Scientists believe they have discovered the reason why stress can make hair turn white. They’ve also found a potential way of preventing it from happening which doesn’t involve hair dye. In a chance finding while studying mice, the scientists noticed that dark-furred mice turned completely white within weeks after experiencing stress. The reason for this, the scientists say, is because the stress damaged stem cells that control hair and skin colour. The US and Brazilian researchers say their discovery is significant as it could lead to new treatments being developed that can protect hair colour from the effects of stress and ageing. Publishing their findings in the journal Nature, the researchers Universities of Sao Paulo and Harvard say the effects are linked to melanocyte stem cells, which produce melanin and are responsible for hair and skin colour. In a separate experiment, the researchers found they could prevent stress from affecting hair colour by giving the mice an anti-hypertensive, which treats high blood pressure. They were also able to identify the specific protein that causes damage to the stem cells. When this protein, cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK), was suppressed, mice that were subjected to stress did not experience the same fur colour change. It’s a breakthrough that could lead to drugs being developed which suppress CDK and delay the onset of grey/white hair.
Scientists have developed a heart patch from millions of living, beating stem cells that could help heal heart attack damage. Grown in a lab from a sample of a patient’s own stem cells, the patches are sewn on to the heart and subsequently turn into healthy, working muscle. After three days, the patches start to beat, and after one month, they mimic mature heart tissue. They also release chemicals that stimulate the repair and regeneration of existing heart cells. Tests involving rabbits showed that the patches appear safe and led to an improvement in the function of the heart following a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a clogged artery leads to the flow of oxygen blood to the heart muscle being disrupted. This causes the heart to be starved of oxygen and vital nutrients, resulting in its pumping power being damaged. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the patches could one day provide an off-the-shelf treatment for patients who have experienced a heart attack. Clinical trials involving humans are set to begin within two years. Speaking about the patches, Researcher Dr Richard Jabbour said: “One day, we hope to add heart patches to the treatments that doctors can routinely offer people after a heart attack. “We could prescribe one of these patches alongside medicines for someone with heart failure, which you could take from a shelf and implant straight in to a person.”
Honeybees produce a substance called Royal Jelly. It is used in the nutrition of larvae, the development of new queen bees and to feed adult queen bees. In other words, it’s a substance that is hugely important for the survival of honeybee colonies. While the reasons why Royal Jelly stimulates some bee larvae to turn into queens rather than worker bees remain unclear, we do know that it (Royal Jelly) comprises water, proteins and sugars. With Royal Jelly’s amazing properties, it’s easy to see why some people believe it can unlock the fountain of youth. And new research now suggests that it actually might. According to the findings of a study published in the journal Nature Communications, Royal Jelly’s main active component, royalactin, bolsters the ability of stem cells to renew themselves i.e. royalactin has the ability to enable an organism to produce more stem cells and repair itself if necessary. Researchers from Stanford University said their study showed that Royal Jelly can be used across species and that their findings could be used to help treat individuals with disorders such as muscle wastage and neurodegenerative disease. However, the leader of the team from Stanford, Kevin Wang, doesn’t suggest everyone goes out and buy Royal Jelly right away. That’s because it’s not all made the same and some variants don’t even contain any royalactin. Nevertheless, the research is exciting and will no doubt lead to further studies being conducted in the future.
It’s a widely accepted fact that cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are good for the gut, but scientists say they have now discovered why. The work by the team from the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre in London, focussed on the way cruciferous vegetables alter the lining of the intestines. As they are digested, anti-cancer chemicals, including indole-3-carbinol, are produced. Indole-3-carbinol changes the behaviour of stem cells in the lower bowel and the study involving mice showed it protected them from cancer – even mice whose genes put them at a very high risk of developing the disease. Speaking about the findings of the study, one of the researchers, Dr Gitta Stockinger, said: “Even when the mice started developing tumours and we switched them to the appropriate diet, it halted tumour progression.” Prof Tim Key, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.” Interestingly, Dr Stockinger added that cruciferous vegetables should not be overcooked to get the most benefit. According to the charity Bowel Cancer UK, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, affecting almost 42,000 people every year.
Smoking when pregnant has long been frowned upon, but now a new study has revealed how cigarettes can damage the developing liver cells of unborn babies. The team of scientists, led by the University of Edinburgh, found that the deadly cocktail of chemicals found in cigarettes is particularly harmful to developing liver cells. Furthermore, they discovered that cigarette chemicals affect male and female foetuses differently, with male tissue showing liver scarring and female tissue showing more damage to cell metabolism. Using embryonic stem cells, the team developed a way of testing how maternal smoking affects liver tissue. They used pluripotent stem cells - cells that have the ability to transform into other cell types - to build foetal liver tissue. They then exposed said tissue to the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes – in particular, the specific substances known to circulate in foetuses when mothers smoke. Dr David Hay from the University of Edinburgh's centre for regenerative medicine, said: "Cigarette smoke is known to have damaging effects on the foetus, yet we lack appropriate tools to study this in a very detailed way. "This new approach means that we now have sources of renewable tissue that will enable us to understand the cellular effect of cigarettes on the unborn foetus."
