Archive for the ‘Cholesterol’ Category

NEW ADVANCE ANNOUNCED IN REDUCING ‘BAD’ CHOLESTEROL

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Leicester, UK

Researchers identify enzyme that could be targeted to help body tackle LDL’s

Scientists from the University of Leicester and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have announced a major advance towards developing drugs to tackle dangerous, or ‘bad’, cholesterol in the body.

Prof. John Schwabe
Prof. John Schwabe
University of Leicester
Prof. of Structural Biology
Photo:le.ac.uk

They have filed two patents for developing targeted drugs that would act as a catalyst for lowering levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Two research papers published by the academics enhance the understanding of the regulation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.

LDL, the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol, is often linked to medical problems like heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries.

In the body, cells in the liver produce an LDL receptor that binds LDL and removes it from the blood, thereby lowering cholesterol levels.

The scientists have characterised an enzyme called IDOL that plays a key role in regulating the amount of LDL receptor available to bind with ‘bad’ cholesterol. Therefore targeting the enzyme with drugs could increase the levels of LDL receptors present, thus lowering circulating cholesterol in humans.

Professor John Schwabe, Head of Biochemistry at the University of Leicester, said: “Development of a drug that interferes with IDOL’s activity could help lower levels of LDL. Our research has greatly enhanced our understanding of this important process.”

Prof John Schwabe, Dr Ben Goult and Dr Louise Fairall at the University of Leicester in collaboration with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) published their research in the top research journals: Genes & Development and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The research was funded by The Wellcome Trust, the NIH and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The study published in Genes & Development announced the first atomic structural information on IDOL and identified the E2 ligase, UBE2D that works with IDOL to degrade the LDL receptor.

In the second research article published in PNAS, the team elucidated the molecular basis for the stringent specificity of IDOL for the LDL receptor.

Professor Schwabe added: “Remarkably, IDOL only targets three proteins for degradation (all lipoprotein receptors) and this research paper greatly enhances our understanding of this specificity and identifies key residues involved in mediating this interaction.”

“A potential future drug that targets IDOL could be prescribed in conjunction with statin drugs, which also cut cholesterol levels by increasing production of the LDL receptor and these two studies make considerable headway towards this.”

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AMERICAN FIRST AT MONTREAL - PATIENT TREATED WITH BIOABSORBABLE HEART DEVICE

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Montreal, Canada, December 5, 2011
The interventional cardiology team at the Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) used the world’s first drug eluting bioresorbable vascular scaffold to successfully treat a woman suffering from coronary artery disease. This landmark procedure was performed by Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay, interventional cardiologist and coordinator of the Coronary Unit, as part of the ABSORB EXTEND clinical trial. This successful intervention was a first in North America.

Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay
Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay
Coronary Unit
Montreal Heart Institute
Photo:icm-mhi.org

A breakthrough that could change the lives of patients The patient, a woman in her sixties, had suffered from chest pain for a number of months. She was diagnosed with a severe lesion to the heart main artery. She responded favorably to the procedure, was discharged after 24 hours and now, one month after, has regained a normal way of life with no more chest pain.

The investigational ABSORB bioresorbable vascular scaffold, developed by global healthcare company Abbott, is an innovative therapy that restores blood flow by opening a clogged vessel and providing support to the vessel while it heals. Once the vessel can remain open without the extra support, the bioresorbable scaffold is designed to be slowly metabolized until the device dissolves after approximately two years, leaving patients with a treated vessel free of a permanent metallic implant. With no metal left behind, the vessel has the potential to return to a more natural state. After the device has been metabolized, the patient’s vessel is free to move, flex, pulsate and dilate similar to an untreated vessel.

For Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay, it was important to be part of this first intervention, since during his postdoctoral studies he worked on early models of bioresorbable vascular scaffolds. “Treatments for coronary artery disease have progressed tremendously from the days of balloon angioplasties and metal stents leading to improved clinical outcome in our patients,” said Dr. Tanguay, who is also an associate professor of Medicine at the Universite de Montreal. “By effectively opening up a blocked artery without leaving a permanent implant behind in the blood vessel, this bioresorbable vascular scaffold has the potential to revolutionize how we treat our patients.”

A revolution in the way we treat patients with coronary artery disease

This treatment is available in Canada as part of Abbott’s global ABSORB EXTEND clinical trial which is a significant milestone toward making this innovative technology available to heart disease patients in Canada. In Canada, the clinical trial is conducted at four centers, including the Montreal Heart Institute (Dr. Jean Francois Tanguay), Institut Universitaire de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie de Quebec (Dr. Eric Larose), University of Ottawa Heart Institute (Dr. Marino Labinaz) and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto (Dr. Christopher E. Buller). The ABSORB EXTEND trial will enroll approximately 1,000 patients from up to 100 centers in Europe, Asia Pacific, Canada and Latin America.

The device is made of polylactide, a proven biocompatible material that is commonly used in medical implants such as dissolvable sutures. ABSORB has CE Mark and is authorized for sale in Europe. It is under clinical investigation around the world with more than 500 patients treated with the device.

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ENVIRONMENT AND DIET LEAVE THEIR PRINTS ON THE HEART

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Cambridge, UK,
A University of Cambridge study, which set out to investigate DNA methylation in the human heart and the ‘missing link’ between our lifestyle and our health, has now mapped the link in detail across the entire human genome.

Dr. Roger Foo
Dr. Roger Foo
BHF Intermediate
Research Fellow
Cambridge University;
Hospitals NHS
Foundation Trust
Photo:cam.ac.uk

The new data collected greatly benefits a field that is still in its scientific infancy and is a significant leap ahead of where the researchers were, even 18 months ago. Researcher Roger Foo explains: “By going wider and scanning the genome in greater detail this time - we now have a clear picture of the ‘fingerprint’ of the missing link, where and how epigenetics in heart failure may be changed and the parts of the genome where diet or environment or other external factors may affect outcomes.”

The study originally began investigating the differences in DNA methylation found in the human heart. Researchers compared data from a small number of people with end stage cardiomyopathy who were undergoing heart transplantation, and the healthy hearts of age-matched victims of road traffic accidents.

DNA methylation leaves indicators, or “marks”, on the genome and there is evidence that these “marks” are strongly influenced by external factors such as the environment and diet. The researchers have found that this process is different in diseased and normal hearts. Linking all these things together suggest this may be the “missing link” between environmental factors and heart failure.

The findings deepen our understanding of the genetic changes that can lead to heart disease and how these can be influenced by our diet and our environment. The findings can potentially open new ways of identifying, managing and treating heart disease.

The DNA that makes up our genes is made up of four “bases” or nucleotides - cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymie, often abbreviated to C, G, A and T. DNA methylation is the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to cytosine.

When added to cytosine, the methyl group looks different and is recognised differently by proteins, altering how the gene is expressed i.e. turned on or off.

DNA methylation is a crucial part of normal development, allowing different cells to become different tissues despite having the same genes. As well as happening during development, DNA methylation continues throughout our lives in a response to environmental and dietary changes which can lead to disease.

As a result of the study, Foo likens DNA methylation to a fifth nucleotide: “We often think of DNA as being composed of four nucleotides. Now, we are beginning to think there is a fifth - the methylated C.”

Foo also alludes to what the future holds for the study: “…and more recent basic studies now show us that our genome has even got 6th, 7th and 8th nucleotides… in the form of further modifications of cytosines. These are hydroxy-methyl-Cytosine, formylCytosine and carboxylCytosine = hmC, fC and caC! These make up an amazing shift in the paradigm…”

As in most studies, as one question is resolved, another series of mysteries form in its place. The study shows that we are still on the frontier of Epigenetics and only just beginning to understand the link between the life we lead and the body we have.

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SAFFLOWER OIL EACH DAY MIGHT HELP KEEP HEART DISEASE AT BAY

Monday, March 21st, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio

A daily dose of safflower oil, a common cooking oil, for 16 weeks can improve such health measures as good cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and inflammation in obese postmenopausal women who have Type 2 diabetes, according to new research.

This finding comes about 18 months after the same researchers discovered that safflower oil reduced abdominal fat and increased muscle tissue in this group of women after 16 weeks of daily supplementation.

Martha A. Belury
Martha A. Belury
Associate professor
Human nutrition
Ohio State University
Photo: osu.edu

This combination of health measures that are improved by the safflower oil is associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that can increase risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

These new findings have led the chief researcher to suggest that a daily dose of safflower oil in the diet - about 1 2/3 teaspoons - is a safe way to help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

“The women in the study didn’t replace what was in their diet with safflower oil. They added it to what they were already doing. And that says to me that certain people need a little more of this type of good fat - particularly when they’re obese women who already have diabetes,” said Martha Belury, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

“I believe these findings suggest that people consciously make sure they get a serving of healthy oil in their diets each day - maybe an oil and vinegar dressing on a salad, or some oil for cooking. And this recommendation can be extended to everyone.”

The research appears online and is scheduled for future print publication in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

Safflower oil contains linoleic acid, which is a PUFA - a polyunsaturated fatty acid. Research dating back to the 1960s has suggested that these dietary oils from plant sources can help prevent heart disease, said Belury, who holds the Carol S. Kennedy professorship in nutrition. But attention to these fats has declined as omega-3 fish oils have gained popularity among consumers, she said.

“The health benefits of omega-3 PUFAs seem convincing, but I think there’s also a place for omega-6 PUFAs. We’ve known for a long time that polyunsaturated oils are very beneficial for cardiovascular disease prevention, and these data we are adding now show that these oils can also help with other aspects of metabolic syndrome, including even glycemic control,” Belury said. “We suspect it could be through a mechanism that is not yet identified.”

In the first study, published in September 2009, Belury and colleagues had compared the effects of safflower oil and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound naturally found in some meat and dairy products, on obese postmenopausal women with Type 2 diabetes. CLA had a reputation from previous studies for contributing to weight loss. Safflower oil’s association with reduced abdominal fat took the researchers by surprise.

For this current research, the scientists performed a secondary analysis of data collected from that clinical trial, applying a powerful statistical analysis to the results and also checking to see how long it took for any effects of the oils to appear in the women’s health profiles. The scientists had taken blood samples every four weeks during the study to obtain these measures.

In almost all cases in this analysis, safflower oil supplementation improved metabolic measures while CLA did not show any effects for glycemic or lipid control. Sixteen weeks of CLA supplementation did reduce total body fat and lowered the women’s body mass index (BMI), a common health measure of weight relative to height.

