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Andrei Riciu

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Prevotella copri, a species of intestinal bacteria is considered a possible trigger for rheumatoid arthritis ( RA), according to a study led by researchers at New York University School of Medicine. The study published in  the journal  eLife demonstrates that this inflammatory joint disease may be mediated by specific intestinal bacteria. The researchers reached this conclusion after comparing samples of gut bacteria from healthy patients and from patients with rheumatoid arthritis and found that P. Co is more common in the latter.

Dan R. Littman, MD, PhD, the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Pathology and Microbiology and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, said that studies in rodents have clearly demonstrated that intestinal microbiota contribute to the onset of this autoimmune systemic disease. He added that the findings led them to look more carefully in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and found this surprising association. However, Dr. Littman explained that considering the current studies, we cannot conclude yet that between P. Copri and rheumatoid arthritis is a causal relationship.

 

bacteria
The present study is based on the results of a previous research conducted by Dr. Littman in collaboration with researchers at Harvard Medical School. They found that mice genetically predisposed to the disease do not develop RA if they are kept in a sterile environment, however, when exposed to benign gut bacteria, the mice begin to show signs of joint inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation, pain and stiffness . The causes of this disease are not clearly known even if there have been put into question certain environmental and genetic factors etc.

Statistics show that about 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis; it seems that this disease affects twice as many women than men. In addition to affecting the joints, rheumatoid arthritis may cause other symptoms and signs such as lung damage, skin lesions, etc.  It is a debilitating disease that has no cure although there are several classes of drugs that are used in rheumatoid arthritis such as antibiotics, antiinflammatory drugs, immunosuppressive drugs etc . Although it is not known how these drugs affect the microbiota, it seems that patients with chronic rheumatoid arthritis treated have lower populations of P. copra.

Randy S. Longman, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Littman ‘s laboratory and a gastroenterologist at Weill – Cornell, said that the expansion of P. Copri exacerbates colonic inflammation; however how this expansion affects the immune response in rheumatoid arthritis still remains a mystery.

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According to a research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute ( NCRI ) Cancer Conference in Liverpool, a simple blood test can show whether or not the melanoma has spread in the body. Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer; although it represents about 5 % of cases of skin cancer, melanoma is responsible for most deaths due to these cancers.

While examining DNA ( derived from tumor cells ) in the blood, researchers turned their attention to a gene called TFP12, which is involved in controlling the proliferation of cells. Researchers found that in melanoma patients, this gene is switched off. It seems that when this gene become methylated, it leads to uncontrolled cell proliferation. The researchers also found that this switch is associated with another event that determines the prognosis of patients with melanoma, specifically, it indicates whether melanoma has spread to other parts of the body or not. According to the study, early stage melanoma is related to the low levels of DNA methylation, while advanced stages are correlated with high levels of DNA methylation.

 

melanoma

 

Researchers believe that a blood test to measure the level of DNA methylation ( methylated TFP12 in DNA) could easily orient doctors regarding tumor stage. This test would help both in determining the prognosis of patients  and establishing the future treatment. Dr Tim Crook, study author and a consultant medical oncologist based at the University of Dundee, said that once melanoma has begun to spread, it becomes difficult to treat. Moreover, detecting whether or not the tumor caused metastases is also challenging. According to Crook, there is increasingly more evidence that treatments are more effective if given early, therefore identifying patients whose cancer has just begun to spread would significantly improve the chances of fighting the disease.

Besides TFP12, researchers discovered another biomarker that could become a potential therapeutic target : NT5E. It seems that this gene becomes methylated once melanoma develops and if it returns to its initial state, that is unmethylated, this gene reactivates and promotes a faster and  more aggressive spread. Now, researchers hope to find a drug to target this gene to treat aggressive forms of melanoma. Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK and chair of the NCRI, said that thanks to research, more than 8 in 10 people survive melanoma at least 10 years. He added that there is still much work to be done to improve things especially for patients whose disease has spread to other parts of the body.

