ISLAMABAD - Coconut oil attacks the bacteria behind tooth decay and could be used in dental care products, according to research.Scientists found that coconut oil which had been treated with enzymes stopped the growth of Streptococcus bacteria, a major cause of tooth decay as tooth decay affects 60 per ent to 90 per cent of children in industralised countries,BBC health reported.Irish researchers say that coconut oil also attacks the yeast, which causes thrush. The research team from the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland tested the impact of coconut oil, vegetable oil and olive oil in their natural states and when treated with enzymes, in a process similar to digestion.The oils were then tested against Streptococcus bacteria which are common inhabitants of the mouth.Only the enzyme-modified coconut oil showed an ability to inhibit the growth of most strains of the bacteria.It also attacked Streptococcus mutans, an acid-producing bacterium which is a major cause of tooth decay. Tomatoes are ‘stroke preventers’A diet rich in tomatoes may reduce the risk of having a stroke, according to researchers.Researchers from Finland were investigating the impact of lycopene, a bright red chemical found in tomatoes, peppers and watermelons, BBC health reported.A study of 1,031 men,showed those with the most lycopene in their bloodstream were the least likely to have a stroke. The Stroke Association called for more research into why lycopene seemed to have this effect. The levels of lycopene in the blood were assessed at the beginning of the study, which then followed the men for the next 12 years. They were split into four groups based on the amount of lycopene in their blood. There were 25 strokes in the 258 men in the low lycopene group and 11 strokes out of the 259 men in the high lycopene group. The study said the risk of stroke was cut by 55 per cent by having a diet rich in lycopene.Dr Jouni Karppi, from the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, said: “This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke.“The results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research.” Potential cause of Parkinson’s disease identifiedA team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has made a breakthrough discovery that could lead to new targets for Parkinson’s that may be useful in preventing the actual condition.They have pinpointed a key factor controlling damage to brain cells in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease.The team, led by TSRI neuroscientist Bruno Conti, was looking for biological pathways that could connect the immune system’s inflammatory response to the damage seen in dopaminergic neurons. After searching human genomics databases, the team’s attention was caught by a gene encoding a protein known as interleukin-13 receptor alpha 1 chain (IL-13Ra1), as it is located in the PARK12 locus, which has been linked to Parkinson’s.IL-13ra1 is a receptor chain mediating the action of interleukin 13 (IL-13) and interleukin 4 (IL-4), two cytokines investigated for their role as mediators of allergic reactions and for their anti-inflammatory action.With further study, the researchers made the startling discovery that in the mouse brain, IL-13Ra1 is found only on the surface of dopaminergic neurons.The scientists set up long-term experiments using a mouse model in which chronic peripheral inflammation causes both neuroinflammation and loss of dopaminergic neurons similar to that seen in Parkinson’s disease. The team looked at mice having or lacking IL-13Ra1 and then compared the number of dopaminergic neurons in the brain region of interest.The researchers expected that knocking out the IL-13 receptor would increase inflammation and cause neuronal loss to get even worse. Instead, neurons got better.Given that cells fared better without the receptor, the team next explored whether damage occurred when dopaminergic neurons that express IL-13Ra1 were exposed to IL-13 or IL-4. But exposure to IL-13 or IL-4 alone did not induce damage.However, when the scientists exposed the neurons to oxidative compounds, they found that both IL-13 and IL-4 greatly enhanced the cytotoxic effects of oxidative stress.“This finally helps us understand a basic mechanism of the increased susceptibility and preferential loss of dopaminergic neurons to oxidative stress associated with neuroinflammation,” said Cecilia Marcondes, a neuroimmunologist at TSRI and co-author of the study.The finding also demonstrated that anti-inflammatory cytokines could contribute to neuronal loss.The researchers noted they are not suggesting that inflammation is benign but that IL-13 and IL-4 may be harmful to neurons expressing the IL-13Ra1, despite their ability to ultimately reduce inflammation.“One could say that it is not the fall that hurts you, but how you stop,” said Conti.Along with these results, additional clues suggest that the IL-13 receptor system could be a major player in Parkinson’s. For instance, some studies show Parkinson’s as more prevalent in males, and the gene for IL-13Ra1 is located on the X chromosome, where genetic variants are more likely to affect males.And, though not definitive, other studies have suggested that Parkinson’s disease might be more common among allergy sufferers. Since IL-13 plays a role in controlling allergic inflammation, Conti wonders if the IL-13 receptor system might explain this correlation.If further research confirms the IL-13 receptor acts in a similar way in human dopaminergic neurons as in mice, the discovery could pave the way to addressing the underlying cause of Parkinson’s disease.Researchers might, for instance, find that drugs that block IL-13 receptors are useful in preventing loss of dopaminergic cells during neuroinflammation. And, since the IL-13 receptor forms a complex with the IL-4 receptor alpha, this might also be a target of interest. WThe team described their work in a paper published online by the Journal of Immunology.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 25-Nov-2012 here.