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Grilled foods may increase cancer risk

It’s time for picnics and parties with lots of grilled goodies, but experts at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have warned that all that sizzling and flipping on the gas or charcoal grill may also be cooking up cancer-causing chemicals.

And surprisingly, those chemicals have been linked to breast, stomach, prostate, and colon cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

But Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, a Dana-Farber nutritionist, said that doesn’t mean giving up those tasty summer time treats like burgers, steaks, and ribs.

“It’s really about planning ahead and making wise choices,” he stated.

There are two risk factors to keep in mind. First, research has shown that high-heat grilling can convert proteins in red meat, pork, poultry, and fish into heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These chemicals have been linked to a number of cancers.  “What happens is that the high temperature can change the shape of the protein structure in the meat so it becomes irritating in the body and is considered a carcinogenic chemical,” explained Kennedy.

Another cancer-causing agent, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), is found in the smoke. PAHs form when fat and juices from meat products drip on the heat source. As the smoke rises it can stick to the surface of the meat.

“That’s where the main cancer causing compound occurs in grilling. So you want to reduce the exposure to that smoke,” said Kennedy.

Duck genome could be key to fighting bird flu

Scientists have completed the genome sequencing and analysis of the duck, which was one principal natural host of influenza A viruses that killed 36 people and caused a loss of 6.5-billion-dollars to China’s economy.

As a natural host of influenza A viruses (including H5N1), the duck is known to often remain asymptomatic under influenza infection.

To uncover the interactive mechanisms between the host and influenza viruses, researchers sequenced the genome of a 10-week-old female Beijing duck, and conducted transcriptomic studies on two virus-infected ducks.

This work yielded the draft sequence of a waterfowl-duck for the first time, and the data indicated that the duck, like the chicken and zebra finch, possessed a contractive immune gene repertoire comparing to those in mammals, and it also comprises novel genes that are not present in the other three birds (chicken, zebra finch and turkey). By comparing gene expression in the lungs of ducks infected with either highly or weakly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses, the team identified genes whose expression patterns were altered in response to avian influenza viruses.
 
How brain forms long-term memories

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have uncovered how a protein called Arc regulates the activity of neurons—providing much-needed clues into the brain's ability to form long-lasting memories.

These findings also offer newfound understanding as to what goes on at the molecular level when this process becomes disrupted.

Led by Gladstone Senior Investigator Steve Finkbeiner, MD, PhD, this research delved deep into the inner workings of synapses. Synapses are the highly specialised junctions that process and transmit information between neurons.

From inside the nucleus, the authors found that it was Arc that directed the process required for homeostatic scaling to occur. This strengthened the synaptic connections without overstimulating them—thus translating learning into long-term memories.

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