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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Herb at a Glance :Ephedra


Ephedra is an evergreen shrub-like plant native to Central Asia and Mongolia. The principal active ingredient, ephedrine, is a compound that can powerfully stimulate the nervous system and heart. Ephedra has been used for more than 5,000 years in China and India to treat conditions such as colds, fever, flu, headaches, asthma, wheezing, and nasal congestion. More recently, ephedra was used as an ingredient in dietary supplements for weight loss, increased energy, and enhanced athletic performance.
The dried stems and leaves of the ephedra plant have been used to create capsules, tablets, tinctures, and teas.

What the Science Says

  • An NCCAM-funded study that analyzed phone calls to poison control centers found a higher rate of side effects from ephedra, compared with other herbal products.
  • Other studies and systematic reviews have found an increased risk of heart, psychiatric, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as high blood pressure and stroke, with ephedra use.
  • According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is little evidence of ephedra’s effectiveness, except for short-term weight loss. However, the increased risk of heart problems and stroke outweighs any benefits.

Side Effects and Cautions

  • In 2004, the FDA banned the U.S. sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra. The FDA found that these supplements had an unreasonable risk of injury or illness—particularly cardiovascular complications—and a risk of death. The ban does not apply to traditional Chinese herbal remedies or to products like herbal teas regulated as conventional foods.
  • Between 1995 and 1997, the FDA received more than 900 reports of possible ephedra toxicity. Serious adverse events such as stroke, heart attack, and sudden death were reported in 37 cases.
  • Using ephedra may worsen many health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and diabetes.
  • Ephedra may cause seizures in otherwise healthy people as well as in people with seizure disorders.
  • Taking ephedra can also result in anxiety, difficulty urinating, dry mouth, headache, heart damage, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, irritation of the stomach, kidney stones, nausea, psychosis, restlessness, sleep problems, and tremors.
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children should avoid taking ephedra.
  • Ephedra use may lead to serious health problems when used with other dietary supplements or medicines.
  • Combining ephedra with caffeine increases the risk of potentially serious side effects.
  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care. For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary and alternative medicine 
 Products regulated as drugs that contain chemically synthesized ephedrine are not dietary supplements and are not covered by this rule. These include drugs used for the short-term treatment of asthma, bronchitis, and allergic reactions.


Antidepressant use during pregnancy may lead to childhood obesity and diabetes

Maternal use of SSRIs resulted in increased fat accumulation and inflammation

Hamilton, ON (June 21, 2014) - Women who take antidepressants during pregnancy may be unknowingly predisposing their infants to type 2 diabetes and obesity later in life, according to new research from McMaster University.
The study finds a correlation between the use of the medication fluoxetine during pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity and diabetes in children.
Currently, up to 20 per cent of woman in the United States and approximately seven per cent of Canadian women are prescribed an antidepressant during pregnancy.
"Obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise and there is the argument that it is related to lifestyle and availability of high calorie foods and reduced physical activity, but our study has found that maternal antidepressant use may also be a contributing factor to the obesity and diabetes epidemic," said the study's senior investigator Alison Holloway, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster University.
Previous studies have found that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to depression and it is estimated that up to one in five pregnant women have symptoms of depression during pregnancy.
"While it is known that these drugs can increase the risk of obesity in adults, it is unknown whether a woman's antidepressant use during pregnancy increases the risk of metabolic disturbances in her children," Holloway says, adding the goal of their project was to determine whether maternal exposure to a commonly used antidepressant is related to the development of fatty liver, an outcome commonly seen with obesity, in the offspring.
"We have demonstrated for the first time in an animal model that maternal use of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, resulted in increased fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver of the adult offspring, raising new concerns about the long-term metabolic complications in children born to women who take SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy," says PhD student Nicole De Long, who presented this research on June 22nd at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and The Endocrine Society.
Their study does not suggest women should avoid taking antidepressants during pregnancy, only that there may be risks associated with antidepressants that haven't been previously identified, Holloway says.
"The benefit of the study is it may help in the identification of a high-risk group of children who may require specific interventions to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life," she says.

The next stage of their research will be to understand the mechanistic pathways behind why these drugs pose a risk. "If we can understand how the antidepressant causes adverse metabolic outcomes in the offspring than we can design therapeutic strategies to prevent the damage while allowing women who require these drugs to be treated but reduce the potential harm to the offspring."

