Six new genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s found

Using data from over 18,000 patients, scientists have identified more than two dozen genetic risk factors involved in Parkinson’s disease, including six that had not been previously reported. The study, published in Nature Genetics, was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by scientists working in NIH laboratories.”Unraveling the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson’s is vital to understanding the multiple mechanisms involved in this complex disease, and hopefully, may one day lead to effective therapies,” said Andrew Singleton, Ph.D., a scientist at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and senior author of the study.Dr. Singleton and his colleagues collected and combined data from existing genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which allow scientists to find common variants, or subtle differences, in the genetic codes of large groups of individuals. The combined data included approximately 13,708 Parkinson’s disease cases and 95,282 controls, all of European ancestry.The investigators identified potential genetic risk variants, which increase the chances that a person may develop Parkinson’s disease. Their results suggested that the more variants a person has, the greater the risk, up to three times higher, for developing the disorder in some cases.”The study brought together a large international group of investigators from both public and private institutions who were interested in sharing data to accelerate the discovery of genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s disease,” said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of NIH. “The advantage of this collaborative approach is highlighted in the identification of pathways and gene networks that may significantly increase our understanding of Parkinson’s disease.”To obtain the data, the researchers collaborated with multiple public and private organizations, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, 23andMe and many international investigators.Affecting millions of people worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that causes movement problems, including trembling of the hands, arms, or legs, stiffness of limbs and trunk, slowed movements and problems with posture. Over time, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Although nine genes have been shown to cause rare forms of Parkinson’s disease, scientists continue to search for genetic risk factors to provide a complete genetic picture of the disorder.The researchers confirmed the results in another sample of subjects, including 5,353 patients and 5,551 controls. …

Read more

Anti-inflammatory drug can prevent neuron loss in Parkinson’s model

An experimental anti-inflammatory drug can protect vulnerable neurons and reduce motor deficits in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have shown.The results were published Thursday, July 24 in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.The findings demonstrate that the drug, called XPro1595, can reach the brain at sufficient levels and have beneficial effects when administered by subcutaneous injection, like an insulin shot. Previous studies of XPro1595 in animals tested more invasive modes of delivery, such as direct injection into the brain.”This is an important step forward for anti-inflammatory therapies for Parkinson’s disease,” says Malu Tansey, PhD, associate professor of physiology at Emory University School of Medicine. “Our results provide a compelling rationale for moving toward a clinical trial in early Parkinson’s disease patients.”The new research on subcutaneous administration of XPro1595 was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). XPro1595 is licensed by FPRT Bio, and is seeking funding for a clinical trial to test its efficacy in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.”We are proud to have supported this work and glad to see positive pre-clinical results,” said Marco Baptista, PhD, MJFF associate director of research programs. “A therapy that could slow Parkinson’s progression would be a game changer for the millions living with this disease, and this study is a step in that direction.”In addition, Tansey and Yoland Smith, PhD, from Yerkes National Primate Research Center, were awarded a grant this week from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation to test XPro1595 in a non-human primate model of Parkinson’s.Evidence has been piling up that inflammation is an important mechanism driving the progression of Parkinson’s disease. XPro1595 targets tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a critical inflammatory signaling molecule, and is specific to the soluble form of TNF. This specificity would avoid compromising immunity to infections, a known side effect of existing anti-TNF drugs used to treat disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.”Inflammation is probably not the initiating event in Parkinson’s disease, but it is important for the neurodegeneration that follows,” Tansey says. “That’s why we believe that an anti-inflammatory agent, such as one that counteracts soluble TNF, could substantially slow the progression of the disease.”Postdoctoral fellow Christopher Barnum, PhD and colleagues used a model of Parkinson’s disease in rats in which the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) is injected into only one side of the brain. This reproduces some aspects of Parkinson’s disease: neurons that produce dopamine in the injected side of the brain die, leading to impaired movement on the opposite side of the body.When XPro1595 is given to the animals 3 days after 6-OHDA injection, just 15 percent of the dopamine-producing neurons were lost five weeks later. …

Read more

ADFA Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia Business cards have arrived!

