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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Eating Jamun Every Day can Help Diabetics Keep Blood Sugar Levels in Control

Eating Jamun fruit could be beneficial as it not only acts as a powerful antioxidant that can help improve immunity but can also be beneficial for use in treating diabetes.The fruit is acidic and astringent in nature and has a sweet taste. Glucose and fructose are the major sugars found in the ripe fruit, it is also laden with minerals, and provides fewer calories, as compared to other fruits, Diabetic Living India reported. 
Jamun is believed to be of special use in treatment of diabetes. In Unani and Ayurvedic systems, it is used for digestive disorders. The leaves, bark, and seeds are the most useful parts among which the seeds are popular for their anti diabetic properties. 
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine Jambolan was used to help with thirst, diarrhoea, and in healing of wounds. The key ingredient that shows anti-diabetic action is jamboline (a chemical) in the seeds. Extracts of the bark, seeds and leaves have been found to cause a marked prolonged decrease in blood sugar and glycouria (sugar in urine). 
Several studies have shown that jamun has hypoglycemic effects with up to 30 percent reduction in blood sugar. Seeds are rich in alkaloids which have the hypoglycemic effects. 
Diabetic patients can consume jamun fruit daily to control their sugar levels, which certainly helps to enhance the insulin activity and sensitivity. 
In addition, seeds powder can be taken as an adjuvant both for type-2 diabetes, insulin dependent or non-insulin dependent. 
The real benefit is at the stage of IFG (Impaired fasting glucose) which can be well-controlled with jamun, both with fruit as well as the seed powder. Regulation of IFG prevents the early onset of diabetes and further conditions. 
Since it is a good source of vitamin A and C, so is very beneficial for eye and skin health. Jamun acts as a coolant and also possesses anti-diarrhoeal properties, so is beneficial for the digestive system. 
It is also used in the treatment of sore throat and asthma in Ayurveda. Jamun leaves were used for healing pus-filled wounds in the ancient days, which suggests that it has anti-bacterial and healing properties too. 
Being rich in antioxidants, it improves immunity and helps to prevent cancer.
Source: ANI.
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Brain may play key role in blood sugar metabolism and development of diabetes

Normal blood sugar regulation is a partnership between the pancreas and the brain

 This is a close-up of a lab procedure in the diabetes research lab of Dr. Michael Schwartz at the University of Washington in Seattle.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the brain plays a key role in glucose regulation and the development of type 2 diabetes, researchers write in the Nov. 7 issue of the journal Nature. If the hypothesis is correct, it may open the door to entirely new ways to prevent and treat this disease, which is projected to affect one in three adults in the United States by 2050.
In the paper, lead author Dr. Michael W. Schwartz, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle, and his colleagues from the Universities of Cincinnati, Michigan, and Munich, note that the brain was originally thought to play an important role in maintaining normal glucose metabolism With the discovery of insulin in the 1920s, the focus of research and diabetes care shifted to almost exclusively to insulin. Today, almost all treatments for diabetes seek to either increase insulin levels or increase the body's sensitivity to insulin.
"These drugs," the researchers write, "enjoy wide use and are effective in controlling hyperglycemia [high blood sugar levels], the hallmark of type 2 diabetes, but they address the consequence of diabetes more than the underlying causes, and thus control rather than cure the disease."
New research, they write, suggests that normal glucose regulation depends on a partnership between the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, the pancreatic islet cells, and neuronal circuits in the hypothalamus and other brain areas that are intimately involved in maintaining normal glucose levels. The development of diabetes type 2, the authors argue, requires a failure of both the islet-cell system and this brain-centered system for regulating blood sugar levels .
In their paper, the researchers review both animal and human studies that indicate the powerful effect this brain-centered regulatory system has on blood glucose levels independent of the action of insulin. One such mechanism by which the system promotes glucose uptake by tissues is by stimulating what is called "glucose effectiveness." As this process accounts for almost 50 percent of normal glucose uptake, it rivals the impact of insulin-dependent mechanisms driven by the islet cells in the pancreas.
The findings lead the researchers to propose a two-system model of regulating blood sugar levels composed of the islet-cell system, which responds to a rise in glucose levels by primarily by releasing insulin, and the brain-centered system that enhances insulin-mediated glucose metabolism while also stimulating glucose effectiveness.
The development of type 2 diabetes appears to involve the failure of both systems, the researchers say. Impairment of the brain-centered system is common, and it places an increased burden on the islet-centered system. For a time, the islet-centered system can compensate, but if it begins to fail, the brain-centered system may decompensate further, causing a vicious cycle that ends in diabetes.
Boosting insulin levels alone will lower glucose levels, but only addresses half the problem. To restore normal glucose regulation requires addressing the failures of the brain-centered system as well. Approaches that target both systems may not only achieve better blood glucose control, but could actually cause diabetes to go into remission, they write.

A*STAR Scientists Uncover Potential Drug Target To Nip Cancer In The Bud

This discovery could eradicate cancers more effectively and prevent relapses
1.Scientists at A*STAR have discovered an enzyme, Wip1 phosphatase, as a potential target to weed out the progression of cancer. Although studies in the past have revealed that this enzyme plays a critical role in regulating the budding of tumours, scientists have for the first time unearthed a mechanism for its mode of action.
2. The research was conducted by Dr Dmitry Bulavin and his team at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), with their findings published in the 14 October 2013 issue of the prestigious scientific journal, Cancer Cell.
3.The team discovered that Wip1 phosphatase is a key factor that causes point mutations to sprout in human cancers. These types of mutations stem from errors that are made during DNA replication in the body, causing one base-pair in the DNA sequence to be altered.
4.These mutations can cause cancers to take root, or to become resilient to treatment. By using drugs to inhibit the action of Wip1 phosphatase, cancer growth can be stunted and tumours can be cured without developing resistance. This is a ground-breaking finding that sheds light on how mutations in cancer can potentially be wiped out with drugs, allowing cancers to be treated and eliminated effectively, preventing relapses of tumour growth.
5.Dr Dmitry Bulavin said, “Our work on Wip1 phosphatase for over a decade has now revealed several key features of this molecule. Our current findings strongly support the use of an anti-Wip1 drug for cancer treatment in order to reduce a high frequency of mutations in the genome, which is one of the main drivers of tumour relapses.”
6.Prof Hong Wan Jin, Executive Director of IMCB, said, “Dmitry has been the pioneering driver in the mechanistic study of Wip1 phosphatase, and this discovery is monumental in providing novel understanding on the role of Wip1 in cancer at the genomic and systems levels. I am confident that his team at IMCB can further their work in cancer research to offer new approaches for potential drugs against this target.”
Source:A*(Agency for Science and Technology Research,Singapore)

