No Major Variation in GIT Evolution of All Animals from Fish to Humans

Introduction

Studies on the evolution of the human Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT) have shown evolutionary traits that are similar to those of fish and other related vertebrates. This study has shed light on GIT illnesses related to the intestines and digestion, such as obesity, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diabetes, just to name a few. These findings were published in the PLOS Biology Journal on Tuesday 29th August 2017.

Senior researcher and author of the report, John F. Rawls, a molecular genetics and microbiology associate professor at the Duke University School of Medicine said that the results of the study suggest that fish, humans and related vertebrates share a common evolutionary path when it comes to the GIT, and that answers to some of these illnesses could be found in further study of these animals. The genes associated with the illnesses described above can be turned off and on, and therein lies the treatment and cure.

Penis Worm Priapulids GIT Evolution

Supporting evidence from the sea

Another study of the enigmatic marine Penis Worm (Priapulids) shows that the same genes may be the ones that control the development of the GIT beyond mere vertebrates. Dr. Andreas Hejnol, a researcher at the Sars International Center for Marine Molecular Biology said that it was a surprise to find that Priapulids for the gut in much the same way as starfish, sea urchins, fish frogs and humans.

This shows that different organisms for the GIT using the same genes and this development are more than 500 million years old. The results of the study were published in the Current Biology journal on 25th October 2017.

zebrafish

Reasons why the study of the evolution of the GIT is so important

The GIT is central to several important functions in all vertebrates. Primarily it digests food and absorbs nutrients, but it also processes toxins and drugs, stimulates the immune system and provides protection against the bacteria that could be harmful were they to enter the blood stream and other organs.

It has been indicated that some defects in the epithelial cells of the GIT are the root cause of colorectal cancer, infectious diarrhea, malnutrition, food allergies, obesity, diabetes and inflammatory bowel syndrome.

For a long time, scientists have comparatively studied higher vertebrates to find answers to human diseases, but the link across species had never been clear till now.

stickleback fish GIT evolution

Further study into the evolutionary paths of distant species

Colin Lickwar, another associate researcher and lead author, together with colleague have studied four species with distinctly different evolutionary paths to see if there are similarities in the evolution of the GIT. These species, humans, mice, zebrafish and stickleback fish have shown an oddly similar activity level of all their genes, and specific gene sequences in the same location which could be switched on and off.

Much to his surprise, Lickwar found that there was an amazing similarity between vertebrates. There was an intestinal epithelial sell structure that shared patterns along the GIT. These genes have been identified as causal to several human illnesses. If a control was to be found in one species, could it also be applied to another species, say human beings?

zebrafish flourscent

Implications in tackling human diseases

Human illnesses caused by the GIT have baffled scientists for a very long time. The results of this study have implications for the treatment of these diseases. The study of how fluorescent proteins were switched in the transparent zebrafish, could yield results that could be transcribed to humans.

Should treatments in these other species work, then scientists will only be a few steps away from finding treatments and cures for the diseases mentioned above. A lot of study still remains to be done, but this is one of the closets that researchers have been to finding a cure for diseases such as diabetes, which are difficult to manage, among many others..

GIT human

Conclusion

The similarity in the GIT evolution of humans and other vertebrates is similar, and has been so for hundreds of millions of years. The ancient gene responsible for the development of the Gastrointestinal Tract is similar in all the animals studied and these can be transcribed to other animals as well. It therefore remains to be seen whether treatment of certain conditions in other species can be related to treatments for the same conditions in humans. Perhaps, illnesses like diabetes will be a thing of the past, thanks to the innovative studies conducted by these scientists.

The study conducted with other organizations has shown that organisms completed unrelated to each other along the evolutionary pathway could hold answers to illnesses and conditions that seem to have no treatment or cure. This is probably the beginning of an alternative way of looking for cures to various human illnesses.

The research was done as a collaborative effort between the Sars International Center for Marine Molecular Biology, the Duke University School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

The Spider Silk Protein May Lead to Generation of Artificial Heart for Humans

The biocompatibility, biodegradability and strength of spider silk are some of the properties that have excited researchers on the possibilities it provides.

This is a protein-based compound that does not cause any adverse allergic, immune or inflammatory reactions in humans. Recently, recombinant technology has enabled scientists to manufacture spider silk, and there is a race to see what uses it can be put to.