The Mother Of All Antioxidants

We have all heard of antioxidants, but have we heard of the mother of all antioxidants? One that is the secret to prevent cancer, heart disease, aging, neurological issues and more? This single antioxidant has been studied in great depth yet most of us know nothing about it and  many doctors have no idea how to address the epidemic of its deficiency in humans.
We are of course talking about Glutathione (pronounced “gloota-thigh-own.”) This is a powerful detoxifier and immune booster and is crucial to a healthy life. Although the body does make some of its own Glutathione, poor food quality, pollution, toxic environments, stress, infections and radiation are all depleting out bodies glutathione.

What is Glutathione?

Glutathione is a simple molecule produced naturally in the body at all times. It’s a combination of three building blocks of protein or amino acids — cysteine, glycine and glutamine.
The best part of glutathione is that is contains sulfur chemical groups that work to trap all the bad things like free radicals and toxins such as mercury and heavy metals in our body then flush them out. This is especially important in our current world of heavy metal bombardment.

Where Can You Get Glutathione?

The body makes it, but it’s often not enough in our strenuous environment. Here are some food sources that either contain glutathione or its precursors to help the body produce more.
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Avocados
  • Peaches
  • Watermelon
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Turmeric (Curcumin)
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Red peppers
Notice they are all healthy foods we often don’t get enough of? This is another big issue with our diets. We consume a lot of junk, meat, dairy and processed foods, items that clinically have been proven to be the number one causes of heart disease and illness yet we consume  them in huge quantities. The key is to limit these and eat a lot of fresh, lively foods that provide nutrients and don’t ask the body to perform a mega job to digest.
You can also increase your exercise as glutathione production increases when you exercise. Breathing and sweating are also great ways to get rid of toxins in the body.

Glutathione Protects Against Chronic Illness

What makes glutathione so important and powerful is that it recycles antioxidants. When your body is dealing with free radicals, it is essentially passing them from one molecule to another. They might go from vitamin C to vitamin E to lipoic acid and then to glutathione where they are cooled off. Antioxidants are recycled at this point and the body can now regenerate another glutathione molecule to go back at it again.
Glutathione is crucial for helping your immune system fight chronic illness as it acts as the carrier of toxins out of your body. Like a fly trap, toxins stick to glutathione and they are carried to the bile into the stools and out of the body. Glutathione is also powerful enough that it has been shown to help in the treatment of AIDS greatly. The body is going to get in touch with oxidants and toxins, the more we can deal with those the better our body will be at staying strong, this is why glutathione is so important.

9 Final Tips

Dr. Mark Thyman has given 9 tips to increase your Glutathione levels. Check them out!
1. Consume sulfur-rich foods. The main ones in the diet are garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.).
2. Try bioactive whey protein. This is great source of cysteine and the amino acid building blocks for glutathione synthesis. As you know, I am not a big fan of dairy, but this is an exception — with a few warnings. The whey protein MUST be bioactive and made from non-denatured proteins (“denaturing” refers to the breakdown of the normal protein structure). Choose non-pasteurized and non-industrially produced milk that contains no pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics. Immunocal is a prescription bioactive non-denatured whey protein that is even listed in the Physician’s Desk Reference.
3. Exercise boosts your glutathione levels and thereby helps boost your immune system, improve detoxification and enhance your body’s own antioxidant defenses. Start slow and build up to 30 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, or play various sports. Strength training for 20 minutes 3 times a week is also helpful.
One would think it would be easy just to take glutathione as a pill, but the body digests protein — so you wouldn’t get the benefits if you did it this way. However, the production and recycling of glutathione in the body requires many different nutrients and you CAN take these. Here are the main supplements that need to be taken consistently to boost glutathione. Besides taking a multivitamin and fish oil, supporting my glutathione levels with these supplements is the most important thing I do every day for my personal health.
4. N-acetyl-cysteine. This has been used for years to help treat asthma and lung disease and to treat people with life-threatening liver failure from Tylenol overdose. In fact, I first learned about it in medical school while working in the emergency room. It is even given to prevent kidney damage from dyes used during x-ray studies.
5. Alpha lipoic acid. This is a close second to glutathione in importance in our cells and is involved in energy production, blood sugar control, brain health and detoxification. The body usually makes it, but given all the stresses we are under, we often become depleted.
6. Methylation nutrients (folate and vitamins B6 and B12). These are perhaps the most critical to keep the body producing glutathione. Methylation and the production and recycling of glutathione are the two most important biochemical functions in your body. Take folate (especially in the active form of 5 methyltetrahydrofolate), B6 (in active form of P5P) and B12 (in the active form of methylcobalamin).
7. Selenium. This important mineral helps the body recycle and produce more glutathione.
8. A family of antioxidants including vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols), work together to recycle glutathione.
9. Milk thistle (silymarin) has long been used in liver disease and helps boost glutathione levels.

3 Super Powerful Foods That Will Provide Big Energy & Nutrition Boosts

In today’s hectic working life most people don’t have the time or patience to source quality organic nutrient rich super foods. The food offered from vendors is usually pre-made, low quality, genetically modified, nutrient stripped rubbish. When you’re on a tight deadline, or rushing around with children in tow or even just casually shopping, there are little to no places where you can get the daily nutrition our bodies require.
Raw vegetables and fruit offer valuable enzymes and essential vitamins and minerals. The benefits are far reaching and have the potential to cure many health issues including;
1. Weight Loss
Those that eat a vegetarian diet have a lower body weight than those who eat meat, according to Fruits and vegetables contain no cholesterol, are naturally high in fibre and low in calories, which often results in weight loss for those who transition to a raw plant-based diet. Proponents of this diet do not add high-calorie fats, such as butter or cheese, to their vegetables, nor sugar to their fruit, which also keeps the caloric content low and aids in weight loss.
2. Nutrition
Raw food allows you to absorb all of the enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals contained naturally. Fruit and vegetables are loaded with healthful potassium, Folate and vitamins C and A, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure, protect from infection, heal wounds and promote oral health.
3. Energy
Lenka Zajic’s “The Raw Food Diet Study,” published in the August 2006 issue of The Iowa Source magazine, found a dramatic increase in energy levels for participants who transitioned to a raw fruit and vegetable diet. Increases were also noted in respondents’ cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and muscular strength.
4. Health
The American Heart Association states, “Vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer. Also those consuming raw food need less sleep and have improved sleep quality as well as healthier skin, hair and nails. Eating raw food also gives a significantly higher immunity against colds, flu and infections and they do not suffer post-meal symptoms of bloating and indigestion.
So that’s a small overview of the benefits of consuming raw fruit/veg. A quick easy way of getting all the above benefits is making delicious and easy to make smoothies. Spirulina, Maca powder and Tumeric can give your smoothies a real boost to your nutrient/enzyme intake. They taste great are cost effective and importantly take no time at all to prepare.


spirulina-juiceSpirulina powder is a natural algae powder which is highly rich in nutrients and protein. This powder largely comprises of essential amino acids, iron and protein. It is also famed for being rich in B-12 content. Organic spirulina is used for making a variety of healthy supplements.
The benefits include;
  • Strengthens the immune system. It can destroy a wide range of viruses and bacteria, such as herpes simplex, rubella, measles and cytomegalovirus.
  • Protects against hay fever and reduces inflammation triggered by arthritis.
  • Helps reduce bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, improving cardiovascular health because it is a rare source of linoleic acid (which is present in breast milk).
  • Helps alleviate problems caused by type 2 diabetes, lowering blood sugar levels.
  • Has an antioxidant effect, decreasing muscle breakdown and fatigue after exercise.


macaMaca’s reputation as a powerful strength and stamina enhancer as well as libido-enhancing food-herb stretches back into prehistory. Maca, like goji berries and ginseng is a powerful adaptogen, which means it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body’s systems (cardiovascular system, nervous system, musculature, lymphatic system, etc.). As an adaptogen, maca can provide more energy if it is needed, but if it is not, it will not over stimulate. Adaptogens also boost immunity and increase the body’s overall vitality by 10-15% according to most studies. Rather than addressing a specific symptom, adaptogens are used to improve the overall adaptability of the whole body to diverse and challenging situations and stress.
The benefits include;
For men:
  • increased energy and stamina (particularly in athletic performance)
  • promotes mental clarity
  • Treats sexual dysfunction* It’s actually sometimes referred to as natural Viagra!
  • fertility enhancement
For women:
  • also increased energy and stamina
  • balancing hormones
  • menopause symptom relief (natural hormone replacement therapy)
  • treating mood swings related to PMS
  • increased sexual drive


