Tuesday, May 16, 2017

ResistoMap developed to track world wide microbial drug resistance

Scientists from the Federal Research and Clinical Center of Physical-Chemical Medicine, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and Data Laboratory have created the ResistoMap, an interactive visualization of gut resistome. Gut resistome is human gut microbiota potential to resist antibiotics and includes the set of all antibiotic resistance genes in the genomes of human gut microbes. Their ResistoMap will help identify national trends in antibiotic use and control antibiotic resistance on the global scale. This research is published in journal Bioinformatics.

Resistomap - interactive world map of human gut resistome
Resistomap -  an interactive world map of human gut microbiota potential to resist antibiotics.
Credit: Bioinformatics
Microbial drug resistance is caused by the extensive uncontrolled use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture. It has been predicted that by 2050 around 10 million people will die annually due to reasons associated with drug resistance.

The ResistoMap has two main interactive work fields: a geographic map and a heat map. A user can choose the antibiotic group or country of interest to be displayed on the heat map and obtain a resistome cross section. The data can be filtered by the country of origin, gender, age, and diagnosis. The current version of the interactive map developed by the authors draws on a dataset that includes over 1600 individuals from 12 studies covering 15 countries. However, the dataset can be expanded by additional input from users reflecting the findings of new published studies in a unified format.

Using the ResistoMap, researchers fee that it is possible to estimate the global variation of the resistance to different groups of antibiotics and explore the associations between specific drugs and clinical factors or other metadata. For example, the Danish gut metagenomes tend to demonstrate the lowest resistome among the European groups, whereas the French samples have the highest levels, particularly of the fluoroquinolones, a group of broad-spectrum anti-bacterial drugs. This is in agreement with the fact that France has the highest total antibiotic use across Western Europe, while the use of antimicrobial drugs in Denmark and Germany is moderate, both in health care and agriculture. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Chinese and Russian populations appear to have increased levels of resistome, which is likely due to looser regulation policies, frequent prescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics, and their over-the-counter availability without prescription. The lowest levels of microbiota resistome are observed in the native population of Venezuela who have no documented contacts with populations of the developed countries. ResistoMap-informed analysis reveals certain novel trends that await further interpretation from the clinical standpoint.

Konstantin Yarygin, one of the creators of the visualization tool, says, "We anticipate that the exploratory analysis of global gut resistome enabled by the ResistoMap will provide new insights into how the use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture could be optimized."

Citation: Yarygin, Konstantin S., Boris A. Kovarsky, Tatyana S. Bibikova, Damir S. Melnikov, Alexander V. Tyakht, and Dmitry G. Alexeev. "ResistoMap—online visualization of human gut microbiota antibiotic resistome." Bioinformatics, 2017.
Research funding: Russian Scientific Foundation.
Adapted from press release by the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Brain changes in diabetic patients

A new study published in Diabetologia reveals that overweight and obese individuals with early stage type 2 diabetes (T2D) had more severe and progressive abnormalities in brain structure and cognition compared to normal-weight study participants.

The research conducted by Dr Sunjung Yoon and Dr In Kyoon Lyoo (Ewha Brain Institute, Ewha Womens University, Seoul, South Korea), Hanbyul Cho (The Brain Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA), and colleagues in Korea and the USA looked into the effects of being overweight or obese on the brains and cognitive functions of people with early stage type 2 diabetes.

The study found that grey matter was significantly thinner in clusters in the temporal, prefrontoparietal, motor and occipital cortices of the brains of diabetic study participants when compared to the non-diabetic control group. Further thinning of the temporal and motor cortices was also observed in the overweight/obese diabetic group, compared to normal-weight diabetics. The team also discovered region-specific changes which suggested that the temporal lobe has a particular vulnerability to the combined effects of having type 2 diabetes and being overweight or obese.

Citation: Yoon, Sujung, Hanbyul Cho, Jungyoon Kim, Do-Wan Lee, Geon Ha Kim, Young Sun Hong, Sohyeon Moon, Shinwon Park, Sunho Lee, Suji Lee, Sujin Bae, Donald C. Simonson, and In Kyoon Lyoo. "Brain changes in overweight/obese and normal-weight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus." Diabetologia, 2017.
Adapted from press release by Diabetologia.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Hinokitiol, molecule from Japanese cypress tree shows promise in iron related disorders

Researchers find key molecule that could lead to new therapies for anemia and other iron disorders. New findings reported in journal Science by a multi-institutional team, including researchers from University of Illinois, Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Northeastern University, could impact whole range of diseases related to iron metabolism.

The team has discovered a small molecule hinokitiol, found naturally in Japanese cypress tree leaves  has shown to promote gut iron absorption in rats and mice, as well as hemoglobin production in zebrafish. Researchers observed that hinokitiol molecules can bind to iron atoms and move them across cell membranes and into/out of mitochondria, despite an absence of the native proteins that would usually carry out these functions.

Burke's team initially found that hinokitiol could transport iron across cell membranes in vitro before reaching out to Paw and other collaborators to test its efficacy in animal models. Paw, co-senior author on the new Science paper and physician at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's, and members of his lab demonstrated that hinokitiol can successfully reverse iron deficiency and iron overload in zebrafish disease models.

Based on the findings in animal studies hinokitiol does seem to have big therapeutic potential in treating disorders related to iron metabolism. However further research is needed to elucidate its utility in humans.

Citation: Grillo, Anthony S., Anna M. Santamaria, Martin D. Kafina, Alexander G. Cioffi, Nicholas C. Huston, Murui Han, Young Ah Seo, Yvette Y. Yien, Christopher Nardone, Archita V. Menon, James Fan, Dillon C. Svoboda, Jacob B. Anderson, John D. Hong, Bruno G. Nicolau, Kiran Subedi, Andrew A. Gewirth, Marianne Wessling-Resnick, Jonghan Kim, Barry H. Paw, and Martin D. Burke. "Restored iron transport by a small molecule promotes absorption and hemoglobinization in animals." Science 356, no. 6338 (2017): 608-16.
Adapted from press release by Boston Children's Hospital.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New tissue-engineered platform for islet cell transplantation found effective in type 1 diabetic patients

Researchers from the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) have produced the clinical results demonstrating that pancreatic islet cells transplanted within a tissue-engineered platform can achieve insulin independence in type 1 diabetes. The research findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Islet cell transplantation omentum minipancreas
Fluorescence microscopy of islets in the omentum transplanted within the biologic scaffold. In red (insulin staining) and blue (DAPI nuclear staining). Credit: Diabetes Research Institute/University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Islet transplantation is an emerging technology. It has demonstrated the ability to restore natural insulin production and eliminate severe hypoglycemia in people with type 1 diabetes. Traditionally the cells are transplanted into the liver, however, this site poses some limitations so researchers used omentum.

This was the first successful tissue-engineered islet transplantation that has achieved long-term insulin independence in a patient with type 1 diabetes. The biological platform was made by combining donor islets with the patient's own (autologous) blood plasma, which was laparoscopically layered onto the omentum. Clinical-grade thrombin was then layered over the islet/plasma mixture. The technique has been designed to minimize the inflammatory reaction that is normally observed when islets are implanted in the liver or in other sites with immediate contact to blood.

"The results thus far have shown that the omentum appears to be a viable site for islet implantation using this new platform technique," said lead author David Baidal, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and member of the DRI's Clinical Cell Transplant team. "Data from our study and long-term follow-up of additional omental islet transplants will determine the safety and feasibility of this strategy of islet transplantation, but we are quite excited about what we are seeing now."

Citation: Baidal, David A., Camillo Ricordi, Dora M. Berman, Ana Alvarez, Nathalia Padilla, Gaetano Ciancio, Elina Linetsky, Antonello Pileggi, and Rodolfo Alejandro. "Bioengineering of an Intraabdominal Endocrine Pancreas." New England Journal of Medicine 376, no. 19 (2017): 1887-889. doi:10.1056/nejmc1613959.
Research funding: Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, JDRF, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, National Institutes of Health, University of Miami.
Adapted from press release by Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Computational model to track flu using Twitter data

An international team led by Alessandro Vespignani from Northeastern University has developed a computational model to predict the spread of the flu in real time. This unique model uses posts on Twitter in combination with key parameters of each season's epidemic, including the incubation period of the disease, the immunization rate, how many people an individual with the virus can infect, and the viral strains present. When tested against official influenza surveillance systems, the model has been shown to accurately(70 to 90 percent) forecast the disease's evolution up to six weeks in advance.

The paper on the novel model received a coveted Best Paper Honorable Mention award at the 2017 International World Wide Web Conference last month following its presentation.

While the paper reports results using Twitter data, the researchers note that the model can work with data from many other digital sources, too, as well as online surveys of individuals such as influenzanet, which is very popular in Europe.

"Our model is a work in progress," emphasizes Vespignani. "We plan to add new parameters, for example, school and workplace structure.

Adapted from press release from the Northeastern University.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Artificial retina using synthetic and biological materials

A synthetic, soft tissue retina made of hydrogels and biological cell membrane proteins was developed by an Oxford University student Vanessa Restrepo-Schild. Research involved combining biological and synthetic tissues in a laboratory. Designed like a camera, the aqueous droplets containing bacteriorhodopsin (bR), a light-driven proton pump act as pixels, detecting and reacting to light to generate electrical signals, which can stimulate the neurons with resulting output recognized in grey scale.
The retina replica consists of soft water droplets (hydrogels) and biological cell membrane proteins.
Credit: Oxford University
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that unlike existing artificial retinal implants, the cell-cultures are created from natural, biodegradable materials and do not contain foreign bodies or living entities. In this way the implant is less invasive than a mechanical devise, and is less likely to have an adverse reaction on the body.

This research could revolutionize the bionic implant industry with development of new, less invasive technologies that more closely resemble human body tissues, helping to treat degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa.

Currently synthetic retina has only been tested in laboratory conditions and further research is needed to see viability of this technology.

Miss Restrepo-Schild has filed a patent for the technology and the next phase of the work will see the Oxford team expand the replica's function to include recognising different colours. Working with a much larger replica, the team will test the material's ability to recognise different colours and potentially even shapes and symbols. Looking further ahead the research will expand to include animal testing and then a series of clinical trials in humans.

Citation: Schild, Vanessa Restrepo, Michael J. Booth, Stuart J. Box, Sam N. Olof, Kozhinjampara R. Mahendran, and Hagan Bayley. "Light-Patterned Current Generation in a Droplet Bilayer Array." Scientific Reports 7 (2017): 46585. doi:10.1038/srep46585.
Adapted from press release by the Oxford University.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Reports of burns with electronic cigarettes

Dr. Gary Vercruysse and his colleagues from the University of Arizona reports three thermal burn injuries following use of electronic cigarettes. These reports appears in the journal Burns and points to lithium ion battery failure as the culprit.

The researchers' study comes at a time of increasing scrutiny of lithium ion batteries contained in so-called electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, which include electronic cigarettes.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Navy suspended the use, possession and storage of ENDS aboard ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Tobacco Products hosted a science-based public workshop on April 19 and 20 in Silver Springs, MD, to gather information and stimulate discussion about these batteries.

Citation: Bauman, Zachary M., Jordan Roman, Matthew Singer, and Gary A. Vercruysse. "Canary in the coal mine—Initial reports of thermal injury secondary to electronic cigarettes." Burns 43, no. 3 (2017).
Adapted from press release by the University of Arizona.