France Gives Thumbs Up to Home HIV Tests

 France Gives Thumbs Up to Home HIV TestsIn an attempt to reduce the spread of AIDS virus, France will now introduce self-testing HIV kits next year, the health minister said.In-home tests will be available "for people who do not want to go to testing centres or hospitals" to learn about their HIV status, she told a parliamentary committee. 
Self-testing kits use a drop of blood from a finger or a swab sample from the mouth to detect antibodies to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), usually delivering a result within 30 minutes.
France recorded 6,100 new infections of HIV in 2011.
Up to 40,000 people in France may have the AIDS virus but not be aware of it, according to official estimates.
Source: AFP


Research Sheds Light on Why Stem Cells Need to Stick With Their Friends

 Research Sheds Light on Why Stem Cells Need to Stick With Their FriendsA core set of functionally relevant factors which regulates embryonic stem cells' ability for self-renewal has been identified by scientists at University of Copenhagen and University of Edinburgh.A key aspect is the protein Oct4 and how it makes stem cells stick together. The identification of these factors will be an important tool in devising better and safer ways of making specialised cells for future regenerative cell therapies for treatment of diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's disease. The results have just been published in the scientific journal Current Biology
Scientists have known that the protein Oct4 plays a key role in maintaining the embryonic stem cells in pure form by turning on stem cell genes, however up until now it has not been know which of the 8.000 or more possible genes that Oct4 can choose from actually support self-renewal. 
By comparing the evolution of stem cells in frogs, mice and humans, scientists at the Danish Stem Cell Center (DanStem) and The MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh have now been able to link the protein Oct4 with the ability of cells to stick together. They found that for embryonic stem cells to thrive they need to stick together and Oct4's role is to make sure they stay that way. 
"Embryonic stem cells can stay forever young unless they become grown-up cells with a specialised job in a process called differentiation. Our study shows that Oct4 prevents this process by pushing stem cells to stick to each other," says Dr Alessandra Livigni, Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. 

Identification of specific genes 
The research teams in Edinburgh and Copenhagen successfully identified 53 genes, out of more than 8.000 possible candidates that together with Oct4, functionally regulate cell adhesion. Almost like finding needles in a haystack the scientists have paved the way for a more efficient way of maintaining stem cells as stem cells. "Embryonic stem cells are characterized, among other things, by their ability to perpetuate themselves indefinitely and differentiate into all the cell types in the body - a trait called pluripotency. Though to be able to use them medically, we need to be able to maintain them as stem cells, until they're needed. When we want to turn a stem cell into a specific cell for example; an insulin producing beta cell, or a nerve cell like those in the brain, we'd like this process to occur accurately and efficiently. We cannot do this if we don't understand how to maintain stem cells as stem cells," says Professor Joshua Brickman from DanStem, University of Copenhagen. 

Future potential 
As well as maintaining embryonic stem cells in their pure state more effectively, this new insight will also enable scientists to more efficiently manipulate adult cells to revert to a stem cell like stage known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). These cells have many of the same traits and characteristics as embryonic stem cells but can be derived from the patients to both help study degenerative disease and eventually treat them. 
"This research knowledge has the potential for us to change the way we grow stem cells, enabling us to use them in a less costly and more efficient way. It will help us devise better and safer ways to create specialised cells for future regenerative medicine therapies," concludes Professor Joshua.

Source: Current Biology



Friday, 8 November 2013

Risk of Serious Blood Clot High Among Women Admitted to Hospital During Pregnancy

A new study published on reveals that the risk of serious blood clots or venous thromboembolism (VTE) is high among women who get admitted to hospitals during their pregnancies for reasons other than delivery.Clots risk was also high in the 28 days after discharge, with a particularly high rate among women hospitalised for three or more days - and they were more likely in late pregnancy and in women aged 35 years and over. Venous thromboembolism affects 1-2 pregnancies in every 1,000 and is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in developed countries. In the general population, admission to hospital substantially increases the risk of VTE and, in the UK alone, is responsible for more than 25,000 deaths each year. But it is not clear if the same level of risk exists for pregnant women. So researchers based at the University of Nottingham and Guy's & St Thomas' Foundation Trust in London set out to assess the risk of a first VTE in hospitalised pregnant women compared with rates outside hospital. Using linked primary and secondary care data records, they identified 206,785 women aged 15-44 years, with no previous history of VTE, who had one or more pregnancies between 1997 and 2010. Other maternal and pregnancy associated risk factors and medical conditions that could have affected the results were taken into account. Overall, they found that hospitalisation during pregnancy was associated with an excess risk of 16.6 cases per 1,000 person-years compared with time outside hospital (17.5-fold increase in risk).
There was also an excess risk of 5.8 cases per 1,000 person years in the 28 days after discharge with VTE events more likely to occur in the third trimester of pregnancy and in women aged 35 years and over. Compared with time outside hospital, those with a hospital stay of less than three days had an excess risk of VTE of 4.6 cases per 1,000 person-years, whereas those with a stay of three or more days had an excess risk of 14.1 cases per 1,000 person-years. Results remained broadly similar when adjusted for other factors associated with increased risk of VTE. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to assess the impact of antepartum hospitalisation on the incidence of VTE during pregnancy," say the authors. In light of their findings, they suggest these periods "should receive careful consideration" when assessing which women should receive anti-clotting drugs while in hospital during pregnancy.


