Wednesday, May 28, 2014

'Nanodaisies' deliver drug cocktail to cancer cells

'Nanodaisies' deliver drug cocktail to cancer cells

Early tests of the “nanodaisy” drug delivery technique show promise against a number of cancers. Credit: Ran Mo.

( —Biomedical engineering researchers have developed
daisy-shaped, nanoscale structures that are made predominantly of
anti-cancer drugs and are capable of introducing a "cocktail" of
multiple drugs into cancer cells. The researchers are all part the joint
biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University and
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"We found that this technique was much better than conventional drug-delivery techniques at inhibiting the growth of lung cancer tumors in mice," says Dr. Zhen Gu, senior author of the paper and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering
program. "And based on in vitro tests in nine different cell lines, the
technique is also promising for use against leukemia, breast, prostate,
liver, ovarian and brain cancers."

To make the "nanodaisies," the researchers begin with a solution that
contains a polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG). The PEG forms long
strands that have much shorter strands branching off to either side.
Researchers directly link the anti-cancer drug camptothecin (CPT) onto
the shorter strands and introduce the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin (Dox)
into the solution.

PEG is hydrophilic, meaning it likes water. CPT and Dox are
hydrophobic, meaning they don't like water. As a result, the CPT and Dox
cluster together in the solution, wrapping the PEG around themselves.
This results in a daisy-shaped drug cocktail, only 50 nanometers in
diameter, which can be injected into a cancer patient.

Once injected, the nanodaisies float through the bloodstream until they are absorbed by cancer cells.
In fact, one of the reasons the researchers chose to use PEG is because
it has chemical properties that prolong the life of the drugs in the

Once in a cancer
cell, the drugs are released. "Both drugs attack the cell's nucleus,
but via different mechanisms," says Dr. Wanyi Tai, lead author and a
former postdoctoral researcher in Gu's lab.

"Combined, the drugs are more effective than either drug
is by itself," Gu says. "We are very optimistic about this technique
and are hoping to begin pre-clinical testing in the near future."

The paper, "Folding Graft Copolymer with Pedant Drug Segment for
Co-Delivery of Anticancer Drugs," is published online in the journal Biomaterials.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

World’s oldest sperm discovered. And it’s gigantic.

Fossilized giant shrimp sperm. The cord-like rods are the sperm. (Courtesy of Renate Matzke-Karasz.)
Fossilized giant shrimp. The cord-like rods are the sperm. (Courtesy of Renate Matzke-Karasz)
There’s little about the discovery that isn’t gross. It looks like angel hair pasta. It’s undeniably enormous. And it’s cocooned in bat poop.
It’s the world’s oldest sperm.
In 1988, a group of Australian paleontologists came upon a fossil cave inside Australia’s vast Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site in northern Queensland. The most interesting part of the cave, researchers thought then, were its millions of bat fossils. They were everywhere: bat bones, bat skulls, bat teeth and lots and lots of bat guano.
“It was filled with these wonderful bat fossils,” paleontologist Michael Archer, onetime director of the Australian Museum, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “Bats are fascinating, too, and we thought that was all the game was.”
The game would get a whole lot more exciting. Turns out the limestone actually contained soft tissue of an ancient muscle shrimp known as an ostracod. But it wasn’t just any soft tissue. It was perfectly preserved giant sperm, aged 17 million years.
“These are the oldest fossilised sperm ever found in the geological record,” said Archer, who co-authored a study published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “It’s staggering.”
Even more staggering is the size of the shrimp sperm. The ostracod is a very small animal — about 1 millimeter long — but, proportionally, its sperm are huge. Uncoiled, the sperm can be “can reach up to ten times the body length of its producer,” according to Science Daily.
“No one knows why ostracods have giant sperm or how they originated,” David Horne of Britain’s Queen Mary University of London told USA Today, calling the fossils “amazing.” “The new evidence that they have been around for millions of years only adds to the mystery.”
A graphic depicting the ostracod. (Courtesy of Renate Matzke-Karasz.)
The ostracod. (Courtesy of Renate Matzke-Karasz)
The sperm was found inside the reproductive tract of a fossilized female shrimp. “The sperm was clearly wound up in knots within this weird ‘zenker’ organ, balled up like a ball of string, then literally shot at and into a female and the female catches it. It’s like they were playing catch,” Archer said.
Archer contemplated the matter for a moment. “It kind of makes you feel like a dirty Peeping Tom for finding them in the middle of the act.”
But that fact adds even more mystery to the discovery, scientists say. This fossil commemorates “ancient sex with gargantuan sperm,” researcher Renate Matzke-Karasz of Germany’s Ludwig-Maximilian-University told USA Today — sex that went down immediately before the ostracods were fossilized.
It’s unclear what caused the immediate fossilization. “We don’t know how the instantaneous fossilization happened.” Archer said. “But that we don’t know what happened is part of the fun.”
Archer said he also doesn’t know for sure how the soft-tissue fossil was almost perfectly preserved for 17 million years — but he has a pretty good idea: Bat poop.
Years ago, a similar discovery involving a fossilized frog “that still looked gooey” was made in France. Archer said bat guano may have also had a hand in the preservation of that fossil.
“It’s some process related to bat poo,” he said. “It’s that magic ingredient somewhere in it. One day, some student is going to identify it, and someone is going to put it into face cream to combat aging.”
So, to recap: The world’s oldest sperm was just discovered, and it was shot like a spit ball at a female shrimp, and it’s gigantic, and it was preserved for 17 million years in bat poop?
“Yes,” Archer said, “It doesn’t conjure up the nicest image, does it? But at the end of the day, it’s fascinating.”
The sperm of a modern-day ostracod. (Courtesy of Renate Matzke-Karasz.)
The sperm of a modern-day ostracod. (Courtesy of Renate Matzke-Karasz.)

