Cystic fibrosis links to diabetes

Researchers from Hong Kong, Chengdu, Beijing and Tokyo recently reported a functional link between diabetes and cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis occurs when mutations in the CFTR gene hamper the function of the Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator. This leads to a “tough mucus” secretion in the lungs, and its most acute symptoms are therefore shortness of breath. Indigestion is also a serious symptom, as organs in and around the gastrointestinal tract are affected as well. Without proper management, the respiratory and metabolic consequences of this disease are fatal at young age.

Despite the high frequency of diabetes in adult cystic fibrosis patients, the relationship between the two diseases is still hardly understood. Now, a consortium of Chinese/Japanese institutes has shown that the conductance regulator also regulates glucose-dependent electrical signaling in insulin-producing Beta cells. In other words, defects in the gene that lead to problems in mucus secretion also affect insulin secretion. As most Cystic Fibrosis patients develop insulin deficiency (belonging to the Type I Diabetes category), this finding indeed resolved an important missing link.

Whether the new insights also lead to new treatment options is not clear yet. The investigators have been able to focus at one specific gene mutant. Extrapolating their findings to known >1900 mutations in the Cystic Fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator gene in humans is a daunting task. Nevertheless, in their mice model, they have not witnessed a destruction of pancreatic islets, where the Beta cells are located that produce insulin. If in patients, insulin secretion would also be decreased before islet are destroyed, timely anticipation could potentially provide leads to effective non-invasive treatment options.

A summary of the paper has been published here.

Cystic Fibrosis organs - from Wikipedia

BGI and Edinburgh start to synthesize

Following a MoU (memorandum of understanding) earlier this year, the University of Edinburgh and the BGI in Shenzhen have now started a collaborative project on synthetic biology.

This emerging discipline combines techniques in the sequencing and DNA synthesis fields to re-create and re-model entire chromosomes, that can replace the original chromosomes in host organisms such as yeast. As such, new platforms are created with a wide scope of applications, such as the production of proteins, nutrients, drugs and fuels, or fermentation processes.

In the Sino-Anglo collaborative project, researchers will focus on the re-creation of yeast chromosome VII as part of the Sc2.0 project, initiated by Johns Hopkins University and the first synthetic eukaryotic genome project.

The construction project is initially worth 1M pound and is largely supported by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences research council.

For further reading, please see here for the collaboration and here for the Sc2.0 project.

obtained from Sc2.0
obtained from Sc2.0

nanoparticles as catalysts

A group of scientists lead by the Xiamen-based investigator Nanfeng Zheng have developed nanoparticles that act as catalysts for the oxidation of CO (carbon monoxide) to CO2 (carbon dioxide).

Bringing two catalytic materials close to each other enables two separate reactions to occur simultaneously at almost the same location. The scientists used platinum nanocrystals covered with thin layers of iron hydroxide and nickel hydroxide, leaving gaps on the surface. Iron hydroxide ion combination with platinum can efficiently oxidize CO to CO2. Without nickel, this reaction is however unstable and intermediates are quickly dehydrated.

The nanoparticle catalyst proved efficient at room temperature and was stable for long periods, up to one month.

(adopted from nature China and Science)