Researchers discover that cancer cells go into hibernation to avoid chemotherapy effects.
- Cancer cells go into a state similar to hibernation when attacked by chemotherapy.
- The low-energy state is similar to diapause—the embryonic survival strategy of over a 100 species of mammals.
- Researchers hope to use these findings to develop new cancer-fighting therapies.
Cancer cells may go to into diapause, entering a drug-tolerant persister (DTP) state.
A new study on mice showed that ginger may counter certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome.
- A new Michigan Medicine study on mice suggests that the primary bioactive compound of ginger root, 6-gingerol, could help counter the autoimmune disorders lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome.
- The researchers found that the mice had lower levels of NETs (which play a role in the pathogenesis of lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome by stimulating autoantibody formation) after being giving 6-gingerol.
- 6-gingerol won't be able to be the primary therapy for individuals with lupus or active antiphospholipid syndrome, but the research team is eager to see if the natural supplement offers help to those at high risk for developing the diseases.
Treating lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome<p>Specifically, the researchers looked at lupus, which attacks the body's own immune system, along with antiphospholipid syndrome (often associated with lupus), which causes blood clots. Both the diseases cause widespread inflammation and ravage organs overtime. In mice with either of the disease, 6-gingerol stopped the neutrophil extracellular trap release caused by the diseases' production of autoantibodies.<br><br>"Neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs, come from <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/white+blood+cells/" target="_blank">white blood cells</a> called neutrophils," explained lead author Ramadan Ali, Ph.D <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-01-ginger-counters-autoimmune-diseases-mice.html" target="_blank">in a press release</a>. "These sticky spider-web like structures are formed when autoantibodies interact with receptors on the neutrophil's surface."</p><p>The webs, according to Ali, play a fundamental role in the pathogenesis of lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome in which they set off autoantibody formation and contribute to clots in blood vessels and other damage. </p>
Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDczMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzQwMjk3Nn0.-sJTlsLQ9_0lz9nIjjx9zL2HzsBBPyiv-B48GOlTfzQ/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C312%2C0%2C312&height=700" id="9cfd3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee0f26f2d0aa12551b6cf2fab0ab71f7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
What's next?<p>The study was done on rodent models. However, the authors think that the promising preclinical data, which showed that 6-gingerol has surprising anti-neutrophil properties that may guard against the progression of certain autoimmune diseases, encourages the clinical trial development. </p><p>"As for basically all treatments in our field, one size does not fit all. But, I wonder if there is a subgroup of autoimmune patients with hyperactive neutrophils who might benefit from increased intake of 6-gingerol," Knight said, noting that it will be important to look and analyze neutrophils before and after treatment so to determine the subgroup most likely to see benefit. </p><p>While 6-gingerol won't be able to be the primary therapy for individuals with lupus or active antiphospholipid syndrome, the research team is eager to see if the natural supplement offers help to those at high risk for developing the diseases. </p><p>"Those that have autoantibodies, but don't have activated disease, may benefit from this treatment if 6-gingerol proves to be a protective agent in humans as it does in mice," Ali said.</p><p>"Patients with active disease take blood thinners, but what if there was also a natural supplement that helped reduce the amount of clots they produce? And what if we could decrease their autoantibodies?"</p>
Giving herbal medicine a deeper look<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDcyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzk0ODAxMX0.WSI8bt0eK1tb3_C59TWbm_VBjzEmr8qZMe9sjydAR8A/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C703%2C0%2C703&height=700" id="8750f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac0e4587ed052bcf45be609ac47fa628" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
bulbs of garlics
Porcine gene edits may allow such transplants without rejection.
- A company called Revivicor has received clearance from the FDA to use their genetically modified pigs for medical use or as food.
- The pigs lack genes for alpha-gal sugar, which human bodies reject.
- Revivicor anticipates the first human transplant trials as early as this year.
