MPI for Molecular Genetics: New anti-diabetic substance found

Liquorice root found to contain anti-diabetic substance. Researchers discover promising anti-diabetic substance in the amorfrutin class of natural substances: It provides the raw material for liquorice candy, calms the stomach and alleviates diseases of the airways: liquorice root. Chosen as the “Medicinal plant 2012”, the root has been treasured in traditional healing since ancient times. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have now discovered that liquorice root also contains substances with an anti-diabetic effect. These amorfrutins not only reduce blood sugar, they are also anti-inflammatory and are very well tolerated. Thus, they may be suitable for use in the treatment of complex metabolic disorders.

Picture: Scientists have identified a group of natural substances with an anti-diabetic effect, the amorfrutins, in the edible roots of the liquorice plant Glycyrrhiza. © Alexander Vögtli, PharmaWiki


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MPI for for Molecular Biomedicine: Somatic stem cells obtained from skin cells for first time ever

Skipping pluripotency ‘detour,’ Max Planck researcher Prof. Schöler again takes lead in stem cell research: Breaking new ground, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Münster, Germany, have succeeded in obtaining somatic stem cells from fully differentiated somatic cells.  Stem cell researcher Hans Schöler and his team took skin cells from mice and, using a unique combination of growth factors while ensuring appropriate culturing conditions, have managed to induce the cells’ differentiation into neuronal somatic stem cells. “Our research shows that reprogramming somatic cells does not require passing through a pluripotent stage,” explains Schöler.  “Thanks to this new approach, tissue regeneration is becoming a more streamlined – and safer – process.”

Picture: Immunofluorescence microscopy image of the induced neural stem cells using antibodies against two neural stem cell markers SSEA1 (red colour) and Olig2 (green colour). © MPI for Molecular Biomedicine

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Invention: Novel treatment of arteriosclerosis

A hardening of the blood vessels, known as arteriosclerosis, is a widespread disease in western societies which can lead to cardiac infarction and stroke. For treatment normally so called stents are implanted. These artificial tubes which are put into the artery help to prevent the blood flow constriction in the vessel. However, after a surgery very often a restenosis emerges which is the reoccurrence of stenosis, the narrowing of a blood vessel, leading to restricted blood flow again. Scientists from the MPI for Heart and Lung Research have now developed a novel treatment for this restenosis based on small non-coding RNAs (miRNAs 143/145). Micro-RNAs are known only for few years. These short RNA fragments are firmly integrated in the genotype and regulate the completion of proteins. They have an essential influence on the development and the stability of proteins in the cell. The patented findings of the MPI researchers show that there is a connection between miRNA 143/145 and the emergence arteriosclerosis. The Development of new stents eluting miRNA 143/145 mimetics is a very promising approach to combat ateriosclerosis and to inhibit restenosis.

Picture: Fluorescence-microscope picture of artery tissue. In contrast to a normal artery (left half) the vascular wall of miR143 / to 145 knockout mice is significantly extended by plaques. Typically the massive immigration of Makrophagen is (red. Smooth muscle cells are coloured green, nucleuses blue. Copyright: Max-Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research

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MPI for Heart and Lung Research: Gene for blood pressure regulation discovered – possible approach to treating hypertension

More than one billion people suffer from hypertension, also called high blood pressure. With this condition the heart has to work harder than it should to pump the blood around the body. Moreover,  high blood pressure can cause a stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, etc. an can even lead to chronic kidney failure. Even a moderate elevation of the blood pressure can lead to shortened life expectancy. Reasons for that? Hypertension is attributed to a high salt intake and a genetic predisposition. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim  have now discovered that even a normal salt intake can cause hypertension in people suffering from a sodium dysregulation. Furtermore, they have managed to identify the responsible gene: SLC4A5. The scientists could thus have found a new approach to treating hypertension more effectively and are now looking closer at the gene SLC4A5.

Microscopic cross section of a kidney. The image shows the organs filtration tubes, the so-called tubuli. The cell walls of the tubuli contain proteins, which are active as water transporter (green) and sodium transporters (red). The cell nuclei are highlighted in blue. © MPI for Heart and Lung Research.
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