My ADFA Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia Inc business cards have arrived in the mail. I am now officially ADFA’s Social Media Voice and I’m very proud and honoured to be asked to take on this very important role and one that I am very passionate in getting the word out that there is no safe asbestos, asbestos kills. Helping via Social Media to create awareness, support and advocacy is a very powerful tool in today’s modern technology.Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) is a not-for profit organisation working to provide support to people living with asbestos related diseases, family members, carers and friends. ADFA is a community based group founded by Trade Unions, victims, families of victims, and concerned citizens to meet the needs …

Read more

Breakthrough drug-eluting patch stops scar growth, reduces scar tissues

Scars — in particular keloid scars that result from overgrowth of skin tissue after injuries or surgeries — are unsightly and can even lead to disfigurement and psychological problems of affected patients. Individuals with darker pigmentation — in particular people with African, Hispanic or South-Asian genetic background — are more likely to develop this skin tissue disorder. Current therapy options, including surgery and injections of corticosteroids into scar tissues, are often ineffective, require clinical supervision and can be costly.A new invention by researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (reported in the current issue of TECHNOLOGY) provides a simple, affordable and — most importantly — highly effective way for patients to self-treat keloid scars. The team of scientists and engineers from NTU’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, in collaboration with clinicians from Singapore’s National Skin Centre, have developed a special patch made from polymers fabricated into microneedles, which are loaded with the US food and drug administration (FDA)-approved scar-reducing drug, 5-fluorouracil. Self-administered by patients, the microneedles attach the patch to scar tissue and allow sustained drug-release (one patch per night). The drug as well as the physical contact of the microneedles with the scar tissue contributes to the efficacy of the device, leading to the cessation of scar tissue growth and a considerable reduction of keloids as demonstrated in laboratory cultures and experiments with animals. “Most patients seek treatment due to disfigurement and/or pain or itch of scars,” says Assistant Professor Xu Chenjie from NTU who leads the study. “We wanted to develop a simple, convenient, and cost-effective device able to inhibit keloid growth in skin tissue and reduce the size of disfiguring scars,” adds Yuejun Kang, another key investigator in the study from NTU.”Self-administered treatment for keloid scars can reduce the economic burden on the healthcare system and provide a treatment option for patients who have limited access to medical care,” comments Professor Jeffrey Karp from Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, US, an expert on medical device design who was not involved in this study.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by World Scientific. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Penn Medicine Receives $10 million Award to Study Asbestos Adverse Health Effects and Remediation of Asbestos

The BioRit Asbestos Superfund site is located in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Ambler is 20 miles north of Philadelphia.From the late 1880s through the present day, Ambler residents have had either occupational or environmental exposure to asbestos. As a result, both current and former residents of the area face potentially serious long-term health consequences.The Community Outreach and Engagement Core (COEC) is an organization whose mission is to effectively translate environmental health sciences research findings into practical health promotion, disease prevention information, tools and resources for our target audiences.The Pennsylvania Department of Health, with the aid of the COEC, has determined that there has been an increase in the rate of mesothelioma in the Ambler area compared to the adjacent zip codes, with women having a greater …

Read more

Improving understanding of valley-wide stream chemistry

A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components.”Headwater streams make up the majority of stream and river length in watersheds, affecting regional water quality,” said Assistant Professor Kevin J. McGuire, associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. “However, the actual patterns and causes of variation of water quality in headwater streams are often unknown.””Understanding the chemistry of these streams at a finer scale could help to identify factors impairing water quality and help us protect aquatic ecosystems,” said Gene E. Likens, president emeritus and distinguished senior scientist emeritus with the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the University of Connecticut.Results of the study that used a new statistical tool to describe spatial patterns of water chemistry in stream networks are published in the April 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science by a team of ecosystem scientists, including McGuire and Likens.The data used in the new analysis consist of 664 water samples collected every 300 feet throughout all 32 tributaries of the 14-square-mile Hubbard Brook Valley in New Hampshire. The chemistry results were originally reported in 2006 in the journal Biogeochemistry by Likens and Donald C. Buso, manager of field research with the Cary Institute.McGuire and other members of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research team at the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study decided that the huge, high-resolution dataset was ideal for a new statistical approach that examines how water flows both within the stream network and across the landscape.”The goal was to visualize patterns that no one has been able to quantify before now and describe how they vary within headwater stream networks,” said McGuire. “Some chemical constituents vary at a fine scale, that is patterns of chemical change occur over very short distances, for example several hundred feet, but some constituents vary over much larger scales, for example miles. Several chemical constituents that we examined even varied at multiple scales suggesting that nested processes within streams and across the landscape influence the chemistry of stream networks.””The different spatial relationships permit the examination of patterns controlled by landscape versus stream network processes,” the article reports. Straight-line and unconnected network spatial relationships indicate landscape influences, such as soil, geology, and vegetation controls of water chemistry, for instance. In contrast, flow-connected relationships provide information on processes affected within the flowing streams.The researchers are very familiar with the Hubbard Brook Valley and could point to the varying influences of the geology and distinct soil types, including areas of shallow acidic organic-rich soils.The findings revealed by the analysis technique showed how chemistry patterns vary across landscapes with two scales of variation, one around 1,500 feet and another at about 4 miles. …

