Here’s some health news about a tree native to India and the Philippines that could help people with diabetes. It’s called banaba, and it has been a folk remedy for hundreds of years.
A recent study conducted at the Suzuka University of Medical Science in Wei, Japan, has tracked down the compounds in banaba that are responsible for its glucose-lowering effects. Continue reading
- Leptin is a powerful and influential hormone produced by your fat cells. It plays a key role in regulating energy intake and energy expenditure. By acquiring a better understanding of how leptin and its receptor interact, researchers now believe they will be able to find new treatments for obesity and other metabolic disorders
- Drug treatments are not likely to solve leptin resistance, Continue reading
Contrary to popular belief, the marijuana plant is a whole lot more than just a psychoactive drug that “stoners” use to get high. In raw form, marijuana leaves and buds are actually loaded with a non-psychoactive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer nutrient compound known as cannabidiol (CBD) that is proving to be a miracle “superfood” capable of preventing and reversing a host of chronic illnesses.
Though you may not have heard Continue reading
Mucosal epithelia are well-protected against pathogenic germs. However, individual viruses, such as the HI virus, still manage to enter the body via the mucous membrane somehow. Cell biologists from the University of Zurich have now identified a new infection mechanism, demonstrating that the viruses use the body’s own scavenger cells for the infection. The new findings are important for cancer-gene therapy and the development of anti-viral medication.
Mucosal epithelia do not have any receptors on the outer membrane for the absorption of viruses like hepatitis C, herpes, the adenovirus or polio, and are thus well-protected against pathogenic germs. However, certain viruses, such as the human immunodeficiency virus HIV, still manage to enter the body via the mucous membrane. Just how this infiltration occurs on a molecular level has been a mystery. Continue reading
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital have defined the cell of origin for a kind of cancer called sarcoma. In a study published as the Featured Article in the journal Cancer Cell, they report that childhood and adult sarcomas are linked in their biology, mutations and the cells from which these tumors first start. These findings may lead to non-chemotherapy medicines that can inhibit “molecular targets” such as growth factor receptors, thereby stopping or eradicating the disease.
Childhood muscle cancer, or rhabdomyo sarcoma, is a condition that when spread throughout the body has a low survival rate – just 20 percent to 40 percent. In adults with soft tissue sarcomas, survival can be even lower. Now, for the first time, the researchers have shown from where these tumors arise and what drives them to grow and spread.
“A commonly held belief is that cancers should be cut out, burned out or killed. There is a fourth option – to have cancer cells choose to become normal cells, in this case muscle cells,” said Charles Keller, M.D., principal investigator of the study, leader of Pediatric Cancer Biology Program in the Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and a member of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the Oregon Stem Cell Center at OHSU.
“At least for a subset of patients, possibly the ones with hereditary cancer, one approach suggested by our research might be to administer drugs that muscle cancers to convert into non-cancerous muscle fibers. This is a minority opinion, but one held by a small group of careful scientists throughout the United States and abroad,” said Keller.
The survival rate for childhood muscle cancer that has spread has remained unchanged for more than 40 years. It has reached the point that increasing the intensity of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery is no longer having any improved effect, Keller explained. He and colleagues have taken a novel approach in the laboratory as well as in new clinical trials, using non-chemotherapy medicines to inhibit “molecular targets” such as growth factor receptors.
Suman Malempati, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics (hematology/oncology) and director of the Oncology Developmental Therapeutics Program at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, is the lead on a national clinical trial of one such growth factor inhibitor. This is the Children’s Oncology Group’s first trial incorporating a molecularly targeted drug into a clinical trial for childhood muscle cancer and was funded by CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a nationwide network of hospitals, doctors and leading scientists that develop new treatments for childhood cancer.
This type of therapy tailored to a cancer’s mutation was first pioneered at OHSU by Brian J. Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and recipient of the 2009 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, commonly referred to as America’s Nobel Prize. Druker and colleagues developed Gleevec, the first genetically targeted, non-chemotherapy pill for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) that left healthy cells unharmed and converted this fatal cancer into a manageable chronic condition.
When you think about organs with an important role in reproduction, the liver most likely doesn’t spring to mind. But a new report in the February issue of Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, shows that estrogen receptors in the liver are critical for maintaining fertility. What’s more, the expression of those receptors is under the control of dietary amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
The findings in mice may have important implications for some forms of infertility and for metabolic changes that come with menopause, the researchers say.
“This is the first time it has been demonstrated how important the liver is in fertility,” said Adriana Maggi of The University of Milan in Italy. “The idea that diet may have an impact on fertility isn’t totally new of course, but this explains how diet, and especially a diet poor in protein, can have a direct influence.”
Scientists had known that the liver expressed estrogen receptors and that those receptors played some role in metabolism. But, Maggi says, those receptors had not garnered a lot of attention.
Her group got interested in the liver receptors quite by accident. In studies of mice, “we saw that the organ that always had the highest activation of estrogen receptor was the liver,” she said. Initially they thought it must be a mistake and disregarded it, but over time they began to think maybe the mice were telling them something.
They now report that the expression of those estrogen receptors depends on dietary amino acids. Mice on a calorie-restricted diet and those lacking estrogen receptors in their livers showed a decline in an important hormone known as IGF-1. Blood levels of the hormone dropped to levels inadequate for the correct growth of the lining of their uteruses and normal progression of the estrous cycle, they show.
When the calorie-restricted mice were given more protein, their reproductive cycles got back on track. Dietary fats and carbohydrates, on the other hand, had no effect on the estrogen receptors or fertility.
The researchers suggest that this connection between amino acids, estrogen receptor signaling in liver, and reproductive functions may have clinical implications. For instance, Maggi said, this may explain why people who are anorexic are generally infertile. It suggests that diets loaded with too many carbohydrates and too little protein may hamper fertility.
The results also provide new clues for understanding the increased risk of metabolic and inflammatory disease in menopausal women. Maggi says that those changes may be explained in part by the lack of estrogen action in their livers and its downstream consequences.
Today, given concerns about hormone replacement therapy, menopausal women are often treated with drugs that target one organ or another to protect against specific conditions, such as atherosclerosis or osteoporosis. Given the liver’s role as a central coordinator of metabolism and producer of many other important hormones, she says, drugs that “target only the liver may solve all the problems.”