Pancreatic stem cells can regenerate beta cells and respond to glucose

Progenitor cells within human pancreas were stimulated and developed into beta cells, which are responsive to glucose. These significant findings were published in the journal Cell Reports, which paved the way for developing regenerative cell therapies, which is an important breakthrough for type 1 diabetic patients. This addresses a major challenge that blocks the way for discovering a complete cure for type 1 diabetes.

Pancreas harbors progenitor cells and has the potential of regenerating islets. This hypothesis has been established since many decades, but it has not been proven conclusively. Scientists were able to identify the exact anatomic location of stem cells. They validated their proliferative ability to transform into beta cells, which were responsive to glucose.

An in-depth study of pancreatic stem cells was used to tap into an endogenous cell supply ‘bank’ of beta cells, which were used for regeneration purposes. In the future, these stem cells could be used for therapeutic applications of people living with type 1 diabetes.. In our previous findings, BMP-7 was used to stimulate growth and induce stem cells to transform into functional islets.

In previous studies, it was reported that bone morphogenetic protein 7 (BMP-7), which is a naturally occurring growth factor, could be used for clinical applications and to stimulate progenitor-like cells within non-endocrine pancreatic tissue of humans.

In a recent study, researchers further demonstrated that stem cells responding to BMP-7 would reside within ductal and glandular network of pancreas. Pancreatic cells are characterized by the expression of PDX1 and ALK3. The protein PDX1 is required for the development of beta cells, whereas ALK3 is a cell surface receptor associated with regeneration of multiple tissues.

With the help of “molecular fishing” techniques, researchers could selectively extract cells that expressed PDX1 and ALK3. These cells were grown in a dish, and they proliferated in the presence of BMP-7. These cells were later differentiated into beta cells. The combined results of this study were used to develop regenerative cell therapies for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients.

In patients with type 1 diabetes, insulin-producing cells of pancreas were destroyed by the immune system. Patients had to manage their blood glucose levels with a daily regimen of insulin therapy. In patients with type 2 diabetes, insulin was produced to some extent but beta cells became dysfunctional over a period of time.

With islet transplantation, some type 1 diabetes patients could live without insulin injections. This is because they received infusions of donor cells; however, enough cells are not there to treat millions of patients with type 1 diabetes.

Presently, research studies have primarily focused on creating more pancreatic cells, which can be transplanted from sources like embryonic (hESc), pluripotent (hPSc) and adult stem cells, and porcine (pig) islets. It would be better to regenerate insulin-producing cells in patients, which prevents the need to completely transplant donor tissue and eliminate roadblocks to other immune-related disorders.

Regenerative medicine strategies must be developed to restore insulin production in native pancreas. This would replace the need for of pancreas transplantation or other insulin-producing cells. In patients with type 1 diabetes, autoimmunity abrogation must be stopped in order to prevent the destruction of immune system and newly produced insulin cells. For this purpose, efforts were made to converge immune tolerance induction that did not require anti-rejection drugs for a long period of time.


Risks and benefits of phase I trials in pediatric cancer patients

On an average, one out of ten children with pediatric phase I cancer improve after being treated for the illness. But one out of fifty children succumb to drug-related complications. This was published in a systematic review and meta-analysis in PLOS Medicine. In phase I clinical trials, the safety and dosage of anti-cancer drugs was determined.

According to national and international regulations, limits on permissible risk were determined with respect to minors. Researchers systematically scoured pediatric phase I cancer studies, which were published between 2004 and 2015. They identified 170 studies that included 4,604 patients. They determined objective response rates and graded intensities as follows: 3, 4, or 5 (fatal). These caused adverse reactions of drugs.

Among all clinical trials, the overall response rate was 10.29% (95% CI 8.33 to 12.25). The overall response rate for solid tumors (3.17, 95% CI 2.62 to 3.72) was significantly greater than that for hematological malignancies (27.90, 95% CI 20.53 to 35.27).

The overall rate of fatal grade 5 adverse events was 2.09% (95% CI 1.45 to 2.72). An average response rate of 1.32 was reported for grades 3 and 4, which were drug-related adverse events per person. The adverse events and response rates were similar to those observed in adults that participated in phase I cancer trials.

