Two breath compounds could be associated with larynx cancer

Participants exhaled into tedlar bags after fasting for more than eight hours.Credit: SINC[Click to enlarge image]Researchers at the Rey Juan Carlos University and the Alcorcn Hospital (Madrid) have compared the volatile substances exhaled by eleven people with cancer of larynx, with those of another twenty healthy people. The results show that the concentrations of certain molecules, mainly ethanol and 2-butanone, are higher in individuals with carcinoma, therefore they act as potential markers of the disease.Human breath contains thousands of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and some of them can be used as non-invasive biomarkers for various types of head and neck cancers as well as cancer of the larynx.This was shown in the experiment carried out by scientists from the Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC) with 31 volunteers: 20 healthy subjects (half of which are smokers) and 11 with cancer of the larynx in various phases of the disease and who are being treated in the Alcorcn Hospital in Madrid.The results, published in the journal Chromatographia, reveal that the air exhaled by the more seriously ill patients – in a stage called T3 – contains different concentrations of seven compounds compared with the levels of healthy people or even those with a less developed tumour (T1).Specifically, in the graphics of individuals with advanced cancer, the peaks that represent ethanol (C2H6O) and 2-butanone (C4H8O) are particularly significant. These two compounds therefore become potential markers of laryngeal carcinoma.”At the moment it is still a preliminary study and a wider sample has to be obtained,” Rafael Garca, professor of Chemical Engineering at the URJC and co-author of the study told SINC, “but it is a step in the right direction, an alternative with regard to identifying biomarkers, not only for this type of cancer but for other more prevalent and serious ones such as lung cancer, where early detection is key”.As part of the experiment, the researchers asked the participants to breathe into tedlar bags after fasting for at least eight hours so there was no leftover food or drink on their breath.The samples were then analysed with solid phase micro-extraction, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques, which enable very small amounts of a substance to be separated and identified. The concentrations are around or slightly above the equipment’s detection limits (40 nanograms/mL), which is equivalent to 40 ppb or parts per billion.The ultimate aim of the research is to “create an electronic nose that can be used in hospitals and health centres for the early detection of these types of diseases,” concluded Rafael Garca. This team, together with other Spanish and foreign research groups, is working hard to develop sensors capable of detecting diseases through breath analysis.Head and neck cancers represent between 5% and 10% of all malignant tumours currently diagnosed in Spain. Every year nearly half a million new cases are detected worldwide, mainly attributed to tobacco and alcohol use and approximately 90% are laryngeal cancer. The study also identified four markers in the exhaled breath that are typical of smokers, such as benzene and furfural.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Journal Reference:Rafael A. Garca, Victoria Morales, Sergio Martn, Estela Vilches, Adolfo Toledano. Volatile Organic Compounds Analysis in Breath Air in Healthy Volunteers and Patients Suffering Epidermoid Laryngeal Carcinomas. …

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Climate change: Improving heat tolerance in trees

Is it possible to improve tolerance of trees to high temperatures and other types of stress derived of climate change? A research group of the Universidad Politcnica de Madrid (UPM), led by Luis Gmez, a professor of the Forestry School and the Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (CBGP), is studying the tolerance of trees using molecular and biotechnological tools. The research work was published in the last issue of the journal Plant Physiology.The obtained poplars in this project, with the collaboration of the Universidad de Mlaga, are significantly more tolerant to high temperatures than the control trees. These trees are also more tolerant to drought, to the presence of weed-killer, to in vitro and ex vitro crops, to contamination and other ways of abiotic stress that have an applied interest for forestry. This work is a continuation of a project started by of a research team of the UPM a decade ago. This study focuses on mechanisms that plant cells use to protect themselves from stress factors.Due to the human pressure on forests, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is promoting intensive plantations as an alternative to meet the global demand of wood and other products. Besides, plantations have social and economic benefits (job creation, wealth and rural development). This model change has significant ecological consequences.The role of forests is essential for climate change mitigation and biodiversity preservation, amongst others. A documentary “El Bosque Protector,” co-produced by the UPM and available on “A la Carta” of RTVE shows the result of this study. Tree farming plantations as a realistic alternative will be possible if the current yield significantly increases. …

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Heart attack patients return to work later, retire earlier if treatment is delayed

