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How to Turn Damaged Heart Tissue Back into Healthy Heart Muscle: New Details Emerge
Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine report that they have used single cell RNA sequencing technology along with other techniques to sort out the details of how fibroblasts, scar tissue cells, can turn into cardiomyocytes, heart muscle cells, creating new healthy heart muscle.

“Some of what we found is clinically important,” Li Qian, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, said, “For example, we know that after a heart attack, cardiac fibroblasts around the injured area are immediately activated and become highly proliferative but this proliferative capacity decreases over time. How to take advantage of the varied cell cycle status of fibroblasts over the progression of a heart attack and its aftermath would certainly broaden the application of cellular reprogramming for patients and optimize outcomes.”

Source & further reading:

These are induced cardiomyocytes (iCMs) that Li Qian's lab produced in experiments turning scar tissue into healthy heart muscle.

#research #medicine #heartmuscle #fibroblasts #cardiomyocytes #pathology #laboratorymedicine #heartattack #cardiacfibroblasts #singlecellRNAsequencing #technology #science

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A single genetic change around 2013 gave Zika the ability to cause severe fetal microcephaly

Read the research:

#research #ZIKV #viruses #health #medicine #science

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Scientists Find New Evidence About How to Prevent Worsening Pneumonia
Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University have found that the TIP peptide, a synthetic version of the tip of the cancer-killing immune molecule tumor necorsis factor, may strengthen the barrier created by sodium channels in the cells that line capillaries in our lungs. Strengthening this barrier may prevent worsening pneumonia.

“We showed that these channels are present in human capillary endothelial cells and that these channels play a really important role in protecting us from pneumolysin,” says Dr. Rudolf Lucas, vascular biologist at the Vascular Biology Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and the study’s corresponding author.

“We also provided more evidence that targeting these channels with the TIP peptide or something similar is a solid strategy for reducing dangerous fluid volume in your lungs,” says Lucas. The studies were conducted in the endothelial cells that line human lung capillaries, known to form a tight barrier for the blood vessels.


#research #medicalresearch #medicine #lungs #capillaries #pneumonia #pneumolysin #breathing #TIPpeptide #physiology

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Make Way for Hemoglobin
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered how immature cells grow up to be red blood cells.

Red blood cells are unique in that they make space for oxygen-carrying hemoglobin by purging the nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes and other parts of the cell. For more than 20 years,

“The creation of highly specialized cells is very important for processes such as oxygen delivery to tissues, our ability to see and reproduce, and to make skin,” said Daniel Finley, professor of cell biology at Harvard. “Understanding exactly how this happens gives us better insight into some of the most fundamental properties of living things.”

Finley and his colleagues worked off of Finley’s hunch that the process of specialization was controlled by an enzyme called UBE2O, which marked cell parts for destruction with a protein called ubiquitin allowing the protesasome to recognize them as needing to be purged. Using a series of tests that relied on large-scale protein analyses not available in earlier decades, the researchers confirmed the enzyme’s role. Their results revealed that immature red blood cells lacking UBE2O retained hundreds of proteins and failed to become specialized.

Source & further reading:

Journal article:

#research #medicalresearch #medicine #blood cells #ribosomes #hemoglobin #nucleus #mitochondria #technology #UBE2O #ubiquitin #proteasome
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Scientists Identify a New Way to Activate Stem Cells to Make Hair Grow
UCLA researchers have discovered a new way to activate the stem cells in the hair follicle to make hair grow. The research, led by scientists Heather Christofk and William Lowry, may lead to new drugs that could promote hair growth for people with baldness or alopecia, which is hair loss associated with such factors as hormonal imbalance, stress, aging or chemotherapy treatment.

In this study, Christofk and Lowry, of Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA, found that hair follicle stem cell metabolism is different from other cells of the skin. Cellular metabolism involves the breakdown of the nutrients needed for cells to divide, make energy and respond to their environment. The process of metabolism uses enzymes that alter these nutrients to produce “metabolites.”

As hair follicle stem cells consume the nutrient glucose — a form of sugar — from the bloodstream, they process the glucose to eventually produce a metabolite called pyruvate. The cells then can either send pyruvate to their mitochondria — the part of the cell that creates energy — or can convert pyruvate into another metabolite called lactate.

“Our observations about hair follicle stem cell metabolism prompted us to examine whether genetically diminishing the entry of pyruvate into the mitochondria would force hair follicle stem cells to make more lactate, and if that would activate the cells and grow hair more quickly,” said Christofk, an associate professor of biological chemistry and molecular and medical pharmacology.

Source & further reading:

Image: Untreated mouse skin showing no hair growth (left) compared to mouse skin treated with the drug UK5099 (right) showing hair growth. Credit: UCLA Broad Stem Cell Center/Nature Cell Biology

#research #hairgrowth #alopecia #baldness #health #stemcells #pyruvate

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Researchers Identify Biomarkers Associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Severity
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine report that 17 cytokines, the proteins that signal immune system action, are linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. The severity of the disease is tied to the levels of these various proteins in the blood.

The findings, described in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to further understanding of this condition and be used to improve the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder, which has been notably difficult.


#research #chronicfatigue #cytokines #medicine #health

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The war against superbugs
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria already kill around 700,000 people each year, but a recent study suggests that number could rise to around 10 million by 2050.

In addition to common hospital superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), scientists are now also concerned that gonorrhea is about to become resistant to all remaining drugs.

But Shu Lam, a 25 year old PhD student at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has developed a star-shaped polymer that can kill six different superbug strains without antibiotics, simply by ripping apart their cell walls.

