August 25, 2019

    Cows are a source of superbugs, antibiotics-resistant staphylococcus bacteria
    Jumping from humans to cattle and back - health science news

    Cows appear to be an important source of resistant staphylococcus strains causing infections in humans. Genetic analyses revealed that these bacteria first infected humans, and then colonized cattle following domestication of cows. When they jump to a new species, they make use of new genes from the host to adapt and survive. This can lead to antibiotics resistance, making these bacteria superbugs. Resistant staphylococcus bacteria fall into this category, and have spread in hospitals almost world-wide. This genetic analysis, detailing bacterial evolution of thousands of years, highlights the necessity for epidemiologic monitoring of superbugs, so that they can be detected early before spreading.

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

    Taking probiotics to improve intestinal health is useless in many cases
    Probiotics might not be that effective after all - health science news

    Two new studies suggest that the use of probiotics, the bacteria that are found in diverse products in the supermarket, such as yoghurts, chocolate, hand lotion and baby formula, might not be as effective as we think. Proclaimed to improve health of everybody, researchers have found that many people’s digestive tracts prevent standard probiotics to successfully colonize them. Also, taking probiotics to repopulate the intestines after antibiotic treatment delays, rather than facilitates, the return of normal gut bacteria. Thus, consumption of probiotics is useless in most people, but should be tailored according to somebody’s needs.

    Read the full story: Cell Press (through EurekAlert)
    Scientific publication: Cell (on antibiotics)
    Scientific publication: Cell (on colonization)

    The brain of a fetus will not develop properly following a Zika infection (right), whereas the brain of a fetus that has not been infected will develop normally (left).Image: TUM
    Zika virus disturbs fetal brain development - health science news

    Scientists have found that the Zika virus chemically modifies a whole set of proteins in neural stem cells in the developing fetal brain that normally differentiate into neurons. The virus uses these proteins for its own replication. This explains why the mother, bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus, will develop only fever, and that the child, receiving the virus through the placenta, will suffer from a condition known as microcephaly, and will be born with a brain that is too small. Scientists hope that these new findings will help to find ways to eliminate the Zika virus.

    Read the full story: Technical University of Munich
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Restricting food intake to a specified time could prevent health problems
    Restricting food to a 10-hour window could overcome obesity and metabolic diseases - short science news

    Researchers have discovered that mice with genetic defects in biological clock which is considered to be necessary for a healthy metabolism could be protected against obesity and other metabolic diseases if the food access is restricted to a 10 hr window. The scientists believe that restricting the food access lets the mice be in sync with their metabolic clocks, i.e. consuming the calories when the genes for digestion are most active. This could be helpful in humans in whom the circadian rhythm is disrupted like those working in night shifts.

    Read the full story: Salk Institute
    Scientific publication: Cell Metabolism

    Destructive mechanism discovered that prevents the brain from knowing when to stop eating
    Molecular mechanism leading to obesity discovered - health science news

    Leptin, a hormone that is produced by white fat cells, signals to the brain that it is time to stop eating. However, researchers found that when the receptor for leptin in the hypothalamus in the brain is destroyed by an enzyme called MMP-2, leptin fails to send its satiety signal to the brain. This creates the condition of leptin-resistance, in which patients have high levels of circulating leptin in their blood, but keep eating. Although this molecular mechanism underlying a form of obesity has now been characterized in laboratory mice, researchers expect to find the same mechanism in humans, and consider inhibition of MMP-2 a treatment option for leptin-resistance.

    Read the full story: University of California - San Diego
    Scientific publication: Science Translational Medicine

    T cells function better if insulin gives them a boost. Image: NIAID via Wikimedia Commons
    Insulin gives the immune system a boost - health science news

    Researchers have found that insulin can activate so-called immune T cells to divide and produce cytokines. These are messenger molecules that signal to other immune cells that an infection has occurred. Mice that were genetically modified so that they lost the insuline receptor on T cells (mimicking insulin resistance) could not fight a viral infection. Insulin is not the primary activator of T cells, but gives them a boost, so that activated T cells can meet their increased metabolic need. These observations may explain why diabetes type 2 patients, who are insulin resistant, have weakened immune reactions and are more sensitive to infections.

