BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Cancer (Page 1 of 3)

E-cigarettes linked to cancers and other illnesses

New York State just placed the first temporary ban on the distribution of flavored e-cigarettes. Although this motion was repealed last week due to the “state’s executive overreach” (Tony Abound of Vapor Technology Association), the ban will be rediscussed on October 18th. Actions to reduce use of e-cigarettes are gaining momentum. This is in part due to a recent article discussing a study involving mice, which linked e-cigarette smoke to lung adenocarcinoma and bladder urothelial hyperplasia.

Just published two days ago, Moon-shong Tang, PhD of NYU School of Medicine, studied the affect of e-cigarette smoke on forty mice. Over a 54 week period of exposure, the results were both shocking and devastating. Twenty-three of the forty mice (57.5%) developed bladder urothelial hyperplasia (lack of cytologic atypia in thickened urothelium), changes in gene multiplication, and cancerous abnormal tissue growth. In addition, nine of the mice (22.5%) developed lung adenocarcinomas, a divison of lung cancer. Although the study was restricted due to the small trial size and the full-body smoke exposure opposed to inhalation, it is still prevalent to consider this trail in the dangers of e-cigarettes.

Once nicotine enters a cell, nitrosation (addition of a nitrosonium ion) converts nicotine to nitrosamines, a proven carcinogen. Although a 2017 study revealed nitrosamines in e-cigarette smokers was 95% less than in tobacco smokers, a new study proves mammalian cells already contain nitrosonium which react with inhaled nicotine to produce nitrosamines. Nitrosamine is unable to leave the cell, and therefore is undetectable by blood tests.

E-cigarettes have infiltrated todays society, specifically affecting teenagers and young adults. With appealing flavors and attractive packaging, e-cigarettes has swayed away from helping recovering smokers, to targeting young individuals, who generally have never smoked a cigarette before. I was not surprised to hear this trial’s results, as teenagers across the country have been experiencing hospitalization due to collapsed lungs and other illnesses related to e-cigarettes. I urge everyone to consider the consequences of e-cigarettes before using one.

For more details involving the trail, click here.

 

 

Can you get a disease from being outside?

The Alzheimer’s diseases and several genetic defects have been identified to connect with early onset family genetics. In this study chemists, toxicologists, and biologists have researched the environmental effects connected with health issues. The researchers examined the point that the human race would have all gone extinct if our bodies didn’t have the ability to metabolize, absorb, or excrete trace substances. In 2005, there was a lot of talk about the “exposome” causing many diseases. This research topic is very  interesting because it explains that everything you are exposed to can cause cancer. The fact that our exposome is everything we contact in our lives is concerning. Average light, invisible car exhaust and ambient street noise are all linked to birth defects. And now Alzheimer’s has been statistically linked to the environment.

Although Alzheimer’s is generally linked with age, researchers also believe it is linked to living in cities and poorer neighborhoods. According to new research unveiled at a recent global gathering of Alzheimer’s experts in London, stressful life events, poverty and racial inequities contribute to dementia risk in late life. A Study at the University of Wisconsin looked at levels of socioeconomic disadvantages such as poverty, education, housing, and employment to determine whether there was a stronger link to developing Alzheimer’s than by chance alone. They found that people in poor neighborhoods had worse cognitive performances in all aspects, which is linked to the fact that they had disproportionately higher levels of the Alzheimers disease biomarker in their spinal fluid. This could be considered an example of the effects that their exposome pose on their health. For example, in poorer neighborhoods, they have less access to healthy foods, safe exercisee options and healthy environments. This unhealthy environment leads to increased risk of diabetes,  cancer, and early death.

Vaccines for Cancer?

We all know that Cancer is a genetic disease that really can’t be cured, but what if we could develop a Vaccine, like one for a virus, that would target the cells around it to target the cancer? That’s what Professor Darrell Irvine at MIT and his students are trying to accomplish. 

Professor Irvine is working on a vaccine that boosts T-Cells, which is a lymphocyte created in the Thymus along with Epithelial cells to boost immune response. The technique is called CAR-T Cell therapy, and it works by boosting anti-tumor T Cell populations, and using these enhanced populations to fight solid tumors. Before Dr. Irvine’s work, the therapy was unable to target any type of cancer that wasn’t Leukemia. The therapy had a difficult time working on solid tumors because they would attach the T cells to an antigen on the surface of B cells, but the immunosuppressive environment created by the tumor would kill the cells before they could reach the tumor.