Read more

Rice gets trendy, adds nutrients, so much more

In the April issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), Senior Associate Editor Karen Nachay writes about rice becoming a trendy culinary selection of many restaurant menus but also the go-to solution for consumers looking for gluten-and allergen-free choices rich in nutrients.The National Restaurant Association’s 2014 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast predicts diners will see more rice selections on restaurant menus including black rice and red rice. Food scientists are looking for new ways to incorporate rice into many consumer products.Rice ingredients can enrich food and beverage products with nutrients, improve textural attributes, replace common food allergens, function in gluten-free formulations, and act as a thickening agent, while providing a cost-effective protein source.The article highlighted food scientists using sprouted brown rice to increase protein in bars, powdered shakes, soups, pastas, ready-to-drink beverages, cereals and sweet and savory snacks. Rice starches are being used to provide a variety of texture options in both food and beverages, from smooth and creamy to crispy and crunchy. Rice is also being used to enrich diets with more fiber.The article online can be found at: http://www.ift.org/food-technology/past-issues/2014/april/columns/ingredients.aspxStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Mortality risks of being overweight or obese are underestimated

New research by Andrew Stokes, a doctoral student in demography and sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that many obesity studies substantially underestimate the mortality risks associated with excess weight in the United States. His study, “Using Maximum Weight to Redefine Body Mass Index Categories in Studies of The Mortality Risks of Obesity,” was published in the March issue of the open-access journal Population Health Metrics.”The scholarly community is divided over a large meta-analysis that found that overweight is the optimal BMI category and that there are no increased risks associated with obese class 1,” Stokes said.Normal weight is indicated by a BMI of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2, overweight is indicated by a BMI of 25.0-29.9 kg/m2, obese class 1 is a BMI of 30.0-34.9 kg/m2 and obese class 2 is a BMI of 35.0 kg/m2 and above.Skeptics of the meta-analysis argue that the findings are likely driven by biases, especially by illness-induced weight loss.”Using BMI at the time of the survey to assess the mortality risks of overweight and obesity is problematic, especially in older populations, because slimness can be a marker of illness,” Stokes said.Researchers have attempted to address this bias by eliminating ill people from their samples; however, according to Stokes, such measures are inadequate because information on illness is ascertained by self-reporting and not everyone with an illness has been diagnosed.Stokes used individuals’ highest BMI in life to predict mortality rates. He said that in the previous literature, the normal weight category combines data from low-risk, stable-weight individuals with high-risk individuals who have experienced weight loss. Use of weight histories makes it possible to separate the two groups and redefine the reference category as people who were a consistently normal weight throughout their lives.Stokes conducted the analyses using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of 1988-1994 and 1999-2004 linked to the National Death Index through 2006 on U.S. adults ages 50-84 who never smoked.He found that the percentage of mortality attributable to overweight and obesity in this group was 33 percent when assessed using maximum BMI. The comparable figure obtained using BMI at the time of survey was substantially smaller at 5 percent.”The source of the discrepancy became clear when I started looking more closely at peoples’ weight histories,” Stokes said.Stokes said that a considerable fraction of individuals classified as normal weight using BMI at time of survey were formerly overweight or obese. This group had substantially elevated mortality rates compared to individuals that were consistently normal weight throughout their lives, suggesting that for many of them the weight loss was related to an illness.He concluded that the findings provide simple and compelling evidence that the prior literature underestimates the impact of obesity on levels of mortality in the U.S. But Stokes said that his results need corroboration in future studies because maximum BMI was calculated from peoples’ recollection of their maximum weight, which may be subject to recall error. He said that his analysis should be replicated using longitudinal data with contemporaneous measures of height and weight across the lifecycle.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pennsylvania. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Good diet boosts health but not wealth