Waiting lists<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2NTc2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3Mjk1Nzk2M30.4ZzZpCgUitKf03AYJeAwIbFCMoaeuEUKnbOexWuar1Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="0349f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac2e62bb595a203a6ce81bb646e6e618" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="821" />
Credit: Talaj/Adobe Stock/Big Think<p>The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration <a href="https://www.organdonor.gov/statistics-stories/statistics.html" target="_blank">says</a> that 109,000 Americans are currently waiting for organ transplants. Seventeen people die each day while waiting, and every nine minutes a new name goes on the waiting list.</p><p>Companies such as Revivicor are hoping to meet this need with <a href="https://web.stanford.edu/dept/HPST/transplant/html/frequently_asked_questions.html" target="_blank">xenotransplants</a>, in which organs from non-human species are transplanted into humans. Scientists have been seeking a way to perform successful xenotransplantation for decades—a newborn referred to publicly as "Baby Fae" rejected a transplanted baboon heart as far back as 1984.</p><p>Ayares says his company is "right on the cusp" of overcoming such rejection issues, anticipating their first transplants may occur in 2021 or 2022.</p><p>Animal tissue may also find use in the formulation of medications.</p>
Rejection<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2NTg1OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzA2Mjc0OH0.pN1W_Vupa5LpYUoq9tHBTQBqRPpdZw6HneRsKmG0vD4/img.jpg?width=980" id="e2d4d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6675d842b366bec68fc612fbeb380930" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="617" />
Credit: ustas /Adobe Stock<p>The rejection problem stems from the human body's immune system expelling cells from other animals as foreign substances. (Rejection can also be an issue with human-to-human transplants.)</p><p>In 2003, Revivicor began development of GalSafe pigs by removing a gene that appears on the surface of porcine cells, and that produces a sugar called "alpha-gal." It's believed that alpha-gal sugar is the agent that causes the most acute rejections experienced with heart and kidney transplants.</p><p>Alpha-gal is also implicated in a meat food-allergy that occurs after a person is bitten by a Lone Star tick that leaves alpha-gal sugar behind in its victims' skin. Over time, the individual develops an allergy to pork, red meat, and lamb. Revivicor's Gal Pigs may one day be available to such people as non-allergenic pork.</p><p>Revivicor's manipulation of pig genes to support xenotransplantation compatibility doesn't end with eliminating alpha-gal sugar. Today's GalPig carries a total of 10 different genomic modifications—four pig genes have been turned off and six human genes have been introduced.</p>
Tests so far<p>The company, working with the National Institutes of Health, says that they managed to avoid rejection of pig hearts transplanted into baboons for six years, though these didn't replace the animals' own, original hearts. Rather, the pig hearts were transplanted into the abdomens of the baboons simply to assess rejection. Ayares also says GalPig kidneys survived in monkeys for over six months, though it's unclear if they were functioning as kidneys or simply implanted.</p><p>For human trials, Revivicor plans to begin with kidney transplants before attempting heart replacements. They expect to perform these early trials with people awaiting human transplants. XenoTherapeutics of Boston is already testing GalPig skin transplants as a temporary measure for burn victims as their own skin regenerates.</p><p>Other companies are also exploring porcine genetic modifications for xenotransplants, including eGenesis in Boston and its partner Qihan Biotech in Zhejiang, China, who are using CRISPR to perform gene edits.</p>
A new antibiotic hits germs with a two pronged attack.
- Antibiotic resistance is a big problem, but not many new drugs are currently under development.
- A recent discovery may give us a new antibiotic that is effective against a wide range of germs, including those resistant to other drugs.
- The new drug's mechanism also appears to signal the immune system, helping to amplify its response.
