The News – 5 September 2014

Overview

  • Scientists have found a way of generating renewable propane using E. coli, a bacterium widely found in the human intestine.The findings are a step towards the production of a commercial fossil fuel alternative, say the British and Finnish researchers.
  • Scientists have identified six genetic variants associated with the eye condition glaucoma in people from around the world including Australia.
  • New research shows rural women are more likely to die from ovarian cancer than their city counterparts. The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, finds the mortality rate for country-based women is 20 per cent higher.


Stories Discussed
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 5th September 2014. Read by Rebecca Foster.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/09/03/4080030.htm

Scientists have found a way of generating renewable propane using E. coli, a bacterium widely found in the human intestine.

The findings are a step towards the production of a commercial fossil fuel alternative, say the British and Finnish researchers.

“Although we have only produced tiny amounts so far, the fuel we have produced is ready to be used in an engine straight away,” says Patrik Jones from the Imperial College London.

Published in the journal Nature Communications this week, the study shows that E. coli (Escherichia coli) can interrupt a biological process that turns fatty acids into cell membranes.

The researchers used enzymes to channel the fatty acids along a different biological pathway, so that the bacteria made engine-ready renewable propane instead of cell membranes.

While work is at a very early stage, says Jones, his team’s findings are proof of concept for an alternative way of producing propane, which is currently obtained from fossil fuel reserves.

Propane is an inherently clean burning fuel due to its lower carbon content and it has an existing global market.

“I hope that over the next five to ten years we will be able to achieve commercially viable processes that will sustainably fuel our energy demands.” [said Patrik Jones]

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/09/01/4077180.htm

Scientists have identified six genetic variants associated with the eye condition glaucoma in people from around the world including Australia.

The discovery, in three major studies, could help identify people at higher risk of the disease and lead to earlier screening and treatments.

All three studies, published… in Nature Genetics, identify gene sequence variations of the ABCA1 gene, which is involved in the regulation of cellular cholesterol and lipid metabolism, as playing a role in the eye disease.

Professor Jamie Craig, of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and joint leader of the Australian project, says the finding is significant.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world.

Early diagnosis of glaucoma is crucial because, if treated early enough, damage to vision can be prevented, says Craig.

The Australian study, which also involved US researchers who replicated the findings, looked at potential gene targets in primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).

POAG is the most common type of glaucoma and involves the progressive loss of peripheral vision until the central vision is affected.

The study included a cohort of 1155 patients from the Australian and New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma with severe POAG, and 1992 matched controls.

Genetic testing identified variants of three genes, ABCA1, AFAP1 and GMDS, which significantly increased the risk in Australians and Americans of European descent.

Craig says the findings may in the future be used to develop risk profiles that will allow doctors to know whether a person has high-risk of their glaucoma being severe.

He says if you can identify those people at high-risk of severe glaucoma it can be treated more aggressively early in their life to save their sight.

However, he cautions it will take several years of experiments before the exact role of the genes identified in these studies is known, and these steps need to be taken before new treatment strategies can be planned.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-01/ovarian-cancer-survival-lower-for-rural-women/5710814

New research shows rural women are more likely to die from ovarian cancer than their city counterparts.

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, finds the mortality rate for country-based women is 20 per cent higher.

Scientist Susan Jordan, from the Queensland medical research institute QIMR Berghofer, suggests a number of reasons for the difference.

“The things that are mostly likely are either that women in the country are being diagnosed at a more advanced stage or…their access to the best treatments is just not as good as for women in the city areas.”

Dr Jordan says the study results reinforce the argument for further investment to develop a screening test for ovarian cancer and better treatment options.

“We have to keep going and make sure that in another five years’ time we see no difference [in the survival rates] between urban and rural women.”

Dr Jordan believes improved education is also critical, for both rural GPs and their patients, as ovarian cancer can be ‘pretty tricky’ to diagnose.

Common risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

• …

• strong family history of ovarian cancer… or some other cancers …

• long-term hormonal replacement therapy

• smoking

About 1,500 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.

[Today also ends women’s health week so hope you had a healthy week, possibly getting involved in health initiatives – find out more from http://www.womenshealthweek.com.au.]

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