Editors Top Five:
1. Mobile phone derived electromagnetic fields can disturb learning
2. BPA-exposed male deer mice are demasculinized and undesirable to females, new MU study finds
3. Clinical study of epilepsy drug may have been purely promotional
4. Chemical produced in pancreas prevented and reversed diabetes in mice 5. Your mother was right: Study shows good posture makes you tougher
In This issue:
1. BPA-exposed male deer mice are demasculinized and undesirable to females, new MU study finds
2. Calcium plus vitamin D may reduce melanoma risks in some women, Stanford study finds
3. Flavonoids could represent 2-fisted assault on diabetes and nervous system disorders 4. Living antibiotic effective against Salmonella
5. Soluble fiber strikes a blow to belly fat
6. Clinical study of epilepsy drug may have been purely promotional
7. Alzheimer’s Prevention in Your Pantry
8. Exercise produces positive effects on the intervertebral discs
9. Children’s hay fever relieved by cellulose power without adverse effects
10. Fertility rates affected by global economic crisis
11. Chemical produced in pancreas prevented and reversed diabetes in mice
12. Mobile phone derived electromagnetic fields can disturb learning
13. RESEARCHERS FIND HERBAL MEDICINE TREATMENT REDUCES INFLAMMATION IN ALLERGEN-INDUCED ASTHMA
14. Red wine: Exercise in a bottle?
15. Gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori protects against asthma
16. Tea and Coffee Consumption Associated with Reduced MRSA Nasal Carriage
17. Vitamin D insufficiency prevalent among psoriatic arthritis suffers
18. Higher-protein diets can improve appetite control and satiety
19. Contact allergies may trigger immune system defences to ward off cancer
20. Natural pain relief from poisonous shrub
21. All-cause mortality rates are lower among moderate drinkers than among abstainers
22. Large human study links phthalates, BPA and thyroid hormone levels
23. Molasses extract decreases obesity caused by a high-fat diet
24. The metabolic effects of antipsychotic drugs
25. Your mother was right: Study shows good posture makes you tougher
26. Indirubin — Component Of Chinese herbal remedy might block brain tumor’s spread
27. A closer look at the placebo effect
28. Taking out a cancer’s co-dependency
29. Fewer aphids in organic crop fields
30. New method for making human-based gelatin
31. OMEGA-3 REDUCES ANXIETY AND INFLAMMATION IN HEALTHY STUDENTS
32. Progesterone Inhibits Growth of Neuroblastoma Cancer Cells
33. ‘Swine flu’ breath test could reduce future vaccination shortages, research suggests
34. Natural chemical found in grapes may protect against Alzheimer’s disease
Public release date: 27-Jun-2011
BPA-exposed male deer mice are demasculinized and undesirable to females, new MU study finds
COLUMBIA, Mo. –While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes “some concern” with the controversial chemical BPA, and many other countries, such as Japan and Canada, have considered BPA product bans, disagreement exists amongst scientists in this field on the effects of BPA in animals and humans. The latest research from the University of Missouri shows that BPA causes male deer mice to become demasculinized and behave more like females in their spatial navigational abilities, leading scientists to conclude that exposure to BPA during human development could be damaging to behavioral and cognitive traits that are unique to each sex and important in reproduction.
“The BPA-exposed deer mice in our study look normal; there is nothing obviously wrong with them. Yet, they are clearly different,” said Cheryl Rosenfeld, associate professor in biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center. “Females do not want to mate with BPA-exposed male deer mice, and BPA-exposed males perform worse on spatial navigation tasks that assess their ability to find female partners in the wild. This study sets the stage for BPA researchers to examine how BPA might differentially impact the behavioral and cognitive patterns of boys versus girls. Investigators looking for obvious BPA-induced differences, such as chromosome deletions or DNA mutations, could be missing subtle behavioral differences that eventually lead to long-term adverse outcomes, including demasculinization of male behaviors with ensuing decreased reproductive fitness.”
In the study, female deer mice were fed BPA-supplemented diets two weeks prior to breeding and throughout lactation. The mothers were given a dosage equivalent to what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers a non-toxic dose and safe for mothers to ingest. At weaning (25 days of age), the deer mice offspring were placed on a non-supplemented BPA diet and their behavior tested when they matured into adults.
When sexually mature, researchers tested each mouse’s ability to navigate a maze to safety. This enhanced spatial navigational ability of male deer mice is important because it allows them to find mates that are dispersed throughout the environment. Females do not have to search to find mates and thus their navigational abilities have not been enhanced by evolution. It was these navigational skills, among others, that were tested in the laboratory setting. Each animal had two five-minute opportunities per day, for seven days, to try to find its way into a home cage through one of several holes placed around the edge of an open maze which was marked with a set of visible navigational cues. Many male mice that had been exposed to BPA early in their development never found the correct exit. By comparison, male mice that
had not been exposed to BPA consistently found the hole leading to their home cage within the time limit, some on the first day. In addition, the untreated mice quickly learned the most direct approach to finding the correct hole, while the exposed males appeared to employ a random, inefficient trial and error strategy, Rosenfeld said.
In addition, male deer mice exposed to BPA were less desirable to female deer mice. Females primed to breed were tested in a so-called mate choice experiment. The females’ level of interest in a stranger male was measured by observing specific preferential behaviors, such as nose-to-nose sniffing and the amount of time the female spent evaluating her potential partner. These behaviors assess a potential mate’s genetic fitness. Rosenfeld said that both non-exposed and BPA-exposed females favored control males over BPA-exposed males on a two-to-one basis.
“These findings presumably have broad implications to other species, including humans, where there are also innate differences between males and females in cognitive and behavioral patterns,” Rosenfeld said. “In the wide scheme of things, these behavioral deficits could, in the long term, undermine the ability of a species such as the deer mouse to reproduce in the wild. Whether there are comparable health threats to humans remains unclear, but there clearly must be a concern.”
“We can use this evolutionary approach to the study of BPA to determine to best way to assess differences in the risks to boys and girls to early exposure to this chemical,” said David Geary MU Curators’ Professor of Psychological Sciences.
This research will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Rosenfeld collaborated with Geary and Todd Schachtman, Professor from the Department of Psychological Sciences. The primary author was a graduate student in the MU Interdiscplinary Neurosciences Program, Eldin Jašarević, who conducted most of the experiments.
Public release date: 27-Jun-2011
Calcium plus vitamin D may reduce melanoma risks in some women, Stanford study finds
STANFORD, Calif. — A combination of calcium and vitamin D may cut the chance of melanoma in half for some women at high risk of developing this life-threatening skin cancer, according to a new study by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.
Using existing data from a large clinical trial, the study zeroed in on women with a history of non- melanoma skin cancer, as people with this generally non-fatal disease are more likely to develop the more lethal illness — melanoma. The researchers found that women who once had non-melanoma and took the calcium-vitamin D combination developed 57 percent fewer melanomas than women with similar histories who were not given the supplements. Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell or squamous cell cancers, are the most common forms of skin cancer.
“In preventive medicine, we want to target people most at risk for the disease,” said dermatologist Jean Tang, MD, PhD, lead author of the study. “If you previously had a non-melanoma skin cancer, calcium plus vitamin D might reduce your risk of the more deadly melanoma.”
Tang added a note of caution. The study found that a daily dose of 1,000 mg calcium plus 400 IU of vitamin D doesn’t provide skin cancer protection for everybody. Women without a history of non- melanoma skin cancer who took the supplements did not see any reduction of risk compared with their placebo-group counterparts, according to the research.
The study will be published online on June 27 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Vitamin D is well-known for its role in bone growth, but it also affects non-skeletal cells. In many parts of the body, including the skin, vitamin D controls how quickly cells replicate, a process that often goes awry in cancer. Reports from various institutions have suggested that vitamin D is associated with lower risks of colon, breast, prostate and other cancers. Nonetheless, the Institute of Medicine published a report last November saying that more research was needed on vitamin D and calcium, as the evidence was insufficient to prove their having a benefit for conditions other than bone health.
This study is the second to look at the effect of vitamin D supplementation on cancer risk with a randomized, controlled trial.
Tang and colleagues analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a study that followed 36,000 women ages 50 to 79 for an average of seven years. Half of the women took the daily dose of calcium and vitamin D as part of the experiment; the other half took a placebo pill. The WHI calcium plus vitamin D trial was designed to look at the effects of the supplement on hip fractures and colorectal cancers, but its researchers collected data on many other health issues, including other cancers.
Tang and colleagues took advantage of the large and long-term data set provided by the WHI trial to explore whether vitamin D has a protective effect against skin cancer. “Our results include the first positive cancer-reducing effect seen from the calcium plus vitamin D trial,” said Teresa Fu, MD, a co- author of the study and a recent graduate of the School of Medicine.
The lack of protective effect in women without a history of non-melanoma skin cancer may be due to the amount of vitamin D given to the patients in the WHI trial. “The patients in the Women’s Health Initiative were given vitamin D at a very low dose, based on today’s knowledge — only 400 IU per day,” said David Feldman, MD, professor emeritus of endocrinology and a co-author of the study. Furthermore, patients in the placebo group were allowed to take as much vitamin D as patients that were provided the calcium and vitamin D supplements, so the experimental difference between the two groups was small. In light of that small difference, “it’s somewhat surprising that there was an effect on melanoma risk, and I think many potential benefits of vitamin D may not have been detected,” said Feldman.
Because men were not included in the trial, the researchers cannot be certain whether the protective effect of the supplements would also apply to men with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer. Nonetheless, a 2010 study by Tang demonstrated that elderly men with higher blood levels of vitamin D have fewer non- melanoma skin cancers.
Even in a large study like the WHI, the low frequency of melanomas means that the absolute number of cancers was small. Out of the 36,000 participants, only 176 cases of melanoma were reported. “That just highlights how large a trial needs to be to capture cancer as relatively rare as melanoma,” said Marcia Stefanick, PhD, the Stanford WHI principal investigator and senior author of this study.
“These results spur us to do more studies,” said Tang. She is planning multiple lines of research to examine the potential relationship between vitamin D and cancer prevention, including a study that will compare blood levels of vitamin D with melanoma outcomes. Another line of research will examine the effect of larger doses of vitamin D on the behavior of skin cells in patients with high skin-cancer risk.
Public release date: 27-Jun-2011
Flavonoids could represent 2-fisted assault on diabetes and nervous system disorders
Salk scientists say: It’s not an apple a day after all — it’s strawberries
LA JOLLA, CA-A recent study from scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that a strawberry a day (or more accurately, 37 of them) could keep not just one doctor away, but an entire fleet of them, including the neurologist, the endocrinologist, and maybe even the oncologist.
