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Indian scientists are using tissue engineering to give diabetes patients new insulin-making cells……...CLICK & SEE

Biomaterials scientist Prabha Nair is pitting her expertise of polymers to hold out a new line of hope for patients with diabetes who are dependent on insulin shots. In her laboratory, she has used two structures fashioned out of polymer materials to normalise blood sugar in rats with diabetes for up to 90 days. One of the polymer structures is designed to make insulin-secreting cells function properly, while the other is intended to protect such cells from threats that might emerge from the body’s immune system.

Nair and her colleagues at the government-funded Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram have combined two applications of polymers to tackle two major obstacles that have held back a promising but experimental treatment for diabetes from widespread use. The treatment, called islet cell transplantation, involves the removal of insulin-secreting cells from the pancreas of a deceased organ donor and their implantation into a patient with diabetes.

It is nearly a decade since researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, demonstrated that islet cell transplantation may help patients with diabetes acquire normal blood sugar levels and achieve some level of freedom from the need for insulin.

A review of islet transplantation on 225 patients between 1999 and 2006 had revealed several benefits — including reduced need for insulin, improved blood glucose control, and lowered risk of hypoglycemia, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders in the US. Two years after the islet transplantation, about one-third of the recipients were free of the need for insulin shots, the review suggested.

Islet cell transplantation, however, is not standard therapy yet. “There is a critical shortage of islet cells because of a shortage of organ donors,” says Nair, a scientist in the division of tissue engineering and regeneration technologies at the SCTIMST.

Patients who receive islet cells need to take immunosuppressive drugs throughout their lives to prevent their immune systems from destroying the implanted cells. These drugs have side effects including an increased risk of cancer.

The SCTIMST researchers harvested a class of cells known as pancreatic progenitor cells from mice and placed them in a cocktail of appropriate biochemicals where they turn into insulin-secreting islet-like cells.

The scientists then loaded these islet-like cells into three-dimensional scaffolds constructed out of a gelatin, a natural polymer, and polyvinylpyrrolidone, a synthetic polymer. The islet-like cells proliferate on the scaffolds and serve as a potential source of insulin.

In experiments, the scientists observed that rats with diabetes that received these islet cell-bearing scaffolds alone died within 20 days. Their scaffold cells had been attacked by the rats’ immune systems, leading to the destruction of tissue and the failure of the implantation.

“We also designed a polymer capsule to shield the implanted islet cells from the immune system,” Nair told KnowHow. When the scientists combined the scaffolding, also called tissue engineering, with encapsulation, the rats survived for up to 90 days.

The rats were models for type-I, or insulin-dependent diabetes, but researchers say the tissue engineering and encapsulation strategy may also be considered as a possible option for patients with adult-onset diabetes who need insulin injections. Given the differences in the lifespans of rats and humans, some researchers believe the 90-day freedom from insulin observed in the laboratory animals may be equivalent to several years in humans — although exactly how long is still a subject of debate.

“These results are really exciting,” says Aroop Dutta, a tissue engineering specialist and founder of ExCel Matrix Biologicals, a Hyderabad-based start-up in biomaterials and tissue engineering, who was not connected with the research in Thiruvananthapuram.

“There just aren’t enough human-derived islet cells for the large numbers of diabetes patients dependent on insulin. Animal cells or stem cell-based approaches are the only viable options as sustained sources of islet cells,” he adds.

The results of the SCTIMST’s experiments were published last Friday in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. The researchers say their use of islet cells from mice in rats with diabetes suggests that the polymer capsule that keeps the immune system at bay may facilitate xenotransplants — the use of cells or organs across species — as an option for reversing diabetes. “But there is still much work to be done,” Nair cautions.

“We’ll need to establish that this also works in large animals,” she said. The SCTIMST group plans to initiate studies in pigs with diabetes. If the technique is indeed shown to work in large animals too, it could be ready for human clinical trials within two or three years.

