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271CNO30JUN2020

In this Issue:

  1. Adult stem cell study shows fish oil may help with depression
  2. Camelina sativa oil and fatty fish have positive effects on lipid metabolism
  3. Bacteria in Chinese pickles can prevent cavities -- Ben-Gurion University study
  4. Nutraceuticals for promoting longevity
  5. Review: A good vitamin D status can protect against cancer
  6. Study shows cannabis temporarily relieves PTSD symptoms
  7. An excessive amount of propionic acid (PPA) in food preservatives may hinder brain development
  8. Vitamin D could help mitigate chemotherapy side effects
  9. Declining eyesight improved by looking at deep red light
  10. Bioactive natural compounds for the fight against cancer
  11. Far-UVC light safely kills airborne coronaviruses
  12. Medicinal cannabis may reduce behavioral problems in kids with intellectual disabilities
  13. Biomedical researchers get closer to why eczema happens
  14. In mouse study, black raspberries show promise for reducing skin inflammation
  15. Exercise can slow or prevent vision loss, study finds
  16. Higher manganese levels in early pregnancy linked to lower preeclampsia risk
  17. Probiotics alone or combined with prebiotics may help ease depression
  18. Commentary in Pediatrics: Children don't transmit Covid-19, schools should reopen in fall
  19. Plant-based diets promote healthful aging, according to new editorial
  20. Dietary guidelines advisory committee reinforces need for increased choline intake
  21. Supplements with potential to prevent Alzheimer's affect blood, but less so the brain
  22. Turmeric could have antiviral properties
  23. Beautyberry leaf extract restores drug's power to fight 'superbug'
  24. CBD may help avert lung destruction in COVID-19
  25. How long should you fast for weight loss?
  26. Researchers outline strategy for testing ketone bodies against COVID-19
  27. Does eating fish protect our brains from air pollution?
  28. How adding green tea extract to prepared foods may reduce the risk for norovirus
  29. Cinnamon may improve blood sugar control in people with prediabetes

 

Adult stem cell study shows fish oil may help with depression

A study published in Molecular Psychiatry shows that patient-derived adult stem cells can be used to model major depressive disorder and test how a patient may respond to medication.

Using stem cells from adults with a clinical diagnosis of depression, the University of Illinois at Chicago researchers who conducted the study also found that fish oil, when tested in the model, created an antidepressant response.

UIC's Mark Rasenick, principal investigator of the study, says that the research provides a number of novel findings that can help scientists better understand how the brain works and why some people respond to drug treatment for depression, while others experience limited benefits from antidepressant medication.

"It was also exciting to find scientific evidence that fish oil -- an easy-to-get, natural product -- may be an effective treatment for depression," said Rasenick, UIC distinguished professor of physiology and biophysics and psychiatry at the College of Medicine.

Major depressive disorder, or depression, is the most common psychiatric disorder. Around one in six individuals will experience at least one depressive episode in their lifetime. However, antidepressant treatment fails in about one-third of patients.

In the study, the UIC researchers used skin cells from adults with depression that were converted into stem cells at Massachusetts General Hospital and then directed those stem cells to develop into nerve cells. The skin biopsies were taken from two types of patients: people who previously responded to antidepressant treatment and people who have previously been resistant to antidepressants.

When fish oil was tested, the models from treatment-sensitive and treatment-resistant patients both responded.

Rasenick says the response was similar to that seen from prescription antidepressants, but it was produced through a different mechanism.

"We saw that fish oil was acting, in part, on glial cells, not neurons," said Rasenick, who is also a research career scientist at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and president and chief scientific officer at Pax Neuroscience, a UIC startup company. "For many years, scientists have paid scant attention to glia -- a type of brain cell that surrounds neurons -- but there is increasing evidence that glia may play a role in depression. Our study suggests that glia may also be important for antidepressant action.

"Our study also showed that a stem cell model can be used to study response to treatment and that fish oil as a treatment, or companion to treatment, for depression warrants further investigation," Rasenick said.

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Co-authors on the study are Jiang-Zhou Yu of UIC and Jennifer Wang, Steven Sheridan and Roy Perlis of Massachusetts General Hospital.

This study was supported by grant awards from the National Institutes of Health (R01AT009169, R41MH113398) and a VA Merit Award (BX00149). Patient cell line collection and derivation were supported by funding from the NIH (P50MH106933, R01AT009144). The authors noted relevant financial disclosures.

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NEWS RELEASE 11-JUN-2020

Camelina sativa oil and fatty fish have positive effects on lipid metabolism

UNIVERSITY OF EASTERN FINLAND

Camelina sativa oil and fatty fish are rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, but their health benefits seem to differ. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that Camelina sativa oil reduces the formation of fatty acid derivatives that may be harmful to cardiovascular health. Camelina sativa oil also seems to protect against oxidative stress. Fatty fish, on the other hand, increases the circulatory concentration of fatty acid derivatives that alleviate inflammation.

The study, conducted in collaboration between the University of Eastern Finland and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, examined the associations of fatty and low-fat fish, and Camelina sativa oil, with lipid metabolism and low-grade inflammation. The study lasted for 12 weeks and it involved 79 men and women between 43 and 72 years of age and with impaired fasting glucose. The study participants were divided into four groups. One group replaced fats in their daily diet with Camelina sativa oil and reduced their intake of fish to one serving a week. Two of the groups ate fish four times a week: two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon or vendace, and two servings of low-fat fish, such as saithe or pike. The fourth group was a control group.

A high intake of omega-3 fatty acids from Camelina sativa oil and fatty fish reduced the circulatory proportions of arachidonic acid, which is a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid. Those using Camelina sativa oil also had lower concentrations of mediators derived from arachidonic acid, which may be harmful to cardiovascular health. Moreover, the intake of fatty fish increased the circulatory concentration of fatty acid derivatives that alleviate inflammation.

"Camelina sativa oil and fatty fish had a major effect on lipid metabolism. Our study shows that dietary fats can be used to target metabolic pathways that are linked to cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes," Early Stage Researcher Topi Meuronen, the lead author of the article, from the University of Eastern Finland says.

In addition to its other beneficial effects, Camelina sativa oil was also observed to reduce the circulatory concentration of markers that are indicative of oxidative stress. Low-fat fish, however, did not have an effect on the metabolic pathways studied.

In addition to measuring traditional fatty acid concentrations from blood, the researchers were also interested in changes that occur in fatty acid metabolites, which serve as mediators. An examination of fatty acid metabolism on this level makes it possible to study the effects of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid in more detail than before. These new results are promising and they support earlier findings on the health benefits of fatty fish. However, further research into fatty acid derived mediators, and especially into the effects of Camelina sativa oil's metabolites, is needed.

NEWS RELEASE 11-JUN-2020

Bacteria in Chinese pickles can prevent cavities -- Ben-Gurion University study

AMERICAN ASSOCIATES, BEN-GURION UNIVERSITY OF THE NEGEV

BEER-SHEVA, Israel...June 11, 2020 - Can a probiotic derived from Chinese pickles prevent cavities? That seems to be the case, according to a study by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Chengdu University in China.

Pickles are an integral part of the diet in the southwest of China. When fruits and vegetables are fermented, healthy bacteria break down the natural sugars. These bacteria, also known as probiotics, not only preserve foods but offer numerous benefits, including immune system regulation, stabilization of the intestinal microbiota, reducing cholesterol levels, and now inhibiting tooth decay.

According to the study published in Frontiers in Microbiology, a strain of Lactobacilli (L. plantarum K41) found in Sichuan pickles reduced S. mutans by 98.4%. Dental caries (cavities) are caused by Streptococcus mutans, (S. mutans) commonly found in the human oral cavity as plaque and is a significant contributor to tooth decay.

Prof. Ariel Kushmaro of the BGU Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering and the Chinese research team evaluated 14 different types of Sichuan pickles from southwest China. They extracted 54 different strains of Lactobacilli and found that one, L. plantarum K41, significantly reduced the incidence and severity of cavities. K41 was also highly tolerant of acids and salts, an additional benefit as a probiotic for harsh oral conditions. It also could have potential commercial value when added to dairy products.

According to Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev based in New York City, "the researchers currently have no plans to evaluate Jewish deli pickles."

NEWS RELEASE 10-JUN-2020

Nutraceuticals for promoting longevity

BENTHAM SCIENCE PUBLISHERS

Aging is considered to be synonymous with the appearance of major diseases and an overall decline in physical and mental performance. This mini-review summarizes the main findings on nutraceuticals that are believed to slow aging processes by delaying and even preventing the development of multiple chronic diseases. These nutraceuticals may help improve productivity and quality of life in the elderly. Researchers from Migal-Galilee Research Institute (Israel), University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and University of Belgrade (Serbia) have contributed their review after conducting a literature review work published on of nutraceuticals. The research found that the most robust environmental manipulation for extending lifespan is caloric restriction without malnutrition. Some nutraceuticals can mimic caloric restriction effects. Caloric restriction is well established as a strategy to extend lifespan without malnutrition. A variety of nutraceuticals were reported to mimic the effect of caloric restriction by modulating the activity of insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor signaling and sirtuin activity and consequently promote longevity. The review, published in Current Nutraceuticals, offers a special focus on the nutraceuticals that impact insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor signaling and sirtuin activity in mediating longevity and healthspan.

Keywords: Nutraceuticals, longevity, caloric restriction, insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R), silent mating type information regulation 2 homology 1 (SIRT1)

For further information, please visit: bit.ly/NutraceuticalsforPromotingLongevity

NEWS RELEASE 10-JUN-2020

Review: A good vitamin D status can protect against cancer

UNIVERSITY OF EASTERN FINLAND

A good vitamin D status is beneficial both in cancer prevention and in the prognosis of several cancers, according to a new research review. The anti-cancer effects of vitamin D are especially pronounced in the prevention and treatment of colon cancer and blood cancers. In addition, high vitamin D responsiveness can be linked to a smaller cancer risk. Vitamin D responsiveness varies between individuals, affecting their need for vitamin D supplementation.

The review article, published in Seminars in Cancer Biology and written by Professor Carsten Carlberg from the University of Eastern Finland and Professor Alberto Muñoz from the Autonomous University of Madrid, provides an update on the molecular basis of vitamin D signaling and its role in cancer prevention and therapy.

Vitamin D is commonly known for its crucial role in bone health, but the authors point out it also regulates the immune system, and its anti-cancer effects are mediated mainly by immune cells, such as monocytes and T cells. Vitamin D exerts its effects via the vitamin D receptor (VDR), which is a transcription factor involved in the expression and epigenetic regulation of numerous genes.

According to the review, studies focusing on the effect of vitamin D on different types of cancers provide the strongest evidence of its benefits in colorectal cancer and in blood cancers, such as leukemias and lymphomas. Vitamin D is important both for the differentiation of blood cells during hematopoiesis as well as adult stem cells in rapidly regenerating tissues, such as colon or skin. A too low vitamin D status leads to a suboptimal function of the VDR and in an increased risk that these cells are not fully differentiating and start to turn into uncontrolled growing cancer cells.

Even in other types of cancer, such as breast and prostate cancer, a low vitamin D status, measured as the level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the blood, has been associated with a higher cancer incidence and a poorer prognosis. However, vitamin D supplementation has not been consistently shown to reduce cancer mortality in randomized controlled trials. According to the authors of the review, the impact of vitamin D could be shown more clearly if the participants were stratified according to their individual vitamin D responsiveness and the health outcomes analyzed in relation to changes in individual vitamin D status.

Professor Carlberg's research group has earlier shown that individuals differ in their molecular response or sensitivity to vitamin D supplementation. For example, 25% of the Finnish population seem to be low responders, needing a higher dose of vitamin D supplementation to reach the full clinical benefit. In terms of cancer risk, being a high responder can be expected to have a protective effect.

According to the review, a good vitamin D status is beneficial in general cancer prevention. There is less evidence of its usefulness in the treatment of cancer.

NEWS RELEASE 9-JUN-2020

Study shows cannabis temporarily relieves PTSD symptoms

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

PULLMAN, Wash. - People suffering from post-traumatic distress disorder report that cannabis reduces the severity of their symptoms by more than half, at least in the short term, according to a recent study led by Carrie Cuttler, a Washington State University assistant professor of psychology.

Cuttler and her colleagues analyzed data of more than 400 people who tracked changes in their PTSD symptoms before and after cannabis use with Strainprint, an app developed to help users learn what types of medical cannabis work best for their symptoms. The group collectively used the app more than 11,000 times over a 31-month period.

The study, recently published in Journal of Affective Disorders, shows cannabis reduced the severity of intrusions, returning thoughts of a traumatic event, by about 62%; flashbacks by 51%, irritability by 67%, and anxiety by 57%. The symptom reductions were not permanent, however.

"The study suggests that cannabis does reduce symptoms of PTSD acutely, but it might not have longer term beneficial effects on the underlying condition," said Cuttler. "Working with this model, it seems that cannabis will temporarily mask symptoms, acting as a bit of a band aid, but once the period of intoxication wears off, the symptoms can return."

PTSD is a disorder affecting people recovering from traumatic events and impacts women at about twice the rate as men with a 9.7% to 3.6% lifetime prevalence, respectively. While therapy is recommended as the primary treatment, Cuttler said there is growing evidence that many people with PTSD are self-medicating with cannabis.

"A lot of people with PTSD do seem to turn to cannabis, but the literature on its efficacy for managing symptoms is a little sparse," Cuttler said.

This study provides some insight into the effectiveness of cannabis on PTSD symptoms, but as the authors note, it is limited by reliance on a self-selected sample of people who self-identify as having PTSD. Also, it is not possible to compare the symptom reductions experienced by cannabis users to a control group using a placebo.

While some placebo-controlled clinical trials have been done with nabilone, a synthetic form of THC, few have examined the effects of the whole cannabis plant on PTSD.

In this study, Cuttler and her colleagues looked at a variety of variables but found no difference in the effect of cannabis with differing levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two of the most studied constituents of cannabis. The results imply that it is some combination of THC, CBD and perhaps some of the many other parts of the cannabis plant that create the therapeutic effect. Cannabis has many molecules that can create a biological effect, including up to 120 cannabinoids, 250 terpenes and around 50 flavonoids.

"We need more studies that look at whole plant cannabis because this is what people are using much more than the synthetic cannabinoids," said Cuttler. "It is difficult to do good placebo-controlled trials with whole plant cannabis, but they're still really needed."

NEWS RELEASE 17-JUN-2020

An excessive amount of propionic acid (PPA) in food preservatives may hinder brain development

The team led by Dr. Mun Ji-young of KBRI publishes its research results in an international academic journal.

KOREA BRAIN RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Korea Brain Research Institute (KBRI, headed by Suh Pann-ghill) announced on the 11th that the research team led by Dr. Mun Ji-young revealed the mechanism of autism induced by an imbalance of human gut microorganisms.

The findings were published in the June issue of the international scientific journal Molecular Brain. The title of the paper and its authors are as below.

* Title: Propionic acid induces dendritic spine loss by MAPK/ERK signaling and dysregulation of autophagic flux

* Authors: Hyosun Choi (first author), In Sik Kim, Ji Young Mun* (corresponding author*)

The human gut is often called "the second brain". As the "gut-brain axis", the concept that substances absorbed into the gut travel to and affect the brain through blood vessels, has continued to garner much attention, a series of related studies have been conducted over the past several years.

It was hypothesized that autism may be related to human gut microorganisms, as autistic children often experience gastric disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome. However, the precise relationship between autism and the human gut microbiome has yet to be identified.

Recently, research results that mice administered with propionic acid (PPA) demonstrate behaviors similar to autistic symptoms have been reported. PPA is a food additive used to extend the shelf life of processed foods and is even found in dairy products, canned foods, etc.

The research team administered PPA into cultured neurons of mice and observed the forms of hippocampal neurons and protein expression. It was discovered that the number of dendritic spine decreased due to the disruption of autophagy.

Autophagy is the natural cell mechanism that removes unnecessary proteins and organelles. The administration of PPA obstructs the process through which the autophagosome fuses with the lysosome*, thereby accumulating cellular waste, reducing the amount of dendritic spines* essential for the formation of synapses, and ultimately hindering child brain development.

* Lysosome: A cell organelle that contains digestive enzymes

* Dendritic spine: A small membranous protrusion from a neuron's dendrite

The study also found that the extracellular signal regulated kinase* (ERK) pathway was excessively activated in cells administered with PPA. It was confirmed that the number of dendritic spines recovered when an ERK-damaging enzyme was added.

* Kinase: A phosphorylating enzyme that transfers the terminal phosphate group of ATP to other molecules

This study is significant in that it identified the effect of human gut bacterial metabolites on neurons by discovering that an excessive use of PPA, which is one of the most frequently used food additives, may induce autism.

Principal Researcher Mun Ji-young said, "This study uncovered one of many effects of the human gut microbiome on the human brain. We plan to continue to study the mechanism by which PPA induces brain disorders and apply the findings to the treatment of related diseases in the future."

NEWS RELEASE 17-JUN-2020

Vitamin D could help mitigate chemotherapy side effects

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA

CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA

As many cancer patients will confirm, the chemotherapy prescribed to kill the disease is often more debilitating than the cancer itself, with a range of horrendous side effects.

Gastrointestinal mucositis, a painful inflammation and ulceration of the digestive tract, is one adverse outcome of chemotherapy that has plagued cancer sufferers for years, and for which no effective treatment currently exists.

But this bleak outlook may be about to change, according to University of South Australia researchers who say Vitamin D could potentially mitigate inflamed intestinal tracts and provide relief to cancer patients.

A new study undertaken by Dr Andrea Stringer, Associate Professor Paul Anderson and PhD student Cyan Sylvester highlights the limited options for easing the gastrointestinal side effects of chemotherapy, singling out Vitamin D and probiotics as the most promising.

"We already know that Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium, but new findings suggest it may also play an important role in chemotherapy-induced intestinal mucositis," says Sylvester, the lead author of a recent paper reviewing new therapeutic strategies for combatting gastrointestinal toxicity.

"The severity and progression of various gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer, is associated with Vitamin D deficiency," she says.

"It appears that Vitamin D helps suppress inflammation and enhances the function of T-cells which boosts immunity."

Vitamin D is also thought to improve the efficacy of certain anti-cancer drugs.

The researchers are now working on ways to enhance the activity of vitamin D in the intestine as a more viable option for treating gastrointestinal mucositis.

"We know that Vitamin D definitely does more than help absorb calcium, but we need to better understand and optimise its action in the gut before we can be 100 per cent confident that it could be a treatment option for gastrointestinal mucositis," says Dr Stringer.

"We are investigating the effects of enhanced vitamin D activity in the intestine on both reducing damage and minimising compositional change to the gut microbiome caused by chemotherapy agents."

Probiotics (live bacteria and yeast) have also been widely promoted for digestive health and there is evidence they reduce the severity of diarrhoea and abdominal pain, but researchers have not been able to establish the direct effect of probiotics on intestinal function that reduces these side effects during and following cancer treatment.

"Vitamin D shows the most promise and could prove the key hormone to alleviate suffering for cancer patients," Dr Stringer says.

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Their paper has been published in Supportive and Palliative Care. For a copy, email candy.gibson@unisa.edu.au

NEWS RELEASE 28-JUN-2020

Declining eyesight improved by looking at deep red light

Peer-reviewed | experimental study | people

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON

Staring at a deep red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve declining eyesight, finds a new UCL-led study, the first of its kind in humans.

Scientists believe the discovery, published in the Journals of Gerontology, could signal the dawn of new affordable home-based eye therapies, helping the millions of people globally with naturally declining vision.

In the UK there are currently around 12 million people aged over 65: in 50 years this will increase to around 20 million and all will have some degree of visual decline because of retinal ageing.

Lead author, Professor Glen Jeffery (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) said: "As you age your visual system declines significantly, particularly once over 40.

"Your retinal sensitivity and your colour vision are both gradually undermined, and with an ageing population, this is an increasingly important issue.

"To try to stem or reverse this decline, we sought to reboot the retina's ageing cells with short bursts of longwave light."

In humans around 40 years-old, cells in the eye's retina begin to age, and the pace of this ageing is caused, in part, when the cell's mitochondria, whose role is to produce energy (known as ATP) and boost cell function, also start to decline.

Mitochondrial density is greatest in the retina's photoreceptor cells, which have high energy demands. As a result, the retina ages faster than other organs, with a 70% ATP reduction over life, causing a significant decline in photoreceptor function as they lack the energy to perform their normal role.

Researchers built on their previous findings in mice, bumblebees and fruit flies, which all found significant improvements in the function of the retina's photoreceptors when their eyes were exposed to 670 nanometre (long wavelength) deep red light.

"Mitochondria have specific light absorbance characteristics influencing their performance: longer wavelengths spanning 650 to 1000nm are absorbed and improve mitochondrial performance to increase energy production," said Professor Jeffery.

The retina's photoreceptor population is formed of cones, which mediate colour vision and rods, which provide peripheral vision and adapt vision in low/dim light.

