New research is showing that exposure to dim light at night may negatively impact the effectiveness of breast cancer treatments. In a laboratory setting, dim light exposure during night cycles made human breast tumors in rats more resistant to doxorubicin, a standard chemotherapy for breast cancer.
But why? Well, it’s all about melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is produced naturally by the body during dark periods at night. In this research study, exposure to light at night disrupted rats’ melatonin cycles. Half of the rats, however, received melatonin supplements to make up for this. Researchers found that the tumors grew almost three times faster in rats that did not receive supplements, and their tumors were completely resistant to doxorubicin. It seems that the presence of melatonin helped support higher levels of active doxorubicin in the breast cancer cells, and prevented enzymes from breaking it down and making it less effective.
At this point, researchers aren’t ready to make supplementation recommendations for human breast cancer patients. And if the effects of melatonin ARE similar in humans, recommendations for supplementation would need to be carefully monitored. If disrupting the natural melatonin cycle can cause the body to react to cancer treatments differently, then incorrectly supplementing could also cause undesired effects. However, since this isn’t the first time that dim light exposure at night has been shown to have negative effects, it’s possible that this research could prompt patients to be more aware of light exposure disruptions during night cycles.
Read more about it here: http://www.aacr.org/Newsroom/Pages/News-Release-Detail.aspx?ItemID=608#.VC9VpPldWSo
MRSA- Picture courtesy of CDC’s Public Health Image Library
Antibiotic resistance is a growing- and serious- problem. Most antibiotics work by interfering with cell functions, but certain types of bacteria (like MRSA) have evolved in such a way that these antibiotics just won’t work. Researchers all over the world are working on this problem, and it seems that scientists at MIT have made a pretty significant breakthrough.
By using a genome-editing system called CRISPR, researchers have been able to target the genes that allow bacteria to resist antibiotics. And by targeting the genes responsible for antibiotic resistance and disrupting them, they were able to kill over 99% of the resistant bacteria. Using this method, they also successfully increased survival rates of waxworm larvae infected with a nasty form of E. coli.
Currently, research in mice is in progress. The goal is that one day, this technology could be modified to work on humans. As recent research hasn’t yielded many new classes of antibiotics, this method may ultimately play an important role in stopping the spread of antibiotic resistance in the human population.
Read more about it here: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/fighting-drug-resistant-bacteria-0921
Nature has always provided inspiration for human medicine. Aspirin, penicillin, quinine, taxol- the list goes on. But now, with the increase of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, we need inspiration more than ever! So researchers are getting creative.
With advances in technology, we’re able to explore more of our planet than ever before. And that includes the deepest parts of the ocean! The Peru-Chile trench is 8 km deep (OK, so maybe only a league and a half under the sea- still pretty deep!) and it’s home to a multitude of organisms and microbes that flourish in extreme conditions. This could potentially be a huge breakthrough in the development of new medicines and new antibiotics.
The goal is to isolate bacteria, let it grow, and then test it on hundreds of disease samples to see what happens. If there’s a positive reaction, zebrafish might be able to help researchers in the next steps of testing. Let’s hope that research in the Peru-Chile trench yields some lifesaving results! It’s estimated that within a couple of decades, antibiotic resistance could be such a huge problem that simple infections could kill you. While that’s definitely an unsettling thought, it’s reassuring to know that researchers are going to such lengths to make sure that no stone is unturned in the search for new options!