Edited RNA + invasive DNA add individuality

A study in Nature Communications finds that an enzyme that edits RNA may loosen the genome’s control over invasive snippets of DNA that affect how genes are expressed. In fruit flies, that newly understood mechanism appears to contribute to differences among individuals such as eye color and life span.The story of why we are all so different goes well beyond the endless mixing and matching of DNA through breeding. A new study in the journal Nature Communications, for instance, reports a new molecular mechanism of individual variation found in fruit flies that uses components operating in a wide variety of species, including humans.The new mechanism is based in a surprising genetic oddity. Nearly all genomes — those of humans, fruit flies, and even corn and rice — are constantly grappling with parasitic snippets of genetic material called “transposons.” These snippets copy themselves, move around, and embed themselves within DNA. If left unchecked, transposons can alter how genetic instructions are carried out in the body,usually for the worse, sometimes for the better. But genomes don’t leave transposons unchecked. They “look” for tell-tale double-stranded RNA associated with the transposons, chop the strands up and use the pieces to “silence” the invaders.In the new paper, scientists show that an enzyme called ADAR, which edits RNA in humans, flies, and many other creatures, edits double-stranded RNAs. This loosens the system that keeps “Hoppel” transposons silenced in fruit flies. When transposons are silenced, it’s done by keeping them locked tight around tiny balls of material called chromatin.
Lead author Yiannis SavvaAn unintended discovery of ADAR on a site of chromosome four in fruit flies, said his thesis adviser, would be “either an artifact or ... the centerpiece of your thesis."Lead author Yiannis Savva
An unintended discovery of ADAR on a site of chromosome four in fruit flies, said his thesis adviser, would be “either an artifact or ... the centerpiece of your thesis."
Since the amount of ADAR varies from one individual to the next, the amount of jailbreaking from those chromatin prison varies too, and that should lead to altered gene expression. After showing that an abundance of ADAR reduces silencing of a common transposon in the flies — and that a lack of ADAR meant widespread silencing — the researchers measured two consequences of different levels of ADAR activity: a 20-percent difference in life span and difference in eye color (red rather than white).The study was focused on fruit flies, ADAR, and the double-stranded RNA of the Hoppel transposon, but the ability of RNA editors to loosen the silencing of at least some transposons may be a source of individual variation in humans and other species too, said Brown University biologist Robert Reenan, senior author of the new study published online. Editing of double-stranded RNA — or a lack of editing — has already been linked to diseases in people, including amyloid lateral sclerosis and, specifically in the case of ADAR, Aicardi-Goutières syndrome.“ADAR in humans functions the same way it does in flies, and double-stranded RNAs are made in humans the same way,” said Reenan, professor of biology in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry. “They are all generic, off the shelf staples of the biological toolkit. This is not anything that is particular to flies.”
Picking the double strand
Many of Reenan’s studies focus on ADAR’s editing activity in the development of the nervous system, but this investigation began years ago when lead author and then graduate student Yiannis Savva happened to overexpress ADAR in fruit fly salivary gland cells. He found some bound in an unexpected place: one specific site on chromosome four.Reenan recalled: “I told him that’s either an artifact or it will be the centerpiece of your thesis.”Various tests revealed that the chromosome four site was a home for several Hoppel transposons making a double-stranded RNA.Savva and Reenan were curious about what business ADAR had with the transposon. A series of experiments in ensuing years did just that. They relocated the transposons to places where they weren’t and found that ADAR followed. They deleted the double-stranded RNA from chromosome four and found that ADAR was no longer there. They identified specific editing sites and signs of editing on the double stranded RNA.Savva and his collaborators then measured silencing of tranposons with varying levels of ADAR and found that the more ADAR there was, the less silencing there was.Then, working with Stephen Helfand, an expert on the biology of aging, they noticed that a reduction of editing increases life span.“As a loss of silencing has been associated with aging in Drosophila and other organisms, we performed lifespan analyses on [low-ADAR] adults and wild-type controls and found a ~20-percent increase in the median life span of [low-ADAR] males and females,” the authors wrote in Nature Communications.
Look in their eyes
Later they looked at eye color, using natural (wild-type) flies and those where ADAR activity was either artificially hamstrung or excessively active. The natural flies have eyes that run a full continuum from red to white with various “variegating” blends in between that reflect the silencing state of their eye color gene. In the excessively ADAR-active flies there was little silencing and eyes turned out red much more often than normal. In the ADAR-hamstrug flies, virtually all of the eyes were white (reflecting a lot of silencing of the red color gene).Ultimately, Savva said, ADAR appears to be allowing transposons like Hoppel to exercise their capacity to regulate gene expression, even though they are really just uninvited guests in the genome.“What ADAR does is fine tune this regulatory network,” Savva said. “In cells where you have ADAR, the network is activated. In cells where you don’t it’s silenced. It provides dynamicity.”In other words, some of the differences among us may be apparent in the eyes of flies.In addition to Savva, Reenan, and Helfand, authors on the paper are James Jepson, Yoah-Jen Chang, Rachel Whitaker, Brian Jones, Nian Jiang, and Guyu Du of Brown; Georges St. Laurent of Brown and the St. Laurent Institute; and Michael Tackett and Phillipp Kapranov of the St. Laurent Institute.
 Source:Nature Communications.

