Volume 10. Number 04. 2005

Council Member and Chairman of the Cape Branch Gunnar Siggi has been awarded his PhD in Food Science by the University of Stellenbosch.

Council Member & Vice-Chairman of the Northern Branch Jaci Barnett has been awarded her MBA by the University of the Witwatersrand.

SAAFoST CONGRESS. Stellenbosch 5, 6 & 7 September. Be an "early bird" and register NOW. For details & registration form see: IFST has issued its Policy Statement on Ethical and Professional Practices for the Sensory Analysis of Foods. It may be accessed at

More Germs On Your Desk Than A Loo Seat

A typical workplace desk has hundreds of times more bacteria than an office toilet seat, a study by the University of Arizona says. CNN reported that Microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba found that office toilet seats had 49 germs per 2.4cm2 versus almost 21 000 on the same area of desktops, and 25 000 germs on telephones. Gerba says cleaning desks daily with a disinfectant wipe can reduce infection risk dramatically.

The Bag Levy

An estimated R90m-R120m has been raised from SA carrier bag manufacturers via the 3c-per-bag levy since the ban on thin plastic bags came into effect in May 2003. Of that, the government has passed on R12m to Buyisa-e-Bag for the current financial year ended-March 2005 and R20m for the next financial year. SAMIC NEWSLETTER NR 12 - 2005-04-08

Human Hair: An Unexpected Source Of Cat Allergen Exposure

This study concludes that in some women with a cat at home, hair constitutes a significant reservoir of the cat allergen, Fel d 1, and that it is likely that these amounts of cat allergen might contribute to allergic sensitization when released in cat-free environments.
Allergy Advisor Digest June 2005.Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2005 May 13;137(2):141-144

Prions Found In Unexpected Tissues

Adriano Aguzzi and colleagues from Zurich University Hospital, Switzerland, have found that infectious prions (the infectious agents in BSE) can be transported by the immune system to parts of the animal previously thought to be free of prions.
Infectious prions are the pathogenic agents in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). These are a group of diseases which include bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) which affects cattle. Although the risk is thought to be small, humans consuming infected parts of cattle may become infected with the human equivalent of BSE - new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Scientists had previously assumed that only the animal's brain, spinal cord and immune system contained prions. However, the research in Switzerland has illustrated that if the animal falls ill with another infection the immune system can carry prions to the infected organs.
Aguzzi's team first became suspicious in 2003 that prions might contaminate other tissues, when they found trace amounts of prions in the muscle tissue of humans who had died from vCJD. The team suggested that animal tissues could also contain trace amounts of the disease. They tested this hypothesis by administering prions to mice with five inflammatory diseases of the kidney, pancreas or liver. In all cases, chronic lymphocytic inflammation enabled prion accumulation in these otherwise prion free organs. The levels of prions found in the pancreases, kidneys and livers of the infected animals were as high as is generally found in diseased spleens.
The authors concluded that if an animal with a TSE acquires an additional infection, prions are no longer confined to the areas of the body where they are generally found. It is thought that the cells involved in the inflammatory response help the prions to replicate and transport them to the part of the body targeted by the immune reaction. On this basis, it may be important to test whether pathogenesis in farm animals triggers a shift of prions to the infected tissues. (From Science Magazine, 20/01/05, press release Nature News).

Thai Curry Spice Attacks Cancer Cells, Shows Lab Study

The Asian plant galangal, often used to flavour Thai curries, appears to both kill cancer cells and boost the cancer-fighting capacity of healthy cells, say researchers in the UK.
The findings, based on laboratory research, were initially presented at a conference in 2002. However they have not gained widespread media attention until this week, following a spotlight on leading medicinal plants researcher Professor Peter Houghton based at King's College London.
"We have in a way gone back and tested anti-cancer activity already seen in animals. But no-one had looked at the biological activitiy of the plant and sought to explain it," he told
"These laboratory experiments show that there is some basis to the claim that galangal could be used to treat cancer," said Professor Houghton. Professor Houghton added that the plant's dual action on cells is rare among traditional medicines.
"Normally extracts are able to kill cancer cells or boost healthy cells' natural defences against cancer but galangal seems to do both," he said. He added that the results do not support recommendations for consumption of the plant to fight cancer.
"We would need to carry out further tests, such as looking to see whether people who eat galangal on a daily basis are less likely to suffer from cancer than those who do not," said Professor Houghton. 08/02/2005