tumericPopularly used in Indian cuisine, organic turmeric root powder has been shown to have a broad number of health ben­e­fits. Spirulina is also a strong an­tiox­i­dant. It’s well known for its powerful anti-in­flam­ma­tory properties.  It supports a healthy digestive system, brain function, cardiovascular/circulatory systems and joint health. It is one of natures most powerful healers. The active ingredient in it is cur­cumin.  It has been used for over 2500 years in India, where it was most likely first used as a dye. The medicinal proprieties of this spice have been slowly revealing themselves over the centuries.

Some benefits of organic turmeric root powder may include:
  •  Boosting the immune system
  •  Helping neutralize substance’s that can cause cellular stress
  •  Natural painkiller and cox-2 inhibitor, Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia
  •  Supporting healthy bones, joints, and overall skeletal system
  •  Possibly inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels in tumors
  •  Helping maintain healthy cholesterol levels
  •  Helpful for Alzheimer’s, encouraging healthy liver function
  •  Strong anti-in­flam­ma­tory properties, killing parasites
  •  Boosting the effects of chemo drug pa­cli­taxel and reduces its side effects
  •  Supporting your memory function, boosting your immune system
  •  Natural antiseptic and anti-bacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts & burns
  •  May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management
  •  Promoting your heart health, supporting healthy joint function
  •  Studies are ongoing in the positive effects of turmeric on multiple melanoma
  •  Promotes a healthy female reproductive system
  •  May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to commit suicide
  •  Supports your overall eye health
  •  Promotes a healthy prostrate
  •  Providing the antioxidants you need to help support your cells
  •  Helping to remove amyloidal plaque build-up in the brain
  •  Helping maintain blood sugar levels
  •  Natural remedy for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
These nutrient rich super foods can easily be added to any smoothie to get your nutrient fix or combined to make an elixir of life.

3 Easy Smoothie Recipes

Spirulina Green Heaven:
  • 1/2 Cucumber
  • 1/4 cup orange juices
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Spirulina powder
Tumeric the Yellow Goddess:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup fresh grapes
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • A little honey, maple syrup, or stevia to sweeten
Maca Power Smoothie
  • 1 ½ cups almond milk or coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon maca powder
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Ice as needed
SmoothieA study on raw food diet followers conducted over a period of 2 years by Lenka J. Zajic (who holds a Masters in Vegan and Live Food Nutrition from the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Arizona) showed some interesting results in women especially. Zajic’s study shows a marked improvement in women’s menstrual cycles as well as a drop in overall stress levels and a decrease in the amount of sleep needed to feel well rested. Zajic claims that “There seems to be no question that, at least initially, eating a raw foods diet can reduce or cure many health complaints.”

To conclude recent mainstream scientific studies have shown that following a raw foods diet can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases while aiding with maintaining a healthy weight, BMI, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and strong healthy bones.


TCMC finds 8 quacks practising traditional system in major Ayurveda hospitals, cases registered

In an exercise aimed at curbing quackery in Ayurveda system, a special crack team constituted by the Indian system of medicine (ISM) wing of the Travancore Cochin Medical Council (TCMC) conducted surprise checks in various Ayurveda hospitals and research centres in Kozhikodu district in Kerala.

Eight unqualified persons claiming to be ayurvedic doctors were found by the team and cases were registered against the quacks and the hospitals.

The operation was undertaken  based on 12 complaints received from various sources in the district and also from the district committee of Ayurveda medical association of India (AMAI).The squad was headed by the president of the ISM wing of TCMC. The complaints were made following increasing number of quacks in the district claiming as traditional healers. The sources said regarding quackery, there is a judgment of the Kerala high court that the unqualified persons should not be allowed to practice traditional system of medicines anymore.

The checking squads raided four hospitals and research centres and inspected records of the practicing physicians in the hospitals and verified their educational records. The quacks had no educational qualifications.

President of the TCMC ISM wing, Dr T Sivadas, joint director of ISM Dr V N Gopinathan, TCMC Member Dr G Vinodkumar and drug control officials of ISM in the district were included in the team.

