Golden Rice Not So Golden for Tufts / Study Irregularities

2013-09-18 17:15
Golden Rice Humanitarian Board

Worth its weight in gold? Golden rice (right) protects against vitamin A deficiency in children.

A study in which Chinese children were fed a small amount of genetically modified rice violated university and U.S. federal rules on human research, according to a statement issued yesterday by Tufts University in Boston, whose scientists led the study. Tufts has barred the principal investigator, Guangwen Tang, from doing human research for 2 years and will require her to undergo training in research on human subjects.

In August 2012, Tang and colleagues published a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that golden rice is a promising source of vitamin A in Chinese children aged 6 to 8 years old. The study ignited a media firestorm in China a few weeks later, after Greenpeace issued a statement claiming that the children were used as “guinea pigs” and labeling the study a “scandal of international proportions.” Three Chinese collaborators who initially denied involvement in the study, according to media reports, were punished for their participation in December, following an official investigation in China, and parents of the children received generous financial compensation from the Chinese government.

Golden rice contains β-carotene, a compound that is turned into vitamin A inside the body and that gives the rice its trademark yellow hue. It was developed in the 1990s to help fight vitamin A deficiency, a major global health problem estimated to cause blindness in up to half a million children every year, half of whom die within 12 months after losing their eyesight.

The study that has drawn so much opprobrium, carried out in 2008 among 72 children in a primary school in China’s Hunan province, was designed to find out how well golden rice is converted into vitamin A inside kids’ bodies. The results were good news for supporters of the rice variety: One serving could provide more than half of a child’s daily vitamin A needs, the researchers reported.

Tufts launched the investigation in September 2012, shortly after the controversy erupted. A spokesperson says that Tufts won’t publish a report about the investigation, but the university e-mailed a brief statement to reporters yesterday. Tufts also sent ScienceInsider a letter from Diane Souvaine, Tufts’ vice provost for research, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with more details about the investigations. (Tang works at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, a facility operated jointly by Tufts and USDA). ScienceInsider also obtained a letter from Souvaine to Kristina Borror of the U.S. Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) about the investigation.

The letters show that Tufts’ own institutional review board (IRB) investigated the ethical procedures, as did an external panel whose membership has not been made public. In addition, there was a third, internal review to look at whether there was any evidence of scientific fraud or data manipulation.

The reviews found no evidence of health or safety problems in the children fed golden rice; they also concluded that the study’s data were scientifically accurate and valid. Indeed, Souvaine’s letter to the USDA stresses that the results “have important public health and nutrition implications, for China and other parts of the world.”

But the IRB concluded that there were a number of problems in the way Tang conducted the study. For instance, she provided “insufficient evidence” that the study “was reviewed and approved by an Ethics Review Board in China in accordance with prevailing standards.” It also found that some of the consent forms had not been obtained before the trial started, and there was “some evidence that the dates on some consent forms were changed and that other consent forms may have been inappropriately signed.”

Tang also made some unauthorized changes to the study protocol after obtaining permission, the IRB concluded; for instance, the participation of research team members from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention was not described in the protocol, and eight subjects were recruited to an unapproved “placebo” arm. Tufts, in its letter to OHRP, characterized Tang’s actions as constituting “serious and continuing non-compliance with federal regulations” and with Tufts IRB policy.

Tang, who was born in China and has been at Tufts since 1987, did not respond to requests for comment from ScienceInsider. Tufts has barred her from doing research on humans for 2 years, during which time she will be “retrained on human subjects research regulations and policies,” the university stated; after the training is completed, for a further 2 years she can do human studies only as a supervised co-investigator.

Tang, 64, has decided to close her lab next year as a result of the punishment, says Adrian Dubock, executive secretary of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board in Switzerland, which was not directly involved in the study. “She did not choose the political controversy thrust upon her altruistic research,” Dubock, who has kept in contact with Tang, says in a written statement. “Her retirement and the closure of her laboratory will be a loss to humanity.”

Tang is not the only one in the crosshairs. The external panel criticized Tufts’ IRB for having failed to verify that there were ethics panels in place in China equipped to review the study, and whether they actually reviewed and approved the trial. The IRB should also have ensured that the informed consent form for parents explicitly stated that the rice is the product of genetic engineering.