Several of the beneficial effects of safflower oil were evident after 16 weeks of supplementation. On average among all of the women tested, these included:

An increase in insulin sensitivity of about 2.7 percent as measured by a formula known as the quantitative insulin sensitivity check index. Higher insulin sensitivity is important for the transfer of sugar, or glucose, from the blood into the tissues, where it is used for energy. Insulin resistance, or lowered insulin sensitivity, is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes.

A small, but significant, .64 percent decrease in a blood protein called HbA1C, which is a marker of long term presence of excess glucose in the blood.

A roughly 17.5 percent decrease in C reactive protein, a protein in the blood that rises in the presence of inflammation. A growing body of research suggests that high levels of this protein increase the risk for a heart attack.

The researchers had documented in the previous study that safflower oil also lowered fasting blood sugar levels by between 11 and 19 points on average. Blood sugar is considered normal if it falls below 110 milligrams per deciliter; the women’s average blood sugar levels ranged from 129 to 148 after 16 weeks of safflower oil supplementation.

Within 12 weeks, the safflower oil led to a 14 percent increase in HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, as well as an increase in adiponectin, a hormone that regulates levels of blood sugar and fats and which influences insulin levels. Higher levels of adiponectin could be expected to increase the efficiency of dietary fat burning, Belury said.

People with metabolic syndrome generally have three or more of the following conditions: excess fat in the abdominal area, borderline or high blood pressure, cholesterol problems that foster plaque buildup in arteries, insulin resistance or glucose intolerance and a high level of triglycerides, a form of fat in the blood.

At the start of the study, the women were obese and had Type 2 diabetes, low HDL cholesterol and high levels of C-reactive protein and the HbA1c protein. Though in many cases their health measures were still high or low enough at the end of the study to leave them at increased risk for heart disease, Belury said the safflower oil could function as a complementary intervention in combination with medications used to control their disorders.

“We don’t know the long term effects of safflower oil from this study alone, but I certainly think it’s possible that the risk for cardiovascular problems could be significantly decreased in this high-risk group if supplementation were continued,” Belury said.

She noted that the total dose of dietary oils the women took between their normal diets and the safflower oil supplementation amounted to 9.8 percent of their daily calories - a level that falls within federal guidelines for vegetable oil consumption. The women had been instructed not to change their diets during the study, and self reports of their food intake showed that their eating habits did not change while they were taking the supplements.

“A small change in eating behavior to alter the fatty acid content of the diet might improve metabolic measures in people already consuming what is considered to be an adequate amount of dietary linoleic acid,” Belury said. “What is needed in our diet is PUFAs to help with cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women in this country.”

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HERBAL TEA - BENEFITS AND LORE

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Boston, MA

These days, there is a lot of talk about health benefits from drinking teas. Green, black, and oolong are considered the three major classes, and each comes from the age old Camellia sinensis tea bush. But there is an even wider variety of herbal teas - infusions derived from anything other than C. sinensis.

Diane McKay and Oliver Chen
Antioxidants Research
Laboratory scientists
Diane McKay and Oliver Chen
Photo: Stephen Ausmus

According to folklore, some herbal teas also provide benefits. But there is little clinical evidence on the effects of drinking these teas. Now, Diane McKay and Jeffrey Blumberg have looked into science based evidence of health benefits from drinking three of the most popular herbals in America. McKay and Blumberg are with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. Both work at the center’s Antioxidants Research Laboratory, which Blumberg directs.

One popular herbal, chamomile tea, has long been considered a soothing brew. In the early 20th century, it was mentioned in a classic children’s book about a little rabbit named Peter. At the end of a rough day, Peter’s mom served him some chamomile tea. Interestingly, when Blumberg and McKay reviewed scientific literature on the bioactivity of chamomile, they found no human clinical trials that examined this calming effect.

They did, however, publish a review article on findings far beyond sedation - describing test tube evidence that chamomile tea has moderate antioxidant and antimicrobial activities and significant antiplatelet clumping activity. Also, animal feeding studies have shown potent anti inflammatory action and some cholesterol lowering activity.

The researchers also published a review article describing evidence of bioactivity of peppermint tea. In test tubes, peppermint has been found to have significant antimicrobial and antiviral activities, strong antioxidant and antitumor actions, and some antiallergenic potential. When animals were fed either moderate amounts of ground leaves or leaf extracts, researchers also noted a relaxation effect on gastrointestinal tissue and an analgesic and anesthetic effect in the nervous system.

The researchers found several human studies involving peppermint oil, but they found no data from human clinical trials involving peppermint tea. McKay and Blumberg have concluded that the available research on herbal teas is compelling enough to suggest clinical studies.

McKay has led a human clinical trial to test whether drinking hibiscus tea affects blood pressure. She tested 65 volunteers, aged 30 to 70 years, who were pre or mildly hypertensive. Blood pressure readings of 120/80 or greater are considered a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

For 6 weeks, about half the group was randomly selected to drink 3 cups of hibiscus tea daily. The others drank a placebo beverage containing artificial hibiscus flavoring and color. All participants were advised to follow their usual diet and maintain their normal level of activity. Before the start of the study, blood pressure was measured twice - 1 week apart - and at weekly intervals thereafter.

The findings show that the volunteers who drank hibiscus tea had a 7.2 point drop in their systolic blood pressure (the top number), and those who drank the placebo beverage had a 1.3 point drop.

