sábado, 23 de setembro de 2017

Nutrition has benefits for brain network organization

Date: September 7, 2017

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Summary:
Nutrition has been linked to cognitive performance, but researchers have not pinpointed what underlies the connection. A new study found that monounsaturated fatty acids -- a class of nutrients found in olive oils, nuts and avocados -- are linked to general intelligence, and that this relationship is driven by the correlation between MUFAs and the organization of the brain's attention network.
An assortment of foods containing omega 3 healthy fats acids.
Credit: © autumnhoverter / Fotolia

Nutrition has been linked to cognitive performance, but researchers have not pinpointed what underlies the connection. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that monounsaturated fatty acids -- a class of nutrients found in olive oils, nuts and avocados -- are linked to general intelligence, and that this relationship is driven by the correlation between MUFAs and the organization of the brain's attention network.

The study of 99 healthy older adults, recruited through Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, compared patterns of fatty acid nutrients found in blood samples, functional MRI data that measured the efficiency of brain networks, and results of a general intelligence test. The study was published in the journal NeuroImage.

"Our goal is to understand how nutrition might be used to support cognitive performance and to study the ways in which nutrition may influence the functional organization of the human brain," said study leader Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology. "This is important because if we want to develop nutritional interventions that are effective at enhancing cognitive performance, we need to understand the ways that these nutrients influence brain function."

"In this study, we examined the relationship between groups of fatty acids and brain networks that underlie general intelligence. In doing so, we sought to understand if brain network organization mediated the relationship between fatty acids and general intelligence," said Marta Zamroziewicz, a recent Ph.D. graduate of the neuroscience program at Illinois and lead author of the study.

Studies suggesting cognitive benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in MUFAs, inspired the researchers to focus on this group of fatty acids. They examined nutrients in participants' blood and found that the fatty acids clustered into two patterns: saturated fatty acids and MUFAs.

"Historically, the approach has been to focus on individual nutrients. But we know that dietary intake doesn't depend on any one specific nutrient; rather, it reflects broader dietary patterns," said Barbey, who also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois.

The researchers found that general intelligence was associated with the brain's dorsal attention network, which plays a central role in attention-demanding tasks and everyday problem solving. In particular, the researchers found that general intelligence was associated with how efficiently the dorsal attention network is functionally organized used a measure called small-world propensity, which describes how well the neural network is connected within locally clustered regions as well as across globally integrated systems.

In turn, they found that those with higher levels of MUFAs in their blood had greater small-world propensity in their dorsal attention network. Taken together with an observed correlation between higher levels of MUFAs and greater general intelligence, these findings suggest a pathway by which MUFAs affect cognition.

"Our findings provide novel evidence that MUFAs are related to a very specific brain network, the dorsal attentional network, and how optimal this network is functionally organized," Barbey said. "Our results suggest that if we want to understand the relationship between MUFAs and general intelligence, we need to take the dorsal attention network into account. It's part of the underlying mechanism that contributes to their relationship."

Barbey hopes these findings will guide further research into how nutrition affects cognition and intelligence. In particular, the next step is to run an interventional study over time to see whether long-term MUFA intake influences brain network organization and intelligence.

"Our ability to relate those beneficial cognitive effects to specific properties of brain networks is exciting," Barbey said. "This gives us evidence of the mechanisms by which nutrition affects intelligence and motivates promising new directions for future research in nutritional cognitive neuroscience."

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
Marta K. Zamroziewicz, M. Tanveer Talukdar, Chris E. Zwilling, Aron K. Barbey. Nutritional status, brain network organization, and general intelligence. NeuroImage, 2017; 161: 241 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.08.043

Cite This Page:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Nutrition has benefits for brain network organization." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170907112408.htm>.

Producing malaria treatment at large scales

First-choice malaria treatment, artemisinin, successfully produced by moss

Date: September 7, 2017

Source: Frontiers

Summary:
For the first time, production of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin has been achieved at an industrial scale using genetically engineered moss. This offers new hope for stabilizing artemisinin supplies and combatting malaria.