For the study, 24 people (12 male, 12 female), aged between 28 and 72, who had no ocular disease, were recruited. All participants' eyes were tested for the sensitivity of their rods and cones at the start of the study. Rod sensitivity was measured in dark adapted eyes (with pupils dilated) by asking participants to detect dim light signals in the dark, and cone function was tested by subjects identifying coloured letters that had very low contrast and appeared increasingly blurred, a process called colour contrast.

All participants were then given a small LED torch to take home and were asked to look into* its deep red 670nm light beam for three minutes a day for two weeks. They were then re-tested for their rod and cone sensitivity

Results

Researchers found the 670nm light had no impact in younger individuals, but in those around 40 years and over, significant improvements were obtained.

Cone colour contrast sensitivity (the ability to detect colours) improved by up to 20% in some people aged around 40 and over. Improvements were more significant in the blue part of the colour spectrum that is more vulnerable in ageing.

Rod sensitivity (the ability to see in low light) also improved significantly in those aged around 40 and over, though less than colour contrast.

Professor Jeffery said: "Our study shows that it is possible to significantly improve vision that has declined in aged individuals using simple brief exposures to light wavelengths that recharge the energy system that has declined in the retina cells, rather like re-charging a battery.

"The technology is simple and very safe, using a deep red light of a specific wavelength, that is absorbed by mitochondria in the retina that supply energy for cellular function.

"Our devices cost about £12 to make, so the technology is highly accessible to members of the public."

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This research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

NEWS RELEASE 25-JUN-2020

Bioactive natural compounds for the fight against cancer

TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITÄT DRESDEN

Through a balanced diet, we consume larger quantities of phytoalexins every day - in a natural and healthy way. Phytoalexins (gr. phytos = plant, alekein = "repel") are phytochemicals that plants produce as an immune response to certain stimuli in order to maintain their own health. Numerous scientific studies have already shown that these bioactive natural products also have a health-promoting effect on humans. However, in order to investigate the mechanisms of action in detail, it is important to obtain the individual phytoalexins simply, which has so far been done with little efficiency and using toxic substances.

Dr. Philipp Ciesielski and Prof. Peter Metz from the Chair of Organic Chemistry I at TU Dresden have now presented a novel and extremely efficient synthesis for phytoalexins in the renowned journal Nature Communications. In particular, the low-level synthesis of the phytoalexins Glyceollin I and Glyceollin II, which are produced as part of the immune response in soybean plants, is a decisive innovation. These two natural compounds are characterized by a broad spectrum of bioactivities, including antitumour activity and health-promoting, anti-oxidant and anti-cholesterolemic effects against Western diseases.

The previous syntheses of Glyceollin I and II use large amounts of the very toxic and expensive oxidizing agent osmium tetroxide as well as large amounts of a comparatively expensive excipient as ligand in the key step. The newly presented synthesis route, on the other hand, manages without osmium tetroxide and at the same time proves to be much more efficient.

"Our synthesis pathway to various phytoalexins now allows easier access to these substances. This is an important basis for further investigations into the biological activity of these natural compounds and may well form the basis for their further development as therapeutics. The path we have described to the basic structure of phytoalexins can also be used by other research groups in the synthesis of related natural and active compounds," describes Prof. Peter Metz the importance of his publication.

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NEWS RELEASE 24-JUN-2020

Far-UVC light safely kills airborne coronaviruses

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IRVING MEDICAL CENTER

NEW YORK, NY (June 24, 2020) -- More than 99.9% of seasonal coronaviruses present in airborne droplets were killed when exposed to a particular wavelength of ultraviolet light that is safe to use around humans, a new study at Columbia University Irving Medical Center has found.

"Based on our results, continuous airborne disinfection with far-UVC light at the current regulatory limit could greatly reduce the level of airborne virus in indoor environments occupied by people," says the study's lead author David Brenner, PhD, Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

The research was published today in Scientific Reports.

Background

Conventional germicidal UVC light (254 nm wavelength) can be used to disinfect unoccupied spaces such as empty hospital rooms or empty subway cars, but direct exposure to these conventional UV lamps is not possible in occupied public spaces, as this could be a health hazard.

To continuously and safely disinfect occupied indoor areas, researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center have been investigating far-UVC light (222 nm wavelength). Far-UVC light cannot penetrate the tear layer of the eye or the outer dead-cell layer of skin so it cannot reach or damage living cells in the body.

The researchers had previously shown that far-UVC light can safely kill airborne influenza viruses.

The new paper extends their research to seasonal coronaviruses, which are structurally similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Study details

In the study, the researchers used a misting device to aerosolize two common coronaviruses. The aerosols containing coronavirus were then flowed through the air in front of a far-UVC lamp. After exposure to far-UVC light, the researchers tested to see how many of the viruses were still alive.

The researchers found that more than 99.9% of the exposed virus had been killed by a very low exposure to far-UVC light.

Based on their results, the researchers estimate that continuous exposure to far-UVC light at the current regulatory limit would kill 90% of airborne viruses in about 8 minutes, 95% in about 11 minutes, 99% in about 16 minutes, and 99.9% in about 25 minutes.

Using far-UVC light in occupied indoor spaces

The sensitivity of the coronaviruses to far-UVC light suggests that it may be feasible and safe to use overhead far-UVC lamps in occupied indoor public places to markedly reduce the risk of person-to-person transmission of coronaviruses, as well as other viruses such as influenza.

Ongoing studies in SARS-CoV-2

In a separate ongoing study, the researchers are testing the efficacy of far-UVC light against airborne SARS-CoV-2. Preliminary data suggest that far-UVC light is just as effective at killing SARS-CoV-2.

"Far-UVC light doesn't really discriminate between coronavirus types, so we expected that it would kill SARS-CoV-2 in just the same way," Brenner says. "Since SARS-CoV-2 is largely spread via droplets and aerosols that are coughed and sneezed into the air it's important to have a tool that can safely inactivate the virus while it's in the air, particularly while people are around."

Brenner continues, "Because it's safe to use in occupied spaces like hospitals, buses, planes, trains, train stations, schools, restaurants, offices, theaters, gyms, and anywhere that people gather indoors, far-UVC light could be used in combination with other measures, like wearing face masks and washing hands, to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses."

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More information

The paper is titled, "Far-UVC light (222-nm) efficiently and safely inactivates airborne coronaviruses."

The other authors (all CUIMC) are Manuela Buonnano, David Welch, and Igor Shuryak.

The study was funded by the Shostack Foundation and the NIH (grant R42-AI125006-03).

The authors declare that the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York have a pending patent on the technology: "Apparatus, method and system for selectively affecting and/or killing a virus."

The authors declare no additional financial or other conflicts of interest.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Irving Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit cuimc.columbia.edu or columbiadoctors.org.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible f

NEWS RELEASE 24-JUN-2020

Medicinal cannabis may reduce behavioral problems in kids with intellectual disabilities

MURDOCH CHILDRENS RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Cannabidiol, a type of medicinal cannabis, may reduce severe behavioural problems in children and adolescents with an intellectual disability a new study has found.

The pilot study, led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) and published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, recorded a clinically significant change in participants' irritability, aggression, self-injury, and yelling. The intervention was also found to be safe and well-tolerated by most study participants.

The randomised controlled trial involved eight participants, aged 8-16, years who took either cannabidiol or a placebo over eight weeks. Participants were recruited from paediatric clinics from both hospital and private paediatric practices.

Although the pilot study was not large enough to make definitive statements, the early findings strongly support a larger follow-up trial. Only a large scale randomised controlled trial can produce the definitive results necessary to drive changes in prescribing and clinical care guidelines. The researchers are planning a large study to definitively test the findings.

The researchers are also seeking funding for further research into the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in children with developmental disorders such as autism and Tourette syndrome.

Associate Professor Daryl Efron, a clinician-scientist at MCRI who led the study, said this was the first investigation of cannabidiol to manage severe behavioural problems in children and adolescents with an intellectual disability. Most of the participants also had autism.

The study found the medication was generally well-tolerated and there were no serious side effects reported. All parents reported they would recommend the study to families with children with similar problems.

Associate Professor Efron said severe behavioural problems such as irritability, aggression and self-injury in children and adolescents with an intellectual disability were a major contributor to functional impairments, missed learning opportunities and reduced quality of life.

He said conventional psychotropic medications, including anti-psychotics and anti-depressants, were prescribed by Australian paediatricians for almost half of young people with an intellectual disability, despite limited evidence of their effectiveness. Given how extremely difficult behavioural problems were to treat in these patients, new, safer interventions were needed to treat this highly vulnerable patient group, he said.

"Current medications carry a high risk of side-effects, with vulnerable people with intellectual disability being less able to report side-effects," he said. "Common side-effects of antipsychotics, such as weight gain and metabolic syndrome, have huge health effects for a patient group already at increased risk of chronic illness."

Cannabidiol is already being used increasingly to manage a range of medical and psychiatric conditions in adults and epilepsy in children.

Associate Professor Efron said there was intense interest from parents and physicians in medicinal cannabis as a treatment for severe behavioural problems in youth with an intellectual disability.

"Parents of children with an intellectual disability and severe behavioural problems are increasingly asking paediatricians whether they can access medicinal cannabis for their child and some parents have reported giving unregulated cannabis products to their children," he said.

"We are also finding many physicians feel unprepared to have these conversations with their patients." Researchers from The Royal Children's Hospital, the University of Melbourne and Monash University also contributed to the study.

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NEWS RELEASE 24-JUN-2020

Biomedical researchers get closer to why eczema happens

New study examines link between lipids and bacteria to aid 35 million Americans who suffer from atopic dermatitis

BINGHAMTON, NY -- A new study from researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York may help to peel back the layers of unhealthy skin -- at least metaphorically speaking -- and get closer to a cure.

An estimated 35 million Americans suffer from eczema, a chronic skin condition also known as atopic dermatitis. Worldwide, 2 to 5% of adults and about 15% of children suffer from symptoms such as dry, inflamed and very itchy skin with open sores.

Although there are myriad treatments for eczema, such as medical creams and natural remedies, the exact causes of the condition remain elusive.

In a new paper, the team -- Associate Professor Guy German and PhD student Zachary W. Lipsky from the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science's Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Associate Professor Claudia N.H. Marques of the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biological Sciences -- connects two aspects of eczema research that are rarely studied together.

One result of atopic dermatitis is a decreased level of skin oils known as lipids, particularly one group called ceramides. Lipids on the surface of the skin function to regulate hydration and also help defend the skin from foreign invaders either indirectly through immune signaling or directly through their inherent antimicrobial activity.

Another result of eczema is an increase in staph bacteria in the skin, which can cause irritation and infection.

German said that genetics can play a part in whether someone has eczema, but people in certain occupations have also been shown to be more likely to get the skin condition, such as healthcare professionals, metalworkers, hairdressers and food processing workers. The connection? An increased amount of handwashing or regular contact with detergents for your job.

