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Science At A Glance: Symposia, Research And Special Events At Experimental Biology 2011

April 7, 2011

The meeting Experimental Biology 2011 (EB 2011) begins April 9 and runs through April 13 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. This year’s meeting is expected to attract some 13,000 scientists and exhibitors. The annual gathering is jointly sponsored by the American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Physiological Society (APS), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), American Society for Nutrition (ASN), and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). The full program is located online.

Select highlights of the conference, and the dates and times of the presentations, are noted below.

Sunday, April 10

What’s Next in the Biochemical Battle of the Bulge?

Dozens of researchers in the coming days will lay out what’s around the corner in the biochemical battle of the bulge in a three-day program about obesity sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The program will showcase the work of scientists from all over the world who have their sights set on reversing the epidemic by laying bare and manipulating, to mankind’s advantage, its molecular underpinnings. Nine 25-minute talks and numerous other shorter talks about groundbreaking obesity studies will launch Sunday in Room 202B of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 9:55 a.m. (ASBMB)

Hot Topics in Chemical Biology and Drug Development

What do blinking fireflies, the cellular power plants that are human mitochondria, parasitic worms in sub-Saharan Africa and synthetic sugars have in common? At first glance, not a lot; but, after a good hard look, they represent bright threads in the tapestry of knowledge for those trying to patch the gaps between chemical biology, technology, therapies and cures. In the coming days, two dozen researchers will go public about their ongoing work aimed at improving our understanding of biological systems and contributing to our cache of healing compounds. Additionally, at the special four-day program sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the work of 12 scientists who are making some of the hottest advances in technology and drug discovery will be showcased. The dozen 25-minute talks and 12 other shorter presentations will take place in Room 207B of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 9:55 a.m. (ASBMB)

Researchers Present New Findings on Cancer and Gene Therapy

DNA’s role as the master blueprint of the cell means that even small sequence changes can have catastrophic consequences. For this reason, much of our understanding of cancer development comes from studying how cells copy DNA and repair sequence errors — and how these processes can go wrong. A thematic program by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will bring together researchers from across the country to discuss recent developments in DNA replication, recombination and repair and the importance of these activities in cancer and gene therapy. The roster of experts, in Room 206 of the convention center, will present recent discoveries in how cells manage the process of copying DNA, adding and removing stretches of sequence in the genome, and the consequences of when mistakes occur. 9:55 a.m. (ASBMB)

Don’t Judge a Food by its Organic Label: The Health Halo Effect

Psychologists long have recognized that how we perceive a particular trait of a person can be influenced by how we perceive other traits of the same individual. In other words, the fact that a person has a positive attribute can radiate a “halo,” resulting in the perception that other characteristics associated with that person are also positive. A growing number of studies suggest that the halo effect also may apply to foods and ultimately influence what and how much we eat. Learn why. 12:45 p.m. (ASN)

Blueberries May Inhibit Development of Fat Cells

The benefits of blueberry consumption have been demonstrated in several nutrition studies, specifically the cardio-protective benefits derived from their high polyphenol content. Blueberries have shown potential to have a positive effect on everything from aging to metabolic syndrome. A researcher has examined whether blueberries could play a role in reducing one of the world’s greatest health challenges: obesity. Hear what’s been found. 12:45 p.m. (ASN)

Green Tea, Tai Chi Enhance Bone Health, Reduce Inflammation in Postmenopausal Women

The potential for green tea to work synergistically with tai chi ““ a traditional Chinese form of moderately intense aerobic fitness activity grounded in mind-body philosophy ““ in enhancing bone strength has been examined in a group of postmenopausal women. The results show that consumption of GTP (at a level equivalent to about 4-6 cups of steeped green tea daily) and participation in tai chi independently enhanced markers of bone health. A similar effect was found for muscle strength. 12:45 p.m. (ASN)