    Read the full story: University Health Network Toronto
    Scientific publication: Cell Metabolism

    Camu Camu could help in the fight against obesity
    Fight obesity with this Amazon forest fruit - short science articles and news

    Camu Camu might not sound like an interesting fruit, however it contains 20 times higher amount of vitamin C as compared to kiwi and about 5 times higher amount of polyphenol compared to blackberries. Researchers administered its extract to mice fed with a diet rich in fats, sugar, and discovered that it decreased the incidence of obesity in these mice. The weight gain in these mice was about 50% lower. Scientists believe that the Camu Camu extract increases the resting state metabolism, improves insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. It also decreases the metabolic inflammation along with changes in the intestinal microbiota. Interestingly, transplanting intestinal microbiota in germ free mice induced similar metabolic effects in these rats indicating that Camu Camu might act via alteration of the gut bacteria.

    Read the full story: Eurekalert
    Scientific publication: Gut

    BMI relates positively with cortical thickness in blue areas, and negatively with cortical thickness in red areas. Image: Uku Vainik
    Thinking about obesity - health science news

    A new study found that people with a high body-mass-index (BMI), indicating obesity, show reduced cognitive flexibility, ability to delay gratification, visuospatial ability and verbal memory. Also, these people have a thicker left prefrontal cortex and thinner right prefrontal cortex. This particular brain anatomy make people prone to obesity more sensitive to visual food cues, and less able to resist them by considering the negative context of eating, like weight gain. Also, as the study included identical twins, the researchers found that the neuroanatomical traits have a genetic link with obesity. These observations will change the way obesity is treated until now, and could include cognitive training to improve people’s ability to resist food.

    Read the full story: McGill University
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

    Marijuana stays in breastmilk for upto 6 days post use
    Marijuana stays in breast milk for around 6 days after use - short science articles and news

    While several medical agencies advise avoiding marijuana use during breastfeeding there isn't sufficient data to give a clear-cut direction. However, cannabinoids such as THC have increased affinity for the fat molecules which are abundant in breast milk. Now, researchers have found out that 63% of examined breastmilk samples had detectable levels of THC for up to six days after last use. However, it is still unknown whether these levels of THC in the breast milk affect the infant which consumes it. Further research needs to be conducted to ascertain these effects.

    Read the full story: University of California San Diego
    Scientific publication: Pediatrics

    A newly discovered immune organ harbors immune memory cells, for example after vaccination
    New micro-organ discovered in the human body - health science news

    Scientists found a new micro-organ that plays an important role in the defense against microorganisms. It is located on lymph nodes, and is a place where immune memory cells gather to launch an effective and rapid response to invading pathogens. This makes the production and release of antibodies possible that target pathogens that the body has seen before (this is also the underlying principle of vaccination). This makes the newly-discovered micro-organ a vital member of our immune system.

    Read the full story: Garvan Institute of Medical Research
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    A new drug for the treatment of a rare, lethal heart disease awaits FDA approval
    New drug reduces deaths in a lethal form of heart failure - health science news

    Scientists have developed a new drug that might be a new treatment for transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (ATTR-CM), a progressive form of heart failure. In a phase III clinical trial, the final experimental phase before the FDA decides on approval, the drug reduced deaths by 30%, reduced hospitalizations by 32%, and slowed the decline of quality of life in 441 patients. Also, life of patients is prolonged by 3-5 years. ATTR-CM occurs mostly in men over 60 years of age, and is characterized by destabilization of a protein called transthyretin, which then clumps together to form plaques in the heart muscle. The new drug would be the first to treat patient with this disease.

    Read the full story: Columbia University – Irving Medical Center
    Scientific publication: New England Journal of Medicine

    Even one day of sleep loss changes our genes
    Sleep loss can contribute to weight gain- short science articles and news

    Researchers have found out that chronic sleep loss or work shifts leads to increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. They have demonstrated that even one day of sleep loss has a tissue-specific impact on the expression of the genes and also has an impact on the metabolism in humans. This effect is especially true in the so-called clock genes which are in each tissue and regulate the circadian rhythm. The epigenetic modifications seen in the genes were similar to that seen in patients with obesity and diabetes.

