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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Researchers Identify Fish Protein That may Stop Cancer Growth

Researchers Identify Fish Protein That may Stop Cancer GrowthA peptide, or protein, derived from Pacific cod that may inhibit prostate cancer and other cancers from spreading has been identified by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The preclinical research is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)."The use of natural dietary products with anti-tumor activity is an important and emerging field of research," says senior author Hafiz Ahmed, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and scientist at the Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET). "Understanding how these products work could allow us to develop foods that also act as cancer therapeutics and agents for immunotherapy." 
Most people who succumb to cancer die because tumor cells invade the surrounding tissue and migrate into the nearby blood and lymph vessels, a process known as metastasis. For example, prostate cancer typically spreads to the bones, lungs and liver. Cancer cells that metastasize to other parts of the body grow new blood supplies and eventually overcome the person's organ systems. 
"This study is among the first to explore the therapeutic utility of a bioactive cod TFD-containing glycopeptide to inhibit prostate cancer from progressing," says Dr. Ahmed, who also is affiliated with the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. The TFD (Thomsen-Friedenreich disaccharide) antigen in the fish protein is hidden in normal human cells but is exposed on the surface of cancer cells and is believed to play a key role in how cancer spreads. 
Polar fish, such as northern cod, express glycoproteins that are rich in the TFD antigen, which protect them from freezing. The research team developed a special form of TFD, called TFD100, purified from Pacific cod. 
Using animal models, the researchers found that TFD100 binds to galectin-3, a protein that is overexpressed in prostate cancer cells, and blocks its interaction with the TFD antigen found on the surface of the cells. Galectin-3 (gal3) enables cancer cells to adhere to the walls of blood vessels and also kills activated T-cells, a type of white blood cell, which helps the cancer cells to spread throughout the body and evade the immune system. The researchers observed that TFD100 prevents cancer cells from attaching to the vessel walls, suppresses T-cell death and boosts the immune response. 
"Because the gal3-TFD interaction is a key factor driving metastasis in most epithelial cancers, this high-affinity TFD100 should be a promising anti-metastatic agent for the treatment of various cancers, including prostate adenocarcinoma," the researchers conclude in the study, which was published online March 11 in PNAS' Early Edition. 
"This research breaks new ground in our ongoing quest to discover new ways to prevent cancers from metastasizing to distant parts of the body," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "If we could one day offer patients a natural dietary supplement, derived from fish proteins, which could help to block that process, we could have a significant impact on improving patients' outcomes and survival." 
Co-investigator Dhan V. Kalvakolanu, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology at the School of Medicine, notes that additional research is needed to develop a dietary supplement from the cod peptide that could complement chemotherapy and other standard treatments. "No single drug on its own is going to offer protection against advanced cancers. We need a multi-pronged approach to successfully treat this disease," he adds. 
The study was conducted by researchers from Dr. Ahmed's laboratory, in collaboration with Dr. Kalvakolanu and other investigators at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center and the IMET. Prasun Guha, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Ahmed's laboratory, was the study's lead author.

Source: University of Maryland School of Medicine. 


New Algorithm to Reveal How Ayurvedic Medicine Actually Works

 New Algorithm to Reveal How Ayurvedic Medicine Actually WorksThe scientists at the American Chemical Society have taken up steps to determine the mode of action of India's Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which may help in the development of more effective drugs.Traditional medicines have a track record in benefiting human health that spans thousands of years. However, gaps in knowledge about how these medicines work in the body, their "mode of action" (MOA) - limit their use today. 
Information about a drug's MOA is important for better understanding of both the beneficial effects and side effects of treatments. 
Andreas Bender and colleagues from ACS have described an algorithm that can help explain how these substances work in the body, and use of it to help understand the (MOA) of traditional anti-inflammatory medicines. 
An algorithm is a step-by-step procedure to generally analyze data, which the scientists applied to predicting how the active chemical ingredients in traditional medicines affect biological processes. 
"By establishing the MOA of these compounds, the gap between Western and traditional medicine can be reduced," the report concluded. 
They explained how TCM has made key contributions to modern medicine. 
In the world's largest international clinical trial, for instance, scientists concluded that Artesunate, a derivative of the Chinese herb qinghao, should replace quinine as a treatment for severe malaria in both adults and children worldwide. 
Their report appeared in ACS' Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.



