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Archive - Mar 21, 2015

Stinging Nettle Chemical Makes a Particular Cancer Drug 50X More Effective

A particular cancer drug can be made 50 times more effective by a chemical found in stinging nettles and ants, new research finds. Researchers at the University of Warwick found that when the chemical, sodium formate, is used in combination with a metal-based cancer treatment, it can greatly increase that treatment’s ability to shut down cancer cells. The research was published online on March 20, 2015 in an open-access article in Nature Communications. The article is titled “Transfer Hydrogenation Catalysis in Cells As a New Approach to Anticancer Drug Design.” Developed by Warwick's Department of Chemistry, the cancer drug, a compound of the metal ruthenium called JS07, is capable of exploiting a cancer cell's natural weaknesses and disrupts its energy generation mechanism. Laboratory tests on ovarian cancer cells have shown that, when used in combination with sodium formate, JS07 is 50 times more effective than when acting alone. Derived from formic acid which is commonly found in a number of natural organisms including nettles and ants, sodium formate (E-237) is more commonly used as a food preservative. The Warwick researchers developed a novel method for binding sodium formate with JS07 to form a more potent form of the drug. The researchers subsequently found that the potent form of JS07 acts as a catalyst when it interacts with a cancer cell's energy-generating mechanism. This interaction disrupts the mechanism, causing the cancer cell's vital processes to cease functioning and for the cell to shut down. Lead-researcher Professor Peter Sadler explains. "Cancer cells require a complex balance of processes to survive. When this balance is disrupted, the cell is unable to function due to a range of process failures and eventually shuts down.

Type 2 Diabetes Affects 382 Million Worldwide Today; Economic Impact Study Predicts 592 Million Victims by 2035

Type 2 diabetes reduces people's employment chances and wages around the world, according to the results of a new study from the University of East Anglia, supported by the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR). In an effort that is detailed in an online open-access article at the link provided below, researchers studied the economic impact of type II diabetes worldwide. [Note that a video description of the research is also provided at a link provided below.] The scientists were surprised to find not only a large cost burden in high-income countries, but also in low and middle-income countries, where people with type 2 diabetes and their families face high costs for treatment. While it is widely known that type 2 diabetes poses a huge health challenge, awareness of its impact on the global economy and labor markets has never before been studied in such detail. The research team looked at data from 109 studies in the largest and most up-to-date global review of the economic impact of type 2 diabetes. Headline figures include the following: people with type 2 diabetes in the US have the highest healthcare costs, with an estimated lifetime cost of approximately $283,000. These costs are higher than those in others countries with comparable per capita income levels; worldwide, type 2 diabetes hits the poor the hardest, with a higher cost burden for people in low- and middle-income countries; two thirds of all new cases of type 2 diabetes are now in low- and middle-income countries such as China, India, Mexico, and Egypt; men with type 2 diabetes have worse employment opportunities globally. The impact for women appears to be less adverse, except for in the US, where their employment chances decreased by almost half; and the costs associated with type 2 diabetes increase over time with increasing disease severity.

TGAC Reports on Preliminary Work to Evaluate MinION Portable Sequencing Device for In-Field Use

As one of the first research Institutes to take part in the MinION Access Programme (MAP) for portable DNA sequencing, introduced by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC)'s task force in the UK has shared its experience of the ground-breaking trial so far. One of the first research Institutes to be part of MAP, TGAC plans to use the miniaturized sequencing device to conduct live environmental surveillance; rather than gathering samples to take back to the laboratory, enabling the researchers to deliver real-time experimental genetic data for immediate analysis. The team of scientists from TGAC's Data Infrastructure and Algorithms and Plant and Microbial Genomics groups trialed the miniaturized sensing system by sequencing environmental samples, containing DNA from hundreds or thousands of different organisms. The team experimented first with a mock community, where they used a simple set of DNA samples from twenty bacteria, created for the Human Microbiome Project. Having developed their experimental and data methods, they then tested real environmental samples sequencing them on the MinION and Illumina platforms for comparison. Their aim was to sequence the microscopic biological molecules in the air around us - bacteria, spores, and viruses. Many key crop diseases spread via the air as spores, as well as some animal and human diseases. Analyzing such samples triggers technical issues, where there are very low levels of biological material present when sequencing DNA from air. Although the scientists faced challenges working with complex metagenomic material (DNA from multiple sources) recovered directly from environment samples in live-time, the introduction of the MinION as a potential portable laboratory made a major impact to the research's goal.