Sources from the checking squads said the team inspected Samudra Ayurveda research centre at Vadakara, where they found four unqualified people were working claiming as traditional doctors.   Two quacks were picked up from Vadakara ayurvedic cooperative hospital and one traditional healer from an ayurvedic clinic at Balussery.  The raid team also netted a forty year old indigenous healer from a hospital at Kozhikodu.

The team will submit the report to TCMC in next week. The checking squads informed Pharmabiz that the raids on quackery will continue in other districts in the coming days.

In March 2011, the Kerala chapter of the Ayurvedic Medical Association of India approached the high court at Ernakulam under Article 226 of the constitution of India  requesting to quash the state government order issued on 21-2-2011 giving exemption to traditional healers of Malabar region from acquiring recognised qualification and registration with the Travancore-Cochin Medical Council. Later the Council had passed a resolution against the decision of the government. Followed by it, the high court had issued a verdict against unqualified persons practicing Ayurveda and homoeopathy in the state.


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Uruguay Will Kick-Off Legal Cannabis Sales In October 2014

young_cannabis_plantOn July 4th 2013, the country of Uruguay passed a bill in favour of total legalization of marijuana for its citizens. Since then, the world has been lauding the revolutionary choice made by the Uruguayan Parliament, and by President Mujica, who has supported the initiative since its early stages. Indeed, while some countries do authorize medicinal cannabis, and while some American states have been making the same movement of peace towards the multi-purpose plant, Uruguay will soon be the first country to sell cannabis legally, for recreational and medicinal purposes alike.

The Final Decree

A few cornerstones of the forthcoming plan to make cannabis available to Uruguayan citizens had already been unveiled as the government drafted its rules for this burgeoning new industry. The basics of the new policy consist of cannabis being controlled by the government in terms of import, export, cultivation, harvest, production, acquisition, storage, marketing and distribution.
On May 6th 2014, the final decree bearing all details of the new policy was introduced to the rest of the world, describing at length every single aspect of the market, in order to leave close to no doubt regarding the course of action for any situation or problem that could arise. This decree consists of 104 articles, each dealing with a different aspect of the policy. Among other things, rules in regards to industrial growing, users’ privacy, price and personal growing are clearly defined.

Industrial Cannabis Growing & Price

weedWhile the decree has been approved, it will only be applied after the next presidential elections in Uruguay, taking place on October 26th, 2014. In the meantime, according to the aforementioned decree, six private companies to be selected by the government will be responsible for growing the cannabis that will be available in pharmacies in a few months. These companies have not been chosen yet, but the ultimate goal of the involved politicians will be to favour entities that not only have the desired skills and facilities to handle this new cash crop, but also have never had any ties to the national cannabis black market or to drug trafficking in general.
Some of the items announced before the decree was approved remain the same; citizens will be able to buy cannabis once per week, with a maximum of 10 grams per person. On the other hand, the originally announced price of €1 per gram has not been respected, but for the better: each gram of cannabis will be sold at between €0.87 and €0.95, which equals approximately €35 for 40 grams.

User Privacy & Personal Growing

weedgrowOne of the main goals of President Mujica with this new policy is to offer a better solution to end the war on drugs, by making the black market increasingly irrelevant, and by protecting average users from prosecution. It is therefore no surprise that besides the question of pricing, another important issue was also expected to be addressed, which is the identification and registration of users.
The Uruguayan government, per the final decree, opted for a registration system based on an algorithm built from fingerprints, which according to them, will not bear any personal information susceptible to making average users feel “tracked” for their use of cannabis.
These two points, on top of the presumably optimal quality of the cannabis soon-to-be-produced by legal Uruguayan growers, should turn what many call an “experiment” into a clean, pragmatic success and a turning point in the war on drugs.
During the two years this legalization process has taken, President Mujica spoke on several occasions about this revolution being a necessary trial for his country, and beyond. Hopefully, the positive impact of such a change in the way humanity apprehends the cannabis plant will soon have many positive outcomes all around the world.
 Source:Collective evolution

A Tree That Eats Metal Was Just Discovered In The Philippines

treePlants have evolved to exclude any metal from their roots or in any of the surrounding soil. Most plants do this, but not a particular plant called the Rinorea Niccolifera. It was discovered in the jungles of the Philippines and can accumulate up to 18,000 ppm of metal in its leaves and roots without being poisoned. This is 100 to 1000 times the amount of metal that normal plants can take in. Researchers at the University of the Phillippines – Los Banos that described the species in a new report also discovered that its ability to eat toxic levels of metals could make the tree a great solution to toxic waste sites around the planet. This is why this discovery is so important.
It is a small tree, normally 1.8 meters tall with a stem ranging from 3 to 13 centimetres in diameter.

