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Depression Study Pinpoints Scores of Genes That May Trigger the Condition

Nearly 80 genes that could be linked to depression have been discovered by scientists. The findings could help explain why some people may be at a higher risk of developing the condition, researchers say. The study could also help researchers develop drugs to tackle mental ill-health, experts say. Depression affects one in five people in the UK every year and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Life events - such as trauma or stress - can contribute to its onset, but it is not clear why some people are more likely to develop the condition than others. Scientists led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh analyzed data from UK Biobank - a research resource containing health and genetic information for half a million people. The scientists scanned the genetic code of 300,000 people to identify areas of DNA that could be linked to depression. Some of the pinpointed genes are known to be involved in the function of synapses, tiny connectors that allow brain cells to communicate with each other through electrical and chemical signals. The scientists then confirmed their findings by examining anonymized data held by the personal genetics and research company 23andMe, used with the donors' consent. 4.The study, published in Nature Communications, was funded by Wellcome as part of Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally, a £4.7 million ($6.73million) project to better understand the condition.

Newly Identified Bacteria May Preserve Nectar & Pollen and Help Bees Nourish Their Young

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) has isolated three previously unknown bacterial species from wild bees and flowers. The bacteria, which belong to the genus Lactobacillus, may play a role in preserving the nectar and pollen that female bees store in their nests as food for their larvae. The results were published online on April 12, 2018 in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. The article is titled “Lactobacillus micheneri sp. nov., Lactobacillus timberlakei sp. nov., and Lactobacillus quenuiae sp. nov., Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Wild Bees and Flowers." The study was led by Dr. Quinn McFrederick, an Assistant Professor of Entomology in UCR's College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences. Symbiotic bacteria that live in bee guts are believed to promote bee health by helping to digest food and boost immunity. Compared to honeybees and bumblebees, little is known about the microbial communities associated with wild bees, despite the important role these insects play in the pollination of flowering plants. To study the bacteria associated with wild bees, Dr. McFrederick and co-authors collected wild bees and flowers from two sites in Texas and on the UCR campus. Genomic DNA sequencing, coupled with traditional taxonomic analyses, confirmed the isolation of three new Lactobacillus species, which are closely related to the honeybee-associated bacteria Lactobacillus kunkeei. The news strains are: Lactobacillus micheneri, named after Dr. Charles D. Michener to honor his contributions to the study of bees in natural habitats; Lactobacillus timberlakei, named after Dr. Philip Timberlake to honor his work on the taxonomy of native bees, especially at UC Riverside; and Lactobacillus quenuiae, named after Dr.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles Nesting on Beaches with Similar Magnetic Fields Are Genetically Similar to Each Other

New research from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill provides valuable insight into the navigation and nesting behaviors of loggerhead sea turtles that could inform future conservation efforts. Loggerhead sea turtles that nest on beaches with similar magnetic fields are genetically similar to one another, according to a new study by UNC-Chapel Hill biologists Dr. Kenneth J. Lohmann and Dr. J. Roger Brothers. The study was published online on April 12, 2018 in the journal Current Biology on April 12. The open-access article is titled “Evidence that Magnetic Navigation and Geomagnetic Imprinting Shape Spatial Genetic Variation in Sea Turtles.” A key takeaway is that magnetic fields are the strongest predictor of genetic similarity among nesting loggerhead sea turtles, regardless of the geographic proximity or environmental traits of nesting beaches. The findings support previous research from Dr. Lohmann and Dr. Brothers, which indicated that adult loggerhead sea turtles use magnetic fields to find their way back to the beach where they themselves hatched. The new research implies that sometimes the turtles mistakenly nest at a different beach with a similar magnetic field, even if that beach is geographically far away from the beach on which they hatched - like on the opposite coast of Florida. Conservation efforts should note the importance of a beach's magnetic field for attracting loggerhead sea turtles. Sea walls, power lines, and large beachfront buildings may alter the magnetic fields that turtles encounter. "Loggerhead sea turtles are fascinating creatures that begin their lives by migrating alone across the Atlantic Ocean and back. Eventually they return to nest on the beach where they hatched - or else, as it turns out, on a beach with a very similar magnetic field," said Dr.

