Lab report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 9:37am

Folic acid deficiency 'harms generations to come'

Folic acid deficiency can cause severe health problems in offspring, including spina bifida, heart defects and placental abnormalities.

A new study published in the journal Cell reveals that a mutation in a gene necessary for the metabolism of folic acid not only affects the immediate offspring but can also have detrimental health effects on future generations.

Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Calgary observed mice in which a genetic mutation caused an abnormal folic acid metabolism, leading to similar effects to dietary folic acid deficiency.

When either the maternal grandmother or the maternal grandfather had the mutation, their genetically normal grandchildren were at risk of a wide spectrum of developmental abnormalities.

These developmental abnormalities were also seen in the fourth and fifth generations of mice.

Excellent sources of folate include leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus and turnip greens.

Antidepressant could fight deadly lung cancer

A little-used class of antidepressants appears potentially effective in combating a particularly deadly form of lung cancer, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Scientists are now recruiting patients with small-cell lung cancer and other similar conditions for a phase two clinical trial to test their theory.

The "repositioning" of an existing drug to treat a disorder other than the one for which it was originally approved is an example of how extremely large genetic and biological databases are changing medicine.

"We are cutting down the decade or more and the US$1 billion it can typically take to translate a laboratory finding into a successful drug treatment to about one to two years and spending about US$100,000," says Dr Atul Butte, associate professor of paediatrics at Stanford.

There has not been a single efficient therapy developed in the past 30 years for small-cell lung cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of only 5 per cent, the researchers say.