3 Juices That Skip the Sugar and Add Pep Into Your Step

Forgo the highly processed, sugary juices you see
on the grocery shelves — instead opt for nutrient dense, fresh juices
that you can make at home. As you transition into the warmer spring
months, sip on these refreshing juice recipes to get back a little
bounce into your step. If you don’t have juicer, you can use your
blender and still make these refreshing drinks.

3 Juices That Skip the Sugar and Add Pep Into Your Step 3 Juices That Skip the Sugar and Add Pep Into Your Step
JUICE CoconutLemon 3 Juices That Skip the Sugar and Add Pep Into Your Step

Coconut Lemonade

This spring, give a little twist to your classic lemonade recipe by adding in some coconut water. Coconut
water is super-hydrating, perfect for those warm spring days, and it’s
also packed with essential electrolytes that help you de-bloat
so you can fit comfortably into those spring shorts. Plus, the coconut
water sweetens the lemonade so you don’t need to add sugar.

Serves 2


  • 2 lemons
  • 2 cups coconut water

Juice your lemons. Add in your coconut water. You can use coconut
water from young Thai coconuts or you can purchase bottled coconut
water. If you’re purchasing bottled coconut water, just make sure to
check the ingredients to make sure there are no added ingredients.

JUICE SpringBeet 3 Juices That Skip the Sugar and Add Pep Into Your Step

Sweet Spring Beet Juice

The seasonal harvest of spring brings in a bounty of fresh
ingredients to play with. I always get inspired by the colors of this
season as you can see with this recipe. The bright ingredients
in this juice provide a mega dose of Vitamin C and Calcium in addition
to other vitamins and minerals only obtained in fresh produce.

These essential minerals and vitamins boost health, as well improve skin
and hair. Juicing your ingredients allows you to quickly receive the
benefits of these nutrients without the process of digestion.

Serves 2


  • 2 rhubarb stalks
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 1/4 small beet
  • 1 cucumber
  • stevia, optional

Cut your beet, and place all ingredients into your juicer. Add your stevia to sweeten if you desire.

If you don’t have a juicer, you can blend and drink as a smoothie or strain to make into a juice.

JUICE CabbagePatch 3 Juices That Skip the Sugar and Add Pep Into Your Step

Cabbage Patch Juice

Another beauty-boosting juice that’s also anti-inflammatory,
detoxing, and rich in antioxidants, this is great to drink as you get
back into movement during these warmer months — from getting back into
your workout routine, to working in the garden, or just being outdoors
more. The anti-inflammatory properties helps to lessen any pain in your
joints or muscles.

Combine the rich color of the purple cabbage, the sweetness of the
cantaloupe, the saltiness of the celery, and the kick of the ginger, and
you’ve got a well-rounded juice. It’s a bit more savory than the
others, too.

Serves 2


  • 2 cups cantaloupe
  • 1/2 small purple cabbage
  • 2 celery cticks
  • 1/2-inch knob ginger

Cut your ginger, cantaloupe, and cabbage according to the amounts needed for the recipe. Juice all your ingredients.

Again, if you do not have a juicer, you can blend and drink as a
smoothie, or if you prefer, you can strain to remove the fiber, and make
into a juice.

With these three juice recipes, you’ll be ready to bounce right into spring!

Why Your Armpits Smell So Bad

Why Your Armpits Smell So Bad

Why do armpits smell so bad? Well, those millions of bacteria have to live somewhere.

