Pongratz Consulting, tillsammans med Eurida Research Management och EUCOPE (European Confederation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs) organiserar en 2 dagar Horizon 2020 workshop i Bryssel mellan den 4-5 februari 2014. Under denna workshop kommer vi att gå igenom EU strategier och den bakomliggande policyn som har påverkat Horizon 2020. Vidare kommer vi att gå igenom den kommande utlysningar som EU komminssionen kommer att släppa December 2013. Vi kommer att gå igenom programmen för Marie Sklodowska Curie, Excellent Forskning, och Samhällsutmaningar samt Horizon 2020 programmet för Små och Medelstora Företag. Vi kommer att diskutera hur kommunikation och innovation skall ingå i kommande ansökningar och vikten av att inkludera interaktionen mellan olika samhällssektorer i kommande ansökningar. Under workshopen kommer vi att beredda tillfälle för en frågestund mellan föreläsarna och deltagarna som har pågående ansökningar där vi kan ge råd om hur strukturen kan förbättras. För mer detaljer besök hemsidan: www.pongratz-eurida-horizonworkshop.com.
Old Chemicals New Risks: Environmental Pollutants Directly Interfere with Several Cellular Receptor Pathways
Different environmental contaminants have long been known to interfere with hormonal signaling in humans and all kinds of animals, causing reproductive and developmental problems and diseases such as cancer. One such group of chemical contaminants act through activation of an intracellular receptor named the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). This receptor has a unique ability to bind to a wide range of compounds released into the environment through various industrial processes and incomplete combustion of household and industrial waste. Examples include dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, and several groups of polyaromatic hydrocarbons present in household plastics. The activated AhR influences the expression rate of a wide range of gene networks in response to binding any of these compounds, through direct binding to DNA regulatory elements.
One hormonal pathway that is affected by dioxins, and related compounds, is estrogen signaling. Estrogens are of vital importance for proper function of the female reproductive organs, but also influences brain function, bone health and vascular function in both males and females. The physiological effects of estrogens are mediated by two intracellular receptor proteins, the estrogen receptors α and β (ERα and ERβ). Dioxins and a number of related compounds have been shown to interfere with estrogen signaling in several species, including humans, causing infertility or reproductive abnormalities, cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. The mechanism behind this interference has until recently remained largely unknown, but has been presumed to be mediated by the AhR.
In this publication we presented evidence for an overlap in compound recognition between the AhR and ERα and ERβ where the two types of receptors are able to bind to a common chemical, 3-methylcolanthrene (3-MC), a combustion byproduct classified as a potent carcinogen in humans. 3-MC was shown to be almost as potent as estrogens in promoting activity of estrogen regulated genes. In contrast, TCDD (a dioxin with high affinity for the AhR) did not induce a similar estrogen-like activity, showing that the AhR did not influence the activity of the ERs.
Physiological estrogen production and resultant gene activity is a tightly regulated process in a healthy human or animal, and the improper activation of the ERs through a chemical present in the environment could cause imbalances that may negatively affect individual health both in the short and long term perspective.
The unrestricted release of these chemicals during the last five to seven decades has resulted in an environmental burden so serious, that these days, humans are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis from so many sources that reproductive ability and overall health may be compromised even before birth!
Swedenborg et al Molecular Pharmacology 2008. Sid 575-586
Gamla kemikalier nya risker: Miljögifter kan påverka flera cellulära regulatoriska processer samtidigt
Man har länge känt till att ett flertal typer av miljöföroreningar stör hormonsignalering hos människor och ett flertal djurarter genom att påverka reproduktionsförmågan, utveckling och orsaka sjukdomar som cancer. En grupp av miljöföroreningar utövar sina effekter genom att aktivera ett intracellulärt receptorprotein, arylhydrocarbon-receptorn (AhR). Denna receptor har en unik förmåga att binda ett stort antal ämnen som kommer ut i miljön via olika industriella processer och ofullständig förbränning av hushålls- och industrisopor. Exempel är olika dioxiner, polyklorinerade bifenyler och flera grupper av polyaromatiska kolväten som återfinns I hushållsplast. Den aktiverade AhR påverkar uttrycket av en stor grupp av gen-nätverk genom att binda direct till regulatoriska element på DNA.
