April 26, 2019

    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

    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

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