Role of Cul4 Molecule in Genome Instability and Cancer Identified

 Role of Cul4 Molecule in Genome Instability and Cancer IdentifiedCul4 molecule helps to deposit DNA-packaging histone proteins onto DNA, an integral step in cramming yards of genetic code into compact coils that can fit into each cell. The research is published in the issue of the journal Cell. The results explain on a molecular level how Cul4 enables the handoff of histones from the proteins escorting them from their birthplace in the cell to their workplace on the DNA, where they can begin wrapping DNA up into tidy units called nucleosomes."We suggest that cancer cells may have evolved a mechanism to disrupt proper nucleosome assembly by altering Cul4 and other factors, which in turn could affect the stability of the genome and promote the formation of tumors," says senior study author Zhiguo Zhang, Ph.D., a molecular biologist at Mayo Clinic. 
To protect the integrity of the genome, DNA is packaged tightly, first around spools of histone to form nucleosomes, then stacked on top of each other to form chromatin and finally looped and coiled to form chromosomes. Depending on whether and how histones interact with a given genetic sequence, the DNA is either closed up tightly within this package or lies open so that the underlying genes can be read and become active.
Researchers have long known that special proteins -- called histone chaperones -- escort histones around the cell, but how they finally let go of the histones to deposit them onto DNA was unclear.
Dr. Zhang wondered if Cul4, which is altered in a number of human cancers, including breast cancer, squamous cell carcinomas, adrenocortical carcinomas, and malignant mesotheliomas, might be involved. So he and his colleagues developed a series of cellular assays in yeast and in human cells to investigate the role of Cul4 in nucleosome assembly.
They found that Cul4 modifies the chemical entities on the surface of the histones, weakening the interaction between them and the histone chaperones charged with their care. They noticed that the same observations held true in the yeast indicating that the role of Cul4 in nucleosome assembly and genome stability is likely conserved between yeast and human cells.
"We uncovered a novel molecular mechanism whereby Cul4 regulates nucleosome assembly," says Dr. Zhang. "Our finding underscores the fact that proper regulation of the nucleosome assembly pathway is a key step in maintaining genome stability and epigenetic information."
Co-authors of the article are Junhong Hang, Ph.D., Hui Zhang, Zhiquan Wang, Ph.D. and Hui Zhou. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health grants # GM81838 and GM72719. The Epigenomic Program, Center of Individualized Medicine, Mayo Clinic also partly supported this study. 

Source: Newswise


Tea Helps Promote Weight Loss, Improve Heart Health

Tea has been found to help promote weight loss, improve bone and heart health, slow the progression of prostate cancer and activate areas of the brain that bolster attention, problem solving and mood, say researchers.
The December 2013 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition features 12 new articles about the relationship between tea and human health. Each paper is based on presentations from world-renowned scientists who participated in the Fifth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health, held at USDA in September 2012. Highlights of some of the compelling reports published through the AJCN include the following five papers: 

Tea Leaf Polyphenols May Promote Weight Loss 

Tea polyphenols and the caffeine content in tea increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, providing benefits for achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight. The results of one meta-analysis suggests the increase in caloric expenditure is equal to about 100 calories over a 24-hour period, or 0.13 calories per mg catechins. In a related review, researchers concluded that subjects consuming green tea and caffeine lost an average of 2.9 pounds within 12 weeks while adhering to their regular diet. Population-based studies also show that habitual tea drinkers have lower Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) and waist-to-hip ratios and less body fat than non-tea drinkers. In addition, green tea and caffeine also appear to boost fat oxidation over 24 hours by an average of 16% or 0.02 grams per mg catechins. 

Tea May Reduce Risk for Some Cancers 

Green tea polyphenols may play a role in arresting the progression of certain cancers. For example, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, supplementation with 600 mg/d green tea catechins reduced the progression of prostate cancer. The researchers reported that after a year, 9% of men in the green tea supplemented group had progressed to prostate cancer whereas 30% of men in the placebo group had progressed. 
 Tea Helps Promote Weight Loss, Improve Heart Health 
Hundreds—if not thousands—of laboratory, epidemiological and human intervention studies have found anti-cancer properties in compounds present in tea. The types of cancer that have shown benefits of tea include cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, lung, prostate, breast, and skin. The proposed mechanisms of action for providing protection against cancer include antioxidant effects, inhibition of growth factor signaling, as well as improving the efficacy of chemotherapy agents. 

Tea Catechins are Cardioprotective 

Numerous studies suggest tea supports heart health and healthy blood pressure, and appears to be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. New research, published in the AJCN provides further support. Study results published by Claudio Ferri, MD, University L'Aquila, Italy, found that black tea reduced blood pressure, and among hypertensive subjects, it helped counteract the negative effects of a high-fat meal on blood pressure and arterial blood flow. Hypertensive subjects were instructed to drink a cup of tea after a meal that contained 0.45 grams fat/lb. body weight. The results suggest that tea prevented the reduction in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), the ability to increase arterial blood flow that occurs after a high-fat meal. In a previous study conducted by Ferri, tea improved FMD from 7.8 to 10.3%, and reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by -2.6 and -2.2 mmHg, respectively, in study participants. 
"Our studies build on previous work to clearly show that drinking as little as one cup of tea per day supports healthy arterial function and blood pressure. These results suggest that on a population scale, drinking tea could help reduce significantly the incidence of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases," concluded Dr. Ferri. 

Tea Flavonoids Improve Bone Strength and Quality 

Osteoporosis is a major public health concern but new research suggests that polyphenols in green tea may help improve bone quality and strength through many proposed mechanisms. In fact, one study found that tea drinking was associated with a 30% reduced risk in hip fractures among men and women over 50 years old. In a study of 150 postmenopausal women, researchers reported that 500 mg green tea extract (equivalent to 4-6 cups of green tea daily), alone or in combination with Tai Chi, improved markers for bone formation, reduced markers of inflammation and increased muscle strength in study participants. Numerous other studies have found that green tea flavanols provide a restorative effect to bone remodeling to help maintain bone density and slow bone loss. 

