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Image Source: College of Agriculture & Natural resourcesIn an on-going study at the University of Rochester Medical Center, scientists have come across a new form of inheritance which would probably astonish Mendel himself. Research has shown that parents pass on the human herpes virus 6 “HHV-6” to their offspring because the virus has integrated itself into the infected parent’s chromosomes. And it is actually not as odd as it sounds. One in every 116 newborns is affected by this unique congential infection. The virus appears to integrate itself into a position in the chromosome concerned with the maintenance of the body’s normal immune function.

Typically, HHV-6 causes roseola which is characterized by high fever, rash, and mild gastrointestinal symptoms. However, the number of viruses found in children, who carry the virus within their genes, is much higher than those who were infected merely through the placenta. 86% of the children included in the study had the virus integrated within their chromosomes. The HHV-6 DNA itself was found in a hair sample provided by one of the parents. Only six of the congenitally infected babies were infected by the mother through the placenta.

The odd part about this does not lay in the fact that the virus has integrated itself within the chromosomes, but that it was actually passed on. So far, the long-term consequences on the children’s immune system is unknown but to have a virus lying around like that in their DNA…simply frightening, yet fascinating.

Source: Biology News Net

Press release: URMC website

Original research paper: Chromosomal integration of human herpesvirus 6 is the major mode of congenital human herpesvirus 6 infection. Pediatrics. 2008 Sep;122(3):513-20. PMID: 18762520. (Vote for the abstract on Biowizard)

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29 cases of listeriosis have been confirmed in Canada plus 31 suspected cases caused by an outbreak from contaminated meat. A local meat processing plant in Toronto has been blamed. Surely lawsuits have been pouring in after the plant was shut down & a massive recall of the meat products was done with an estimated price toll of 20 million dollars.

Listeria monocytogenes, a gram positive bacterium, penetrates the gastrointestinal epithelium & is engulfed by the host’s leukocytes. Its pathogenesis lays in the ability of the bacterium to grow and multiply within the host’s phagocytic cells. It is considered an important hazard in food industry.

Source: The Vancouver Sun

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Aethlon Medical has developed a new device called Hemopurifier® which acts a lot like the usual hemodialysis machine used in patients with end-stage renal disease but targets a different kind of particle within the blood, it captures viruses! The machine uses thin filters to capture & remove viruses from the blood. This requires an artery to act as an entry point of the blood to the machine, where it is filtered, and then sent back to the body, only cleaner.

The whole blood circulation passes through the machine almost once every 8 minutes. The entire process itself requires a few hours. Needless to say, this might prove to be revolutionary in the treatment of all sorts of viral infections: measles, mumps, hepatitis, west-nile virus, smallpox, HIV, avian flu, even the seemingly harmless human flu..just to name a few.

The device has already received a lot of attention & was in fact awarded. In a pre-clinical study, an astonishing 99.4% of H5N1 flu virus, as verified by real-time PCR,  was eliminated from the patient’s blood within an operating time of 6 hours.

This state-of-the-art device functions through using antibodies to capture viruses & toxins before their actual attack on the human organs. Patients can even be started on the machine before the physicians find out the cause of the disease. 

Source: ScienceDaily

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The concept of self-sacrifice was discovered within the colonies of the Salmonella bacteria. Merely, a survival strategy. In normal cases, whenever the human body becomes infected by Salmonella, the body’s innate immunity represented in the gastrointestinal tissue barriers and normal commensal intestinal flora, literally fights back.

Fortunately enough for the bacteria, they have a way to tackle down this problem. Basically, they divide themselves in two groups, one ready to sacrifice itself for the well-being & the survival of the other. To elaborate more about this, the 1st group has the job of invading the tissues and thus triggering an inflammatory response which is basically a suicide. The 2nd group awaits for the chance of the inactivation of the normal flora & strikes an attack to find a paved smooth way for host infection.

Nothing in the genome dictates the fate of each specific bacterium since they are all members of the same bacterial colony. The difference in the bacterium’s behaviour within the host tissues is due to the random distribution of the cellular components between the two daughter cells.

This same scenario might also apply on a number of different of pathogenic bacteria. This might give us a closer look on the mechanism of bacterial infection & probably provide us with new ideas on how to tackle it.

Source: ScienceDaily

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Scientists have found out that alligator blood is able to fight different kinds of bacteria including even MRSA “Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus“. This is due to the presence of several peptides within the alligator’s blood which pose as a natural barrier against bacterial infection. This particularly comes in handy since alligators are known to live in conditions very preferrable for the growth of microorganisms, mainly in swamps to be exact.

The idea first struck Dr. Mark Merchant when he noticed that despite of their habitat, alligators seem to strive quite normally with scratches & bruises in their skin. Researchers then isolated an alligator’s serum & did a comparative analysis against human serum. Out of 23 strains of bacteria, human serum was able to conquer only eight, while that of the alligator’s stood undefeated against all 23. Not just that, but the serum was also tested on HIV & surprisingly, a great amount of the virus was also destroyed.

Surely, the benefit of this discovery would arise once those peptides are sequenced & their exact chemical structure identified to manufacture them in labs as it would be pretty unreasonable in terms of animal rights AND cost-wise to slaughter alligators for their blood.

Drugs containing these peptides are expected to become available within the next 8-10 years & would definitely prove very useful for patients highly vulnerable to infections as in certain autoimmune diseases, diabetes, burn victims and those with open surgical wounds.

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Scientists are harvesting all of them potatoes for an investigational experiment is being done on patients with Alzheimer’s disease using protein extracts obtained from a potato virus.

Alzheimer’s is associated mainly with amyloid plaque within the neurons of the brain. A major portion is formed of beta amyloid which should, in normal cases, break down on its own but rather tends to accumulate forming the insoluble hard plaque. Here is where the potatoes pitch in.

