Human Health

In medicine, the knowledge of protein functions is necessary to understand the origin of diseases on the molecular level and thus to be able to develop tailored agents for their treatment. Synchrotron radiation is an important tool for studying protein structure. Due to the research on the genome of humans and to the need of recombined proteins in biotechnology and medicine the demand for structure analyses is on the increase. This demand will only be met by increased use of synchrotron light.

Research Finds Vitamin D Deficiency Affects Bone Quality

Zoom

The Advanced Light Source, Berkley Lab, USA

Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread medical condition that plays a major role in human bone health. Scientists know that a lack of vitamin D can cause bone diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Now a team of researchers working at the ALS has also found that vitamin D deficiency plays a significant role in the bone-aging process. Low levels of vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” have been previously linked to the health and fracture risk of human bone on the basis of low calcium intake and reduced bone density. The recent ALS research demonstrates that vitamin D deficiency also reduces bone quality.

Read the full story...

Scientists make leap forwards in efforts to combat antibiotic resistance

Zoom

Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire, UK

A group from the University of East Anglia, University of St Andrews and Diamond Light Source have made a breakthrough in the race to solve antibiotic resistance. They used Diamond to study a ‘superdrug’ bacteria in extreme detail to identify an innovative method of disabling bacteria and preventing antibiotic resistance.

The discovery doesn’t come a moment too soon. The World Health Organisation has warned that antibiotic-resistance in bacteria is spreading globally, with severe consequences. Even common infections, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill. This breakthrough is a giant leap forward in the fight against superbugs.

Bacteria are able to infect their hosts because they camouflage themselves against the immune system. However, this new research reveals how the bacteria construct this camouflage and opens the door to blocking the process through new classes of antibiotics.

Read the full story...

Researchers X-Ray Living Cancer Cells

X-ray scan of chemically fixed cells. Each pixel represents a full diffraction image. The colours indicate how strong the X-rays are scattered at each individual point.
Zoom
X-ray scan of chemically fixed cells. Each pixel represents a full diffraction image. The colours indicate how strong the X-rays are scattered at each individual point.

PETRA III, DESY, Hamburg, Germany

Göttingen-based scientists working at DESY’s PETRA III research light source have carried out the first studies of living biological cells using high-energy X-rays. The new method shows clear differences in the internal cellular structure between living and dead, chemically fixed cells that are often analysed. “The new method for the first time enables us to investigate the internal structures of living cells in their natural environment using hard X-rays,” emphasises the leader of the working group, Prof. Sarah Köster from the Institute for X-Ray Physics of the University of Göttingen.

Read the full story...

Researchers find novel approach for controlling deadly C. difficile hospital infections

Canadian Light Source, Saskatoon, Canada

Using data collected at the Canadian Light Source, researchers have revealed the first molecular views showing how antibodies derived from llamas may provide a new method for controlling the highly infectious disease C. difficile, common in health-care facilities.

One of the most problematic hospital-acquired infections worldwide, C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen that causes extreme diarrhea and potentially fatal colon inflammation. This new research provides exciting opportunities for creating a new generation of engineered antibodies that will be more effective at preventing the toxins from damaging the intestine during the normal course of the disease.

Read the full story...

The interaction of asbestos and iron in lung tissue revealed by synchrotron-based scanning X-ray microscopy

Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, Italy

Asbestos fibres are known as a potent carcinogen associated with malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer, but the reasons for their toxicity and carcinogenic mechanisms are still unclear. Most often, the toxicity is ascribed to the specific physico-chemical characteristics of asbestos and, in particular, to its ability to adsorb iron that may cause an alteration of iron homeostasis in the tissue.

Using a combination of advanced synchrotron-based X-ray imaging and micro-spectroscopic methods representative tissue samples from ten patients exposed to asbestos (from shipyard workers in Monfalcone) have been studied obtaining important correlative morphological and chemical information for the chemistry of asbestos body formation and other changes in the surrounding lung tissue that cannot be obtained using conventional techniques.

Read the full story...