What's the buzz...

What's the buzz...

Licorice root could help treat diabetes

A new German study has found that licorice root may contain anti-diabetic properties.
In addition to having anti-inflammatory properties, substances called amorfrutins from the plant’s root were found to reduce blood sugar levels in mice.

Furthermore, the study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week , found the substance helped prevent the mice from developing a fatty liver and improved insulin resistance, leading scientists to suggest that licorice root could be used in the treatment of complex metabolic disorders.

In their study, the amorfrutins worked by activating various genes that reduced the plasma concentration of certain fatty acids and glucose, researchers said. The reduced glucose level, in turn, prevented the development of insulin resistance.But before you go tucking into a bag of black licorice candy, scientists point out that the concentration of amorfrutins is too low to be effective in sweets or tea.

Extracting the nutrients in large concentrations, however, could be used on an industrial scale, they say.

Earlier this year, another study published in the Journal of Natural Products found that two substances in licorice were able to kill the major bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum disease.

Cholesterol may have cancer-fighting properties

In a new study, scientists have argued that cholesterol may slow or stop cancer cell growth.

The study, which includes a Simon Fraser University researcher, describes how cholesterol-binding proteins called ORPs may control cell growth in A Detour for Yeast Oxysterol Binding Proteins.

The scientists came to their conclusion while trying to understand how cholesterol moves around inside cells in the fat’s journey to cell surfaces where it reinforces their outer membrane.

“The assumption was that ORPs bind and transport cholesterol inside cells in a similar fashion to how lipoproteins bind and move around the fat outside cells through the blood stream,” Chris Beh, said. Beh and his colleagues noted that genetic changes engineered by them block the ability of ORPs to bind cholesterol but don’t stop ORPs from functioning.
In fact, these altered ORPs work better and activate other regulator proteins, which in turn trigger a variety of cellular processes that stimulate cell growth.

The scientists believe this happened because cholesterol-binding normally interferes with ORPs’ ability to bind to another lipid or fat called PI4P, which is important for cell growth.

19th century vibration chair can help Parkinson’s sufferers

Researchers have replicated the work of a celebrated neurologist of the 19th century, who developed a “vibration chair,” to relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Jean-Martin Charcot reported improvements in his patients, but he died shortly thereafter and a more complete evaluation of the therapy was never conducted. 

Now, a group of neurological researchers at Rush University Medical Center have conducted a study to see if Charcot’s observation holds true against modern scientific testing.

Results from the study indicate that while vibration therapy does significantly improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, the effect is due to placebo or other nonspecific factors, and not the vibration.  

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