WHAT'S THE BUZZ

Blueberry may fight against hepatitis C

Blueberry leaves might offer protection against hepatitis C virus infections, according to researchers.

The research led by University of Miyazaki in southern Japan has revealed that a chemical found in blueberry leaves has shown a strong effect in blocking the replication of the Hepatitis C virus.

Currently, there is no vaccine for HCV, and though a combination drug regimen can clear HCV infection, this treatment is only about 60 per cent effective on average and poses risks of severe side effects.

Lead researcher Hiroaki Kataoka hypothised that since HCV is localised in the liver and can take 20 years or more to develop into disease, a dietary supplement might help slow or stop disease progression.

During the study, the researchers screened nearly 300 different agricultural products for potential compounds that suppress HCV replication and uncovered a strong candidate in the leaves of rabbit-eye blueberry (native to the southeastern US).

Genetic ‘switch’ to get more insulin-producing cells

Experimenting on mice, a research team has found a way to convert another type of pancreas cell into the critical insulin-producing beta cells, which are lost in Type I diabetes patients.

The researchers have revealed that the secret ingredient is a single transcription factor.
They have found that when the gene called Pax4 is forced on in pancreatic alpha cells, the cells change their identity to become beta cells.

The researchers say that the body then senses a loss of alpha cells, replaces them with new alpha cells, and then converts those too into beta cells.

According to them, a treatment based on their findings in mice may one day find its way to human patients.

It’s official: fish oil is human heart’s best friend

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish not only help keep cardiovascular diseases at bay in healthy folks, but also reduce the incidence of cardiac events and mortality in patients with existing heart disease, mounting evidence suggests.
A novel study, which has been published in the August 11, 2009, issue of the ‘Journal of the American College of Cardiology’, extensively reviews data from a broad range of studies in tens of thousands of patients and sets forth suggested daily targets for omega-3 consumption.

“This isn’t just hype; we now have tremendous and compelling evidence from very large studies, some dating back 20 and 30 years, that demonstrate the protective benefits of omega-3 fish oil in multiple aspects of preventive cardiology,” said Carl Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention, Ochsner Medical Centre, New Orleans, LA, and lead author of the article.

Mini-magnet test diagnoses TB in just 30 minutes

It is now possible to diagnose tuberculosis (TB) in just 30 minutes, thanks to magnetic nanoparticles that can identify Mycobacterium tuberculosis in sputum, even at very low concentrations.

Their developer Ralph Weissleder, from Harvard Medical School, points out that the diagnosis of TB generally takes about two weeks because the bacteria is first spotted in sputum under a microscope, and then the suspect samples are sent away for confirmation.

That leads to a delay in treatment, and risks continued spread of the disease, points out the researcher. Weissleder says that the new test gives the answer in half an hour.
A paper describing this test, published in the journal ‘Angewandte Chemie’, says that doctors can simply add the sputum to a solution containing nanoparticles with an iron core encased in iron oxide.

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