In a subgroup analysis of the 30 volunteers who had the highest systolic blood pressure readings (129 or above) overall at the start of the study, those assigned to drink hibiscus tea showed the greatest response to hibiscus tea drinking. Their systolic blood pressure went down by 13.2 points, diastolic blood pressure went down by 6.4 points, and mean arterial pressure went down by 8.7 points.

_____________

The 2010 study was published in the Journal of Nutrition. “This data supports the idea that drinking hibiscus tea in an amount readily incorporated into the diet may play a role in controlling blood pressure, although more research is required,” says McKay.
By Rosalie Marion Bliss, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

This research is part of Human Nutrition, an ARS national program (#107) described at www.nps.ars.usda.gov.

Diane L. McKay is with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington St., Boston, MA 02111-1524; (781) 608-7183.

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>>>>>Read more in our HeartVigor.com Herbal Tea Pages.

RESEARCHER LISTS MORE THAN 4,000 COMPONENTS OF BLOOD CHEMISTRY

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Edmonton, Alberta - Feb. 24, 2011
After three years of exhaustive analysis led by a University of Alberta researcher, the list of known compounds in human blood has exploded from just a handful to more than 4,000. “Right now a medical doctor analyzing the blood of an ailing patient looks at something like 10 to 20 chemicals,” said U of A biochemist David Wishart. “We’ve identified 4,229 blood chemicals that doctors can potentially look at to diagnose and treat health problems.”

Hannah Gardener, Sc.D.
Dr. David Wishart
University of Alberta
biochemist
Photo: ualberta.ca

Blood chemicals, or metabolites, are routinely analyzed by doctors to diagnose conditions like diabetes and kidney failure. Wishart says the new research opens up the possibility of diagnosing hundreds of other diseases that are characterized by an imbalance in blood chemistry.

Wishart led more than 20 researchers at six different institutions using modern technology to validate past research, and the team also conducted its own lab experiments to break new ground on the content of human blood chemistry.

“This is the most complete chemical characterization of blood ever done,” said Wishart. “We now know the normal values of all the detectable chemicals in blood. Doctors can use these measurements as a reference point for monitoring a patient’s current and even future health.”

Wishart says blood chemicals are the “canary in the coal mine,” for catching the first signs of an oncoming medical problem. “The blood chemistry is the first thing to change when a person is developing a dangerous condition like high cholesterol.”

The database created by Wishart and his team is open access, meaning anyone can log on and find the expanded list of blood chemicals. Wishart says doctors can now tap into the collected wisdom of hundreds of blood research projects done in the past by researchers all over the world. “With this new database doctors can now link a specific abnormality in hundreds of different blood chemicals with a patient’s specific medical problem,” said Wishart.

Wishart believes the adoption of his research will happen slowly, with hospitals incorporating new search protocols and equipment for a few hundred of the more than 4,000 blood-chemistry markers identified by Wishart and his colleagues.

“People have being studying blood for more than 100 years,” said Wishart. “By combining research from the past with our new findings we have moved the science of blood chemistry from a keyhole view of the world to a giant picture window.”

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NEW EXPLANATION FOR HEART HEALTHY BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE

Monday, February 7th, 2011

WASHINGTON

In time for the chocolate giving and chocolate noshing fest on Valentine’s Day, scientists are reporting discovery of how this treat boosts the body’s production of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) - the “good” form of cholesterol that protects against heart disease. Just as those boxes of chocolates get hearts throbbing and mouths watering, polyphenols in chocolate rev up the activity of certain proteins, including proteins that attach to the genetic material DNA in ways that boost HDL levels. Their report appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, one of 39 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.

Midori Natsume, Ph.D., and colleagues note that studies have shown that cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease by boosting levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and decreasing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. Credit for those heart-healthy effects goes to a cadre of antioxidant compounds in cocoa called polyphenols, which are particularly abundant in dark chocolate. Until now, however, nobody knew exactly how the polyphenols in cocoa orchestrated those beneficial effects.

The scientists analyzed the effects of cocoa polyphenols on cholesterol using cultures of human liver and intestinal cells. They focused on the production of apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), a protein that is the major component of “good” cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B (ApoB), the main component of “bad” cholesterol. It turns out that cocoa polyphenols increased ApoA1 levels and decreased ApoB levels in both the liver and intestine. Further, the scientists discovered that the polyphenols seem to work by enhancing the activity of so-called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs). SREBPs attach to the genetic material DNA and activate genes that boost ApoA1 levels, increasing “good” cholesterol. The scientists also found that polyphenols appear to increase the activity of LDL receptors, proteins that help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.

Other recent research on the health benefits chocolate published in ACS journals:

* New evidence that dark chocolate helps ease emotional stress

* Study finds that people are programmed to love chocolate

* Natural ACE inhibitors in chocolate, wine and tea may help lower blood pressure

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ENGINEERING TEAM INVENTS “LAB ON A CHIP” FOR FAST, INEXPENSIVE BLOOD TESTS

Monday, January 10th, 2011

KINGSTON, R.I
While most blood tests require shipping a vial of blood to a laboratory for analysis and waiting several days for the results, a new device invented by a team of engineers and students at the University of Rhode Island uses just a pinprick of blood in a portable device that provides results in less than 30 minutes.