The idea that a good diet means a healthy population with lower health costs only holds true when it comes to emergency care, a study shows.Researchers from Monash University, the National Defense Medical Centre, Taiwan, and the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, found that although men and women aged over 65 years who ate healthily had shorter stays in hospital, they were strong users of other medical services. In fact, they tended to make greater use of outpatient services, preventive care and dental care than those who did not follow a healthy eating regime.Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute said individuals with a higher socioeconomic status usually followed a healthier diet and took better care of their health needs, while those on lower incomes were more likely to cut back on basic needs like food and medication.”A diverse diet can be quite costly, which can lead to food insecurity for low socioeconomic groups who cannot afford it,” Professor Wahlqvist said.”This may partly explain the greater expenditure on acute care that they incur.”Professor Walhlqvist said that economic factors played an inescapable role in the development of health policies, but the medical costs of diet-related and nutritionally related diseases were rarely given attention.The findings have important implications for nutrition-related health service policy given that most countries are facing increased medical expenditure as their population ages.”Such a policy should pay close attention to socially disadvantaged groups with poorer dietary quality,” Professor Wahlqvist said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Monash University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Coffee Consumption Reduces Mortality Risk from Liver Cirrhosis

New research reveals that consuming two or more cups of coffee each day reduces the risk of death from liver cirrhosis by 66%, specifically cirrhosis caused by non-viral hepatitis. Findings in Hepatology, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, show that tea, fruit juice, and soft drink consumption are not linked to cirrhosis mortality risk. As with previous studies heavy alcohol use was found to increase risk of death from cirrhosis.A 2004 report from The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year 1.3% of total death worldwide is caused by liver cirrhosis. Previous research shows that 29 million Europeans have chronic liver disease, with 17,000 deaths annually attributed to cirrhosis. Further WHO reports state that liver cirrhosis is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S.”Prior evidence suggests that coffee may reduce liver damage in patients with chronic liver disease,” said lead researcher, Dr. Woon-Puay Koh with Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore and the National University of Singapore. “Our study examined the effects of consuming coffee, alcohol, black tea, green tea, and soft drinks on risk of mortality from cirrhosis.”This prospective population-based study, known as The Singapore Chinese Health Study, recruited 63,275 Chinese subjects between the ages of 45 and 74 living in Singapore. Participants provided information on diet, lifestyle choices, and medical history during in-person interviews conducted between 1993 and 1998. Patients were followed for an average of nearly 15 years, during which time there were 14,928 deaths (24%); 114 of them died from liver cirrhosis. The mean age of death was 67 years.Findings indicate that those who drank at least 20 g of ethanol daily had a greater risk of cirrhosis mortality compared to non-drinker. …

Read more

Biochar stimulates more plant growth but less plant defense, research shows

In the first study of its kind, research undertaken at the University of Southampton has cast significant doubt over the use of biochar to alleviate climate change.Biochar is produced when wood is combusted at high temperatures to make bio-oil and has been proposed as a method of geoengineering. When buried in the soil, this carbon rich substance could potentially lock-up carbon and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The global potential of biochar is considered to be large, with up to 12 percent of emissions reduced by biochar soil application.Many previous reports have shown that biochar can also stimulate crop growth and yield, providing a valuable co-benefit when the soil is treated with biochar, but the mechanism enabling this to happen is unknown.Professor Gail Taylor, Director of Research at the University’s Centre for Biological Sciences and research colleagues, in collaboration with National Research Council (CNR) scientists in Italy and The James Hutton Institute in Scotland, have provided an explanation why biochar has this impact. They have published their findings in the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy.They found that when thale cress and lettuce plants were subjected to increasing amounts of biochar mixed with soil, using the equivalent of up to 50 tonnes per hectare per year, if applied in the field, plant growth was stimulated by over 100 percent. For the first time, the response of more than 10,000 genes was followed simultaneously, which identified brassinosteroids and auxins and their signalling molecules as key to the growth stimulation observed in biochar. Brassinosteroids and auxins are two growth promoting plant hormones and the study goes further in showing that their signalling molecules were also stimulated by biochar application.However, the positive impacts of biochar were coupled with negative findings for a suite of genes that are known to determine the ability of a plant to withstand attack from pests and pathogens. These defence genes were consistently reduced following biochar application to the soil, for example jasmonic and salcyclic acid and ethylene, suggesting that crops grown on biochar may be more susceptible to attack by pests and pathogens.This was a surprising finding and suggests that if reproduced in the field at larger scales, could have wide implications for the use of biochar on commercial crops.Professor Taylor, who co-ordinated the research, says: “Our findings provide the very first insight into how biochar stimulates plant growth — we now know that cell expansion is stimulated in roots and leaves alike and this appears to be the consequence of a complex signalling network that is focussed around two plant growth hormones. However, the finding for plant defence genes was entirely unpredicted and could have serious consequences for the commercial development and deployment of biochar in future. Any risk to agriculture is likely to prevent wide scale use of biochar and we now need to see which pest and pathogens are sensitive to the gene expression changes..”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

New Capsicum annuum pepper contains high concentrations of beneficial capsinoids

Researchers have released a new Capsicum annuum pepper germplasm that contains high concentrations of capsinoids. The release was announced in the January 2014 issue of HortScience by researchers Robert L. Jarret from the USDA/Agricultural Research Service in Griffin, Georgia, in collaboration with Jason Bolton and L. Brian Perkins from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Maine.According to the report, the germplasm called “509-45-1” is a small-fruited Capsicum annuum L. pepper. Fruit of 509-45-1 contain high concentrations of capsiate in both immature and mature fruit. “The release of 509-45-1 will provide researchers and plant breeders with a new source of capsinoids, thus facilitating the production of and further research on these non-pungent biologically active compounds,” Jarret said.Pungent capsaicinoids–the compounds found in the capsicum family of plants that give them their signature heat–have many benefits. Unfortunately, their use as ingredients in foods and pharmaceuticals has been limited by the very characteristic that makes them popular as a spice–their pungency. Non-pungent capsinoids, analogs of capsaicinoids, were first isolated from a sweet pepper cultivar. Capsinoids offer similar types of biological activity as capsaicinoids without the pungency, and are known to provide antioxidant activity, enhance adrenal function, promote metabolism, and suppress body fat accumulation.The scientists began the breeding process in 2005 by screening 120 Capsicum annuum cultivars for the occurrence of capsinoids. …

Read more

Self-healing engineered muscle grown in the laboratory

Biomedical engineers have grown living skeletal muscle that looks a lot like the real thing. It contracts powerfully and rapidly, integrates into mice quickly, and for the first time, demonstrates the ability to heal itself both inside the laboratory and inside an animal.The study conducted at Duke University tested the bioengineered muscle by literally watching it through a window on the back of living mouse. The novel technique allowed for real-time monitoring of the muscle’s integration and maturation inside a living, walking animal.Both the lab-grown muscle and experimental techniques are important steps toward growing viable muscle for studying diseases and treating injuries, said Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke.The results appear the week of March 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.”The muscle we have made represents an important advance for the field,” Bursac said. “It’s the first time engineered muscle has been created that contracts as strongly as native neonatal skeletal muscle.”Through years of perfecting their techniques, a team led by Bursac and graduate student Mark Juhas discovered that preparing better muscle requires two things — well-developed contractile muscle fibers and a pool of muscle stem cells, known as satellite cells.Every muscle has satellite cells on reserve, ready to activate upon injury and begin the regeneration process. The key to the team’s success was successfully creating the microenvironments — called niches — where these stem cells await their call to duty.”Simply implanting satellite cells or less-developed muscle doesn’t work as well,” said Juhas. “The well-developed muscle we made provides niches for satellite cells to live in, and, when needed, to restore the robust musculature and its function.”To put their muscle to the test, the engineers ran it through a gauntlet of trials in the laboratory. By stimulating it with electric pulses, they measured its contractile strength, showing that it was more than 10 times stronger than any previous engineered muscles. They damaged it with a toxin found in snake venom to prove that the satellite cells could activate, multiply and successfully heal the injured muscle fibers.Then they moved it out of a dish and into a mouse.With the help of Greg Palmer, an assistant professor of radiation oncology in the Duke University School of Medicine, the team inserted their lab-grown muscle into a small chamber placed on the backs of live mice. The chamber was then covered by a glass panel. Every two days for two weeks, Juhas imaged the implanted muscles through the window to check on their progress.By genetically modifying the muscle fibers to produce fluorescent flashes during calcium spikes — which cause muscle to contract — the researchers could watch the flashes become brighter as the muscle grew stronger.”We could see and measure in real time how blood vessels grew into the implanted muscle fibers, maturing toward equaling the strength of its native counterpart,” said Juhas.The engineers are now beginning work to see if their biomimetic muscle can be used to repair actual muscle injuries and disease.”Can it vascularize, innervate and repair the damaged muscle’s function?” asked Bursac. …

Read more

Increasing longevity of seeds with genetic engineering

A study developed by researchers of the Institute for Plant Molecular and Cell Biology (IBMCP), a joint center of the Universitat Politcnica de Valncia and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in collaboration with the Unit for Plant Genomics Research of Evry, France (URGV, in French) has discovered a new way of improving the longevity of plant seeds using genetic engineering. Plant Physiology magazine has published the research results.The key is the overexpression of the ATHB25 gene. This gene encodes a protein that regulates gene expression, producing a new mutant that gives the seed new properties. Researchers have proven that this mutant has more gibberellin -the hormone that promotes plant growth-, which means the seed coat is reinforced as well. “The seed coat is responsible for preventing oxygen from entering the seed; the increase in gibberellin strengthens it and this leads to a more durable and longer lasting seed,” explains Eduardo Bueso, researcher at the IBMCP (UPV-CSIC).This mechanism is new, as tolerance to stresses such as aging has always been associated with another hormone, abscisic acid, which regulates defenses based on proteins and small protective molecules, instead of producing the growth of structures like gibberellin does.The study has been made on the experimental model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a species that presents great advantages for molecular biology research. Researchers of the IBMCP traced half a million seeds, related to one hundred thousand lines of Arabidopsis mutated by T-DNA insertion, using the natural system of Agrobacterium tumefaciens. “Finally, we analyzed four mutants in the study and we proved the impact on the seed longevity when the overexpression of the ATHB25 gene is introduced,” states Ramn Serrano, researcher at the IBMCP.Researchers compared the longevity of genetically modified Arabidopsis seeds and seeds which were not modified. In order to do this, they preserved them for thirty months under specific conditions of room temperature and humidity. After thirty months, only 20% of the control plants germinated again, whereas almost the all of the modified plants (90%) began the germination process again.Researchers of the IBMCP are now trying to improve the longevity of different species that are of agronomical interest, such as tomatoes or wheat.Biodiversity and benefits for farmersThis discovery is particularly significant for the conservation of biodiversity, preserving seed species and, especially, for farmers.”In the past, a lot of different plant species were cultivated, but many of them are dissapearing because high performance crops have now become a priority. Seed banks were created in order to guarantee the conservation of species, but they require a periodical regeneration of the seeds. …

Read more

Obesity prevention programs can lower kids’ blood pressure, even if they don’t reduce body fat

One of the serious health consequences of obesity is elevated blood pressure (BP), a particular problem in children because research has found that high BP in children usually follows them into adulthood, carrying with it a wide range of possible negative consequences.Even modest elevations in the BP of adolescents, according to recent research, can pose cardiovascular problems later in life.A systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies of the effect of child obesity intervention programs on blood pressure has found that whether such programs prevented obesity or not, many of them reduced BP in children. It also found that the most effective programs in this regard promoted both healthy eating and physical activity.The study, one of the first of its kind, “Effect of Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs on BP: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” was led by epidemiologist Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, of the University at Buffalo and conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, UB and other institutions.It was published online in the journal Circulation on Feb. 19, 2014 in advance of print publication.Wang said, “Of the 28 obesity interventions with complete data that we analyzed, 13 (46 percent) had a favorable effect on both adiposity and BP and 11 interventions (39 percent) had a significant effect on the reduction of BP, even if they did not affect adiposity. “It is important to identify obesity intervention programs that can help children develop healthy lifestyles and keep BP at an optimal level,” he says, “because these programs help them avoid many long-term health consequences.”Wang’s research team, now based at UB, is working on projects in the U.S. and abroad funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that aim to assess the additional benefits of obesity prevention programs for children and to develop the most effective programs possible.The team also is using transnational comparison studies to analyze factors suspected of contributing to the global obesity epidemic.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University at Buffalo. The original article was written by Pat Donovan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

Plant growth enhanced through promotion of pore opening

By inducing the pore opening of leaves, researchers at Nagoya University’s ITbM developed a strategy for enhancing photosynthesis and plant growth, which may be applied to crops and fuel plants to support global food production and a sustainable low-carbon society.By determining the key factor in regulating photosynthesis and plant growth, Professor Toshinori Kinoshita, Dr. Yin Wang and co-workers at Nagoya University’s Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (WPI-ITbM) have succeeded in developing a method to increase photosynthesis (carbon dioxide uptake) and plant growth through the promotion of stomatal opening. The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is expected to contribute to the promotion of plant production and towards the development of a sustainable low-carbon society.Stomata are small pores located on the surface of leaves that control gas exchange with the external environment, and are the primary inlet for the uptake of carbon dioxide. “Stomatal resistance, which suppresses gas exchange through the stomata, is considered to be the major limiting factor for carbon dioxide uptake by plants during photosynthesis,” explains Professor Kinoshita, “very few reports have existed focusing on the induction of stomatal opening. Therefore, we decided to develop a method to manipulate stomatal opening in view of increasing photosynthesis (carbon dioxide uptake) and plant production.”Kinoshita’s group has already revealed some of the key factors that mediate stomatal opening. The plasma membrane proton (H+)-ATPase or proton pump, an enzyme creating electrochemical gradients in the cell membranes of plants, has been identified as one of the key components. “An increase in photosynthesis (carbon dioxide uptake) by approximately 15% and a 1.4~1.6 times increase in plant growth of Arabidopsis plants was observed by enhanced stomatal opening achieved through overexpression of the proton pump in guard cells that surround the stomata pore,” elaborates Professor Kinoshita.Professor Kinoshita and his co-workers envisage that application of this method will contribute to the increase in the production of crops and fuel plants as well as towards the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Professor Kinoshita states, “Identifying that the manipulation of stomatal opening is the key limiting factor in photosynthesis and plant growth enables us to consider strategies to solve current issues in food production and carbon emissions.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (WPI-ITbM), Nagoya University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

MRI reveals genetic activity: Deciphering genes’ roles in learning and memory

Doctors commonly use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose tumors, damage from stroke, and many other medical conditions. Neuroscientists also rely on it as a research tool for identifying parts of the brain that carry out different cognitive functions.Now, a team of biological engineers at MIT is trying to adapt MRI to a much smaller scale, allowing researchers to visualize gene activity inside the brains of living animals. Tracking these genes with MRI would enable scientists to learn more about how the genes control processes such as forming memories and learning new skills, says Alan Jasanoff, an MIT associate professor of biological engineering and leader of the research team.”The dream of molecular imaging is to provide information about the biology of intact organisms, at the molecule level,” says Jasanoff, who is also an associate member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. “The goal is to not have to chop up the brain, but instead to actually see things that are happening inside.”To help reach that goal, Jasanoff and colleagues have developed a new way to image a “reporter gene” — an artificial gene that turns on or off to signal events in the body, much like an indicator light on a car’s dashboard. In the new study, the reporter gene encodes an enzyme that interacts with a magnetic contrast agent injected into the brain, making the agent visible with MRI. This approach, described in a recent issue of the journal Chemical Biology, allows researchers to determine when and where that reporter gene is turned on.An on/off switchMRI uses magnetic fields and radio waves that interact with protons in the body to produce detailed images of the body’s interior. In brain studies, neuroscientists commonly use functional MRI to measure blood flow, which reveals which parts of the brain are active during a particular task. When scanning other organs, doctors sometimes use magnetic “contrast agents” to boost the visibility of certain tissues.The new MIT approach includes a contrast agent called a manganese porphyrin and the new reporter gene, which codes for a genetically engineered enzyme that alters the electric charge on the contrast agent. Jasanoff and colleagues designed the contrast agent so that it is soluble in water and readily eliminated from the body, making it difficult to detect by MRI. However, when the engineered enzyme, known as SEAP, slices phosphate molecules from the manganese porphyrin, the contrast agent becomes insoluble and starts to accumulate in brain tissues, allowing it to be seen.The natural version of SEAP is found in the placenta, but not in other tissues. …

Read more

Strictly limiting hours surgical residents can work has not improved patient safety