But, the researchers at MIT decided to give a vaccine to the lymph nodes, which are host to an abundance of immune cells, instead. Dr. Irvine’s hypothesis was that attaching them to the lymph nodes rather than B cells would give them the proper priming cues to prevent them from dying when they reached the tumor, and he was right. To actually get the vaccine to the lymph nodes the researchers used a technique MIT had developed a few years prior where they attach the vaccine to a lipid tail, which would then bond with albumin, a protein found in the bloodstream, and would then get an uber straight to the lymph nodes. In research in mice, the vaccine has been shown to drastically increase T cell response, and two weeks after treatment and being given a booster vaccine the CAR-T cells made up nearly 65% of the T cells found in the mice. This boost in T cell population resulted in complete obliteration of breast, melanoma, and glioblastoma tumors in 60% of mice.

This success rate is unlike any other treatment for Cancer currently available, and since it is given in a vaccine, memory T cells will be able to detect tumors in the future and destroy them before they become dangerous, just like how regular vaccines work. Between the success rate and the fact that the vaccine will be able to destroy future tumors, there is nothing really like this around for Cancer treatment, and I’m very excited to see the possibilities this has. And the fact that something like a vaccine, which is only capable to treat viruses, can possibly help fight against a genetic disease is also very intriguing.

Migrating Cancer Invading the Brain

Glioblastoma tumor Credit: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology [Public domain]

Recent research has unveiled the ability of cancer cells to invade and take over our brain’s neural network. Three independent studies, Monje, Winkler, and Hanahan have indicated that not only can cancer cells metastasize to parts of the body, including the brain, but once present, they have the uncanny ability to “hijack” our brain and incorporate into our neurons.  The research published in Nature discovered this unusual ability in a certain type of brain cancer called gliomas and in specific aggressive breast cancers that are known to spread to the brain, called Triple Negative Breast Cancer. This accidental discovery was “crazy stuff” according to Winkler, and researchers were not only amazed by their findings, but found it difficult to believe.  The implications of the research hold great promise for treating aggressive forms of cancer in the future.

The  first discovery was made by Winkler’s team and supported by Monje, found that synapses in the tumors themselves, specifically in glioma samples, are a type of cancer that is known to be difficult to treat.   Synapses are usually used for neural cell communication, but the discovery of them in tumor cells was novel.  The synapses seem to play a role in allowing the cancer cells to grow and thrive.  This discovery indicates that cancer’s ability to “weave into the brain’s neural network” explains why these cancers have been so difficult to detect early on and treat successfully.  Rather than disrupting the brain’s functions, the tumor incorporates itself into the brain’s normal functions, becoming a stealthy “hijacker”.

In a third study, Hanahan expanded the results from not only brain cancers but also certain types of aggressive breast cancers that are known to spread to the brain.  They found that certain breast cancer cells actually invade the brain and take on a role similar to neurons.  These triple-negative tumors had the uncanny ability to turn on genes that play a role in signaling between neurons.  They specifically found the cancer cells to have the ability in the brain to create a specialized type of synapse that can take in a large amount of Glutamate, one of our brain’s main neurotransmitters.  Glutamate not only functions as a neurotransmitter, relaying signals between neurons, but also seems to play a role in tumor growth.

Lisa Sevenich, a scientist studying brain cancer, emphasized how hostile the brain’s environment is for cancer cells, and the ability of these glioma cells to survive and even thrive in the brain highlights their adaptability and resilience.  Researchers looking forward hoping that these unusual cancer cells may hold promise for new innovative treatments for cancer in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Gut Bacteria the Future of Cancer Treatment?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=bacteria+cell&title=Special%3ASearch&profile=default&fulltext=1#/media/File:2_bacteria_cell_division.jpg

Your gut has millions of bacteria in it, but not all bacteria make you sick. The millions of bacteria in your gut are called a microbiota and they help keep you healthy. Just like a fingerprint everyone’s gut microbiota is unique with trillions of bacteria in your gut and over 1,000 different species.The factors that make your gut microbiota different are your age, diet, environment, genetics and medication. The differences in one’s gut microbiota might have a greater significance than originally thought.

Scientists believe that the differences in the gut microbiota are the reason certain cancer patients don’t respond to the new cancer treatments. The new cancer treatment that scientist studied, in relation to the gut microbiota, is immunotherapy, particularly checkpoint inhibition. Immunotherapy aims to rapidly shrink or disappear advanced tumors. While doing this study, Scientists found that certain bacteria, “good” bacteria in the gut, are linked to a patient responding well to the treatment and “bad” bacteria is linked to the unresponsiveness of the immunotherapy.

So what makes a bacteria good or bad ? In this study, the “good” bacteria helps immune cells recognize tumor cells. The “bad“ bacteria interfere with the immune cells functions.

One of the studies to find the “good” and “bad’ bacteria were done on melanoma patients. Scientist had a sample size of 42 patients and took a stool sample prior to giving them the immunotherapy treatment. They found ten types of bacteria in common between the people but each person had a different ratio of those bacterias. Out of those ten they found that eight of the different types of bacteria were more abundantly in people that responded to the treatment (classified as “good” bacteria) and two types of bacteria were more abundant in the people that didn’t respond to the treatment (“bad” bacteria).

