Can vitamin A turn back the clock on breast cancer?

A derivative of vitamin A, known as retinoic acid, found abundantly in sweet potato and carrots, helps turn pre-cancer cells back to normal healthy breast cells, according to research published this month in the International Journal of Oncology. The research could help explain why some clinical studies have been unable to see a benefit of vitamin A on cancer: the vitamin doesn’t appear to change the course of full-blown cancer, only pre-cancerous cells, and only works at a very narrow dose.Because cells undergo many changes before they become fully aggressive and metastatic, Sandra V. Fernandez, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, and colleagues, used a model of breast cancer progression composed of four types of cells each one representing a different stage of breast cancer: normal, pre-cancerous, cancerous and a fully aggressive model.When the researchers exposed the four breast cell types to different concentrations of retinoic acid – one of the chemicals that the body converts vitamin A into – they noticed a strong change in the pre-cancerous cells. Not only did the pre-cancerous cells begin to look more like normal cells in terms of their shape, they also changed their genetic signature back to normal. Dr. Fernandez’s pre-cancerous cells had 443 genes that were either up or downregulated on their way to becoming cancerous. All of these genes returned to normal levels after treatment with retinoic acid. “It looks like retinoic acid exerts effects on cancer cells in part via the modulation of the epigenome,” says Fernandez.“We were able to see this effect of retinoic acid because we were looking at four distinct stages of breast cancer,” says Dr. Fernandez. “It will be interesting to see if these results can be applied to patients.”Interestingly, the cells that were considered fully cancerous did not respond at all to retinoic acid, suggesting that there may be a small window of opportunity for retinoic acid to be helpful in preventing cancer progression. …

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Arm Injury Accident at Work Leads to Fine

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Arm Injury Accident at Work Leads to FineArm Injury Accident at Work Leads to FineCEP Ceilings has been hit with a hefty fine following an accident in which an employee’s arm was injured after getting caught in a machine.The worker was operating a amchine at its premises in Stafford last year when his forearm got trapped in its intermeshing metal gears. He subsequently had to undergo skin grafts in order for the wounds to heal.Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the accident came about partly because CEP Ceilings failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment on the site.The HSE also discovered that the company had not implemented a safe system of work, while employees were not monitored sufficiently when they were using machinery.£24,000 FineCEP Ceilings later pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 at Stafford Magistrates’ Court. The company was ordered to pay a £24,000 fine plus £1,194 in costs.Unsafe Methods ‘Existed for Many Years’After the sentence was issued in court, the HSE criticised CEP Ceilings for having adopted an unsafe way of working for a long time.Wayne Owen, an inspector at the watchdog, said procedures that had not been fit for purpose had “existed for many years” and this led to the employee suffering a “painful injury”.”CEP Ceilings [failed] to effectively assess the risk to employees from using and clearing the machine and then prescribe a system of work which kept employees safe,” he commented.”Workers were left to determine their own methods of cleaning machinery.”Mr Owen insisted that employers must implement safe working procedures and ensure members of staff are properly instructed and trained on how to comply with these rules in full.This, he said, can help to manage risks during both production and maintenance activities at premises where industrial machinery is in use.”A robust system to monitor employees also needs to be in place to detect any poor practices,” Mr Owen commented.Related Work Accident in StaffordshireThe case follows another work accident in which Andrew Thomas, an employee at Marling Leek in Staffordshire, also suffered an arm injury after it got caught in an unguarded machine.Mr Thomas subsequently had to undergo five operations, but was left with permanent scars, while the strength and feeling in his arm has been reduced as a result of nerve damage and muscle loss.The HSE was particularly critical of Marling Leek as it had been prosecuted over a previous accident in the past, but had failed to address the problems and carry out an adequate risk assessment throughout the business.Lyn Spooner, an inspector at the HSE, insisted that carrying out a risk assessment is a “vital process to allow a company to identify significant risk and ensure it is complying with relevant statutory provisions”.She added that there is extensive guidance on preventing access to dangerous machine parts in the workplace to enable employers to comply with the law.By Chris StevensonOr Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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New model for neurotransmitter release, proposed by Nobel prize winner

Oct. 10, 2013 — In a Neuron article published online October 10th, recent Nobel Laureate Thomas C. Südhof challenges long-standing ideas on how neurotransmitter gets released at neuronal synapses. On October 7th, Südhof won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, alongside James Rothman and Randy Schekman, for related work on how vesicles — such as those in neurons that contain neurotransmitter — are transported within cells.Share This:Neurotransmitter-containing vesicles are found inside neurons very close to the end of the axon. Here, they can quickly fuse with the neuronal membrane surrounding the axon to spill their contents into the synapse. How these vesicles are able to fuse with the membrane has been controversial, however, and understanding this process would give researchers much greater insight how neurons communicate with each other. Previously, it was thought that proteins found on the outside of the vesicles and on the axon membrane (called SNARE proteins) would come together and physically form a pore through which the contents of the vesicle — the neurotransmitter — could be released into the synapse. Now, the new findings from Südhof suggest that these proteins may not form a pore at all. Instead, their main role may be to physically force the vesicle and the axon membrane to get very close to each other; once they are forced into contact, the two appear able to fuse spontaneously.”The importance of SNARE transmembrane regions has never been tested in a physiological fusion reaction,” says Dr. Südhof. …