This study has following limitations: heterogeneous types of cancer and treatment in included trials, reliance on only published data, and low-quality or incomplete reports of some clinical trial outcomes.

The data was coupled with careful ethical analysis, providing an empirical basis for further discussions on therapeutic status of phase I clinical trials in pediatric cancer patients. They provided evidence for refining risk/benefit in phase I trials and for identifying studies, which present greater challenges that meet standards of acceptable risk in children.


Correlation between obesity and gut bacteria

A new link exists between gut bacteria and obesity according to a latest research study conducted at Lund University in Sweden. In this research study, it was found that certain amino acids, which were present in our blood, were associated with both obesity and composition of gut microbiome. The significance of gut bacteria is not completely understood till date.

Many research studies have been conducted on animals, but the findings of these studies may not be applicable to human beings. Gut flora of a healthy person may not necessarily be compatible with another person.Several research studies have reported that gut microbiota plays an important role in maintaining the overall health of patients.

Gut microbiota governs the metabolism of humans, and it is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Previous studies have reported that the occurrence of different metabolites, i.e. small molecules or metabolic residues, varies in the bloodstream of people with these diseases.

The main aim of this new study was to identify metabolites in blood, which were linked with obesity (high body mass index, BMI). These studies had to determine whether these metabolites would affect the composition of bacterial flora in stool samples.

Researchers analyzed blood plasma and stool samples of 674 participants. They identified 19 different metabolites, which were linked with the BMI of person. There was a strong connection between obesity and following chemical compounds: glutamate and BCAA (branched-chain and aromatic amino acids).

Obesity-related metabolites were strongly linked with four different intestinal bacteria: blautia, dorea and ruminococcus in Lachnospiraceae family, and SHA98. The differences between BMI were largely associated with differences in glutamate levels and BCAA. There were interactions between metabolites and gut bacteria, but these interactions were not dependent on each other.

Glutamate is the strongest risk factor for obesity. This finding was compliant with the findings of previous studies. Moreover, BCAA predicts the onset of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in near future.

Future studies have focused on how composition of gut bacteria could be modified, reducing the risk of obesity, metabolic diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. A proper understanding of a healthy normal gut flora is required to determine the factors that affect bacterial composition. Large population studies and intervention studies must be conducted for this purpose.


Calcium linked with progression of Parkinson’s disease

Excess calcium levels in brain cells lead to the formation of toxic clusters, which is a major warning sign of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have found that calcium mediates the interaction between small membranous structures, which are present within nerve endings and are important for signaling neurons in human brain.

Alpha-synuclein is a protein associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease. When calcium or alpha-synuclein is present in excess levels, a chain reaction is triggered and it leads to the death of brain cells.

In the journal Nature, latest research studies present vividly pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. One in every 350 adults in the UK has Parkinson’s disease. As per global estimates, 145,000 are estimated to have developed this disease, which remains incurable till date.

Among several neurodegenerative diseases, Parkinson’s disease is the most common one that is caused under following conditions: naturally occurring proteins transform into wrongly shaped molecules, and they stick with other proteins.

They eventually form a thin structure that resembles a filament, and they are known as amyloid fibrils. Amyloid deposits of aggregated alpha-synuclein, which are also known as Lewy bodies, are warning signs of Parkinson’s disease.

The exact role of alpha-synuclein in the cell has not been understood till date. The exact role and function of alpha-synuclein is not understood till date. Alpha-synuclein is implicated in various processes, which govern smooth flow of chemical signals in human brain and flow of molecules in and out of nerve endings; however, the exact behavior of these molecules remains unclear till date.

The protein alpha-synuclein has a very small structure, and its functional capacity depends on its interaction with other proteins or structures. It is difficult to study these protein structures.

The behavior of alpha-synuclein can be determined within cells with the help of super-resolution microscopy techniques. For this purpose, researchers isolated synaptic vesicles that form a part of nerve cells, which store neurotransmitters and send signals to different nerve cells.

