Biomarkers: The future medicine !!!!


Biomarkers are key molecular or cellular forms linking specific environmental exposure to a health outcome. Biomarkers give a better understanding towards the relationship between exposure to the environment chemicals and initial stages of development of chronic human diseases. New research has helped in identifying and validating new biomarkers to be used in population based studies of environmental disease. Biomarkers form an indispensable part of personalized healthcare, but, the spectrum of biomarker cases and purposes is broad.

The main uses of biomarkers include:

  • Measuring wellbeing and health, both physical and mental;
  • Assessing disease susceptibility and risk;
  • Grading disease severity;
  • Predicting outcomes;
  • Determining the optimal type of intervention, treatment, nutrition and so on;
  • Evaluating response to therapies;
  • Monitoring compliance;
  • Forensic applications.

In developing a viable biomarker the primary consideration is to match the intended purpose with robustness, ease of use and sensitivity/specificity. Biomarkers used in predictions typically should involve substrates that are relatively stable over time. Types of biomarkers vary depending upon its use. Perera and Weinstein classified biomarkers based on the sequence of events from exposure to disease as shown in figure below. 


Blood is one of the simplest biomarkers found in human body. Recent research has revealed the extent of using blood as a biomarker for diagnosing early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Genetic biomarkers are slowly gaining ground in research with this latest one on differentiating alzheimers disease and dementia with lewy bodies.

The recent research has shown the future of biomarkers with respect to early diagnosis in medicine. A new blood biomarker analysis has been demonstrated to predict short term mortality. Based on measurable biomarker patients are assigned to risk groups, estimating the risk of dying within next five years as compared to multifold with respect to general population. Engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, USA) have developed a simple and cheap paper test that aims to improve cancer detection rates, particularly in developing countries. The test works in line with that of pregnancy test can predict whether a person has a cancer using urine sample.


Laser Used to Deliver Dopamine in Hope for Parkinson’s Treatment

Dopamine in Hope…..

Lyra Nara Blog

laser for drug delivery Laser Used to Deliver Dopamine in Hope for Parkinsons Treatment

In people suffering from Parkinson’s, errors of metabolism in dopaminergic neurons of substantia nigra play an important role in pathophysiology of the disease. One of the functions of dopamine is in helping control muscle movement. Unfortunately, simply injecting Parkinson’s patients with dopamine does not cure the disease, since the chemical needs to be delivered in precise quantities over extended time period just where it’s needed. To help with that, researchers at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Japan and University of Otago, New Zealand have developed a method of encapsulating dopamine within liposomes that can then be released using a femtosecond laser.

These liposomes are spherical structures made of fat cells that are very stable when inside the human body. They are able to ferry their cargo throughout the body, which will only interact with cells and tissues when the liposomes are ruptured by some external force. The researchers utilized…

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Hormone-disrupting activity of fracking chemicals worse than initially found

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals !!!!


Hormone-disrupting activity of fracking chemicals worse than initially found
– “Among the chemicals that the fracking industry has reported using most often, all 24 that we have tested block the activity of one or more important hormone receptors,” said the study’s presenting author, Christopher Kassotis, a PhD student at the University of Missouri, Columbia. “The high levels of hormone disruption by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that we measured, have been associated with many poor health outcomes, such as infertility, cancer and birth defects.”
* International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago

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Water proof paper from biotechnology !!!!


In a global context, where the environmental awareness of companies and institutions are growing, emphasis is given for researching new materials, having enhanced properties, to be obtained, using environmentally friendly methods. Enzymes catalyze coupling reactions, which have application potential in various areas. For example, the enzyme Laccases, functionalize cellulosic fibers to obtain internal sizing of paper or paper sheets having antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Also, Laccases can be used on wood surface, thereby improving the binding of fungicides. But, such types enzymatic reactions, usually take a lot of time, the production must be stopped for the reaction to take place, which is not feasible in industries. Creating a new product from cellulose is found to be complex and costly.