U.S. guidelines stipulate that such forms use plain language understandable to lay people, and the IRB agreed to let Tang say that “Golden Rice is a new rice which makes beta-carotene,” without using the loaded words “genetically modified.” (The consent form for a very similar study by Tang among adults in Boston, published in 2009, didn’t use that term either.) Given the sensitivities over transgenic food, which existed in China as well, that was the wrong decision, according to the external panel.

The IRB has taken a number of measures to shore up its reviews, especially of international studies, Tufts says.

The Tufts statement and the letters don’t mention the role of Robert Russell, the last author of the paper and a renowned nutrition researcher. Russell, now retired, was the head of the Tufts-USDA lab at the time the study was conducted. Although he helped design the trial, Russell tells ScienceInsider that he had little to do with how it was carried out, was not present at the study site in China, and does not speak Chinese. The paper lists him as “the study physician,” but he was only available for “long-distance consultation” if problems emerged, he says.

Russell says that overall, the Tufts statement is “a fair assessment of the problems,” but says that Tang, with whom he has been in contact, has different views on a number of issues. In retrospect, Russell says, more than one bilingual researcher from Tufts should have been involved in the study to oversee adherence to the protocol. He says part of the problem was that the researchers relied on their Chinese counterparts. “We thought it was going to be run correctly and at the time had no reason to think it wouldn’t be,” he says; that was “naive.”

Tufts has ordered Tang to write a letter to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition describing the outcome of the investigations; the journal’s editor, Dennis Bier of Baylor College of Medicine, says no decision has been made on what to do with the paper.

In July, China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission released new draft guidelines for studies involving humans, which the state news agency Xinhua says were triggered by the golden rice incident. Among the changes is that trials must be registered with the sponsoring institution before they begin, to allow proper oversight.

Cao Xuetao, president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, says the issue is a reminder that Chinese regulatory authorities haven’t kept up with the nation’s burgeoning research enterprise. “Chinese science has expanded so fast in the past few years,” he says, and “now there are so many clinical trials.”

German plant scientist Ingo Potrykus, who developed the first golden rice variety in the 1990s, says the controversy should not deflect attention from the study’s outcome. “The study has shown that golden rice is a very effective source of vitamin A,” says Potrykus, who is retired and lives in Switzerland. “That’s what’s most important.”

With reporting by Mara Hvistendahl.

Meet the small yellow worm that can REGROW its own head – and its old memories

  • If the planarian  worm’s head is cut off it can regenerate a new one
  • Scientists  have found this new head contains memories from  the old one
  • This  suggests memories are stored in another part of the  body

By  Victoria Woollaston

PUBLISHED: 09:19 EST, 11  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 11:26 EST, 11 July 2013

Scientists have discovered that not only can  the planarian worm regrow its head if its cut off, the regenerated brain  contains the same memories that were stored in the decapitated one.

Researchers from Tufts University in Boston  tested the memory of the planarian worms by measuring how long it took them to  reach food in a lab environment.

The small yellow worms had been trained to  ignore the bright lights in the lab so they could find their meals without being  distracted and the scientists found that even after decapitation worms  remembered this training.

Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that not only can the planarian worm, pictured, regrow its own head if its decapitated, the new head contains old memories.  

Researchers at Tufts University have found that not only  can the planarian worm, pictured, regrow its own head, but the new head contains  old memories. The worms were trained to find food in a petri dish before being  decapitated. When their new head had regrown, the worms were able to remember  these skills


Planarian worms live all over the world in fresh and saltwater ponds 

Small, yellowish planarian worms are found in  many parts of the world.

They live in both saltwater and freshwater  ponds and rivers.

Some species live in soil and on plants in  humid countries.

Some planarian worms can regenerate lost body  parts.

A planarian worm that is cut in half, for  example, is capable of regrowing brains and nervous systems to create two,  separate worms.

Planaria have two eye-spots that can detect  the intensity of light.

These spots act as photoreceptors and are  used to move away from bright light sources.

For the experiment, a team of biologists from  the university trained the 1cm worms to find food hidden in the middle of a  petri dish.

The food was lit up by a bright beam of  light.


Planarian worms have two eye-spots that can  detect the intensity of light.

These spots act as photoreceptors and are  used to move away from bright light sources.

This means that the worms had to be trained  to get over this fear of the light to get the food.

Once they had learnt this skill, the worms  were decapitated.

Two weeks later – when most of the worm’s  heads had grown back – the team put the worms back into the petri dish.

