Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Biomarker Discovery Improves Treatment Options for Ovarian Cancer Patients

A biomarker that can help predict the success of chemotherapy in ovarian cancer patients has been discovered by researchers.

The discovery, by cancer researcher Madhuri Koti of Queen’s University, could lead to better treatment options in the fight against ovarian cancer.

Biomarkers are an indicator of a biological state or condition.

"Recent successes in harnessing the immune system to combat cancer are evidence for the significant roles of a cancer patient's immune responses in fighting cancer," Koti explains. "Many of these successes are based on boosting anti-cancer immunity via different therapies. Such therapies would prove to be most effective when coupled with markers predicting a patient's eventual response to a specific therapy".

Koti conducted the study in retrospective cohorts of more than 200 ovarian cancer patients. The study utilized a combination of cutting-edge and more established detection technologies for identifying such markers.

A major impact of this discovery is that these novel markers, when used at the time of treatment initiation in the specific type of ovarian cancer patient, will help oncologists make decisions on additional treatment needed in these patients, thus increasing their potential for survival.

Ovarian cancer is responsible for approximately 152,000 deaths worldwide each year. It has the highest mortality rate of all gynaecological cancers.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

A “One-Pot Process” for Flame Retardants

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers took a trip to the grocery store and cooked up their best fire-resistant coatings for furniture padding yet. More important, these protective coatings were formulated in a single step, a process far simpler than the time-consuming “layer by layer” process deposition process required of previous “green” flame retardant candidates.

To formulate the fire protective coating, the NIST team prepared nine water-based mixtures composed of various combinations of potato starch, seaweed gel (agar), laundry booster, clay and similar everyday compounds. In laboratory tests, six of these "bioinspired" coatings reduced the peak heat release rate—a key measure of flammability—of polyurethane foam by at least 63 percent, compared with untreated foam.

Encouraged by the lab results, the team subjected the top-performing mixture—starch and a boron-containing compound used in deodorant and other products—to a full-scale fire test in which chairs padded with treated or untreated polyurethane foam were ignited.

The upholstered fabric of both chairs was completely engulfed in flames 90 seconds after ignition. In less than two minutes, the upholstery fabric on both chairs was completely consumed. Within six minutes, the untreated padding had burned completely, leaving a burning, melted pool. However, the flames on the chair treated with the NIST-devised coating remained confined to the padding 90 seconds after ignition, although the fabric had burned completely. Combustion could not be sustained and the flames did not spread because the coating produced a 71% drop in the total amount of heat released, the study reported.

Furniture fires are the leading cause of death in house fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, they accounted for about 30% of more than 2,700 deaths in residential fires in 2013.
"The results of the full-scale fire tests are very encouraging," says NIST team leader Rick Davis. "The performance of our coating suggests that fire can be contained to burning furniture so that it does not spread, intensify to the point of flashover, and increase the risk of injury or death."

The study, published in the March 25, 2015 issue of ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, reported the newest coatings were crafted with what the researchers call a "one-pot" process in which the ingredients were added to water, heated and stirred until the solution became a gel, and then cooled. Depending on the ingredients, preparation times ranged from about 30 minutes to two hours.

The uncomplicated process could lend itself to industry adoption. However, additional research is needed to determine the durability of the new coatings and to assess other properties affecting performance and manufacturing applications.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Proteomic Technologies Fueling Market Potential of Biofuels like Switchgrass

A new generation of fuel crops—plants designed specifically to serve as feedstocks for fuels—would provide a clean, green and renewable alternative to the burning of fossil fuels, but only if their production is cost effective. These biofuels would require, among other developments, plants whose sugars are readily extracted and fermented into fuels by microbes.
Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have demonstrated that proteomic technology may offer a way to harness this exciting potential. Proteomics, a branch of the life sciences that studies proteins or peptides, particularly their functions and interactions, specifically considers technologies suited for large-scale, multiplexed analysis of proteins and peptides. Proteomics differs from conventional protein analysis such as immunoassay because it measures more than one protein or peptide simultaneously from a single sample.
Benjamin Schwessinger, a grass geneticist with JBEI’s Feedstocks Division, and his colleagues conducted the first proteomic analysis of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a North American native prairie grass widely viewed as one of the most promising of all the fuel crops.
“Plant cell walls or biomass are costly to deconstruct for sugar release for downstream applications such as biofuels, but genetic modifications to plant cell wall structure could result in significant downstream economic impacts,” Schwessinger explains.
In profiling the switchgrass endomembrane from 10-day old dark grown shoots, Schwessinger and his team identified 1,750 unique proteins in shoots of the hardy perennial crop.
“That we were able to identify such a large number of proteins in our samples shows that proteomics will be useful when we start digging for proteins that will enable us to manipulate switchgrass for increased biofuel production.”

