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Short DNA end-caps linked to diabetes

Johns Hopkins scientists have found new evidence from studies in mice that short telomeres or ‘caps’ at the ends of chromosomes may predispose people to age-related diabetes.

Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes, and they normally shorten with age, much like the caps that protect the end of shoelaces. As telomeres shorten, cells lose the ability to divide normally and eventually die. Telomere shortening has previously been linked to cancer, lung disease, and other age-related illnesses.

The new findings arose from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center’s Mary Armanios’ observation that diabetes seems to occur more often in patients with dyskeratosis congenita, a rare, inherited disease caused by short telomeres. Armanios, who studied mice with short telomeres and their insulin-producing beta cells, found that despite the presence of plentiful, healthy-looking beta cells in the mice, they had higher blood sugar levels and secreted half as much insulin as the controls. In beta cells from mice with short telomeres, they found disregulation of p16, a gene linked to aging and diabetes. No such mistakes were found in the controls.

Stem cell therapy for macular degeneration may be reality

In the study, they have demonstrated the ability to create retinal cells derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells that mimic the eye cells that die and cause loss of sight.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in older Americans and worldwide. AMD gradually destroys sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. AMD progresses with death of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a dark colour layer of cells, which nourishes the visual cells in the retina.

While some treatments can help slow its progression, there is no cure. The discovery of human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells has opened a new avenue for the treatment of degenerative diseases, like AMD, by using a patient's own stem cells to generate tissues and cells for transplantation.

Statins make radiation therapy more effective

A new study has revealed that men with high-risk prostate cancer who take statin drugs commonly used to lower cholesterol while receiving radiation therapy are less likely to have their cancer return than patients who do not take these medications.
In the study, 1,681 men with high-risk, localized prostate cancer were treated with radiation therapy between 1995 and 2007. Of them, 382 were taking statin medication at diagnosis and throughout the treatment.

Statins are a class of drugs used to lower the cholesterol level in people with or at risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that the men taking statins were less like to relapse than other patients. At five years, 11 per cent of men taking statins saw their cancer return compared to 17 percent of patients not taking the medication.

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