Posts Tagged ‘society’

New mouse model points to therapy for liver disease

Development of effective new therapies for preventing or treating NASH has been stymied by limited small animal models for the disease. In a paper published online in Cancer Cell, scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine describe a novel mouse model that closely resembles human NASH and use it to demonstrate that interference with a key inflammatory protein inhibits both the development of NASH and its progression to liver cancer.

“These findings strongly call for clinical testing of relevant drugs in human NASH and its complications,” said senior author Michael Karin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology in UC San Diego’s Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction. “Our research has shown that, at least in this mouse model, chemical compounds that include already clinically approved drugs that inhibit protein aggregation can also be used to prevent NASH caused by a high fat diet.”

The increasing prevalence of NAFLD is linked to the nation’s on-going obesity epidemic. In the past decade, the rate of obesity has doubled in adults and tripled in children, in large part due to a common diet rich in simple carbohydrates and saturated fats. NASH is characterized by inflammation and fibrosis, which damage the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the major form of liver cancer, and loss of function. Often, the only remedy is organ transplantation.

“Developing new strategies for NASH that successfully block progression to cirrhosis or HCC required the creation of appropriate small animal models that are amenable to genetic analysis and therapeutic intervention,” said first author Hayato Nakagawa, PhD, a member of Karin’s lab who headed the research effort and is currently an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo School of Medicine.

The resulting new mouse model takes advantage of an existing mouse strain called MUP-uPA that develops liver damage similar to humans when fed a high-fat diet (in which 60 percent of calories are fat derived) similar to the so-called “American cafeteria diet.” The mice show clinical signs characteristic of NASH within 24 weeks and full-blown HCC after 40 weeks. “The pathological characteristics of these tumors are nearly identical to those of human HCC,” said Nakagawa.

Using the new mouse model, Nakagawa and colleagues showed that a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF), involved in the body’s inflammatory response, plays a critical role in both NASH pathogenesis and progression to fibrosis and HCC. By interfering with TNF synthesis or its binding to its receptor, using genetic tools or an anti-psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis drug called Enbrel, the researchers inhibited both development of NASH and its progression to HCC in the mouse model.

“Given the dramatic and persistent increase in the incidence of obesity and its consequences in the United States and elsewhere, these studies have a high impact on a major public health problem. In addition to developing a more suitable model for the study of NASH, this new work suggests some immediate targets for prevention and therapeutic intervention,” said Karin, who is an American Cancer Society Research Professor and holds the Ben and Wanda Hildyard Chair for Mitochondrial and Metabolic Diseases.

source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818134912.htm

Do gut bacteria rule our minds? In an ecosystem within us, microbes evolved to sway food choices

In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem — our digestive tracts — they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioral responses.

“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper.” “There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.”

Fortunately, it’s a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.

“Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut,” Maley said. “It’s a whole ecosystem, and it’s evolving on the time scale of minutes.”

There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed, found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.

Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.

“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” said Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology.

In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.

Maley, Aktipis and first author Joe Alcock, MD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico, proposed further research to test the sway microbes hold over us. For example, would transplantation into the gut of the bacteria requiring a nutrient from seaweed lead the human host to eat more seaweed?

The speed with which the microbiome can change may be encouraging to those who seek to improve health by altering microbial populations. This may be accomplished through food and supplement choices, by ingesting specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, or by killing targeted species with antibiotics. Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives, according to the authors.

“Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating,” the authors wrote.

The authors met and first discussed the ideas in the BioEssays paper at a summer school conference on evolutionary medicine two years ago. Aktipis, who is an evolutionary biologist and a psychologist, was drawn to the opportunity to investigate the complex interaction of the different fitness interests of microbes and their hosts and how those play out in our daily lives. Maley, a computer scientist and evolutionary biologist, had established a career studying how tumor cells arise from normal cells and evolve over time through natural selection within the body as cancer progresses.

In fact, the evolution of tumors and of bacterial communities are linked, points out Aktipis, who said some of the bacteria that normally live within us cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.

“Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health,” she said.

The co-authors’ BioEssays study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Bonnie D. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study, in Berlin.

source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140815192240.htm

Beating childhood cancer does not necessarily make survivors healthier adults, study shows

Childhood cancer survivors face different health-care challenges and are more susceptible to dying earlier than the general population. They have a higher risk of second cancers, heart disease, body weight disorders and psychosocial problems. Therefore the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity encourages the efforts of cancer survivors to lead healthier lifestyles.

Because so little is known about how well cancer survivors adhere to these guidelines, Chloe Berdan and colleagues examined selected data from the Chicago Healthy Living Study participants. The University of Illinois investigative team led by Drs. Stolley and Sharp conducted structured health-focused interviews with 431 childhood cancer survivors and 361 people who never had the disease. The survivors, aged between 18 and 59 years old, were all diagnosed with a malignant cancer before their 21st birthdays.

No marked difference was found between how survivors and members of the control group adhered to the overall American Cancer Society guidelines. Survivors had on average a body mass index of about 1.2 kg/m² lower than that of members of the control group and smoked less. They consumed less fiber. In fact, only about one in every ten survivors (10.2 percent) met fiber recommendations, while only 17.7 percent ate five fruits or vegetables per day. Survivors were better at meeting the goal of at least five hours of moderate activity per week (60.5 percent) than to sticking to any of the other guidelines, and on average scored under 50 percent for the quality of their diets. The 0.7 percent of survivors who actually adhered fully to the guidelines tended to be women, non-smokers and people with a good view of their own health.

“There is still much room for improvement in educating and encouraging survivors to follow healthier diets and lifestyles,” says Berdan. “Adopting such behavior during early adulthood may have a lasting impact on their quality of life and overall survival.”

source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140812163808.htm