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Reason for Old Age Found, Solution Possible Soon: Scientists

The scientists at Arizona State University have found a rare atomic level change at the enzyme telomerase that holds secrets as to how we grow old.

The telomerase is a naturally occurring enzyme that maintains telomeres and prevents them from shortening during cell division. Telomeres are found at the ends of human chromosomes and are stretches of DNA which protect the genetic data.

“Telomerase is crucial for telomere maintenance and genome integrity. Mutations that disrupt telomerase function have been linked to numerous human diseases that arise from telomere shortening and genome instability,” explained Julian Chen, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State.

The telomeres keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy or scramble our genetic information.

“This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death,” scientists noted.

“We are particularly excited about this research because it provides, for the first time, an atomic level description of the protein-RNA interaction in the vertebrate telomerase complex,” Chen added.

The scientists in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai had conducted the crucial research, which will be published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.

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Effective HIV vaccine comes closer to reality !

The new findings point the way towards a potentially more effective vaccine that would generate V1V2-directed HIV neutralising antibodies.WASHINGTON: Scientists have discovered how the immune system makes a powerful antibody that blocks HIV infection of cells by targeting a key site, paving way for an effective vaccine for the deadly virus.

Researchers believe that if a vaccine could elicit potent antibodies to a specific conserved site in the V1V2 region of the virus, one of a handful of sites that remains constant on the fast-mutating virus, then the vaccine could protect people from HIV infection.

Analyses of the results of a clinical trial of the only experimental HIV vaccine to date to have modest success in people suggest that antibodies to sites within V1V2 were protective.

The new findings point the way towards a potentially more effective vaccine that would generate V1V2-directed HIV neutralising antibodies, researchers said.

The study led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ( NIAID) scientists began by identifying an HIV-infected volunteer who naturally developed V1V2-directed HIV neutralising antibodies, named CAP256-VRC26, after several months of infection.

Using techniques similar to those employed in an earlier study of HIV-antibody co-evolution, the researchers analysed blood samples donated by the volunteer between 15 weeks and 4 years after becoming infected.

This enabled the scientists to determine the genetic make-up of the original form of the antibody; to identify and define the structures of a number of the intermediate forms taken as the antibody mutated towards its fullest breadth and potency.

It also allowed them to describe the interplay between virus and antibody that fostered the maturation of CAP256-VRC26 to its final, most powerful HIV-fighting form.
The study showed that after relatively few mutations, even the early intermediates of CAP256-VRC26 can neutralise a significant proportion of known HIV strains.

This improves the chances that a V1V2-directed HIV vaccine developed based on the new findings would be effective, according to scientists, who have begun work on a set of vaccine components designed to elicit V1V2 neutralising antibodies and guide their maturation.

Scientists discover genetic causes of pancreatitis

PancreatitisHYDERABAD: A team comprising doctors from Asian Institute of Gastroenterolgy (AIG) and scientists from Centre for Cellular anda Moleculr Biology (CCMB) along with international researchers have discovered hitherto unknown genetic causes for Chronic Pancreatitis in Indian populations. These findings will be published in the prestigious international journal Nature Genetics.

Addressing the media here on Sunday, CCMB director C H Mohan Rao said the study showed genetic mutations found in western populations need not necessarily be found in Indian populations. Pancreatitis is an inflammatory disorder of the pancreas, the organs which produce essential digestive enzymes in addition to producing insulin for sugar metabolism in the body.

The decade long research by Dr G R Chandak of CCMB, Dr D Nageshwar Reddy and Dr G V Rao of AIG representing India, involved genetic analysis of 300 patients, from Europe and Asia, afflicted with Tropical Calcific Pancreatitis which is one type of pancreatitis found largely in populations in south India. The research team’s recent discovery was identification of a mutation in an essential enzyme producing Carboxypeptidase A1 gene (CPA1) in the Indian patients which caused functional loss of the enzyme.

Dr Chandak said, “The study has found a novel mutation in CPA 1 gene that was not found in non-Indian patients. This condition has an early onset in the patients that is many of them were young people.

The study could pave the way for improved diagnosis in India populations later.”

The team’s previous discoveries have included identification of mutations in two other genes corroborating the idea that pancreatitis has strong genetic factors and not just environmental or nutritional factors as was previously thought.

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