Tea Improves Mood, Alertness and Problem Solving 

Results from new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking tea improved attention and allowed individuals to be more focused on the task at hand. In this placebo-controlled study, subjects who drank tea produced more accurate results during an attention task and also felt more alert than subjects drinking a placebo. These effects were found for 2-3 cups of tea consumed within a time period of up to 90 minutes. Several studies have evaluated the role of tea in strengthening attention, mood and performance, and the results have been promising. It is thought that the amino acid theanine and caffeine, both present in tea, contribute to many of tea's psychological benefits. 
Twelve internationally renowned researchers contributed to the AJCN supplement, including experts from USDA, National Institutes of Health, UCLA, University of Glasgow and University of L'Aquila, among others. "The scientists who contributed their original research and insights are among the best in the world, and together, this body of research has significantly advanced the science of tea and human health," said compendium editor Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Director, Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston. 
"These new peer-reviewed papers add to the previously-published body of evidence that shows that tea can improve human health—both physically and psychologically," added Blumberg. "Humans have been drinking tea for some 5,000 years, dating back to the Paleolithic period. Modern research is providing the proof that there are real health benefits to gain from enjoying this ancient beverage." 
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Depression Symptoms Don't Ease With Intervention, Study Reveals

Depression Symptoms Don't Ease With Intervention, Study RevealsAmong depressed patients evaluated in a primary care setting, use of an interactive multimedia computer program just before a primary care visit resulted in the increased receipt of antidepressant prescription recommendation, mental health referral, or both; but, it did not result in improvement in mental health at 12-week follow-up, reveals a study reported in the November 6 issue of JAMA."Despite progress, depression in primary care remains underrecognized and undertreated. Barriers to improvement include system, clinician, and patient factors. System-level interventions are effective in increasing recognition and treatment of depression, but these interventions are difficult to disseminate," according to background information in the article. 
Richard L. Kravitz, M.D., M.S.P.H., of the University of California, Davis, and colleagues examined whether targeted and tailored communication strategies could enhance patient engagement and initial care for patients with depression and the extent to which the interventions promoted prescribing or recommendation of antidepressant medication, depression-related discussion, and antidepressant requests among patients who were not depressed. The trial compared a depression engagement video (DEV), tailored interactive multimedia computer program (IMCP) and control among 925 adult patients treated by 135 primary care clinicians (603 patients with depression and 322 patients without depression) conducted from June 2010 through March 2012 at 7 primary care clinical sites in California. Patients were randomized to a DEV targeted to sex and income, an IMCP tailored to individual patient characteristics, and a sleep hygiene (recommendations for improving sleep) video (control). 
Of the 925 eligible patients, 867 were included in the primary analysis (depressed, 559; nondepressed, 308). The researchers found that among depressed patients, rates of achieving the primary outcome (a composite measure of receiving an antidepressant recommendation, a mental health referral, or both during the initial visit) were 17.5 percent for DEV, 26 percent for IMCP, and 16.3 percent for control. Both the DEV and the IMCP increased patient-reported requests for information about depression. However, there were no improvements in mental health (as gauged by a questionnaire) at the 12-week follow-up in response to either intervention. 
Among nondepressed patients, no evidence of harm was observed from either intervention for the outcome of clinician-reported antidepressant prescribing, but the authors could not exclude harm (defined as a higher rate of antidepressant prescriptions for nondepressed patients associated with each intervention) based on patient-reported antidepressant recommendation. 
"Further research is needed to determine effects on clinical outcomes and whether the benefits outweigh possible harms," the authors conclude.
Source: Newswise


Tearless Onions Could Help Fight Cardiovascular Disease

 Tearless Onions Could Help Fight Cardiovascular DiseaseTearless onions have been found to be good for heart health, say researchers. The findings of the study are published in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.Colin C. Eady and colleagues note that the onion has a unique chemistry that leads to its tear-inducing effects when cut. Its pungency has driven cooks to don goggles, clench wooden spoons in their mouths and try other usually futile techniques to prevent crying at the cutting board. An answer could arrive in the form of a new type of onion that makes less of the protein blamed for making eyes burn and tear up. Eady's team has developed such a version, which instead makes a sulfur compound similar to one found in cut garlic that may be the key to its cardiovascular benefits. Many people eat garlic cloves or take it as a nutritional supplement in pill form to reduce the clumping of platelets in the blood, which can lead to blood clots and clogged arteries. Garlic also has been shown to reduce weight gain. They wanted to know whether the new onion might also have similar positive effects on health. 
The scientists found that in lab tests, extract from the tearless onion significantly reduced platelet clumping, compared to regular onions or even garlic. Other results showed that the new onion had about the same anti-inflammatory properties as the original. Also, preliminary testing in rats showed that the tearless onion could help control weight gain — more so than regular onions or garlic. 
ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

New Body Part Discovered by Belgian Doctors

 New Body Part Discovered by Belgian DoctorsWhile it is natural to assume that 400 years of research would mean that the human body carries no more secrets, two Belgian doctors revealed that they have discovered a new knee ligament whose existence was last suspected more than 130 years ago.A scientist named Paul Segond had suspected the presence of the anterolateral knee ligament (ALL) after failing to recover from his chronic pain in his knee. The researchers dissected around 41 dead bodies to confirm their finding which has been published in the Journal of Anatomy. The ALL runs alongside the CLL ligament on the outside of the knee and plays a key role in the stability of the knee. The researchers added that injury to this ligament could be the reason why some people who undergo surgery to repair their ACL ligament tear it once again. 
"The precise anatomical knowledge of this enigmatic structure delivered by this study could be highly relevant for clinical practice. However, further research is needed to establish the function of the ALL and to determine its role in clinical knee injuries", the researchers wrote in their report. 