Sweat and Odor

There are two universally-accepted types of sweat glands.

Eccrine Glands

The most abundant of the sweat glands, eccrine are found on most of the body andsecrete a sweat that is: "A sterile, dilute electrolyte solution that contains primarily sodium chloride (NaCl), potassium and bicarbonate . . . ."

Most of us are familiar with the reason our eccrine glands produce sweat: "Continuous
secretion . . . provides a mechanism for thermoregulation via
evaporative heat loss [and] maintenance of electrolyte balance . . . ."

Apocrine Glands

type of gland is found in hairy places on the body, such as the armpits
and between the legs. Near the skin's surface, inside the hair
follicle, apocrine glands secrete: "A milky fluid that most commonly [occurs] when you're under emotional stress. This fluid is odorless . . . ."

Despite its innate lack of smell: "[Apocrine
sweat] is rich in precursors of odoriferous substances (cholesterol,
triglycerides, fatty acids, cholesterol esters, squalene). It also
contains androgens, carbohydrates, ammonia and ferric iron."

In addition, this gland produces pheromones, the "chemical signals that instigate behavioral responses (e.g. sexual attraction)."

Armpit Funk

At any given moment, there are 100,000,000,000,000 (one hundred trillion) bacteria living on your body. So, of course, a few are going to wander down to the smorgasbord that is your armpit, itself "home to one million bacteria per square centimeter."

Dining on the aforementioned precursors, notable axillary stinkers include Corynebacterium spp., Staphylococcus spp., Micrococcus spp. and Propionbacterium spp., and, depending on their food of choice, any of a range of offensive odors can be produced: "The
sulfur-containing molecules are the worst, giving armpits their
characteristic nauseating, onion-like smell. . . [while others produce]
a cumin spice-like odor . . . . Two possible pheromones, androstenol,
which is musky, and androstenone . . . [may also contribute. Finally,]
isovaleric acid has a cheesy, sweaty foot smell, as does propionic

A Wealth of Information

Researchers have determined that some mammals are born with distinct bouquets, organized into odortypes: "An
individual's odortype is determined in part by genes in [the] . . .
major histocompatibility complex (MHC), which plays a role in the immune
system . . . ."

Acting as "olfactory nametags,"
an individual's unique fragrance helps others identify him, and
apparently, it cannot be changed, no matter how much garlic and cumin he
eats: "In behavioral tests, 'sensor' mice were trained to use their
sense of smell to choose between pairs of test mice that differed in
MHC genes, diet or both. . . . The results . . . indicate that
genetically determined odortypes persisted regardless of what the mice
ate, even though dietary changes did strongly influence the odor
profiles of individual mice. Both the sensor mice and chemical analysis
could still detect the underlying odortypes."

The study's authors concluded that: "If
this can be shown to be the case for humans, it opens the possibility
that devices can be developed to detect individual odorprints in

Later research explored the extent to which disease
in a body gives off an aroma by taking advantage of the olfactory
virtuosity of our canine friends: "A
Belgian Malinois shepherd was trained . . . to scent and recognize
urine of people having PCa [prostate cancer] . . . After a learning
phase and a training period of 24 mo, the dog's ability to discriminate
PCa and control urine was tested in a double-blind procedure. . . . .
The dog . . . correctly designated the cancer samples in 30 of 33 cases.
Of the three cases wrongly classified as cancer, one patient was
rebiopsied and a PCa was diagnosed."

It Could Be Worse

Some people suffer from a condition where they're body odor smells like rotting fish. Calledtrimethylaminuria, people with this disorder cannot break down trimethylamine: "Which
is found in eggs, liver, legumes and some grains. [Commonly] it is
broken down by bacteria [and] . . . is normally oxidized in the liver to
odourless TMAO [trimethylamine], which is excreted from the body."

The compound smells like fish because it is commonly found in them. It is "believed… it… increases osmotic concentration and thus depress the freezing point of body fluids."

In people who suffer from trimethylaminuria, the smell is emitted in their "sweat, urine and breath," a condition often leading to social isolation and derision, such as the much-reviled Caliban of Shakespeare'sThe Tempest:
"What have we here? a man or a fish? dead or alive? A fish: he smells
like a fish; a very ancient and fish-like smell . . . . A strange fish!"

is a rare inherited condition that only occurs in people who inherited
two copies of the defective gene, one each from their mother and father.
It is estimated that 1 in 10,000 suffers from this syndrome.

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Bonus Fact:

  • A
    third type of sweat gland, called apoeccrine, has been suggested by
    some scientists, although a 2007 study that examined axillary (armpit)
    skin failed to find evidence of it "either by histology or by immunofluorescence."