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When it comes to medication there is always a question of its effectiveness. How well any medication works varies from one individual to another. Researchers decided to examine if diet and lifestyle can contribute to the variation of effectiveness for drugs.

Dr. Daniela Delneri, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, devised a clever study involving baker’s yeast to explore the relationship between environment and genetic background. One of the two gene copies was removed from the yeast–think of it as removing one parent’s set of genes in a human. The mutant genes were given different diets and analyzed for their fitness.

If the removed gene copy was important the researchers expected a reduction in their fitness. Surprisingly, removing one copy of certain genes produced yeast cells that grew faster and were healthier. Further research showed that the genes involved with the increased fitness were also involved in the proteasome.

Proteasome helps maintain an equilibrium of the cell. When the equilibrium is thrown out of balance it can result in a number of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. For example, rapidly-growing cancerous cells have a high proteasome activity that makes the cancerous cells immortal; blocking or inhibiting the proteasome’s actions are currently used as therapeutic compounds.

Researchers found that reduced proteasome activity could be either advantageous or damaging to the cell; depending on the nutrients available to it in the surrounding environment. As a consequence the researchers suggest when therapeutic drugs are administered to alter the proteasome activity a person’s diet and lifestyle should be taken into consideration to assure the correct beneficial effect.

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