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New cystic fibrosis bacteria discovered

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, December 6, 2007 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   
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       Genes found that protect heart from chemo

AUGUSTA, Ga., -- U.S. medical scientists have identified a 
series of genes that protect against heart damage from a 
common chemical used in chemotherapy. Medical College of 
Georgia cancer researchers Dr. Ling Xia, a graduate exchange
student, and Dr. Hernan Flores-Rozas said the genes offer 
protection against doxorubicin. "We found a series of genes 
that are very important for cell survival in the face of 
doxorubicin," said Flores-Rozas. "At the moment you start 
inactivating these genes, the cells become very sensitive 
and don't grow any more. So now we know which genes we need 
to inactivate in the cell to make it very sensitive to the 
drug." Doxorubicin is widely used to treat solid tumors in 
breast, prostate and ovarian cancers. A slightly modified 
version, daunorubicin, is a powerful fighter of leukemia 
and lymphoma in children. The drugs can cause heart cells, 
called cardiomyocytes, can commit "suicide," or apoptosis, 
said Xia, a graduate student at China's Wuhan University.
The result is dilative cardiomyopathy, in which the heart 
can no longer pump blood. Damage can even appear years after
chemotherapy has ended, with no treatment possible short of 
a heart transplant.           

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         New cystic fibrosis bacteria discovered

BOULDER, Colo.,-- U.S.-developed molecular technology used 
to examine life forms in undersea hydrothermal vents has 
identified unexpected bacteria in cystic fibrosis patients.
The technology developed by University of Colorado-Boulder 
Professor Norman Pace identified the bacteria strains in the
lung fluid of Denver children suffering from cystic fibro-
-sis. Instead of standard culturing techniques, researchers 
used nucleic acid gene sequencing to rapidly detect, ident-
ify and classify more than 60 species of bacteria in fluid 
samples from the 28 cystic fibrosis patients. Thirteen samp-
les contained bacteria that are not routinely assessed by 
culturing. Pace said the presence of the unexpected bacteria
might help explain cases of unidentified lung inflammation 
and the consequent failure of patients -- primarily children
-- to respond to standard treatments. "The results show mol-
ecular sequencing is a more effective, faster and far less 
expensive way to assess airway bacteria than routine clin-
ical cultures and better identifies targets for further cl-
inical evaluation," said Pace.
  
  
           New cancer diagnostic tool developed

LOS ANGELES, -- U.S. scientists have used nanotechnology to 
differentiate metastatic cancer cells from normal cells by 
measuring their softness. The multidisciplinary UCLA team's 
research is said to represent one of the first times scient-
ists have been able to take living cells from cancer pati-
ents and apply nanotechnology to determine whether they are 
cancerous. Researchers said the nano science measurements 
might provide a new method for detecting cancer, as well as 
aiding in personalizing treatment. Cancer cells are typic-
ally identified under an optical microscope, but normal 
cells often appear nearly identical to cancer cells. In the 
new procedure, researchers employed a nanotechnology atomic 
force microscope to measure cell softness by using a minute,
sharp tip on a spring to push against the cell surface and 
determine the degree of softness without bursting the cell.
"You look at two tomatoes in the supermarket and both are 
red. One is rotten, but it looks normal," said Professor 
James Gimzewski, one of the study's senior authors. "If you 
pick up the tomatoes and feel them, it's easy to figure out 
which one is rotten.         

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       Scientists seek new asthma, COPD treatment

NOTTINGHAM, England, -- Scientists at Britain's University 
of Nottingham have received nearly $2.5 million to explore 
causes and possible treatments for respiratory diseases. The
Wellcome Trust awarded Professor Alan Knox and Linhua Pang 
$1.4 million to research transcriptional control of inflamm-
atory gene expression in asthma. That study will focus on 
the part inflammatory mediators play in the way asthma suff-
erers react to allergens. A second grant of $1.1 million was
awarded Professors Knox, Peter Fischer and David Heery to 
investigate compounds that could combat the symptoms of 
asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. "The maj-
ority of people with asthma have access to reasonably good 
anti-inflammatory treatments that can keep their conditions 
under control," said Know. "But up to 20 percent of suffer-
ers don't respond well to the treatments currently availa-
ble. And when it comes to COPD, anti-inflammatory drugs 
aren't very effective. "By tracking the process which tri-
ggers the inflammation and then identifying the compounds 
that inhibit or activate these crucial enzymes, we could put
into motion the development of a drug which could have a 
huge impact on the lives of those suffering from respiratory
and other inflammatory diseases," Knox added.
  
  
        Cocaine changes gene activity in mice

DALLAS, -- A team of U.S. researchers has found chronic 
cocaine administration in mice changes the activity of 
their genes, enhancing the rewarding effect of cocaine.
The study found cocaine reduced the amounts of an enzyme 
called histone deacetylase 5, or HDAC5, that normally rep-
resses the activity of certain genes in the brain. In mice 
repeatedly given cocaine, the reduced amounts of HDAC5 all-
owed 172 genes to be activated, and increased the efforts of
mice to obtain cocaine. The scientists also studied whether 
chronic stress changed HDAC5 levels by exposing mice to agg-
ressive mice and measuring depressive behavior. The resear-
chers found the resulting chronic stress also reduced HDAC5 
function. The researchers said their findings provide new 
insight into the pathogenesis of drug addiction, depression,
and other stress-related syndromes. "This fundamentally new 
insight into the molecular underpinnings of chronic malad-
aptation in brain could lead to the development of improved 
treatments for addiction, depression, and other chronic psy-
chiatric disorders," they said.        
 
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           Insulin regulates anti-aging hormone

BOSTON, -- U.S. scientists have discovered insulin regulates
the release of an anti-aging hormone called "Klotho" from 
cell membranes. Previous studies have determined mice having
high levels of the hormone live 30 percent longer than norm-
al mice and are more resistant to cellular changes associ-
ated with aging, researchers said. Klotho, discovered by 
Japanese scientists in 1997, is found in the membranes of 
certain cells, as well as in blood and cerebrospinal fluid.
Professor Carmela Abraham and colleagues at Boston Univer-
sity School of Medicine said they initially thought enzymes 
were responsible for the release of Klotho from cell mem-
branes. They said they were surprised when their study det-
ermined insulin, a hormone usually associated with diabetes,
significantly increases levels of Klotho. Abraham is now 
studying ways to increase levels of Klotho to those found in
young individuals -- a process that might lead to new res-
earch designed to regulate the aging process. "In other 
words, compounds that would increase Klotho could become 
the next 'fountain of youth'," said Abraham. 
  
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