The release of neurotransmitters in neurons depends on the concentration of calcium levels. Calcium levels can increase in nerve cells, such as in neuronal signaling processes.

The protein alpha-synuclein would bind with synaptic vesicles at multiple points and vesicles could come into contact with each other. This indicates how alpha-synuclein is used to chemically transmit information across nerve cells.

Calcium influences the pathways of alpha-synuclein protein, which interacts with synaptic vesicles. The protein alpha-synuclein acts like a calcium sensor. In the presence of calcium, there is a change in the structure of protein alpha-synuclein and its interaction with environment. This is likely to be very important for the normal functioning of protein alpha-synuclein.

A fine balance exists between calcium and the protein alpha-synuclein in cell. Whenever there is too much of one or the other, the balance would be tipped and aggregation would begin. This leads to the development of Parkinson’s disease.

The imbalance was caused by genetically doubling the amount of alpha-synuclein, which is a protein used for duplication of genes. This is an age-related slowing mechanism involved in the breakdown of excess protein.

By increasing the level of calcium in neurons, the secretion of the protein alpha-synuclein sensitive to Parkinson’s disease can be controlled. Calcium buffering capacity is lacking in these neurons.

By understanding the role of alpha-synuclein in physiological or pathological processes, new treatments for Parkinson’s disease can be developed strategically. Calcium levels were blocked with the development of novel drug candidates, which are used in pathogenesis of heart diseases and they can also combat Parkinson’s disease.


The onset of type 1 diabetes may be prevented with existing drug

According to researchers at the University of Colorado, a drug used to treat high blood pressure may also be used as a preventive medication for type 1 diabetes. This study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.  This seems to be an important breakthrough to combat type 1 diabetes. In the clinical investigating laboratory, this discovery was path-breaking on mice and humans with the aid of supercomputers.

In pregnant woman and children, the drug methyldopa was used to treat high blood pressure for the past 50 years. This drug was included in the list of essential drugs at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many drugs may be used to treat a single condition; however, the path-breaking discovery was completely unrelated to current use of medication. The risk of developing type 1 diabetes increases manifold with the molecule D8, with about 60 percent people with type 1 diabetes being diagnosed with this molecule. Scientists believe that the onset of heart disease could be prevented if the molecule D8 can be blocked specifically.

Every allopathic medication has side-effects. Excessive consumption of acetaminophen can cause damage to liver. Every small molecule approved by FDA was taken into consideration and analyzed with a supercomputer to identify whether the linkage between HLA and DQ8 existed. Each drug exhibited more than thousand orientations. We identified the ones that were associated with DQ8 molecule.

Thousands of drugs were analyzed with a supercomputer. The drug methyldopa was found to block DQ8. Nevertheless, the immune function of remaining cells was not compromised in this case like the way other immunosuppressant drugs. These research studies were conducted over a period of 10 years, but the efficacy was proved in mice and in 20 patients who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

These patients participated in the clinical trial that was conducted at the School of Medicine, University of Colorado. With this discovery, prediction of type 1 diabetes is possible. The ultimate aim of this study was either to delay or to prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes among the people who were at risk of developing diabetes.

The drug used to prevent type 1 diabetes can be administered orally, at least three times a day. The strategy of blocking the expression of a specific molecule can also be used to combat other diseases.This study showed significant improvement in people suffering from diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

The same approach can also be used to treat other autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, etc. To verify the implications of this disease, a larger clinical trial would be conducted at the National Institutes of Health in spring season. A very significant development would be the prevention of type 1 diabetes in people at risk of developing the illness.


Old antibiotic compounds would be life-saving drugs

To combat  drug-resistant infections, scientists are scouring chemical compounds that were previously discarded to identify the ones that could be transformed into new antibiotics. In the mid-20th century, many different chemical compounds were examined to determine the ones that had antibacterial properties; however, only a small proportion of compounds was used for drug development.

In modern times, diseases have become highly resistant to existing drugs. At the University of Leeds, these old compounds are being re-examined by biologists and chemists by using advancements in science and technology. These compounds are being tested very precisely to determine if they could be developed into a drug in the near future.

