In Healthy Eating Less is More: The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting

Mix a love of eating with a desire to live a long, healthy life what do you get? Probably the average 21st century person looking for a way to continue enjoying food despite insufficient exercise and/or an age-related decline in caloric needs.

Enter intermittent fasting, a topic that has found it’s way into most news sources, from National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publications to WebMD and even the popular press. For instance, National Public Radio’s “The Salt” writers have tried and written about their experiences with dietary restriction.

While fasting has enjoyed fad-like popularity the past several years, it is not new. Fasting, whether purposely not eating or eating a restricted diet, has been practiced for 1,000s of years. What is new is research studies from which we are learning the physiologic effects of fasting and other forms of decreased nutrient intake.

You may have heard the claims that fasting makes people smarter, more focused and thinner? Researchers today are using cell and animal models, and even human subjects, to measure biochemical responses at the cellular level to restricted nutrient intake and meal timing, in part to prove/disprove such claims (1,2). Continue reading

Widening the Proteolysis Bottleneck: A New Protein Sample Preparation Tool

The poster featured in this blog provides background information and data on development of Rapid Digestion-Trypsin.

The poster featured in this blog provides background information and data on development of Rapid Digestion-Trypsin.

Improvements in Protein Bioprocessing

As more and more protein-based therapeutics enter research pipelines, more efficient protocols are needed for characterization of protein structure and function, as well as means of quantitation. One main step in this pipeline, proteolysis of these proteins into peptides, presents a bottleneck and can require optimization of multiple steps including reduction, alkylation and digestion time.

We have developed a new trypsin reagent, Rapid Digestion–Trypsin, that streamlines the protein sample preparation process, reducing the time to achieve proteolysis to about 1 hour, a remarkable improvement over existing overnight sample preparation times.

How Does it Work?

With this new trypsin product, proteolysis is performed at 70°C, incorporating both denaturation and rapid digestion. The protocol can be used with multiple protein types, including pure proteins and complex mixtures, and is compatible with digestion under native, reduced or nonreduced conditions.

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Gut Microbes and Hypertension: Demonstrating a Causal Link

Most of us are aware that the human body is covered by and full of microorganisms. And we understand that most of these microorganisms are helpful, both in terms of competition with and protection against invading microorganisms, and in the gut, as agents of digestion.

Bacillus subtilis, an example of Firmicutes, and not a good gut microbe. By Y tambe (original uploader) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49528

Bacillus subtilis, an example of Firmicutes, and not a good gut microbe. By Y tambe (original uploader) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49528

In the past decade, however, research has brought compelling details implicating gut microbes in obesity, cancer, insulin resistance and such central nervous system disorders as depression, austism spectrum disorder and multiple sclerosis (Adnan, S. et al.). Yet the mechanisms and details of these associations have not been fully demonstrated.

Gut bacteria have been proven to be connected to thickening of heart vasculature, known as atherosclerosis. Researchers have demonstrated that bacteria metabolize choline and L-carnitine from food to trimethylamine, which crosses the gut barrier into circulation and reaches the liver. In the liver, trimethylamine is metabolized to the atherogenic molecule triethylamine-N-oxide (Gregory, J.C. et al., Brown and Hazen). These studies are among the few that provide a direct connection between gut microbes and a pathological condition. Continue reading

The Wide World of Bioprocessing: Science for the Greater Good

My former research career was spent in academic laboratories, and I don’t have first-hand experience in the world of bioprocessing. However in my current job as a science writer/copy editor, I create product information and literature about products that are useful to bioprocessing engineers and technicians, and thus wanted to learn more about this diverse area, where discovery and processing of biomaterials results in better therapeutic drugs, better biofuels and even healthier foods.

Bioprocessing is a combination of biological science and chemistry, and a burgeoning science field. Burgeoning is an understatement. Exploding is a much more apt description.

This 2011 Science magazine careers article defines bioprocessing thusly:

“Bioprocessing is an expanding field encompassing any process that uses living cells or their components (e.g., bacteria, enzymes, or chloroplasts) to obtain desired products, such as biofuels and therapeutics.”

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To Quilt, Perchance to Discover

What is it about Quilting?

Not yet a quilt, this is a stock photo image.

Not yet a quilt, this is a stock photo image.

There is a really big quilt show going on in town right now. The annual Wisconsin Quilt Expo runs Thursday through Saturday, September 8–10, 2016 here in Madison, WI.

This quilt expo is the State Fair for quilters. It is to quilters, what Summerfest, or a Lollapalooza festival is to music fans. It is the Stitch-Stitch fest for those with thimbles (and fabric, of course).

To give you another idea of the size of Quilt Expo, busloads of quilters and quilt fans come to this expo, and there are awards for the best quilt in each of ten categories. Can you imagine the time it takes to judge quilts in 10 different categories?

