Gut Microbes Battle a Common Set of Viruses Shared by Global Populations

ScienceDaily (June 25, 2012) — The human gut is home to a teeming ecosystem of microbes that is intimately involved in both human health and disease. But while the gut microbiota is interacting with our body, they are also under constant attack from viruses. In a study published online in Genome Research, researchers have analyzed a bacterial immune system, revealing a common set of viruses associated with gut microbiota in global populations.


Viruses that prey on bacteria, called phages, pose a constant threat to the health of bacterial communities. In many ecological systems, viruses outnumber bacterial cells ten to one. Given the richness of bacteria in the human gut, it was not surprising that scientists have found that phages are also highly prevalent. But how can viruses targeting gut microbiota be identified? How do viral communities differ between people and global populations, and what could this tell us about human health and disease?

In this report, a team of scientists from Israel has taken advantage of information coded in a bacterial immune system to shed new light on these questions. Bacteria can “steal” small pieces of DNA from phages that attack them, and use these stolen pieces to recognize and respond to the attacker, in a manner similar to usage of antibodies by the human immune system. The stolen DNA pieces are stored in specific places in the bacterial genome called CRISPR loci (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats).

“In our study we searched for such stolen phage DNA pieces carried by bacteria living in the human gut,” said Rotem Sorek of the Weizmann Institute of Science and senior author of the study. “We then used these pieces to identify DNA of phages that co-exist with the bacteria in the gut.”

Sorek’s team used this strategy to identify and analyze phages present in the gut microbiota of a cohort of European individuals. They found that nearly 80% of the phages are shared between two or more individuals. The team compared their data to samples previously derived from American and Japanese individuals, finding phages from their European data set also present in these geographically distant populations, a surprising result given the diversity of phages seen in other ecological niches.

Sorek explained that their findings mean that there are hundreds of types of viruses that repeatedly infect our gut microbiota. “These viruses can kill some of our gut bacteria,” said Sorek. “It is therefore likely that these viruses can influence human health.”

The authors note that as evidence for the beneficial roles played by bacteria in the healthy human gut continues to mount, it is critical that we understand the pressures placed upon the “good” bacteria that are vital to human health. “Our discovery of a large set of phages attacking these good bacteria in our gut opens a window for understanding how they affect human health,” Sorek added. Researchers can now begin to ask how phage dynamics in the gut changes over time, and what it might tell us about diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, and how to more effectively treat them.

Scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel) and Tel Aviv University (Tel Aviv, Israel) contributed to this study.

NHS intentionally kills off at least 130,000 elderly patients every year

NaturalNews) A controversial end-of-life care program that was allegedly designed to improve “quality of dying” for terminally ill patients in the U.K. is being widely abused as a form of back-door euthanasia, says a prominent doctor and professor. The U.K.’s Daily Mail reports that the program, known as the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), is now responsible for killing off at least 130,000 patients in the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) every single year.

LCP was developed, at least on the surface, as a way for hospitals to help dying patients pass on with dignity, and without pain. The idea is that, should a nurse or doctor suspect that a patient only has hours or days to live, LCP can be implemented to slowly sedate the patient and gradually kill him. Because a steady stream of morphine or other powerful painkiller is being administered the whole time, the patient allegedly dies in a much more pleasant state than if left to the normal dying process.

Is LCP a legal cover for ‘death panels?’

But many healthcare practitioners have apparently been improperly assessing patients as being terminally ill, and summoning them to early death based on illegitimate, third-party opinion. Such patients may simply be troublesome for hospital staff, for instance, or merely taking up an extra bed, which prompts the careless or even sinister implementation of LCP on patients that may have gone on to live otherwise healthy lives if they had been allowed to recover.

Professor Patrick Pullicino, a consultant neurologist at East Kent Hospitals and Professor Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Kent, says he has personally witnessed the LCP program, which claims to be a “care pathway,” be used to deliberately kill patients that were not terminally ill. Pullicino says he personally saved the life of one 71-year-old man who had already been put on the LCP program — the man, who Pullicino had to work very hard to get off LCP, ended up living another 14 months.