Presently, more than 3,000 antibiotics have been discovered till date. Nevertheless, only a handful of compounds have been prescribed clinically till date. There may be several compounds with untapped potential.

Life-saving drugs may be produced by identifying compounds that have anti-bacterial properties; these compounds might have not been used in clinical practice earlier. With the mutation of bugs, scientists are clueless about tackling them with existing batches of antibiotics.

Potential new drug

According to latest research studies, a compound identified in 1940s was a realistic contender as a new antibiotic drug. Actinorhodins (ACT) constitute a family of compounds with some antibiotic properties; however, these compounds were not developed into life-saving drugs previously.

A promising new drug has been developed to combat bacterial infections.  Antibacterial activity was exhibited by two most important representatives of ESKAPE category of bacteria, which have the ability to ‘escape’ the action of existing drugs.

New drugs should be discovered and developed to tackle antibiotic resistance. Potentially useful drugs were identified from antibiotics, which were already to people.  The group of drugs belonging to ACT family showed weak antibiotic activity, so they could not be evaluated previously.

To discover new drugs, one needs to identify chemical compounds that were shelved out previously. New antibiotics have not been discovered in the past 25 years. Current strategy of considering chemical compounds that were shelved off previously is a nice way of combating the growing strain of drug-resistant bacteria.


Renewable power may soon be possible with new fuel cell

Compared to gas-powered engines, fuel cells are greener because electricity is produced in these cells without burning up hydrogen (or other fuel) that empowers them. But they cannot be manufactured on a commercial scale because they are very expensive.

Researchers have been successful today in creating a fuel cell, which operates at a midrange temperature. Thus, researchers have developed an inexpensive, powerful version of fuel cells, which boosts chances of developing abundant green energy.

Most fuel cells operate at temperatures, which are either too hot or too cool; therefore, they cannot be manufactured at a reasonable price. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) cells are used to empower cars and buses, which are operated at about 100°C.

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) provide power backup generators for hospitals and other buildings, and they typically operate at 1000 °C. The essential chemical reactions continue at a sluggish rate when PEM cells are operated at a lower temperature.

Expensive metal catalysts, such as platinum, are required to speed up these chemical reactions. Moreover, SOFCs have feverish temperatures, implying that even if they don’t need pricy catalysts, they can be built from expensive metal alloys that withstand scorching operating temperatures.

In recent years, fuel cell researchers have implemented Goldilocks strategy . With this strategy, fuel cells can be operated at about 500 °C, which is a midrange temperature. Chemical reactions driving fuel cells can occur quickly at this temperature; moreover, fuel cells can be built from cheaper metals, such as stainless steel.

Scientists have tried to build cells with catalysts borrowed from SOFCs. Although the devices worked well, only 200 milliwatts of power per square centimeter (mW/cm2) was generated from the electrode surface area. This power was less than the performance of PEM fuel cells and SOFCs.

To develop fuel cells on a commercial scale, fuel cells must produce at least 500 mW/cm2; this requirement has been mandated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). According to a paper presented last year in the journal Science, material scientists have produced a fuel cell with intermediate operating temperature.

This fuel cell can produce  power of 455 mW/cm2. Another research group had also successfully produced a fuel cell that operated at a temperature of 500 °C, which was reported last year in Nature. Both PEM fuel cells and SOFCs are like batteries, and they have two electrodes that are separated with an ion-conducting electrolyte.

At one electrode, fuel molecules are stripped off negatively charged electrons. These electrons pass through an external circuit and move to a second electrode. Meanwhile, protons are ripped off from fuel molecules, which move to the second electrode through the electrolyte. Here, they recombine with traveling electrons.

There is a weak connection between anode and electrolyte, which blocks protons from zipping through cathode. A thin but dense layer of catalyst was atop the bulk of anode catalyst, and protons would easily undergo a transition and move into the electrolyte.

Researchers investigated the composition of ceramic electrodes, making them more stable in presence of steam and carbon dioxide. According to a report submitted in the journal Nature Energy, the devices produced nearly 550 mW/cm2 at 500 °C. These cells were stable for several hours of operation , and these cells showed hardly any signs of degradation.

Few issues still need to be solved before introducing these devices into commercial market. Presently, cells are small in size. They have diameter of few centimeters. Researchers need to make cells of much larger diameter. Pulsed laser deposition technique was used to form a dense coating on the anode, but it is difficult to perform this technique on a large commercial scale.

All ceramic electrodes and electrolytes are extremely brittle in nature, so they are less durable for use in real-world conditions. If these limitations are overcome, then intermediate range fuel cells would function as renewable sources of energy.

These fuel cells would not only generate electricity but the generated electricity would be converted into hydrogen and other fuels for the purpose of storage. This energy would be later converted into electricity. Thus, the biggest challenge associated with renewable energy would be solved. These innovative fuel cells would store energy when the sun is not shining and when the wind is still.


International Conference on Public Health in East Asia

Harrisco announces first international conference on past, present, and future of public health in east Asia. The role of public health is now very significant today as most people die today due to chronic ailments and accidents. In the past, most people died due to infectious diseases and nutritional ailments.

Date: February 22, 2018

Venue:  Ramada Plaza, Jeju Hotel, Jeju Island, South Korea


Public health implies a concept that aims at maintaining the well-being of a society, given the sophisticated segregation and morphology.  The community is the smallest unit of public health, and the fundamental unit of a community are local residents.

The purpose of public health is as follows:

  • Prevention of disease
  • Life-span extension
  • Improvement in the efficiency of physical and mental health

In East Asia, pandemic such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle-Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronovirus (MERS-CoV) in 2015 could not be solved by a single country; therefore, our conference emphasizes on solving such problems.

The topics of the conference are as follows:

A. Hygiene History
B. Hygiene, sanitation
C. Health administration
D. Community health
E. Health Communication
F. Environmental Health
G. Health Education
H. Occupational Health
I. Medical Service
J. National Health Insurance
K. Health Literacy

In this international conference, papers will be presented on these topics. After a fair review, the selected papers would be published in Iranian Journal of Public Health, which is indexed (SSCI) journal.

Speakers from Konkuk University and Korea University are going to present research papers on public health at this conference.  The first session consists of lectures on public health and medicines in rural China, Japan, and Korea. Second session analyzes the impact of health following untold disasters in factories and industries. Academic papers presented would analyze following topics: Sewol Ferry Disaster, Cigarette smoking, MERS-CoV outbreak, Social Anxiety disorder, aging, obese and elderly population.

Third session would include papers on following topics: educational policies of martial arts and health, cultural and social aspects of drinking, oral health knowledge, and mental illness. Fourth session would include papers on following topics: daily sports participation, plyometric training of women, physical activity restriction of cancer patients, and TAS inflammatory factors and exercise.




A new inclusive treatment guideline for stroke patients

American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has issued a new guideline for treating blood clots that cause strokes. As per this new treatment guideline, more patients would be eligible for receiving critical care and treatments.

The novel guideline was based on the most recent research study, and it was published in the journal Stroke. This novel guideline was presented at the International Stroke Conference 2018. This is an annual conference that invites globally renowned researchers and clinicians who are specialized in treating stroke.

According to this new recommendation, the window of time could be increased for selected patients provided blood clots can be mechanically removed from blood vessels that supply human brain. If blood clots block large blood vessels, then these clots can be removed mechanically.

According to this guideline, mechanical thrombectomy can be safely performed on large vessel strokes if patients receive treatment within 16 hours after a stroke. With advanced brain imaging, mechanical thrombectomy can be performed on some stroke patients even after 24 hours. The previous time-limit was six hours.

Mechanical thrombectomy is a procedure in which a physician places a device within a catheter, which is a thin tube threaded within an artery. The clot is then grabbed and removed with the device. The procedure is more effective as the risk of disability is limited. In particular, it is very useful to treat blockages in larger vessels, which lead to human brain.

The risk of disability from stroke would be minimized in most patients as the time-window is expanded for mechanical thrombectomy in appropriate patients Many people would benefit from this new treatment guideline, and the purview of acute stroke treatment has changed completely. Hospitals have now upgraded their rigorous standards for performing mechanical endovascular thrombectomy.

Alteplase is a clot-busting IV drug, which works as a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). It is the only drug that is approved by FDA for treating clots caused by ischemic stroke. In previous studies, clot-busting treatment was not performed on patients with mild strokes, but the new treatment guideline suggests that these patients could be included in this new line of treatment.

According to this guideline, the risk and benefits depend on individual patients because if this new treatment modality is administered promptly and correctly, disability caused by the drug can be decreased. The number of people receiving intravenous treatment for clot busting increases consequently.

Whenever a patient shows signs of a stroke, the most important measure in saving the person’s life would be a treatment modality with immediate action. The risk of disability can be minimized in stroke patients if they receive treatment as soon as possible.

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death all over the world. Moreover, it is also a leading cause of disability in patients. Acute ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke as per new guidelines.

Such kind of stroke is caused whenever a blood clot blocks the artery that supplies blood to the brain, reducing blood flow. In the USA, a person suffers from stroke every 40 seconds and more than 133,000 people in the USA die of stroke each year. Of all the cases of stroke, more than 87% patients suffer from ischemic stroke.

The guideline was published after performing a systematic review of more than 400 research studies, which were published in peer-reviewed journals. A group of highly specialized experts in stroke treatment formulated these guidelines after carefully examining these studies. These are the most comprehensive guidelines for ischemic stroke treatment since 2013.





A month long standoff ends between Elsevier and South Korean universities

ScienceDirect is a database of more than 3500 academic journals and books, which is published by world’s no.1 academic publisher Elsevier. The publisher Elsevier is headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands. For more than a month, South Korean universities were opposing a steep price rise proposed by Elsevier.

Initially, Elsevier had proposed a price hike of 4.5%, which was severely opposed by a consortium of top South Korean universities. On January 12, 2018, a settlement was finally achieved between South Korean universities and Elsevier.

South Korean universities have agreed to a price rise of about 3.5–3.9%.  In the initial proposal, Elsevier was compelling South Korean universities to compulsorily prescribe to its lesser known journals, as part of their ScienceDirect package deal. In future, South Korean universities would negotiate further for more concessions.

According to Lee Chang Won, secretary general of the Korea University & College Library Association, Elsevier currently provides a flat rate system. Therefore, universities have to pay for digital content of all journals, including the ones that are read least by viewers.

Lee Chang Won led the consortium of South Korean universities along with Korean Council for University Education (KCUE). Previously, South Korean universities accepted whatever rate increase was imposed by Elsevier, but they can no longer do the same due to budget cuts in library expenditure.

The consortium of 300 university and college libraries was formed in May 2017 by negotiating with 42 providers of databases. This group sought concessions on open-access journals and other less-read journals, which were included in the ScienceDirect package of Elsevier.

When Elsevier authorities refused to oblige, the consortium boycotted Elsevier and refused to renew contracts. During the period of negotiations, Elsevier provided access to all its products. Following negotiations, individual universities will now have to renew their one-year license at 3.9%; moreover, their three-year contract would be increased by 3.5%, 3.6%, and 3.7% above the baseline. These terms and conditions have been agreed by the consortium of universities in South Korea.

For 2019 contracts, negotiations would continue about pricing and other details between the consortium of South Korean universities and Elsevier, the publisher. According to Sogang’s Kim, the consortium is keen on signing a multi-year contract with Elsevier, wherein the annual increase of fees would be in the range 3.5–3.9%. This annual rate of increase in subscription fees is well above the international level of 2%. ScienceDirect journals are expensive but indispensable for academicians, rights from professors to post-doc scholars.

The month-long standoff between South Korean universities and Elsevier is akin to similar dispute between the consortium of German universities and Elsevier in 2017. At that point of time, electronic journals of Elsevier were not accessible to more than 60 universities in Germany as Elsevier had temporarily suspended access; however, the publisher restored access few weeks later though negotiations are still going on between consortium of German universities and Elsevier. Meanwhile, more than 200 universities in Germany have ceased their contract with Elsevier.