The delicate art of carpet bombing bacteria<p> The trick with finding any antibiotic is to identify a substance that can damage bacterial cells without also harming the cells of the animal they are making sick. This is a relatively simple concept, but a difficult problem to get around. </p><p>Researchers at the <a href="https://wistar.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Wistar Institute</a> dealt with it by selecting something unique to bacteria, which was important in their functioning to focus on, and then finding chemicals that would disrupt it. They chose a metabolic pathway, known as the non-mevalonate pathway, which is used to create molecules necessary for the bacteria cell to survive. They then selected an enzyme in this pathway, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4-Hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl_diphosphate_reductase" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">IspH</a> enzyme, to target specifically.</p><p>Using computer models, the researchers screened several million existing compounds and substances to determine which ones would bind to IspH and then began experiments with the most promising candidates. A new, synthetic IspH inhibitor was created as a result of this.</p>
How it works<p>The molecules that IspH helps to make are required in bacteria for respiration and repairing the cell wall. When this new antibiotic attaches to them and keeps them from doing their job, the cell either dies because it can't breathe or keep its insides in, or it stays alive but is unable to function normally. Both of these methods are commonly seen in other antibiotics. By either killing off the germs or slowing them down, they give the immune system time to step up and keep the infection under control.</p><p>The antibiotic was also found to amplify the response of the immune system. In tests involving mice, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_delta_T_cell" target="_blank">Gamma Delta T-cells</a>, an important part of the immune system, activated at higher rates, often leading to better outcomes. This effect appears to be caused by the disruption to the bacteria; their impaired function caused them to signal themselves to the immune system.</p><p>This gives the new drug a dual function, which is hypothesized to not only make it quite effective but also may help prevent bacteria from developing resistance to it. It is thought that bacteria being hit from both directions are less likely to mutate responses to both.</p><p>IspH is a common enzyme in bacteria. Unlike some antibiotics, which are effective only against a narrow range of similar germs, this one may prove effective against a wide variety of microbes includes ones that are resistant to other drugs.</p><p>The researchers are, justly, proud of their discovery. Farokh Dotiwala, the study's lead author, suggested the finding may be more than just the discovery of a new drug in a <a href="https://wistar.org/news/press-releases/wistar-reports-new-class-antibiotics-active-against-wide-range-bacteria" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">press release:</a></p><p>"We believe this innovative DAIA strategy may represent a potential landmark in the world's fight against AMR, creating a synergy between the direct killing ability of antibiotics and the natural power of the immune system."</p>
So, I presume I can get this tomorrow?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/iKCjqII0UQU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Not quite. This was an initial study conducted in mice, various kinds of plasma, and in test tubes. </p><p>While the results were promising, it will take some time before further studies are conducted and the drug becomes widely available. Additionally, while the study suggests the new drugs may be more effective against certain kinds of bacteria than existing antibiotics, exactly how well it works in humans remains to be seen.</p><p>Beyond that, if it is used as a front line drug or as a last resort is still to be determined. Future circumstances, dictated by what diseases we'll face, will likely answer that question.</p>
There is a lot we don't know about psychedelics, but what we do know makes them extremely important.
- Having been repressed in the 1960s for their ties to the counterculture, psychedelics are currently experiencing a scientific resurgence. In this video, Michael Pollan, Sam Harris, Jason Silva and Ben Goertzel discuss the history of psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin, acknowledge key figures including Timothy Leary and Albert Hoffman, share what the experience of therapeutic tripping can entail, and explain why these substances are important to the future of mental health.
- There is a stigma surrounding psychedelic drugs that some scientists and researchers argue is undeserved. Several experiments over the past decades have shown that, when used correctly, drugs like psilocybin and LSD can have positive effects on the lives of those take them. How they work is not completely understood, but the empirical evidence shows promise in the fields of curbing depression, anxiety, obsession, and even addiction to other substances.
- "There's a tremendous amount of insight that can be plumbed using these various substances. There's also a lot of risks there, as with most valuable things," says artificial intelligence researcher Ben Goertzel. He and others believe that by making psychedelics illegal, modern governments are getting in the way of meaningful research and the development of "cultural institutions to guide people in really productive use of these substances."