Fresno Jury Finds Bendix Despicable, Awards $10.9 Million

Jimmy Phillips San Pedro, CA, May 29, 2014 – TheWorthington & CaronLaw Firm is pleased to announce that a jury in Fresno,California has returned a substantial verdict in favor of our clients, the family of James ‘Jimmy’ Phillips, deceased, a 59 year-old plumber and race car enthusiast.Defendant Honeywell, whose predecessor, Bendix, made asbestos-containing brake pads and linings, was the only defendant at trial. The jury awarded $7.4 million in compensatory damages and assigned 30% of fault to Bendix. The jury also found that Bendix acted with reckless indifference and awarded an additional $3.5 million in punitive damages. This was the first mesothelioma verdict ever awarded in Fresno.The lawsuit was originally filed in May of 2012 in Alameda County, California. The defendants fought to transfer venue to…

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UV exposure found to lower folate levels in young women

Women who are pregnant or trying to fall pregnant and taking a folic acid supplement may be at risk of reducing their folate benefit through sun exposure, a new QUT study has warned.In a paper titled Exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation is associated with decreased folate status in women of childbearing age, published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B:Biology, QUT researchers found UV exposure significantly depleted folate levels.Professor Michael Kimlin and Dr David Borradale, from QUT’s AusSun Research Lab, said the study of 45 young healthy women in Brisbane aged 18 to 47, showed high rates of sun exposure accounted up to a 20 per cent reduction in folate levels.”This is concerning as the benefits of folic acid are well-known, with health professionals urging young women to take a folic acid supplement prior to and during pregnancy,” Professor Kimlin said.”Folate has been found to reduce miscarriage and neural tube defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies. The NHMRC recommends pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy take 500 micrograms a day.”Professor Kimlin said the study, which was the first to investigate the effects of sun exposure on folate levels in women of childbearing age, found women who had high levels of sun exposure had folate levels below those recommended for women considering pregnancy.”The women at risk were those who were outside during the most UV intense time of the day, between 10am and 3pm, with little sun protection,” Professor Kimlin said.”These were the women who had the highest levels of sun exposure and the lowest levels of folate, whilst not deficient in folate, they were on the lower side of normal.”Dr Borradale said in showing the link between UV exposure and folate depletion, further research including a controlled clinical trial was needed.”We are not telling women to stop taking folate supplements, but rather urging women to talk to their doctor about their folate levels and the importance of folate in their diet, especially those who are planning a pregnancy,” Dr Borradale said.”The results of this study reinforce the need for adequate folate levels prior to and during pregnancy.”What is folate and how can I get it?Folic acid is a B vitamin that is very important for pregnant women and those planning a baby. Folate is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables like spinach, citrus fruits, legumes, whole grains and vegemite. Folic acid is also added to many foods such as breads, flours and pastas. Folic acid can also be taken as a pill.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Queensland University of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Forests crucial to green growth

The value of forests and tree-based ecosystems extends far beyond carbon sequestration; they are the foundation of sustainable societies.A new report, launched in Jakarta, Indonesia on 21 March — the International Day of Forests — promotes REDD+ and the Green Economy as together providing a new pathway to sustainable development that can benefit all nations. It claims this approach can conserve and even boost the economic and social benefits forests provide to human society.Building Natural Capital — How REDD+ Can Support a Green Economy was developed by the International Resources Panel. It outlines how REDD+ can be integrated into a Green Economy to support pro-poor development while maintaining or increasing forest cover.According to the report, REDD+ needs to be placed in a landscape-scale planning framework that goes beyond forests to consider all sectors of a modern economy and the needs of agriculture, energy, water resources, finance, transport, industry, trade and cities.In this way, REDD+ would add value to other initiatives, such as agroforestry projects that are being implemented within these sectors, and be a critical element in a green economy.The report provides recommendations on how to integrate REDD+ and Green Economy approaches, such as through better coordination, stronger private sector engagement, changes in fiscal incentive frameworks, greater focus on assisting policymakers to understand the role forests play in propping up economies, and equitable benefit sharing.While it is recognized that what lies ahead is a long process of societies adapting to new conditions, REDD+ could be integral to increasing agricultural and forestry outputs to meet future needs, while at the same time enhancing the conservation of forests and ecosystem services.Each year, the International Day of Forests highlights the unique role of forests in the environment and in sustaining livelihoods. The theme this year is Celebrating Forests for Sustainable Development.”It is important day to remind us to save our planet as it is the only one we know which has trees says Tony Simons the Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). “Trees are what made Earth habitable for mammals, and destruction of forests will lead to the ultimate destruction of mammals — including humans. Trees are one of the few things which live longer than humans — a true intergenerational gift. He added.Forests and trees are key to sustainable development. Not only do they store carbon, they support biodiversity, regulate water flows and, reduce soil erosion. Nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests as a source of food, medicines, timber and fuel.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Knowing whether food has spoiled without even opening the container

