Posts Tagged ‘Cardiovascular Disorders’

Consuming Risk Free Food & Beverages

Author: Debashree Chakrabarti, MSc., Biological Sciences, UMass Lowell (Expected May 2016)

Leading researchers and medical health professionals have raised their concern about the over all declining status of health and well being world wide. A rising trend in childhood obesity, cardiovascular diseases, clinical depression syndrome in young adults is reason enough to try and broaden the scope of plausible agents which result in people making bad health decisions.  As a witness to the emerging dietary trends adopted by children and young adults, it is natural to question the ethics of processed food and beverages industry. Does it seem reasonable the 2L bottles of soda cost $2 USD? There are more people claiming to not like water since it is flavorless. 100% fresh juices are subject to scrutiny for their lack of adequate fiber content and excess presence of sugars. Products with high fructose corn syrups, added preservatives in processed meat, ‘read to eat’ meals are agreeably cost effective and saves a lot of time, however the over riding damage is in the long run with deficient immune system and gain of unnatural toxins which the body finds hard to eliminate. Another marketing frenzy is visible in the neutraceuticals range of instant energy drinks, protein shakes and over the counter pills. The focus is towards having the visibly attractive, muscular body regardless of the compromised health. The companies do their bit of limiting the usage by adding a precaution statement and dosage remarks on the product labels. This is however not translated as useful information to the young consumers who do not foresee the detrimental outcomes in advance.

As the prices of insurance packages and medical aid is negotiated, the same effort needs invested in the regulation of consumer dietary products. We do not want a ban on Colas however, we do not also need them to be sold at prices cheaper than water. Fresh fruits and vegetables need not be price tagged astronomically driving population to adopt a risk driven lifestyle. Taking initiatives to promote urban farming and local gardens, reaching out to the people about their choices and how it impacts the global financial predicament is a need of the hour. We are ok with the attitude of “Don’t tell me how to live my life” in a world relying heavily on subsidized medicines. This has to change. Subsidized medicine is a privilege and should be benefited to those responsible. Researchers and big pharma companies are not the only stake holders in this fight against an exponentially growing illness of misinformed decisions. People need to be brought in and educated. This includes strong arming anyone who feels they have a right to abuse their health or the health of the world.


Another paradigm to this discussion is the need for more extensive research hubs world wide and making the accessibility of advanced medicines available to the dense population regions in Asia, Africa and Middle East Arab countries which host the majority of the population and have the least of the resources. We need 100 Massachusetts world wide with cutting edge researchers deep diving and venture capitalists backing them up. A vision for 2050 must encompass every individual being aware of what it takes to damage a human body which is a very robust machine. Eating right and being able to afford health must not be difficult. Choices available in the stores must be rational to the level where the most ignorant of the lot is still consuming risk free substances. Given the fantastic evolutionary armaments we have, it takes a lot to be unwell and yet we seem to making it fairly easy to catch cold. Healthy people translate to healthy economy.


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Leaders in Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence would like to announce their First Volume of their BioMedical E-Book Series A: eBooks on Cardiovascular Diseases


Perspectives on Nitric Oxide in Disease Mechanisms

Nitric Oxide coverwhich is now available on Amazon Kindle at

This book is a comprehensive review of Nitric Oxide, its discovery, function, and related opportunities for Targeted Therapy written by  Experts, Authors, Writers.  This book is a series of articles delineating the basic functioning of the NOS isoforms, their production widely by endothelial cells, and the effect of NITRIC OXIDE production by endothelial cells, by neutrophils and macrophages, the effect on intercellular adhesion, and the effect of circulatory shear and turbulence on NITRIC OXIDE production. The e-Book’s articles have been published on the  Open Access Online Scientific Journal, since April 2012.  All new articles on this subject, will continue to be incorporated, as published, in real time in the e-Book which is a live book.


We invite e-Readers to write an Article Reviews on Amazon for this e-Book.


All forthcoming BioMed e-Book Titles can be viewed at:


Leaders in Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence, launched in April 2012 an Open Access Online Scientific Journal is a scientific, medical and business multi expert authoring environment in several domains of  life sciences, pharmaceutical, healthcare & medicine industries. The venture operates as an online scientific intellectual exchange at their website and for curation and reporting on frontiers in biomedical, biological sciences, healthcare economics, pharmacology, pharmaceuticals & medicine. In addition the venture publishes a Medical E-book Series available on Amazon’s Kindle platform.

Analyzing and sharing the vast and rapidly expanding volume of scientific knowledge has never been so crucial to innovation in the medical field. WE are addressing need of overcoming this scientific information overload by:

  • delivering curation and summary interpretations of latest findings and innovations on an open-access, Web 2.0 platform with future goals of providing primarily concept-driven search in the near future
  • providing a social platform for scientists and clinicians to enter into discussion using social media
  • compiling recent discoveries and issues in yearly-updated Medical E-book Series on Amazon’s mobile Kindle platform

This curation offers better organization and visibility to the critical information useful for the next innovations in academic, clinical, and industrial research by providing these hybrid networks.

Table of Contents for Perspectives on Nitric Oxide in Disease Mechanisms

Chapter 1: Nitric Oxide Basic Research

Chapter 2: Nitric Oxide and Circulatory Diseases

Chapter 3: Therapeutic Cardiovascular Targets

Chapter 4: Nitric Oxide and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Chapter 5: Bone Metabolism

Chapter 6: Nitric Oxide and Systemic Inflammatory Disease

Chapter 7: Nitric Oxide: Lung and Alveolar Gas Exchange

Chapter 8. Nitric Oxide and Kidney Dysfunction

Chapter 9: Nitric Oxide and Cancer 









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Prefacing the e-Book Epilogue: Metabolic Genomics and Pharmaceutics

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


Adieu, adieu, adieu …

Sound of Music

Snoopy - Charlie happiness

Snoopy – Charlie happiness

This work has been a coming to terms with my scientific and medical end of career balancing in a difficult time after retiring, but it has been rewarding.  In the clinical laboratories, radiology, anesthesiology, and in pharmacy, there has been some significant progress in support of surgical, gynecological, developmental, medical practices, and even neuroscience directed disciplines, as well as epidemiology over a period of half a century.  Even then, cancer and neurological diseases have been most difficult because the scientific basic research has either not yet uncovered a framework, or because that framework has proved to be multidimensional.  In the clinical laboratory sciences, there has been enormous progress in instrumental analysis, with the recent opening of molecular methods not yet prepared for routine clinical use, which will be a very great challenge to the profession, which has seen the development of large sample volume, multianalite, high-throughput, low-cost support emerging for decades.  The capabilities now underway will also enrrich the the capabilities of the anatomic pathology suite and the capabilities of 3-dimensional radiological examination.  In both pathology and radiology, we have seen the division of the fields into major subspecialties.  The development of the electronic health record had to take lessons from the first developments in the separate developments of laboratory, radiology, and pharmacy health record systems, to which were added, full cardiology monitoring systems.  These have been unintegrated.  This made it difficult to bring forth a suitable patient health record because the information needed to support decision-making by practitioners was in separate “silos”.  The mathematical methods that are being applied to the -OMICS sciences, can be brought to bear on the simplification and amplification of the clinicians’ ability to make decisions with near “errorless” discrimination, still allowing for an element of “art” in carrying out the history, physical examination, and knowledge unique to every patient.

We are at this time opening a very large, complex, study of biology in relationship to the human condition.  This will require sufficient resources to be invested in the development of these for a better society, which I suspect, will go on beyond the life of my grandchildren.  Hopefully, the long-term dangers of climate change will be controlled in that time.  As a society, or as a group of interdependent societies, we have no long term interest in continuing self-destructive behaviors that have predominated in the history of mankind.  I now top off these discussions with some further elucidation of what lies before us.

Metabolomics and systems pharmacology: why and how to model the human metabolic network for drug discovery

Douglas B. Kell and Royston Goodacre
School of Chemistry and Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Drug Discovery Today Feb 2014;19(2)

Metabolism represents the ‘sharp end’ of systems biology,

  • because changes in metabolite concentrations
  • are necessarily amplified relative to
  • changes in the transcriptome, proteome and enzyme activities,
  • which can be modulated by drugs.

To understand such behaviour, we therefore need
(and increasingly have)

  • reliable consensus (community) models of the human metabolic network
  • that include the important transporters.

Small molecule ‘drug’ transporters are in fact metabolite transporters,

  • because drugs bear structural similarities to metabolites known
  • from the network reconstructions and from measurements of the metabolome.

Recon2 represents the present state-of-the-art human metabolic
network reconstruction; it can predict inter alia:

  1. the effects of inborn errors of metabolism;
  2. which metabolites are exometabolites, and
  3. how metabolism varies between tissues and cellular compartments.

Even these qualitative network models are not yet complete. As our
understanding improves so do we recognize more clearly the need for a systems (poly)pharmacology.

Modelling biochemical networks – why we do so
There are at least four types of reasons as to why one would wish to model a biochemical network:

  1. Assessing whether the model is accurate, in the sense that it
    reflects – or can be made to reflect – known experimental facts.
  2. Establishing what changes in the model would improve the
    consistency of its behaviour with experimental observations
    and improved predictability, such as with respect to metabolite
    concentrations or fluxes.
  3. Analyzing the model, typically by some form of sensitivity
    analysis, to understand which parts of the system contribute
    most to some desired functional properties of interest.
  4. Hypothesis generation and testing, enabling one to analyse
    rapidly the effects of manipulating experimental conditions in
    the model without having to perform complex and costly
    experiments (or to restrict the number that are performed).

In particular, it is normally considerably cheaper to perform
studies of metabolic networks in silico before trying a smaller
number of possibilities experimentally; indeed for combinatorial
reasons it is often the only approach possible. Although
our focus here is on drug discovery, similar principles apply to the
modification of biochemical networks for purposes of ‘industrial’
or ‘white’ biotechnology.
Why we choose to model metabolic networks more than

  • transcriptomic or proteomic networks

comes from the recognition – made particularly clear

  • by workers in the field of metabolic control analysis

– that, although changes in the activities of individual enzymes tend to have

  • rather small effects on metabolic fluxes,
  • they can and do have very large effects on metabolite concentrations (i.e. the metabolome).

Modelling biochemical networks – how we do so

Although one could seek to understand the

  1. time-dependent spatial distribution of signalling and metabolic substances within indivi
    dual cellular compartments and
  2. while spatially discriminating analytical methods such as Raman spectroscopy and
    mass spectrometry do exist for the analysis of drugs in situ,
  • the commonest type of modelling, as in the spread of substances in
  • assumes ‘fully mixed’ compartments and thus ‘pools’ of metabolites.

Although an approximation, this ‘bulk’ modelling will be necessary for complex ecosystems such as humans where, in addition to the need for tissue- and cell-specific models, microbial communities inhabit this superorganism and the
gut serves as a source for nutrients courtesy of these symbionts.

Topology and stoichiometry of metabolic networks as major constraints on fluxes
Given their topology, which admits a wide range of parameters for
delivering the same output effects and thereby reflects biological

  • metabolic networks have two especially important constraints that assist their accurate modelling:

(i) the conservation of mass and charge, and
(ii) stoichiometric and thermodynamic constraints.

These are tighter constraints than apply to signalling networks.

New developments in modelling the human metabolic network
Since 2007, several groups have been developing improved but nonidentical models of the human metabolic network at a generalised level and in tissue-specific forms. Following a similar community-driven strategy in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, surprisingly similar to humans, and in Salmonella typhimurium,

we focus in particular on a recent consensus paper that provides a highly curated and semantically annotated model of the human metabolic network, termed

In this work, a substantial number of the major groups active in this area came together to provide a carefully and manually constructed/curated network, consisting of some 1789 enzyme-encoding genes, 7440 reactions and 2626 unique metabolites distributed over eight cellular compartments.  A variety of dead-end metabolites and blocked reactions remain (essentially orphans and widows). But Recon2 was able to

  • account for some 235 inborn errors of metabolism,
  • a variety of metabolic ‘tasks’ (defined as a non-zero flux through a reaction or through a pathway leading to the production of a metabolite Q from a metabolite P).
  • filtering based on expression profiling allowed the construction of 65 cell-type-specific models.
  • Excreted or exometabolites are an interesting set of metabolites,
  • and Recon2 could predict successfully a substantial fraction of those

Role of transporters in metabolic fluxes

The uptake and excretion of metabolites between cells and their macrocompartments

  • requires specific transporters and in the order of one third of ‘metabolic’ enzymes,
  • and indeed of membrane proteins, are in fact transporters or equivalent.

What is of particular interest (to drug discovery), based on their structural similarities, is the increasing recognition (Fig. 3) that pharmaceutical drugs also

  • get into and out of cells by ‘hitchhiking’ on such transporters, and not –

to any significant extent –

  • by passing through phospholipid bilayer portions
    of cellular membranes.

This makes drug discovery even more a problem of systems biology than of biophysics.

role of solute carriers and other transporters in cellular drug uptake

role of solute carriers and other transporters in cellular drug uptake

Two views of the role of solute carriers and other transporters in cellular drug uptake. (a) A more traditional view in which all so-called ‘passive’drug uptake occurs through any unperturbed bilayer portion of membrane that might be present.
(b) A view in which the overwhelming fraction of drug is taken up via solute transporters or other carriers that are normally used for the uptake of intermediary metabolites. Noting that the protein:lipid ratio of biomembranes is typically 3:1 to 1:1 and that proteins vary in mass and density (a typical density is 1.37 g/ml) as does their extension, for example, normal to the ca. 4.5 nm lipid bilayer region, the figure attempts to portray a section of a membrane with realistic or typical sizes and amounts of proteins and lipids. Typical protein areas when viewed normal to the membrane are 30%, membranes are rather more ‘mosaic’ than ‘fluid’ and there is some evidence that there might be no genuinely ‘free’ bulk lipids (typical phospholipid masses are 750 Da) in biomembranes that are uninfluenced by proteins. Also shown is a typical drug: atorvastatin (LipitorW) – with a molecular mass of 558.64 Da – for size comparison purposes. If proteins are modelled as
cylinders, a cylinder with a diameter of 3.6 nm and a length of 6 nm has a molecular mass of ca. 50 kDa. Note of course that in a ‘static’ picture we cannot show the dynamics of either phospholipid chains or lipid or protein diffusion.

‘Newly discovered’ metabolites and/or their roles

To illustrate the ‘unfinished’ nature even of Recon2, which concentrates on the metabolites created via enzymes encoded in the human genome, and leaving aside the more exotic metabolites of drugs and foodstuffs and the ‘secondary’ metabolites of microorganisms, there are several examples of interesting ‘new’ (i.e. more or less recently recognised) human metabolites or roles thereof that are worth highlighting, often from studies seeking biomarkers of various diseases – for caveats of biomarker discovery, which is not a topic that we are covering here, and the need for appropriate experimental design. In addition, classes of metabolites not well represented in Recon2 are oxidised molecules such as those caused by nonenzymatic reaction of metabolites with free radicals such as the hydroxyl radical generated by unliganded iron. There is also significant interest in using methods of determining small molecules such as those in the
metabolome (inter alia) for assessing the ‘exposome’, in other words all the potentially polluting agents to which an
individual has been exposed.

Recently discovered effects of metabolites on enzymes 

Another combinatorial problem reflects the fact that in molecular enzymology it is not normally realistic to assess every possible metabolite to determine whether it is an effector (i.e.activator or inhibitor) of the enzyme under study. Typical proteins are highly promiscuous and there is increasing evidence for the comparative promiscuity of metabolites
and pharmaceutical drugs. Certainly the contribution of individual small effects of multiple parameter changes can have substantial effects on the potential flux through an overall pathway, which makes ‘bottom up’ modelling an inexact science. Even merely mimicking the vivo (in Escherichia coli) concentrations of K+, Na+, Mg2+, phosphate, glutamate, sulphate and Cl significantly modulated the activities of several enzymes tested relative to the ‘usual’ assay conditions. Consequently, we need to be alive to the possibility of many (potentially major) interactions of which we are as yet ignorant. One class of example relates to the effects of the very widespread post-translational modification on metabolic
enzyme activities.

A recent and important discovery (Fig. 4) is that a single transcriptome experiment, serving as a surrogate for fluxes through individual steps, provides a huge constraint on possible models, and predicts in a numerically tractable way and
with much improved accuracy the fluxes to exometabolites without the need for such a variable ‘biomass’ term. Other recent and related strategies that exploit modern advances in ‘omics and network biology to limit the search space in constraint-based metabolic modelling.

Fig 4. Workflow for expression-profile-constrained metabolic flux estimation

  1. Genome-scale metabolic model with gene-protein-reaction relationships
  2. Map absolute gene expression levels to reactions
  3. Maximise correlation between absolute gene expression and metabolic flux
  4. Predict fluxes to exometabolites
  5. Compare predicted with experimental fluxes to exometabolites

Drug Discovery Today

The steps in a workflow that uses constraints based on (i) metabolic network stoichiometry and chemical reaction properties (both encoded in the model) plus, and (ii) absolute (RNA-Seq) transcript expression profiles to enable the
accurate modelling of pathway and exometabolite fluxes. .

Concluding remarks – the role of metabolomics in systems pharmacology

What is becoming increasingly clear, as we recognize that to understand living organisms in health and disease we must treat them as systems, is that we must bring together our knowledge of the topologies and kinetics of metabolic networks with our knowledge of the metabolite concentrations (i.e. metabolomes) and fluxes. Because of the huge constraints imposed on metabolism by reaction stoichiometries, mass conservation and thermodynamics, comparatively few well-chosen ‘omics measurements might be needed to do this reliably (Fig. 4). Indeed, a similar approach exploiting constraints has come to the fore in denovo protein folding and interaction studies.

What this leads us to in drug discovery is the need to develop and exploit a ‘systems pharmacology’ where multiple binding targets are chosen purposely and simultaneously. Along with other measures such as phenotypic screening, and the integrating of the full suite of e-science approaches, one can anticipate considerable improvements in the rate of discovery of safe and effective drugs.

Metabolomics: the apogee of the omics trilogy
Gary J.!Patti, Oscar Yanes and Gary Siuzdak

Metabolites, the chemical entities that are transformed during metabolism, provide a functional readout of cellular biochemistry. With emerging technologies in mass spectrometry, thousands of metabolites can now be
quantitatively measured from minimal amounts of biological material, which has thereby enabled systems-level analyses. By performing global metabolite profiling, also known as untargeted metabolomics, new discoveries linking cellular pathways to biological mechanism are being revealed and are shaping our understanding of cell biology, physiology and medicine.

Metabolites are small molecules that are chemically transformed during metabolism and, as such, they provide a functional readout of cellular state. Unlike genes and proteins, the functions of which are subject to epigenetic regulation and posttranslational modifications, respectively, metabolites serve as direct signatures of biochemical activity and are therefore easier to correlate with phenotype. In this context, metabolite profiling, or metabolomics, has become a powerful approach that has been widely adopted for clinical diagnostics.

The field of metabolomics has made remarkable progress within the past decade and has implemented new tools that have offered mechanistic insights by allowing for the correlation of biochemical changes with phenotype.

In this Innovation article, we first define and differentiate between the targeted and untargeted approaches to metabolomics. We then highlight the value of untargeted metabolomics in particular and outline a guide to performing such studies. Finally, we describe selected applications of un targeted metabolomics and discuss their potential in cell biology.

  • metabolites serve as direct signatures of biochemical activity
  1. In some instances, it may be of interest to examine a defined set of metabolites by using a targeted approach.
  2. In other cases, an untargeted or global approach may be taken in which as many metabolites as possible are measured and compared between samples without bias.
  3. Ultimately, the number and chemical composition of metabolites to be studied is a defining attribute of any metabolomic experiment and shapes experimental design with respect to sample preparation and choice of instrumentation.

The targeted and untargeted workflow for LC/MS-based metabolomics.

a | In the triple quadrupole (QqQ)-based targeted metabolomic workflow, standard compounds for the metabolites of interest are first used to set up selected reaction monitoring methods. Here, optimal instrument voltages are determined and response curves are generated for absolute quantification. After the targeted methods have been established
on the basis of standard metabolites, metabolites are extracted from tissues, biofluids or cell cultures and analysed. The data output provides quantification only of those metabolites for which standard methods have been built.

b | In the untargeted metabolomic workflow, metabolites are first isolated from biological samples and subsequently analysed by liquid chromatography followed by mass spectrometry (LC/MS). After data acquisition, the results are processed by using bioinformatic software such as XCMS to perform nonlinear retention time alignment and identify peaks that are changing between the groups of samples measured. The m/z value s for the peaks of interest are searched in metabolite databases to obtain putative identifications. Putative identifications are then confirmed
by comparing tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) data and retention time data to that of standard compounds. The untargeted workflow is global in scope and outputs data related to comprehensive cellular metabolism.

Metabolic Biomarker and Kinase Drug Target Discovery in Cancer Using Stable Isotope-Based Dynamic Metabolic Profiling (SIDMAP)

László G. Boros1*, Daniel J. Brackett2 and George G. Harrigan3
1UCLA School of Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Research and Education Institute, Torrance, CA. 2Department of Surgery, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center & VA Medical Center, Oklahoma City, OK, 3Global High Throughput
Screening (HTS), Pharmacia Corporation, Chesterfield, MO.
Current Cancer Drug Targets, 2003, 3, 447-455.