Simple, Inexpensive Blood Test Detects Alzheimer’s Years Before Symptoms Occur

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It is often argued that progress in drug research has been hampered by the fact that the disease can only be diagnosed when it is too late for an effective intervention. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to begin long before patients show typical symptoms like memory loss. Scientists have now developed a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease and found that it can detect early indicators of the disease long before the first symptoms appear in patients. The blood test would thus offer an opportunity to identify those at risk and may thereby open the door to new avenues in drug discovery. The research was published online on April 6, 2018 in EMBO Molecular Medicine. The open-access article is titled “Amyloid Blood Biomarker Detects Alzheimer's Disease.” One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of amyloid-β plaques in the patient’s brain. The blood test, developed by Dr. Klaus Gerwert and his team at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, works by measuring the relative amounts of a pathological and a healthy form of amyloid-β in the blood. The pathological form is a misfolded version of this molecule and known to initiate the formation of toxic plaques in the brain. Toxic amyloid-β molecules start accumulating in the patients’ body 15-20 years before disease onset. In the present study, Dr. Gerwert and colleagues from Germany and Sweden addressed whether the blood test would be able to pick up indications of pathological amyloid-β in very early phases of the disease. The researchers first focused on patients in the early, so-called “prodromal” stages of the disease from the Swedish BioFINDER cohort conducted by Dr. Oskar Hanson.

Germ Cells in the Teleost Fish Medaka Have an Inherent Feminizing Effect

The gender of living organisms is determined either by genetic factors and/or by environmental factors. Interestingly, however, a team of researchers led by Nagoya University scientists previously found that the occurrence of more germ cells - biological cells capable of uniting with one from the opposite sex to form a new individual - in female medaka (teleost fish) gonads is essential for female differentiation of gonads. When germ cells are removed in medaka, XX (female) fish show female-to-male sex reversal, while XY (male) fish with excessive germ cells, which is usually associated with egg production, exhibit male-to-female sex reversal. "This finding implies that, in addition to the most well- known role of germ cells developing into eggs or sperm and produce the next generation, germ cells have a unique and surprising potential to change their surrounding environment," says Dr. Toshiya Nishimura, first author of the current study. "However, the molecular basis of, and the stage of gametogenesis critical for, feminization remain unknown." This question set the researchers to delve more deeply into the topic. In their latest study, they generated three different medaka mutants to demonstrate that the feminizing effect of germ cells is not a result of the progression of gametogenesis or a sexual fate decision of germ cells. They found that the different stages of germ cells in XX mutants have an ability to feminize the gonads, resulting in the formation of gonads with ovarian structures. In addition to normal ovarian development, the increased number of gonocytes (fetal and neonatal germ cells) is sufficient for male-to-female sex reversal in XY medaka.

Somatic Genomic Editing Will Enable Precision Tumor Modeling and “Greatly Accelerate the Pre-Clinical Testing of Novel Targeted Therapies” for Cancer

Researchers from the Seve Ballesteros Foundation-CNIO Brain Tumor Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) have developed an extremely powerful and versatile mouse model that will improve cancer research and accelerate pre-clinical testing of novel targeted therapies. Their work was published online on April 13, 2018 in Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Somatic Genome Editing with the RCAS-TVA-CRISPR-Cas9 System For Precision Tumor Modeling.” “A current high priority in cancer research is to functionally validate candidate genetic alterations that are relevant for cancer progression and treatment response. In order to do so, it is essential to develop flexible models that can speed up the identification of cancer driver genes among the large number of passenger alterations,” state the authors. In order to achieve this, researchers led by Dr. Massimo Squatrito combined two technologies - the genome editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 and the gene delivery system RCAS/TVA - to generate a mouse model that brings the possibility of mimicking the genetic complexity of cancer. Dr. Barbara Oldrini and Dr. Álvaro Curiel-García, co-lead authors in the study, used this novel model to recapitulate some of the genetic alterations found in gliomas. In particular, they studied a gene fusion encoding a family of kinases called NTRK and a common mutation of the BRAF gene, both identified not only in glioma, but also in other tumor types. "What we have shown using this new model is that we now have the ability to generate specific complex genetic alterations and to study how they contribute to glioma pathogenesis,” explains Dr. Squatrito.

Antibacterial Treatment for Translocated Gut Bacterium May Have Relevance for Systemic Lupus & Autoimmune Liver Disease, Yale Study Suggests

Bacteria found in the small intestines of mice and humans can travel to other organs and trigger an autoimmune response, according to a new Yale study. The researchers also found that the autoimmune reaction can be suppressed with an antibiotic or vaccine designed to target the bacteria, they said. The findings, published in the March 9, 2018 issue of Science, suggest promising new approaches for treating chronic autoimmune conditions, including systemic lupus and autoimmune liver disease, the researchers said. The article is titled “Translocation of a gut pathobiont drives autoimmunity in mice and humans.” Gut bacteria have been linked to a range of diseases, including autoimmune conditions characterized by immune system attack of healthy tissue. To shed light on this link, a Yale research team focused on Enterococcus gallinarum, a bacterium they discovered is able to spontaneously “translocate” outside of the gut to lymph nodes, the liver, and spleen. In models of genetically susceptible mice, the researchers observed that in tissues outside the gut, E. gallinarum initiated the production of auto-antibodies and inflammation — hallmarks of the autoimmune response. They confirmed the same mechanism of inflammation in cultured liver cells of healthy people, and the presence of this bacterium in livers of patients with autoimmune disease. Through further experiments, the research team found that they could suppress autoimmunity in mice with an antibiotic or a vaccine aimed at E. gallinarum. With either approach, the researchers were able to suppress growth of the bacterium in the tissues and blunt its effects on the immune system. “When we blocked the pathway leading to inflammation, we could reverse the effect of this bug on autoimmunity,” said senior author Martin Kriegel, MD.

