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Algae could help produce biofuels

Algal oils could be a sustainable solution to dwindling fuel reserves, says a researcher.

Roger Huerlimann, doctoral student at the James Cook University, Townsville, said microalgae, tiny aquatic organisms related to plants, use light and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce oils similar to vegetable oils from plants.

"Two of the major problems in future will be the shortage of food and fuel. Microalgae have the potential to solve these two problems and more," said Heurlimann, according to a James Cook statement.

"Furthermore, the algal oils can be turned into biodiesel for cars and heavy machinery, as well as bio-kerosene for airplanes. This would provide the world with a clean, sustainable source of fuels.

"Nature has given microalgae incredibly effective 'tools' in the form of enzymes to produce a high variety of valuable oils. My genetic work will make it possible to select specific microalgae which are suitable for the production of either biofuels or omega-3 fatty acids, among other possible applications." The research will help in the search for more productive strains of algae, which produce the oils and fatty acids that are required for each individual application.

Huerlimann is part of a larger research team at James Cook, led by Kirsten Heimann, associate professor. The team explores cultivation of microalgae for the capture of carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

HIV jab could soon replace daily pill regimen

Researchers are trying to develop an injection that will replace the daily pill regimen for HIV patients. Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a daily pill, Truvada, which reduces the risk of HIV infection. A team of researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center is progressing towards developing weekly or twice-monthly injectable antiretroviral therapy (ART) nanomedicines for patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

A long-acting, nanoformulated ART (nanoART) would be a substantive improvement over daily and sometimes more complex regimen of pills, lead investigator on the development of nanoART for HIV/AIDS and professor and chairman of the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience (PEN) at UNMC, Howard Gendelman, MD, said.

A journal article hails the successful testing of UNMC’s ART injectables as treatment of HIV-infected mice and in preventing new infections.
“We actually followed the process exactly as we would with a person – and it worked,” Dr. Gendelman said.

“This is all very exciting. Although there are clear pitfalls ahead and the medicines are not yet ready for human use, the progress is undeniable.”

Dr. Gendelman said one of the project’s real advantages is in the nanoformulations.
“NanoART is cell directed. So when you take a pill, the pill travels throughout the body indiscriminately. In these nanomedicines, you can use the body’s own cells to direct the medicine where you want it to go,” he said.

The UNMC project directs the medicine to the monocyte-macrophage, cells which carry the drug particle to sites of the body specifically where HIV grows.
Dr. Gendelman calls the progress made “a Nebraska invention,” as it involved so many of the state’s scientists in different disciplines working together.

Soft drinks make it harder to lose weight

Avoid soft drinks, as they could alter the way your body burns fuel and make it harder still to lose weight, says a study. "This study proves our concerns over sugary drinks have been correct. Not only can regular sugar intake acutely change our body metabolism," said Hans-Peter Kubis of Britain's Bangor University, who led the research.

"In fact, it seems that our muscles are able to sense the sugars and make our metabolism more inefficient, not only in the present but in the future as well," Kubis added.

The researcher warned that soft drinks can compromise long-term health and advised people to substitute it with plain water instead.

His researchers also showed that isolated muscle cells identify and respond to the sugary diet, and switch how they use the fuel.

"Together with our findings about how drinking soft drinks dulls the perception of sweetness, our new results give a stark warning against regularly drinking sugar sweetened drinks," added Kubis.

The move to an inefficient metabolism was seen in male and female participants who were lightly active, and drinking soft drinks for just four weeks, according to the Daily Mail.

These factors show that regular use of sugar sweetened soft drinks drives alterations in muscles similar to those found in people with obesity problems and type 2 diabetes.

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