Tumor cells respond to growth signals by the activation of protein kinases, altered gene expression and significant modifications in substrate flow and redistribution among biosynthetic pathways. This results in a proliferating phenotype
with altered cellular function. These transformed cells exhibit unique anabolic characteristics, which includes increased and preferential utilization of glucose through the non-oxidative steps of the pentose cycle for nucleic acid synthesis but limited denovo fatty acid synthesis and TCA cycle glucose oxidation. This primarily nonoxidative anabolic profile reflects an undifferentiated highly proliferative aneuploid cell phenotype and serves as a reliable metabolic biomarker to determine cell proliferation rate and the level of cell transformation/differentiation in response to drug treatment. Novel drugs effective in particular cancers exert their anti-proliferative effects by inducing significant reversions of a few specific non-oxidative anabolic pathways. Here we present evidence that cell transformation of various mechanisms is sustained by a unique
disproportional substrate distribution between the two branches of the pentose cycle for nucleic acid synthesis, glycolysis and the TCA cycle for fatty acid synthesis and glucose oxidation. This can be demonstrated by the broad labeling and unique specificity of [1,2-13C2]glucose to trace a large number of metabolites in the metabolome. Stable isotope-based dynamic metabolic profiles (SIDMAP) serve the drug discovery process by providing a powerful new tool that integrates the metabolome into a functional genomics approach to developing new drugs. It can be used in screening kinases and their metabolic targets, which can therefore be more efficiently characterized, speeding up and improving drug testing, approval and labeling processes by saving trial and error type study costs in drug testing.

Navigating the HumanMetabolome for Biomarker Identification and Design of Pharmaceutical Molecules

Irene Kouskoumvekaki and Gianni Panagiotou
Department of Systems Biology, Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Building 208, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark
Hindawi Publishing Corporation  Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2011, Article ID 525497, 19 pages

Metabolomics is a rapidly evolving discipline that involves the systematic study of endogenous small molecules that characterize the metabolic pathways of biological systems. The study of metabolism at a global level has the potential to contribute significantly to biomedical research, clinical medical practice, as well as drug discovery. In this paper, we present the most up-to-date metabolite and metabolic pathway resources, and we summarize the statistical, and machine-learning tools used for the analysis of data from clinical metabolomics.

Through specific applications on cancer, diabetes, neurological and other diseases, we demonstrate how these tools can facilitate diagnosis and identification of potential biomarkers for use within disease diagnosis. Additionally, we
discuss the increasing importance of the integration of metabolomics data in drug discovery. On a case-study based on the Human Metabolome Database (HMDB) and the Chinese Natural Product Database (CNPD), we demonstrate the close relatedness of the two data sets of compounds, and we further illustrate how structural similarity with human metabolites could assist in the design of novel pharmaceuticals and the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of medicinal plants.

Metabolites are the byproducts of metabolism, which is itself the process of converting food energy to mechanical energy
or heat. Experts believe there are at least 3,000 metabolites that are essential for normal growth and development (primary metabolites) and thousands more unidentified (around 20,000, compared to an estimated 30,000 genes and 100,000 proteins) that are not essential for growth and development (secondary metabolites) but could represent prognostic, diagnostic, and surrogate markers for a disease state and a deeper understanding of mechanisms of disease.

Metabolomics, the study of metabolism at the global level, has the potential to contribute significantly to biomedical
research, and ultimately to clinical medical practice. It is a close counterpart to the genome, the transcriptome and the proteome. Metabolomics, genomics, proteomics, and other “-omics” grew out of the Human Genome Project, a massive research effort that began in the mid-1990s and culminated in 2003 with a complete mapping of all the genes in the human body. When discussing the clinical advantages of metabolomics, scientists point to the “real-world” assessment
of patient physiology that the metabolome provides since it can be regarded as the end-point of the “-omics” cascade. Other functional genomics technologies do not necessarily predict drug effects, toxicological response, or disease states at the phenotype but merely indicate the potential cause for phenotypical response. Metabolomics can bridge this information gap. The identification and measurement of metabolite profile dynamics of host changes provides the closest link to the various phenotypic responses. Thus it is clear that the global mapping of metabolic signatures pre- and postdrug treatment is a promising approach to identify possible functional relationships between medication and medical phenotype.

Human Metabolome Database (HMDB). Focusing on quantitative, analytic, or molecular scale information about
metabolites, the enzymes and transporters associated with them, as well as disease related properties the HMDB represents the most complete bioinformatics and chemoinformatics medical information database. It contains records for
thousands of endogenous metabolites identified by literature surveys (PubMed, OMIM, OMMBID, text books), data
mining (KEGG, Metlin, BioCyc) or experimental analyses performed on urine, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid samples.
The annotation effort is aided by chemical parameter calculators and protein annotation tools originally developed for

A key feature that distinguishes the HMDB from other metabolic resources is its extensive support for higher level database searching and selecting functions. More than 175 hand-drawn-zoomable, fully hyperlinked human
metabolic pathway maps can be found in HMDB and all these maps are quite specific to human metabolism and
explicitly show the subcellular compartments where specific reactions are known to take place. As an equivalent to
BLAST the HMDB contains a structure similarity search tool for chemical structures and users may sketch or
paste a SMILES string of a query compound into the Chem-Query window. Submitting the query launches a
structure similarity search tool that looks for common substructures from the query compound that match the
HMDB’s metabolite database. The wealth of information and especially the extensive linkage to metabolic diseases
to normal and abnormal metabolite concentration ranges, to mutation/SNP data and to the genes, enzymes, reactions
and pathways associated with many diseases of interest makes the HMDB one the most valuable tool in the hands
of clinical chemists, nutritionists, physicians and medical geneticists.

Metabolomics in Drug Discovery and Polypharmacology Studies

Drug molecules generally act on specific targets at the cellular level, and upon binding to the receptors, they exert
a desirable alteration of the cellular activities, regarded as the pharmaceutical effect. Current drug discovery depends
largely on ransom screening, either high-throughput screening (HTS) in vitro, or virtual screening (VS) in silico. Because
the number of available compounds is huge, several druglikeness filters are proposed to reduce the number of compounds that need to be evaluated. The ability to effectively predict if a chemical compound is “drug-like” or “nondruglike” is, thus, a valuable tool in the design, optimization, and selection of drug candidates for development. Druglikeness is a general descriptor of the potential of a small molecule to become a drug. It is not a unified descriptor
but a global property of a compound processing many specific characteristics such as good solubility, membrane
permeability, half-life, and having a pharmacophore pattern to interact specifically with a target protein. These
characteristics can be reflected as molecular descriptors such as molecular weight, log P, the number of hydrogen bond
donors, the number of hydrogen-bond acceptors, the number of rotatable bonds, the number of rigid bonds, the
number of rings in a molecule, and so forth.

Metabolomics for the Study of Polypharmacology of Natural Compounds

Internationally, there is a growing and sustained interest from both pharmaceutical companies and public in medicine
from natural sources. For the public, natural medicine represent a holistic approach to disease treatment, with
potentially less side effects than conventional medicine. For the pharmaceutical companies, bioactive natural products
constitute attractive drug leads, as they have been optimized in a long-term natural selection process for optimal interaction with biomolecules. To promote the ecological survival of plants, structures of secondary products have evolved to interact with molecular targets affecting the cells, tissues and physiological functions in competing microorganisms,
plants, and animals. In this, respect, some plant secondary products may exert their action by resembling endogenous
metabolites, ligands, hormones, signal transduction molecules, or neurotransmitters and thus have beneficial
effects on humans.

