Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Olfaction and the Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis

This review covers the field of olfaction and chemosensation of odorants and puts this information into the context of interactions between microbes and behavior; the microbiome – gut – brain axis (MGBA). Recent emphasis has also been placed on the concept of the holobiome which states that no single aspect of an organism should be viewed separately and thus must include examination of their associated microbial populations and their influence. While it is known that the microbiome may be involved in the modulation of animal behavior, there has been little systematized effort to incorporate into such studies the rapidly developing knowledge of the wide range of olfactory systems.

The classical olfactory system is evolutionarily conserved in multiple taxa from insects through to fish, reptiles and mammals, and is represented by the largest gene families in vertebrates. Mice have over 1000 different olfactory receptors and humans about 400. They are distributed throughout the body and even found in spermatozoa where they function in chemotaxis. Some ectopic olfactory receptors have been shown to have functional effects in the gut and kidney, highlighting the complexity of the systems engaged by odorants. However, there are, in addition to classical olfactory receptors, at least two other families of receptors involved in olfaction that are also widely found expressed on tissues in many different organs in addition to the nervous system and brain: the trace-amine associated and formyl peptide receptors.

Bacteria can make many if not most odorants and are responsible for recognition of species and relative relatedness as well as predator presence, among many other examples. Activation of different combinations of olfactory receptors by bacterial products such as B-phenylethylamine have been shown even to control expression of emotions such as fear and aggression.

Olfaction is one of the five senses, however, it is perhaps not widely appreciated that it represents a form of chemical communication which is widely distributed and has been extensively conserved evolutionarily. Linda Buck and Richard Axel jointly received the Nobel Prize in 2004 for their discoveries of ‘odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system’. Their description of olfactory genes occupying roughly 3% of our total gene pool was first published in 1991.

Animals use olfaction to distinguish each other, recognize individuality and kin and even use this ability for the purposes of mate selection and preference. This is not limited to vertebrates. Indeed, bacterial synthesis of phenol was first shown to account for male sexual attraction in grass grub beetles.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Vitamin B3 Could Be Used to Treat Alzheimer’s

New research finds a compound that prevents brain damage in mice. The substance is a form of vitamin B3, and the findings suggest a potential new therapy for Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

Vitamin B3 has previously been proposed as an alternative for treating Alzheimer’s disease. In an older study, large doses of nicotinamide – also referred to as B3 – reversed Alzheimer’s-related memory loss in mice.

A new study, however, focused on the effect of nicotinamide riboside (NR), which is a form of vitamin B3, on Alzheimer’s-related brain damage in mice. NR is “critical for mitochondrial health and biogenesis, stem cell self-renewal, and neuronal stress resistance,” said Dr. Vilhelm Bohr, chief of the National Institute of Aging’s Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology.

The team added NR to the drinking water of mice that had been genetically engineered to develop the hallmarks of the neurodegenerative disorder. The mice drank the water for 3 months, and their brains and cognitive health were compared with those of the control mice. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Compared with the controls, the NR-treated mice had less of the protein tau in the brain, less DNA damage, and more neuroplasticity – that is, the brain’s ability to “rewire” itself when it leans new things, stores new memories, or becomes damaged. Additionally, the mice in the intervention group produced more neurons from neuronal stem cells.

Fewer neurons died or were damaged in these mice. Finally, the researchers say that in the hippocampi – a brain area involved in memory that often shrinks or is damaged in Alzheimer’s – of the mice that received the treatment, NR appeared to get rid of the existing DNA damage or stop it from spreading.

Friday, February 23, 2018

‘Too Much’ Brain Calcium May Cause Parkinson’s

Insights from a new study – by the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom – about the role of calcium in brain cells’ signaling mechanisms brings us close to understanding the causes of Parkinson’s disease.

The presence of toxic protein deposits, or Lewy bodies, inside brain cells is a recognized hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. The deposits contain clusters of alpha-synuclein and other proteins that have folded into the wrong shape.

