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Antimicrobial Chemical Linked to Breast Cancer

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Image: Keerati FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Researchers have discovered that the antimicrobial agent triclosan promotes breast cancer cell growth. Triclosan is used in antibacterial soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, toothpaste, and other household products. Triclosan chemicals function similarly to hormones and cause endocrine system disruptions.

In the study, it was discovered that triclosan and another endocrine-disrupting chemical, octylphenol, disrupt genes related to breast cancer cell growth. This interference results in the proliferation of breast cancer cells. Long term use of products containing triclosan result in the accumulation of the chemical in the body over time. Due to concerns over other health related issues associated with triclosan, major manufacturers have already begun to remove the chemical from their products.

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Cancer Cell Gene Activity

Friday April 18, 2014

This shows dividing human cancer cells as visualized by fluorescence microscopy.
Image: Aki Endo (Lamond Lab)

Researchers have used fluorescence microscopy to visually demonstrate gene activity in cancer cells during the cell cycle. Cancer cells divide uncontrollably and may develop as a result of several factors, including recombination errors that occur during the cell cycle and infections from certain cancer viruses.

According to head researcher Angus Lamond, "What we have been able to produce is a detailed analysis of protein activity in human cancer cells that exceeds what was previously possible. Previously it has been possible to capture a time-averaged snapshot of this activity, but what we can now do is give a much fuller picture." The researchers state that this new high-resolution mapping of gene expression will provide valuable insight into protein production in cancer cells. Information gained from the detailed study of cancer cell protein activity could lead to the development of better cancer drugs.

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Preventing Flu Virus Replication

Thursday April 17, 2014

Influenza Virus Particles
Image: CDC/Frederick Murphy

With influenza viruses developing resistance to current antiviral drugs, it is increasingly important that new antiviral drugs be developed. University of Texas at Austin researchers have identified a protein in influenza A viruses that could be a potential target for new antiviral drugs. When viruses infect cells, they use the host's own genetic machinery to make more virus particles. The body responds with its own antiviral protein DDX21, which blocks the viral replication process. The influenza A virus then counters with the viral protein NS1, which blocks DDX21 and allows viral replication to continue.

Robert Krug, an author on the study states, "If you could figure out how to stop NS1 from binding to DDX21, you could stop the virus cold." The researchers found that DDX21 binds to a viral protein called PB1, which is needed for replication. When the viral protein NS1 blocks DDX21, PB1 is then free to promote viral replication. Potentially, antiviral drugs that target NS1 could be developed to prevent flu virus replication.

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Regenerating Living Organs

Thursday April 10, 2014

University of Edinburgh researchers have accomplished something that has not been done before. They have successfully regenerated a living organ: the thymus. The thymus is a small glandular organ that produces specific immune cells called lymphocytes. The thymus normally deteriorates and shrinks with age. In the study, the researchers were able to reactivate the thymus in mice by increasing the levels of a specific protein. The protein, FOXN1, induced certain cells to rebuild the thymus.

According to researcher Dr. Rob Buckle, "This interesting study suggests that organ regeneration in a mammal can be directed by manipulation of a single protein, which is likely to have broad implications for other areas of regenerative biology." The researchers are hopeful that information gained from this study could be used to develop new treatments for individuals with dysfunctional immune systems.

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Invention of the 'Mini Heart'

Monday April 7, 2014

Human Heart
Image: Dream Designs FreeDigitalPhotos.net

George Washington University researchers have invented a new organ that aids in blood circulation. This organ functions as a 'mini heart' by helping blood to flow in veins with non-functioning valves. The 'mini heart' is a cuff of cardiac muscle cells that is able to contract to help pump blood through the venous portion of the cardiovascular system.

According to researcher Narine Sarvazyan, "We are suggesting, for the first time, to use stem cells to create, rather than just repair damaged organs. We can make a new heart outside of one's own heart, and by placing it in the lower extremities, significantly improve venous blood flow." The ability to create a new organ from a person's own adult stem cells represents an advancement in tissue engineering technology.