Source : The Telegraph ( kolkata, India)

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Bush Groundsel ( Baccharis halimifolia)

Botanical Name : Baccharis halimifolia
Family : Compositae/ Asteraceae
Genus : Baccharis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales
Tribe: Astereae
Species: B. halimifolia

Common Name: Groundsel tree; Salt marsh elder; Sea myrtle,groundsel bush, consumption weed, cotton-seed tree, groundsel tree or silverling,Eastern Baccharis,

Habitat :  Eastern N. America – Massachusetts to Florida and Texas.. Open woods, thickets and borders of marshes near the coast, often in saline soils.

Description:
It is a fall flowering evergreen perennial plant of the genus Baccharis which is commonly found in the southeastern United States, although it may be found as far north as Maine. It is typically found in coastal plains and wet areas. It is dioecious — male and female flowers are found on separate plants. Shrub growing to 3.5m by 3.5m at a medium rate.

Height: 5 to 12 feet
Width: 5 to 7 feet
Texture: Medium
Form: Multi-stemmed, irregular, open, airy shrub; can become leggy
Flower/Fruit: Female plant is covered with cottony fruit that persists into early winter .

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Foliage: Alternate, simple leaves; 1 to 3″; coarsely toothed; bright green to gray-green; non-showy fall color .
Leaf: Alternate, semi-evergreen, variable in shape, obovate to narrowly oblong, some nearly diamond-shaped, 1 to 2 1/2 inches long, upper half of leaf with a few coarse teeth, leaves from upper crown and near ends of twig often lacking teeth, shiny green above, may be sticky, paler beneath.

Flower: Dioecious; both male and female flowers occur in terminal, branched clusters and appear as feathery white tufts (some purple), about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, appearing in late summer.

Fruit: A small achene tipped with long feathery white bristles (dandelion like), ripen in early fall and often in great abundance giving the plant a silvery look.

 

Twig: Slender, green and angled, may be sticky.
Bark: Gray, reddish brown, developing furrows and flat-topped ridges.

It is hardy to zone 5. It is in flower in October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Cultivation :
Succeeds in a sunny position in any well-drained soil, from heavy clays to pure sands. Tolerates saline conditions and dry soils. A useful shrub for coastal situations, resisting maritime exposure. Plants are hardy to about -15°c. A fast-growing plant, it is very tolerant of pruning and can be cut right back to the base if required. The presence of this plant growing wild was supposed to indicate areas where oil might be found. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation:
Seed – no pre-treatment is required. Surface sow in pots a cold frame in the spring, do not let the compost dry out. Germination usually takes place within 1 – 2 weeks. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very easy. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, November in a frame. Easy

Medicinal Actions & Uses
Demulcent.
The plant is used as a palliative and demulcent in consumption and cough.

Other Uses:
Fuel; Hedge; Soil stabilization.
A good fast-growing hedge for exposed maritime conditions. It retains its leaves into the new year but is rather bare in late winter. Plants have an extensive root system and can be grown on sand or thin coastal soils in order to bind the soil. Resinous secretions on the leaves and wood make this a useful fuel. It is a fairly small plant though and would not be a very productive source.

Known Hazards: The plant is potentially toxic to livestck.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/shrubs/baccharis_halimifolia.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baccharis_halimifolia
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Baccharis+halimifolia
http://www.cnr.vt.edu/DENDRO/dendrology/syllabus2/factsheet.cfm?ID=482

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Antelope Horns (Asclepias asperula)

Botanical Name :Asclepias asperula
Family :  Asclepiadacea

Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Species: A. asperula
Genus : Asclepias
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Common names: Inmortal,   antelope horns, green-flowered milkweed, and spider antelope horns.

Habitat:Asclepias asperula is   native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. and South-western N. America.   It grows in  sandy or rocky calcareous soils.


Description:

Asclepias asperula is a clump-forming, 1-2 ft. perennial with an upright or sprawling  plant. Stems are densely covered with minute hairs. The leaves are 4–8 inches long, narrow, and irregularly grouped. The long, thick, narrow leaves are often folded lengthwise. As the green seed pods grow in length and begin to curve, they resemble antelope horns. Its pale, greenish-yellow flowers, tinged maroon, are crowded in round, terminal clusters 3–4 inches across at the end of the flower stem and are intricately arranged. Inside the partially divided petals is a crown, out of which extend 5 white stamens with large, ball-like anthers, all symmetrically arranged.
It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, insects, Lepidoptera (Moths & Butterflies). It is noted for attracting wildlife.