In another study done, cancer patients that took an antibiotic after having done the immunotherapy don’t live as long as the cancer patients that didn’t take the antibiotics. As shown bacteria can also be good and even help fight illnesses in our bodies. But the antibiotics that are  being overprescribed are causing issues in our bodies because antibiotics kill harmful bacteria but they also kill the good bacteria.

CRISPR: The Next Step for Cancer Treatment

CRISPR is a gene editing technique that is currently still being researched and expanded upon, however, upon recent discoveries, one can note the great advantages this technology brings to the table to enhance cancer immunotherapy .  More specifically, according to the Washington University School of Medicine, “these T cell immunotherapies can’t be used if the T cells themselves are cancerous.” However, there is more to this discovery. Let’s backtrack.

What exactly is CRISPR? “CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.” For the sake of this article, we are just focusing on the benefits it has on cancer treatment solely. Also, what exactly are T cells? They are “a type of white blood cell that is of key importance to the immune system and is at the core of adaptive immunity, the system that tailors the body’s immune response to specific pathogens. The T cells are like soldiers who search out and destroy the targeted invaders.” On the other hand, T cells can become cancerous therefore not being able to accomplish their task of destroying invaders.

How does CRISPR enhance cancer immunotherapy? Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine engineered human T cells that can attack cancerous human T cells. Additionally, they engineered the T cells to eliminate a harmful side effect known as graft-versus-host disease. This was all thanks to CRISPR. But, how exactly did they figure this out? Were there any flaws or bumps in the road?

Well, this type of treatment cannot work if the T cells they use are cancerous. Supercharged T cells can alternatively be used to kill cancerous T cells, but the cells can also kill each other because they resemble each other closely. This is where CRISPR came in, preventing the human T cells and cancerous human T cells from killing each other. Another benefit of this is that the scientists engineered the T cells so any donors T cells can be used without the fear of not matching the person in need of the T cells.

Overall, anything to better the prevention of cancer is a scientific win in most’s book. But, CRISPR is a controversial tool. Some think it should be put to use and some do not. However, will this technology alter other aspects of the human genome besides diseases and deadly occurrences? How will this affect our ethics as a community? Will our genetics continue to increasingly become more altered? Time will only tell.

Engineering Cancer Killers!

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:ArturoJuárezFlores

Engineering Cancer Killers!                                                                                               

Today, millions of people are dying from the complex disease, cancer. Although treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are used to cure the disease, immunotherapy has emerged as a potential cure for cancer. Professor Oliver Ottmann, Head of Haematology at Cardiff University and co-lead of the Cardiff Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC), acknowledged the importance of immunotherapy and considers it a huge breakthrough in cancer research and treatment. This lead his team to further discover the key to genetically engineering T-cells to recognize and kill cancer cells. 

How Does It Work?

T-cells are an important part of our immune systems. They contain receptors that can recognize bacterial infections or viruses and help fight them off, and potentially kill cancer cells. Scientists have developed a way to genetically engineer T-cells using CRISPR genome editing. Normally, the genetically engineered T-cells, that are created to fight cancer, contain two types of receptors. One type is called therapeutic, and is created and added on to the cell in a lab, and the other types of receptors are natural and originated from the T-cell.

The Problem 

The team acknowledged that since both kinds of receptors occupy the cell, there is minimal space for all receptors to fit on the cell; therefore certain receptors must challenge other receptors in order to perform their own function. Since there are more natural receptors on a T-cell than the therapeutic receptors,the natural receptors perform superior than the therapeutic receptors. This means the genetically engineered T-cells are not able to work at their full potential; they are unable to kill cancer cells efficiently.

The Solution

After recognizing the problem, Professor Oliver Ottmann and his team genetically engineered T-cells, by genome editing, that only contain the therapeutic receptors they intended on adding. By eliminating all of the natural receptors that T-cells normally have, the therapeutic receptors will increase in efficiency.

The Future

Since scientists have figured out a way to maximize the efficiency of genetically engineered cancer fighting T-cells, finding a cure to cancer could be closer than we thought. Could this cutting edge research be the start of a solution for cancer treatment?  Do you think scientists and society will pursue this theory? This article sparked my interest because finding a reliable cure for cancer has been a problem for many years, every discovery we make brings us closer to finding the best cure.

How DNA damaged from radiation causes cancer

In a recent study, professors from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute sought to see the similarity between spontaneous cancerous tumors and cancer caused by ionized radiation. By looking at the molecular fingerprint of different types of cancers, they were able to differentiate between cancers that formed by radiation and cancers that were not formed by radiation.

In the study, they studied the mutational signatures of the DNA. Mutational signatures are just ways in which the DNA is affected by cancerous mutations. They studied the DNA mutational signatures from DNA exposed to radiation, but not necessarily cancerous, and the mutational signatures of the DNA of cancerous cells of which some were caused by radiation exposure and some were not. Both included the same signatures.

