Archive for March, 2010

MAPLE SYRUP, ANTI-OXIDANT AND MORE

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

KINGSTON, R.I.

URI pharmacy researcher finds beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup
Most are disease fighting anti-oxidants

Before you dig in to your next stack of French toast or waffles, you might want to pour on pure maple syrup.

That’s because University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram, who specializes in medicinal plant research, has found more than 20 compounds in maple syrup from Canada that have been linked to human health, 13 of which are newly discovered in maple syrup. In addition, eight of the compounds have been found in the Acer (maple) family for the first time.

The URI assistant professor of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences in URI’s College of Pharmacy presented his findings Sunday, March 21 at the American Chemical Society’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The project was made possible by Conseil pour le dĂ©veloppement de l’agriculture du QuĂ©bec (CDAQ), with funding provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) program.

Several of these anti-oxidant compounds newly identified in maple syrup are also reported to have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic properties.

Prior to the study, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers already knew that its product was full of naturally occurring minerals such as zinc, thiamine and calcium. But it enlisted Seeram to research the presence of plant anti-oxidants. The Federation awarded Seeram a two-year, $115,000 grant with the help of the CDAQ and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. His research continues to determine if the compounds exist in beneficial quantities.

Serge Beaulieu, president of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, said Seeram’s lab is but one in an expanding multi-national network of research facilities dedicated to the study of maple products from Canada.

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NEW METHOD TO GROW ARTERIES COULD LEAD TO “BIOLOGICAL BYPASS” FOR HEART DISEASE

Monday, March 8th, 2010

(Yale University)
A new method of growing arteries could lead to a “biological bypass”-or a non-invasive way to treat coronary artery disease, Yale School of Medicine researchers report with their colleagues in the April issue of Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Michael Simons,MD
Michael Simons,MD -
chief of the Section of
Cardiology at Yale
School of Medicine
photo: yalemedicalgroup.org

Coronary arteries can become blocked with plaque, leading to a decrease in the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Over time this blockage can lead to debilitating chest pain or heart attack. Severe blockages in multiple major vessels may require coronary artery bypass graft surgery, a major invasive surgery.

“Successfully growing new arteries could provide a biological option for patients facing bypass surgery,” said lead author of the study Michael Simons, M.D., chief of the Section of Cardiology at Yale School of Medicine.

In the past, researchers used growth factors-proteins that stimulate the growth of cells-to grow new arteries, but this method was unsuccessful. Simons and his team studied mice and zebrafish to see if they could simulate arterial formation by switching on and off two signaling pathways-ERK1/2 and P13K.

“We found that there is a cross-talk between the two signaling pathways. One half of the signaling pathway inhibits the other. When we inhibit this mechanism, we are able to grow arteries,” said Simons. “Instead of using growth factors, we stopped the inhibitor mechanism by using a drug that targets a particular enzyme called P13-kinase inhibitor.”

“Because we’ve located this inhibitory pathway, it opens the possibility of developing a new class of medication to grow new arteries,” Simons added. “The next step is to test this finding in a human clinical trial.”

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EXPLORING ECHINACEA’S ENIGMATIC ORIGINS

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist is helping to sort through the jumbled genetics of Echinacea, the coneflower known for its blossoms - and its potential for treating infections, inflammation, and other human ailments.

Echinacea, the coneflower
An ARS scientist is
studying the jumbled genetics
of Echinacea, the coneflower known
for its blossoms-and its
potential for treating infections,
inflammation, and other
human ailments.
photo: David Cappaert, MSU

Only a few Echinacea species are currently cultivated as botanical remedies, and plant breeders would like to know whether other types also possess commercially useful traits. ARS horticulturist Mark Widrlechner, who works at the ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station (NCRPIS) in Ames, Iowa, is partnering in research to find out how many distinct Echinacea species exist. Previous studies have put the number between four and nine species, depending on classification criteria.

Working with Iowa State University scientists, Widrlechner selected 40 diverse Echinacea populations for DNA analysis from the many populations conserved at the NCRPIS. Most of these Echinacea populations were found to have a remarkable range of genetic diversity.

DNA analysis suggested that when much of North America was covered with glaciers, Echinacea found southern refuges on both sides of the Mississippi River. But when the glaciers receded after thousands of years, the groups came together as they moved northward and began to hybridize, which might have blurred previous genetic distinctions.

The research team also analyzed the same populations for chemical differences in root metabolites. These metabolites, which are often essential for survival and propagation, can vary widely among species and may have benefits for human health.

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