Oct. 12, 2013 — System delay in treating patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) postpones their return to work and increases early retirement, according to research presented at the Acute Cardiac Care Congress 2013 by Kristina Laut, PhD student from Aarhus, Denmark.The Acute Cardiac Care Congress 2013 is the annual meeting of the Acute Cardiovascular Care Association (ACCA) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and is held 12-14 October in Madrid, Spain.Ms Laut said: “System delay, which is time from emergency medical service call to reperfusion with primary angioplasty, has been associated with increased mortality and heart failure after STEMI. The 2012 ESC STEMI guidelines1 highlight system delay as a performance measure of quality of care.”She added: “Approximately 45% of patients admitted with STEMI are of working age but until now it was not known whether system delay impacts on timing of return to work and retirement. We decided to investigate this association because of the heavy burden to society with loss of production.”The study investigated whether system delay was associated with the duration of absence from work or time to retirement in STEMI patients treated with primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI).This population-based cohort study included 4,061 patients under 67 years of age admitted with STEMI between 1 January 1999 and 1 December 2011 and treated with PPCI. The Danish National Register on Public Transfer Payments provided data on work outcomes. Only patients who were full- or part-time employed three weeks before their STEMI admission were included. Cut-off points of 4 and 8 years were used to ensure there were 10% of patients remaining for each of the analyses.After 4 years of follow up, 91% of the study population had returned to work. After 8 years of follow up, 29% had retired. After adjusting for confounding factors, system delay greater than 120 minutes was associated with postponed return to work (Sub Hazard Ratio=0.86; 95% Confidence Interval [CI]=0.81-0.92) and earlier retirement from work (Hazard Ratio=1.21; 95% CI=1.08-1.36).Ms Laut said: “We found that a large proportion of STEMI patients did return to the labour market within 4 years but 14% came back to work later because of a prolonged system delay. We also discovered that after 8 years, people with a long system delay had a 21% increase in retirement rate.”She added: “The association between increased system delay and reduced work resumption and earlier retirement exists but we need more studies to find out why. …

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Strain of MERS coronavirus engineered for use in a vaccine

Sep. 10, 2013 — Scientists have developed a strain of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that could be used as a vaccine against the disease, according to a study to be published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The mutant MERS virus, rMERS-CoV-ΔE, has a mutation in its envelope protein that makes it capable of infecting a cell and replicating its genetic material, but deprives it of the ability to spread to other tissues and cause disease. The authors say once additional safe guards are engineered into the virus, it could be used as the basis of a safe and effective live-attenuated vaccine against MERS.”Our achievement was a combination of synthetic biology and genetic engineering,” says co-author Luis Enjuanes of The Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid).”The injected vaccine will only replicate in a reduced number of cells and produce enough antigen to immunize the host,” he says, and it cannot infect other people, even those in close contact with a vaccinated person.Since MERS was first identified in June 2012, the World Health Organization has been notified of 108 cases of infection, including 50 deaths. Although the total number of cases is still relatively small, the case fatality rate and the spread of the virus to countries beyond the Middle East is alarming to public health officials. If the virus evolves the ability to transmit easily from person to person, a much more widespread epidemic is possible. Diagnostic assays and antiviral therapies for MERS have been described, but reliable vaccines have not yet been developed.Enjuanes and his team applied what they had learned from 30 years of research on the molecular biology of coronaviruses to synthesize an infectious cDNA clone of the MERS-CoV genome based on a published sequence. They inserted the viral cDNA chromosome into a bacterial artificial chromosome, and mutated several of its genes, one by one, to study the effects on the virus’ ability to infect, replicate, and re-infect cultured human cells.Mutations that disabled accessory genes 3, 4a, 4b and 5 did not seem to hinder the virus: mutant viruses had similar growth rates as the wild-type virus, indicating that the mutations do not disable the virus enough to deploy the mutants in a vaccine. Mutations in the envelope protein (E protein), on the other hand, enabled the virus to replicate its genetic material, but prevented the virus from propagating, or infecting nearby cells.A large amount of the rMERS-CoV-ΔE virus would be needed for a live attenuated MERS vaccine. A virus that can’t propagate itself would be unable to grow the volume needed without help. …

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Adolescents’ high-fat diet impairs memory and learning

June 17, 2013 — A high-fat diet in adolescence appears to have long-lasting effects on learning and memory during adulthood, a new study in mice finds. The results were presented Saturday at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.Adolescent mice fed a normal-calorie but high-fat diet became moderately obese but not diabetic, and they displayed significantly impaired spatial memory, according to the study authors, from CEU-San Pablo University (Universidad CEU-San Pablo) in Madrid. Spatial memory allows recording of information needed to navigate in a familiar environment and is pivotal for learning, said the lead author, Mariano Ruiz-Gayo, PhD, a professor of pharmacology at the university.Adult mice that received the same diet had intact performance on memory tasks, showing that, unlike the adolescents, they were not sensitive to the effects of the fatty diet, he reported.”This study shows that normocaloric diets containing high amounts of saturated fat might have deleterious and long-lasting effects on the developing brain, even in the absence of apparent diabetes,” Ruiz-Gayo said.In their study, the investigators gave 15 male adolescent mice an eight-week, high-fat diet in which 45 percent of the calories came from unhealthy, saturated fat. Another 15 male mice received a conventional diet with the same number of calories (the control group). A similar study was carried out in adult mice so the researchers could test the effects of a high-fat diet starting later in life.To test the rodents’ spatial memory, the researchers used the novel location recognition test. In this test, the mice were placed in an open-field box — an open but walled box with a single chamber — containing two objects, plastic toy (Lego) pieces. The mice were already familiar with the box and one of the objects, but the other object was new to them. The mice explored the box for 10 minutes initially. One hour and 24 hours later, the mice returned to the box, where each time the new object was in a different position. The researchers recorded how long it took the rodents to find the new object.The scientists found that it took mice significantly longer to find the new object if they had received the high-fat diet when their brains were immature. …