“The lack of evidence for initiating the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) makes it an assisted death pathway rather than a care pathway,” says Pullicino. “Very likely many elderly patients who could live substantially longer are being killed by the LCP. Patients are frequently put on the pathway without a proper analysis of their condition. Predicting death in a time frame of three to four days, or even at any other specific time, is not possible scientifically.”

Centralized healthcare further empowers doctors to assume the role of fate

The fact that it is not scientifically possible to determine how much time a patient has left to live calls into question whether or not LCP, or programs like it, are ever appropriate in any patient situation. There really is no way for any individual to truly know the death timeline of another person, after all, as someone who appears gravely ill could eventually recover, while a healthy-looking person could drop dead at any moment.

These are situations where the final life or death decision should be left up to fate, not man. And yet man-made “death panel” programs like LCP are the only logical endgame of government-run healthcare programs, which also includes Obamacare in America. Centralized, government-run healthcare systems by nature degrade individual human lives into nothing more than fluid economic factors that are assessed and valued solely on their utility rather than on their intrinsic worth as human beings.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk

http://gulfnews.com

http://www.mcpcil.org.uk/liverpool-care-pathway/

Pasta Made from Green Banana Flour a Tasty Alternative for Gluten-Free Diets

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2012) — People with celiac disease struggle with limited food choices, as their condition makes them unable to tolerate gluten, found in wheat and other grains. Researchers from theUniversityofBrazilhave developed a gluten-free pasta product from green banana flour, which tasters found more acceptable than regular whole wheat pasta. The product has less fat and is cheaper to produce than standard pastas.


heir research was just published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“There was no significant difference between the modified pasta and standard samples in terms of appearance, aroma, flavor, and overall quality,” reports lead investigator Renata Puppin Zandonadi, PhD, Department of Nutrition,UniversityofBrazil. “Green bananas are considered a sub-product of low commercial value with little industrial use. For banana growers and pasta product makers, there is the possibility of diversifying and expanding their market.”

Researchers compared a standard whole-wheat pasta preparation made from whole wheat flour and whole eggs with one made from green banana flour, egg whites, water, and gums. The alterations reduced the fat content and increased the protein value of the modified pasta, important because gluten removal typically reduces some proteins responsible for some sensory characteristics of pasta products. The egg whites and gum result in pasta that is less sticky than typical gluten-free pastas, and promote firmness, elasticity, moisture, and uniformity.

The modified pasta decreased fat content by over 98%. This reduction is particularly important to patients with celiac disease, because many gluten-free products compensate for the removal of gluten with high levels of lipid content.

Fifty testers who did not have celiac disease and 25 celiac disease patients compared the pastas. In both groups, the modified pasta was better accepted than the standard in aroma, flavor, texture, and overall quality, indicating that the product can possibly be commercialized to a wider market than just those with celiac disease.

The modified pasta had a high quantity of resistant starch, which may help control glycemic indexes, cholesterol, intestinal regularity, and fermentation by intestinal bacteria. “Considering that untreated celiac disease promotes cancer in intestinal cells and a highly inflammatory mucosal status, developing gluten-free products with bioactive compounds such as the ones present in green banana flour is important for celiac disease patients,” concludes Dr. Zandonadi. “Patients will benefit from ingesting a product with a better nutritional profile made from an ingredient that is produced and consumed throughout the world.”

In an accompanying podcast presentation, Raquel Braz Assunção Botelho, PhD, discusses the potential benefits of green banana flour-based pasta for people with celiac disease.

History of Medicine Fact #8: U.S. water fluoridation began in 1945 and continues today, despite the fact that the FDA has never approved it

NaturalNews) The year before water fluoridation began in the United States, the entire dental profession recognized that fluoride was detrimental to dental health. In fact, in 1944 the Journal of the American Dental Association reported that using between 1.6 and 4 ppm (parts per million) fluoride in water would cause 50% of adults to need false teeth. On top of that, the world’s largest study looked at 400,000 students, revealing that tooth decay increased in over 25% with just 1ppm fluoride in drinking water. (http://www.healthy-communications.com)

Yet still, in 1945, fluoride was put into municipal water systems in Newburgh, New York, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Over the next 50 years, more than 60 percent of the U.S. population was “fluoridated” at a minimum of 1 ppm. Currently, over 75% of the United States water supply contains this deadly toxin.

