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Understanding A Bacterial Immune System

Researchers at the University of Alberta have taken an important step in understanding an immune system of bacteria, a finding that could have implications for medical care and both the pharmaceutical and dairy industries.

In research published in the high impact journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Andrew MacMillan and co-workers in his lab have described the first step of the immune response of bacterial cells. Scientists had previously found that a bacterial virus, called a bacteriophage, attacks a bacterial cell by injecting its DNA in to the cell. MacMillan’s lab discovered the mechanism by which bacterial RNA is cut into pieces by a specific protein; these pieces then target the invading virus’ DNA.

“We are starting at the beginning because we want to understand how this works and how we can use this to basically control bacterial growth,” said Matt Schellenberg, a post-doctoral fellow in the MacMillan lab in the department of biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. This system could be beneficial for bacteria to fight off invasion of viruses. Alternatively, medical professionals could use knowledge of this system to help fight a human bacterial infection.

According to MacMillan they used a technique called X-ray crystallography to produce high-resolution pictures of a key step in the bacteria’s immune response – the production of the targeting RNAs.

“Bacteria have evolved this system to protect themselves against infection,” said MacMillan.

As they unfold the mystery of the bacteria cells immune system, which is named the CRISPR system, there are implications for a variety of industrial practices involving fermentation. Everything from cheese and yogurt production to the synthesis of complex pharmaceuticals relies on large scale bacterial fermentation which is at risk of bacteriophage infection with expensive consequences – losing the batch. The labs ongoing work could help these industries boost the immune systems of the “good” bacteria.

The next step for the lab is to uncover the mechanism by which virus’ DNA is destroyed.

“We want to use what we’ve learned so far to examine the actual targeting mechanism,” says Macmillan. “This is a complex pathway and there’s a lot of exciting biology to still uncover.”

Healthful Slumber

The Importance of Sleep

When life gets busy, sleep is often the first activity that we sacrifice. Considered a luxury by many busy people, sleep is actually as vital to sustaining a balanced life as are breathing, eating, and drinking. Getting sufficient sleep can be a potent energizer, just as not getting enough sleep can leave you feeling drained and sluggish. While eight hours is the average amount of sleep most adults should generally aim for, the right amount of sleep varies for each person. Some people may thrive on just four hours, while others don’t feel well rested unless they’ve slept for ten hours. How much we sleep also varies, depending upon where we are in life. Young people often need more sleep, while older people may need less. But the benefits of sleep always stay the same. Regular and consistent periods of wakefulness and sleep are key ingredients to fostering a healthy body and a clear mind. It is during sleep that your body renews itself.

Often, the ability to forgo sleep is considered by some to be an asset. But while it may seem that the nighttime hours can be better used for more productive activities, sleep in itself is extremely productive. During sleep, your body and psyche are both regaining their strength for the coming day. You may have the unique opportunity to explore the hidden recesses of your personality while you are dreaming. Meanwhile, your long-term memories are reinforced. Many cultures engage in an afternoon siesta. Taking a nap is refreshing and can increase both productivity and creativity.

Many famous writers and artists have looked toward their dreams as a source of inspiration. Lewis Carroll is said to have conceived his idea for Alice in Wonderland while dreaming. The expression “sleeping on it” is more than just a saying. Answers to problems can come in your sleep and present themselves to your wide-awake self in the morning. The ancient Greeks valued sleep so significantly, they believed it was a gift from the gods. When you sleep well, you will awaken feeling alert, refreshed, and ready for life’s challenges. Getting enough sleep will ensure that you are centered, thoughtful, and aware throughout the day so you can live your full potential.

11 Ways to Improve Your Health

1. Our bodies are attuned to the wisdom of many millions of years of evolution and communicate with us through each moment of our lives. Listening to your body by acknowledging and acting on feelings of comfort and discomfort, illness and health, or happiness and despair can lead you to a better understanding of the body’s needs.

2. To fuel the fire which is your being, it is vital to consume only that which will benefit the body. Processed and artificial foods should be replaced with fresh produce and whole grains. Exploring macrobiotics, vegetarianism, and other unique diets can become a culinary adventure.

3. There is no medication so formidable as rest. When you sleep uninterrupted for a period of eight hours, your body’s natural healing and rejuvenating abilities are free to work unencumbered by physical and mental stresses.

4. Our breath is always with us. Breathing deeply and deliberately provides nourishment in the form of oxygen to the body but also acts to relax the brain and nervous system.

5. The human form has adapted for activity and something is lost when we deny ourselves movement in all forms. Exercise and stretching not only improve the body, increasing the effectiveness of the lungs and circulatory system while expelling toxins and boosting immunity, but also lifts the spirits by stimulating the body’s flow of pleasurable endorphins.