A color-coded smart tag could tell consumers whether a carton of milk has turned sour or a can of green beans has spoiled without opening the containers, according to researchers. The tag, which would appear on the packaging, also could be used to determine if medications and other perishable products were still active or fresh, they said.This report on the color-changing food deterioration tags was presented today as part of the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday.”This tag, which has a gel-like consistency, is really inexpensive and safe, and can be widely programmed to mimic almost all ambient-temperature deterioration processes in foods,” said Chao Zhang, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the study. Use of the tags could potentially solve the problem of knowing how fresh packaged, perishable foods remain over time, he added. And a real advantage, Zhang said, is that even when manufacturers, grocery-store owners and consumers do not know if the food has been unduly exposed to higher temperatures, which could cause unexpected spoilage, “the tag still gives a reliable indication of the quality of the product.”The tags, which are about the size of a kernel of corn, would appear in various color codes on packaging. “In our configuration, red, or reddish orange, would mean fresh,” explained Zhang, who is at Peking University in Beijing, China. “Over time, the tag changes its color to orange, yellow and later green, which indicates the food is spoiled.” The colors signify a range between 100 percent fresh and 100 percent spoiled. For example, if the label says that the product should remain fresh for 14 days under refrigeration, but the tag is now orange, it means that the product is only roughly half as fresh. In that case, the consumer would know the product is edible for only another seven days if kept refrigerated, he explained.The researchers developed and tested the tags using E. coli (food-spoiling bacteria that cause gastrointestinal problems) in milk as a reference model. …

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Team models photosynthesis, finds room for improvement

Teaching crop plants to concentrate carbon dioxide in their leaves could increase photosynthetic efficiency by 60 percent and yields by as much as 40 percent, researchers report in a new study.The team used a computer model to simulate how adding genes from a type of photosynthetic algae known as cyanobacteria might influence photosynthetic efficiency in plants. Cyanobacteria contain small structures, called carboxysomes, which concentrate carbon dioxide at the site of photosynthesis.”Photosynthesis is the most studied of all plant processes, so we really know this in great detail and can represent it well in silico,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Stephen Long, who led the study with postdoctoral researcher Justin McGrath. “We’ve modeled the whole system, and added all the components in a cyanobacterial system one at a time to our computer simulation to see if they give us an advantage.”The team found that some of the carboxysome genes hindered, while others greatly enhanced photosynthetic efficiency in crop plants such as soybean, rice and cassava. For example, adding a gene for a bicarbonate transporter, which carries carbon dioxide across the carboxysome membrane, enhances photosynthesis by 6 percent, Long said.”And if we put in about eight components of the carboxysome system, the model says that we could get a 60 percent increase in photosynthesis,” he said.The new findings appear in the journal Plant Physiology.Modeling photosynthesis in crop plants has proven to be an efficient way to determine which kinds of genetic manipulations will be most fruitful, Long said. This prevents a lot of wasted time and money spent trying things in the laboratory that are doomed to fail.The work is very exciting, but will take many years to implement, Long said. “It will take about five years before we have our first test of concept in a model plant. And then, even if everything goes (according) to plan, it might be 15 or 20 years before we see this in any crop,” he said.”The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization predicts that we’re going to need about 70 percent more primary foodstuffs by the middle of this century,” Long said. “So obviously new innovations like this are needed to try and get there, especially since the approaches of the Green Revolution are now approaching their biological limits.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Travelling to Tasmania and arriving safely!

Yesterday morning we were up early 4.30am and left home with the car packed at 5.30am – headed to Port Melbourne where the beautiful car ferry Spirit Of Tasmania was docked. We arrived there at 6.30am and got in the line of waiting cars and caravans to load onto the ferry once we were all cleared through customs. We eventually parked our car on the ferry at 8am and set sail by 9am. A good calm crossing arriving in Devonport Tasmania around 6.15pm. While on the ferry we had an ocean recliner at the back of the ship and were able to rest there, have a cuppa, read the newspaper and look out to sea and enjoy the views of passing thru the heads about an hr out …

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Shadowing in Sensor Images: NASA study points to ‘infrared-herring’ in apparent Amazon green-up

