New Bone Building Stem Cells Discovered

A group of researchers have discovered a population of stem cells which have the ability to generate new bone. They reside along the vascular channels that stretch across bone and connect the inner and outer parts of the bone.

This is a new discovery of perivascular cells which reside within the bone itself. They can generate new bone forming cells, and these cells likely regulate the formation of bone or participate in bone mass repair and maintenance.

It has long been thought that stem cells for bone are present within bone marrow and the outer surfaces of bone. Recent research has described the existence of a network of vascular channels that assisted in distributing blood cells out of bone marrow. However, no studies have proven the existence of cells within these channels that have the ability to form new bone.

In the recent study, the team are the first to report the existence of these progenitor cells within cortical bone that can generate new osteoblasts or new bone forming cells and can be used to remodel bone. The team observed the stem cells within an ex vivo bone transplantation model. The cells migrated out of the transplant and began to reconstruct the bone marrow cavity and begin forming new bone.

Although the study shows this population of cells which can help aid formation of bone, more research is needed to determine the cell’s potential to regulate bone resorption and formation.

To view the original scientific study click below

Perivascular osteoprogenitors are associated with transcortical channels of long bones.

Beauty Sleep Could Be Real

Biologists at The University of Manchester have discovered for the first time why having a great night’s sleep could set us up for the rigors of the day ahead. The study shows how the body clock mechanism will boost our ability to maintain our bodies during the hours we are most active.

It is known that the body clock is not as precise as we age. The new discovery may one day help researchers unlock some of the mysteries behind aging. The recent discovery sheds fascinating light on the bodies extracellular matrix. This matrix provides biochemical and structural support to cells in the form of connective tissue such as skin, bone, cartilage and tendon.

Over one half of our body weight is matrix and half of this is collagen. It has been long understood that it is fully formed by the time a person reaches the age of 17. Now researchers have discovered there are two types of fibrils which are rope like structures of collagen that are woven by cells to form tissues.

Thick fibrils measure about 200 nanometers in diameter. This is a million times smaller than a pinhead. They are permanent and remain with us throughout our lives, unchanged from the age of 17.

However, thinner fibrils measuring 50 nanometers are sacrificial. They break when we subject our body to the rigors of the day, They do however replenish when we rest at night.

Mice were used for the study. Collagen was observed by mass spectrometry and the mouse fibrils were observed through the use of state of the art volumetric electron microscopy every 4 hours over 2 days. When the body clock genes where knocked out in the mice, the thick and thin fibrils were amalgamated randomly.

Since collagen provides the body with structure and is also our most abundant protein, it is intuitive to think our matrix should be worn down by wear and tear. However it isn’t and the team knows why. Our body clock makes an element which is sacrificial and can be replenished. This protects the permanent parts of the matrix.

Having this new information and discovery could have implications for understanding our biology at the most fundamental level It could give some deeper insight into how wounds heal and also how we age.

To view the original scientific study click below

Circadian control of the secretory pathway is a central mechanism in tissue homeostasis

Artificial Intelligence can find Disease Related Genes

Researchers at Linkoping University have found that an artificial neural network has the ability to reveal patterns in very large amounts of gene expression data and discover groups of genes that are disease related. The findings give hope that this new method can eventually be applied to precision medicine and treatments that are individualized.

Scientists are creating maps of biological networks based on how different genes or proteins interact with each other. The team behind the new study used artificial intelligence (AI) to research whether it is possible to discover biological networks through deep learning in which entities which are known as artificial neural networks are trained through experimental data.

Artificial neural networks are excellent at learning how to find patterns in huge amounts of complex data. They are being used in applications such as image recognition. However until now, this machine learning method has seldom been used in biological research. For the first time, researchers have used deep learning to find genes that are disease related. This method is very powerful in analyzing enormous amounts of biological information or big data.

The team used a large database containing information about the expression patterns of 20,000 genes in a large amount of people. This information was unsorted meaning the team did not give the artificial neural network any information about which gene expression patterns were from people with diseases and which were from people that were healthy. The AI model was then trained to discover patterns of gene expression.

A challenge with machine learning is that it is impossible to see exactly how an artificial neural network will solve a task. AI is at times described as a black box meaning we only see the information that is put into the box and then the result it produces. The steps between cannot be seen.

Artificial neural networks consists of many layers in which information is processed mathematically. The network comprises an output layer and an input layer that delivers results of the information processing carried out by the system. Between the two layers are several hidden layers where calculations are carried out. When the team had trained the artificial neural network, they wondered if it was possible to lift the lid of the black box and then understand how it works. They wondered if the designs of the neural network and the familiar biological networks are similar.

When they analyzed the neural network it turned out that the first hidden layer to a large extent represented interactions between various proteins. Deeper within the model in contrast, on the third level they found groups of different types of cells. It was interesting to them that this type of biologically relevant grouping was automatically produced given that the network was started from unclassified gene expression data.

The team then investigated whether the gene expression model could be used to determine which particular gene expression patterns are normal and which are associated with disease. They were able to confirm that the model finds relevant patterns that agree well with biological mechanisms within the body. Since the model had been trained using unclassified data, it is possible that the artificial neural network had found totally new patterns.

The team plans to now investigate whether these previously unknown patterns are relevant from a biological perspective. They believe the key to progress in the field is to fully understand the neural network. This could teach many new things about biological contexts such as diseases wherein many factors interact. They believe that their method gives models which are easier to generalize and can be used for many different types of biological information.

The hope is that close collaboration with medical researchers will enable the team to apply the method developed in the study in precision medicine. It could be possible to determine which groups of patients should receive a particular type of medicine or identify patients who are most severely affected.

To view the original scientific study click below

Deriving disease modules from the compressed transcriptional space embedded in a deep autoencoder.

How Does Soybean Oil Affect Your Health?

New research at UC Riverside has shown that soybean oil which is America’s most widely consumed oil not only leads to diabetes and obesity, but could also have neurological affects on the brain. These affects could lead to Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, depression and even autism.

Soybean oil is used in fast food frying, is added to packaged foods and is fed to livestock. And it appears in all likelihood it is not healthy for humans to consume. It is not good for mice. The recent study compared mice fed three different diets high in fats – soybean oil, soybean oil modified to be low in linoleic acid and coconut oil.

The same research team in 2015 discovered that soybean oil induces diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity and fatty liver in mice. In a 2017 study, this same team learned that if soybean oil is engineered to be low in linoleic acid, it induces insulin resistance and obesity.

In the new study released this month, the team did not find any difference between the unmodified soybean oil and the modified soybean oil’s effects on the brain. The team found pronounced effects of the oil on the hypothalmus which is a part of the brain where a number of critical processes happen.

The hypothalmus regulates body weight through metabolism, maintains body temperature and is critical for physical growth and reproduction as well as response to stress.

The research team discovery determined a number of genes in mice who were fed soybean oil were not functioning properly. One such gene produces oxytocin, the love hormone. In mice fed soybean oil the levels of oxytocin in the hypothalmus went down.

The team discovered about 100 other genes that were also affected by the soybean oil diet. They believe the discovery could have ramifications not only for energy metabolism, but also for proper brain function and a variety of diseases such as Parkinson’s and autism. However, they did note that there is not actual proof that soybean oil causes these diseases.

The team also notes that their findings only apply to soybean oil, not other soy products or to other types of vegetable oils. Many soy products contain small amounts of the oil and large amounts of healthful compounds such as proteins and essential fatty acids.

It is also important to note that the study was conducted on mice and mouse studies don’t always translate the same to humans. And the study utilized male mice. Because oxytocin is very important for maternal health and promotes mother/child bonding, similar studies will need to be performed using female mice.

The team has not isolated exactly which chemicals in soybean oil are responsible for changes they found in the hypothalmus. They have however ruled out two candidates. It is not the linoleic acid since the modified soybean oil also produced genetic disruptions. Nor is it stigmasteral which is a cholesterol like chemical found naturally in the oil.

The team’s future research will include identifying the compounds responsible for the negative effects. Their research could help design healthier dietary oils in the future. The dogma is that any saturated fat is bad and unsaturated fats are good. Soybean oil is actually a polyunsaturated fat but the thought that it is good for you is not proven.

Coconut oil which contains saturated fats, produced very few changes in the hypothalmic genes. The take away now is reduce the consumption of soybean oil.

To view the original scientific study click below

Omega-6 and omega-3 oxylipins are implicated in soybean oil-induced obesity in mice

Chronic Inflammation and Thinking/Memory Problems

Chronic inflammation is tough on the body and now through a recent study we have one more thing to be worried about. This study published in Neurology indicates that chronic inflammation in middle age may lead to problems with memory and thinking in the years leading up to old age.

There are two different kinds of inflammation. Acute inflammation occurs when a person’s immune system ramps into action in an effort to fight off injury or infection. It is short term, localized and part of a healthy immune system.

Chronic inflammation on the other hand is not considered healthy. It is low grade inflammation that will longer for months and even years throughout the body. It can be the result of a variety of autoimmune diseases, physical stress, lingering infections, exposure to polluted air, and other causes. Symptoms include stiffness, joint pain, fatigue and digestive problems.

In conjunction with the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, the researchers followed 12,336 middle aged individuals between 45 and 65 years for about 20 years. They took blood samples at the beginning of the study measuring four bio markers for inflammation… white blood cell count, fibrinogen (a soluble protein found in blood plasma), von Willebrand factor (a blood glycoprotein involved in stopping bleeding) and factor VIII (a blood protein involved in clotting). They then created a composite inflammation score for these four bio markers.

Three years later the researchers measured C-reactive protein which is a protein found in blood plasma whose levels rise in response to inflammation. The participants were then divided into four different groups based on the C-reactive protein levels and their composite inflammation scores.

The participants memory and thinking skills were tested at the start of the study then six to nine years later and at the studies end.

What they found was the group with the highest levels of the inflammation bio markers had an 8% steeper decline in memory and thinking skills over the length of the study compared with the lowest levels of bio markers. The group that had the highest C-reactive protein levels showed a 12% steeper decline in thinking and memory skills compared to the group with the lowest levels.

The researchers adjusted for a variety of factors that could affect thinking and memory skills such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and education level. Additional analysis revealed that declines associated with inflammation in thinking were most prominent in the areas of memory when compared to other aspects of thinking such as executive functioning and language.

The team noted that overall the additional change in memory and thinking skills which were associated with chronic inflammation were modest, but were greater than what had been seen earlier with high blood pressure in middle age.

It is believed that many of the processes in the body that can lead to memory and thinking skill decline beginning in middle age. It is also middle age that may be most response to interventions. The study shows that chronic inflammation may be an important target for interventions. However, they do also note that it is possible that this type of inflammation is not a cause and instead is a marker or response to neurodegenerative diseases of the brain that can lead to cognitive decline.

There was a limitation to the study which was that participants with higher levels of chronic inflammation at the beginning of the study were more likely to die or drop out before the final follow up visit. Surviving participants might not be completely representative of the general population.

Regardless, chronic inflammation takes its toll on the body affecting internal organs, tissue, cells and joints and can also lead to severe and deadly diseases. Reducing chronic inflammation involves some of the same health behaviors that are already known to be important…healthy diet including cold water fish such as wild salmon or taking a high quality omega-3 supplement, regular exercise, avoiding excessive weight gain, getting enough sleep and other healthy habits.

To view the original scientific study click below

Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span

Hand Washing to Slow Epidemics

A new study has estimated that improving rates of hand washing by travelers going through only ten of the world’s leading airports could significantly reduce the spread of a good number of infectious diseases. Additionally, the greater the improvement in how people wash their hands in airports, the even more dramatic effect on slowing down the spread of disease.

The findings which deal with a variety of infectious diseases in general including influenza were published right before the current outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. The authors say the results would apply to any such disease and also relevant to the current disease.

To prevent the spread of viral infections, doctors recommend practicing good hand hygiene. And the recent research indicates that hand washing is helpful in the context of an epidemic. When it comes to the prevention of viral infections and especially those that spread through droplets from sneezes and coughs, proper hand washing is always the first line of defense.

A lot of people can be very casual about washing their hands even in crowded areas such as airports where people from many different locations are touching a variety of surfaces such as check in kiosks, chair armrests, restroom doorknobs and faucets, and checkpoint trays. The team used data from previous research by groups including the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) and found that on average only about 20% of people in airports have clean hands. This means that they have been washed with both soap and water for at least 15 seconds and within the last hour or so. The other 80% of people are potentially contaminating everything they come in contact with whatever germs they may be carrying.

70% of people who use the toilet do wash their hands afterwards based on findings from a previous ASM study. The other 30% do not and of those that do only 50% actually do it correctly. Many people just rinse their hands briefly with water rather than using soap and water and do not spend the 15 to 20 seconds recommended for proper hand washing. This figure combined with estimates of exposure to many potentially contaminated surfaces that people will come in contact with in airports, leads to the research teams estimate that only about 20% of travelers in airports actually have clean hands.

By improving hand washing at all the world’s airports by triple that rate so that 60% of travelers have clean hands at any given time, would have the greatest impact which could potentially slow down the spread of global disease by almost 70%. Reaching such a high level of compliance may be impractical, however the study suggests that a significant reduction in the spread of infectious disease could still be achieved by picking just 10 of the most significant airports based on the initial location of a viral outbreak. By focusing hand washing messaging in these 10 airports could potentially slow the spread of disease by as much as 37%.

The team arrive at their estimates by using detailed epidemiological simulations which involved data on worldwide flights including distance, duration, and interconnections, estimate of wait times, and studies on typical rates of interactions between people with a variety of elements in their surroundings and with other people.

Even just small improvements in hand hygiene could make a noticeable dent. By increasing the prevalence of clean hands in all airports throughout the world by just 10%, the team believes this could slow down the global rate of the spread of disease by about 24%.

Eliciting an increase in good hand hygiene is certainly a challenge, however new approaches in awareness, education, and socially media nudges have proven to be effective in engaging better and more frequent hand washing practices.

The findings are consistent with recommendations that have been made by both the World Health Organization and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control. Both organizations have indicated that proper hand hygiene is the most cost effective and most efficient way to control the spread of infectious diseases. There are other useful roles in limiting the spread of disease such as airport closures, surgical face masks and travel restrictions, hand washing is still considered the first line of defense and an easy one for people to implement.

To view the original scientific study click below

Hand-Hygiene Mitigation Strategies Against Global Disease Spreading through the Air Transportation Network.

New Technique to Boost Spinal Cord Injury Repair

An international research team which was led by physician/scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has described a new process for delivering neural precursor cells (NSCs) to rats with spinal cord injuries. The process reduced the risk of additional injury and boosted the propagation of potentially repairing cells.

NSCs are known to hold great potential for treating a variety of injuries and neurodegenerative diseases to the spinal cord. These stem cells have the ability to differentiate into multiple types of neural cell depending on their environment. This has led to intense interest and much effort to use these cells to repair injuries to the spinal cord and effectively restore related functions.

Current techniques for delivering spinal cells involve direct needle injection into the spinal parenchyma. This is the primary cord of nerve fibers that runs throughout the vertebral column. This technique creates an inherent risk of further injury to spinal tissue or intraparechymal bleeding.

The new technique created by the team is less invasive. It deposits injected cells into the spinal subpial space which is a space between the pial membrane and the superficial layers of the spinal cord.

This injection technique allows for the delivery of a high number of cells from a single injection. Cells that possess proliferative properties such as glial progenitors, can then migrate into the spinal parenchyma and populate over time in multiple spinal segments as well as the brain stem. These injected cells acquire functional properties consistent with their surrounding host cells.

The team suggests that subpially injected cells will likely accelerate and improve treatment potency in therapies involving cell replacement for a variety of spinal neurodegenerative disorders in which a broad repopulation of glial cells is desired. This could include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal traumatic injury, and multiple sclerosis.

The team plans to test their cell delivery system in larger preclinical animal models with spinal traumatic injury and which closely mimic human size and anatomy. Their goal is to define the optimal dosing of cells and the optimal timing of cell delivery which is associated with the best treatment effect following a spinal injury.

To view the original scientific study click below

Spinal parenchymal occupation by neural stem cells after subpial delivery in adult immunodeficient rats.

Transforming Stem Cells into Bone, Cartilage or Muscle

Researchers have now found that specifically programmed materials under very specific conditions can encourage stem cells to transform into bone cells. To achieve this, scientists implemented a so called shape memory polymer in stem cell research.

Stem cells have the ability to turn into a variety of stem cell types whether cartilage, muscle or bone cells. Like the body they are part of, these cells can sense what happens around them and then react accordingly. For years, researchers have been learning much about how to steer this differentiation process by changing the cells environment.

The knowledge that has been acquired so far is already being used in tissue engineering. This means generating substitute materials that can restore or maintain damaged biological tissues. However, most of the research has been conducted on static scaffolds.

The new research has used a dynamic scaffold. The team took a polymer sheet which acts like an artificial muscle. This sheet has the unusual property that is trained to reversibly morph when it is exposed to repeated changes in temperature.

The team simply molded a grid onto the underside of this sheet and programmed it to stretch as its temperature went from body temperature of 37 degrees C to 10 degrees C and to contract when reheated. The sheet was then seeded with stem cells and carefully observed for the changing shape of the gridded sheet and cells.

With the help of the artificial muscle, the team could use one physical signal which is the temperature change to simultaneously send a second mechanical signal to the stem cells. These synchronized stimuli have the possibility of encourgaing the stem cells to turn themselves into bone cells.

The polymer actuator sheet has a shape memory function. This allows it to act like a transducer which the team can effectively instruct the cells to do what they want them to do. They found that the temperature changes combined with the repeated stretching motion of the film was enough to encourage the stem cells to differentiate themselves into bone cells.

These programmed polymer sheets could be used to treat bones so severely broken that the body can’t repair them by itself. Stem cells harvested from a person’s own bone marrow could be cultured on the polymer sheets and adaptively wrapped around the bone during an operation. The previously trained cells could then directly strengthen the broken bone.

To view the original scientific study click below

Polymeric sheet actuators with programmable bioinstructivity.

Keto Diet Works Best in Small Doses

Yale researchers studying mice have found that a ketogenic diet can produce health benefits in the short term, however produce negative effects after approximately a week. Their results do offer early indications that this diet could over limited time periods improve human health by lowering inflammation and the risk of diabetes.

A ketogenic diet consists of 70% – 80% of calories from fat, 10% – 20% from protein and 5% – 10% from carbohydrates. This diet has become increasingly popular and has been touted as a weight loss regimen. The research currently conducted on mice may be an important first step toward the possibility of clinical trials in humans.

The study has shown that the positive and negative effects of the keto diet both relate to immune cells known as gamma delta T-cells which are tissue protective cells that help lower inflammation and diabetes risk.

The keto diet tricks the body into burning fat. As the body’s glucose level becomes reduced due to the diet’s very lower carbohydrate content, the body will act as if it is in a state of starvation, although it isn’t. The body then begins to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. This process yields chemicals called ketone bodies as an alternative source of fuel. As the body burns ketone bodies, the tissue protective gamma delta T-cells will expand throughout the body.

This process reduces inflammation and diabetes risk and improves the body’s metabolism. After a week on this diet, mice show a reduction in inflammation and blood sugar levels.

However, when the body is in this starving but not really starving mode, storage of fat is also happening simultaneously with the breakdown of fat. As the mice continued to eat this high fat/low carb diet beyond one week, they consume more fat than their body can burn and therefore develop diabetes and obesity. They lose the protective gamma delta T-cells in their fat.

Long term clinical studies are still necessary in humans to validate the anecdotal claims of the health benefits of a keto diet. Before this type of diet can be prescribed, large clinical trials in controlled conditions is necessary to fully understand the mechanism behind any metabolic and immunological benefits or any potential harm to people who are pre-diabetic and overweight.

Both Type 2 Diabetes and obesity are lifestyle diseases. Diet allows people in one way to be in control.

The findings highlight the interplay between the immune system and metabolism and how it coordinates the maintenance of healthy tissue function.

To view the original scientific study click below

Ketogenesis activates metabolically protective T cells in visceral adipose tissue.

The Nut That is Good for your Gut Health and Heart

Researchers at Penn State have found that consuming walnuts on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet was linked to increases in certain bacteria that can help promote health. Those changes in the gut bacteria were also linked with improvements in some risk factors for diseases of the heart.

Walnuts are not only a tasty snack, but with the new research it appears walnuts contribute “good” bacteria and this may be what provides their heart health benefits. Prior research has found that changes in the gut microbiome may help explain the cardiovascular benefits. And when combined with a diet low in saturated fats, walnuts can also help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

For the study, 42 participants were recruited who had obesity or overweight issues and were between the ages of 30 and 65. Prior to the start of the study, the participants were placed on an average American diet for two weeks.

Following the initial 2 week diet, participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets. All the diets included less saturated fat than was in the 2 week diet. The diets included one that included whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid or another fatty acid for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts but without any walnuts.

In all of the three diets, walnuts or vegetable oils replaced saturated fats and all the participants followed each diet for a six week period with a break between diet periods.

In order to analyze the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, the team collected fecal samples 72 hours prior to the initial 2 week diet and prior to each of the three study diet periods.

The walnut diet was shown to enrich a number of gut bacteria that have been linked to health benefits in the past. One of the gut bacteria known as Roseburia has been associated with protection for the lining of the gut. The team also saw enrichment in Butyricicoccus and Eubacteria eligens.

The team also discovered that following the walnut diet there were significant links between changes in the gut bacteria and risk factors for heart disease. Eubacterium elegens was inversely linked with changes in several different measures of blood pressure. This suggests that larger numbers of this bacteria was linked with greater reductions in those risk factors.

Greater numbers of Lachnospiraceae were also associated with greater reductions in total cholesterol, blood pressure and non HDL cholesterol. There were no significant associations between enriched bacteria and risk factors for heart disease following the other two diets.

Foods like whole walnuts provide a diverse variety of substrates like fiber, bioactive compounds and fatty acids for our gut microbiomes to feed on. This in turn can help generate beneficial metabolites and a variety of other products for the human body.

The recent findings add to what is already known about the health benefits of walnuts with this new evidence showing their positive affect on gut health. Future research will continue to investigate how walnuts affect the microbiome and other health benefits such as how they might affect blood sugar levels.

To view the original scientific study click below

Walnuts and Vegetable Oils Containing Oleic Acid Differentially Affect the Gut Microbiota and Associations with Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Follow-up of a Randomized, Controlled, Feeding Trial in Adults at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease