Tag Archives: amino acids

Part 1: Eating Insects for Your Daily Amino Acids?

Pull up a chair and have a plate of bugs for breakfast?! Although this is not unrealistic or uncommon in most of the world, entomophagy (eating insects for food) brings a feeling of disgust for many in western societies, and a sourpuss face along with it! But eating insects is common to animals (insectivores), even other insects, as well as humans, and for good reasons.

Eating insects of many kinds brings to light the simple fact that they are full of protein and nutrition, and help sustain life. Vitamins, minerals, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, oleic acid, and amino acids are only part of the full story.

In fact, bugs may wind up being a part of the human diet in the future, as it is currently in many countries, and has been prehistorically commonplace for hominids, hominins (human line), throughout time.

The big questions about eating insects include…

What amino acids are present in bugs and are they available to the human body? Exactly what nutritional content is covered for human requirements by consuming edible insects? Eating insects may be good for you, but do they taste good?

According to my daughter, who went to Peru with my mom and some friends and ate a large white grub that is a common to the area for consumption, it tasted lovely, just like an almond. She said, “It tasted good!” However, she also nearly gagged and spit it out. Why? The texture was “too mushy,” she said. The last thing she was thinking about was the amino acid content of the grub! *smiles*

Eating insects raw, such as her raw grub from Peru, are not always necessary. Most people around the world eat them raw as well as roasted, baked, smoked, fried, boiled in salted water, and dried or sun-dried. Of course, most Americans have heard of chocolate covered ants or grasshoppers as a delicacy dessert (or given as a joke, although is a serious meal in other countries). Each method of preparation makes eating insects a different experience, taste, texture, and can be the difference between it tasting good or wanting to spit it out on the ground from whence it came.

Who wants to eat bugs anyway? Lots of people, especially considering they are as easy to scavenge as they are to grow and raise for food, and is easier than gardening or raising small livestock. It is also cheaper than buying food at the grocery store, although bugs-on-a-stick (or loose) of many varieties can be purchased at local markets in many countries, like is often seen in China or Thailand.

The fact is that many grubs, larvae, grasshoppers, caterpillars, termites, palm weevils, mealworms, and other bugs are packed with nutrition such as potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, and copper according to the FAO. Eating insects can also supply you with necessary iron and amino acids like lysine, things that vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in.

CONTININUE READING Part 2: Eating Insects for Your Daily Amino Acids?

Reference:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00805837

http://www.organicvaluerecovery.com/studies/studies_nutrient_content_of_insects.htm

http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e06.pdf

Prevent Prostate Cancer with Three Amino Acids?

Three specific amino acids may aid in the prevention of prostate cancer according to a study. The three aminos include methionine, phenylalanine, and tyrosine. During protein synthesis by the body, the amino acids tyrosine, methionine, and phenylalanine are utilized. Restriction of these amino acids depends on glucose metabolism, which when altered aids in cell death of cancer cells within human prostate cancer, and may aid in preventing prostate cancer.

Study linking amino acids and prostate cancer prevention

YM Fu, H Lin, et al., did a study at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Washington State University said that it is selective amino acid restriction of tyrosine and phenylalanine, plus methionine or glutamine that target mitochondria in cells that are linked to prostate cancer cell death.

Glucose metabolism modulation is tied to the process and “crucial switches connecting metabolism and these signaling molecules to cell survival during amino acid restriction” become target factors preventing prostate cancer, say the researchers.

Second study on prostate cancer and amino acids

Another study by YS Kim from Washington State University showed an identification of molecular targets regarding specific amino acid dependency and how it modulates specific kinds of prostate cancer cells. To find out how the amino acids can prevent prostate cancer, they investigated if restriction of tyrosine, phenylalanine, and methionine could inhibit the growth and metastasis of prostate cancer.

Kim progressed outward in this field of research because of the “underlying the anticancer activity of tyrosine/phenylalanine and methionine restriction. This is especially important research since there still is no satisfactory drug for treatment of androgen-independent, metastatic human prostate cancer.”