For the past eight years, scientists have been working to make sense of why some satellite data seemed to show the Amazon rain forest “greening-up” during the region’s dry season each year from June to October. The green-up indicated productive, thriving vegetation in spite of limited rainfall.Now, a new NASA study published today in the journal Nature shows that the appearance of canopy greening is not caused by a biophysical change in Amazon forests, but instead by a combination of shadowing within the canopy and the way that satellite sensors observe the Amazon during the dry season.Correcting for this artifact in the data, Doug Morton, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and colleagues show that Amazon forests, at least on the large scale, maintain a fairly constant greenness and canopy structure throughout the dry season. The findings have implications for how scientists seek to understand seasonal and interannual changes in Amazon forests and other ecosystems.”Scientists who use satellite observations to study changes in Earth’s vegetation need to account for seasonal differences in the angles of solar illumination and satellite observation,” Morton said.Isolating the apparent green-up mechanismThe MODIS, or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, sensors that fly aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites make daily observations over the huge expanse of Amazon forests. An area is likely covered in green vegetation if sensors detect a relatively small amount of red light — absorbed in abundance by plants for photosynthesis — but see a large amount of near-infrared light, which plants primarily reflect. Scientists use the ratio of red and near-infrared light as a measure of vegetation “greenness.”Numerous hypotheses have been put forward to explain why Amazon forests appear greener in MODIS data as the dry season progresses. Perhaps young leaves, known to reflect more near-infrared light, replace old leaves? Or, possibly trees add more leaves to capture sunlight in the dry season when the skies are less cloudy.Unsettled by the lack of definitive evidence explaining the magnitude of the green-up, Morton and colleagues set out to better characterize the phenomenon. They culled satellite observations from MODIS and NASA’s Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) Geosciences Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), which can provide an independent check on the seasonal differences in Amazon forest structure.The team next used a theoretical model to demonstrate how changes in forest structure or reflectance properties have distinct fingerprints in MODIS and GLAS data. Only one of the hypothesized mechanisms for the green-up, changes in sun-sensor geometry, was consistent with the satellite observations.”We think we have uncovered the mechanism for the appearance of seasonal greening of Amazon forests — shadowing within the canopy that changes the amount of near-infrared light observed by MODIS,” Morton said.Seeing the Amazon in a new lightIn June, when the sun is as low and far north as it will get, shadows are abundant. By September, around the time of the equinox, Amazon forests at the equator are illuminated from directly overhead. …

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Third-hand smoke just as deadly as first-hand smoke, study finds

Do not smoke and do not allow yourself to be exposed to smoke because second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke are just as deadly as first-hand smoke, says a scientist at the University of California, Riverside who, along with colleagues, conducted the first animal study of the effects of third-hand smoke.While first-hand smoke refers to the smoke inhaled by a smoker and second-hand smoke to the exhaled smoke and other substances emanating from the burning cigarette that can get inhaled by others, third-hand smoke is the second-hand smoke that gets left on the surfaces of objects, ages over time and becomes progressively more toxic.”We studied, on mice, the effects of third-hand smoke on several organ systems under conditions that simulated third-hand smoke exposure of humans,” said Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology who led the study. “We found significant damage occurs in the liver and lung. Wounds in these mice took longer to heal. Further, these mice displayed hyperactivity.”Study results appear in PLOS ONE.The results of the study provide a basis for studies on the toxic effects of third-hand smoke in humans and serve to inform potential regulatory policies aimed at preventing involuntary exposure to third-hand smoke.Third-hand smoke is a potential health threat to children, spouses of smokers and workers in environments where smoking is, or has been, allowed. Contamination of the homes of smokers by third-hand smoke is high, both on surfaces and in dust, including children’s bedrooms. Re-emission of nicotine from contaminated indoor surfaces in these households can lead to nicotine exposure levels similar to that of smoking. Third-hand smoke, which contains strong carcinogens, has been found to persist in houses, apartments and hotel rooms after smokers move out.The team led by Martins-Green found that the mice exposed to third-hand smoke in the lab showed alterations in multiple organ systems and excreted levels of a tobacco-specific carcinogen similar to those found in children exposed to second-hand smoke (and consequently to third-hand smoke):In the liver, third-hand smoke was found to increase lipid levels and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a precursor to cirrhosis and cancer and a potential contributor to cardiovascular disease. In the lungs, third-hand smoke was found to simulate excess collagen production and high levels of inflammatory cytokines (small proteins involved in cell signaling), suggesting propensity for fibrosis with implications for inflammation-induced diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. In wounded skin, healing in mice exposed to third-hand smoke showed many characteristics of the kind of poor healing observed in human smokers who have gone through surgery. Finally, in behavioral tests the mice exposed to third-hand smoke showed hyperactivity. …