Labor of Love: Active Moms-to-Be Give Babies a Head Start on Heart Health

Moms-to-be long have been told by their doctors and baby-related books and websites that staying fit during pregnancy is good for both mother and child. When it was reported a couple of years back that exercising strengthens a fetus’ heart control, many pregnant women took heed and hit the ground running, literally. But, for those pregnant women out there who might not be feeling all that motivated, or anything but energized, a new study could tip the scales: It turns out that exercising during pregnancy might be the earliest intervention strategy available to you for improving your child’s heart health after birth. Researcher Linda E. May will present her findings during a 30-minute talk before the American Association of Anatomists at 2:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the Walter E Washington Convention Center. 2:30 p.m. (AAA)

Program Offers Insights About Role of Metabolism in Disease

Metabolism encompasses the biochemical reactions that sustain life and is usually thought of as two complementary systems: one that breaks down nutrients to generate energy and another that harnesses that energy to produce the building blocks cells need to thrive. Considering the fundamental importance of this chemical give-and-take, it’s not surprising that metabolic dysfunctions can lead to serious diseases. A thematic program by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will cover recent scientific advances in understanding the links between metabolic function and the onset of disease. The four-day program begins at 3:45 p.m. in Room 202B of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 3:45 p.m. (ASBMB)

Monday, April 11

Pharmacogenetics Testing Offers Potential Forensic Tool

Pharmacogenetics (PGx) is the study of an individual’s variation in DNA sequence related to drug response. The goal is to select the right drug at the right dose and to avoid adverse drug reactions or ineffective treatment. This presenter has led a study that aimed to develop a PGx test for forensics. The PGx test can be used on a living or deceased person; in cases of death, the test can help identify whether the drug toxicity was due to the person’s genotype and therefore provide forensic evidence that supplements medical history, scene investigation, autopsy, and toxicology for death certification. 11:30 a.m. (ASIP)

Two EET Analogs Found to Lower Blood Pressure, Reduce Kidney Injury

A team of researchers has discovered a promising new avenue it says can be developed to treat hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Key to the research is the role of endothelial cells, which line the narrow spaces of the body such as those inside the blood vessels and the heart. In the presentation “Novel Epoxyeicosatrienoic Acid Analogs Increase Sodium Excretion and Lower Blood Pressure in Hypertension,” the researchers will discuss how they have developed and synthesized an array of EET analogs, or chemical compounds that act as EETs. In a recent study, 35 different EET analogs were screened. Two analogs administered to hypertensive animals effectively lowered blood pressure and reduced kidney injury. 12:45 p.m. (ASPET)

Vitamin D May Reduce Heart Risk in African-Americans

In recent years, supplementation with vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people who are deficient in the vitamin. New research indicates that supplementation with the “sunshine vitamin” may be particularly beneficial for overweight African-American adults, a population at increased risk for both CVD and vitamin D deficiency. 12:45 p.m. (APS)

Women’s Voices Remain Steady Throughout the Month

In recent years, studies have suggested that women’s voices change at different times over the menstrual cycle, with the tone rising as ovulation approaches. A study in which women’s voices were subjected to computerized acoustical analysis now contradicts those findings. After assessing 175 samples provided by 35 study participants at various points throughout the menstrual cycles, the researchers say that changes in hormonal status have no significant impact on eight distinct voice parameters. 12:45 p.m. (APS)

Plenary Lecture by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins

NIH Director Francis Collins delivers his plenary address, “NIH and the Biomedical Research Community: Opportunities and Concerns,” at 6:30 p.m. In his abstract for the lecture, he writes, “Biology is entering an era of seemingly limitless research opportunities, coupled with all-too-limited resources to pursue these opportunities. In order for biomedical research to thrive in this challenging environment, the scientific community must adopt innovative technologies, bridge traditional disciplinary divides, and embrace creative funding solutions.” 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, April 12

‘Apple a Day’ Advice Rooted in Science

Everyone has heard the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But why apples? A new study is the first to evaluate the long-term cardioprotective effects of daily consumption of apple in postmenopausal women. It finds remarkable changes in apple-eating women. 12:45 p.m. (ASN)

Maternal Stress During Pregnancy May Affect Child’s Obesity

There is increasing evidence from human and animal studies that offspring of parents who were physically or psychologically stressed are at higher risk of developing obesity and that these offspring may in turn pass that increased risk to the next generation. New research suggests that a mother’s nutritional or psychological stress during pregnancy and lactation may create a signature on her child’s genes that put the child at increased risk for obesity later in life, especially if the child is female. 12:45 p.m. (APS)