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The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Cultivation :
Succeeds in any good soil. Prefers a well-drained light rich or peaty soil. Requires a moist peaty soil and a sunny position . A good bee plant . The flower of many members of this genus can trap insects between its anther cells, the struggles of the insect in escaping ensure the pollination of the plant . Many members of this genus seem to be particularly prone to damage by slugs. The young growth in spring is especially vulnerable, but older growth is also attacked and even well-established plants have been destroyed in wet years. Plants resent root disturbance and are best planted into their final positions whilst small.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn or in late winter. We have also had good results from sowing the seed in the greenhouse in early spring , though stored seed might need 2 – 3 weeks cold stratification . Germination usually takes place in 1 – 3 months at 18°c. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out when they are in active growth in late spring or early summer and give them some protection from slugs until they are growing away strongly. Division in spring. With great care since the plant resents root disturbance. Pot the divisions up and place them in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly, then plant them out in the summer, giving them some protection from slugs until they are established.. Basal cuttings in late spring. Use shoots about 10cm long with as much of their white underground stem as possible. Pot them up individually and place them in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse until they are rooting and growing actively. If the plants grow sufficiently, they can be put into their permanent positions in the summer, otherwise keep them in the greenhouse until the following spring and when they are in active growth plant them out into their permanent positions. Give them some protection from slugs until they are established.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Seed; Seedpod.

Edible Uses: Gum; Oil; Sweetener.

The following reports refer to other members of this genus and are possibly also appropriate for this species. Unopened flower buds – cooked. They taste somewhat like peas. They are used like broccoli. Flowers and young flower buds – cooked. Used as a flavouring and a thickener in soups etc. The flower clusters can be boiled down to make a sugary syrup. The flowers are harvested in the early morning with the dew still on them. When boiled up it makes a brown sugar. Young shoots – cooked. An asparagus substitute. They should be used when less than 20cm tall. A slightly bitter taste. Tips of older shoots are cooked like spinach. Young seed pods, 3 – 4 cm long, cooked. They are very appetizing. Best used when about 2 – 4cm long and before the seed floss forms, on older pods remove any seed floss before cooking them. If picked at the right time, the pods resemble okra. The sprouted seeds can be eaten. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. The latex in the stems is made into a chewing gum. It is found mainly in the leaves and is destroyed by frost. Yields are higher on dry soils.

Medicinal Uses:-
Expectorant.

The plant is used as a snuff in the treatment of catarrh.

Other Uses:-
Fibre; Latex; Oil; Pollution; Stuffing; Wick.

The following reports refer to other members of this genus and are possibly also appropriate for this species. A good quality fibre is obtained from the bark, used in making twine, cloth, paper etc[95, 112, 169]. It is of poor quality in wet seasons. It is easily harvested in late autumn after the plant has died down by simply pulling the fibres off the dried stems. The seed floss is used to stuff pillows etc or is mixed with other fibres to make cloth. It is a Kapok substitute, used in Life Jackets or as a stuffing material. Very water repellent, it can yield up to 550 kilos per hectare. The floss has also been used to mop up oil spills at sea. Candlewicks can be made from the seed floss. Rubber can be made from latex contained in the leaves and the stems. It is found mainly in the leaves and is destroyed by frost. Yields are higher on dry soils. Pods contain an oil and a wax which are of potential importance. The seed contains up to 20% of an edible semi-drying oil. It is also used in making liquid soap.

Known Hazards :  Although no specific reports have been seen for this species, many, if not all, members of this genus contain toxic resinoids, alkaloids and cardiac glycosides. They are usually avoided by grazing animals. This species is said to be poisonous to livestock.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/database/search_use.php?K[]=Flowers
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asclepias_asperula
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=asas
http://www.wildflower.org/gallery/result.php?id_image=13859

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Allium acuminatum

Botanical Name : Allium acuminatum
Family : Alliaceae
Genus : Allium
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Species: A. acuminatum

Common Name: Tapertip onion or Hooker’s onion


Habitat
: Allium acuminatum is native to  Western N. America – Washington to N. California.It grows in amongst dry sunny rocks on hills and plains.