The two mutational signatures that were observed were deletion of segments of DNA bases and balanced inversion, where the DNA is cut in two places, the middle piece flips around, and the pieces are joined back in the opposite orientation from before the flip. High energy radiation is the cause for balanced inversion, since it does not happen naturally in the body. After the mutation, the DNA cannot repair itself.

This gives us a better understanding of cancer and how ionized radiation affects DNA and produces these mutational signatures. Knowing this information, this helps us recognize which tumors are caused by radiation. Once we have a better understanding of this, it will prove important for determining how each cancer should be treated. But for now, this is a strong step forward in the battle against cancer and every step of the way is crucial if we are to be victorious.

 

Alien DNA?

Our DNA has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. This evolution was usually the result of natural selection. Scientists have discovered another way our genetics have been altered: virus DNA. Our DNA consists of 100,000 pieces of viral DNA and altogether those pieces make up about 8 percent of our DNA. Most of these genes are from endogenous retrovirus. Many viral genes produce proteins that affect our health in unexpected ways. Some of our ancient virus DNA may be protecting us from diseases and others may be raising our risks for cancer.

Viral DNA is neither good nor bad. It’s not that simple and the research being done on this part of our genome is just being started. In a recent study scientists engineered healthy cells to make a viral protein that is found in tumors. They concluded that the protein caused the cells to behave in a “cancer like way”. There are other viral proteins that play a crucial role in reproduction, known as syncytins.

This caused scientists to investigate other viral proteins. Five years ago Dr. Heidmann, a French cancer researcher, found a stretch of viral DNA that has gone overlooked and named it Hemo. She also found that versions of this protein was in other species and that the gene behind is have barley changed over thousands of years. The consistency of the gene throughout species shows that the protein must play an important beneficial role. Some preliminary research has shown it to be involved with helping the embryo develop a variety of tissue from stem cells.

Many things are still not known about this part of our DNA and how it affects us but researchers are working hard to find out everything they can. They are actively trying to figure out which viral proteins are beneficial and which are harmful. This research will help us understand a lot about our genome, evolution, and maybe even cancer prevention.

For access to other articles about this topic click here and here.

 

Potential New Treatment Strategy for Brain Cancer!

Cancer is a disease characterized by the up-regulation of cell growth and it usually develops when normal cells are not able to repair damaged genetic material. New studies are revealing insights into the function of genetic mutations commonly found in a form of brain cancer, specifically the IDH mutation. Isocitrate Dehydrogenase(IDH) is a metabolic enzyme found in more than 70% of low grade gliomas and secondary glioblastomas, types of malignant brain tumors. In a normal cell, IDH enzymes help to break down nutrients and generate energy cells. When mutated, IDH creates a molecule that alters cells genetic programming and instead of maturing, the cell remain primitive. Studies have shown that cells holding this mutation also have an impaired ability to repair DNA. Strangely enough, low grade gliomas that have the IDH mutation are typically more sensitive to chemotherapy than those that lack the mutation. Why does this occur? We still don’t really know the answer.  Yet, researchers have discovered a potential new treatment option for the glial cells harvesting the IDH mutation– PARP Inhibitors.   A super cool future is waiting ahead.

When treating the IDH mutated cells with PARP Inhibitors, a substance in the form of a drug that blocks an enzyme called PARP, the cells were effectively killed. When the drug blocks PARP, it keeps the cancer cells from repairing their damaged DNA, and eventually they die off. The cells are extremely sensitive after the effects of the inhibitors, especially after taking the most common PARP drug called oliparib. PARP inhibitors are a form of targeted therapy–meaning the inhibitors work within a similar approach as radiation and chemotherapy– they simply damage or prevent the repair the DNA. Researchers have also found the up regulation of the unusual molecule called  2-HG(2-Hydroxyl-glutarate) within the IDH mutated enzymes. In a study with Dr. Brinda’s team at Yale, they found that 2-HG may be responsible for the defect, DNA repair inabilities, in these cells. When the production of 2-HG was blocked in these cells, the DNA repair defect was reversed and cells became unresponsive to the PARP inhibitor treatment. This finding further solidifies that PARP inhibitors may be the best new effective brain cancer treatment method. What do you think? I think this is pretty cool news!

Jto410 is the username of the radiologistwho took the picture

Low grade glioma MRI scan. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

There are also many clinical trials occurring currently to observe 2-HG as a definite IDH biomarker for cells that are sensitive to treatment with PARP inhibitors. In addition, labs are also designing a clinical trial of olaparib and temozolomide, two PARB inhibitor drugs, in patients with low-grade gliomas. The results of these trials, are for sure going to make headlines within the Biology and Medical field! Even though, there are still many questions to answers and studies to conduct regarding brain cancer and the IDH mutation, we are definitely on the right track to cure the monster a.k.a “cancer.”

Hair Saving Option with Chemotherapy

Scientists have been finding a way to prevent hair loss after the painful process of cancer treatment, Chemotherapy (Chemo). Hair loss is one of the biggest feared side-effects. A recent study showed that 75% of female patients who had breast cancer feared the side effect of losing hair. Hair loss scored the highest in a Swedish nurse’s study that investigated the quality of life in patients who had breast cancer. With the help of Sung-Jan Lin, a scientist at National Taiwan University, a protein was made that could withstand the distressing effects of Chemotherapy.

There are a few other options for people receiving this treatment. Some will try to put on scalp-cooling caps to freeze the chemo drugs from entering the hair follicles. However, this process is expensive and only works for 50% of the people. The treatment could end up being longer than expected, and can cause mild to severe headaches and discomfort.

Lin describes that part of the problem is that we have such a limited knowledge of how Chemotherapy damages hair follicles.

In short, his team looked at a protein called p53. This protein functions to limit tumor growth, but also helps suppress hair growth (hair cells divide rapidly like tumor cells)

Studying P53, Lin found out that the protein was blocking a hair-promoting protein WNT3A. This stimulated his team to ask the following question. Is injecting WNT3A directly into the scalp while administering Chemo prevent hair loss?

The team decided to experiment with mice with a chemotherapy agent, and soon enough the results matched their hypothesis. One group of mice were injected with WNT3A soaked beads. And sure enough, that group sustained their hair. While the other group that was not given WNT3A loss all their hair.

Lin and his team are now working to adapt his studies on human patients. As stated by Lin it would be unsafe to inject WNT3A in bead form. As a result, they are working to create the protein in a gel or cream solution.

With this new hair saving option, the cancer treatment will seem less fearful for some patients. This treatment could be a big help for the future. Scientists are working to expand their knowledge on how to effectively provide treatment without endangering our human traits.

So after hearing all this, what do you feel about this new idea? Will the “power of proteins” eliminate other side effects provided by Chemotherapy? If so, what kinds? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo link and photographer:

www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/6025359063

Liz West

The journey to find a cure for cancer

What exactly does ‘epigenetic’ mean? Well epigenetic literally means “in addition to changes in genetic sequence.” The term now means any procedure to change genetic activity without changing the sequence of the actual DNA. So why is this important? Epigenetics can affect a lot of scientific research. For example DNA methylation is a hugely important epigenetic modification.

DNA methylation is where a methyl group would be added to a cytosine in a DNA sequence changing its function. This can be used in embryonic development, X-chromosome inactivation, genomic imprinting, gene suppression, carcinogenesis and chromosome stability. This means DNA methylation is very vital to growth and development- as it is a natural process- however can affect bad cells.

Examples of this are with cancer cells. DNA Methylation patterns- adding a group- are interrupted and changed when cancer is present. DNA methylation done on the promoters in tumor cells can turn off the expression of genes. In humans this can cause disruption of vital developmental pathways. This was then tested in an experiment (for now we will only observe human results because it was tested on mice as well) They tested human normal brain tissue vs. cancerous.

After testing the DNA methylation patterns on tumors, they found that 121 loci (loci is the central “hot spot” of genes) had strong methylation compared to the normal brain tissue which had 60% less. So what does all this mean??

Basically DNA methylation is a good thing in a normal environment. When cancer is present DNA methylation can change and be harmful in a negative environment such as a tumor because it causes hypermethylation.

While the take away is essentially the obvious- cancer is bad- scientists can use this data to find a correct cure for cancer and to create better medicine as some can harm even more by increasing DNA methylation in tumors. For more information on this click here.

 

 

 

Epigenetics Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most deadly forms of of Pancreatic Cancer with a less than 10 percent, 5-year survival rate. Unfortunately, it is the most common form of Pancreatic Cancer.  However, scientist were given hope to increase the survival rate when a protein was identified as a aid to the development of PDAC. The protein is Arginine Methyltransferase 1 (PRMT1) and it is involved in gene transcription, DNA signaling, and DNA repair.

It is said that research done by Giulio Draetta, M.D., PhD “strongly suggest a role for PRMT1 in PDAC development and illuminate a path toward the development of therapies for patients in desperate need of innovative solutions”. Draetta’s  team developed a platform called PILOT, Patient-Based In Vivo Lethality to Optimize Treatment. The PILOT technology allows researchers to systematically identify epigenetic drivers in patient-derived tumors. The research found hat PRMT1 is a epigenetic driver for PDAC. Using CRISPR, the team was able to confirm that when the proteins were removed from DNA, the growth of the cancer cells were significantly impaired. There is hope that this recent development can save many lives and increase the survival rate of Pancreatic Ductal Andeocarcinoma.

