October 18, 2018

    One hospital superbug is becoming tolerant to alcohol and thus hand disinfectants are inefficient against it
    Bacteria becoming resistant to hospital hand disinfectant - science news

    A key component of current disinfectant hand rubs is alcohol, which is pretty effective in killing bacteria. However, new research shows that a certain type of hospital super-bacteria is becoming increasingly tolerant to alcohol. The results reveal that Enterococcus faecium bacteria have become more and more tolerant to alcohol thus making the usual hand disinfectants used in hospitals inefficient. This is an alarm call for infection control hospital teams. New strategies to control bacteria and prevent the spreading o infections need to be developed soon.

    Read the full story: The Guardian
    Scientific publication: Science Translational Medicine


    Huntingtin protein (green) in untreated cells (left) and treated with a drug identified with a new system (right). Image: Krzyzosiak et al./ Cell
    New drug discovery system identifies drugs for undruggable enzymes in disease - health science news

    Phosphatases are a class of enzymes that often act as a brake on iintracellular signalling, thus switching off certain processes within cells. Until now, it has been extremely difficult to develop drugs that act specifically on one phosphatase only, but now researchers have developed a new screening system based on synthetic phosphatases to identify molecules that do exactly this. Indeed, researchers have identified a new drug, called Raphin1, that targets only one phosphatase, which is involved in Huntington’s disease. Raphin1 was found to successfully inhibit the accumulation of toxic proteins in brain cells of a mouse model of this disease, suggesting that the new drug discovery system will yield more drugs for other phosphatases involved in disease as well.

    Read the full story: Medical Research Council
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Green aggregates of toxic proteins in C.elegans, a worm model of Huntington's disease, without UBR5. Image: Seda Koyuncu and Isabel Saez
    Cell biological mechanism discovered that could protect against Huntington’s disease - health science news

    The protein ubiquitin ligase UBR5 has been found to inhibit the formation of toxic protein aggregates in neurons that cause Huntington’s disease. These aggregates are formed as a consequence of mutations in the huntintin gene, and cause neurodegeneration and eventually death of the patient within 20 years after the onset of the disease. Using induced pluripotent stem cells from Huntington’s disease patients, scientists created neurons, and noticed that no aggregates were formed. This appeared to be caused by the protective UBR5 that these cells started to build. Blocking UBR5 induced the aggregation of toxic proteins again. Thus, a critical factor in Huntington’s disease has been discovered, with therapeutic potential for future treatment.

    Read the full story: University of Cologne
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Analysis of the blood of advanced prostate cancer patients helps to select the optimal therapy
    Blood test helps to decide which prostate cancer therapy to choose - health science news

    A new blood test has been developed that will help oncologists to decide whether a hormonal or a chemotherapy should be followed for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. The test is based on the presence or absence of a nuclear protein in cancer cells that have left the prostate. If this protein (AR-V7) is absent, the best treatment option is to continue with a hormone-based therapy with androgen-receptor signaling inhibitors. They make use of the dependency of the cancer on testosterone. If AR-V7 (a splice variant of the androgen receptor) is present, the cancer has found a way to grow independently of testosterone, so that hormone therapy will be without effect, and chemotherapy should be chosen.

    Read the full story: Lawson Health Research Institute
    Scientific publication: JAMA Oncology


    Bacteriophages as seen with an electron microscope. Image: H. Hendricks, NC State Phage Hunters, E. Miller, NC State University
    Surprising virus population changes in inflammatory bowel disease - health science news

    The bacteriophage population in the intestines, the collection of viruses in the guts that infect and often kill bacteria, is varied in healthy persons, reflecting the rich variety in intestinal bacteria. Now researchers found that in inflammatory bowel disease in experimental mice, the number of bacteriophage species drops enormously, and that the viruses that remain are not necessarily directed against disease-causing bacteria. Also, there was a huge difference between virus populations between diseased-mice amongst themselves. While scientists cannot explain these seemingly random changes in bacteriophage population changes as yet, similar changes seem to occur in humans with inflammatory bowel disease.

    Read the full story: North Carolina State University
    Scientific publication: Nature Microbiology


    A new study of 2898 patients (2183 men, 715 women) shows that women are less likely to receive proper care and death rates are higher compared to men
    Women under-treated for heart attack have higher risk of dying then men - short science news from health

    An Australian study reveals that women admitted to hospitals with serious heart attacks are half as likely as men to get proper treatment. Moreover, six months after hospital discharge, death rates, and serious adverse cardiovascular events among these women were more than double the rates seen in men. It is not clear why women received under-treatment and less medical management compared to men. This shows that measures must be taken to correct the discrepancies between genders.

