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Archive - Aug 11, 2014

Venom Gets Good Buzz As Potential Cancer-Fighter at ACS Meeting

Bee, snake, or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists will report here in San Francisco today at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. They scientists have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects that the toxins would otherwise cause. The report was part of the 248th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features nearly 12,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held here through Thursday. A brand-new video on the research is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRsUi5UrH7k&feature=youtu.be. "We have safely used venom toxins in tiny nanometer-sized particles to treat breast cancer and melanoma cells in the laboratory," says Dipanjan Pan, Ph.D., who led the study. "These particles, which are camouflaged from the immune system, take the toxin directly to the cancer cells, sparing normal tissue." Venom from snakes, bees, and scorpions contains proteins and peptides which, when separated from the other components and tested individually, can attach to cancer cell membranes. That activity could potentially block the growth and spread of the disease, other researchers have reported. Dr. Pan and his team say that some of substances found in any of these venoms could be effective anti-tumor agents. But just injecting venoms into a patient would have side effects. Among these could be damage to heart muscle or nerve cells, unwanted clotting or, alternately, bleeding under the skin. So Dr.

How the Woodpecker Avoids Brain Injury Despite High-Speed Impacts via Optimal Anti-Shock Body Structure

Designing structures and devices that protect the body from shock and vibrations during high-velocity impacts is a universal challenge. Scientists and engineers focusing on this challenge might make advances by studying the unique morphology of the woodpecker, whose body functions as an excellent anti-shock structure. The woodpecker's brain can withstand repeated collisions and deceleration of 1200 g during rapid pecking. This anti-shock feature relates to the woodpecker's unique morphology and ability to absorb impact energy. Using computed tomography and the construction of high-precision three-dimensional models of the woodpecker, Chinese scientists explain its anti-shock biomechanical structure in terms of energy distribution and conversion. Their findings, presented in a new study titled "Energy conversion in the woodpecker on successive pecking and its role in anti-shock protection of the brain" and published in the Beijing-based journal SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, could provide guidance in the design of anti-shock devices and structures for humans. To build a sophisticated 3-D model of the woodpecker, scientist Dr. Wu Chengwei and colleagues at the State Key Lab of Structural Analysis for Industrial Equipment, part of the Department of Engineering Mechanics at the Dalian University of Technology in northeastern China, scanned the structure of the woodpecker and replicated it in remarkable detail. "CT scanning technology can be used to obtain the images of internal structures of objects … which is widely used in the medical field and expanded to mechanical modeling of biological tissue," they explain in the study.

Aberrant mTOR Signaling Impairs Whole Body Physiology

The protein mTOR (see image of mTOR activating mutations) is a central controller of growth and metabolism. Deregulation of mTOR signaling increases the risk of developing metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Online on July 31, 2014 in PNAS, researchers from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel describe how aberrant mTOR signaling in the liver not only affects hepatic metabolism, but also whole body physiology. The protein mTOR regulates cell growth and metabolism and thus plays a key role in the development of human disorders. In the cell, this regulatory protein is found in two structurally and functionally distinct protein complexes called mTORC1 and mTORC2. In a recent study, the research group of Professor Michael Hall from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has shed light on the role of hepatic mTORC1 in whole body physiology and the relevance for human liver cancers. In mammals, the liver is a key organ that controls whole body physiology in response to nutrients. Dr. Hall’s team investigated the role of the nutrient sensor mTORC1 in this process. The researchers were able to show that activation of mTORC1 in the liver of mice reduces not only hepatic lipid metabolism but also locomotor activity and body temperature. Upon investigating the underlying molecular mechanism, they observed that mTORC1 hyperactivation enhances the level of the stress hormone FGF21 by depletion of the amino acid glutamine. Treatment of animals with glutamine reduced the level of FGF21 and thus prevented the physiological impairments. Human cancers often exhibit aberrant mTORC1 signaling and glutamine addiction. “We were excited to see that in human liver tumors mTORC1 signaling correlates with FGF21 expression,” comments cell biologist Dr. Marion Cornu, the first author of the study.