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A new study led by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and published in Nature Genetics, brings new important information about the genetics of breast cancer. The researchers found that breast cancer patients who took anti-estrogen therapy developed a certain type of genetic mutation and that  this mutation could cause resistance to treatment.

This research actually is based on a program called Mi-ONCOSEQ and developed by UM Comprehensive Cancer Center. This was a program that involved DNA and RNA analysis in all patients with advanced cancer. The aim of this DNA sequencing was to identify genetic mutations involved in cancer; researchers also hope to develop new targeted therapies based on these results.

 

breast cancer

 

Researchers investigated 11 patients with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer in an advanced stage. Estrogen receptor positive cancer is the most common type of breast cancer; the presence of estrogen receptors shows that this cancer is influenced by hormone therapy; however there are cases when patients develop resistance to treatment. DNA sequencing revealed that 6 of these patients had mutations in the estrogen receptor. It should be noted that all these patients were treated with aromatase inhibitors, drugs that interfere with estrogen production. What is really interesting is that these mutations did not exist before patients start this therapy. This means that this treatment triggered these genetic mutations.

Lead study author, Dan Robinson, Ph.D., research assistant professor of pathology at the UM Medical School, said this is the means by which these tumors become resistant to hormonal therapy. He explained that these mutations activate the estrogen receptor when there is no estrogen as happens when a patient takes aromatase inhibitors. According to Robinson, an on-switch is essential for estrogen receptor. This switch prevents the effects of aromatase inhibitors therapy;  in other words the switch prevents estrogen receptor signaling to be shut down. When patients with breast cancer patients become resistant to treatment, there are few treatment options left.

Study co-author Anne F. Schott, MD, associate professor of internal medicine at the UM Medical School, said that they tried for a long time to find out why patients become resistant to the anti- hormone therapy. “This finding sheds an entirely new light onto the problem. Now, we can look at how these estrogen receptors function and begin to develop drugs to shut down or attack this mutation, ” she said. Researchers also believe that blood tests will be able help monitor patients and detect these mutations to change the treatment before resistance develops.

 

 

 

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Cluster headache can be very disturbing at times and although there are drugs that relieve pain, headache sometimes simply does not pass so easily. So researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology ( NTNU ) performed a pilot study to test a new treatment for this type of headache. NTNU Erling Tronvik senior consultant and researcher, said they also call it “suicide headache” because some people who suffer from this type of headache come to suicide because of the pain. Tronvik said that this is the most severe form of headache and the pain intensity is greater than that experienced by those who suffer from migraine.

The pain of cluster headache is unbearable. Cluster headache occurs usually in men as opposed to migraines which occur predominantly  in women. Statistics show that about 5,000 Norwegians suffer from cluster headache; the frequency of crisis varies from one patient to another, some have daily crisis few months a year, others have several crisis every day. Doctors do not know why these crises occur and so far there have been few therapeutic options for these patients. Now Tronvik and a team of researchers at NTNU, found a new method of treatment: Botox.

headache

Headache

 

Botox is very popular and widely used in plastic surgery. What is not known is that this substance has also other uses than cosmetic surgery. Botox can used to treat medical conditions such as urinary incontinence, blepharospasm, torticollis, etc. In the study conducted by researchers from NTNU, Botox is administered through the nose using a gear; in this way the transmission of impulses through the nerves is blocked. If the pilot study will show that the treatment is effective, than researchers will perform a new larger study which will include 40 patients with cluster headache and 80 patients with migraine.

To locate the bundle of nerves to be blocked, an MRI of the patient’s head is performed. Then, using this MRI and a navigation tool, the surgeon will be able to identify the bundle nerves. It should be noted that the treatment has some risks. If Botox reaches a region close to the bundle nerves, than visual disturbances may occur such as transient double vision. ” But with the use of the MRI and our navigation tools we can hit the nerve bundle without any problem. We hope that this treatment method can help give patients a life without such great pain,” added Tronvik.

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Glioblastoma multiforme ( GBM)  is an aggressive brain cancer that is responsible for the death of 13 , 000 Americans each year. Although there are several treatment options, like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, the median survival time does not exceed 15 months in most patients. Now a team of researchers at Northwestern University have succeeded in developing an effective drug in treating this incurable cancer. This new therapy is based on nanotechnology and involves the use of a drug that deactivates an important gene of this disease. Experiments so far have shown that this drug significantly increases survival in animals with this type of cancer.

One of the causes of failure of chemotherapy in treating cancers of the brain is that the drugs used cannot pass the blood-brain barrier. The new drug developed is able can cross the blood-brain barrier that can reach the tumor cells. The target of this drug is cancer-causing gene; once inactivated this gene, it is blocked the entire mechanism by which the tumor cells are immortals.

brain tumor

 It should be noted that this drug was tested on mice and showed that the survival time increases by about 20% compared with control group. In addition, the tumor size has decreased by 3-4 times. Chad A. Mirkin , a NanoMedicine expert and a senior co-author of the study, explained that they used highly adaptable spherical nucleic acids to target one important gene involved in GBM. He said that this concept can be used to treat a wide range of diseases such as colon cancer or lung cancer, psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis.

It should be noted that this new therapy is the result of  intensive research. Mirkin developed this new concept, spherical nucleic acids ( SNA ),  in 1996 at Northwestern. These are globular forms of DNA and RNA , without toxic effects in humans, created to target a specific gene. Alexander H. Stegh, who is a glioblastoma expert and an investigator in the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute, discovered in 2007 that the  gene Bcl2Like12 is involved in this cancer; it seems that Bcl2Like12 is overexpressed in these tumors and responsible for treatment resistance.

Stegh, who is also a senior co-author of the study, said that glioblastoma is a very challenging cancer and that most drugs used in chemotherapy fail in the clinic. He added that this gene that was inactivated plays many different roles in resistance to therapy. According to Stegh, blocking this gene will enable the treatment to take effect.

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Depression is a relatively common condition among Americans as statistics show that 1 in 10 Americans take antidepressants. Although there are also other treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy, drugs are indicated in certain situations. However, this drugs do not take effect immediately, it takes weeks or even months for some patients to recover. Now researchers have found a new serotonin receptor which could be a new therapeutic target. The study results, published in Molecular Psychiatry, could lead to the development of a new class of antidepressant drugs.

Stephanie Dulawa, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study,  said that one of the biggest problems in the treatment of depression is the delay in the onset of therapeutic effects.”One of the biggest problems in the treatment of depression today is a delay in onset of therapeutic effects. There has been a great need to discover faster-acting drugs”, researchers pointed out. The fact that there is a delay in the onset of antidepressant effects has an impact on patients, especially the patients with major depressive disorder. Up to this moment, there are only two fast-acting drugs for depression but due to unwanted side effects they are not administered to humans: ketamine and scopolamine.

Fast-acting antidepressant drugs

 The researchers wanted to find a new class of drugs that act quickly, so they tested a biological pathway that is known to cause antidepressant effects. There were investigated several types of receptors of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in many processes such as mood, appetite, memory. The researchers found that serotonin 2C receptors can become therapeutic targets for a fast-acting antidepressant treatment. It seems that blocking these receptors reduce depression symptoms in just five days, that is a very short time. Normally, the standard antidepressant treatment takes effect in about two weeks. Mark Opal, a graduate student at the University of Chicago and lead author of the paper,  pointed out that it is possible that the onset may be even sooner than that.

It has been found that these serotonine receptors block the release of dopamine, another neurotransmitter involved in mood. Researchers believe that if these receptors are blocked, it means that more dopamine is released in specific brain regions such as prefrontal cortex. “One of the primary advantages to our discovery is that this is much more of an innocuous target than others that have been identified,” Dulawa said.