Double-Drug Strategy Blocks Escape Route for Most Lung Cancers—"Finding Has Possibility of Dramatically Altering How We Treat Lung Cancer”

A one-two combo punch using two currently available drugs could be an effective treatment for the majority of lung cancers, a study by scientists with the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center shows. Researchers found that a combination of drugs – one targeting epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and one targeting tumor necrosis factor (TNF) – effectively blocks the cancer from using TNF as an escape route. Using a mouse model, the researchers showed that when TNF is also blocked, the cancer becomes sensitive to EGFR treatment. “There has been a tremendous effort over the past several years to block EGFR as a treatment for lung cancer, but this therapy only works in a small subset of patients. The cancer fights back with a bypass pathway,” said senior author Dr. Amyn Habib (photo) with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern and a staff physician at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Blocking both of these proteins could be a treatment that is beneficial for the majority of lung cancer patients,” said Dr. Habib, Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics with UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for both men and women, according to the National Cancer Institute and, in 2017, lung cancer caused 26 percent of all cancer deaths. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the type of lung cancer for which the EGFR/TNF inhibitor combination would be effective, comprises approximately 85 percent of all lung cancers. The latest findings build on previous work by Dr. Habib’s lab showing that the same combination of drugs was successful in a mouse model of glioblastoma, a deadly type of brain cancer.

World First--Drug to Treat Skin Lesions in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Approved

Scientists at Osaka University in Japan have developed a new drug treating skin lesions in tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a rare intractable disease, a world first. Following the physician-led clinical studies I and II by Osaka University, and Phase III clinical trials by a pharmaceutical company, the drug was approved within 6 months of the drug application by the SAKIGAKE Designation System, an early approval system led by the Japanese government, on March 23, 2018 and was then commercialized. This drug is the first drug designated by the SAKIGAKE system. The details of physician-led clinical studies I and II were published in JAMA Dermatology on January 1, 2017. The open-access article is titled: “Efficacy and Safety of Topical Sirolimus Therapy for Facial Angiofibromas in the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex A Randomized Clinical Trial.” TSC is an inherited autosomal dominant disease caused by mutations in TSC1 (hamartin) and TSC2 (tuberin) genes. Mutations in the TSC1 and TSC2 tumor suppressor genes cause hyperactivation of the mTORC1 (mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1), developing neoplastic lesions called hamartomas in numerous organs, such as the brain, skin, kidneys, and lungs. The symptoms of TSC include epilepsy, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and autism spectrum disorder in addition to hamartoma. Of the various symptoms, skin problems, such as facial angiofibromas, develop in more than 90 percent of patients with TSC. Hemorrhage, secondary bacterial infection, pain, and functional disorder associated with lesions inflict suffering on patients, severely compromising their quality of life for cosmetic reasons.

Link Between Eating Red Meat & Distal Colon Cancer Seen inn UK Women

A new study suggests that a diet free from red meat significantly reduces the risk of a type of colon cancer in women living in the United Kingdom. University of Leeds researchers were part of an international team that assessed whether red meat, poultry, fish, or vegetarian diets are associated with risk of colon and rectal cancer. When comparing the effects of these diets to cancer development in specific subsites of the colon, they found that those regularly eating red meat compared to a red meat-free diet had higher rates of distal colon cancer -- cancer found on the descending section of the colon, where feces are stored. Lead author Dr. Diego Rada Fernandez de Jauregui is part of the Nutritional Epidemiology Group (NEG) at Leeds, and the University of the Basque Country in Spain. He said: "The impact of different types of red meat and dietary patterns on cancer locations is one of the biggest challenges in the study of diet and colorectal cancer. Our research is one of the few studies looking at this relationship and while further analysis in a larger study is needed, it could provide valuable information for those with family history of colorectal cancer and those working on prevention." More than 2.2 million new cases of colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, are expected worldwide by 2030. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in UK women. Previous studies have suggested that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and it is estimated that around 1 in 5 bowel cancers in the UK are linked to eating these meats. However, there is limited available information about specific dietary patterns and the site of cancer occurrence in the bowel.

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