October 18, 2018

    Botox injection. Image by pixaby.com
    A new BOTOX is on its way

    Botulinum toxin type A, or BOTOX, derived from Clostridium botulinum in the environment has several applications like treatment of migraine, wrinkles, excessive amount of sweating, heart conditions and bladder problems. However, Dr. Andrew Doxey from University of Waterloo and colleagues from Havard University has identified a similar toxin from bacteria Enterococcus faecium which is usually found in animal guts. This was a chance discovery, as the original intention of the study was to identify the origin of antibiotic resistance in E. faecium. The researchers are confident that identification of more versions of the toxin could help in expansion and optimization of its therapeutic applications.


    Read the full story: uwaterloo.ca


    A new type of ion channels was just discovered. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
    A new type of ion channels was just discovered

    It doesn’t happen every day: a new class of proteins has been discovered. Called Otop1, the protein is an ion channels located in the membrane of the cells where it transports protons (particles that produce acid pH). This proton channel serves several functions in the body. For example, it is involved in sensing sour (acidic) taste. Moreover, in the internal ear Otop1 is important for the function of structures called otoconia which perceive gravity and acceleration, thus they are essential for our equilibrium. Discovery of a protein involved in such distant, but important biological functions is remarkable and it outlines the power of scientific research.

    Read the full story: University of Southern CAlifornia
    Scientific publication: Science


    Alzheimer is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease affecting older people. By ScienceBriefss
    Promising drug for Alzheimer disease fails in clinical trial - health news

    The results of a clinical trial evaluating the effects of the drug solanezumab in preventing Alzheimer symptoms just came in and they are disappointing. Although the drug showed some positive effects, it was ineffective in preventing the characteristic cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer. Solanezumab is developed by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and it targets the formation of amyloid plaques. These are agglomerations of proteins considered to be responsible for Alzheimer. Other studies involving the same drug are ongoing, so there is still hope that some of them will show positive results.

    What is Alzheimer disease? Watch the video below to learn!

    Read the full story: columbia.edu
    Scientific publication: www.nejm.org


    New smart contact lens senses glucose. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Smart contact lens developed to measure glucose

    Korean scientists have developed a smart contact lens that is able to measure glucose levels in tears. It is equipped with a LED that reports when glucose levels are abnormally high. The lens monitors glucose constantly and measurements show a good correlation with glucose blood levels. The advantages for diabetics are clear: blood samples are no longer needed, the lens works 24 hours per day, and has an alarm system built-in. Patients need to be patient though: the lens is a prototype that has been tested only in rabbits.

    Read the full story: www.usatoday.com/
    Scientific publication: advances.sciencemag.org/


    Drinking alcohol in late teens damages the liver later in life. Image by ScienceBriefss.
    Adolescent drinking can lead to liver problems in adulthood

    A large long-term study conducted in Sweden provides convincing evidence that drinking alcohol during adolescence is correlated with liver disorders later in life. The study used data about drinking habits for a large number of young men, collected during 1969-1970. Next, they checked if the participants developed liver injuries later in life (the data goes until 2009). They found a positive correlation between the quantity of alcohol in teens and the incidence of severe liver disease later in life. Now, the authors advocate that the recommended alcohol consumption limit (presently at 30 grams/day) should be decreased in order to prevent diseases in adults.

    Read the full story: www.sciencebriefss.com
    Scientific publication: http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu


    Baby in the womb. Image by ScienceBriefss.
    The force of fetus kicks in the womb measured for the first time

    It is a well know fact that a fetus moves and kicks inside the womb of the mother. Until now the mechanical forces and biomechanics of these fetal movements have never been measured. Using modeling of cine-magnetic resonance images scientists managed to quantify the fetal kick and muscle forces during the second half of gestation. Amazingly the force of a fetus kick was around 4 kilograms (8.8 lbs) of force, quite impressive for a developing human being. The stronger kicks occurred between weeks 20 and 30 of gestation. These movements are benefic for the babies because they promote development of muscles and bones.

    See below an example of one of the movies used to measure the kicks:

     

    Read the full story: www.sciencemag.org
    Scientific publication: rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org


    Cancer cells have special metabolic demands that are now being explored for new treatment options
    Starvation of cancer cells to arrest their growth

    Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center have tapped into the unique metabolic demands of cancer cells to deprive these cells from glutamine, an amino acid necessary for biosynthesis, cell communication and protection against oxidative stress. They developed a small molecule that effectively blocks the glutamine transporter that is expressed on cancer cells for glutamine uptake. The molecule inhibited cell growth and proliferation and increased cell death in the laboratory, and might thus be at the basis of news ways to treat cancers.

    Read the full story: dailyaccord.com/
    Scientific publication: www.nature.com/articles/


    Cardiac stem cells. Image by Gepstein Laboratory, via Wikimedia Commons
    Scientists transform skin cells into valuable stem cells

    Stem cells are amazing because in the body they can be converted into any other type of cells. However, in the lab they are difficult to study, amongst other reasons because they are hard to obtain. A group of scientists may have a solution: they were able to convert regular skin cells into stem cells. The research outlines an innovative way to obtain stem cells and provides the opportunity to study in detail cellular and genetic processes. Amazingly, the transformation was achieved by modifying only one gene in the original skin cells!