A research team in Nottingham was able to use the silk to manufacture a biodegradable mesh that can accomplish two tasks at the same time. Firstly, it can be used as a replacement for the cellular matrix that is generated by human cells. This will help in the growth of new tissue, and is great for healing purposes. The matrix can also be used for making slow release antibiotics.

These developments show the immense possibilities of creating wound dressings from spider silk, which will help the wound to heal faster through the acceleration of tissue growth and also the slow release of the necessary antibiotics.

spider silk

The medical history of spider silk

For centuries spider silk has been used for medicinal purposes, but this history has not been properly documented. The Romans and Greeks used spider silk as a battle ground dressing when their soldiers were wounded. The methods used was quite ingenious. Deep cuts were washed out using a mixture of vinegar and honey, and then the wounds were packed with balls of spider webs.

Shakespeare also mentions this amazing healing power of spider silk in Midsummer Night’s Dream: “I shall desire you of more acquaintance, good master cobweb. If I cut my finger, I shall make bold of you” said the character called Bottom.

The development of spider silk in modern medicine

It took about 5 years for the research team at the University of Nottingham to develop a means by which chemically functionalized spider silk is created. The spider silk can then be used for a wide range of wound healing, tissue regeneration and drug delivery purposes.

A technique known as “click-chemistry” is used to attach molecules to the silk. These can then be slowly released from the silk over a long time. In the case of antibiotic delivery, they added the antibiotic levofloxacin to the spider silk, and this was released slowly for a period of 5 days. This means that when used to dress a wound, the wound is kept safe from infection for 5 days, before the dressing is changed.

Spider silk and cardiac tissue generation

Following these amazing discoveries, more research into spider silk and other artificial silk products went a notch higher, aiming at generating cardiac tissue. The protein that gives spider silk its mechanical stability has demonstrated excellent suitability for application as a scaffolding material in the generation of cardiac tissue.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheibel of the University of Bayreuth has produced silk from garden spiders in quantities that are large, and constant qualities thank to the use of E. coli bacteria.

Moving on, the research continued, with the collaboration of Jana Petzold, to apply a thin layer of silk protein on a glass slide for observation. They were able t focus on the functionality of cardiac ceils and came to the conclusion that there were no functional differences between the two.

They showed that hypertrophy, a condition where the heart ceils get enlarged especially in pregnant women and athletes could also manifest within the cardiac cell grown on a thin layer of fibronectin, derived from spider silk.

Spider silk protein

What are the implications of these studies?

If spider silk can be used to generate cardiac tissue, then some time in the future, artificial hearts could be available for transplant to people with cardiac conditions. This is something that has excited the medical fraternity given that cardiac illnesses are on the increase.

More people all over the world are suffering from cardiac conditions, even if there have been great strides in preventing and slowing down damage to cardiac tissue. Cardiac tissue does not naturally regenerate and when there is an irreversible loss of tissue in the heart, its functioning is affected.

Currently there is no treatment for this king of tissue loss, and the research into the use of  spider silk to create cardiac tissue has promising results.  The artificial silk protein that is made within a lab environment can soon be used to make cardiac tissue in high volumes and help people with cardiac tissue loss, or ischemic diseases.

Apart from cardiac tissue, the other tissue regeneration properties of the protein could have immense implications on the treatment of diseases that attack the body cells. E.g. Lupus. A lot is yet to be learned about the full potential of spider silk in modern medicine but the outlook is positive and excitingly full of possibilities.

Researchers Literally Reach for the Moon in Search for Parkinson’s Disease Cure

Researchers believe that the cure for Parkinson’s disease may be found by conducting their experiments in microgravity environments in space. One of the key Parkinson’s Disease proteins, called LRRK2, will be sent to the International Space Station for further study. Researchers say that microgravity conditions found in space will provide an optimal environment for conducting their experiments on this protein. All materials for this project will be sent to space aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule. They will be sent together with supplies and other science experiments to the International Space Station. The Michael J Fox Foundation, whose founder also suffers from this disease, is collaborating with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space to find a cure for this disease.

More about Parkinson’s disease and the myths surrounding it

Parkinson’s disease is fraught with many myths about who can get it and why. We look at one famous personality who suffered from the disease and how his experiences clear the myths about the disease.

