Daily Archives: June 14, 2013

The first Phenome Center established to research interactions between genes and the environment


Certain people become more susceptible to environmental toxins and food allergens than other people exposed to the very same factors. Why is that? How are some people completely healthy even after they eat food that makes other people very sick? Why are some children in the autistic spectrum disorder growing up in the same environment and eating the same food as their healthy neighbors children?

To research the answers to these growing questions in an increasingly post – industrial modern society used to extremely convenient modes of transportation and fast food, a large scale multi-disciplinary approach is required.  Joining together in this effort are  the MRC-NIHR Phenome Centre, which opened recently in the United Kingdom, with a collaboration between Imperial College London, King’s College London and analytical technology companies Waters Corporation and Bruker Biospin.

The center has ten million pounds of funding for the first five years. However, if you wish to support such relevant research do not hesitate to contact the institute. Studying the phenome will help determine how diet, lifestyle, the environment and genes combine to affect biochemical processes that lead to disease.

Professor Frank Kelly, co-investigator at the Centre and director of Analytical and Environmental Sciences Division at King’s College London, said, “This technology is already in use in medical research but only on a small-scale. With the creation of this new facility, it will now be possible to get a complete and accurate biological read-out of thousands of individuals.” Reported in  Pharmabiz, June 13, 2013. Instruments of the highest degree of sophistication will detect the different types of bacteria naturally occurring in the gut, which can influence our health. Read this previous article on how hook worms can cure multiple sclerosis in some patients or this previous link on “the worm theory and how it could strengthen the immune system”.

The Centre will also include a state-of-the-art international training facility. There are no limits to the breakthroughs in health we might see as a result of this visionary, large data work approach at the NIHR-MRC Phenome Centre.

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Odors can identify and differentiate three stages of melanoma


The human skin produces numerous airborne chemical molecules known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, many of which are odorous. “There is a potential wealth of information waiting to be extracted from examination of VOCs associated with various diseases, including cancers, genetic disorders, and viral or bacterial infections,” notes George Preti, PhD, an organic chemist at Monell who is one of the paper’s senior authors.

A Melanoma nodule (From National Cancer Insitute)

A Melanoma nodule (From National Cancer Insitute)

Philadelphia based, The Monell Chemical Senses Center has an innovative way of detecting melanoma through a unique odor signature detection technique.  Tiny, nano-sized tubes can be bioengineered to recognize among other targets, a variety of odor factors which could evaluate the stage of a disease progression. Before this discovery can be brought to a doctor’s office, a portable measuring device has to be invented.

Examine your own skin regularly to know what is normal for you says Melanoma Research Foundation. Moles might resemble Melanoma but are usually benign or non-cancerous.  It is safer to take annual photos of your moles to detect any abnormal rate or changes.

If you wish to fund or encourage any aspect of this research do not hesitate to contact the researchers at:

George Preti, Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA

You may want to read the original scientific article: Jae Kwak, Michelle Gallagher, Mehmet Hakan Ozdener, Charles J. Wysocki, Brett R. Goldsmith, Amaka Isamah, Adam Faranda, Steven S. Fakharzadeh, Meenhard Herlyn, A.T. Charlie Johnson, George Preti. Volatile biomarkers from human melanoma cellsJournal of Chromatography B, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.jchromb.2013.05.007

How to self – diagnose Melanoma?
What is melanoma? Mayo Clinic of Cleveland has a slide show on how to identify and self examine for melanoma, a skin cancer.

Melanoma Research Foundation has good photos on what Melanoma might look like.

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A single shared component has been confirmed in allergy and autoimmune diseases


Previous studies had shown that patients with a diverse range of autoimmune diseases often had minor changes in the BACH2 gene. Today’s cutting edge technology allowed scientists to glimpse some of the interactions this gene had with the entire genome to control immune function, says lead author Dr. R. Roychoudhuri. BACH2 plays a key role in the immune system. Although, the intracacy of the immune system remains elusive, it is understood that a healthy immune system knows how to recognize a foreign body and can attack it, to keep a person healthy while in an unhealthy immune system, the body’s own cells or friendly agents are mistaken as “foreign” and attacked resulting in allergy or autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

This non-profit kids health site lists in the chapter “Health Problems” the many allergy and autoimmune diseases a child may suffer from today. Perhaps, this discovery published in the respected journal Nature might some day help a child and the parent lead a healthier life (Click here to read Nature, June 2, 2013 article).

The Discovery

NIAMS researcher Kiyoshi Hirahara, M.D and colleagues discovered that the Bach2 gene played a key role in regulating the switch between inflammatory and regulatory cells in mice. The loss of the Bach2 gene in specific immune cells caused them to become inflammatory, even under what would be a protective situation. Says a team leader, Dr. Nicholas P. Restifo, “The gene shares its name with the famous composer Bach, since it orchestrates many components of the immune response, which, like the diverse instruments of an orchestra, must act in unison to achieve symphonic harmony”

Potential for Gene Therapy?
The studies were done in mice and will have to be replicated in human clinical trials, which as you know could take time. When the mice lacked the BACH2 gene the mice died within a few months of life.  If the BACH2 gene was introduced into the mice lacking this gene, it restored their immune health. Thus, gene therapy with BACH2, a gene common in patients with allergy and autoimmune disease, restored the immune health of lab mice.

A laboratory research mouse

A laboratory research mouse

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