Source:Journal of Anatomy


Researchers and clinicians unite to answer what will it take to achieve an AIDS-free world?

Since the onset of the AIDS pandemic more than three decades ago, researchers from the lab and physicians in the clinic have been working toward one shared goal: an AIDS-free world. This week, a conference hosted by the journals Cell and The Lancet brought leading researchers and clinicians together to discuss recent findings that could bring hope to the estimated 35 million people world-wide who live with HIV. Delegates from six continents converged on the meeting to bridge the gap between researchers and clinicians in a joint effort to identify what needs to be done before an AIDS-free world can go from dream to reality.
There are, to date, only a small handful of patients who have been successfully cured of HIV; Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the 'Berlin Patient,' was the first. Addressing delegates at the "Meeting the Speakers" dinner on Monday November 4, Timothy reflected on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of his journey toward being cured of HIV. "I am the first person in the world to be cured of HIV, but I know in my heart I'm not the last," Timothy said. At the dinner, Timothy announced the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation's "Cure Coalition" and "Cure Report"—a new collaborative effort to bring various groups together in an effort to find and report on a scalable cure for HIV. "People around the world tell me my story is about hope," Timothy added. "This hope can translate to a cure."
Keynote speaker Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in the US, began the meeting by suggesting that, for a cure to work, it must be safe, simple, and scalable. Dr. Fauci discussed the feasibility of an AIDS-free world on the basis of scientific advances in preventing infections in those not infected and preventing illness in those who are infected. Preventive strategies include, among many others, the expansion of HIV testing, circumcision, treatment as prevention, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. According to Dr. Fauci, "Biomedical interventions need to meld with human behavior and social determinants to achieve an AIDS-free world."
Before speakers examined the advances in these biomedical interventions, a number of researchers spoke of one of the largest roadblocks to a cure: the latent reservoir. The latent reservoir in HIV-infected patients consists of viral DNA that inserts itself into the genome of infected patients' cells, without replicating. Meeting co-organizer Dr. Robert Siliciano of Johns Hopkins University recently published a paper in Cell that found the size of the latent reservoir might be 60 times larger than previously thought. Warner Greene, director of virology and immunology research at the Gladstone Institutes, discussed studies that for the first time mechanistically link the two pathogenic signatures of HIV infection: CD4 T cell depletion and chronic inflammation.
"These discoveries could lead to three promising outcomes—an affordable bridge therapy for the 16 million who currently need but don't have access to antiretroviral therapies (ART), a potential solution for those on ART and who are developing aging-related diseases a decade or more before the non-HIV infected population, and a potential clearing of the latent reservoir that could contribute to a cure for HIV/AIDS," said Dr. Greene.
Perhaps the most widely discussed option for a cure has been the hope of a vaccine. A number of speakers discussed the various advances, and also setbacks, in the race toward successful vaccination strategies. Nobel Prize winner David Baltimore of the California Institute of Technology noted, "We need a vaccine, but we still don't have an open road in front of us." The key, according to Baltimore, is to not follow models of traditional vaccines but, rather, to "think about the extremely exciting observations that have been made about the kinds of antibodies that patients make in response to a long-term HIV infection." Speakers examined the various promising avenues toward developing an effective vaccine, including very recent work from Michel Nussenzweig and Dennis Burton on producing monoclonal broadly neutralizing antibodies in macaques.
Other researchers at the meeting examined how ART can be used for primary and secondary HIV prevention. Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University stressed the importance of developing roadmaps for scale-up of ART therapy in diverse settings. "Working diligently on developing and evaluating tailored roadmaps for expansion of ART is critical to achieving optimal outcomes for both PLWH and for prevention," said Dr. El Sadr. She emphasized the importance of recognizing the value of the science of implementation and of scale-up. Giving equal weight to implementation and scale-up alongside the science of discovery was another important point emphasized by the panelists in this discussion.
Many HIV patients have been living with the disease for decades, and as these patients age, they are faced with a new set of problems. Steven Deeks, of the University of California, San Francisco, explains that, for long-term HIV patients, "despite unquestioned success, the risk of developing many morbidities remains higher than expected." HIV patients have a 1.5- to 2-fold increased risk of developing these morbidities like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease, compared to the general population. Understanding the link between HIV, treatment, and aging will be needed to ensure healthy old age in ART-treated persons with HIV. Members of the audience who are living with HIV noted that mental health concerns should also be prioritized for research and support in the community.
The meeting concluded with a distinguished panel of researchers, clinicians, policy makers, and advocates broadly addressing the meeting's core question of what it will take to eliminate AIDS. Among the panelists was Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who said, "I'm here as a witness of 30 years of HIV science and translational research." Steven Becker of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation noted that understanding the true cost of providing quality healthcare to all who need it is necessary. Separating costs and charges will be vital to do this. Dr. Barré-Sinoussi also stressed the necessity for collaboration if a cure is ever to be achieved "We need to continue the effort of working together if we want to make progress toward a cure."
Source:Cell Press 

