM1 gene is responsible for turning on genes needed for cell proliferation and turning off genes that block proliferation. Uncontrolled proliferation is characteristic of cancer cells.

The scientists developed a new screening system, based on a naturally fluorescent protein called luciferase, to identify small molecules that inhibit proteins that turn genes on and off. Using this system, they identified an antibiotic, siomycin A, that specifically targets FoxM1 without affecting other cell functions.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


October 1, 2006, 7:17 PM CT

A Rheostat In Brain For Emotions

A Rheostat In Brain For Emotions
Scientists are revealing secrets about serotonin system and a serotonin receptor called the 5-HT1A autoreceptor.

Eventhough drugs that target the brain's serotonin system are widely used to treat depression, the basic biological mechanism by which they help to alleviate symptoms is poorly understood. Now, new University of Pittsburgh research suggests these drugs work by acting on a specific serotonin receptor called the 5-HT1A autoreceptor, which the study's researchers found plays a key role in regulating the response of the amygdala.

The findings, reported in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also provide a model of how specific changes in 5-HT1A autoreceptors and associated amygdala reactivity may impact a person's risk for developing depression. Much like a rheostat, these serotonin receptors regulate the brain's emotional responses and may contribute to one's vulnerability for depression and other psychiatric disorders.

The amygdala is a critical component of brain circuitry that processes clues from the environment about potential threats and generates appropriate behavioral and physiological responses such as the "fight or flight" response to these challenges. Research has indicated that depression and other mood disorders, such as anxiety, are linked to emotional brain circuitry problems involving the amygdala.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


September 28, 2006, 9:43 PM CT

Gene Transfer Using Mutant Form Of Good Cholesterol

Gene Transfer Using Mutant Form Of Good Cholesterol
Transfer of a gene that produces a mutant form of good cholesterol provides significantly better anti-plaque and anti-inflammation benefits than treatment using the "normal" HDL gene, as per a mouse study conducted by cardiology scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and published in the Oct. 3 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Apolipoprotein A-I is a naturally occurring component of normal HDL (high-density lipoprotein), the "good" cholesterol that circulates in the blood stream. Apolipoprotein A-I Milano is a mutant form, which was originally found in a small number of individuals in Italy who appear to be protected from cholesterol-related heart disease. Scientists are studying the possibility of treating vascular inflammation and plaque buildup through the transfer of protective genes.

"There has been uncertainty and controversy about whether apo A-I Milano is a better form of HDL than the "wild type" (regular) apo A-I in terms of protective effect against atherosclerosis and vascular inflammation, which are tied together," said Prediman K. Shah, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiology and the Atherosclerosis Research Center at Cedars-Sinai.

"We used a unique approach to do a head-to-head comparison, which allowed us to conclusively ascertain the differences between the two genes. Our study demonstrated that A-I Milano gene transfer is much more effective in reducing plaque and vascular inflammation than the normal (wild type) form of apo A-I," said Shah, the article's senior author.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


September 27, 2006, 8:53 PM CT

Brain Damage In Early Alzheimer's Disease

Brain Damage In Early Alzheimer's Disease
Scientists have developed a new computer-aided analysis technique to identify early cellular damage in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The study is featured in the recent issue of Radiology.

"With increasing longevity among the population, the occurence rate of AD is expected to rise rapidly, creating a great burden not only for patients and their families, but also for society," said Min-Ying Su, Ph.D., author and associate professor in the Department of Radiological Sciences & the Tu and Yuen Center for Functional Onco-Imaging at the University of California at Irvine. "Our methods may enable earlier diagnosis of AD, allowing earlier intervention to slow down disease progression," she added.

As AD progresses, cell membranes in the brain may be damaged, allowing water molecules to move throughout the brain more freely. This phenomenon can disrupt neural processes and cause neuron cells to die, leading to brain atrophy. This process of cellular damage causes an increase in the "apparent diffusion coefficient," or ADC, which is a measurement used to study the distribution of water in the brain.

Thirteen elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were enrolled in Dr. Su's study. Patients with MCI are at high risk for developing AD. These 13 patients and 13 elderly control subjects underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and performed recall tasks. On MRI images, ADC values were measured in gray- and white-matter regions by using the computer-aided analysis program. Findings were compared between patients and healthy controls.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


September 27, 2006, 8:35 PM CT

The Mystery of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

The Mystery of Flesh-Eating Bacteria
A Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) international research scholar in Israel has discovered one reason why so-called "flesh-eating" bacteria are so hard to stop.

Emanuel Hanski, a microbiologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and his colleagues have observed that the success of group A Streptococcus is due in part to a protein that blocks the immune system's distress calls. The findings, reported in the October 4, 2006, issue of the EMBO Journal, could lead to new strategies for treating necrotizing fasciitis and halting its rapid destruction of tissue. The paper was published in advance online.

The bacterium, group A Streptococcus, wreaks destruction on muscle and skin tissue in the form of necrotizing fasciitis, which kills roughly 30 percent of its victims and leaves the rest disfigured. Antibiotics and surgical interventions, the known therapys, often fail. Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious but rare infection of the skin and the tissues beneath it.