Maryum Ali, daughter of World-Famous boxing champion Muhammad Ali, says he was just “Dad” to her, and had to watch him transform from boxing champion to the most famous face of Parkinson’s Disease. Mohammad Ali was diagnosed with the disease almost 30 years ago, and later died a hero for having battled it for so long.

Parkinson’s Disease comes from the loss of the brain cells responsible for Dopamine production. The disease is characterized by impaired balance, rigid muscles, tremors and loss of memory and cognitive brain function.

When Muhammad Ali was diagnosed, there was very little information about the disease, which left doctors bewildered and at a loss of how to manage or cure it. A lot of myths were raised at the time, and some are still lingering to this day.

parkinsons disease Myth Number 1 – Parkinson’s disease is for older people

There is some truth in this myth, because the disease mostly affects people at around the age of 80. However, 10 percent of all people affected by the disease are under the age of 40 (data from the National Parkinson’s Foundation); young people are increasingly being diagnosed with the disease.

Myth Number 2 – There is nothing that can be done once a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease

People have always seen the disease as one that has no cure or management; this is not true. There are several ways in which you can effectively manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. In Ali’s case, exercise helped a lot in keeping the disease at bay for longer.

The Geriatrics and Gerontology International journal published findings from a study which showed that Parkinson’s Disease patients who exercised for just one hour a week showed a marked improvement in their day to day activities. They were compared to a control group that did not exercise at all.

Brain stimulation treatments are another option that can help. Basically, a patient should look for an expert who can do an evaluation and then provide a solution. There is always hope for people with the disease.

Myth number 3 – Parkinson’s disease is genetic

Only 5 percent of the people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease exhibit a genetic history of the disease. Scientists do not know what causes the disease, although they have shown that genetics do have a role to play. According to the National Institutes of Health, chemicals within the environment may be the main culprits in the development of this disease. There are inflammations and viruses which have also been linked to the disease.

What to take home about the myths is that Parkinson’s disease can be found in younger people, and there are many options available for the effective management of the symptoms.

parkinsons disease

What will happen in space?

The protein LRRK2 has the ability to modify other proteins. It is the mutations found in the genetic code in the LRRK2 protein that is thought to cause the disease in some individuals. Researchers are looking into the development of drugs that will inhibit or fully block the activity of this protein, so they can stop the disease from developing or slow its progress once it has manifested in a patient.

However, the knowledge of the precise structure of this protein is crucial to the development of such drugs. It is necessary to grow the crystals of LRRKS in lab dishes in order to get a detailed view of its structure. They have come to the conclusion that the gravity on Earth will affect the growth of the crystals and make them too small for effective study, hence the need to conduct this part of the research in space, under microgravity conditions.

One researcher from the University of Oxford, Sebastian Mathea, says that the quality of crystals grown under the gravity of earth is not good enough for effective study. He mentioned this at a press conference about the project on August 8th 2017.

This is why it is necessary to conduct the experiment on the International Space Station. The belief is that the microgravity conditions at the International Space Station will allow the crystals to become larger and have fewer defects. This way, they will be able to get a sharper, more-detailed look into the structure of LRRK2.

Mathea went ahead and said that the crystals will be grown in space for about a month, before being sent back to earth for analysis. The analysis will be done using high-energy X-rays.

According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, there is no current treatment to stop or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. The disease is a progressive neurological disorder and causes difficulty in movement, tremors, sluggish speech, and muscle stiffness.

If the study is successful, humanity will be one step closer to finding a cure for this debilitating disease, and give hope to millions of sufferers all over the world.

The Irreplaceable Role of Molecular Biology in the Health of Mankind

Molecular biology – This is a term that has recently gained in popularity. Most people do not really understand how this branch of biology works. This article will explain the definition of molecular biology and its irreplaceable role for the health of mankind.

What is Molecular Biology?

Molecular biology is a branch in biological science that combines two branches, namely Genetics and Biochemistry. It all began with the important discovery of the double helix structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953. Both scientists were regarded as pioneers of molecular biology. Their findings inspired many other discoveries, one of which is very important, that genes determine proteins by regulating the order of nucleotides (in RNA) that ultimately compile the amino acid sequence in a protein. This was an important milestone in molecular biology! This milestone triggered a branch of genetic engineering that allows the isolation and multiplication of genes as a characteristic of this science.

