January 16, 2019

    Two cancers originating from different organs share very similar genetic mechanisms when they become invasive. A microscopic image of small cell neuroendocrine prostate cancer. Credit: UCLA
    Aggressive prostate and lung cancers share similar mechanisms - health science news - cancer

    The development of late-stage prostate and lung cancers is similar in the genetic mechanisms that underly their aggressivity, according to a new study.

    Even if initially they are genetically very different, when they reach the small cells stage (highly malignant cancer) they become almost identical.

    Discovery of the shared mechanisms could lead to a better understanding of invasive cancers and may help to discover the “master genes” that regulate cancer development and spreading.

    Read the full story: University of California, Los Angeles
    Scientific publication: Science


    A natural killer (NK) cell binds to a malaria-infected red blood cell and destroys it. Credit: Weijian Ye, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology
    Malaria severity depends on immune cells variations - science news

    According to new research, the severity of malaria is influenced by the failure of some components of the immune system to effectively destroy infected blood cells.

    Basically, a type of immune cells (NK – natural killer) cannot activate a genetic programme required to fight the disease. This doesn’t happen in all individuals, due to variations in the NK cells, and it explains why some people are more likely to experience more severe symptoms of malaria.

    Researchers managed to re-activate these cells in the lab, suggesting the possibility to develop treatments that could reduce the severity of malaria.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: PLOS Pathogens


    Resveratrol is found in grapes and, at least in mice, has been found to protect against lung cancer
    Resveratrol, found in grapes, protects against lung cancer - health science news

    Scientists have created a new formula for the application of resveratrol to protect against lung cancer. Resveratrol, which is found in grapes and red wine, was found to be most effective when applied intranasally in mice that had been exposed to a carcinogenic substance from cigarette smoke. The amount of resveratrol that reached the lungs was 22 times higher when compared with oral intake that is without effect. As resveratrol is already used in food supplements, no further toxicity studies are needed prior to commercialization as a preventive treatment of lung cancer.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Cancers satisfy their appetite by creating a diabetes-like state
    Cancers feed on glucose by inhibiting glucose uptake by healthy cells - cancer science news

    Cancer cells have been found to induce a diabetes-like state so that healthy cells take up less glucose, leaving more glucose available for the cancer cells and tumor growth, a new study in mice reports. They do this in two ways. First, tumor cells stimulate fat cells to produce more IGFBP1 protein. This makes healthy cells less sensitive to insulin, so that more insulin is required for glucose uptake. Second, cancers turn the production of insulin down. In part they do this through the gut. Mice with leukemia miss bacteroids in their intestines, which produce short-chain fatty acids that in turn feed the health of cells lining your gut. The gut cells will now stop the production of hormones called incretins that normally help to get glucose levels down after a meal. On top of this, tumors reduce the activity of serotonin, an essential molecule for the synthesis of insulin. Giving mice with leukemia short-chain fatty acids and serotonin prolongs their lives and reduces tumor growth, suggesting that it should be possible in the future to develop treatments that favor healthy cells, and disfavor cancer cells. 

    Read the full story: University of Colorado – Anschutz Medical Campus
    Scientific publication: Cancer Cell


    Tumor signaling can stop development of secondary tumors in the case of some breast cancers
    Pressing the pause button for breast cancer development - latest science news headlines

    A team of scientists has discovered an interesting fact about some types of breast cancers: they have a “pause button”! When cancer cells break away from the primary tumor, they travel in the body and eventually grow into dangerous secondary tumors. However, the study showed that the initial tumor can signal the immune system to follow the runaway cells and ‘freeze’ them. In this paused state, the cells cannot grow anymore, stopping secondary tumor growth. The research was performed in mice, however, there are indications that the same process likely happens in humans.