Description:
Plant:  perennial
; scape terete full length, 10-35 cm. Traditionally, bulbs were dug in the spring and eaten by the Thompson.
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It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from May to June. Its bulbs are small and spherical and smell like onions. The flowers are pink to purple on a long stem which appear after the leaves have died.

Flowers: 10-20 flowers per scape; outer tepals commonly purple-rose, lanceolate, 8-15 mm, becoming involute margined and keeled, tips spreading to recurved; inner tepals smaller than outer series

Bulb: Bulb growing to 0.3m by 0.08m.    New bulb is formed inside of the bulb coat of the parent bulb, bulb coat maked with squarish reticulations

The long, narrow basal leaves typical of the Onion Family can be seen dried in the lower part of the picture at left.  Many wild animals eat the bulbs and the onion-flavored leaves of this and other Alliaceae.

Leaves: slightly channeled or V-shaped in cross section

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The onions were eaten by first peoples in southern British Columbia. They were harvested in either early spring or late fall and usually cooked in pits.
The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, insects.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Cultivation :
Prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained soil.  The bulbs tend to rot when grown in cool wet climates, even if they are given sharp drainage. This species is best in a cold frame and given a dry summer rest.  The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply. Most members of this genus are intolerant of competition from other growing plants. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Propagation:
Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle – if you want to produce clumps more quickly then put three plants in each pot. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in spring once they are growing vigorously and are large enough. Division in spring. Very easy, the plants divide successfully at any time in the growing season and the divisions can be planted straight out into their permanent positions if required.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Root; Seed.

Bulb – raw or cooked.   Eaten in spring and early summer. A strong flavour . The bulb is 10 – 15mm wide .  Leaves – raw or cooked. Used as a relish. Flowers – raw. Used as a garnish on salads. The seed heads can be placed in hot ashes for a few minutes, then the seeds extracted and eaten.

Medicinal  Actions & Uses

Although no specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet. They contain sulphur compounds (which give them their onion flavour) and when added to the diet on a regular basis they help reduce blood cholesterol levels, act as a tonic to the digestive system and also tonify the circulatory system.

Other Uses : …Repellent.....The growing plant is said to repel insects and moles. The bulbs can be rubbed on the skin to repel insects.

Known Hazards :  Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Other Uses
Repellent.

The growing plant is said to repel insects and moles . The bulbs can be rubbed on the skin to repel insects.

Known Hazards : Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible .

Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Allium+acuminatum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_acuminatum
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ALAC4&photoID=alac4_005_ahp.jpg
http://www.cwnp.org/photopgs/adoc/alacuminatum.html
http://www.swcoloradowildflowers.com/Pink%20Enlarged%20Photo%20Pages/allium.htm
http://www.penstemon.org/Idaho07PreviewPartTwo.htm

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Drinking Milk is Good for Health.

Drinking milk ‘cuts risk of dying from heart disease and stroke by one fifth’..say Scientists
Contrary to reports that milk harms health, they claim consumption could reduce the risk of succumbing to chronic illness by as much as a fifth.
Scientists at Reading and Cardiff universities reviewed 324 studies on the effects of milk consumption.

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Healthy stuff: Drinking just a third of a pint of milk daily can benefit health.

They found milk protects against developing most diseases, apart from prostate cancer, and can cut deaths from illnesses by 15 to 20 per cent.
Reading University‘s Professor Ian Givens said milk had more to offer than just building strong bones and helping growth.
‘Our review made it possible to assess whether increased milk consumption provides a survival advantage or not,’ he said. ‘We believe it does.
‘When the numbers of deaths from coronary heart disease, stroke and colo-rectal cancer were taken into account, there is strong evidence of an overall reduction in the risk of dying.

‘We found no evidence milk might increase the risk of developing conditions, with the exception of prostate cancer. ‘


The White Stuff: Milk doesn’t just build healthy bones

The reviewers say that encouraging greater milk consumption might eventually reduce NHS treatment costs because of lower levels of chronic disease.
‘There is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms involved and for focused studies to confirm the epidemiological evidence since this topic has major implications for the agri-food industry‘ said Professor Givens.


Source:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1201474/Drinking-milk-cuts-risk-dying-heart-disease-stroke-fifth.html#ixzz0M699ngRY