News » General Interest
I love science and microbiology. I love fitness and nutrition. If you take care of your body and feed it well, it goes a long way to having great quality of life. So I am always interested in fitness and nutrition.
Having the perspective of a scientist, any claims I read for a fitness routine or nutrition regimen have to backed by good solid evidence. This can be very hard to come by. Nutrition research is extremely difficult, because you are dealing with food. The food we eat is incredibly complex, containing hundreds of chemicals that interact with our genetic background and our microbiomes. Even more complexity is added if you are doing the food research using people. Any human subject research will involve hundreds of uncontrollable variables, because you cannot tell a human to only consume leafy greens and broccoli for a year and please stay in this cage the whole time. Where they live, their behaviors and what other food they eat will all influence whatever the research is trying to measure. No matter the nutrition question, finding an answer can be extremely difficult.
Science Insider reports that a recent evaluation from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) declares that glyphosate is unlikely to increase the risk of cancer. They also set a limit on what is thought to be a safe does, 0.5 mg per kilogram of body weight. So someone weighing 80 kilograms (166 pounds) could consume 40 mg of glyphosate a day and run no increased risk of cancer. Other agencies have weighed into this in the last few years and concluded that there is some risk. The difficulty comes from assessing the toxicity to humans either based on studies using rats or mice as the model animal, or looking at epidemiological studies. Mice and rats are not humans, really. Our bodies may react differently than a rodents. In the epidemiological studies, large populations have to be examined to detect small risks and often these studies are expensive and fraud with confounding variables. Epidemiological studies can only show correlation, not causation. For right now, it seems glyphosate, such as Roundup, appear to be safe.
Researchers at the University of California - San Diego have found a microbe in the Santa Barbara Bay that may produce a compound that could be used to treat anthrax and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) while conducting research.
The microbe belongs to the Streptomyces family and is found in the sediment close to the shores of Santa Barbara, California. The compound it produces, called “anthracimycin”, was novel in structure, which was solved by spectroscopy. Initial testing of anthracimycin showed it to be a powerful compound against anthrax and MRSA. Anthracimycin would be a tremendous breakthrough as a drug because anthrax is feared as a possible weapon of bioterrorism and MRSA creates difficult to treat infections, typically in hospitals. In order for anthracimycin to become available as a treatment, more testing and development is needed to ensure the safety of it on people, which may take years.
'Epilepsy in a Dish': Stem Cell Research Reveals Clues to Disease's Origins and May Aid Search for Better Drugs
Scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School have created an exciting new model called “epilepsy in a dish” to study seizure disorders. It works by converting skin cells from patients harboring an epilepsy disorder to stem cells and then to neurons. The patient specific neurons allow for the study of brain cells and brain activity without the need to perform a brain biopsy. The overall goal of this study is to create induced pluripotent stem cells from cells of patients with different epileptic syndromes in order to understand the mechanisms behind the diseases and for drug development.
Diet-Induced Alterations of Host Cholesterol Metabolism Are Likely To Affect the Gut Microbiota Composition in Hamsters.
While it has been well established that the gastrointestinal microbiota plays a role in the regulation of host metabolism, little is known about the connections between the composition of the gut microbiota and its effect on host metabolic pathways and processes. This is a valuable area of research, as changes in the host gut flora have been linked to various health problems. This knowledge calls for a better understanding of the bacterial patterns and functions associated with and contributing to these health problems.
If you ask most people is microbes could survive on Mars, they would answer "no". Yet recent evidence from the rover Curiosity suggest that life (microbes) may have existed billions of years ago, when analysis of rock drillings showed traces of some of the most fundamental elements for life (sulfur, hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc), in addition to water covering the planet's surface.