Even though further research is needed regarding the amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine, and methionine for prostate cancer prevention, it has expanded avenues for antimetastatic, anti-invasive, apoptosis-based therapies for the preventing prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer, being one of the major cancers that kill men in the North American continent, is the reason why males should be regularly screened for this deadly disease.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20432447

http://prevention.cancer.gov/funding/recently-funded/ca04004/1R01CA101035-01A1

Egg Protein Powder for Your Essential Amino Acids – the Superior Choice?

Egg protein powder has been on the market for years and although not as popular as whey protein, it should be a consideration for those who wish to get a near perfect protein with all the essential amino acids. Why? The pattern in the egg whites, the egg protein nearly matches human growth.

Even without the egg yolk to supplement the body with cholesterol and fats, the protein of the egg provides some amazing nutrient potential. A top quality egg protein powder, can provide a good source of vitamins A, B, D and E.

Egg white protein digests at a moderate pace. It also possesses a high level of sulfur which is essential to various hormonal pathways within the body which in turn, leads to increased muscle mass.

Egg white protein doesn’t cause nearly the problems of bloating as whey protein, and contains all the essential amino acids, unlike hemp or soy.  Egg protein possesses a bland to slightly salty taste and also can easily be made into custom mixes in a shaker or blender.

Of course there is a negative to every protein powder. All this egg protein goodness doesn’t come cheap and consumers should be wary of buying low-grade egg protein powders.

Cheaper products from factory-farmed eggs should be avoided, for chickens in “chicken factories” often live in polluted environments that may even be toxic.  Chickens and their eggs can carry diseases such as salmonella and infections. In addition, factory-farmed eggs may include low levels of antibiotics, or hormones, or other pharmaceuticals.

Is egg protein powder the superior alternative for amino acids?

Both whey and egg protein powders have all the essential amino acids, and if a person doesn’t mind consuming a little cholesterol at a lower price, whey protein is probably the standard from which all other protein powders are judged from.

Another popular plant based protein powder could be hemp. It is low in a couple of essential amino acids, particularly lysine.  But, hemp is also generally considered a superfood. It is high also in essential fatty acids which may sound bad, but actually is really good because of the high amount of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids that many people are deficient in.

Soy protein powder also lacks two essential amino acids in sufficient quantities—methionine and lysine, which are particularly low. For overweight women, especially, soy powder may be great for soy is known for speeding up thyroid function which may be great for those who wish to shed a few pounds while reducing cholesterol. Soy protein powders also may be hugely beneficial for menopausal women, for the isoflavones can reduce hot flashes.

Having made all these comparisons in a nutshell, if you are looking for a zero-cholesterol, animal-based protein powder with all the essential amino acids, egg protein powder is tough to beat for many consumers today.

References:

http://superhumancoach.com/pros-and-cons-of-egg-protein-powder/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/481383-what-are-the-benefits-of-egg-white-protein-powder/

http://bestproteintoday.com/tag/amino-acids/

http://www.goodhempnutrition.com/content/68-what-is-hemp-protein

http://www.livestrong.com/article/467660-the-benefits-and-drawbacks-of-soy-protein-powder-in-women/

Amino Acids as Anti-Inflammatory Pain Relief

Did you know that amino acids can be used for pain relief? People often will take over the counter painkillers like acetomenaphen (e.g., Tylenol), or anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil), but a natural source of analgesics with some anti-inflammatory effects include amino acids. Amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins, but they serve many functions in the body, especially to the organs and brain, or even the muscles and nerves. Taking amino acid supplements can sometimes aid the body to ward off pain and inflammation, just like a natural painkiller.

There are a couple of studies that tested amino acids like L-isoleucine, which can act as an agent for pain relief, and so prostaglandin was studied to see the effectiveness of L-isoleucine for the analgesic (painkilling) and anti-inflammatory properties. In order to understand how this works we must understand how prostaglandin works…

Prostaglandins are lipid compounds that work on-site like Aspirin; however, they are enzymatically derived (from fatty acids). Although prostaglandins work in a variety of ways, one of them is by acting as an analgesic, or natural pain reliever. Analgesics help your body achieve analgesia—relief from pain.

When there is an injury or you are will, the prostaglandins (whether due to amino acids or medicine) do not get secreted from the gland, but instead are chemically made on-site so they can be used exactly where they are needed, such as to control or reduce inflammation.

