US Experts Warn US Not Prepared to Contain Ebola, US Officials Reject Travel Restrictions

US Experts Warn US Not Prepared to Contain Ebola, US Officials Reject Travel Restrictions
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While experts in the US warned that the US was not prepared to contain an Ebola outbreak, citing mistakes and missteps in the handling of the first US Ebola case which resulted in the death of Thomas Duncan last week, US officials and US President Barack Obama rejected increasing calls for travel restrictions to and from the affected areas of West Africa.

“It is America–our doctors, our scientists, our know-how–that leads the fight to contain and combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa,” said Obama in rejecting travel restrictions, stressing his faith in US doctors and health facilities.

CDC Director Tom Friedman also dismissed calls for travel restrictions and isolation of the West African nations where the Ebola outbreak has claimed thousands of lives.

Friedman rationalized his position by saying that isolating the outbreak regions may cause the disease to spread more widely and cause greater risk to America.

“It’s a tough question that’s coming up and will keep coming up,” Friedman said. “Our perspective–very much like the situation with regard to the individual–is to take actions that seem like they may work. The approach of isolating countries–it’s harder to get help into that country and it may enable the disease to spread more widely there and potentially become more of a risk to us here.”

However, Friedman admitted that the risk was not controlled.

“The bottom line here is the plain truth that we can’t make the risk zero until the outbreak is controlled in West Africa,” said Friedman.

Several US politicians have made public calls for travel restrictions.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Humble) requested that the president restrict travel to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

“I believe that the recent Ebola case in Dallas highlights the fact that non-essential travel to the affected region is putting Americans at unnecessary risk,” Poe wrote in his request.

Texas US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration questioning the measures it was taking to protect America from Ebola.

“Due to the Obama administration’s unclear approach to addressing the threat of the Ebola virus, Americans–particularly the Texans who have possibly been exposed–deserve specific answers to how the administration is addressing travel to and from the countries impacted by the disease,” Cruz wrote.

US Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) also warned of a need to increase health security. “The propensity of people coming out of those countries may be to get out of there as fast as possible,” said Murphy. “Even if that means lying on their records. We can’t necessarily just use that verbal screening process. CDC and NIH are going to tell us how they are adapting and changing this, because the current process apparently is not effective.”

Experts in the US have also called for restrictions.

Gavin MacGregor-Skinner, an assistant professor of public health at Penn State University, who helped set up an Ebola clinic in Nigeria weeks ago, said of the outbreak, “This is a Category 5 hurricane. It just happens to be viral.”

Phenelle Segal, president of Montgomery County-based Infection Control Consulting Services and a former infection prevention analyst for the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, warned, “Unless the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention take extreme measures to prevent the universal spread of the disease, we could possibly end up with a pandemic.

“I think as soon as we started seeing West Africa go out of control with Ebola, that was the time [to impose travel restrictions.]”

In West Africa, the disease has claimed 3,300 lives with no end in sight. The UN has said of the outbreak that it is surging “beyond control,” and warned of a worldwide disaster.

Ebola cases in West Africa have doubled every three weeks. In Sierra Leone 121 people died of Ebola Sunday.

UN officials have stated that a total air quarantine would not stop the spread of Ebola, but would delay it.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

Ebola Genome Sequencing Being Undertaken by Harvard Team to Discover Weaknesses in Virus Genome, Which Has Already Mutated Hundreds of Times

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The largest Ebola outbreak in history, which began in Guinea earlier this year before spreading to other West African nations, has become the subject of a gene sequencing study by a Harvard team already well-versed in similar viruses. The research has discovered that the current Ebola outbreak has already mutated hundreds of times and continues to mutate rapidly. Scientists will use the data from genome sequencing to find weaknesses in the virus, which can be attacked with drugs.

The Harvard team already is fluent and actively working on similar viruses in West Africa. The team had been working on Lassa Virus before taking on Ebola.

Ebola Genome Sequencing Being Undertaken by Harvard Team to Discover Weaknesses in Virus Genome (2)
Pardis Sabeti

Pardis Sabeti, a computer geneticist at Harvard University, said that the team’s experience with Lassa Virus was helpful in understanding Ebola because of the similar symptoms of the two viruses, particularly hemorrhagic fever.

“If you look at the three published Guinean strains,” commented Sabeti, “these are all linked. These all appear to be one chain of events.

