Beta-Carbolines Could Reduce Alcoholics’ Impulse to Drink

A new animal study is offering hope that a class of compounds called beta-carbolines could treat alcoholism without many of the unwanted side effects caused by current therapies.

Beta-carboline compounds offer great promise for the treatment of alcoholism. Image credit: Imagens Evangelicas / CC BY 2.0.
“Alcoholism is a major problem in the United States. Alcohol abuse costs almost $220 billion to the U.S. economy every year. That’s a shocking number. We need a better treatment right now,” said study lead author Phani Babu Tiruveedhula from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
The exact causes of alcoholism are not well understood, but scientists explain that the urge to drink is related to the brain’s pleasure centers. They have found that alcohol triggers t… Read more

European Chestnut Leaf Extract Disarms Staphlococcus aureus

Leaves of the European chestnut ( Castanea sativa ) contain ingredients with the power to block the virulence and pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus without detectable resistance, a new study has found.

The European chestnut ( Castanea sativa ), also known as the sweet chestnut, is a species of flowering plant in the family Fagaceae, native to Europe and Asia Minor, and widely cultivated throughout the temperate world. The tree attains a height of 100 feet (30 m). It has rugged, grooved bark and glossy, serrate, oblong-lanceolate leaves up to 11 inches (28 cm) in length. Image credit: Willow, Germany / CC BY-SA 3.0.
Rather than killing Staphylococcus aureus , the chestnut leaf extract – rich in oleanene and ursene derivatives (pentacyclic triterpenes) – works b… Read more

Chrysalin: New Drug Mitigates Deadly Effects of Radiation

A research team in the U.S. says it has discovered a drug that successfully combats the deadly effects of radiation exposure. A single injection of a synthetic peptide drug called Chrysalin 24 hours after lethal radiation exposure appears to significantly increase survival and delay mortality in mice by counteracting damage to the gastrointestinal system, according to the team, led by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

3D structure of Chrysalin. Image credit: Darrell Carney & Barbara Olszewska-Pazdrak, doi: 10.1517/14656560802401721.
In recent years, increasing threats of radiation exposure and nuclear disasters have become a significant concern for the U.S. and countries worldwide.
Exposure to high doses of radiation triggers a n… Read more

Scientists Turn Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide into Nanofibers

A group of researchers led by Dr Stuart Licht of George Washington University has developed a novel method to economically convert atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into highly valued carbon nanofibers.

This false-color image shows carbon nanofibers. Image credit: Stuart Licht.
“We have found a way to use atmospheric carbon dioxide to produce high-yield carbon nanofibers. Such nanofibers are used to make strong carbon composites, such as those used in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, as well as in high-end sports equipment, wind turbine blades and a host of other products,” Dr Licht explained.
Because of its efficiency, the new process can be run using only a few volts of electricity, sunlight and a whole lot of carbon dioxide.
At its root, the system uses electrolytic syntheses to make the nanofibers… Read more

Nicotine-Eating Bacteria Could One Day Help Smokers Quit

People who smoke cigarettes know it’s bad for their health, but quitting is difficult. To make it easier, scientists are taking a novel approach – they are turning to microorganisms that thrive on nicotine. In a new paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society , researchers describe successful tests on a nicotine-degrading enzyme from a common soil bacterium called Pseudomonas putida .

Dr Janda’s team analyzed a nicotine-degrading enzyme, NicA2. Image credit: Song Xue et al.
Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S., including nearly 42,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years o… Read more

Scientists Construct Atomic Model of Immature Retrovirus

A team of computational and experimental researchers headed by Prof Klaus Schulten from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has constructed an atomic model of the immature retroviral lattice of a virus called Rous sarcoma virus.

An atomic model of the immature retroviral lattice of RSV. Image credit: Boon Chong Goh / University of Illinois.
Retroviruses are a large and diverse family of human and animal viruses, including the medically significant Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
These viruses are tricky to treat. They go through a multistage process to produce infectious particles.
The viruses that are released from infected cells are initially in an immature state and are composed of an RNA genome surrounded by a coat of protein.
Upon their rel… Read more

Researchers Revive Ancient Adeno-Associated Virus

A team of scientists at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has resurrected an ancient adeno-associated virus that is highly effective at delivering gene therapies to the liver, muscle, and retina.

The ANC80 virus delivered genes to the mouse retina that fluoresce green when expressed. Pictured here, the delivered genes are active in the retina’s color-detecting cells. Image credit: Livia Carvalho.
Given its basic nature, a virus can be an ideal delivery system for gene therapy.
In order to survive, a virus must infiltrate a host organism undetected and transfer its genetic material into the host’s cells, where it will use the host to replicate and proliferate.
Taking advantage of this, scientists can insert therapeutic… Read more