One part of the hoax, “fluoride helps with tooth formation,” was removed from the “American Fluoride Campaign” early on. Realizing this might expose the entire campaign as fraudulent, the FDA and CDC simply removed that language, but kept the masses believing that fluoride keeps dental cavities at bay.

Over 70% of America still clings to the multi-faceted myth

Research proves that fluoride is an extremely neurotoxic chemical which interrupts basic functions of nerve cells in the brain and can lead to Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), infertility, birth defects, diabetes, cancer and lowered IQ. The aluminum “tricks” the blood-brain barrier and allows chemical access to brain tissue.

Think fluoride is used by the rest of the world? France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Finland, India and Great Britain have all rejected its use after special commissions and health secretaries reviewed the negative evidence.

Think fluoride cleanses the water? Fluoride is one of the basic ingredients in military nerve gas. Sodium fluoride is a hazardous waste by-product from the manufacture of aluminum and fertilizer, and it is a common ingredient in roach and rat poisons.

Think fluoride fights cavities and strengthens bones? Dental fluorosis is often caused by over-exposure to fluoride when the dental enamel is mineralizing during childhood. Fluoride is unique in its ability among acids to penetrate tissue, causing soft tissue damage and bone erosion as it leaches calcium and magnesium from the body. (http://tuberose.com/Fluoride.html)

Think fluoride evaporates from water? Fluoride does not evaporate from water left sitting out. Also,boiling or freezing won’t help at all, and basic filters like Brita do not remove it. Reverse osmosis does remove it, and natural spring water does not contain it.

Because the ADA maintains a stranglehold on the dental profession, no dentists are ever openly critical of fluoride. The ADA can influence State Dental Boards which can take away a dentist’s license, so you won’t hear anything negative about it from your dentist. Most brands of toothpaste contain at least 1,000 ppm fluoride, so if a child were to eat an entire tube, he/she would die.

Fluoride has never received FDA approval and does not meet “requirements of safety and effectiveness.” The FDA states that fluoride is a prescription drug. Because this “drug” is put in municipal water, there is absolutely no control over individual dosage.

So, why on earth would the USA’s regulatory agencies allow such a nightmare to perpetuate? In the early 1900’s, when important vitamins (like B12) were discovered and natural remedies became popular, medicine was basically unprofitable. Fluoridation was a planned experiment of mass medication to induce diseases that would later be “treated” with expensive healthcare, and that is why government paid healthcare in America is nothing but a pipe dream.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/036280_history_water_fluoridation_FDA_approval.html#ixzz1yoTBdZPC

Here’s a great idea: Restrict calories and take 20 years off the age of your heart

NaturalNews) Nutrition scientists have been closely following the health modifying and life extension benefits of calorie restriction (CR) for decades, as reducing caloric intake by 25 to 40 percent each day is shown to dramatically improve quality of life and add years to lifespan in virtually every animal and mammal species. Not only is CR an important element to control overweight and obesity, but the practice is also shown to positively influence the expression of longevity genes known as SIRT, an evolved method of ensuring reproductive abilities among species.

Publishing in the journal Aging Cell, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that people who restrict their caloric intake in an effort to live longer have hearts that function more like those in people who are 20 years younger. As heart disease is the leading cause of death in western cultures, this is a finding of critical importance. Would you be willing to cut calories by 400 to 600 each day to dramatically lower your risk of dying from heart disease or a heart attack?

Calorie restriction practices dramatically improve heart health to extend lifespan

People consuming a high-calorie ad libitum (unrestricted) diet typically follow a very predictive curve where the heart’s ability to adapt to physical activity, stress, sleep and other factors that influence the rate at which the heart pumps blood slowly declines, ultimately leading to heart failure and cardiovascular disease. People who have significantly restricted their caloric intake for an average of seven years do not exhibit the same rate of decline and maintain heart function similar to those twenty years younger.

Researchers studied 22 CR participants by connecting them to portable heart monitors and comparing them to a second group that did not follow a CR regimen. With an average age just over 51, the CR group ate nutritionally-optimized healthy diets but consumed 30 percent fewer calories than normal. The study team found heart rates were significantly lower in the CR group, while their heart rate variability was significantly higher. The findings were consistent with a group aged in their early thirties.

Lead study author, Dr. Luigi Fontana noted “We looked at normal levels of heart rate variability among people at different ages, and we found that those who practice CR have hearts that look and function like they are years younger.” Dr. Fontana concluded “heart rate variability is better in people who practice CR and that means more than just their cardiovascular systems are flexible… the better ratio suggests improved health in general.” To practice calorie restriction, begin by cutting 10 to 15 percent of calories daily, and slowly work to reduce calorie intake by as much as 25 percent to optimize heart health and extend natural lifespan.

Sources for this article include:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1474-9726.2012.00825.x
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120606092535.htm
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/wuso-cdk060512.php

About the author:
John Phillip is a Health Researcher and Author who writes regularly on the cutting edge use of diet, lifestyle modifications and targeted supplementation to enhance and improve the quality and length of life. John is the author of ‘Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan’, a comprehensive EBook explaining how to use Diet, Exercise, Mind and Targeted Supplementation to achieve your weight loss goal. Visit
My Optimal Health Resource to continue reading the latest health news updates, and to download your Free 48 page copy of ‘Your Healthy Weight Loss Plan’.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/036278_longevity_calorie_restriction_heart_health.html#ixzz1yoKc2DTa

Healthy Muscle Mass Linked to Healthy Bones, but There Are Gender Differences

 

ScienceDaily (June 20, 2012) — Researchers have long been aware that the progressive loss of muscle mass and bone density is a natural part of aging. But little work has investigated how muscle tissue affects the inner and outer layers of bone microstructure. A Mayo Clinic study looked at skeletal muscle mass and bone health across the life span and discovered distinct differences in how muscle affects the two layers of bone in men and women. 

The findings are published in the Journal of Bone & Mineral Research.

“Our study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the highly integrated nature of skeletal muscle and bone, and it also provides new insights into potential biomarkers that reflect the health of the musculoskeletal system,” says lead author Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic.

Researchers reviewed records from a long-standing Mayo Clinic study of bone health involving 272 women and 317 men ages 20 to 97. They examined the association of skeletal muscle mass (relative to participants’ height) with bone architecture and strength, using several high-resolution imaging technologies that distinguish the outer cortical layer of bone from the inner trabecular layer.

The study found that muscle mass is associated with bone strength at particular places in the body. In women, muscle mass was strongly connected to cortical health at load-bearing locations such as the hip, lumbar spine and tibia. Researchers also found that muscle mass was associated with the microarchitecture of trabecular bone in women’s forearms, a non-load-bearing site, at higher risk of fracture following menopause. The higher the level of the circulating protein, IGFBP-2, the lower relative muscle mass overall, they discovered.

“We found IGFBP-2, which has already been linked to osteoporotic fractures in men, is a negative biomarker of muscle mass in both sexes,” Dr. LeBrasseur says. “This finding could potentially be used to determine people who are at a particular risk for falls and associated fractures.”

The subject of muscle and bone health is vital, especially for the elderly. Weakened muscle can lead to bone-breaking accidents that result in loss of independence and even death. In the context of health care costs, the adverse health effects of frailty reach up to $18.5 billion annually.

“As we develop a better understanding of the complex relationship between muscle and bone, we may find new strategies for early identification and treatment of muscle loss and bone density loss,” Dr. LeBrasseur says.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic, and a. Other authors include Sara Achenbach; L. Joseph Melton III, M.D.; Shreyasee Amin, M.D.; and Sundeep Khosla, M.D., all of Mayo Clinic.

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Apple Peel Compound Boosts Brown Fat, Reduces Obesity in Mice

ScienceDaily (June 20, 2012) — Obesity and its associated problems such as diabetes and fatty liver disease are increasingly common global health concerns. A new study by University of Iowa researchers shows that a natural substance found in apple peel can partially protect mice from obesity and some of its harmful effects.

The findings suggest that the substance known as ursolic acid reduces obesity and its associated health problems by increasing the amount of muscle and brown fat, two tissues recognized for their calorie-burning properties.

The study, which was published June 20 in the journal PLoS ONE, was led by Christopher Adams, M.D., Ph.D., UI associate professor of internal medicine and a Faculty Scholar at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the UI.

“From previous work, we knew that ursolic acid increases muscle mass and strength in healthy mice, which is important because it might suggest a potential therapy for muscle wasting,” Adams says. “In this study, we tested ursolic acid in mice on a high-fat diet — a mouse model of obesity and metabolic syndrome. Once again, ursolic acid increased skeletal muscle. Interestingly, it also reduced obesity, pre-diabetes and fatty liver disease.

“Since muscle is very good at burning calories, the increased muscle in ursolic acid-treated mice may be sufficient to explain how ursolic acid reduces obesity. However, we were surprised to find that ursolic acid also increased brown fat, a fantastic calorie burner. This increase in brown fat may also help protect against obesity.”

Until quite recently, researchers believed that only infants had brown fat, which then disappeared during childhood. However, improved imaging techniques have shown that adults do retain a very small amount of the substance mostly in the neck and between the shoulder blades. Some studies have linked increased levels of brown fat with lower levels of obesity and healthier levels of blood sugar and blood lipid, leading to the suggestion that brown fat may be helpful in preventing obesity and diabetes.

The UI team, which also included Steven Kunkel, Christopher Elmore, Kale Bongers, Scott Ebert, Daniel Fox, Michael Dyle, and Steven Bullard, studied mice on a high-fat diet over a period of several weeks. Half of the animals also received ursolic acid in their high-fat food. Interestingly, mice whose diet included ursolic acid actually ate more food than mice not getting the supplement, and there was no difference in activity between the two groups. Despite this, the ursolic acid-treated mice gained less weight and their blood sugar level remained near normal. Ursolic acid-treated mice also failed to develop obesity-related fatty liver disease, a common and currently untreatable condition that affects about one in five American adults.

Further study showed that ursolic acid consumption increased skeletal muscle, increasing the animals’ strength and endurance, and also boosted the amount of brown fat. Because both muscle and brown fat burn calories, the researchers investigated energy expenditure in the mice and showed that ursolic acid-fed mice burned more calories than mice that didn’t get the supplement.

“Our study suggests that ursolic acid increases skeletal muscle and brown fat leading to increased calorie burning, which in turn protects against diet-induced obesity, pre-diabetes and fatty liver disease,” Adams says. “Brown fat is beneficial and people are trying to figure out ways to increase it. At this point, we don’t know how ursolic acid increases brown fat, or if it increases brown fat in healthy mice. And, most importantly, we don’t know if ursolic acid will benefit people. Our next step is to determine if ursolic acid can help patients.”

The research was supported by funding from the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (grant 5R01AR059115-03), the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the University of Iowa Research Foundation.

Sun exposure reduces pancreatic cancer risk by nearly 50%

NaturalNews) The health benefits of vitamin D are almost becoming too numerous to count, with yet another new study presented at the recent American Association for Cancer Research Pancreatic Cancer Conference in Lake Tahoe, Nev., shedding light on the hormone’s specific anti-cancer benefits. According to the groundbreaking research, individuals exposed to natural sunlight, which is the most abundant source of natural vitamin D, are nearly 50 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than others who are not exposed.

Dr. Rachel Neale, Ph.D., and her colleagues from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, conducted a case-control study in which 704 patients with pancreatic cancer, and 709 healthy individuals with no history of pancreatic cancer, were evaluated based on blood serum levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, the hormonal marker of vitamin D in the body. Each individual’s birth location, skin cancer history, skin cancer type, tanning ability, and predisposition to sunburn was also taken into account.

The team then used NASA’s Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer to assess each participant’s level of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure to his or her birthplace, the data of which was used to place participants into various tertile groups for average UV radiation exposure. At the end of the day, researchers found that participants who lived in areas with the highest amount of sunlight exposure were 24 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than individuals who lived in low sunlight areas.

Additionally, individuals with the most sun-sensitive skin, who are typically lighter-skinned individuals, were found to be roughly 50 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than individuals with the least amount of sun sensitivity. Overall, there was a direct correlation between high sunlight exposure and low rates of pancreatic cancer in the study, a result that suggests vitamin D plays a critical role in pancreatic cancer prevention.