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A study led by researchers at Oregon State University, reveals that excessive consumption of omega 3 fatty acids can have unintended consequences in certain situations. These results are surprising considering the recent studies that have shown the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that these fatty acids benefit patients with cardiovascular disease and inflammatory diseases. These new reviews, which reveals unexpected data about these dietary supplements, urge researchers to establish the level standards based on the best evidence.

Norman Hord, associate professor in OSU ‘s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, coauthor on the paper, said that although this supplements were considered beneficial a few years ago, now it is not so clear. He said that they are starting to see the potential adverse effects of excessive consumption of omega 3 fatty acids. He also said that because there are no biomarkers for exposure and other data indicating the risk, it is not possible to determine the upper limit. Previous studies conducted by researchers at Michigan State University ‘s Jenifer Fenton showed that mice fed with high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids had a higher risk of colitis and immune alteration. Therefore, the researchers decided to evaluate the harmful effects of excessive consumption of omega 3 fatty acids on health.

There have been several studies that have shown that long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids ( LCPUFAs ), or omega-3 fatty acids, reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular events. Fenton pointed out that they were inspired to review the results of these studies as recent publications have shown that high levels of LCPUFAs in the blood increase the risk of prostate cancer and atrial fibrillation.

harmful health effect

 

It has been discussed that omega 3 fatty acids benefit the patients with cardiovascular disease because of  the inflammatory properties. However, the researchers warned that high levels of omega 3 fatty acids may disturb immune function; this can result in viral or bacterial infection.

However, the researchers noted that the doses of fish oil used in the study are well above the dose that might normally be consumed. According to Hord, high levels of omega 3 fatty acids may result from consumption of foods rich in LCPUFAs ( eggs, mackerel , lake trout , etc. ) combined with the concomitant use of oil fish supplements. “As is all true with any nutrient, taking too much can have negative effects. We need to establish clear biomarkers through clinical trials, ” Hord said.

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Researchers at Houston Methodist Cancer Center have debunked some misunderstandings about the spread of cancer. There are several misconceptions related cancer such as the fact that tumor cells can migrate (and thus promote metastasis ) during a biopsy. However, contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that a needle biopsy may cause metastases.

Dr. Eric Bernicker, medical oncologist at Houston Methodist Cancer Center, said needle biopsy are used in lesions of the breast, thyroid and lung and helps us to diagnose cancer before it have spread. He said that a needle biopsy helps the doctor to determine whether the lesion is malignant and thus plan the best therapeutic approach. Usually surgeons can safely remove part of the tumor using a small needle. There are a few exceptions such as eye or the testicular tumors requiring additional imaging tests or removing the entire tumor. According to Bernicker, if the cancer recurs after a biopsy, the recurrence is usually determined by the biology of cancer cells. Bernicker explained that a metastasis appears because the tumor releases from local structure and gains the ability to enter the bloodstream.

cancer

Another myth that researchers are trying to combat is that massage therapy determines cancer cells to spread in the body. In fact, oncology massage does not cause an increase in blood flow more than an exercise or a normal movement. Massage therapy is done in several cancer centers because it is a way to reduce the symptoms of chemotherapy and improve the quality of life. However , Norma Reyna , massage therapist at Houston Methodist Hospital, revealed that before starting massage therapy, the patient should talk about this with his doctor to avoid bruising or soreness. One must also need to take into account several indications such as massage pressure adjustment for each patient to avoid bruising, etc. .

Regarding sugar, it should be noted that it is a substance that is contained in all foods and feeds all the cells in body. The researchers mentioned that sugar does not spread cancer. One thing worth noting is that if the diet that contains too much sugar, then surely will lead to weight gain. Instead obesity has been associated with certain cancers and therefore one should avoid excessive consumption of sugar. Natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains are necessary for maintaining muscle and weight during cancer treatment, in addition it seems that it is helpful in the fight against cancer, according to researchers.