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Some immune cells appear to aid cancer cell growth

Sep. 5, 2013 — The immune system is normally known for protecting the body from illness. But a subset of immune cells appear to be doing more harm than good.A new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that these cells, called myeloid derived suppressor cells, provide a niche where the cancer stem cells survive.Cancer stem cells are thought to be resistant to current chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and researchers believe that killing the cancer stem cells is crucial for eliminating cancer.At the same time that these immune cells help the cancer, they also are suppressing the immune system.”This cell and its mechanisms are not good for your body and it helps the cancer by allowing the stem cells to thrive. If we can identify a therapy that targets this, we take away the immune suppression and the support for cancer stem cells. Essentially, we kill two birds with one stone,” says senior study author Weiping Zou, M.D., Ph.D., Charles B. de Nancrede Professor of surgery, immunology and biology at the University of Michigan Medical School.The researchers believe the immune cells give the cancer cells their “stemness” — those properties that allow the cells to be so lethal — and that without this immune cell, the cancer stem cells may not efficiently progress.The study, which was led by Tracy X. Cui, Ph.D., and Ilona Kryczek, Ph.D., looked at cells from the most common and lethal type of ovarian cancer, a disease in which patients often become resistant to chemotherapy, causing the cancer to return.Targeting the immune system for cancer treatment, called immunotherapy, has been well-received with many potential therapeutics currently being tested in clinical trials for a variety of cancer types. The U-M team is a worldwide leader in the field of tumor immunology.Additional authors: Other contributors are Lili Zhao, Ende Zhao, Rork Kuick, Michael H. Roh, Linda Vatan, Wojciech Szeliga, Yujun Mao, Dafydd G. Thomas, Max S. …

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Two 6,000-year-old ‘halls of the dead’ unearthed

July 29, 2013 — The remains of two large 6000-year-old halls, each buried within a prehistoric burial mound, have been discovered by archaeologists from The University of Manchester and Herefordshire Council — in a UK first.The sensational finds on Dorstone Hill, near Peterchurch in Herefordshire, were thought to be constructed between 4000 and 3600 BC.Some of the burnt wood discovered at the site shows the character of the building’s structure above ground level- in another UK first.The buildings, probably used by entire communities, are of unknown size, but may have been of similar length to the Neolithic long barrows beneath which they were found — 70metres and 30m long.They were, say the team, deliberately burnt down after they were constructed and their remains incorporated into the two burial mounds.However- much detail has been preserved in the larger barrow: structural timbers in carbonized form, postholes showing the positions of uprights, and the burnt remains of stakes forming internal partitions.Most importantly, the core of each mound is composed of intensely burnt clay, representing the daub from the walls of the buildings.The buildings were likely to have been long structures with aisles, framed by upright posts, and with internal partitions.The smaller barrow contains a 7m by 2.5m mortuary chamber, with huge sockets which would have held upright tree trunks at each end.These massive posts bracketed a linear ‘trough’ lined with planks, which would have held the remains of the dead.Professor of archaeology from The University of Manchester Julian Thomas and Dr Keith Ray Herefordshire Council’s County Archaeologist, co-directed the excavation.Professor Thomas said: “This find is of huge significance to our understanding of prehistoric life- so we’re absolutely delighted.”It makes a link between the house and a tomb more forcefully than any other investigation that has been ever carried out.”These early Neolithic halls are already extremely rare, but to find them within a long barrow is the discovery of a lifetime.”He added: “The mound tells us quite a bit about the people who built it: they sought to memorialize the idea of their community represented by the dwelling.”And by turning it into part of the landscape, it becomes a permanent reminder for generations to come.”Just think of how the burning of the hall could have been seen for miles around, in the large expanse of what is now the border country between England and Wales.”Archaeologists have long speculated that a close relationship existed between houses and tombs in Neolithic Europe, and that ‘houses of the dead’ amounted to representations of the ‘houses of the living’.In addition to the two long mounds, the site has provided evidence for a series of later burials and other deliberate deposits, including a cremation burial and a pit containing a flint axe and a finely-flaked flint knife.The objects have close affinities with artefacts found in eastern Yorkshire in the Late Neolithic (c. 2600 BC).Dr Ray said: “These subsequent finds show that 1000 years after the hall burial mounds were made, the site is still important to later generations living 200 miles away — a vast distance in Neolithic terms.”The axe and knife may not have been traded, but placed there as part of a ceremony or an ancestral pilgrimage from what is now East Yorkshire.”So we witness an interconnected community linking Herefordshire and East Yorkshire by marriage and by descent 5000 years ago.”He added: “In the British context, the Dorstone find is unique and unprecedented.”We were hoping our work with The University of Manchester would help us to give us a clearer picture of the origins of these long barrows- but we were surprised how clearly the story came through.”It’s very exciting for us: for 15 years I have been arguing that Herefordshire has something important to say on the national picture of our Neolithic heritage.”