Strictly limiting the number of hours surgical residents can work has not improved patient outcomes but may have increased complications for some patients and led to higher failure rates on certification exams, a research paper concludes.Traditionally, doctors in the residency phase of their training spent very long hours in a hospital — often around-the-clock — so they could see a wide variety and high volume of patients. In the last 10 years, health authorities started limiting those hours in the hopes of improving patient safety and the education and well-being of doctors.In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in the United States limited residents’ hours to 80 per week. In 2011, the council prohibited first-year residents from working 24 shifts.In Canada, on-call shifts were limited to 16 hours in Quebec after a provincial arbitrator ruled that in 2011 that a 24-hour on-call shift posed a danger to residents’ health and violated the Charter of Rights. Last year a National Steering Committee on Resident Duty Hours said the status quo was unacceptable and that shifts of 24 hours or longer without sleep should be avoided. It urged all provinces and health care institutions to develop comprehensive strategies to minimize fatigue and fatigue-related risks during residency.Dr. Najma Ahmad, a trauma surgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital who was a member of the national group, published a paper today in the Annals of Surgery that found the too-restricted hours may work for some residents, but not for surgical residents.”A one-size fits all approach to resident duty hours may not be appropriate for all specialties,” said Dr. Ahmed, noting that the American College of Surgeons Division of education has stated that mastery in surgery requires “extensive and immersive experiences.”She said the emphasis should be on reducing the amount of non-educational work residents do and to find ways to manage fatigue such as making sure they get enough uninterrupted sleep. Dr. Ahmed, who is also director of the University of Toronto’s General Surgery Program, conducted a meta-analysis of 135 articles on the impact of resident duty hours on clinical and educational outcomes in surgery.”In surgery, recent changes in hours for residents are not consistently associated with improved resident well-being and may have negative impacts on patient outcomes and performance on certification exams,” she said.Dr. …

Read more

Honey offers new approach to fighting antibiotic resistance

Honey, that delectable condiment for breads and fruits, could be one sweet solution to the serious, ever-growing problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, researchers said in Dallas* today. Medical professionals sometimes use honey successfully as a topical dressing, but it could play a larger role in fighting infections, the researchers predicted.”The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance,” said study leader Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. That is, it uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.In addition, several studies have shown that honey inhibits the formation of biofilms, or communities of slimy disease-causing bacteria, she said. “Honey may also disrupt quorum sensing, which weakens bacterial virulence, rendering the bacteria more susceptible to conventional antibiotics,” Meschwitz said. Quorum sensing is the way bacteria communicate with one another, and may be involved in the formation of biofilms. In certain bacteria, this communication system also controls the release of toxins, which affects the bacteria’s pathogenicity, or their ability to cause disease.Meschwitz, who is with Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., said another advantage of honey is that unlike conventional antibiotics, it doesn’t target the essential growth processes of bacteria. The problem with this type of targeting, which is the basis of conventional antibiotics, is that it results in the bacteria building up resistance to the drugs.Honey is effective because it is filled with healthful polyphenols, or antioxidants, she said. These include the phenolic acids, caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and ellagic acid, as well as many flavonoids. …

Read more

Nearly complete ‘chicken from hell,’ from mysterious dinosaur group

A team of researchers has announced the discovery of a bizarre, bird-like dinosaur, named Anzu wyliei, that provides paleontologists with their first good look at a dinosaur group that has been shrouded in mystery for almost a century. Anzu was described from three specimens that collectively preserve almost the entire skeleton, giving scientists a remarkable opportunity to study the anatomy and evolutionary relationships of Caenagnathidae (pronounced SEE-nuh-NAY-thih-DAY) — the long-mysterious group of theropod dinosaurs to which Anzu belongs.The three described fossil skeletons of Anzu were unearthed in North and South Dakota, from roughly 66 million-year-old rocks of the Hell Creek Formation, a rock unit celebrated for its abundant fossils of famous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. The scientific paper describing the discovery appears today in the freely-accessible journal PLOS ONE.The team of scientists who studied Anzu was led by Dr. Matthew Lamanna of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Dr. Lamanna’s collaborators include Dr. Hans-Dieter Sues and Dr. Tyler Lyson of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, and Dr. Emma Schachner of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. According to Dr. …

Read more

Utilizzando il sito, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie da parte nostra. maggiori informazioni

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close