Using video-tracking technology, the  scientists discovered that the worms which had been trained found the brightly  lit food quicker than their peers.

And, although they didn’t find the food on  the first attempt, it only took  one training session for the worms to recover  their skills and ignore  the lights.

This was faster than the decapitated worms  that hadn’t been trained before losing their heads.

However, the researchers don’t know how or  why this happens.

Planarian worms have two eye-spots, pictured, that can detect the intensity of light.  

Planarian worms have two eye-spots, pictured, that can  detect the intensity of light. These spots act as photoreceptors and are used to  move away from bright light sources. The biologists trained the worms to find  food hidden in the middle of a lit petri dish and remove their fear of light

The findings suggest that the worm’s memories  may be stored somewhere else in the body.

A second idea suggested by the researchers is  that the worms’ old brain had changed their nervous systems to adjust to the  light, and these changes to the system remained when the new brain was  grown.

Researchers said in the study that more work  needs to be done to discover exactly how the worm is able to retain old  memories, but the findings can be used as a starting point for work into how  memories in humans and other animals could be restored.

The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

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Dental anesthesia may interrupt development of wisdom teeth in children

Contact: Siobhan Gallagher 617-636-6586 Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus

BOSTON (April 3, 2013) — Researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine have discovered a statistical association between the injection of local dental anesthesia given to children ages two to six and evidence of missing lower wisdom teeth. The results of this epidemiological study, published in the April issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, suggest that injecting anesthesia into the gums of young children may interrupt the development of the lower wisdom tooth.

“It is intriguing to think that something as routine as local anesthesia could stop wisdom teeth from developing. This is the first study in humans showing an association between a routinely- administered, minimally-invasive clinical procedure and arrested third molar growth,” said corresponding author, Anthony R. Silvestri, D.M.D., clinical professor in the department of prosthodontics and operative dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

Wisdom teeth are potentially vulnerable to injury because their development – unlike all other teeth – does not begin until well after birth. Between two and six years of age, wisdom tooth (third molar) buds begin to develop in the back four corners of the mouth, and typically emerge in the late teens or early adulthood. Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, but for those who do, the teeth often become impacted or problematic.

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reports that nine out of 10 people will have at least one impacted wisdom tooth, which can cause bad breath, pain, and/or infection. For this reason, many dentists recommend surgery to remove wisdom teeth to prevent disease or infection.

A developing wisdom tooth, called a bud, is vulnerable to injury for a relatively long time because it is tiny, not covered by bone, and only covered by a thin layer of soft tissue. When a tooth bud first forms, it is no bigger than the diameter of the dental needle itself. The soft tissue surrounding the budding tooth is close to where a needle penetrates when routine dental anesthesia is injected in the lower jaw, for example when treating cavities.

Using the Tufts digital dental record system, the researchers identified records of patients who had received treatment in the Tufts pediatric dental clinic between the ages of two and six and who also had a dental x-ray taken three or more years after initial treatment in the clinic. They eliminated records with confounding factors, such as delayed dental development, and analyzed a total of 439 sites where wisdom teeth could develop in the lower jaw, from 220 patient records.

Group one, the control group (376 sites), contained x-rays of patients who had not received anesthesia on the lower jaw where wisdom teeth could develop. Group two, the comparison group (63 sites), contained x-rays from patients who had received anesthesia.

In the control group, 1.9% of the sites did not have x-ray evidence of wisdom tooth buds. In contrast, 7.9% of the sites in the comparison group – those who had received anesthesia – did not have tooth buds. The comparison group was 4.35 times more likely to have missing wisdom tooth buds than the control group.

“The incidence of missing wisdom teeth was significantly higher in the group that had received dental anesthesia; statistical evidence suggests that this did not happen by chance alone. We hope our findings stimulate research using larger sample sizes and longer periods of observation to confirm our findings and help better understand how wisdom teeth can be stopped from developing,” Silvestri continued. “Dentists have been giving local anesthesia to children for nearly 100 years and may have been preventing wisdom teeth from forming without even knowing it. Our findings give hope that a procedure preventing third molar growth can be developed.”

Silvestri has previously published preliminary research on third molar tooth development, showing that third molars can be stopped from developing when non- or minimally-invasive techniques are applied to tooth buds.