"What happens if, either through a mutation or through occupational risks, there's a decreased presence of lipids on the skin?" he asked. "The essence of this study is that in normal, healthy conditions, bacteria do not penetrate the skin barrier. In atopic dermatitis conditions or lipid levels consistent with AD, it does -- and it consistently takes nine days."

Because the staph bacteria are immobile, they need to multiply in number to grow through the protective outer skin layer known as the stratum corneum. The Watson researchers believe the bacteria don't grow around the skin cells but actually through them. With lipid depletion -- either through genetics or occupational risks -- the skin appears to become more vulnerable to bacterial invasion and infection of underlying skin tissue.

"When we usually think about the oils in our skin, we think about water retention and moisturizing -- things like that," Lipsky said. "Now we're looking at how these lipids are important for protection against these microorganisms that can come in and cause diseases."

While this study has not unlocked all the secrets of atopic dermatitis, showing that the bacteria could be the cause rather than the result of the disease is a major step forward. Further research is required, and that's where the Watson team will investigate next.

"Now that we know that bacteria can permeate through lipid depleted skin, how does it affect the skin mechanically?" Lipsky asked. "Does it make the skin weaker and more likely to crack? Can we figure out how bacteria are moving through different skin layers?"

German added: "In scientific research, you get one answer and three additional questions pop up, so we're never stuck for things to do."

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NEWS RELEASE 2-JUL-2020

In mouse study, black raspberries show promise for reducing skin inflammation

Early findings indicate eating the fruit could help with skin allergies

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Eating black raspberries might reduce inflammation associated with skin allergies, a new study indicates.

In a study done with mice and published earlier this month in the journal Nutrients, researchers found that a diet high in black raspberries reduced inflammation from contact hypersensitivity - a condition that causes redness and inflammation in the skin.

"A lot of times, treatments are directly applied to the skin - things like steroids," said Steve Oghumu, senior author on the paper and an assistant professor of pathology at The Ohio State University.

"And it was interesting that the mere consumption of a fruit can achieve the same effects."

The researchers put a group of mice on a diet that incorporated black raspberries - equivalent to a single serving per day for humans. They also kept a control group, where mice were fed the same diet, but without black raspberries.

Three weeks after the diets began, the researchers exposed one of each mouse's ears to irritants that caused contact hypersensitivity. Then, they measured the reductions in swelling, comparing the ears of each mouse.

They found that in mice fed a diet that included black raspberries, swelling went down compared to the mice that did not eat black raspberries.

The researchers found that the black raspberries appear to modulate dendritic cells, which act as messengers to the body's immune system, telling the immune system to kick in or not - essentially whether to create inflammation or not.

"The immune system is very complex, with multiple players, and so once you begin to identify the unique cells that are being affected by the berries then it helps us to see how berries are inhibiting inflammation," Oghumu said. "A lot of the bad effects that we see are not always due to the pathogens or allergens themselves, but are due to the way our body responds to these triggers."

In the case of contact hypersensitivity, for example, a person's skin encounters an allergen and the body responds by flooding the area with cells that cause inflammation and itchiness.

"And so one way to manage these types of diseases is controlling that response, and that is one of the things black raspberries appear to be able to do," he said.

Oghumu and colleagues in his lab have been studying the effects of black raspberries on inflammation for years. A diet rich in black raspberries has shown promise in reducing inflammation associated with some types of cancer, and Oghumu and his team have wondered if fruit might also help reduce inflammation in other conditions.

###

This study is an early indication that those benefits might exist, Oghumu said. He noted that more work needs to be done to determine what specific properties of black raspberries lead to a decrease in inflammation.

This work was funded by an internal grant from the Ohio State Foods for Health initiative. Other Ohio State researchers on this study include Kelvin Anderson, Nathan Ryan, Arham Siddiqui, Travis Pero, Greta Volpedo and Jessica L. Cooperstone.

CONTACT: Steve Oghumu, oghumu.1@osu.edu

Written by: Laura Arenschield, arenschield.2@osu.edu

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the ac

NEWS RELEASE 1-JUL-2020

Exercise can slow or prevent vision loss, study finds

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA HEALTH SYSTEM

Exercise can slow or prevent the development of macular degeneration and may benefit other common causes of vision loss, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, new research suggests.

The new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that exercise reduced the harmful overgrowth of blood vessels in the eyes of lab mice by up to 45%. This tangle of blood vessels is a key contributor to macular degeneration and several other eye diseases.

The study represents the first experimental evidence showing that exercise can reduce the severity of macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss, the scientists report. Ten million Americans are estimated to have the condition.

"There has long been a question about whether maintaining a healthy lifestyle can delay or prevent the development of macular degeneration. The way that question has historically been answered has been by taking surveys of people, asking them what they are eating and how much exercise they are performing," said researcher Bradley Gelfand, PhD, of UVA's Center for Advanced Vision Science. "That is basically the most sophisticated study that has been done. The problem with that is that people are notoriously bad self-reporters ... and that can lead to conclusions that may or not be true. This [study] offers hard evidence from the lab for very first time."

The Benefits of Exercise

Enticingly, the research found that the bar for receiving the benefits from exercise was relatively low - more exercise didn't mean more benefit. "Mice are kind of like people in that they will do a spectrum of exercise. As long as they had a wheel and ran on it, there was a benefit," Gelfand said. "The benefit that they obtained is saturated at low levels of exercise."

An initial test comparing mice that voluntarily exercised versus those that did not found that exercise reduced the blood vessel overgrowth by 45%. A second test, to confirm the findings, found a reduction of 32%.

The scientists aren't certain exactly how exercise is preventing the blood vessel overgrowth. There could be a variety of factors at play, they say, including increased blood flow to the eyes.

Gelfand, of UVA's Department of Ophthalmology and Department of Biomedical Engineering, noted that the onset of vision loss is often associated with a decrease in exercise. "It is fairly well known that as people's eyes and vision deteriorate, their tendency to engage in physical activity also goes down," he said. "It can be a challenging thing to study in older people. ... How much of that is one causing the other?"

The researchers already have submitted grant proposals in hopes of obtaining funding to pursue their findings further.

"The next step is to look at how and why this happens, and to see if we can develop a pill or method that will give you the benefits of exercise without having to exercise," Gelfand said. "We're talking about a fairly elderly population [of people with macular degeneration], many of whom may not be capable of conducting the type of exercise regimen that may be required to see some kind of benefit." (He urged people to consult their doctors before beginning any aggressive exercise program.)

Gelfand, a self-described couch potato, disclosed a secret motivation for the research: "One reason I wanted to do this study was sort of selfish. I was hoping to find some reason not to exercise," he joked. "It turned out exercise really is good for you."

###

Findings Published

The researchers have published their findings in the scientific journal IOVS. The research team consisted of Ryan D. Makin, Dionne Argyle, Shuichiro Hirahara, Yosuke Nagasaka, Mei Zhang, Zhen Yan, Nagaraj Kerur, Jayakrishna Ambati and Gelfand, who holds appointments in both UVA's School of Medicine and School of Engineering. Ambati is a founder of iVeena Holdings, iVeena Delivery Systems and Inflammasome Therapeutics and has provided consulting services to Allergan, Immunovant, Olix Pharmaceuticals, Retinal Solutions and Saksin LifeSciences unrelated to the findings. Ambati, Gelfand and Kerur are named as inventors on macular degeneration patent applications filed by UVA and the University of Kentucky.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grants R01EY028027, DP1GM114862, R01EY022238, R01EY024068, R01EY028027, K99EY024336, R00EY024336, R01AI14874, R21EY030651, T32 HL007284, 5T32 GM008715 and R01GM114840; the American Heart Association, grant 13SDG16770008; the John Templeton Foundation, grant 60763; and the Beckman Initiative for Macular Research.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog at http://makingofmedicine.virginia.edu.

NEWS RELEASE 7-JUL-2020

Higher manganese levels in early pregnancy linked to lower preeclampsia risk

Study suggests the possibility that the trace mineral manganese may protect women from preeclampsia

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH

An analysis of data from more than 1,300 women followed prospectively through pregnancy found that women with lower levels of the essential mineral manganese in early pregnancy were more likely to develop the serious high blood pressure syndrome called preeclampsia in late pregnancy, according to a new study led by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study, published online in the journal Epidemiology, suggests the possibility that boosting manganese levels in women before and during pregnancy could potentially reduce preeclampsia risk.

Preeclampsia usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy and affects more than 100,000 women in the U.S. each year and an estimated 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide--and is trending towards higher rates. It features high blood pressure and associated organ damage, for example to the kidneys, and if untreated preeclampsia can lead to fatal complications such as stroke for mothers and/or premature birth for offspring. Risk factors include obesity, diabetes, and a family history of preeclampsia, but its root biological causes are unknown.

The new paper is thought to be the first to link preeclampsia to lower manganese levels in early pregnancy, long before preeclampsia appears. Prior epidemiological studies have found that women with preeclampsia tend to have lower manganese levels compared to women who don't have preeclampsia. This earlier research did not establish whether the variation in manganese levels preceded the development of preeclampsia.

"If our findings are confirmed by other prospective pre-birth cohorts, then this association between low manganese and preeclampsia should be examined experimentally, first in mice and then in humans," says study senior author Noel Mueller, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School.

"These new findings are especially relevant, considering that preeclampsia rates are increasing and we still lack any good strategy for preventing it," says study first author Tiange Liu, MHS, a research data analyst at the Bloomberg School.

Mueller, Liu, and colleagues previously found, in a study published in 2019, that in a sample of more than 1,000 women from the Boston Birth Cohort, levels of manganese in red blood cells, as measured shortly after delivery, tended to be lower in women who had had preeclampsia.

For their new analysis, the researchers looked at data from another Massachusetts-based study called Project Viva, which was conducted in 1999-2002. The Project Viva dataset included preeclampsia outcomes and also levels of manganese in blood drawn in the first trimester of pregnancy. If preeclampsia in these cases tended to be preceded by low manganese levels months earlier, that would be an even stronger hint that low manganese levels can be a causative factor for this condition.

The sample included 1,312 women, of whom 48 (3.7 percent) developed preeclampsia.

The researchers in their analysis found that higher manganese levels in the first trimester were associated with a lower risk of preeclampsia later in the pregnancy, depending on the dose. This suggests that incrementally more manganese would bring incrementally less risk. The researchers divided the women into three equally sized groups according to their measured manganese levels--low, medium, and high--and found that those in the high-manganese group had just half the risk of preeclampsia, compared to those in the low-manganese group.

The study was observational and did not establish a causal relationship between higher manganese levels and lower preeclampsia risk. The findings suggest that further studies that could establish a causal relationship, including of high-manganese diets, might soon be advisable.