    Read the full story: Uppsala University
    Scientific publication: Science Advances

    Looks appetizing, doesn't it? But beware: alcohol kills 2.8 billion people per year
    Alcohol is associated with 2.8 million deaths each year worldwide - health science news

    Globally, about 2.4 billion people (one third of the population) drink alcohol, and 2.2% of women and 6.8% of men die from alcohol-related health problems each year, for a total of 2.8 million deaths per year. This makes alcohol the 7th leading risk factor for premature death, and even leading in the group of people of 15-49 years old. In this group, alcohol consumption is related with tuberculosis, road injuries and self-harm. In elderly people, deaths because of alcohol was mainly caused by cancers. While some have argued that low alcohol intake can have beneficial health effects, the adverse effects outweigh the benefits, leading the researchers to conclude that there is no such thing such as a safe level of alcohol.

    Read the full story: The Lancet
    Scientific publication: The Lancet

    Cancer cell's adaptations to hypoxia pave the way for safe treatment strategies
    Exploiting hypoxia to treat cancers - cancer news

    Targeting cancers without damaging healthy tissue is the ideal scenario to treat tumors. Now, scientists are on their way to master this challenge after identifying a cancer cell receptor that is switched on during conditions of hypoxia. Hypoxia often occurs in cancers, as they are developing quicker than their oxygen supply would permit. Cancer cells therefore have to use other strategies to ensure their growth, and the identified receptor might play a role in this. Indeed, when stopping the switching on of the receptor, known as GPRC5A, when oxygen levels are low triggered cancer cell death. The experiments were done in a dish, but scientist aim to explore this further to develop a safe treatment of cancers in the future.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: EMBO Molecular Medicine

    Their poop could be a gold-mine of good bacteria
    Baby poop as a source of beneficial bacteria - short science articles and news

    Researchers have developed a 'probiotic cocktail' from the gut bacteria found in the poop of infants. These bacteria preferentially produce short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are extremely essential and are decreased in the patients with diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders and cancers. They tested the ability of these probiotics to change the microbiome in both mice and humans successfully thereby providing evidence that human-origin probiotics could be used as biopharmaceutical interventions to possibly help in restoring gut microbiota imbalance and increase the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut.

    Read the full story: Wake Forest University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports

    Breastfeeding might help in reducing the risk of stroke
    Breastfeeding might protect mothers against stroke - short science articles and news

    While, there has been always a lot of emphasis on the importance of breastfeeding on the health of the child, researchers have found out that there is a reduced risk of stroke in post-menopausal women who had breastfed at least one child. This association is stronger in women who had breastfed their babies for at least six months. To come to this conclusion researchers analyzed the data of 80.191 women participants in the Women’s Health Initiative observational study. After adjusting for other risk factors for stroke like family history and age, they found that the risk for stroke was 19% lower in women who had breastfed for atleast 6 months.

    Read the full story: American Heart Association
    Scientific publication: Journal of the American Heart Association

    Telomeres are protective caps on chromosomes. They are maintained by telomerase.
    Gene therapy with telomerase does not increase the risk of cancer - health science news

    Regeneration of damaged tissue may benefit greatly from the activity of telomerase, but scientists have been hesitant to exploit this further because higher telomerase activity might increase the risk of cancer. Telomerase is an enzyme that builds telomers at the end of chromosomes to protect them from damage, and keeps cells dividing. In adult cells, telomerase is no longer active, except in cancer cells. In a new study in lung cancer-prone mice, scientists have shown that delivery of telomerase by viral means does not lead to cancer development, not even in this “worst case scenario”, and thus appears to be safe. Telomerase might therefore become a treatment option for tissue repair and rejuvenation in the future.

