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Archive - Oct 2015

October 21st

Simple New Test to Accurately Predict Probability of Post-Partum Diabetes Developing in Women Who Experience Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is one of the most common conditions that can occur during pregnancy. Although the symptoms generally disappear after delivery, women suffering from gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing postpartum diabetes in the following years. Researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München in Germany have now developed an accurate method of predicting the probability of developing this progressive disease following childbirth. Their findings were published online on October 19, 2015 in the journal Acta Diabetologica. The article is titled “Development of a Simple Tool to Predict the Risk of Postpartum Diabetes in Women with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.” For their study, the scientists from the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF), Helmholtz Zentrum München, which is one of the partners of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), collected data from 257 cases of gestational diabetes that occurred between 1989 and 1999 and were followed up for a period of 20 years after delivery. One hundred and ten (110) of the women observed during this period developed postpartum diabetes. In order to be able to predict in whic during this period developed postpartum diabetes. In order to be able to predict in which mother the disease would manifest itself after delivery, the team headed by Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler (at right in image), Director of the Institute of Diabetes Research, tested various parameters that are known to play a significant role in the genesis of the disease. “Body mass index (BMI) and genetic predisposition both play a role in our calculation, as does the question of whether the mother breast-fed her baby and whether her gestational diabetes had to be treated with insulin,” explains Meike Köhler (at left in image), first author of the study.

Japanese Animal Biologist Wins 2015 Van Meter Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Understanding of Thyroid Hormones and the Mysteries of Seasonal Reproduction

Takashi Yoshimura, Ph.D., a professor at the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) at Nagoya University in Japan, has won the 2015 Van Meter Award for his contributions to thyroid research. The Van Meter Award, which was established in 1930 is presented by the American Thyroid Association (ATA) to a young clinical scientist who has made outstanding contributions to research on the thyroid gland and thyroid hormones. “When I first started research, I had never imagined that I would be carrying out research on thyroid hormones. As we were unraveling the mystery of seasonal sensing in animals, we found that the thyroid hormone and the thyroid-stimulating hormone play an important role,” Dr. Yoshimura said. “Through further studies, I wish to continue to uncover the sophisticated survival strategies of animals.” Dr. Yoshimura’s achievements consist of a series of discoveries made in birds, mammals, and fish on elucidating the role of thyroid hormones in seasonal reproduction. His research is expected to lead to advances in understanding and improving human reproductive health and mood disorders related to seasonal changes. In a little more detail, Dr. Yoshimura’s remarkable contributions to thyroid research relate to a series of fascinating discoveries made in birds, mammals, and fish that link photoreceptors in the brain to thyroid hormone-based regulation of seasonal reproduction. He holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences and is a Professor in the Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences and Director of the Avian Bioscience Research Center at University of Nagoya, Japan. Sparking Dr.

October 21st

New Bumblebee Study Contradicts Hypothesis That Single Group of Queen Pheromones Controls Reproduction Across Wide Group of Social Insects

Chemical signaling among social insects, such as bees, ants, and wasps, is more complex than previously thought, according to researchers at Penn State and Tel Aviv University. These scientists recently published data conteradicting earlier data that a single group of chemicals controls reproduction across numerous species. "While the hypothesis that many social insect lineages all use the same chemical signals -- known as pheromones -- was fascinating, we were skeptical that such complex behaviors could be regulated by a simple, common mechanism across such very different species," said Etya Amsalem, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in entomology at Penn State. "It seems more likely that pheromones evolved uniquely in different species, as these species experienced different environments and different social pressures." The new results were published in an open-access article in the October 22, 2015 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The article is titled “A Conserved Class of Queen Pheromones? Re-Evaluating the Evidence in Bumblebees (Bombus impatiens).” According to Dr. Amsalem, in January 2014, a study was published suggesting that the chemical signals produced by queens from a variety of species, including bumblebees, ants, and wasps, are very similar. The paper posited that this common group of chemicals is responsible for inhibiting reproduction in workers across these different species. "One of the most fascinating behaviors in social insects is that most of the females in a colony (the workers) do not lay their own eggs, and instead help rear the eggs produced by their mother (the queen)," said Dr. Amsalem.

Sendai Virus C Protein Interferes with Domain Arrangement of STAT1 Dimer to Inhibit Signal Transduction Pathway of Interferon-Gamma & Avoid Innate Immune Response of Host; Possible New Clue to Combating Human Paramyxoviruses Such As Mumps and Measles