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


    James P. Allison (left) and Tasuku Honjo (right) discovered how to unleash the immune system to fight tumors. Credit: NobelPrize.org
    The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded for cancer therapy - daily science news in short

    This year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo “for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation”. The two scientists discovered how inhibiting the brakes of the immune system can be used to fight cancer. James P. Allison studied a known protein that slows down the immune system. He realized the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumors. In parallel, Tasuku Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells and revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action. Both discoveries were later used for new cancer therapies.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine


    A minimally invasive treatment gives hope to people diagnosed with mitral regurgitation - a problem with the valve between the ventricle and the atrium of the heart
    New procedure improves outcomes for heart failure patients - daily science news in short - medical

    A new clinical trial reported that a minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter mitral valve repair significantly reduced hospitalizations and mortality for heart failure patients. The trial enrolled 614 heart failure patients with moderate-to-severe or severe specific heart conditions at 78 sites in the United States and Canada. The patients who had the new minimally invasive procedure had 47% fewer heart failure-related hospitalizations and 38% fewer deaths than those who were managed medically. “Patients with heart failure… now have substantially more hope because we can improve their quality of life and survival” Gregg Stone, co-principal investigator of the trial, said.

    Read the full story: Columbia University
    Scientific publication: The New England Journal of Medicine


    Microbial diversity of healthy humans. Image: Jonathan Bailey, NHGRI
    Fecal microbiota transplantation restores beneficial bacteria population in cancer patients - health science news

    Fecal microbiota transplantation is a safe and efficient way to restore the beneficial bacteria population in the intestines of cancer patients that underwent antibiotics treatment, a new study shows. Antibiotics are necessary in the case of stem cell transplantation to prevent bacterial infections in stem cell recipients (i.e. the cancer patients). While antibiotics destroy the natural, beneficial bacteria population in the gut that normally enhances immune function and prevents infections, it is important to restore the patient’s microbiota fast. By transplanting the patient’s own microbiota that had been harvested before antibiotics treatment began, this is achieved in a matter of days, rather than weeks with normal hospital care practice.

    Read the full story: NIH – National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
    Scientific publication: Science Translational Medicine


    Bacteria are absent in the spleen of a normal rat (left), but occur in the spleen of MAVS-deficient rat (right). Spleen cells in blue, bacteria in red. Image: Ana Hennino, David Bauché, Emilie Plantamura / CIRI
    What a virus detection system, microbiota and skin allergies have to do with each other - health science news

    Biologists have observed that mice lacking the MAVS gene, necessary for virus detection by the immune system, have an altered composition of intestinal bacteria and severe allergic skin reactions. Transfer of the abnormal bacteria (microbiota) to normal mice caused the same skin allergies as in MAVS-deficient mice, showing that gut microbiota are responsible for the skin health problems. Furthermore, the altered gut microbiotica increased the permeability of the intestines, so that some bacteria could enter the body and migrate to the spleen and lymph nodes. This increased the skin allergies even further. Thus, there is a direct link between the immune system, gut microbiota, and skin allergies, which could be taken into consideration for development of new therapies.

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


    Hunger can make you feel stressed, anxious, and even depressed
    Link between hunger and mood revealed - health science news

    Rats that experienced a sudden blood glucose drop suffered more from stress and anxiety, and experience a depressed mood. In a new study, rats received a metabolism blocker to induce the experience of hypoglycemia in one chamber, and received water in another chamber. Rats would then avoid the chamber where they felt hypoglycemic, and where they had more stress hormones in their blood. Also, the hypoglycemic rats were more sluggish, which was not due to decreased energy supply to the muscles, but rather a result of depressed mood, as this could be reversed by antidepressants. Thus, a sudden drop in blood glucose levels can change mood, making metabolism a factor to reckon with in the treatment of mood disorders, researchers say.

    Read the full story: University of Guelph
    Scientific publication: Psychopharmacology


    News about cancer: cancer cells can hide from the immune system so that immunotherapy stops working
    Why immunotherapy rarely stops cancer - cancer short science news

    Scientists have found out why immunotherapy to fight a cancer initially shrinks a tumor, but cannot turn this into long-term silencing or destruction of cancer cells. Cancer cells can apparently hide themselves from the immune cells (known as T cells) that stimulated by immunotherapy to kill them. Cancer cells can stop displaying molecules on their membranes that T cells need to recognize and then attack them. Fortunately, the researchers found that two already existing medications for the treatment of some cancers, could stop the cancer cells from ceasing the expression of the marker molecules. Thus, this study explains why immunotherapies do not have a long lasting effect, and indicates how immunotherapies might be improved for more effective treatment.

    Read the full story: Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Sleep at regular hours and you will be healthier
    Regular sleep hours promote good health - science news daily in short

    Parents struggle to offer regular sleep hours for their children, often neglecting to do the same for themselves. A new study shows that adults can also benefit from regular sleep hours. After following almost 2,000 adults, researchers concluded that people with irregular sleep hours had higher blood sugar, weighed more, had higher blood pressure and increased the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The study suggests, therefore an association between sleep irregularity and heart and metabolic diseases (but not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship). The authors plan to expand the present study in the future to understand better the connections between sleep patterns and health.

    Read the full story: Duke University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Scientists multiply immune cells from HIV-infected patients and then place them back in the body to fight the virus
    New therapy for HIV passed Phase 1 clinical trial - science news in short - HIV

    A new therapy for HIV is now tested in humans and it successfully passed the phase I clinical trial. The therapy involves collecting T cells (immune cells) from a patient, multiplying them in the laboratory and then giving them back to the patient to help the body fight disease. Basically, the body’s immune system is helped and “re-educated” to better fight HIV viruses. The primary goal of the study was to show that the therapy is safe and the results are encouraging. The therapy is still to be further tested in future clinical trials.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Molecular Therapy


    NLRP12 promotes growth of good bacteria that help to protect against obesity
    An anti-inflammatory protein protects against obesity through microbiota - health short science news

    Scientists have found that the anti-inflammatory protein NLRP12 protects mice against obesity when they are fed a high-fat diet. It does so by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria, known as Lachnospiraceae. These bacteria produce the small molecules butyrate and propionate, which improve gut health and protect against obesity and insulin resistance. Interestingly, in obese people, the expression of NLRP12 tends to be lower, suggesting that the results found in mice are relevant to humans. NLRP12 might thus be a novel target for the treatment of obesity.

    Read the full story: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Scientific publication: Cell Host & Microbe


    A Mediterranean way of eating decreases stroke risk in women over 40, but not in men
    Mediterranean-inspired diet may reduce risk of stroke in women - science news in short

    Aside from the fact that a Mediterranean-style diet is delicious, it may have additional benefits for some. A new report suggests that this way of eating reduces stroke risk for women over 40. This was true regardless of menopausal status or hormone replacement therapy. However, no similar benefits were found for men. The conclusions were drawn after analyzing data from 23,000 participants over a 17-year period. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and beans, and lower in meat and dairy.

    Read the full story: University of East Anglia
    Scientific publication: Stroke


    Delivering specific mRNA molecules with the help of nanoparticles scientists managed to restore the ability of the body to fight prostate cancer - short science news
    Nanoparticles restore cancer-fighting genes- short science news

    In some types of cancer, the development and progression are due to mutations or loss of specific genes called tumor-suppressor genes. Using an innovative technique, scientists managed to restore these genes in a model of prostate cancer. To achieve this, the researchers loaded nanoparticles with messenger RNA (mRNA) for those genes, which gives similar results with having the functional ones in the cells. This effectively restored tumor suppression in mice, even when the cancer was in the metastatic stage, and might lead to the development of a new type of precision medicine for treating cancer.

    Read the full story: Physics World
    Scientific publication: Nature Biomedical Engineering


    Exercising intensely, but for a short time may give the same result as a longer moderate activity, at least regarding the mitochondrial functions
    No time for the gym? Try short high-intensity exercise! - short science news - health

    Many of us use the excuse of not having enough time to skip physical activity, like going to the gym. However, a new study shows there may be a workaround for this. According to the research, a few minutes of high-intensity interval or sprinting exercise induce beneficial improvements in mitochondrial function. Altered mitochondrial function in response to exercise generates signals that may lead to beneficial changes in the cells. Different types of physical exercises were tested and the study found that fewer minutes of higher-intensity exercise produced similar mitochondrial responses compared to a longer moderate-intensity activity. To take note that the study looked at mitochondria, however there may be other changes in the organism that are different between the two types of training.

    Read the full story: Medicalxpress
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Physiology—Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology


    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)


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