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Thu, 29 Sep 2016
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Scientists Decode Entire HIV Genome

A team of US scientists has for the first time unravelled the entire genetic code of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, paving the way for a better understanding of how these types of viruses infect humans and hopefully speeding up the discovery and development of new drugs.

The work was done by Dr Kevin Weeks, a chemistry professor of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, and colleagues, and features as the cover story of the 6 August issue of Nature.

Before this work, researchers had only modeled small regions of the HIV genome, which is very large and made of two strands of nearly 10,000 building blocks or nucleotides each.

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How Cells Respond to Low Oxygen

Gary Chiang, Ph.D., and colleagues at Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) have elucidated how the stability of the REDD1 protein is regulated. The REDD1 protein is a critical inhibitor of the mTOR signaling pathway, which controls cell growth and proliferation. The study was published in the August 2009 issue of EMBO Reports.

As part of the cellular stress response, REDD1 is expressed in cells under low oxygen conditions (hypoxia). The Burnham scientists showed that the REDD1 protein rapidly undergoes degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system, which allowed for the recovery of mTOR signaling once oxygen levels were restored to normal.

"Cells initially shut down the most energy-costly processes, such as growth, when they're under hypoxic stress. They do this by expressing REDD1, which inhibits the mTOR pathway" said Dr. Chiang. "But when the cell needs the mTOR pathway active, REDD1 has to be eliminated first. Because the REDD1 protein turns over so rapidly, it allows the pathway to respond very dynamically to hypoxia and other environmental conditions."

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Back treatment for elderly no better than placebo

A common treatment that uses medical cement to fix cracks in the spinal bones of elderly people worked no better than a sham treatment, the first rigorous studies of the popular procedure reveal.

Pain and disability were virtually the same up to six months later, whether patients had a real treatment or a fake one.

Tens of thousands of Americans each year are treated with bone cement, especially older women with osteoporosis, some of them stooped and unable to stand up straight. The treatment is so widely believed to work that the researchers had a hard time getting patients to take part when it was explained that half of them would not get the real thing.

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How We Became a Society of Gluttonous Junk Food Addicts

Junk food is killing us slowly with diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But we can't stop because we're hooked, and the food industry is the pusher.

Every chef is said to have a secret junk food craving. For Thomas Keller, chef-owner of Per Se and The French Laundry, two of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country, it's Krispy Kreme Donuts and In-N-Out cheeseburgers. For David Bouley, New York's reigning chef in the '90s, it's "high-quality potato chips."

"Father of American cuisine" James Beard "loved McDonald's fries," while Paul Bocuse, an originator of nouvelle cuisine, once declared McDonald's "are the best French fries I have ever eaten." Masaharu Morimoto is partial to "Philly cheese steaks," and Jean-Georges Vongerichten confesses a weakness for Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. Other accomplished but less-famous chefs admit to craving everything from Peanut M&Ms, Pringles and Combos to Kettle Chips and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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Watching TV: Even Worse for Kids Than You Think

It's no secret that sedentary behavior contributes to obesity and chronically poor health. But not all sedentary behaviors are created equal, according to a new study that examines the link between blood pressure in children and their choice of inactive pastimes, including watching TV, using the computer and reading.

Researchers in the U.S. and Spain collaborated on the study of 111 children ages 3 to 8 and found that of all the forms of inactivity they examined, television-viewing was the worst. It was linked to significantly higher blood pressure in children - the more TV kids watched, the higher their blood pressure - and the effect held true regardless of whether a child was heavy or at a healthy weight. What's more, other sedentary behaviors, like using a computer, were not associated with similar blood-pressure hikes, according to the study, which was published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

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The Horrifying Hidden Story Behind Drug Company Profits

This is the story of one of the great unspoken scandals of our times. Today, the people across the world who most need life-saving medicine are being prevented from producing it. Here's the latest example: factories across the poor world are desperate to start producing their own cheaper Tamiflu to protect their populations -- but they are being sternly told not to. Why? So rich drug companies can protect their patents -- and profits. There is an alternative to this sick system -- but we are choosing to ignore it.

