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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Roosters doing hen’s job

Researchers identified roosters doing hen’s job, i.e. passing on mitochondrial DNA to his chicks. Mitochondria are energy-generating organelle in cells which carry a circular chromosome containing genes required to make mitochondria and allow them running. There had been long term rule that powerhouses of the cell are inherited only from mother. But the rule was ultimately broken in a 50 generation Virginia Tech’s White Plymouth Rock chickens.

Roosters sometimes hand mitochondria down to their chicks, DNA analysis of White Plymouth Rock chickens reveals. Usually mitochondria, energy-producing organelles in cells, are inherited from the mother.
The research was published in October, 2015 in Biology letters, where researchers determine the genetic makeup of mitochondrial genomes from 12 of the chickens. A mutation identified in ND4L gene originated in rooster passed it to his chickens.

Earlier scientists didn’t know how often mitochondria are inherited from fathers as they have seen it in some plants, sheep and even in a person. But such evidence from roosters could muddy the results of many earlier studies and in future mitochondrial DNA could be used to identify paternal lineages and determine evolutionary relationships.

Journal Source: Biology letters
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Sunday, 20 December 2015

Treatment of heart can be started with treatment of gut

A new research published in December 17th, 2015 in the journal Cell reports that a drug candidate can able to prevent the microbe from making chemical conversion of choline found in abundant from meats and eggs into a compound that lead to hardening of arteries. The research was successfully performed in mice.

GUT CHECK  Mice predisposed to heart disease and fed a diet high in choline — a compound found in meat and eggs — had plaque buildup in their arteries (left: plaques, red; artery, blue). Mice also given a drug to prevent their gut microbes from breaking down the choline had much less artery clogging (right). [Source: Z. Wang et al., Cell]
The new idea may change the knowledge of therapy among doctors. There are some common bacteria found in both mice and human that can able to turn choline to trymethylamine or TMA. This TMA in liver is transformed into an-artery clogging compound. The researchers have discovered a drug like compound called DMB can be used to block TMA production. The potential drug can able to suppress some of the enzyme that bacteria use to convert choline to TMA. The research which was performed in mice, where mice were fed with diet high amount in choline and another with TMA precursor formed less plaque forming chemicals in their arteries where mouse drank water containing the drug.
Researchers conclude that high choline diet caused plaques to form in the arteries, but while treating them with the drug DMB completely prevented artery clogging. The drug is known to found naturally in some olive oils and red wines didn’t harm the mice with any symptoms of harmful effects, instead it was broken down and cleared off their bodies. The compound was also non-toxic for the gut bacteria. Hence manipulating gut bacteria instead of killing them emphasize a new identification which can be used for humans.

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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Blocking the metastasis channel to prevent cancer

Most of the cancer related deaths are due to metastasis, i.e. the spread of cancer from one part of the body to other. The phenomenon of metastasis have been studied for years but little been identified about how cancer migrates from primary site. A new research carried out by Harvard affiliated Brigham and Women’s hospital (BWH) where they identified how cancer cells extend their reach, which they named as “metastatic highjacking”. The research was published recently in Nature communications.

Cancer cells invading a blood vessel are seen on the left. In the image on the right, a metastatic cancer cell forms nanoscale bridges with endothelial cells lining blood vessels and injects miRNA through these nanobridges to control the endothelial cells. (Source: Harvard Gazette/ Shiladitya Sengupta)

Shiladitya Sengupta, the corresponding author had been studying the cancer cell communication for past five years and tried to investigate the cell to cell communication as the key model. Associated researcher, Elazer Edelman with Sengupta started off with simple experiment. They constructed a 3D tumour matrix with complete endothelial cells, and to it added metastatic breast cancer cells. The observation was dismayed them as metastatic breast cancer cells instead of forming a sphere by adhering together, they spread out along the model’s blood vessels. While observing under scanning electron microscope they found long, thin tubes extending outward from the cells connecting the normal cells by cancer cells. Due to this the molecular profiles of these normal cells changed, and they hypothesized that these changes are due to transfer of microRNAs through the nanoscale bridges. On further closer observation, they found that in transformed endothelial cells contain two microRNAs which is responsible for metastasis.

Researchers then targeted the nanoscale bridges with chemical compounds to prevent cell to cell communication between normal endothelial cells and the cancer cells. They did both in laboratory constructed model and also in mouse model, where pharmacological agents including docetaxel (used to treat metastasis breast cancer) decreased the nanoscale bridges. In mice pretreated with pharmacological agents did show significant decrease of metastatic tumour syndromes.