Many common foods such as mussels, brown rice, sweet potatoes, pine nuts, and spinach are relatively rich in manganese.

Manganese has multiple biological roles in human cells--in enzyme complexes, for example, that help protect cells from harmful oxygen-containing molecules. But how it would ward off preeclampsia is so far unclear. Studying cellular mechanisms during pregnancy would help illuminate how differences in manganese levels could account for changes in preeclampsia risk, the researchers say.

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"Prospective Association Between Manganese in Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Preeclampsia" was written by Tiange Liu, Marie-France Hivert, Sheryl Rifas-Shiman, Mohammad Rahman, Emily Oken, Andres Cardenas, and Noel Mueller.

Funding was provided in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (K01HL141589).

NEWS RELEASE 6-JUL-2020

Probiotics alone or combined with prebiotics may help ease depression

But possible contribution to lessening anxiety not yet clear, evidence review suggests

BMJ

Probiotics either taken by themselves or when combined with prebiotics, may help to ease depression, suggests a review of the available evidence, published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.

But as to whether they might help to lessen anxiety isn't yet clear, say the researchers.

Foods that broaden the profile of helpful bacteria in the gut are collectively known as probiotics, while prebiotics are compounds that help these bacteria to flourish.

In the UK in 2016-17, 1.4 million people were referred with mental health issues, over half of them (53%) had anxiety or stress related disorders, while a third (33%) had depression.

A two-way relationship exists between the brain and digestive tract, known as the gut-brain axis. And the possibility that the microbiome--the range and number of bacteria resident in the gut--might help treat mental ill health has become a focus of interest in recent years.

To explore this further, the researchers searched for relevant studies published in English between 2003 and 2019, which looked at the potential therapeutic contribution of pre-and probiotics in adults with depression and/or anxiety disorders.

Out of an initial haul of 71 studies, just 7 met all the criteria for inclusion. All 7 investigated at least 1 probiotic strain; 4 looked at the effect of combinations of multiple strains.

In all, 12 probiotic strains featured in the selected studies, primarily Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidium. One study looked at combined pre-probiotic treatment, while one looked at prebiotic therapy by itself.

The studies varied considerably in their design, methods used, and clinical considerations, but all of them concluded that probiotic supplements either alone or in combination with prebiotics may be linked to measurable reductions in depression.

And every study showed a significant fall or improvement in anxiety symptoms and/or clinically relevant changes in biochemical measures of anxiety and/or depression with probiotic or combined pre-probiotic use.

Of the 12 different probiotics investigated, 11 were potentially useful, the findings showed.

The researchers highlight several caveats to their review: none of the included studies lasted very long; and the number of participants in each was small.

This makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions about the overall effects, whether they are long lasting, and whether there might be any unwanted side effects associated with prolonged use, they say.

Nevertheless on the basis of the preliminary evidence to date, pre- and probiotic therapy warrant further investigation, they suggest.

Probiotics may help reduce the production of inflammatory chemicals, such as cytokines, as is the case in inflammatory bowel disease, suggest the researchers. Or they may help direct the action of tryptophan, a chemical thought to be important in the gut-brain axis in psychiatric disorders.

As anxiety disorders and depression affect people very differently, they require treatment approaches that take account of these complexities, they say. "In this way, with a better understanding of the mechanisms, probiotics may prove to be a useful tool across a wide range of conditions," they write.

People with depression and/or anxiety disorders also often have other underlying conditions, such as impaired insulin production and irritable bowel syndrome, they point out.

"As such, the effect that probiotics have on patients with [common mental disorders] may be twofold: they may directly improve depression in line with the observed findings of this review, and/or they might beneficially impact a patient's experience of their [common mental disorder] by alleviating additional comorbidities," they write.

"Purely from the information gathered for this review, it is valid to suggest that, for patients with clinically recognised depression: isolate, or adjuvant prebiotic therapy is unlikely to affect an individual's experience of their condition in a quantitatively evident way; and that isolate or adjuvant, probiotic/combined prebiotic-probiotic therapy may offer a quantitatively measurable improvement in parameters relating to depression," they conclude.

"However, there are inadequate data to suggest anything meaningful to support or refute the use of either pre/probiotic agents (or a combination of both) in patients with clinically recognised anxiety disorders; this would be a useful area to investigate further."

NEWS RELEASE 10-JUL-2020

Commentary in Pediatrics: Children don't transmit Covid-19, schools should reopen in fall

Rising cases in Texas childcare facilities could be misinterpreted, says commentary

 

IMAGE: BASED ON ONE NEW AND THREE RECENT STUDIES, THE AUTHORS OF A COMMENTARY IN PEDIATRICS CONCLUDE THAT CHILDREN RARELY TRANSMIT COVID-19, EITHER AMONG THEMSELVES OR TO ADULTS. BASED ON THE... view more 

A commentary published in the journal Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, concludes that children infrequently transmit Covid-19 to each other or to adults and that many schools, provided they follow appropriate social distancing guidelines and take into account rates of transmission in their community, can and should reopen in the fall.

The authors, Benjamin Lee, M.D. and William V. Raszka, Jr., M.D., are both pediatric infectious disease specialists on the faculty of the University of Vermont's Larner College of Medicine. Dr. Raszka is an associate editor of Pediatrics.

The authors of the commentary, titled "COVID-19 Transmission and Children: The Child Is Not to Blame," base their conclusions on a new study published in the current issue of Pediatrics, "COVID-19 in Children and the Dynamics of Infection in Families," and four other recent studies that examine Covid-19 transmission by and among children.

--In the new Pediatrics study, Klara M. Posfay-Barbe, M.D., a faculty member at University of Geneva's medical school, and her colleagues studied the households of 39 Swiss children infected with Covid-19. Contact tracing revealed that in only three (8%) was a child the suspected index case, with symptom onset preceding illness in adult household contacts.

--In a recent study in China, contact tracing demonstrated that, of the 68 children with Covid-19 admitted to Qingdao Women's and Children's Hospital from January 20 to February 27, 2020, 96% were household contacts of previously infected adults. In another study of Chinese children, nine of 10 children admitted to several provincial hospitals outside Wuhan contracted Covid-19 from an adult, with only one possible child-to-child transmission, based on the timing of disease onset.

--In a French study, a boy with Covid-19 exposed over 80 classmates at three schools to the disease. None contracted it. Transmission of other respiratory diseases, including influenza transmission, was common at the schools.

--In a study in New South Wales, nine infected students and nine staff across 15 schools exposed a total of 735 students and 128 staff to Covid-19. Only two secondary infections resulted, one transmitted by an adult to a child.

"The data are striking," said Dr. Raszka. "The key takeaway is that children are not driving the pandemic. After six months, we have a wealth of accumulating data showing that children are less likely to become infected and seem less infectious; it is congregating adults who aren't following safety protocols who are responsible for driving the upward curve."

Rising cases among adults and children in Texas childcare facilities, which have seen 894 Covid-19 cases among staff members and 441 among children in 883 child care facilities across the state, have the potential to be misinterpreted, Dr. Raszka said. He has not studied the details of the outbreak.

"There is widespread transmission of Covid-19 in Texas today, with many adults congregating without observing social distancing or wearing masks," he said. "While we don't yet know the dynamics of the outbreak, it is unlikely that infants and children in daycare are driving the surge. Based on the evidence, it's more plausible that adults are passing the infection to the children in the vast majority of cases."

Additional support for the notion that children are not significant vectors of the disease comes from mathematical modeling, the authors say. Models show that community-wide social distancing and widespread adoption of facial cloth coverings are far better strategies for curtailing disease spread, and that closing schools adds little. The fact that schools have reopened in many Western European countries and in Japan without seeing a rise in community transmissions bears out the accuracy of the modeling.

Reopening schools in a safe manner this fall is important for the healthy development of children, the authors say. "By doing so, we could minimize the potentially profound adverse social, developmental, and health costs that our children will continue to suffer until an effective treatment or vaccine can be developed and distributed, or failing that, until we reach herd immunity," the paper concludes.

NEWS RELEASE 13-JUL-2020

Plant-based diets promote healthful aging, according to new editorial

PHYSICIANS COMMITTEE FOR RESPONSIBLE MEDICINE

   

WASHINGTON--Adopting a plant-based diet can help promote healthful aging and mitigate the global burden of disease, according to an editorial published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

Researchers with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reviewed clinical trials and epidemiological studies related to aging and found that while aging increases the risk for noncommunicable chronic diseases, healthful diets can help. The editorial shows that plant-based diets can reduce the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease by almost 50% and could cut cardiometabolic-related deaths in the United States by half.

"Modulating lifestyle risk factors and adopting a healthful diet are powerful tools that may delay the aging process, decrease age-associated co-morbidities and mortality, and increase life expectancy," write the authors. The authors cite studies showing that plant-based diets rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes:

  • Reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes by about 50%.
  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease events by an estimated 40%.
  • Reduce the risk of cerebral vascular disease events by 29%.
  • Reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by more than 50%.
  • May reduce the risk for cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's disease by almost 50%.

The researchers also note that plant-based diets have been tied to increased life expectancy, as evidenced by the world's "Blue Zones," where populations subsist mostly on plant-based foods rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants that have been associated with longer life expectancy.

"The global population of adults 60 years old or older is expected to double from 841 million to 2 billion by 2050, presenting clear challenges for our health care system," says study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee. "Fortunately, simple diet changes can go a long way in helping populations lead longer, healthier lives."

The authors also note that these improvements in health will reduce health care costs caused by chronic diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lifestyle-related chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States, accounting for the majority of the nation's annual $3.5 trillion in health care spending.

Dietary guidelines advisory committee reinforces need for increased choline intake

Vulnerable populations, including infants, toddlers, pregnant and lactating women, are at greatest risk for choline deficiency

BALCHEM COPRORATION

NEW HAMPTON, N.Y., July 20, 2020 -- On Wednesday, July 15, 2020, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC or Committee) - a group comprised of 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts - published the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Among its findings, the Committee concluded that current choline intake levels are too low for most Americans and found low intake levels among infants and toddlers, as well as vulnerable populations like pregnant and lactating women, especially concerning.

"The Committee's scientific report shines a light on the growing body of evidence that shows choline plays a critical role in health during specific life stages," says Marie Caudill, PhD, RD, Professor, Cornell University and an internationally recognized choline researcher. "Unfortunately, consumption data tell us choline is widely under-consumed, and it's concerning that those populations who would benefit most from choline, such as pregnant and lactating women and infants and children, fall short of meeting intake targets. In fact, only 8 percent of pregnant women are meeting choline recommendations."

