What does it take to be a leader – of cancer cells?
Adam Marcus and colleagues at Winship Cancer Institute are back, with an analysis of mutations that drive metastatic behavior among groups of lung cancer cells. The findings were published this week on the cover of Journal of Cell Science, and suggest pharmacological strategies to intervene against or prevent metastasis.
Marcus and former graduate student Jessica Konen previously developed a technique for selectively labeling “leader” Read more
In the Star Trek series, Dr. McCoy could often instantly diagnose someoneâ€™s condition with the aid of his tricorder. Medicine on 21st century Earth has not advanced quite this far, but scientistsâ€™ ideas of how to use â€œmetabolomicsâ€ are heading in this direction.
What is metabolomics? Just as genomics means reading the DNA in a person or organism, and assessing it and comparing it to others, metabolomics takes the same approach to all the substances produced as part of the bodyâ€™s metabolism: watching what happens to food, drugs and chemicals we are exposed to in the environment.
This means dealing with a huge amount of information. Human genomes may be billions of letters (base pairs) in length, but at least there are only four choices of letter!
A recent article in Chemical & Engineering News explores this concept of the “exposome” and quotes Dean Jones.Â He and his colleagues recently described how they can use sophisticated analytical techniques to resolve thousands of substances in human plasma. Jones is the director of the Clinical Biomarkers Laboratory at Emory University School of Medicine. The paper is in the journal Analyst, published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Analytical techniques can discern more than 2500 metabolites from human plasma within 10 minutes
Using a drop of blood, within ten minutes the researchers can discern more than 2,500 substances in a reproducible way. One fascinating tidbit: when they compared the metabolic profiles for four healthy individuals, most of the â€œpeaksâ€ were common between individuals but 10 percent were unique.
The potential uses for this type of technology are staggering.
Kukar’s willingness to take on this challenge indicates that he shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to Atlanta’s climate. He comes to Emory from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. There, he investigated potential drugs that could change how the body produces and processes beta-amyloid, a toxic protein fragment that builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
In a paper recently published in Journal of Neuroscience, a team led by cell biologist Gary Bassell shows that PI3 kinase inhibitors could restore normal appearance and levels of protein production at the synapses of hippocampal neurons from fragile X model mice. The next steps, studies in animals, are underway.
â€œThis is an important first step toward having a new therapeutic strategy for fragile X syndrome that treats the underlying molecular defect, and it may be more broadly applicable to other forms of autism,â€ he says.
Itâ€™s not a silly question, when one sees how oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species have been implicated in so many diseases, ranging from hypertension and atherosclerosis to neurodegenerative disorders. Yet large-scale clinical trials supplementing participantsâ€™ diets with antioxidants have showed little benefit.
Emory University School of Medicine scientists have arrived at an essential insight: the cell isnâ€™t a tiny bucket with all the constituent chemicals sloshing around. To modulate reactive oxygen species effectively, an antioxidant needs to be targeted to the right place in the cell.
Sergei Dikalov and colleagues in the Division of Cardiology have a paper in the July 9 issue ofÂ Circulation Research, describing how targeting antioxidant molecules to mitochondria dramatically increases their effectiveness in tamping down hypertension.
Mitochondria are usually described as miniature power plants, but in the cells that line blood vessels, they have the potential to act as amplifiers. The authors describe a â€œvicious cycleâ€ of feedback between the cellular enzyme NADPH oxidase, which produces the reactive form of oxygen called superoxide, and the mitochondria, which can also make superoxide as a byproduct of their energy-producing function.
A free weekend conference at Emory, beginning April 16 at 7 p.m., brings together health professionals and the general public to learn more about medical volunteerism. The event features keynote addresses, exhibits and brainstorming panel discussions on a variety of topics. Participants will be able to network with the general public, students, nurses and physicians representing all areas of health care.
Conference organizers say they are offering a diverse array of events and presenters in hopes of inspiring more people to volunteer and create synergies among volunteer organizations and volunteers themselves.
“We want attendees to walk away with new, innovative ways and connections to help improve the overall health of the human race, particularly the underserved,” says Neil Shulman, MD, associate professor at Emory School of Medicine and chairman of the Conference Organizing Committee.
The scientists in the lab of Richard Compans, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Emory, are hard at work, imagining the unimaginable: A time when patients can self-administer flu vaccines. A time when vaccination does not require exposure to inactive viruses. A time when a universal vaccine could protect from all varieties of influenza: swine, avian, seasonal and strains still emerging.
Richard Compans, PhD (right), with colleague Mark Prausnitz, PhD, from Georgia Tech
But it’s not just hope that motivates them as they work. Emory’s scientists are fighting the clock against another possible future: a time of pandemic and uncontrollable virus mutation. The recent emergence of H1N1 and H5N1, known colloquially as swine flu and avian flu, have added an even greater sense of urgency to their task.
“The H5N1â€”the virus derived from avian speciesâ€”has a 60 percent mortality,” says Emory microbiologist Sang-Moo Kang, PhD. Yet that strain of influenza hasn’t resulted in many human deaths, because, so far, avian flu spreads only to humans who are in contact with infected birds.
An increase in the number of the nationâ€™s elderly and the aging population of doctors is causing a doctor shortage in the United States, with estimates that the demand for doctors will outstrip supply by 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Fred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD, executive vice president for health affairs at Emory, CEO of Emoryâ€™s Woodruff Health Sciences Center and chairman of Emory Healthcare, says, â€œThere is an ever-changing cycle of shortages. Advances in technology and treatment can reduce or increase demand for specialists needed in one area or another much more quickly than it takes to train or absorb them.â€
For instance, the demand for cardiac surgeons has slowed dramatically as a result of better medications and stents. Changes in insurance and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement can also impact specialties, he says.
â€œSince medical school graduates now carry so much debt, the specialty they choose is often influenced by potential income, which is most evident in the low numbers going into primary care.â€