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Gardening provides high-to-moderate physical activity for children

Gardening, often considered to be an activity reserved for adults, is gaining ground with children as new programs are introduced that promote gardening’s “green” attributes. Physical benefits of getting out in the garden have also been reported for adults and seniors–now, a study from researchers in South Korea finds that children, too, can reap the benefits of digging, raking, and weeding.Researchers Sin-Ae Park, Ho-Sang Lee, Kwan-Suk Lee, Ki-Cheol Son, and Candice Shoemaker published the results of their study in HortTechnology. They say that the data can inform future development of garden-based programs that help engage children in physical activity and promote healthy lifestyles.The research team studied 17 children as they engaged in 10 gardening tasks: digging, raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing seeds, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium, and planting transplants. The study was conducted in South Korea in two garden environments–a high tunnel, and an outdoor area. The children visited the gardens twice, and each child performed five different tasks during each visit. They were given 5 minutes to complete each gardening task, and were allowed a 5-minute rest between each task. During the study, the children wore portable telemetric calorimeters and heart rate monitors so that researchers could measure their oxygen uptake, energy expenditure, and heart rate.Results showed that the 10 gardening tasks represented moderate- to high-intensity physical activity for the children. Digging and raking were categorized as “high-intensity” physical activities; digging was more intense than the other gardening tasks studied. Tasks such as weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing seeds, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium, and planting transplants were determined to be “moderate-intensity” physical activities.The researchers said that the study results will facilitate the development of garden-based exercise interventions for children, which can promote health and physically active lifestyle. They added that the data can also be useful information when designing garden-based therapeutic interventions for children with low levels of physical ability.The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site: http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/23/5/589.abstractStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Horticultural Science. …

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‘Traffic-light’ labeling increases attention to nutritional quality of food choices

Oct. 17, 2013 — A simple, color-coded system for labeling food items in a hospital cafeteria appears to have increased customer’s attention to the healthiness of their food choices, along with encouraging purchases of the most healthy items. In their report in the October issue of Preventive Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators describe customer responses to surveys taken before and after the 2010 implementation of a system using green, yellow or red “traffic light” labels to reflect the nutritional quality of items.”Several small, experimental studies have suggested that ‘traffic light’ labels can be an effective method of promoting healthier choices, but there have been few real-world studies of customers’ perceptions and purchasing behaviors in response to this type of labeling,” explains Lillian Sonnenberg, DSc, RD, LDN, MGH Nutrition and Food Service, the corresponding author of the current report. “Our results suggest that these labels are an effective method for conveying information about healthy and unhealthy choices and for prompting changes in purchasing behavior.”While many restaurants and other food service locations are now posting the calorie content of their standard items and make detailed information — such as fat, cholesterol and sodium content — available on request, the researchers note that interpreting this information requires knowledge and skills that many do not possess. To find a simpler way to encourage more healthful purchases at the hospital’s food service locations, MGH Nutrition and Food Service put together a plan that started with color-coding each item sold in the main cafeteria — green for the healthiest items, such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats; yellow for less healthy items, and red for those with little or no nutritional value. Signage encouraged frequent purchase of green items, less frequent for yellow and discouraged purchase of red items. Cafeteria cash registers were programmed to record each purchased item as green, yellow or red, starting three months before the labeling intervention began.Previous reports from the MGH team have described how the program — a second phase of which included rearranging items in refrigerators to bring healthy choices to eye level — increased sales of green items while decreasing purchase of red items. The current paper reports results of a survey taken during the month before and the two months after the labeling intervention began in March 2010. Research coordinators approached customers who had just made purchases and asked them to participate in the brief survey. Participants were asked whether they had noticed any nutritional information in the cafeteria or on food labels, which factors most influenced their purchases, how often they consider nutrition information before making food choices, and how often they “choose food that is healthy.” After introduction of the color-coded labels, respondents were also asked whether they had noticed the labels and if the labels had influenced their purchases.During the baseline period before the labeling intervention, 204 individuals completed the survey, and 243 did so in the weeks following. …