Further Reading and Journal source: Nature communication
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Compound to trigger innate immune system to fight against viruses

Researchers from UW Medicine and associated collaborators developed a drug like molecule that can able to activate innate immune system to control range of RNA viruses like West Nile, Hepatitis C, Dengue, Respiratory syncytial, Nipah, Influenza A, Lassa and even Ebola. The research was published recently in Journal of Virology, which had shown promising evidence for creating a broad-spectrum of antiviral.

Cells under a microscope in a UW Medicine Immunity Lab.
Source: UW Health News/Dennis Wise

Michael Gale Jr., professor in Immunology at the University of Washington and director at UW Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease reported at UW Health Science news, “Our compound has an antiviral effect against all these viruses”.

The molecule which is present in all of our cells called RIG-I is a cellular protein called pathogen recognition receptor. These receptors can able to detect viral RNA and signal innate immune system to trigger essential mechanisms to limit and control the viral infection. The signal able to induce many innate immune responses and expression of antiviral genes to limit the viral infection. Such activation was proved with successful experiments on cells and in mice. Researchers reported that next step would be to test dosing and to look for stability in animal models and then finally over humans. The whole process would be expected to take around 5years.


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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Observing life in three days

European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany developed a new light sheet microscope that can allow scientists to view first two to three days of mouse’s embryo’s life starting from the development of fertilized egg to the stage of implant of mother’s uterus. The findings and methods were published in Nature methods.

Scientists can now view and track the first days of a mouse embryo's life. 
Source: EMBL/ Julius Hossain


“When I first saw the videos, I said ‘This is a breakthrough – nobody has ever seen this before!’” says Jan Ellenberg, who led the work. “The beginning of our own lives looks like this, and we could never look at it before. Now there’s so much we can learn!” (as reported to EMBL news release) Please view the following videos.


Giving rise of first cell to daughter cell, then to granddaughter cells and so on now can be tracked easily at any given moment to know each cell’s family tree. This would enable the scientists to identify crucial turning point in life of embryonic stage.

The finding:
In an embryo of eight (8) cells, the direction of division changes being random for single division. At a single moment, researchers observed most of embryo’s cells divide in same direction, i.e. one daughter cell form inside the embryo and other one outside. That is the point from where the cell’s lineage is set. The inside cell would develop the embryo, while the outside would become the part of placenta that would support and nurture it in uterus.



Further reading: Petr Strnad, Stefan Gunther, Judith Reichmann, Uros Krzic, Balint Balazs, Gustavo de Medeiros, Nils Norlin, Takashi Hiiragi, Lars Hufnagel, Jan Ellenberg. Inverted light-sheet microscope for imaging mouse pre-implantation developmentNature Methods, 2015; DOI:10.1038/nmeth.3690
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Gene in petunia knows how to control the amount of UV absorbed

A recent research published in the journal Nature genetics highlights a new gene in petunia plants which is responsible to control the amount of UV absorbed by the flower, that help to attract pollinators. The international team of researchers underwent genetic study over plant to unfold a mystery about how petunias adapt to attract different pollinators.

Mutation of the MYB-FL gene by a transposon causes the reciprocal alteration of flavonol and anthocyanin pigments in the petal causing the contrasting sector. (Source: Phy.Org)
Petunia plant is dependent on different pollinators. It is well known that plants adapt themselves to attract different pollinators, but the exact mechanism remained unknown unless this mysterious result came to display. In their experiment, the researchers focussed over genetic makeup of three different species of petunias to attract three different pollinators – bees, hawkmoths and hummingbirds.

Among the three pollinators they found that only hawkmoths absorbed the highest amount of UV. They narrowed down their investigation to the genes of the three species, which made them found about a single gene MYB-FL. Individual testing made them found that mutations in this gene allowed the flower of the plant to absorb more or less UV light by fluctuating the amount of flavonol. The researchers believe that the amount of UV absorbed allows more pollinators to attract. The deduced that naturally occurring mutations in this gene causing different pollinator to be attracted which give rise to new species.


In conclusion, they suggest that this shift was made long back ago, from bees to hawkmoths attraction leading to different species development only possible by MYB-FL mutation. The mutation gave rise to regulated amount of UV as required.

For more details: Hester Sheehan et al. MYB-FL controls gain and loss of floral UV absorbance, a key trait affecting pollinator preference and reproductive isolation, Nature Genetics (2015). DOI: 10.1038/ng.3462Gene in petunia knows how to control the amount of UV absorbed
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