‘Synthetic lethality’ targets cancer cells by damaging vulnerable DNA

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By designing small molecules that can “turn off” kinase enzymes stuck in the “on” position, they have managed to ward off cancer’s attack. More recently, scientists have focused on ways to help the body’s own immune cells seek and destroy cancer cells.

Enter the concept known as synthetic lethality. Researchers have long known that a cancer cell hobbling along with one broken gene is vulnerable. Knock out another key gene, they have discovered, and the cell will topple.

The notion of killing cancer cells by damaging their already compromised DNA should sound familiar. Chemotherapy agents do just that, but by using a sledgehammer to smash away at DNA. Because drugs that exploit synthetic lethality act with precision, they promise to be able to discriminate between healthy and diseased cells.

“In experiments, you have a perfectly happy cell, you remove one gene and challenge it with one stress, and it dies. You think, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a target now!’ ” says [structural biologist Lance] Pearl, whose lab is working on drugs against synthetic lethal targets. “But that’s not a tumor.”

“Right now, the field is okay at the cellular level. But finding drugs and making sure they actually work in a real tumor is where they need to go.”

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Driving cancer beyond the brink

Brain Activity and Good Diet May Prevent Insomnia-Related Depression

Brain Activity and Good Diet May Prevent Insomnia-Related Depression
While lack of sleep is a major risk factor for depression, not everyone who tosses and turns at night becomes depressed. According to a study, individuals whose brains are more attuned to rewards may be protected from the negative mental health effects of poor sleep. The findings revealed that students with poor quality sleep were less likely to have symptoms of depression if they also had higher activity in a reward-sensitive region of the brain.”This helps us begin to understand why some people are more likely to experience depression when they have problems with sleep,” said Ahmad Hariri, Professor at the Duke University in North Carolina, US. “This finding may one day help us identify individuals for whom sleep hygiene may be more effective or more important,” Hariri added.

For the study, appearing in The Journal of Neuroscience, the team examined a region deep within the brain called the ventral striatum in 1,129 college students. Ventral striatum helps regulate behaviour in response to an external feedback as well as reinforce behaviours that are rewarded, while reducing behaviours that are not. The results showed that those who were less susceptible to the effects of poor sleep showed significantly higher brain activity in response to positive feedback or reward compared to negative feedback.

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The effects of poor sleep showed significantly higher brain activity

“Poor sleep is not good, but you may have other experiences during your life that are positive. And the more responsive you are to those positive experiences, the less vulnerable you may be to the depressive effects of poor sleep,” Hariri said.

 

Read More: http://snip.ly/ttax2#http://food.ndtv.com/health/brain-activity-and-good-diet-may-prevent-insomnia-related-depression-1753267

How does the US healthcare system compare with other countries?

Despite US legislation in 2010 that moved the country closer to achieving universal healthcare, costs have continued to rise and nearly 26 million Americans are still uninsured according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As Republicans decide whether to repeal or replace the struggling healthcare policy, how does the existing US healthcare system compare with those in other countries?

Broadly speaking, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines universal health coverage as a system where everyone has access to quality health services and is protected against financial risk incurred while accessing care.

A brief history of the healthcare systems used today

Among the 35 OECD member countries, 32 have now introduced universal healthcare legislation that resembles the WHO criteria.

In Germany, the world’s first national health insurance system shows how UHC often evolves from an initial law. Originally for industrial labourers, cover gradually expanded to cover all job sectors and social groups, with today’s German workers contributing around 15% of their monthly salary, half paid by employers, to public sickness funds.

Established in 1948 to be free at the point of use, the UK’s NHS has almost totemic status for Britain’s rising, ageing population who scrutinise it like perhaps no other policy area. While care from GP services to major surgery remains free as intended, the system is under unprecedented financial strain from a funding gap estimated to be in the billions.

Under France’s state-run equivalent of the UK’s NHS, the majority of patients must pay the doctor or practitioner upfront. The state then reimburses them in part or in full. Workers make compulsory payments into state funds used to reimburse between 70% and 100% of the upfront fees, while many people pay into other schemes to cover the balance.

