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“If everything fits, you have the same interests, lots to talk about, but you can’t stand their smell, then a love affair doesn’t stand a chance,” explains a biologist. (Credit: iStockphoto/Jacob Wackerhausen)

ScienceDaily.com, April 13, 2009 — Dating websites will soon be able to compare partners in terms of whether the personal body odour of the other party will be pleasant to them. This has a very serious biological background.

If the start-up company Basisnote get their way, we will soon not only be able to match looks and interests in the profile of a potential partner with our own preferences. Now even the individual smell of the other party can be recorded in the profile and then checked to see if it will be pleasant for us. Even before going on the first date.

“If everything fits, you have the same interests, lots to talk about, but you can’t stand their smell, then a love affair doesn’t stand a chance,” explains biologist August Hämmerli. He makes the online smell profile possible with his company Basisnote. The start-up from Bern has worked together with ETH to develop a fast test to determine your own body odour and enter it as a code in a database. If the flirt partner has also entered their smell profile, you can find out within seconds whether you would like their smell.

All of this works by taking a saliva test, which can be carried out easily at home. It works with a chromatographic process, similar to a pregnancy test. The result: a simple digital code, which can be entered into an online profile. All of this takes no longer than twenty minutes. Hämmerli continues: “Obviously, smell is by no means the only factor in choosing a partner. However, our test makes it a measurable component.” The company is developing the test together with Mathias Wegner, head assistant at the Paul Schmidt-Hempel chair at the Institute for Integrative Biology. The test will appear on the market this year in cooperation with an online dating provider.

Immunity check through the nose

This all sounds like another gag for online dating platforms. Far from it. According to an explanatory model by evolutionary biologists, there is a valid explanation for why our nose is so important when it comes to choosing our partner. It is not without reason that we have to literally be able to “stand the smell” of our partner, if we are to find them likeable or even more. Our nose has sensitive receptors. They probe whether the other party has as few similar genes to us as possible. The more varied the gene pools are, the higher the chance for healthy, strong offspring.

It has been a well-known fact for a long time that mice check their potential mating partners by smelling them. The fact that humans do the same on a subconscious level was first proven in the nineties by biologist Claus Wedekind at University of Bern. He let female students smell T-shirts that had been worn by male test persons. The women had to indicate the smell that they found to be the most pleasant. It was shown that they consistently chose the men whose immune system was most different from their own.

How does this work? Basisnote founder August Hämmerli explains: “The genes of the MHC, the Major Histocompatibility Complex, carry the instructions for important building blocks of the immune system, the MHC proteins.” These bind fragments of foreign proteins, for example following an infection, and pass them on to the body’s own defence cells, which initiate a defence reaction. The more different MHC molecules someone has, the more different pathogens his body can defend against. In humans, there are more than one hundred variations of each of the nine most important MHC genes. The more varied the MHC, the better the immune systems of the offspring will be armed. Hämmerli: “The specific body odour is marked by the MHC combination. It is transmitted in the bodily fluids and transformed into the body’s very own smell on the skin.” The stronger the difference in immune system between the potential partner and yourself, the more pleasant you will find their smell.

Test instead of a T-shirt

According to Hämmerli, Basisnote is really just applying Wedekind’s T-shirt study to a standardised test system. August Hämmerli is so convinced of the success of his idea that he gave up his position as scientist at ETH to found the company. The Bern-born man coordinates the interface between the interested firms and the research work at the ETH laboratories. Co-founder Dominic Senn is an economist and political scientist. He also worked as a scientist at ETH up to the founding of the company, and is now responsible for the development of the business as CEO. Physicist Manuel Kaegi, who is just finishing his dissertation at the laboratory for safety analysis at ETH, looks after the IT implementation at Basisnote and interfaces with existing online dating platforms.

For two-and-a-half years, the three men have collected development funds and worked intensively on the details of the product. Now all technical issues have been resolved and it only remains to define the most user-friendly application. They are also preparing the first scientific publications on the subject.

The negotiations with online dating platforms are in their final phase. Hämmerli is happy to say that there has been great interest. He is reluctant to reveal which partner search site will soon be featuring smell as a dating component. This will have to wait until the autumn.

Setting up their own partner search site is out of the question. Their plans for the future are along other lines: “There are so many interesting areas. Once all of this is up and running, we want to have a look at the perfume sector,” Hämmerli reveals.

Adapted from materials provided by ETH Zurich.

One of the world’s largest regenerative medicine research institutes was launched at Monash University’s Clayton campus today. Cabinet Secretary Tony Lupton representing Innovation Minister Gavin Jennings said the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), which is a joint venture between Monash University and the Brumby Government, will establish the critical infrastructure required to deliver the next generation of research outcomes in regenerative medicine.

Media-Newswire.com, April 10, 2009 – One of the world’s largest regenerative medicine research institutes was launched at Monash University’s Clayton campus today. Cabinet Secretary Tony Lupton representing Innovation Minister Gavin Jennings said the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute ( ARMI ), which is a joint venture between Monash University and the Brumby Government, will establish the critical infrastructure required to deliver the next generation of research outcomes in regenerative medicine.

Based at Monash’s Clayton Campus, the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute ( ARMI ), will focus on helping physicians to prevent, halt and reverse damage to vital organs due to disease, injury or genetic conditions.

“The Brumby Government is taking action to support medical research because of its important role in improving the health, prosperity and safety of all Victorians,” Mr. Lupton said.

“This state-of-the-art $153 million research facility will play a significant role in the search for treatments for conditions such as neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, arthritis, musculo-skeletal and cardiovascular diseases.