    Read the full story: University of Sydney
    Scientific publication: Medical Journal of Australia


    Wrinkled skin might be smoothed in the futureby restoring mitochondrial function
    Reversing skin wrinkling and hair loss associated with aging - health science news

    Scientists have for the first time managed to reverse skin wrinkling and hair loss during aging. In a mouse model, they found that restoring the function of mitochondria by switching off an enzyme that is responsible for mitochondria malfunction, as seen in the elderly, makes the fur regrow and smooth the skin. These mice are indistinguishable from normal, healthy mice. This reversal of high age-associated changes seems only to work in skin cells, and more research is still necessary to understand the precise molecular mechanisms involved, before scientists can begin to think of how this reversal might be employed in humans.

    Read the full story: University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Scientific publication: Cell Death & Disease


    Parkinson's disease might be an autoimmune disease
    Is Parkinson’s disease an autoimmune disorder? - health science news

    New research has found that a certain class of T immune cells can kill dopamine-producing cells in the midbrain, exactly the same neurons that die in Parkinson’s disease. T cells are especially abundant in the midbrain of Parkinson’s disease patients, similar to patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Based on this observation, scientists took skin cells from patients, and reprogrammed them to become dopaminergic midbrain neurons. These neurons were then exposed to T cells from the blood of these patients. The T cells killed the neurons through the release of interleukin-17. This study has thus established that the cause of Parkinson’s disease may be found in the patient’s own immune system.

    Read the full story: Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
    Scientific publication: Cell Stem Cell


    Broken DNA is repaired with the aid of the Shieldin protein complex
    New molecular DNA shield discovered with major implications for cancer treatment - health science news

    Why do some breast cancer patients not respond to PARP-inhibitors or platinum-based chemotherapy? The answer lies in the newly discovered protein complex, called “Shieldin”, that shields damaged DNA, so that the broken strands of DNA can be repaired. It attaches to the broken ends of the DNA, so that the blunt ends of the DNA pieces are stuck back together. A messy but fast way to repair DNA, and used by immune cells to produce antibodies during immune responses. Importantly, cancer cells also use Shieldin, and when Shieldin is intact, PARP-inhibitors and platinum-based chemotherapy is effective. When Shieldin is mutated, the cancer cells make use of another method to repair DNA, and this sort of chemotherapy is no longer effective. The discovery of Shieldin will thus have a major impact on the treatment of breast cancers.

    Read the full story: University of Toronto
    Scientific publication: Nature


    The bacteria living in the mother's intestines determine the risk for autism in the unborn child
    Risk for autism influenced by the mother’s microbiome - health science news

    A new study shows that the microbiome of the mother during pregnancy determines the risk for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in the child. It appears that the mother’s microbiome is extremely important for determining how the child’s immune system will react to injury and stress. If the mother’s microbiome is not healthy, the unborn child becomes more susceptible to neurodevelopmental disorders, in which the immune signalling molecule interleukin-17a plays a central role. In mice, this molecule is a key contributor to the development of autism-like symptoms. On the other hand, an unhealthy microbiome can easily be corrected, so that diminishing the risk for autism could be achieved very simply by changing nutrion, probiotic supplements or fecal transplant.

    Read the full story: University of Virginia
    Scientific publication: Journal of Immunology


    Pollen of the mugwort plant carry bacteria that amplify hay fever
    Pollen carry bacteria that cause respiratory problems - health science news

    Pollen of the very common plant Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort in english) can cause hay fever, but when they carry bacteria, especially Pseudomonas luteola, they get even more aggressive, a new study reports. The endotoxins (toxic chemicals) on the surface of the bacteria can trigger inflammation and present a real problem for allergy and asthma sufferers. Thus, as the bacteria amplify the effects of pollen, it is important to develop models of pollen counts to estimate the presence of endotoxins in the air, researchers say.

    Read the full story: Technical University of Munich
    Scientific publication: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology


    Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and their metabolites, endocannabinoids, have anti-cancer properties.
    Anti-cancer effects of omega-3 fatty acid metabolite - health science news

    You don’t get high, but cancers get down from endocannabinoids that are produced when the body metabolizes omega-3 fatty acids, a new study in mice showed. Being related to cannabinoids found in marijuana, these naturally-synthesized endocannabinoids are not psychotropic, but are part of our anti-inflammatory and anti-pain system that now has been found bind to specific receptors on cancer cells. They slow tumor growth, prevent metastasis, and even kill cancer cells. Although they are less effective than chemotherapeutic drugs currently on the market, they have an additional advantage in that they also slow the growth of blood vessels that provide nutrition and oxygen to the cancer cells. Scientists envisage to use a high concentration of these endocannabinoids for combination therapy with other drugs in the future.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois
    Scientific publication: Journal of Medicinal Chemistry