Mohammad Faghri, URI professor
Mohammad Faghri
URI professor of
mechanical engineering
Photo: mcise.uri.edu

“This development is a big step in point of care diagnostics, where testing can be performed in a clinic, in a doctor’s office, or right at home,” said Mohammad Faghri, URI professor of mechanical engineering and the lead researcher on the project. “No longer will patients have to wait anxiously for several days for their test results. They can have their blood tested when they walk into the doctor’s office and the results will be ready before they leave.”

With the new lab on a chip technology, a drop of blood is placed on a plastic polymer cartridge smaller than a credit card and inserted into a shoebox sized biosensor containing a miniature spectrometer and piezoelectric micro pump. The blood travels through the cartridge in tiny channels 500 microns wide to a detection site where it reacts with preloaded reagents enabling the sensor to detect certain biomarkers of disease.

Several patents are pending on the invention.

Compared to similar devices in development elsewhere, the URI system is much smaller, more portable, requires a smaller blood sample, and is less expensive. While the sensor costs about $3,200, each test costs just $1.50, which is the cost for the plastic cartridge and reagents.

The first cartridges the researchers developed focus on the detection of C-reactive proteins (CRP) in the blood, a preferred method for helping doctors assess the risk of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular diseases. From 2002 to 2004 (the only years for which data are available), the number of CRP tests paid for by Medicare tripled from 145,000 to 454,000, and it is estimated that those numbers have quadrupled since then.

Faghri said that additional cartridges can be designed to detect biomarkers of other diseases. The researchers are already working to engineer the device to detect levels of the beta amyloid protein that can be used as a predictor of Alzheimer’s disease. The device can also be engineered to detect virulent pathogens, including HIV, hepatitis B and H1N1 (swine) flu.

The next generation of the device will incorporate a hand-held sensor that will reduce manufacturing costs. Faghri also envisions a further miniaturization of the invention that can be adapted as a smartphone application. By embedding the biosensor in the cartridge and using the computer power of the phone, as well as its wireless communication capabilities, Faghri believes that patients may be able to conduct the tests themselves and have the results transmitted immediately to their doctor’s office via their phone. Among many other benefits, this should help to significantly reduce health care costs.

“We are already making progress on many of the steps toward the next generation of the system, and it won’t be long before we can begin to commercialize it,” Faghri said.

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A NEW DRUG TARGET IN ATHEROSCLEROSIS: THE ANAPHYLATOXIN C5a

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For decades, doctors have looked at fitness levels, weight, and overall health risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Now, they may soon add a new risk factor to the list: activation of the complement system. The complement system is usually implicated in immune responses, but now there’s a role for it in cardiovascular disease. In a new research report appearing in the January 2011 print issue of the FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), scientists from Europe and the United States show that anaphylatoxin C5a, a protein released when complement is activated, contributes to atherosclerotic disease. C5a causes plaques to break free from where they would be anchored to ultimately cause blockages elsewhere in the body. This new discovery not only shows that C5a is a new marker for identifying risk for heart attack and stroke, but it also establishes C5a as a new therapeutic target for preventing these problems.

Johann Wojta, Ph.D.
Johann Wojta, Ph.D.
Photo: meduniwien.ac

“Given the huge impact of cardiovascular disease in general, and atherosclerosis in particular, on public health, we feel that unraveling mechanisms involved in the development and progression of the disease are of utmost importance,” said Johann Wojta, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the University of Vienna in Austria. “Our findings have identified a particular component possibly involved in the development of atherosclerosis as a target for future therapies.”

To make this discovery, Wojta and colleagues treated white blood cells with the C5a. In turn, these cells responded with the production of specific enzymes capable of dissolving the inner wall of atherosclerotic plaques in coronary or brain vessels. This causes the plaques to rupture, break free from where they are anchored, and ultimately create a blockage of the vessels, leading to the development of more serious problems such as heart attacks or strokes. The researchers also showed that C5a was present in blood vessels of patients with myocardial infarction, but not in cardiac patients without infarct. This suggests that inhibiting C5a might provide a therapeutic tool in the prevention or treatment of atherosclerosis, as well as other diseases with immune system participation such as arthritis.

“Up to now, anaphylatoxin C5a has been mainly implicated in immunologic diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor in Chief of the FASEB Journal. “But now, this study shows that C5a, a product of an activated complement system may be responsible for the devastating effects of atherosclerosis.”

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CALL FOR TRUTH IN TRANS FATS LABELING BY THE FDA

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Case Western Reserve study shows how deceptive food labels lead to increased risk of deadly diseases.

Eric Brand
Eric Brand
Photo: inkedin.com

Did you know that when you pick up a product promoted as trans fat free, you may still be ingesting a significant amount of this potentially harmful substance? An article by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine student Eric Brandt, published in the January/February 2011 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, reveals that misleading labeling practices can result in medically significant intake of harmful trans fat, despite what you read on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved labels. Indeed, consumers’ inability to identify high-risk foods may cause individuals to exceed the daily recommended value of 1.11 grams of trans fat from processed foods and lead to adverse long-term health side effects.

Ingestion of trans fat is a known public health concern. Top national health organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and American Heart Association, suggest trans fats be ingested in limited quantities. However, current FDA labeling protocol and policy prevents the public from accessing the true amount of trans fat contained in their food products.

Current law requires that fat content of greater than five grams be listed in one gram increments, less than five grams be listed in .5 gram increments, and lower than .5 grams as containing zero grams of fat. Meaning, if a product has .49 grams of trans fat, the label can list the trans fat content as zero, thus masking a significant amount of trans fat that can exceed recommended limits and potentially lead to various adverse health effects.

