Page 1,140«..1020..1,1391,1401,1411,142..1,1501,160..»

Gene Might Boost Risk for Obesity

SUNDAY, Feb. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A new animal study suggests that a genetic mutation could put certain people at higher risk for becoming obese if they eat high-fat diets.

At the moment, the practical uses of the research seem to be limited, but physicians could conceivably test people for the mutation and recommend that they avoid certain kinds of diets, said study co-author Dr. Gozoh Tsujimoto, a professor at Kyoto University's department of genomic drug discovery science in Japan. It may also be possible, Tsujimoto said, to eventually give people drugs to combat the effects of the mutation.

If that happens, there would be "a new avenue for personalized health care," Tsujimoto said.

Scientists have been busy studying genetic links to obesity that could make some people more prone to gain extra weight. Two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Excess pounds contribute to a variety of diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

In the new study, researchers looked at the component of the body's internal communication system that plays a role in the regulation of appetite and the production of fat cells.

The investigators found that mice that didn't have the component were 10 percent fatter than other mice when all were fed a high-fat diet. Mice without the component also developed higher intolerance to glucose.

Research conducted in animals does not always translate into humans, and much more research is needed. However, the researchers found that Europeans with the genetic mutation, known as GPR120, were more likely to be obese.

"Our study for the first time demonstrated the gene responsible for diet-induced obesity," Tsujimoto said.

According to Tsujimoto, more than 3 percent of Europeans have the trait. The next step for researchers is to study its prevalence in Japanese, Korean and Chinese people.

What can be done with the knowledge from the study?

Tsujimoto said physicians could advise people with the trait to avoid high-fat diets. A test is available to detect the trait and it costs about $200 in Japan, Tsujimoto said.

While medications could potentially be developed that would reverse the effects of the genetic trait, there are no such drugs now, Tsujimoto added.

Ruth Loos, director of Genetics of Obesity and Related Metabolic Traits at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, said "these findings provide another piece of what turns out to be the very large puzzle that describes the causes of obesity."

Consistent findings in mice and humans have put the trait "more firmly on the obesity map and provides a new starting point for more research into the function of this gene," said Loos.

"This is only the beginning of likely many years of research to disentangle the physiological mechanisms that lie behind the link between this gene and obesity risk," she said. "It is only when we understand the physiology and biology better that one can start thinking of developing a drug."

The study appears online Feb. 19 in the journal Nature.

More information

For more on obesity, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Original post:
Gene Might Boost Risk for Obesity

Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Yosemite's alpine chipmunks take genetic hit from climate change

ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2012) — Global warming has forced alpine chipmunks in Yosemite to higher ground, prompting a startling decline in the species' genetic diversity, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study, appearing Feb. 19, in the advance online publication of the journal Nature Climate Change, is one of the first to show a hit to the genetic diversity of a species because of a recent climate-induced change in the animals' geographic range. What's more, the genetic erosion occurred in the relatively short span of 90 years, highlighting the rapid threat changing climate can pose to a species.

With low genetic diversity a species can be more vulnerable to the effects of inbreeding, disease and other problems that threaten species survival, the researchers said.

"Climate change is implicated as the cause of geographic shifts observed among birds, small mammals and plants, but this new work shows that, particularly for mountain species like the alpine chipmunk, such shifts can result in increasingly fragmented and genetically impoverished populations," said study lead author Emily Rubidge, who conducted the research while a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. "Under continued warming, the alpine chipmunk could be on the trajectory towards becoming threatened or even extinct."

Rubidge worked with Craig Moritz, professor of integrative biology and director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology; James Patton, professor emeritus of integrative biology and curator of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology; and Justin Brashares, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

The new findings build upon previous research that found major shifts in the range of small mammals in Yosemite National Park since the early 1900s. In 2003, biologists at UC Berkeley began an ambitious resurvey of Yosemite's birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, retracing the steps originally taken between 1914 and 1920 by Joseph Grinnell, founder and former director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

The Grinnell Resurvey Project, led by Moritz and museum colleagues, found that many small mammals in Yosemite moved or retracted their ranges to higher, cooler elevations over the past century, a period when the average temperature in the park increased by 3 degrees Celsius, or about 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is no surprise that the alpine chipmunk (Tamias alpinus) would be more sensitive to the temperature change, since it is a high-elevation species endemic to California's Sierra Nevada, the researchers said. In the early 1900s, Grinnell and colleagues sighted alpine chipmunks at elevations of 7,800 feet. Now, the alpine chipmunk appears to be sticking to even higher elevations, retracting its range by about 1,640 feet upslope.