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CONTENT REMOVED

Have you ever felt jittery and stressed, all because you drink too much caffeine?Ever noticed how many calories are in coffee? Maybe you’ve tried to cut down but it’s too hard.Caffeine is one of the most researched substances in the world. It has benefits, and it can be harmful.It’s all about moderation, but the more we consume the more our body builds a tolerance. If we’re not careful we can overload our adrenal glands and become stuck in a cycle of fatigue.Here are 6 steps to help you reset your system.1. Substitute With Green TeaStart substituting one of your daily coffees with a cup of green tea.Continue substituting little by little.If you drink 4 coffees a day, begin by drinking 3 coffees and one …

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How research ecologists can benefit urban design projects

Oct. 11, 2013 — Ecologists conducting field research usually study areas that they hope won’t be disturbed for a while. But in an article published in the November issue of BioScience, “Mapping the Design Process for Urban Ecology Researchers,” Alexander Felson of Yale University and his colleagues describe how ecologists can perform hypothesis-driven research from the start of design through the construction and monitoring phases of major urban projects.Share This:The results from such “designed experiments” can provide site-specific data that improve how the projects are conceptualized, built and subsequently monitored.In light of the billions of dollars spent each year on urban construction, Felson and his coauthors see important potential in improving its environmental benefits and minimizing its harms. Currently, environmental consultants advising on the designs for such projects usually rely on available knowledge and principles that were originally tested in natural settings.The authors note that researchers must understand contracting, then work to establish their credentials with project designers and their clients to be awarded a recognized role in a construction project. Felson and colleagues therefore provide maps of the process for researchers’ benefit. Ecologist researchers should try to involve themselves at the earliest stages, even before designing starts, and be ready to accept priorities that are alien to typical research settings.Felson and his colleagues provide two case studies to show how it can be done.One is the construction of a “green” parking lot and associated water gardens at an environmental center in New Jersey, the other a major tree-planting project in New York City. In both cases, researchers involved themselves during the contract phases of the projects by establishing the likely value of answering research questions. Although they had to make some compromises with commercial and political imperatives, the designed experiments undertaken allowed researchers to influence the design and implementation and improve environmental benefits, while also establishing viable long-term research sites in highly urbanized areas.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Biological Sciences, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. …

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New potential for nutrient-rich prairie fruits

Oct. 9, 2013 — Researchers working at the University of Saskatchewan have discovered new potential in prairie fruits, in particular, buffaloberry, chokecherry and sea buckthorn, according to a new study published today in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. Findings showed that these fruits were nutrient-rich and that the potential food value is high. This is good news for fruit growers in Saskatchewan as these results add further credence to support the development of these fruits for commercial food markets.Share This:”There is increasing interest in the commercial development of these fruits since historically it has been thought they may provide nutritional and health benefits,” explained Dr. Rick Green, Vice President, Technology at POS Bio-Sciences in Saskatoon, co-author of the study. “Our results provide evidence that these fruits do, in fact, possess such nutritional benefits and contain compounds of interest for their health and wellness attributes. Thus, our work supports the commercial development of buffaloberry, chokecherry and sea buckthorn berries.”According to the study:Buffaloberry was high in ascorbic acid, at a level that was greater than 4 times that reported for oranges Chokecherry contained high levels of anthocyanin pigments (anti-oxidants) and can be considered a good source of these compounds with a concentration that was higher than the levels reported for fruits such as cranberry (anthocyanins purported health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, and cardio-vascular benefits and potential anticarcinogenic properties) Sea buckthorn contained high levels of lipids for a fruit, though the level varies with location and variety. All of the fruits contained high levels of total dietary fibre Potential uses for these native fruits are many. They can be used to produce nutrient-rich ingredients for at-risk Northern Saskatchewan, Canadian and global populations by blending fruits with Saskatchewan cereals and pulses. As ingredients, these materials can be used to improve the food value of traditionally prepared foods and as supplements for nutrient-poor populations. …

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Potential molecular defense against Huntington’s disease