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Soccer training improves heart health of men with type 2 diabetes

May 30, 2013 — A new study from the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, demonstrates that soccer training improves heart function, reduces blood pressure and elevates exercise capacity in patients with type 2 diabetes. Soccer training also reduces the need for medication.

The study, recently published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, investigated the effects of soccer training, consisting of small-sided games (5v5), on 21 men with type 2 diabetes, aged 37-60 years.

Soccer training makes the heart ten years younger

“We discovered that soccer training significantly improved the flexibility of the heart and furthermore, that the cardiac muscle tissue was able to work 29% faster. This means that after three months of training, the heart had become 10 years ‘younger’,” explains Medical Doctor, PhD Student, Jakob Friis Schmidt, who co-authored the study alongside with PhD student, Thomas Rostgaard Andersen. He adds:

“Many type 2 diabetes patients have less flexible heart muscles which is often one of the first signs of diabetes’ effect on cardiac function, increasing the risk of heart failure.”

Advanced ultrasound scanning of the heart also demonstrated that the heart’s contraction phase was improved and that the capacity of the heart to shorten was improved by 23% — a research result that had not been reported with other types of physical activity.

Blood pressure greatly reduced

At the start of the study, 60 percent of the participants had too high blood pressure and had been prescribed one or more pressure reducing medications. Soccer training reduced the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 8 mmHg, which is greater than the achievements of prior training studies. These effects are as pronounced as those achieved by taking high blood pressure pills and the need for medication was significant reduced.

Great functional improvements

The study also showed that the participants’ maximal oxygen uptake was increased by 12% and that their intermittent exercise capacity was elevated by 42%. “An improved physical condition reduces the risk for other illnesses associated with type 2 diabetes and makes it easier to get along with daily tasks and maintain a physically active life” says Thomas Rostgaard.

Professor Jens Bangsbo, head of the Copenhagen Centre for Team Sport and Health at University of Copenhagen, adds that, “The results of the study, coupled with participants’ interest in continuing to play after the study, show that soccer has a great potential to help diabetic patients. This does not only gain the patients, but also contribute socio-economically.”

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Invasion of the slugs; Halted by worms

May 12, 2013 — The gardener’s best friend, the earthworm, is great at protecting leaves from being chomped by slugs, suggests research in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Ecology. Although they lurk in the soil, they seem to protect the plants above ground. Increasing plant diversity also decreases the amount of damage slugs do to individual plants.


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Spanish slugs (Arion vulgaris) are among the top 100 worst alien species in Europe and are considered a pest almost everywhere. A team of scientists from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna investigated what effect the presence of earthworms and plant diversity would have on the amount of damage these slugs caused.

Using large incubators to simulate grassland environments the researchers could regulate the diversity of plant species and time the introduction of earthworms and slugs. They found that the presence of worms increased nitrogen content of plants and reduced the number of leaves damaged due to slugs by 60%. Yet when they compared leaf area damaged the researchers found slugs also ate 40% less at high plant diversity than at low.

Explaining their results Dr Johann Zaller, who led the study, said, “Our results suggest that two processes might be going on. Firstly, earthworms improved the plant’s ability to protect itself against slugs perhaps through the build-up of nitrogen-containing toxic compounds. Secondly, even though these slugs are generalists they prefer widely available food and in high diverse ecosystems slugs eat less in total because they have to switch their diets more often since plants of the same species are less available. Therefore gardeners are to help protect earthworms by increasing plant diversity in the garden in order to keep slug damage low. In order to elucidate the mechanisms behind these complex interactions, all parts of an ecosystem need to be investigated.”

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by BioMed Central Limited.

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Journal Reference:

  1. Johann G Zaller, Myriam Parth, Ilona Szunyogh, Ines Semmelrock, Susanne Sochurek, Marcia Pinheiro, Thomas Frank and Thomas Drapela. Herbivory of an invasive slug is affected by earthworms and the composition of plant communities. BMC Ecology, 2013 (in press) [link]

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