To test the genetic impact from that loss of geographic range, researchers compared genetic markers from 146 modern-day alpine chipmunks with those from 88 of their historical counterparts. Samples were collected from seven paired sites throughout Yosemite.

As a control, the researchers also looked at the genetics -- both historic and modern -- of lodgepole chipmunks (Tamias speciosus), a lower elevation species that had not changed its range over the past century.

The analysis of genetic markers revealed a significant decline in "allele richness" among the recently sampled alpine chipmunk populations compared with their historic counterparts. Moreover, the researchers noted that the modern chipmunks were more genetically differentiated across sites than in the past, a sign of increased fragmentation in the alpine chipmunk population.

In comparison, there were no significant changes in genetic diversity detected among the lodgepole chipmunks, a species found at elevations from 4,900 to 9,800 feet.

"Much of what we read and hear about the effects of climate change on biodiversity is based on model projections and simulations, and these models typically involve many moving parts and lots of uncertainty," said Brashares. "Thanks to the baseline provided by Joseph Grinnell's pioneering efforts in the early 20th century, we are able to go beyond projections to document how climate is altering life in California. The research led by Emily is novel and important because it shows empirically that climate change has led to the loss of genetic diversity in a wild mammal over the last several decades."

Moritz added that this study exemplifies how patterns of change in California's ecosystems can be uncovered through analyses of fossil, historic and modern records.

"At the heart of this whole enterprise is the incredibly dense historic record and specimens we have at UC Berkeley from 100 years ago," said Moritz. "These collections allow us to conduct sophisticated analyses to better understand how ecosystems are reacting to environmental changes, and to create more detailed models of future changes."

Other study co-authors are Marisa Lim, a UC Berkeley undergraduate student in integrative biology; and Cole Burton, former UC Berkeley graduate student in environmental science, policy and management (now a research associate at the University of Alberta in Canada).

Funding for this research was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, the Yosemite Fund, the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation.

Recommend this story on Facebook, Twitter,
and Google +1:

Other bookmarking and sharing tools:

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of California - Berkeley.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

Emily M. Rubidge, James L. Patton, Marisa Lim, A. Cole Burton, Justin S. Brashares, Craig Moritz. Climate-induced range contraction drives genetic erosion in an alpine mammal. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1415

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

Read the original here:
Yosemite's alpine chipmunks take genetic hit from climate change

Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Research helps demystify a genetic disorder

Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis has spent much of her career focused on Fragile X, a genetic condition involving a mutation on the X chromosome that causes cognitive disabilities, behavioral issues and other problems.

New medications and therapeutic interventions have revolutionized life for people with the syndrome over the past 20 years, but Berry-Kravis, who runs the Fragile X Clinic and Research Program at Rush University in Chicago, said the most exciting discoveries are being explored now.

She was in Houston recently for a meeting of the Fragile X Clinical and Research Consortium at Texas Children's Hospital and spoke with Chronicle reporter Jeannie Kever.

Q. Tell me a little about Fragile X. How many people does it affect, and how does it manifest?

A. The description everyone uses is, it's the most common inherited form of intellectual disability. It's also the most common known genetic cause of autism. Children will seem pretty normal as young babies, but then they'll present to their pediatrician with a delay in walking or acquiring other motor milestones. A delay in talking is common. They'll have ongoing learning difficulties.

In elementary school, most of the guys with Fragile X will be in special education and have occupational therapy, speech therapy. Fragile X patients have a lot of behavioral difficulties, hyperactivity, problems paying attention, sometimes more aggressive behaviors.

