Science Reporting

Scientists discover that blueberries can make antibiotics more efficient

A new study that appeared in Advanced Science shows that blueberries could be useful to counter the increasingly pressing resistance to antibiotics that for several years has been undermining many attempts to combat bacterial infections.

The pathogenic bacteria, in fact, could be treated with molecules derived from blueberries. With such treatments, bacteria could become more sensitive to lower doses of antibiotics according to scientists at McGill University and the INRS in Montreal. Researchers have tested the effects of blueberry extract on various bacteria responsible for urinary tract infections (on the other hand, blueberry juice itself is known precisely because it is useful against this type of infection). Effects on pneumonia and gastroenteritis bacteria (Proteus mirabilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli) have also been tested.

By treating these bacteria with antibiotics based on blueberry extract, researchers found that they did not develop resistance because the blueberry extract itself increased bacterial sensitivity to antibiotics in two ways: by making the bacterial cell wall more permeable to the antibiotic and by interfering with the ways in which the bacteria themselves pump out the antibiotic.

These are “really exciting” results, as Éric Déziel, professor of microbiology and one of the authors of the study, together with Nathalie Tufenkji (the lead author) says.

Now scientists want to understand if these effects also exist in living animals and are trying to test juice and blueberry derivatives on infected insects. Perhaps one day new blueberry-based antibiotics will be developed that can be of enormous help in the war against bacteria that are pathogenic to humans.

Science Reporting

Gold could be used for gene therapy for HIV and blood disorders

Gold particles could be used in gene therapy according to a study by Fred Hutchinson’s Cancer Research Center published in Nature Materials. In particular, gold nanoparticles can be used to modify genes in a rare but powerful subset of blood stem cells. This method could be used to make gene modification tools for HIV and hereditary blood diseases.

This is because gold nanoparticles, made up of very small spheres of one-billionth the size of a grain of kitchen salt, have a particular surface that allows the other molecules to stick and remain attached.

As Reza Shahbazi, a researcher who has also worked with gold nanoparticles to administer drugs in past years, explains, these gold nanoparticles can “quickly cross the cell membrane, dodge cell organelles trying to destroy them and go directly to the cell nucleus to modify genes.”

In particular, the researchers found that a particular size of these tiny spheres, i.e. 19 nanometres in diameter, is particularly effective because it is neither too large nor too small and makes the spheres sufficiently “sticky” so that genetic editing materials can be added to their surface.

“I wanted to find something simpler, something that would passively transmit gene editing to blood stem cells,” says Jennifer Adair, senior author of the study.

Science Reporting

Flavoured liquids of electronic cigarettes may cause endothelial cell dysfunction according to a new study

A new study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, finds a link between acute exposure to the flavored liquids of electronic cigarettes and the general use of the latter with a dysfunction of endothelial cells, a condition that often precedes certain heart diseases. Endothelial cells are cells that make up the tissue of the inner part of blood vessels as well as the heart.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed various healthy subjects without important cardiovascular risk factors. These were five healthy non-smokers, five active cigarette smokers, two users of e-cigarettes and cigarettes and two users of e-cigarettes only. The researchers verified the effects of six commercially available e-cigarette liquids, each with different levels of nicotine, on the endothelial cells of individuals.

The researchers found that all flavored liquids had effects, although different in severity, on cell survival. They also observed the presence of pro-inflammatory markers, known to play a role in vascular diseases, as an effect on the use of these liquids. The strongest toxic effect came from a liquid flavored with cinnamon flavor and another with mentholated tobacco flavor.

According to Joseph C Wu, professor at Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and author of the study, the data “suggest that the use of electronic cigarettes can lead to acute endothelial dysfunction, which we have validated by in vitro exposure of both e-liquids and derived serum to patients using electronic cigarettes.”

The study was presented at the 68th Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology.

Science Reporting

Small electric shocks in the brain facilitate memory retrieval

According to a study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, it is possible to use small electric current shocks to stimulate a particular region of the brain that is the basis of memory preservation. A small amount of electric current, in fact, according to scientists, could stimulate the left prefrontal rostrolateral cortex and improve the ability of the brain to recover memories.

It is the result that some researchers directed by Jesse Rissman, professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, have achieved when they increased, precisely through small electric shocks, the excitability of this region in the brains of some patients. Patients were equipped with a small device that sent a small electrical signal to the brain through an electrode placed on the scalp.

This electrical signal was used to increase the excitability of neurons in the left prefrontal rostrolateral cortex. This area of the brain, located on the left side of the forehead, is known to play a key role in high-level thinking, including monitoring and integrating information that is conveyed to other areas of the brain itself.

According to UCLA scientists, this specific region is of fundamental importance for access to our “archive” of memories, which in turn is very important when, for example, you have to make a decision.

“The fact that people do better in this memory task when we excite this region with electrical stimulation provides causal evidence that contributes to memory retrieval,” Rissman says.

Of course, this discovery could prove very useful in the context of all therapies aimed at the recovery of memories and in general at improving memory.