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  • richardmitnick 11:01 am on May 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ICL, ,   

    From ICL: “A lead candidate for immunotherapy may increase tumour growth in certain cancers” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    12 May 2017
    Hayley Dunning

    1
    Boosting a part of the immune system known to have anti-tumour properties may actually help tumours grow in cancers linked to chronic inflammation. No image credit.

    Cancer immunotherapies boost aspects of the body’s normal immune system, to help fight tumours. They are part of a fast-evolving field of research and medicine, with several types of immunotherapies currently in clinical trials.

    Now, a research team at Imperial College London has found that in a mouse model developing liver cancer, one immunoreceptor – attractive candidate for immunotherapies – promoted rather than delayed tumour growth.

    The researchers believe this could have implications for the effectiveness of immunotherapy in combating human cancers caused by inflammation, such as some liver and colon cancers. The study, funded by the Wellcome, Trust was published in Nature Communications earlier this year.

    Lead author Dr Nadia Guerra from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “Immunotherapies have shown unprecedented successes in treating cancer patients with advanced forms of cancer, especially metastatic melanomas. These therapies are now being tested in various type of cancer and novel combination approaches are being developed at a very fast pace.

    “Nonetheless, there are still challenges ahead to optimise those therapies and reduce adverse effects. Scientists and clinicians are working at identifying cancer patients that would benefit the most from those therapies to increase success rates and hopefully achieve complete remission.”

    How immunotherapies tackle cancer

    The part of the immune system involved in the study is called NKG2D (Natural Killer Group 2 member D). NKG2D is a type of immunoreceptor – a molecule present on the surface of the body’s immune cells that recognises signals from normal cells that are distressed.

    For example, if a normal cell is infected with a virus, it will display molecules on its surface that the NKG2D immunoreceptor can detect. The immune cell then directs a lethal hit that destroys the infected cell.

    Dr Guerra first showed ten years ago that this mechanism also works against cancerous tumours – demonstrated by the fact that tumours grew faster in mice that had their NKG2D activity supressed.

    However, NKG2D contributes to inflammation and has been found to play a role in chronic inflammatory disorders, such as Crohn’s disease. In this case, the NKG2D misfires and attacks normal cells instead of damaged ones.

    The paradoxical effect of inflammation

    The team looked into whether NKG2D’s roles in chronic inflammation and cancer could help tumours to grow in these types of cancer.

    To do this, they used a mouse model of liver cancer driven by inflammation. Human and mouse NKG2D receptors are very similar, so the results are thought to be relevant to human liver cancers.

    They found that the tumours actually grew faster in mice with functional NKG2D than in mice that lacked NKG2D. Dr Guerra said: “NKG2D is a potent anti-tumour agent, but we have found that it might actually have the opposite effect in tumours that arise and/or grow from a background of chronic inflammation.”

    In these environments, the liver tissue undergoes cycles of damage and repair continuously as it is fought by NKG2D, making the cells more at risk of developing genetic mutations.

    Dr Guerra said: “The paradoxical effect of NKG2D we discovered exposes the need to selectively target the types of cancer that will benefit from NKG2D-based immunotherapy. What is beneficial in fighting one type of cancer might have the opposite effect in another.

    “We need to be more precise when administering a chosen therapy to a particular type of cancer. Our data unravels a conceptual shift that will inform which cancer these new therapies can benefit the most, and help match the best therapy to each patient.”

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

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  • richardmitnick 2:09 pm on March 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Fledgling stars try to prevent their neighbours from birthing planets, ICL, IM Lup, Protoplanetary disc   

    From ICL: “Fledgling stars try to prevent their neighbours from birthing planets” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    22 March 2017
    Hayley Dunning

    1
    Artist’s impression of an evaporating protoplanetary
    disc. Image:NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

    Stars don’t have to be massive to evaporate material from around nearby stars and affect their ability to form planets, a new study [MNRAS] suggests.

    Newly formed stars are surrounded by a disc of dense gas and dust. This is called the protoplanetary disc, as material sticks together within it to form planets.

    Stars of different shapes and sizes are all born in huge star-forming regions. Scientists know that when a protoplanetary disc around a relatively small star is very close to a massive star, the larger star can evaporate parts of the protoplanetary disc.

    However, it was thought this was only the case where very large stars shone on the protoplanetary disc. Now, researchers led by Imperial College London have discovered that a protoplanetary disc shone on by only a relatively weak star is also losing material. The protoplanetary disc studied, called IM Lup, belongs to a star similar to our Sun.

    The researchers estimate that the disc will lose about 3,300 Earth’s worth of material over its 10-million-year lifetime, despite the light from the nearby star being 10,000 times weaker than stars usually caught stripping discs.

    Lead author Dr Thomas Haworth from the Department of Physics at Imperial said: “Because the light shining on this disc is so much weaker than that shining on known evaporating discs, it was expected that there would be no evaporation. We have shown that actually these stars can evaporate a significant amount of material.

    “This result has consequences if we want to understand the diversity of exoplanet systems that are being discovered. This phenomenon could significantly affect the planets that can form around different stars. For example, light from nearby stars could limit the maximum size a solar system can be.”

    2
    IM Lup’s ‘fuzzy halo’

    The IM Lup system was studied recently by Dr Ilse Cleeves at Harvard, who discovered an unexplained ‘halo’ of material around it.

    Working with Dr Cleeves, and researchers from the Max Planck Institute and the University of Cambridge, Dr Haworth modelled the flow and chemistry of the system to determine if the halo was the result of a nearby weak star heating up the system and evaporating away material.

    They found that the halo is the result of evaporation, as material streams away and is lost to space. The team think the reason this disc is being strongly evaporated is that it is very wide.

    When talking about solar systems or discs, distances are usually measured in astronomical units (AU), with one astronomical unit being the distance from the Sun to the Earth. The distance out to Pluto is about 40AU, whereas IM Lup’s disc reaches out to about 400AU.

    This means the star cannot hold on to the disc’s outer parts so strongly, as its gravity would be much weaker that far out, leaving the fringes at the mercy of evaporation.

    Dr Haworth said: “Our calculations show that if the disc started at 700AU in size, it would halve in size in the first million years of its life. Since IM Lup is less than a million years old, we’ve caught it in the act of rapid shrinking.”

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:33 pm on September 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cosmology is safe, ICL, Scientists confirm the universe has no direction,   

    From ICL: “Scientists confirm the universe has no direction” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    22 September 2016
    Hayley Dunning

    1
    The universe is not spinning or stretched in any particular direction, according to the most stringent test yet.

    Looking out into the night sky, we see a clumpy universe: planets orbit stars in solar systems and stars are grouped into galaxies, which in turn form enormous galaxy clusters. But cosmologists assume this effect is only local: that if we look on sufficiently large scales, the universe is actually uniform.

    The vast majority of calculations made about our universe start with this assumption: that the universe is broadly the same, whatever your position and in whichever direction you look.

    If, however, the universe was stretching preferentially in one direction, or spinning about an axis in a similar way to the Earth rotating, this fundamental assumption, and all the calculations that hinge on it, would be wrong.

    Now, scientists from University College London and Imperial College London have put this assumption through its most stringent test yet and found only a 1 in 121,000 chance that the universe is not the same in all directions.

    Oldest light in the universe

    To do this, they used maps of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation: the oldest light in the universe created shortly after the Big Bang.

    CMB per ESA/Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    The maps were produced using measurements of the CMB taken between 2009 and 2013 by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, providing a picture of the intensity and, for the first time, polarisation (in essence, the orientation) of the CMB across the whole sky.

    Previously, scientists had looked for patterns in the CMB map that might hint at a rotating universe. The new study considered the widest possible range of universes with preferred directions or spins and determined what patterns these would create in the CMB.

    A universe spinning about an axis, for example, would create spiral patterns, whereas a universe expanding at different speeds along different axes would create elongated hot and cold spots.

    2
    Four potential CMB patterns for universes with direction. No image credit.

    Dr Stephen Feeney, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, worked with a team led by Daniela Saadeh at University College London to search for these patterns in the observed CMB. The results, published today in the journal Physical Review Letters, show that none were a match, and that the universe is most likely directionless.

    Cosmology is safe

    Dr Feeney said: “This work is important because it tests one of the fundamental assumptions on which almost all cosmological calculations are based: that the universe is the same in every direction. If this assumption is wrong, and our universe spins or stretches in one direction more than another, we’d have to rethink our basic picture of the universe.

    “We have put this assumption to its most exacting examination yet, testing for a huge variety of spinning and stretching universes that have never been considered before. When we compare these predictions to the Planck satellite’s latest measurements, we find overwhelming evidence that the universe is the same in all directions.”

    Lead author Daniela Saadeh from University College London added: “You can never rule it out completely, but we now calculate the odds that the universe prefers one direction over another at just 1 in 121,000. We’re very glad that our work vindicates what most cosmologists assume. For now, cosmology is safe.”

    The work was kindly supported by the Perren Fund, IMPACT fund, Royal Astronomical Society, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Royal Society, European Research Council, and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:40 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ICL, , Researchers develop new porous materials using doughnut nanorings   

    From ICL: “Researchers develop new porous materials using doughnut nanorings” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    22 August 2016
    Michael Panagopulos

    1
    Image: Ella Marushchenko

    Researchers propose a new design of highly open liquid-crystalline structures from geometrically unique rigid nanorings.

    Researchers from Imperial College London, University of Manchester and Cornell University have used a computational approach to identify a new class of highly porous structures. The structures could be used to produce new materials which have potential applications for the pharmaceutical and photonics industries, among others.

    When considering phases of matter, most people think of solid, liquid and gas states. A less-known phase with rather well-known applications is the intermediate between solids and liquids: the liquid crystal state. For instance, liquid crystal displays (LCD) are present in our everyday life, including calculators, phones, computers and TVs. The properties of this unique state of matter depend upon the degree of order in the material: in the smectic phase, molecules are orientationally ordered along one direction and they tend to arrange themselves in layers. Slightly closer to the liquid phase is the nematic phase, in which molecules have no positional order but are preferentially oriented along a given direction (the director).

    In a new paper, entitled Assembly of porous smectic structures formed from interlocking high-symmetry planar nanorings which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the authors used a molecular-simulation approach to examine several non-convex molecular geometrically different doughnut-shaped nanoring structures in order to identify the stable microstructures and their liquid-crystalline phase properties.

    The researchers investigated a particular class of frame-like particles, namely perfectly rigid and planar nanorings, by direct molecular-dynamics simulation. Starting from a circular shape, they explored ellipsoidal and polygonal geometries; these were modelled by varying the symmetry, the cavity size and the width of the rings. Three types of nanoparticles were compared in terms of various properties: doughnuts (single rings formed from different numbers of tangent beads and symmetries); bands (multi-stacked circular rings made up of identical rings bound sideways); and washers (multi-layered circular rings made up of an outer ring and smaller inner rings).

    The doughnut-like, high-symmetry nonconvex rings with large internal cavities were found to interlock within a two-dimensional layered structure leading to the formation of distinctive smectic phases which possess uniquely high free volumes of up to 95% – significantly larger than the 50% which is typically achievable with conventional convex rod- or disc-like particles whose geometries do not lead to this interlocking phenomenon therefore limiting their porosity.

    These types of self-assembled arrays are particularly interesting due to their exceptional optical, electrical and mechanical properties which are a consequence of their large surface-to-volume ratios. The highly porous structures are good candidates as adsorption and storage materials and have promising opportunities in a broad range of applications including drug-delivery and therapeutics, catalysis, optics, photonics and nanopatterned scaffolds.

    Professor Erich Muller, co-author of the paper and Professor of Thermodynamics in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London said “For the first time, we have looked at geometrically unique nanoring structures and found that certain shapes and sizes can lead to highly porous structures with free volumes of up to 95%. This breakthrough has some exciting possible industrial applications in many areas due to their extraordinary electrical, optical and chemical properties.”

    2
    The different models explored are shown in this figure from the paper. A basic circular ring structure is shown in the first model, from which the rest of the models are derived. The other six models are ellipsoidal rings with different aspect ratios and polygonal rings with decreasing order of rotational symmetry, all of which have similar cavity size as the first model. Models h) and i) show the two extremes of the number of beads which lead to the formation of smectic phases, while model j) is a structure which does not form an ordered fluid structure). The last two models represent a band and a washer model, respectively, where the former has smectic phase properties and the latter forms nematic phase.

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:34 pm on August 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ICL, , Potential new test for bacterial infections including meningitis and sepsis   

    From ICL: “Potential new test for bacterial infections including meningitis and sepsis” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    23 August 2016
    Kate Wighton

    1
    Scientists have identified two genes that are switched on only when a child is suffering from a bacterial infection. No image credit.

    This could allow doctors to quickly distinguish between a viral or bacterial illness, and identify early cases of potentially deadly infections.

    The international team of scientists, led by researchers at Imperial College London and funded by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, hope to now use the findings to develop a rapid test for use in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries.

    This would enable conditions such as meningitis, septicaemia or pneumonia – which are caused by bacterial infections – to be caught more rapidly. Such a test would also prevent children with viral infections being unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics, which are only effective against bacteria. This would help combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

    At the moment, when a child arrives at a surgery or hospital with fever, doctors have no quick method of distinguishing whether the child is suffering from bacterial or viral illness. Diagnosis relies instead on taking a sample of blood or spinal fluid, and seeing if bacteria grow in this sample. However this can take more than 48 hours.

    Differentiating between viruses and bacteria is crucially important. Although viral infections are much more common than bacterial infections, the latter are far more dangerous, and lead to a deadly conditions such as meningitis, septicaemia and pneumonia.

    Professor Michael Levin, from Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, who led the study explained: “Fever is one of the most common reasons children are brought to medical care. However every year many children are sent away from emergency departments or doctors’ surgeries because the medical team thinks they have a viral infection, when in fact they are suffering from life-threatening bacterial infections – which are often only diagnosed too late. Conversely, many other children are admitted to hospital and receive antibiotics because the medical team are unable to immediately exclude the possibility of a bacterial infection – but in fact they are suffering from a virus.”

    Professor Levin, from the section for paediatric infectious diseases at Imperial added: “Although this research is at an early stage, the results show bacterial infection can be distinguished from other causes of fever, such as a viral infection, using the pattern of genes that are switched on or off in response to the infection. The challenge is now to transform our findings into a diagnostic test that can be used in hospital emergency departments or GP surgeries, to identify those children who need antibiotics.”

    In the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the scientists studied 240 children with an average age of 19 months, who arrived at hospitals with fever across the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and the USA.

    Once the children were diagnosed with a viral or bacterial infection using traditional methods, the team studied the genes that had been switched on in the children’s white blood cells. Using a method known as RNA micro arrays, which measure changes in 48,000 genes simultaneously using only a small drop of each child’s blood, the team found two genes are switched on in bacterial infections. Further tests showed these genes, called IFI44L and FAM89A, predicted a bacterial infection with 95-100 per cent accuracy.

    Dr Jethro Herberg, senior lecturer in paediatric infectious diseases at Imperial, and co-author of the research added: “We are facing a growing threat from antibiotic resistant bacteria. A large proportion of antibiotic use is driven by our inability to reliably identify the small number of children with bacterial infection from the much larger number with viral infection, who do not need antibiotics. Fear of missing life-threatening infections like meningitis and septicaemia result in doctors often prescribing antibiotics and undertaking investigations such as lumber punctures just to be safe. A rapid test based on the two genes we have identified could transform paediatric practice, and allow us to use antibiotics only on those children who actually have a bacterial infection.”

    Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation added: “We are proud to have supported the research underpinning this study over a number of years, and we are grateful to our family members who took part. This latest development is very exciting. Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours, and can leave survivors with life-changing after effects. Giving health professionals the tools to rapidly determine whether an infection is bacterial or viral will enable faster detection and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia.”

    Nicola Blackwood, Public Health Minister said: “Life threatening Infections like meningitis and septicaemia are every parent’s worst nightmare so any research that aims to provide a reliable, point of care diagnostic test is to be welcomed.

    “Cutting the number of antibiotics being prescribed inappropriately is also vital in our work to stop the spread of antimicrobial resistance which is threatening the future of modern medicine.”

    The research team are now working on further studies to confirm the findings in larger numbers of children.

    The study was funded by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, and patient recruitment in the UK was supported by the Meningitis Research Foundation as well as by international funders in Spain and USA.

    See the full article here .

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:14 pm on January 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ICL,   

    From ICL: “Scientists use “pen and ink” to control how materials interact with light” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    19 January 2015
    Sam Wong

    1

    Threatened with extinction by biros and computers, the nib pen could be set to make an unexpected comeback in the field of nanotechnology.

    Scientists at Imperial College London have developed a way to manipulate the optical properties of polymers on a tiny scale by drawing patterns with a solvent “ink”, allowing much more precise control over how these materials interact with light.

    The technique marks a new approach to creating “metamaterials” – materials with complex internal structures on scales smaller than the wavelength of the light they interact with, resulting in unusual effects.

    It could have applications in all kinds of devices that emit, detect and control light, such as LEDs and lasers, photodiodes, and routers and couplers.

    The research, which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is published in Nature Communications.

    Polymers – the main constituent of plastics – are made of many small molecular repeat units linked together to form chains. Some polymers, referred to as conjugated polymers or polymer semiconductors, are functional optoelectronic materials, meaning for example that they can absorb and emit light.

    The researchers used a tiny pen to draw patterns on a thin film of polymer semiconductor with a solvent. The solvent changes the shape of a selection of chain segments from a disordered state, like cooked spaghetti, to ordered rigid strands, like uncooked spaghetti. Similar naturally occurring changes in certain biological polymers – specifically proteins – can lead to undesirable disease states but here the changes are deliberately induced and beneficial.

    This change in the polymer physical structure alters the way the material interacts with light, changing its refractive index – the amount that light is bent upon entering the material – as well as the colour of light it emits.

    The new nib pen (or more commonly termed dip-pen) approach allows scientists to alter these properties on a much smaller scale than they could before, over distances shorter than the wavelength of light. The researchers expect this will make it possible to build a variety of novel structures leading to new and more efficient devices.

    One example might be to make tiny LEDs that emit light in one direction only, rather than across a broad range of angles, thereby offering the prospect of compact light source arrays for medical diagnostic applications.

    Professor Donal Bradley, Director of the Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London, who led the research, said: “Usually we use lenses or mirrors to change the direction of light. This method lets us manipulate a light source itself to tightly control the direction of light that it emits. The material adopts the desired structure naturally – it just requires a little encouragement to do so.”

    Aleksandr Perevedentsev, a PhD student who worked on the study, said: “Among other things, this technique essentially allows us to write optical fibers into a thin polymer film, and thus make components that are easy to integrate into devices. It’s very new at the moment, but opens up a lot of possibilities for useful applications. In the process of developing this technique we’ve also began to unravel fundamental questions, such as: can we, in principle, modify the physical structure of a single polymer chain or is an ensemble of chains required for stable structuring? The answer affects the resolution limit of our dip-pen patterning approach and pushes our understanding of these materials beyond the current limits.”

    Dr Paul Stavrinou, who led the underpinning theoretical and modeling activity, added: “The ability to pattern at sub-wavelength scales now allows us to manipulate, within the material, the spatial distribution of electromagnetic energy at this length scale. That we achieve this with help from the material itself is the key to achieving more complex photonic patterns.”

    The picture shows a 6 x 6 µm confocal photoluminescence microscopy image of a conjugated polymer thin film, showing a stripe drawn with a solvent ink that modifies the shape of the polymer chains. This change in structure modifies the optical properties relative to the rest of the film, notably the wavelength of light it emits and the refractive index.

    See the full article here.

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:53 pm on January 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ICL,   

    From ICL: “‘Titin’ gene mutations will help identify patients at risk of heart failure” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    14 January 2015
    Sam Wong

    1

    A new study has identified genetic mutations that cause the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), paving the way for more accurate diagnosis.

    By sequencing the gene encoding the muscle protein titin in more than 5,000 people, scientists have worked out which variations are linked to disease, providing information that will help screen high-risk patients.

    Titin gene mutations were previously associated with DCM, a leading cause of inherited heart failure, but many people have variations in the genetic code that are completely benign.

    The new study, published in Science Translational Medicine, sorts the harmful from the harmless mutations, giving doctors a directory to interpret patients’ DNA sequences.

    The information could also help researchers develop therapies to prevent or treat heart disease caused by titin mutations.

    The study was led by researchers at Imperial College London and Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust.

    2
    Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging of the heart of a patient with dilated cardiomyopathy.

    Around one in 250 people are estimated to have DCM. It causes the heart muscle to become thin and weak, often leading to heart failure.

    Mutations in the titin gene that make the protein shorter, or truncated, are the most common cause of DCM, accounting for about a quarter of cases. But truncations in the gene are common – around one in 50 people have one – and most are not harmful, making it difficult to develop a useful genetic test.

    The researchers sequenced the titin gene from 5,267 people, including healthy volunteers and patients with DCM, and analysed the levels of titin in samples of heart tissue. The results showed that mutations that cause DCM occur at the far end of the gene sequence. Mutations in healthy individuals tend to occur in parts of the gene that aren’t included in the final protein, allowing titin to remain functional.

    Professor Stuart Cook, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, who led the study, said: “These results give us a detailed understanding of the molecular basis for dilated cardiomyopathy. We can use this information to screen patients’ relatives to identify those at risk of developing the disease, and help them to manage their condition early.”

    The research was funded by the MRC, the British Heart Foundation, the Fondation Leducq, the Wellcome Trust, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Royal Brompton Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit and the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre.

    Professor Dudley Pennell, director of the NIHR Royal Brompton Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, said: “This research reveals which genetic mutations are bad and which are there purely as bystanders. It will benefit patients with cardiomyopathy and enable us to reassure relatives who do not have the disease, allowing them to be discharged from clinic and preventing needless anxiety and unnecessary expensive tests.”

    Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Determining which mutations in titin are harmful and which are not has been difficult, in part because titin is one of the largest human proteins.

    “This study defines, for the first time, a comprehensive list of mutations in the titin gene, which of these are associated with dilated cardiomyopathy, and which are harmless. This information will be extremely valuable for correct future diagnosis and treatment as we enter an era when many people’s genes will be sequenced.”

    See the full article here.

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    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:58 am on January 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ICL   

    From ICL: “Gravity may have saved the universe after the Big Bang, say researchers” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    18 November 2014
    Laura Gallagher

    1
    New research by a team of European physicists could explain why the universe did not collapse immediately after the Big Bang.

    Studies of the Higgs particle – discovered at CERN in 2012 and responsible for giving mass to all particles – have suggested that the production of Higgs particles during the accelerating expansion of the very early universe (inflation) should have led to instability and collapse.

    Scientists have been trying to find out why this didn’t happen, leading to theories that there must be some new physics that will help explain the origins of the universe that has not yet been discovered. Physicists from Imperial College London, and the Universities of Copenhagen and Helsinki, however, believe there is a simpler explanation.

    In a new study in Physical Review Letters, the team describe how the spacetime curvature – in effect, gravity – provided the stability needed for the universe to survive expansion in that early period. The team investigated the interaction between the Higgs particles and gravity, taking into account how it would vary with energy.

    They show that even a small interaction would have been enough to stabilise the universe against decay.

    “The Standard Model of particle physics, which scientists use to explain elementary particles and their interactions, has so far not provided an answer to why the universe did not collapse following the Big Bang,” explains Professor Arttu Rajantie, from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.

    sm
    The Standard Model of elementary particles, with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    “Our research investigates the last unknown parameter in the Standard Model – the interaction between the Higgs particle and gravity. This parameter cannot be measured in particle accelerator experiments, but it has a big effect on the Higgs instability during inflation. Even a relatively small value is enough to explain the survival of the universe without any new physics!”

    The team plan to continue their research using cosmological observations to look at this interaction in more detail and explain what effect it would have had on the development of the early universe. In particular, they will use data from current and future European Space Agency missions measuring cosmic microwave background radiation and gravitational waves.

    Cosmic Microwave Background  Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    Gravitational Wave Background
    Gravitational Wave Background

    “Our aim is to measure the interaction between gravity and the Higgs field using cosmological data,” says Professor Rajantie. “If we are able to do that, we will have supplied the last unknown number in the Standard Model of particle physics and be closer to answering fundamental questions about how we are all here.”

    The research is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, along with the Villum Foundation, in Denmark, and the Academy of Finland.

    See the full article here.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:03 pm on December 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ICL,   

    From ICL: “Cholesterol in food causes inflammation in gut lining” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    23 December 2014
    Sam Wong

    Scientists have discovered a possible way in which high fat diets might lead to inflammation in the gut.

    Working with mice and zebrafish, researchers at Imperial College London discovered that cholesterol, a component of fatty foods, triggers an inflammatory response in the cells lining the gut and impairs the movement of food through the gut.

    Some patients with inflammatory bowel disease report that eating fatty food can worsen their symptoms, although this has not been confirmed in studies. The new findings, published in Nature Communications, could explain how this effect might occur.

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    Micrograph showing inflammation of the large bowel in a case of inflammatory bowel disease. Colonic biopsy

    Professor Maggie Dallman, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, who led the study, said: “In humans, inflammation in the gut is associated with a number of conditions that cause pain and discomfort, such as irritable bowel syndrome. The relationship between these conditions and diet is poorly understood, so we were interested in exploring how fatty diets might cause inflammation.

    “We studied zebrafish because they have similar immune systems to mammals, and their guts have a similar architecture. They are also translucent, which makes it easy to study what’s happening inside their bodies. We also studied mice to confirm that the effects are similar in mammals.”

    z
    The researchers found that feeding the animals cream or butter caused acute inflammation in the gut lining.

    They then showed that this was directly caused by cholesterol binding to a protein found on the epithelial cells that line the gut. The response was also dependent on signals from particular microbes that live in the gut.

    After 10 days on a high cholesterol diet, the waves of muscle contraction and relaxation that push food through the intestine were impaired. In humans, this effect is a common symptom of gastro-intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

    Study author Fränze Progatzky, also from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “What’s surprising about our findings is that the initial response to cholesterol occurs not in immune cells, but in the cells of the gut lining. We plan to research these effects further and investigate their possible role in human disease.”

    The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

    Reference: F. Progatzky et al. Dietary cholesterol directly induces acute inflammasome-dependent intestinal inflammation. Nature Communications, 2014. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms6864

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:13 am on December 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ICL,   

    From ICL: “New study shows how some E. coli bacteria hijack key proteins to survive longer” 

    Imperial College London
    Imperial College London

    19 December 2014
    Laura Gallagher

    A new study shows how two strains of the intestinal bug E. coli manage to hijack host proteins used to control the body’s immune system.

    1

    The research, carried out by scientists at Imperial College London and published in the journal Nature Communications, shows how E. coli bacteria can block key human enzymes, in a way that has not previously been shown in any other biological context.

    The enzymes, known as kinases, are molecular switches that control processes such as immune responses to infection and cancers in humans. Better understanding how the E. coli bacteria interfere with kinases will provide valuable avenues for investigating new therapies.

    There are many different strains of E. coli. While some are good bacteria, others can cause symptoms ranging from mild diarrhoea and nausea to kidney failure and death. The two strains examined in this study are E. coli O157, which causes food-borne infections, and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC), which is a major cause of infantile diarrhoea in low-income countries.

    At present there are no vaccines or effective drugs to combat these infections – in fact antibiotic treatment of E. coli O157 infection can cause the invading bacteria to release more toxins, making the symptoms worse. Patients are treated with fluids and nutrients to enable their immune system to fight the infection.

    One reason why these strains are so dangerous is that they inject bacterial proteins into human cells. These proteins hijack the cell’s signalling network to promote their growth and survival, for example by preventing the host from recognising them as harmful bacteria.

    The new research found that E. coli O157 and EPEC inject a protein called EspJ which inhibits the kinases from signalling.

    “The way in which the EspJ protein blocks the activity of human kinases is completely novel,” says Professor Gad Frankel, from the MRC Centre for Molecular Bacteriology and Infection. “This study will help us better understand how pathogens are able to hijack cells and how they prevent the immune system from fighting the infection.”

    The team reached their conclusions after performing biochemical, mass spectrometry and cell biology assays. This study provides valuable new avenues of investigation: further research will look at whether EspJ-like proteins in other intestinal pathogens, such as Salmonella, behave in similar ways, and also what effect EspJ proteins in E. coli O157 might have on other types of kinases.

    The research was carried out by a team of scientists at Imperial College London, working in collaboration Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, in Germany.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

     
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