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Cancer Treatment Developed By Patient

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, July 26, 2007 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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            Scientists model neuronal firing

PITTSBURGH, -- A U.S. molecular study's findings might lead 
to therapies for treating a variety of disorders, including 
epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease. Using intensive theoret-
ical and computational calculations, Carnegie Mellon resear-
chers modeled the initial molecular changes that occur when 
the neurotransmitter glutamate docks with a receptor on a 
neuron, which sets in motion a chain of events that culmin-
ate in the neuron firing an electrical impulse. Although the
structure of the glutamate receptor's docking site was 
known, no one knew precisely which atomic interactions bet-
ween glutamate and the receptor caused the receptor to 
change its conformation. The research team led by postdoc-
toral fellow Tatyana Mamonova found the docking site (or 
ligand binding domain) closes when glutamate binds to it, 
with two electrostatic interactions locking it once the 
ligand is bound. "With this knowledge in hand, we can now 
model binding-site closure and opening using a computer," 
said Assistant Professor Maria Kurnikova. "Ultimately, we 
could use the computer model to design a drug that either 
inhibits or enhances the activity of the glutamate recep-
tor." The study was presented during last week's Boston 
meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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         Discovery might render viruses harmless

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., -- U.S. researchers have determined the 
manipulation of a single amino acid of an enzyme that helps 
viruses multiply can render the viruses harmless. Pennsyl-
vania State University molecular biologists said their dis-
covery, tested with polio virus, could lead to a rapid and 
inexpensive method of vaccine production. Viruses have a 
simple mission; infect a cell, make more viruses, and then 
break out of the cell to infect more cells -- a process re-
quiring fast and efficient multiplication. Viruses accomp-
lish that process with the help of an enzyme called polymer-
ase, whose main function is to assist in making more copies 
of the virus. Professor Craig Cameron and research assoc-
iates Jamie Arnold and Christian Castro identified a key 
amino acid in the polymerase of polio virus that controls 
the speed and accuracy with which the virus is able to mult-
iply. By replacing that polymerase with different amino 
acids, the researchers were able to generate mutants of the 
virus that were essentially harmless. Cameron said it is 
believed the technique would also be effective in dealing 
with other virus, such as Ebola and smallpox that might be 
used as biological weapons.


         Corn biorefining aids gelatin production

AMES, Iowa, -- U.S. scientists have developed a new way to 
use corn plant-produced gelatin to replace animal-sourced 
gelatin widely used by the pharmaceutical industry. Iowa 
State University and FibroGen Inc. scientists said their 
research might lead to a safe, inexpensive source of gela-
tin, which is currently obtained as a by-product of meat 
production through a 17th century methodology. Although 
there are no naturally occurring plant sources of gelatin, 
scientists have successfully modified plants, such as corn, 
to have a gene that results in the production of recombinant
gelatin. However, finding ways to recover and purify recomb-
inant gelatin from plants has remained a challenge because 
only very low levels accumulate at the early stages of the 
development process. In the new study, researchers developed
a purification process to recover such small quantities of 
recombinant gelatin present in the early generations of 
transgenic corn. "Corn is an ideal production unit, because 
it can handle high volumes at a low cost," said Iowa State 
University chemical engineer Charles Glatz, who led the 
study. In addition, he noted, the recombinant gelatin is 
free from the safety concerns of using meat byproducts. The 
report was presented during last week's Boston meeting of 
the American Chemical S

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        Metastasis gene found in colorectal cancer

REHOVOT, Israel, -- Israeli medical scientists have identi-
fied the mechanisms that help colorectal cancer metastasize.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in 
the Western world, the scientists said, noting that beginn-
ing as a polyp, it turns into an invasive and violent cancer
that often spreads to the liver. In a majority of cases, 
colorectal cancer is initiated by changes in a protein -- 
beta-catenin -- that over-accumulates and inappropriately 
activates genes, leading to cancer. In the study, Weizmann 
Institute Professor Avri Ben-Ze'ev and researcher Nancy 
Gavert discovered one of the genes activated by beta-catenin
codes for a receptor called L1-CAM. That receptor is a pro-
tein usually found on nerve cells, where it plays a role in 
nerve cell recognition and motility. Previous research by 
Ben-Ze'ev showed L1-CAM is only expressed on certain cells 
located at the invasive front of the tumor tissue, suggest-
ing at it could be an important player in metastasis. In the
new study, the scientists confirmed colorectal cancer cells 
engineered to express the L1-CAM gene spread to the liver, 
while those cells lacking L1-CAM did not. The study appeared
in a recent issue of the journal Cancer Research.
  
         Limiting fat may aid pancreatic transplant

DALLAS, -- A U.S. study suggested that dietary restrictions 
or other strategies limiting fat formation might make pan-
creatic cell transplants more effective. University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center researchers using animal models 
discovered pancreatic islet cells transplanted into the 
liver fail not only because of immune rejection but also be-
cause of overexposure to toxic fats that are synthesized by 
the surrounding liver cells and flood the pancreatic trans-
plants. To date, a few hundred people have received trans-
plants of complexes of pancreatic cells, called islets. The 
islets are implanted in the liver, where they at first make 
insulin, but over months or years their production often 
declines. "By understanding how fat affects these cells, 
maybe we can improve islet transplant and make it last a 
bit longer," said Dr. Roger Unger, a professor of internal 
medicine and senior author of the study. 

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          Cancer treatment developed by patient

ERIE, Pa., -- An Erie, Pa., leukemia patient, fed up with 
chemotherapy, developed technology that may one day be used 
to fight cancer. John Kanzius, who isn't a doctor and never 
graduated college, developed technology that uses metal nan-
oparticles activated by radio waves to burn out targeted 
cells without damaging surrounding tissue, CBS News reported
Tuesday. "I envision this treatment taking no more than a 
couple of minutes or so," he said. Kanzius said the most 
difficult part developing the device is finding a way to 
target the cancerous cells with the nanoparticles. Dr. 
Steven Curley, a surgical oncologist and cancer researcher 
at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said the potent-
ial benefits of the device are exciting. "This has the most 
fascinating potential I've seen in anything in my 20 years 
of cancer research," Curley told CBS News. Experts said 
human tests of the method are at least two years off. Until
then, Kanzius will continue chemotherapy.

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