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How A Chemical From the Cypress Tree Could Advance Epigenetics Against Cancer

by Czechmate on Wikimedia Commons

Found in the essential oil extracted from the bark of a cypress tree, a chemical named hinokitiol shows potential to impact epigenetic tags on DNA and stop the activity of genes that assist the growth of tumors.

In order to develop an of understanding cancer, researches have had to comprehend the DNA methylation, an epigenetic function which controls gene expression. In regular DNA methylation, genes that work to fight against tumors are turned on, reducing the risk of cancer. However, if DNA methylation is negatively altered, then those cancer-fighting genes will be silenced, helping to progress cancer development. Scientists have tried to combat irregular DNA methylation and over-silencing of genes by creating epigenetic anti-cancer medications that reverse non-beneficial methylation effects. Like in most cases of medication usage, the users face unappealing side effects. Hinokitiol is attractive to scientists because it is a natural compound with many health benefits and way less side effects than modified drugs that can possibly cause mutagenesis and cytotoxicity.

 

Researchers from the Korea University College of Medicine tested the productivity of the hinokitiol chemical in a study by giving doses of it to colon cancer cells. It was found that this chemical helped to inhibit the colon cancer cells efficiency without affecting the colon cells without cancer. The scientists also found through careful inspection that the presence of hinokitiol decreases the expression of proteins DNMT1 and UHRF1; both of which are proteins that encourage carcinogenesis. In summary, the doses of hinokitiol appear to have allowed normal cells to remain healthy, while reducing the ability for the colon cancer cells to thrive and ceasing the production of proteins that promote cancer maturation.

Researchers are continuing their search for natural compounds, as opposed to artificial medications, that can prevent the flourishing of cancer in our bodies through playing a positive role in gene expression and DNA methylation.

http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/cypress-trees-epigenetically-protect-cancer/

 

 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raindrops_on_leyland_cypress.jpg

The Role of Metabolism and Epigenetics in Cancer Development

Cancer most commonly is defined as a “perpetuating mass of dystregulated cells growing in an uncontrolled manner”, however the meaning can be further related to epigenetics, for they appear to be very much interconnected.  Another definition of cancer goes on to note this relationship as the “dynamic genetic and epigenetic alterations that contribute to cancer initiation and progress.” Recent research shows that if epigenetics is disrupted, it might switch to oncogenes or shut down tumor suppressors. Either way, this would lead to the development of tumor cells that would cause cancer. We are already aware of the fact that chemical modification affecting the packaging of our DNA can switch genes on and off. The first time that became aware of an epigenetic code, we learned that that code chemically labels active or inactive genetic information. The focus of epigenetics is on the change caused by the modification of gene expression, not the alteration of the code itself. With recent discoveries through research on epigenetics and its relation to cancer, we learned that there must be a balance of “writers” and “erasers” for the cells. Recent data has shown that methyltransferase EZH2 is an epigenetic writer that is hyperactivated in many cancers, specifically melanomas and lymphomas. This recent research also shows KDM3A (member of the jumonji histone lysine demthylase family) as an epigenetic eraser. KDM3A fulfills an oncogenic role by activating a network of tumor promoting genes. Epigonomic changes also allow tumor cells to evade the immune system so that these cells can thrive and divide without the disruption of the immune system. Ultimately, there are two potential pathways that epigenomic regulators can cause cancer. The first is the result of too much epigenetic activation, which can lead to oncogenes. The second is too much epigenetic protection that conversely blocks tumor suppressor genes. DNA hypermethylation causes the silencing of tumor suppressor genes.

Both of these methods would lead to the development of cancer. Epigenetic regulation involves methods including histone regulation, DNA methylation, and changes in noncoding RNAs such as miRNAs. One of the challenges of studying cancer and researching possible vulnverabilities in pathways is that they are often disrupted by epigenetics. The recent studies also have shown that there are close ties between epigenomic (analysis of global epigenetic changes across many genes) changes and metabolites, or human cellular chemistry. Metabolites initiate, target, or maintain epigenetic factors with the transcriptional complex, and cooperation with them metabolites can target, amplify or mute these coded responses. Since the fields of both epigenetics and metabolism are still developing a great deal, there is hope that these insights with regards to cancer and regulating gene expression to prevent the development of cancer will allow for more precision in targeting cancer, specifically when existing methods of therapy fail to work sufficiently.

Possible Links Between Gut Microbes and Obesity, Cancer & Autism

While the bacteria in our gut play a vital role in the digestion process, recent findings have suggested that it could effect much more in our bodies. New studies have found possible links between the bacteria in our gut and obesity, cancer and autism.