Cell life

The Central Role in Cell Life

All life forms in the universe originate from cells. Cells are what form the basis of all life forms and cell life is a representation of proteins (polypeptides) and DNA (genes). In traditional understanding, proteins act as enzymes that regulate the functionality of various organs in the body. Apart from being an enzyme, proteins are also responsible for the formation of cytoskeleton and matrix between cells, receptors, hormones, transcription factors, antibodies, etc. Some types of proteins play more roles; Regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation, organogenesis, histogenesis and apoptosis (associated with cell death). From this, we can understand the importance of proteins in human life and how genetic engineering processes depend heavily on the modification of the protein. All the attributes of all life forms are determined by the genes and they are governed by proteins.

Two Categories of Genes

Several types of genes have been discovered but scientists divide them into two main categories: Structural Genes and Regulatory Genes.

Structural genes are genes that encode amino acid sequences in proteins. We can take the enzyme as an example of the result of regulation by structural genes. Enzymes determine biochemical activity (related to catabolism and anabolic reactions) in every organism.

Regulatory genes serve as controllers or regulators for structural gene expression rates, protein production rates as well as cell responses, both intracellular and extracellular.

In other words, we can conclude that genes and proteins are inseparable and both determine the life of all organisms to the smallest point.

DNA RNA

Progress in the Development of Molecular Biology towards Modern Medical Sciences

Modern medical sciences such as genetics, histology, embryology, physiology, parasitology, pathology, pharmacology, etc. are all strongly influenced by molecular biology through molecular therapy. We can find examples in the treatment of Severe Combined Immuno Deficiency (SCID) disease, thalassemia, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis and cancer. All use molecular therapy as a base (except for a few forms of cancer treatment).

Technical Review

Since the early 1960s, experts have attempted to manipulate cells. They began by isolating the constituent components such as DNA, as well as RNA as “close relatives of DNA” that serve as gene catalysts, gene expression controllers, and also respond to cellular signal stimulation. Unlike DNA, we can find RNA in the form of a single strand. Cell manipulation has a strong foundation of what is called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). It is a manipulative reaction that makes it possible to alter acid-base DNA, amplify RNA, and also quantify the DNA molecule (and RNA). Molecular biology also provides theoretical basis for gel electrophoresis, which, in general, has the principle that DNA, RNA, and various other forms of proteins can be separated by using a particular electric field. For example, DNA and RNA can be separated by size using an SDS-PAGE gel based on the size of the protein and the required electrical charge. This is important in gene modification and we know that many diseases actually originate from functional deviations of genes.

DNA Array

DNA array is “a laboratory term” for a collection of spots attached to solid support such as a microscope slide, each of which holds one or more DNA fragments of oligonucleotides. This is classified as a technique that allows scientists to place micro spots (about 100 micrometers in size) on a slide. This modern technique functioned as a review of gene expression of an organism. In practical medicine, this technique is used to compare gene expression between two tissues; Healthy tissue and cancer tissue. We know that cancer is an event of cell mutation in high speed. The lay community identifies it as malignancy. By comparing gene expression (using array techniques) between the two networks, we can understand how the effect of genes works on both. Scientists have found that they can cure cancer by attacking the heart of the problem, gene mutation!

Treatment of the Disease is Caused by a Virus

We all know HIV, a dangerous virus that attacks the human immune system. This virus causes the condition of AIDS, one where the individual does not have resistance towards any disease. HIV has not been cured until now. This disease can only be controlled with the intake of certain drugs, commonly called as Antiretroviral Drugs, which have a major function as a preventer of viral replication. Viruses cannot be completely eliminated but they can be prevented from multiplying.

HIV virus

Conclusion

Three years ago, a group of US researchers claimed that they could fight HIV by editing the genome. They edited the patient’s genome so that they can develop resistance to fight the virus. The success was still within the scale of very early clinical research. The research paper was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Editing genome is a process of inserting, replacing, or removing certain genes from the genome. The genome editing process is assisted by nuclease compounds. It plays a vital role in cutting and connecting genes that are often called Molecular Shears. All these intricate processes stem from the important discovery of the double helical structure of DNA nearly 7 decades ago. All are covered in molecular biology and this is the reason why this branch of science has an irreplaceable role in the health of mankind.

