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August 20, 2007, 7:50 AM CT

Computers to fight emerging infections

Computers to fight emerging infections
Computer analysis of existing drugs may be key to fighting new infectious agents and antibiotic-resistant pathogens like deadly tuberculosis strains and staph superbugs. Scientists in Canada say the use of such emergency discovery technology could save time, money and lives during a sudden outbreak or a bioterrorism attack. They reported here today at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Drug repurposing or reprofiling is not new: Pharmaceutical companies have been seeking new uses of old drugs to extend patent protections and whenever new, off-label uses of the drugs are found. But reprofiling to deliberately develop emergency drugs is a new concept, made possible by advances in chemoinformatics, a new field that merges chemistry with computer science, as per study presenter Artem Cherkasov, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

In the case of new infectious threats, there might be no time to develop a completely new drug from the ground up, as the corresponding toxicological studies and regulatory investigations will take years to complete properly, says Cherkasov, a chemist with a background in computer-aided drug design and infectious disease. Finding an already existing, well-studied therapeutic agent that will kill an emerging bug might provide a rapid, first line of defense response option.........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


August 19, 2007, 7:54 PM CT

Finding that 1-in-a-billion that could lead to disease

Finding that 1-in-a-billion that could lead to disease
Errors in the genetic code can give rise to cancer and a host of other diseases, but finding these errors can be more difficult than looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins have uncovered how the tiny protein-machines in cells tasked to search for such potentially life-threatening genetic damage actually recognize DNA errors.

Appearing online next week in Nature, the Hopkins team describes how the UDG enzyme (for uracil DNA glycosylase) scrutinizes the shape of DNA building blocks by holding onto them and testing their fit into a specially sized pocket. The UDG pocket holds onto mistakes only the enzyme loses its grip on the right building blocks, which fall back in line with the rest of the DNA.

Locating damage in DNA is critical for a cells survival: So much can go wrong if damage goes unrepaired; cells cant tolerate any of this going on, says study author James Stivers, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Hopkins. But the question is how these enzymes find the few mistakes among the billions of correct building blocks in DNA.

One typical error that occurs is to the DNA building block cytosine, being chemically converted to a similar-looking building block not normally found in DNA: uracil. Even water can cause DNA damage, says Stivers. Its not a fast reaction, but water does convert the occasional cytosine into an unwanted uracil.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


August 16, 2007, 8:56 PM CT

More Successful Bone Implants

More Successful Bone Implants
High-magnification scanning electron microscopy shows (center of micrograph) the leg of an osteoblast (bone precursor), called a cytoplasmic extension, attaching to nano-sized hydroxyapatite crystals, similar to those in natural bone, that make up a CPC implant.

Credit: NIST
Scientists from the American Dental Association Foundation (ADAF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new method for layering two kinds of biomaterials into one strong, yet porous unit that may lead to improved reconstruction or repair of bones.

Currently, calcium phosphate cements (CPCs)-water-based pastes of powdered calcium and a phosphate compound that form hydroxyapatite, a material found in natural bone-are used for reconstructing or repairing skeletal defects, but only in bones that are not load-bearing (such as those in the face and skull). Macropores built into the CPCs make it easier for new bone cells to infuse and, eventually, solidify the implant. Until this happens, however, the macropores leave the implant brittle and susceptible to failure.

In the September 2007 issue of Biomaterials,* Hockin Xu and his colleagues describe a unique approach for providing the strength needed to help an implant better survive its early stages. First, a macroporous CPC paste is placed into the area needing reconstruction or repair. Then, a strong, fiber-reinforced CPC paste is layered onto the first CPC to support the new implant. Once new bone has grown into the macroporous layer and increased its strength, the absorbable fibers in the strong layer dissolve and create additional macroporous channels that promote even more bone tissue ingrowth. This method mimics the natural bone structure in which a strong layer, called cortical bone, covers and strengthens a weaker, macroporous layer (spongy bone).........

Posted by: Mark      Read more         Source


August 10, 2007, 7:22 AM CT

stop cancer cells reading their own DNA

stop cancer cells reading their own DNA
A promising new line in anti-cancer treatment by blocking the molecular motors involved in copying genetic information during cell division is being pursued by young Dutch researcher Dr. Nynke Dekker in one of this years EURYI award winning projects sponsored by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCS). Dekker and her team are trying to stop tumor development by interfering with the molecular motors that copy DNA during cell division. This will cut off the genetic information flow that tumours need to grow, and could complement existing cancer therapies, while in the longer term bringing the promise of improved outcomes with greatly reduced side effects.