Aug. 25, 2013 — Leicester geneticists have discovered a potential defence against Huntington’s disease — a fatal neurodegenerative disorder which currently has no cure.The team of University of Leicester researchers identified that glutathione peroxidase activity — a key antioxidant in cells — protects against symptoms of the disease in model organisms.They hope that the enzyme activity — whose protective ability was initially observed in model organisms such as yeast — can be further developed and eventually used to treat people with the genetically-inherited disease.The disease affects around 12 people per 100,000.Their paper, Glutathione peroxidase activity is neuroprotective in models of Huntington’s disease, was published in Nature Genetics on 25 August.A team of experts from the University’s Department of Genetics carried out research for more than six years to identify new potential drug targets for the disease.They used model systems, such as baker’s yeast, fruit flies, and cultured mammalian cells to help uncover potential mechanisms underlying disease at the cellular level.They initially screened a genome-wide collection of yeast genes and found several candidates which protected against Huntington’s related symptoms in yeast. They then validated their findings in fruit flies and mammalian cells.They found that glutathione peroxidase activity is robustly protective in these models of Huntington’s disease.Importantly, there are drug-like compounds available that mimic this activity that have already been tested in human clinical trials for other disorders — which potentially means the approach could be used to treat people with the disease.The team now aim to further validate the observations regarding glutathione peroxidase activity, in order to understand whether this could have therapeutic relevance for Huntington’s.In addition, they have identified many additional genes that are protective — and aim to further explore these to see if there are any additional therapeutic possibilities suggested by their research.Dr Flaviano Giorgini, Reader in Neurogenetics of the University’s Department of Genetics and senior author of the paper, said: “We are taking advantage of genetic approaches in simple model organisms in order to better understand Huntington’s disease, with the aim of uncovering novel ways to treat this devastating disorder.”It appears that glutathione peroxidase activity is a robustly protective antioxidant approach which may have relevance for Huntington’s disease.”Dr Robert Mason, Research Associate in the Department of Genetics, and first author of the study, said: “In addition to glutathione peroxidase, this study has identified many genes that improve Huntington’s ‘symptoms’ in yeast. These genes provide valuable information on the underlying mechanisms leading to Huntington’s, and further study will likely uncover additional approaches that could be beneficial in treating this terrible disease.”Dr Giorgini stated: “We are excited by the work because it uncovers a potential new route for therapeutics in Huntington’s disease. I am also proud that all of this work has been conducted at the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester.”The study was performed in collaboration with Prof Charalambos Kyriacou, also of the Department of Genetics at Leicester. Massimiliano Casu, Nicola Butler, Dr Carlo Breda, Dr Susanna Campesan, Dr Jannine Clapp, Dr Edward Green and Devyani Dhulkhed also contributed to the research study.The research was primarily funded by CHDI Foundation and the Huntington’s Disease Association.

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Research shows negative effects of half-siblings

Aug. 11, 2013 — Adolescents who have half-siblings with a different father are more likely to have used drugs and had sex by age 15 than those who have only full siblings. That’s according to new research from Karen Benjamin Guzzo, an assistant professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University, and Cassandra Dorius, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University.Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, they examined a phenomenon known as “multi-partnered fertility” or MPF. This happens when parents who are not romantically involved with each other form new relationships and have another child with a new partner.”It’s not new behavior, but it’s happening more often as more people are having children outside of marriage,” said Guzzo.According to Guzzo, this is one of the first studies to examine the effect of parental MPF on children over the long-term, and the only study that takes into account background factors (such as the mother’s level of education and household poverty) and the number of changes in family structure the adolescent experienced.The researchers looked at the connections between this re-partnering and additional childbearing on adolescent drug use and early sex. They focused on mothers and first-born children who lived with their mother most of their lives.”For children, MPF means having a half-sibling, but it also means, for first-born children, that they usually experienced their biological parents splitting up — if they were together at all, lived in a single mother household for some time, experienced their mother finding a new partner at least once and perhaps lived with a stepfather, and finally experienced their mother having a baby with a new partner,” Guzzo explained.Researchers looked at the mother’s educational background, her own family structure growing up, and whether the child experienced bouts of poverty. They also examined family factors — whether the father lived with them at birth, how many family transitions the adolescents experienced, and whether the mother ever married or cohabited, with the child’s father or another partner.”We find that first-born adolescents with half-siblings with the same mother but a different father do have less favorable outcomes compared to their peers with only full siblings, even after accounting for the mother’s background characteristics, socioeconomic factors the child experienced growing up, and family instability and structure,” Guzzo said.”Adolescents with a half-sibling with a different father are about 65 percent more likely to have used marijuana, uppers, inhalants, cocaine, crack, hallucinogens, sedatives, or other drugs by the time of their 15th birthday than those who have only full siblings. They are also about 2.5 times more likely to have had sex by their 15th birthday than their peers with only full siblings.”Guzzo said it’s not clear yet what drives these outcomes, but that in the future she and Dorius plan to explore differences in maternal behaviors, father and stepfather involvement, and adolescent perceptions of their relationship with their mother to see if these factors explain the association between having half-siblings with a different father and risky adolescent behavior.”We are also planning to look at whether this association holds for children other than the first-born, who tend to experience the most instability,” Guzzo said.

