LAB REPORT

Scientists copy natural sunscreen of zebrafish; walnuts slow colon tumour growth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 May, 2015, 6:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 May, 2015, 6:04am

Fishing for a sunscreen pill and lotion: Zebrafish can produce their own sunscreen in the form of a UV-protective chemical called gadusol, Oregon State University scientists have found. Following up on this discovery, the scientists then successfully copied the zebrafish's mechanism by expressing the relevant genes in yeast, opening the door to large-scale production of gadusol for sunscreen and as an antioxidant in pharmaceuticals. "The fact that the compound is produced by fish, as well as by other animals including birds, makes it a safe prospect to ingest in pill form," says Professor Taifo Mahmud, lead author of the study published in the journal eLife. However, further studies will be needed to test if and how gadusol is absorbed, distributed, and metabolised in the body to check its efficacy and safety.

Walnuts may help slow colon cancer growth: A walnut-enriched diet may cause beneficial genetic changes in cancer cells and slow colorectal tumour growth, according to a new Harvard Medical School study done on mice. The mice were randomly divided into two groups: one group was fed the equivalent of two servings (60 grams) per day of walnuts for humans, while the second group received a similar control diet with no walnuts. After 25 days, researchers found that in walnut-fed mice, key molecules that may affect cancer cell inflammation, blood supply and proliferation were positively engaged. The walnut group also showed a significantly slower tumour growth rate compared to the control group.

Beware of unlabelled stimulant in sports supplement: A stimulant that has been found in dietary supplements marketed to improve athletic performance and weight loss, could be to blame for haemorrhagic stroke in a patient who took the supplement before completing a vigorous workout. The case report, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, is the first to suggest a connection between b-Methylphenethylamine (BMPEA) and exercise-induced stroke. The female patient, who was previously healthy and in good physical condition, reported taking the supplement, Jacked Power, as directed on the label shortly before her regular, vigorous workout routine. Forty-five minutes after beginning her workout, she suddenly felt numbness and clumsiness in her left hand. The researchers analysed her supplement in the lab and found it contained a high dose of BMPEA, which was not listed in the product ingredients. The US Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers that BMPEA, a synthetic compound with unknown health effects in humans, is sometimes sold as if it were a natural compound found in the shrub Acacia rigidula.