The pill and gliomas, is there cause for worry or is it too soon?

Science Translation

Hormonal contraceptives, also known as the pill, are among the most common type of birth control. They are highly effective with less than 1% of users experiencing a pregnancy per year. Beyond the ability to help with the prevention of pregnancy and family planning, the pill has been shown to be effective in helping control particularly painful cramping during monthly periods as well as aiding in more complex disorders like polycystic ovary disease. While the pill has become a staple for women looking to prevent unwanted pregnancies, there has been concerns raised in the past about cancer risks, and a new study has raised concerns about a specific form of cancer, gliomas or brain tumour.

The study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, looked into whether the use of hormonal contraceptives increased the risk of developing gliomas, the most common type of brain tumour. The researchers used…

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From wedding rings to cancer treatment, diamonds are everyone’s best friend now


Image source: Image source:

Innovations in treating various cancers are a critical need to this day. Assistant Professor Edward Chow and his team from Cancer Science institute, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore have established with the use of nanotechnology, a way to repurpose the existing chemotherapy drugs as an effective means against those cancer cells that escape chemotherapy treatment (chemoresistance). Chemoresistance is one of the major reasons for the failure of cancer treatments. New treatment paradigms to overcome this hurdle is the need of the hour.

Scientists attached nanodiamonds to Epirubicin, which is a widely used chemotherapy drug, thereby developing a drug delivery complex called nanodiamond-epirubicin nano delivery complex (EPND). This complex which is about 4-5 nanometers in size, has the ability to kill normal cancer cells and chemoresistant cells as opposed to just using epirubicin which can also act on normal cancer cells.

Compared to the…

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Know your food!


Rendezvous with a scientist- Dr. Christiani Jeyakumar Henry Rendezvous with a scientist- Dr. Christiani Jeyakumar Henry

Dr. Christiani Jeyakumar Henry
Lead, Nutritional Sciences and Human Physiology
Director, Clinical Nutritional Research Centre, Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, A*STAR
Professor, Department of Biochemistry, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, NUS

Professor Christiani Jeyakumar Henry initially trained as a Food scientist and subsequently obtained his MSc and PhD in Nutrition from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In June 2011 he was appointed as Director of Clinical Nutrition at Singapore Institute of clinical Science to spearhead the translation of Nutrition research into food applications.

We met with Professor Henry and talked to him about CNRC and its efforts to research on nutrition and understand, in general, about food and its consequences in the modern era. This rendezvous piece is a dialogue between Professor Henry and me (Laxmi Sankaran).

Your institute, Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) is relatively new. What kind…

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The History of Diabetes

College Library

Welcome to our first post of 2015, and a happy new year to all of our readers! This month we have installed a new temporary exhibition in Crush Hall, on the history of diabetes. Visitors are welcome to visit the College to view the exhibition on Monday afternoons between 2pm and 5pm, or at other times by appointment.

Early Writings

The history of diabetes begins around 1550 BC, with the Papyrus Ebers. This Ancient Egyptian papyrus, named for the German Egyptologist Georg Ebers, contains what is believed to be the first written reference to diabetes mellitus, and provides remedies for the treatment of polyuria.

A measuring glass filled with Water from the Bird pond, Elderberry, Fibres of the asit plant, Fresh Milk, Beer-Swill, Flower of the Cucumber, and Green Dates[1]

There is fairly widespread agreement that the papyrus does indeed refer to diabetes, but overall the archaic phraseology of…

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How Gut Microbiota controls the Immune system

Gut-Centric Hypothesis: Prior Exposures to Microbes Explain Beneficial Roles of TREG