A team of researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) recently discovered a new method called parallel protein analysis to detect mircoorganismal activity in human bodily fluids. They have designed a test that can identify thousands of different proteins and detect the presence of viruses. The new method is very quick and cost effective. One of the chemists involved in the research, Professor Carsten Sönnichsen, said “ we see possible applications this technique in medicine where it could be used, for example, for the rapid diagnosis of a wide range of diseases” reflecting on likely uses of the test. The analysis is almost as easy as a simple pregnancy test. All that is needed for the test is a tiny drop of blood, saliva, or some other bodily fluid. The accuracy and reliability of the testing makes it possible to determine if the protein came from a harmless microorganism or a dangerous pathogen.
Yet again another study showing that sugary drinks are rarely a good idea. This includes fruit juices by the way. They are just as bad as soda pop. Drink your water people!
A recent study led by biologists from Indian University and Montana State University has found a connection between viruses that infect eukaryotes and viruses that infect archaea growing in volcanic springs (article). Viruses like HIV and Ebola that infect eukaryotic cells and the virus Sulfolobus turreted icosahedral virus (STIV) that infects Sulfolobus sofataricus, an archaea found in volcanic springs, share a common feature; they both must hijack the same set of proteins found in their hosts' cells to be able to complete their life cycles.
Cholera is a deadly disease that is present in many third world countries, including Bangladesh and India. The disease has been infecting people for thousands of years, meaning it is more likely to be causing evolutionary changes in humans, compared to newly emerged diseases.
Sure enough, researchers from Massachusetts and Bangladesh have found that the human genome has evolved in people who are more likely to contract cholera. Regina LaRocque, an infectious disease specialist from Massachusetts General Hospital and Elinor Karisson, a computational geneticist from Harvard, along with collaborators in Bangladesh, have determined that 305 regions of the human genome were altered by natural selection in individuals in Bangladesh. DNA from 36 Bangladeshi families was compared to that of people from northwestern Europe, West Africa, and eastern Asia. The researchers utilized a new statistical technique that finds regions of the genome that are being affected by natural selection.
Biogeographical distribution and diversity of microbes in methane hydrate-bearing deep marine sediments on the Pacific Ocean Margin
The depths of the Oceans on this world are unexplored territory by humans. Until recently. Scientists have created equipment that can withstand the pressure of the depth of the sea to begin exploring the world unseen by many land-bound eyes. Little did we know there was an underwater land teeming with life, especially microbial life. This article discusses the microbial communities that may be contributors to the methane levels found in our ocean sediments.
The Prokaryotic biomass found in the deep sea sediments are greater than 105 microbial cells/cm3; this holds true for roughly 1000 meters below the seafloor. These microbes just might represent one-tenth to one-third of the living biomass on Earth. But the relationship between the microbial community and the conditions of the sub-seafloor environments are largely unknown to us. The scientists in this article explain that their interest lies in the Archaeal and Bacterial communities of the sub-seafloor sediments and how they can distinguish the community based on the presence or absence of methane hydrate (essentially methane trapped within a crystal water structure forming something like ice).
Microbial life is important to human and animal health, as they help with important functions of the body. Looking specifically at the gut, gut bacteria (gastrointestinal bacteria), help the body with digestion, immune functions, and general health. There is little knowledge about how the many different bacterial communities change in animal bodies. To have a better understanding about this change, Wouter van Dongen and his colleagues at the Vetmeduni Vienna have scrutinized the cloaca of black-legged kittiwakes at different ages. The cloaca of a vertebrae is a passage for feces, urine, and other body fluids to exit the body. Since the cloaca has similar bacteria to the gastrointestinal tract, Wouter van Dongen and his colleagues have examined the bacteria samples from there.
Microorganisms, though individually capable of significant metabolic feats, often cooperate with other organisms to perform population-wide tasks. One example is the emission of light by biological organisms, termed bioluminescence, a phenomenon in which a population of bacteria must all express their genes encoding for luciferase, a light-producing protein, at the same time. This process is regulated by quorum sensing, the central focus of a 2012 study relating the expression of bioluminescence in Vibrio harveyi to the concentrations of extracellular signaling compounds.