Future Perspectives

Metabolomics, the study of metabolism at the global level, is moving to exciting directions.With the development ofmore
sensitive and advanced instrumentation and computational tools for data interpretation in the physiological context,
metabolomics have the potential to impact our understanding of molecular mechanisms of diseases. A state-of-theart
metabolomics study requires knowledge in many areas and especially at the interface of chemistry, biology, and
computer science. High-quality samples, improvements in automated metabolite identification, complete coverage of
the human metabolome, establishment of spectral databases of metabolites and associated biochemical identities, innovative experimental designs to best address a hypothesis, as well as novel computational tools to handle metabolomics data are critical hurdles that must be overcome to drive the inclusion of metabolomics in all steps of drug discovery and drug development. The examples presented above demonstrated that metabolite profiles reflect both environmental and genetic influences in patients and reveal new links between metabolites and diseases providing needed prognostic,diagnostic, and surrogate biomarkers. The integration of these signatures with other omic technologies is of utmost importance to characterize the entire spectrum of malignant phenotype.

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Plant-based Nutrition, Neutraceuticals and Alternative Medicine: Article Compilation the Journal

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


  1. Green tea polyphenols alleviate early BBB damage
  2. What do you know about Plants and Neutraceuticals?

Author and Curator, Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP

  1. The Final Considerations of the Role of Platelets and Platelet Endothelial Reactions in Atherosclerosis and Novel Treatments

Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

  1. Endothelial Function and Cardiovascular Disease

Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

  1. NO Nutritional remedies for hypertension and atherosclerosis. It’s 12 am: do you know where your electrons are?

Author and Reporter: Meg Baker, Ph.D., Registered Patent Agent

  1. Cocoa and Heart Health

Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

  1. Metabolomics: its applications in food and nutrition research

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

  1. Japanese knotweed extract (Polygonum cuspidatum) Resveratrol 98%

Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP   Stanford Lee, Shanghai Natural Bio-engineering Co., Ltd
Key products: resveratrol, curcumin,artemisinin,artemether,artesunate,dihydroartemisinin,Lumefantrine,etc

  1. Antimicrobial resistance
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  2. Macrocycles in new drug discovery
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP     Jamie MallinsonIan Collins
    Future Medicinal Chemistry, Jul 2012, Vol. 4, No. 11, Pages 1409-1438.

Natural product macrocycles and their synthetic derivatives

  1. Lipid Metabolism

ALA and LA, LCPUFAs (EPA, DHA, and AA), eicosanoids, delta-3-desaturase, prostaglandins, leukotrienes

Ginseng fights fatigue in cancer patients, Mayo Clinic-led study finds

  1. Ginseng fights fatigue in cancer patients, Mayo Clinic-led study finds

Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

  1. Scientists develop new cancer-killing compound from salad plant / 1,200 times more specific in killing certain kinds of cancer cells than currently available drugs
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  2. Protein heals wounds, boosts immunity and protects from cancer – Lactoferrin
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  3. Inula helenium ( elecampane ) 100% Effective against MRSA in vitro, 200 Strains
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  4. Thymoquinone, an extract of nigella sativa seed oil, blocked pancreatic cancer cell growth and killed the cells by enhancing the process of programmed cell death.
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  5. Cinnamon is lethal weapon against E. coli O157:H7
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  6. Garlic compound fights source of food-borne illness better than antibiotics (100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics )

Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

  1. Reference Genes in the Human Gut Microbiome: The BGI Catalogue

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

  1. Study suggests consuming whey protein before meals could help improve blood glucose control in people with diabetes
    Reporter: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids, depleting the source, and protein insufficiency in renal disease
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator
  3. Health benefit of anthocyanins from apples and berries noted for men
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator
  4. Carrots Cut Men’s Prostate Cancer Risk by 50%
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  5. A Recipe To Make Cannabis Oil For A Chemotherapy Alternative
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  6. Plant flavonoid found to reduce inflammatory response in the brain: luteolin
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids protect eyes against retinopathy, study finds
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  8. Scientists identify new pathogenic and protective microbes associated with severe diarrhea
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  9. 2,000-year-old herb regulates autoimmunity and inflammation / Chang Shan, from a type of hydrangea that grows in Tibet and Nepal
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  10. Turmeric-based drug effective on Alzheimer flies
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  11. Plant flavonoid luteolin blocks cell signaling pathways in colon cancer cells
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  12. Study Finds Shu Gan Liang Xue Herbal Formula Has Breast Cancer Anti Tumor Effect
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  13. HMPC Q&A Documents on Herbal Medicinal Products published
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  14. Garden Cress Extract Kills 97% of Breast Cancer Cells in Vitro
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter
  15. Moringa Oleifera Kills 97% of Pancreatic Cancer Cells in Vitro
    Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter

16. The Discovery and Properties of Avemar – Fermented Wheat Germ Extract: Carcinogenesis Suppressor
Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Author and Curator



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Summary of Translational Medicine – e-Series A: Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume Four – Part 1

Summary of Translational Medicine – e-Series A: Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume Four – Part 1

Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP


Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Part 1 of Volume 4 in the e-series A: Cardiovascular Diseases and Translational Medicine, provides a foundation for grasping a rapidly developing surging scientific endeavor that is transcending laboratory hypothesis testing and providing guidelines to:

  • Target genomes and multiple nucleotide sequences involved in either coding or in regulation that might have an impact on complex diseases, not necessarily genetic in nature.
  • Target signaling pathways that are demonstrably maladjusted, activated or suppressed in many common and complex diseases, or in their progression.
  • Enable a reduction in failure due to toxicities in the later stages of clinical drug trials as a result of this science-based understanding.
  • Enable a reduction in complications from the improvement of machanical devices that have already had an impact on the practice of interventional procedures in cardiology, cardiac surgery, and radiological imaging, as well as improving laboratory diagnostics at the molecular level.
  • Enable the discovery of new drugs in the continuing emergence of drug resistance.
  • Enable the construction of critical pathways and better guidelines for patient management based on population outcomes data, that will be critically dependent on computational methods and large data-bases.

What has been presented can be essentially viewed in the following Table:


Summary Table for TM - Part 1

Summary Table for TM – Part 1




There are some developments that deserve additional development:

1. The importance of mitochondrial function in the activity state of the mitochondria in cellular work (combustion) is understood, and impairments of function are identified in diseases of muscle, cardiac contraction, nerve conduction, ion transport, water balance, and the cytoskeleton – beyond the disordered metabolism in cancer.  A more detailed explanation of the energetics that was elucidated based on the electron transport chain might also be in order.

2. The processes that are enabling a more full application of technology to a host of problems in the environment we live in and in disease modification is growing rapidly, and will change the face of medicine and its allied health sciences.