Trans fat consumption has been linked to increased risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, and sudden cardiac death. Because the daily recommended amount of trans fat from processed foods is only 1.11 grams, one would only need to consume a few deceptively labeled trans fat foods to exceed the healthy recommended intake. As few as three deceptively labeled trans fat items would exceed the healthy recommended intake; for example, consuming three serving sizes each with .49 grams of trans fat, totaling 1.47 grams. Despite what seems to be a small amount of trans fat to ingest, research shows that increasing daily trans fat consumption from .9% to 2.1%, or from two grams to 4.67 grams, will increase one’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%.

In an effort to adhere to its mission and responsibility in “helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to maintain and improve their health,” Brandt recommends the FDA revise its labeling protocol in order to prevent misleading the public about the amount of trans fat they are consuming. He recommends the FDA require food labels to report trans fat content in smaller increments, enabling consumers to recognize significant levels of trans fat in food products and allow one to properly manage their consumption. The suggested change will increase awareness of accurate food trans fat content, empower informed food choices, and improve public health outcomes.

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EATING HEALTHIER MEANS LIVING LONGER

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

St. Louis, MO - December 22, 2010
According to new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. These illnesses may be affected by diet. In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers investigated empirical data regarding the associations of dietary patterns with mortality through analysis of the eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten year period. They found that diets favoring certain foods were associated with reduced mortality.

By 2030, an estimated 973 million adults will be aged 65 or older worldwide. The objective of this study was to determine the dietary patterns of a large and diverse group of older adults, and to explore associations of these dietary patterns with survival over a 10 year period. A secondary goal was to evaluate participants’ quality of life and nutritional status according to their dietary patterns.

By determining the consumption frequency of 108 different food items, researchers were able to group the participants into six different clusters according to predominant food choices:

* “Healthy foods” (374 participants)
* “High-fat dairy products” (332)
* “Meat, fried foods, and alcohol” (693)
* “Breakfast cereal” (386)
* “Refined grains” (458)
* “Sweets and desserts” (339)

The “Healthy foods” cluster was characterized by relatively higher intake of low fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high calorie drinks, and added fat. The “High fat dairy products” cluster had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2% and whole milk and yogurt, and lower intake of poultry, low fat dairy products, rice, and pasta.

The study was unique in that it evaluated participants’ quality of life and nutritional status, through detailed biochemical measures, according to their dietary patterns. After controlling for gender, age, race, clinical site, education, physical activity, smoking, and total calorie intake, the “High fat dairy products” cluster had a 40% higher risk of mortality than the “Healthy foods” cluster. The “Sweets and desserts” cluster had a 37% higher risk. No significant differences in risk of mortality were seen between the “Healthy foods” cluster and the “Breakfast cereal” or “Refined grains” clusters.

According to lead author Amy L. Anderson, Ph.D., Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland, the “results of this study suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality. Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the “Healthy foods” dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population.”

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CONSUMING POLYUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS MAY LOWER THE INCIDENCE OF GUM DISEASE

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

St. Louis, MO - October 26, 2010
New study in Journal of the American Dietetic Association indicates link.

Asghar Naqvi, MD
Asghar Naqvi, MD
MPH,FRCP(C),FACC
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center
Harvard Medical School
Photo: harvard.edu

Periodontitis, a common inflammatory disease in which gum tissue separates from teeth, leads to accumulation of bacteria and potential bone and tooth loss. Although traditional treatments concentrate on the bacterial infection, more recent strategies target the inflammatory response. In an article in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found that dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like fish oil, known to have anti-inflammatory properties, shows promise for the effective treatment and prevention of periodontitis.

“We found that n-3 fatty acid intake, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are inversely associated with periodontitis in the US population,” commented Asghar Z. Naqvi, MPH, MNS, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. Thus, a dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis. Given the evidence indicating a role for n-3 fatty acids in other chronic inflammatory conditions, it is possible that treating periodontitis with n-3 fatty acids could have the added benefit of preventing other chronic diseases associated with inflammation, including stoke as well.”

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative survey with a complex multistage, stratified probability sample, investigators found that dietary intake of the PUFAs DHA and (EPA) were associated with a decreased prevalence of periodontitis, although linolenic acid (LNA) did not show this association.

The study involved over 9,000 adults who participated in NHANES between 1999 and 2004 who had received dental examinations. Dietary DHA, EPA and LNA intake were estimated from 24 hour food recall interviews and data regarding supplementary use of PUFAs were captured as well. The NHANES study also collected extensive demographic, ethnic, educational and socioeconomic data, allowing the researchers to take other factors into consideration that might obscure the results.

The prevalence of periodontitis in the study sample was 8.2%. There was an approximately 20% reduction in periodontitis prevalence in those subjects who consumed the highest amount of dietary DHA. The reduction correlated with EPA was smaller, while the correlation to LNA was not statistically significant.

In an accompanying commentary, Elizabeth Krall Kaye, PhD, Professor, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, notes that three interesting results emerged from this study. One was that significantly reduced odds of periodontal disease were observed at relatively modest intakes of DHA and EPA. Another result of note was the suggestion of a threshold dose; that is, there seemed to be no further reduction in odds or periodontal disease conferred by intakes at the highest levels. Third, the results were no different when dietary plus supplemental intakes were examined. These findings are encouraging in that they suggest it may be possible to attain clinically meaningful benefits for periodontal disease at modest levels of n-3 fatty acid intakes from foods.