Soybean Intake Cuts Cancer Risk

Proteins found in soybeans were found to inhibit the growth of colon, liver and lung cancer, say researchers.Soybean meal is a bi-product following oil extraction from soybean seeds. It is rich in protein, which usually makes up around 40 percent of the nutritional components of the seeds and dependent on the line, and can also contain high oleic acid (a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid). 
The study looked at the role soybeans could have in the prevention of cancer. 
Using a variety of soybean lines which were high in oleic acid and protein, the researchers looked to monitor bioactivity between the peptides derived from the meals of soybean and various types of human cancer cells. 
The study showed that peptides derived from soybean meal significantly inhibited cell growth by 73 percent for colon cancer, 70 percent for liver cancer and 68 percent for lung cancer cells using human cell lines. 
This shows that the selected high oleic acid soybean lines could have a potential nutraceutical affect in helping to reduce the growth of several types of cancer cells. 
The study is published in published in Food Research International.



Complementary and alternative medicine studies take center stage at EuroHeart Care

Yoga and acupressure could both play an important role in helping patients with atrial fibrillation

Yoga and acupressure could both play an important role in helping patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Two abstracts presented at the at the European Society of Cardiology's EuroHeart Care Congress, which takes place in Glasgow, 22 to 23 March, 2013, show the potential for medical yoga¹ and acupressure², in addition to pharmacological therapies, to reduce blood pressure and heart rates in patients with AF. In a third abstract³, a survey found that complementary and alternative therapies (CATs), were widely used by patients attending cardiology clinics, raising concerns people may not be routinely informing health care staff about their use.
"One of the overall aims of treatment for AF is lowering heart rate because high and irregular heart rates can lead to emboli forming and result in stroke," said Professor Ozlem Ceyhan, a nurse trainer from Erciyes University, Kayseri, Turkey. "In these studies both acupressure and yoga are reducing heart rate, which should have a really beneficial effect. Furthermore, both approaches have the advantage of being easy to administer and cost effective, with no serious side effects."
The ESC guidelines4 have classified AF patients into five types based on duration: first detected (only one diagnosed episode); paroxysmal (recurrent episodes that self-terminate in less than seven days); persistent (recurrent episodes that last more than seven days); long standing (where it has lasted for longer than a year); and permanent (an ongoing long-term episode).
Medical Yoga shows beneficial effect in Paroxysmal AF
In the first abstract Maria Nilsson, a nurse from Danderyd Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, who has practiced yoga for the last 10 years, set out to investigate whether yoga might help patients with paroxysmal AF (PAF) ¹.
"We chose to use medical yoga, which is a form of yoga involving deep breathing, light movements, meditation and relaxation. The advantage here is that the movements are easy to learn and can be performed while sitting in a chair," said Nilsson. PAF, she added, is thought to involve between 25% and 62% of all cases of AF.
In the prospective study, 80 patients with a diagnosis of PAF were randomized to the usual treatment and yoga (n=40) or just usual treatment (n=40). Patients in the yoga group attended hour long sessions of yoga once a week over the course of three months.
Results show that after three months patients in the yoga group, showed significant decreases in systolic blood pressure (p=0.03), diastolic blood pressure (p=0.007) and heart rate (p=0.02) compared to those in the control group.
Systolic blood pressure for patients in the yoga group dropped from 137 mmHg at the start of the study to 132mmHg after three months; whereas the systolic blood pressure of patients in the control group increased from 138 mmHg at the start of the study to 141 mmHg after three months.
Diastolic blood pressure for patients in the yoga group decreased from 83 mmHg at baseline to 77 mmHg after three months; whereas diastolic blood pressure for patients in the control group rose from 84mmHg at baseline to 87mmHg after three months.