To understand this tale, we have to start with an apparent mystery. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been correctly warning for months that if swine flu spreads to the poorest parts of the world, it could cull hundreds of thousands of people -- or more. Yet they have also been telling the governments of the poor world not to go ahead and produce as much Tamiflu -- the only drug we have to reduce the symptoms, and potentially save lives -- as they possibly can.

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On The Move: 'Jumping Genes' Create Diversity in Human Brain Cells

© Jamie Simon, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
"Jumping genes" could go a long way towards explaining brain development and individuality.
Rather than sticking to a single DNA script, human brain cells harbor astonishing genomic variability, according to scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The findings, to be published in the Aug. 5, 2009, advance online edition of Nature, could help explain brain development and individuality, as well as lead to a better understanding of neurological disease.

The team, led by Fred Gage, Ph.D., a professor in the Salk's Laboratory of Genetics and holder of the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases, found that human brain cells contain an unexpected number of so-called mobile elements - extraordinary pieces of DNA that insert extra copies of themselves throughout the genome using a "copy and paste" mechanism.

"This is a potential mechanism to create the neural diversity that makes each person unique," says Gage. "The brain has 100 billion neurons with 100 trillion connections, but mobile pieces of DNA could give individual neurons a slightly different capacity from each other."

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New DNA and RNA Aptamers Offer Unique Therapeutic Advantages

A novel class of drugs composed of single strands of DNA or RNA, called aptamers, can bind protein targets with a high strength and specificity and are currently in clinical development as treatments for a broad range of common diseases, as described in a comprehensive review article published online ahead of print in Oligonucleotides, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (www.liebertpub.com). The article is available free online, offer several advantages compared to protein or small molecule drugs, most notably their ease of production, low risk of inducing an immune reaction in humans, and amenability to chemical modifications that enhance their drug-like properties, including improved stability and residence time in the bloodstream.

Aptamer therapeutics presently in clinical development target diseases and applications such as macular degeneration, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and various types of cancer.

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Brain Difference in Psychopaths Identified

© iStockphoto/Hayden Bird
Scientists have found differences in the brain which may provide a biological explanation for psychopathy.
Professor Declan Murphy and colleagues Dr Michael Craig and Dr Marco Catani from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London have found differences in the brain which may provide a biological explanation for psychopathy.

The research investigated the brain biology of psychopaths with convictions that included attempted murder, manslaughter, multiple rape with strangulation and false imprisonment. Using a powerful imaging technique (DT-MRI) the researchers have highlighted biological differences in the brain which may underpin these types of behaviour and provide a more comprehensive understanding of criminal psychopathy.

Dr Michael Craig said: 'If replicated by larger studies the significance of these findings cannot be underestimated. The suggestion of a clear structural deficit in the brains of psychopaths has profound implications for clinicians, research scientists and the criminal justice system.'

Comment: Striking contradiction here: the results suggest that psychopaths have biological differences in the brain, yet this doctor wants to develop treatments to cure "this mental disorder"??

No wonder there has been zero progress on resolving this ages-old bane of human existence. The evidence suggests that psychopaths are hard-wired differently because they are an entirely different species and do not want nor feel any need to be cured, not least by members of a species they consider to be diseased!


Pills

Medical Papers by Ghostwriters Pushed Therapy

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© Unknown
Newly unveiled court documents show that ghostwriters paid by a pharmaceutical company played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers backing the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known.

The articles, published in medical journals between 1998 and 2005, emphasized the benefits and de-emphasized the risks of taking hormones to protect against maladies like aging skin, heart disease and dementia. That supposed medical consensus benefited Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that paid a medical communications firm to draft the papers, as sales of its hormone drugs, called Premarin and Prempro, soared to nearly $2 billion in 2001.

But the seeming consensus fell apart in 2002 when a huge federal study on hormone therapy was stopped after researchers found that menopausal women who took certain hormones had an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. A later study found that hormones increased the risk of dementia in older patients.