OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Mechanism outlined by which inadequate vitamin E can cause brain damage

 

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1DtAIyU

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered how vitamin E deficiency may cause neurological damage by interrupting a supply line of specific nutrients and robbing the brain of the “building blocks” it needs to maintain neuronal health.

The findings – in work done with zebrafish – were just published in the Journal of Lipid Research. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The research showed that zebrafish fed a diet deficient in vitamin E throughout their life had about 30 percent lower levels of DHA-PC, which is a part of the cellular membrane in every brain cell, or neuron. Other recent studies have also concluded that low levels of DHA-PC in the blood plasma of humans are a biomarker than can predict a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Just as important, the new research studied the level of compounds called “lyso PLs,” which are nutrients needed for getting DHA into the brain, and serve as building blocks that aid in membrane repair. It showed the lyso PLs are an average of 60 percent lower in fish with a vitamin E deficient diet.

The year-old zebrafish used in this study, and the deficient levels of vitamin E they were given, are equivalent to humans eating a low vitamin E diet for a lifetime. In the United States, 96 percent of adult women and 90 percent of men do not receive adequate levels of vitamin E in their diet.

DHA is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, or PUFA, increasingly recognized as one of the most important nutrients found in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those provided by fish oils and some other foods.

“This research showed that vitamin E is needed to prevent a dramatic loss of a critically important molecule in the brain, and helps explain why vitamin E is needed for brain health,” said Maret Traber, the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and lead author on this research.

“Human brains are very enriched in DHA but they can’t make it,” said Traber, who also is a principal investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU. “They get it from the liver. The particular molecules that help carry it there are these lyso PLs, and the amount of those compounds is being greatly reduced when vitamin E intake is insufficient. This sets the stage for cellular membrane damage and neuronal death.”

DHA is the needed nutrient, Traber said, but it’s lyso PLs which help get it into the brain. It’s the building block.

“You can’t build a house without the necessary materials,” Traber said. “In a sense, if vitamin E is inadequate, we’re cutting by more than half the amount of materials with which we can build and maintain the brain.”

Some other research, Traber said, has shown that the progression of Alzheimer’s disease can be slowed by increased intake of vitamin E, including one study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But that disease is probably a reflection of years of neurological damage that has already been done, she said. The zebrafish diet used in this study was deficient in vitamin E for the whole life of the fish – as is vitamin E deficiency in some humans.

Vitamin E in human diets is most often provided by dietary oils, such as olive oil. But many of the highest levels are in foods not routinely considered dietary staples – almonds, sunflower seeds or avocados.

“There’s increasingly clear evidence that vitamin E is associated with brain protection, and now we’re starting to better understand some of the underlying mechanisms,” Traber said.

Other collaborators on this research included Jan Stevens from the OSU College of Pharmacy and Robert Tanguay from the College of Agricultural Sciences.

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Maret Traber, 541-737-7977

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Sunflowers
Vitamin E source

Optics, nanotechnology combined to create low-cost sensor for gases

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers have combined innovative optical technology with nanocomposite thin-films to create a new type of sensor that is inexpensive, fast, highly sensitive and able to detect and analyze a wide range of gases.

The technology might find applications in everything from environmental monitoring to airport security or testing blood alcohol levels. The sensor is particularly suited to detecting carbon dioxide, and may be useful in industrial applications or systems designed to store carbon dioxide underground, as one approach to greenhouse gas reduction.

Oregon State University has filed for a patent on the invention, developed in collaboration with scientists at the National Energy Technology Lab or the U.S. Department of Energy, and with support from that agency. The findings were just reported in the Journal of Materials Chemistry C.

University researchers are now seeking industrial collaborators to further perfect and help commercialize the system.

“Optical sensing is very effective in sensing and identifying trace-level gases, but often uses large laboratory devices that are terribly expensive and can’t be transported into the field,” said Alan Wang, a photonics expert and an assistant professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“By contrast, we use optical approaches that can be small, portable and inexpensive,” Wang said. “This system used plasmonic nanocrystals that act somewhat like a tiny lens, to concentrate a light wave and increase sensitivity.”

This approach is combined with a metal-organic framework of thin films, which can rapidly adsorb gases within material pores, and be recycled by simple vacuum processes. After the thin film captures the gas molecules near the surface, the plasmonic materials act at a near-infrared range, help magnify the signal and precisely analyze the presence and amounts of different gases.

“By working at the near-infrared range and using these plasmonic nanocrystals, there’s an order of magnitude increase in sensitivity,” said Chih-hung Chang, an OSU professor of chemical engineering. “This type of sensor should be able to quickly tell exactly what gases are present and in what amount.”

That speed, precision, portability and low cost, the researchers said, should allow instruments that can be used in the field for many purposes. The food industry, for industry, uses carbon dioxide in storage of fruits and vegetables, and the gas has to be kept at certain levels.

Gas detection can be valuable in finding explosives, and new technologies such as this might find application in airport or border security. Various gases need to be monitored in environmental research, and there may be other uses in health care, optimal function of automobile engines, and prevention of natural gas leakage.

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Alan Wang, 541-737-4247

Publication bias and ‘spin’ raise questions about drugs for anxiety disorders

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new analysis reported in JAMA Psychiatry raises serious questions about the increasingly common use of second-generation antidepressant drugs to treat anxiety disorders.

It concludes that studies supporting the value of these medications for that purpose have been distorted by publication bias, outcome reporting bias and “spin.” Even though they may still play a role in treating these disorders, the effectiveness of the drugs has been overestimated.

In some cases the medications, which are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, are not significantly more useful than a placebo.

The findings were made by researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. The work was supported by a grant from the Dutch Brain Foundation.

Publication bias was one of the most serious problems, the researchers concluded, as it related to double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials that had been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If the FDA determined the study was positive, it was five times more likely to be published than if it was not determined to be positive.

Bias in “outcome reporting” was also observed, in which the positive outcomes from drug use were emphasized over those found to be negative. And simple spin was also reported. Some investigators concluded that treatments were beneficial, when their own published results for primary outcomes were actually insignificant.

“These findings mirror what we found previously with the same drugs when used to treat major depression, and with antipsychotics,” said Erick Turner, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine, and the study’s senior author. “When their studies don’t turn out well, you usually won’t know it from the peer-reviewed literature.”

This points to a flaw in the way doctors learn about the drugs they prescribe, the researchers said.

“The peer review process of publication allows, perhaps even encourages, this kind of thing to happen,” Turner said. “And this isn’t restricted to psychiatry – reporting bias has been found throughout the medical and scientific literature.”

Craig Williams, a professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, and co-author of the study, said that “most of these drugs are fairly safe and well-tolerated, but if a medication is less effective than believed, this still raises serious questions about its use.

“The level of bias we found did not change the fact that some antidepressants can have value in treating anxiety disorders,” Williams said. “However, there is less evidence for value of these drugs than published studies would have you believe. And these concerns are increased when such medications are frequently prescribed by general practitioners with less training in psychiatry.”

In this study, the researchers examined a broad body of the evidence and scientific research that had been presented to the Food and Drug Administration, including studies that had been done but were not published in open scientific literature. They found that negative data on drug efficacy tended not to get published, or was de-emphasized when it was published.

Conclusions might have been manipulated or exaggerated because positive results receive more scientific attention, are published sooner, and lead to higher sales of a drug, said Annelieke Roest, the lead author of the publication at the University of Groningen.

“Lots of research is funded eventually by the taxpayer, and that’s reason enough to say that scientists should publish all their results,” Roest said.

The study reiterated this point, and the need to more routinely publish nonsignificant results.

“There is strong evidence that significant results from randomized controlled trials are more likely to be published than nonsignificant results,” the researchers wrote in their study. “As a consequence, the published literature . . . may overestimate the benefits of treatment while underestimating their harms, thus misinforming clinicians, policy makers and patients.”

Antidepressants are now widely prescribed for conditions other than depression, the study noted. They are being used for generalized anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other uses. In both the U.S. and Europe, use of antidepressant drugs has significantly increased in the past two decades, the researchers said, with much of that use driven by non-specialists in primary care settings.

The level of reporting bias in the scientific literature, the researchers wrote, “likely impacts clinicians’ perceptions of the efficacy of these drugs, which could reasonably be expected to affect prescription behavior.”

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Craig Williams, 503-494-1598

A mile deep, ocean fish facing health impacts from human pollution

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Deep-water marine fish living on the continental slopes at depths from 2,000 feet to one mile have liver pathologies, tumors and other health problems that may be linked to human-caused  pollution, one of the first studies of its type has found.

The research, conducted in the Bay of Biscay west of France, also discovered the first case of a deep water fish species with an “intersex” condition, a blend of male and female sex organs. The sampling was done in an area with no apparent point-source pollution, and appears to reflect general ocean conditions.