Heart rate decreased in the yoga group from 64 beats/minute at the start of the study to 60 beats per minute after three months; whereas heart rate rose in the control group from 65 beats per minute at the start of the study to 69 beats per minute after three months.
According to the "self reported" health questionnaires, patients who received yoga showed improvements in physical quality of life (p=0.01) and mental quality of life (P=0.02) at three months, compared to those in the control group. "Our study suggests doctors could do worse than prescribing yoga for all patients with hypertension and fast heart rates," said Nilsson.
The team, she added, are now undertaking further research to see if reductions in blood pressure and heart rate result in a decreased frequency of PAF episodes.
Acupressure shows benefit in patients with persistent AF
In the second study ², Professor Ozlem Ceyhan, a nurse trainer from Erciyes University, Kayseri, Turkey, investigated the use of acupressure among patients hospitalized for persistent AF.
In the study 60 patients were randomized to an intervention group (n=30) or a placebo group (n=30). Patients in the intervention group had acupressure performed on acupressure points PC6, HT7 and CV17; while patients allocated to the placebo group underwent a "sham" procedure were the acupressure device was bound in place without applying pressure. Treatments were performed between two and four times a day, with pulse and blood pressure readings taken before, during and after the session, and information on fatigue collected via patient questionnaires.
Results showed that significant decreases in pulse rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure were found for patients allocated to the intervention group compared to those allocated to the placebo group (p<0 .05="" all="" b="" for="" three="">
Heart rhythm, however, did not turn into sinus rhythm and acupressure was not found to have a statistically significant beneficial effect on symptoms of fatigue.
"One thing that was really notable in our study was that we did not observe that any patients in the intervention group had further attacks of AF while in hospital, compared to 10% of patients in the placebo group suggesting acupressure may be preventing further attacks," says Ceyhan.
Acupressure, she said, was an easy to use technique that patients could administer on themselves at home to reduce the frequency of AF attacks. The team, she added, are now looking to explore other acupressure points to see if they might have an effect on sinus rhythm.
Health care professionals need to routinely ask all CVD patients about CATs and CAMs.
Professor Stephen Leslie, Dr Jenny Jones and colleagues, from the University of Stirling, Scotland, undertook a survey of 116 people attending a cardiology outpatient's clinic over an eight week period about use of complementary and alternative therapies (CATS) ³.
The results showed that 52% of respondents (60 people) reported use of at least one CAT; 66% (77 people) believed that CATs should be available within the NHS; and that 88% (102) believed that more research should be performed in these areas. Furthermore, the investigators found that the top five most popular CATs were reflexology, acupuncture, osteopathy, massage and chiropractic therapies.
"When we looked back at patient notes, we found that very few people had volunteered this clinically important information in consultations, suggesting that they don't often disclose CAT use to cardiology teams," said Leslie.
Information about CATs and complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) use is undoubtedly important. Popular herbal remedies, such as Ginger, Ginko biloba, Ginseng and St John's wort have been shown to affect platelet aggregation, prolong bleeding time, and increase or decrease INR in patients on warfarin. Additionally it is known that extracts of Hawthorne, which are recommended for patients with heart failure and arrhythmia, have digoxin like effects, with the potential to interact with digoxin.
"In light of the potential for adverse interactions we believe that clinicians should routinely ask all their patients whether they use any forms of CATs or CAMs," said Jones.
The survey, she added, highlighted the fact that cardiac patients would like to see further research carried out to assess the risks and benefits of CAM in relation to cardiovascular disease. "This would enable the balance between risks, benefits and efficacy of various CATs and CAMs to be honestly discussed with cardiac patients," said Jones.
Source:European Society of Cardiology 

Scientists identify gene that is consistently altered in obese individuals

UT Dallas researchers are developing a new low-light imaging method that could improve a number of scientific applications, including the microscopic imaging of single molecules in cancer research.
Electrical engineering professor Dr. Raimund Ober and his team recently published their findings in the journalNature Methods. In the journal, they describe a method which minimizes the deterioration of images that can occur with conventional imaging approaches.
“Any image you take of an object is translated by the camera into pixels with added electronic noise,” Ober said. “Any distortion of an image makes it harder to obtain accurate estimates of the quantities you’re interested in.”
This method could greatly enhance the accuracy with which quantities of interest, such as the location, size, and orientation of an object, are extracted from the acquired images.
Ober and his team tackled this problem by using the EMCCD camera (a standard low-light image detector) in a highly unconventional setting. Using this method, scientists can estimate quantities of interest from the image data with substantially higher accuracy than those made with conventional low-light imaging.
“We have figured out through rigorous theoretical developments that when you run an EMCCD camera in such a way that very few photons hit each of its pixels, the resulting image is minimally corrupted by the camera noise,” he said. “Our method is about using the EMCCD camera to its fullest potential, beyond what is commonly believed to be possible by the scientific imaging community.”By increasing the magnification of the image to reduce the number of photons detected in each image pixel, they were able to significantly reduce the camera noise and considerably lessen the deteriorative effect of pixilation.
In fact, the team managed to attain particle localization accuracy that was twofold higher than those obtained with conventional EMCCD imaging.
Ober and his team applied UAIM (Ultrahigh Accuracy Imaging Modality) to the live-cell tracking of a standard protein marker for breast cancer. By being able to accurately follow the movement of the marker, valuable insights on the biology of breast cancer could be gained.
“The tracking of individual proteins represents an important way to study cancer and other diseases at the molecular level,” Ober said. “The applications of UAIM for diagnostics and research are promising.”
The research team included Jerry Chao and Sripad Ram, post-doctoral researchers at UT Dallas, and Dr. Sally Ward, professor of immunology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.
Source:University of Texas

Study offers new way to discover HIV vaccine targets

Ragon Institute researchers develop a method to identify weak points in viral proteins that could be exploited for vaccine development