The new study – now published in the journal Nature Communications – shows that calcium affects the way in which alpha-synuclein binds to synaptic vesicles. Synaptic vesicles are small compartments in nerve terminals that hold the neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, that carry signals between brain cells.

“There is a fine balance,” notes co-first author Dr. Amberley Stephens, a postdoctoral researcher in molecular neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, “of calcium and alpha-synuclein in the cell, and when there is too much of one or the other, the balance is tipped and aggregation begins, leading to Parkinson’s disease.”

Worldwide, there are more than 10 million people living with Parkinson’s disease, including around 1 million in the United States. In Parkinson’s disease, there is a progressive destruction of brain cells that produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is important for controlling movement. Therefore, as the disease progresses, there will be a worsening of symptoms such as slowness of movement, rigidity, tremor, and impaired coordination and balance.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Human Microbiome Project

This study is an extension of the Human Genome Project we reviewed last Wednesday. It began in 2008 with a goal of determining how microbes are associated with health and disease.

The initial study involved 242 “healthy” U.S. participants. Over 5,000 samples were collected, taken from 15 sites on men and 18 on women. This included mouth, nose, skin, stool and vagina. All samples were analyzed using DNA sequencing.

Researchers found that bacterial cells outnumber human cells by 10:1. Bacterial genes may outnumber human genes by 100:1. A majority of the cells were bacterial but they also found archaea (single-celled organisms), yeasts/fungus, protozoa, helminths (worms) and virus.

The human gut alone contained 1,200-1,400 species of which only 24% have been named. Another 8% have been cultured but not named. The remaining 68% have no manes and have not been cultured. Over 600 of the bacterial species documented are common to the human race in general.

Microbes contribute more to human survival than human genes do. Bacterial protein coding genes are 360 times more abundant than human genes. Microbial activities can be shared between different species. Diet, medications, and disease state can change composition and equilibrium and the microbial balance returns to a new norm that is often dysfunctional over time.

The initial colonization should be at birth. Afterward, they enter the body through ingestion of food or liquids, through the respiratory system, through a break in the skin and into the blood supply or through genital and anal openings.

The mother’s lifelong history of health will set the stage for postpartum delivery of the microbial “fingerprint”. Negative factors in this delivery are antibiotic use, GMO foods, birth control, vaccinations, stress and microbial health.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Home Remedies for Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an inflammatory disorder of the lungs caused by an infection of the airways. It is a serious condition, and home remedies cannot be used to treat it. However, they can help ease the symptoms.

Pneumonia infections can be critical and may even be life-threatening in some cases. It is essential to visit a doctor for a diagnosis, as well as to monitor symptoms and avoid any complications.

Using a blend of medical treatments and home remedies may help many people manage their symptoms more easily. Every pneumonia treatment plan will involve some antiviral, antibiotic, or antifungal medication to treat the infection.

Here are some home treatments that may help clear up the annoying symptoms of pneumonia:

peppermint and eucalyptus tea have a soothing effect on the upper respiratory tract according to a study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Fenugreek tea appears to break down mucus based on a review in the Journal of Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences.

Saltwater gargle may help eliminate mucus or germs in the throat and the caffeine in a cup of coffee or green tea may open the airways.

Chest pain:
ginger or turmeric tea may reduce chest pain. The roots of both plants have a natural anti-inflammatory effect in the body.

again, from the earlier study, fenugreek tea encourages a person to sweat and reduce their temperature. Hydration is also vital.

often a secondary symptom caused by a fever. When the fever breaks, the chills will typically subside. However, drinking warm liquids or a bowl of soup may help warm the body.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Cranberries for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

Cranberries have been used widely for several decades for the prevention and treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs). This is the third update of our review first published in 1998 and updated in 2004 and 2008.

Objectives – To assess the effectiveness of cranberry products in preventing UTIs in susceptible populations.

This updated review includes a total of 24 studies with a total of 4473 participants. Thirteen studies (2380) participants) evaluated cranberry juice/concentrate; nine studies (1032) participants) evaluated cranberry tablets or capsules; one study compared cranberry juice and tablets; and one study cranberry capsules and tablets.

