March 26, 2010
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Why Did the Duck Kill the Chicken? Well… a scientific explanation is RIG-I. Ducks are resistant to influenza viruses but may by asymptomatic carriers. One of the reasons for ducks’ resistance is because ducks express the RIG-I protein that senses the presence of the viruses. Chickens, however, do not appear to express RIG-I or a similar protein and have no method to detect the presence of viruses to illicit an immune response. This could have implications to the poultry industry who do not want to see their entire farm wiped out by a viral outbreak and may want to start breeding transgenic chickens expressing RIG-I. The discovery was led by Dr. Katharine Magor and her team at the University of Alberta and is published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Promoting Cancer Cell Growth: The YB-1 (Y-box binding protein-1) transcription factor is a known oncogene that is expressed in a significant percentage of breast cancers. In this study, scientists demonstrated that YB-1 induces the expression of CD44 and CD49f, which are associated with cancer stem cells and used as stem cell markers. Although they do not make a direct link to breast cancer stem cells, they suggest that it is this link that explains why YB-1 expressing cancers are resistant to drugs such as paclitaxel and are associated with disease recurrence and poor outcome. The principal investigator of the study was Dr. Sandra Dunn at the University of British Columbia. Details of the study were reported in Cancer Research.
Knock, knock… Let Me In: A transporter protein that is selectively expressed in blood cells can be manipulated to facilitate the entry of cancer drugs into the cell. This is extremely important for new treatment regimes against blood cancers such as AML and other leukemias. Researchers found that the Human Carnitine Transporter encoded by the SLC22A16 gene acts as a gateway and can mediate the uptake of the polyamine class of drugs such as the anti-cancer agent Bleomycin. Dr. Dindial Ramotar, Université de Montréal, first demonstrated this in yeast cells and now in human cells as reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Please, No More Radiation: A genetic mutation in the p53 gene in children with a rare type of brain cancer – choroid plexus carcinoma (CPC) – is a new marker indicating a poor response to radiation therapy. It is unfortunate that this signals a more aggressive disease, however, this finding would relieve the patient of having to suffer through the difficulties of radiation. The inherited p53 mutation is associated with a condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome and is found in about 50% of CPC cases. Without the mutation, CPC patients treated by radiation have a good chance of recovery. The study, led by Dr. David Malkin at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, is published in the advance online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Mooooooooo: Scientists have finished sequencing the genome of two different types of cows – one beef and one dairy – using Life Technologies’ next generation SOLiD™ 3 System. It cost $130K and took only seven months to complete. In comparison, it cost $50M and four years, finishing in 2009, to sequence the first cow. The genomic information is important to the industry for making breeding decisions and to identify genetic markers of specific desirable traits. So that T-bone steak waiting for you to grill up this summer will be even juicier and tastier. The Bovine Genomics Program at the University of Alberta led by Dr. Stephen Moore performed the sequencing study.
March 13, 2009
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Training Brains: Sheena Josselyn’s lab at SickKids specifically erased a fear memory in mice by selectively ablating CREB neurons using an inducible diptheria toxin. Let me break this down, because it’s so unbelievably cool:
- they trained mice to be afraid of a sound,
- then they destroyed some specific cells in the brains of the mice,
- then the mice forgot that they were afraid of the sound.
The mice were subsequently able to learn new things, like how to find cheese in a maze, and were even able to learn to be afraid of the same sound again. Between this and the mind-reading experiment in the UK this week, it’s enough to give you a serious bout of insomnia … which often lasts over a year, according to researchers at Laval.
Gout Rout: Dr. Hyon Choi and colleagues at the University of British Columbia reported in Monday’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, that Vitamin C appeared to lower the levels of uric acid in the blood, and that men who take in more vitamin C appear to be less likely to develop gout, a painful type of arthritis.
Beef Relief: Researchers using Bioniche’s E. coli O157 vaccine, Econiche™, published a study in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease showing that vaccinated cattle were 92% less likely to be colonized with E. coli O157:H7 than non-vaccinated cattle (odds ratio (OR)=0.07, p=0.0008). This is the second published study demonstrating more than 90% effectiveness of the Bioniche vaccine against colonization.
- Michael Taylor’s lab at SickKids discovered a family of eight genes that are mutated in patients with the most common childhood brain cancer. The research is published in Nature Genetics.
- Hans Knecht at Université de Sherbrooke, Sabine Mai at the University of Manitoba and colleagues published a paper in Leukemia identifying cytological changes associated with the transition from mononuclear Hodgkin cells (H cells) to diagnostic multinuclear Reed–Sternberg cells (RS cells), a critical step in the development of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- A group out of British Columbia published a study supporting the use of Resonant Medical’s Clarity system for the effective planning and treatment of breast cancer. Resonant Medical (Montreal, Canada) develops, manufactures and commercializes 3D ultrasound image-guided adaptive radiotherapy products.
- The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer study, a 30-year cancer study involving 300,000 Canadians, was announced nationally last summer, and is now underway in Atlantic Canada. Dr. Louise Parker of Dalhousie University and the Izaak Walton Killam Health Centre is the principal investigator in the Atlantic region for the $42-million project. The study will gather massive amounts of information about what patients eat, exercise, their body shapes, weight, etc.
- According to a study in Lancet Oncology by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Brain Tumour and Radiation Oncology Groups and the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group, nearly 10 percent of brain cancer patients who received radiation in combination with chemotherapy were still alive five years after diagnosis, the best long-term survival rate ever reported for a group of patients stricken with the aggressive tumor. This treatment parallels the approach used by cancer specialists to treat Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), who was diagnosed in May with a malignant brain tumor.