Electron Transport and Bioenergetics

Deferred for metabolomics topic

Synthetic Biology

Introduction to Synthetic Biology and Metabolic Engineering

Kristala L. J. Prather: Part-1    <iBiology > iBioSeminars > Biophysics & Chemical Biology > Lecturers generously donate their time to prepare these lectures. The project is funded by NSF and NIGMS, and is supported by the ASCB and HHMI.
Dr. Prather explains that synthetic biology involves applying engineering principles to biological systems to build “biological machines”.

Dr. Prather has received numerous awards both for her innovative research and for excellence in teaching.  Learn more about how Kris became a scientist at
Prather 1: Synthetic Biology and Metabolic Engineering  2/6/14IntroductionLecture Overview In the first part of her lecture, Dr. Prather explains that synthetic biology involves applying engineering principles to biological systems to build “biological machines”. The key material in building these machines is synthetic DNA. Synthetic DNA can be added in different combinations to biological hosts, such as bacteria, turning them into chemical factories that can produce small molecules of choice. In Part 2, Prather describes how her lab used design principles to engineer E. coli that produce glucaric acid from glucose. Glucaric acid is not naturally produced in bacteria, so Prather and her colleagues “bioprospected” enzymes from other organisms and expressed them in E. coli to build the needed enzymatic pathway. Prather walks us through the many steps of optimizing the timing, localization and levels of enzyme expression to produce the greatest yield. Speaker Bio: Kristala Jones Prather received her S.B. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley both in chemical engineering. Upon graduation, Prather joined the Merck Research Labs for 4 years before returning to academia. Prather is now an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and an investigator with the multi-university Synthetic Biology Engineering Reseach Center (SynBERC). Her lab designs and constructs novel synthetic pathways in microorganisms converting them into tiny factories for the production of small molecules. Dr. Prather has received numerous awards both for her innovative research and for excellence in teaching.



II. Regulatory Effects of Mammalian microRNAs

Calcium Cycling in Synthetic and Contractile Phasic or Tonic Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells

Current Basic and Pathological Approaches to
the Function of Muscle Cells and Tissues – From Molecules to HumansLarissa Lipskaia, Isabelle Limon, Regis Bobe and Roger Hajjar
Additional information is available at the end of the chapter
1. Introduction
Calcium ions (Ca ) are present in low concentrations in the cytosol (~100 nM) and in high concentrations (in mM range) in both the extracellular medium and intracellular stores (mainly sarco/endo/plasmic reticulum, SR). This differential allows the calcium ion messenger that carries information
as diverse as contraction, metabolism, apoptosis, proliferation and/or hypertrophic growth. The mechanisms responsible for generating a Ca signal greatly differ from one cell type to another.
In the different types of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), enormous variations do exist with regard to the mechanisms responsible for generating Ca signal. In each VSMC phenotype (synthetic/proliferating and contractile [1], tonic or phasic), the Ca signaling system is adapted to its particular function and is due to the specific patterns of expression and regulation of Ca.
For instance, in contractile VSMCs, the initiation of contractile events is driven by mem- brane depolarization; and the principal entry-point for extracellular Ca is the voltage-operated L-type calcium channel (LTCC). In contrast, in synthetic/proliferating VSMCs, the principal way-in for extracellular Ca is the store-operated calcium (SOC) channel.
Whatever the cell type, the calcium signal consists of  limited elevations of cytosolic free calcium ions in time and space. The calcium pump, sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca ATPase (SERCA), has a critical role in determining the frequency of SR Ca release by upload into the sarcoplasmic
sensitivity of  SR calcium channels, Ryanodin Receptor, RyR and Inositol tri-Phosphate Receptor, IP3R.
Synthetic VSMCs have a fibroblast appearance, proliferate readily, and synthesize increased levels of various extracellular matrix components, particularly fibronectin, collagen types I and III, and tropoelastin [1].
Contractile VSMCs have a muscle-like or spindle-shaped appearance and well-developed contractile apparatus resulting from the expression and intracellular accumulation of thick and thin muscle filaments [1].
Schematic representation of Calcium Cycling in Contractile and Proliferating VSMCs

Schematic representation of Calcium Cycling in Contractile and Proliferating VSMCs


Figure 1. Schematic representation of Calcium Cycling in Contractile and Proliferating VSMCs.

Left panel: schematic representation of calcium cycling in quiescent /contractile VSMCs. Contractile re-sponse is initiated by extracellular Ca influx due to activation of Receptor Operated Ca (through phosphoinositol-coupled receptor) or to activation of L-Type Calcium channels (through an increase in luminal pressure). Small increase of cytosolic due IP3 binding to IP3R (puff) or RyR activation by LTCC or ROC-dependent Ca influx leads to large SR Ca IP3R or RyR clusters (“Ca -induced Ca SR calcium pumps (both SERCA2a and SERCA2b are expressed in quiescent VSMCs), maintaining high concentration of cytosolic Ca and setting the sensitivity of RyR or IP3R for the next spike.
Contraction of VSMCs occurs during oscillatory Ca transient.
Middle panel: schematic representa tion of atherosclerotic vessel wall. Contractile VSMC are located in the media layer, synthetic VSMC are located in sub-endothelial intima.
Right panel: schematic representation of calcium cycling in quiescent /contractile VSMCs. Agonist binding to phosphoinositol-coupled receptor leads to the activation of IP3R resulting in large increase in cytosolic Ca calcium pumps (only SERCA2b, having low turnover and low affinity to Ca depletion leads to translocation of SR Ca sensor STIM1 towards PM, resulting in extracellular Ca influx though opening of Store Operated Channel (CRAC). Resulted steady state Ca transient is critical for activation of proliferation-related transcription factors ‘NFAT).
Abbreviations: PLC – phospholipase C; PM – plasma membrane; PP2B – Ca /calmodulin-activated protein phosphatase 2B (calcineurin); ROC- receptor activated channel; IP3 – inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate, IP3R – inositol-1,4,5- trisphosphate receptor; RyR – ryanodine receptor; NFAT – nuclear factor of activated T-lymphocytes; VSMC – vascular smooth muscle cells; SERCA – sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca sarcoplasmic reticulum.


Time for New DNA Synthesis and Sequencing Cost Curves

By Rob Carlson

I’ll start with the productivity plot, as this one isn’t new. For a discussion of the substantial performance increase in sequencing compared to Moore’s Law, as well as the difficulty of finding this data, please see this post. If nothing else, keep two features of the plot in mind: 1) the consistency of the pace of Moore’s Law and 2) the inconsistency and pace of sequencing productivity. Illumina appears to be the primary driver, and beneficiary, of improvements in productivity at the moment, especially if you are looking at share prices. It looks like the recently announced NextSeq and Hiseq instruments will provide substantially higher productivities (hand waving, I would say the next datum will come in another order of magnitude higher), but I think I need a bit more data before officially putting another point on the plot.




Illumina’s instruments are now responsible for such a high percentage of sequencing output that the company is effectively setting prices for the entire industry. Illumina is being pushed by competition to increase performance, but this does not necessarily translate into lower prices. It doesn’t behoove Illumina to drop prices at this point, and we won’t see any substantial decrease until a serious competitor shows up and starts threatening Illumina’s market share. The absence of real competition is the primary reason sequencing prices have flattened out over the last couple of data points.

