Scientists find why red beans and rice can be nauseating

People cry foul when fowl is undercooked, but what about red beans and rice?

Scientists have discovered how lectins, a family of proteins believed to be a natural insecticide that is abundant in undercooked legumes and grains, can make you feel temporarily miserable.

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Reducing insulin signaling in the brain can prolong lifespan

One route to a long and healthy life may be establishing the right balance in insulin signaling between the brain and the rest of the body, according to new research from Children’s Hospital Boston. The study, published in the July 20 issue of Science, not only reinforces the value of exercising and eating in moderation, but also helps explain a paradox in longevity research.

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Researchers identify mechanism behind fear

Researchers from MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have uncovered a molecular mechanism that governs the formation of fears stemming from traumatic events. The work could lead to the first drug to treat the millions of adults who suffer each year from persistent, debilitating fears – including hundreds of soldiers returning from conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Scientists find brown fat master switch

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified a long-sought “master switch” in mice for the production of brown fat, a type of adipose tissue that generates heat and counters obesity caused by overeating.

A team headed by Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, suggests in the July issue of Cell Metabolism that turning up the equivalent switch in people might be a new strategy for treating overweight and obesity. The investigators said their next step is to rev up the control in mice and overfeed them to see if they are resistant to becoming obese.

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Has science unearthed the Holy Grail of pain relief?

Scientists studying one of nature’s simplest organisms have helped to unravel the structure of a key molecule that controls pain in humans. The findings – published in the top scientific journal Nature – could rapidly advance research into the next generation of painkillers for relief of chronic conditions such as migraine and backache.

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Researchers reverse symptoms in mice of leading inherited cause of mental retardation

Researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT have, for the first time, reversed symptoms of mental retardation and autism in mice.

The mice were genetically manipulated to model Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), the leading inherited cause of mental retardation and the most common genetic cause of autism. The condition, tied to a mutated X chromosome gene called fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene, causes mild learning disabilities to severe autism.

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Vitamin extends life in yeast

Imagine taking a vitamin for longevity! Not yet, but a Dartmouth discovery that a cousin of niacin prolongs lifespan in yeast brings the tantalizing possibility a step closer.

The research, reported in the May 4 issue of Cell, shows how a new vitamin extends lifespan in yeast cells, much like calorie restriction does in animals. It could pave the way for developing supplements to benefit humans.
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Brain networks strengthened by closing ion channels

New Haven, Conn. — Yale School of Medicine and University of Crete School of Medicine researchers report in Cell April 20 the first evidence of a molecular mechanism that dynamically alters the strength of higher brain network connections.

This discovery may help the development of drug therapies for the cognitive deficits of normal aging, and for cognitive changes in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
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Discovery in plants suggests entirely new approach to treating human cancers

For the first time, scientists from the University of Washington School of Medicine, Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Cambridge have determined how a plant hormone — auxin — interacts with its hormone receptor, called TIR1. Their report, on the cover of this week’s issue of Nature, also may have important implications for the treatment of human disease, because TIR1 is similar to human enzymes that are known to be involved in cancer.
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Molecular link between inflammation and cancer discovered

A team led by biochemists at the University of California, San Diego has found what could be a long-elusive mechanism through which inflammation can promote cancer. The findings may provide a new approach for developing cancer therapies.

The study, published in the January 26 issue of the journal Cell, shows that what scientists thought were two distinct processes in cells–the cells’ normal development and the cells’ response to dangers such as invading organisms–are actually linked. The researchers say that the linkage of these two processes may explain why cancer, which is normal growth and development gone awry, can result from chronic inflammation, which is an out-of-control response to danger.
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Pivotal kidney cancer study shows doubling of disease-free survival

Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals announced that the New England Journal of Medicine has published their pivotal Phase III trial demonstrating that Nexavar® (sorafenib) tablets doubled median progression-free survival (PFS) in patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC), or kidney cancer. The trial is the largest randomized controlled trial ever conducted in advanced RCC.
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Researchers discover a protein as potential tactic to prevent tumors

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that a protein that initiates a “quality control check” during cell division also directs cell death for those cells damaged during duplication. This knowledge represents a potential “bulls eye” for targeting anti-tumor drugs. The findings appear in the current issue of Science.
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Elevated testosterone kills nerve cells

-A Yale School of Medicine study shows for the first time that a high level of testosterone, such as that caused by the use of steroids to increase muscle mass or for replacement therapy, can lead to a catastrophic loss of brain cells.

Taking large doses of androgens, or steroids, is known to cause hyperexcitability, a highly aggressive nature, and suicidal tendencies. These behavioral changes could be evidence of alterations in neuronal function caused by the steroids, said the senior author, Barbara Ehrlich, professor of pharmacology and physiology.
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Researchers map out networks that determine cell fate

A two-step process appears to regulate cell fate decisions for many types of developing cells, according to researchers from the University of Chicago.