    Read the full story: www.sciencedaily.com
    Scientific publication: www.sciencedirect.com


    Cancers leave biochemical markers in the blood that researchers aim to detect
    Development of blood test for early detection of cancers advances

    Researchers report progress in detecting gene mutations and protein levels in the blood that indicate eight different types of cancers throughout the body. Samples were taken from patients that had already been diagnosed with cancer, and the assay showed the best results for ovarian cancer (98%), but was less efficient for breast cancer (33%). The challenge for the years ahead is to refine the test to measure small deviations in undiagnosed people, without reporting false positive cases.

    Read the full story: www.nature.com/articles/
    Scientific publication: science.sciencemag.org/content/


    Sneezing may not be required to spread the flu. Image by James Gathany, CDC
    Flu spreads easier than previously thought: no coughing or sneezing necessary

    The common believe is that the flu spreads by droplets generated by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated surfaces. A new study suggests spreading the flu virus (influenza) is actually much easier: breathing is enough! Infected persons contaminate the air with influenza viral particles just by breathing, especially during the initial phase of the flu. The droplets stay in the air for a long time and they can easily be taken in by other people. This may pave the way for improving ventilation systems in public spaces in order to minimize the risk of transmission.

    Read the full story: https://www.umdrightnow.umd.edu/
    Scientific publication: http://www.pnas.org


    Colorized microscope image of the pathogen Salmonella enteritidis. Photo by Jean Guard, ARS
    Salmonella The culprit for one of the most deadly epidemics from Mexico

    The 16th century was a dark time for what is now Mexico. A deadly epidemic was at loose, with terrifying symptoms: fever, liver damage, bleeding nose and years. It is estimated that it killed 45% of the population, but the cause of this has never been identified.

    Now, a new study suggests the culprit is not an Ebola-like microbe, but rather the common Slamonella that usually gives food sickness. The conclusion is based on DNA extracted from skeletons of people that have lived at that time. Likely, the Spanish that arrived in Mexico in the 16th century carried the bacteria.

    Read the full story: www.sciencemag.org
    Scientific publication: www.nature.com


    Position of the thymus in the human body. Cancer Research UK, Wikimedia Commons
    Regeneration of an immune system’s organ by the molecule BMP4

    The thymus – an important organ of the immune system – can recover astonishingly quickly from damage, for example by chemotherapy. A study described in Science Immunology reports that this is made possible by BMP4, a protein that is synthesised within the thymus and switches on a genetic development and repair programme. However, thymic regeneration fades with age, and limits the production of T cells that attack cancer cells. A better understanding of thymus regeneration may lead to increased thymic repair and sustained activity in elderly people, and thus enhance immune function to eliminate cancer cells.

    Read the full story: https://dailyaccord.com/
    Scientific publication: http://immunology.sciencemag.org/


    Sleep deprivation renders the brain both asleep and awake at the same time
    Sleep deprivation renders the brain both asleep and awake at the same time
    Dr. Vyazovskiy from the University of Oxford in UK, who studies the effect of sleep deprivation on rodents, found that the brain activity usually found only during sleep was also recorded in sleep deprived awake mice. His research further showed that sleep deprivation affects those cognitive abilities that require intense effort. Similarly, Dr. Cohen-Zion from Israel studies the mood and behavioral effects of sleep loss on adolescents and found that a difficult task, forces these teens to focus more than usual to retrieve information. While several people do not assign importance to a sound sleep, research points towards affliction of our reasoning capacities if we are sleep deprived.

    Read full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/sleep-deprived-brains-may-asleep-awake-time/

    Cancer cells under microscope
    Cancer cells under microscope - Cancer news
    Modelling studies performed by researchers at the North Carolina State University indicate that the doses of radiotherapy to treat cancers might be reduced by adopting a novel protocol. This protocol aims to exert the same effects on the treatment of the cancer, while at the same time sparing the surrounding healthy tissue from damage. This will reduce patient side-effects.

    Read the full story: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180105135247.htm

    Scientific publication: http://iopscience.iop.org

    Ebola virus seen with the electron microscope. Photo by CDC Global (Ebola virus), via Wikimedia Commons
    Ebola virus seen with the electron microscope. Photo by CDC Global (Ebola virus), via Wikimedia Commons
    Ebola survivors from the virus’ first outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 still have immunity to the virus. Their immune cells are able to produce antibodies, and prevent the infection of other cells by the Ebola virus. In the light of recent Ebola outbreaks such as the one in 2014 in West Africa, with more than 11,000 victims, this observation is important for the quest for effective anti-Ebola vaccination strategies.

    Read the full story: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-017-08664-w

    Scientific publication: https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/217/2/223/4716835

    New molecule linked to food intake control
    New molecule linked to food intake control - science news
    Researchers from NGM Biopharmaceuticals in San Francisco, California have identified a molecule naturally made by the body, that can inhibit ghrelin “the hunger hormone”. Named LEAP2, it decreases food intake.

    The study shows that LEAP2 is a previously unknown part of the ghrelin system, essential for our survival and with huge potential to treat disorders such as obesity, anorexia, and diabetes. In humans, there are several conceivable applications of this discovery, such as preventing the strong urge to eat that follows weight loss.

    Currently, this is the first tool that allows the manipulation of the ghrelin system. 

    Source: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/12/gut-molecule-blocks-hunger-hormone-may-spur-new-treatments

    Publication : http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(17)30630-7

    Genetics is the new tool for researchers to understand the evolution of mental disorders in humans
    Genetics is the new tool for researchers to understand the evolution of mental disorders in humans
    Evolution usually eliminates debilitating features, yet this is not the case for human psychiatric disorders. The understand why, researchers are now using human genome databases.

    One study showed that over the last 2000 years evolution selected DNA variants that protect against schizophrenia. Another study discovered a link between environment and mental illness: people living in regions with colder winters were more genetically prone to schizophrenia. Several of the teams involved in these studies presented their findings at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) meeting in Orlando, Florida, in late October.

    Studying the role of genetics in the evolution of psychiatric disorders is not easy, but the genomic data is a leap forward towards understanding mental problems.

    Source: https://www.nature.com/news

    New chemically engineered DNA makes functional proteins in living cells © Nicolle Rager, National Science Foundation
    New chemically engineered DNA makes functional proteins in living cells © Nicolle Rager, National Science Foundation
    Our genetic information is coded on our DNA by four naturally occurring bases that together specify the 20 amino acids that make up the proteins of our body. Now biochemists have added two more foreign chemical bases to the DNA code, and show that they work together with the natural bases to make functional proteins in bacteria.

    This is an important step in synthetic biology, and might lead to the generation of completely new proteins that can be used in the treatment of diseases or solve antibiotic resistance.

    Read the full story: www.nature.com

    Scientific publication: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24659

    Mosquito larva © Harry Weinburgh, USCDCP, pixnio.com
    World Health Organization: “Progress in the fight against malaria has stalled”
    An alarming report from WHO, stating that the number of malaria infections increased from 211 to 216 million in Asia, Africa and South America. Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain in countries with under-developed health care systems, the apparent trend worries researchers. Access to treatment might be in jeopardy, and there is evidence that the parasite causing malaria might become resistant to the widely-used drug artemisinin. According to the WHO report, budget cuts for anti-malaria programmes are the main cause of the uprise of malaria.

    Read the full story: http://www.nature.com/news

    Official report: World Health Organization. World Malaria Report 2017 (WHO, 2017)

    Deep Brain Stimulation to treat mood disorder for the first time tested in humans © Dr. Craig Hacking, A. Prof Frank Gaillard
    Deep Brain Stimulation to treat mood disorder for the first time tested in humans © Dr. Craig Hacking, A. Prof Frank Gaillard
    Scientists are in the process of developing brain implants that can be used to treat mood and epilepsy disorders in humans. Brains can be electrically stimulated through these devices whenever needed to improve emotions. The researchers are working with epilepsy patients that already have electrodes implanted in their brain to track epileptic seizures. With new deep brain stimulation protocols it might be possible to also apply the implants to treat mood disorders in the future, such as posttraumatic stress disorder in war veterans.

    Read the full story: https://www.nature.com/news/

    Researchers have found a link between word choice and stress
    Researchers have found a link between word choice and stress
    Psychologists have found that language changes reflect better whether people are stressed than self-questionnaires that are typically used today. Importantly, they also found a clear link between word choice, such increased use of “real” and “incredibly” during stress, and stress-induced gene expression changes in the immune system. Although the biological link between speech and gene expression has not been unravelled yet, the researchers suggest that physicians should not only pay attention to what patients say, but also to how they say it, to assess stress.

    Read the full story: https://www.nature.com/news/language-patterns-reveal-body-s-hidden-response-to-stress-1.22964

    Scientific publication: Mehl, M. R. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 2017 - http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1707373114

    Gut E. coli bacteria magnified 10.000 times. Photo by E. Erbe and C. Pooley, USDA, ARS, EMU, via Wikimedia Commons
    Gut E. coli bacteria magnified 10.000 times
    American and French studies have found that the efficiency of immunotherapy to treat cancer depends on the population of gut bacteria (the microbiome) in the intestines. It appeared that patients with a diverse microbiome were more likely to respond to immunotherapy, and faecal transplants from patients that responded well to immunotherapy reduced tumour growth in experimental mice. These studies raise important questions on the use of antibiotics during immunotherapy, and the possibility to improve the outcome of immunotherapy by modulating the microbiome through the introduction of favourable bacteria species.

    Read the full story: https://www.nature.com/news/gut-microbes-can-shape-responses-to-cancer-immunotherapy-1.22938

    Scientific publications: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/97http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/91

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