Study Supports Neuroprotective Effective of Hypermethylation of C9orf72 Gene in ALS and FTD

Penn Medicine researchers have discovered that hypermethylation - the epigenetic ability to turn down or turn off a bad gene implicated in 10 to 30 percent of patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) - serves as a protective barrier inhibiting the development of these diseases. Their work, published online on March 20, 2015 in Neurology, may suggest a neuroprotective target for drug discovery efforts. "This is the first epigenetic modification of a gene that seems to be protective against neuronal disease," says lead author Corey McMillan, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor of Neurology in the Frontotemporal Degeneration Center in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Expansions in the offending gene, C9orf72 (chromosome 9, open reading frame 72), have been linked with TAR DNA binding protein (TDP-43) which is the pathological source that causes ALS and FTD. "Understanding the role of C9orf72 has the possibility to be truly translational and improve the lives of patients suffering from these devastating diseases," says senior author, Edward Lee, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuropathology in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Penn. Dr. McMillan and team evaluated 20 patients recruited from both the FTD Center and the ALS Center at the University of Pennsylvania who screened positive for a mutation in the C9orf72 gene and were clinically diagnosed with FTD or ALS. All patients completed a neuroimaging study, a blood test to evaluate C9orf72 methylation levels, and a brief neuropsychological screening assessment. The study also included 25 heathy controls with no history of neurological or psychiatric disease.

Princeton Nobel Prize Winner Leads Study of Developmental Transition of Embryo Beginning to Use Own Genes Rather Than Mom’s

A new study from Princeton University sheds light on the handing over of genetic control from mother to offspring early in development. Learning how organisms manage this transition could help researchers understand larger questions about how embryos regulate cell division and differentiation into new types of cells. The study, published in the March 12 issue of the prestigious journal Cell, provides new insight into the mechanism for this genetic hand-off, which happens within hours of fertilization, when the newly fertilized egg is called a zygote. "At the beginning, everything the embryo needs to survive is provided by mom, but eventually that stuff runs out, and the embryo needs to start making its own proteins and cellular machinery," said Princeton postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology and first author Shelby Blythe, Ph.D. "We wanted to find out what controls that transition." Dr. Blythe conducted the study with senior author Dr. Eric Wieschaus (photo), Princeton's Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology, Professor of Molecular Biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, and a 1995 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine for “discoveries concerning the genetic control of early development.” Researchers have known that in most animals, a newly fertilized egg cell divides rapidly, producing exact copies of itself using gene products supplied by the mother. After a short while, this rapid cell division pauses, and when it restarts, the embryonic DNA takes control and the cells divide much more slowly, differentiating into new cell types that are needed for the body's organs and systems. To find out what controls this maternal to zygotic transition, also called the midblastula transition (MBT), Dr.

Detailed Haplotype Map of 62 Lines of Wheat from Around the World Established

Kansas State University scientists, together with multiple collaborators, have released findings of a complex, two-year study of the genomic diversity of wheat that creates an important foundation for future improvements in wheat around the world. The scientists’ work has produced the first haplotype map of wheat that provides detailed descriptions of genetic differences in a worldwide sample of wheat lines. In genetics, a haplotype map is a powerful tool for transferring sequence-level variation to multiple gene mapping projects. "All of these new, genomic-based strategies of breeding promise to significantly accelerate breeding cycles and shorten release time of future wheat varieties," said Dr. Eduard Akhunov, Associate Professor of Plant Pathology and the project's leader. Plant scientists often look at the genetic makeup of an organism to breed new varieties for specific, desirable traits, such as drought, pest or disease resistance. Dr. Akhunov said the haplotype map gives scientists quick access to rich, genetic variation data that increases the precision of mapping genes in the wheat genome, and improves scientists' ability to select the best lines in breeding trials. Dr. Akhunov's research associates, Dr. Katherine Jordan and Dr. Shichen Wang, are lead authors of the study, which is titled "A Haplotype Map of Allohexaploid Wheat Reveals Distinct Patterns of Selection on Homoeologous Genomes," and which was published online on February 26, 2015 in Genome Biology. The article will be published in print in an upcoming issue of that same journal. The project was coordinated through the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, and included groups in Canada, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. Much of the work took place in Kansas State University's Integrated Genomics Facility.