November 21, 2019

    T cell receptors bind structurally different peptides, possibly explaining why immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer at times attacks healthy cells
    A new challenge for immunotherapy discovered - cancer science short news

    In the quest for efficient and safe immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, researchers stumbled upon a surprising way some of the immune cells, the T cells, react with antigens. It appeared that the T cell receptor can bind two distinctively different peptide antigens, showing that T cell receptors can be much more cross-reactive (less specific) than previously though. This is worrisome, because this could be at the basis of why immunotherapy sometimes doesn’t only attack cancer cells, but also healthy cells. These new findings should be incorporated into immunotherapy design platforms, and more research is needed to appreciate the full consequences of this surprising observation, scientists say.

    Read the full story: University of Notre Dame
    Scientific publication: Nature Chemical Biology

    Early bacteria in the gut explain the individuality of the microbiome and determine the degree of protection from disease
    The first gut bacteria help newborns fight diseases - daily science news

    Each of us carries inside a wide range of microbes, called the microbiome, which is unique for every individual. A lot of research has shown how important these microorganisms are for a lot of functions, from digestion to mental health. Now, a new study showed that the very first bacteria colonizing the intestines of newborns may have a long-term impact on their health. But why is the microbiome so different from person to person, even in the case of twins? The study suggested that the order and timing by which the gut is colonized early in life is very important for the high levels of unexplained individuality in the gut microbial communities.

    Read the full story: Folio
    Scientific publication: eLife

    A male malaria parasite sexual stage becoming active -- a process called exflagellation that happens inside the mosquito stomach. Image: Sabrina Yahiya
    Drugs preventing malaria parasites from infecting mosquitos might stop the disease from spreading - health science short news

    Stop mosquitos catching malaria, and you stop the spread of the disease. Scientists have adopted this reasoning to develop compounds that prevent malaria parasites from being able to infect mosquitos. After screening tens of thousands of compounds, six have been identified for further testing in animal models, and to determine what these compounds are doing precisely to prevent infection. These compounds are very different from the ones that are currently being used to treat infected people, as they target the mosquito. In the future, the newly identified compounds could be given in addition to the traditional ones to limit the spread of the disease, and to treat the diseased persons.

    Read the full story: Imperial College London
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Mutations need a second type of genetic factors to induce a disease
    Why mutations cause disease in some people but not in others? - science news daily in brief

    Genetic mutations trigger diseases in some individuals but not in others, a phenomenon called variable penetrance. Why this is the case is a mystery in biology. Now, a new study came with a potential explanation. It turns out that some genetic variants exist, with the ability to modify the disease risk caused by various mutations. The mutations need this “extra” genetic factors to be able to induce a disease. “Our findings suggest that a person’s disease risk is potentially determined by a combination of their regulatory and coding variants, and not just one or the other,” Dr. Lappalainen said. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology the scientists tested and approved their theory using a cell culture model. The study should allow for a more precise evaluation of the risk of coding variants associated with diseases.

    Read the full story: Columbia Systems Biology
    Scientific publication: Nature Genetics

    New genetic approach identified genetic variants likely responsible for dilated cardiomyopathy
    Whole genome sequencing effective for identifying the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy - science news in brief

    Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition characterized by decreased blood pumping due to an enlarged and weakened left ventricle. In an effort to identify the causes of this disease, a team of scientists used whole genome sequencing (WGS) to screen for genetic causes. The study detected three likely genetic variants which were missed by another standard test (multigene panel sequencing). “The potential of structural variants to contribute to diagnoses of genetic diseases such as Familial Cardiomyopathy has not been realized, due to the difficulty in detecting them comprehensively and reliably,” said Dr. André Minoche, one of the scientists involved in the research. To overcome this the study used a new genetic tool able to make these variants accessible in clinical genetic testing,

    Read the full story: Kinghorn Center for Clinical Genomics
    Scientific publication: Genetics in Medicine

    Aspirin has no effect on healthy life span in elderly
    Daily low-dose aspirin is without effect on healthy life span in elderly - Health science news

    In a large study conducted in Australia and the US, scientists have found that a daily low-dose aspirin intake does not prolong healthy, independent living. The risk of dying from cancer or heart disease was not reduced when compared to healthy elderly taking placebo. There was even a slightly increased risk of dying of cancer when taking aspirin, although this result has to be confirmed in follow-up studies. The study shows that aspirin is not beneficial for healthy elderly, but this does not contradict clinical guidelines that note the benefits of aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes in persons with vascular conditions.

    Read the full story: NIH – National Institute on Aging
    Scientific publication: New England Journal of Medicine – cardiovascular events
    Scientific publication: New England Journal of Medicine – disability-free survival
    Scientific publication: New England Journal of Medicine – mortality in healthy elderly

    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

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