Multiple biological effects of conjugated linoleic acid may depend upon its ability to activate a multifunctional mechanism

By Paolo Bergamo and Lucia Treppiccione

Contribution participating in the INPST 2018 Science Communication Awards contest.

The increased awareness of consumers about the link between health and nutrition has driven research (and food industry) to explore the beneficial effects of functional foods (which promote health or prevent diseases). Although it can be affirmed that food contains “functional nutrients”, nevertheless, for some of them, dietary indications have changed a lot in the last years. This is the case of milk fat consumption that has been associated, for a long time, with increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemia or obesity. However, in some recent studies, it was evidenced that milk and cheese intake reduced the cardiovascular risk, diseased mortality and the strongest protective effects were observed in consumers of whole dairy products (Dehghan, M.et al., Lancet. 2018). Among the beneficial components of milk fats, conjugated linoleic acid, owing to its prevailing healthy effects for humans, has been considered a functional ingredient (Kim, J.H. et al., Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2016). Although its beneficial effects have been first demonstrated more than thirty years ago, there is still much interest in investigating its protective efficacy and in understanding the mechanisms underlying its biological activities.

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Natural molecule derivatives as Topoisomerase Poisons – Insights into chemotherapeutic failure

By Syed Moiz Ahmed

Contribution participating in the INPST 2018 Science Communication Awards contest.

With the rapid increase in our understanding of disease biology, it is quite evident that treatment outcomes are dependent on patient molecular profiles. The focus is now to get the right treatment to the right patient allowing for greater safety and efficacy. The authors have shed light on a molecular biomarker that could potentially be used in this new treatment paradigm. 

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The complex bioactivity of bilirubin in the context of CVD

Yang Yang1, Dongdong Wang1, 2, 3*

Contribution participating in the INPST 2018 Science Communication Awards contest.

Bilirubin, a major pigment in bile with specific antioxidant properties, is a standard serum biomarker of liver function, which has particular toxicity due to irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system. Inexplicably, it is inversely correlated with cardiovascular disease risk. Our group found that unconjugated bilirubin (UCB) decreases macrophage cholesterol efflux and reduces the expression of ATP binding cassette A1 (ABCA1). These novel data underscore the complex bioactivity of bilirubin in the context of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and may encourage further exploration of bilirubin’s effect on cholesterol metabolism and transport.

Macrophages essential cells for bilirubin metabolism and reverse transport of cholesterol with relevance for cardiovascular disease

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Coconut oil: As “Bad” as pure poison or as “Good” as next to mother’s milk

By Devesh Tewari*

Contribution participating in the INPST 2018 Science Communication Awards contest.

The recent talk of Prof. Karin Michels on coconut oil titled “Coconut oil and other nutritional errors” ignited a global concern and a significant hype in all major media newsrooms of the globe. The Harvard Professor of epidemiology declared coconut oil as a “pure poison” and “one of the worst foods you can eat.”. Her statement was based on the presence of saturated fats in coconut oil which are associated with cardiovascular diseases. However, there are reliable reports of epidemiologists which contradict these statements. A meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine led by the University of Cambridge analyzed the intake of fatty acids and coronary risk, and their study did not support a restriction of the consumption of saturated fats to prevent heart diseases [1].

Coconut oil As “Bad” as pure poison or as “Good” as next to mother’s milk

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Possible antiatherogenic effects of the commonly used spice and flavoring agent, ginger

By Yingnan Lei1, Dongdong Wang1, 2, 3*

Contribution participating in the INPST 2018 Science Communication Awards contest.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading causes of disability and mortality worldwide. So, it is very interesting to develop novel treatment strategies as well as drugs against CVDs. Many natural products have been proven to be safe for human consumption throughout the world, and still represent an enormous pool for the discovery and development of new drugs. In recent decades, multiple research teams investigated the possible benefits of natural products and their active components against CVDs. Our group mainly focused on screening of natural products (including ginger [1]), among others) to prevent or treat cardiovascular diseases. Recently we published results linking ginger and macrophage cholesterol efflux, which is an important event in CVDs [1]. In this blog contribution, we will briefly present some highlights and major findings in our study.

Possible antiatherogenic effects of the commonly used spice and flavoring agent, ginger

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Malaria eradication: The untapped natural products goldmine

By Nasir Tajuddeen*

Contribution participating in the INPST 2018 Science Communication Awards contest.

Every year, malaria continues to cause severe morbidity and mortality. Therefore, scientists are actively collaborating with the World Health Organization towards an eradication of the disease. One of the main pillars of the eradication agenda involves killing the transmissible forms of the parasite that causes malaria, using drugs. This will, in turn, curtail the spread of the disease. However, there is a lack of compounds that can kill the transmissible form of the parasite. This blog post underlines that natural products might hold the key towards discovering the needed transmission-blocking compounds and calls for their joint exploration. Indeed, the historical link between natural compounds and the battle against malaria supports this argument.

Malaria eradication The untapped natural products goldmine

Figure 1: Stopping the spread of Plasmodium from infected humans to mosquitoes will eradicate malaria.

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Pomegranate for heart health and the science behind it

By Dongdong Wang*

Contribution participating in the INPST 2018 Science Communication Awards contest.

Together with my academic associates, recently I have systematically reviewed the scientific research linking pomegranate intake with cardiovascular benefits in consumers and patients [Ref. 1]. Here I will briefly present some highlights and major findings from our analysis of the existing scientific literature on this topic.

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Recent progress in natural drug development

By Prof. Marc Diederich and James Bowers PhD

 1. Antique anti-coagulants may hold the key to a new lung cancer treatment

 Genetic variations in patients can render lung cancer medicines ineffective. Prof. Marc Diederich and his colleagues ascertained a biscoumarin-derivative to target patients that are resistant to other treatments.

 Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world and, with such a crucial role of this organ in the human body, it’s easy to understand the importance of finding an effective cure. Current research into finding new treatments aims at seeking molecules that can attack specific cancer cells. However, not every patient or cancer are the same due to genetic variation and this means that we are unlikely to find a one-size-fits-all medicine. A simple difference in the genetic code can make cancer cells resistant to treatments.

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