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Norovirus and Tuft Cells in Mice

Posted on Aug 30, 2018 in Blog

norovirus

Norovirus capsid

Acute gastroenteritis, commonly known as “stomach flu,” causes diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to complications from dehydration. This can be lethal in certain cases, especially for young children. Researchers have estimated that it is the cause of death for 1.5-2.5 million children less than 5 years old every year, worldwide. This is a widespread disease that affects people in both developed and developing countries. According to the CDC, about one out of every five cases of acute gastroenteritis is caused by norovirus. This makes norovirus the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, with over 685 million cases annually. Norovirus is named for the town Norwalk, Ohio, where a large outbreak occurred in 1968. The virus causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines. Every year, norovirus is estimated to cause $60 billion in losses worldwide due to healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Little is known about how the norovirus targets the human body, including which cells it targets to trigger acute gastroenteritis. However, recent research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has discovered that, in mice, norovirus infects intestinal cells called “tuft cells,” which line the intestines. Until this point, the function of tuft cells has been a mystery, but now scientists have a focal point they can use to study norovirus infections.

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Cleaning Agents vs Refrigerator Coils

Posted on Jul 27, 2018 in Blog

According to the CDC, approximately 1.7 million hospital-acquired infection (HAIs) are documented each year. These are responsible for 99,000 deaths and an estimated $20 billion in healthcare costs. Therefore, keeping hospitals and pharmacies clean is a crucial to prevent the spread of infection. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) creates standards for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries to help standardize the quality of medication and healthcare.

One of the USP standards, USP 797, sets requirements for sanitation in areas that are used for compounding medications or “IV adds” in sterile environments, such as clean rooms. This includes cleaning refrigerators or incubators that are used in those areas. The standards are in the process of being updated, with new cleaning agents being recommended for use. Since Powers Scientific provides pharmacy refrigerators to hospitals across the country, our chambers have been encountering various cleaning materials recommended by the regulations.

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Obesity and Taste Buds

Posted on Jun 19, 2018 in Blog

Taste budAccording to the CDC, more than one-third (36.5%) of adults in the United States are clinically obese. The obesity epidemic costs the country billions of dollars annually in treating diseases arising from the condition, such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and others. Obesity is a national health issue with multiple causes, so efforts to fight it are occurring on multiple fronts.

One of the approaches being taken to understand a cause of obesity comes in the form of studying how the sense of taste differs between people who are obese and people who are not. We know that obese people have reported a weakened sense of taste, which may be part of the problem. If they don’t get the same intensity of neurological response to eating as non-obese people, they may be eating more to compensate for that weakened stimulus. Understanding what causes this response might open new avenues to combat obesity.

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Protecting Transplant Organs from Ice Crystals

Posted on May 16, 2018 in Blog

C. elegans

According to the Unified Network for Organ Sharing, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. Over 34,000 organ transplants were performed in 2017, but it’s estimated that 20 people in the US die every day waiting for a transplant. One of the major difficulties with organ transplants is how time-sensitive the process is. The organs need to be chilled during transit from donor to recipient. However, when living tissue is exposed to freezing temperatures, microscopic ice crystals can form, shredding the tissue and making it unsuitable for transplant.

A Scientific American article from last fall talked about how scientists are working on a solution to this problem by looking at animals that are already adept at surviving in very cold environments. Organisms that live in these intense environments, such as polar fish, are called extremophiles. These creatures are equipped with proteins that keep blood from freezing in their frigid habitats. Scientists at the University of Warwick thought that they could make synthetic compounds to mimic these “antifreeze proteins” that could be applied to many applications, including safely preserving organs for transplant. Previous efforts to create these types of molecules haven’t been suitable for medical use, as they were very expensive to produce and potentially toxic to animals.

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Creating Embryos from Skin Cells

Posted on Apr 11, 2018 in Blog

More than 10% of American men and women struggle with some level of infertility. While in vitro fertilization (IVF) is an option, it is by no means a guaranteed method of getting a viable pregnancy. About 65% of IVF cycles fail, which is often due to poor egg quality. Additionally, IVF cannot help if there are no healthy eggs or sperm available to harvest for the procedure.

A solution to the issue of a lack of healthy cells might be in vitro gametogenesis (IVG). IVG is an experimental procedure where eggs and sperm are generated from adult cells, such as skin cells or blood cells. A recent article from Scientific American discusses how researchers at Kyushu University in Japan are working on perfecting this technique in mice. They started the process by retracing the work Shinya Yamanaka did on creating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from normal adult cells (which won him a Nobel prize in 2012 and we talked about in a blog last year).

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Kin Recognition in Arabidopsis

Posted on Mar 14, 2018 in Blog

arabidopsis

Arabidopsis thaliana

Plants are smarter than most people give them credit for. Darwin hypothesized that plants had cells dedicated to controlling root growth, like a brain. Darwin’s initial thoughts were published in 1880, but it took until the 1990’s for scientists to actually make headway in confirming that theory. Scientists first discovered that plants’ roots can determine whether roots are their own or not in a 1996 study using the desert shrub Ambrosia dumosa. They found that the roots would stop growing when they encountered the roots of other plants from the same population, but they wouldn’t stop growing then they encountered their own roots.

While researchers observed that plants could control their root growth based on whether they encountered foreign roots, they did not have an idea of what biological mechanism controlled that response. In 2010, a study observing Arabidopsis thaliana looked to test whether chemicals secreted by plant roots could be the signal controlling root growth. Roots secrete many different chemicals such as phenols, flavonoids, sugars, organic acids, amino acids and proteins. These compounds are collectively referred to as the root exudate. Researchers suspected that roots might be able to detect the presence of these compounds in the soil to figure out when they are near roots that aren’t their own.

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