A research group at Hiroshima University in Japan has demonstrated the mechanism by which the rodent-infecting Sendai virus escapes attack by the rodent innate immune system. The researchers examined the crystal structure of the complex of Sendai virus C protein and rodent transcription factor STAT1, and found that the Sendai C protein inhibits STAT1 activation by the signal transduction pathway of interferon-gamma. This discovery will allow the design of drugs that can be used to overcome and recover from damage caused by inhibition of the interferon signal transduction pathway as the drugs can be designed to inhibit the binding between C protein and STAT1. The results were published online on September 2, 2015 in the Journal of Virology. The article is titled “Structural Basis of the Inhibition of STAT1 Activity by Sendai Virus C Protein.” Researchers are now trying to screen low-molecular-weight compounds to identify promising candidates for the development of new anti-viral drugs. Sendai virus, a prototype of the paramyxoviridae family, causes respiratory diseases in rodents. The paramyxoviridae family includes viruses that cause important diseases in humans and animals, such as measles virus, mumps virus, human parainfluenza virus, human respiratory syncytial virus, canine distemper virus, Newcastle disease virus, and Nipah virus. Sendai virus has unique C proteins. These C proteins are essential for efficient viral replication in cells and animals, as well as for causing diseases. Sendai virus C proteins were previously reported to obstruct STAT1 activation after interferon stimulation, but it remained unclear as to how C proteins bind and affect STAT1 and inhibit transcriptional activation.

October 15th

Exosome Diagnostics CEO Presents at Fourth Annual OctoberINVESTfest Event Held at NY Academy of Sciences & Sponsored by Invest in Bavaria; High-Level Conference Connects Investors, Innovators, & Industry Leaders

Exosome Diagnostics, Inc., a developer of what it believes to be revolutionary, biofluid-based molecular diagnostics, announced that Tom McLain, CEO of Exosome Diagnostics, presented, on Tuesday, October 13, 2015, at the Fourth Annual OktoberINVESTfest event (http://www.oktoberinvestfest.com/) at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City. Mr. McLain’s presentation at this very high-level conference focused on the evolving role of diagnostics in advancing personalized medicine and the progress that Exosome Diagnostics has made in this field. Exosome Diagnostics plans to launch, in 2015, a suite of innovative liquid biopsy tests based on its proprietary, exosome-based ExoLution™ platform to enhance mutation detection, screening, and drug-resistance monitoring for various types of cancer. Exosomes are sub-cellular vesicular messengers released by all living cells into biofluids, such as plasma/serum, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, and saliva. Exosomes can contain RNA, DNA, and proteins from their cell of origin. Exosome Diagnostics’ technology platform can achieve real-time access to comprehensive molecular information about cells in the body without direct access to the actual cells. The company is also exploring the development of exosome-based diagnostics for diseases beyond cancer, including neurodegenerative diseases. OktoberINVESTfest is hosted by Invest in Bavaria (http://www.invest-in-bavaria.com/en.html), the investment and location marketing organization of the German State of Bavaria’s Ministry for Economic Affairs, Media, Energy and Technology. The conference brings together US and German investors, innovators, industry leaders, and Bavarian state representatives, as well as a number of innovative North American and German small and microcap companies and also some early-stage investment opportunities.

Sex Pheromone Assembly Line in Moths of Tobacco Hornworm; Singe Amino Acid Change in Desaturase Enzyme Affects Evolution of Sex Pheromone Composition; Finding Enabled by Next-Gen Sequencing & Other New Technologies

Scientists from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague, Czech Republic, and from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, studied the pheromone chemistry of moths and discovered a new evolutionary mechanism: a single amino acid residue in desaturases − enzymes that introduce double bonds, of the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta (image) − switches the desaturase products from mono- and di-unsaturated to tri-unsaturated sex pheromone precursors. The susceptibility of desaturases to major shifts in their specificities, due to minor mutations, may significantly contribute to the divergence in moth pheromone communication and so lead to the evolution of new insect species. These results were published in the October 13, 2015 issue of PNAS. The article is titled “Evolution of Moth Sex Pheromone Composition by a Single Amino Acid Substitution in a Fatty Acid Desaturase.” Sex pheromones represent a diverse group of chemical compounds that are central to mate-finding behavior in insects and can be found across various life forms. In most moth species, females use species-specific sex pheromones consisting of volatile fatty acid derivatives to attract conspecific males over long distances. These pheromones are predominantly long-chain aliphatic acetates, alcohols, or aldehydes containing up to three carbon-carbon double bonds with variable configurations at various positions along the carbon backbone. Pheromone-biosynthetic fatty acid desaturases, enzymes that introduce double bonds at specific positions and configurations into fatty acyl pheromone precursors of various chain lengths, contribute significantly to the number of possible pheromone structures. To maintain an efficient chemical communication, the signal receiver must stay tuned to the signal producer.

New 5-Gene-Signature Expression Test (MG5) Could Help Personalize Treatment for Common Childhood Cancer (Fusion-Gene-Negative Rhabdomyosarcoma)

A new gene expression test can identify which patients are likely to suffer more aggressive forms of the childhood cancer rhabdomyosarcoma, new research reports. Examining the activity of only five genes in a sample of the tumor was enough to identify high-risk children who might benefit from more intensive treatment or from new therapies in clinical trials. The findings, published in the October 15, 2015 issue of Clinical Cancer Research, could open up the opportunity for doctors to prescribe personalised treatment for children with cancer depending on the gene activity of their tumors. The article is titled “Clinical Application of Prognostic Gene Expression Signature in Fusion Gene–Negative Rhabdomyosarcoma: A Report from the Children's Oncology Group.” The five-gene signature test for rhabdomyosarcoma, known as MG5, was developed by researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London. It has now been validated in tests of samples from 68 patients led by scientists from the Children's Oncology Group in the US, in collaboration with The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). The work was supported in the UK by the Chris Lucas Trust and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden and the ICR, and also received funding from the US National Cancer Institute and Fondation Medic. The test for gene activity, specificall gene expression, is the first to be able to accurately predict which children with a type of rhabdomyosarcoma called “fusion-negative” will have more aggressive forms of the disease.