Amino acids studied as analgesics (pain relievers)

One study by E Ricciotti and GA FitzGerald regarding prostaglandins showed that they can act as a natural painkiller and help reduce the anti-inflammatory response. The researchers said, “prostaglandins may function in both the promotion and resolution of inflammation.” But amino acids may also cause a bodily anti-inflammatory response.

In a different study, four amino acids were investigated. The scientists RN Saxena, VK Pendse, and NK Khanna “Orally administered L-isoleucine, DL-isoleucine and L-leucine [which] exhibited anti-inflammatory activity in many test models of inflammation except formaldehyde-induced inflammation. L-beta-phenylalanine inhibited carrageenan-induced oedema only.”

Interestingly, it was the L-isoleucine that showed an extended analgesic (painkiller) result. Meanwhile, DL-isoleucine did have a short-lasting effect.

Unlike some supplements, the amino acids did not cause gastric ulceration nor did it promote acute toxicity in the doses that suppressed inflammation effectively. The researchers’ assessment on the painkilling amino acids included that the “anti-inflammatory activity seems to be related with interference with the action and/or synthesis of prostaglandins and deserves further intensive study.”

Of course, it depends on the problem and which amino acids you can use to act as a natural painkiller against it, so more research will continue in this area as time progresses.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6335992

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21508345

Amino Acids Among Anti-Aging Bio-Molecules

Amino acids are among a number of specific types of bio-molecules that help restrict the aging process. Antiaging creams and lotions and supplements are only a few ways to deal with wrinkles and skin issues from a topical advantage, but what about the rest of the body? Anti-aging mechanisms, healing and immunity, skin (our largest organ), and other biological processes require an internal process at the cellular level for really slowing the aging process.

A review by P Dabhade and S Kotwal from the University Department of Biochemistry, RTM Nagpur University, in India wrote a publication titled: Tackling the aging process with bio-molecules: a possible role for caloric restriction, food-derived nutrients, vitamins, amino acids, peptides, and minerals.

The researchers said that “Aging is a multifactorial process leading to general deterioration in many tissues and organs, accompanied by an increased incidence and severity of a wide variety of chronic, incurable, and often fatal diseases” and that these therapies “include potential dietary interventions, adherence to nutrition, hormonal and cell-based therapies, genetic manipulations, and anti-aging supplements or nutrients.” Amino acids are among them.

Amino acids help with anti-aging at the cellular level

True healing comes from within, and the anti-aging process is no different. The body regenerates at the cellular level, so aiding the body in fundamental ways is crucial to keeping the body youthful. This can mean environmental changes we can control, like one’s diet, includes eating nutrient-rich foods (many people also claim their skin was the most obvious change they noticed when they ate a raw vegan diet because the skin hydrates from underneath).

Among the supplements and nutrients that are listed for anti-aging processes includes, vitamins, minerals, peptides, as well as amino acids. Protein foods like meats can provide all 22 amino acids since aminos are the building blocks of protein. Eating whey protein and eggs provide essential amino acids to the body, but extending the lifespan can get more detailed. The researchers who published the review named above focused mainly on these strategies for slowing down the aging process: caloric restriction, good food, and nutritional supplements, among which include amino acids.

Amino acids that are specifically good for anti-aging

Some of the amino acids below serve specific functions in the body:

Taurine helps repair muscle tissue, which tends to wane in the elderly

Creatine is produced by L-arginine and methionine, which come from carnitine, and help produce healthy skin.

L-arginine also helps reduce inflammation and erectile dysfunction (ED), and serves as a metabolism booster.

L-carnitine and carnosine help support cardiovascular health– carnitine helps with skin health, weight management, and energy, plus reduces peripheral vascular disease symptoms and heart angina, while carnosine lowers cholesterol and also reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.

L-glutamine stores sugar as glycogen instead of fat in the body, and is important for skin health.

Cysteine is a powerful detoxifier and required along with glutamine and glycine in order to make glutathione. The Washington Times called the amino acid glutathione an anti-aging machine!

Aging is progressive, irreversible, and a universal human phenomenon. Utilizing amino acids and other supplements may help protect against damage to molecules such as proteins, DNA, lipids, organs, and our cells protects against diseases like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

Taking amino acids, among other supplements, and eating a healthy diet aids cellular mechanisms and may help you live longer. Please check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23451844

http://www.studymode.com/essays/Submission-619316.html

http://aminoacidinformation.com/?s=anti-aging

Amino Acids and Vitamins Improved Health in Elderly

As we age, it is generally believed our immune system deteriorates. It is considered a fact of life. Japanese researchers did a study to investigate the effects of supplementing amino acids and vitamins for both unhealthy and healthier older people for both inpatients and outpatients.

From the article, “Amino acid and vitamin supplementation improved health conditions in elderly participants”, Japanese researchers studied one bedridden inpatient group and one outpatient group.

Daily, a mixture of the amino acids containing leucine (1200 mg/day), glutamine (600 mg/day), and arginine (500 mg/day), plus 11 kinds of vitamins were administrated for 8 weeks. In both groups, general blood biomarkers such as C-reactive protein levels, white blood cell count, and natural killer (NK) cell activity were measured.

The study involved thirteen bedridden inpatients (7 males, 6 females; mean age, 81.8 ± 8 years) and eleven outpatients (7 males, 4 females; mean age, 74 ± 12 years) from the Sansei Hospital (Hyogo Prefecture, Japan).

These same amino acid and vitamins were administered to the inpatients as the outpatients with water twice daily, immediately after dinner and before sleeping.

Results from clinical study on Amino Acids and Vitamins

The researchers found that supplementation of the three amino acids arginine, glutamine, and leucine, and 11 kinds of vitamins had beneficial effects on the health of older people in poor health. The aging process in humans results in a condition called sarcopenia, which involves decreased skeletal muscle mass and function which is associated with metabolic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In this study, immune parameters were also evaluated. Of these, NK cell activity, an index of innate immunity, increased in both outpatients and inpatients. In the immune system, NK cell activity is thought to be one of the important indices for monitoring immunity because innate immunity is the first line of defense against infections. For those inpatients who were administered amino acids, their condition was stable due to increased NK cell activity.

To conclude, this study suggested that “dietary supplementation with the amino acids arginine (500 mg/day), glutamine (600 mg/day), leucine (1200 mg/day), and 11 kinds of vitamins for the elderly in poor health increased NK cell activity, irregardless of the presence of a primary disease and the amount of the daily nutrient intake.”

It was also observed that supplementation with more than 1 g/day of vitamin C enhanced immunity in healthy adults. In addition, vitamin E fostered the immunity for both unhealthy subjects (750 mg/day) and in healthy elderly subjects (800 mg/day).

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303480/

http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/biology-aging/immune-system-can-your-immune-system-still-defend-you-you-age

Food that Contain Cysteine and Methionine

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When we eat protein foods our bodies break down the proteins into their respective amino acids, and then builds them back up into new proteins that help build muscle and organs and help run other functions in the body. The amino acids cysteine and methionine are needed by the body as well, and can be gotten from certain foods.

Benefits of methionine amino acid

Methionine is a sulfur-containing and proteinogenic amino acid. It provides sulfur for the hair, skin, and nails plus lowers cholesterol and provides protection for the kidneys. It can also prevent liver damage from taking too much acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Methionine can increase acidity in the urine, improve wound healing, and treat various liver disorders. Other uses for methionine include treating copper poisoning, alcoholism, depression, allergies, asthma, side effects from radiation, drug withdrawal, schizophrenia, and even Parkinson’s disease.

Benefits of cysteine amino acid

Cysteine helps protect the liver against long-term effects of alcohol use, specifically from the poison acetaldehyde (a by-product of alcohol metabolism), although it does not reduce drunkenness. Cysteine is also an antioxidant and therefore fights free radicals in the body. It can help with treating diabetes, colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), plus may treat cardiovascular disease, angina, flu, chronic bronchitis, inflammation, and osteoarthritis.

This sulfur-containing amino acid is synthesized only when methionine is in the body, therefore it is connected to methionine in this way and is why both cysteine and methionine are usually taken together through dietary supplementation. This is why it is important to eat foods that contain both cysteine and methionine so that they can complement one another for proper health benefits.

Foods high in cysteine and methionine

Methionine and cysteine work in tandem in the body, with cysteine particularly being dependent upon the presence of methionine to be produced and work in the body.

Food sources for both methionine and cysteine…

Methionine Cysteine
nuts
eggs
spinach
mushrooms
broccoli
potatoes
fish/tuna
meats*
seeds
almonds
parmesan cheese
brazil nuts
wheat germ
peanuts
chickpea
corn
pintos
lentils
medium-grained brown rice
milk
eggs
red peppers
onions
broccoli
oats
whey protein
meats*
cottage cheese
yogurt
ricotta
garlic
brussels sprouts
granola
wheat germ
sprouted lentils

*chicken, pork, turkey, duck, cured/dried or ground beef, bacon, in particular

Be sure to talk to your doctor before making any extreme or unusual modifications to your diet.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-42-methionine.aspx?activeingredientid=42&activeingredientname=methionine

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/L-Cysteine.htm

http://nutrition.nutricia.com/conditions/sulphite-oxidase-deficiency

Amino Acids for Pregnancy Health

Being a mom does not just happen when you birth a new baby into the world, it starts with pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy means you need proper nutrition, such as vitamins, minerals, as well as things like folic acid, and even amino acids. There are common 22 amino acids that are important for health, and that bring with them their own respective health benefits, but some of these include alanine, tryptophan, tyrosine, cysteine, and even phenylalanine.

It is important for a pregnant mother-to-be to know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so this is important for the baby’s development. Proteins like muscles, organs, tissues, plus even the fetal brain, are all dependent upon the proper amount of amino acids in the mother’s body.

There are essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. “Essential” means that they must be gotten through diet, while non-essential means that the body makes these aminos on its own. Protein foods like meats (chicken, beef, turkey, pork, etc.), plus fish and eggs, provide all 22 amino acids.

If a mother lacks enough amino acids then the developing fetus could suffer. Preeclampsia as well as spina bifida are associated with a lack of amino acids in a pregnant mom.

Lack of amino acids associated with preeclampsia and spina bifida

A study discovered that the amino acid L-arginine (also known simply as arginine) may protect against preeclampsia in pregnant women. About 5-8% of all pregnant women in the United States get preeclampsia, which shows protein levels in urine and can cause dangerously high blood pressure. If not treated it can cause low birth weight, preterm labor, or even death. Around the world 76,000-500,000 infants die because of preeclampsia in pregnancy and hypertension disorders. L-arginine amino acid helps alleviate the conditions associated with preeclampsia. Ask your doctor about how much to take.

In another study the amniotic fluid was tested to check concentrations of amino acids in pregnant women whose babies were already known to have spina bifida. Researchers said that their levels of “alanine, cystathionine, cysteine, phenylalanine, tryptophane, and tyrosine amino acids” were lower than the healthy fetuses from the control group. This suggested that the “loss of amino acids from the fetus through the spinal cord may contribute to the etiology of spina bifida.” Spina bifida, a congenital disorder affecting the spine of the fetus, can come from a lack of the mother having enough folic acid in very early pregnancy. Taking folic acid before conception is essential, as well as afterwards in order to decrease chances for the disorder up to 70%.

Be sure to get enough amino acids in your diet during pregnancy, which means not too much and not too little. This is especially important if you are vegan or vegetarian since most complete amino acids come from animals or animal products. You may want to discuss this with your physician.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23157048

http://newhope360.com/blog/can-amino-acid-ensure-healthy-pregnancy

Improve Sleep for Insomnia via Amino Acids and Deep Breathing

1… 2… 3… 4… How many of us have tried counting sheep, or other things that never seem to work, just to get some sleep at night? Insomnia can strike a person for a good many reasons, including: worry or fretting, stress or anxiety, racing thoughts, sleep cycles being off kilter (light therapy can sometimes help), hormones or metabolic reasons, and even due to being overly tired, among other things. However, there are two natural things you can do to help you sleep… take certain amino acids, and perform certain breathing exercises.

Studies have shown that increasing oxygen levels through deep breathing exercises, contrary to popular belief, can actually help induce sleep rather than wake you up. This is due to the connection with CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels in the body, which I will go into later.

Interestingly, amino acids can also help relieve insomnia. Two of the common 22 amino acids, in particular, are able help calm the mind and induce rest in a weary but aggravated body.

Insomniacs need oxygen, and amino acids for serotonin

Adults with insomnia were studied and given relaxation techniques, including deep breathing exercises (do not forget about bedtime yoga!) as part of information included in complementary and alternative medicine or naturopathic medicine techniques. These insomniacs, after being informed of these easy activities at bedtime, had higher rates of continued use.

Deep breathing exercises aside, it is not just increasing oxygen levels alone that help you relax and slumber, but reducing CO2 levels in the body. Amino acids actually play a vital role in this process.

In a fascinating cross-species study that compared plants, insects, animals, and humans, the levels of CO2 and anxiety were investigated. Anyone who has woken up in the night due to a panic attack knows what I am speaking about here. CO2 levels are higher in correspondence with anxiety or negative emotions.

There is a neurological ‘fear circuit’ that is not entirely understood, but evidence reviewed on the amino acid GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) may help modulate anxiety that is CO2 induced. That is, if you take the GABA amino acid, it could help calm the mind, anxiety, and troubling thoughts so you can sleep.

Another amino acid that is known to be a natural sedative is tryptophan (like what makes you tired from turkey meat), plus serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter) and melatonin also help you induce sleep.

GABA and tryptophan are commonly available as supplements at health food stores and drug stores as a sleep aid. So breathe deeply and reduce the amount of CO2 in your body, plus take amino acid GABA and/or tryptophan to complement this for a good night’s rest.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23243402

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18485466

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22652369

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22365651

Amino Acids – Their Role in Aggressive Brain Cancer

There is an enzyme that causes the breakdown of certain amino acids, which makes brain cancer aggressive. Scientists have discussed their findings in the Nature Medicine journal. These researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) were looking for new kinds of therapies against aggressive brain cancer when they discovered the amino acids hunger is increased in certain forms of brain cancer.

Tumors that grow quickly and aggressively need more energy feeding them than regular (non-aggressive) brain cancer tumors. Tumors also need the right molecular building blocks to build the components of the cells in order to grow. Cancer is now known to feed on sugar (glucose), and some tumors can also catabolize glutamine, which is an amino acid.

Amino acids and role of enzymes in aggressive tumors

Primary glioblastomas are extremely malignant brain tumors. Glioblastomas also have a connection with the two enzymes BCAT1 and IDH (isocitrate dehydrogenase) because these enzymes cooperate together in decomposing branched-chain amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and these proteins can act as a food sources that increase the hunger, or aggressiveness, of cancer cells. For the first time, these scientists have been able to show that branched-chain amino acids have a significant role in the aggressive growth of certain malignant tumors.

Some years ago some researchers found gene coding mutations in IDH for a number of types of brain cancers, such as glioblastomas. If they lacked the IDH gene, then they would grow more slowly due to being defective. Radlwimmer, from the German Cancer Research Center, said that, “we can see that overexpression of BCAT1 contributes to the aggressiveness of glioblastoma cells.”

Their team compared the activity of genes from several hundred brain tumors to find out if intact or altered IDH enzymes had characteristics that might explain the aggressive tumor growth. They did, in fact, find a significance difference between two groups studied. The BCAT1 enzyme in a normal brain breaks down branched-chain amino acids, producing ketoglutarate (BCAT1 needs this molecule). So only intact IDH in tumor cells have the BCAT1 enzyme, so Bernhard Radlwimmer says, “The two enzymes seem to form a kind of functional unit in amino acid catabolism.”

Glioblastomas are what makes the brain cancer tumors particularly aggressive, and when the effects of BCAT1 is blocked, the tumor cells lose their capacity to grow or invade the healthy brain tissue. Also, at that point the cells also release less of the amino acid neurotransmitter—glutamate. When someone has brain cancer they often will get epileptic seizures, which are associated with high glutamate amino acid levels.

Because of this association, and how the researchers understand it now, agents are being searched for to target against the enzymes that are responsible for the aggressive tumor growth. BCAT1 expression is also being studied since it may be a marker to help diagnose brain cancer malignancy.

Reference:

http://www.dkfz.de/en/presse/pressemitteilungen/2013/dkfz-pm-13-35-Brain-Cancer-Hunger-for-Amino-Acids-Makes-It-More-Aggressive.php