Restoration Of Function After Spinal Cord Transection Using A Collagen Bridge

Yoshii Satoru; Oka Masanori; Shima Mitsuhiro; Taniguchi Ataru; Taki Yoshiro; Akagi Masao
J Biomed Mater Res A, (2004 Sep 15) 70 (4) 569-75.
The restoration of function of transected adult mammalian spinal cord without living tissue has not been reported previously. We report the first success of functional restoration of transected spinal cord without living tissue. We grafted collagen filaments parallel or transverse to the axis of the spinal cord to bridge 5-mm defects of 47 adult rat spinal cords. Twenty-five rats were used as a control. Of the 72 rats, 42 rats survived the experimental period. At 4 weeks postoperatively, regenerated axons crossed the proximal and distal spinal cord-implant interfaces in all 5 rats of the parallel-grafted group. At 12 weeks postoperatively, the rats in the parallel-grafted group (8 rats) could walk, run, and climb with hind-forelimb coordination. The somatosensory-evoked potentials were seen. Results suggest that the collagen filaments support the axonal regeneration of the transected spinal cord and the restoration of function when grafted parallel to the axis of the spinal cord. The functional restoration appeared to be permanent, raising the possibility of therapeutic application in humans. 2004402551 MEDLINE

Food Fried In Vegetable Oil May Contain Toxic Compound

Two researchers at the University of Minnesota Minneapolis/St. Paul campus in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition presented research this week at the annual meeting of the AOCS on effects of heating highly unsaturated vegetable oils for extended periods of time. Saari Casallany and Christine Seppanen heated highly unsaturated vegetable oil at a frying temperature of 365F for extended time periods and found that highly toxic 4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal (HNE) had formed, as well as three HNE-related compounds known as HHE, HOE, and HDE."HNE is a well known, highly toxic compound that is easily absorbed from the diet," said Csallany. "The toxicity arises because the compound is highly reactive with proteins, nucleic acids--DNA and RNA--and other biomolecules. HNE is formed from the oxidation of linoleic acid, and reports have related it to several diseases, including atherosclerosis, stroke, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's and liver diseases."Food scientists and nutritionists have long held that vegetable oils such as soybean, sunflower, and corn oil, which contain high levels of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid, are more healthful than more highly hydrogenated oils and fats. IFT Weekly Newsletter. May 11, 2005

A Sight To Behold - Growing Your Own Eyes

A new technique could allow patients who are going blind to restore their vision by growing their own eye tissue. Attempts to use donor cells to replace damaged cells have failed due to immuno-rejection. The new technique gets around this by using the patient's own cells. A tiny quantity of tissue, just a few hundred cells is surgically removed under general anaesthetic from the iris. The cells are then stimulated to grow in the laboratory until they number about 10 000 and are shaped like a disc with a radius of about 4mm. The disc is then implanted under the macula,where it replaces the diseased cells that are causing blindness. Daily Mail Feb 2005.

Chocolate-Cancer Fighting Connection, New Findings

18/04/2005 - Scientists from the US reveal how a powerful chocolate ingredient exerts anti-cancer properties, findings that could one day be used to design novel cancer treatments.
Researchers from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University explain how pentameric procyanidin (pentamer), a natural compound found in cocoa, deactivates a number of proteins that likely work in concert to push a cancer cell to continually divide. "There are all kinds of chemicals in the food we eat that potentially have effects on cancer cells, and a natural compound in chocolate may be one," said the lead author, Robert B. Dickson, professor of oncology.
The primary family of flavonoids contributing to the antioxidant benefit in chocolate is the procyanidins, and of the various types of procyanidins, pentamer seem to be strongest, according to a number of studies. The Georgetown researchers looked at what happened when they used a purified preparation of pentamer on a variety of breast cancer cells, compared to treatment on normal breast cells. They used a variety of tests to find and identify proteins that were deactivated in the cancer cells.
They identified two well-known tumour suppressor genes, as well as two other proteins known to be involved in regulating the "cell cycle" - the progression of a cell from a state of being "quiet" into division and growth. They specifically found that the breast cancer cells stopped dividing when treated with pentamer and that all four proteins were inactivated. Furthermore, expression of one of the genes was reduced. Dickson notes that "the novel aspect here is that a pattern of several regulatory proteins are jointly deactivated, probably greatly enhancing the inhibitory effect compared to targeting any one of the proteins singly." But for the moment, the researchers are unaware as to why pentamer deactivates these proteins simultaneously, stopping the cell cycle. This will be the focus of future research.
Dickson stresses that this research, which is part of a series of studies conducted at Georgetown on the chocolate-cancer connection, does not mean that people who eat chocolate will either reduce their cancer risks or treat a current case.
Full findings for the study are available from the university site. Copyright|europe

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. / Fx 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.