Friday, August 11, 2006

Capsaicin the key to any wonder food

Capsaicin, the key ingredient in pepper spray and spicy food, has been found to cause apoptosis in 80% of human prostate cancer cells. Capsaicin, aside from being key ingredient in good thai and mexican food, also inhibits the activity of NF-kappa beta, which is part of the apoptosis mechanism.
It has also been found that spicy foods may also fight obesity. Capsaicin has also been used to fight pain (although over use may cause nerve damage). Scientists have also found that red peppers may boost insulin control , although that isn't linked directly the Capsaicin itself.

It may be time to start eating more spicy food ;-)

Contagious Dog Cancer

Scientists at the University College London have found a strain of cancer in dogs that is able to pass from one dog to another. Sticker's sarcoma, a usually non fatal cancer, typically resides in the dogs' genital tracts, and thus doesn't have to travel far to infect another dog during sex (it can also be passed by biting and licking). The original source of this cancer colony may have lived over 1000 years ago. Unlike most cancers, the genetic stability of Sticker's sarcoma has been credited with it's evolutionary success in surviving for so long.
You can also read some more about it at Scienceblogs

It's just weird to think about. Over a thousand years ago, some dog was born, and even today it's genetic code is still running around. Just imagine cutting off the tip of your finger, but it didn't die, it just kept on living and growing. I don't know how many cancer cells there would typically be in an infected dog, but lets just say 10 gram of mass. Assuming the average mass of a dog 25kg, it would take 2500 infections to get the mass of the original dog. According to MapsoftheWorld , there are 61,080,000 dogs in the united states. Assuming an infection rate of 3% (random number, not based on fact), that would be the same mass as 732 copies of the original dog. And that's just dogs living right now in the United States.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Futures in Biotech

Nice to hear some intelligent discussion about Biotech in the blogosphere (I don't like that word). Leo Laporte and Marc Pelletier have a new blog at
Also with a new podcast. There are only two show so far, but the first was on protein folding. Nice to hear, considering my main research thrust right now is protein fold prediction by threading techniques. They spend time talking about the 'big picture' stuff, which you can forget about when you are down in the trenches trying to get stuff to work for your PhD research. I spend most of my days worrying about debugging bad code in my threading software, or how I can improve my technique to make my results look better. I never really spend any time thinking about how my research could ever be used by anybody.

Changing the Definition of Vaccine

Looks like researchers at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California have tested a vaccine for obesity in rats. I find this research interesting not because of the fixing obesity standpoint, but because they are developing an antigen for a hormone, Ghrelin found naturally in the body.

Microbiology has been changing the meaning of the word 'vaccine'. Wikipedia defines vaccine as "A vaccine is an antigenic preparation used to produce active immunity to a disease, in order to prevent or ameliorate the effects of infection by any natural or "wild" strain of the organism." Now we are talking about using similar techniques to train the body to down regulate hormone levels. I'd be curious to see what other lines of research are following this kind of technique.