April 26, 2019

    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


    For colon cancer cells, aspartate is a limiting factor for their growth. Restricting this cellular nutrient could slow cancer growth.
    Key cellular nutrient identified that speeds up tumour growth - cancer science news

    While most cancer research focuses on the molecular machinery within the cancer cells themselves, other research addresses the role that the cancer cells’ environment may play in tumour growth. Using the latter approach, scientists have found that aspartate, a component of proteins and DNA, is a key nutrient for some tumours to grow. Upregulation of aspartate made colon cancer cells, osteosarcoma cells and mouse pancreatic cells more rapidly, while human pancreatic cells kept dividing at their initial rate. These and other experiments in this study show that acquiring aspartate may be a metabolic limitation for a subset of cancer, depending on the localisation of the tumour in the body and the environment the tumour grows in. These factors have to be taken into account for the development of tumour treatments in the future.

    Read the full story: Massachusettes Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Cell Biology


    Mitosis, or cell division, is a two step process. First the DNA doubles, then the cell divides
    New molecular mechanism discovered that prevents cell division and cancer - cancer science news

    When cells divide, their DNA is copied first in its entirety, before the cells actually splits in two. This is to ensure that both daughter cells receive a correct set of DNA that is identical from cell to cell in the body. Researchers have now identified that two enzymes become active only after completion of DNA synthesis and drive the cells into division. They are inactive during DNA replication. Thus, the control of cell division is partially controlled by DNA replication, which is an important finding with respect to the quest of pharmacological compounds for cancer arrest.

    Read the full story: Karolinska Institutet
    Scientific publication: Molecular Cell


    Sickle cell anemia might be treated in the future with a new and precise gene editing technique
    New gene editing technique cures blood disorder in fetal mice - health science news

    New research shows that it is possible to correct a genetic defect by a new site-specific gene editing technique in fetal mice. In this study, scientists injected nanoparticles carrying donor DNA as well as synthetic molecules, peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), in mice embryos to repair a gene involved in anemia. The nanoparticles are taken up by the cells, and PNAs, which resemble DNA, bind the target gene to form triple helix (unlike the natural double DNA helix). The cell will try to repair this, and use the donor DNA with the correct gene for this that was delivered by the nanoparticles. Four months after the mice had been injected in uterus of the mother, they were living without any signs of anemia. The new technique makes it possible to treat single-gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell very early in life, so that babies will not develop disease.

    Read the full story: Yale
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Insulin might be packed in a capsule for oral intake in the future
    Insulin in a pill - health science news

    To overcome the obstacles associated with daily insulin injections, researchers have long sought after ways to deliver insulin orally. Now, this is coming close to reality. Scientists have packaged insulin in a specially designed capsule, where it is carried in an ionic liquid. This allows the insulin to be transported through the hostile, acidic environment of the stomach, and to be released in the small intestine. With the aid of the ionic liquid, insulin can then pass the intestinal wall and enter the blood. The formulation is biocompatible, safe, not too expensive to make, and survives for two months at room temperature. Long-term toxicology and bioavailability studies still have to be done, but all in all, this new technique for oral insulin delivery is definitely promising, and might change the life of many diabetes patients.

    Read the full story: Harvard – John A. Paulsen School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Arresting movement of cancer cells could be an effective way of therapy
    A drug to prevent cancer cells from spreading - short science articles

    Researchers have shown that it could be possible to freeze cancer cells and then kill them. The drug named KBU2046 has shown effectiveness to inhibit cell mobility in human cell models of solid cancers like prostate, breast, colon and lung. This drug engages with the heat shock proteins, the cleaners of a cell. The drug binds to these cleaner proteins which stop the movement of the cells. This could be a new way of treating cancer since several drugs solely concentrate on killing the cancer cells but the majority of cancer mortality is due to metastasis of these cells to distant organs.

    Read the full story: OSHU
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    The organization of the blood vessels in the kidney, where the blood is filtered, is quite different than previously thought
    New views on the structure of the kidney - Health science news

    The structure of the kidney has been studied essentially to completion over the last 170 years, or so we thought. Now, researchers have discovered that the structure of the blood vessels within the kidney is quite different from what has been presented for years in the textbooks. Using improved microscopic analyses, the researchers have identified until now unrecognized blood vessel regions that may be lacking in smaller species or even human infants, as there is simply no place for them in smaller kidneys. This, however, needs further confirmation. The current study might lead to a better understanding of kidney diseases.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology


    Increased salt intake unequivocally linked to increased risk of death
    High salt intake linked to increased death risk - short science articles

    There has been controversy recently regarding the relationship between increased risk of death and salt intake. However, a new study suggests that an inaccurate estimation technique was responsible for these paradoxical results. Previous studies used spot test to determine sodium excreted in human urine samples; however there is wide fluctuation in the sodium level in the urine and hence for a more accurate measurement, one needs to do a 24 hrs measurement. Scientists used this gold standard technique of using an average of multiple non-consecutive urine samples of 3000 patients with pre-hypertension and found that there was a direct relationship between increased sodium intake and risk of death.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: International Journal of Epidemiology


    It is important to minimize the risk of mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent
    Keystone virus jumped from mosquitos to humans for the first time - health science news

    The Keystone virus, first found in the Tampa Bay-area in Florida, has been found in a teenager that was hospitalized with a rash and fever symptoms in August 2016. While the patients did not report symptoms of encephalitis, viral cultures from his samples showed that the virus grows well in mouse neuronal cell cultures, suggesting that the virus can infect the brain. The Keystone virus is a member of the California serogroup of viruses that can cause encephalitis in humans, and can apparently be transmitted by mosquitos, just like the Zika virus for instance.