Dioxiner och besläktade ämnen har visats störa signaleringen av östrogen hos bade människor och djur. Östrogen är absolut nödvändigt för den kvinnliga reproduktionsförmågan, men har även visats påverka funktionen hos hjärna, skelett och blodkärl hos både män och kvinnor. De fysiologiska effekterna av östrogen medieras av två intracellulära receptor-proteiner, östrogen-receptorerna α och β (ERα och ERβ). Dioxiner och ett flertal besläktade ämnen har visats störa östrogensignalering ho sett flertal djurarter, inclusive människor och orsaka infertilitet och andra reproduktionsstörningar, samt cancer, benskörhet och hjärt- och kärlsjukdomar. Mekanismen bakom dessa störningar har tills nyligen varit okänd, men har antagits involvera AhR.
I denna artikel presenterade vi bevis för en överlappande igenkänningsmekanism mellan AhR och ERα och ERβ där de två typerna av receptorer har förmåga att känna igen och binda till en gemensam kemikalie, 3-methylcolanthrene (3-MC), en biprodukt från förbränning, klassificerad som ett starkt carcinogent ämne. 3-MC visade sig vara nästan lika effektivt som östrogen mätt i förmåga att inducera aktivitet av östrogen-reglerade gener. Jämförelsevis, saknade TCDD (en dioxin med mycket hög bindningsaffinitet till AhR) denna förmåga, vilket visar att AhR inte deltar i denna process.
Östrogenproduktion och påföljande genaktivitet är hos en frisk varelse en noga reglerad process, och opåkallad aktivering av östrogenreceptorerna via en miljöförorenande kemikalie torde orsaka obalans i systemet och orsaka ohälsa hos individen i ett både kort- och långsiktigt perspektiv.
De oreglerade utsläppen av denna typ av kemikalier under de senaste fem till sju decennierna har resulterat i en så allvarlig miljöpåverkan att nuförtiden är människan dagligen exponerad för dessa kemikalier i en sådan omfattning att reproduktiv förmåga och generell hälsa är hotad redan innan födseln!
Swedenborg et al Molecular Pharmacology 2008. Sid 575-586
New Research Shows Benefits of Stomach Bacteria
A project funded by a European Union grant has uncovered new findings about the positive effects of bacteria in the human stomach. A recent fof.se article has the full story, but here are a few of the highlights:
The study focused on just under 300 subjects who were tested for levels of stomach bacteria. About 25% of them were found to have fairly low levels of bacteria based on both quantity and type. One of the most salient findings of the study was that those with low levels of bacteria were by and large more obese than their high-bacteria counterparts. Participants in the study who had low levels of beneficial bacteria also were found to have higher levels of bacteria that cause diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So what to do if you’re lacking in these microscopic helpers? There are measures you can take to boost their levels. Not surprisingly, the lifestyle changes that boost these bacteria are also changes that contribute to overall health. Researchers encourage those with deficiencies in these positive bacteria to transition to a low fat diet. In just six weeks, subjects who cut large amounts of fat out of their diets saw marked improvement in their “good” bacteria levels.
More interesting than the findings themselves is the potential for preventative care. Oluf Pedersen, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen who worked on the study is hopeful that these findings can help researchers develop medicines that help our bodies produce essential vitamins and boost the immune system.
Why Medical School Can Prepare You for Entrepreneurship
The majority of medical students who dedicate years and years of their lives to becoming a practicing physician generally stick to the path laid out before them. Who wouldn’t? If you take what is essentially a decade of your life and relentlessly pursue the goal of becoming a doctor, what could deter you from that path?
A recent article on Entrepreneur.com suggests that the only thing that could divert a promising medical student is the siren’s song of the start-up. While most medical school student’s parents probably would shudder upon hearing this, the article suggests that some medical students may be uniquely equipped to enter that world.
The author, Shiv Gaglani has extra incentive to believe his thesis since he is among those medical students venturing into the world of, well, ventures. He recently took a hiatus from Johns Hopkins Medical School (you may have heard of it) to work on an education technology startup.
He believes that there are certain qualities med school students possess which help them excel in the dog-eat-dog world of starting a company from scratch. The first is the ability to keep a singular focus on one thing for a very long time. This one might be the most important since in both medical school and the startup scene, the amount of effort you put forth plays a major role in whether or not you succeed. Whether it’s pulling an all-nighter in the library, or spending all of your waking hours coding to launch an app on time, the same skillset applies. This kind of mental discipline is possessed by any med student worth his salt, probably at a higher rate than those in the startup space.
For more qualities that Gaglani believes equip med students for the startup world, feel free to check out the full article. He makes a valid argument about the skills required, but also slips in an interesting caveat. While most medical students have the work ethic for entrepreneurship, many don’t possess the risk-taking nature it requires to make a leap like leaving med school for an unknown future.
Jellyfish Influx Blamed for Nuclear Reactor Shutdown
Early this month, the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southeastern Sweden was shut down to a large influx of jellyfish into its cooling pipes. An NBC News article explains that the reactor was forced to shutdown for fear of overheating.
Because of the shear amount of water needed to cool a nuclear reactor, these plants are almost always built adjacent to large bodies of water. While the water supply is abundant for keeping the reactors cool, the marine life surrounding the plants is not always as accommodating. In this particular case, the jellyfish clogged pipes caused one of the reactors to be closed for almost three days while the turbine cooling pipelines were cleared out. Concern was perhaps heightened due to the Fukushima Daichi reactor in Japan which was flooded and underwent a large meltdown. While the circumstances were much different, both the Oskarshamn and Fukushima reactors use boiling-water technology.
While the headline may seem bizarre, one of the most interesting parts of the article is when it lists other cases of jellyfish interfering with the proper function of nuclear power plants throughout the world. The Diablo Canyon reactor in California was a victim of jellyfish last year, and this is the second time the Oskarshamn plant was affected; the first being in 2005.
Even though this is not a rare phenomenon, scientists who were interviewed for the story seem to think instances are on the rise. Lene Moller, a researcher at the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment says based on circumstantial evidence, the number of jellyfish appear to be on the rise, but these suspicions cannot be confirmed due to a lack of historic data on the jellyfish population of the region in question. His instinct though, is that this problem will probably more prevalent in areas that have been overfished, allowing jellyfish to flourish.
It’s amazing to think that overfishing could ultimately be causing problems with nuclear reactors but it goes to show how interconnected the planet’s phenomena truly are.
Archaeological Discovery in Norway Highlights Climate Change
An amazing discovery of extremely well preserved neolithic hunting weaponry was made in the mountains of Norway. The find is both exciting and a bit unnerving all at once. Huffington Post has the full story.
Martin Callanan, an archaeologist from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology made the discovery. While he was excited to find such a rare piece of history in such great condition, his excitement was tempered by the way it was found. In both 2010 and 2011 similar artifacts were found in the same region due to a high level of snowmelt. Since these discoveries, Callanan and his colleagues have been trekking into the mountains around this time of year in search of more pristine artifacts that have been shielded by snow and ice over the centuries.
Callanan’s persistence paid off this year when he discovered a bow and several arrows that date back almost 5,400 years to the neolithic period. Experts believe these weapons were probably used to hunt reindeer and other regional game. The concern with these great finds is that an unusual amount of snowmelt seems to be a year over year trend rather than an aberration. Callanan made an interesting point saying, “It’s actually a little bit unnerving that they’re so old and that they’re coming out right now.”
The fact that these artifacts are emerging now presents somewhat of a quandary for archaeologists and climate experts alike. Most experts agree that the recent high levels of snowmelt in that region of the world are most likely a result of global warming. While scientists are obviously concerned about the implications of these temperature changes, archaeologists are happy to have this influx of historic items that probably would not have been found otherwise. Even so, they have their own concerns.
James Dixon, an anthropology professor at the University of Mexico who was interviewed about the discovery expressed his sentiments on the irony of the finds. He says the more the ice melts the more artifacts are likely to be found. However, this also means that hundreds of artifacts that do not get discovered are now exposed to the elements and will likely be destroyed.
While the discovery of these artifacts may be a sign of consistent climate change, it may also mean the loss of parts of the human historical record.
Thanks for reading and stop by again soon for the more news from the scientific world.