This finding sheds light on a puzzling behavior. For some differentiating stem cells, the first step leads not to a final decision but to a new choice. In response to the initial chemical signal, these cells take on the genetic signatures of two different cell types. It often requires a second signal for them to commit to a single cellular identity.
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Genome code cracked for breast and colon cancers

Scientists have completed the first draft of the genetic code for breast and colon cancers. Their report, published online in the September 7 issue of Science Express, identifies close to 200 mutated genes, now linked to these cancers, most of which were not previously recognized as associated with tumor initiation, growth, spread or control.

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Mapping system tells skin cells whether to become scalp or palm tissues

Global-positioning system aficionados know that it’s possible to precisely define any location in the world with just three geographic coordinates: latitude, longitude and altitude. Now scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that specialized skin cells use a similar mapping system to identify where they belong in the body and how to act once they arrive.

These cellular cornerstones direct embryonic patterning and wound healing by sending vital location cues to their neighbors, and may help in growing tissue for transplant or understanding metastatic cancer.
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DNA damage study probes inflammation, disease link

New research at MIT may help scientists better understand the chemical associations between chronic inflammation and diseases such as cancer and atherosclerosis. The work could lead to drugs that break the link between the two.

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Researchers Show How Brain Decodes Complex Smells

Duke University Medical Center researchers have discovered how the brain creates a scent symphony from signals sent by the nose.

In studies in mice, the researchers found that nerve cells in the brain’s olfactory bulb — the first stop for information from the nose — do not perceive complex scent mixtures as single objects, such as the fragrance of a blooming rose. Instead, these nerve cells, or neurons, detect the host of chemical compounds that comprise a rose’s perfume. Smarter sections of the brain’s olfactory system then categorize and combine these compounds into a recognizable scent. According to the researchers, it’s as if the brain has to listen to each musician’s melody to hear a symphony.

Humans may rely on the same smell decoding system, because mice and men have similar brain structures for scent, including an olfactory bulb, the researchers said.
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Researchers find new way to open ion channels in cell membranes

Using an enzyme found in the venom of the brown recluse spider, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered a new way to open molecular pores, called ion channels, in the membrane of cells. The research team screened venoms from over 100 poisonous invertebrate species to make this discovery.

The enzyme, sphingomyelinase D (SMase D), splits a lipid called sphingomyelin that surrounds the channel embedded in the cell membrane. As a result, the channel opens to allow the passage of small ions into and out of the cell, thereby generating electrical currents.
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Fat-generated hormone drives energetic capacity of muscle

The fat-generated hormone adiponectin plays an important role in the energetic capacity of skeletal muscle, according to a new study in the July, 2006, Cell Metabolism, published by Cell Press. Adiponectin is unusual among fat hormones in that its levels generally decline in those who are obese.

The researchers report evidence in people and mice, linking low adiponectin levels to insulin resistance and reductions in the number of “cellular power plants” called mitochondria in skeletal muscle. The findings suggest that therapies designed to boost the adiponectin signal might prove beneficial for the treatment of insulin resistance and diabetes, they said.
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Scientists reveal possible strategy against obesity, diabetes and infertility

Twelve years ago, scientists discovered leptin–the now-famous hormone that controls appetite, burns calories and performs other crucial physiological activities as well. But the precise mechanism(s) by which leptin carries out these metabolic tasks is still controversial. Now, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have shown how leptin exerts some of its most important effects.

Their findings, reported in the July 5 issue of Cell Metabolism, suggest a novel approach for duplicating leptin’s actions when the body no longer responds to the hormone.
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A Key Regulator Of Fat Synthesis Keeps Mice Lean Despite A High-fat Diet

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a novel pathway that regulates the body's ability to store or burn fat, a discovery that suggests new ways to reduce obesity, diabetes and other fat-related human diseases.

Genetically engineered mice, in which the pathway was constantly revved up, were protected from the ravages of a high-fat diet, the Salk team led by Marc Montminy, Ph.D., a professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology reports in this week's issue of Science.
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Scientists find previously unknown receptors on adult stem cells

For many years, researchers believed that stem cells in the bone marrow spent most of their existence in a slumber-like state, unaware of — and unaffected by — the daily battles fought by the body's immune system.
Not so.

Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have discovered that marrow stem cells — undifferentiated cells that eventually give rise to the blood cells that fight infection — possess receptors that recognize bacteria and viruses. When activated, these receptors kick the stem cells and immature blood cells into action, enlisting them to help fight whatever pathogen is attacking the body.

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Growth factor triggers growth of new blood vessels in the heart

The newest concept for treating coronary artery disease is to induce hearts to grow their own new blood vessels to bypass damaged tissue or clogged arteries. Unfortunately, clinical trials of two important blood-vessel growth factors — fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) — have not produced stellar results.

Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have investigated a third signaling molecule — called Sonic hedgehog — that could overcome problems associated with FGF2 and VEGF therapy.
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HIV-1’s high virulence might be an accident of evolution

The virulence characteristic of HIV-1–the virus predominantly responsible for human AIDS–might amount to an accident of evolution, new evidence reveals. A gene function lost during the course of viral evolution predisposed HIV-1 to spur the fatal immune system failures that are the hallmarks of AIDS, researchers report in the June 16, 2006 Cell.

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New roles for growth factors: Enticing nerve cells to muscles

During embryonic development, nerve cells hesitantly extend tentacle-like protrusions called axons that sniff their way through a labyrinth of attractive and repulsive chemical cues that guide them to their target.

While several recent studies discovered molecules that repel motor neuron axons from incorrect targets in the limb, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a molecule, known as FGF, that actively lures growing axons closer to the right destination. Their findings appear in the June 15 issue of Neuron.
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New stem-cell findings can help the body to cure itself

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have identified an important mechanism that regulates how many new cells are produced by each intestinal stem cell. The study is published in the latest issue of the prestigious scientific journal, Cell. "This might eventually help us develop new drugs for things like neurological disorders and anaemia," says Professor Jonas Frisén.

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New Mechanism Explains Glucose Effect On Wakefulness

One of the body's basic survival mechanisms is the neural machinery that triggers the hungry brain to the alertness needed for seeking food. That same machinery swings the other way after a hearty meal, as exemplified by the long and honored custom of the siesta. However, scientists have understood little about how the basic energy molecule, glucose, regulates such wakefulness and other energy-related behaviors.

Now, in an article in the June 1, 2006, Neuron, Denis Burdakov of the University of Manchester and his colleagues have pinpointed how glucose inhibits neurons that are key to regulating wakefulness. In the process, they have discovered a role for a class of potassium ion channels whose role has remained largely unknown. Such ion channels are porelike proteins in the cell membrane that affect cellular responses by controlling the flow of potassium into the cell.
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Free Radical Cell Death Switch Identified

"A common molecular denominator in aging and many age-related diseases is oxidative stress," says the study's lead author Azad Bonni, MD, PhD, HMS associate professor of pathology. The skin of a bitten apple will brown because of its exposure to air, and in some ways that is a good metaphor for the damage that oxidative stress is causing to neurons and other types of cells over time.

How the oxidative-stress signals trigger these profound effects in cells has remained unclear. But Bonni and his research team, have now defined how a molecular chain-of-events links oxidative-stress signals to cell death in brain neurons.

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Scientists discover how to extend lifespan without disrupting life-sustaining function

For the first time ever, researchers at the Salk Institute have pinpointed a protein specifically responsible for extending lifespan and youthfulness without disrupting an organism’s response to some forms of stress, development and fertility controlled by the insulin signaling pathway.

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Genes involved in cell growth and cell division identified

A recent study shows that hundreds of genes contribute to cell growth and cell division. For the first time these genes, many of which are potential contributors to cancer, have been mapped in a single systematic study.
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Basic research leads to a novel cancer therapy

Over a decade ago, a team led by Professor Axel Ullrich at Max Planck insitute discovered that by interrupting the oxygen and nutrient supply to tumour cells, it is possible to inhibit cancer development. The Max Planck scientists showed that tumour tissue just a few cubic millimetres in size can create vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which triggers blood vessel development. This fundamental principle led to the development of SUTENT®, whose active ingredient is Sunitinib.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved SUTENT to treat two advanced cancers, if standard therapies fail. The cancers are renal cell carcinoma (RCC; kidney cancer) and gastro-intestinal stromal tumours (GIST, a rare form of gastro-intestinal cancer). This is the first time FDA has approved a medication for two kinds of advanced cancers. Continue reading “Basic research leads to a novel cancer therapy”

Role of the nervous system in targeting stem cells in their niches is discovered

A group, led by Dr. Paul Frenette at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that the sympathetic–or “fight or flight” branch–of the nervous system plays a critical role in coaxing bone marrow stem cells into the bloodstream. Bone marrow cells known as hematopoietic stem cells are the source for blood and immune cells.

New study by Mount Sinai researchers may lead to improved stem cell therapies for patients with compromised immune systems due to intensive cancer therapy or autoimmune disease. Continue reading “Role of the nervous system in targeting stem cells in their niches is discovered”

Activation of a protein solidifies fear memory in the brain

When activated, a specific protein in the brain enhances long-term storage of fearful memories and strengthens previously established fearful memories, Yale School of Medicine researchers report this week in Nature Neuroscience.

“This report is the first to demonstrate evidence of enhancements in memory reconsolidation in the brain,” said the senior author, Jane Taylor, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry. “Understanding these molecular mechanisms may provide critical insights into psychiatric disorders.”
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Scientists find a link in brain between sight and sound

Just imagine listening to someone talk and also hearing the buzz of the overhead lights, the hum of your computer and the muffled conversation down the hallway. To focus on the person speaking to you, your brain clearly can’t give equal weight to all incoming sensory information. It has to attend to what is important and ignore the rest.

Two scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have taken a big step toward sorting out how the brain accomplishes this task. In the Jan. 19 issue of Nature, the researchers show that a mechanism for prioritizing information – previously reported only in primates – is also used by birds.
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Scientists uncover mechanism of response to targeted therapy of cancer

Researchers knew that a subset of kidney cancer patients responded well to an experimental targeted therapy, but they didn’t know why. If they could determine the mechanism behind the response, they would be able to predict which patients would respond and personalize their treatment accordingly.

Extrapolating from the clinical responses, scientists at UCLA uncovered the cascade of molecular events by which the cancer cells in a subset of patients became sensitized to the experimental drug CCI-779. Armed with this information, UCLA researchers are developing a test to identify which patients will benefit from receiving CCI-779.

The research, published this month in Nature Medicine, takes researchers a step closer to personalized medicine – treating cancer patients not with a one-size-fits-all therapy but with a treatment based on the specific molecular signature of their cancer cells.

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Hedgehog protein blocks fat production, produces more bone

A protein that guides the early development of creatures as diverse as fruit flies and humans also plays a role in regulating fat and bone formation in adult organisms, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered.

The findings, reported in the January issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, open an avenue for potential therapy in humans for obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and lipodystrophy, a disorder characterized by a selective loss of body fat.
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Scientists discover a protein linked to serotonin and depression

For the more than 18 million Americans who suffer from depressive illnesses, the best pharmacological treatments are those that increase levels of serotonin, the brain chemical that regulates mood, sleep and memory. New research by an international team of scientists, led by Rockefeller University researchers in Nobel prize winner Paul Greengard’s laboratory, shows that a gene called p11 is closely related to serotonin transmission in the brain — and may play a key role in determining a person’s susceptibility to depression.

The newly discovered link between depression and the serotonin system, reported in the January 6 issue of the journal Science, could lead to new treatments for these mental disorders.

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Slowly, Cancer Genes Tender Their Secrets

A nice article in New York Times by Gina Kolata discussing the recent advances in understanding cancer genes and potential cures.

Read the story here

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Researchers hone in on differentiation of heart stem cells

A team of scientists from the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) has identified a key factor in heart development that could help advance gene therapy for treating cardiac disorders.

The findings could help cardiac stem cell researchers one day develop strategies for gene and cell- mediated cardiac therapies.

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New Neurons Take Baby Steps In The Adult Brain

In experiments with mice, scientists from Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering have discovered the steps required to integrate new neurons into the brain’s existing operations.

For more than a century, scientists thought the adult brain could only lose nerve cells, not gain them, but in fact, new neurons do form during adulthood in all mammals, including humans, and become a working part of the adult brain in mice at the very least.

In the first study to show how these “baby” neurons are integrated into the brain’s existing networks, the Johns Hopkins researchers show that a brain chemical called GABA readies baby neurons to make connections to old ones. The discovery is described in the Dec. 11 advance online section of Nature.
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Cancer Support Cells May Evolve, Fuel Tumor Growth, Study Shows

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists have demonstrated in a living organism that cancers may cause surrounding supportive cells to evolve and ultimately promote cancer growth.

The new research offers what is believed to be the first evidence that mutations within cancer cells can signal surrounding tissue cells to alter their molecular composition in ways that promote tumor growth and proliferation. Moreover, the findings also suggest that cell mutations that promote cancer progression may arise in cells other than the predominant cancer cell.
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Research clarifies how brain replenishes memory-making molecules

New research on living neurons has clarified how the brain refreshes the supply of molecules it needs to make new memories.
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Yale Scientists Decipher ‘Wiring Pattern’ Of Cell Signaling Networks

A team of scientists at Yale University has completed the first comprehensive map of the proteins and kinase signaling network that controls how cells of higher organisms operate, according to a report this week in the journal Nature.

The study is a breakthrough in understanding mechanisms of how proteins operate in different cell types under the control of master regulator molecules called protein kinases. Although protein kinases are already important targets of cancer drugs including Gleevec and Herceptin, until recently, it has been difficult to identify the proteins regulated by the kinases.
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