Investigations conducted in the Salk Institute’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory (CNL) will appear in the June 27, 2011, issue of PLoS ONE. The report explains that fisetin, a naturally-occurring flavonoid found most abundantly in strawberries and to a lesser extent in other fruits and vegetables, lessens complications of diabetes. Previously, the lab showed that fisetin promoted survival of neurons grown in culture and enhanced memory in healthy mice. That fisetin can target multiple organs strongly suggests that a single drug could be used to mitigate numerous medical complications.
“This manuscript describes for the first time a drug that prevents both kidney and brain complications in a type 1 diabetes mouse model,” says David Schubert, Ph.D., professor and head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory and one of the manuscript’s co-authors. “Moreover, it demonstrates the probable molecular basis of how the therapeutic is working.”
Pam Maher, Ph.D., a senior staff scientist in the CNL, is the study’s corresponding author. Maher initially identified fisetin as a neuroprotective flavonoid ten years ago. “In plants, flavonoids act as sunscreens and protect leaves and fruit from insects,” she explains. “As foods they are implicated in the protective effect of the ‘Mediterranean Diet.'”
Other celebrity flavonoids include polyphenolic compounds in blueberries and red wine.
Although her group’s focus is neurobiology, Maher and colleagues reasoned that, like other flavonoids, fisetin might ameliorate a spectrum of disorders seen in diabetic patients. To test this, they evaluated effects of fisetin supplementation in Akita mice, a very robust model of type 1 diabetes, also called childhood onset diabetes.
Akita mice exhibit increased blood sugar typical of type 1 diabetes and display pathologies seen in serious human complications of both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Those include diabetic nephropathy or kidney disease, retinopathy, and neuropathies in which patients lose touch or heat sensations.
Mice fed a fisetin-enriched diet remained diabetic, but acute kidney enlargement-or hypertrophy-seen in untreated mice was reversed, and high urine protein levels, a sure sign of kidney disease, fell.
Moreover, fisetin ingestion ameliorated anxiety-related behaviors seen in diabetic mice. “Most mice put in a large area become exploratory,” says Maher. “But anxious mice tend not to move around. Akita mice showed enhanced anxiety behavior, but fisetin feeding restored their locomotion to more normal levels.”
The study also defines a likely molecular mechanism underlying these effects. Researchers observed that blood and brain levels of sugars affixed to proteins known as advanced glycation end-products-or AGEs- were reduced in fisetin-treated compared to untreated Akita mice. These decreases were accompanied by increased activity of the enzyme glyoxalase 1, which promotes removal of toxic AGE precursors.
The discovery of an AGE-antagonizing enzyme upregulated by fisetin is very intriguing, because substantial evidence implicates high blood AGE levels with many if not most diabetic complications. “We know that fisetin increases activity of the glyoxalase enzyme and may increase its expression,” says Maher. “But what is important is that ours is the first report that any compound can enhance glyoxalase 1 activity.”
Interestingly, excessively high AGE levels also correlate with inflammatory activity thought to promote
some cancers. In fact, studies published by others confirm that fisetin decreases tumorigenicity of prostate cancer cells both in culture and in animal models, which if supported would represent a major added incentive to eat your strawberries.
To ingest fisetin levels equivalent to those fed Akita mice, Maher estimates that humans would have to eat 37 strawberries a day, assuming that strawberry fisetin is as readily metabolizable by humans as fisetin-spiked lab chow is by mice. Rather than through diet, Maher envisions that fisetin-like drugs could be taken as a supplement.
Schubert notes that fisetin is also effective in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. “We and others have shown that diabetes may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, making identification of a safe prophylactic like fisetin highly significant,” he says.
Maher acknowledges that the public may be suffering from flavonoid-fatigue, given media coverage of the promises of these compounds. “Polyphenolics like fisetin and those in blueberry extracts are found in fruits and vegetables and are related to each other chemically,” she says. “There is increasing evidence that they all work in multiple diseases. Hopefully some combination of these compounds will eventually get to the clinic.”
Schubert concurs that their findings only reinforce what common sense and our mothers told us was a healthy lifestyle. “Eat a balanced diet and as much freshly prepared organic food as possible, get some exercise, keep socially and mentally active and avoid sodas with sugar and highly processed foods since they can contain high levels of AGEs,” he advises.
But he also worries that hoops that must be jumped through to bring a natural product like fisetin, as opposed to a totally synthetic drug, to clinical trials are daunting because it is difficult to protect patents on natural products. “We will never know if a compound like fisetin works in humans until someone is willing to support a clinical trial.”
Public release date: 27-Jun-2011
Living antibiotic effective against Salmonella
Scientists have tested a predatory bacterium – Bdellovibrio – against Salmonella in the guts of live chickens. They found that it significantly reduced the numbers of Salmonella bacteria and, importantly, showed that Bdellovibrio are safe when ingested.
The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, carried out by Professor Liz Sockett’s team at The University of Nottingham, with Dr Robert Atterbury and Professor Paul Barrow at the University of Nottingham Vet School; and published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Researcher Dr Laura Hobley said “Bdellovibrio has the potential to be used as a living antibiotic against some major human and animal pathogens, such as E. coli and other so-called Gram-negative bacteria.”
Previous studies have shown that Bdellovibrio is very effective at invading and killing other bacterial cells in a test tube. It looks likely to provide an alternative to antibiotic medicines at a time when bacterial resistance is a significant problem to human and animal health.
Dr Hobley continued “We think that Bdellovibrio could be particularly useful as a topical treatment for wounds or foot rots but we wanted to know what might happen if it is ingested – either deliberately as a treatment, or by accident.”
Salmonella likes to grow in the guts of poultry and other animals and can cause food poisoning in humans. In lab experiments Bdellovibrio can kill Salmonella by breaking into the cells and destroying them from the inside. This research shows that it also works inside the gut of a bird and is safe, not harming them or changing their behaviour.
Bdellovibrio reduced the numbers of Salmonella by 90% and the birds remained healthy, grew well, and were generally in good condition.
“We concluded that Bdellovibrio aren’t long lived in the bird guts – they had a strong effect for about 48 hours, which dropped off after this time. If we were to use this method to completely rid the birds of Salmonella, we might have to test a program of multiple dosing. But the point of this study was really to ensure that Bdellovibrio is safe and effective when ingested,” said Dr Hobley.
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said “Once we have understood the fundamental nature of an extraordinary organism such as Bdellovibrio, it makes sense that we should look at potential uses for it. The impact of bacterial infections on human and animal health is significant and since antibiotic resistance is a major issue, alternatives from nature may become increasingly important.”
Public release date: 27-Jun-2011
Soluble fiber strikes a blow to belly fat
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – June 27, 2011– All fat is not created equal. Unsightly as it is, subcutaneous fat, the fat right under the skin, is not as dangerous to overall health as visceral fat, the fat deep in the belly surrounding vital organs.
According to a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the way to zero in and reduce visceral fat is simple: eat more soluble fiber from vegetables, fruit and beans, and engage in moderate activity.
The study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. In addition, increased moderate activity resulted in a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of visceral fat accumulation over the same time period.
“We know that a higher rate of visceral fat is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes and fatty liver disease,” said Kristen Hairston, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead researcher on the study. “Our study found that making a few simple changes can have a big health impact.”
Ten grams of soluble fiber can be achieved by eating two small apples, one cup of green peas and one-half cup of pinto beans; moderate activity means exercising vigorously for 30 minutes, two to four times a week, Hairston added.
In the longitudinal study, published in the June 16 online issue of the journal Obesity, researchers examined whether lifestyle factors, such as diet and frequency of exercise, were associated with a five-year change in abdominal fat of African Americans and Hispanic Americans, populations at a disproportionally higher risk for developing high blood pressure and diabetes and accumulating visceral fat.
At the beginning of the study, which involved 1,114 people, the participants were given a physical exam, an extensive questionnaire on lifestyle issues, and a CT scan, the only accurate way to measure how much subcutaneous and visceral fat the participants had. Five years later, the exact same process was repeated.
Researchers found that increased soluble fiber intake was associated with a decreased rate of accumulated visceral fat, but not subcutaneous fat.
“There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fiber and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don’t know how it works,” Hairston said. “Although the fiber-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fiber and specific fat deposits has not. Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits.”
Hairston’s next study, expected to be in clinical trials later this summer, will examine whether increasing soluble fiber with a widely available fiber supplement will produce similar results to those obtained in this study using soluble fiber from food.
Public release date: 27-Jun-2011
Clinical study of epilepsy drug may have been purely promotional
Yale School of Medicine researchers have found that a clinical trial of the epilepsy drug gabapentin may have been a “seeding trial” used by a pharmaceutical company to promote the drug and increase prescriptions, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
As described in the study by Yale assistant professor of medicine Joseph Ross, M.D., and his colleagues, a seeding trial is a clinical trial conducted primarily for marketing purposes and intended to promote the drug and increase prescribing by exposing physician-investigators to it.
Ross and co-authors reviewed all documents relating to the clinical trial “Study of Neurotonin: Titrate to Effect, Profile of Safety (STEPS).” These documents included company internal and external correspondence, reports, and presentations, as well depositions elicited in legal proceedings of Harden Manufacturing v. Pfizer, and Franklin v. Warner-Lambert.
“We found that STEPS was a seeding trial posing as a legitimate scientific study,” said Ross. “The trial itself, not trial results, was part of a marketing strategy used to promote gabapentin and increase prescribing among investigators without informing trial patients or investigators.”
Although seeding trials are not illegal, Ross said they are unethical, because of the promotional nature of the trials and because participants and physicians may not be told the true purpose of the studies.
According to the authors, STEPS’ stated purpose was to study dosing of gabapentin among 2,759 patients who were enrolled by 772 investigators. Although two articles based on the results of the study appeared in journals, Ross and his colleagues note that two outside sources questioned the uncontrolled, unblinded study design and that “data quality during the study was often compromised.” They also cite documents that appear to suggest that marketing personnel were involved in data collection, and that marketers viewed the trial (and not just the trial results) as a vehicle for promoting gabapentin.
Ross said that although STEPS was conducted 15 years ago, the ethical breaches it illustrated is relevant in today’s debates over the limits and consequences of pharmaceutical industry sponsorship of Phase IV post-marketing clinical trials.