Foods that contain significant amounts of polyunsaturated fats include fatty fish like salmon, peanut butter, and nuts.

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CARDIAC WAKEUP CALL FOR CANADIAN TEENS

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Montreal, Quebec - October 26, 2010
Poor sleep patterns and lack of proper sleep could be threatening thousands of Canadian adolescents with premature heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Brian McCrindle
Brian McCrindle,MD,
MPH,FRCP(C),FACC
Pediatric cardiologist
Hospital for Sick Children
Toronto, Canada
Photo: sickkids.ca

Poor sleep patterns and lack of proper sleep could be threatening thousands of Canadian adolescents with premature heart disease and stroke, warns Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher Dr. Brian McCrindle, a pediatric cardiologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

“Sleep disorders in kids are on the increase. They are marching hand in hand with other increasing cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity, a poor diet, and high levels of unhealthy cholesterol,” Dr. McCrindle today told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010, cohosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

“Teens who experience more disordered sleep - in terms of duration, quality, and pattern - have a higher body mass index and a correspondingly higher risk of overweight and obesity,” says Dr. McCrindle. “This, in turn, can lead to higher levels of cholesterol, another risk factor.”

Over 1,600 students in grade 9 (ages 14 to 16) participated in the Healthy Schools screening program run by Heart Niagara. Overall, 22 per cent of students rated their sleep as fairly or very bad. Fourteen per cent of students reported difficulty staying awake during the day one to two times a week. Five per cent reported problems staying awake during the day more than three times a week.

Significant numbers of children are already taking prescription or over the counter medications for sleep disorders, says Dr. McCrindle. Seventeen per cent of the students in this study reported regularly taking sleep medication.

The children who participated in the study used a questionnaire to track their overall sleep quality, frequency of sleep disturbances, and their use of sleep medication. Blood pressure, total blood cholesterol, and waist circumference measurement were also recorded.

Studies relate poor sleeping habits or not getting enough sleep with higher levels of blood pressure and other poor health conditions. And, conversely, physical inactivity and poor eating habits can affect one’s sleep. “It is a perfect example of harmful synergy at work,” says Dr. McCrindle. “It’s like the chicken and egg conundrum: lack of physical activity and poor food choices negatively affect quality of sleep - and on the other hand, lack of sleep can lead to being too tired to exercise and not taking the time to eat properly.”

Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson says that more than half of kids between the ages of five and 17 aren’t active enough to support optimal development. “Just as we’ve made it a priority to alert adults to the perils of an unhealthy lifestyle, we must start earlier than ever to ensure that our kids become properly educated from the start.”

Dr. Abramson says that a great place to start is at the school level, where our children spend many of their days. “The healthy choice should be the easy choice in schools,” she says. “One of the best ways to ensure kids get their 90 minutes of daily physical activity is a school environment which supports and promotes physical activity.”

She says we need to lead by example as adults to help kids have healthy lives outside the classroom as well. “Parents can be good role models. If we work together on achieving healthier lifestyles by eating healthfully and being physically active on a regular basis, hopefully this disturbing trend in poor sleep and risk factors in teens can be reduced.”

Dr. Abramson says if teens having serious difficulty with sleep should speak to their doctors to find solutions, which are available. For others she offers these sleeping tips:

- Commit to a sound sleep routine. Not getting enough sleep, or poor quality sleep, can make it very difficult to handle everyday stress.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday - even on weekends.
- Sleep primarily at night. If you nap during the day, keep your naps short. Save your longest sleep for the night.
- Get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
- Avoid upsetting conversations, arguments, or anything that causes you distress before bed.
- Don’t eat or drink large amounts before bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in the evening.
- Be physically active - regular activity can help with a more restful sleep, however, for some exercising right before bed may make getting to sleep more difficult.
- Go to bed when you are tired and turn out the lights.
- Life changes in the teen years cause stress, speak to a parent or doctor about ways to deal with anxiety.

According to Dr. McCrindle, one of the great healthcare deficiencies in Canada is that, although there is a push to recognize guidelines for management of risk factors in adults, there is nothing for our children.

“The bottom line is that sleep disorders seem to be on the increase among children and it is affecting their heart health,” he says. “That is very bad news indeed.”

This is the latest data from Heart Niagara Inc., a nonprofit corporation which partnered with school boards and public health officials in a grade 9 physical education curriculum enrichment program designed to prevent chronic disease.

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RIGHT FOODS AID MEMORY AND PROTECT AGAINST DISEASE

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Lund, Sweden, October 15, 2010
Results from a new dietary intervention study indicate that by a selection of food products you can obtain a tangible reduction of the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as well as improve cognitive functions.

Inger Björck
Inger Björck
Lund University
Antidiabetic Food Centre
Photo: www.lu.se

The test products were included in a food portfolio based on different food concepts with expected beneficial effects on risk factors of metabolic syndrome, i e type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Food that in different ways might subdue the low grade inflammation, the key factor in developing metabolic syndrome, was selected. Examples of food concepts that were included in the study are antioxidants, low GI food, wholegrain products and probiotics. The portfolio included, among others, food with slow carbohydrates, viscous dietary fiber, soy protein, oily fish, blueberries, almonds, cinnamon and vinegar.