The global proteomics market is expected to more than double its $5 billion value in 2014 to more than $11.6 billion in 2019, reflecting a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%. The main proteomics market segments include research, drug discovery and development, diagnostics and applied (agricultural, environmental and forensics).

The research/drug discovery and development segment of the market is forecast to reach almost $6.8 billion in 2019, up from almost $4 billion in 2014, corresponding with an 11.4% CAGR.

Rapid changes in technical fields such as biochips, mass spectrometry, single cell analysis and multi-omics are driving new products and applications in proteomics, creating unique market opportunities.

For our BCC Research report on proteomics, visit the following link:

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Research on Malaria Vaccines Showing Positive Results

A discovery of how the body’s immune system protects against malaria may hold promise for a vaccine against the disease, which kills as many as 600,000 people each year, mostly children. Currently, no effective vaccine exists for the mosquito-borne disease, which infects the bloodstream and red blood cells, leading to fatigue, headaches, and in severe cases, death.

Antibodies play major roles in immunity to malaria, but a limited understanding of mechanisms mediating protection long has been a barrier to vaccine development. Researchers have known antibodies alone were mostly ineffective at targeting the malaria organism, leading them to believe the antibodies in people resistant to malaria must be getting help from other parts of the immune system.

Professor James Beeson, who heads Burnet’s Centre for Biomedical Research in Melbourne, Australia, said he and his research team discovered that antibodies “needed to recruit other proteins in the blood” in order to block malaria infection. This mechanism, known as a complement,” helps the antibodies coat the malaria organism, according to Beeson. “By working together,” he adds, “these two things are a double-hit that stops malaria from infecting red blood cells.”
The findings represent a major advance in understanding immunity to malaria and provide a much-needed strategy for the development and evaluation of vaccines.
Beeson says Burnet’s researchers will now apply this new knowledge to their strategies to create new and more effective malaria vaccines.

“Exploiting this malaria-blocking activity is a new approach in developing a vaccine. We have shown that it is possible to effectively generate this protective immune response by immunizing humans with a candidate vaccine,” Beeson says.

Historically, vaccines were developed to protect against bacterial and viral diseases that plagued the world population through the 1950s and 1960s. Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, smallpox and malaria, among others, were produced in mass quantities to treat large populations.

The advances in immunology, biochemistry, microbiology and biotechnology during the past four decades have opened up the possibilities of creating vaccines for a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, certain cancers, HIV, multiple sclerosis, various tropical diseases, and autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, lupus erythematosus and arthritis.

Vaccines are also being developed against new targets, including Japanese encephalitis, meningitis, certain pollen allergies, metastatic melanoma, Type I diabetes, oral rotavirus, hypertension, and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli infection.

Currently, researchers are conducting more than 640 clinical trials around the world on a wide variety of vaccines. The World Health Organization estimates there are 120 new vaccines in pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical company pipelines.

In the United States, the FDA will approve a vaccine if there exist an adequate immunological response, patient safety and established effectiveness of the vaccine at controlling the disease. Vaccine development, approval and production are a costly and long-term venture for any pharmaceutical company. It demands separate, dedicated facilities, equipment and staff. This requires that there be potential revenue and large, diverse patient populations to allow a company to enter into a vaccine venture.

For our BCC Research report on vaccines, visit the following link:

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A New Perspective on Autism Spectrum Disorde

Two teams of researchers from Bucknell University and its Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute (ADMI) are conducting different studies to explore the same thing: how to diagnose autism earlier. Ultimately, the researchers hope their work will lead to earlier clinical and therapeutic interventions for children with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social and communication skills, and by abnormal coherence to repetitive behaviors. Experts claim that ASD, which typically manifests before age three, is the fastest-growing childhood development disorder (13% to 15% annual growth).

Scientists aren’t certain about what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role. Because of the unknown and complex nature of this disorder, effective diagnosis and treatment of ASD has proven challenging.

In one of the studies, Aaron Mitchel, assistant professor of psychology at Bucknell, and his research partners will investigate how two genetic causes of autism spectrum disorder impact children's abilities to integrate visual, auditory and other stimuli. They will examine multisensory integration, or the ability to connect stimuli perceived with different senses.

"Previous research on multisensory integration has studied dyslexia, ADHD, autism. It was focused on behavioral diagnoses," Mitchel said. "We're going to the heart of matter, to the genetic diagnoses to see if there is commonality."           

Rich Kozick, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Bucknell, and Andrew Michael, director of ADMI’s neuroimaging analytics laboratory, are studying methods for capturing the work of brain networks using functional MRI technology. The researchers hope their work will lead to a more accurate tool for diagnosing ASD.

Their project draws upon the deep database of brain-imaging data available through the ADMI, Michael's knowledge of brain imaging and Kozick's expertise in signal processing, which he has previously applied to military and robotics projects.

For our BCC Research report on autism spectrum disorder, visit the following link:

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