“The current Institutional Review Board (IRB) system needs to be reformed, and better clinical trial practice needs to be promoted in the human subjects research community in order to prevent further seeding trials by the pharmaceutical industry,” said Ross.
Public release date: 27-Jun-2011
Alzheimer’s Prevention in Your Pantry
TAU researcher discovers a cinnamon extract to inhibit progression of Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s, the degenerative brain disorder that disrupts memory, thought and behavior, is devastating to both patients and loved ones. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight Americans over the age of 65 suffers from the disease. Now Tel Aviv University has discovered that an everyday spice in your kitchen cupboard could hold the key to Alzheimer’s prevention.
An extract found in cinnamon bark, called CEppt, contains properties that can inhibit the development of the disease, according to Prof. Michael Ovadia of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University. His research, conducted in collaboration with Prof. Ehud Gazit, Prof. Daniel Segal and Dr. Dan Frenkel, was recently published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Taking a cue from the ancient world
Prof. Ovadia was inspired to investigate the healing properties of cinnamon by a passage in the Bible. It describes high priests using the spice in a holy ointment, he explains, presumably meant to protect them from infectious diseases during sacrifices. After discovering that the cinnamon extract had antiviral properties, Prof. Ovadia empirically tested these properties in both laboratory and animal Alzheimer’s models.
The researchers isolated CEppt by grinding cinnamon and extracting the substance into an aqueous buffer solution. They then introduced this solution into the drinking water of mice that had been genetically altered to develop an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s disease, and fruit flies that had been mutated with a human gene that also stimulated Alzheimer’s disease and shortened their lifespan.
After four months, the researchers discovered that development of the disease had slowed remarkably and the animals’ activity levels and longevity were comparable to that of their healthy counterparts. The extract, explains Prof. Ovadia, inhibited the formation of toxic amyloid polypeptide oligomers and fibrils, which compose deposits of plaque found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
In the test-tube model, the substance was also found to break up amyloid fibers, similar to those collected in the brain to kill neurons. According to Prof. Ovadia, this finding indicates that CEppt may not just fight against the development of the disease, but may help to cure it after Alzheimer’s molecules have already formed. In the future, he says, the team of researchers should work towards achieving the same result in animal models.
Adding a dash of cinnamon
Don’t rush to your spice cabinet just yet, however. It would take far more than a toxic level of the spice — more than 10 grams of raw cinnamon a day — to reap the therapeutic benefits. The solution to this medical catch-22, Prof. Ovadia says, would be to extract the active substance from cinnamon, separating it from the toxic elements.
“The discovery is extremely exciting. While there are companies developing synthetic AD inhibiting substances, our extract would not be a drug with side effects, but a safe, natural substance that human beings have been consuming for millennia,” says Prof. Ovadia.
Though it can’t yet be used to fight Alzheimer’s, cinnamon still has its therapeutic benefits — it can also prevent viral infections when sprinkled into your morning tea.
Public release date: 28-Jun-2011
Exercise produces positive effects on the intervertebral discs
Physical exercise has a positive effect on the formation of cells in the intervertebral discs. This is shown by a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine (ISSLS), which is currently taking place in Gothenburg.
The study from the Sahlgrenska Academy shows that physical activity has a positive effect on cells in the intervertebral discs. The result is based on rats undergoing treadmill exercise. It was subsequently studied how many new cells in the intervertebral discs were formed in rats that had run on a treadmill for about one hour a day compared with animals that had only moved around freely in a cage. “This is new knowledge showing that the intervertebral discs can be positively affected by physical activity,” says Helena Brisby, an associate professor at the Department of Orthopaedics at Sahlgrenska Academy and spine surgeon at Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Pain in the lumbar spine is common and may be due to disc degeneration, which means that the disc cells no longer have normal functions. Based on the results of the study, the research team led by Helena Brisby and Björn Rydevik intends to go on to study whether the cells in degenerated discs respond as positively to exercise as they have now shown to do in normal discs.
“Physical exercise is already an important part of the treatment for back pain today, but there is limited knowledge about the specific effect that exercise has on the discs and what the optimal dose of exercise is,” says Björn Rydevik, a professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at Sahlgrenska Academy.
The research team plan for continued studies with this animal model, which hopefully will establish whether exercise can prevent disc degeneration and could consequently prevent back pain, but also aims to study the effect of exercise when back problems have already arisen.
The annual meeting is organised by the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine, which is a non-profit organisation with members from all parts of the world who conduct research on problems affecting the lumbar spine. The purpose of the annual meeting is to create a forum where the researchers can exchange knowledge.
Public release date: 28-Jun-2011
Children’s hay fever relieved by cellulose power without adverse effects
A cellulose powder has been used increasingly for many years against allergic rhinitis. Still, there has been a shortage of scientific evidence for its efficacy in seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), particularly in children. Now, however, scientists from the Sahlgrenska Academy and the Department of Plant and
Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg have proven that the cellulose powder reduces symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis in children, without any adverse effects.
The powder is produced from pine trees and forms a barrier on the mucous membrane when puffed into the nose. This means that allergy causing substances are filtered out.
“The cellulose powder has no adverse effects, and this fact makes it a particularly attractive treatment for children. It is used increasingly in many countries, but there is until now no scientific study proving the efficacy of the cellulose powder in children during the pollen season”, is the comment from Nils Åberg, associate professor at the Department of Pediatrics and consultant at the Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital.
Therefore, a study was carried out at the Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Gothenburg during the birch pollen season in spring 2009. The cellulose powder was compared with a placebo (a substance without any medical effect). Fifty-three children and adolescents aged 8-18 years with allergic reaction to pollen participated in the study, lasting for 4 weeks when they puffed the powder in the nose3 times daily. Every day they also were on an antihistamine tablet (the most common treatment of hay fever). Reminders and reporting of symptom scores were performed using SMS messaging on mobile phones.
Pollen occurrence was measured every day on the roof of the hospital, and the pollen counts subsequently were analysed in relation to the symptoms reported by the children. Further data for the study came from previously unpublished statistics of pollen levels collected for 31 years at the same location in Gothenburg, from 1979 to 2009.
“We showed that the nasal symptoms of the children were significantly reduced in those who used the cellulose powder. The best effect was obtained at low to moderate concentrations of pollen, corresponding to the predominating levels in the area during the 31-year period. Furthermore, no adverse effects of the cellulose powder were seen”, Nils Åberg remarks. He concludes:
“The complete absence of adverse effects makes this treatment admirably suited to self-care, and particularly for the treatment of children. Controlled scientific studies such as the present also provide the healthcare system a basis for testing this product as a supplement to other treatments. It is often necessary to combine different agents, at least for parts of the pollen season.”
Public release date: 28-Jun-2011
Fertility rates affected by global economic crisis
The global economic recession of 2008-09 has been followed by a decline in fertility rates in Europe and the United States, bringing to an end the first concerted rise in fertility rates in the developed world since the 1960s, according to research published today.
“In a new study, scientists from the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (VID) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) identify that economic recessions tend to be followed by a decline in fertility rates – and also identify how specific groups of people are influenced by a recession.”
The 2008-09 global economic recession, the first major recession since that caused by the oil shocks of the 1970s, brought a sudden trend reversal to the previous pattern of rising fertility rates in several highly developed countries, including Spain and the United States. A larger group of countries including England and Wales, Ireland, Italy, and Ukraine experienced stagnation of fertility rates, following a
decade of generally rising fertility after 1998 (see figure below).
The study found that individual reactions to the recession vary by sex, age, number of children, education level, and migrant status.
“We have noted some specific patterns of behavior; the young and the childless, for example, are less likely to have children during recessions,” says Tomáš Sobotka from the VID, one of the authors of the study.
“Highly educated women react to employment uncertainty by adopting a ‘postponement strategy,’ especially if they are childless. In contrast, less-educated women often maintain or increase their fertility under economic uncertainty.”
The patterns differ for men—those with low education and low skills face increasing difficulty in finding a partner or in supporting their family and often show the largest decline in first child birth rates.
The recent global economic recession has brought to an end the first concerted rise in fertility rates across the developed world since the 1960s. Of the 27 countries of the European Union, fertility rates increased in 26 countries in 2008 (with stagnation in Luxembourg). In 2009 as many as 13 countries saw their fertility rates decline and another four countries experienced stable fertility rates. A rise in unemployment and employment uncertainty was a key factor behind this trend. In many developed countries cuts in social spending driven by the need to address ballooning budget deficits may prolong the fertility impact of the recent recession well beyond its end.
The study focuses on the most developed countries (including Eastern and Southeastern Europe) which were hardest hit by the recession. Limited attention is paid to less developed countries where the effects of the recession may differ.
The study by Tomáš Sobotka and Dimiter Philipov from the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Vegard Skirbekk from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis is published in the latest issue of Population and Development Review.
Public release date: 28-Jun-2011
Chemical produced in pancreas prevented and reversed diabetes in mice
By Leslie Shepherd
A chemical produced by the same cells that make insulin in the pancreas prevented and even reversed Type 1 diabetes in mice, researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital have found.
Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is characterized by the immune system’s destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas that make and secrete insulin. As a result, the body makes little or no insulin.
The only conventional treatment for Type 1 diabetes is insulin injection, but insulin is not a cure as it does not prevent or reverse the loss of beta cells.
A team led by Dr. Qinghua Wang, in the division of endocrinology and metabolism, and Dr. Gerald Prud’homme, in the division of pathology, has studied the role of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, an amino acid produced by beta cells in the pancreas. The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Canadian Diabetes Association.
The researchers found that GABA injections not only prevented diabetes in mice, but even reversed the disease. Their findings were published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The significance of GABA is that it corrects both known causes of Type 1 diabetes in mice: It works in the pancreas to regenerate insulin-producing beta cells and it acts on the immune system to stop the destruction of those cells. Those two actions are necessary to reverse the disease and prevent its recurrence. Until now, there has been no effective treatment that achieves both goals at the same time.
GABA has been known for decades to be a key neurotransmitter in the brain, a chemical that nerve cells use to communicate with each other, but its role in the pancreas was unknown. The St. Michael’s study is the first to identify and describe GABA’s importance in regulating the survival and function of pancreatic beta cells in mice.
GABA and related therapies will have to be tested in human clinical trials before they can be considered as a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes, said Dr. Wang.
“GABA is the first agent to act both by protecting the insulin-producing cells from damage and by decreasing the body’s immune reaction against these cells,” said Dr. Gary F. Lewis, incoming director of the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre and Director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Toronto, where insulin was discovered 90 years ago.
