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Archive - May 20, 2013

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Meat Adulteration Worldwide--"Zone in with Zon"

Dr. Gerald Zon’s latest blog post in “Zone in with Zon—What’s Trending in Nucleic Acid Research,” (http://zon.trilinkbiotech.com/) was posted on May 20, 2013. It features Dr. Zon’s analysis of meat and fish adulteration around the world, based on DNA analyses. Dr. Zon takes the reader on a sobering gastronomical journey from horsemeat to sushi to game meat to rats disguised as mutton in this DNA-based discussion. Dr. Zon is an eminent nucleic acid chemist and Director of Business Development at TriLink BioTechnologies in San Diego, California. [Zon blog post]

Apigenin in Mediterranean Diet Appears to Make Cancer Cells Mortal

New research suggests that a compound abundant in the Mediterranean diet takes away cancer cells' "superpower" to escape death. By altering a very specific step in gene regulation, this compound essentially re-educates cancer cells into normal cells that die as scheduled. One way that cancer cells thrive is by inhibiting a process that would cause them to die on a regular cycle that is subject to strict programming. This study in cells, led by Ohio State University researchers, found that a compound in certain plant-based foods, called apigenin, could stop breast cancer cells from inhibiting their own death. Much of what is known about the health benefits of nutrients is based on epidemiological studies that show strong positive relationships between eating specific foods and better health outcomes, especially reduced heart disease. But how the actual molecules within these healthful foods work in the body is still a mystery in many cases, and particularly with foods linked to lower risk for cancer. Parsley, celery, and chamomile tea are the most common sources of apigenin, but it is found in many fruits and vegetables. The researchers also showed in this work that apigenin binds with an estimated 160 proteins in the human body, suggesting that other nutrients linked to health benefits – called "nutraceuticals" – might have similar far-reaching effects. In contrast, most pharmaceutical drugs target a single molecule. "We know we need to eat healthfully, but in most cases we don't know the actual mechanistic reasons for why we need to do that," said Dr. Andrea Doseff, associate professor of internal medicine and molecular genetics at Ohio State and a co-lead author of the study. "We see here that the beneficial effect on health is attributed to this dietary nutrient affecting many proteins.

Gene Involved in Neurodegeneration Keeps Clock Running

Northwestern University scientists have shown that a gene involved in neurodegenerative disease also plays a critical role in the proper function of the circadian clock. In a study of the common fruit fly, the researchers found the gene, called Ataxin-2, keeps the clock responsible for sleeping and waking on a 24-hour rhythm. Without the gene, the rhythm of the fruit fly's sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, making waking up on a regular schedule difficult for the fly. The discovery is particularly interesting because mutations in the human Ataxin-2 gene are known to cause a rare disorder called spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) and also contribute to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. People with SCA suffer from sleep abnormalities before other symptoms of the disease appear. This study linking the Ataxin-2 gene with abnormalities in the sleep-wake cycle could help pinpoint what is causing these neurodegenerative diseases as well as provide a deeper understanding of the human sleep-wake cycle. The findings were published online on May 17. 2013 in Science. Ravi Allada, M.D., professor of neurobiology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Chunghun Lim, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, are authors of the paper. Period (per) is a well-studied gene in fruit flies that encodes a protein, called PER, which regulates circadian rhythm. Drs. Allada and Lim discovered that Ataxin-2 helps activate translation of PER RNA into PER protein, a key step in making the circadian clock run properly. "It's possible that Ataxin-2's function as an activator of protein translation may be central to understanding how, when you mutate the gene and disrupt its function, it may be causing or contributing to diseases such as ALS or spinocerebellar ataxia," Dr. Allada said.