Additional authors of the study are Gerald (Jerry) Swee, D.M.D., M.S., clinical instructor in the department of pediatric dentistry; Matthew Finkelman, Ph.D., assistant professor; Alfred Rich, D.M.D., M.D.S., clinical associate professor in the department of pediatric dentistry; Stanley Alexander, D.M.D., chair and professor of the department of pediatric dentistry; Cheen Loo, B.D.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., D.M.D., associate professor in the department of pediatric dentistry, all of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

No external funding supported this research.

Swee J, Silvestri AR, Finkelman MD, Rich AP, Alexander SA, Loo CY. 2013. Inferior Alveolar Nerve Block and Third-Molar Agenesis: A Retrospective Clinical Study. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 144(4), 389-395.

About Tufts University School of Dental Medicine

Founded in 1868, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) is committed to leadership in education, patient care, research, and community service. Students obtain an interdisciplinary education, integrated with medicine, with access to training in dental specialties. Clinics managed at TUSDM provide quality comprehensive care to more than 18,000 diverse individuals annually, including those requiring special needs. Nationally and internationally, the School promotes health and educational programs and researches new procedures, materials and technologies to improve oral health.

If you are a member of the media interested in learning more about this topic, or speaking with a faculty member at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine or another Tufts health sciences researcher, please contact Siobhan Gallagher at 617-636-6586.

Abnormal brain development in fetuses of obese women

Contact: Vicki Bendure 202-374-9259 Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine

In a study to be presented on February 15 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. PST, at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting ™, in San Francisco, California, researchers from Tufts Medical Center will present findings showing the effects of maternal obesity on a fetus, specifically in the development of the brain.

The study, conducted at the Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI) at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass., looked at the fetal development of 16 pregnant women, eight obese and eight lean, to see what effects maternal obesity had on fetal gene expression. Researchers have found that fetuses of obese women had differences in gene expression as early as the second trimester, compared to fetuses of women who were a healthy weight.. Of particular note were patterns of gene expression suggestive of abnormal brain development in fetuses of obese women.

During gestation, fetuses go through apoptosis, a developmental process of programmed cell death. However, fetuses of the obese women were observed to have decreased apoptosis, which is an important part of normal fetal neurodevelopment. Dr. Diana Bianchi, senior author of the study and executive director of MIRI, describes apoptosis as a pruning process, clearing out space for new growth.

“Women won’t be surprised to hear being obese while pregnant can lead to obesity in the child,” said Dr. Andrea Edlow, lead author of the study and fellow in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. “But what might surprise them is the potential effect it has on the brain development of their unborn child.”

It is too early to know the implications of their findings, but maternal obesity is a rapidly growing problem in the U.S., with one in three women being obese at conception. The conclusion of the study points to the role of gene expression studies such as this one in helping elucidate possible mechanisms for recently-described postnatal neurodevelopmental abnormalities in children of obese women, including increased rates of autism and altered hypothalamic appetite regulation.

The research team hopes their findings and any future data will push women looking to become pregnant to be healthier, minimizing risk to their child.

Drs. Bianchi and Edlow, say the next step in their research will be to use a mouse model to examine the genes that are differentially expressed in fetuses of obese women, genes that may be involved in abnormal fetal neurodevelopment.


In addition to Edlow and Bianchi, research was conducted by Neeta Vora of Tufts Medical Center and University of North Carolina Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine.; Lisa Hui, of Tufts Medical Center, Mother Infant Research Institute, Boston, Mass.; Heather Wick, of Tufts University Department of Computer Science, Medford, Mass.; and Janet Cowan, of Tufts Medical Center Department of Pathology, Boston, Mass.

A copy of the abstract is available at and below.  For interviews please contact Vicki Bendure at,  202-374-9259 (cell), or Meghan Blackburn at, 540-687-5099 (office) or 859-492-6303 (cell).

The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (est. 1977) is a non-profit membership group for obstetricians/gynecologists who have additional formal education and training in maternal-fetal medicine.  The society is devoted to reducing high-risk pregnancy complications by providing continuing education to its 2,000 members on the latest pregnancy assessment and treatment methods.  It also serves as an advocate for improving public policy, and expanding research funding and opportunities for maternal-fetal medicine.  The group hosts an annual scientific meeting in which new ideas and research in the area of maternal-fetal medicine are unveiled and discussed.  For more information, visit or

Abstract 37: Decreased apoptosis in fetuses of obese women: implications for neurodevelopment

Andrea Edlow1, Neeta Vora1, Lisa Hui2, Heather Wick3, Janet Cowan4, Diana Bianchi2

1Tufts Medical Center, Mother Infant Research Institute, and Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Boston, MA, 2Tufts Medical Center, Mother Infant Research Institute, Boston, MA, 3Tufts University, Department of Computer Science, Medford, MA, 4Tufts Medical Center, Department of Pathology, Boston, MA

OBJECTIVE: Maternal obesity affects the developing fetus. Second trimester amniotic fluid supernatant (AFS) contains cell-free fetal RNA (cffRNA) transcripts from multiple fetal organs, including the brain, thus providing real-time information about fetal development. We sought to understand the effects of maternal obesity on fetal gene expression by performing a functional genomic analysis of AFS.

STUDY DESIGN: We prospectively analyzed cffRNA in AFS of women with singleton fetuses undergoing clinically indicated 2nd trimester genetic amniocentesis. Eight obese gravidas (Ob, BMI ≥ 30) and 8 lean controls (L, BMI < 25) were matched for gestational age and fetal sex. Exclusion criteria included abnormal karyotype and structural anomalies. CffRNA was extracted, amplified, and hybridized to whole genome expression arrays. Genes differentially regulated in 8/8 pairs were identified using paired t-test with the Benjamini-Hochberg correction. Functional analyses were performed using Ingenuity Pathways Analysis software.

RESULTS: Demographic characteristics are shown in Table 1. Paired analyses identified 205 differentially regulated genes. Apoptotic cell death was significantly down-regulated in fetuses of obese gravidas. This was most evident within nervous system pathways, specifically those involving cerebral cortex cells, hippocampal cells, and sympathetic neurons. Genes involved in resistance to apoptotic cell death (BCL2, BCL3) were among the most up-regulated in Ob, while the most down-regulated gene was the pro-apoptotic STK24. Docosahexaenoic acid signaling, which plays an important role in neuronal survival, was also identified as a key canonical pathway.

CONCLUSION: Decreased brain apoptosis is characteristic of fetuses of obese pregnant women. Because apoptosis is critical to normal neurodevelopment, these findings may have implications for postnatal neurodevelopmental abnormalities recently described in the offspring of obese women, including an increased incidence of autism and altered hypothalamic appetite regulation

Bioelectric signals can be used to detect early cancer

Contact: Alex Reid 617-688-2753 Tufts University

Changing bioelectric signals a key to halting tumor growth

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. (February 1, 2013) Biologists at Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences have discovered a bioelectric signal that can identify cells that are likely to develop into tumors. The researchers also found that they could lower the incidence of cancerous cells by manipulating the electrical charge across cells’ membranes.

“The news here is that we’ve established a bioelectric basis for the early detection of cancer,” says Brook Chernet, doctoral student and the first author of a newly published research paper co-authored with Michael Levin, Ph.D., professor of biology and director of the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology.

Levin notes, “We’ve shown that electric events tell the cells what to do. The voltage changes are not merely a sign of cancer. They control and direct whether the cancer occurs or not.”

Their paper, “Transmembrane Voltage Potential is an Essential Cellular Parameter for the Detection and Control of Tumor Development” will be published in the May 2013 issue of “Disease Models and Mechanisms” (available online on February 1).

Bioelectric signals underlie an important set of control mechanisms that regulate how cells grow and multiply. Chernet and Levin investigated the bioelectric properties of cells that develop into tumors in Xenopus laevis frog embryos.

In previous research, Tufts scientists have shown how manipulating membrane voltage can influence or regulate cellular behavior such as cell proliferation, migration, and shape in vivo, and be used to induce the formation or regenerative repair of whole organs and appendages. In this study, the researchers hypothesized that cancer can occur when bioelectric signaling networks are perturbed and cells stop attending to the patterning cues that orchestrate their normal development.

Tumor Cells Exhibit a Bioelectric Signature

The researchers induced tumor growth in the frog embryos by injecting the samples with mRNAs (messenger RNA) encoding well-recognized human oncogenes Gli1, KrasG12D, and Xrel3. The embryos developed tumor-like growths that are associated with human cancers such as melanoma, leukemia, lung cancer, and rhabdomyosarcoma (a soft tissue cancer that most often affects children).

When the researchers analyzed the tumor cells using a membrane voltage-sensitive dye and fluorescence microscopy, they made an exciting discovery. “The tumor sites had unique depolarized membrane voltage relative to surrounding tissue,” says Chernet. “They could be recognized by this distinctive bioelectric signal.

Changing Electrical Properties Lowers Incidence of Tumors

The Tufts biologists were also able to show that changing the bioelectric code to hyperpolarize tumor cells suppressed abnormal cell growth. “We hypothesized that the appearance of oncogene-induced tumors can be inhibited by alteration of membrane voltage,” says Levin, “and we were right.”

To counteract the tumor-inducing depolarization, they injected the cells with mRNA encoding carefully-chosen ion channels (proteins that control the passage of ions across cell membranes).

Using embryos injected with oncogenes such as Xrel3, the researchers introduced one of two ion channels (the glycine gated chloride channel GlyR-F99A or the potassium channel Kir4.1) known to hyperpolarize membrane voltage gradients in frog embryos. In both cases, the incidence of subsequent tumors was substantially lower than it was with embryos that received the oncogene but no hyperpolarizing channel treatment.

Experiments to determine the cellular mechanism that allows hyperpolarization to inhibit tumor formation showed that transport of butyrate, a known tumor suppressor, was responsible


The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (awards AR061988, AR055993) and the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation.

Chernet, B. T.  and Levin, M. (2013). Transmembrane voltage potential is an essential cellular parameter for the detection and control of tumor development in a Xenopus model. Dis. Model. Mech. 8 February [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1242/dmm.010835

Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs across the university’s schools is widely encouraged.

Turmeric extract suppresses fat tissue growth in rodent models

2009 study posted for filing

Contact: Andrea Grossman
Tufts University, Health Sciences

BOSTON (May 18, 2009) Curcumin, the major polyphenol found in turmeric, appears to reduce weight gain in mice and suppress the growth of fat tissue in mice and cell models. Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (USDA HNRCA) studied mice fed high fat diets supplemented with curcumin and cell cultures incubated with curcumin.

“Weight gain is the result of the growth and expansion of fat tissue, which cannot happen unless new blood vessels form, a process known as angiogenesis.” said senior author Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of the Vascular Biology Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA. “Based on our data, curcumin appears to suppress angiogenic activity in the fat tissue of mice fed high fat diets.”

Meydani continued, “It is important to note, we don’t know whether these results can be replicated in humans because, to our knowledge, no studies have been done.”

Turmeric is known for providing flavor to curry. One of its components is curcumin, a type of phytochemical known as a polyphenol. Research findings suggest that phytochemicals, which are the chemicals found in plants, appear to help prevent disease. As the bioactive component of turmeric, curcumin is readily absorbed for use by the body.

Meydani and colleagues studied mice fed high fat diets for 12 weeks. The high fat diet of one group was supplemented with 500 mg of curcumin/ kg diet; the other group consumed no curcumin. Both groups ate the same amount of food, indicating curcumin did not affect appetite, but mice fed the curcumin supplemented diet did not gain as much weight as mice that were not fed curcumin.

“Curcumin appeared to be responsible for total lower body fat in the group that received supplementation,” said Meydani, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. “In those mice, we observed a suppression of microvessel density in fat tissue, a sign of less blood vessel growth and thus less expansion of fat. We also found lower blood cholesterol levels and fat in the liver of those mice. In general, angiogenesis and an accumulation of lipids in fat cells contribute to fat tissue growth.”

Writing in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the authors note similar results in cell cultures. Additionally, curcumin appeared to interfere with expression of two genes, which contributed to angiogenesis progression in both cell and rodent models.

“Again, based on this data, we have no way of telling whether curcumin could prevent fat tissue growth in humans.” Meydani said. “The mechanism or mechanisms by which curcumin appears to affect fat tissue must be investigated in a randomized, clinical trial involving humans.”




This study was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. Asma Ejaz, a graduate student who worked on this project received a scholarship grant from the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

Ejaz A, Wu, D, Kwan P, and Meydani M. Journal of Nutrition. May 2009; 139 (5): 1042-1048. “Curcumin Inhibits Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and Angiogenesis and Obesity in C57/BL Mice. 919-925.”

About Tufts University School of Nutrition

The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is the only independent school of nutrition in the United States. The school’s eight centers, which focus on questions relating to famine, hunger, poverty, and communications, are renowned for the application of scientific research to national and international policy. For two decades, the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has studied the relationship between good nutrition and good health in aging populations. Tufts research scientists work with federal agencies to establish the USDA Dietary Guidelines, the Dietary Reference Intakes, and other significant public policies.

If you are a member of the media interested in learning more about this topic, or speaking with a faculty member at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, or another Tufts health sciences researcher, please contact Andrea Grossman at 617-636-3728 or Christine Fennelly at 617-636-3707.

Drug companies do almost no innovation : Innovation comes mainly from NIH-supported research in academic medical centers

Re-Posted for Filing 2008 report

New report: The truth about drug innovation


New York, NY: A new report co-authored by Manhattan Institute senior fellow Benjamin Zycher, and Joseph DiMasi, and Christopher-Paul Milne, researchers from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, examines case histories for thirty-five important pharmaceutical innovations. Skeptics of the private industry assert that the development of new medicines is most attributable to publicly funded sources.


As Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, remarked during an interview with PBS News : “Innovation comes mainly from NIH-supported research in academic medical centers. The drug companies do almost no innovation.”


In this new study, the authors debunk this assertion and argue that the private sector plays a critical role in drug development.


Key findings include:



NIH-sponsored research tends to be concentrated on the basic science of disease biology, biochemistry, and disease processes, the goal of which is to identify biologic targets that might prove vulnerable to drugs yet to be developed.



Private sector contributions are weighted heavily toward the applied science of discovering ways to pursue treatments and cures for adverse medical conditions.


The authors conclude that NIH-sponsored and private-sector drug research are complementary to one another and are equally necessary in order to provide patients with better care and treatment.

How China and US ‘secretly tested genetically modified golden rice on children’

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:07:13 EST, 11  September 2012| UPDATED:07:22 EST, 11 September 2012

Genetically manipulated Golden rice has been proposed as a solution to vitamin A deficiency
Genetically manipulated Golden rice has been proposed as  a solution to vitamin A deficiency

China’s health authorities are investigating  allegations that genetically modified rice has been tested on Chinese children  as part of a research project.

A recent scientific publication suggested that researchers, backed by the US Department of Agriculture, fed  experimental  genetically engineered golden rice to 24 children in China  aged between six and  eight years old.

The environmental group Greenpeace is  demanding a stop to field trials of the genetically enriched rice, which has  been proposed as a solution to vitamin A deficiency, as it says the rice carries  environmental and health risks.

China is the world’s largest grower of  genetically modified (GMO) cotton and the top importer of GMO soybeans but,  while Beijing has already approved home-grown strains of GMO rice, it remains  cautious about introducing the technology on a commercial basis amid widespread  public concern about food safety.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and  Prevention investigation came after a report last month by environmental group  Greenpeace claimed that a U.S. Department of Agriculture-backed study used 24  Chinese children aged between six and eight to test genetically modified ‘golden  rice’.

The International Rice Research Institute is  working with leading nutrition and agricultural research organisations to  develop golden rice as a potential method to reduce vitamin A deficiency in the  Philippines and Bangladesh.

The research by Tufts University and other  Chinese scientists was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  in August. It aimed to demonstrate that the rice could provide a good source of  vitamin A for children in countries where deficiency in the vitamin is  common.

Andrea Grossman, assistant director of public  relations at Tufts University, told state news agency Xinhua that the university  was deeply concerned about the allegations and is reviewing protocols used in  the 2008 research.

‘We have always placed the highest importance  on human health, and we take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of human  research subjects,’ Grossman said.

‘We have always been and remain committed to  the highest ethical standards in research.’

The Greenpeace report sparked a wave of  criticism on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, with the researchers accused of  a breach of ethics for testing poor, rural children whose families may not have  been informed properly.

One of the Chinese authors, Shi-an Yin, has  been suspended from work pending further investigation after his responses  proved to be inconsistent.

Yin was cited by the official People’s Daily  newspaper as saying he helped collect data for the study but was unaware that it  involved GM rice.

The second of the two Chinese researchers, Hu  Yuming, denied his involvement in the research, the People’s Daily  said.

China, the world’s top rice producer and  consumer, approved the safety of one locally developed strain of genetically  modified rice, known as the Bt rice, in 2009, but commercial production has been  delayed.

Apart from genetically modified products,  China’s vast food sector is still struggling to come to grips with food safety  four years after a major scandal where tainted milk powder was blamed for the  deaths of at least six children

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