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More recent advances in the pharmaceutical industry that will benefit patients are highlighted here. A blood test for cancer? What does that mean? There is a group working on developing an early detection screening for breast cancer using markers produced by the body. More leading-edge research from the scientific community to benefit humankind. The second highlight covers potential new therapeutic targets for obesity. 

Autoantibodies have shown promise for early cancer detection. A group from the Centre of Excellence for Autoimmunity in Cancer (CEAC) group at the University of Nottingham (UK) has presented research at the NCRI conference (3—5 November 2019, Glasgow, UK) suggesting that a panel of tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) could be used to detect early breast cancer. If validated, the blood test would be cost-effective and easier to perform than current screening methods, such as mammography.

The test works by comparing markers from cancer patients with those of people without cancer to get a differential profile used to predict the presence of 67 tumor markers at a very early stage. Accuracy of the prediction is promising in early tests and is currently being improved. 

The same research group is also working on similar tests are also being performed in other cancers. One test for lung cancer involves 12,000 people in Scotland with a high risk of lung cancer owing to a history of smoking. The CEAC group is also working on pancreatic, colorectal and liver cancers. These tests are in the early stage and considered preliminary at this point. 

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Could research on grizzly bear hibernation help to reduce human obesity? Researchers have used RNA sequencing to provide an insight into the underlying mechanisms of hibernation in grizzly bears. 

Low activity in humans usually results in an accumulation of fat and consequential health deterioration, including an increased risk of Type II Diabetes and cardiovascular ailments. Bears, and other large hibernators, have evolved immunity to these effects during hibernation. Consequentially, it is believed that by increasing our understanding of the physiological and cellular changes experienced in different hibernating species we could uncover a route of new treatments for human diseases, particularly those related to obesity and insulin resistance. 

Would it be possible to sleep yourself thinner? How cool would that be? 

Researchers at Washington State University (WA, USA) have taken steps toward this by investigating the genetic changes in the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) before and during hibernation. In this study, published recently in Communications Biology, samples of liver, adipose and muscle tissue were taken from six bears during their active, hyperphagic (just before hibernation) and hibernation periods. The researchers then extracted and sequenced RNA from these samples to determine any transcriptional changes between the different tissue types at the different points in their hibernation cycle. 

During hibernation, the bears displayed dynamic gene expression changes in all three tissue types, but this change was greatest in the adipose tissue. All three tissue types displayed similar changes during hibernation with reduced expression of genes associated with insulin signaling, urea production and muscle protein degradation. There were many genes differentially expressed in the adipose tissue. The researchers believe that the subset of genes discovered to be differentially expressed across all three tissue types could reflect a common regulatory mechanism for hibernation regarding the development, storage, and use of fat. 

Can any of this information be useful for human obesity? Time will tell as the work is preliminary and more research is required to unlock the secrets, if there are any, applicable to humans. 

Researchers are hopeful the gene families identified in this study could provide a useful option for developing novel therapies to treat human and animal diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis. One thing that seems to be clear is that sleep deprivation could increase risk of obesity in humans. It is important to get enough sleep in your normal routine. 

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Dr. Joe Nieusma and the Superior Toxicology & Wellness

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