Stimulated by a gut-centric systemic homeostasis hypothesis, we set out to explore and explain the paradoxical roles of TREG in cancer using several different mouse models of cancer and adoptive cell transfer methodologies. It was found that TREG may suppress, promote, or have no effect in carcinogenesis depending upon their timing and prior exposure to gut bacterial antigens and presence of IL-10. Under some conditions, adoptive transfer of TREG rapidly led to apoptosis of emerging tumor cells. Using as a model organism an opportunistic pathogen,Helicobacter hepaticus, commonly residing in the lower bowel of mice, we have shown in Rag2-deficient mice (otherwise lacking lymphocytes) that gut microbiota modulate inflammatory bowel disease and inflammation-associated colon cancer, a cancer process inhibited by properly functioning IL-10-dependent TREG. Subsequently, by introducing H. hepaticus into the large bowel flora of mice lacking the APC tumor suppressor gene (ApcMin/+), we found that intestinal polypogenesis was greatly enhanced by bacteria and subsequently suppressed by immune-competent TREG. Furthermore, adenomas of infected ApcMin/+ mice progressed into adenocarcinoma, a transition atypical of polyps of aged-matched uninfected controls. Interestingly, ApcMin/+mice having H. hepaticus in their gut flora were prone to develop cancer in tissues distant from intestine, such as prostate and the mammary glands. H. hepaticus-induced tumorigenic events were inhibited by supplementation with TREG from immune-competent wild type donor mice.

A potent treatment to counteract these local and systemic H. hepaticus-induced tumorigenic events was supplementation with TREG in an IL-10-dependent manner. Purified TREG exhibited greatest anti-cancer potency when taken from donor mice previously colonized withH. hepaticus. By contrast, TREG taken from donor mice without prior H. hepaticus exposure were ineffective, and in some cases actually enhanced tumorigenesis. Based on these results, we theorize that the tumor microenvironment is subject to systemic inflammatory events arising from environmental exposures in the gastrointestinal tract (Figure 1). This microbe-inducible pro-inflammatory condition contributes to tumor trophic signaling. Interestingly, bacterial antigen triggered IL-10-dependent activities in the GI-tract impart sustained protection from the aforementioned events, resulting in immune cell recruitment, including TREG, which, by being more potent in their anti-inflammatory roles, work locally and systemically to suppress sepsis, myeloid precursor mobilization, and inflammatory signaling important in extra-intestinal cancer evolution. These systemic events comprise the tumor macroenvironment.

Front. Immunol., 07 April 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00157

Mental health and inflammation: new idea for fighting depression.

Science Translation

Mental illness affects nearly all people at some point or another in their life. This can be directly or indirectly through the suffering of a family member or close friend. Mental illness is the broad umbrella term we give to disorders that affect mental well-being. One of the most common forms of mental illness is depression with more than 10% of adults in the US reporting feeling depressed at some point in their life. Depression affects every aspect of your life including your relationships, your diet and health, and your work. At times in certain people it can become severe enough to require medical interventions and therapy. This is termed clinical or severe depression. Unfortunately, some people who suffer from severe depression will ultimately commit suicide as a way out of the pain. There is research to show that our current mode of treatment is inadequate at helping people with depression and…

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BioBit – Mitochondia, the little engines that power your cells

Apart from these functions, mitochondria also plays an important role in initiation of innate immune response through Grim 19 protein which interacts with Th19 cells in innate immune response

Science Translation

Mitochondria are little, bean shaped organelles inside you cells that are responsible for making the majority of the energy used by your cells.

Blausen_0644_Mitochondria Courtesy: staff

This often earns them the nickname “powerhouse of the cell”; however mitochondria perform many other important functions like:
  • Helping control cell growth
  • Helping cells and stem cells grow into the right type of cell (differentiation)
  • Helping cells to communicate with other parts of the cell or with other cells
  • Ensuring that when cells have to die, they do so in a clean, organized process called apoptosis

The amount of mitochondria within a cell can vary widely depending on that cells function. Typically, cells that need lots of energy, like liver cells, have lots of mitochondria while cells that need little energy, like red blood cells, have little or none.

Mitochondria have their own DNA that is separate from the DNA found in the nucleus…

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