Even though around 7 million people in France and more than 70 million in Europe are currently living with osteoarthritis today, there is still no treatment capable of anatomically reversing the debilitating disease. To try to combat this startling reality, the European Commission has agreed to finance a four-year research program known as the ADIPOA project. Coordinated by Professor Christian Jorgensen, Head of The Clinical Unit for Osteoarticular Diseases University Hospital Montpellier in France, the ADIPOA project is a collaborative program bringing together 200 researchers from seven countries to work to validate a new concept of treatment based on stem cell therapy. Phase 1 of the ADIPOA project was completed in 2014 and the results were sufficiently encouraging to warrant a larger, multi-centre Phase 2b study, designed to further test the effectiveness of the treatment. ADIPOA-2, as it's known, will now build on the previous study's work and further assess the safety and efficacy of patient-derived stems cells in the treatment of advanced osteoarthritis of the knee. Professor Jorgensen said: "Ambitious as it sounds, we are aiming to deliver an effective treatment for the debilitating and incurable condition of osteoarthritis within as little as five years. We have arrived at this point because of a great deal of work by many scientists, clinicians and stem cell experts who have made enormous contributions in understanding the therapeutic potential of stem cells."
Cataracts account for more than half of all cases of blindness across the world. But now scientists have shown that a person's own stem cells can be used to regrow a 'living lens' in their eye. Published in the journal Nature, the research has been described as 'remarkable' by experts and is being lauded as one of the finest achievements in regenerative medicine. Surgeons successfully reversed blindness in 12 children born with congenital cataracts by activating stem cells in the eye to grow a new lens, negating the need for an implanted one. Within just three months, a clear, cataract-free lens had developed in all of the patients' eyes. "The success of this work represents a new approach in how new human tissue or organ can be regenerated and human disease can be treated, and may have a broad impact on regenerative therapies by harnessing the regenerative power of our own body," said Dr Kang Zhang, one of the researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Dr Dusko Ilic, a reader in Stem Cell Science at King's College London, said: "This is one of the finest achievements in the field of regenerative medicine until now." The hope now is that the technique can be used to develop a way of treating older patients who are suffering with poor sight because of age-related cataracts. Cataract surgery is the most common procedure carried out in England, with around 300,000 patients operated on every single year.
Doctors in the UK say that multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who have received a treatment that is usually used for treating cancer are showing “remarkable” improvements. Some 20 MS patients have now received bone marrow transplants using their own stem cells and in some cases the treatment has enabled people who were paralysed to walk once more. Prof Basil Sharrack, of Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "To have a treatment which can potentially reverse disability is really a major achievement." MS is a neurological condition for which there is no known cure and affects around 100,000 people in the UK alone. It causes the body’s immune system to attack the lining of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. The treatment, which is known as autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), attempts to destroy the faulty immune system with chemotherapy before a new immune system is built using the patient’s own stem cells. The cells are so young that they haven’t yet developed the flaws which cause MS. Prof John Snowden, consultant haematologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, said: "The immune system is being reset or rebooted back to a time point before it caused MS." One patient who received the treatment said that MS had completely changed his entire life. He went from running marathons one day to losing the sensation in his entire body the next. The new treatment, however, has allowed him to stand unaided once more. "It's been incredible. I was in a dire place, but now I can swim and cycle and I am determined to walk,” Steven Storey said.
Is whether you’ll get cancer predominantly determined by bad luck, or do environmental factors play a significant part also? That’s the question that a new study by a team of researchers from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York, the results of which were published in the journal Nature, set out to answer. The team used four approaches to conclude that only 10-30% of cancers are simply down to “luck” and that environmental factors have an overwhelming affect. Cancer is caused by one of the body’s own stem cells going rogue and dividing out of control. This can be caused by natural factors, but the team discovered that extrinsic factors, such as smoking and being exposed to UV radiation, play a bigger part than many people think. Experts have said that the team’s analysis is “pretty convincing” and highlights the relative importance of extrinsic factors. Talking about the findings of the study, Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: "While healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease." While a person who smokes is not necessarily guaranteed to get cancer, by doing so they are stacking the odds against them. An element of chance will always be involved, but people can reduce their own risk by eliminating some of these extrinsic factors from their lives.
A low dose of aspirin on a daily basis can halt the growth of breast cancer tumours and even prevent deadly relapses, according to a new study. Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid as it’s otherwise known, produces conditions in the human body which inhibit the reproduction of cancer stem cells. In the past, research has shown that aspirin can be used to effectively stop the spread of prostate, gastrointestinal and colon cancer, as well as other types. Dr Sushanta Banerjee, research director of the Cancer Research Unit at Kansas City Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, said: "In cancer, when you treat the patient, initially the tumour will hopefully shrink. The problem comes five to 10 years down the road when the disease relapses." He added: “These cells have already survived chemotherapy or other cancer treatment and they go dormant until conditions in the body are more favourable for them to again reproduce. “When they reappear they can be very aggressive, nasty tumours.” The research team exposed incubated breast cancer cells to differing levels of acetylsalicylic acid and recorded the results. They found that exposure to aspirin dramatically increased the rate of cell death. Furthermore, the cells that didn’t die were left in a state which meant they were unable to grow. The full findings of the research will be published in next month’s issue of Laboratory Investigation. Photo credit: Irish Examiner