Silkworm Silk for Modeling Muscle Tissue

A team at Utah State University have shown that using silkworm silk for growing skeletal muscle cells will improve upon typical methods of cell culture. The hope is that this will lead to better treatments for muscles that have atrophied.

When researchers set out to understand disease and also test treatments, they will typically grow model cells on some kind of flat plastic surface such as a petri dish. However, growing cells on a surface that is two-dimensional has limitations, mostly due to the fact that muscle tissue is
three-dimensional.

The team at USU have developed a three-dimensional surface for cell cultures through growing cells on silk fibers that encase an acrylic chassis. They used both transgenic and native silkworm silk with the transgenic silkworm silk produced by silkworms that were modified with silk genes from spiders.

Previously, native silkworm silks were used as three-dimensional models for cell cultures, however this is the first time using transgenic silkworm silk for modeling of skeletal muscle.

Cells that have been grown on silkworm silk demonstrated to more closely copy human skeletal muscle than those that had been grown on typical plastic surfaces. These cells appeared to increase mechanical flexibility and also increased gene expression that is required for contraction of muscles. The silk from silkworms also encouraged proper alignment of muscle fiber which is a necessary element for achieving robust muscle modeling.

The job of skeletal muscle is to not only move the skeleton but also protect internal organs and stabilize joints. Any deterioration of these particular muscles can occur for a variety of reasons and it can happen quite quickly. An an example, following just two weeks of being mobilized, a person can lose close to a quarter of their muscle strength in their quadriceps. By understanding how muscles atrophy quite quickly must start at a cellular level through cells grown to represent reality.

The goal for the team’s research was to build better in vitro models. Cells grown on 2D platforms are not particularly realistic, although they can supply a good bit of information. Based on these results, researchers typically transition to an animal model and then move forward to clinical trials where unfortunately most fail. The current team is trying to add on to the first step through developing vitro models that are more realistic of diseased and normal tissue.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Silkworm Silk Fiber Bundles as Improved In Vitro Scaffolds for Skeletal Muscle

Protect Against Bacteria with New Wound Material

In a new development at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, researchers have designed a new material to prevent infections in wounds. The specially designed hydrogel consists of material that works against all kinds of bacteria even antiobiotic-resistant ones.

They tested this new hydrogel on all types of bacteria and observed a very high incidence of effectiveness. It was even effective on bacteria that had become resistant to antiobiotics.

The main reason for the study was to explore new medical technology in hope of solutions to reduce the use of systemic antiobiotics. Bacteria that is resistant cause a hospital-acquired infection which can be life threatening.

This new hydrogel material consists of antimicrobial peptides. These are small natural proteins found in our immune systems. Working with these peptides they found out there is a low risk for bacteria to develop resistance against them. But these peptides break down quickly when they are exposed to bodily fluids such as blood. The researchers have found a way to overcome this problem through developing a nanostructured hydrogel. The peptides are permanently bound to it which creates a protective environment. The hydrogel is gentle on the skin and harmless to the body’s own cells.

The research has shown that the peptides break down slowly when they are bound to the hydrogel, thus creating a protective effect.

The results have been outstanding and the researchers are amazed at the surprisingly positive results. This is considered to be the first medical device successfully using antimicrobial peptides in a commercially and clinically viable manner. The uses of this new hydrogel are quite varied and create promising opportunities for clinical application.

This new material needs be to clinically studied further but the benefit to hospitals and patients has generated interest around the world.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Antimicrobial Peptide-Functionalized Mesoporous Hydrogels

Using Stem Cells to Repair Spinal Cord Injuries

The Journal of Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery has reported that researchers from Yale Univ. and Japan have intravenously injected patients with spinal cord injuries with bone marrow derived stem cells or MSCs from their own bodies.

Substantial improvements were noticed for more than half of the patients in key functions. Within weeks of these injections, patients were noted to have the ability to walk or use their hands with no substantial side effects.

The patients comprised of people that had spinal cord injuries that were non-penetrating from falls or minor trauma. The stem cells were injected several weeks after the injury. Some of their symptoms included sensory loss, bowel and/or bladder dysfunction or loss of coordination and motor function. The stem cells used were gathered from the patient’s bone marrow. This took a couple of weeks and was derived from a culture protocol in a specialized cell processing center. They were then intravenously injected into the patient.

Restoring functions after spinal cord injuries with the patients own stem cells has been thought about for years. The researchers are now very optimistic about the results but cited more studies will be needed. The results are preliminary and will need to be confirmed, which could take years.

They state that studies in patients that have had a stroke have had similar results. This approach gives them confidence that this procedure may be possible in people with spinal cord injuries.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Intravenous infusion of auto serum-expanded autologous mesenchymal stem cells in spinal cord injury patients: 13 case series

Wild-Caught or Farm-Raised Salmon? Which is Better?

Salmon is said to have great health benefits. But, does it matter what kind of salmon you eat? Yes it does. Wild-caught salmon is by far better for you than farm-raised salmon. But why?

Wild-caught salmon is caught fresh from their natural environment, oceans, rivers and lakes. Therefore, wild salmon eat other organisms and invertebrates. This produces a salmon that has a health benefit of high mineral levels, including potassium, iron, calcium and zinc. It’s a great source of B vitamins and selenium.

Farm-raised salmon are fed a processed diet that is high in fat and protein to help produce a larger fish. Half of the salmon sold worldwide now comes from a fish farm. A process called aquaculture is used to breed the fish. The water they swim in contain contaminants and are ingested. These contaminants can include PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls), chlorinated pesticides and dioxins. PCB is very harmful to humans and is strongly associated with cancer and other health problems. A recent study determined the PCB levels in farm-raised salmon to be 8 times higher than wild-caught salmon.

In the fish farms the density of the salmon is quite high, which creates fish that are more susceptible to infection and disease. To counter this, the fish farms will add antibiotics to their feed. This treatment is strictly regulated in fish farms in Norway and Canada but poorly regulated in Chile, which is the world’s second largest producer.

There is quite a difference in the nutrient composition of wild-caught compared to farm-raised. Both fish have omega-3 and omega-6 in fatty acids in them. These are beneficial and play an important role in your health. Farm-raised salmon has more omega-6 fatty acid. If a person gets too much omega-6 this can cause an imbalance which can cause inflammation and lead to chronic diseases, including heart disease. Farm-raised salmon contains three times the amount of saturated fat and 46% more calories coming mostly from fat.

It is recommended to eat a fatty fish 1-2 times per week. Wild-caught salmon is higher priced that farm-raised. However, farm-raised salmon is potentially more harmful because of the contaminants, the toxins and especially the PCB level. The antibiotics can be problematic as it could increase the risk of antibiotic resistance in your gut.

Including wild-caught salmon as a regular part of your diet will help to meet nutritional needs and help reduce the risk of several diseases. It is a delicious way to improve your overall health.

Being Around Nature is Good For You

Recent research led by Stanford University shows how increasing a persons access to nature is beneficial for overall health. It shows that people that live in cities need places to go to that will increase their physical activity. Places in nature such as parks, lakes, green spaces will help boost a persons physical activity, therefore, increasing their overall wellbeing.

Spending time outdoors in nature can provide health benefits that have previously been unstudied. Since the last year has been shelter-in-place, it is now understood how spending time in nature is especially important for city-dwellers. Being around parks, green spaces, lakes, trees provide support emotional, cognitive and spiritual well-being. They also provide physical activity for people that otherwise would miss if these spaces were not around them in the city.

This study can help city planners design green spaces that would support people’s health to receive nature’s benefits. Walking to a garden, or riding a bicycle along a path or just sitting in a beautiful park help people relieve stress and enjoy nature. Being in nature can help boost attention, memory and creativity and help a person become happier and have a sense of meaning in life.

It has become increasingly harder for people to easily access nature as our cities become more urbanized. This research will hopefully help identify where urban nature spaces are missing and plan to fill in these places with parks or green spaces.

The goal is to provide more healthy, livable places in the city where people can be with nature and increase physical and emotional well-being. This new research shows an important link between physical health and nature that had previously been missing.

To view the original scientific study click below:

Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective

Why You Should Eat Leafy Green Vegetables

Green-leafy vegetables are among the very healthiest foods you can eat. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, polyphenols and more. Of course, they are also very low in calories making them a great food for losing or maintaining weight.

Some of the best green-leafy vegetables are collards, kale, arugula, spinach, swiss chard, bok choy, parsley, watercress and cilantro.

Green leafy vegetables are high in vitamins A, C and K. They are full of antioxidants, minerals and a natural source of fiber. They are a slow digesting fiber which aids digestion and slows the rate at which your body absorbs sugar thus eliminating blood sugar or glucose spikes.

They all contain high levels of magnesium, necessary for muscle and bone formation and helping to absorb calcium. They are a good source of potassium. The plant pigments found in them, lutein and zeaxanthin have beneficial effects on eye health.

They fill you up so you are likely to eat less and increase your metabolism to keep production of red blood cells at a healthy rate. The folate in them contributes to serotonin production, therefore, lifting your mood. They also contain a large amount of water keeping your body hydrated to maintain healthy skin and hair.

There are two different ways to eat greens. Baby greens are picked when they are tiny plants. At this point, they have not developed any bitterness or toughness. These are great to eat raw in salads or blended into a smoothie, therefore, getting lots of nutrients from them. Lettuce, which is typically used in salads is low in nutrients, therefore it is better to make salads with baby greens Mature greens are picked when they are large plants. They are higher in minerals and some other nutrients, however they tend to be bitter and tough. These are best eaten cooked such as steamed or added to soups.

Eating green-leafy vegetables is a great source of rich nutrients. Eating some of them on a daily basis will provide a good source of nutritional benefits for a persons overall health.

How Dietary Sugar Intake Can Disrupt Memory Function

New research from the University of Georgia has shown that daily consumption of high sugar content in beverages consumed by adolescents has impaired performance on a memory and learning task during adulthood.

It is known that children consume the highest levels of added sugar to their diet. This has been linked to health affects relevant to heart disease, obesity and even loss of memory function. But it is not known how this affects children during the development of the region of the brain known as the hippocampus. The hippocampus is specifically important for memory and learning.

The team used mice in their study and found that changes in the gut bacteria, known as Parabacteroides showed memory deficits. The team enriched the levels of Parabacteroides in the mice, experimentally. They found that the mice performed worse depending on the higher levels of Parabacteroides. Consuming sugar early in life increases Parabacteroide levels leading to impairment of memory function.

The dietary guidelines suggest a sugar intake of less than 10% of calories per day. It has been shown that children between 9-18 consume more than this mainly coming from sugar-sweetened beverages.

In relation to a high sugar intake, researchers wanted to learn more about the consequences of a high sugar diet via gut microbiota. The mice were given their normal diet with a sugar solution of 11%. This is comparable to the sugar in a beverage. They then had the mice perform a memory task. The mice that had consumed the sugar showed a lower capacity to discriminate objects to a specific purpose. The mice without the sugar were able to perform this without any problem.

The analyses confirmed that consumption of high sugar levels lead to heightened levels of Parabacteroides in the gut microbiome. Even the mice that had never consumed sugar showed impairment when their levels of Parabacteroides were increased experimentally.

Further research is needed to explain how high levels of this bacteria in the gut can alter development of the brain.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Gut microbial taxa elevated by dietary sugar disrupt memory function

The Amazing Avocado

Did you know the avocado is a fruit? Grown on a tree it is very nutritious and is considered a superfood. Its health properties are many, including 20 vitamins and minerals and lots of fiber. It’s potassium level rivals that of a banana.

There are various types and can vary in shape and color. From pear-shaped to round and from various shades of green to almost black. The variety called ‘Hass’ is the most popular. It is usually pear-shaped and is green with bumpy skin. The skin and the seed are discarded. The green flesh can be eaten raw, cut up and put on salads or mashed and mixed with herbs, spices and apple cider vinegar for a salad dressing. A popular way to eat it is to make fresh guacamole. Because an avocado starts to oxidize soon after cutting, it is best to eat it right away.

An avocado is loaded with healthy fats even though it is considered to be a high-fat food. But the large part of fat in an avocado is oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid. This is the fat in olive oil, believed to have great health benefits. Avocados, or avocado oil can also increase the amount of antioxidants a person takes in when it is eaten with vegetables. Eaten together it helps the body absorb the nutrient value of the vegetables or other plant food. And avocados are high in antioxidants themselves. High antioxidant levels have been shown to be important for eye health.

The avocado also provides the body with 7 grams of fiber, of which about 25% is soluble. Soluble fiber feeds the friendly gut bacteria in a persons intestines. This is very important to keep all bodily functions working normally. It has also been shown that fiber can be beneficial for weight loss and metabolic health. Eating one avocado with a meal can make a person feel more satisfied with less cravings to eat more over the next few hours, thus cutting down on calories consumed.

There are many ways to use an avocado. They have a creamy, rich texture that is easily chopped up or mashed and added to a recipe. You can also scoop them out with a spoon and eat just plain. If not used soon after cutting they do tend to turn brown. Sprinkling with lemon juice can help to prevent this. An avocado should feel slightly soft when it is ripe.

Overall, the avocado is a great food that is delicious and healthy.

New Science for Tooth Regeneration

A new study by scientists at Kyoto University and the Univ. of Fukui may soon offer some hope for people that have lost teeth. They have found that an antibody for one gene, the uterine sensitization associated gene-1 or USAG-1 can stimulate new tooth growth. This was established with mice that were suffering from tooth agenesis, which is a congenital condition.

An adult person has 32 teeth but around one percent of the population has either more or less due to congenital conditions. Both of these occurrences have been explored by scientists for the genetic causes. They have already identified the fundamental molecules that are responsible for tooth development.

Several molecules interact with the morphogenesis of teeth including BMP (bone morphogenetic protein) and Wnt signaling. Tooth development involves BMP and Wnt plus much more. The growth of organs and tissues are modulated during the early development of a human body. Thus, drugs that directly affect this activity are avoided, inhibiting side effects. Therefore, the team used the gene USAG-1, which could be safer and would not antagonize BMP and Wnt in tooth development.

They already knew that the suppression of USAG-1 can benefit tooth growth. But they had no idea if this alone would be enough. So they investigated using monoclonal antibodies for USAG-1. These are routinely used to treat arthritis, cancers and vaccine development.

But they soon found out that BMP and Wnt interact with USAG-1, leading to poor survival and birth rates of mice. Therefore, BMP and Wnt is important to the growth of the whole body. But one antibody disrupted the interaction with USAG-1 with only BMP. BMP signaling is dependent on determining the amount of teeth in the mice.

This was the first study to show that monoclonal antibodies for tooth regeneration can provide a therapeutic plan that currently is only being resolved with tooth implants and other measures that are artificial. Tooth regeneration cannot use conventional tissue engerineering so this study shows that cell-free molecular therapy can be and effective tood for congenital tooth agenesis.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Anti–USAG-1 therapy for tooth regeneration through enhanced BMP signaling

More Evidence Heart Disease and Red Meat Consumption Related

A recent study by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) was conducted with close to 20,000 people with examination of their consumption of red and processed meat associated with their heart anatomy and function. As an observational study it was discovered that the more red meat a person ate the worse their heart function could be.

Previous studies show there is an increased risk of heart problems or death from heart disease from eating a greater amount of red meat. Therefore, examining how red meat consumption and heart health imaging measures are related were taken into consideration for the first time. The study hopes this will help them understand any mechanisms involved with the previous connections pertaining to cardiovascular disease.

The study did not compare red meat from 100% grass fed animals with meat from those that are grain fed so the results should be interpreted as relating to ordinary grocery store, butcher shop or restaurant red meat which is almost always grain fed. Animals that are grain fed have much higher levels of fat including arachidonic acid which can cause inflammation when consumed in excess and may be a major cause of degenerative disease.

Three measures of heart function and health were conducted. The first being CMR or cardiovascular magnetic resonance. This assesses the heart function that is currently used in clinical practices such as ventricle volume and pumping function. The second measure was CMR radiomics that are used to obtain information from images of the heart correlating to texture and shape. This can indicate the heart muscle health. The third measure was blood vessel elasticity or stretchiness.

There were adjustments made for factors that could affect the relationship. These were age, deprivation, smoking, sex, alcohol, high blood pressure, exercise, diabetes, high cholesterol and a person’s body mass index for obesity.

The study concluded that a higher consumption of red meat, including processed meats were related to imaging measures of the heart that were worse. It was shown that persons with a higher consumption of red meat intake had stiffer arteries, a worse heart function and also had ventricles that were smaller. These are all evidence of poor cardiovascular health.

To further enhance the study, they also tested the association between the consumption of oily fish and heart imaging measures. Oily fish has previously been related to a better heart health. The study showed that more oily fish consumption improved heart function and the arteries became stretchier.

The findings of this study correlate with previous observations that link red and processed meat intake with heart problems including links of the heart and structure of the vascular function. From this study it seems sensible for an individual to decrease red and processed meat consumption to keep the heart healthy.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Study strengthens links between red meat and heart disease