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Modified bone drug helps combat malaria

A chemically altered osteoporosis drug could play a role in fighting malaria, a new study has suggested.

Unlike similar compounds tested against other parasitic protozoa, the drug readily crosses into the red blood cells of malaria-infected mice and kills the malaria parasite. The drug works at very low concentrations with no observed toxicity to the mouse.

The researchers found the drug by screening a library of about 1,000 compounds used in previous efforts to target an important biochemical pathway (called isoprenoid biosynthesis) in cancer and in disease-causing organisms.

The new drug lead, BPH-703, inhibits a key enzyme in isoprenoid biosynthesis that enables the malaria parasite to sustain itself and defend itself from the host immune system.

The drug has little effect on the same chemical pathway in human or mouse cells, said the University of Illinois chemistry professor Eric Oldfield, who led the study.

The lead compounds are chemically modified forms of the osteoporosis drugs Actonel (Risedronate) and Zometa (Zoledronate), Oldfield said. Risedronate and Zoledronate potently block isoprenoid biosynthesis, but are unable to get across the membrane of red blood cells to get to the parasite.

How fructose leads to obesity and other illnesses

Researchers have shed light on how fructose plays a role in the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome, more commonly known as diabetes.  In this study, which was performed in lab animals, researchers found that fructose can be metabolised by an enzyme that exists in two forms.

One form appears to be responsible for causing how fructose causes fatty liver, obesity, and insulin resistance. The other form may actually protect animals from developing these features in response to sugar. Richard Johnson, MD, the senior author of the study and Chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado School of Medicine said the findings are significant because we now have a better understanding of how fructose causes obesity and other illnesses.

Previous research has shown that fructose intake in added sugars such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup is strongly linked to the epidemic rise in obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fructose intake also causes features of metabolic syndrome in laboratory animals and humans. It is known to cause visceral (organ) fat accumulation and insulin resistance compared to starch based diets even when calories are kept even.

Giant prehistoric Kiwi penguin reconstructed

After 35 years, researchers have recreated a giant fossil penguin that inhabited New Zealand nearly 25 million years ago, thus shedding new light on the prehistoric penguin diversity.

The bones were collected in 1977 by Dr. Ewan Fordyce, a paleontologist from the University of Otago, New Zealand.

In 2009 and 2011, Dr. Dan Ksepka, North Carolina State University research assistant professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences colleague Dr. Paul Brinkman travelled to New Zealand to aid in the reconstruction of the giant penguin fossil.

Researchers dubbed the penguin Kairuku, a Maori word that loosely translates to “diver who returns with food.”Ksepka was interested in the fossil because its body shape is different from any previously known penguin, living or extinct.

He was also interested in the diversity of penguin species that lived in what is now New Zealand during the Oligocene period, approximately 25 million years ago.

“The location was great for penguins in terms of both food and safety,” according to Ksepka.

Kairuku was one of at least five different species of penguin that lived in New Zealand during the same period.

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