The work began two years ago, when Hanski developed a mouse model for necrotizing fasciitis. After injecting the mice with a virulent strain of Streptococcus of a type known as M14, isolated from a necrotizing fasciitis patient, the team noticed that unlike most strep infections, in which white blood cells swarm invading bacteria to clear them from the body, few white blood cells appeared at the M14 infection site. A similar phenomenon had been observed in patients with necrotizing fasciitis but did not receive sufficient attention at the time.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


September 26, 2006, 8:51 PM CT

Copper Helps Brain Function

Copper Helps Brain Function
The flow of copper in the brain has a previously unrecognized role in cell death, learning and memory, as per research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The researchers' findings suggest that copper and its transporter, a protein called Atp7a, are vital to human thinking. They speculate that variations in the genes coding for Atp7a, as well as other proteins of copper homeostasis, could partially account for differences in thinking among individuals.

Using rat and mouse nerve cells to study the role of copper in the brain, the scientists observed that the Atp7a protein shuttles copper to neural synapses, the junctions that allow nerves to talk to one another.

At synapses, the metal ions affect important components responsible for making neural connections stronger or weaker. The changing strength of neural connections - called synaptic plasticity - accounts for, among other things, our ability to remember and learn.

"Why don't we think a hundred times better than we do?" asks senior author Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. "One answer to that question is, perhaps we could - if the brain could make the right connections. We've observed that copper modulates very critical events within the central nervous system that influence how well we think."........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


September 25, 2006, 10:15 PM CT

Most Complex Protein Knot Ever Seen

Most Complex Protein Knot Ever Seen Most complicated knot ever observed in a protein
An MIT team has discovered the most complicated knot ever seen in a protein, and they believe it may be associated with the protein's function as a rescue agent for proteins marked for destruction.

"In proteins, the three-dimensional structure is very important to the function, and this is just one example," said Peter Virnau, a postdoctoral fellow in physics and an author of a paper on the work that appears in the Sept. 15 issue of the Public Library of Science, Computational Biology.

Knots are rare in proteins - less than 1 percent of all proteins have any knots, and most are fairly simple. The scientists analyzed 32,853 proteins, using a computational technique never before applied to proteins at this scale.

Of those that had knots, all were enzymes. Most had a simple three-crossing, or trefoil knot, a few had four crossings, and the most complicated, a five-crossing knot, was initially found in only one protein - ubiquitin hydrolase.

That complex knot may hold some protective value for ubiquitin hydrolase, whose function is to rescue other proteins from being destroyed - a dangerous job.

When a protein in a cell needs to be destroyed, it gets labeled with another protein called ubiquitin. "It's a death mark for the protein," said Leonid Mirny, an author of the paper and an associate professor in the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


September 25, 2006, 10:10 PM CT

Bacterial Protein To Treat Intestinal Parasites

Bacterial Protein To Treat Intestinal Parasites Adult hookworm attached to intestine. Credit: Richard Bungiro, Yale
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Yale University have discovered that a natural protein produced by Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium sprayed on crops by organic farmers to reduce insect damage, is highly effective at treating hookworm infections in laboratory animals.

Their discovery, detailed in this week's early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could pave the way for the development of more effective therapys for hookworm and other soil-transmitted nematode infections, which are a major global health problem in developing countries. A number of of the nearly two billion people worldwide infected with these intestinal parasites are children, who are at particular risk for anemia, malnutrition and delayed growth.

The UCSD-Yale team observed that a protein produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, given orally to laboratory hamsters infected with hookworms was as effective in eliminating the parasites, curing anemia and restoring weight gain in the hamsters as mebendazole, one of the drugs currently recommended to treat infections in humans. The researchers also discovered that this protein, called Cry5B, targets both developing, or larval, stages and adult parasites, as well as impairs the excretion of eggs by female worms.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


September 25, 2006, 9:47 PM CT

Laser probe may offer insight into Parkinson's disease

Laser probe may offer insight into Parkinson's disease
In a finding that may offer clues about Parkinson's disease, a team led by Duke University researchers used a sophisticated laser system to gain evidence that a dark brown pigment that accumulates in people's brains consists of layers of two other pigments commonly found in hair.

Other scientists previously had determined via chemical analysis that the dark pigment, called neuromelanin, is composed of the two pigments: eumelanin, found in black-haired people, and pheomelanin, found in redheads. But how those pigments are arranged structurally remained unknown -- and this structuring may prove to be of critical importance, according to the researchers.

In addition, in 2005 a Duke team that included some of the same scientists involved in the current study reported using the laser system to establish that pheomelanin is chemically disposed to activate oxygen while eumelanin is not. Oxygen activation is suspected to play a role in the neurogenic cascade of events behind Parkinson's disease.

In the new report, scientists from Duke, North Carolina State University and the Institute of Biomedical Technologies in Segrate, Italy, outlined evidence that neuromelanins isolated from human brains have cores of oxygen-activating pheomelanin covered by a protective surface of eumelanin.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         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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