The findings have been published in Marine Environmental Research, by scientists from Oregon State University; the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the United Kingdom; and other agencies. It was supported by the European Union.

The research is of particular interest, OSU researchers said, when contrasted to other studies done several years ago in national parks of the American West, which also found significant pollution and fish health impacts, including male fish that had been “feminized” and developed eggs.

“In areas ranging from pristine, high mountain lakes of the United States to ocean waters off the coasts of France and Spain, we’ve now found evidence of possible human-caused pollution that’s bad enough to have pathological impacts on fish,” said Michael Kent, a professor of microbiology in the OSU College of Science, co-author on both these research projects and an international expert on fish disease.

“Deep in the ocean one might have thought that the level of contamination and its biological impact would be less,” Kent said. “That may not be the case. The pathological changes we’re seeing are clearly the type associated with exposure to toxins and carcinogens.”

However, linking these changes in the deep water fish to pollution is preliminary at this time, the researchers said, because these same changes may also be caused by naturally-occurring compounds. Follow up chemical analyses would provide more conclusive links with the pathological changes and man’s activity, they said.

Few, if any health surveys of this type have been done on the fish living on the continental slopes, the researchers said. Most past studies have looked only at their parasite fauna, not more internal biological problems such as liver damage. The issues are important, however, since there’s growing interest in these areas as a fisheries resource, as other fisheries on the shallower continental shelf become depleted.

As the sea deepens along these continental slopes, it’s been known that it can act as a sink for heavy metal contaminants such as mercury, cadmium and lead, and organic contaminants such as PCBs and pesticides. Some of the “intersex” fish that have been discovered elsewhere are also believed to have mutated sex organs caused by “endocrine disrupting chemicals” that can mimic estrogens.

In this study, the health concerns identified were found in black scabbardfish, orange roughy, greater forkbeard and other less-well-known species, and included a wide range of degenerative and inflammatory lesions that indicate a host response to pathogens, as well as natural cell turnover. The fish that live in these deep water, sloping regions usually grow slowly, live near the seafloor, and mature at a relatively old age. Some can live to be 100 years old.

Partly because of that longevity, the fish have the capacity to bioaccumulate toxicants, which the researchers said in their report “may be a significant human health issue if those species are destined for human consumption.” Organic pollutants in such species may be 10-17 times higher than those found in fish from the continental shelf, the study noted, with the highest level of contaminants in the deepest-dwelling fish.

However, most of those contaminants migrate to the liver and gonads of such fish, which would make their muscle tissue comparatively less toxic, and “generally not high enough for human health concern,” the researchers wrote.

The corresponding author on this study was Stephen Feist at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Weymouth, England.

In the previous research done in the American West, scientists found toxic contamination from pesticides, the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, industrial operations and other sources, which primarily found their way into high mountain lakes through air pollution. Pesticide pollution, in particular, was pervasive.

Together, the two studies suggest that fish from some of the most remote parts of the planet, from high mountains to deep ocean, may be impacted by toxicants, Kent said.

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Michael Kent, 541-737-8652

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Testicle with egg
Trout testicle with egg

Genetic discovery may offer new avenue of attack against schistosomiasis

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a group of genes in one species of snail that provide a natural resistance to the flatworm parasite that causes schistosomiasis, and opens the door to possible new drugs or ways to break the transmission cycle of this debilitating disease.

Schistosomiasis infects more than 200 million people in more than 70 countries, and is most common in areas with poor sanitation. It can cause chronic, lifelong disability, beginning with gastrointestinal problems and sometimes leading to liver damage, kidney failure, infertility and bladder cancer.

Schistosomisasis, which is native to Africa but has now spread around the world, has been called a neglected global pandemic. Its impact on human health rivals that of malaria.

However, the circular transmission of this complex disease depends upon spending some time as an infection in aquatic snails, where the number of parasites is greatly magnified. Snails may therefore offer a key opportunity to break the cycle of transmission.

The findings about this genetic discovery were just published in PLOS Genetics, by researchers from OSU and the Universite de Perpignan Via Domitia in France. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

“We’ve found a new class of previously unknown genes that appear to control the ability to resist schistosomes,” said Michael Blouin, a professor of integrative biology in the OSU College of Science. “It was found that a dominant genetic allele in this region conveys an eight-fold decrease in the risk of schistosomiasis infection.

