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Archive - Mar 22, 2015

Engineering Therapeutic Gut Bacteria to Produce Hunger-Suppressing Lipid

Microbes may just be the next diet craze. Researchers have programmed bacteria to generate a molecule that, through normal metabolism, becomes a hunger-suppressing lipid. Mice that drank water laced with the programmed bacteria ate less, had lower body fat, and staved off diabetes, even when fed a high-fat diet, offering a potential weight-loss strategy for humans. The team will describe its approach in one of nearly 11,000 presentations being given at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society, taking place in Denver from March 22, 2015 through March 26, 2015. Obesity strongly increases the risk for developing several diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. One in three Americans is obese, and efforts to stem the epidemic have largely failed. Lifestyle changes and medication typically achieve only modest weight loss, and most people regain the weight. In recent years, numerous studies have shown that the population of microbes living in the gut may be a key factor in determining the risk for obesity and related diseases, suggesting that strategically altering the gut microbiome may impact human health. One advantage to microbial medicine would be that it is low maintenance, says Sean Davies (photo), Ph.D. His goal is to produce therapeutic bacteria that live in the gut for six months or a year, providing sustained drug delivery. This is in contrast to weight-loss drugs that typically need to be taken at least daily, and people tend not to take their medications as directed over time. "So we need strategies that deliver the drug without requiring the patient to remember to take his/her pills every few hours," Dr. Davies says.

Nature Strikes Again: Opossum-Based Antidote to Multiple Snake Venoms Could Save Thousands of Lives Worldwide

Scientists will report in a presentation on March 22, 2015 that they have turned to the opossum to develop a promising new and inexpensive antidote for poisonous snake bites. They predict it could save thousands of lives worldwide without the side effects of current treatments. The presentation will be given in Denver at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. The meeting features nearly 11,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held through Thursday, March 26, 2015. Worldwide, an estimated 421,000 cases of poisonous snake bites and 20,000 deaths from these bites occur yearly, according to the International Society on Toxicology. Intriguingly, opossums shrug off snake bite venom with no ill effects. Claire F. Komives, Ph.D., who is at San Jose State University, explains that initial studies showing the opossum's immunity to snake venom were done in the 1940s. In the early 1990s, a group of researchers identified a serum protein from the opossum that was able to neutralize snake venoms. One researcher, B. V. Lipps, Ph.D., found that a smaller chain of amino acids from the opossum protein, called a peptide, was also able to neutralize the venom. But Dr. Komives says it appears that no one has followed up on those earkier studies to develop an antivenom therapy -- at least not until she and her team came along. Armed with the existing information, they had the peptide chemically synthesized. When they tested it in venom-exposed mice, they found that it protected them from the poisonous effects of bites from U.S. Western Diamondback rattlesnakes and Russell's Viper venom from Pakistan.