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Archive - Feb 19, 2017

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Estrogen Explains Exosome-Carried Messenger Profile in Circulation Among Postmenopausal Women

A study at the Gerontology Research Center at University of Jyväskylä in Finland has demonstrated that, in blood circulation, the exosome-carried messenger molecule profile differs between post- and premenopausal women. The differences were associated with circulating estrogen and cholesterol levels, as well as body composition and other health indicators. These findings enable using the studied molecules in the evaluation of health status. The studied messenger molecules are packed in the exosomes, which are released by the cells into the circulation. Exosomes are spherical nanoscale lipid vesicles. These small packages carry microRNA molecules, among other molecules, which are considered to be messengers between the cells regulating gene function, says Docent Eija Laakkonen. The study was the first to show that specific exosome-packed microRNAs are sensitive to the estrogen levels in the circulation, which are influenced both by age and the use of hormonal therapies. The results can be exploited in evaluating the effects of hormonal contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies on the overall physiological status of women. When the regulatory mechanisms of the microRNAs are better understood, the microRNA profile can be used for recognizing individuals with a high risk for metabolic disorders, or even lowering the risk. It seems, therefore, that the postmenopausal declining amount of circulating estrogen changes the cargo inside the exosomes. When these exosome packages are delivered to the target tissues, the contents are released to the correct recipient cell. These delivered messages change the function of the cell, explains doctoral candidate Reeta Kangas.

Synthetic Compound Developed at Moscow State University Slows Down Aging of Mice with Mutated Mitochondria

A group of Russian and Swedish scientists has recently published a breakthrough paper, reporting results of a joint study by Lomonosov Moscow State University and Stockholm university. The article was published in the U.S. journal Aging. The major goal of the study was to investigate the role of intracellular powerstations -- mitochondria -- in the process of aging of organisms. Importantly, scientists made an attempt to slow down aging using a novel compound: artificial antioxidant SkQ1 precisely targeted into mitochondria. This compound was developed at the Moscow State University by the most cited Russian biologist Professor Vladimir Skulachev. Experiments involved a special strain of genetically-modified mice created and characterized in Sweden. A single mutation was introduced into the genome of these mice resulting in the substantially accelerated mutagenesis in mitochondria. This leads to accelerated agiing and early death of the mutant mice. They live less than 1 year (normal mouse lives more than 2 years). The mutation promotes development of many age-related defects and diseases indicating that the major defect of these mice is indeed aging. Starting from the age of 100 days one group of mutant mice was treated with small doses of SkQ1 (approxamtely 12 micrograms) added into their drinking water. Per scientists' hypothesis, the compound must protect animal cells from the toxic byproducts of mitochondria -- free radicals (reactive oxygen species). Another group of animals served as a control group receiving pure water. Differences between the two groups became obvious starting from the age 200-250 days. Animals in the control group aged rapidly as expected.

Gene Editing Can Complement Traditional Food-Animal Improvements

Gene editing -- one of the newest and most promising tools of biotechnology -- enables animal breeders to make beneficial genetic changes, without bringing along unwanted genetic changes. And, following in the footsteps of traditional breeding, gene editing has tremendous potential to boost the sustainability of livestock production, while also enhancing food-animal health and welfare, argues University of California (UC) Davis animal scientist Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam. She examined the potential benefits of genome editing on Friday, February 17, 2017 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to be held in Boston's Hynes Convention Center. Her presentation was part of a 3 p.m. EST session titled "The Potential of Gene Editing to Revolutionize Agriculture," moderated by acclaimed molecular biologist Dr. Nina Federoff. Dr. Van Eenennaam was also scheduled to participate in a news briefing on this topic at noon EST on Saturday, February 18, 2017 in Room 103 of the convention center. Thanks to improvements made in the dairy industry through traditional breeding, a glass of milk today is associated with just one third of the greenhouse gas emissions linked to producing a glass of milk in the 1940s, says Dr. Van Eenennaam, a UC Cooperative Extension biotechnology specialist in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science. That was accomplished as traditional selective breeding improved the productivity of dairy cows so much that the number of dairy cows in the United States dropped from a high of 25.6 million in 1944 to about 9 million today, even as the country experienced a 1.6-fold increase in total milk production, she says.

Capricor to Focus on Advancing Cardiac Cell and Exsosome-Based Therapeutic Candidates

On February 16, 2017, Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CAPR), a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing first-in-class biological therapies for cardiac and other medical conditions, announced that it has elected to terminate its license agreement with the Mayo Clinic relating to natriuretic peptide receptor agonists, including Cenderitide. "Our decision to return these rights is a strategic move as we prioritize our efforts to advance our core cell and exosome-based therapeutic development programs," said Dr. Linda Marbán, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer. "We enter 2017 with the anticipation of several key events to occur this year. These include our expected announcement early next quarter of top-line results of our randomized Phase I/II HOPE clinical trial of CAP-1002 (allogeneic cardiosphere-derived cells) in people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD)-associated heart disease, as well our expectation to clinically evaluate CAP-1002 for its ability to improve peripheral and respiratory muscle in DMD in a trial that is currently being planned. We are also committing increased attention to our exosomes program, and we expect to file an Investigation New Drug application for CAP-2003 (cardiosphere-derived cell exosomes) in the second half of this year," added Dr. Marbán. Capricor Therapeutics (formerly Nile Therapeutics, Inc.) entered into an Amended and Restated Technology License Agreement in 2013 around the time of the corporate merger. Since that time, Capricor has completed two small Phase II studies of Cenderitide, also known as CD-NP, in subjects with chronic, stable heart failure. Capricor Therapeutics, Inc.

Yeast Found in Babies’ Guts Increases Risk of Asthma

University of British Columbia (UBC) microbiologists have found a yeast in the gut of new babies in Ecuador that appears to be a strong predictor that they will develop asthma in childhood. The new research furthers our understanding of the role microscopic organisms play in our overall health. "Children with this type of yeast called Pichia were much more at risk of asthma," said Dr. Brett Finlay, a microbiologist at UBC. "This is the first time anyone has shown any kind of association between yeast and asthma." In previous research, Dr. Finlay and his colleagues identified four gut bacteria in Canadian children that, if present in the first 100 days of life, seem to prevent asthma. In a follow-up to this study, DR. Finlay and his colleagues repeated the experiment using fecal samples and health information from 100 children in a rural village in Ecuador. Canada and Ecuador both have high rates of asthma with about 10 per cent of the population suffering from the disease. The scientists found that while gut bacteria play a role in preventing asthma in Ecuador, it was the presence of a microscopic fungus or yeast known as Pichia that was more strongly linked to asthma. Instead of helping to prevent asthma, however, the presence of Pichia in those early days puts children at risk. Dr. Finlay also suggests there could be a link between the risk of asthma and the cleanliness of the environment for Ecuadorian children. As part of the study, the researchers noted whether children had access to clean water. "Those that had access to good, clean water had much higher asthma rates and we think it is because they were deprived of the beneficial microbes," said Dr. Finlay. "That was a surprise because we tend to think that clean is good, but we realize that we actually need some dirt in the world to help protect you." Now Dr.

Gene Sequences Reveal Secrets of Symbiosis

Advances in genomic research are helping scientists to reveal how corals and algae cooperate to combat environmental stresses. King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) researchers have sequenced and compared the genomes of three strains of Symbiodinium, a member of the dinoflagellate algae family, to show their genomes have several features that promote a prosperous symbiotic relationship with corals. The article was published online on December 22, 2016 in Scienctific Reports. The open-access article is titled “Genomes of Dinoflagellate Symbionts Highlight Evolutionary Adaptations Conducive to a Symbiotic Lifestyle.” Dinoflagellates are among the most prolific organisms on the planet, forming the basis of the oceanic food chain, and their close symbiotic relationships with corals help maintain healthy reefs. However, because dinoflagellates have unusually large genomes, very few species have been sequenced, leaving the exact nature of their symbiosis with corals elusive. "We had access to two Symbiodinium genomes, S.minutum and S.kawagutii, and we decided to sequence a third, S. microadriaticum," said Assistant Professor of Marine Science Dr. Manuel Aranda at the University's Red Sea Research Center, who led the project with his Center colleague Associate Professor of Marine Science Dr. Christian Voolstra and colleagues from the University's Computational Bioscience Research Center and Environmental Epigenetics Program. "This allowed us to compare the three genomes for common and disparate features and functions and hopefully to show how the species evolved to become symbionts to specific corals."