    Read the full story: University of Florida
    Scientific publication: Clinical Infectious Diseases


    Thioredoxin-interactive protein could enable the ageing process
    Important molecule for ageing discovered - short science articles

    Scientists have discovered an important protein which is a central switch in the ageing process. The protein named TXNIP (thioredoxin-interactive protein) is responsible for shifting the balance of reactive oxidative species (ROS) from optimal to harmful amounts. These ROS accumulate in the cell and cause damage to the DNA which then ultimately changes the proteins and lipids in the cell. The cells of 55-year-old volunteers were significantly higher in TXNIP as compared to younger volunteers. Then the researchers bred flies with high or low levels of TXNIP and found that those with higher TXNIP lived shorter. Since these proteins are highly conserved in all species, it is highly likely that similar mechanisms exist in humans.

    Read the full story: German Cancer Research Center
    Scientific publication: FEBS letters


    A higher fat content could be associated with lower breast cancer in young women
    Younger women with high body fat associated with lower breast cancer risk - short science articles

    In sharp contrast to the increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with obesity, a large-scale study in premenopausal women has shown that higher body fat is linked with lower breast cancer risk. This is true for women even in the normal weight range. The largest risk reduction was seen in women in the age group of 18-24 years, with a decreased risk of 23%. Several factors could contribute to this link of higher BMI and lower breast cancer such as differences in hormones, growth factor or breast density. For example, the estrogen produced in fat tissue could induce a negative release effect on estrogen from the ovaries thereby controlling the release of growth factors. This isn't an excuse to gain weight, but an indication that we still need to understand the factors contributing to breast cancer in pre-menopausal women.

    Read the full story: UNC
    Scientific publication: JAMA oncology


    Being married decreases risk of cardiovascular diseases
    Your marriage literally protects you against diseases - short science articles

    Researchers conducted a pooled analysis of available data and found that being married might protect us against the development of heart diseases and stroke. Those who were married had a 42% lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and a 16% lower risk of coronary heart disease. Further, those who weren't married had an increased risk of death due to heart disease or stroke by 42% and 55% respectively. In-depth analysis showed that divorcees had a 35% while widowers had a 16% higher risk of stroke. There could be several reasons for better health of married people including early recognition of health problems, better financial security and enhanced wellbeing. This is prompting researchers to include marital status as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular heart diseases.

    Read the full story: BMJ news
    Scientific publication: Heart


    Intermittent fasting diet induces weight loss
    16:8 diet for weight loss - short science articles

    Researchers have found that time-restricted eating, i.e. fasting during a select few hours in a day could induce weight loss in obese individuals as compared to controls. This time restricted dieting plan actually resulted in a lower consumption of calories through the day. Additionally, there was a fall in the blood pressure as well. This diet is named so because it involves 16 hours of 'fasting' and 8 hours of 'feasting'. These results are similar to the alternate day fasting regimen but the 16:8 diet plan is easier to maintain for people.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois
    Scientific publication: Nutrition and Healthy Aging


    Some chemicals routinely found in daily care products may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
    Chemical in toothpaste and soap may help create superbugs - science news in short

    A new study investigated the relationship between chemicals found in personal care products, such as toothpaste and hand soap and antibiotic resistance. They found that triclosan, a chemical present in more than 2000 care products, can induce antibiotic resistance contributing to the creation of “superbugs” (antibiotic-resistant microorganisms). "These chemicals are used in much larger quantities at an everyday level, so you end up with high residual levels in the wider environment, which can induce multi-drug resistance,” said one of the authors. This discovery calls for a re-evaluation of the impact of the chemicals found in care products since antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health.

    Read the full story: The University of Queensland
    Scientific publication: Environment International


    Bacteria in the fat mouse contribute to mood and insulin resistance problems
    Gut microbiota contribute to mood changes and insulin resistance in obesity - health science news

    Bacteria living the guts of mice fed with a high-fat diet can contribute to anxiety and depression that is frequently observed in obese people and diabetes type 2 patients. Also, the presence of these bacteria in the gut induced insulin resistance in two important brain areas, the hypothalamus (helps controlling body metabolism) and the nucleus accumbens (involved in mood and behavior). Transplanting the gut bacteria to mice that were germ-free (thus without any bacteria of their own) was enough to induce all of these symptoms, and the use of antibiotics reversed them back to normal. The results suggest that getting rid of the wrong bacteria, or promoting the growth of good ones, can be helpful to treat these symptoms in type 2 diabetes.

    Read the full story: Joslin Diabetes Center
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


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