    Individual cancer cells are imaged to determine whether drugs have reached them. Image: Erik Sahai, Francis Crick Institute
    New technique to assess whether cancer medication reaches the tumor - health science news

    Scientists have developed a new technique that allows them to determine whether the drugs they use to treat a cancer actually reach the tumor. The technique makes use of the interaction between two light-sensitive molecules, one labelling the DNA, and the other, the drug doxorubicin, that starts to emit light once it is close to the DNA. The results in mouse ovary cancer show that there is a lot of variability between the number of cells reached within the same tumor and between tumors. This is important to know, as failure of chemotherapy to reach all cancer cells might reduce positive treatment outcomes, and would indicate that other routes of drug delivery should be chosen, or that other drugs should be used to treat the cancer.

    Read the full story: The Francis Crick Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    The quality of the salmon we consume depends on the pollution of its feed
    Worrying about the origin of your food’s food - health science news

    Salmon, even those that are farmed under environmentally clean conditions, can be contaminated with so-called persistant organic pollutants, a new study reports. This is because their feed can be sourced from regions with little or no environmental regulations. The study shows this in particular for the presence of toxic synthetic flame retardants in farm-raised Atlantic salmon. This new insight demonstrates the importance to monitor contamination or to decontaminate the food of the fish that we eat.

    Read the full story: University of Pittsburgh
    Scientific publication: Environmental Science and Technology


    HIV (small particles) with an immune cell (bottom part) as seen by scientists with the aid of an electron microscope
    How HIV protects itself from immune attack - health science news

    A new study has shown that HIV hijacks one of our own molecules to shield it from attack by our immune system, and to give more strength to its protective shell. The molecule is called inositol hexakisphosphate, binds into pores of the virus’ shell, thus making the shell stronger, and hence protects the virus’ genetic materal until it is released inside the nucleus of a cell. The strengthening and increased stability of the virus shell is important during infection, which takes hours rather than minutes. Now that it is known how the virus achieves stability within cells, new targets are envisaged for the development of novel treatment options agains HIV.

    Read the full story: University of New South Wales Sydney
    Scientific publication: eLIFE


    Resistance to antibiotics might be more likely to occur when the duration of treatment is long
    Reducing antibiotics use to prevent resistance - health science news

    While antibiotics are often the most effective treatment option to fight bacterial infections, scientists warn to limit the duration of antibiotics use to a minimum to prevent bacteria developing antibiotics resistance. In a new study it was found that the duration and dose of antibiotics used determine whether the bacteria population passes a tipping point, a situation of irreversible resistance to the antibiotics used. Even after the antibiotic treatment has stopped, the now resistant bacteria will start to multiply again, and are harder to treat. Perceived wisdom has been that patients should finish antibiotics treatment to prevent the most resistant bacteria from multiplying, but this new research shows that the opposite might actually be true: the longer the duration of the exposure to antibiotics, the higher the risk that resistance will form.

    Read the full story: University of Exeter
    Scientific publication: Nature Ecology & Evolution


    Malaria in the blood. Image: Ed Uthman through Creative Commons
    New target for vaccination against malaria - health science news

    Scientists have identified a short part of a protein of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum as a new candidate for vaccination against malaria. They found that young children in Papua New Guinea with high antibody titers against this protein, known as ICAM1 binding motif, are much better protected against malaria than children without or with low levels of the antibody. ICAM1 is similar in all P. falciparum strains in the world, suggesting it could be targeted by vaccination. New vaccines are still needed today, as there are as many as 200 million of new cases of malaria per year, resulting in 40,000 deaths, especially children.

    Read the full story: University of Melbourne, through the American Society for Microbiology
    Scientific publication: Infection and Immunity


    Spending time in the forest can be a good therapy to improve health
    Spending time outside improves health - health science news

    While the idea that spending time outside is good for body and mind is widely accepted, a new report based on data from 140 previous studies and involving more than 290 million people shows that exposure to nature does indeed improve health. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, and increases sleep duration. Interestingly, also the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva go down, suggesting that the current work-related stress epidemy in the Western world might be alleviated by spending more time in green spaces. Perhaps we should follow the example set by the Japanese, who already use forest bathing as a therapy, with participants spending time in the forest either sitting or lying down, or just walking around.

    Read the full story: University of East Anglia
    Scientific publication: Environmental Research


    Air pollution, even at levels considered safe, is responsible for 14% of new diabetes cases each year
    Air pollution causes diabetes - health science news

    New research has found that air pollution contributes significantly to 3.2 million new diabetes cases worldwide in 2016. This represents 14% of all new cases, and 8.2 million years of healthy lives loss. For the United States, this amounts to 150,000 new cases of diabetes per year due to air pollution. These values even apply to pollution levels that have been deemed safe, which is important to realize, because many industry lobbying groups aruge that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. On the contrary, to prevent further cases of diabetes, the research shows that current levels are not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened.

