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Archive - Oct 7, 2014

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High-Sugar Diet No Problem for Worms with Mutant SKN-1 Gene

Imagine being able to take a pill that lets you eat all of the ice cream, cookies, and cakes that you wanted – without gaining any weight. New research from the University of Southern California (USC) suggests that dream may not be impossible. A team of scientists led by Dr. Sean Curran of the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the Keck School of Medicine of USC has found a new way to suppress the obesity that typically accompanies a high-sugar diet, pinning it down to a key gene that pharmaceutical companies have already developed drugs to target. So far, Dr. Curran's work has been carried out solely on the worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) (image) and human cells in a petri dish – but the genetic pathway he studied is found in almost all animals from yeast to humans. Next, he plans to test his findings in mice. Dr. Curran's research is outlined in a study that was published online on October 6, 2014 in an open-access article in Nature Communications. Building on previous work with C. elegans, Dr. Curran and his colleagues found that certain genetic mutants – specifically, those with a hyperactive SKN-1 gene – could be fed incredibly high-sugar diets without gaining any weight, while regular C. elegans worms ballooned on the same diet. "The high-sugar diet that the bacteria (sic—worms) ate was the equivalent of a human eating the Western diet," Dr. Curran said, referring to the diet favored by the Western world, characterized by high-fat and high-sugar foods, such as burgers, fries, and soda. The SKN-1 gene also exists in humans, where it is called Nrf2, suggesting that the findings might translate, he said.

Natural Gene Selection Can Produce Orange Corn Rich in Provitamin A

Purdue researchers and collaborators have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn kernels, a finding that could help combat vitamin A deficiency in developing countries and macular degeneration in the elderly. Professor of Agronomy Torbert Rocheford and fellow researchers found gene variations that can be selected to change nutritionally poor white corn into biofortified orange corn with high levels of provitamin A carotenoids - substances that the human body can convert into vitamin A. Vitamin A plays key roles in eye health and the immune system, as well as in the synthesis of certain hormones. "This study gives us the genetic blueprint to quickly and cost-effectively convert white or yellow corn to orange corn that is rich in carotenoids - and we can do so using natural plant breeding methods, not transgenics," said Dr. Rocheford, the Patterson Endowed Chair of Translational Genomics for Crop Improvement at Purdue. The research was published online on September 25, 2014 in Genetics. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in 250,000 to 500,000 children every year, half of whom die within a year of losing their eyesight, according to the World Health Organization. The problem most severely affects children in Sub-Saharan Africa, an area in which white corn, which has minimal amounts of provitamin A carotenoids, is a dietary mainstay. Insufficient carotenoids may also contribute to macular degeneration in the elderly, a leading cause of blindness in older populations in Europe and the U.S. Identifying the genes that determine carotenoid levels in corn kernels will help plant breeders develop novel biofortifed corn varieties for Africa and the U.S.

EpiCypher Announces Five Epigenetics Grant Winners

On October 7, 2014, EpiCypher™, Inc., announced the award of five grants for Histone Peptide Array Screening Services to researchers at Indiana University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The University of Florida, The University of Montreal, and The Structural Genomics Consortium, as part of their first annual grant program in support of chromatin biology and epigenetics research. The scientific founders of EpiCypher reviewed each grant application and selected the winners, each of whom will receive histone modification screening services employing EpiCypher’s world-class EpiTitan™ Histone Peptide Arrays, along with a statistical analysis of their protein’s or antibody’s histone modification binding profile. The grantees are: Levi Blazer, Ph.D., Structural Genomics Consortium; El Bachir Affar, Ph.D., University of Montreal; Omar Abdel-Wahab, M.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Feng-Chun Yang, Ph.D., Indiana University School of Medicine; and Daiqing Liao, Ph.D, University of Florida. The grant recipients and their respective organizations will work individually but collaboratively with EpiCypher’s scientific team to help answer each project’s fundamental biological question. EpiCypher is dedicated to giving researchers access to the highest-quality, most productive approaches for more meaningful investigations into chromatin biology and epigenetics research. “We look forward to introducing these winners to the many benefits of our transformative products and incorporating them into their research so they can experience their advantages to chromatin research first hand,” says EpiCypher CEO Sam Tetlow.