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Protein may help fight resistant bacteria

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          HEALTH TIPS - Monday, February 19, 2007
               "News That Keeps You Healthy"

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        Protein may help fight resistant bacteria

KINGSTON, Ontario, -- Canadian scientists say a new type 
of protein they discovered might be useful in developing 
treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Queen's 
University researchers in Kingston, Ontario, say their 
accomplishment of solving the structure and activity of 
the protein -- called YihE or RdoA -- opens possibilities 
for new drug development. "Our group is the first to solve 
the structure and to begin to understand the function of 
this particular protein," said Nancy Martin, who coordin-
ated the study with Zongchao Jia. "It turns out to be a 
potentially good target in a wide range of bacteria that 
cause infectious diseases." Martin says because of the 
increasing number of antibiotic-resistant strains of many 
different types of bacteria, such as salmonella, new 
approaches to antibiotic therapy are needed. The study by 
researchers, who also included Jimin Zheng, Vinay Singh 
and Chunhua He, appears in the on-line edition of the 
journal Molecular Microbiology.

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         Artificial cells may revolutionize therapy

PITTSBURGH, -- U.S. medical researchers predict artificial-
ly created cells might be a new therapeutic approach for 
treating diseases in an ever-changing world. Carnegie 
Mellon University's Philip LeDuc, an assistant professor 
of mechanical and biomedical engineering, posits the ef-
ficacy of using man-made cells to treat diseases without 
injecting drugs. "Our proposal is to use naturally avail-
able molecules to create pseudo-cell factories where we 
create a super artificial cell capable of targeting and 
treating whatever is ailing the body," said LeDuc. "The 
human cell is like a bustling metropolis, and we aim to 
tap the energy and diversity of the processes in a human 
cell to help the body essentially heal itself." LeDuc and 
his team want to use the cell's microscopic package of 
tightly organized parts to improve medical treatments. For 
example, he proposes using the processes in a cell, such 
as the membrane, to create an enclosed functioning environ-
ment for a nanofactory. Then, by using other biologically 
inspired processes such as molecular-binding and transport, 
the pseudo-cell can target, modify and deliver chemicals 
that the body needs to function properly. The novel pro-
posal appeared in the January edition of the journal 
Nature Nanotechnology.

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           Doctors seek to regrow parts of fingers

AUSTIN, Texas, -- Doctors at a Texas military base are 
testing a procedure on wounded Iraq veterans that may 
allow them to regrow portions of lost fingers. The pro-
cedure involves treatments with a fine powder called 
extracellular matrix, which is taken from the bladders 
of pigs, the Wall Street Journal said. The substance is 
what cells latch on to in mammals to allow them to 
divide and grow into tissue. Scientists who developed 
the procedure say the substance appears to activate 
latent biological processes in humans that encourage 
healing and tissue regeneration. They said the processes 
are active in human fetuses, which have the ability to 
regenerate and grow new parts, but the ability becomes 
dormant after birth. "Fetuses can regenerate just about 
everything," said Stephen Badylak, a researcher at the 
University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute for Regen-
erative Medicine. "If those signals are there, how can 
we turn them back on?" David Baer, manager of the U.S. 
Army unit's bone and soft-tissue program, said the team 
does not expect soldiers to regrow whole fingers. "We'd 
love to see bone, but we don't know," Baer said. The 
hope is for an inch of soft tissue, with blood vessels 
and nerves, that soldiers can pinch their thumbs against 
and restore some function.

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