“Hyper-accumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, phytoremediation and phytomining,” - Dr. Augustine Doronila, University of Melbourne, senior author of the study. (source)
The study was part of the Program on the Rehabilitation and Restoration of Mining Areas through Phytotechnologies which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology.
The name niccolifera refers to the ability of this species to hyper-accumulate the heavy metal nickel in its stem and leaf tissues.

Conservation Status and Practical Applications

Unfortunately, like so many other species this one is categorized as ‘Endangered.’ Its habitat is severely “fragmented” and has so far been recorded only from three adjacent localities from its current known area of occupancy, which is less than 500km and continuing to decline. The study mentioned that much of this new species is subject to open pit mining and industrialization.
Again, these plants are considered “hyper-accumulator plants,” and we should be exploiting their accumulation traits for practical applications, especially (as the study also mentions) for environmentally clean green technologies.
“The idea of deploying plants in the fight for cleaner ecosystems is not new; using them for the purpose of extracting metals from contaminated soil started to get popular in the 1990s.” (source)
We’ve known these things for so long, and our window of opportunity won’t be here forever.

Final Thoughts

It’s unfathomable to think about how much of Earth we have destroyed, how many of its lungs we have stabbed and how we continue to progress forward with processes of destruction (development) when there are better ways of doing things. It’s time to work with nature and understand it, not against it and destroy it.
The solutions to our current problems and ways of life exist, and they exist in the many. The problem lies within us, in order for new technologies and a more advanced way of living on Earth to be implemented, the people of Earth must change first. We are faced with so many distractions on a daily basis, focusing on our own lives and doing what we have to do to survive in this world so much so that we really haven’t paid much attention to what is really happening on our planet as a collective. It’s time for change, it’s time for big change and discoveries like this one can help get us there.


ICMR to conduct translational research in communicable & non-communicable diseases to cater to health problems of North East

In order to cater to the health problems of north east India, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will soon begin research in communicable and non-communicable diseases including vector borne diseases, viral diseases, HIV/AIDS and drug abuses, bacterial infections, diarrhoeal diseases and parasitology. 

The focus of this North East Project is primarily to conduct translational research so as to cater to the health problems of North East India for the benefit of people and public health welfare. Under this programme, the principal investigator (PI) must be from the north-east region of India.

The ICMR's initiative in this regard is important as the north-east India shares international borders with neighbouring countries like Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, and being a gateway to South East Asia, attains a specific importance to various problems due to various well established, emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases and cross border transmission.

The Epidemiology and Communicable Disease Division of the ICMR has invited concept proposals in communicable disease research in North-East India on priority areas of research in north-east India. The last date for submission of concept proposals is July 20, 2014.

Under the vector borne diseases, the focus of the research will be on diseases like malaria, filaraisis, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, chikungunia, West Nile Virus and resurgence of kala azar as these are the most important mosquito borne parasitic and viral diseases prevalent in the north-eastern states.

The research programme is also focusing on viral diseases such as Hepatitis B virus infection with C, D and A and I circulating genotypes; HIV/AIDS and drug abuse; bacterial infections; diarrhoeal diseases and parasitological which may be developed into full adhoc proposals on approvals.   In addition, proposals in areas of non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart diseases, lifestyle diseases, neurology, nephrology, disability, ENT, ophthalmology, etc. can also be submitted.

Under this NE Initiative, the PI should identify the local problem, gaps in technology which need fortification and institutes outside the region with which collaboration would be useful.  The researchers should focus on the health problems of the NE region and the component of technology transfer should be inbuilt in all collaborative projects where one of the institutions is from outside the region. Other institutions including Agriculture, IIT and Universities could also apply for funding from ICMR provided there is a medical or public health benefits in the proposal. Such proposals could also be in the form of collaborative projects wherein the medical colleges can also be provided.


