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Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have identified components in pomegranate juice that both inhibit the movement of cancer cells and weaken their attraction to a chemical signal that promotes the metastasis of prostate cancer to the bone. The research could lead to new therapies for preventing cancer metastasis.
Performed in the lab of Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology, the research was presented at the 50th annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology taking place in Philadelphia.
Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the United States. To date, there is no cure for it. If prostate cancer recurs after treatments of surgery and/or radiation, usually the next treatment is the suppression of the male hormone testosterone, which inhibits the growth of the cancer cells because they need this hormone to grow. But over time, the cancer develops ways to resist hormone suppression therapies, becomes very aggressive, and metastasizes to the bone marrow, lungs, and lymph nodes, usually resulting in the patient's death.
The Martins-Green lab applied pomegranate juice on laboratory-cultured prostate cancer cells that were resistant to testosterone (the more resistant a cancer cell is to testosterone, the more prone it is to metastasizing).
The researchers - Martins-Green, graduate student Lei Wang and undergraduate students Andre Alcon and Jeffrey Ho - found that the pomegranate juice-treated tumor cells that had not died with the treatment showed increased cell adhesion (meaning fewer cells breaking away) and decreased cell migration.
Next, the researchers identified the following active groups of ingredients in pomegranate juice that had a molecular impact on cell adhesion and migration in metastatic prostate cancer cells: phenylpropanoids, hydrobenzoic acids, flavones and conjugated fatty acids.
"Having identified them, we can now modify cancer-inhibiting components in pomegranate juice to improve their functions and make them more effective in preventing prostate cancer metastasis, leading to more effective drug therapies," Martins-Green said. "Because the genes and proteins involved in the movement of prostate cancer cells are essentially the same as those involved in the movement of other types of cancer cells, the same modified components of the juice could have a much broader impact in cancer treatment."
Martins-Green explained that an important protein produced in the bone marrow causes the cancer cells to move to the bone where they can then form new tumors.
"We show that pomegranate juice markedly inhibits the function of this protein, and thus this juice has the potential of preventing metastasis of the prostate cancer cells to the bone," Martins-Green said.
Next, her lab plans to do additional tests in an in vivo model for prostate cancer metastasis to determine whether the same cancer-inhibiting components that work in cultured cells can prevent metastasis without side effects.
Source: University of California – Riverside, December 13, 2010
Christmas is a time of strong emotions, reflections on lost loved ones and stress from shopping and preparing for seasonal parties and gatherings.
Throw in the slow economy and shorter days triggering seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and it shouldn't be surprising that many are beginning to suffer from the Christmas blues.
"This is the time of the year when people are vulnerable to depression anyway," said Dr. Angelos Halaris, a psychiatrist with the Loyola University Health System. "The holiday season alone is a burden. Add to that the fact that these are difficult times economically. All of these things can help depression gain a foothold in certain individuals."
For most people, no matter the cause, there are some simple things that are known to work well in defeating the doldrums, Halaris said.
"Exercise works. Having replenishing relationships matter. Doing things that you find rewarding and fulfilling is helpful as is attending religious services.
Getting plenty of sleep and taking care of yourself works. We all have our limits and learning to live within those limits is important." Halaris said.
For those who have lost a cherished family member or friend, an empty chair at the table or one less present under the tree can be a painful reminder of the one who is missing.
"There are so many traditions associated with the holiday season that it can be an emotional roller coaster for someone who has recently suffered a loss," said Nancy Kiel, bereavement coordinator at Loyola. "Many people wish they could just fast forward through the holidays, but getting through the season is possible if you give yourself permission to be flexible."
Though there will be difficult moments, Kiel offers a few tips to help make the holidays a little brighter, beginning with acknowledging the loss.
"Start a new tradition to honor and remember your loved one," Kiel said. "Light a special candle or at dinner have everyone share a favorite memory or all can take part in a loved one's favorite holiday activity. Do something that would make your loved one smile."
Kiel also suggests gathering the family together to discuss changing traditions.
"Everyone is feeling the loss, so talk about what you are going to do and be willing to compromise," Kiel said. "If you don't like the change you made, next year you can always go back to the way you did it before."
As for shopping, skip the malls and give gift cards or shop online, Kiel said.
"It's not just about the presents, but about the presence of caring and supportive people," Kiel said.
For those feeling overwhelmed by party invitations or social gatherings, remember, you always have the option to not attend, Kiel said.
"You can say no or give yourself some breathing room by asking to RSVP at a later date," Kiel said. "If you do go, drive yourself. Then you can leave at your discretion. Also, try to avoid 'should people' who say 'you should do this' or 'you should do that.' "
For those suffering from SAD, the amount of sunlight will also eventually rebound. The disorder is characterized by depression, exhaustion and lack of interest in people and regular activities and can interfere with a person's ability to function properly.
"The most common type of this mood disorder occurs during the winter months," Halaris said. "SAD is thought to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain, brought on by lack of light due to winter's shorter days and typically overcast skies."
Halaris said that a tendency to crave sweets is common with SAD. In addition, social relationships are hindered. Here's how to reduce the risk of developing SAD in the first place.
"If at all possible, get outside during winter, even if it is overcast," Halaris said. "Expose your eyes to natural light for one hour each day. At home, open the drapes and blinds to let in natural light. SAD can be effectively treated with light therapy, antidepressant medication and/or psychotherapy."
There are times, though, when a case of the blues is more serious. When the blues take hold and stay it could be a sign of clinical depression. Signs to look for include low mood lasting more than two weeks, loss of appetite or overeating, changes in energy levels, difficulties in concentrating or thoughts about death or suicide.
"Those things may herald or actually already be major depression and are not symptoms to be ignored," Halaris said. "You should seek immediate medical attention."
As far as economy, it's cyclical. No matter how far down it goes, it always recovers eventually.
"People need to know that even in difficult financial times, we have as a nation always rebounded," Halaris said.
Source: Loyola University Health System, December 11, 2010
New molecular tools developed at the University of Michigan show promise for "cleansing" the brain of amyloid plaques, implicated in Alzheimer's disease.
A hallmark of Alzheimer's disease - a neurodegenerative disease with no cure - is the aggregation of protein-like bits known as amyloid-beta peptides into clumps in the brain called plaques. These plaques and their intermediate messes can cause cell death, leading to the disease's devastating symptoms of memory loss and other mental difficulties.
The mechanisms responsible for the formation of these misfolded proteins and their associations with Alzheimer's disease are not entirely understood, but it's thought that copper and zinc ions are somehow involved.
The research, led by assistant professor Mi Hee Lim, was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
In earlier work, Lim and her team developed dual-purpose molecular tools that both grab metal ions and interact with amyloid-beta. The researchers went on to show that in solutions with or without living cells, the molecules were able to regulate copper-induced amyloid-beta aggregation, not only disrupting the formation of clumps, but also breaking up clumps that already had formed.
Building upon that first generation of compounds, Lim and lab members Jung-Suk Choi and Joseph Braymer now report a second generation of compounds that are more stable in biological environments. The researchers tested one of those compounds, described in the PNAS paper, in homogenized brain tissue samples from Alzheimer's disease patients.
"We found that our compound is capable of disassembling the misfolded amyloid clumps to form smaller amyloid pieces, which might be 'cleansed' from the brain more easily, demonstrating a therapeutic application of our compound," said Lim, who has joint appointments in the Life Sciences Institute and the Department of Chemistry. In addition, preliminary tests show that the bi-functional small molecules have a strong potential to cross the blood-brain barrier, the barricade of cells that separates brain tissue from circulating blood, protecting the brain from harmful substances in the bloodstream.
"Crossing this barrier is essential for any treatment like this to be successful," Lim said.
Next steps include more intensive testing of the new compounds for diagnostic and therapeutic properties.
Lim and her team collaborated with Ayyalusamy Ramamoorthy, professor of chemistry and biophysics on this work, with funding from the U-M Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative, and the National Institutes of Health.
Source: University of Michigan, December 13, 2010
Thousands of Americans sustain winter-related back injuries every year, including many injuries directly related to holiday activities. But there are often simple things that can be done to reduce injury risk and minimize or eliminate back pain.
Most people experience additional stress and busier schedules during the winter holiday season that can lead to back pain, or worsen existing back pain. Increased activity such as completing year-end work projects, traveling, holiday shopping, carrying heavy packages, prolonged work in the kitchen, and hanging indoor or outdoor decorations can all wreak havoc on your back. The CDC estimates, in fact, that 5,800 Americans go to emergency rooms every year due to injuries, including back injuries, sustained from holiday decorating related falls.
Excess weight gained during the holidays can also place strain on the spine. According to one survey, 69% of Americans estimate that they gain up to eight pounds during the winter holiday season. Excess weight increases the likelihood of back injury, can aggravate existing injuries and can make it more difficult to recover.
Leading neurosurgeon and spine specialist William J. Sonstein, MD, FACS, of Neurological Surgery, P.C., has developed tips to help keep readers' backs safe and healthy during this season:
Acute low back pain is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits in the U.S. Nine out of ten adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, and five out of ten working adults have back pain every year.
Dr. Sonstein is a partner in Neurological Surgery, P.C., a private practice of leading neurosurgeons, and Chief of Neurosurgery at North Shore-LIJ Hospital at Plainview, New York. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Neurosurgery. He has a special interest in complex spine surgery and has extensive experience with a range of minimally invasive and open surgical techniques.
Source: Neurological Surgery, P.C., December 10, 2010
For many women coping with obesity and depression, new research finds that improving your mood might be the link to losing weight.
The new study, which appears in the November/December issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, cites past surveys that show having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more - classified as obese - increases a person's risk of depression by 50 percent to 150 percent.
"I expect that the relationship between depression and physical activity goes in both directions," said lead author Gregory Simon, M.D., of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. "Increased physical activity leads to improvement in depression and improvement in depression leads to increased physical activity. We see in our study that they go together, but we can't say which causes which."
Simon and his colleagues evaluated 203 women ages 40 to 65 with an average BMI of 38.3. Participants underwent baseline tests to measure their weight, depression score, physical activity and food intake.
They placed the women into two treatment groups - one focused on weight loss and the other focused on both weight loss and depression. Both interventions included up to 26 group sessions over 12 months, and researchers followed up on participants at six, 12 and 24 months after enrollment.
The researchers found the most significant changes happened in the first six months and then remained stable afterwards. At six months, among the women who had at least a one-half point decrease on the Hopkins Symptom Checklist depression score, 38 percent lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. This compared with 21 percent of the women who lost the same amount but had no decrease - or an increase - in their depression score.
"Most weight loss programs do not pay enough attention to screening and treatment of depression," said Babak Roshanaei-Moghaddam, M.D., of the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at the University of Washington in Seattle. "This study further underscores the importance of screening for depression in such programs that can potentially lead to both physical and psychological well-being."
General Hospital Psychiatry is a peer-reviewed research journal published bimonthly by Elsevier Inc.
Simon GE, et al. Association between change in depression and change in weight among women enrolled in weight loss treatment. Gen Hosp Psych 32(6), 2010.
Source: Health Behavior News Service, December 12, 2010
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