Key chocolate ingredients could help prevent obesity, diabetes

Improved thinking. Decreased appetite. Lowered blood pressure. The potential health benefits of dark chocolate keep piling up, and scientists are now homing in on what ingredients in chocolate might help prevent obesity, as well as type-2 diabetes. They found that one particular type of antioxidant in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and lowered their blood sugar levels. The report appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry.Andrew P. Neilson and colleagues explain that cocoa, the basic ingredient of chocolate, is one of the most flavanol-rich foods around. That’s good for chocolate lovers because previous research has shown that flavanols in other foods such as grapes and tea can help fight weight gain and type-2 diabetes. But not all flavanols, which are a type of antioxidant, are created equal. Cocoa has several different kinds of these compounds, so Neilson’s team decided to tease them apart and test each individually for health benefits.The scientists fed groups of mice different diets, including high-fat and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with different kinds of flavanols. …

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‘3-D’ test could reduce reliance on animals for testing asthma and allergy medications

To determine whether new medicines are safe and effective for humans, researchers must first test them in animals, which is costly and time-consuming, as well as ethically challenging. In a study published in ACS’ journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, scientists report that they’ve developed a simple, “3D” laboratory method to test asthma and allergy medications that mimics what happens in the body, which could help reduce the need for animal testing.Amir Ghaemmaghami and colleagues note that respiratory conditions, such as asthma and allergies, are becoming more common. These conditions affect the lungs and the airway leading to the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Every year, respiratory symptoms lead to expensive hospital visits, as well as absences from work and school. Better drugs could provide relief, but before giving new medicines to people, researchers must first test them in animals — a costly and laborious process. Sometimes, researchers will use “2D” tests in which they apply the drug to a layer of human cells in a lab dish instead, but this isn’t an adequate way to tell how a medicine will work in a whole animal or a whole person. So, Ghaemmaghami’s team developed a new, 3D alternative.Their test includes three types of human cells that are typically in a person’s airway. In the body, these cells are close together and are involved in the development of respiratory conditions. The 3D “model” reacted just like a real person’s airway when they exposed it to allergens and bacterial extract. They say that the model has the potential of reducing the need for some animal testing of new drugs for respiratory conditions.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. …

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Using a form of ‘ice that burns’ to make potable water from oil and gas production

Aug. 28, 2013 — In the midst of an intensifying global water crisis, scientists are reporting development of a more economical way to use one form of the “ice that burns” to turn very salty wastewater from fracking and other oil and gas production methods into water for drinking and irrigation.The study on the method, which removes more than 90 percent of the salt, appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.Yongkoo Seol and Jong-Ho Cha explain that salty wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. These methods use water and produce as a byproduct almost 10 barrels of salty water for every barrel of oil. That water could help people in water-stressed regions. But it can’t be desalinated economically with traditional methods. Seol and Cha knew that an alternative called “gas hydrate desalination” showed promise.A gas hydrate consists of only water and a gas such as methane, the stuff of natural gas. Thus, when hydrates form, salts and other impurities are left behind. When the hydrate breaks down, the gas and pure water are released. However, forming the gas hydrate used in desalination required costly chilling of the water to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Seol and Cha sought to develop a less costly version of the method, which involves a variation on methane hydrates, chunks of ice retrieved from deep below the sea that burst into flame when brought to the surface.They describe development and laboratory testing of a new type of gas hydrate desalination technique. …

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Potential drug compound attacks Parkinson’s on two fronts

June 20, 2013 — Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a compound that could counter Parkinson’s disease in two ways at once.In a new study published recently online ahead of print by the journal ACS Chemical Biology, the scientists describe a “dual inhibitor” — two compounds in a single molecule — that attacks a pair of proteins closely associated with development of Parkinson’s disease.”In general, these two enzymes amplify the effect of each other,” said team leader Phil LoGrasso, a TSRI professor who has been a pioneer in the development of JNK inhibitors for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. “What we were looking for is a high-affinity, high-selectivity treatment that is additive or synergistic in its effect — a one-two punch.”That could be what they found.This new dual inhibitor attacks two enzymes — the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) and the c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) — pronounced “junk.” Genetic testing of several thousand Parkinson’s patients has shown that mutations in the LRRK2 gene increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, while JNK has been shown to play an important role in neuron (nerve cell) survival in a range of neurodegenerative diseases. As such, they have become highly viable targets for drugs to treat disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.A dual inhibitor ultimately would be preferred over separate individual JNK and LRRK2 inhibitors because a combination molecule would eliminate complications of drug-drug interactions and the need to optimize individual inhibitor doses for efficacy, the study noted.Now the team’s new dual inhibitor will need to be optimized for potency, high selectivity (which reduces off-target side effects) and bioavailability so it can be tested in animal models of Parkinson’s disease.

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