Instead of studying each food concept separately they were combined in the same test diet with the aim to achieve, if possible, a more significant reduction of the harmful inflammation. Such a synergetic conception concerning food with focus on anti-inflammatory qualities is new - and resulted not only in moderate levels of inflammatory markers but also attenuated a number of other risk factors for the metabolic syndrome and improved cognitive performance.

The study has been carried out at Antidiabetic Food Centre at Lund University. The intervention included 44 healthy overweight adults. During periods of four weeks they were eating the especially designed food portfolio and a reference diet with low content of the components or qualities that characterized the food portfolio. Some products in the food portfolio are not yet available on the market as they were developed for the study. A number of different risk markers were registered before and after the end of the two test periods.

The results show that the food portfolio significantly reduced inflammation. Furthermore, LDL cholesterol was reduced by 33%, blood triglycerides by 14%, blood pressure by 8% and a thrombotic risk factor by 26%. In addition, the subjects’ cognitive functions were improved after the food portfolio compared with the reference food.

- The results are beyond expectations! I would like to say that there is no former study with similar effects in healthy volunteers. Our effects hit broadly on risk parameters and we have shown that by the means of food you can improve cognitive functions, says Inger Bjorck, professor in food related nutrition, who has been leading the study. The study has been carried out within the Antidiabetic Food Centre of Lund University, of which Inger Bjorck is the director.

- Our purpose was to find out which preventive effect can be obtained on established risk markers by combining food concepts with an expected positive impact on inflammation. Inger Bjorck emphasizes that the study has a politically explosive power.

- We hope that these results on healthy subjects will inspire more intense preventive efforts in society. It is not possible to tell precisely which food factors have greater or lesser impact on the research results.

- That’s the point. We believe in the idea of combined effects. Drug or specific products with health claims affect only one or maybe a couple of risk factors. By a combination of food you can in a simple and striking way affect many risk parameters simultaneously explains Inger Bjorck.

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SELECTED CELLS FROM BLOOD OR BONE MARROW MAY PROVIDE A ROUTE TO HEALING BLOOD VESSELS

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Atlanta, Gorgia - August 13, 2010
Isolating cells from a patient’s blood or bone marrow that nourish blood vessels may be a safer and less arduous route to treatment of cardiovascular disease than obtaining rare stem cells, according to research from Emory University School of Medicine.

Young-sup Yoon, MD, Ph.D
Young-sup Yoon, MD, Ph.D
Emory University
School of Medicine
Photo: stemyoon.org

In recent clinical trials, doctors in several countries have tested the ability of a patient’s bone marrow cells to repair damage, such as heart attacks and peripheral artery disease, created by problems of blood flow.

“The focus has been on stem cells, but it looks like the main beneficial effects come from transplanted cells’ ability to support the growth of nearby blood vessels,” says senior author Young-sup Yoon, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine (cardiology) at Emory University School of Medicine. “Based on this idea, we wanted to identify a population of cells enriched with the capacity to regenerate blood vessels.”

The blood vessel repairing properties of selected cells from human blood were described in the Aug. 10 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, with a related paper on cells derived from mouse bone marrow published online July 15 by the journal Circulation Research.

The first author of the JACC paper is postdoctoral fellow Sung-Whan Kim, PhD. The first author of the Circulation Research paper is Hyongbum Kim, MD, PhD, now an assistant professor in Korea.

Yoon’s team focused on the molecule CD31, also known as platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 or PECAM-1, because of its presence on endothelial cells - the cells that form the inner lining of blood vessels. In experiments with donated blood from human volunteers or mouse bone marrow cells, the researchers showed that cells with CD31 on their surfaces secrete hormones that support the growth of blood vessels.

About a third of the cells in the blood or bone marrow have CD31 on their surfaces, including some differentiated immune cells. In culture, sorted cells displaying CD31 can form tubular structures mimicking the growth of blood vessels in the body.

“We can show that after transplantation, some CD31 positive cells do become endothelial cells, but their main effect is more to support other cells than to become the building blocks,” Yoon says.

The researchers used antibodies against CD31 to sort human blood or mouse bone marrow cells into two groups: cells with CD31 and those without. They then tested these cells’ ability to spur blood vessel regrowth in mice whose hind legs had a blocked blood supply.

In the project described in Circulation Research, after two weeks more than 80 percent of the mouse hind legs transplanted with CD31 positive bone marrow cells survived, while less than 15 percent of the legs transplanted with CD31 negative cells survived. In laser Doppler images, the mice with CD31 positive cells injected into their legs had greatly enhanced blood flow and an increased number of capillaries.

Yoon says harvesting CD31 positive cells may have several advantages compared to previous methods of treating cardiovascular disease. The cells can be prepared without the need to grow them in a dish for several days, and it may not be necessary to take large volumes of blood or bone marrow from the patient - an advantage with respect to safety. In addition, cells from mice used to simulate atherosclerosis (mutant for a gene that helps clear fat from the blood and given a high fat diet) do not seem to lose their repair potential.

“Based on the insights gained from preclinical and clinical studies from several investigators, we view the use of CD31 positive cells as a second generation cardiovascular cell therapy that could be a novel option for the treatment of peripheral artery disease,” Yoon says.

He adds that CD31 positive cells may have potential for treating other conditions, including heart attack, heart failure and diabetic neuropathy, which his team is investigating in animal models.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences: http://emoryhealthblog.com

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