Decades of research and three large-scale clinical trials have so far failed to yield an effective HIV vaccine, in large part because the virus evolves so rapidly that it can evade any vaccine-induced immune response.
Researchers from the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard University have now developed a new approach to vaccine design that may allow them to cut off those evolutionary escape routes. The researchers have developed and experimentally validated a computational method that can analyze viral protein sequences to determine how well different viral strains can reproduce in the body. That knowledge gives researchers an unprecedented guide for identifying viral vulnerabilities that could be exploited to design successful vaccine targets.
The team, led by Arup Chakraborty, the Robert T. Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics and Biological Engineering at MIT, has designed protein fragments (peptides) that would target these weaknesses. Ragon Institute researchers are now developing ways to deliver the peptides so they can be tested in animals.
"We think that, if it continues to be validated against laboratory and clinical data, this method could be quite useful for rational design of the active component of a vaccine for diverse viruses. Furthermore, if delivered properly, the peptides we have designed may be able to mount potent responses against HIV across a population," says Chakraborty, who is also the director of MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.
Chakraborty and his colleagues describe their findings in the March 21 issue of the journal Immunity. Lead author of the paper is Andrew Ferguson, a former postdoc in Chakraborty's lab who is now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Other authors are Bruce Walker, director of the Ragon Institute and a professor at Harvard Medical School; Thumbi Ndung'u of the Ragon Institute and the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute in South Africa; and Jaclyn Mann and Saleha Omarjee of the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute.
"This work stems from the novel approach to science that is the central mission of the Ragon Institute: to draw researchers from diverse scientific disciplines to catalyze new advances, the ultimate mission being to harness the immune system to prevent and cure human diseases," Walker says.
Rapid evolution
Typically when a vaccine for a disease such as smallpox or polio is given, exposure to viral fragments primes the body's immune system to respond powerfully if it encounters the real virus. With HIV, it appears that when immune cells in a vaccinated person attack viral peptides that they recognize, the virus quickly mutates its protein sequences so immune cells no longer recognize them.
To overcome this, scientists have tried analyzing viral proteins to find amino acids that don't often mutate, which would suggest that they are critical to the virus's survival. However, this approach ignores the fact that mutations elsewhere in the protein can compensate when those seemingly critical amino acids are forced to evolve, Chakraborty says.
The Ragon Institute team focused on defining how the virus's ability to survive depends on the sequences of its proteins, if they have multiple mutations. This knowledge could enable identification of combinations of amino acid mutations that are harmful to the virus. Vaccines that target those amino acids would force the virus to make mutations that weaken it.
With existing HIV protein sequence data as input, the researchers created a computer model that can predict the fitness of any possible sequence, enabling prediction of how specific mutations would affect the virus.
In this paper, the researchers focused on an HIV polyprotein called Gag, which is made up of several proteins that together are 500 amino acids long. The proteins derived from Gag are important structural elements of the virus. For example, a protein called p24 makes up the capsid that surrounds the virus's genetic material.
Each position in HIV proteins can be occupied by one of 20 possible amino acids. Sequence data from thousands of different HIV strains contain information on the likelihood of mutations at each position and each pair of positions, as well as for triplets and larger groups. The researchers then developed a computer model based on spin glass models, originally developed in physics, to translate this information into predictions for the prevalence of any mutant.
Using this model, the researchers can enter any possible sequence of Gag proteins and determine how prevalent it will be. That prevalence correlates with the fitness of a virus carrying that particular protein sequence, a relationship that the researchers demonstrated by using the model to predict the fitness of a few dozen Gag protein sequences, and verified by engineering those sequences into HIV viruses and testing their ability to replicate in cells grown in the lab. They also tested their predictions against human clinical data.
Visualizing fitness
The model also allows the researchers to visualize viral fitness using "fitness landscapes" — topographical maps that show how fit the virus is for different possible amino-acid sequences for the Gag proteins. In these landscapes, each hill represents sequences that are very fit; valleys represent sequences that are not.
Ideally, vaccine-induced immune responses would target viral proteins in such a way that mutant strains that escape the immune response correspond to the fitness valleys. Thus, the virus would either be destroyed by the immune response or forced to mutate to strains that cannot replicate well and are less able to infect more cells.
This would mimic the immune response mounted by people known as "elite controllers," who are exposed to the virus but able to control it without medication. Immune cells in those people target the same peptide sequences that the model predicted would produce the biggest loss of fitness when mutated.
This general approach could also be used to identify vaccine targets for other viruses, Chakraborty says.
"The reason we are excited about this is that we now have a method that combines two technologies that are getting cheaper all the time: sequencing and computation," he says. "We think that if this continues to be validated, it could become a general method of obtaining the fitness landscapes of viruses, allowing you to do rational design of the active components of vaccines."
"This work is a great example of how integrating expertise from different scientific disciplines — in this case physics, computational biology, virology and immunology — can accelerate progress toward an HIV vaccine," Walker says.
Source:Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Eating Disorder in Early Stages of Pregnancy

 Eating Disorder in Early Stages of Pregnancy 
Women in early stages of pregnancy are more prone to eating disorders, reports a study, conducted by researchers at University College London.A survey of 700 pregnant women revealed that nearly one fourth of them were very conscious and worried about weight gain and body shape during pregnancy. Consequently, around 2 percent of the participants were found to fast, exercise intensely, or misuse diuretics to control weight. 
The diet intake reported by the pregnant women showed that 12 percent of them overate and lost control of their intake at least two times a week. It is well known that eating disorders affect both the mother and the fetus. The authors note that most often eating disorders are masked by pregnancy symptoms like vomiting and weight gain and hence the disorder remains undiagnosed. 
The researchers urge the physicians to screen the women for eating disorders during their first antenatal check-up. 

India, Spain set to begin R&D based collaborative projects in biotech field

Aiming to launch ambitious joint projects of  high international standard between Indian and Spanish organisations, India and Spain will soon begin collaborative programmes in the field of biotechnology under the Indo-Spanish programme for technological co-operation in the field of biotechnology.
The objective of the joint Indo-Spanish programme is to promote and fund market-driven research and technology development as well as to encourage partnerships and business-led research and development (R&D) collaborative projects in the field of biotechnology.
The programme is open to collaborative R&D projects in all areas of biotechnology e.g. health biotechnology, industrial biotechnology, nano-biotechnology, agro-biotechnology, including biofuels and bioenergy, bioinformatics and biomedical engineering. Potential projects will be funded by Department of Biotechnology of India (DBT) in India and the Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) in Spain.
Minimum eligibility criteria for the programme included at least one qualified partner from India and one qualified partner from Spain.  From the Spanish side the project must necessarily be led by a company. Collaboration with other Spanish R&D entities (research institutes, academic institutions, technology centres) is permitted. The Indian side of the consortium can either be led by a company or a research institution.
The joint programme for co-operation between the DBT and the CDTI was signed by on November 22, 2011. The DBT and the CDTI are the nodal implementing agencies from the Indian and Spanish side respectively.
DBT is the nodal agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology for the promotion of research, development and innovation in the field of biotechnology. DBT funds and supports all Indian universities, research organisations, non-governmental organisations and industry working in the area of biotechnology.
The CDTI is a Public Entity, part of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Government of Spain, which fosters the technological development and innovation of Spanish Companies. Since 2009, it has been the entity that channels and supports applications for national and international R&D&I projects of Spanish Companies.


Stress Triggers Alzheimer's Disease

A stressful lifestyle leads to Alzheimer's disease, say researchers.In a mice study, they found that chronic stress sends levels of steroids in the brain soaring. This not only accelerates the development of Alzheimer's but also boosts levels of the toxic plaque amyloid beta, which can ravage the brain, the Daily Express reported. 
Stress steroids could affect the brain's general activity, said Sara Bengtsson, of Sweden's Umea University. 
Chronically elevated levels of one in particular, called allopregnanolone, accelerated the disease development in research involving mice, she stated. 
When levels of the steroid were increased, the mice with Alzheimer's developed impaired learning and memory. They also developed increased brain levels of amyloid beta, the proteins that form devastating plaques in Alzheimer's disease, the researchers found. 
The study also showed that high levels of these amyloids were directly linked to the dysfunction in brain synapses, the connections between nerve cells. 
It is the loss of synapses that brings about memory loss, mood swings and communication problems in those suffering from Alzheimer's. 
The high amyloid levels and synapse abnormality were seen after a short period of chronically elevated levels of allopregnanolone but not after a placebo treatment. 
The effects were also identified early in the disease development when the animals' memory function would usually be intact. 
Amyloid beta is thought to build up in the brain for at least a decade before outward signs of dementia. 
The researchers said that if a similar acceleration was seen in humans, it could mean the difference between sufferers managing at home and needing professional care. 
Amyloid beta is thought to build up in the brain for at least a decade before outward signs of dementia. 
The sticky protein forms harmful "plaques" which destroy the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers, killing off nerves and causing devastating symptoms such as memory loss and confusion. 
Finding ways of preventing the plaques is seen as the key to wiping out Alzheimer's. 
Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer's Research UK, noted that the research was not carried out in people. 
Some research has already highlighted a possible link between chronic stress, cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer's, and Ridley said that further study in people is needed to fully investigate these links. 
He suggested that if the risk factors for Alzheimer's are well understood, people could be empowered to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk.