A fairly known potato virus “PVY“, basically harmless to humans, which I & probably you might have been previously exposed to, contains an amyloid-like protein. Through isolating the potato virus & injecting it in experimental animals with booster doses every month, the levels of antibodies against the protein, in 4 months, quickly rose to an extent that allowed these animals to successfully fight the formation of beta amyloid plaques, a contributing factor in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Surprisingly, the mice also developed AD antibodies even when given PVY-infected potato leaves. Research on human subjects has been postponed for fear of the development of autoimmune encephalitis, although the early trials have been very promising.

Hopefully, this debate will soon be over once a purified version of the virus safe enough for human use is prepared & tested on these patients. Might be just a new ‘awakening’ 🙂

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What could the two possibly have in common? Surprisingly, deep within the human genetic code, researchers have discovered a previously un-noticed gene that encodes a DNA-binding protein which closely resembles proteins produced by archaea bacteria. The gene, named hSSB1, was cloned to obtain sufficient hSSB1 protein closely resembles SSB protein illustrated hereamounts of the protein for analysis.

Studies have shown that this protein attaches to single stranded pieces of DNA. “Red marks shown in the picture indicate areas of attachment to the DNA”. Furthermore, it activates the production of other proteins which indicate the occurence of damage in that specific area of the genetic material. Cells deficient in this gene are more liable to DNA damage & eventually die at a faster rate.

Now, researchers are faced with the challenge of understanding the exact mechanism of how it signals the damage of the DNA & determining the roles, if any do exist, in the development of cancer.

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Dr. Jay Horton, the study's co-senior authorIn a new twist of events, aided by small tailor-made pieces of RNA, scientists have been able to successfully lower the levels of “bad” cholesterol in pre-clinical trials by two-thirds using single doses of siRNA.

Researchers have studied people with mutations in the PCSK9 gene “short for proprotein convertase subtilsin/kexin type 9” which is responsible for the production of a protein that raises the level of LDL & have found that they are less prone to hypercholesterolemia & other cardiovascular-associated disorders. In fact, they are 28% less liable to develop coronary heart diseases.

Therefore, eliminating the production of this protein is beneficial for patients suffering from high levels of blood cholesterol. In order to achieve this, little pieces of designer siRNAs were designed which attach upon the cell’s mRNA and put an end to the process of protein translation.

These trials have been performed on mice and rats that have been genetically altered to produce normal human PCSK9 protein end product.

In addition, non-human primates were also included where they showed an average of 56% reduction in cholesterol level, with one of them showing a surprising 70% reduction.

It is worthy to say that drugs available now in the market have only proved successful when taken at maximum doses over prolonged periods of time & showed only 20-50% drop in LDL cholesterol. This opens up a new horizon for patients who have not responded to conventional drug therapy or may be used in combination with the existing medication to produce more promising results.

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As seen on Oprah :), a new state-of-the-art blood test “Biophysical250” is available for a price tag ranging from $1500-3400 that actually determines the length of your telomeres, and thus give doctors an idea of how a certain individual is aging.

What are telomeres?

The chromosomes are often compared to shoelaces and telomeres to the plastic wrapping found at both ends. They are repeated sequences of nucleotides whose function is to maintain the integrity of our genetic code while the cell is dividing. This is mainly because during DNA replication, primers don’t attach to the very end of the strand. Instead, they often ‘miss’ a few nucleotides on both ends and if that were the case, then our genetic code would eventually vanish. This is why telomeres are very important.

Normally, as human beings, our telomeres start off with 8,000 base pairs which decrease each time the cell divides by 30-200 bp each time and may go as low as 1,500 bp in elderly people. Eventually when telomeres become too short, the cell stops dividing, becoming inactive ‘aging’.

An interesting hypothesis about telomeres is that stress is thought to play some kind of role in the determination of their length. In other words, the more stressed out you are, the shorter your telomeres become as you age. Needless to say, once stress has been coped with, it is thought that the rate at which telomeres shorten decreases dramatically which might be essential to longer healthier lives.

For more information, click HERE

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I have to admit that it is pretty odd “or at least for me” to learn the countless aspects of life itself that we, as human beings, share with primitive organsims “as in bacteria”…& yet add another to the growing pile: The Concept of Hand-in-Hand

Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Rarely do bacteria grow as single cells, they rather prefer to grow as colonies which adhere to all kinds of surfaces forming “biofilms“. These biofilms have proved to be pretty effective in maintaining the well-being of the bacteria growing within them and needless to say, this possess a serious threat. Nothing seems to work with them, ranging from disinfectants and antibiotics all the way to our very own immune system.

Scientists, now, have identified a mechanism which is thought to be used by the bacteria, within the biofilm, to protect themselves. Pushing star wars aside, these biofilm bacteria are using chemical weapons as their defense.

Taking a model for this study, researchers compared marine bacteria getting attacked by amoebae to these biofilm bacteria getting attacked by phagocytes.

To take a closer look, these bacteria are easily attacked when they are swimming separately in the water, but once they are attached to a surface, the amoebae can no longer harm them. Not only that, but the amoebae were sometimes de-activated or even killed. A classic example of FIGHTING BACK!!
How do they do it?? Through chemical weapons.

Marine bacteria contain the pigment violacein. If the enemy attacks just a single cell, the pigment is released paralyzing and triggering a suicide mechanism in the amoebae.

Amoebae are thought to be the ancestors of some types of pathogens. So, instead of thinking of biofilms as a problem, they may be source of highly effective agents which can only be produced in a biofilm and can help us fight aganist some of these pathogens.

After all, it IS a small world

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