“We are committed to promoting Victoria as a leader in regenerative medicine globally and Melbourne to become one of the five major biotechnology centers in the world.”

ARMI has already attracted high-caliber researchers including Director Professor Nadia Rosenthal who has an international reputation in the field of cardiovascular and muscle regeneration.

Dr Rosenthal was recently awarded a $4 million National Health and Medical Research Council Australia fellowship to investigate the heart’s regenerative capacity in ageing and disease.

“The recruitment of these top researchers to ARMI ensures Victoria continues to strengthen its international reputation for regenerative medical research,” Mr. Lupton said.

Other ARMI initiatives supported by the Brumby Government include the $5.4 million Zebrafish Core Research Facility, which helps researchers find better treatments for diseases such as muscular dystrophy and heart disease and the Monash Micro Imaging ( MMI ) Advanced Optical Imaging Facility.

“These facilities show what can be achieved when you combine the right mix of government support, innovative people and a vision for excellence,” Mr. Lupton said.


Regeneration of cells – CBS Cutting Edge

Pharmacogenetics & 21st Century Medicine

Using genetic analysis for prescriptions could save lives, experts say

MSNBC.COM, April 10, 2009 — Here’s a shocker: Due to differences in DNA, up to 60 percent of the most common drugs are associated with adverse reactions.

This includes medication used to treat common conditions like hypertension, heart failure, depression, high cholesterol, and asthma. Hence the hope being pinned on “pharmacogenetics,” a field of medicine that promises to improve health care by allowing doctors to customize medical treatment to suit a person’s unique genetic signature.

Though experts predict that it could be decades before personalized medicine becomes the norm, research is moving ahead: Last fall, for instance, researchers at Duke University reported that people with a specific genetic variant saw less reduction in LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, when taking statins.

But for some drugs, the future is now.

A genetic test recently approved by the FDA should help doctors determine the optimal dose of warfarin (sold as Coumadin), a blood thinner used by 1 million Americans. Determining the right dose is crucial: Too much may result in an increased risk of excessive bleeding, while too little may cause a potentially fatal blood clot. By one estimate, using DNA analysis to prescribe warfarin would prevent about 17,000 strokes and 85,000 serious bleeding incidents.

Do-it-yourself DNA testing

A small but growing number of doctors and hospitals are also using genetic testing to tailor treatment for these medicines:

· Tamoxifen — DNA testing identifies the 8% of women with genetic variants that keep them from metabolizing the breast cancer drug, rendering it ineffective.

· Painkillers like codeine — Up to 8% of whites and 2% of Asians and African Americans are poor metabolizers of these drugs and won’t get relief from them; for the 1% of “ultrarapid metabolizers,” risks include respiratory problems.

· Antidepressants and antipsychotics — Some of these drugs are metabolized by the CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 genes. In 2005, the FDA approved a test that looks for these gene variations, and now companies sell consumer versions.

But experts advise against using the at-home tests without having your doctor interpret the results, notes Julie Johnson, PharmD, professor of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Florida.

The reason: These genes are involved in the metabolization of 25% of all prescription drugs, including several where they’re very important. If you misinterpret the results of an at-home test (and mistakenly think you don’t have the gene), you might avoid taking one or more drugs you really need.

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Last month, the FDA warned nine companies to stop selling unapproved pain-relief drugs.

CNN.com, April 10, 2009, Saundra Young — WASHINGTON — A form of liquid morphine used by terminally ill patients will remain on the market even though it is an “unapproved drug,” according to a decision by the Food and Drug Administration.

After talking with hospital and hospice organizations, which expressed concern that taking the product off the market would result in hardship for terminally ill patients and their caregivers, the agency decided to extend the usage of morphine sulfate oral solution 20 mg/ml.

The agency wants to ensure there is shortage of the drug while patients wait for an approved product to take its place.

“While the FDA remains committed to ultimately ensuring that all prescription drugs on the market are FDA approved, we have to balance that goal with flexibility and compassion for patients who have a few alternatives for the alleviation of their pain,” Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for drug Evaluation and Research, said Thursday.

“In light of the concerns raised by these patients and their health-care providers, we have adjusted our actions with regard to these particular products.”

Last month, the FDA sent warning letters to nine companies telling them to stop manufacturing 14 unapproved narcotics that are widely used to treat pain.

Seven of those companies made or distributed the oral morphine.

FDA warns makers of unapproved narcotics

The morphine elixir is widely used by terminal patients in hospital and home hospice care settings and is manufactured by Lehigh Valley Technologies Inc., Mallinckrodt Inc. Pharmaceuticals Group, Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane Inc. and Cody Laboratories, Inc.

In its warning letter last month, the agency gave the companies 60 days to stop manufacturing the drug before enforcement action was taken.

Thursday’s announcement did not prompt immediate reactions from the companies. A spokesman for Cody Laboratories said the firm did not have all the details of the decision. Other companies did not immediately return calls from CNN.

The FDA estimates there are several thousand drugs, mostly older products, marketed illegally without FDA approval in this country. Once an illegally marketed drug is identified, enforcement action begins because the agency does not have information on the quality of these drugs and has not had an opportunity to approve their labeling. In 1976 the agency began a program to bring companies manufacturing these drugs into compliance.

Thursday’s announcement applies only to the morphine sulfate elixir 20mg/ml, and the warning letters sent to the other product manufacturers are still in effect.

Currently there are no approved morphine sulfate oral solution 20mg/ml products on the market. Until there are, the FDA says it will allow companies making and distributing the unapproved drugs to continue, until 180 days after any company receives approval to manufacture a new morphine replacement drug of the same dosage.

The FDA says it expects all companies marketing unapproved drugs to submit the necessary applications to get approval for those drugs.