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Austerity cuts to Spanish healthcare system are ‘putting lives at risk’, experts say

June 13, 2013 — A series of austerity reforms made by the Spanish government could lead to the effective dismantling of large parts of the country’s healthcare system, with potentially detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish people, according to new research published in BMJ.National budget cuts of 13.65% (€365m) and regional budget cuts of up to 10% to health and social care services in 2012 have coincided with increased demands on the health system, particularly affecting the elderly, disabled and those with poor mental health. The authors, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, also highlight the increase in depression, alcohol related disorders and suicides in Spain since the financial crisis hit and unemployment increased.Spain already has one of the lowest public expenditures on healthcare for its GDP in the European Union. Further cuts of €1108m will be made to the dependency fund for elderly and disabled people in 2013, putting these vulnerable people even more at risk.Key changes made by the Spanish government include excluding undocumented immigrants from accessing free healthcare services and increasing co-payments that patients must make for extra treatments such as drugs, prosthetics, and some ambulance trips. Authorities with devolved powers in 17 regions across Spain have also been required to make further cuts. In Madrid and Catalonia this has led to a move towards privatisation of hospitals, increases in waiting times, cutbacks in emergency services and fewer surgical procedures.Lead author Dr Helena Legido-Quigley, Lecturer in Global Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Our analysis is the first to look at the overall impact of austerity measures in Spain on the healthcare system and the findings are of great concern. Many of the measures taken to save money do not have a strong evidence-base. We are seeing detrimental effects on the health of the Spanish people and, if no corrective measures are implemented, this could worsen with the risk of increases in HIV and tuberculosis — as we have seen in Greece where healthcare services have had severe cuts­ — as well as the risk of a rise in drug resistance and spread of disease.”As part of the analysis, researchers conducted interviews with 34 doctors and nurses across Catalonia. Many reported feeling ‘shocked’, ‘numbed’ and ‘disillusioned’ about the cuts and expressed fears that ‘the cuts are going to kill people’. Some also raised concerns around the ‘clear intention to privatise and… make money on health and social services’ and made allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest.Co-author Martin McKee, Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “For five years, policies to address the financial crisis have focussed almost entirely on economic indicators. …

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Nano-thermometer enables first atomic-scale heat transfer measurements

June 12, 2013 — In findings that could help overcome a major technological hurdle in the road toward smaller and more powerful electronics, an international research team involving University of Michigan engineering researchers, has shown the unique ways in which heat dissipates at the tiniest scales.A paper on the research is published in the June 13 edition of Nature.When a current passes through a material that conducts electricity, it generates heat. Understanding where the temperature will rise in an electronic system helps engineers design reliable, high-performing computers, cell phones and medical devices, for example. While heat generation in larger circuits is well understood, classical physics can’t describe the relationship between heat and electricity at the ultimate end of the nanoscale — where devices are approximately one nanometer in size and consist of just a few atoms.Within the next two decades, computer science and engineering researchers are expected to be working at this “atomic” scale, according to Pramod Reddy, U-M assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering who led the research.”At 20 or 30 nanometers in size, the active regions of today’s transistors have very small dimensions,” Reddy said. “However, if industry keeps pace with Moore’s law and continues shrinking the size of transistors to double their density on a circuit then atomic-scales are not far off.”The most important thing then, is to understand the relationship between the heat dissipated and the electronic structure of the device, in the absence of which you can’t really leverage the atomic scale. This work gives insights into that for the first time.”In the tangible, macroscale world, when electricity travels through a wire, the whole wire heats up, as do all the electrodes along it. In contrast, when the “wire” is a nanometer-sized molecule and only connecting two electrodes, the temperature raises predominantly in one of them.”In an atomic scale device, all the heating is concentrated in one place and less so in other places,” Reddy said.In order to accomplish this, researchers in Reddy’s lab — doctoral students Woochul Lee and Wonho Jeong and post-doctoral fellow Kyeongtae Kim — developed techniques to create stable atomic-scale devices and designed and built a custom nanoscale thermometer integrated into a cone-shaped device. Single molecules or atoms were trapped between the cone-shaped device and a thin plate of gold to study heat dissipation in prototypical molecular-scale circuits.”The results from this work also firmly establish the validity of a heat-dissipation theory that was originally proposed by Rolf Landauer, a physicist from IBM,” Reddy said. “Further, the insights obtained from this work also enable a deeper understanding of the relationship between heat dissipation and atomic-scale thermoelectric phenomena, which is the conversion of heat into electricity.”Researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain and the University of Konstanz in Germany also contributed to the work.

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