6. Yoga unites the mind and the body, promoting health in both. Regular practice of the discipline’s complex movements tone and stimulate the physical form while increasing concentration, decreasing stress, and inspiring well-being.

7. The human body possesses the ability to cleanse itself. When you fast, you trigger this ability, prompting beneficial enzymes to enter the bloodstream, where they eliminate accumulated wastes such as pollutants and metabolic wastes, to rebuild immunity and restore health.

8. Balance must prevail for health to exist. Meditation can help you achieve a healthful balance in body and soul. Concentration, meditative breathing, or visualizations focus the mind and allow negativity to drain away, leaving you with a sense of control and self-awareness. Find your bliss.

9. Home is the heart of health and a change in your environment can inspire positive changes within your body. Explore Feng Shui, color therapy, or new methods of organization. Clearing the clutter in your home’s pathways may clear clutter in your body and soul.

10. Challenges can be exhilarating at first but, when prolonged, cause stress. Sustained stress can lead to weakened immune function, sickness, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Take time out to care for yourself and focus on relaxing solitary pursuits.

11. Look on the bright side of life. Laughter lowers levels of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and increases the levels of pleasurable endorphins within the body, leaving you with a happy afterglow and tension-free muscles. A positive outlook improves immunity and promotes faster healing after surgeries or illness.

Fuel That Nurtures

Eating Right to Feel Better

At its simplest, food is fuel. Though our preferences regarding taste and texture can vary widely, we all rely on the foods we eat for energy. Most people are aware that it is vital we consume a diverse assortment of foods if we aspire to maintain a state of physical well-being. However, the intimate connection between diet and our mental well-being is less understood. Just as the nutritional components in food power the body, so too do they power the mind. Some foods can impair cognitive functioning and sap our energy while others heighten our intellectual prowess and make us feel vigorous. What we eat and drink can have a powerful effect on our ability to focus, mental clarity, mood, and stress levels.

Food allergies, which don’t always manifest themselves in forms we recognize, can also play a significant role in the maintenance of mental health. Thus, for most of us, even a simple change in diet can have a profoundly positive impact on our lives. Taking the time to explore whether anxiety, muddled thoughts, or inexplicable tension can be linked to a food allergy or food sensitivity can empower you to treat your symptoms naturally. The benefits of a healthier, more personalized diet are often felt immediately. Sugar, saturated fats, wheat, and dairy products are frequently allergens and can stress the body. For people that are allergic, consuming them can cause imbalances in the physical self that have a negative effect on the body’s ability to nourish the brain. Water, fiber, nuts, unprocessed seeds, raw fruits and vegetables, and vegetable proteins, on the other hand, support physical and mental functioning by providing those nutrients we do need without additional substances we don’t.

A balanced, natural diet can ease mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety, and mild depression. Intellectual clarity and agility is improved when the mind receives proper nourishment. Even those individuals who are blessed with the ability to consume almost any food can benefit from a healthier and simpler diet. Since the mental and physical selves are closely bound to one another, we must feed each the foods upon which they thrive.

Respecting The Physical

Honoring Your Body

Our physical body is an amazing, beautiful machine with the ability to perform incredible feats, heal itself, and serve us well into our later years. When we honor our body, we honor that which created us. We honor the divine. Therefore, it’s important to appreciate, nurture, and respect our bodies.

Honor your body by thanking it for it all its does for you. No matter what shape your body is in, it has served you well for many years. Even if you’d rather be thinner, more muscular, or even taller, be grateful for the body you have. Everyday, give yourself a pat on the back that you can walk, talk, laugh, dance, sing, all the things that you might take for granted.

Give your body the best in terms of food, exercise, and care. Choosing to eat wholesome, healthy foods, even if they cost a little more because they’re organic, is a good investment for long-term health. If supplements are helpful, include them in your diet. Your body needs the proper fuel to function well and deserves the best nutrients that you can afford.

Exercise daily. Your body wants and needs to move. Just thirty minutes a day of walking can be beneficial. Likewise, if you exercise regularly, be sure not to overdo it so that you don’t stress joints and ligaments. Allow any injuries to fully heal and give your body the rest it needs by getting enough sleep.

Treat your body with relaxing baths, facials, massages, and proper medical care. Practice good hygiene and see a doctor and dentist regularly. Meditate to allow your body to de-stress and rejuvenate. A healthy body includes a sharp mind; so continue to challenge your mind with new experiences.

Your body will tell you what it needs if you just listen. At times, your mind and emotions may be confused, but your body doesn’t lie. Pay attention to what feels good and bad and how your body reacts to certain situations and people. Generally when your body feels light, things are right. When you feel tense and uneasy, there’s a reason.