New target: Researchers identify pancreatic cancer resistance mechanism

When cancer-promoting Kras is blocked, Yap1 steps up to fuel tumor recurrence

 Haoqiang Ying, Ph.D.
Pancreatic cancer tumors addicted to mutant Kras signaling for their growth and progression have a ready-made substitute to tap if they're ever forced to go cold-turkey on the mutant oncogene, scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center report in the journal Cell.
When researchers dialed up mutant Kras to spur pancreatic cancer growth in mice, and then shut it down, a group of recurrent tumors grew back independently of mutant Kras, reliant on a different oncogene.
"There's a great deal of effort under way trying to find ways to target Kras or some of the downstream targets that it activates," said co-lead author Haoqiang Ying, Ph.D., assistant professor of Molecular and Cellular Oncology. "It's important to understand how Kras-dependent tumors might evolve in response to targeted therapy."
The team found that some recurrent tumors were completely independent of mutant Kras and instead relied on signaling through another known oncogene called Yap1.
In addition to discovering a resistance mechanism for Kras-dependent tumors, the team found tumors dependent on Yap1 resemble a specific type of pancreatic tumor that provides a poor prognosis for patients who have it.
"Pancreas cancer remains an intractable disease with limited therapeutic options," said senior author Ron DePinho, M.D., president and professor of Cancer Biology. "Identifying and validating key targets in faithful model systems represents a critical first step in ultimately providing our patients with meaningful therapies."
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is one of the most lethal of cancers, with only 6.7 percent of patients surviving for five years. An estimated 46,420 new cases will be diagnosed in 2014, and approximately 39,590 people will die of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Mutations that activate Kras are present in the majority of human pancreatic cancer cases. Mouse model experiments, including work by DePinho, Ying and colleagues, have demonstrated critical roles for those mutations in tumor initiation and progression.
Turning Kras on and off
To conduct the research, the team used a genetically engineered mouse model of inducible Kras-dependent pancreatic cancer developed in DePinho's lab when he was at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The mice have a version of Kras that can be turned on by treating them with doxycycline, an antibiotic, and only develop pancreatic cancer when this occurs. Tumors develop swiftly and then begin to regress after 24 hours of cessation of doxycycline treatment.
Within three weeks of doxycycline cessation, tumors regressed completely in all 28 mice. Then, 20 of the mice had a recurrence between nine and 47 weeks later. The recurrent tumors had characteristics of aggressive disease, including spread to the lung or liver in 15 of the mice.
Half of the recurrent tumors had re-expression of the inducible Kras transgene, while the other half had no sign of the oncogene or of activation of its related molecular pathways.
If not Kras, then Yap1
To identify the driving molecular mechanism for the non-Kras recurrent tumors, the team conducted an analysis to identify copy number variations of genes in the tumors.
"The only gene amplified was Yap1, which made sense, because it's a known oncogene," said co-lead author Avnish Kapoor, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Genomic Medicine who conducted the analysis.
Functional studies conducted by Wantong Yao, Ph.D., also a postdoctoral fellow in Genomic Medicine, confirmed the finding.
Yap1-amplified recurrent tumors shrank when Yap1 expression was knocked down using RNA interference. Yap1 expression in the Kras-dependent mice stifled tumor regression and supported tumor growth after doxycycline withdrawal
Mapping the Yap1 pathway
Yap1 is involved in gene transcription – the activation of genes by proteins that bind to the gene's DNA in its promoter region – but does not itself bind to DNA. As a co-activator, it works through other transcription factors.
Enabled by genome-scale unbiased and molecular analyses, the researchers found that Yap1 forms a complex with Tead2, one of its known partners, and then works with E2F, another transcription factor. Together, they activate a cell cycle and DNA replication program to support tumor survival and growth.
"With Kras turned off, Yap1 can recreate this transcription program involving cell cycle and DNA replication machinery that is normally controlled by Kras," Yao said.
Yap1 and human tumors Recent classification of pancreatic cancer based on gene transcription profiles identified a subtype that is not dependent on Kras. These so-called quasimesenchymal tumors have a poor prognosis.
The team confirmed that Yap1 is highly expressed in these tumor cell lines and that knocking down Yap1 suppressed proliferation of these cells.
Yap1 is known to be involved in cell proliferation, a cellular conversion known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, cancer invasion and metastasis and has been found amplified in liver, oral squamous cell and esophageal cancers as well as in medulloblastoma.
While Yap1 drives tumor recurrence and progression, Kapoor said evidence shows that it is insufficient to drive initial formation of pancreatic cancer.
Yap1, like Kras, is not presently targetable with a drug. The researchers note that small molecules targeting Yap1 have stalled liver cancer progression in a mouse model and might eventually prove to work in Yap1-dependent cancer. Clinical trials of this approach are years away.
Future studies by the team include understanding Yap1's role in quasimesenchymal pancreatic cancer and exploring potential signaling connections between Kras and Yap1.