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Potential Treatment For Rare Cilia Disorders

Friday April 4, 2014

Cilia in Lung Trachea Epithelium
Credit: Louisa Howard

Duke University researchers have gained insight into how defective cilia cause a variety of different diseases. Cilia are organelles in some cells that aid in cellular locomotion and the detection of cell signaling molecules. Genetic defects in cilia have been linked to diseases and disorders such as blindness, heart and kidney disease, obesity, and learning difficulties.

According to researcher Nicholas Katsanis, "Understanding cilia dysfunction is important, because its association with so many disorders pose a significant societal and medical burden. And we look forward to seeing whether the insights we have learned in these studies are applicable to other disease." The researchers discovered that a malfunction in the cellular system responsible for removing damaged proteins plays a key role in cilia dysfunction. They are hopeful that this discovery may lead to a treatment for cilia disorders.

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Why Cells Don't Repair DNA Damage During Mitosis

Thursday April 3, 2014

When imposing repair on broken DNA strands during mitosis, some telomeres are seen to fuse together (one dot).
Image Credit: A. Orthwein/Durocher Lab

Researchers have solved the mystery of why cells shut off DNA repair processes during cell division. It is because a dividing cell does not recognize the difference between damaged DNA stands and telomeres. Telomeres are protective caps that are located on the ends of chromosomes. Repairing DNA during mitosis can lead to telomere fusion.

When the researchers altered cells so that they would repair DNA during mitosis, some of the telomeres fused together and the chromosomes were defective. According to lead author Dr. Alexandre Orthwein, "They (dividing cells) take the drastic action of turning off DNA repair, a process that is usually highly beneficial, to prevent chromosomes from fusing with each other by mistake." It is unclear as to why this happens, but the researchers state that this discovery provides new insights into the cell division process.

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Removal of Death Receptor Kills Cancer Cells

Wednesday March 26, 2014

Cancer Cells
Image Credit: Dr. Cecil Fox / National Cancer Institute

Researchers have discovered a way to kill cancer cells by eliminating a tumor suppressor protein. In normal cells, the FAS receptor (CD95) triggers a process called apoptosis when activated. Apoptosis or programmed cell death causes a cell to self-destruct. CD95 was thought to suppress tumors because it triggers apoptosis and prevents uncontrollable cell growth in normal cells. Northwestern University researchers found however, that when this receptor or its binding component (CD95 ligand) is removed from cancer cells, the cancer cells die. The absence of CD95 allows the cancer cells to increase in size, but they also produce toxic substances that damage their DNA.

According to lead researcher Marcus Peter, "The discovery seems counterintuitive because CD95 has previously been defined as a tumor suppressor. But when we removed it from cancer cells, rather than proliferate, they died. If CD95 was truly a tumor suppressor, its elimination would result in an enhanced growth and/or invasiveness of cancer cells." The study also found that normal cells without CD95 or the CD95 ligand are able to complete a normal life cycle. This suggests that unlike normal cells, cancer cells are dependent upon CD95 and CD95 ligand for survival.

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Muscle Cells From Stem Cells

Wednesday March 26, 2014

Muscle cells are stained green in this micrograph of cells grown from stem cells in a lab.
Image Credit: Masatoshi Suzuki

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have developed a new method for creating large quantities of skeletal muscle cells and muscle progenitor cells from human stem cells. The muscle cells can be generated from embryonic stem cells or from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. IPS cells are genetically altered adult stem cells that are induced or prompted in a laboratory to take on the characteristics of embryonic stem cells.

According to researcher Masatoshi Suzuki, "Researchers have been looking for an easy way to efficiently differentiate stem cells into muscle cells that would be allowable in the clinic. The novelty of this technique is that it generates a larger number of muscle stem cells without using genetic modification, which is required by existing methods for making muscle cells." The newly developed method could prove to be a valuable tool in the study and treatment of muscular diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and muscular dystrophy.

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Honey Could Help Stop Resistant Bacteria

Wednesday March 19, 2014

Image Credit: Danilo Rizzuti

Honey could be the next weapon used in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Researchers state that honey has a variety of properties that actively kill bacteria. These properties include a high sugar concentration, hydrogen peroxide, acidity, and antioxidants.

According to lead researcher Susan M. Meschwitz, "The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance." Several studies have shown that honey reduces the ability of bacteria to form bacterial biofilm, as well as their ability to cause disease.

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