Archive for the 'Experimental Biology Blogging 2011' category

Experimental Biology Blogging: Getting Scientists to Speak Up in the Animal Research Debate

Sci has, of course, returned from #EB2011 (that's Experimental Biology 2011 for those not on Twitter).  She is still in the later stages of recovery.  I don't know about you guys, but conferences always end up with me being ill from something or other. Be that as it may, Experimental Biology Blogging CONTINUES. Though I've covered all of the straight up science, now I'll be going through some of the other sessions I went to, sessions on outreach and funding, from the NIH director Francis Collins to sessions on grad students and outreach.

So far, the sessions I went to can be summed up easily in one sentence: SCIENTISTS NEED TO SPEAK UP. But for many scientists, it's not quite that simple.

The first session I went to was a session on Saturday afternoon called "Science, Scientist, Advocate: Making the Case for Increased Funding for Biomedical Research" sponsored by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. The panel featured several speakers talking about aspects of federal research funding, and what we need to do to increase it (the answer: speak up). But what caught my attention was two of the speakers speaking on animal research, namely the sessions "Legislative issues and advocacy: use of animals in biomedical research" by M. R. Bailey of the National Association for Biomedical Research and "Advocating for animal research – what's a grad student to do?" by E. J. Burnett, one of the current Hayre Fellows for Public Outreach with Americans for Medical Progress. I found both of these sessions to be incredibly informative (the first kind of the depressing, the second uplifting), and had the luck to be able to sit down with the Hayre Fellow and the Vice President for Americans for Medical Progress, Kristen Bocanegra, where we talked a little more about the situation with Animal Research Activism, and what scientists can do to promote their work and the ethical use of animals in research.

The following is a summary of our conversation (being a not real reporter, I has no tape recorder), and some of my thoughts. So I guess it's kind of an editorial? Anyway.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: Effects of Caffeine on Resistance Training

Apr 14 2011 Published by under Experimental Biology Blogging 2011

Sci’s not going to lie, she’s a HUGE fan of caffeine

(I mean, duh)

And I remembered only too well many of the things that ERV has said previously about how she uses caffeine before her workouts, to give her the extra boost and improve her workout. So when I saw this abstract on the effects of caffeine on resistance training in humans…well obviously I had to check it out.

Bui et al. “The Effects of Habitual Caffeine Intake on Lead Body Mass and Strength Performance During 12-Weeks of Resistance Exercise Training” Texas A&M, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

(Via I can has cheezeburger)

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Experimental Biology Blogging: The Organic Food Halo

Apr 14 2011 Published by under Experimental Biology Blogging 2011

The latest study out of Brian Wansink’s lab, the man who wrote the book “Mindless Eating”, and whose laboratory focuses on the psychology of how we relate to our food, is already going to have something of a halo. Wansink is a specialist in the field and is very well known for many of his studies on nutrition, including my favorite study, the bottomless soup effect, where a constantly refilling bowl of soup will cause people to slurp up 300 calories more, because their eyes fool them as to how much they’ve eaten (he noted the necessity of using tomato soup, as chicken noodle clogged up the refilling mechanism and caused some very unpleasant gurgling noises that caused people to wonder what was going on).

But recently, Wansink’s lab has begun to study the effects of “health halos” on foods, the idea that a particular health attribute of our food can color our entire perception about that food. Previous work has looked, for example, at the “low fat” health halo--the idea that if you’re told a food is low fat, you will believe that the food is healthier than the regular version.

But low fat changes something about the nutritional value of the food. What about if a food has nothing nutritionally different about it, but has a difference in how it is made? Is there an organic “health halo” effect?

You bet there is.

Jenny Wan-chen Lee et al. “You taste what you see: Organic labels favorably bias taste
Perceptions” Cornell University, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: High Fat Diets and Cardio Protection in Mice

Apr 13 2011 Published by under Experimental Biology Blogging 2011

Heart failure and heart attacks (otherwise known as myocardial infarction) are some seriously scary problems. Myocardial infarction in particular seems to strike without warning, leading either to death or to months of recovery and reduced quality of life. So not only are scientists working on what can help people recovering from heart attacks or living with heart failure, they also want to look at what might protect people who are in danger of cardiac disease.

There's a lot of seemingly paradoxical findings on what can help with cardiac disease. Sometimes people with high cholesterol seem to be protected. Sometimes people on caloric restriction seem to be protected. While the findings seem to be opposites, it's possible that similar physiological mechanisms could be involved (or different ones, that’s possible too).

So how do you find out what changes might protect against MI? One way is to feed a bunch of mice some delicious high fat diets!

Haar et al. "Acute high fat feeding influences cardiac function and confers cardio protection against ischemic injury" University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: Preventing cell proliferation by blocking PMPMEase

Cancer is one of those things that people like to talk about "curing", but the reality is always much more complicated than that. There are many different kinds of cancer, and each type (colon, prostate, breast, etc) can have many different subtypes. It seems that we may never come up with an approach that will successfully treat them all. But at its base, cancer is all about one thing: unregulated cell proliferation. This means that cells divide when they are not supposed to, forming masses and invading areas where they are not supposed to be. So some areas of cancer research have focused on simply inhibiting unregulated cell proliferation, in the hopes that this can be further refined and targeted to be eventually used in cancer.

Amissah et al. "Celecoxib preserves arachidonic acid-induced cell degeneration: implications for the anticancer effects of NSAIDs and polyunsaturated fatty acids" Florida A&M University, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: Estrogen Receptors in your Kidney

While diabetes is no longer a death sentence (thanks to the development of insulin therapies), diabetics are still subject to a large host of health problems as a result of their condition. One of these issues is the issue of diabetic nephropathy, damage that occurs to the kidneys.

This is your kidney:

(Via wikipedia)

Kidneys are some extremely important things. They are the big filtration system for your blood. Every time your blood goes through the kidneys, it is carefully filtered, as the first step in the formation of urine.

Now, this is your GLOMERULUS. Glomeruli are little tufts of blood vessels (capillaries, actually) that are the first step in filtering your blood in your kidney.

(Via Wikipedia)

Each of these little glomeruli are connected with a stalk to the main body. When people with diabetes suffer from nephropathy, the stalks connecting the glomeruli expand, scarring and cutting off the blood supply to the glomeruli, and creating problems with kidney function.

And now we come to the difference between men and women. When it comes to most kidney problems, women get PROTECTED. The hypothesis is that estrogens may be protective against problems in the kidney. But in diabetes, the odds are against us, with women getting kidney problems just as much as men, and it appears that estrogen receptors in the kidney may hurt rather than help.

And this is where we get into studies of Estrogen receptors...and their many, many splice variants.

Irsik et al. "Protein levels of Estrogen Receptor αlpha splice variants are
augmented in non-reproductive organs" Nebraska Medical Center, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: Exercise training after heart attacks

Apr 12 2011 Published by under Experimental Biology Blogging 2011

We all know how devastating a heart attack (known to science as a myocardial infarction or MI) can be. Luckily, science has made great strides, and many people now survive heart attacks and live for many years (though the death rate is still very high). But now that people are SURVIVING heart attacks, the quality of life and ability to prevent another MI is of more concern. Scientists are looking at pharmacological interventions, dietary interventions, etc, etc. And of course, they are looking in to EXERCISE.

Exercise is usually thought to be beneficial to just about everything. But in the case of heart attack, how beneficial is it, what can it help and when should people start?

Guizoni et al. "Cardiac effects of late exercise training in rats with different sizes of myocardial infarction". Internal Medicine, Botucatu Medical School - UNESP, Botucatu, Brazil, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: GABA Stimulation and Adolescent Drinking

Apr 12 2011 Published by under Experimental Biology Blogging 2011

We have all heard about the problems that can occur when people are exposed to drugs of various kinds as adolescents. The media abounds with stories of "pharming parties", drinking teens, and stories of lives gone wrong. Adolescence is a very tricky period of life. Teens are thought to be at more risk to suffer the negative consequences of drug use, as the adolescent brain is a changing brain, one undergoing extensive neuronal and connective remodeling. We usually think of this in terms of whole cells growing and dying, connections forming or going away. And this does happen, but there are also more subtle effects, like changes in the receptors that mediate signaling in the brain.

One major example of this is the GABA receptor. GABA stands for gamma-Aminobutyric acid, and this chemical is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Increases in GABA release generally result in decreased cellular activity on the cells where GABA acts directly. But remember (as Sci will tell you often), a chemical is ONLY as good as its receptor! GABA has receptors that are comprised of several different subunits which form up together, and the subunit composition of the receptors determines how a cell will respond to GABA signaling.

And the composition of these GABA receptors is one of the things that changes during adolescence. But what if you take drugs that affect GABA during this time of receptor change? Will this change how you react to drugs such as alcohol (which exerts some of its effects via GABA) during adulthood?

Worrel, Amato, Winsauer. "GABA-A receptor modulation during adolescence alters adult ethanol intake and preference in rats" Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: Speeding Healing in the Eye with CAP37

Apr 12 2011 Published by under Experimental Biology Blogging 2011

I'm sure many of you are probably reading this while wearing some kind of corrective lenses. Some of you might be wearing some cool hipster glasses, but many of you are probably wearing contacts. And as you might know, wearing contacts can be a dangerous sport. Putting them in incorrectly can cause you to damage your eye. In fact, there are 42,000 injuries to the cornea (the transparent part of the eye that covers the iris) per year. And what's worse than getting a small scratch in your eye? Getting it infected. The big bug for this is a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and half of the cases of infection will result in poor vision.

So how do we prevent these scratches to our delicate corneas and the infections that can go with them? Well, for starters, take good care of your contacts! But if worst comes to worst, it's possible that there may be a little protein that you ALREADY HAVE, that can help you out.

Griffith, Russell, Pereira. "Cationic antimicrobial protein, 37kDa, mediates corneal wound healing in vitro" Department of Pharmaceutical Science, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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Experimental Biology Blogging: On Thick Skulls and...Chewing.

Apr 11 2011 Published by under Experimental Biology Blogging 2011

People often complain to their friends when others don't "get" something they are trying to say "they can't get it through their thick skulls". Words like "boneheaded" and "numbskull" are things we all recognize. But it might surprise you to realize that our skulls are, on average...very thin. At least compared to our ancestors. In fact, we have in general skeletons that are less robust and skulls that are thinner. And this seems like a kind of odd adaptation. Shouldn't it be GOOD to have a thick skull?

Our ancestors had much thicker skulls, and a more robust skeleton, than we do now. But if it's usually considered a good thing to have a thick skull, what has made our skull so thin? What determines skull thickness? Is it a genetic difference...or is it a matter of how much you use it?

Copes et al. "The effects of manipulating the frequency and magnitude of mastication on system skeletal robusticity in mice" Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, presented at Experimental Biology, 2011.

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