Choline is an essential nutrient that supports a variety of processes at all stages of life and throughout the body, including fetal and infant development; cognition and memory; energy and fitness; metabolism; and liver health. While more research is needed for choline to reach the level of a 'nutrient of public health concern,' the Committee recognized choline as a 'nutrient that poses public health challenges' for all infants and toddlers between ages 12 and 24 months; and special attention around choline inadequacies was specifically noted for girls and boys ages 9 to 14; and the vulnerable pregnant population and women who are lactating. Choline is naturally found in some foods; yet, based on typical and recommended eating patterns, it is difficult to meet daily choline needs through foods alone. In fact, the DGAC presented three food pattern styles, which generally meet all nutrient needs across the lifespan, except for a few such as choline. Importantly, the Committee noted that many supplements do not yet contain sufficient amounts of choline, indicating an important opportunity for both supplement innovations, as well as food fortification, in the future.

"The Committee's report clearly highlights the challenges of meeting choline intake targets through food alone," added Caudill. "Americans need guidance on how to choose supplements to help fill nutrient gaps, particularly for pregnant women as most recognized prenatal vitamins don't contain enough--if any--choline."

"Choline's increased recognition in the DGAC report is an important scientific milestone for the public health community," says Jonathan Bortz, MD, Senior Director, Nutrition Science, Balchem. "We are quickly approaching an inflection point in time for choline awareness. In addition to the findings released in this report, Balchem has, and will continue to support research needed to develop a blood biomarker for choline, which will provide a more accurate understanding of the level of deficiency among Americans and help to generate stronger guidance and messages."

Choline can be purchased online or in specialty stores as a stand-alone, over-the-counter supplement; incorporated into some prenatal vitamins or packaged along with prenatal vitamins; and fortified in branded milk products, specifically:

- Bayer recently launched a "One A Day Women's Prenatal Advanced Complete Multivitamin with Brain Support," that includes a side-by-side prenatal multivitamin plus a supplement that provides 110mg of choline, helping to substantially close the gap in pregnant women's daily needs.

- Danone's Horizon Organic brand developed milk for young children--Growing Years--that is fortified to contain 55mg of choline per serving, providing between 10 percent to 27 percent of children's daily needs, depending on age and gender.

"The Committee's report has provided critical research directions to help inform Balchem's long-standing commitment to choline research and science communications," added Bortz. "We look forward to continuing to support science and product innovation to ensure all Americans throughout the lifespan can benefit from increased choline, as part of healthy diets."

NEWS RELEASE 17-JUL-2020

Supplements with potential to prevent Alzheimer's affect blood, but less so the brain

Omega-3 fatty acids might require larger doses to be effective -- especially for people with high-risk gene -- suggest findings from the Keck School of Medicine of USC

KECK SCHOOL OF MEDICINE OF USC

For years, a scientific puzzle has bedeviled researchers aiming to fight Alzheimer's disease, a common and incurable form of dementia.

The results of numerous lab investigations and population studies support the preventive potential of omega-3 fatty acids, "good fats" found abundantly in fish. However, to date the majority of studies evaluating omega-3s for averting or curtailing cognitive decline in human participants have failed to show benefits.

Now, a small clinical trial from USC provides important clues about this discrepancy, in the first Alzheimer's prevention study to compare levels of omega-3s in the blood with those in the central nervous system. The findings suggest that higher doses of omega-3 supplements may be needed in order to make a difference, because dramatic increases in blood levels of omega-3s are accompanied by far smaller increases within the brain. Among participants who carry a specific mutation that heightens risk for Alzheimer's, taking the supplements raised levels of a key fatty acid far less compared to those without the mutation.

"Trials have been built on the assumption that omega-3s get into the brain," said senior author Dr. Hussein Yassine, associate professor of medicine and neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Our study was specifically designed to address this question."

The paper was published today in the journal EBioMedicine.

The researchers recruited 33 participants who had risk factors for Alzheimer's but were not cognitively impaired. All participants had a family history of the disease, a sedentary lifestyle and a diet low in fatty fish. Fifteen carried a gene variant called APOE4, which is linked to inflammation in the brain and increases Alzheimer's risk by a factor of four or more; the other 18 were noncarriers.

At random, participants were assigned to a treatment group or control group. Members of the treatment group were asked to take supplements containing more than 2 grams of an omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily for six months. Control group members took placebos each day over the same period. Participants in both groups also were asked to take daily B-complex vitamins, which help the body process omega-3s.

Dr. Yassine and his colleagues gathered samples of blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid -- a gauge for whether the omega-3s reached the brain -- from participants at the outset, and again at the end of the study period. The scientists looked at levels of two omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a potent anti-inflammatory that the body derives from a small portion of its DHA intake.

Higher doses for omega-3s to be effective?

The researchers found that at the end of the six months, participants who took omega-3 supplements had 200 percent more DHA in their blood compared to those who took placebos. In contrast, the DHA found in cerebrospinal fluid was only 28 percent higher in the treatment group than the control group. This result hints that measuring omega-3 levels in the blood may not indicate how much is reaching the brain.

Dr. Yassine and his co-authors also report that, within the treatment group, those without the risk-inflating APOE4 mutation showed an increase of EPA (anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid) in their cerebrospinal fluid three times greater than what was seen in carriers of the gene.

"E4 carriers, despite having the same dose, had less omega-3s in the brain," he said. "This finding suggests that EPA is either getting consumed, getting lost or not getting absorbed into the brain as efficiently with the E4 gene."

Notably, the 2-gram dose of DHA in this study far exceeded what has been used in major clinical trials testing the preventive power of omega-3s, which typically administer 1 gram or less daily.

"If you use a lower dose, you can expect a less-than-10-percent increase in omega-3s in the brain, which may not be considered meaningful," Dr. Yassine said.

The sacrifice of study participants advances Alzheimer's research

The investigators worked for two years to recruit participants for the trial. The barrier to entry came from the only method capable of extracting cerebrospinal fluid: a lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap. It proved challenging to find people willing to undergo that procedure, which involves a hollow needle piercing the lower back, two times.

Dr. Yassine had high praise for the study participants.

"They were generous with their time, and they were courageous to do the lumbar punctures," he said. "The main reason they did this was their desire to advance science."

The participants' bravery may pay off in the creation of even more knowledge about omega-3s and Alzheimer's.

The preliminary data from the current study was intriguing enough that the scientists were able to attract funding for a larger trial for which recruitment is underway. Following 320 participants over two years, it will examine whether high doses of omega-3s can slow cognitive decline in carriers of the APOE4 gene.

Dr. Yassine believes that the progression from a small study to a bigger one is a good model for developing therapies and preventions targeting the brain.

"These pilot studies are so important as a step toward much larger, more complicated studies," he said. "The bottom line is, before you embark upon very expensive clinical trials, you need to show proof of concept, that your drug is getting into the brain and changing biomarkers of disease in the right direction."

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NEWS RELEASE 17-JUL-2020

Turmeric could have antiviral properties

Curcumin, a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, could help eliminate certain viruses.

MICROBIOLOGY SOCIETY

Curcumin, a natural compound found in the spice turmeric, could help eliminate certain viruses, research has found.

A study published in the Journal of General Virology showed that curcumin can prevent Transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) - an alpha-group coronavirus that infects pigs - from infecting cells. At higher doses, the compound was also found to kill virus particles.

Infection with TGEV causes a disease called transmissible gastroenteritis in piglets, which is characterised by diarrhoea, severe dehydration and death. TGEV is highly infectious and is invariably fatal in piglets younger than two weeks, thus posing a major threat to the global swine industry. There are currently no approved treatments for alpha-coronaviruses and although there is a vaccine for TGEV, it is not effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

To determine the potential antiviral properties of curcumin, the research team treated experimental cells with various concentrations of the compound, before attempting to infect them with TGEV. They found that higher concentrations of curcumin reduced the number of virus particles in the cell culture.

The research suggests that curcumin affects TGEV in a number of ways: by directly killing the virus before it is able to infect the cell, by integrating with the viral envelope to 'inactivate' the virus, and by altering the metabolism of cells to prevent viral entry. "Curcumin has a significant inhibitory effect on TGEV adsorption step and a certain direct inactivation effect, suggesting that curcumin has great potential in the prevention of TGEV infection," said Dr Lilan Xie, lead author of the study and researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Bioengineering.

Curcumin has been shown to inhibit the replication of some types of virus, including dengue virus, hepatitis B and Zika virus. The compound has also been found to have a number of significant biological effects, including antitumor, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities. Curcumin was chosen for this research due to having low side effects according to Dr Xie. They said: "There are great difficulties in the prevention and control of viral diseases, especially when there are no effective vaccines. Traditional Chinese medicine and its active ingredients, are ideal screening libraries for antiviral drugs because of their advantages, such as convenient acquisition and low side effects."

The researchers now hope to continue their research in vivo, using an animal model to assess whether the inhibiting properties of curcumin would be seen in a more complex system. "Further studies will be required, to evaluate the inhibitory effect in vivo and explore the potential mechanisms of curcumin against TGEV, which will lay a foundation for the comprehensive understanding of the antiviral mechanisms and application of curcumin" said Dr Xie.

NEWS RELEASE 16-JUL-2020

Beautyberry leaf extract restores drug's power to fight 'superbug'

A compound from a common shrub boosts an antibiotic's activity against antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria

EMORY HEALTH SCIENCES

Scientists discovered a compound in the leaves of a common shrub, the American beautyberry, that boosts an antibiotic's activity against antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. Laboratory experiments showed that the plant compound works in combination with oxacillin to knock down the resistance to the drug of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

The American Chemical Society's Infectious Diseases published the finding, led by scientists at Emory University and the University of Notre Dame.

The American beautyberry, or Callicarpa americana, is native to the southern United States. Prolific in the wild, the shrub is also popular in ornamental landscaping. It's known for showy clusters of bright purple berries that begin to ripen in the summer and are an important food source for many species of birds.

"We decided to investigate the chemical properties of the American beautyberry because it was an important medicinal plant for Native Americans," says Cassandra Quave, co-senior author of the study and an assistant professor in Emory University's Center for the Study of Human Health and Emory School of Medicine's Department of Dermatology. Quave is also a member of the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center and a leader in the field of medical ethnobotany, studying how indigenous people incorporate plants in healing practices to uncover promising candidates for new drugs.

Micah Dettweiler, a recent Emory graduate and a staff member of the Quave lab, is first author of the study. Christian Melander, professor of chemistry at Notre Dame, is co-senior author.

The Alabama, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, Seminole and other Native American tribes relied on the American beautyberry for various medicinal purposes. Leaves and other parts of the plant were boiled for use in sweat baths to treat malarial fevers and rheumatism. The boiled roots were made into treatments for dizziness, stomachaches and urine retention, while bark from the stems and roots were made into concoctions for itchy skin.