Note that the oligo prices above are for column-based synthesis, and that oligos synthesized on arrays are much less expensive. However, array synthesis comes with the usual caveat that the quality is generally lower, unless you are getting your DNA from Agilent, which probably means you are getting your dsDNA from Gen9.

Note also that the distinction between the price of oligos and the price of double-stranded sDNA is becoming less useful. Whether you are ordering from Life/Thermo or from your local academic facility, the cost of producing oligos is now, in most cases, independent of their length. That’s because the cost of capital (including rent, insurance, labor, etc) is now more significant than the cost of goods. Consequently, the price reflects the cost of capital rather than the cost of goods. Moreover, the cost of the columns, reagents, and shipping tubes is certainly more than the cost of the atoms in the sDNA you are ostensibly paying for. Once you get into longer oligos (substantially larger than 50-mers) this relationship breaks down and the sDNA is more expensive. But, at this point in time, most people aren’t going to use longer oligos to assemble genes unless they have a tricky job that doesn’t work using short oligos.

Looking forward, I suspect oligos aren’t going to get much cheaper unless someone sorts out how to either 1) replace the requisite human labor and thereby reduce the cost of capital, or 2) finally replace the phosphoramidite chemistry that the industry relies upon.

IDT’s gBlocks come at prices that are constant across quite substantial ranges in length. Moreover, part of the decrease in price for these products is embedded in the fact that you are buying smaller chunks of DNA that you then must assemble and integrate into your organism of choice.

Someone who has purchased and assembled an absolutely enormous amount of sDNA over the last decade, suggested that if prices fell by another order of magnitude, he could switch completely to outsourced assembly. This is a potentially interesting “tipping point”. However, what this person really needs is sDNA integrated in a particular way into a particular genome operating in a particular host. The integration and testing of the new genome in the host organism is where most of the cost is. Given the wide variety of emerging applications, and the growing array of hosts/chassis, it isn’t clear that any given technology or firm will be able to provide arbitrary synthetic sequences incorporated into arbitrary hosts.

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Startup to Strengthen Synthetic Biology and Regenerative Medicine Industries with Cutting Edge Cell Products

28 Nov 2013 | PR Web

Dr. Jon Rowley and Dr. Uplaksh Kumar, Co-Founders of RoosterBio, Inc., a newly formed biotech startup located in Frederick, are paving the way for even more innovation in the rapidly growing fields of Synthetic Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Synthetic Biology combines engineering principles with basic science to build biological products, including regenerative medicines and cellular therapies. Regenerative medicine is a broad definition for innovative medical therapies that will enable the body to repair, replace, restore and regenerate damaged or diseased cells, tissues and organs. Regenerative therapies that are in clinical trials today may enable repair of damaged heart muscle following heart attack, replacement of skin for burn victims, restoration of movement after spinal cord injury, regeneration of pancreatic tissue for insulin production in diabetics and provide new treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, to name just a few applications.

While the potential of the field is promising, the pace of development has been slow. One main reason for this is that the living cells required for these therapies are cost-prohibitive and not supplied at volumes that support many research and product development efforts. RoosterBio will manufacture large quantities of standardized primary cells at high quality and low cost, which will quicken the pace of scientific discovery and translation to the clinic. “Our goal is to accelerate the development of products that incorporate living cells by providing abundant, affordable and high quality materials to researchers that are developing and commercializing these regenerative technologies” says Dr. Rowley


Life at the Speed of Light

NHMU Lecture featuring – J. Craig Venter, Ph.D.
Founder, Chairman, and CEO – J. Craig Venter Institute; Co-Founder and CEO, Synthetic Genomics Inc.

J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., is Founder, Chairman, and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JVCI), a not-for-profit, research organization dedicated to human, microbial, plant, synthetic and environmental research. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), a privately-held company dedicated to commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global needs.

In 1998, Dr. Venter founded Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed.  This research culminated with the February 2001 publication of the human genome in the journal, Science. Dr. Venter and his team at JVCI continue to blaze new trails in genomics.  They have sequenced and a created a bacterial cell constructed with synthetic DNA,  putting humankind at the threshold of a new phase of biological research.  Whereas, we could  previously read the genetic code (sequencing genomes), we can now write the genetic code for designing new species.

The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on society, including new methods for chemical and energy production, human health and medical advances, clean water, and new food and nutritional products. One of the most prolific scientists of the 21st century for his numerous pioneering advances in genomics,  he  guides us through this emerging field, detailing its origins, current challenges, and the potential positive advances.

His work on synthetic biology truly embodies the theme of “pushing the boundaries of life.”  Essentially, Venter is seeking to “write the software of life” to create microbes designed by humans rather than only through evolution. The potential benefits and risks of this new technology are enormous. It also requires us to examine, both scientifically and philosophically, the question of “What is life?”

J Craig Venter wants to digitize DNA and transmit the signal to teleport organisms

2013 Genomics: The Era Beyond the Sequencing of the Human Genome: Francis Collins, Craig Venter, Eric Lander, et al.

Human Longevity Inc (HLI) – $70M in Financing of Venter’s New Integrative Omics and Clinical Bioinformatics



Where Will the Century of Biology Lead Us?

By Randall Mayes

A technology trend analyst offers an overview of synthetic biology, its potential applications, obstacles to its development, and prospects for public approval.

  • In addition to boosting the economy, synthetic biology projects currently in development could have profound implications for the future of manufacturing, sustainability, and medicine.
  • Before society can fully reap the benefits of synthetic biology, however, the field requires development and faces a series of hurdles in the process. Do researchers have the scientific know-how and technical capabilities to develop the field?

Biology + Engineering = Synthetic Biology

Bioengineers aim to build synthetic biological systems using compatible standardized parts that behave predictably. Bioengineers synthesize DNA parts—oligonucleotides composed of 50–100 base pairs—which make specialized components that ultimately make a biological system. As biology becomes a true engineering discipline, bioengineers will create genomes using mass-produced modular units similar to the microelectronics and computer industries.

Currently, bioengineering projects cost millions of dollars and take years to develop products. For synthetic biology to become a Schumpeterian revolution, smaller companies will need to be able to afford to use bioengineering concepts for industrial applications. This will require standardized and automated processes.

A major challenge to developing synthetic biology is the complexity of biological systems. When bioengineers assemble synthetic parts, they must prevent cross talk between signals in other biological pathways. Until researchers better understand these undesired interactions that nature has already worked out, applications such as gene therapy will have unwanted side effects. Scientists do not fully understand the effects of environmental and developmental interaction on gene expression. Currently, bioengineers must repeatedly use trial and error to create predictable systems.

Similar to physics, synthetic biology requires the ability to model systems and quantify relationships between variables in biological systems at the molecular level.

The second major challenge to ensuring the success of synthetic biology is the development of enabling technologies. With genomes having billions of nucleotides, this requires fast, powerful, and cost-efficient computers. Moore’s law, named for Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, posits that computing power progresses at a predictable rate and that the number of components in integrated circuits doubles each year until its limits are reached. Since Moore’s prediction, computer power has increased at an exponential rate while pricing has declined.

DNA sequencers and synthesizers are necessary to identify genes and make synthetic DNA sequences. Bioengineer Robert Carlson calculated that the capabilities of DNA sequencers and synthesizers have followed a pattern similar to computing. This pattern, referred to as the Carlson Curve, projects that scientists are approaching the ability to sequence a human genome for $1,000, perhaps in 2020. Carlson calculated that the costs of reading and writing new genes and genomes are falling by a factor of two every 18–24 months. (see recent Carlson comment on requirement to read and write for a variety of limiting  conditions).