It occurs in about 1 in 4,000 people. The gene that causes Fragile X is on the X chromosome. Men have only one copy of the X chromosome; girls have two. In girls, the normal gene on the other X chromosome tends to make the condition milder.

Q. What are researchers looking at?

A. The research that is particularly exciting, we have a mouse that has Fragile X. The mouse brain looks very similar to the human brain (of someone with Fragile X), so we can study the mechanisms of disease in the mouse.

Now we are working on treatments to target those pathways ... to try to improve the brain cell connections. We can show that certain agents actually work in the mouse to impact different behaviors.

Some of those are being translated into humans. Now, if a patient has attention problems, we would treat it with medicine. But these new medications are targeted to the actual (behavior-causing) mechanisms.

Q. Is that a new approach?

A. It hasn't been done before in a developmental disorder, so Fragile X has become very hot in the research world. What's happening here will become a model for developing treatments for Down syndrome and autism.

Currently, three drugs are in clinical trials. We don't know really how well the drugs are going to work in people yet. We're very hopeful, but we have to remind ourselves the human is not the mouse.

If these drugs do produce improvements, and particularly if they produce cognitive improvements, which has never been done, it would be pretty earth-shaking.

Q. What does that mean for people with Fragile X and their families?

A. In the past, patients with Fragile X were very difficult. They couldn't be handled in the schools. There weren't good medications to help with their symptoms. They would be excluded from society.

They also tended to acquire very few academic skills, because people believed they weren't teachable. Now we've seen a revolution in teaching these patients. Even without the new drugs, the advances in the past 10 or 20 years about early intervention, molding education to the child ... has made a big improvement.

With the advance of behavioral drugs, we can manage the behavior with medications and therapy and educational strategies. More of my patients now are getting out of high school and getting into a job.

If we could treat the biology at least a little bit with these new medications, we would see an added bonus.

Read more:
Research helps demystify a genetic disorder

Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Myriad Genetics’ Australian Cancer Gene Patents Go on Trial in Sydney

By Joe Schneider - Mon Feb 20 03:12:04 GMT 2012

Myriad Genetics Inc. (MYGN) and other biotechnology companies can’t monopolize treatment for diseases by patenting human genetic material, an Australian trial was told in the first challenge in the country over the ownership of DNA molecules.

Cancer Voices Australia, a national organization representing people diagnosed with cancer, and Yvonne D’Arcy, a Brisbane resident diagnosed with breast cancer, sued Myriad Genetics and Genetic Technologies Ltd. (GTG) in 2010 over a patent the companies have on a gene mutation associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

“Patents protect inventions, not discoveries,” Rebecca Gilsenan, a partner at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who represents the plaintiffs, said before the trial. “No Australian court has considered the question of whether isolated human genes are patentable.”

Gene-sequencing breakthroughs are spawning a multibillion- dollar market for drugs and medical tests. In the U.S., health regulators are developing rules for bolstering oversight of laboratory-developed tests and the U.S. Supreme Court may decide tomorrow whether to hear two cases involving patents over genetic material, including a review of an appeals court decision that upheld Myriad Genetics’ patents.

Myriad Genetics, based in Salt Lake City, contends in the Australian case that it’s not seeking to patent a gene but an artifically-created screening process aimed at identifying a mutation that makes people more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancers.

“You can’t use this to build another human being,” David Shavin, Myriad Genetics’ lawyer, told Federal Court Justice John Nicholas today in his opening statement at the start of the trial in Sydney, referring to the patented screening process. “All you can use it for is to compare” and identify the mutated genes.

Australian law allows for patents on artificially created products with economic benefits, including computer programs and business methods, Shavin said.

“The position in the United States is similar to, but not the same as, in Australia,” he said.

The trial is scheduled to take as long as eight days.

“There is a philosophical and ethical issue about the commercialization of the human body,” Gilsenan said. “The patent owner has a right to prevent people from studying and testing for the gene mutation, so gene patents can stifle research.”

The case is: Cancer Voices Australia v. Myriad Genetics. NSD643/2010. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at

Read the original here:
Myriad Genetics’ Australian Cancer Gene Patents Go on Trial in Sydney

Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Does Running Form Affect Running Injuries?