    Read the full story: Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO)
    Scientific publication: PLoS Genetics

    Research identifies how chromosome 15q25.1 locus influences lung cancer risk
    Study discovers mechanisms involved in development of lung cancer - short science news

    Chromosome 15q25.1 has been known as a genetic component responsible for increasing the susceptibility to lung cancer. Now, a new study discovered two main cellular pathways, involving the chromosome, that can modify the risk for lung cancer. The first pathway discovered is an interaction pathway in the nervous system that is implicated in nicotine dependence. The other pathway can control key components in many biological processes, such as transport of nutrients and ions, and the human immune system. The discovery could help us to understand this disease and pave the way for a treatment.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Soon, blood urea measurements might predict which cancer patients will benefit from immunotherapy
    Disrupted nitrogen metabolism plays a role in cancer - health science news

    Nitrogen is a building block of proteins, RNA and DNA, and is therefore in high demand by cancer cells. Scientists have now found that disrupted nitrogen metabolism in the liver reduces the concentration of a nitrogenous waste product, urea, in certain cancers, and increases the availability of nitrogen for cancer cells. This makes the cancer cells on the one hand more aggressive, but on the other hand also more vulnerable to immunotherapy, in patients and experimental animals. It should now become possible to design a blood test to monitor urea levels in cancer patients, and predict in which of these patients immunotherapy will likely have beneficial effects, i.e. in those patients with low blood urea.

    Read the full story: Weizmann Institute
    Scientific publication: Cell

    Rotavirus vaccines seem to be effective in preventing death in infants and children
    Rotavirus vaccine reduces death in infants by a third in Malawi - science news

    Rotavirus remains a leading cause of severe diarrhea and death among infants in many countries from Africa and Asia. To combat the situation, many regions have added the rotavirus vaccine to their routine immunization strategy. A recent study assessed the impact of the vaccine over the last years and the results are encouraging. According to the research, the rotavirus vaccination reduced infant diarrhea deaths by 34% in rural Malawi. This is the first population-level evidence from a low-income country that rotavirus vaccination saves lives.

    Read the full story: University of Liverpool
    Scientific publication: The Lancet

    Novel machine-learning techniques to improve the quality of life for patients by reducing toxic chemotherapy and radiotherapy dosing for glioblastoma
    Making cancer treatment less toxic with the help of machine learning - science news

    Cancer patients must often endure a combination of radiation therapy and multiple drugs taken every month, which leads to a variety of adverse effects. In a quest to minimize the toxic effects of cancer drugs, a team of scientists used a machine-learning algorithm in order to identify the minimum dose of drugs that is less dangerous, but still effective. In simulated trials of 50 patients, the machine-learning model designed treatment cycles that reduced the potency to a quarter or half of nearly all the doses while maintaining the same tumor-shrinking potential. Many times, it skipped doses altogether, scheduling administrations only twice a year instead of monthly.

    Read the full story: MIT

    Glaucoma might be caused by T cells attacking the retina's heat shock proteins
    Glaucoma may be an autoimmune disease - health science news

    Surprising new scientific findings suggest that glaucoma, which is characterized by retina damage and can lead to blindness, is an autoimmune disease. Experiments in mice showed that retina cells are destroyed by the body’s own T cells. These particular immune cells target heat shock proteins that protect us against stress and injury, and are probably activated by heat shock proteins from bacteria that resemble the ones found in mice. Indeed, human glaucoma patients show high levels of T cells in the eye, whereas they are completely absent in the eyes of healthy people. The study therefore suggests that it could be possible to develop new treatment strategies to replace the inefficient current treatment of lowering the pressure in the eye.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    The moment in life when diabetes type 1 develops has a major influence on life expectancy
    Early life onset of diabetes type 1 shortens life by 18 years for women - health science news

    New research has shown that the age at which diabetes type 1 manifests itself is an important predictor of life expectancy. More specifically, development of diabetes type 1 before 10 years of age results in a loss of 18 years for women and 14 years for men. The lives of patients diagnosed with diabetes type 1 between 26 and 30 years of age shorten on average by ten years. The highest risk of mortality is the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially heart attacks in women. These rather upsetting findings highlight the need to treat young patients as effectively as possible.

    Read the full story: University of Gothenburg
    Scientific publication: The Lancet

    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

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