Unique change in protein structure guides production of RNA from DNA

One of biology's most fundamental processes is something called transcription. It is just one step of many required to build proteins—and without it life would not exist. However, many aspects of transcription remain shrouded in mystery. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes are shedding light on key aspects of transcription, and in so doing are coming even closer to understanding the importance of this process in the growth and development of cells—as well as what happens when this process goes awry.
In the latest issue of Molecular Cell, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Investigator Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, describe the intriguing behavior of a protein called RNA polymerase II (RNAPII). The RNAPII protein is an enzyme, a catalyst that guides the transcription process by copying DNA into RNA, which forms a disposable blueprint for making proteins. Scientists have long known that RNAPII appears to stall or "pause" at specific genes early in transcription. But they were not sure as why.
"This so-called 'polymerase pausing' occurs when RNAPII literally stops soon after beginning transcription for a short period before starting up again," explained Dr. Ott, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. "All we knew was that this behavior was important for the precise transcription of DNA into RNA, so we set out to understand how, when and—most importantly—why."
The research team focused their efforts on a segment of RNAPII called the C-terminal domain, or CTD. This section is most intimately involved with transcription regulation. Previous research had found that CTD's chemical structure is modified before and during transcription. However, the combinations of modifications as well as precisely how they influence or control transcription remained unclear. So in laboratory experiments on cells extracted from mammals, the researchers took a closer look.
The first breakthrough came when the research team identified a new type of modification, known as acetylation, which regulated transcription.
"Our next breakthrough occurred when we pinpointed the precise locations on the CTD where acetylation occurred—and realized it was unique to higher eukaryotes," explained Sebastian Schröder, PhD, the paper's first author. "We then wanted to see how this mammalian-specific acetylation fit into the realm of polymerase pausing."
Now that the team knew where the CTD became acetylated, their next goal was to find out when. Clues to the timing of acetylation came in experiments where they mutated RNAPII so that CDT was unable to become acetylated. In these cases, the length of polymerase pausing dropped, and the necessary steps for the completion of transcription failed to occur. Additional experiments revealed the elusive timeline of acetylation and transcription.
"RNAPII binds to DNA to prepare for transcription. Shortly after that we see polymerase pausing—at which point the CTD becomes highly acetylated," continued Dr. Shröder. "Soon after the pause, CTD is then deacetylated—the original modification is reversed—and transcription continues without a hitch."
Polymerase pausing is not unique to mammals—in fact it was characterized in HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, many years ago—but the fact that the CTD becomes acetylated just before or during the time when transcription is paused appears to be unique. Drs. Ott and Schröder argue that CTD acetylation is a stabilizer, preparing RNAPII for efficient completion of transcription and slowing down the process to make sure everything is functioning correctly—not unlike the final 'systems check' a pilot must perform before takeoff.
These findings offer important insight into the relationship between acetylation and transcription. And given the importance of transcription in the growth and maturation of cells in general, the team's result stands to inform scientists about a variety of cellular processes. These include, for example, the mechanisms behind stem-cell development and what happens when normal cellular growth spirals out of control, such as in cancer.

"However, there is still much we don't know about acetylation as it relates to transcription," said Dr. Ott. "For example, if CTD acetylation is important for stabilizing transcriptional pausing, why do we also see CTD acetylation at non-paused genes, although at different locations? Further, we believe there may be other steps in the transcription cycle that depend upon acetylation. Our most immediate goal is to find them. By doing so, we hope to deepen our understanding of one of nature's most elegant biological processes."
Source:Gladstone Institutes 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Union govt notifies draft rules on phyto-pharmaceuticals to assess plant-based drugs

Union government has notified draft rules on phyto-pharmaceuticals that will form the basis for a regulatory system to evaluate and get approvals of plant based drugs.The draft is a further amendment to the Drugs & Cosmetic Rules 1945 which will be known as the Drugs & Cosmetics 5th (Amendment) Rules 2013. Now in Rule 2 of the D&C Rules 1945, after clause (ea), there will an insertion (eb) on phyto-pharmaceuticals, drugs that would include processed or unprocessed standardized materials derived from plants or parts thereof. It could also be a combination of plant extracts or fractions in a dosage form for internal or external use for human and animal consumptions. But the draft does not include plant-based drugs for parenteral route administration.
In Appendix I-B the norms provides details to be submitted along with application to conduct a clinical trials or import or manufacture of a phyto pharmaceutical drug.
There is a focus on pharmacognostic which is related to the description of medicines derived from plants. The norms call to describe the taxonomical identity, harvest location, growth conditions, stage of plant growth at harvest, collection, washing, drying, preservation procedures, besides  transportation and storage methods.
Further, the draft has highlighted the quality specifications including submission of information on foreign matter, moisture content, total ash, acid, insoluble ash, insecticide residue, heavy metal contamination and microbial load.
An undertaking to supply specimen sample of plant duly labelled and photocopy of the identity confirmation certificate issued by qualified taxonomist along with drawings of the diagnostic, morphological and histological features of the botanical raw materials used to validate its authenticity need to be submitted.
Under processing of extracts, details need to be specified on steps used with the references to the changes including enrichment processes.
On the formulation of phyto-pharmaceutical drugs, the regulations of active ingredients need to be indicated.  In addition, information on composition, proportion of extracts per unit dose, name and proportion of all excipients, stabilizers and any other agents used along with packaging specifications need to be submitted.
Other mandatory details to be furnished are stability data, safety data, pharmacovigilance, animal toxicity and safety information, proof of concept or confirmatory clinical trials and post marketing surveillance data.
“This is a major step that should promote innovations and pharma industry can now look forward to new route to drug development from herbal plants based on science and technology,” stated Dr DBA Narayana, pharma consultant.
The efforts to prepare draft on phyto-pharmaceutical regulations which is to be included in the D&C Rules has been going on since June 2008 when Dr Surinder Singh former DCGI was convinced by  panel of experts on the need for regulatory framework for scientifically developed herbals to be evaluated and approved as drugs. It was only in August 2013 that the final text for gazette notification for phyto-pharmaceuticals was approved by the by Ministry of Law to be included under the regulatory provisions of  D&C Rules. The same is awaited for notification in the Gazette, said Dr Narayana.
According to Prof. SS Handa, former director RRL, Jammu and leading plant scientist, first drug policy of India has been implemented after over six decades. We have yet to go long way to contribute scientifically to raise the status of this segment.