Competitive distance runners train hard, sometimes to the point of injury. Does a runner’s running form affect the likelihood of injury? In an interesting study just published online, researchers say yes – at least in terms of how the runner’s foot strikes the ground. The researchers analyzed data for mileage run, running pace, and injuries sustained by the members of Harvard University’s men’s and women’s distance running teams over a four-year period. They also videotaped each runner to determine their predominant “foot-strike style” – either heel-first or toe-first.

Nearly 3/4 of the group was injured each year. And when the researchers analyzed who was getting injured and what type of injuries were sustained, they found that the predominantly heel-strikers were twice as likely to suffer from repetitive stress injuries than were the predominantly toe-strikers. Interestingly, the type of shoe worn (well-padded versus minimal racing flats) didn’t seem to matter.

The researchers say they don’t know why the heel-strikers suffer more repetitive stress injuries, but they speculate that it may be because of a greater peak of impact energy when the heel strikes the ground first than when the toes strike first. And they’re not suggesting that heel-runners switch their running style unless they’re getting injured frequently, and then only if they’re willing to retrain slowly. After all, doing something unnatural and different could make matters worse.


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Patent Law 101 for University Scientists

Sometimes, during research, we come up with or stumble upon something that is not only unique, interesting and scientifically important, but also has possible commercial viability. The question you might then ask is, “Can I patent it?”  In other words, “Can I legally protect the intellectual property that I have created so that I have exclusive rights to pursue it for financial gain?” and “If I patent something, what rights will that grant?”

Unless you have already gone through the patent process you likely don’t have answers to these questions. Recently, a patent attorney - Jeremy Stipkala Ph.D., J.D., who has his own legal practice called Stipkala Law - visited the Meyer research group to help answer these questions. Jeremy received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University and then went on to get his J.D. from George Washington University Law School. His expertise allows him to share insight into the patent process from both a scientific and a legal perspective. He gave us a straight forward handout to provide some insight into the patent process. With his permission, I am now sharing this handout with you.

I have heard (not from Jeremy) several additional suggestions, tips and factoids relating to patents. I would like to share them with you:

- It is important to perform a cost-benefit analysis before pursuing a patent. Only a small percentage of patented ideas ever become commercially available and even a smaller percentage make money. The process of obtaining a defensible patent (explained in greater detail below) can be expensive ($25,000-30,000 in the US). Unless your potential return on investment is high, it might not be worth pursuing a patent.

- Getting a patent is the relatively easy part of the process (for example, a number of physically impossible patents have been issued over the years). The real test of a patent is whether or not it's defensible - i.e. will you win if a competing company decides to challenge your patent in court? The strength of you patent rests on a combination of how well the patent is written and your record of invention (your lab notebook). In this instance, a well-kept lab notebook can literally be the difference between millions of dollars and nothing.

- Try to avoid unnecessary commentary about the patent in email correspondences. If the patent is challenged in court, your email record could be used as evidence. For example, if you include comments like “I don’t think we can patent this idea.” the challengers could argue that you didn’t even support your own patent.

-The protection of intellectual property is covered in the United States Constitution in what is known as the Copyright Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8). This says:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

-Prior to 1980, any intellectual property produced from government-funded research in the United States was the property of the government. Under these rules the government accumulated 28,000 patents. Some argued that government ownership of these patents stifled the financial incentive for federally-funded researchers to create businesses. The passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 was an attempt to remedy this possible short-coming. One of the greatest impacts of the Bayh-Dole act was that U.S. universities, small businesses and non-profit organizations could own intellectual property created under federally-funded research (with several qualifiers). This is the reason many professors have created their own companies.

-One interesting provision of the Bayh-Dole act is that it grants the government march-in rights. Despite the intellectual property being owned by the original applicant, the march-in right allows funding agencies to basically ignore the exclusivity of the patent and grant a license to others in special circumstances. While no federal agency has yet exercised march-in rights, it is something to be aware of.