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Researchers publish study on genome of aggressive cervical cancer that killed Henrietta Lacks

Aug. 7, 2013 — A team from the University of Washington has unveiled a comprehensive portrait of the genome of the world’s first immortal cell line, known as HeLa. The cell line was derived in 1951 from an aggressive cervical cancer that killed Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African-American tobacco farmer and mother of five — the subject of the 2010 New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. They will also be the first group to publish under a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy for HeLa genomic data, established through discussions with Lacks’ family.The Lacks’ family has never been compensated for the use of the cells that created a multimillion-dollar industry. And they have never had a say in how the information is used — until now.”The generated whole-genome sequence of the HeLa cell line is a valuable resource that may lead to new biomedical insights based on research that use these cells,” said Eric D. Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute within the NIH. “We are grateful to the Lacks’ family for agreeing to a framework that makes these valuable data available to researchers.”The UW study, published in the Aug. 8 issue of Nature, pieced together the complicated insertion of the human papillomavirus (HPV) genome, which contains its own set of cancer genes, into Lacks’ genome near an “oncogene,” a naturally occurring gene that can cause cancer when altered. The researchers showed that the proximity of the scrambled HPV genome and the oncogene resulted in its activation, potentially explaining the aggressiveness of both Lacks’ cancer and the HeLa cell line. “This was in a sense a perfect storm of what can go wrong in a cell,” said Andrew Adey, a PhD student in genome sciences at UW and a co-first author on the study. …

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Celiac disease patients with ongoing intestine damage at lymphoma risk

Aug. 5, 2013 — Patients with celiac disease who had persistent intestine damage (identified with repeat biopsy) had a higher risk of lymphoma than patients whose intestines healed, according to findings published in the August 6, 2013, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.Celiac disease is a common autoimmune disease, affecting approximately one percent of individuals in Western nations. It is characterized by damage to the lining of the small intestine that over time reduces the body’s ability to absorb components of common foods. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye.When a patient with celiac disease is initially diagnosed, intestinal biopsy shows flattening of villi, the long, fingerlike projections that normally absorb nutrients and fluid. Symptoms of celiac disease, which include diarrhea, weight loss, and iron-deficiency anemia, result from damaged villi. Though not a universal practice, a follow-up biopsy is often done several months to several years after diagnosis, to monitor the effects of dietary changes and treatment on intestinal healing.”After the diagnosis is made and the patient starts a gluten-free diet, we expect to see recovery of the villi,” said Peter Green, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, and a co-author of the study. “Physicians and patients alike see healing as a goal, but until now there was no confirmed link between healing on intestinal biopsy and clinical risk factors.””We have known for many years that patients with celiac disease have an increased risk of lymphoma, but we did not know whether intestinal healing and its timing affect that risk,” said study first author Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, MS, assistant professor of medicine, member of the Celiac Disease Center, and assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, at CUMC, and a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. “Our study shows that celiac patients with persistent villous atrophy — as seen on follow-up biopsy — have an increased risk of lymphoma, while those with healed intestines have a risk that is significantly lower, approaching that of the general population.”A type of blood cancer, lymphoma occurs when white blood cells called lymphocytes, which help protect the body from infection and disease as part of the immune system, divide faster than normal or surpass their typical life expectancy. Lymphoma may develop in the blood or bone marrow, as well as in the lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs; eventually, it may form tumors.”Guidelines about routine follow-up biopsy are inconclusive, but this study may convince physicians that the follow-up biopsy can carry important prognostic information,” said Dr. Lebwohl.One reason this link was not previously seen was a lack of data on the broad spectrum of patients with celiac disease, rather than just those seeking specialized care. …

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Weight is a factor in graduate school admissions