Creative Commons image link

A study done by Cornell University and King’s College London revealed that Christensenellaceae minuta, a strain of gut bacteria, was found more often and in larger quantities in people with lower body masses. To investigate whether the bacteria is actually linked with obesity, researchers added the same bacteria into the guts of mice and compared their weight gain to mice lacking the bacteria. The research showed that the mice with Christensenellaceae minuta gained noticeably less weight than the mice lacking the bacteria. While research is still in its early stages, these results have made an exciting connection between bacteria in our gut and weight gain, which could dramatically impact the future of our health.

In addition to obesity, the bacteria in our gut has also been linked to cancer- in both beneficial and detrimental aspects. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute tested the effect of gut bacteria on chemotherapy in mice and found that the chemotherapy was significantly less effective in the mice lacking the bacteria. Similarly, another study found that cyclophosphamide, an antitumor drug, was less effective in mice with insufficient gut bacteria compared to those with normal levels. While these studies showed positive links between gut bacteria and cancer, other studies have found adverse effects of gut bacteria.

Unfortunately, a study published in The Journal of Cancer Research in 2012 has made a possible connection between Lactobacillus johnsonii, a strain of gut bacteria, and lymphoma, cancer of the white blood cells. The study claims that the presence of this specific strain of bacteria could lead to the development of lymphoma. Another study done in the UK in 2013 found that a specific gut bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, has the ability to deactivate the part of our immune system responsible for regulating inflammation. In effect, this could cause stomach cancer and ulcers.

While it may seem like a stretch, numerous studies have found a possible link to autism and the bacteria in our gut. A study done in 2013 by Arizona State University found that compared to children without autism, children suffering from autism had lower levels of Prevotella, Coprococcus and Veillonellaceae, three strains of gut bacteria. Even more surprisingly, another study revealed that the presence of Bacteroides fragilis in the gut reduced autism-like symptoms in mice. Research in this field is still in its primary stages, as researchers are trying to figure out if these connection are in fact related, and if so, how the bacteria directly effects these conditions.

 

Our Intestines Cure Cancer??

There are over one hundred trillion organisms- most are bacteria- living in our intestine today. These are referred to as the gut microbiota.

While trillions of bacteria sounds scary, they can actually be very helpful. Research has been done worldwide and the discovery has been that gut microbes actually can kill cancer cells all over the body. (Not just in the intestines) But how? Gut microbes and cancer actually cross paths. Gut microbes can manipulate the immune system and can either increase inflammation or lower it as needed. This means the bacteria can actually work with cancer treatments, boost T-cells, and control other factors that help cancer grow such as fungi, or viruses.

However, this is not all. While some cells help against cancer growth, others do the opposite. It varies cancer to cancer, and all have different results. As said by microbiologist and immunologist Patrick Schloss “What we really need is to have a much better understanding of which species, which type of bug, is doing what and try to change the balance.” So more research is still being done to decide how to control the microbiota, but a possible theory is that because it’s in the intestine it is related to our metabolisms and so what we eat controls the bacterium- this can also then effect the colon, thus effecting more cancer: colon cancer.

 

Cells Kill Cells—New Cancer Treatment Promotes Immune System response to Tumors

According to a recent article, oncological research has been a recent area of vast development. Cancer is a widespread form of disease that affects different areas uniquely and operates very subjectively. On a basic level, cancer is the uncontrolled growth and division of a cell.  This often yields a malignant tumor which can metastasize to other areas of the body.  When a tumor metastasizes and spreads beyond the primary site to other organs of the body, the cancer is considered to be Stage IV.  This is the most aggressive stage of cancer development and is often the most difficult to treat.  The new treatment revealed by Cornell University Engineers seeks to inhibit a tumor’s ability to metastasize.

https://flic.kr/p/xuSZkh

Killer T Cells attacking a cancerous cell

https://flic.kr/p/xuSZkh 

 

The paper explained the new approach in “annihilating” the tumors before they progress to a metastatic stage.  The key to this is not actually killing the cell, rather, inducing apoptosis of the cancerous cell.  Without the jargon, it means that the new treatment will not explicitly kill the cell, instead it will cause the cell to kill itself. The engineers accomplished this in model organism trials using mice.  The procedure involves injecting specialized liposomes in the lymph nodes, which commonly play a key role in metastasis.  The lymph nodes are parts of the lymphatic system where lymphocytes are formed. Lymphocytes are known as “killer cells” because they are a form of leukocytes (white blood cells).  The injection contains liposomes (membranous sacs of water) with a special “Tumor necrosis factor Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand” protein.  These will attach to the lymphocytes and target the cancerous cells, and effectively eliminate the tumor before it metastasizes.

The paper also references previous work by the engineering group where they created a similar approach for eliminating bloodstream metastases in January 2014.  This coupled with a lymphatic treatment can greatly reduce the rate of metastasis in patients with aggressive malignant tumors.  Recent developments in oncological treatments have suggested promising developments in the way of cancer treatments–and cures.

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Original Article

Wait… Smoking is bad for you???