Researchers are focusing on developing a new enzymatic derivative product and methodologies which can be integrated into the industrial process, without affecting the production cost and without requiring big changes in the industrial equipments. CelBiotech paper research group at Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, BarcelonaTec (UPC), Terrassa Campus, has patented natural aqueous compound that gives advanced properties to any cellulose base material. The patent was outcome of one of the researcher, 29 year old, Oriol Cusola’s doctoral thesis. The new aqueous compound modifies the properties of paper and any other cellulosic material. Instead of the traditional chemical reagents, the compound use natural enzymes, which is biodegradable and as no impact on environment.


ImageOriol Cusola (just another day in the lab…)

The invented product comprise of one enzyme (oxidoreductase type), along with a natural or synthetic product containing a phenol group or an alcohol group in its structure, that has optionally one or more hydrophobic chains, or at least a sterol group. The enzymatic product is prepared outside the application point. After obtaining the byproduct, it is applied directly on to the surface of the substrate to be modified.

ImageSurface of the paper (left) before applying the aqueous compound; surface of the paper (right) after the application.

The product has similar rheological properties to water, hence can be applied using simple methods such as, sprayers, immersions, or metering bar. The main advantage is that it is not required to be prepared for in situ application, but can be delivered as prepared product. Product is prepared at a high concentration and diluted before application. The surface treatment can be applied at various points of the machine, it can be applied at a low concentrations. Moreover, existing systems of the surface treatment can also be used. The product can be of interest for packaging industry, packaging development research, paper and food preservation research.





Your saliva protects you from cancer !!!!!

ImageResearchers at John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center(2) have found a compound in saliva, which along with common proteins in blood and muscle may protect human cells from toxins in tea, coffee and liquid smoke flavoring. The article cited in Food and Chemical Toxicology(1) journal, suggest that humans can naturally launch multiple defenses against plant chemicals called pyrogallol like polyphenols or PLPs found in tea, coffee, and liquid smoke flavoring. The presence of these natural defenses in people explains why PLPs are not crippling cells and causing illness, as expected from their widespread use.

Johns Hopkins Investigator Scot Kern, M.D., and his colleagues showed that PLPs found in everyday food and flavorings could do significant damage, by breaking strands of DNA. At some stage the damage caused by these toxins (PLPs) were found to be 20 times more than that of chemotherapy drugs, which are used for cancer patients. Baffled by these developments, researcher thought to find out why there was no further damage and how these cells are fighting them back. Kern said, “If these chemicals are so widespread–they’re in flavorings, tea, coffee–and they damage DNA to such a high degree,” adding further, “we thought there must be defense mechanisms that protect us on a daily basis from plants we choose to eat.”

An enzyme in saliva called alpha-amylase, along with the blood protein albumin and muscle cell protein myoglobin, together protected cells from DNA breakage by tea, coffee and isolated PLPs. Researchers measured DNA damage by looking onto the activity levels of p53 gene. A gene that helps in repairing damaged DNA. “It was quite easy to uncover a few of these protective substances against the tested cancer therapeutic drugs, which suggests there may be many more layers of defenses against toxins,” said Kern, the Kovler Professor of Oncology and Pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It was also found that the saliva enzyme and the proteins did not protect against the chemotherapeutic drugs, which can also damage DNA. This clarifies the fact that, defenses against PLPs may have evolved against a response to natural plant compounds, which is a part of human diet for a long time. Surprisingly, cells did not seem to need these protector proteins after a period of exposure to the toxins. Kern further explains, “After about two weeks we found it difficult to get the cells to be damaged by the same chemicals, even if they were damaged by the chemicals weeks earlier.” He further adds, “They seem to have some innate ability to respond to the damage or sense it and somehow protect themselves against it, even in the absence of albumin, muscle proteins or saliva components.” “It made us wonder, do people who eat the same PLP-containing diet day after day develop a natural cellular protection to the toxins,” Kern asked, “so that, as has been said before, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?”

Researchers are planning further, to study how albumin, myoglobin and salivary alpha-amylase protect against PLPs and their possible innate defenses against the chemicals. Kern also plans an alternative study, to find how these natural defenses were compromised in some people causing cancers or other illnesses. Finding of the research also speculates that a morning cup of coffee might be less harmful if enjoyed with a protective myoglobin from a meat (chicken, bacon, etc…). Also eating smoked meat might be less toxic if they are enough to make you salivate. But researchers say that these ideas are just speculation.


 1) Scott E. Kern, M. Zulfiquer Hossain, Kalpesh Patel, , 2014. Salivary α-amylase, serum albumin, and myoglobin protect against DNA-damaging activities of ingested dietary agents in vitro. Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 70, Pages 114–119.

 2) 2014. Compounds in Saliva and Common Body Proteins May Fend Off DNA-Damaging Chemicals in Tea, Coffee and Liquid Smoke.[Accessed 23 June 14].




Inequality in labeling chemicals

Interesting article on chemical and their labeling !!!!!

Anuja Sawant (Sarangdhar)

Symbols 2

As a student who has studied chemicals, observing tankers carrying chemicals interests me and may also interest you after you read this post. If you haven’t observed these tankers closely, may be you will now. By knowing such symbols, one can prevent injuries, not just in chemical factories but also in offices, homes and places where chemicals are used. This is because it is not only the tankers that bear such information, other products have it too.

The picture above is of NH3 on NH17. NH3 is the chemical formula for ammonia. It was shot on one of India’s national highways NH17, one of the busiest and 7th longest in the country. In it, you can see all kinds of indicators that are on the tanker. These are:

  • rear lights -to indicate the speed of the vehicle
  • a triangle with a light reflective material on it – a warning of a vehicle…

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Hormone Disruptors !!!

ImagePic: Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) courtsey,

From fishes to humans, effects of hormone disrupting pollutants has be recognized everywhere. A new research has shed light into effect of hormone disrupting pollutants in birds along the urban rivers of South Wales. An article published in the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry journal revealed that the chicks of the Eurasian Dipper, a known river bird, found in upland stream, where found to be underweight as compared to their rural counterparts. These birds which are nesting near urban rivers were found to have altered levels of hormones, resulting in hatching of fewer female chicks as compared to the birds nesting near the rural rivers. This could have a direct impact on the population’s breeding and survival.

Researchers from Cardiff University along with University of Saskatchewan and Exeter and Natural Envrionment Research Council, state that urban contaminants such as PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PBDR a flame retardant chemicals (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are the key pollutants. The birds acquire them through their food. A strong correlation between these contaminants and depressed thyroid hormone levels in chicks has been found; one of these hormones where of 43% lower in chicks found around urban rivers as compared to that of rural rivers.

ImageTable: Example of EDC’s hormone targets, and aquatic receptors (2)

Professor Steve Ormerod(1) stated: “Our findings are important in showing that pollutants are still a source of concern for the wildlife along Britain’s urban rivers despite very major recovery from the gross pollution problems of the past. Wild birds, such as dippers, are very important indicators of environmental well-being and food-web contamination, and we need to know if populations, other species – or even people – are also at risk”. Professor Steve Ormerod from Cardiff University School of Biosciences, has spent 35 years investigating rivers.

Study showed that urban dippers found along the heavily polluted rivers of South Wales, are exposed to complex mix of chemical contaminants, of which PCB and PBDE are dominant. Endocrine system is important and sensitive, since it controls thyroid and other hormones, alteration in thyroid hormone levels is an important predictor in pollution induced development effects. The effects of altered levels of thyroid hormone on birds are diverse. The primary effects include impaired growth; cognitive dysfunction; compromised immune function; changes in motor activity; and behavioural abnormalities which can persist into adulthood.

Dippers being top predators are important monitors for river pollution, helping in the assessment of urban contaminants which are influencing wildlife. Latest findings have led scientist to examine the effects of dippers sex ratio and thyroid hormone levels, as a consequence at an individual level, which could as a result alter the population dynamics. Locating the exact source of the pollution is one of the many solutions being considered.

RSPB’s Futurescape Officer John Clark said: “The return of Dippers to urban rivers is a fantastic outcome of pollution reduction in the UK. However, this study highlights the importance of birds as an indicator that some pollutants still persist in our rivers at harmful levels. We need to work in partnership with water companies, regulators, statutory agencies and communities at a catchment scale to address those practices that continue to introduce damaging chemicals to our rivers. The RSPB’s Futurescapes conservation work programme is doing exactly that – tackling environmental challenges at a truly large, landscape-scale, level.”

Problem with thyroid disruptors is emerging everywhere around the world. A joint effort is required in tackling these pollutants which throw environment off balance. WHO in their annual report on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) state: The identification of chemicals with endocrine-disrupting potential, among all of the chemicals used and released worldwide, is a major challenge and it is likely that we are currently assessing only the tip of the iceberg. Adding greatly to the complexity of the issue, and to the number of chemicals in our environment, are the unknown or unintended byproducts that are formed during chemical manufacturing and combustion processes and via environmental transformations. In addition, many EDC sources are unknown because a large number of products, materials and goods, as well as waste products and e-waste, lack declarations indicating their chemical constituents (3)




1) Morrissey, C. A., Stanton, D. W.G., Tyler, C. R., Pereira, M. G., Newton, J., Durance, I. and Ormerod, S. J. (2014), Developmental impairment in eurasian dipper nestlings exposed to urban stream pollutants. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 33: 1315–1323. doi: 10.1002/etc.2555

2) Doris S V. 2011. Background: Endocrine Disruption. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 June 14].

3) Europe, W.H.O, 2014. Identification of risks from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at the country level. 2nd ed. Europe: WHO Regional Office for Europe.



Aging and Chemicals


How smoking accelerates aging(9)


Why some 70+ year olds are very active while others can barley move around? Researchers explain in the article, that such difference from one person to other occurs due to exposure towards certain chemicals in the environment. Your date of birth on your certificate gives your chronological age, which might mean little in terms of the biological age of the cells inside the body. Chemicals like, benzene, cigarette smoke, and stress were identified as causative factors.

In an article(1) researcher explains the need to have more knowledge about the chemicals involved in aging and biomarkers(5) to measure them. Dr Norman Sharpless from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, states, “The rate of physiologic, or molecular, aging differs between individuals in part because of exposure to ‘gerotogens’, that is environmental factors that affect aging”. He further said, “We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer(6)biology, so will an understanding of gerontogens benefit the study of aging. By identifying and avoiding gerontogens, we will be able to influence aging and life expectancy(7)at a public health level.”

Differences in individual aging rates in the future can be determined using blood test evaluating biomarkers of molecular age. Tests like these measure key pathways in the process of cellular aging or chemical modifications to DNA(8).

Dr Sharpless stated that cigarette smoking is the most important gerontogen. Cigarette smoking has been linked with cancers. It has also been linked with atherosclerosis(4), pulmonary fibrosis(3) and other disease linked with aging. Even sun through UV radiation has also been proven to cause aging; Dr Sharpless and his colleague recently showed that chemotherapy(2) treatment also being strong gerontogen.

Using mouse model, Dr Sharpless and his team is prepared to study gerontogens and other factors in more detail. A concerted research is required to understand the clinical use for molecular tests of aging as well as the epidemiology of accelerated aging. “We believe the comparison of molecular markers of aging to clinical outcomes should begin in earnest,” Sharpless said.

Other ways of measuring molecular age will be through molecular determinations of DNA methylation proving useful biomarkers for this purpose. The concept of carcinogen has provided the foundation for cancer biology, the concept of gerontogen and its measurement using appropriate animal models and human biomarkers, will be crucial to a modern understanding of human aging.


 1)    E. Sharpless, Norman , 2014. Defining the toxicology of aging. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 13, 13-23.