 

Tips and Advice on Growing Plants in Aquariums – What You Need to Know

We all know plants require sunlight, micro nutrients, macro nutrients and CO2 to grow healthy. However, very few know that there is an optimum amount for each to ensure a healthy growth for plants. If one is far less than the others, while growth may occur, it certainly wouldn’t be the healthiest way. Balance is the key here. If you’re planning to have plants in your aquarium to provide the best environment you can for your fishes, then you need to know more about this. Let’s break down these important factors:

Sunlight/Lighting

Light is an essential factor needed for chemical reactions to occur in plants without which, they wouldn’t be able to produce any food. The absence of light leads to the certain death for plants. To ensure the best possible growth for your plant, you need to know the correct spectrum of light that is required. Plants utilize light in the blue and red spectrum best for growth. However, as far as aesthetics are concerned, the full spectrum of light is what makes everything visually pop.

Plants Aquarium

While sunlight is optimal for plants on land, it might not be the best for plants in aquariums. While the full spectrum of sunlight may make your aquarium look good, most purists or hobbyists see it as having many disadvantages. The amount of light would either be too weak for the plants or short. It can also be very bad for fishes and plants alike if there are significant fluctuations in the light. Algae growth is yet another bad consequence of incorrect amount of light in aquariums. Considering all these facts, it is far more efficient and effective to use artificial lights for aquariums.

Full spectrum fluorescent light is one of the best ways to light up your aquarium. The amount of light required for optimum plant growth differs according to the density of plants in the aquarium. If the aquarium is sparely planted, then about 1.5w of light per every gallon of water is the recommended amount. If however, your aquarium is densely planted, then 3w to 5w per gallon would be optimum. In both cases, 10 to 12 hours of light supply is essential for encouraging and allowing healthy and efficient plant growth.

Aquarium

Carbon Dioxide

Co2 is another essential element required for plants to create food. During the process of photosynthesis, co2 is transformed into carbohydrate and used for plant growth. Aquariums that don’t have a good co2 source have about 1-3ppm of the gas but most plants flourish when there is about 10-20 ppm of co2 in the water. Co2 supplementation is very important for having an effective planted aquarium.

There are two different types of co2 setups for aquariums namely, a co2 tank and the DIY co2 reactor. The co2 tank is quite simple to use and it’s better for large aquariums, although it will get expensive in the long run. The DIY co2 reactor is made for smaller aquariums by combining yeast, sugar and water.

Macro Nutrients

Plants also require various nutrients in large amounts for their growth like Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus.Excessive amounts of these nutrients will result in an undesirable growth of algae in the tank. So when providing nutrients to plants in your aquarium, remember moderation is the key. These elements also exist organically. For instance, Nitrogen is easily available and present in the form of ammonium from fish waste. Ammonium is actually very good for the plants because it actually takes less energy to use. Potassium and phosphorous on the other hand can be provided from external sources like fish food. Certain fertilizers also contain potassium and they can be added in small quantities.

Macro nutrients should be supplemented if your aquarium is densely planted or if you are growing medium and hard category plants since they require more nutrients.

neon tetra

Micro Nutrients

M nutrients like iron, copper, zinc, sulphur, calcium and magnesium are some of the other essential ingredients needed. While iron is usually present in tap water, it usually gets oxidized to the limit where it becomes unusable for plants. One way to prevent it from happening is to use chelated iron mixtures which prevents the iron from oxidizing. The amount of iron in the water should be less than 0.2 ppm. Calcium and magnesium can also be found in tap water but it’s usually not enough so they should be added externally in small amounts. One very important thing to remember as far as micro nutrients are concerned is that they should be added only in very small amounts. Too much if it can lead to high toxicity in the water which will be very detrimental to the plant’s growth in the aquarium.

The final point in setting up an effective planted aquarium is to change water each week. This will not only remove extra fish waste but also get rid of any unwanted nutrients. Doing so will not only promote better growth but it also suppress algae growth. By informing yourself of key factors such as these, you will have no problem in maintaining a healthy environment for your fishes and plants.