Aid Eye Health Through Nutrition

 Aid Eye Health Through NutritionExperts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) says that it is possible to aid eye health through nutrition and supplements.Research by the National Eye Institute (NEI) has shown that high levels of antioxidants and zinc, in the form of a nutritional supplement tablet, reduced the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 
"AMD is the leading cause of blindness in older adults," said Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Ophthalmology. 
"These dietary supplements are not a cure for AMD, but they do reduce one's risk of progressing to the most serious form of the disease," she stated. 
UAB School of Optometry Professor Leo Semes, O.D., talked about the importance of diet to eye health. 
"You are what you eat; it's trite but it's true. It's been shown that certain habits like eating a high-fat diet are associated with, but not causative, in AMD," Semes said. 
One food that has long been connected with improving vision is carrots, but Semes said carrots alone would not accomplish significant gains in eye health. 
"The basis for this belief is that carrots are high in beta-carotene. But beta-carotene alone is not going to be protective enough. There's also a tangential relationship that a lack of vitamin-A, a cousin of beta-carotene, is implicated in poor darkness adaptation," Semes said. 
Seeing well when moving from light to dark declines with age. 
Semes serves on the American Optometric Association Health and Nutrition Committee, which developed a list of specific foods and nutrients that have been found to be beneficial to eye health. 
Fruits and vegetables - Vitamin C can help minimize cataracts and AMD 
Fleshy fish (tuna or salmon) and lean meats - Fatty acids protect against AMD 
Red meats and whole grains - Zinc deficiency can lead to cataracts 
Vegetable oil - Vitamin E can slow progression of AMD 
Semes suggested a consultation with an optometrist for evaluation of any ophthalmic problems so possible solutions can be reviewed.

New Gel That Stops Bleeding in Wounds Invented

 New Gel That Stops Bleeding in Wounds InventedA magic gel developed by scientists can stop heavy bleeding in wounds. 
Joe Landolina from Ulster County said that his Veti-Gel almost instantly closes and begins healing even major wounds to internal organs and key arteries.The 20-year-old told the New York Post that there's no way to quickly stop bleeding except to hold lots of gauze on a wound, so he thought if this gel is poured into a wound, it would solidify and stop the bleeding. 
Landolina, who is simultaneously pursuing a bachelor's degree in biomolecular and chemical engineering and a master's in biomedical engineering, created the substance with another university grad, Isaac Miller. 
The lifesaving goo is an artificial version of something called the extracellular matrix, which makes up the connective tissue that helps hold animal bodies together. 
Landolina said that they used plant-derived versions of the polymers that make up our skin to make the gel. 
The aspiring scientist says he tested the stuff on rats and was able to stop bleeding instantly after slicing the rodents' livers and carotid arteries. 
The duo will also be testing the gel on larger living animals, like pigs and sheep, under the supervision of Dr. Herbert Dardik, a cardiovascular surgeon at Englewood (NJ) Hospital.


Key Step in Production of Red Blood Cells in Body Identified

 Key Step in Production of Red Blood Cells in Body IdentifiedIn a major breakthrough that could not only shed more light on various blood disorders such as anemia but also lead to mass manufacture of red blood cells in the laboratory, researchers at EPFL have discovered a key step in the process of red blood cell generation by the body.
A red blood cell, or erythrocyte, is essentially a sack of haemoglobin that transports oxygen around the body. It starts life in the bone marrow as a haematopoietic stem cell, and undergoes a highly controlled process of proliferation and differentiation before acquiring its final identity. 
One key step in that differentiation process is mitophagy, the elimination by absorption of the stem cell's respiratory apparatus, mitochondria. With the mitochondria gone, the cell's carrying capacity for haemoglobin is maximised. But the mechanism controlling mitophagy has never been properly understood, until now. 
In a paper published this week in Science, Isabelle Barde of the EPFL's School of Life Sciences and Frontiers in Genetic Programme, and colleagues, describe experiments which show that KRAB-containing zinc finger proteins, working in concert with a cofactor called KAP1, modulate mitophagy in subtle and sophisticated ways. 
The senior author on the paper, virologist Didier Trono, has been interested in the KRAB/KAP1 system for several years. 350 million years old, it is known to have a role in "silencing" components of the mammalian genome known as retroelements, because they were originally retroviruses that became incorporated into the genetic code of the organisms they infected. "It did such a good job that over the course of evolution it got co-opted to do many other things," Trono says. 
Among the roles the KRAB/KAP1 system took on was regulating mitophagy. The researchers found that mice genetically modified to lack KAP1 quickly became anaemic because they were unable to make red blood cells. More specifically, they found, the process of stem cell differentiation stalled at the stage where mitochondria were degraded in erythroblasts, the precursors of erythrocytes. And knocking out KAP1 had a similar effect in human blood cells, indicating that its role in regulating mitophagy has been conserved throughout evolution, from mouse to man. 
The researchers went on to show that the KRAB/KAP1 system works by repressing repressors of mitophagy. In other words, like any good double negative, it activates the target process. That suggests that mutations in the various components of this regulatory system could contribute to blood disorders such as anaemia and certain types of leukaemia, which in turn indicates future therapeutic targets for those diseases. It also suggests ways in which red blood cell synthesis might be emulated in the lab. 
But the finding has broader significance too. Mitochondria, while essential for the healthy functioning of many cells, can also be lethal to cells if they generate damaging free radicals—by-products of cellular respiration under certain conditions. The oxidative stress these free radicals produce has been implicated in liver disease, heart attacks and obesity. Hence, understanding how mitophagy is controlled could lead to a better understanding, and potentially better treatment, of those conditions. 
Trono thinks that the principle of multilayered and combinatorial regulation may apply to a wide range of physiological systems. "It gives a tremendous level of modularity to nature to accomplish physiological events," he says, likening it to the way in which a pipe organ works. 
An organist has both a keyboard and a pedalboard at his disposal, and he uses them in multifarious combinations to modulate the sound his instrument produces. Similarly, tiny adjustments in one or a few controlling elements can produce significant effects in many biological processes. And though mutations in any one of them could potentially lead to malfunction, the damage tends to be limited because the contribution of each one is small. That, in turn, renders the system robust. It's that robustness, Trono believes, that evolution has been selecting and refining for hundreds of millions of years. 