Previous research found that extracts from the leaves of the beautyberry deter mosquitoes and ticks. And a prior study by Quave and colleagues found that extracts from the leaves inhibit growth of the bacterium that causes acne. For this study, the researchers focused on testing extracts collected from the leaves for efficacy against MRSA.

"Even a single plant tissue can contain hundreds of unique molecules," Quave says. "It's a painstaking process to chemically separate them out, then test and retest until you find one that's effective."

The researchers identified a compound from the leaves that slightly inhibited the growth of MRSA. The compound belongs to a group of chemicals known as clerodane diterpenoids, some of which are used by plants to repel predators.

Since the compound only modestly inhibited MRSA, the researchers tried it in combination with beta-lactam antibiotics.

"Beta-lactam antibiotics are some of the safest and least toxic that are currently available in the antibiotic arsenal," Quave says. "Unfortunately, MRSA has developed resistance to them."

Laboratory tests showed that the beautyberry leaf compound synergizes with the beta-lactam antibiotic oxacillin to knock down MRSA's resistance to the drug.

The next step is to test the combination of the beautyberry leaf extract and oxacillin as a therapy in animal models. If those results prove effective against MRSA infections, the researchers will synthesize the plant compound in the lab and tweak its chemical structure to try to further enhance its efficacy as a combination therapy with oxacillin.

"We need to keep filling the drug-discovery pipeline with innovative solutions, including potential combination therapies, to address the ongoing and growing problem of antibiotic resistance," Quave says.

Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection and more than 35,000 people die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Even in the midst of the COVID-19, we can't forget about the issue of antibiotic resistance," Quave says. She notes that many COVID-19 patients are receiving antibiotics to deal with secondary infections brought on by their weakened conditions, raising concerns about a later surge in antibiotic-resistant infections.

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Co-authors of the study include Emory post-doctoral fellow Gina Porras; Emory graduate students Caitlin Risener and Lewis Marquez; Tharanga Samarakoon, collections manager of the Emory Herbarium; and Roberta Melander from the University of Notre Dame.

The work was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Jones Ecological Research Center and Emory University.

NEWS RELEASE 16-JUL-2020

CBD may help avert lung destruction in COVID-19

MEDICAL COLLEGE OF GEORGIA AT AUGUSTA UNIVERSITY

Cannabidiol, or CBD, may help reduce the cytokine storm and excessive lung inflammation that is killing many patients with COVID-19, researchers say.

While more work, including clinical trials to determine optimal dosage and timing, is needed before CBD becomes part of the treatment for COVID-19, researchers at the Dental College of Georgia and Medical College of Georgia have early evidence it could help patients showing signs of respiratory distress avoid extreme interventions like mechanical ventilation as well as death from acute respiratory distress syndrome.

"ARDS is a major killer in severe cases of some respiratory viral infections, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and we have an urgent need for better intervention and treatment strategies," says Dr. Babak Baban, immunologist and interim associate dean for research at DCG and corresponding author of the study in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Our laboratory studies indicate pure CBD can help the lungs recover from the overwhelming inflammation, or cytokine storm, caused by the COVID-19 virus, and restore healthier oxygen levels in the body, says co-author Dr. Jack Yu, physician-scientist and chief of pediatric plastic surgery at MCG.

Their CBD findings were enabled by their additional finding of a safe and relatively inexpensive model to duplicate the lung damage caused by ARDS. Work on the virus itself is limited to a handful of labs in the nation that can safely manage the highly contagious virus, and their newly reported approach opens more doors for studying SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 and similar virus-induced conditions, they say.

Their model, which takes advantage of the large, unique genetic structure of the novel coronavirus, produced classic symptoms of ARDS like the overwhelming, destructive immune response, then CBD significantly downregulated classic indicators of the excess, like inflammation-promoting cytokines as it improved oxygen levels in the blood and enabled the lungs to recover from the structural damage.

A major problem with SARS-CoV-2 is instead of just killing the virus, the over-the-top immune response can quickly disable the lungs, transforming them to a place where virus is replicated, rather than a place that makes oxygen available for our bodies and eliminates potentially harmful gases like carbon dioxide.

Mechanical ventilators can take over these vital functions for a while, and enable critically ill people to use less energy to just breathe and have more energy to fight infection, while ideally the lungs recover from the assault. However evidence suggests 30-50% of patients who get to the point of mechanical ventilation, don't survive.

The cytokines in these now famous "storms" are a class of molecules like interferon and interleukin, secreted by immune cells and other cells like endothelial cells that line blood vessels, which impact cell communication and can both promote and deter inflammation. In the case of COVID-19, there is excessive production of inflammation-promoting molecules like the interleukins IL-6 and IL-1β, as well as immune cells like neutrophils and monocytes, the researchers say.

They looked at objective measures of lung function in mice like levels of proinflammatory cytokines, oxygen levels in the blood before and after treatment, as well as temperature, an indicator of inflammation. Oxygen levels went up, while temperatures and cytokine levels went down with CBD therapy. Days later, a more detailed analysis of the lungs, reinforced reduction of key indicators of destructive inflammation, which their model, like the virus, drove way up including reduced levels of IL-6 and infiltrating neutrophils.

In fact, both clinical symptoms and physical lung changes resulting from ARDS were reversed with CBD treatment, they say.

Their model was created with the help of a synthetic analog of double-stranded RNA called POLY (I:C). In humans, our double-stranded DNA contains our genetic information and our single-stranded RNA carries out the instruction of our DNA to make certain proteins. In the family of coronaviruses, the double-stranded RNA carries the genetic material needed to reproduce the viruses and hijacks the cell machinery of our body to do that, Baban says.

"The natural instinct of the virus is to make more of itself," Baban says. "It weaves with our DNA to make the cell produce food and everything it needs." Viruses also tend to have a tissue or tissues they prefer -- some can and do go anywhere -- and for SARS-CoV-2, the lungs are high on the list, he says.

Our bodies aren't used to this double-stranded RNA so, like the virus, POLY (I:C) gets the immediate and extreme attention of toll-like receptor 3, a family of receptors that help our body recognize invaders like a virus and activate our frontline, innate immune response.

"The toll-like receptors 3 see this and just go nuts," Yu says. The fact that the coronaviruses are literally big and have the largest known viral RNA genome make such a vigorous cytokine and immune response both plausible and probable, adds Baban.

Mice received three, once-a-day doses of POLY (I:C) in the nasal passageway. CBD was given by a shot in the abdomen, the first dose two hours after the second POLY (I:C) treatment, then every other day for a total of three days in a process that sought to mimic mice getting treatment about the time a human would begin to experience trouble breathing and likely seek medical care. Given too early, CBD might actually interfere with a proper immune response against the virus, Yu says.

CBD quickly improved the clinical symptoms, then later detailed studies of the lungs showed damage to their structure, like tissue overgrowth, scarring and swelling, also had totally or partially resolved. Their next steps include doing similar studies on other organs impacted by COVID-19 including the gut, heart and brain, Baban says.

At least one way CBD is thought to calm the immune response is because it looks similar to endocannabinoids, a natural cell signaling system in our bodies believed to be involved in a wide variety of functions from sleep to reproduction to inflammation and immune response. CB1 and CB2, the main receptors for this system, are found extensively throughout the body including the brain and respiratory system, where we breathe in manmade and natural irritants in the air -- as well as viruses and bacteria -- that might inflame. While understanding the workings of the natural endocannabinoid system is still very much a work in progress, it's thought that one way CBD works to reduce seizures, for example, is indirectly through the large number of CB1 receptors in the brain, says Yu.

CBD is available without a prescription, and is used to treat problems like seizures as well as Parkinson's, Crohn's and other conditions where pain and/or inflammation are a major factor. It's derived from the hemp and cannabis plant, which are essentially the same although hemp has a much lower concentration of the "high" producing THC. Other investigators have shown the calming effect of CBD, for example, can block IL-6 in other models of inflammatory disease.

ARDS is a rapid, severe infection of the lungs that results in widespread inflammation, shortness of breath, rapid breathing and the inability to sustain adequate oxygen levels to the body and brain. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing are some of the early signs of COVID-19. ARDS is a major cause of death in patients who are critically ill for a variety of reasons, including common sepsis.

NEWS RELEASE 15-JUL-2020

How long should you fast for weight loss?

UIC study shows fasting diets work

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO

CREDIT: UIC

Two daily fasting diets, also known as time-restricted feeding diets, are effective for weight loss, according to a new study published by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The study reported results from a clinical trial that compared a 4-hour time-restricted feeding diet and a 6-hour time-restricted feeding diet to a control group.

"This is the first human clinical trial to compare the effects of two popular forms of time-restricted feeding on body weight and cardiometabolic risk factors," said Krista Varady, professor of nutrition at the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences and corresponding author of the story.

Participants in the 4-hour time-restricted feeding diet group were asked to eat only between the hours of 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Participants in the 6-hour time-restricted feeding diet group were asked to eat only between the hours of 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

In both the study groups, patients were allowed to eat whatever they wanted during the 4-hour or 6-hour eating period. During the fasting hours, participants were directed to only drink water or calorie-free beverages. In the control group, participants were directed to maintain their weight and not change their diet or physical activity levels.

The participants were followed for 10 weeks as weight, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and inflammatory markers were tracked.

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that participants in both daily fasting groups reduced calorie intake by about 550 calories each day simply by adhering to the schedule and lost about 3% of their body weight. The researchers also found that insulin resistance and oxidative stress levels were reduced among participants in the study groups when compared with the control group. There was no effect on blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol or triglycerides.

There also was no significant difference in weight loss or cardiometabolic risk factors between the 4-hour and 6-hour diet groups.

"The findings of this study are promising and reinforce what we've seen in other studies -- fasting diets are a viable option for people who want to lose weight, especially for people who do not want to count calories or find other diets to be fatiguing," Varady said. "It's also telling that there was no added weight loss benefit for people who sustained a longer fast -- until we have further studies that directly compare the two diets or seek to study the optimal time for fasting, these results suggest that the 6-hour fast might make sense for most people who want to pursue a daily fasting diet."

NEWS RELEASE 15-JUL-2020

Researchers outline strategy for testing ketone bodies against COVID-19

Review in Med highlights the role of geroscience in the fight against this and future pandemics

BUCK INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH ON AGING

Given the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has on older adults in terms of death and lasting disability, and the impact of common aging-related comorbidities like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Buck Institute professor and practicing geriatrician John Newman, MD, PhD, can make a compelling argument that those infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus are suffering from an aging-related disease, no matter how old they are when they get infected. In a review published in Med, a Cell Press journal, Newman and a consortium of colleagues encourage researchers studying aging, metabolism, and immunity to turn their attention to ketone bodies, which are being widely studied for their roles in aging and aging-related diseases. The research team views ketone bodies as a possible therapeutic against COVID-19, seasonal flu and other respiratory infections.