There are three primary ways of treating cancer at present, and these have fundamentally changed little in 30 years. In the case of solid tumours, surgery can be used to cut out the malignant tissue, while radiation treatment can kill the cancerous cells, and chemotherapy stops them dividing. Dekkers work is aiming towards a new generation of drugs that target cancer cells much more specifically than traditional chemotherapy, avoiding side effects such as temporary hair loss.

Dekker is focusing on an enzyme called Topoisomerase IB that plays a key role in some of the molecular motors involved in the processes of DNA and RNA copying during cell division. These are responsible for reading the genetic code and making sure it is encoded correctly in the daughter cell. In healthy cells it is important that this process works normally, but in cancer cells it is a natural target for disruptive treatment. Specifically targeting these molecular motors in cancer cells would then prevent the cancer cells from growing into a larger tumor, said Dekker.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


August 10, 2007, 7:20 AM CT

A New Door To Understanding Cancer

A New Door To Understanding Cancer
An in-depth understanding of the mechanisms that trigger cancer cell growth is vital to the development of more targeted therapys for the disease. An article reported in the August 3 issue of Molecular Cell provides a key to these mechanisms that may prove crucial in the future. The paper is co-authored by Dr Morag Park, Director of the MUHC Molecular Oncology Group, and Dr Kalle Gehring, Head of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonnance Laboratory of the McGill University Biochemistry Department.

To understand cancer, it is necessary to first understand how the molecules interact, explains Dr. Park, who is also a Professor of oncology and biochemistry at McGill University. In that study we have clarified the structure of some of the proteins involved and their connections, which allows us to understand the consequences of these interactions. This is, in fact, a feat that merits close attention, because it means that scientists can now see elements smaller than a millionth of a millimetre!

In a cells interior, the function of the ubiquitin molecule is to clean house. It attaches itself to proteins that must disappear and triggers their degradation; in doing so, it allows many mechanisms to be minutely controlled. This new study reveals that ubiquitin also promotes interactions between proteins known as Cb-b. In a healthy patient, Cb-b is activated when a growth factor attaches itself to the surface of a cell, its role being to mitigate the cell proliferation and growth mechanisms induced by the factor. However, in some cancer patients this mitigation mechanism does not appear to function, partly because the ubiquitin does not attach itself correctly to the cell surface and to Cb-b. As a result, the effects of the growth factor become much more pronounced, which results in an unrestrained proliferation of cells that can become a cancer.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


August 8, 2007, 6:51 PM CT

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Testosterone Replacement Therapy
For decades, older women have taken hormone replacements to replenish estrogen and progesterone levels lost to aging. More recently, testosterone (the most important male hormone) supplements have been used by aging men to improve their muscle mass, bone strength, libido and quality of life. In 2002, the number of elderly American men taking testosterone replacement treatment was nearly 819,000, and the number is growing. The increased use has occurred despite the fact that the cardiovascular effects of chronic testosterone therapy in aging males are largely unknown, and the safety of testosterone replacement has not been reviewed.

A team of scientists has been using an animal model to investigate potential links between testosterone supplements and cardiovascular and renal disease. The team, comprised of Radu Iliescu, Licy L. Yanes, Julio C. Sartori-Valinotti, and Jane F. Reckelhoff, is affiliated with the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Jackson, MS. Their most recent study and an overview of data from other human and animal studies is part of the upcoming conference, Sex and Gender in Cardiovascular-Renal Physiology and Pathophysiology. The meeting, sponsored by The American Physiological Society (APS; www.The-APS.org), is being held August 9-12, 2007 at the Hyatt Regency Austin on Town Lake, Austin, TX.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


August 7, 2007, 10:52 PM CT

Miniature implanted devices could treat epilepsy, glaucoma

Miniature implanted devices could treat epilepsy, glaucoma
Pedro Irazoqui
developed new miniature devices designed to be implanted in the brain to predict and prevent epileptic seizures and a nanotech sensor for implantation in the eye to treat glaucoma.

Findings will be detailed in three research papers being presented at the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society's Sciences and Technologies for Health conference from Aug. 23-26 in Lyon, France.