They'll also look for additional mechanisms for tumors to escape Kras addiction, such as activation of other growth factor pathways, Ying said. "Characterization of these pathways may identify other potential therapeutic targets for this dreaded disease."

Diabetes susceptibility gene regulates health of cell's powerhouse

Gene's pathway could be target for developing new diabetes drugs

Mouse fibroblast shows Clec16a (red), the lysosome protein Lamp1 (green), the autophagosome protein LC3 (blue), and DNA (gray). The yellow overlap of the red and green stains shows that Clec16a...
PHILADELPHIA – A team led by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that a susceptibility gene for type 1 diabetes regulates self-destruction of the cell's energy factory. They report their findings this week inCell.
The pathway central to this gene could be targeted for prevention and control of type-1 diabetes and may extend to the treatment of other metabolic-associated diseases.
The team found that the gene, Clec16a, when in pancreas cells, is required for normal glucose-stimulated insulin release. What's more, people with a variation in the gene sequence near Clec16a have reduced expression of the protein in their islet cells and therefore reduced insulin secretion.
First author Scott A. Soleimanpour, MD, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of co-senior author Doris Stoffers, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine, worked out this role of Clec16a in pancreatic beta cells. Soleimanpour is now an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. Stoffers is also a member of the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism at Penn.
The self-destruction process of the cell's energy factories (mitochondria) is called mitophagy. This literally means the self-eating of mitochondria, the sites for producing the energy molecule ATP. Beta cells within the pancreas are enriched in mitochondria because of their insulin-secreting function, an energy-intensive process.
Mitophagy involves the breaking down and recycling of less well-functioning, old mitochondria to build fresh ones. Clec16a controls beta-cell function in this disposal pathway and is thought to prevent diabetes-related mitophagy.
Little had been known about the function of the Clec16a protein in mammals or of its role in the initiation of disease. The team found that Clec16a interacts with an enzyme called Nrdp1, which works through another protein called Parkin. Normally, Parkin regulates mitophagy by initially tagging unhealthy mitochondria for disposal.
Mice with a pancreas-specific deletion of Clec16a have abnormal mitochondria that produce less ATP, which is required for normal beta cell function, and ultimately insulin secretion. Specifically, they determined that the loss of Clec16a leads to an increase in Parkin, a master regulator of mitophagy. What's more, the team found that the final disposal of unhealthy mitochondria was also defective.
"The ultimate result of the deletion of Clec16a is an accumulation of unhealthy mitochondria, leading to less insulin being secreted by the beta cells," says Stoffers.
Coauthors from the Lund University and Skåne University Hospital in Sweden provided a panel of human islet cells that allowed Soleimanpour to determine whether a small diabetes-risk variation in the DNA sequence near the Clec16a gene directly affected the gene's normal expression and function. Individuals with this short sequence variant had reduced Clec16a expression in islet cells, as well as slightly elevated blood sugar. In addition, tapping into a large, previously published genetic database allowed the investigators to further correlate the same disease-associated sequence variant with reduced beta-cell function. From this the team concluded that, in a normal state, Clec16a controls beta cell function and prevents diabetes by controlling mitophagy.
"In 2007, our genomics team found the first gene in a genome-wide search to play a major role in type 1 diabetes, but we did not know its function," said co-senior author Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Now we understand how this gene plays a critical role in regulating insulin metabolism."
The novel Clec16a pathway could be targeted for prevention and control of diabetes and may extend to the pathogenesis of other Clec16a and Parkin-associated diseases, conclude the researchers.

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