MIT Scientists Seek to Approach the ~100% Energy Transfer Efficiency of Plant Photosynthesis Using Quantum Effects Achievable with Engineered Viruses & Excitonic Networks

Nature has had billions of years to perfect photosynthesis, which directly or indirectly supports virtually all life on Earth. In that time, the process has achieved almost 100 percent efficiency in transporting the energy of sunlight from receptors to reaction centers where it can be harnessed — a performance vastly better than even the best solar cells. One way plants achieve this efficiency is by making use of the exotic effects of quantum mechanics — effects sometimes known as “quantum weirdness.” These effects, which include the ability of a particle to exist in more than one place at a time, have now been used by engineers at MIT, together with collaborators, to achieve a significant efficiency boost in a light-harvesting system. Surprisingly, the MIT researchers achieved this new approach to solar energy not with high-tech materials or microchips, but by using genetically engineered viruses. This achievement in coupling quantum research and genetic manipulation was described online on October 12, 2015 in Nature Materials in an article titled “Enhanced Energy Transport in Genetically Engineered Excitonic Networks.” A video describing this new work is available within the MIT press release for which a link is provided below. This advance was the work of MIT professors Angela Belcher, an expert on engineering viruses to carry out energy-related tasks, and Seth Lloyd, an expert on quantum theory and its potential applications; research associate Dr. Heechul Park; and 14 collaborators at MIT and in Italy. Dr. Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering, explains that in photosynthesis, a photon hits a receptor called a chromophore, which in turn produces an exciton — a quantum particle of energy.

October 14th

Clarifying the Mechanism That Accelerates Aging in Smokers: Smoking Habits Found to Change Blood Serum Concentration of Aging-Related Molecules; α-Klotho, FGF-21, & IL-6 Upregulated in Male Smokers

The average life span of smokers is more than 10 years shorter than that of non-smokers, and it is said that smoking is a factor that accelerates aging. However, the details of the mechanism that accelerates aging due to smoking was not yet clear. Now, a research group led by Dr. Kaori Nakanishi, Assistant Professor, and Dr. Keiko Takihara, Professor, at the Health Care Center, Osaka University, have found that smoking habits affected levels of the aging-related molecule α-klotho (αKl) in blood serum. In addition, this group also elucidated that smoking causes a rise in the blood serum concentration of fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF-21), a factor related to metabolism that has gained considerable attention in recent years. It is believed that these research results could serve as a key to clarifying the mechanism that accelerates aging in smokers, and provide new knowledge about aging-related diseases caused by smoking and about prevention of smoking-related accelerated aging. The new research results were published online on September 24, 2015 in an open-access article in Nature’s journal Scientific Reports. The article is titled “Klotho-Related Molecules Upregulated by Smoking Habit in Apparently Healthy Men: A Cross-Sectional Study.” The Osaka University group focused on the relationship between smoking and aging, examining the involvement of α-klotho in the advancement of aging due to smoking. It was found that the levels of FGF-21, α-klotho, and interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine related to inflammation, were all significantly higher in smokers than in never-smokers. In addition, the blood serum concentration of α-klotho rose in stressful conditions such as lack of sleep and being under emotional stress outside of smoking.

Scientists Convert Skin Cells into Placenta-Generating Cells in Mice

Regenerative medicine is a new and expanding area that aims to replace lost or damaged cells, tissues, or organs in the human body through cellular transplantation. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are pluripotent cells that are capable of long-term growth, self-renewal, and can give rise to every cell, tissue, and organ in the fetus's body. Thus, ESCs hold great promise for cell therapy as a source of diverse differentiated cell-types. Two major bottlenecks to realizing such potential are allogenic immune rejection of ESC-derived cells by recipients and ethical issues. Two Japanese scientists, Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka (Gladstone Institutes, San Francicso, https://gladstone.org/) and Dr. Kazutoshi Takahashi (now also at Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco), showed, in 2006, that introduction of four genes in skin cells can reprogram fibroblasts into functional embryonic stem-like cells (also termed “induced pluripotent stem cells” (“iPSCs”). The notion that as few as four genes are sufficient to completely change the cell, opened a new avenue which scientists have traveled down in atttempts to convert different adult cells into other somatic cell types. Several subsets of cell types such as blood cells, nerve cells, heart cells, and liver cells have been converted from different adult cells by employing this direct conversion approach. This discovery enabled an attractive approach that resolves both the ethical issue and the immune rejection problem of ESCs and the need for donor cells. Now, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, led by Dr.