 

 

 

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According to a study published in the journal Experimental Physiology, exercises carried out by the mother during pregnancy can prevent cardiovascular disease in offspring in adulthood. The researchers observed that physical activity performed by a pregnant woman can alter vascular smooth muscle, in other words it can have beneficial effects on vascular health in offspring. Although guidelines recommend that pregnant women to exercise 30 minutes almost every day of the week, however, doctors are not  very confident of the effects of physical activity on pregnant women and their offsprings.

According to researchers, physical activity may act through several mechanisms depending on the duration, intensity and frequency of exercise. The study published in the journal Experimental Physiology shows that physical activity performed by the mother during pregnancy is a strong stimulus for programming arteries in the fetus and this would influence the susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. It must be mentioned that there have been similar previous studies but these studies have investigated the effects on offspring at a young age while the present study is the first of its kind to analyze the effects of physical activity on offspring in adulthood.

 

Physical activity during pregnancy

 

Dr Sean Newcomer, of California State University San Marcos USA, and Dr Bahls, of Universit Greifswald Germany, explained that an important aspect revealed by the study is that vascular smooth muscle may be modified during embryonic development, in contrast to previous studies which found that the endothelium may be altered by fetal – programming interventions.

Researchers experimented on pigs because they that have human-like response to physical activity. They put each pregnant swine to treadmill for 20-45 minutes 5 days a week as this training program meets the guidelines set by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ( ACOG ). Then researchers used in vitro techniques to assess the femoral artery vascular function in offspring.

It should be noted that future research is needed to better understand the mechanisms by which physical activity during pregnancy benefits the offspring in adulthood. Drs Newcomer and Bahls said they now only begin to understand why exercise during pregnancy influence the health of offspring and susceptibility to certain diseases. The researchers added that the study results help to formulate guidelines for pregnant women to take the best decisions for themselves and their children. “It is essential that future research investigates the coronary circulation and also establishes what impact these reported changes in vascular function in the offspring have on cardiovascular disease susceptibility,” researchers said.

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According to a study presented at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting, researchers discovered a common genetic variant that increases the risk of colorectal cancer caused by the consumption of processed meat and red meat. “We’re showing the biological underpinnings of these correlations, and understand whether genetic variation may make some people more or less susceptible to certain carcinogens in food, which may have future important implications for prevention and population health,” researchers said.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death; the causes of colorectal cancer are multiple as the factors that are involved are both genetic and environmental. The study is the first of its kind to highlight the interactions between genes and diet on the genome. Lead author Jane Figueiredo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, said that this study is the first to show whether certain individuals are predisposed to or have a lower risk of colorectal cancer based on their genomic profile. According to Figueiredo, this study helps us to better understand the biology of colorectal cancer and to discover  preventive therapies in the future.

 

colorectal cancer

However, the researchers noted that the absence of genetic profile should not encourage people to eat all the red meat they would like. However, Figueiredo explained that the presence of genetic variant allele makes the risk of colorectal cancer to increase even more if people consume high amounts of processed meat.

Over time there have been many studies that have shown that diet has an important impact on health including cancer risk. But the way personal genetic variations alter the effects of diet on cancer risk have not been well analyzed. To study the interactions between genes and the consumption of red meat and processed meat,  researchers analyzed more than 2.7 million genetic sequences.  9287 patients with colorectal cancer and a group of 9,117 individuals without colorectal cancer were included in the study.  A higher risk of colorectal cancer associated with red meat was found in patients with genetic variant rs4143094.

It seems that consumption of red meat and processed meat leads to immunological and inflammatory response that causes cancer development. Normally, a transcription factor called GATA3 helps suppress this response, but when there is a genetic variant in the GATA3 gene region, this immune response is no longer blocked. There are genetic variants that may be beneficial such as variant rs1269486 on chromosome 8. Researchers found that people with this variant that consume fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of colorectal cancer.