Read more: “When Well-Managed, an Ebola Outbreak Can Be Stopped” – UN with Affected Nations Launch Joint $100 Million Response Plan

“It seems that there is one entry into Sierra Leone, that spread throughout.

“We see hundreds of mutations–over 300 mutations–that separate this virus from past viruses. We see 55 mutations that have just happened within the course of this outbreak event. And we also see hundreds of mutations that are happening within individuals–things that one day may become common in the population and fixed between individuals.

ebola genome sequencing“Many of those are functional, so we’re going to be paying attention to those.

“The understanding of the pathogenesis,” said Christian Happi, Director of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infections Disease in Nigeria, referring to the development of drugs or vaccines, “that actually provides crucial information for going on to develop whatever tools.”

Drugs and vaccines are built on protein sequences, which are build on the genome sequence. Scientists will be able to use the research data to see how genome sequences are changing and identify which parts of the Ebola virus will be vulnerable and which parts will disappear from the strain.

“The type of genome sequencing we do informs whether or not the drugs, the vaccines, the diagnostics that we are using are going to be viable as the virus continues to mutate and change,” said Sabeti.

The Harvard team has already been active in West Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. They set up diagnosis and surveillance on the ground.

By James Haleavy


World’s Unofficial Tallest Man Dies After Life as Recluse

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The world’s tallest man, who had grown to 2.60 meters (8.5 feet) by age 44, has died from complications associated with the condition that was the cause of his ceaseless growth.

Leonid Stadnyk had withdrawn from public attention after being briefly named by the Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest man in 2007. Stadnyk refused to be measured by the records organization, and the title was returned to Bao Xishun of China, who stood at 2.36 meters (7 ft 9 in)

Stadnyk lived at his mother’s house in a village in northern Ukraine. Stadnyk said that his height did him more harm than good.

During the latter part of his life, Stadnyk’s condition had caused him to quit his employment as a veterinarian and even made it difficult to walk.

Stadnyk occupied himself with gardening and tending livestock at home. He held onto the limbs of trees and the side of his house to walk about.

Stadnyk’s condition began after a brain surgery operation performed on him at age 14. Stadnyk developed a pituitary gland tumor, which caused the production of large amounts of growth hormone–a condition known as acromegalic gigantism. However, twenty years after the operation, the tumor was found to have mysteriously disappeared.

Stadnyk died of a cerebral hemorrhage Sunday, according to his mother.

By James Haleavy

Changes in Heart Medication Guidelines – Mayo Clinic

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A Mayo Clinic task force has put together an updated set of recommendations for cholesterol treatment. The last guideline update took place in 2001, and several changes have been recommended, including a recommendation that not all patients currently prescribed statins and other cholesterol-lowering medications should take them. The task force also had new recommendations for people with rheumatoid arthritis or AIDS, and those who had received certain organ transplants.

This means that people with cholesterol issues or concerns will need to consult their doctors again soon to reassess their treatment and prevention options. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, task force chairman and director of preventive cardiology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota Benefit told The Speaker that people should see their doctors “basically to discuss the expected benefit and risks.”

Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D
Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D

“The benefit should be described in terms of absolute benefit,” Lopez-Jimenez told us. “How many people like me would not have a heart attack after 10 years taking the medicine? And not taking the medicine?”

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) guideline needed to be updated, stated Lopez-Jimenez. The last update took place 12 years ago. The recommendations were published as “ACC/AHA Prevention Guideline
2013; ACC/AHA Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults” on Circulation Journals.

“We agree with many points of the [existing] guideline, but there are some key areas where we do not completely agree or we wanted to expand and provide more guidance,” said Lopez-Jimenez.

Several changes have been recommended.

While the current ACC/AHA cholesterol treatment guideline recommends high doses of the strongest statins to most men over the age of 65, the Mayo task force found no evidence to recommend this based solely on age.

Rather than medication combined with healthy lifestyle habits to prevent cardiovascular disease, the task force recommended lifestyle changes–exercise and diet–followed by an evaluation before prescribing statins.

Diabetics over the age of 40 have been recommended to take statins, but the task force concluded that not all diabetics have the same risk of heart attacks, and recommended against statins in some diabetics over 40: those in whom there is a low risk of heart attack or stroke based on the ACC/AHA calculator.

Rather than making cholesterol medications based on generalities such as age, diabetes and prevention, the task force recommended a treatment approach based on individual needs, and also recommended shared decision-making in treatment.

“The patients need to be involved in the decision making, understanding the anticipated benefit and the potential risks with numbers,” Lopez-Jimenez told us.

The task force added some patients to the list of those for whom statins were recommended. Rheumatoid arthritis, kidney and heart transplant recipients, and AIDS sufferers were among the new inclusions.

The recommendations was scheduled to be published in the August 14 edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, along with an editorial.

Mayo Clinic Task Force Challenges Some Recommendations in Updated Cholesterol Treatment Guideline

By Heidi Woolf

Breastfeeding the Best Thing a Mother Can Do – UN

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“The best thing a mother can do for her newborn is breastfeed,” said the UN Friday, “which does more than help children survive–it helps them to thrive with benefits that last a lifetime.” The executive director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Anthony Lake, made the statement, urging promotion of breastfeeding everywhere.

“Immediate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth could prevent one in five unnecessary deaths,” said Lake, kicking off World Breastfeeding Week. “That’s more than 500,000 children every year. More than 1,500 children every day.”

Fewer than half the world’s newborns benefit from breastfeeding, said the UN. Even fewer are exclusively breastfed for the first six months.

Breastfeeding the Best Thing a Mother Can Do - UN (2)“Breastfeeding is the foundation of good nutrition,” said Lake, “reducing the risk of malnourishment in early childhood and the risk of obesity later in life. By supporting nutrition and strengthening the bond between mother and child, breastfeeding also supports healthy brain development.”

World Breastfeeding Week takes place between August 1 and 7. This year the celebration will highlight the link between breastfeeding and Millennium Development Goals, particularly decreasing child mortality.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

“When Well-Managed, an Ebola Outbreak Can Be Stopped” – UN with Affected Nations Launch Joint $100 Million Response Plan

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With the intention of marking “a turning point” in the intensifying Ebola outbreak plaguing three West African nations, the WHO met with the presidents of all the affected nations Friday to launch a joint $100 million response plan.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) met the leaders of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire in the Guinean capital.

“When well-managed, an Ebola outbreak can be stopped,” said Chan, referencing four decades of experience dealing with Ebola in Africa. “Ebola outbreaks can be contained. Chains of transmission can be broken. Together, we must do so.”

Chan called for an accurate and detailed mapping of the outbreak and an increase in information distribution about the facts of Ebola. Chan also called for an increase in aid workers. The WHO plan also stresses surveillance, particularly in border areas

Among the most serious problems associated with the African outbreak is that the region suffers from a lack of health education. To this point, the UN chief said that Ebola was a social problem, not a medical or public health problem.

“West Africa is facing its first outbreak of Ebola virus disease,” remarked Chan. “This is an unprecedented outbreak accompanied by unprecedented challenges. And these challenges are extraordinary.”

“West Africa’s outbreak is caused by the most lethal strain in the family of Ebola viruses. The outbreak is by far the largest ever in the nearly four-decade history of this disease. It is the largest in terms of geographical areas already affected and others at immediate risk of further spread.

“The current outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it,” said Chan. “If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives, but also severe socio-economic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.”

The Ebola virus rapidly spreading in West Africa has infected 1,323 people, according to the WHO, among whom 729 have died. Of those 729, 60 have been health care workers.

The UN will meet August 6-7 to discuss whether the outbreak constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”

By Day Blakely Donaldson


Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper Snapper Reported Second Quarter Sales and Profits Showing Consumers Prefer Stevia and Sugar over Aspartame, the Artificial Sweetener in Most Diet Varieties–But Scientists Are Still Debating About Sugar

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Last week, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapper all revealed their second quarter earnings report. Coca-Cola’s soda sales were flat in North America and its revenue fell 1.4 percent, despite a sales volume increase in other parts of the world. PepsiCo suffered a two percent fall in both profit and soda sales volume. Dr. Pepper Snapper reported an increase of over one percent of revenue and its soda sales volume climbed two percent. These numbers reflected consumers’ attitudes on different types of sweeteners.

For the decline in profits, Coke and Pepsi both blamed the weak market for diet soda. The artificial sweeteners in diet soda were supposed to win over consumers who are concerned over the negative impact of high sugar intake. But the safety and quality of artificial sweeteners became a stronger concern, causing a continuous and accelerated fall in diet soda sales. As the new report revealed, the sales volume for regular Coke actually rose one percent in North America, while Diet Coke sales dropped further.

Aspartame is the artificial sweetener used in most diet sodas for Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper brands. It has very little nutrient value, and thus is nonfattening. And it is much sweeter than sugar gram for gram, which is interesting because the two amino acids used in forming this substance do not taste sweet. Individuals with phenylketonuria, a genetically transmitted disease, are unable to break down one of the two amino acids in aspartame and thus must avoid it. Explicit warnings are placed on such products.

FDA considers aspartame to be safe for the vast majority of consumers, and approved the sweetener in 1981. Although a few cases of adverse side effects have been attributed to aspartame, exhaustive reviews have failed to show an unequivocal and direct connection between the symptoms and the sweetener. Coke ran a national print ad, “The safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies over the last 40 years,” in the summer 2013. The continuous declining in diet soda sales shows it is an uphill battle to assure consumers of the safety of this artificial “chemical.”

Dr. Pepper Snapper’s soda sales volume increase was largely due to the brands Canada Dry, Peñafiel (in Mexico) and Schweppes. The latter two offer carbonated water in addition to sugary drinks. All three brands do not have artificial sweeteners, but use sugar or high fructose corn syrup instead.

For low and mid calorie soda, all three companies are working hard. Dr. Pepper Snapper introduced ten lineups in 2011 which use only small quantities of high-fructose corn syrup, and from March this year started to test soda that has 60 calories per can with only the natural sweetener stevia and sugar. Coke and Pepsi both failed before with non-natural sweeteners— “C2” from Coke in 2011 and “Pepsi Edge” from Pepsi in 2005. Coke released “Coca-Cola Life,” which contained stevia in Argentina and Chile last year, and will market it in UK this autumn. Pepsi Next does not use aspartame and has 30 percent less sugar than regular Pepsi.

Stevia is  rising start as a natural sweetener. This non-caloric sweetener is found in the leaves of Stevia rebaudian (one species in the genus Stevia in the sunflower family). Native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America, local populations have used these sweet leaves for centuries. It has a slower onset and longer duration in comparison to sugar. With negligible effects on blood glucose, it is attractive to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets. Stevia causes a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations and therefore is often used together with sugar.

Sugar seems to be the devil people know. But how much is really known? It became a part of the human diet after the domestication of the sugarcane in 8,000 BC. “Sugars” include honey, sucrose (table sugar), high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and agave nectar. There is a direct relation between intake of dietary sugars and the dental caries (decay and crumbling of a tooth or bone) across the life span.

Other than these, not much can be agreed on regarding the role of sugar and its recommended intake. The linkage between high sugar intake and obesity and other health complications is inconclusive, according to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the world’s largest food science organization. At IFT’s annual meeting in New Orleans at the end of June, a discussion panel stated that government and health organizations’ recommendations for sugar intake have varied significantly based on different studies and different methodologies to evaluate those studies.

While sugar intakes in the US have decreased over the past 10-15 years, obesity has continued to increase. The North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, has undertaken a project to better understand the interplay between sugar in the diet and health outcomes and to identify research gaps.

Some of the questions ILSI plans to address with respect to sugar and health are: What is the long-term effect of a reduction in sugar intake on body weight and/or fatness in overweight/obese adults and in children? Do dietary sugars impact how the body accumulates fat differently than other energy-yielding nutrients? What is the effect of sugar intake on satiety and hunger mechanisms? What are the mechanisms in the brain linking sugar consumption to a reward system/insulin and glycemic levels (“addictive behavior” or “sugar addiction”)?

These answers will aid the emergence of an evidence-based and more meaningful sugar intake recommendation. Still beverages–non-carbonated drinks such as energy drinks, fruit juice and flavored water–have seen a quick rise in market shares since they are deemed healthier than the carbonated sugar bombs. But it is not unusual for natural fruit juice, with no sugar added, to have as much sugar and calories as traditional Coke at the same volume. A deeper and more comprehensive understanding of sugar will help a concerned and confused public, and impact the future of all sugary drink industries.

By Tina Zhang



The Star



USA Today

The Wire

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Science Daily


Brazil Researchers Solve Bread Mold Problem–Bread Can Now Be Kept at Room Temperature for Two Weeks Without Growing Mold, and Using Natural, Chemical-Free Preservatives

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Researchers in Brazil have found a way to preserve bread kept at room temperature for up to 15 days without growing mold, and they have done it using natural preservatives rather than chemicals.

Their report, “Edible Films from Methylcellulose and Nanoemulsions of Clove Bud (Syzygium aromaticum) and Oregano (Origanum vulgare) Essential Oils as Shelf Life Extenders for Sliced Bread,” was completed by Caio G. Otoni, Silvania F. O. Pontes, Eber A. A. Medeiros, and Nilda de F. F. Soares of the Laboratory of Food Packaging, Department of Food Technology, Federal University of Viçosa, in Brazil, and was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

natural bread preservativesThe University of Viscosa team found two ways of preserving bread, using plant-based essential oils and using natural preservatives.

Natural preservatives, such as oregano and clove–which have natural antimicrobial properties–were added to the packaging of bread to keep airborne microbes, fungi and yeast from developing into green mold on the surface of bread.

In another test, essential oils were mixed with water and a plant-based thickener and applied to the bread as an “edible film.” The bread was then placed inside a plastic bag for storage.

Both tests had similar results. Bread kept at room temperature could store bread mold free for over two weeks–rather than the usual few days.

This natural method is being proposed by the Brazilian team as an alternative to the chemicals that are usually added to fresh bread to preserve it from mold.

The team also suggested that the technique could be used on a larger scale, and are currently experimenting with using the edible films to fruits, mean products and dairy.

By Heidi Woolf

Superfoods: New Study Lists–and Ranks–World’s Healthiest Fruits and Vegetables

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A new study conducted by William Paterson University has ranked the healthiest fruit and vegetable superfoods. The 41-item list was compiled based on nutrient density, and is considered to be an important step toward defining and quantifying green foods based on their nutritional value in order to help consumers in choosing the healthiest foods.

New Study Lists--and Ranks--World's Healthiest Green Superfoods (4)
Jennifer Di Doia

The study, “Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach,” was completed by William Paterson University’s Jennifer Di Doia, PhD, and published on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

The research employed a three-step process. First, potential powerhouse fruits and vegetables (PFV) were listed and nutrient and kilocalorie values were calculated for each PFV in their raw forms. A nutrient density score was calculated for each food, and limitations to the effective value of each nutrient were accounted for so that PFVs that were particularly rich in only one nutrient would not skew the results. Then, the most nutritious PFVs–containing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) required 10 percent of daily nutrition–were selected and ranked.

Of 47 foods studied, only six did not measure up to the FDA requirements–raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion, and blueberry.


At the top of the list was watercress. Chinese cabbage, chard, beet green and spinach were also much higher in nutritional value by weight than other green superfoods. These top foods were found to be more than twice as nutritious as broccoli or red pepper, and around four times as nutritious as cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, tomatoe, lemon, lettuce, strawberries or oranges. In fact, Oranges, grapefruit, blackberry, leek, and sweet potato just barely made the list.

The researcher responsible for the study stated that she felt, “The focus on individual foods in terms of the nutrients they provide may facilitate better understanding of PFV than green leafy, yellow/orange, citrus, and cruciferous food groups that are emphasized,” but cautioned, “Foods within particular groups were studied; thus, other nutrient-dense items may have been overlooked. Because it was not possible to include phytochemical data in the calculation of nutrient density scores, the scores do not reflect all of the constituents that may confer health benefits.”


New Study Lists--and Ranks--World's Healthiest Green Superfoods (6)

New Study Lists--and Ranks--World's Healthiest Green Superfoods (5)


By Day Blakely Donaldson


Mali Begins Radio-Based Health Education

Health Radio
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Radio remains the dominant form of media in Africa, where most people do not have access to televisions and cannot always read newspapers, and the West African country of Mali has begun a new health program to educate people through the country’s most popular radio station.

“Innovation doesn’t always come in the form of the latest, cutting-edge technology,” said the Mali Health Organization Project’s Executive Director Kris Ansin, “We see radio as the ideal vector for health change among the poorest of the poor.”

Kibera-SlumsIn suburban slums–where populations are the fastest growing on the planet–crowding, land use and sanitation have created health challenges.

Health Radio was created with the intention of sparking discussion and acion in the homes and neighborhood in such slum areas, where health issues are most pressing. The radio program purposes to engage and organize slum communities to create positive change.

Some of the topics featured on the program are trash disposal, clean water and improved sanitation. The program also broadcasts crucial health information to empower users and inspire communities, with the intentions of promoting early detection of common maladies, lowering costs and saving lives.

tumblr_liizk5XM9y1qdcasso1_500Local businesses also play a part in the program, leveraging publicity and interest by distributing health supplies to participants.

Radio is a broadcast tool that is both low cost and scalable. By broadcasting Mali’s Health Radio into the daily lives of Malians, health has beem improved among the poor and the program has become a platform for better health.


By Day Blakely Donaldson


Mali Health

Cholesterol Drug Proven to Halt and Kill Breast Cancer Cells Offers New Promise

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University of Missouri researchers have proven that a drug used as a cholesterol lowering agent not only halts breast cancer progression, but can kill cancerous cells, offering new promise to the one-in-eight women who will suffer from breast cancer in their lives.

Cholesterol Drug Proven to Halt and Kill Breast Cancer Cells Offers New Promise (2)
Salman Hyder, lead researcher

The drug therapy may even be more attractive than now-popular anti-hormone medicines, such as tamoxifen, because when tumor cells develop resistance to anti-hormone therapies the tumor cells continue to grow and spread, but because tumor cells need cholesterol to grow, the cholesterol-lowering drug starves the tumor cells. Not only that, cholesterol also contributes to anti-hormone resistance because cholesterol is converted into hormones in tumor cells, therefore lowering cholesterol should help hormone therapy.

The study, “Cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitors as potent novel anti-cancer agents: suppression of hormone-dependent breast cancer by the oxidosqualene cyclase inhibitor RO 48-8071,” was funded by a grant from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Program and the National Institutes of Health. The study was published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

Salman Hyder, lead researcher

“Because tumor cells grow rapidly they need to synthesize more cholesterol,” said Salman Hyder, lead researcher on the project. “Scientists working to cure breast cancer often seek out alternative targets that might slow or stop the progression of the disease, including the elimination of the cancerous cells. In our study, we targeted the production of cholesterol in cancer cells leading to death of breast cancer cells.”

The drug has already been tested on human breast cancer cells, and was found effective in reducing breast cancer cell growth. It also killed the cancer cells in many cases.

The research findings indicated that an estrogen receptor which causes tumor cells to grow was destroyed by the drug. This is Cholesterol Drug Proven to Halt and Kill Breast Cancer Cells Offers New Promise (3)thought to be the reason for the success of the drug in combating breast cancer.

The drug was then tested on mice with breast cancer and was found effective. The drug reduced the presence of estrogen receptors in the tumor cells.

The research team will next conduct further tests that they hope will lead to a drug that will both fight high cholesterol and breast cancer.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

University of Missouri 

Mosquito Populations Can Be Decimated With a New Procedure, Causing Hopes of Total Malaria Eradication


Seeking “a cheap and effective way to eliminate malaria from entire regions,” a team at Imperial College London’s Department of Life Sciences have modified mosquitos to produce sperm that creates 95 percent male offspring, leading to hopes that Malaria–which still kills 627,000 people per year, according to World Health Organization estimates–will be completely eradicated.

The report, “A synthetic sex ratio distortion system for the control of the human malaria mosquito,” was published in Nature Communications Tuesday. The report represents six years of research.

The Imperial College team tested their proceedure in five labratory cages. Genetically modified mosquitoes were introduced into the cages already inhabited by regular mosquito populations. In four of the five cages, all mosquitoes were eliminated within six generations due to lack of females.

“What is most promising about our results is that they are self-sustaining,” said lead researcher Dr. Nikolai Windbichler. “Once modified mosquitoes are introduced, males will start to produce mainly sons, and their sons will do the same, so essentially the mosquitoes carry out the work for us.”

malariaThe process of genetic modification used involves inserting a DNA cutting enzyme called l-Ppol into the mosquitoes. The enzyme cuts the DNA of the X chromosome during sperm production. Therefore, during mating, almost no X chromosomes exist to pass on, so offspring usually bear the XY pair, and are born female.

The Imperial College team explain the process this way: “We combine structure-based protein engineering and molecular genetics to restrict the activity of the potentially toxic endonuclease to spermatogenesis. Shredding of the paternal X chromosome prevents it from being transmitted to the next generation, resulting in fully fertile mosquito strains that produce [greater than] 95% male offspring.”

The idea put in practice by the Imperial College team is not new, but experiments in the area were previously hampered by lack of knowledge of the genetic makeup and mode of action of naturally occurring sex distorters and the incidence of co-evolving suppressors.

By Sid Douglas

Nature Communications