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Archive - Apr 2, 2017

Maple Syrup Extract Boosts Antibiotic Potency

Antibiotics save lives every day, but there is a downside to their ubiquity. High doses can kill healthy cells along with infection-causing bacteria, while also spurring the creation of "superbugs" that no longer respond to known antibiotics. Now, researchers may have found a natural way to cut down on antibiotic use without sacrificing health: a maple syrup extract that dramatically increases the potency of these medicines. The researchers presented their work on April 2 at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding its annual meeting in San Francisco April 2-6. The meeting will feature more than 14,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics. "Native populations in Canada have long used maple syrup to fight infections," says Nathalie Tufenkji, Ph.D., of Canada’s McGill University. "I've always been interested in the science behind these folk medicines." The idea for the project really gelled when Dr. Tufenkji, who had been studying the antimicrobial effects of cranberry extracts, learned of the anti-cancer properties of a phenolic maple syrup extract. "That gave me the idea to check its antimicrobial activity," Dr. Tufenkji says. "So, I sent my postdoc to the store to buy some syrup." Using the same extraction approach as other researchers have in the past, Dr. Tufenkji's team at McGill University separated the sugar and water from the syrup's phenolic compounds, which contribute to maple syrup's signature golden hue. In an initial test, the team exposed several disease-causing bacterial strains to the extract, but they didn't see much of an effect. Rather than give up on maple syrup altogether, Dr.

Genes Newly Associated with Erdheim-Chester Disease (ECD) Also Linked to Cancer; Findings Suggest Ultra-Rare Disease Should Be Considered Form of Cancer; MAPK Blockers May Provide More Hope for Treatment & Improve 60% Mortality Rate at Three Years

NHGRI (National Human Genome Research Institute) researchers have identified new genes associated with the Erdheim-Chester disease (ECD) and some possible new therapies. Findings on this ultra-rare disease, found/discovered in approximately 600 people in the world, were published in Blood Advances. The article is titled “The Clinical Spectrum of Erdheim-Chester Disease: An Observational Cohort Study.” "The discovery of new genes associated with ECD provides hope for improving the diagnoses of a disease that affects so many parts of the body. We also hope it will help us identify new treatments," said Juvianee I. Estrada-Veras, M.D., Clinical Investigator and Staff Clinician in the NHGRI's Medical Biochemical Genetics Residency Program. "Our work on ECD builds on the Institute's goals to advance medical knowledge about rare diseases and to potentially provide insights into more common disorders." ECD is caused by the accumulation of specialized white blood cells called histiocytes in different organs. The resulting inflammation damages organs and tissues throughout the body, causing them to become thickened, dense, and scarred. Histiocytes normally function to destroy foreign substances and protect the body from infection. ECD has no standard therapy, although consensus guidelines for clinical management were published in 2014. Between 2011 and 2015, researchers examined 60 adults with ECD at the NIH Clinical Center. Of 59 samples that were available for molecular testing, half were found to have BRAF V600E gene mutations, which are sometimes seen in colon cancer, lung cancer, thyroid cancer, brain tumors, and some blood cancers. Other patients had mutations in genes of the MAPK pathway, which controls cell growth and proliferation.

New Gene-Based Blood Tests Identify More Metastatic Melanomas: Tests Based on Circulating Tumor DNA (ctDNA) May Improve Detection of Recurrence & Speed Related Treatment

Genetic testing of tumor and blood fluid samples from people with and without one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer has shown that two new blood tests can reliably detect previously unidentifiable forms of the disease. Researchers at the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center and its Perlmutter Cancer Center, who led the study, say having quick and accurate monitoring tools for all types of metastatic melanoma, make it easier for physicians to detect early signs of cancer recurrence. The new blood tests, which take only 48 hours, were developed in conjunction with Bio-Rad Laboratories in Hercules, California. Currently, the tests are only available for research purposes. The new tools are the first, say the study authors, to identify melanoma DNA in the blood of patients whose cancer is spreading and who lack defects in either the BRAF or NRAS genes, already known to drive cancer growth. Together, BRAF and NRAS mutations account for over half of the 50,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed each year in the United States, and each can be found by existing tests. But the research team estimates that when the new tests become available for use in clinics, the vast majority of all melanomas will be detectable. "Our goal is to use these tests to make more informed treatment decisions and, specifically, to identify, as early as possible, when a treatment has stopped working, cancer growth has resumed, and the patient needs to switch therapy," says senior study investigator and dermatologist David Polsky, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Polsky presented his team's latest findings at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), on April 2 in Washington, D.C. The meeting is taking place April 1-5. Dr. Polsky is the Alfred W.

Scientists Use Modified Bee Venom to Shuttle Drugs Across Blood-Brain Barrier into Brain

Most medicines can't get through the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a highly selective membrane that separates the circulatory system from the fluid bathing the brain. Certain peptides in animal venoms, however, can navigate across the BBB to inflict damage. Now, researchers are capitalizing on such venomous sneak attacks by developing a strategy based on a bee-venom peptide, apamin, to deliver medications to the brain. The researchers are scheduled to present their work on Sunday, April 2, at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) (2017). ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding the meeting in San Francisco Sunday through Thursday (April 2-April 6). The meeting will feature more than 14,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics. "We thought that because the venoms of some animals are able to attack the central nervous system, they should be able to go through the blood-brain barrier and possibly shuttle drugs across it," Ernest Giralt, Ph.D., says. Apamin is known to accumulate in the central nervous system of people who've been stung by bees. But the idea of using the apamin peptide itself had some drawbacks. "We knew we could not use apamin directly because it's toxic," he says. "But the good news is that the origin of the toxicity is well-known. We thought we could probably modify apamin in such a way that the toxicity would be eliminated, but it would still keep its ability to act as a transporter." Apamin's toxicity stems from its interactions with a potassium channel in neurons. A positively charged group in the apamin molecule mimics the potassium ion and blocks the potassium channel when it binds. To eliminate the toxicity, Dr.

Newly Characterized Protein Has Potential to Save U.S. Farmers $ Millions Annually

Instead of turning carbon into food, many plants accidentally make a plant-toxic compound during photosynthesis that is recycled through a process called photorespiration. University of Illinois and USDA/ARS researchers reported online on March 28, 2017 in Plant Cell the discovery of a key protein in this process, which they hope to manipulate to increase plant productivity. The open-access paper is titled “Bile Acid Sodium Symporter BASS6 Can Transport Glycolate and Is Involved in Photorespiratory Metabolism In Arabidopsis Thaliana." "Photorespiration is essential for C3 plants, such as rice and soybeans, but operates at the massive expense of fixed carbon and energy," said project lead Don Ort (at right in photo), Ph.D., USDA/ARS scientist and the Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Biology at Illinois. "We have identified photorespiration as a primary target to improve photosynthetic efficiency as a strategy to improve crop yield. Successfully re-engineering photorespiration requires deep knowledge of the process, for which understanding of transport steps is most lacking." Related to a family of transport proteins that move bile around in animals, the newly discovered role of the plant protein bile acid sodium symporter 6 (BASS6) is to transport the toxic product glycolate out of the chloroplast where it is recycled into a useful sugar molecule (glycerate) through a series of chemical reactions, which release carbon dioxide and harmful ammonia while sacrificing energy. Since the 1960s, researchers have known that plant chloroplasts export two molecules of glycolate to recover one molecule of glycerate.