Monday, February 16, 2015

Stem Cells May Hold Key to Reversing Hair Loss

The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. It's a blanket term referring to any kind of hair loss. Loss of hair can be due to a number of reasons, caused by a number of factors ranging from the environment to genetics. Androgenetic alopecia, more commonly known as male or female pattern baldness, is the most common form of hair loss. For alopecias non-androgenetic in nature, cases of scarring alopecia, ringworm, telogen effluvium, alopecia areata and hair loss as a result of cosmetic overprocessing are most commonly seen by dermatologists.

Compared to other health conditions, hair loss and other hair diseases get very little attention, resulting in sparse research which yields very few solutions to those suffering from them. Hair research still has ways to go but the great strides Terskikh and colleagues took with their work on stem cells and hair transplants offer a lot of hope for those dealing with alopecia.

The researchers came up with a means to coax human pluripotent stem cells into becoming dermal papilla cells, a unique group of cells responsible for regulating the formation and growth of hair follicles. On their own, dermal papilla cells are not ideal for transplants because they are not able to sustain their ability to induce the formation of hair follicles in culture and are simply not available in enough amounts.

Autoimmune Diseases Linked To Genomic Switches

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have now discovered certain genomic switches in blood cells that may be key to regulating the human immune system.
Senior study author John J. O'Shea, M.D., and the scientific director at NIH's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases studied how the immune system can mistakenly attack its own cells, resulting in inflammation.

Many autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells, resulting in inflammation that can result in different health problems. Though the causes of many autoimmune diseases are not well understood, scientists believe that they have a genetic component because they often run in families.

However, identifying an autoimmune disease isn't always so simple. Some genes have been found in regions of DNA that the genes do not carry. Furthermore, scientists have suspected that the variants are in DNA elements called enhancers that act as switches to help control various gene activities.
Researchers began searching for super-enhancers (SEs) in T cells, otherwise known as immune cells that play a critical role in rheumatoid arthritis. SEs could serve as signposts to steer them toward potential genetic risk factors for the disease, according to the study.

"Rather than starting off by looking at genes that we already knew were important in T cells, we took an unbiased approach," the researchers concluded. "From the locations of their super-enhancers, T cells are telling us where in the genome these cells invest their assets--their key proteins--and thereby where we are most likely to find genetic alterations that confer disease susceptibility."

read the entire article here

Whole-Genome Sequencing Now Possible for IVF

Since the first in vitro fertilization (IVF) birth in 1978 more than 5 million babies have been born using this method. In order to alleviate added stress for couples already experiencing difficulties to conceive, fertility scientists utilize pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) techniques to detect large chromosomal abnormalities or gene mutations that are passed along by parents to the IVF embryos.      

Unfortunately, it is not possible to systematically scan the entire genome of the embryo in order to detect spontaneous mutations. However, scientists from Complete Genomics, Reprogenetics, and the NYU Fertility Center believe they may have solved that problem.

Scientists from the collaboration have developed a whole-genome sequencing method that uses 5- to 10-cell biopsies from the in vitro embryos to scan for potentially detrimental mutations.    
The results from this study were published online in Genome Research in an article entitled "Detection and phasing of single base de novo mutations in biopsies from human in vitro fertilized embryos by advanced whole-genome sequencing".

Investigators sequenced three biopsies from two IVF embryos and searched for de novo mutations, those that emerge spontaneously in the egg or sperm and are not inherited by parental genes. Spontaneous mutations are believed to play a significant role in many congenital disorders such as autism, epilepsy, and some severe forms of intellectual disability.  

"Because each individual carries on average less than 100 de novo mutations, being able to detect and assign parent of origin for these mutations, which are the cause of many diseases, required this extremely low error rate," said co-authors Brock Peters, Ph.D., director of research and Radoje Drmanac, Ph.D., CSO at Complete Genomics.

you can read the entire article here:

Your love for chocolates may have something to do with your genes!

It turns out that whether you like dark chocolate or milk chocolate may have a little bit to do with your genetics.

We know that our bitter and sweet taste perceptions are highly associated with different genetic variants.
A lot of work has focused specifically on bitter taste perception associated with a variant in the TAS2R38 gene. Some people have it and some don’t.
About a quarter of 23andMe customers don’t have the bitter taste variant — making them more likely to have a taste for hoppy beer, broccoli or dark chocolate. A variant in theTAS2R38 gene enables some to perceive the bitterness of the chemical propylthiouracil, or PROP. Some so-called supertasters not only perceive bitterness but also can discern more saltiness, sweetness and spice, suggesting that there are other genes involved in food our food preference.
So of course the TAS2R38 variant doesn’t explain everything. While surveys of in the United States show that more than half of Americans prefer milk chocolate to dark, among 23andMe customers dark chocolate wins out. Almost half of 23andMe customers prefer dark chocolate, while about 39 percent say they like milk chocolate. That may have to do with genetics, but it is more likely related to a mix of other non-genetic factors.
And there are plenty of genetic factors that researchers are still exploring. For instance, a genome wide association study done last year found 17 genes related to liking certain foods — including among other things dark chocolate, blue cheese and liver — that belong to the groups of genes that apparently have nothing to do with taste or smell perception.

All this just goes to show that, like love, our food preferences are complicated.

you can read the original article here: