November 1, 2010
- Research links fish oil to increased risk of colon cancer in mice
- Researchers discover hormone that could boost plant immune systems
- Packaging immersion experience links packaging professionals, medical workers
- MAES researcher is lead author for breast milk study
- MAES biofuels expert makes list of Top 100 People in Bioenergy
Fish oil -- long encouraged by doctors as a supplement to support heart and joint health, among other benefits -- induced severe colitis and colon cancer in mice in research led by MAES food science and human nutrition researcher Jenifer Fenton and recently published in the journal Cancer Research.
The research results support establishing a dose limit for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil, particularly in people suffering from chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases.
"We found that mice developed deadly, late-stage colon cancer when given high doses of fish oil," she said. "More importantly, with the increased inflammation, it took only four weeks for the tumors to develop."
Specifically, the research team found an increase in the severity of the cancer and an aggressive progression of the cancer in not only the mice receiving the highest doses of DHA but those receiving lower doses as well. The mice used in the study were prone to inflammatory-like bowel disease; inflammation is an important risk factor for many types of cancers, including colon cancer.
The findings were surprising, specifically because DHA has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties, Fenton said.
"We hypothesized that feeding fish oil enriched with DHA to mice would decrease the cancer risk; we actually found the opposite," she said. "These mice were less able to mount a successful immune response to bacteria that increased colon tumors."
Fenton cautions people may not need to avoid fish oil -- what the research shows is needed are guidelines on dosing. With any nutrient, there is a "bell curve" effect. On the left of the curve are those deficient in a nutrient; on the right are those in excess. The majority of the people fall in between the extremes.
She said that people already receiving enough omega-3 fatty acids through their normal diet have no need for added supplementation.
"With fish oil, we don't yet know how much is appropriate," said Fenton. "There are many examples of taking supplements, nutrients or chemicals in excess that can promote cancer (for example, beta-carotene supplementation in smokers). Supplementation is most useful when the person taking them is deficient in that specific nutrient."
The research team's findings could have an important preventive health impact, specifically in light of the high rates of colon cancer in the United States. Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease have an increased risk of developing colon cancer, and when the cancer metastasizes, it can be fatal.
The next step, Fenton said, is to test omega-3 fatty acid levels in people with inflammatory bowel disease. To that end, she is continuing to build relationships -- via the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine campus in Macomb County -- with gastrointestinal specialists to develop a cohort of patients."To help develop guidelines, we need to see how these findings correlate to human populations," she said.
Researchers discover hormone that could boost plant immune systems
The discovery of a hormone acting like molecular glue could hold a key to bolstering plant immune systems and understanding how plants cope with environmental stress.
The study, featured in the Oct. 6 issue of the journal Nature , reveals how the plant hormone jasmonate binds two proteins together to trigger plant immunity.
"This is the first molecular view of how plants ward off attacks by insects and pathogens," said MAES biochemistry and molecular biology scientist Gregg Howe , who worked with fellow MAES researcher Sheng Yang He on the study.
The study, by Howe and He, is a collaboration between the MSU-Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory and the University of Washington.
"Jasmonate appears to act as molecular glue that sticks two proteins together," Howe said. "That binding sets off a chain of events leading to the immune response. Determining the structure of the receptor solves a big missing piece of the puzzle."
Now that researchers understand the structure, they can design new hormone derivatives or other small molecules that can trigger a desired response. Such compounds could help to increase agricultural productivity by aiding plants in resisting bugs and diseases, he added.
The Nature study shows that plants and animals use fundamentally different mechanisms to perceive this type of fatty acid-derived hormone. Humans have prostaglandin hormones, which are structurally similar to jasmonates and also play a role in immune responses. So this study may hold potential benefits for humans as well.
"Plants offer a rich opportunity to understand basic biological processes that are relevant to human health," Howe said. "The new structural insight into jasmonate perception could have practical applications in medicine, including the design of drugs that stick two proteins together."
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy, and supported by the MAES.
Packaging immersion experience links packaging professionals, medical workers
In an emergency room, precious seconds save lives. They are seconds that cannot be wasted, especially on getting a medical device to work properly or finding out that the packaging on a life-saving device has changed.
"There's a lot involved in designing medical devices and packaging," said MAES packaging scientist Laura Bix.
Bix and her colleagues in the MSU School of Packaging and the MSU colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing and Osteopathic Medicine teamed up with Oliver-Tolas Healthcare Packaging, a Grand Rapids producer of sterile-grade medical device packaging, to host the nation's first "Healthcare Packaging Immersion Experience" for medical device professionals and health-care practitioners Oct. 7-8.
The simulation, held at the MSU Learning and Assessment Center (LAC) , served as a pilot, with 15 packaging and health-care professionals participating from across the nation. The simulation was designed to allow senior-level medical device packaging professionals to experience the contextual performance of medical packaging in the operating room and emergency department.
Participants also discussed packaging challenges and possible solutions with nurses and doctors.
"Our goal was to provide a bridge between the people designing and manufacturing the devices and packaging and the real world," Bix said. "It's important to know how what you, as a packaging engineer, produce affects outcomes in the emergency or operating rooms. The simulation was very instructive for these groups."
Mary Kay Smith, acting director of the LAC and coordinator of simulation operations, said having participants experience a simulated surgery and an emergency trauma event can be extremely important.
"Packaging engineers and manufacturers are, generally speaking, not physicians or technicians in either the emergency or the operating rooms," Smith said. "Simulations provide an opportunity to evaluate how devices work -- and don't -- in a safe environment. Ultimately, this can lead to better quality patient care."
Assessing medical devices and packaging in simulated situations is ideal, said Jane Severin, director of technology at Oliver-Tolas.
"As a producer of packaging used by medical device manufacturers, it's critical that we know the sterile packaged device works every time," she said. "That's why a partnership with Michigan State University is important. We are able to combine the strength of our corporate packaging expertise with top-notch researchers at the MSU School of Packaging and excellent facilities such as the LAC to provide solutions to issues facing the medical packaging industry."
MSU is the only university in the world to bring together faculty members from colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and a School of Packaging, so it is logical that the institution hosts an event such as this.
"We want to know how all the different elements come together to create a situation that is optimal or not in order to work together to, literally, save lives," Bix said.
The event was sponsored by Glenroy, Inc., DuPont, Multivac, Inc., Constantia Flexibles, and BrandWatch Technologies. The next "Healthcare Packaging Immersion Experience" will be Oct. 5-6, 2011. For details, visit http://www.egr.msu.edu/~sundarra/hcpie/
MAES researcher is lead author for breast milk study
Ask an expert to list the substances in breast milk that make it the ideal food for newborns, and you may hear about proteins that guard against infection, fats that aid in the development of the nervous system and carbohydrates that promote the growth of healthy bacteria.
But you may not hear too much about the nitrite and nitrate in breast milk and their contributions to developing gastrointestinal, immune and cardiovascular systems.
Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Norm Hord is the lead author of a study that showed that the levels of nitrite and nitrate in breast milk change during the initial days after birth. He and collaborating scientists argue that this happens to accommodate the changing physiologic requirements of developing babies.
Although the nitrite and nitrate composition of breast milk was previously reported, this is the first study to demonstrate the changing levels of nitrite and nitrate early on. Hord's results are published in the online version of Breastfeeding Medicine, the journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
"Contrary to the prevailing scientific opinion about the biological effects of nitrite and nitrate, our data support the view that humans may require these dietary components from birth - from nature's most perfect food," said Hord, who is an MSU associate professor of food science and human nutrition.
The study, which was a collaboration between MSU and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, received support from the American Heart Association and the MAES.
MAES biofuels expert makes list of Top 100 People in Bioenergy
MAES chemical engineering and materials science researcher Bruce Dale is ranked 22nd on the list of the Top 100 People in Bioenergy.
The list, which was compiled by Biofuels Digest, was based on a readership poll; readers submitted 15,000 entries.
Dale, who also is editor-in-chief of the highly ranked journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining , is one of only two academics who ranked high on the list.
His profile reads: "Second among all academics in this year's poll is Dr. Bruce Dale at Michigan State who, in addition to being a noted pioneer in cellulosic ethanol, has been out in front in terms of opposing some of the excesses of indirect land-use change theory, the measurement of which has bedeviled efforts to stabilize the demand for various biofuels feedstocks and fuels."
"Having worked my entire career to develop sustainable biofuels, I am honored to be placed among a group of very fine people," Dale said. "I am particularly grateful to be here at Michigan State University, where we have such a strong commitment to the bioeconomy."
"We are very pleased to see Bruce recognized for his outstanding research and leadership," said Steve Pueppke, MAES director and MSU associate vice president for research and graduate studies. "He is a testament to the high caliber of researchers with whom we are privileged to work."
Biofuels Digest comprises the BiofuelsDigest.com news Web site, Biofuels Digest Asia, the daily Biofuels Digest e-newsletter and the Biofuels Digest Newswire. Decision makers at more than 7,000 organizations read these publications to find products, services and partners. Digest publications have a combined readership of more than 75,000.
To access the Top 100 list, go here.