Ketone bodies are compounds naturally produced during fat metabolism. They provide energy to cells and can also reprogram cellular functions. Eating a ketogenic diet - which is high fat, low protein, and low carbohydrates - ramps up the production of the primary ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate acid (BHB).

While the purported and reported benefits of eating the strictly controlled diet have made ketogenic-related food products and supplements wildly popular, Newman, senior author of the review, is quick to point out that there is much unknown about the biology of BHB and the physiology of how it impacts various systems in the body. "I want to be clear that there is no evidence that a ketogenic diet is protective in any way against COVID-19," he said. "In fact there may be instances where BHB could promote viral replication of SARS-CoV2, the specific virus that causes the disease. But given the promise that BHB shows against many of the age-related risk factors for COVID-19 such as heart disease and diabetes we want to take advantage of this unique opportunity to bring geroscience to the fight against COVID-19. "

Small clinical trials in humans have shown proof-of-concept that BHB can improve cardiac function in those with heart failure and improve key aspects of cognitive health. In the laboratory setting BHB shows promise against type 2 diabetes and dampens harmful inflammation. Elevation of blood ketones has been shown to be broadly protective against hypoxia-related tissue damage, which occurs in severe respiratory infections. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University plan on testing a ketogenic diet on a small group of intubated patients suffering from COVID-19. The hope is that the diet will improve oxygen exchange, reduce the duration of time on ventilators and perhaps most importantly, reduce the systemic inflammation that leads to the cytokine storm that often proceeds the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

"Basic research shows that BHB directly inhibits the activation of the pro-inflammatory pathway NLRP3, which is central to the disease pathogenesis of COVID-19 and is a likely contributor to the cytokine storm," said Brianna Stubbs, PhD, a Buck researcher with expertise in ketone biology and lead author of the review. "Understanding how BHB impacts innate immunity following infection is one of the key preclinical questions we hope researchers will be eager to tackle."

"Dying is not the only bad outcome from COVID-19," says Newman. "Some survivors are presenting with long-term severe memory impairments, extreme exhaustion and weakness from muscle wasting following an extended time in the hospital." Pointing out the fact that BHB and other ketones act on multiple systems in the body, the authors are hoping for clinical studies that test ketone supplementation as a way to bolster muscle function and attenuate or avoid delirium among those who have been infected. Key preclinical and clinical questions are included in the review and are detailed at http://www.impactmetabolism.org.

"Age-related risk factors are putting older adults at particular peril for COVID-19. Those that survive it, no matter what their age, can emerge with symptoms that are associated with aging," said Newman. "Studying ketone bodies in this current environment not only holds promise in the fight against COVID-19, but the research is also likely to yield results that could help all of us live better longer in the absence of a pandemic."

NEWS RELEASE 15-JUL-2020

Does eating fish protect our brains from air pollution?

AMERICAN ACADEMY OF NEUROLOGY

MINNEAPOLIS - Older women who eat more than one to two servings a week of baked or broiled fish or shellfish may consume enough omega-3 fatty acids to counteract the effects of air pollution on the brain, according to a new study published in the July 15, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers found that among older women who lived in areas with high levels of air pollution, those who had the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had more brain shrinkage than women who had the highest levels.

"Fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and easy to add to the diet," said study author Ka He, M.D., Sc.D., of Columbia University in New York. "Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to fight inflammation and maintain brain structure in aging brains. They have also been found to reduce brain damage caused by neurotoxins like lead and mercury. So we explored if omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect against another neurotoxin, the fine particulate matter found in air pollution."

The study involved 1,315 women with an average age of 70 who did not have dementia at the start of the study. The women completed questionnaires about diet, physical activity, and medical history.

Researchers used the diet questionnaire to calculate the average amount of fish each woman consumed each week, including broiled or baked fish, canned tuna, tuna salad, tuna casserole and non-fried shellfish. Fried fish was not included because research has shown deep frying damages omega-3 fatty acids.

Participants were given blood tests. Researchers measured the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells and then divided the women into four groups based on the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood.

Researchers used the women's home addresses to determine their three-year average exposure to air pollution. Participants then had brain scans with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure various areas of the brain including white matter, which is composed of nerve fibers that send signals throughout the brain, and the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory.

After adjusting for age, education, smoking and other factors that could affect brain shrinkage, researchers found that women who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood had greater volumes of white matter than those with the lowest levels. Those in the highest group had 410 cubic centimeters (cm3) white matter, compared to 403 cm3 for those in the lowest group. The researchers found that for each quartile increase in air pollution levels, the average white matter volume was 11.52 cm3 smaller among people with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids and 0.12 cm3 smaller among those with higher levels.

Women with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood also had greater volumes of the hippocampus.

"Our findings suggest that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood from fish consumption may preserve brain volume as women age and possibly protect against the potential toxic effects of air pollution," said He. "It's important to note that our study only found an association between brain volume and eating fish. It does not prove that eating fish preserves brain volume. And since separate studies have found some species of fish may contain environmental toxins, it's important to talk to a doctor about what types of fish to eat before adding more fish to your diet."

A limitation of the study was that most participants were older white women, so the results cannot be generalized to others. Also, researchers were only able to examine exposures to later-life air pollution, not early or mid-life exposures, so future studies should look at exposures to air pollution across a person's lifespan.

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NEWS RELEASE 21-JUL-2020

How adding green tea extract to prepared foods may reduce the risk for norovirus

In study, edible coating made with tea extract killed the virus and bacteria

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

    

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Infusing prepared foods with an edible coating that contains green tea extract may lower consumers' chances of catching the highly contagious norovirus by eating contaminated food, new research suggests.

Norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, sickens an estimated 48 million people in the United States every year and causes about 3,000 deaths. It's transmitted from person to person and through consumption of contaminated water and food.

Lots of things we consume contain what are known in the industry as edible films: They can enhance appearance, like wax that makes apples shiny; hold contents together, like plastic drug capsules; and prevent contents from seeping together by, for example, being placed between a prepared pie crust and the filling.

"In many cases, an edible film is in a product, but you are not aware of it," said Melvin Pascall, professor of food science and technology at The Ohio State University and senior study author. "We don't have to put that on the label since the material is edible. That's another way in which we use packaging - and the consumer doesn't have to know."

Some edible films are also enriched with antimicrobial agents that can kill or slow the growth of organisms that cause illness, such as E. coli and mold.

In this new study led by Pascall, adding green tea extract to a film-forming substance created a safe-to-eat barrier that killed norovirus as well as two types of bacteria.

While most antimicrobial packaging advances to date have emphasized fighting bacteria, this finding holds promise for a newer area of research into the concept of using edible film to kill a virus, Pascall said.

"Norovirus is a tough virus to work with - it is a non-enveloped virus, which is the type more resistant to sanitizers and antimicrobial agents," he said. "However, because it has public health concerns and has been implicated in a number of foodborne outbreaks, we wanted to look at the effects of green tea extract on norovirus."

The study is published in the International Journal of Food Science.

Pascall and his team created the films with a base substance called chitosan, a sugar found in the exoskeleton of shellfish. Chitosan is marketed as a weight-loss supplement and used in agricultural and medicinal applications, and has been studied extensively as a safe and readily available compound for edible film development.

Previous studies have suggested that chitosan has antimicrobial properties. But norovirus might exceed its bug-fighting abilities: In this study, the researchers found that chitosan by itself did not kill the virus.

To test the effects of green tea extract, the researchers dissolved it alone in water and added it to a chitosan-based liquid solution and dried film. Several different concentrations of the extract showed effectiveness against norovirus cells, with the highest level tested in this study killing them all in a day.

"We had tested the chitosan by itself and it didn't show much antimicrobial activity against the virus," Pascall said. "But when we added the green tea extract to chitosan, we saw that the film had antiviral properties - so we concluded the antiviral properties were coming from the green tea extract."

The scientists introduced at least 1 million virus cells to the solution and dried films. Those containing green tea extract lowered the presence of virus cells within three hours. The films with the highest concentration of green tea extract reduced norovirus to undetectable levels by 24 hours after the exposure.

Though norovirus was the focus of this work, the researchers also found that green tea extract lowered E. coli K12 and listeria innocua, surrogates for bacteria that also cause foodborne illness, to undetectable levels within 24 hours.

This study didn't identify how the killing happens - typically an antimicrobial agent disables organisms in ways that cause them to die or render them unable to reproduce. The researchers used mouse norovirus cells because human norovirus cells don't grow well in a lab setting.

There is still a lot of work to do before green tea extract-infused films are ready to enter the market. A tricky part of adding natural substances to edible packaging is ensuring that enough is used to deliver the microbe-killing effect without changing the taste or smell of the food.

"A higher concentration of a natural antimicrobial might cause a large drop in the target organism, but at the same time it defeats the purpose of the food by adding an objectionable taste or odor," Pascall said. "There is also the impact of the natural compound on the material itself - it may cause the film to become too brittle or sticky. These are things food scientists have to consider when using antimicrobial agents, especially those from natural sources."

It's also too soon to tell which kinds of food would be the best candidates for antiviral edible films made with green tea extract. It depends on whether the food would be exposed to heat, moisture or acidic conditions, for example. There is also a chance another natural substance could do an even better job - Pascall is conducting similar studies with other extracts.

NEWS RELEASE 21-JUL-2020

Cinnamon may improve blood sugar control in people with prediabetes

THE ENDOCRINE SOCIETY

WASHINGTON--Cinnamon improves blood sugar control in people with prediabetes and could slow the progression to type 2 diabetes, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

It is estimated that nearly 90 million people in the United States have prediabetes, which occurs when blood sugar levels are higher than normal and often leads to type 2 diabetes. Identifying strategies to prevent the progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes is challenging, yet important for a large population.

"Our 12-week study showed beneficial effects of adding cinnamon to the diet on keeping blood sugar levels stable in participants with prediabetes," said the study's corresponding author, Giulio R. Romeo, M.D., of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Mass. "These findings provide the rationale for longer and larger studies to address if cinnamon can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes over time."

The randomized clinical trial investigated the effects of cinnamon supplementation in 51 participants with prediabetes. Participants were given a 500 mg cinnamon capsule or placebo three times a day for 12 weeks. The researchers found that cinnamon supplements lowered abnormal fasting glucose levels and improved the body's response to eating a meal with carbohydrates, which are hallmarks of prediabetes. Cinnamon was well tolerated and was not associated with specific side effects or adverse events.