Compared to smallpox or typhoid, malaria is proving one of the most challenging human diseases to eradicate -- and so remains a real and constant danger to nearly half the world's population. Twenty years ago, two million people died each year on average from malaria, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite numerous advances in treatment, 212 million cases were reported in 2015 alone and an estimated 429,000 people died from the disease.

The first-choice treatment for malaria is artemisinin -- which is used in Chinese medicine to treat fever and inflammation as well as malaria. Before 2001, health care officials around the world administered the drug as a single compound, but this allowed malaria parasites to become drug-resistant. Scientists and medical professionals found, however, that artemisinin can work in combination with two other treatments, mefloquine and chlorproguanil, to attack different aspects of the parasite and ultimately disable it. According to the WHO, the number of courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies procured from manufacturers increased globally from 187 million in 2010 to 311 million in 2015.

But a major problem remains: the supply of artemisinin is not stable or sufficient, and as a result, treatment remains expensive.

Enter human ingenuity and innovation!

New research published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, "Stable Production of the Antimalarial Drug Artemisinin in the Moss Physcomitrella patens," demonstrates that artemisinin can be rapidly produced by genetically engineered moss at an industrial scale.

Artemisinin is generally derived from the plant Artemisia annua, a summer annual with a short growing season and known to gardeners as sweet wormwood. Due to its complex structure, the drug is difficult and not economically feasible to chemically synthesize. Other researchers have attempted to bioengineer artemisinin using Nicotiana tobacum (cultivated tobacco plants) or yeast, but these approaches either required much more engineering than the current analysis or yielded a semi-pure product.

The researchers introduced five genes responsible for biosynthesizing the precursor of artemisinin, dihydroartemisinic acid, into the moss Physcomitrella patens using multiple DNA fragments. The final conversion of this acid into artemisinin occurs by photooxidation in the moss cell.

Because moss, as a non-vascular plant, has such a simple structure it offers an ideal setting for genetically engineering drugs. The genetically engineered moss was grown in both liquid and solid media under 24h LED-light.

After only three days of cultivation, the researchers had a substantial initial product: 0.21 mg/g dry weight of artemisinin. By day 12, they had the highest accumulation of the drug.

"This moss produces like a factory," said Henrik Toft Simonsen, one of the paper's authors. "It produces artemisinin efficiently without the precursor engineering or subsequent chemical synthesis that yeast and tobacco require. This is what we hope for in science: a simple, elegant solution."

This research also expands the frontiers of synthetic biotechnology by offering a genetically robust plant-based platform, which can be scaled up for industrial production of other complex, high-value, plant-based compounds. Because P. patens uses light as an energy source it is, in the long run, more cost effective than approaches such as yeast, which must be fed with some form of sugar.

Producing artemisinin from moss in simple liquid bioreactors means that industrial-scale production is easily possible in a cost-effective manner. The next steps would be to further optimize the process, particularly reducing any unnecessary products and ensuring the metabolic process is as efficient as possible. Also, while it may seem extraordinary to develop a drug in three to 12 days, by comparison microorganisms can be cultivated in a matter of hours, said Simonsen. Plants simply take longer to cultivate than microorganisms. Even so, this approach has built-in savings: moss does not have to be reengineered every time; stock cells can be reused.

"It will be a great day if scientists can eradicate malaria worldwide," said Simonsen. "This is a disease that affects 200 to 300 million people every year. It's especially deadly for kids."

Story Source:

Materials provided by Frontiers. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
Nur Kusaira Binti Khairul Ikram, Arman Beyraghdar Kashkooli, Anantha Vithakshana Peramuna, Alexander R. van der Krol, Harro Bouwmeester, Henrik Toft Simonsen. Stable Production of the Antimalarial Drug Artemisinin in the Moss Physcomitrella patens. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 2017; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2017.00047

Cite This Page:
Frontiers. "Producing malaria treatment at large scales: First-choice malaria treatment, artemisinin, successfully produced by moss." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170907125636.htm>.