Moderate Exercise Improves Brain Blood Flow in Elderly Women

A new study suggests that it’s never too late for women to reap the benefits of moderate aerobic exercise. In a three-month study of 16 women age 60 and older, brisk walking for 30 to 50 minutes three or four times per week improved blood flow through to the brain as much as 15 percent. 12:45 p.m. (APS)

Omega-3s Consumed During Pregnancy Curbs Risk for Postpartum Depression

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled dietary intervention trial, 52 pregnant women took either a placebo or a capsule of 300 milligrams of Docosahexaenoic acid five days each week during weeks 24-40 of pregnancy. Women in the treatment group had significantly lower total postpartum depression and the women in the fish oil group were less likely to report symptoms related to anxiety and loss of self. 3 p.m. (ASN)

New Compounds Show Promise Against Hepatitis C

Liver pathologist Samuel Wheeler French Jr. is developing a proteomic-based program to study the development of liver cancer from hepatitis C viral infection. His most recent study “evaluates the effects of several flavonoids on hepatitis C viral infection. Results show that flavonoids reduce viral infection and have very few adverse effects. 5:30 p.m. (ASIP)

Wednesday, April 13

Findings May Help Keep Pancreatic Disease off the Menu

Timing is everything when it comes to the activation of enzymes created by the pancreas to break down food. When the timing is right, those enzymes are activated only when they reach the gut, where they get to work releasing and distributing nutrients that we need to survive. If the timing is wrong and the enzymes are activated too soon, they break down the pancreas itself, which is painful and sometimes fatal. Most of the time, the body is a master timekeeper and has a backup plan if a signaling misfire activates those enzymes too soon. But sometimes even those natural defense mechanisms aren’t enough to thwart pancreatitis, making the pursuit of a better understanding of the enzymes a high priority for patients and physicians. At 10:25 a.m. in Room 207A of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, a researcher determined to manipulate the activation of such enzymes will present new findings about a previously unknown cellular process that the pancreas uses to selectively detect and gobble up activated enzymes before they can digest the organ, avoiding disease progression. 10:25 a.m. (ASBMB)

Researcher Doggedly Pursues New Treatments for Patients in Coma

We’ve all watched it unfold on soap operas, medical dramas and films: A patient falls into a coma, and loved ones at the bedside try to peel away the veil by talking or reading aloud. Some of us have done it ourselves, desperately hoping for any hint of wakening or awareness. For Theresa Louise-Bender Pape, who studies patients with traumatic brain injury in various stages of coma and recovery, the “it can’t hurt” reasoning just isn’t good enough. She needs evidence. She wants answers. Pape has made it her life’s work to develop therapies that will, essentially, jump-start the lives of veterans, warriors and civilians in vegetative and/or minimally conscious states, and she will speak Wednesday about two of her ongoing innovative clinical trials: one that pipes familiar voices into the ears of unconscious patients and one that sends magnetic pulses into the neuronal centers of the brain. Pape’s talk will be in Room 101 of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 10:30 a.m. (AAA)

Short-Term, High-Fat Consumption May Be Beneficial to the Heart

Approximately 1 million Americans suffer heart attacks each year, and about 400,000 of those attacks are fatal. A key cause of heart attacks is atherosclerosis, a process in which cholesterol builds up in the arteries and impedes the ability of blood to flow to our most vital organ. Atherosclerosis often is associated with a high-fat diet in humans, but, in a new study using an animal model, researchers have found that a high-fat diet for a very short period can protect the heart from heart attacks and result in less tissue damage when heart attacks occur. 12:45 p.m. (ASPET)

Aerobic Exercise May Improve Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Walking on a treadmill for one hour a day may slow the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in obese people with prediabetes by jump-starting their metabolisms and slowing the oxidative damage wrought by the condition, according to new research. A study of 15 obese people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease revealed that the daily walks not only increase insulin sensitivity but improve the liver’s polyunsaturated lipid index, which is thought to be a marker of liver health. 12:45 p.m. (APS)

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