The Origins of Antimalarial-Drug Resistance

Drugs have been used to treat and prevent malaria for centuries. Bark from the cinchona tree, which contained an array of alkaloids with antimalarial properties, appeared in Western therapeutics in the 17th century. One of the alkaloids, quinine, was isolated in 1820 and became the drug of choice for treating malaria until World War II, when supplies of the drug for much of the world were cut off by the Japanese occupation of cinchona-growing regions in Southeast Asia. Efforts to create alternatives to quinine led to the search for synthetic antimalarial drugs. Chloroquine, first developed in the 1930s, became the most widely used synthetic antimalarial during the 1960s and 1970s.


Read full article in New England Journal of Medicine

Newly-found gut virus ‘abundant in humans’

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown virus living in the human gut, according to a study in Nature Communications.

Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus.

They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut.

Experts say these types of viruses, called bacteriophages, have been shown to play a role in chronic diseases.

Prof Robert EdwardsSan Diego State University

Led by a team at San Diego State University in the USA, scientists scoured genetic information stored in three large international databases.

They stumbled upon a piece of DNA, some 100,000 letters long, present in more than half of all samples from the gut.


Read full article at BBC News

Night light exposure could make breast cancer tumors tamoxifen resistant

Tamoxifen is an estrogen-blocking medication typically used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. But new research conducted in rats suggests exposure to dim light at night – as little as that coming in a window from a street light – suppresses melatonin production, making tumors resistant to the drug.
dim indoor lamp
Researchers found that exposure to dim light at night results in breast cancer tumors becoming resistant to tamoxifen.

The study, led by Prof. Steven M. Hill of Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA, is published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Our levels of melatonin are not determined by sleep, as many people think,” explains Prof. Hill. “It is actually the darkness that is important. During the night, if you sleep in a brightly lit room, your melatonin levels may be inhibited; however, if you are in the dark but cannot sleep, your melatonin levels will rise normally.”

He and his team note that disruption of circadian rhythms by night shift work or disturbed sleep could result in an increased risk of breast cancer and other diseases. For patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, Prof. Hill adds that tamoxifen resistance “is a growing problem.”

Read full article at MNT

UV-Powered Blood Test Could Make Universal Cancer Detection Possible

Early detection is the best tool to fight cancer, but biopsies can be painful and inconclusive. New research shows a simple blood test can detect cancers by blasting white blood cells with UV and seeing how they respond. Painless, universal cancer detection could be a drop of blood away.

Researchers at England’s University of Bradford tested patients with melanoma, colon cancer, and lung cancer, alongside patients with non-cancer illnesses and healthy control patients. They found that the DNA in cancer patients’ white blood cells is easily damaged by long-wave Ultraviolet A waves. White blood cells from cancer-free patients were not nearly as susceptible, while cells from patients with pre-cancerous conditions showed an intermediate response. The team says normal illnesses like cold or flu shouldn’t lead to false-positive test results.

Dr. Diana Anderson, who led the research, explained to the BBC why she went down this investigative path:

White blood cells are part of the body’s natural defense system. We know that they are under stress when they are fighting cancer or other diseases, so I wondered whether anything measurable could be seen if we put them under further stress with UVA light.

Read full article on Gizmodo

Neurodegeneration and Protein Translation Linked Researchers find that a type of neurodegeneration in mice is linked to ribosomal stalling during protein translation in the brain.

Searching for new mutations associated with neurodegenerative and cognitive defects, researchers have uncovered two mouse genes that function in the same critical pathway such that, when both are lost, neurodegeneration results. The genes are both involved in protein translation and, surprisingly, one encodes a transfer RNA (tRNA) gene uniquely expressed in the brain—a first example of such differential expression in vertebrates.

While, in theory, eukaryotes need to encode approximately 42 different tRNA genes—to decode the 61 messenger RNA (mRNA) triplet codons that specify an amino acid—the genomes of vertebrates contain hundreds of tRNA genes. So far, researchers have presumed that the redundancy exists because a large amount of these tRNAs are needed to meet the demands of constant translation of mRNAs to proteins. Also surprising was the pre-existence of this tRNA mutation only in a specific, widely studied strain of laboratory mice. The work, published today (July 24) in Science, suggests that, rather than being redundant, some of these tRNA genes may have tissue-specific functions.

“It has been assumed that more tRNA genes just make more tRNAs, but this study very strongly suggests that specific tRNA genes have specific functions in animals—that they are not all the same,” said Ambro van Hoof, a molecular biologist who studies mRNA degradation at the University of Texas in Houston but was not involved in the work.


The Scientist

New Research Links Bad Diet To Loss Of Smell, Florida State University Study

Could stuffing yourself full of high-fat foods cause you to lose your sense of smell?

A new study from Florida State University neuroscientists says so, and it has researchers taking a closer look at how our diets could impact a whole range of human functions that were not traditionally considered when examining the impact of obesity.

“This opens up a lot of possibilities for obesity research,” said Florida State University post-doctoral researcher Nicolas Thiebaud, who led the study examining how high-fat foods impacted smell.

Thiebaud led the study in the lab of Biological Science Professor Debra Ann Fadool. Their work is published in the Journal of Neuroscience and shows that a high-fat diet is linked to major structural and functional changes in the olfactory system, which gives us our sense of smell.

Florida State

‘Exciting’ drug flushes out HIV

Scientists say they have made an “exciting” step towards curing HIV by forcing the virus out of hiding.

HIV can become part of someone’s DNA and lie dormant for decades, making a cure impossible.

Early stage research in six people, reported at the Aids 2014 conference, shows that low-dose chemotherapy can awaken the virus.

Experts said it was a promising start, but it was unlikely the drug would work on its own to cure HIV.

Anti-viral drugs can drive HIV down to undetectable levels in the bloodstream, meaning people who are HIV-positive can have a near-normal life expectancy.

But there is problem. HIV can incorporate its DNA into our own, where it lies beyond the reach of drugs and the immune system – it is known as the HIV reservoir


Read full story on BBC News

Sometimes, Early Birds Are Too Early

Since the advent of the deadline, procrastinators have suffered society’s barbs for putting off until later what needs doing now. But it turns out that many people appear to be finishing things sooner than they need to get them done. They are “precrastinators,” researchers say.

“There is an overwhelming tendency to precrastinate,” according to a paperpublished in May in the journal Psychological Science. The behavior might include answering trivial emails, for example, or paying bills far ahead of time. “It’s an irrational choice,” the paper said, but it also reflects the significant trade-offs people make to keep from feeling overwhelmed.


New York Times

Cambridge Biomedical Releases Latest Whitepaper-Immunological Techniques

Cambridge Biomedical  released the latest in it’s series of whitepapers titled “Application of Immunological Methods to the Biology, Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases” by Dr. Sonal Gupta.


Overview: Immunology is defined as the branch of Biomedical Sciences concerned with all aspects of the
immunological framework in all multicellular organisms. Modern immunological techniques at
Cambridge Biomedical have a wide range of applicability, from Basic Science, Translational research to
Clinical Application. Described here are some of the disease areas in which we have applied our
considerable expertise in immunology.


Read full paper here

We Are Our Bacteria

We may think of ourselves as just human, but we’re really a mass of microorganisms housed in a human shell. Every person alive is host to about 100 trillion bacterial cells. They outnumber human cells 10 to one and account for 99.9 percent of the unique genes in the body.

Katrina Ray, a senior editor of Nature Reviews, recently suggested that the vast number of microbes in the gut could be considered a “human microbial ‘organ’” and asked, “Are we more microbe than man?”

New York Times