Startup to Strengthen Synthetic Biology and Regenerative Medicine Industries with Cutting Edge Cell Products

Synthetic Biology: On Advanced Genome Interpretation for Gene Variants and Pathways: What is the Genetic Base of Atherosclerosis and Loss of Arterial Elasticity with Aging

Synthesizing Synthetic Biology: PLOS Collections

Capturing ten-color ultrasharp images of synthetic DNA structures resembling numerals 0 to 9

Silencing Cancers with Synthetic siRNAs

Genomics Now—and Beyond the Bubble

Futurists have touted the twenty-first century as the century of biology based primarily on the promise of genomics. Medical researchers aim to use variations within genes as biomarkers for diseases, personalized treatments, and drug responses. Currently, we are experiencing a genomics bubble, but with advances in understanding biological complexity and the development of enabling technologies, synthetic biology is reviving optimism in many fields, particularly medicine.


Michael Brooks holds a PhD in quantum physics. He writes a weekly science column for the New Statesman, and his most recent book is The Secret Anarchy of Science.

The basic idea is that we take an organism – a bacterium, say – and re-engineer its genome so that it does something different. You might, for instance, make it ingest carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, process it and excrete crude oil.

That project is still under construction, but others, such as using synthesised DNA for data storage, have already been achieved. As evolution has proved, DNA is an extraordinarily stable medium that can preserve information for millions of years. In 2012, the Harvard geneticist George Church proved its potential by taking a book he had written, encoding it in a synthesised strand of DNA, and then making DNA sequencing machines read it back to him.

When we first started achieving such things it was costly and time-consuming and demanded extraordinary resources, such as those available to the millionaire biologist Craig Venter. Venter’s team spent most of the past two decades and tens of millions of dollars creating the first artificial organism, nicknamed “Synthia”. Using computer programs and robots that process the necessary chemicals, the team rebuilt the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides from scratch. They also inserted a few watermarks and puzzles into the DNA sequence, partly as an identifying measure for safety’s sake, but mostly as a publicity stunt.

What they didn’t do was redesign the genome to do anything interesting. When the synthetic genome was inserted into an eviscerated bacterial cell, the new organism behaved exactly the same as its natural counterpart. Nevertheless, that Synthia, as Venter put it at the press conference to announce the research in 2010, was “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer” made it a standout achievement.

Today, however, we have entered another era in synthetic biology and Venter faces stiff competition. The Steve Jobs to Venter’s Bill Gates is Jef Boeke, who researches yeast genetics at New York University.

Boeke wanted to redesign the yeast genome so that he could strip out various parts to see what they did. Because it took a private company a year to complete just a small part of the task, at a cost of $50,000, he realised he should go open-source. By teaching an undergraduate course on how to build a genome and teaming up with institutions all over the world, he has assembled a skilled workforce that, tinkering together, has made a synthetic chromosome for baker’s yeast.


Stepping into DIYbio and Synthetic Biology at ScienceHack

Posted April 22, 2014 by Heather McGaw and Kyrie Vala-Webb

We got a crash course on genetics and protein pathways, and then set out to design and build our own pathways using both the “Genomikon: Violacein Factory” kit and Synbiota platform. With Synbiota’s software, we dragged and dropped the enzymes to create the sequence that we were then going to build out. After a process of sketching ideas, mocking up pathways, and writing hypotheses, we were ready to start building!

The night stretched long, and at midnight we were forced to vacate the school. Not quite finished, we loaded our delicate bacteria, incubator, and boxes of gloves onto the bus and headed back to complete our bacterial transformation in one of our hotel rooms. Jammed in between the beds and the mini-fridge, we heat-shocked our bacteria in the hotel ice bucket. It was a surreal moment.

While waiting for our bacteria, we held an “unconference” where we explored bioethics, security and risk related to synthetic biology, 3D printing on Mars, patterns in juggling (with live demonstration!), and even did a Google Hangout with Rob Carlson. Every few hours, we would excitedly check in on our bacteria, looking for bacterial colonies and the purple hue characteristic of violacein.

Most impressive was the wildly successful and seamless integration of a diverse set of people: in a matter of hours, we were transformed from individual experts and practitioners in assorted fields into cohesive and passionate teams of DIY biologists and science hackers. The ability of everyone to connect and learn was a powerful experience, and over the course of just one weekend we were able to challenge each other and grow.

Returning to work on Monday, we were hungry for more. We wanted to find a way to bring the excitement and energy from the weekend into the studio and into the projects we’re working on. It struck us that there are strong parallels between design and DIYbio, and we knew there was an opportunity to bring some of the scientific approaches and curiosity into our studio.



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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 Genotype as a Potential Genetic Marker

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 Genotype as a Potential Genetic Marker for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Tyler Duellman, BS, Christopher L. Warren, PhD, Peggy Peissig, PhD, Martha Wynn, MD and Jay Yang, MD, PhD

Author Affiliations

From the Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology Graduate Program (T.D., J.Y.) and Department of Anesthesiology (M.W., J.Y.), University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison; Illumavista Biosciences LLC, Madison, WI (C.L.W.); and Biomedical Informatics Research Center, Marshfield Clinics Research Foundation, Marshfield, WI (P.P.).

Correspondence to Jay Yang, MD, PhD, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Wisconsin SMPH, SMI 301, 1300 University Ave, Madison, WI 53706.


Background—Degradation of extracellular matrix support in the large abdominal arteries contribute to abnormal dilation of aorta, leading to abdominal aortic aneurysms, and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) is the predominant enzyme targeting elastin and collagen present in the walls of the abdominal aorta. Previous studies have suggested a potential association between MMP-9 genotype and abdominal aortic aneurysm, but these studies have been limited only to the p-1562 and (CA) dinucleotide repeat microsatellite polymorphisms in the promoter region of the MMP-9 gene. We determined the functional alterations caused by 15 MMP-9 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) reported to be relatively abundant in the human genome through Western blots, gelatinase, and promoter–reporter assays and incorporated this information to perform a logistic-regression analysis of MMP-9 SNPs in 336 human abdominal aortic aneurysm cases and controls.

Methods and Results—Significant functional alterations were observed for 6 exon SNPs and 4 promoter SNPs. Genotype analysis of frequency-matched (age, sex, history of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and smoking) cases and controls revealed significant genetic heterogeneity exceeding 20% observed for 6 SNPs in our population of mostly white subjects from Northern Wisconsin. A step-wise logistic-regression analysis with 6 functional SNPs, where weakly contributing confounds were eliminated using Akaike information criteria, gave a final 2 SNP (D165N and p-2502) model with an overall odds ratio of 2.45 (95% confidence interval, 1.06–5.70).

Conclusions—The combined approach of direct experimental confirmation of the functional alterations of MMP-9 SNPs and logistic-regression analysis revealed significant association between MMP-9 genotype and abdominal aortic aneurysm.


Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.2012; 5: 529-537

Published online before print August 31, 2012,

doi: 10.1161/ CIRCGENETICS.112.963082


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