Impotence: Major Cause of Divorce

 Impotence: Major Cause of DivorceIn India, impotence is emerging as a major cause of divorce, finds study. The study, conducted by Alpha One Andrology Group, an association of doctors dealing in sex-related problems in men, took into account nearly 2,500 Indian men suffering from erectile dysfunction or impotence.
The study found that erectile dysfunction affects 50 percent of men over the age of 40 and 10 percent of men below 40. 
"The analysis revealed that of the 2,500 men suffering from erectile dysfunction, one in five were divorced while the marriages of one in 10 were on the verge of breaking over their physical health," Anup Dhir, a reconstruction surgeon and andrologist, told IANS. 
Impotence is the most poorly understood and mismanaged of all medical disorders and results in marriages breaking up, the study found. 
"Maintaining a healthy marriage requires time, effort and compromise from both spouses. When one or both spouses find a marriage to be unsatisfactory, it is likely because of problems that arise due to issues with communication, expectations or sexual dissatisfaction," said Dhir. 
The study found that a married couple on an average has sex 58 times per year, or slightly more than once a week. 
"If the number lacks, it means there is a problem with partner. Sexual impotence is becoming a common problem among couples in major cities due to sedentary lifestyle, hypertension and busy schedule," he said. 
Diabetes emerged as the leading cause of erectile dysfunction followed by hypertension. 
"As many as 48 percent of patients above the age of 40 were diabetic while 45 percent with hypertension have severe erectile dysfunction. Men who have diabetes are found to develop erectile dysfunction nearly 10 to 15 years earlier than men who do not suffer from the disease," the study highlighted. 
Furthermore, people with diabetes frequently take medication to lower blood pressure. 
Common prescriptions for blood pressure like some diuretics and beta blockers are known to cause erectile dysfunction. 
"These drugs not only affect and at times suppress the central nervous system but can also cause serious damage to the blood vessels, resulting in permanent erectile dysfunction," C.M. Batra, an endocrinologist with Apollo Hospital, told IANS. 
According to Batra, other primary causes of erectile dysfunction include lifestyle issues like smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight and exercising too little, among others. 
Dhir said that taking medical help for erectile dysfunction continues to remain a stigma among Indian men as they are not ready to accept the fact until it comes to the breaking up of their marriages. 
"Men have an ego problem in accepting the fact and most of them remain secretive about their sexual health, which leads to delayed treatment," he said. 


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