Many studies reported low compliance and high withdrawal/dropout problems which they attributed to palatability/acceptability of the products, primarily the cranberry juice. Most studies of the other cranberry products (tablets and capsules) did not report how much of the ‘active’ ingredient the product contained, and therefore the products may not have had enough potency to be effective.

Prior to the current update, it appeared there was some evidence that cranberry juice may decrease the number of symptomatic UTIs over a 12-month period, particularly for women with recurrent UTIs. The addition of 14 further studies suggests that cranberry juice is less effective than previously indicated. Although some of the small studies demonstrated a small benefit for women with recurrent UTIs, there were no statistically significant differences when the results of a much larger study were included. Given the large number of dropouts/withdrawals from studies and the evidence that the benefit for preventing UTI is small, cranberry juice cannot currently be recommended for the prevention of UTIs. Other preparations (such as powders) need to be quantified using standardized methods to ensure the potency and contain enough of the ‘active’ ingredient, before being evaluated in clinical studies or recommended for use.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Human Genome Project

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick described the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the chemical compound that contains the genetic instructions for building, running and maintaining living organisms.

Methods to determine the sequence of the chemical letters in DNA were developed in the mid-1970s.

In 1990, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy jointed with international partners in a quest to sequence all 3 billion letters, or base pairs, in the human genome.

The Human Genome Project’s goal was to understand the genetic factors in human disease, paving the way for new strategies for their diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

All data generated by the project was made freely and rapidly available on the Internet. This accelerated the pace of medical discovery around the world. It spurred a revolution in biotechnology innovation and made the U.S. the global leader in the arising biotechnology sector.

In April of 2003, researchers successfully completed the Human Genome Project, under budget and more than two years ahead of schedule.

Today over 1,800 genetic diseases have been discovered. There are more than 2,000 genetic tests for human conditions that enable patients to learn their genetic risks and help physicians diagnose disease. At least 350 biotech products have been developed and are in clinical trials.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bacteria Phobia

As a society, we are obsessed with hygiene. Most of us wash our entire bodies at least once per day with hot, soapy water. Grocery store shelves are filled with antibacterial soaps that advertise they kill 99.9% of bacteria viruses. However, the testing of antibacterial soaps was not conducted on hands or kitchen surfaces. Instead, research was done in large pots where testers placed a large numbers of bacteria into liquid soap containing triclosan. After an hour, the solution was tested to see how many bacteria survive.

The safety of antibacterial soaps has never been tested. Triclosan, the most common active ingredient, has never been shown to be more effective than plain soap or even just hot water. After several years on the market Triclosan has been found in human fat tissue, umbilical cord blood, breast milk and nasal secretions. Approximately 75% of humans will pass it in their urine daily.

A clear correlation between triclosan exposure and an increased risk of infection has been documented. The greater the concentration of triclosan in nasal mucus, the higher the rate of colonization of Staphylococcus aureus. The resistant form of this bacteria you know as MRSA.

Triclosan has also been shown to interfere with the action of thyroid hormones, estrogen and testosterone. It is an endocrine disruptor at the level of the cell membrane.

In December of 2017, the FDA had a final ruling that limits the use of triclosan in certain OTC health care antiseptic products. They will not be able to use triclosan or any of the 23 other active ingredients used in antibacterial soaps “without a premarket review due to insufficient data regarding their safety and effectiveness”. Although the governor of Minnesota banned triclosan in all consumer products over concerns of bacteria developing resistance, the FDA failed to follow suit.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: What Clinicians Need to Know

Dietary supplementation is approximately a $30 billion industry in the United States, with more than 90,000 products on the market. In recent national surveys, 52% of US adults reported use of a least 1 supplement product, and 10% reported use of at least 4 such products. Vitamins and minerals are among the most popular supplements and are taken by 48% and 39% of adults, respectively, typically to maintain health and prevent disease.

