research on health

Indian researchers identify Blood-based biomarkers for brain tumours

Blood-based biomarkers for brain tumours identified New Delhi, Nov 18: A study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), along with collaborators, has identified potential blood-based biomarkers to predict disease progression and survival times in those with late-stage brain tumours. The team included researchers from the Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering (BSSE) at IISc, the Mazumdar Shaw Centre for Translational Research and Mazumdar Shaw Medical Foundation.  They analysed tumour and blood samples from individuals with gliomas – tumours that occur in the brain – to identify surface proteins on immune cells in the blood whose levels were closely linked to tumour progression. “Our pilot study suggests that we can potentially use two blood-based biomarkers present on immune cells to identify patients who might not perform well with particular treatment strategies,” says Siddharth Jhunjhunwala, Assistant Professor in BSSE, and senior author of the study. Conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy are often ineffective in treating these tumours. This has prompted a shift to newer techniques like immunotherapy, which involves provoking the immune system of the patient to attack the tumour cells. However, attempts to use some of the standard immunotherapies to treat gliomas have met with limited success. The scientists were trying to address this gap by understanding the immune profile in the tumour microenvironment. The team collected blood and tumour samples from patients with grade three and grade four gliomas and compared the numbers of specific immune cells called monocytes and neutrophils in these samples.  The team also looked for differences in the composition of surface proteins on these cells across the two grades of tumours. They found that a certain type of monocytes — the M2 monocytes — were present in larger numbers in the samples from grade four tumours. Previous studies have shown that high numbers of M2 monocytes are associated with a suppression of immune responses, and the new finding could help develop new treatment strategies. “Future studies could focus on developing therapies that reduce the numbers of M2 monocytes in the tumour microenvironment or alter their functionality,” says Jhunjhunwala. The researchers also found that…

Kidney Disease

Researchers identify biomarker for early prediction of diabetic kidney failure

Urine based biomarker for early prediction of diabetic kidney failure identified New Delhi, February 21: Diabetic Kidney failure or Diabetic Nephropathy is among the most significant longer-term complications associated with type 2 diabetes. The risk of End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and resulting premature disease and death is estimated to increase by 12-fold with diabetes. A group of researchers from various institutions have identified urine based biomarker for early prediction of diabetic kidney failure. The biomarker, Microalbuminuria (MIC) is an early non-invasive marker of kidney disease and its progression. However, it takes several years of diabetes for MIC to occur. Interventions are also much less effective in some patients with MIC who manifest advanced pathological changes. Development of sensitive early stage disease markers and alternative diagnostic approaches may help in early detection of diabetic kidney failure. “This new study is significant because the findings should cause concern in a country where most treatment costs are paid out-of-pocket by patients, and highlight the urgent need for early diagnosis, effective prevention measures and search for novel therapeutic measures” Dr Kuppan Gokulakrishnan, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurochemistry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore . Symmetric and asymmetric dimethylarginines (SDMA and ADMA) are structural isomers. Altered circulatory asymmetric and symmetric dimethylarginines have been independently reported in patients with end-stage renal failure suggesting their potential role as mediators and early biomarkers of nephropathy. These alterations can also be reflected in the urine. “There are isomers found in every human but in nephropathy patients it suddenly goes out of range. The drop is indicative that there is a disease possibility. We looked at ratio of these isomers that gave us the diagnostic properties” said Dr Venkateswarlu Panchagnula, lead researcher, National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune. The researchers evaluated the efficiency of Asymmetric to Symmetric dimethylarginine Ratio (ASR) using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry (MALDI MS) from more than 500 people with varying levels of glucose intolerance as well as in patients with type 2 diabetes with or without diabetic kidney disease. The study found that the ASR profile is lower in MIC and macroalbuminuria (MAC)…


Way paved to diagnose oral cancer metastasis better

New Delhi, February 06: A team of researchers headed by Dr. Partha Majumder of Department of Biotechnology’s National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kalyani, West Bengal has identified five biomarkers that could help develop new molecular diagnostic to predict lymph node metastasis in oral cancer patients more effectively. The scientists have identified alterations in DNA, multiple genes and pathways associated with local lymph node metastasis in oral cancers. Metastatic lymph nodes carry cancer from primary sites to other sites. The team analysed exome-wide sequence and genome-wide copy number data and identified both heritable and non-heritable genomic alterations associated with lymph node metastasis. Oral cancer is considered one of the most predominant cancers found among men in Indian subcontinent. Oral cancer is mostly caused by chewing of tobacco. The cancer is often diagnosed at advanced stages which results in poor survival rates among patients. Most of the oral cancer reported global are found in developing/underdeveloped regions including India where per capita consumption of tobacco is high. In spite of many therapeutic advancements, there has been no significant improvement in survival outcome of such cancer patients in the last decade. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has been participating in large scale international initiative of International Cancer Genome Consortium to identify genomic changes that drive oral cancer through two collaborating organizations. Mumbai-based Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) conducts the clinical arm of the research, and the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) carries out the genomic analysis part. In the new study, scientists of NIBMG have discovered five biomarkers which can make it possible to tell in advance if a person with oral cancer of the gums and cheeks has lymph node metastasis or not. The prediction is 80-90% accurate. Two of the biomarkers are rare heritable DNA changes in BRCA2 and FAT1 genes. The protein coded by FAT1 gene acts as an adhesion molecule that keeps the cells together. The loss of adhesion potential of cancer cells leads to spreading of cancer cells to secondary sites. The human BRCA2 is a care taker gene and it acts…