Health benefits of wild blueberries abound: Study

Wild blueberries are a rich source of phytochemicals called polyphenols, which have been reported by a growing number of studies to exert a wide array of protective health benefits. A new study by researchers at the University of Maine adds to this growing body of evidence.
This new research, published today in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, shows that regular long-term wild blueberry diets may help improve or prevent pathologies associated with the metabolic syndrome, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
"The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a group of risk factors characterized by obesity, hypertension, inflammation, dyslipidemia, glucose intolerance and insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction," explains Dr. Klimis-Zacas, a Professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Maine and a co-author of the study. "MetS affects an estimated 37% of adults in the US ." Many substances found in food have the potential to prevent MetS, thus reducing the need for medication and medical intervention.
"We have previously documented the cardiovascular benefits of a polyphenol-rich wild blueberry in a rat model with impaired vascular health and high blood pressure," says Klimis-Zacas. "Our new findings show that these benefits extend to the obese Zucker rat, a widely used model resembling human MetS."
"Endothelial dysfunction is a landmark characteristic of MetS, and the obese Zucker rat, an excellent model to study the MetS, is characterized by vascular dysfunction. The vascular wall of these animals shows an impaired response to vasorelaxation or vasoconstriction which affects blood flow and blood pressure regulation."
According to the study, wild blueberry consumption (2 cups per day, human equivalent) for 8 weeks was shown to regulate and improve the balance between relaxing and constricting factors in the vascular wall, improving blood flow and blood pressure regulation of obese Zucker rats with metabolic syndrome.
"Our recent findings reported elsewhere, documented that wild blueberries reduce chronic inflammation and improve the abnormal lipid profile and gene expression associated with the MetS." Thus, this new study shows even greater potential such that "by normalizing oxidative, inflammatory response and endothelial function, regular long-term wild blueberry diets may also help improve pathologies associated with the MetS."
Source:Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism

Hormone levels in women using contraception affect nerve activity involved in vessel constriction

A new study by researchers at Western Ontario University is among the first to look at the hormone/SNS relationship in young women taking hormone contraceptives. It is the first to observe differences in the frequency of firings of the SNS neurons between high and low hormone phases of the menstrual cycle. It is also the first to examine how the SNS responds to chemoreflex stress (in this study, several moments of rebreathing oxygen-depleted air, then a breath held as long as possible). The study also examined the rarely studied strength of nerve firings, called burst amplitude. Using this unique approach, results that had been ambiguous or conflicting in other studies became clearer. The findings also provide new insight into mechanisms through which lower hormone levels may make the body more susceptible to damage caused by stress and the chronic elevation of the fight or flight response. A pattern consistent with these findings is observed in postmenopausal women.
The article is entitled "Hormone phase-dependency of neural responses to chemoreflex-drive sympatho-excitation in young women using hormonal contraceptives." It appears in the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society. The article is available online at
Study participants were 10 women between the ages of 22 and 26 (average age 24). All were healthy nonsmokers of normal weight, who exercised regularly. All were taking some form of hormone contraception. The women were studied once during the first four days of menses (low hormone phase) and again between day 20-24 (high hormone phase). For these studies, each woman was connected to an instrument that measures the amount of oxygen in the lungs. Lying down, each breathed normally through a special mouthpiece. After five minutes, a valve on the mouthpiece changed room air to that in a bag with air earlier expired by the woman. Rebreathing used air resulted in lower oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels in the blood. This chemoreflex stressor maximized response of the SNS. When oxygen levels fell to a specific point, the woman was asked to hold her breath as long as she could. Throughout the breathing sequence, investigators also monitored heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output. Tiny needles inserted into a nerve in the woman's leg measured frequency and "bursts" of SNS activity.
Hormone contraception affected the regulation of muscle sympathetic nerve activity differently, depending on sex hormone levels and on the presence and severity of chemoreflex stress.
When the women were at rest, they experienced more frequent nerve firings during phases of their cycle when their hormone levels were highest. There was no difference in the amplitude (the scientific term for magnitude or size) of neural bursts between high and low hormone phases. During episodes of stress, however, the women experienced greater increases in the number and amplitude of nerve bursts when their hormone levels were lowest. The more severe and long-lasting the stress was, the higher the amplitude was.
Importance of the Findings
The study findings show that the SNS uses different methods to control blood flow to the muscles. Depending on hormone levels and stress, the SNS alters the frequency and amplitude of nerve firings. The effect of these alterations helps explain how higher hormone levels in younger, premenopausal women protect against damage to the cardiovascular system through greater ability to control the SNS. The findings also suggest how stress can elevate the SNS in ways that, in the presence of lower hormones, may make the cardiovascular system more susceptible to the damage caused by chronic elevation of the fight or flight response. A pattern consistent with these findings is observed in postmenopausal women, where chronically low hormone levels are associated with increases in cardiovascular disease.
This more precise understanding about the relationship of hormones and the SNS also helps explain the mystery of why, as is known, males and females have different SNS responses while at rest and different responses to stress.
Source:Journal of Applied Physiology

Study Explains How Light Helps Activate Brain Among Blind

 Study Explains How Light Helps Activate Brain Among BlindA study has showed that light enhances brain activity during a cognitive task even in people who are totally blind.
Researchers at the University of Montreal and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital's findings contribute to scientists' understanding of everyone's brains, as they also revealed how quickly light impacts on cognition. 

Senior co-author Steven Lockley said that they were stunned to discover that the brain still respond significantly to light in these rare three completely blind patients despite having absolutely no conscious vision at all. He said that light doesn't just allow us to see, it tells the brain whether it's night or day which in -turn ensures that our physiology, metabolism and behavior are synchronized with environmental time. 
Senior co-author Julie Carrier said that for diurnal species like ours, light stimulates day-like brain activity, improving alertness and mood, and enhancing performance on many cognitive tasks. 
The results indicate that their brains can still "see", or detect, light via a novel photoreceptor in the ganglion cell layer of the retina, different from the rods and cones we use to see. 
Scientists believe, however, that these specialized photoreceptors in the retina also contribute to visual function in the brain even when cells in the retina responsible for normal image formation have lost their ability to receive or process light.
Source: ANI


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