04 January 2007

News of Interest

Real time functional brain scans are getting better, thanks to MEG scans--magnetoencephalography. PET scans have poor temporal resolution, and are indirect measures of nerve signalling. FMRI scans have better temporal resolution than PET scans, but are still not as fast as neuroscientists would like--and also use indirect measures of neural signalling, blood flow. MEG scans are both fast and a direct measure of neural electromagnetic activity.

Scientists at the University of Delaware have developed a fascinating new polymerization technique--deposition polymerization (DP). It involves depositing monomers on a surface in a vacuum, then exposing the coated surface to ultraviolet radiation--which triggers a polymerization reaction. Reportedly the thickness of the coating can be controlled to a precission of a billionth of a meter.

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute have learned more about how the migration of cells from one location to another is orchestrated. This research could have a bearing on the prevention of malignant metastasis, and also may lead to a means to control cell migration from outside the body--an intriguing idea to bio-futurists.

Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered a way to augment the anti-cancer effect of butyrate--a natural product of fiber fermentation in the human GI tract. Butyrate has exhibited an anti-cancer effect against several types of cancer, including colon cancer, tongue carcinoma, hematologic malignancies, prostate cancer, and others.

By combining butyrate with N-acetyl-D-mannosamine (ManNAc), the researchers both increased cancer cell uptake of butyrate, and increased the overall apoptosis in the malignant cells due to the synergistic effects of butyrate with sialic acid--a metabolite of the ManNAc.

Butyrate is a simple essentially non-toxic molecule, but it apparently has a profound effect on the cell cycle, the apoptotic cascade, and even the re-differentiation process in cancer cells.
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