"We’ve discovered that [the polymers] actually target the bacteria and kill it in multiple ways," Lam told Nicola Smith from The Telegraph. "One method is by physically disrupting or breaking apart the cell wall of the bacteria. This creates a lot of stress on the bacteria and causes it to start killing itself."

The research has been published in Nature Microbiology, and according to Smith, it's already being hailed by scientists in the field as "a breakthrough that could change the face of modern medicine".

Before we get too carried away, it's still very early days. So far, Lam has only tested her star-shaped polymers on six strains of drug-resistant bacteria in the lab, and on one superbug in live mice.

But in all experiments, they've been able to kill their targeted bacteria - and generation after generation don't seem to develop resistance to the polymers.

The polymers - which they call SNAPPs, or structurally nanoengineered antimicrobial peptide polymers - work by directly attacking, penetrating, and then destabilizing the cell membrane of bacteria.

Unlike antibiotics, which 'poison' bacteria, and can also affect healthy cells in the area, the SNAPPs that Lam has designed are so large that they don't seem to affect healthy cells at all.



Paper (under paywall):

Image: A microscopic photo of a superbug being attacked by proteins developed by University of Melbourne researchers
Credit: Caters

#research #superbug #nanotech #SNAPPs #bacteria #health #medicine #science

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Repurposed asthma drug shows blood sugar improvement among some diabetics
Researchers at the University of San Diego School of Medicine have completed a study that shows that an anti-asthma drug may have a positive benefit on blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.

After 12 weeks of taking an anti-asthma drug, a subset of patients with type 2 diabetes showed a clinically significant reduction in blood glucose during the randomized, double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial.

The results of the trial were published in Cell Metabolism.
"When we looked at the drug-treated group we saw a bimodal distribution, that is, there were some responders and some non-responders. We didn't understand why, so we did a molecular analysis from biopsies of fat cells we took from patients at the beginning and end of the study," said Alan Saltiel, PhD, director of the UC San Diego Institute for Diabetes and Metabolic Health.

"In the responder group, the level of inflammation in fat was higher than in the non-responder group at the beginning of the study, indicating that there is something about inflammation that predisposes a person to respond. And, what was really amazing was that there were more than 1,000 gene changes that occurred exclusively in the respinders".

Source and further reading:

Journal article:

#research #asthma #bloodsugar #diabetes #medicine

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Regrowing Hearts
For centuries, humans have marveled at lizards’ ability to regrow lost tails. Our fragile bodies just don’t have this same natural capacity for regrowth, but other species’ tricks of regeneration do present a tantalizing prospect: if we can understand them, can we harness similar mechanisms ourselves?

Zebrafish, for example, can recover from heart injuries in a way humans cannot. The zebrafish heart pictured is well on the way to recovery one week after an injury (bottom), as new cardiomyocytes – heart muscle cells – are generated by nearby cells to replace lost ones.

Most of our heart cells don’t have that same instinct to kick into action and produce new material when needed, but recent research suggests that if we can pinpoint the mechanism that prompts it in zebrafish cells, there’s a chance the human equivalents could be encouraged to do the same, meaning broken hearts could heal themselves.

Source: Anthony Lewis/ BPoD

Image by Amy L. Dickson and Kenneth D. Poss, Duke University.
First published on the cover of Science, June 2017

Image copyright held by original authors
Related research published in Science, November 2016

#research #science #heartregrowth #medicine

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DNA Replication Has Been Filmed For The First Time
“Here’s proof of how far we’ve come in science - in a world-first, researchers have recorded up-close footage of a single DNA molecule replicating itself, and it’s raising questions about how we assumed the process played out.The real-time footage has revealed that this fundamental part of life incorporates an unexpected amount of ‘randomness’, and it could force a major rethink into how genetic replication occurs without mutations.”

“The DNA double helix consists of two intertwining strands of genetic material made up of four different bases - guanine, thymine, cytosine, and adenine (G, T, C and A).Replication occurs when an enzyme called helicase unwinds and unzips the double helix into two single strands.A second enzyme called primase attaches a 'primer’ to each of these unravelled strands, and a third enzyme called DNA polymerase attaches at this primer, and adds additional bases to form a whole new double helix.”

“The fact that double helices are formed from two stands running in opposite directions means that one of these strands is known as the 'leading strand’, which winds around first, and the other is the 'lagging strand’, which follows the leader.The new genetic material that’s attached to each one during the replication process is an exact match to what was on its original partner.So as the leading strand detaches, the enzymes add bases that are identical to those on the original lagging stand, and as the lagging strand detaches, we get material that’s identical to the original leading strand.

Scientists have long assumed that the DNA polymerases on the leading and lagging strands somehow coordinate with each other throughout the replication process, so that one does not get ahead of the other during the unraveling process and cause mutations. But this new footage reveals that there’s no coordination at play here at all - somehow, each strand acts independently of the other, and still results in a perfect match each time.“

Source & further reading:

Journal article:

Each glowing strand is a piece of double helix growing by replication at the left-hand end. They move at different speeds and stop and start. Dark gaps in the line are single-stranded DNA where one polymerase failed to attach (the fluorescent dye only binds double-stranded DNA).

Some surprises come out of being able to observe replication directly. For example, the two polymerases involved in replication (one for each strand) aren't coordinated. They stop and start at random, but overall they move at the same average speed, so everything works out. This stochastic model is quite different from a smooth-running, coordinated machine usually imagined.

CREDIT: James Graham, UC Davis

#DNA #research #biology #molecularbiology #cells #science
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