Exposure to pharmaceutical contaminants via vegetables

09416-notw7-fruitnvegcxdWith freshwater resources dwindling worldwide, the practice of using treated wastewater to irrigate crops is growing. But that practice might have a downside: In a new study, people who ate vegetables grown using such reclaimed water had increased urine levels of carbamazepine, an antiepileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater.

Continue reading “Exposure to pharmaceutical contaminants via vegetables”

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New twist on antibiotic hunt hits pay dirt

The antibiotic discovery pipeline received a much-needed boost in January. Teixobactin, a natural product from previously uncultured bacteria, was shown to have potent activity against Gram-positive pathogens and a novel mechanism of action, making it a potentially valuable asset in the battle against bacterial resistance. Continue reading “New twist on antibiotic hunt hits pay dirt”

Will McDonald’s ‘sustainable beef’ burgers really be any better?

McDonaldsIn the near future, you might not feel as guilty about ordering a Big Mac. McDonald’s claims that by 2016, some of its iconic burgers – along with other beef products – will be made with “verified sustainable beef”. The only problem: it’s unclear what exactly is so sustainable – or indeed verifiable – about the beef of the future. Continue reading “Will McDonald’s ‘sustainable beef’ burgers really be any better?”

Gins of the Fathers: Alcohol and the Next Generation

05_GinsofFather_rotate5It’s something pediatricians are taught to discuss with their young patients: Alcoholism runs in families, they counsel, so if yours has a strong history of this condition, you should be especially careful about drinking. But researchers’ efforts to pin down specific genes that contribute to this heritability have largely come up short. “Nobody has found a smoking gun that says, This is a gene that causes alcoholism,” says Gregg Homanics, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh (with a PhD in animal science). He and Andrey Finegersh, an MD/PhD student in his lab, decided to try a slightly different tack. “We thought that maybe in alcoholics, drinking a lot would cause some changes in what controls the genes—and that is what gets passed down to the next generation,” says Homanics. The findings from the resulting study were published in PLOS ONE in June.

[Read more at Pitt Med Magazine (scroll down to third story) // Fall 2014]

Setback prompts rethink of latency-reversing strategy to eliminate HIV infection

Antiretroviral drugs have been spectacularly effective in controlling HIV by hobbling the virus’s ability to infect cells, but they do not deplete the reservoirs of latently infected cells that remain a major barrier to a cure. One appealing solution to this problem has been latency-reversing agents (LRAs) that can reactivate the dormant virus, bringing it out of hiding so that it can be targeted and killed. The first-generation LRAs, however, have recently hit a snag. Four frontrunners that had shown potential in cell-culture models and preliminary clinical studies are
only minimally effective in a patient cell assay, shows a new study. A fifth compound, although more potent, is likely to be too toxic for
clinical use.

[Read more at Nature Reviews Drug Discovery (paywall) or download PDF // May 30, 2014]

Male researchers stress out rodents

Male, but not female, experimenters induce intense stress in rodents that can dampen pain responses, according to a paper published today in Nature Methods. Such reactions affect the rodents’ behaviour and potentially confound the results of animal studies, the study suggests.

The authors discovered this surprising gender disparity while investigating whether the presence of experimenters affects rodent pain studies. For years, anecdotal reports have suggested that rodents show a diminished pain response when a handler remains in the room.

[Read more at Nature (also published at Scientific American online) // April 28, 2014]

Polypill improves adherence but fails to win scientists’ hearts

Nicholas Wald’s flash of insight came about 15 years ago. While recovering from a serious illness at his wife’s family’s house in New York, he watched as his father-in-law swallowed multiple pills each day to treat his cardiovascular disease. “I thought, my goodness, the combined effect of these pills is very large, but the problem is they should have started giving them 30 years ago as a preventative treatment,” recalls Wald, an epidemiologist at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry in the UK.

[Read more at Nature Medicine (paywall) or download PDF // October 7, 2013]