What's the buzz

What's the buzz

Why babies digest milk more effectively

Infants are more efficient at digesting milk than adults due to a difference in the strains of bacteria that dominate their digestive tracts.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis, and Utah State University have identified the genes that are most likely responsible for this difference. “Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are the third-largest solid component of milk. Their structural complexity renders them non-digestible to the host,” said the researchers.

“Bifidobacterium longum strains often predominate the colonic microbiota of exclusively breast-fed infants. Among the three recognised subspecies, B longum subsp infantis achieves high levels of cell growth on HMOs and is associated with early colonisation of the infant gut,” they added.

The researchers used whole-genome microarray comparisons to associate genotypic biomarkers among 15 B longum strains exhibiting various HMO utilisation patterns.
They identified 5 distinct gene clusters on B longum that were conserved (showed little or no variation) across all strains capable of growth on HMOs and have also diverged in strains incapable of growing on HMOs.

The results suggested that B longum has at least 2 distinct subspecies: B longum subsp infantis, adapted to utilise milk carbon and found primarily in the digestive tract of children, and B longum subsp longum, specialised for plant-derived carbon metabolism and associated with the adult digestive tract.

Learning to swim could make kids smarter

A Griffith University research project will examine over 10,000 kids aged up to five to find out if swimming advances physical, social, intellectual and language development.
Professor Robyn Jorgensen said anecdotal evidence found swimmers tended to be more confident than same-age, non-swimming peers.

She said the study was in its second year and is measuring the development of youngsters learning to swim against international milestones of child development.
“The preliminary data is coming back quite positive,” she said.

“Children in swimming schools appear to be more advanced in terms of their development,” she added.

Robyn said the research would also monitor young swimmers at 60 swim schools across Australia and cross-reference the results with the earlier surveys.
“Then we’ll take a smaller sample of children and test them against the milestones,” she said.

Scientists use tumour to form cancer vaccine

Scientists have come up with a novel way to approach cancer treatment. A process for creating a personalised vaccine may become a crucial tool in helping patients with colorectal cancer develop an immune response against their own tumours.
This dendritic cell (DC) vaccine, developed at Dartmouth, was used after surgical resection of metastatic tumours to try to prevent the growth of additional metastases.

“The results of the study suggest a new way to approach cancer treatment,” said Richard Barth Jr, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Centre. “Basically, we’ve worked out a way to use dendritic cells, which initiate immune responses, to induce an antitumour response.”

DCs are critical to immunity, helping identify targets, or antigens, and then stimulating the immune system to react against those antigens. DCs were grown from a sample of a patient’s blood, mixed them with proteins from the patient’s tumour, and then injected the mixture into the patient as a vaccine.

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