-There are two different policies that govern who can claim ownership of intellectual property: first-to-invent and first-to-file. Under the first-to-invent rule, the person who can prove they came up with an idea first is the owner, regardless of who obtained the patent first (This decision is usually based on the first written record of the idea). Under a first-to-file policy it does not matter who came up with the idea first, only who filed the patent application first. Currently, the United States is one of a few countries that practice the first-to-invent rule. However, starting on March 16th, 2013 the US will change to a first-to-file policy thanks to the passage of Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Hopefully, this law will simplify the patent process and reduce the amount of time spent in court trying to prove who was the first-to-invent.


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Man-made photosynthesis to revolutionise food and energy production

Improving natural photosynthesis to make new fuels and boost crop production is the focus of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded research presented at the American...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Cranky? Even mild dehydration can alter our moods

Most people only think about drinking water when they are thirsty; but by then it may already be too late. Even mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy level, and ability to think...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Puzzle Play Improves Math Skills

An important context for figuring out problems through reasoning is puzzle play, say researchers at University of Chicago. Psychologist Susan Levine and colleagues recently conducted a study that...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Researchers See Differences in Autism Brain Development as Early as 6 Months

The changes in brain development that underlie autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be detectable in children as young as 6 months, according to research reported online today in the American Journal...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

External fever cooling cuts early mortality in septic shock cases

Fever control using external cooling in sedated patients with septic shock is safe and decreases vasopressor requirements and early mortality, according to a new study from researchers in France....


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Congo delivers great news for chimpanzees

The Republic of Congo has formally expanded Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to protect an increasingly rare treasure: one of Africa’s most pristine forests and a population of “naïve”...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Keeping faculty a big problem for universities

Attracting and retaining the world’s brightest students is on the mind of every university official. But a new, unprecedented study in the journal Science suggests leaders in higher education...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

National guardsmen risk triple whammy: PTSD, booze, depression

Soldiers in the National Guard with no history of alcohol abuse are at significant risk of developing alcohol-related problems during and after deployment, according to a new study published in Drug...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Four new drugs will change prostate cancer care

After a decade and a half of near stagnation, four new drugs could help make advanced prostate cancer a chronic illness instead of a terminal disease, a leading Colorado prostate cancer expert says....


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

System lets robots continuously map their environment

Robots could one day navigate through constantly changing surroundings with virtually no input from humans, thanks to a system that allows them to build and continuously update a three-dimensional...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

State-owned oil companies increase price volatility and pollution

To maintain power, oil-rich governments often lean on their national oil companies in ways that hurt the environment, damage their companies’ efficiency and raise prices for the rest of the...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Autoinjectors offer way to treat prolonged seizures

Drug delivery into muscle using an autoinjector, akin to the EpiPen used to treat serious allergic reactions, is faster and may be a more effective way to stop status epilepticus, a prolonged seizure...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Engineers Find Inspiration for New Materials in Piranha-proof Armor

It’s a matchup worthy of a late-night cable movie: put a school of starving piranha and a 300-pound fish together, and who comes out the winner? The surprising answer—given the notorious...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Down’s syndrome stem cells used to model Alzheimer’s

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a new and innovative way to study Alzheimer’s disease in the lab. The stem cell technique, which allows researchers to track the disease over...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Military service changes personality

It’s no secret that battlefield trauma can leave veterans with deep emotional scars that impact their ability to function in civilian life. But new research led by Washington University in St. Louis...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Cancer cure may owe thanks to gamers

The cure for cancer comes down to this: video games. In a research lab at Wake Forest University, biophysicist and computer scientist Samuel Cho uses graphics processing units (GPUs), the technology...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Widening gap between rich and poor students

It’s long been known that the better off your family is, the better you tend to do in school. Yet despite this knowledge – and programs to help level the playing field – the classroom...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Email words predict if messages sent up/down the org chart

Members of the modern workforce might be surprised to learn that if they use the word “weekend” in a workplace email, chances are they’re sending the message up the org chart. Likewise the words...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Critical stage of embryonic development now observable

A novel approach in the study of the development of mammalian embryos was today (14 February) reported in the journal Nature Communications.  The research, from the laboratory of Professor Magdalena...


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith