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Sweat May Pass on Hepatitis B in Contact Sports

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Sweat may be another way to pass on hepatitis B infection during contact sports, suggests research published ahead of print in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Hepatitis B virus attacks the liver and can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death.

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Toward A Banana-based Vaccine For Hepatitis B

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Bananas have emerged as the best candidate to deliver a bite-sized vaccine for hepatitis B virus (HBV) to millions of people in developing countries, according to a recent article. Research efforts to genetically engineer plants as biofactories for the production of vaccines. They focus on transferring genes to produce HBV vaccine, noting that there already are 350 million carriers of hepatitis B worldwide, with 1 million new cases annually. An estimated 75 million -100 million of those infected individuals may die from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

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New regulator of liver metabolism discovered

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Enzyme retinol saturase controls liver glucose handling. Researchers have identified an enzyme that has a major effect on glucose utilization in liver cells. The enzyme, retinol saturase, helps these cells adapt to variations in glucose levels. However, when glucose levels are consistently too high, retinol saturase appears to exert a damaging effect on cells.

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The liver increases by half during the day

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In mammals, the liver reaches its maximum efficiency when they are active and feed. Biologists showed in mice that the size of the liver increases by almost half before returning to its initial dimensions, according to the phases of activity and rest. This fluctuation disappears when the normal biological rhythm is reversed. The disruption of our circadian clock probably has important repercussions on our liver functions.

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Breakthrough in antioxidant enzyme linked to jaundice

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A research team has investigated biliverdin reductase, the enzyme producing bilirubin — a substance linked with jaundice — from biliverdin (BV). Two BV molecules were found at the enzyme reaction site, in an unusual stacked arrangement. Mutation experiments confirmed which enzyme amino acid was necessary for bilirubin production. In the proposed mechanism, this amino acid transfers hydrogen to one BV molecule, using the other BV as a conduit. This aids the search for anti-jaundice drugs.

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New smartphone app can detect newborn jaundice in minutes

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Engineers and physicians have developed a smartphone application that checks for jaundice in newborns and can deliver results to parents and pediatricians within minutes. Skin that turns yellow can be a sure sign that a newborn is jaundiced and isn’t adequately eliminating the chemical bilirubin. But that discoloration is sometimes hard to see, and severe jaundice left untreated can harm a baby.

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Metabolic Functions of the Liver

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Carbohydrate Metabolism

It is critical for all animals to maintain concentrations of glucose in blood within a narrow, normal range. Maintainance of normal blood glucose levels over both short (hours) and long (days to weeks) periods of time is one particularly important function of the liver. Hepatocytes house many different metabolic pathways and employ dozens of enzymes that are alternatively turned on or off depending on whether blood levels of glucose are rising or falling out of the normal range. Two important examples of these abilities are:

Excess glucose entering the blood after a meal is rapidly taken up by the liver and sequestered as the large polymer, glycogen (a process called glycogenesis). Later, when blood concentrations of glucose begin to decline, the liver activates other pathways which lead to depolymerization of glycogen (glycogenolysis) and export of glucose back into the blood for transport to all other tissues. When hepatic glycogen reserves become exhausted, as occurs when an animal has not eaten for several hours, do the hepatocytes give up? No! They recognize the problem and activate additional groups of enzymes that begin synthesizing glucose out of such things as amino acids and non-hexose carbohydrates (gluconeogenesis). The ability of the liver to synthesize this “new” glucose is of monumental importance to carnivores, which, at least in the wild, have diets virtually devoid of starch.

Fat Metabolism

Few aspects of lipid metabolism are unique to the liver, but many are carried out predominantly by the liver. Major examples of the role of the liver in fat metabolism include:

The liver is extremely active in oxidizing triglycerides to produce energy. The liver breaks down many more fatty acids that the hepatocytes need, and exports large quantities of acetoacetate into blood where it can be picked up and readily metabolized by other tissues. A bulk of the lipoproteins are synthesized in the liver. The liver is the major site for converting excess carbohydrates and proteins into fatty acids and triglyceride, which are then exported and stored in adipose tissue. The liver synthesizes large quantities of cholesterol and phospholipids. Some of this is packaged with lipoproteins and made available to the rest of the body. The remainder is excreted in bile as cholesterol or after conversion to bile acids.

Protein Metabolism

The most critical aspects of protein metabolism that occur in the liver are:

Deamination and transamination of amino acids, followed by conversion of the non-nitrogenous part of those molecules to glucose or lipids. Several of the enzymes used in these pathways (for example, alanine and aspartate aminotransferases) are commonly assayed in serum to assess liver damage. Removal of ammonia from the body by synthesis of urea. Ammonia is very toxic and if not rapidly and efficiently removed from the circulation, will result in central nervous system disease. A frequent cause of such hepatic encephalopathy in dogs and cats are malformations of the blood supply to the liver called portosystemic shunts. Synthesis of non-essential amino acids.  Hepatocytes are responsible for synthesis of most of the plasma proteins. Albumin, the major plasma protein, is synthesized almost exclusively by the liver. Also, the liver synthesizes many of the clotting factors necessary for blood coagulation.

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