Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hepatitis Symptoms

Hepatitis is derived from the Greek word "hepat" meaning liver and the Greek suffix "-itis" meaning inflammation. It is characterized by the destruction of liver cells and the presence of inflammatory cells in the liver tissues. It can either be acute or self-limiting where it heals on its own or it can be chronic which is longer or more persistent. There are many causes including:

  • Toxins such as alcohol.
  • Infections.
  • Autoimmune processes which is an immune response against your own cells or tissues.

Often people do not have any symptoms or only develop them further on in the disease so it can be difficult to detect and can be quite advanced before it is actually picked up.

Hepatitis B:

Hepatitis B is inflammation of the liver caused by a DNA virus causing viral hepatitis. At the moment in Western countries only 2% of the population are infected with chronic hepatitis. It is a blood-borne infection which can be transmitted by:

  • Re-use of contaminated needles.
  • Unprotected sexual contact.
  • Blood transfusions
  • During childbirth from the mother to the child if the mother is infected.

There are several vaccinations for Hepatitis B: it can either be made from recombinant DNA technology or obtained from the plasma of patients with long-standing Hepatitis B virus infections. Recombinant DNA technology involves adding the relevant bits of DNA into a bacterium plasmid which is put back into the bacteria which then replicates itself including the new piece of DNA. This can then be used as a vaccine so that people develop their own antibodies against the virus. The vaccine is targeted at people who are most at risk including:

  • Family members of people with Chronic Hepatitis B
  • Sexual partners of people with Hepatitis B
  • Newborn babies of mother with Hepatitis B
  • Drug Users
  • Homosexual men
  • Hospital staff who frequently come into contact with blood.

Symptoms of Acute Hepatitis B:

  • General ill-health
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Mild fever
  • Dark urine
  • Development of jaundice. This is a yellowing of the sclera (white parts of the eye) the skin and the mucous membrane. It is caused when bilirubin (a yellow break down product of haem which is an iron containing group) levels in the blood increase. This is an insoluble substance which travels to the liver bound to serum albumin. It is joined with glucuronic acid forming bilirubin diglucuroonide which is more soluble and is excreted from the liver as bile. Unnatural cell death (necrosis) reduces the liver's ability to make and excrete bilirubin leading to a build up of blood in the liver.

Acute Hepatitis B lasts a few weeks and in most people it gradually improves and doesn't usually require treatment. The incubation period for Hepatitis B is usually 2-6months and 1 in 20 patients develops chronic Hepatitis B while 1 in 5 develops cirrhosis.

Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis B:

· It can be asymptomatic.
· Chronic inflammation of the liver
· Develop fibrosis which is liver scarring
· Develop cirrhosis which is advanced liver scarring. The symptoms of cirrhosis are:
· Bruising
· Bleeding
· Bone pain
· Enlarged veins (varicose veins) around the abdomen
· Fatty stools
· Jaundice
· Increases the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cancer.

Chronic Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by using blood or serum tests that detect the presence of the viral antigens which are proteins produced by the virus, or they detect the presence of antibodies which are produced by the host as an immune response. The hepatitis surface antigen is most frequently tested for as it is the first detectable viral antigen.

There are 7 medications that can be used to treat Hepatitis B;

5 antiviral drugs:

  • Lamivudine
  • Adefovir
  • Telbivudine
  • Entecavir
  • Tenofovir

2 immune system modulators:

  • Interferon alpha-2a
  • Pegylated interferon alpha-2a.

95% of infected adults and older children will stage a full recovery and develop protective immunity to the virus.

Hepatitis C:

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus which affects the liver. It is spread by blood to blood contact and at the moment there is no vaccination to protect against it. Acute Hepatitis C is the first six months of the infection. 60-70% of infected people are asymptomatic during this phase but they can suffer:

  • General ill health including:
  • Marked weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Head aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Development of Jaundice.
  • Itching
  • Flu-like symptoms

Since the acute phase is often asymptomatic it is difficult to pick up early and treat so many people have developed more serious problems before they are aware they are infected making it more difficult to treat.

It can be tested for as the virus is detectable in the blood 1-3weeks after being infected and the antibodies which are produced as an immune response can be detected 3-12weeks after being infected but as mentioned above many people do not seek medical help because they don't have any symptoms. 15-40% of people are able to clear the infection in the acute phase but 60-85% of people develop chronic hepatitis C which is where the infection has lasted more than 6 months. The incubation period is usually 1-6months and 8 in 10 patients develop chronic Hepatitis C while 1 in 3 develops cirrhosis.

Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis C:

  • Often asymptomatic.
  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Leads to fibrosis which is liver scarring
  • Two thirds progress to cirrhosis (which is advanced liver scarring) within 20-30 years.

The rate of progression is increased by:

  • Increasing age
  • Gender: In males the progression is usually faster
  • Alcohol consumption
  • HIV co-infection
  • Fatty liver

Liver biopsy tests are used as they are best for detecting the amount of scarring and inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C can also be diagnosed using blood serum tests or serology, which detects the presence of antibodies against the Hepatitis C virus. In 80% of people the antibodies can be detected after 15weeks and in 90% they are detected after 20 weeks. You can also test for the presence of the virus using molecular nucleic acid testing methods which measure the amount of virus present.

In Western countries 90% of the people infected with Hepatitis C were infected through transmission of unscreened blood to blood contact for example:

· Body piercing and tattoos
· Injection drug use
· Nasal inhalation
· Blood products from blood transfusions or organ transplants
· From un-sterilized equipment
· Unprotected sexual contact
· Sharing personal items such as razors, tooth brushes and scissors

Hepatitis C can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her child during childbirth.

At the moment a combination of pegylated interferon alpha and an anti-viral drug called ribavirin are used for 24-48weeks to treat the disease. However, this is physically demanding and in some cases can cause temporary disability.

Smoking and alcohol consumption increases the progress of Hepatitis C virus associated fibrosis, cirrhosis and increases the risk of developing liver cancer. Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome can worsen the prognosis of hepatitis.

It can be prevented by:

  • Not sharing needles (or other drug paraphernalia)
  • Avoiding unsanitary tattoo methods
  • Avoiding unsanitary body piercing methods
  • Avoiding unsanitary acupuncture methods
  • Not sharing personal items
  • Not having unprotected sex.

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DNA Engineering: Could It End The World's Problems

The concept of DNA engineering (also known as DNA manipulation, DNA technology, and DNA recombination) is controversial, and the process of DNA engineering is amazing. DNA engineering is the altering of DNA, with the purpose usually being to mass produce some kind of chemical. Contrary to popular belief, DNA engineering, as of today, is not used to change the physical characteristics of an individual. However, some day in the future, that might be very common (it would be used to prevent hereditary diseases).

DNA engineering is a complex process which has many steps and requires many tools. As of today, DNA engineering is used to mass produce products like insulin. If you've ever wondered how chemicals like insulin can be mass produced and used by humans, it will be explained here. But before understanding how this DNA manipulation works, some things need to be known about an unlikely ally: Bacteria.

Bacteria are crucial to the process of DNA engineering, and without them we wouldn't be able to make use of it. Bacteria are easy to clone and it's easy to alter their DNA. In fact, bacteria alter their own DNA through three processes, but for the purpose of DNA engineering, scientists are only concerned with one. Transformation is when bacteria take DNA from surrounding fluid and incorporate it into their own. Bacteria also have small circular rings of DNA called plasmids, which is the DNA that is actually altered in the bacteria.

There are many steps to recombining DNA. First, a suitable bacterium must be taken, as well as a cell containing a gene that scientists want to clone. The scientists isolate the bacterium's plasmid as well as the cell's DNA. Then, the scientists use something called a restriction enzyme on both the cell DNA and the bacterium's plasmid. The restriction enzyme cuts out the gene of interest, the one the scientists want to clone, and then it is placed near the bacterial plasmid and it attaches (in the gap of the plasmid that was taken out with the restriction enzyme). However, the hydrogen bonds formed when the DNA connects aren't very strong, and an enzyme called DNA ligase is used to seal the cell DNA to the plasmid by covalent bonds. Now, the plasmid has now become recombinant DNA, and is ready to be cloned. The bacterium is allowed to multiply into several bacteria, and then scientists can use the huge amounts of bacteria for something useful.

One thing scientists can do is use restriction enzymes to cut out the cloned gene (which was cloned when the bacteria reproduced), and place it in another organism, whether it is human or plant. By placing a new gene into a plant, it might give that plant a resistance to something, like certain bugs. Or, the gene can be allowed to stay in the bacteria and they mass produce the protein the DNA gene codes for, like insulin. So, for example, lots of insulin is produced, extracted, packed, and is ready for use by humans.

The same concept can be applied to any other gene or protein that needs to be mass produced. By using this technique, scientists can mass produce any gene or protein they want, and use it to benefit humans. It is not long before human babies' DNA is altered to fix hereditary diseases, and things like hemophilia and sickle cell disease will be problems of the past.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Digital Micro Imaging For Biotechnology Research

We humans have been harnessing biological processes to make life a little sweeter ever since the first developments in agriculture. Tapping into life's processes to make things such as cheese, bread, and beer (the essentials) has been going on for thousands of years. Now, there is a whole area of digital micro imaging for biotechnology research which encompasses the vast applications of these biological processes.

The field of applied biology called biotechnology uses living organisms and bioprocesses to do truly amazing things. Biotechnology is used in engineering, technology, medicine, and other fields requiring bioproducts. Biotechnology is also used in genetically modified foods, transgenic crops and animals, biopharmaceuticals, recombinant DNA technology, and bioremediation.

Leading companies in micro imaging research are using new technology that allows for the extraction of even the smallest biomaterials from heterogeneous tissue and cell colonies. The secret behind the method is a pure, contact-free optical technique that is gentle enough to facilitate micro dissection and the manipulation of living cells in culture. The best digital microscopes come equipped with the latest in laser technology. This allows for contact-free and contamination-free specimen capture and micro dissection.

Researchers who use digital micro imaging for biotechnology research report a vast increase in workflow speed. The image is displayed using an integrated camera onto a monitor or projection screen. Integrated color management ensures for brilliant images in true color. By bypassing the need for eyepieces, digital micro imaging technology avoids painful muscle tension and eye strain. Something that travels faster than ever in the world today is information. With integrated E-mail function and remote viewing, sharing work and discussing work with partners is easier than ever. Now, researchers can get the work they need to get done faster, wherever they are.

In modern medicine, biotechnology has promising applications in a number of areas. Drug production and pharmaceuticals have both made ready use of biotechnology. Modern methods of manufacturing pharmaceutical products frequently make use of biotechnology. Biotechnology first saw use in pharmaceutical manufacturing with recombinant DNA technology to modify Escherichia coli bacteria. This resulted in the production of human insulin.

Before this technique was discovered, insulin was extracted from the pancreas glands of cattle and pigs. Although animal-derived insulin is mostly effective in treating diabetes, allergic reactions were noted to sometimes occur. This can be accredited to the subtle differences between insulin derived from humans and farm animals.

Genetic researchers were able to produce two genes for each of the two protein chains that comprise the insulin molecule. The genes are then inserted into plasmids among a group of genes that are activated by lactose. The result is two insulin-producing genes activated by lactose. By inserting the recombinant plasmids into Escherichia coli bacteria and combining the two protein chains, the bacteria produces as much as 100,000 molecules of human insulin.

Before recombinant DNA was used to modify bacteria and produce the human growth hormone, the hormone had to be extracted from the pituitary gland of cadavers. Unlike animal derived-insulin, animal growth hormones have no therapeutic upshot for mankind to date. The hormone was constantly seeing significant shortages since it took fifty cadavers to supply a single year's supply of the growth hormone.

Digital micro imaging for biotechnology research is also used in gene therapy, an important process involved in treating cancer. The technology and techniques behind gene therapy are still in developmental stages; however, it has been used with some success for treating or curing genetic and acquired diseases such as cancer and AIDS. Biotechnology has also found use in genetic testing, such as prenatal diagnostic screening. There are many benefits of using this technology to test and learn about a fetus. Presymptomatic testing for a number of different diseases and disorders is possible, and the sex of the future baby can also be determined.

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What Is the Best Start-Up Biotech Business Model?

Biotechnology is a field of study of applied biology that engages the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in technology, medicine, engineering, and other fields necessitating biological products. The following are biotech companies and/or biotech consulting firms that have been participating on pharmaceuticals research and medicine products. Most of them are recognized as a biotech consulting firms as well.

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ: AMGN, SEHK: 4332) is among biotech companies that are widely known worldwide headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California. Amgen is the global leading self-governing biotech firm and is broadly considered among the most prominent in the biotechnology industry. Genetic Engineering Technology, Inc., (Genentech Inc.), is a biotech corporation, established in 1976 by venture capitalist Robert A. It is believed to have established the biotechnology industry. Moreover, the corporation is considered to be a lead the way in the field of recombinant DNA technology, in regard with restriction enzymes, successfully express a human gene in bacteria and contributed to its success with synthetic human insulin in 1978.

NASDAQ: GENZ (Genzyme Corporation) an American biotech company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institute focuses on establishing tough research facilities for its students, train them to become specialist contributors in their fields, in manufacturing or in academic institutions. Union Chimique Belge (UCB) is a biopharmaceutical manufacturer based in Brussels, Belgium. At first focused on industrial chemicals, the company also incorporated a minute pharmaceutical sections located around Meurice Laboratories. In the early 1950s, UCB established a research centre where new medicines like hydroxyzine (Atarax) were developed.

NASDAQ: GILD (Gilead Sciences) is a biopharmaceutical organization that found out, develops and traded therapeutics. The company has focused principally on antiviral drugs to cure patients contaminated with hepatitis B, influenza or HIV. Serono S.A. is a biotechnology company based in Geneva, Switzerland. A principal pace in its progress was the invention of a technique of extracting urinary gonadotropins. The company also performs research in autoimmune diseases and oncology.

NASDAQ: BIIB. (Biogen Idec, Inc) is a biotechnology company dedicating itself to medicines for cancer, autoimmune mess and neurological chaos. CSL Limited is an Australia headquartered producer of medical products. Its manufacturing products comprise a variety of blood plasma derivatives, vaccines, and cell culture reagents used in a range of medical and hereditary researches and industrial relevance. NASDAQ: CEPH (Cephalon, Inc.) is a U.S. biopharmaceutical company co-established in 1987 by Dr. Frank Baldino, Jr., The Company's is named after the adjective "cephalic" which means "associated to the head/brain," and it was recognized mainly to pursue healing for neurodegenerative related diseases.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically modified organism are often referred to as GMO's. GMO's are foods that undergo a genetic "modification." Recombinant DNA technology, which is the process of combining genes from different organisms or the rearrangement of an organism's genes that are already present, is used to alter the foods from their natural state.

The first genetically modified organism to be developed on a large scale was the Flavr Savr tomato in 1987. This tomato worked by inhibiting the breakdown of the fruit's cell walls over time. This allowed for increased shelf life even after long shipping and storage times. Since the flavr tomato, thousands of a applications by different companies have been submitted to allow for the testing of GMO products and over 90% of them have been approved.

The most common genetically modified crops are soybeans, squash, tomatoes, corn, and cotton. Other crops that may be genetically modified are potatoes and rice as well as fish, bananas, cows, and fruit trees.

GMO foods can be broken down into 3 classes. The 3 classes are first generation, second generation, and third generation crops. Third generation crops are crops that produce pharmaceuticals and improve bio-based fuels.

Second generation crops include crops with enhanced nutrient content of animal feed. Finally, first generation crops include crops that have enhanced genes such as good insect resistance, a good adaptability to poor weather conditions, and herbicide tolerance.

Benefits of genetically modified organisms include insect and herbicide resistance, increased shelf life of different foods, delayed ripening, increased food production, virus-resistant crops, limited costs of food production, and enhanced nutrient content of different foods. Some foods are being genetically modified to provide immunizations to different diseases.

In 2006, more than 250 million acres of GMO crops were planted by more than 10 million farmers in greater than 20 countries. The leaders in GMO production are the U.S. followed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, and South Africa.

The main negative health effect of GMO foods is the allergic reactions caused by switching the genes around from different foods. This in turn creates foreign substances to the body which causes the body to instinctively fight off. Also, when genes from one food is moved to another food, anyone who was allergic to the first food is now allergic to the other food as well. For example, if you are lactose intolerant and specific gene in milk is then implemented in an apple, although you were never allergic to apples, because of the inserted milk gene, you are now allergic to both milk and apples.

It is currently estimated that about 70% of all food products sold in retail stores in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients. The most common products in the U.S. are corn, soybeans, and cotton. Salmon have also been genetically modified allowing these fish to grow twice the size of normal salmon, grow ten times faster, and intake 25% less food!

There have been many studies conducted on genetically modified organisms that have shown many negative health effects of GMOs. One study published in Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology conducted on rats showed that rats given GMO food were 2-3 times more likely to die than the controls and rapidly as well. These rats developed high levels of cancer, had large cancerous tumors but the study was unable to identify the direct mechanism that caused the rats to die from the genetically modified food. Another study conducted on hamsters published in the Days of Defense Against Environmental Hazards in Russia showed a link between infertility and GMO food consumption. The hamsters were given genetically modified soybeans causing the hamsters to slow sexual maturity and gradually become infertile.

If you do not want to consume GMO foods in your diet because of potential dangers associated with them, some tips to avoid consuming them include shopping at your local farmer's market, eating organic food, avoiding corn and soybean products, buying "all natural" or organic meat, growing your own produce, and avoiding aspertame, cottonseed oil, and canola oil,

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