One research project focuses on a tiny transmitter three times the width of a human hair to be implanted below the scalp to detect the signs of an epileptic seizure before it occurs. The system will record neural signals relayed by electrodes in various points in the brain, said Pedro Irazoqui (pronounced Ear-a-THOkee), an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

"When epileptics have a seizure, a particular part of the brain starts firing in a way that is abnormal," Irazoqui said. "Being able to record signals from several parts of the brain at the same time enables you to predict when a seizure is about to start, and then you can take steps to prevent it".

Data from the implanted transmitter will be picked up by an external receiver, also being developed by the Purdue researchers.

The most critical aspect of the research is creating a device that transmits a large amount of data at low power. The transmitter consumes 8.8 milliwatts, or about one-third as much power as other implantable transmitters while transmitting 10 times more data. Another key advantage is that the transmitter has the capacity to collect data specifically correlation to epileptic seizures from 1,000 channels, or locations in the brain, Irazoqui said.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


August 6, 2007, 5:06 PM CT

Inhaled nitric oxide safe for tiny preemie lungs

Inhaled nitric oxide safe for tiny preemie lungs
A nationwide study led by scientists at UCSF provides evidence that inhaled nitric oxide is safe and effective for the prevention of the most common type of long-term lung disease of very premature infants.

Chronic lung disease is a major source of morbidity in these infants. Neonatologists have been trying to figure out how to prevent it for years, said Philip Ballard, MD, PhD, lead study author and professor of pediatrics at UCSF.

The benefit of inhaled nitric oxide for infants born close to term who suffer from the lung disease known as pulmonary high blood pressure has been known for some time, but the effect in preemies had not been clearly determined, as per Ballard.

Nitric oxide is a gaseous compound normally produced by the body, however, premature infants produce insufficient amounts. Recent clinical studies done elsewhere have found positive effects of inhaled nitric oxide in very premature infants, while some animal research has suggested that inhaled nitric oxide in preemies might interfere with the production of pulmonary surfactant, a substance critical to normal lung development and functioning.

The new study findings, published in the August 2007 issue of Pediatrics, found no adverse affects of inhaled nitric oxide on surfactant production or function, said Ballard, a neonatologist at UCSF Childrens Hospital.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


July 30, 2007, 10:14 PM CT

Drug improves symptoms of severe Alzheimer's disease

Drug improves symptoms of severe Alzheimer's disease
A drug initially used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimers disease improved the memory and global function of people with severe Alzheimers disease and was safe and effective, as per a research studyreported in the July 31, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The six-month study involved 343 people with severe Alzheimers disease at clinics in the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Half of the group received a daily dose of donepezil; the other half received placebo. Cognitive tests were performed throughout the study.

The study found cognitive function stabilized or improved in 63 percent of people taking donepezil in comparison to 39 percent of people taking placebo. In comparison to the placebo group, those taking donepezil showed improvement in memory, language, attention, and recognizing ones name. The donepezil group also showed less of a decline in social interaction, skills needed to complete a jigsaw puzzle, and arranging sentences in comparison to the placebo group.

The effectiveness of donepezil in preserving cognitive and global function in people with severe Alzheimers disease, as evidenced by this study and others, is encouraging, said study author Sandra Black, MD, Brill Professor of Neurology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto in Canada, and member of the American Academy of Neurology.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 29, 2007, 9:55 PM CT

New Genetic Risk Factors For Multiple Sclerosis

New Genetic Risk Factors For Multiple Sclerosis
A pair of large-scale genetic studies supported by the National Institutes of Health has revealed two genes that influence the risk of getting multiple sclerosis (MS) data sought since the discovery of the only other known MS susceptibility gene decades ago. The findings could shed new light on what causes MS a puzzling mix of genes, environment and immunity and on potential therapys for at least 350,000 Americans who have the disease.

"These studies describe the first genes conclusively associated with MS in more than 20 years," said Ursula Utz, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of NIH. This breakthrough was made possible through persistence, an elegant search strategy, and genomic data and techniques that were not available until recently.

Both studies involved scanning DNA samples from more than 20,000 MS patients and unaffected individuals in the U.S. and Europe, and looking for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are single-letter variations in a gene's DNA code. Published simultaneously today in the New England Journal (NEJM) and Nature Genetics, the studies demonstrate an association between MS and SNPs in two genes that encode interleukin receptors, proteins that serve as antennae on the surface of immune 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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