“High levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of pancreatic cancer based on both observational studies of individuals and geographic studies of populations,” writes the Vitamin D Council on their website. “Based on studies of breast, colon, and rectal cancer, vitamin D levels above 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) reduce the risk of cancer. Thus, maintaining vitamin D blood levels above 40 ng/mL may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.”

Why vitamin D is crucial for vibrant health

Vitamin D, which is actually a pro-hormone, actually plays an important role in regulating the entire human genome. 1,25-dihidroxyvitamin D, also known as calcitriol, is responsible for unlocking the more than 2,700 genetic binding sites specifically designed for it that are located throughout the human body. And every single one of the genes affected by calcitriol plays a role in the onset of most major human diseases.

What this means is that vitamin D deficiency can cause all sorts of illnesses, including everything from simple colds and influenza to chronic diseases like heart failure and cancer. And since vitamin D can really only be obtained in adequate amounts through natural sunlight or supplementation with high doses of vitamin D3, it is crucial that every individual pay close attention to his or her vitamin D levels.

The best way to obtain vitamin D is through natural sunlight exposure. A fair-skinned person can produce enough vitamin D from about 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure during the peak summer months, while a darker-skinned person may need as much as an hour-and-a-half of sunlight exposure. Sunscreens are designed to block out the UV rays responsible for vitamin D production in the skin, so it is important not to wear sunscreen when trying to obtain vitamin D from the sun (

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org).

Another option is to supplement with vitamin D3. The government’s recommended daily amount (RDA) for vitamin D is still too low, as most people need to take anywhere from 1,000 – 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 every day to maintain adequate blood levels. If you are unsure about your vitamin D levels, you may wish to have a blood test taken to determine what is an appropriate amount of vitamin D with which to supplement (

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org).

Sources for this article include:

 

http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/OtherCancers/33345

 

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org

Carcinogens Linked to Cancer Stem Cells, but Spinach Can Help

 

ScienceDaily (June 20, 2012) — Researchers at Oregon State University have for the first time traced the actions of a known carcinogen in cooked meat to its complex biological effects on microRNA and cancer stem cells.


The findings are part of a growing awareness of the role of epigenetics in cancer, or the ways in which gene expression and cell behavior can be changed even though DNA sequence information is unaltered.

The scientists also found that consumption of spinach can partially offset the damaging effects of the carcinogen. In tests with laboratory animals, it cut the incidence of colon tumors almost in half, from 58 percent to 32 percent.

The research at OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute was recently reported in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, in work supported by the National Institutes of Health.

“Cancer development is a complex, multi-step process, with damaged cells arising through various means,” said Mansi Parasramka, a postdoctoral scholar with LPI. “This study showed that alterations of microRNAs affect cancer stem cell markers in colon cancer formation.

“MicroRNAs are very small factors that do very big things in cells,” she said.

Traditionally, cancer was thought to be caused by changes in DNA sequence, or mutations, that allowed for uncontrolled cell growth. That’s still true. However, there’s also increasing interest in the role played by epigenetics, in which such factors as diet, environmental toxins, and lifestyle affect the expression of genes — not just in cancer, but also cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurological disorders.

Included in this epigenetic equation is the formation of microRNAs — once thought to be “junk DNA” — which researchers were at a loss to understand. It’s now known that they influence which areas of DNA get expressed or silenced.

There are hundreds of microRNAs, and the OSU scientists monitored 679 in their experiments. When they don’t work right, bad things can happen, including abnormal gene expression leading to cancer.

“Recent research is showing that microRNAs are one of the key epigenetic mechanisms regulating cellular functions in normal and diseased tissues,” said Rod Dashwood, the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Cancer Prevention and director of LPI’s Cancer Chemoprotection Program.

“But unlike mutations which are permanent genetic changes in DNA,” he said, “the good news about epigenetics and microRNA alterations is that we may be able to restore normal cell function, via diet and healthy life style choices, or even drug treatments.”

Epigenetics essentially makes every person biologically unique, Dashwood said, a product of both their genetics and their environment. That includes even identical twins.

The findings of the new study should lead to advances in understanding microRNAs, their effects on cancer stem cells, and the regulatory processes disrupted in disease development, the OSU scientists said. This might lead one day to tailored or “patient specific” therapies for cancer, Dashwood said.