July 22, 2013 — Want to go to graduate school? Your weight could determine whether or not you receive an offer of admission.The study by Bowling Green State University Ph.D. candidates Jacob Burmeister and Allison Kiefner; Dr. Dara Musher-Eizenman, a professor of developmental psychology; and Dr. Robert Carels, an associate professor of clinical psychology, appeared in the May edition of the journal Obesity.”Weight Bias in Graduate School Admissions” found that applicants with a high body mass index (BMI) were less likely to be offered admission after an in-person interview.The researchers followed 97 applicants who had applied to psychology graduate programs at more than 950 universities in the United States. Letters of recommendation were coded for positive and negative statements as well as overall quality.”One of the things we suspected was the quality of their letters of recommendation written by their undergrad mentors would be associated with the applicants’ body weight, but it really wasn’t,” said Burmeister. “It may be that letter writers come to know students well and body weight no longer played a factor.”The students told researchers about their application experiences, including whether they had an interview in person or on the phone, and whether or not they received an offer of admission.”When we looked at that we could see a clear relation between their weight and offers of admission for those applicants who had had an in-person interview,” Burmeister said. “The success rate for people who had had no interview or a phone interview was pretty much equal, but when in-person interviews were involved, there was quite a bit of difference, even when applicants started out on equal footing with their grades, test scores and letters of recommendation.”The results also suggested the weight bias was stronger for female applicants.Burmeister said the research team was not surprised. “We know that these kinds of biases are pretty common and even somewhat acceptable compared to other biases, and there’s not much legally forbidding it.”He said additional research is necessary into other fields besides psychology, and those results could show an even stronger bias against applicants with a high BMI.”We might expect psychology faculty to be more aware of these types of biases. Thus, the level of bias found in this study could be a conservative estimate of the level of bias in the graduate admissions process in other fields.”

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Elevated gluten antibodies found in children with autism

June 20, 2013 — Researchers have found elevated antibodies to gluten proteins of wheat in children with autism in comparison to those without autism. The results also indicated an association between the elevated antibodies and the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms in the affected children. They did not find any connection, however, between the elevated antibodies and celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder known to be triggered by gluten. The results were e-published in the journal PLOS ONE.Gluten, a group of more than 70 proteins in wheat and related grains, consists of gliadins and glutenins. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that negatively affects communication and social interaction. Although the mechanisms that cause autism are poorly understood, there is mounting evidence that the immune system plays a role in a subset of patients. In addition, autistic children commonly have gastrointestinal symptoms. In recent years, diets that exclude gluten have become increasingly popular in the autism community. The effectiveness of such diets, however, has not been confirmed in controlled and blinded studies.The study, headed by Armin Alaedini, PhD, assistant professor of medical sciences (in the Department of Medicine and the Institute of Human Nutrition) at Columbia University Medical Center, looked at blood samples and medical records of 140 children. Thirty-seven of the children were diagnosed with autism and the rest were unaffected siblings or healthy control subjects. …

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New fluorescent protein from eel improves key clinical assay

June 13, 2013 — Unagi, the sea-going Japanese freshwater eel, harbors a fluorescent protein that could serve as the basis for a revolutionary new clinical test for bilirubin, a critical indicator of human liver function, hemolysis, and jaundice, according to researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute. The discovery also sheds light on the mysterious and endangered Unagi that could contribute to its conservation.Science from kitchen to lab to clinicBest known as a culinary delicacy in Japan, the freshwater eel Unagi (Anguilla japonica) and related species have seen a worldwide decrease in population, probably due to the effects of global warming, and Unagi is on the brink of extinction in Japan. Yet almost nothing is know about the biology of the eel.Drs. Atsushi Miyawaki, Akiko Kumagai and their team cloned a gene from Unagi for an unusual fluorescent protein they named UnaG, for Unagi Green protein, that allows eels to glow in the dark . UnaG is the first fluorescent protein found in vertebrates; previously they were thought to exist only in simple animals like jellyfish.But what makes UnaG truly unique in nature is that it needs a natural chemical to activate its powerful green light emission. In a surprise twist, the compound was identified by the authors to be bilirubin, a slippery molecule universally used in clinical labs around the world as a human blood marker for liver function.New clinical test for bilirubinBilirubin is the breakdown product of blood hemoglobin and is toxic if present in excess in the body like in the characteristic yellow skin and eye color conditions seen in newborn babies, jaundice and kernicterus. It is also a common marker in blood tests where bilirubin is used by doctors to assess liver function and for the assessment of health, including hemolysis, the loss of red blood cells in anemia.By analyzing the structure of UnaG, the team discovered a novel mechanism of fluorescence enabling bilirubin to bind to UnaG and activate its light emission. With this property, they developed a superior new assay for bilirubin with high sensitivity, accuracy and speed that may become the global clinical standard, and can be used in developing countries where child liver health is a major issue.Role of UnaG in eel conservationJapanese freshwater eels have a long-distance migration life cycle, growing in inland rivers and swimming far into the sea to spawn. The authors identified UnaG and bilirubin in the muscle cells of Japanese, American, and European eels where they may aid in endurance swimming during migration. The unexpected discovery of UnaG may initiate legislation to conserve endangered eel species.”We believe that UnaG provides an unexpected foothold into several important but currently obscure areas of human health including bilirubin metabolism and muscle physiology during endurance exercise,” Miyawaki concludes. …

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