“The body’s immune reaction against its own insulin-producing cells is responsible for most of the damage that leads to the development of type 1 diabetes. This exciting observation may open up new avenues for the prevention and treatment of Type 1 diabetes in humans.”
Drs. Wang and Prud’homme are both clinician scientists in the Keenan Research Centre of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital. In addition, Dr. Wang is an associate professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto and Dr. Prud’homme is a professor in the university’s Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology.
“Diabetes research such as this brings us closer to a cure,” said Michael Cloutier, president and CEO at the Canadian Diabetes Association. “We are excited to be a part of this significant discovery and look forward to the outcomes of clinical studies.”
Public release date: 30-Jun-2011
Mobile phone derived electromagnetic fields can disturb learning
UMTS effect investigated by RUB neuroscientists
High frequency non-ionizing radiation, emitted by mobile phones, is redundantly matter of discussions. The effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields (HEFs) derived from mobile phones have been discussed since the 1950’s. Neuroscientists from Bochum were now able to elucidate this question. For
the first time, they provide proof that extremely high-powered electromagnetic fields (EMFs) indeed influence learning processes on the synaptic level within the brain, independent from other factors like stress. “For this effect, very high values are necessary. These do not occur during the daily use of mobile phones”, explains Dr. Nora Prochnow (Medical Faculty of the RUB).
Mobile phone derived non-ionizing radiation can produce heat…
HEFs are not only used in mobile phones, but also in a variety of other communication systems like radio, television or cordless telephone sets. Mobile phones of the so called third generation utilize the UMTS technology (Universal Mobile Communication System) with a frequency of 1200 MHz and a relatively weak operating range (3.8-4.8 V/m). With increasing power, EMFs are able to elicit local warming of body tissues, being also described as a “thermal effect”. Reportedly, mobile phones can cause local warming of the brain by less than 0.1°C. The effect on function and structure of the brain during long term use of mobile phones (e.g. > 30 min) remains unexplained until now.
…and might influence cellular activity
Furthermore, statements regarding the non-thermal effects of mobile phone emitted EMFs are unclear and contradictive. These comprise for instance an increase in permeability and fluidity of cellular membranes, which can be implicated in changes in ion-channel integration and metabolism, even without a detectable change in temperature. This may impair synaptic learning processes in the brain. Until now, experiments could only insufficiently enlighten, whether these effects are derived from non-thermal HEFs or from stress, like it can be induced by handling of the experimental animal (e.g. placing a rat into an unknown environment).
Stress or non-thermal EMF effect – Scientists line out for the first time
To investigate this question, a new study was performed by scientists of the Department of Neuroanatomy and Molecular Brain Research (Professor Dr. med. Rolf Dermietzel) in cooperation with the Chair of Electromagnetic Theory of the University of Wuppertal. For the experiment, rats were placed into differently powered non-thermal HEFs in the UMTS operating range. Synaptic learning and memory formation were analysed by electrophysiological methods. Furthermore, all animals were tested for stress hormone release immediately following the HEF exposure.
Mobile phone use seems to be harmless – critical values for occupational use have to be controlled precisely
The results: Although there was daily training and effortless contact to the exposure environment, increases in blood derived stress hormone levels could be detected for all exposed groups. The stress clearly influences learning and memory formation on the synaptic level in the rat brain. High powered EMFs (SAR 10 W/kg) also have a significant effect on learning and memory formation. In contrast to this, weak EMFs (SAR 0 and 2 W/kg) lead to no detectable changes or impairments. “These results cannot directly be transferred to humans”, says Nora Prochnow. “But in the animal model, it can be demonstrated that neuronal mechanisms of synaptic learning can serve as a target for high powered EMFs”. However, there is no need for serious concerns: humans are not exposed to this type of high powered EMFs during daily mobile phone use. Nevertheless, the matter has to be regarded differently in special occupational situations, for instance during the use of body worn antenna systems as it is common for security services or military purposes. Here, critical levels for occupational exposure may be reached more easily and have to be controlled carefully.
Public release date: 30-Jun-2011
RESEARCHERS FIND HERBAL MEDICINE TREATMENT REDUCES INFLAMMATION IN ALLERGEN-INDUCED ASTHMA
Boston) – Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) using a traditional Korean medicine, SO-CHEONG-RYONG-TANG (SCRT) that has long been used for the treatment of allergic diseases in Asia, found that SCRT treatment alleviates asthma-like pulmonary inflammation via
suppression of specific chemokines or proteins. These findings appear online in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Asthma is a unique form of chronic respiratory disease characterized by reversible airway obstruction and pulmonary inflammation. It represents one of the most common chronic inflammatory diseases affecting an estimated 300 million people worldwide with an expected increase to 400 million by 2025. The sharply rising prevalence and incidence of asthma causes global concern both in the developed as well as in developing countries.
“In order to elucidate the mechanism of how SCRT modulates the allergic response, we evaluated the immunomodulatory effects of SCRT in a murine model of asthma induced by a house dust extract containing cockroach allergens and endotoxin,” explained Jiyoun Kim, PhD, a research assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at BUSM. “In this study multiple aspects of pulmonary inflammation were examined including the production of inflammatory mediators and the pulmonary recruitment of inflammatory cells,” he added.
The researchers found SCRT treatment significantly reduced airway hyper-reactivity as measured by both whole body plethysmography and direct measurement of airway resistance. The researchers report that the immune response of pulmonary inflammation was significantly inhibited by SCRT treatment as demonstrated by reduced plasma IgE antibody levels and improved lung histology. SCRT significantly reduced the number of neutrophils in the bronchoalveolar (BAL) fluid and also significantly reduced the BAL levels of CXC chemokines both expressed as part of the immune response, providing a potential mechanism for the reduced inflammation.
This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Oriental Medicine R&D Project of the Ministry of Health & Welfare of the Republic of Korea.
Public release date: 30-Jun-2011
Red wine: Exercise in a bottle?
New research in the FASEB Journal suggests that a daily intake of resveratrol prevents the ill effects of simulated weightlessness on muscle and bone metabolism
Bethesda, MD—As strange as it sounds, a new research study published in the FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), suggests that the “healthy” ingredient in red wine, resveratrol, may prevent the negative effects that spaceflight and sedentary lifestyles have on people. The report describes experiments in rats that simulated the weightlessness of spaceflight, during which the group fed resveratrol did not develop insulin resistance or a loss of bone mineral density, as did those who were not fed resveratrol.
According to Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, “There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but for some of us, getting that activity isn’t easy. A low gravity environment makes it nearly impossible for astronauts. For the earthbound, barriers to physical activity are equally challenging, whether they be disease, injury, or a desk job. Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again.”
Scientists studied rats that underwent simulated weightlessness by hindlimb tail suspension and were given a daily oral load of resveratrol. The control group showed a decrease in soleus muscle mass and strength, the development of insulin resistance, and a loss of bone mineral density and resistance to breakage. The group receiving resveratrol showed none of these complications. Study results further demonstrated some of the underlying mechanisms by which resveratrol acts to prevent the wasting adaptations to disuse-induced mechanical unloading. This study also suggests that resveratrol may be able to prevent the deleterious consequences of sedentary behaviors in humans.
“If resveratrol supplements are not your cup of tea,” Weissmann added, “then there’s good news. You can find it naturally in red wine, making it the toast of the Milky Way.”
Public release date: 1-Jul-2011
Gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori protects against asthma
Infection with the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori provides reliable protection against allergy- induced asthma, immunologists from the University of Zurich have demonstrated in an animal model together with allergy specialists from the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Their results published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation confirm the hypothesis recently put forward that the dramatic increase in allergic diseases in industrial societies is linked to the rapid disappearance of specific micro-organisms that populate the human body.
Allergy-induced asthma has been on the increase in the industrialized world for decades and has virtually taken on epidemic proportions. The rapid rise in allergic airway disease is attributed to air pollution, smoking, the hygiene hypothesis and the widespread use of antibiotics. The hygiene hypothesis states that modern hygiene measures have led to a lack of exposure to infectious agents, which is important for the normal maturation of the immune system. In an article published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists from the University of Zurich and the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz now reveal that the increase in asthma could be put down to the specific disappearance of the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) from Western societies.
H. pylori is resistant to gastric acid. According to estimates, around half of the world’s population might be infected with the bacteria. The affliction often has no symptoms, but under certain conditions can cause gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, and stomach cancer. Consequently, H. pylori is often killed off with antibiotics as a precaution, even if the patient does not have any complaints.
Early infection with H. pylori protects against asthma
For their study, the researchers infected mice with H. pylori bacteria. If the mice were infected at the age of a few days old, they developed immunological tolerance to the bacterium and even reacted insignificantly – if at all – to strong, asthma-inducing allergens. Mice that were not infected with H. pylori until they had reached adulthood, however, had a much weaker defense. “Early infection impairs the maturation of the dendritic cells and triggers the accumulation of regulatory T-cells that are crucial for the suppression of asthma,” says Anne Müller, a professor of molecular cancer research at the University of Zurich, explaining the protective mechanism.
If regulatory T-cells were transferred from infected to uninfected mice, they too enjoyed effective protection against allergy-induced asthma. However, mice that had been infected early also lost their resistance to asthma-inducing allergens if H. pylori was killed off in them with the aid of antibiotics after the sensitization phase. According to lung and allergy specialist Christian Taube, a senior physician at III. Medical Clinic of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, the new results confirm the
hypothesis that the increase in allergic asthma in industrial nations is linked to the widespread use of antibiotics and the subsequent disappearance of micro-organisms that permanently populate the human body: “The study of these fundamental mechanisms is extremely important for us to understand asthma
and be able to develop preventative and therapeutic strategies later on.”
Public release date: 11-Jul-2011
Tea and Coffee Consumption Associated with Reduced MRSA Nasal Carriage
Researchers report an association between the consumption of hot tea or coffee and a decreased likelihood of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus nasal carriage, which studies have suggested may significantly increase the risk of systemic MRSA infection. Analyzing nationally representative data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that individuals who reported consuming hot tea were one-half as likely to have MRSA nasal carriage relative to individuals who drank no hot tea. Similarly, individuals who reported consuming coffee had about a one- half reduction in the risk of MRSA nasal carriage relative to individuals who drank no coffee. They conclude these findings raise the possibility of a new method of decreasing MRSA nasal carriage and potentially MRSA infection that is safe, inexpensive and easily accessible. While the mechanism behind the possible effect of coffee and tea is not completely understood, they point to increasing evidence to suggest that both coffee and tea have antimicrobial characteristics
Public release date: 11-Jul-2011
Vitamin D insufficiency prevalent among psoriatic arthritis suffers
Disease activity not affected by vitamin D levels
New research reports a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency among patients with psoriatic arthritis. Seasonal variation in vitamin D levels was not observed in patients in southern or northern locations. The findings published today in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), also show no association between disease activity and vitamin D level.
Psoriasis is a common chronic skin disorder, likely caused by an autoimmune response, and is characterized by red scaly patches on the surface of the skin. When accompanied by inflammatory arthritis the condition is known as psoriatic arthritis (PsA)—a disease gaining public attention with the recent diagnosis of professional golfer, Phil Mickelson. Studies suggest that psoriasis occurs in up to 3% of the world population and roughly one third of these patients have PsA with prevalence estimates ranging from 6% to 42%.
“Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread concern,” explains lead study author Dafna Gladman, MD, FRCPC, Director of the University of Toronto Psoriatic Arthritis Clinic in Canada. “And it is more common to see individuals living in Northern regions with a deficiency in vitamin D than in those who reside in Southern areas.” Medical evidence shows that vitamin D deficiency is more common in individuals living at higher latitudes during the winter, suggesting the deficiency is a result of reduced sun exposure. Furthermore, several studies have reported reduced levels of vitamin D in patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma.
The Canadian and Israeli teams set out to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in PsA patients, seasonal and geographical variants, and associations with disease activity by evaluating 302 patients with PsA from March to August 2009. There were 258 patients evaluated during the winter and 214 patients during the summer. This cross-sectional study was conducted at two geographically diverse locations; the arthritis clinic in Toronto, Canada was designated the northern site and medical centers in Haifa, Israel were selected for their subtropical southern location.
Vitamin D levels in the blood, known as 25-hydroxyvitman D [25 (OH) D], were used as the primary measure as this takes into account vitamin D synthesized from sunlight as well as from ingested foods. At the northern site, the 25 (OH) D level was insufficient in 56% of PsA patients in the winter and in 59% during the summer. Approximately 51% of patients at the southern location had insufficient 25 (OH) D levels in winter and 62% of patients had insufficient levels in the summer. The level of vitamin D was deficient in 3% of patients at the northern location only in winter; at the southern site vitamin D deficiency was reported in 4% of patients in the winter and in 1% during the summer.
Differences in patient vitamin D levels regarding seasonal or geographical variations were not statistically significant. Levels of vitamin D were not found to affect disease activity in PsA patients. However, Dr.
Gladman added, “Additional research is needed to determine if PsA patients require a greater vitamin D intake to maintain healthy levels than that recommended for the general population.”
Public release date: 11-Jul-2011
Higher-protein diets can improve appetite control and satiety
Research demonstrates dietary protein reduces hunger and increases fullness in overweight and obese men during weight loss
Park Ridge, Ill. (July 11, 2011) – A new study demonstrates that higher-protein meals improve perceived appetite and satiety in overweight and obese men during weight loss.(1) According to the research, published in Obesity, higher-protein intake led to greater satiety throughout the day as well as reductions in both late-night and morning appetite compared to a normal protein diet.
“Research has shown that higher-protein diets, those containing 18 to 35 percent of daily calorie intake from dietary protein, are associated with reductions in hunger and increased fullness throughout the day and into the evening hours,” said Heather Leidy, Ph.D., study author and professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri. “In our study, the two groups ate either 25 or 14 percent of calories from protein, while the total calories and percent of calories from fat stayed the same between the higher-protein and normal-protein diet patterns. ”
During the study, Dr. Leidy and associates also conducted an eating frequency substudy in which the 27 participants on both normal- and higher-protein diets consumed either three meals or six meals per day. The researchers found that eating frequency had no effect on appetite and satiety on the normal-protein diet. However, subjects on the higher-protein diet who ate three meals per day experienced greater evening and late-night fullness than those who ate six meals per day.
Dietary Protein and Reduced Calorie Consumption
This study supports previous research that demonstrates higher-protein diets, including egg breakfasts, are associated with decreased calorie consumption. A study published last year in Nutrition Research showed that men ate roughly 112 fewer calories at a buffet lunch and 400 fewer calories in the 24-hour period following a protein-rich egg breakfast compared to a bagel breakfast. (2) Another study demonstrated that overweight dieters who ate eggs for breakfast lost 65 percent more weight and felt more energetic than
those who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories and volume. (3)
Public release date: 11-Jul-2011
Contact allergies may trigger immune system defences to ward off cancer
Association between cancer and contact allergy: A linkage study 2011
Contact allergies (reactions caused by direct contact with substances like common metals and chemicals) may help prime the immune system to ward off certain types of cancer, suggests research published today in the online only title BMJ Open.
Previous research has indicated that people with type 1 allergies, which include pollen and house dust mites, may be more or less likely to develop cancer. But it is not known if those with contact allergies to common metals such as nickel, and chemicals, might also be afforded protection against the disease.
The authors base their findings on just under 17,000 Danish adults all of whom were patch tested for positivity to the most common contact allergens between 1984 and 2008 at a specialist hospital for skin problems.
The long term health of all the participants was subsequently monitored and cross checked against entries on disease registers, including a national cancer registry.
In all, just over one in three (35%; 6,065) people had a positive reaction to at least one allergen on at least one occasion.
The prevalence of reactivity was significantly higher among women, just over 41% of whom “reacted” compared with around one in four (26%) of the men.
Just under one in five people (19%) of all those patch tested had developed a growth, including non- cancerous tumours. And just under 38% of this group had tested positive for contact allergy.
Only cancers affecting at least 40 people were included, and when the data were analysed a strong association emerged between a diagnosis of contact allergy and an entry in the cancer register. And there were significant differences in the prevalence of four cancers between those with and without contact allergies.
There were significantly lower rates of breast and non-melanoma skin cancer in both sexes among those with contact allergies, and lower rates of brain cancer among women.
These findings back up the “immunosurveillance hypothesis,” which holds that people with allergies are less likely to develop cancer because their immune systems are super responsive, say the authors.
The analysis also picked up higher rates of bladder cancer found among those with contact allergies, which might be the result of higher levels of chemical metabolites accumulated in the blood, they suggest.
The authors caution that it is too early to draw definitive conclusions about cause and effect. Further analysis, taking account of influential factors, such as smoking and social class, is needed, they suggest. “However if these relations are aetiological, there are implications for understanding how contact allergy can affect cancer development, and vice versa,” they conclude.
Public release date: 11-Jul-2011
Natural pain relief from poisonous shrub
An extract of the poisonous shrub Jatropha curcas acts as a strong painkiller and may have a mode of action different from conventional analgesics, such as morphine and other pharmaceuticals. Details of tests are reported in the current issue of the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.
Omeh Yusuf and Ezeja Maxwell of the Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture in Umudike, Nigeria, explain how J. curcas, also known as the “physic nut” is a perennial shrub that grows to 5 meters in height and belongs to the Euphobiaceace family. It is native to Central America but grows widely in other tropical and subtropical countries of Africa and Asia. The plant’s fruit is combined with the stem bark of Cochlospermum planchonii in Nigerian medicine for treating diabetes mellitus and is also used traditionally as a painkiller. Other medicinal activities have been reported. The plant’s seeds have been used for making soap, candles, detergents, lubricants and dyes and the seed oil is used in biodiesel.
The researchers extracted what they believed to be the physiologically active components of the leaves of
J. curcas using methanol as solvent. They compared the effects of this extract at 100, 200 and 400 milligrams per kilogram of body mass, against 400 mg/kg of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) in standard laboratory animal tests for assessing the strength of painkillers.
They found that 100 mg/kg was an inadequate dose, however, 200 and 400 mg/kg doses produced analgesia comparable to aspirin, affirming the use of the plant for pain relief in traditional medicine. The team suspect that the extract may be acting through both peripheral and central pain mechanisms. Yusuf and Maxwell are now carrying out more work on isolating and characterizing the active ingredient in the extract and in determining the precise mode of action.
The search for novel analgesic drugs that have a different side-effect profile and lack the tolerance and addiction problems associated with morphine and other opiates is an important avenue of research in drug discovery science. Very few leads from traditional and herbal medicine are successful in generating a new product, but it should be remembered that aspirin and morphine themselves were both originally derived from natural sources.
Public release date: 11-Jul-2011
All-cause mortality rates are lower among moderate drinkers than among abstainers
The author of this paper set out to determine the extent to which potential “errors” in many early epidemiologic studies led to erroneous conclusions about an inverse association between moderate drinking and coronary heart disease (CHD). His analysis is based on prospective data for more than 124,000 persons interviewed in the U.S. National Health Interview Surveys of 1997 through 2000 and avoids the pitfalls of some earlier studies. He concludes that the so-called “errors” have not led to erroneous results, and that there is a strong protective effect of moderate drinking on CHD and all-cause mortality.
The results of this analysis support the vast majority of recent well-done prospective studies. In the present paper, non-drinkers had much higher risk of death than did almost all categories of subjects consuming alcohol. The author contends that these results lend credence to the argument that the
relationship between alcohol and mortality is causal.
While some Forum reviewers felt that this analysis only replicates what has been shown in many other papers, it appears that erroneous information continues to be used by some policy groups in setting drinking guidelines. Thus, most reviewers believe that this new analysis provides important information on potential health effects of moderate drinking.
Public release date: 12-Jul-2011
Large human study links phthalates, BPA and thyroid hormone levels
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A link between chemicals called phthalates and thyroid hormone levels was confirmed by the University of Michigan in the first large-scale and nationally representative study of phthalates and BPA in relation to thyroid function in humans.
The U-M School of Public Health study also reported suggestive findings consistent with a previously reported link between a chemical called bisphenol-A and thyroid hormone levels. BPA is best known for its use in certain plastic water bottles and in the linings of canned foods.
Researchers used publicly available data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to compare urine metabolites and serum thyroid measures from 1,346 adults and 329 adolescents.
Generally speaking, greater concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites and BPA were associated with greater impacts on serum thyroid measures, said John Meeker, assistant professor at U-M SPH and lead study author.
Specifically, researchers found an inverse relationship between urinary markers of exposure and thyroid hormone levels, meaning as urinary metabolite concentrations increased, serum levels of certain thyroid hormone levels decreased.
Phthalates and BPA are chemical compounds that appear in solvents, plasticizers and common household products. These latest results were consistent with findings from previous smaller studies by Meeker and others that suggested the relationship.
The current study showed the strongest relationship between thyroid disruption and DEHP, a phthalate commonly used as a plasticizer. Research has shown that the primary exposure to DEHP is through diet. Urine samples in the highest 20 percent of exposure to DEHP were associated with as much as a 10 percent decrease in certain thyroid hormones compared to urine samples at the lowest 20 percent of exposure.
“This seems like a subtle difference,” Meeker said, “but if you think about the entire population being exposed at this level you’d see many more thyroid related effects in people.”
Researchers looked at another phthalate called DBP but overall, didn’t find a significant relationship between exposure and thyroid measures. DBP is also a plasticizer, and is also used in solvents and personal care products.
Thyroid hormones play an important role in many body functions, from reproduction to metabolism and energy balance.
While the study focused primarily on adults, these findings underscore the need for more research on adults, pregnant women, and children, Meeker said, because fetal and child development may be
particularly vulnerable to disruptions in thyroid hormone levels associated with exposure to environmental chemicals.
Meeker pointed out that the study had limitations. Since urine and serum samples were collected at a single point in time, researchers couldn’t conclude a cause-and-effect relationship; it would be better to follow people over time and collect several samples, especially since these chemicals metabolize quickly and one snapshot may not represent the true chemical exposure.
The group has several ongoing studies on the potential impacts of phthalate and BPA exposure on pregnancy outcomes and child development.
The paper appears on the recent edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The University of Michigan School of Public Health has been promoting health and preventing disease since 1941, and is ranked among the top public health schools in the nation. Whether making new discoveries in the lab or researching and educating in the field, our faculty, students, and alumni are deployed around the globe to promote and protect our health http://www.sph.umich.edu/
Public release date: 12-Jul-2011
Molasses extract decreases obesity caused by a high-fat diet
New animal research suggests that molasses antioxidants may reduce obesity
07/12/11, Clearwater Beach, FL. Experimental results to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that dietary supplementation with molasses extract may provide a novel approach for weight management in humans.
The study, conducted in mice by Richard Weisinger, Ph.D., investigated the impact of adding molasses extract to a high fat diet. Molasses extract is rich in polyphenols, a group of chemical compounds found in plants that are known for their antioxidant properties. Mice were given either an unaltered high fat diet, or the same diet supplemented with 2% or 4% molasses extract. After 12 weeks on these diets, mice that consumed the diet containing 4% molasses extract had lower body weight, reduced body fat, and decreased blood levels of leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells. However, mice consumed similar amounts of each diet. Additional studies showed that molasses supplementation led to increased energy excretion (that is, more calories lost in feces), and increased gene expression for several liver and fat cell biomarkers of energy metabolism.
“The addition of molasses extract to a high fat diet appears to reduce body weight and body fat levels primarily through reduced caloric absorption. Due to the increasing worldwide prevalence of obesity and associated health problems, supplementing food with molasses extract might be a way to address the escalating rates of overweight and obesity,” said Weisinger. Clinical trials scheduled next year will provide the opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of molasses extract for weight control in humans.
Research supported by Australian Research Council (Grant Number LP0883996) and Horizon Science.
Public release date: 12-Jul-2011
The metabolic effects of antipsychotic drugs
New clinical research findings explain why antipsychotic drug treatment can cause weight gain and
increase the risk of type 2 diabetes (Zyprexa, Zalasta, Zolafren, Olzapin, Oferta, Zypadhera or in combination with fluoxetine Symbyax)
07/12/11, Clearwater Beach, FL. Research to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, may explain why some antipsychotic drugs can promote overeating, weight gain, and insulin resistance.
Olanzapine, an atypical antipsychotic drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, has been associated with body weight gain and impaired glucose homeostasis in humans and in experimental animals. As part of a Dutch research consortium, studies led by Simon Evers (University of Groningen, the Netherlands) sought to reveal underlying mechanisms for olanzapine’s metabolic effects by studying healthy adult male volunteers. The research was motivated by observations of what co-author Anton Scheurink described as “a mysterious interaction between schizophrenia and diabetes.”
Their results confirmed previous findings that olanzapine induces weight gain by increasing caloric intake, but also revealed that olanzapine reduces body temperature, which contributes to decreased energy expenditure. Indeed, reduced body temperature after olanzapine treatment may generate many of the known side effects of this antipsychotic drug. The authors’ new findings also demonstrate that olanzapine alters peripheral glucose metabolism, which may contribute to impaired insulin sensitivity.
According to lead author Simon Evers, “Our research group believes that reduced body temperature is the foremost direct and consistent effect of olanzapine in humans and in experimental animals. Reduced body temperature might explain several of olanzapine’s metabolic side effects, including increased food intake, reduced energy expenditure, sedation, high blood sugar, body weight gain, and insulin resistance.”
Research supported by Top Institute Pharma: (T2-105).
Public release date: 12-Jul-2011
Your mother was right: Study shows good posture makes you tougher
Study co-authored by USC Marshall professor examines the link between posture, effectiveness and pain tolerance
Mothers have been telling their children to stop slouching for ages. It turns out that mom was onto something and that poor posture not only makes a bad impression, but can actually make you physically weaker. According to a study by Scott Wiltermuth, assistant professor of management organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Vanessa K. Bohns, postdoctoral fellow at the J.L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, adopting dominant versus submissive postures actually decreases your sensitivity to pain.
The study, “It Hurts When I Do This (or You Do That)” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that by simply adopting more dominant poses, people feel more powerful, in control and able to tolerate more distress. Out of the individuals studied, those who used the most dominant posture were able to comfortably handle more pain than those assigned a more neutral or submissive stance.
Wiltermuth and Bohns also expanded on previous research that shows the posture of a person with whom you interact will affect your pose and behavior. In this case, Wiltermuth and Bohns found that those adopting submissive pose in response to their partner’s dominant pose showed a lower threshold for pain.
Fake it until you make it
While most people will crawl up into a ball when they are in pain, Bohn’s and Wiltermuth’s research suggests that one should do the opposite. In fact, their research suggests that curling up into a ball may make the experience more painful because it will make you feel like you have no control over your circumstances, which may in turn intensify your anticipation of the pain. Instead, try sitting or standing up straight, pushing your chest out and expanding your body. These behaviors can help create a sense of power and control that may in turn make the procedure more tolerable. Based on previous research, adopting a powerful, expansive posture rather than constricting your body, may also lead to elevated testosterone, which is associated with increased pain tolerance, and decreased cortisol, which may make the experience less stressful.
Keeping Your Chin Up Might Really Work to Manage Emotional Pain
While prior research shows that individuals have used pain relievers to address emotional pain, it is possible that assuming dominant postures may make remembering a breakup or some distressing emotional event less painful.
Caregivers Need to Let Go
Caregivers often try to baby those for whom they are caring to help make things easier and alleviate stress. In doing this, they force those they are caring for in a more submissive position—and thus, according to this new research, possibly render their patients more susceptible to experiencing pain. Rather, this research suggests that caregivers take a more submissive position and surrender control to those who are about to undergo a painful procedure to lessen the intensity of the pain experienced.
Public release date: 12-Jul-2011
Indirubin — Component Of Chinese herbal remedy might block brain tumor’s spread
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The active ingredient in a traditional Chinese herbal remedy might help treat deadly brain tumors, according to a new study by researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard
J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
The researchers discovered that the compound, indirubin, both blocks the migration of glioblastoma cells, preventing their spread to other areas of the brain, and the migration of endothelial cells, preventing them from forming the new blood vessels that the tumor needs to grow.
Glioblastomas occur in about 18,500 Americans annually and kill nearly 13,000 of them yearly. Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and lethal form of the malignancy, with an average survival of 15 months after diagnosis.
The research is published online in the journal Cancer Research.
“We have pretty good methods to stop glioblastoma from growing in the human brain, but these therapies fail because tumor cells migrate from the original site and grow elsewhere in the brain,” says co-principal investigator Dr. E. Antonio Chiocca, professor and chair of neurological surgery and co-director of the Dardinger Center for Neuro-oncology and Neurosciences.
“Our findings suggest that indirubins offer a novel therapeutic strategy for these tumors that simultaneously targets tumor invasion and angiogenesis,” Chiocca says.
“This study shows for the first time that drugs of the indirubin family may improve survival in glioblastoma, and that these agents inhibit two of the most important hallmarks of this malignancy – tumor-cell invasion and angiogenesis,” says co-principal investigator Dr.
Sean Lawler, senior scientist and group leader of the Translational Neurooncology Group at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine.
Indirubin is derived from the Indigo plant. It is the active ingredient in the Chinese herbal remedy called Dang Gui Long Hui Wan, which is used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia.
Chiocca, Lawler and their collaborators used multiple glioblastoma cell lines and two animal models to examine three derivatives of indirubin. Key findings include the following:
• When human glioblastoma cells were transplanted into one brain hemisphere of mice, indirubin-treated animals survived significantly longer than controls and showed no migration of tumor cells to the opposite hemisphere.
• In a separate experiment, indirubin reduced the migration of tumor cells by 40 percent in treated animals versus controls.
• Treated tumors showed a lower density of blood vessels, and new blood-vessel growth was reduced up to three-fold in intracranial tumors, depending on the tumor-cell line.
• A laboratory assay showed that indirubins reduced endothelial-cell migration by 52 to 41 percent compared with untreated controls.
“Overall, our findings suggest that indirubins reduce tumor invasion and tumor vasculature because of their antimigratory effects on both tumor and endothelial cells,”
Public release date: 13-Jul-2011
A closer look at the placebo effect
Study describes subjective and objective measures of patient improvement in asthma patients receiving bronchodilator treatment vs placebo treatments vs. no treatment at all
BOSTON – Placebos are “dummy pills” often used in research trials to test new drug therapies and the “placebo effect” is the benefit patients receive from a treatment that has no active ingredients. Many claim that the placebo effect is a critical component of clinical practice.
But whether or not placebos can actually influence objective measures of disease has been unclear. Now a study of asthma patients examining the impact of two different placebo treatments versus standard medical treatment with an albuterol bronchodilator has reached two important conclusions: while placebos had no effect on lung function (one of the key objective measures that physicians depend on in treating asthma patients) when it came to patient-reported outcomes, placebos were equally as effective as albuterol in helping to relieve patients’ discomfort and their self-described asthma symptoms.