Prion-like protein accumulation in brain cells helps explain Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases
When looking at the damaged nerve cells of an Alzheimer’s patient under a microscope, one observes clumps of proteins that seem out of place. Researchers have discovered these protein masses behave much like prions – malformed proteins normally found in healthy neurons. These contorted proteins in turn cause like proteins to misfold and bind to one another, resulting in a chain reaction or cascade that destroys entire regions of the brain. Prions are most commonly associated with the contagious neurodegenerative mad cow disease, however all evidence suggests Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s lack the infectious agent of classic prion diseases. Regardless, these recent findings provide scientists with a “signpost” for neurodegenerative diseases that may point toward eventual treatment options for the millions of patients suffering around the world.
Concerns of pesticide use on produce has raised questions to some of the population because of new studies showing linkage to certain diseases. As a result, some seek organic products at the grocery store. Another alternative is purchasing fresh produce at the farmer’s market which has become popular in recent years. The general population believes that locally grown foods are safer. However, that might not be the case in a small-scale study conducted by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science.
Recent studies conducted at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine indicate that bacterial DNA can be transferred to human tumor cells easier than into healthy human cells. Such genetic transfer, in which DNA from one organism is implemented into another organism of a different species, without traditional reproduction processes, is called lateral gene transfer or horizontal gene transfer.
In order to research the role of lateral gene transfer in tumors, researchers at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center are using a specific strategy involving large quantities of samples, both cancerous and non-cancerous. This strategy was invoked by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Scientists at the University of Maryland found that 63.5 percent of the TCGA samples that they studied were from tumors. Interestingly, 99.9 percent of the tumor samples contained evidence of bacterial gene transfer.
Researches at the Univ. of Mass-Amhearst, lead by professor Dan Chase have developed a technique that allows the down regulation of any protein, at any time, without mutation of the DNA of the organism under study. This will allow scientists to remove a protein activity in just one cell, and not affect the metabolism of the entire organism. Dr. Chase's team used this technique to determine what would happen if they manipulated dopamine levels in the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. This worm is a fantastic model system to study development and all sorts of eukaryotic functions. It contains only 959 cells, yet carries out many of the functions of more complex organisms, including humans.
Saleh Heneidi et al at UCLA have reported in PLOS One the isolation of pluripotent stem cells from adult adipose (fat) tissue. By stressing the tissue they killed off all of the cells in the fat tissue except the Multilineage Differentiating Stress-Enduring (Muse) Cells. These cells behave in cell culture in a manner reminiscent of embryonic stem cells and tests reveal that they can differentiate into mesenchymal, endodermal and ectodermal cell lineages. It is clear that these are very primal cells and hold the potential of making any type of tissue. This is clearly a very exciting step.
An interesting side note to the article, these were discovered by accident when a piece of equipment failed in the lab, killing most of the cells in the cell culture, but leaving the Multilineage Differentiating Stress-Enduring (Muse) Cells alive.
An international team of scienctists has worked out a new biosensor that is able to detect its target molecule over a large concentration range. This will make these sensors more useful in many different applications; drug detection, cancer screenings, cancer treatment, and infectious disease. The method can detect its target in seconds.
The results are in, calorie restriction may not extend your life. Previous studies of rats and mice demonstrated that calorie restriction could extend life span. While human behavior can sometimes be rat-like, there are distinct differences in physiology between rats and humans. A much anticipated calorie restriction study using rhesus monkeys shows that these results do not translate to our close cousins. Being overweight is a tremendously important predictor of life expectancy, but the number of calories you consume, if you are still thin, does not appear to make a difference in this study.
Cornell Professor Lawrence M. Cathles who studies Earth sciences calculates that switching from coal and oil to natural gas as we move toward renewable energy could decrease carbon emissions significantly. We do need a transition period, but lets make it as short as possible.