In the mid-1960s, the United States implemented insurance programs called Medicare and Medicaid for segments of the population including low income and elderly adults. In 2010, Obamacare became the closest the US has come to a system of UHC. A legal mandate now requires all Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty. About 26 million people remain without health insurance despite these advances.

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Spending compared with life expectancy

Life expectancy in the US is still lower than other developed countries, despite health funding increasing at a much faster pace.

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Who provides healthcare and how is it paid for?

How healthcare is funded has a direct effect on the level of healthcare people have access to.

Single-payer

The state funds an agreed range of services through public clinics that are paid for through taxes
For example, in Sweden there is a limit in how much you pay for healthcare in one year of between 900-1100 kronor (£80-£100)

Two-tier

Government healthcare may be less comprehensive and minimum level of coverage can be supplemented by private insurance
In Australia, hospital treatment is covered by Medicare, yet most people pay a fee to see a GP or for ambulance services. 57% of adults have private insurance

Insurance mandate

A two-tier system underpinned by an insurance mandate where citizens are legally required to purchase cover from public or private insurers
Most people in Japan receive health insurance from their employer, otherwise they must sign up for a national health insurance programme. Medical fees are regulated to keep them affordable

How could the US healthcare system change?

Donald Trump ran on a campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, but discord among Republicans has highlighted the political challenges faced with implementing a healthcare system, much less trying to change it.

With millions still uninsured and the financial burden of healthcare still quite high, the current US policy falls short of the WHO threshold.

Thus far, separate bills introduced in the House and the Senate were estimated to see steep increases in the number of uninsured from current levels.

Estimated uninsured under existing and proposed healthcare plans

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High Performance Computing can help understand the secrets of the DNA

Description: Understanding the secrets of DNA is the key to the next generation of medical care involving extremely personalized treatment

The Use of High-Performance Computing in Understanding the Secrets of DNA

Introduction

High-performance computing (HPC) is the use of advanced teraflop computer systems, such as supercomputers or cluster of computers, to solve complicated and time consuming scientific research problems. Integrated circuits (ICs) such as field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) and high-speed microprocessors are the foundation of such hybrid computing platforms. Hybrid systems are not only faster than supercomputers or clustered computers but also flexible and cheaper.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains genetic instructions for functioning, growth and reproduction of living organisms.DNA is composed of Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine and Thymine. These four nucleotide bases are commonly abbreviated as A, G, C and T. Understanding the secrets of DNA is very important as it is the key to the next generation of medical care involving extremely personalized treatment.

Technology and Applications

The use of HPC in the field of genetic engineering, forensics, bio-informatics and DNA nanotechnology is advancing drug discovery and personalized healthcare. Some of the technologies used are as follows:

  • Bio-IT equipment: Determine entire genome or genetic makeup of an individual by sequencing millions of DNA bases
  • Dye-terminator sequencing:Use of fluorescent dyes, each of which emits light at a different wavelength, to label the nucleotide bases and the sequence is read by using a laser beam.
  • FPGAs:Speed up parallel processing of algorithms exponentially for gene sequence search, detection and comparison and help pinpoint the origins of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer

Evolutionary, functional and structural relationships are explored by looking for similarities or mismatches in regions between two DNA sequences. Genomic analysis and sequencing in large clinical trials are more efficient than traditional drug discovery approaches. These studies help in drug discovery and subjects who will respond to the discovered drugs.

Consumer Genomics

HPC has strengthened consumer genomics in predictive medicine and made non-invasive and easy administration of genetic testing possible. Just send in a saliva sample and get back comprehensive web-based report on the subject’s predisposition to diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart diseases and more.

Pharmagenomics

Pharmagenomics deals with treatment of the patient based on his or her specific genetic makeup. It helps physicians to select optimal medicine for their patients especially for diseases such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, HIV and tuberculosis. HPC has reduced the cost of personal genomic sequencing and the costs are only going to drop further as more people starting sequencing.

 

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