Quilt Expo is sponsored by Wisconsin Public Television and quilter-in-chief Nancy Zieman, host of the popular public television show “Sewing with Nancy”. Her store, Nancy’s Notions is a destination quilting shop in Beaver Dam, WI. I’ve been to this store twice, both times with dedicated quilters. Each time, my quilter counterpart stopped talking immediately upon entering the store. They looked around once, took a cart and went deep into shopping. I gave up on attempts at conversation, due to a lack of response. Continue reading

Seeing the Sites: Summer Travel Close to Home

As the July heat and humidity builds, my mind wanders to good wandering places, including natural historical sites close to home.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like a cross-country adventure, but if I drive 700 miles to a family gathering, and cannot converse on the state parks and historical attractions near my adopted home in southern Wisconsin, then what kind of a traveler—or Wisconsin resident for that matter—am I?

You know what I mean. You drive a full day to a family reunion, only to have someone there tell you how they loved a historical attraction minutes from your home, an attraction you’ve never seen—a conversation stopper to be sure.

Effigy Mounds National Monument, IA, US.

Effigy Mounds National Monument, IA, US.

Case in point: Wisconsin has one of the highest numbers of Native American Indian burial mounds in the US. In case it’s on your way to Wisconsin, our neighbor to the west, Iowa, is home of Effigy Mounds National Monument, part of the National Park Service!

Let’s start with ancient effigy mounds close to home; Here in Madison, Wisconsin, there are mounds on the University of Wisconsin campus, both on Observatory Drive and closer to the Picnic Point path. The web site for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve along Lake Mendota provides some fascinating detail and historical accounts of some of these ancient burial sites, attributed to the Woodland Indians.

Continue reading

A Day in the Life: Promega France Supports Cancer Research with their Feet…and Hearts

The Promega France Courir Pour Elles team (left to right): Emeline, Florence, Emmanuel, Sylvia, Veronique and Françoise.

The Promega France Courir Pour Elles team (left to right): Emeline, Florence, Emmanuel, Sylvia, Veronique and Françoise.

In the US, Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Three luxurious days to spend doing whatever your heart desires (and/or your family needs).

Promega’s family is international, and for today’s “A Day in the Life” blog, we look at how the Branch office in France, Promega France, spends their free time in support of disease research.

I spoke with a member of the team from Lyon, France, earlier this week about a cancer fundraising event that Promega France participated in, May 21.

The event, Courir Pour Elles (Running for Her) is dedicated to raising awareness of and money to support research into cancers that affect women. Not only did this team participate, but Promega was, for the first time, a sponsor of the event (note the ankle band photo). Continue reading

Vitamin D: Power in Cancer Prevention?

This and vitamin D should get your attention.

This and vitamin D should get your attention.

Have you ever noticed that after a good long day outdoors, maybe hiking, at the beach or even working in the yard, you feel really strong and healthy, maybe even more relaxed than after an indoor session in front of the telly or computer? Maybe a February trip to someplace sunny like Mexico or the Canary Islands has given you renewed zest for your normal tasks?

While rest and a change of scenery is never a bad thing, time outdoors and in the sunshine might have gained for you something more than rest and relaxation. If it included a little UVB irradiation, your time outdoors may have increased your serum vitamin D level. And though it’s been presumed for years, we now have proof that higher serum vitamin D3 levels correlate with a decreased incidence of certain cancers. Continue reading

Inflammasome Research: A Tool to Aid Progress

Inflammasomes: A Few Basics

Inflammasomes are protein complexes composed of immune system receptors and sensor molecules. These complexes can respond to both infectious organisms and molecules derived from host proteins. When activated, a series of receptors and molecules signal via either pathogen-associate molecular patterns (PAMPs) induced by microbial pathogens, or danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) induced as a result of endogenous stressors; the common next step in signaling is through pattern recognition receptors (PRR).

Inflammasome diagram.

Innate immune response in inflammation; a basic diagram.

Inflammasome activation is integral to the host immune response in mice and humans (1). The activation results in signaling that activates the caspase-1 scaffold, causing release of immune mediators such as interleukins IL-1β and IL-18. So, whether inflammation is host tissue- or pathogen-induced, inflammasome activation results in a cascade of receptor signaling and mediator release, of which caspase-1 is a critical component.

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To Meditate Perchance to Dream

First the disclosure: this blog is of course about Me.

But it’s also about You. And yours. Because as you know, we’ve become a culture that does not sleep.

Why don’t we sleep? I like to think that it is an evolutionary adaptation; not sleeping, after all, allows us more time for Facebook.

Or Etsy for you makers. Or Amazon for you shoppers. And let’s not forget our middle, high school and college students. Do they even have classrooms anymore, or are lectures all online (on screens)?

One tired pony. By Rachel C from Scotland (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One tired pony. By Rachel C from Scotland (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Honestly, the evolutionary adaptation idea comes from how we live and work today. And no, this is not another rant/lecture on the color of light emitted by whatever non-cathode ray tubes are in our phones or tablet-like devices.

It’s just that just working in our very busy online/wired world, jumping from web page to project management software, to big-screens in meetings has us adapted to being  on: capital “O” capital “N”.

This multi-multitasking has grown (for me) a new type of neurons that are not happy unless they are gleaning new information from a screen, all the time. And these neurons don’t stop working when the screen is gone; no, they continue seeking and trying to process. For me, if there’s no screen to look at, the neurons ping-pong around behind my eyeballs, looking and searching, as if to say, “Input missing! Input missing!”

The result can be hours in bed sans sleep; it seems the racket these neurons make keeps all the other neurons up. Continue reading