“These genes are the type that, in other animal species, help to recognize pathogens and trigger an immune response,” Blouin said. “This is important new information. With further research we’ll learn more about the exact genetics and molecules that are involved as the parasite interacts with the host.”

There are two possible applications of these results that could be pursued in an effort to treat or control this disease, the researchers said. One would be development of new drugs, which could be important - right now only a single medication, praziquantel, exists to help treat the disease. With its increasingly widespread use, resistance to that drug is possible.

Alternatively, researchers might attempt to insert these parasite-resistant genes into the species of snails that most commonly transmit schistosomiasis.

“There are ways to drive new genes into a population,” said Jacob Tennessen, an OSU postdoctoral research associate and lead author on this study.

This is already being tried for some other diseases, the scientists noted, such as in mosquitos that transmit malaria. Modifying snail populations to be resistant is currently not practical, they said, but identifying new genes that control resistance to the parasite is a critical first step.

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Michael Blouin, 541-737-2362

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Resisting schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis resistance

Trematode eggs
Trematode eggs

Massive amounts of fresh water, glacial melt pouring into Gulf of Alaska

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Incessant mountain rain, snow and melting glaciers in a comparatively small region of land that hugs the southern Alaska coast and empties fresh water into the Gulf of Alaska would create the sixth largest coastal river in the world if it emerged as a single stream, a recent study shows.

Since it’s broken into literally thousands of small drainages pouring off mountains that rise quickly from sea level over a short distance, the totality of this runoff has received less attention, scientists say. But research that’s more precise than ever before is making clear the magnitude and importance of the runoff, which can affect everything from marine life to global sea level.

The collective fresh water discharge of this region is more than four times greater than the mighty Yukon River of Alaska and Canada, and half again as much as the Mississippi River, which drains all or part of 31 states and a land mass more than six times as large.

“Freshwater runoff of this magnitude can influence marine biology, nearshore oceanographic studies of temperature and salinity, ocean currents, sea level and other issues,” said David Hill, lead author of the research and an associate professor in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University.

“This is an area of considerable interest, with its many retreating glaciers,” Hill added, “and with this data as a baseline we’ll now be able to better monitor how it changes in the future.”

The findings were reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, by Hill and Anthony Arendt at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. It was supported by the North Pacific Research Board.

This is one of the first studies to accurately document the amount of water being contributed by melting glaciers, which add about 57 cubic kilometers of water a year to the estimated 792 cubic kilometers produced by annual precipitation in this region. The combination of glacial melt and precipitation produce an amount of water that’s larger than many of the world’s great rivers, such as the Ganges, Nile, Volga, Niger, Columbia, Danube or Yellow River.

“By combining satellite technology with on-the-ground hydraulic measurements and modeling, we’re able to develop much more precise information over a wider area than ever before possible,” Hill said.

The data were acquired as an average of precipitation, glacial melting and runoff over a six-year period, from 2003 to 2009. Knocked down in many places by steep mountains, the extraordinary precipitation that sets the stage for this runoff averages about 6 feet per year for the entire area, Hill said, and more than 30 feet in some areas.

The study does not predict future trends in runoff, Hill said. Global warming is expected in the future, but precipitation predictions are more variable. Glacial melt is also a variable. A warmer climate would at first be expected to speed the retreat of existing glaciers, but the amount of water produced at some point may decrease as the glaciers dwindle or disappear.

Additional precision in this study was provided by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE satellites, which can make detailed measurements of gravity and, as one result, estimate the mass of glaciers they are flying over. As the glacial mass decreases over time, the amount of melted water that was produced can be calculated.

The close agreement of land-based measurements also help confirm the accuracy of those made from space, a point that will be important for better global understanding of water stored in a high-altitude environment.

Some of the processes at work are vividly illustrated at Glacier Bay National Park, where some of the most rapidly retreating glaciers in the world are visited each year by hundreds of thousands of tourists, many on cruise ships.

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Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier


Glacial melt
Melt into sea

“Distracted driving” at an all-time high; new approaches needed

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Young, inexperienced drivers have always gotten into more automobile accidents, but if you add in a lot of distractions, it’s a recipe for disaster – and a new Pacific Northwest research program is learning more about these risks while identifying approaches that may help reduce them.

Distractions have been an issue since the age of the Model T, whether a driver was eating a sandwich or talking to a passenger. But the advent of cell phones, text messaging and heavy urban traffic has taken those distractions to a historic level, say researchers, who emphasize that there appears to be value in educating young drivers about these special risks.

A new study of 3,000 teenage drivers in Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Oregon has found that interactive presentations administered to young drivers in a classroom or auditorium – more than passive listening – can have some ability to raise their awareness of this problem. Experts conclude that more work of this type should be pursued nationally.

“Based on recent studies, anything that takes your attention away, any glance away from the road for two seconds or longer can increase the risk of an accident from four to 24 times,” said David Hurwitz, an assistant professor of transportation engineering in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, and corresponding author of the study, which was published in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security.

“This is a dramatic increase in risk, with inexperienced drivers who are least able to handle it,” he said. “The absolute worst is texting on a cell phone, which is a whole group of distractions. With texting, you’re doing something besides driving, thinking about something besides driving, and looking at the wrong thing.”

One study has equated texting on a cell phone equivalent to driving drunk.

While many young drivers understand the risks of texting, Hurwitz said, they are much less aware of other concerns that can be real – eating, drinking, talking on a cell phone, smoking, adjusting the radio, changing a CD, using a digital map or other controls.

“Automobile manufacturers have made cars significantly safer, but in the interests of passenger comfort they also continue to add more pleasant distractions within the vehicle,” Hurwitz said. “More experienced drivers learn how to control these distractions, but we’re finding the most problems with the very young driver, within six months of getting a license.”

Aside from lack of experience, he said, young drivers also have a higher risk tolerance, use seat belts less, and choose higher speeds. The recent research found that 27 percent of respondents changed clothes or shoes while driving, and some worked on homework. Adding more distractions doesn’t help.

What researchers found that can help is “interactive” driver training that focuses on the issue of distractions, which can be done with driving simulators or simple computers, and can involve writing, discussion and tactile problem-solving.

“Young people learn better when they are involved in the process, not just sitting and listening to a lecture,” Hurwitz said. “We think an increase in active learning will help with this problem and can improve driver education. Students doing this can see how much better their awareness and reaction time are when they aren’t distracted.”

The research is finding some surprises, as well.

Studies are showing that “hands-free” cell phones are really no safer than a hand-held cell phone. The real distraction appears to be the driver talking to someone who is not in the car, a distant voice who’s oblivious to the freeway traffic jam.

“The evidence suggests that it may be reasonably safe to have passengers that you talk to in the car,” Hurwitz said. “For one thing, if an incident happens that requires a quick reaction, everyone in the car may see it, stop talking and pay immediate attention. And you literally have more sets of eyes on the road to see upcoming problems.”

There are some gender differences among young drivers. Females are more likely to use a cell phone while driving, and males are more likely to look away from the road while talking to others in the car.

A large increase in this type of training will be necessary for it to become more widely integrated, the researchers said.

This project was funded by the Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium, an initiative supported by OSU, the University of Washington, University of Idaho, Washington State University and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

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A YouTube video about

this “distracted driver”

program is available online:

http://bit.ly/1MuqpNC

“Additive manufacturing” could greatly improve diabetes management

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have used “additive manufacturing” to create an improved type of glucose sensor for patients with Type 1diabetes, part of a system that should work better, cost less and be more comfortable for the patient.

A key advance is use of electrohydrodynamic jet, or “e-jet” printing, to make the sensor. Conceptually, e-jet printing is a little like an inexpensive inkjet printer - but it creates much finer drop sizes and works with biological materials such as enzymes, instead of ink.

The technology would create an “artificial pancreas” using a single point of bodily entry, or catheter, instead of existing systems that require four entry points, usually in a type of belt worn around the waist.

“This technology and other work that could evolve from it should improve a patient’s health, comfort and diabetes management,” said Greg Herman, an OSU associate professor of chemical engineering.

These systems provide constant monitoring of blood glucose concentrations and are matched with portable infusion pumps. They control delivery of the hormones insulin and glucagon, and maintain safe levels of glucose in the blood.

The findings have been reported in the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology, in work supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, can lead to serious health complications unless glucose levels are carefully controlled. Problems can include retinopathy, blindness, neuropathy, kidney and cardiac disease.

Researchers say that this system may ultimately prove useful with Type 2 diabetes as well, and that it has the capability of making other biological measurements, beyond just blood sugar.

Diabetes is a global, rapidly increasing health problem. In 2014, the International Diabetes Federation estimated that 387 million people around the world had some type of diabetes, and that number is expected to rise to 592 million within 20 years. The global economic cost last year was estimated at $612 billion, and the agency reported that more than three out of four people with diabetes live in low or middle-income countries.

From an engineering perspective, the new approach is more precise, less intrusive, uses fewer processing steps, avoids waste and costs less.

“These are disposable devices that only last about a week and then need to be replaced,” Herman said. “Some other approaches used to make them might waste up to 90 percent of the materials being used, and that’s a problem in a throw-away sensor. It’s also important to keep costs as low as possible, and printing systems are inherently low-cost.”

Another important advance was the use of plastic substrates, which are the same thickness as kitchen plastic wrap, so that the sensors can be wrapped around a catheter.

“The challenges of making these sensors on such thin plastic films were difficult to overcome, but we found that additive manufacturing approaches simplified the process, and should lead to much lower costs,” said John Conley, an OSU professor of electrical engineering.

A patent has been applied for on the technology by OSU and Pacific Diabetes Technologies of Portland, Ore., which is working to commercialize the system. It’s already being tested in animals, and there are no apparent obstacles to its development in the health marketplace, Herman said.

Collaborators on the research included the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering; OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Oregon Health & Science University; and Pacific Diabetes Technologies. Other support came from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

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New sensor
New sensor technology

High cholesterol, triglycerides can keep vitamin E from reaching body tissues

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In the continuing debate over how much vitamin E is enough, a new study has found that high levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides can keep this essential micronutrient tied up in the blood stream, and prevent vitamin E from reaching the tissues that need it.

The research, just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also suggested that measuring only blood levels may offer a distorted picture of whether or not a person has adequate amounts of this vitamin, and that past methods of estimating tissue levels are flawed.

The findings are significant, the scientists say, because more than 90 percent of the people in the United States who don’t take supplements lack the recommended amount of vitamin E in their diet.

Vitamin E is especially important in some places such as artery walls, the brain, liver, eyes and skin, but is essential in just about every tissue in the body. A powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant, it plays important roles in scavenging free radicals and neurologic function. In the diet, it’s most commonly obtained from cooking oils and some vegetables.

Some experts have suggested that recommended levels of vitamin E should be lowered. But because of these absorption issues, the recommended level of 15 milligrams per day is about right, said Maret Traber, the lead author of this study. Inadequate vitamin E intake remains a significant societal problem, she said.

“This research raises particular concern about people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome,” said Traber, who is the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and a principal investigator in OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute.

“People with elevated lipids in their blood plasma are facing increased inflammation as a result,” Traber said. “Almost every tissue in their body is under oxidative attack, and needs more vitamin E. But the vitamin E needed to protect these tissues is stuck on the freeway, in the circulatory system. It’s going round and round instead of getting to the tissues where it’s needed.”

This research was done with 41 men and women, including both younger and older adults, who obtained vitamin E by eating deuterium-labeled collard greens, so the nutrient could be tracked as it moved through the body. Of some interest, it did not find a significant difference in absorption based solely on age or gender. But there was a marked difference in how long vitamin E stayed in blood serum, based on higher level of lipids in the blood – a more common problem as many people age or gain weight.

The study also incorporated a different methodology, using a stable isotope instead of radioactive tracers, than some previous research, to arrive at the estimates of vitamin E that made it to body tissues. Using the stable isotope methodology that these researchers believe is more accurate, they concluded that only 24 percent of vitamin E is absorbed into the body, instead of previous estimates of 81 percent measured by the use of radioactive vitamin E.

“In simple terms, we believe that less than one third the amount of vitamin E is actually making it to the tissues where it’s most needed,” Traber said.

Vitamin E in the blood stream is not completely wasted, Traber noted. There, it can help protect LDL and HDL cholesterol from oxidation, which is good. But that doesn’t offset the concern that not enough of this micronutrient may be reaching tissues, she said.

Collaborators on this study were from the USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, and the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The work was supported by the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the National Institutes of Health.

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Maret Traber, 541-737-7977

Map outlines western Oregon landslide risks from a subduction zone earthquake

CORVALLIS, Ore. – New landslide maps have been developed that will help the Oregon Department of Transportation determine which coastal roads and bridges in Oregon are most likely to be usable following a major subduction zone earthquake that is expected in the future of the Pacific Northwest.

The maps were created by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, or DOGAMI, as part of a research project for ODOT. They outline the landslide risks following a large earthquake on the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The mapping is part of ongoing ODOT efforts to preserve the critical transportation routes that will facilitate response and recovery.

“Landslides are a natural part of both the Oregon Coast Range and Cascade Range, but it’s expected there will be a significant number of them that are seismically induced from a major earthquake,” said Michael Olsen, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering. “A massive earthquake can put extraordinary additional strain on unstable slopes that already are prone to landslides.”

Landslides are already a serious geologic hazard for western Oregon. But during an earthquake, lateral ground forces can be as high as half the force of gravity.

The Coast Range is of special concern, officials say, because it will be the closest part of the state to the actual subduction zone earthquake, and will experience the greatest shaking and ground movement. The research identified some of the most vulnerable landslide areas in Oregon as parts of the Coast Range between Tillamook and Astoria, and from Cape Blanco south to the California border – in each case, from the coast to about 30 miles inland.

“Major landslides have been identified by DOGAMI throughout western Oregon using high-resolution lidar mapping,” Olsen said. “Some experts believe that a number of these landslides date back to the last subduction zone earthquake in Oregon, in 1700. Coast Range slopes that are filled with weak layers of sedimentary rock are particularly vulnerable, and many areas are already on the verge of failure.”

According to the new map, the highway corridors to the coast that will face comparatively less risk from landslides will be Oregon Highway 36 from near Eugene to Florence; Oregon Highway 38 from near Cottage Grove to Reedsport; Oregon Highway 18 from Salem to Lincoln City; and large portions of U.S. Highway 30 from Portland to Astoria. However, landslides or other damages could occur on any road to the coast or in the Cascade Range due to the anticipated high levels of ground shaking.

The new research, along with other considerations, will help ODOT and other officials determine which areas merit the most investment in coming years as part of long-term planning for the expected earthquake. Given the high potential for damage and minimal resources available for mitigation, experts may choose to focus their efforts on highway corridors that are expected to receive less damage from the earthquake, Olsen said.

The research reflected in the new map considered such factors as slope, direction of ground movement, soil type, vegetation, distance to rivers, roads and fault locations, peak ground acceleration, peak ground velocity, annual precipitation averages, and other factors.

ODOT, Oregon State and DOGAMI have been state leaders in research on risks posed by the Cascadia Subduction Zone, earthquake and tsunami impacts, and initiatives to help the state prepare for a future disaster that scientists say is a certainty.

Officials said it’s important to consider not just the damage to structures that can occur as a result of an earthquake, but also landslide and transportation issues.

“ODOT recognizes the potential not only for casualties due to landslides during and after an earthquake, but also for the likelihood of isolating whole segments of the state’s population,” one ODOT official said. “Thousands of people in the coastal communities would be stranded and cut off from rescue, relief and recovery that would arrive by surface transport.”

ODOT recently completed a seismic vulnerability assessment and selected lifeline corridor routes to prioritize following an earthquake.  ODOT also maintains an unstable slopes program, evaluating the frequency of rockfalls and landslides affecting highway corridors.

DOGAMI recently released another open file report as part of the Oregon Resilience Plan, which evaluated multiple potential hazards resulting from a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, including landslides, liquefaction, and tsunamis.

Some recent efforts at OSU have also focused on understanding the different concerns raised by a subduction zone earthquake compared to the type of strike-slip faults more common in California, on which many seismic plans are based. Subduction earthquakes tend to be larger, affect a wider area and last longer.

Following are publications that are available:

DOGAMI Open-File Report O-15-01, Landslide Susceptibility Analysis of Lifeline Routes in the Oregon Coast Range, by Rubini Mahalingam; Michael J. Olsen; Mahyar Sharifi-Mood; and Daniel T. Gillins, Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering.  The report can be purchased on DVD for $30 each from the Nature of the Northwest Information Center (NNW), 800 N.E. Oregon St., Suite 965, Portland, Ore., 97232. You may also call NNW at (971) 673-2331 or order online at www.NatureNW.org. There is a $4.95 shipping and handling charge for all mailed items.

ODOT Research Report SPR-740, Impacts of Potential Seismic Landslides on Lifeline Corridors, by Michael J. Olsen; Scott A. Ashford; Rubini Mahalingam; Mahyar Sharifi-Mood; Matt O’Banion and Daniel T. Gillins, Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering.  Download the report:  http://1.usa.gov/18352DF

 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Michael Olsen, 541-737-9327

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