    Read the full story: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
    Scientific publication: The Lancet Planetary health


    Mothers adhering to a healthy lifestyle reduce the risk for obesity in their children
    Children of mothers following a healthy lifestyle have reduced risk of obesity - health science news

    One out of five children and adolescents are obese in the USA, and these young people are all at high risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even premature death. A new study shows that the lifestyle of the mother is an important factor for obesity risk. Specifically, children of mothers who follow a healthy lifestyle (healthy eating, sufficiently exercising, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking) and maintain a healthy bodyweight, have 75% less risk to become obese. Thus, while obesity has partially a genetic origin, the current obesity epidemy is caused primarily by lifestyle, and can thus be prevented by parent-based intervention strategies.

    Read the full story: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
    Scientific publication: BMJ


    Gut cells reset their genetic program from adult to embryonic to repair wounds inflicted by Helminth parasitic worms
    Back to the beginning: an embryonic program is reactivated in adult mice during gut repair - health science news

    When researchers observed the mechanisms underlying the repair of wounds in mice intestines that were inflicted by parasitic worms, they were surprised to see that the cells responsible to do this had reset themselves to a genetic embryonic development program. The repair cells now behaved like embryonic cells, rapidly growing and covering the wound. Such rejuvenation of adult cells has never been observed in mammals before, but is reasonably common in amphibians that form masses of embryonic-like cells when they lost a limb. This switch from adult back to embryonic programs might be explored further for tissue repair, for example in irritable bowel disease, researchers say.

    Read the full story: University of California – San Francisco
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Bacteria might be treated more specifically with combinations of antibiotics without harming the good bacteria
    Combining antibiotics or even with food may overcome resistance - health science news

    In the light of growing concern over bacterial resistance to antibiotics, researchers have now performed an in-depth analysis of possible synergistic effects when two or more antibiotics are being used together to treat bacterial infections. After testing a few thousand of combinations to determine their effects on commonly occurring bacteria (E. coli, Salmonella, and Pseudomonas), it turned out that antibiotics could act synergistically (helping each other), or antagonistically (inhibiting each other), especially when the antibiotics act on different biochemical processes in the bacteria. Overall, the effects are very species-specific, which makes targeted, narrow-spectrum, therapies possible, thus sparing the good bacteria and reducing the likelihood of developing resistance. Finally, the food additive vanillin (which gives vanilla its particular taste) helped one antibiotic, spectinomycin, to enter bacteria and inhibit their growth. Thus, it might be worthwhile to assess the effect of food on antibiotic activity.

    Read the full story: European Molecular Biology Laboratory
    Scientific publication: Nature


    The bacteria living in our intestines, collectively known as the microbiome, are important for the health of the gut
    A healthy gut with the good bacteria - health science news

    Good bacteria in the intestines that can attach themselves to the intestinal epithelium balance inflammatory immune reactions and keep the gut healthy, a new study found. These bacteria promote the secretion of the anti-inflammation molecule interleukin-10 by a special class of immune cells, the so-called antigen-presenting cells. Interleukin-10 signals to other cells of the immune system, and proper amounts are required for a balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory activity. This balance is of great importance, as the immune system needs to launch an inflammatory response against harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, but not against food. Thus, the good bacteria are necessary to keep this balance through controlling the immune system.

    Read the full story: Baylor College of Medicine
    Scientific publication: Immunity


    Melanomas develop from pigmented moles and can at times be difficult to treat
    Loss of a cellular antenna turns benign pigment cells into aggressive melanoma - health science news

    When human benign pigment cells lose their cilia, with which cells sense their environment, they degenerate and form an aggressive form of melanoma. Loss of cilia appears to be caused by an epigenetic mechanism, in which the control of gene expression, but not the DNA coding of the gene, is altered. The epigenetic silencing of the genes that make the cilia is caused by one protein, EZH2. The loss of cilia subsequently activates a host of factors within the cell that promote tumor development. These results give a better understanding of why otherwise normal cells turn into cancer cells, and provide treatment options.

    Read the full story: University of Zürich
    Scientific publication: Cancer Cell


    Life expectancy plateaus after 105 years
    Death probability slows down after the age of 105 years - short science articles

    After studying extremely old Italians, researchers have come to the conclusion that if you survive the dangerous 90s, and reach 105 years of age, then the chances of reaching 110 years is pretty good. These scientists tracked the mortality rate of approx 4000 Italians born between 1986 and 1910. The mortality rate not only stopped getting worse with age but it actually improves beyond a certain age. This research suggests that there is no fixed upper limit to human lifespan.

    Read the full story: UC Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature


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