The study was led by Harvard Medical School investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and appears in the July 14 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
“We were trying to understand whether a placebo effect exists and, if so, whether it was similar with regard to both objectively and subjectively reported measures, and whether similar effects could be observed using different types of placebo,” explains lead author Michael Wechsler, MD, Associate Director of the Asthma Research Center at BWH and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS).
The study examined 39 patients with chronic asthma who were randomly assigned to undergo treatment with an active albuterol inhaler, with a placebo albuterol inhaler, with sham acupuncture, or with no intervention at all. The researchers administered one of each of the three treatment interventions to each of the study participants, plus a no intervention session, in random order during sequential medical visits (three to seven days apart from each other). The procedures were repeated in two more blocks of visits, such that each patient had a total of 12 medical visits.
At the study’s conclusion, findings showed that treatment with the albuterol inhaler resulted in a 20 percent increase in FEV1 (maximum forced expiratory volume in one second ), a measure of lung capacity. This compared with an increase of approximately seven percent in each of the two placebo treatments as well as the “no treatment” control.
“Since there was no difference between either of the placebo treatments and the placebo ‘control’ [no treatment], we can report that there was no objective placebo effect with regard to change in lung function,” says Wechsler.
However, patients’ descriptions of their symptoms suggested that a subjective placebo effect does exist: patients reported statistically significant symptomatic improvement with albuterol, as well as with the placebo inhaler and with sham acupuncture. This compared to little improvement, if any, when patients received no treatment at all.
“We chose to study patients with asthma because earlier evidence had suggested that placebos would change the underlying medical problem,” explains senior author Ted Kaptchuk, Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Medicine at HMS. “While I was initially surprised that there was no placebo effect in this experiment [after looking at the objective air flow measures] once I saw patients’ subjective descriptions of how they felt following both the active treatment and the placebo treatments, it was apparent that the placebos were as effective as the active drug in helping people feel better.”
These findings, says Wechsler, suggest that physicians and investigators reconsider the implications of subjective, patient-reported outcomes in clinical trials, and consider having a “placebo for the placebo” to monitor a patient’s natural history.
“Despite beneficial effects on objective physiological outcome, pharmacologic therapy may not provide incremental benefit on subjective symptoms provided by placebos,” Wechsler adds. “But while placebos remain an essential component of clinical trials to validate objective findings, assessment of natural history is essential in the final assessment of patient-reported outcomes.”
At the same time, adds Kaptchuk, the study results imply that placebo treatment is just as effective as active medication in improving patient-centered outcomes.
“It’s clear that for the patient, the ritual of treatment can be very powerful,” notes Kaptchuk. “This study suggests that in addition to active therapies for fixing diseases, the idea of receiving care is a critical component of what patients value in health care. In a climate of patient dissatisfaction, this may be an important lesson.”
Public release date: 13-Jul-2011
Taking out a cancer’s co-dependency
Novel compound selectively kills cancer cells by blocking their response to oxidative stress
A cancer cell may seem out of control, growing wildly and breaking all the rules of orderly cell life and death. But amid the seeming chaos there is a balance between a cancer cell’s
revved-up metabolism and skyrocketing levels of cellular stress. Just as a cancer cell depends on a hyperactive metabolism to fuel its rapid growth, it also depends on anti- oxidative enzymes to quench potentially toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by such high metabolic demand.
Scientists at the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have discovered a novel compound that blocks this response to oxidative stress selectively in cancer cells but spares normal cells, with an effectiveness that surpassed a chemotherapy drug currently used to treat breast cancer. Their findings, based on experiments in cell culture and in mice, appear online in Nature on July 13.
The plant-based compound piperlongumine (PL), derived from the fruit of a pepper plant found in southern India and southeast Asia, appears to kill cancer cells by jamming the machinery that dissipates high oxidative stress and the resulting ROS. Normal cells have low levels of ROS, in tune with their more modest metabolism, so they don’t need high levels of the anti-oxidant enzymes that PL stymies once they pass a certain threshold.
“Piperlongumine targets something that’s not thought to be essential in normal cells,” said Stuart L. Schreiber, a senior co-author and director of the Broad’s Chemical Biology Program. “Cancer cells have a greater dependence on ROS biology than normal cells.”
Sam W. Lee and Anna Mandinova, senior co-authors from the Cutaneous Biology Research Center (CBRC) at MGH, weren’t looking for a ROS inhibitor when they found PL. Their interest lay in the tumor suppressor gene p53, which is mutated in more than half of all cancer types. Teaming up with the Broad’s Chemical Biology Program and Platform to screen libraries of chemical compounds, they were looking for something that might increase levels of the properly functioning p53 gene.
When they saw a promising signal for PL, they assumed it worked by enhancing the p53 gene. But to their surprise, PL induced cancer cell death independent of the tumor suppressor gene’s activity. And when they tested PL in normal cells, the cells didn’t die.
“The novelty of this compound was that it was able to recognize cancer cells from normal cells,” said Mandinova, a Broad associate member and a faculty member at MGH and Harvard Medical School. “It has a mode of action that targets something especially important to the cancer cell.”
Their second surprise came after the Proteomics Platform’s quantitative analysis identified the target of PL. The researchers imagined that they might find a protein encoded by a cancer-causing gene was being inhibited in some way, but instead of an oncogene, they saw an indirect process on which cancer cells depend.
A small number of new cancer drugs target oncogenes directly, but this may not be the
only promising new direction for treating cancers. Cancer genes do not act alone. PL exploits a dependency that develops after oncogenes transform normal cells into cancer cells.
“Our studies suggest that piperlongumine’s ROS-associated mechanism is especially relevant to the transformed cancer cell,” said co-author Andrew M. Stern, associate director of Novel Therapeutics at the Broad. “And this in part may underlie the observed selectivity of PL.”
The scientists tested PL against cancer cells and normal cells engineered to develop cancer. In mice injected with human bladder, breast, lung, or melanoma cancer cells, PL inhibited tumor growth but showed no toxicity in normal mice. In a tougher test of mice that developed breast cancer spontaneously, PL blocked both tumor growth and metastasis. In contrast, the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel (Taxol) was less effective, even at high levels.
“This compound is selectively reducing the enzyme activity involved in oxidative stress balance in cancer cells, so the ROS level can go up above the threshold for cell death,” said Lee, a Broad associate member and associate director of CBRC at MGH. “We hope we can use this compound as a starting point for the development of a drug so patients can benefit.”
While hopeful, the authors remain cautious. Much more work needs to be done to better understand how the ROS process differs between normal and cancer cells before clinical studies can even be launched. Further studies will focus on different forms of cancer and their genotypes, or genetic information.
“Our next set of goals is to learn if there are specific cancer genotypes that will be more sensitive to this compound than others,” said Alykhan F. Shamji, associate director of the Broad’s Chemical Biology Program. “We hope our experiments will help be predictive of whether patients with the same genotypes in their tumors would respond the same way. It would help us to pick the right patients.”
Public release date: 13-Jul-2011
Fewer aphids in organic crop fields
Farmers who spray insecticides against aphids as a preventative measure only achieve a short-term effect with this method. In the long term, their fields will end up with even more aphids than untreated fields. This has been reported by researchers at the Biocenter of the University of Würzburg in the scientific journal PLoS One.
What’s the status of the biodiversity in differently managed triticale fields? This is what the biologists at the Department of Animal Ecology & Tropical Biology wanted to find out. Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye. The cultivation of this crop is on the rise
across the globe, because it delivers good yields even in poor soil conditions.
When comparing conventionally managed crop fields, which were either sprayed with insecticides or were left untreated, Jochen Krauss, Iris Gallenberger and Ingolf Steffan- Dewenter made a discovery, which should catch the attention of every farmer: “According to our results, the preventative application of insecticides against aphids does not produce any advantages even though it consumes a lot of time and money,” Jochen Krauss sums up.
The scientists studied five triticale fields that were sprayed with insecticides against aphids, comparing them to ten other fields without any such treatment. “To be sure, the application of the insecticide led to a short-term decrease of the pest density,” says Krauss. “After four week’s time, however, significantly more aphids could be found in these fields than in insecticide-free fields. This also astonished the farmers who made their fields available for our study.”
More aphids as a result of a decrease in natural enemies
The scientists offer two possible explanations for this phenomenon. One possibility is: The insecticides indiscriminately kill off beneficial animals that feed on the aphids, such as ladybugs or the larvae of lacewings and hoverflies. Because their enemies are missing, the aphids find it easier to return and proliferate than in insecticide-free fields.
Another possibility is an indirect effect: The insecticide just kills the aphids, after which their enemies leave the field for a lack of prey. Final result: In this scenario, the aphid population can also recover better after their return because the natural enemies are missing.
Greater biodiversity in organic crop fields
In conventional fields that have not been sprayed with insecticides, the pest control through natural enemies seems to work better – thanks to the higher biodiversity in these fields. The biodiversity is far greater still in fields under organic management, as reported in PLoS ONE by the Würzburg scientists.
The researchers found five times as many plant species and 20 times more types of pollinating insects in the 15 organic crop fields included in the study than they did in conventional fields. Furthermore, they detected three times as many natural enemies of aphids and five times fewer aphids in the organic fields than in the conventional fields.
Public release date: 13-Jul-2011
New method for making human-based gelatin
Scientists are reporting development of a new approach for producing large quantities of human-derived gelatin that could become a substitute for some of the 300,000 tons of animal-based gelatin produced annually for gelatin-type desserts, marshmallows, candy and innumerable other products. Their study appears in ACS’s Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
Jinchun Chen and colleagues explain that animal-based gelatin, which is made most often from the bones and skin of cows and pigs, may carry a risk of infectious diseases such as “Mad Cow” disease and could provoke immune system responses in some people. Animal- based gelatin has other draw-backs, with variability from batch to batch, for instance, creating difficulties for manufacturers. Scientists thus have sought alternatives, including development of a human-recombinant gelatin for potential use in drug capsules and other medical applications.
To get around these difficulties, the scientists developed and demonstrated a method where human gelatin genes are inserted into a strain of yeast, which can produce gelatin with controllable features. The researchers are still testing the human-yeast gelatin to see how well it compares to other gelatins in terms of its viscosity and other attributes. Chen and colleagues suggest that their method could be scaled up to produce large amounts of gelatin for commercial use.
Public release date: 13-Jul-2011
OMEGA-3 REDUCES ANXIETY AND INFLAMMATION IN HEALTHY STUDENTS
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new study gauging the impact of consuming more fish oil showed a marked reduction both in inflammation and, surprisingly, in anxiety among a cohort of healthy young people.
