LSUHSC researchers find plant nutrients kill cancer cells, and other higher-education news

LSU team: Plant nutrients kill breast cancer cells

A study led by researchers at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans has found that a “super cocktail” of six natural compounds in vegetables, fruits, spices and plant roots killed 100 percent of sample breast cancer cells without toxic side effects on normal cells.

The study, led by professor Madhwa Raj, tested 10 known protective chemical nutrients found in foods such as broccoli, grapes, apples, tofu, and turmeric root (a spice used in Indian curry) before settling upon six: Curcumin, known as turmeric; isoflavone from soybeans; indo-3-carbinol from cruciferous plants; C-phycocyanin from spirulina; resveratrol from grapes; and quercetin, a flavonoid present in fruits, vegetables and tea.

The researchers administered these six to both breast cancer cells and control cells. They tested the compounds individually and in combination.

They found that the compounds were ineffective individually, but when combined, they suppressed breast-cancer cell growth by more than 80 percent, inhibited migration and invasion, caused cell cycle arrest and triggered the process leading to cell death in 100 percent of the breast cancer cells in the sample.

The results of the study were published in the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Cancer.

Tulane to study major depressive disorder

Tulane University has received a five-year, $3.13 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the causes of major depressive disorder.

The research team will try to identify alterations of genetic makeup that may cause the disorder.

The study hypothesizes that attachment of methyl compounds to specific regions of DNA, or methylation, leads to development of MDD. Methyl groups involved in DNA methylation can be generated within the human body or consumed via leafy vegetables and other foods containing folic acid.

“Epigenetic changes are related to many psychosocial, behavioral and/or environmental factors,” said Jinying Zhao, a Tulane professor and lead investigator for the study. “For major depressive disorder, stressful early life events are believed to play an important role in causing the disease through epigenetic mechanisms.”

The researchers will compare the DNA of twin pairs, where one twin has the disorder. They will look for patterns of methylation common in the DNA of twins with major depressive disorder, but not in the DNA of twins without the disorder.

The researchers also will examine postmortem brain tissue of MDD patients to determine if the same associations are present.

Computer science faculty earn awards

Faculty members in the University of New Orleans’ computer science department recently earned two national awards.

Four members of the department won the award for best paper at the Information Security Conference, and two faculty members earned the outstanding research award from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

The 16th Information Security Conference was held Nov. 13-15 in Dallas. The winning paper was written by Irfan Ahmed, assistant professor of computer science; Aleksander Zoranic, graduate research assistant; Vassil Roussev, associate professor of computer science; and Golden Richard III, professor of computer science. The paper focused on new ways of detecting stealthy, malicious software that might infect a Windows machine.

A submission from Richard and Ahmed also was selected for the outstanding research award by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

They will present their research at the organization’s general meeting in Seattle in February. The topic is how digital forensic investigations to solve computer-related crimes will be affected by the features in Apple’s newest operating system, OS X Mavericks.