Despite this enthusiasm, most randomized clinical trials of vitamin and mineral supplements have not demonstrated clear benefits from primary or secondary prevention of chronic diseases not related to nutritional deficiency. Indeed, some trials suggest that micronutrient supplementation in amounts that exceed the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) – eg, high doses of beta carotene, folic acid, vitamin E, or selenium – may have harmful effects, including increased mortality, cancer, and hemorrhagic stroke.

In this Viewpoint, we provide information to help clinicians address frequently asked questions about micronutrient supplements from patients, as well as promote appropriate use and curb inappropriate use of such supplements among generally healthy individuals. Importantly, clinicians should counsel their patients that such supplementation is not a substitute for a healthful and balanced diet and, in most cases, provides little if any benefit beyond that conferred by such a diet.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Wisdom Wednesday: Cytokine-mediated Inflammation and Neuropathy from Metabolic Syndrome

Painful neuropathy (PN) is a prevalent condition in patients with metabolic syndrome (MetS). However, the pathogenic mechanisms of metabolic syndrome-associated painful neuropathy (MetSPN) remain unclear.

In the current study, high-fat-fed mice (HF mice) were used to study MetSPN. HF mice developed MetS phenotypes, including increased body weight, elevated plasma cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance in comparison with control-fat-fed (CF) mice.

Subsequently, HF mice developed mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia in hind paws after 8 weeks of diet treatment. These pain behaviors coincided with increased densities of nociceptive epidermal nerve fibers and inflammatory cells such as Langerhans cells and macrophages in hind paw skin.

To study the effect of MetS on profiles of cytokine expression in HF mice, we used a multiplex cytokine assay to study the protein expression of 12 pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in dorsal root ganglion and serum samples. This method detected the elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-a, and interleukin (IL)-6, IL1B as well as reduced anti-inflammatory IL-10 in in lumbar dorsal root ganglia (LDRG) of HF mice.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Is Cannabis an Effective Treatment for Joint Pain?

Cannabis has been used to treat pain for thousands of years. However, since the early part of the 20th century, laws restricting cannabis use have limited its evaluation using modern scientific criteria. Ove the last decade, the situation has started to change because of the increased availability of cannabis in the United States for either medical or recreational purposes, making it important to provide the public with accurate information as to the effectiveness of the drug for joint pain among other indications.

The major psychotropic component of cannabis is deta9-terahydrocannabinol (THC), one of some 120 naturally occurring phytocannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another molecule found in herbal cannabis in large amounts. Although CBD does not produce3 psychotropic effects, it has been shown to produce a variety of pharmacological effects. Hence, the overall effects of herbal cannabis represent the collective activity of THC, CBD and a number of minor components.

The action of THC is mediated by two major G-protein coupled receptors, cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and CB2, and recent work has suggested that other targets may also exist. Arachidonic acid derived endocannabinoids are the normal physiological activators of the two cannabinoid receptors.

Natural phytocannabinoids and synthetic derivatives have produced clear activity in a variety of models of joint pain in animals. These effects are the result of both inhibition of pain pathway signaling (mostly CB1) and anti-inflammatory effects (mostly CB2).

Friday, February 2, 2018

Fish-derived Omega-3 Best for Preventing Breast Cancer

Scientists at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, have revealed that omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil may be around eight times more effective for halting the development of aggressive breast cancer tumors than those from plant-based sources.

Study co-author Prof. David Ma, who currently works in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. It is expected that around 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and around 40,920 women will die from the disease.

There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil: one is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the other is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The third type ofomega-3 is the plant-based a-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in soy, canola oil, and flaxseed.

For their study, Prof. Ma and colleagues compared the effects of these three types ofomega-3 on breast tumor development in mice that were bread to develop HER2-positive breast cancer.

“This study is the first to compare the cancer-fighting potency of plant-versus marine-derived omega-3s on breast tumor development,” says Prof. M. “There is evidence that both omega-3s from plants and marine sources are protective against cancer and we wanted to determine which form is more effective.”