The findings suggest that if young participants can get such improvements from specific dietary supplements, then the elderly and people at high risk for certain diseases might benefit even more.
The findings by a team of researchers at Ohio State University were just published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. It is the latest from more than three decades of research into links between psychological stress and immunity.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have long been considered as positive additives to the diet. Earlier research suggested that the compounds might play a role in reducing the level of cytokines in the body, compounds that promote inflammation, and perhaps even reduce depression.
Psychological stress has repeatedly been shown to increase cytokine production so the researchers wondered if increasing omega-3 might mitigate that process, reducing inflammation.
To test their theory, they turned to a familiar group of research subjects – medical students. Some of the earliest work these scientists did showed that stress from important medical school tests lowered students’ immune status.
“We hypothesized that giving some students omega-3 supplements would decrease their production of proinflammatory cytokines, compared to other students who only received a placebo,” explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychology and psychiatry.
“We thought the omega-3 would reduce the stress-induced increase in cytokines that normally arose from nervousness over the tests.”
The team assembled a field of 68 first- and second-year medical students who volunteered for the clinical trial. The students were randomly divided into six groups, all of which were interviewed six times during the study. At each visit, blood samples were drawn from the students who also completed a battery of psychological surveys intended to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety or depression. The students also completed questionnaires about their diets during the previous weeks.
Half the students received omega-3 supplements while the other half were given placebo pills.
“The supplement was probably about four or five times the amount of fish oil you’d get from a daily serving of salmon, for example,” explained Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition and co-author in the study.
Part of the study, however, didn’t go according to plans.
Changes in the medical curriculum and the distribution of major tests throughout the year, rather than during a tense three-day period as was done in the past, removed much of the stress that medical students had shown in past studies.
“It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil,” Belury said. “People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet.”
“These students were not anxious. They weren’t really stressed. They were actually
sleeping well throughout this period, so we didn’t get the stress effect we had expected,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.
But the psychological surveys clearly showed an important change in anxiety among the students: Those receiving the omega-3 showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group.
An analysis of the of the blood samples from the medical students showed similar important results.
“We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa),” said Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology & medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.
“We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3.” Since the cytokines foster inflammation, “anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases,” he said.
While inflammation is a natural immune response that helps the body heal, it also can play a harmful role in a host of diseases ranging from arthritis to heart disease to cancer.
While the study showed the positive impact omega-3 supplements can play in reducing both anxiety and inflammation, the researchers aren’t willing to recommend that the public start adding them to the daily diet.
“It may be too early to recommend a broad use of omega-3 supplements throughout the public, especially considering the cost and the limited supplies of fish needed to supply the oil,” Belury said. “People should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet.”
Some of the researchers, however, acknowledged that they take omega-3 supplements.
Also working on the research with Kiecolt-Glaser, Glaser and Belury were William Malarkey, professor emeritus of internal medicine, and Rebecca Andridge, an assistant professor of public health.
The study was supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Public release date: 13-Jul-2011
Progesterone Inhibits Growth of Neuroblastoma Cancer Cells
High doses of the hormone progesterone can kill neuroblastoma cells while leaving healthy cells unscathed, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found in laboratory research.
The results, published in the journal Molecular Medicine, suggest that progesterone could be used to fight neuroblastoma, the most common form of cancer affecting small children.
More research is necessary to determine the optimal dose, how long progesterone treatment should last and if it should be used alone or in combination with radiation or chemotherapy. Emory scientists are also exploring whether it can stop the growth of other brain cancer types such as glioblastoma and astrocytoma. Progesterone has also been reported to slow growth of several other types of cancers in the laboratory, but has not been used clinically against neuroblastoma.
The first author in the team of researchers is Fahim Atif, PhD, instructor in emergency medicine, with senior author Donald G. Stein, PhD, Asa G. Candler professor of emergency medicine and director of Emory’s Department of Emergency Medicine Brain Research Laboratory. Daniel Brat, MD, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in Emory School of Medicine was a collaborator on the research team.
The discovery grew out of studies of progesterone’s protective effects in brain injury. Based on Stein’s pioneering work, medical centers across the country are now testing progesterone in the setting of acute traumatic brain injury in a phase III clinical trial. While investigating how to enhance progesterone’s effectiveness, Atif and his colleagues observed that it could protect healthy neurons from stress but caused cells from a tumor cell line to die.
In a mouse model, progesterone treatment cut tumor growth in half over eight days, while no drug toxicity was seen with healthy neurons or in live animals. The researchers showed that progesterone can decrease the levels of proteins produced by tumor cells that attract new blood vessel growth and help tumor cells invade other tissues.
“This fits with what we know about one of progesterone’s roles during pregnancy, which is to regulate the growth of placenta,” Atif says. “Placental cells behave in a way that resembles tumor cells, invading the uterine wall and tapping into the mother’s blood vessels.”
In studies performed elsewhere, doses of progesterone that were lower than the most effective dose in the Emory study actually accelerated cancer growth. Based on their results, the Emory researchers propose that for fighting certain types of cancer, high doses of progesterone may be better than low doses.
Progesterone’s effects on cancer are known to be complex. There may be differences between progesterone, the natural hormone, and synthetic progestins. The National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative study showed that women who received hormone replacement therapy with combined estrogen and progestins had an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer, although some studies have identified a potential “safe period” if hormone replacement therapy lasts less than two years.
Progesterone has a long history as a treatment designed to prevent preterm birth. If progesterone is to be used with small children, any potential effects on development must be weighed against the risks of standard treatments.
Public release date: 14-Jul-2011
‘Swine flu’ breath test could reduce future vaccination shortages, research suggests
A novel breath test, measuring the immune response to the H1N1 flu virus, could help to ease future vaccine shortages by identifying the people who have already been infected with the flu virus.
In a study published today, 15 July 2011, in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Breath Research, researchers have investigated an easy, non-invasive breath test to measure biomolecules that accumulate in response to the H1N1 strain.
Research published last month claimed that over half of the people in Glasgow vaccinated during the 2009 swine flu pandemic were already infected with the flu virus, meaning they were vaccinated unnecessarily. It is thought that similar patterns would have been found throughout the UK.
These vaccinations would not have harmed the people concerned, however local health authorities would have been affected as they attempted to administer the vaccine quickly and effectively on limited supplies.
A fast-acting, non-invasive test for the virus could therefore help to avoid unnecessary vaccinations and help prioritise the people who most need the vaccines.
The researchers, from Cleveland Clinic and Syft Technologies, enrolled 11 individuals on their study of which nine were given the live attenuated H1N1 vaccine and administered the breath test on each of the following seven days.
The breath test examined exhaled nitric oxide (NO) – a biomolecule whose production has previously been linked to influenza and viral infection and has been speculated to play a beneficial role in viral clearance.
The results showed a peak in NO levels in all subjects on the third day after vaccination. There were no significant differences in NO levels on any other day.
Of the 11 other compounds examined in the study, only one compound – isoprene – showed an elevated level, again on day three. Increased levels of isoprene, a compound produced within the body and a major constituent of exhaled breath, have been reported to reflect oxidative stress in the airways.
Previous findings show that the highest number, and severity, of symptoms related to a H1N1 infection occur on day three, suggesting, along with this research, that this is when an immune response is triggered in the body.
This study presents the first direct evidence of a potential test to diagnose H1N1 influenza using your breath, a concept which has already been used to diagnose and monitor asthma, check for transplant organ rejection, and to detect lung cancer and alcohol intoxication.
If a fast, easy, non-invasive breath test is to be mass-produced, the researchers state that further work will need to identify other compounds associated with an immune response that were only touched upon in this study, as well as identifying the exact mechanism underlying the increase in exhaled NO as a result of the live vaccine.
One of the study’s authors Professor Raed Dweik said, “This study adds to the growing evidence for the utility of breath analysis in medical diagnostics. More work still needs to be done, however, to identify the specific compounds that change in response to vaccination and to find the biologic link between those compounds and the host response to the vaccine or the actual disease.”
Public release date: 15-Jul-2011
Natural chemical found in grapes may protect against Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that grape seed polyphenols—a natural antioxidant—may help prevent the development or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The research, led by Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD, The Saunder Family Professor in Neurology, and Professor of Psychiatry and Geriatrics and Adult Development at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was published online in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
This is the first study to evaluate the ability of grape-derived polyphenols to prevent the generation of a specific form of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide, a substance in the brain long known to cause the neurotoxicity associated with Alzheimer disease. In partnership with a team at the University of Minnesota led by Karen Hsiao Ashe, MD, PhD, Dr. Pasinetti and his collaborators administered grape seed polyphenolic extracts to mice genetically determined to develop memory deficits and Aβ neurotoxins similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease. They found that the brain content of the Aβ*56, a specific form of Aβ previously implicated in the promotion of Alzheimer’s disease memory loss, was substantially reduced after treatment.
Previous studies suggest that increased consumption of grape-derived polyphenols, whose content, for example, is very high in red wine, may protect against cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s. This new finding, showing a selective decrease in the neurotoxin Aβ*56 following grape-derived polyphenols treatment, corroborates those theories.
“Since naturally occurring polyphenols are also generally commercially available as nutritional supplements and have negligible adverse events even after prolonged periods of treatment, this new finding holds significant promise as a preventive method or treatment, and is being tested in translational studies in Alzheimer’s disease patients,” said Dr. Pasinetti.
The study authors emphasize that in order for grape-derived polyphenols to be effective, scientists need to identify a biomarker of disease that would pinpoint who is at high risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
“It will be critical to identify subjects who are at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so that we can initiate treatments very early and possibly even in asymptomatic patients,” said Dr. Pasinetti. “However, for Alzheimer’s disease patients who have already progressed into the initial stages of the disease, early intervention with this treatment might be beneficial as well. Our study implicating that these neurotoxins such as Aβ*56 in the brain are targeted by grape-derived polyphenols holds significant promise.”
This research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Giulio Pasinetti is a named inventor of a pending patent application filed by Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) related to the study of Alzheimer’s disease. In the event the pending or issued patent is licensed, Dr. Pasinetti would be entitled to a share of any proceeds MSSM receives from the licensee
These reports are done with the appreciation of all the Doctors, Scientist, and other Medical Researchers who sacrificed their time and effort. In order to give people the ability to empower themselves. Without the base aspirations for fame, or fortune.
Just honorable people, doing honorable things.