Is a ‘buttery’ molecule behind cystic fibrosis flare-ups?

A molecule previously linked to lung injuries in factory workers producing microwave popcorn might play an important role in microbial infections of the lung suffered by people with cystic fibrosis (CF), according to a recent study led by San Diego State University postdoctoral researcher Katrine Whiteson. The molecule, known as 2,3-butanedione or diacetyl, can be detected in higher concentrations in CF patients than in healthy ones.CF patients experience day-to-day persistent coughing and increased mucus production, punctuated by periodic flare-ups of these symptoms, known as exacerbations. Most of the permanent scarring and damage to lung tissue in CF patients, health experts believe, occurs during these exacerbations.If CF patients had some warning of oncoming or imminent exacerbations, they could respond with earlier or more specific treatment, and ward off some of the damaging effects.”Unfortunately, right now there’s really no good way to detect when someone’s about to have an exacerbation,” Whiteson said.When CF patients visit the doctor, they inhale vaporized salt to induce deep coughing, producing a mucus sample. When clinical labs culture the microbes in these samples, they usually don’t find big differences between the microbes that grow when CF patients are feeling healthy and when they are feeling sick, leaving doctors to choose antibiotic therapies based on trial and error. So the question that has plagued researchers is: What’s different about the CF lung during these exacerbations?Mystery MoleculeIn an effort to find out, Whiteson, working with fellow SDSU researchers Yan Wei Lim, Robert Schmieder, Robert Quinn and Forest Rohwer, as well as colleagues Simone Meinardi and Donald Blake at the University of California, Irvine, investigated the molecules produced by microbes in the airway.Working with the same lab that won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of ozone-destroying CFCs in the atmosphere, the researchers measured the breath gases produced by both CF patients and healthy volunteers. Analyzing those gases, they found elevated levels of diacetyl in the CF patients’ lungs.This molecule, which has a buttery flavor and is the main ingredient in microwave popcorn flavoring, is toxic and has been implicated in damaging the lungs of popcorn factory workers.Whiteson and her colleagues theorize that various species of the oral microbe Streptococcus produce the diacetyl via a fermentation process. The molecule can also activate harmful effects of other bacteria that are common in the lungs of CF patients. For example, when the bacteria P. aeruginosa come into contact with diacetyl, it causes the bacteria to produce toxic compounds which may be partially responsible for CF’s characteristic lung damage. The researchers published their findings last month in The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology. …

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Metastatic breast cancer study shows success in finding new treatment

June 5, 2013 — Funded by volleyball tournaments, a new study released this week shows success in pinpointing individualized treatment for women with metastatic breast cancer, according to George Mason University researchers.The Side-Out Foundation’s pilot study is part of a cutting-edge approach to personalized medicine that looks beyond genomic analysis alone to combine it with what some say is the next frontier in targeted therapy: proteomics.The pilot study is the first of its kind to utilize novel protein activation mapping technology along with the genomic fingerprint of cancer as a way to find the most effective treatment. The trial was announced at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and is expected to expand into phase two this month.Standard chemotherapy had failed the 25 women who participated in the 2.5-year pilot study, says study co-author Emanuel “Chip” Petricoin, co-director of George Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM). Advanced tumors spread to the liver, brain, bone and other areas in metastatic breast cancer.In every case, molecular profiling guided oncologists to a treatment that otherwise would not have been proscribed, says Nicholas Robert, study co-author and oncologist at Fairfax-based Virginia Cancer Specialists. The pilot study showed that nearly half the patients had at least a 30 percent increase in “progression-free survival,” which is the time between or during treatment that the cancer is not growing.”The idea is to turn the tables against cancer by using molecular profiling,” says Robert, adding that some patients had improvements of four to six months of progression-free survival.Emanuel “Chip” Petricoin, co-author on the study, in Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine. Creative Services photo”When I first began this trial I was at the end of the breast cancer chemotherapies they had available at the time,” says Carolyn Walla, a study participant who has lived with cancer for more than 15 years. “I was not getting better. I was getting worse.”That extra time means the world, says another Side-Out study participant, a Northern Virginia resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer 24 years ago when her children were 1, 3 and 5 years old. She recently attended her youngest son’s law school graduation.”Every time a drug gives me more time, it gives my family and me hope,” she says one May morning before going to chemotherapy. The breast cancer became metastatic in 2001.It also means new research could be available for patients. “Twenty-four years ago, the options available to me now were not available to me then,” says Deborah, who asked that her last name not be used.Patients are fighting dwindling returns with each new round of treatment. …

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Does liposuction get rid of that forever? More like a year, study suggests

May 29, 2011 — Liposuction has become one of the most popular plastic surgeries in the United States. It has been around since 1974 and there are now more than 450,000 operations a year. But does the fat come back? A recent study by Teri L. Hernandez, PhD, RN and Robert H. Eckel, MD, at the University of Colorado School of Medicine have found that the fat eventually returns within one year, and is redistributed to other areas of the body, especially the upper abdomen. There was further redistribution around the shoulders and triceps of the arms.


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“The fact that fat returned is of great interest to us as scientists. It supports the idea that levels of body fat are very tightly regulated by mechanisms we have yet to uncover,” said Eckel. “This was the hypothesis we were testing and it was confirmed. In rodents when fat is removed it returns, and after weight loss in humans most everyone regains the weight. We think the brain somehow knows how much fat is on board and responds in a manner to regulate that weight. That’s why preventing obesity is so important.”

The study was a difficult one to execute because fat must be measured precisely with expensive scans that require multiple resources and considerable manpower. The University of Colorado is one of a handful of institutions that could facilitate this type of highly controlled study. Obesity researchers said that they are not surprised the fat came back. Data in animal models have shown that after surgical removal of fat, it tends to return to other areas. The liposuction study performed at the University of Colorado is the first randomized controlled trial in humans.

“We must emphasize that liposuction surgery is not a weight loss procedure. Our research participants are wonderful women who sought to change their shape through liposuction. Despite fat returning, their cosmetic shape benefit was retained and they have been very happy with their surgery results,” said Hernandez.

This paper was published in the latest issue of Obesity.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Colorado Denver, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Teri L. Hernandez, John M. Kittelson, Christopher K. Law, Lawrence L. Ketch, Nicole R. Stob, Rachel C. Lindstrom, Ann Scherzinger, Elizabeth R. Stamm, Robert H. Eckel. Fat Redistribution Following Suction Lipectomy: Defense of Body Fat and Patterns of Restoration. Obesity, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/oby.2011.64

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