Thinking back, it’s pretty hard to believe that at one point most people thought smoking was good for you. Up until about 60 years ago, advertisements preached that smoking cigarettes was not only the cool thing to do, but was also in some ways beneficial for your health.

Lewis_Hine,_Newsies_smoking_at_Skeeter's_Branch,_St._Louis,_1910

Cigarette ads used doctors and scientists to preach that smoking helped alleviate social anxiety, dry mouth, colds, and headaches. Although in some cases the menthol used in many cigarettes did have a positive effect on cold symptoms, in many cases the ill symptoms were caused by smoking withdrawal itself. (i.e. social anxiety and headaches)

To much of 1940’s doctors’ demise, enumerable amounts of studies have come out proving that smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer, gum cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, and most of all emphysema. Now, the tobacco is not always the cause of all these diseases; all the other fun chemicals that the cigarette companies put in the cigs to “enhance the experience” and help them burn faster, are the culprits. Just a few of the chemicals in modern cigarettes are as follows:

Acetone = commonly found in nail polish and many paint removers

Ammonia = highly toxic; usually found in household cleaners

Arsenic = found most in rat poisons

Butane = found in lighter fluid (helps cigarette to burn faster)

Cadmium = component of battery acid

Carbon Monoxide = found in car exhaust fumes

Formaldehyde = embalming fluid (used to preserve dead bodies)

Need I go on? Okay!

Lead = decreases function and activity of the nervous system (brain, spine, etc.)

Methanol = main component of rocket fuel

Nicotine = main component of insecticide but has a very addicting side-effect

Tar = used for paving roads

Toluene = found in dynamite (TNT = Tri-Nitro Toluene)

Some_Kills

It is obvious to me why cigarette companies have stopped running their ads that depict doctors, scientists, teachers and other professions often lauded as some of the most intelligent in society, smoking and promoting cigarettes. Even so, what troubles me, is how 17% of America’s population still chooses to smoke. With 8% of that 17% being teenagers, the number of smokers has steadily declined over the years, but not at a rate rapid enough. The common sense that goes behind just not smoking is maddening to those who watch smokers constantly spending $15 (NY) per pack.

PS: Up until 1978, Camel Cigarettes actually contained minute particles of camel. The company used the fat because it burned very quickly, was odorless, and gave the cigarette a more mild taste.

Original Article: http://www.vox.com/2015/11/14/9732414/how-many-americans-smoke

Information on Emphysema: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/emphysema/basics/definition/con-20014218

Lung Cancer Facts: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/learn-about-lung-cancer/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html

 

The Real Scoop on Artificial Food Coloring

Although artificial colors and dyes have been used in foods since the early 1900’s, the FDA has banned many of them due to health concerns. Thirty-seven artificial colors still remain approved for general food use in the USA, many of which are now prohibited in some European countries. Many of these chemicals have been researched and found to have harmful side effects, but they are still used in popular candies, soft drinks, cereals, and other processed foods.

Americans are now consuming more processed foods and drinks than ever before, and therefore more artificial colors and dyes. Many scientists have researched these common chemicals and found shocking results. The most common blue 1 & 2, citrus red 2, green 3, red 3 & 40, and yellow 5 & 6, have been found to cause a wide degree of side effects. Some have been found to cause cancer, ADHD, neurochemical and behavioral effects, allergies and more. Because of link between artificial dyes and the frequently seen side effects of cancer and ADHD, many European countries such as Norway, France, Finland, The U.K., and Sweden have banned a number of these chemicals from their foods.

It is no secret that these additives have harmful side effects, so why do companies still choose to use them? It is a very simple marketing tactic. “You eat with your eyes”, therefore companies will try to make their food look visually appealing to convince you to buy their products. Using artificial dyes and colors is just one method companies use to attract buyers. Artificial dyes like Yellow 5 have more vibrant and concentrated color than natural ones like saffron or turmeric. They are also much cheaper than natural dyes because companies do not need to use much in order to get the color they want. Artificial colors are also easier to use and their results are more reliable because they are much less sensitive to heat than naturally-derived food dyes are.

Silly Rabbit

(A bowl of Trix cereal made with artificial colors and flavors. The new Trix will go on sale later this year, without its blue and green puffs.)

This news may seem very alarming and upsetting to the average consumer, but there is hope. The FDA requires that companies put their ingredients on the food labels, so you know which foods are organic and which ones have artificial coloring. Research on artificial food dyes has led many consumers to cut out harmful processed foods and sodas from their diet and led to more awareness among buyers. And although there are companies such as Coca-Cola that use harmful cancer causing dyes such like 4-MEI, there are brands like General Mills that are promising to soon cut out all artificial dyes from their cereals by 2017. The new direction American consumers are taking now towards organic and health foods is slowly leading the food industry to change their foods in a healthy way. No longer are some food companies looking for the most vibrant look with their presentation, but rather the healthiest.

 

 

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