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June 27, 2007, 5:30 AM CT

Alzheimer's drug begins clinical trials

Alzheimer's drug begins clinical trials
Xiaoming Xu (l) and Arun Ghosh (r)
A drug based on the design of a Purdue University researcher to treat Alzheimer's disease began the first phase of human clinical trials this week.

"Millions of people suffer from this devastating disease and therapy options are very limited," said Arun Ghosh, the Purdue professor who led the creation of the therapy molecule. "Current drugs manage the symptoms, but this could be the first disease-modifying treatment. It may be able to prevent and reverse the disease".

CoMentis Inc., a biopharmaceutical company based in San Francisco, is initiating the clinical trials of the experimental drug CTS-21166. Ghosh, who has dual appointments in the departments of chemistry and medicinal chemistry, is a scientific co-founder of the company with Jordan Tang, the J.G. Puterbaugh Chair in Medical Research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

The collaborative work of Ghosh and Tang led to the development of a therapy that could intercept and disable the disease at an early stage.

In 2000, Tang identified beta-secretase, a key enzyme in the progression of Alzheimer's that triggers the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain. Various stages in plaque formation produce toxic proteins that harm the brain, causing damage that eventually leads to dementia.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 22, 2007, 5:18 AM CT

Paving the way toward a vaccine against Alzheimer's disease

Paving the way toward a vaccine against Alzheimer's disease
Journal of Biological Chemistry cover
Credit: Journal of Biological Chemistry
Bethesda, MD Researchers have provided new details about how proteins used to destroy bacteria and viruses may help treat Alzheimers disease. Gunnar K. Gouras, associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, and his colleagues provide new insights into how these proteins, called antibodies, reduce the main hallmarks of Alzheimers disease and raise hopes for a vaccine against the disease.

Antibodies are probably the most promising experimental approach to fight Alzheimers disease at this time, Gouras says. The discoveries made using antibodies are so encouraging that results of ongoing vaccine trials against the disease are much anticipated.

Alzheimers disease, the most common form of dementia, gradually destroys a person's memory and ability to learn, communicate, and carry out daily activities. As per the American Health Assistance Foundation, more than 4.5 million people in the United States live with the disease and more than 26 million people are affected worldwide. By 2050, the number of people who will suffer from the disease is estimated to nearly triple in the United States and to be four times as high worldwide.

Eventhough no cure for the disease is available yet, researchers are actively looking for new therapys. One of the main goals of such therapys is to destroy clumps of a protein called beta amyloid, which are found in the brains of people with the disease, either inside the nerve cells or around them. Antibodies have been shown to be effective at removing these clumps but how they do it is not completely understood.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 22, 2007, 5:12 AM CT

Gene Therapy For Parkinson's Disease Reported

Gene Therapy For Parkinson's Disease Reported
Image courtesy of cima
In what could be a breakthrough in the therapy of neurological disease, a team led by physician-researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center has completed the first-ever phase 1 clinical trial using gene treatment to battle Parkinson's disease.

The study of 11 men and one woman with the progressive neurodegenerative illness observed that the procedure -- in which surgeons inject a harmless gene-bearing virus into the brain -- was both safe and resulted in improved motor function for Parkinson's patients over the course of one year. The findings appear in the June 23 issue of The Lancet.

"These exciting results need to be validated in a larger trial, but we believe this is a milestone -- not only for the therapy of Parkinson's disease, but for the use of gene-based therapies against neurological conditions generally," says lead researcher Dr. Michael Kaplitt, associate professor of neurological surgery and the Victor and Tara Menezes Clinical Scholar in Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, and director of Movement Disorders Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Kaplitt has devoted much of his academic research career to the development of effective gene treatment techniques against Parkinson's disease and other neurological disorders. In fact, 13 years ago, he and Dr. Matthew During pioneered a now widely used gene-delivery technique for the brain using an altered, harmless form of adeno-associated virus (AAV). In 2003, Dr. Kaplitt performed the world's first gene treatment surgery for Parkinson's, conducted at NewYork Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 22, 2007, 4:54 AM CT

Omega-3 supplements affect Alzheimer's symptoms

Omega-3 supplements affect Alzheimer's symptoms
Omega-3 supplements can, in certain cases, help combat the depression and agitation symptoms linked to Alzheimers disease, as per a clinical study conducted at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet.

Many epidemiological studies have shown that eating fatty fish provides a certain degree of protection against Alzheimers and other dementia diseasesan effect often thought attributable to the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. Some studies also suggest that omega-3 can have a therapeutic effect on some psychiatric conditions.

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University have now examined whether omega-3 supplementation has any effect on the psychiatric symptoms linked to Alzheimers disease. Just under 200 patients with mild Alzheimers were divided into two groups, one of which received omega-3, and one a placebo. The study lasted for one year.

There was no observable difference in therapeutic effect between the patients receiving the omega-3 and the placebo group. However, when the scientists took into account which of the patients carried the susceptibility gene APOE ?4 and which did not, an appreciable difference appeared. Carriers of the gene who had received active therapy responded positively to the omega-3 as regards agitation symptoms, while non-bearers of the gene showed an improvement in depressive symptoms.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 22, 2007, 4:40 AM CT

Blood Levels of Urate And Parkinson's Disease

Blood Levels of Urate And Parkinson's Disease
In a new, large-scale, prospective study exploring the link between levels of urate in the blood and risk of Parkinson's disease, scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have observed that high levels of urate are strongly linked to a reduced risk of the disease. The findings were published online on June 20, 2007 in The American Journal of Epidemiology and will appear in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

Urate is a normal component of blood, and eventhough high levels can lead to gout, urate might also have beneficial effects because it is a potent antioxidant. Parkinson's disease is a chronic, progressive nerve disorder linked to destruction of brain cells producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter essential to the normal functioning of the central nervous system.

"This is the strongest evidence to date that urate may protect against Parkinson's disease," said lead author Marc Weisskopf, Assistant Professor of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology at HSPH.

The scientists used the HSPH-based Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a population of male health professionals established in 1986, as the source for their data. The study cohort included more than 18,000 men without Parkinson's disease who had provided blood samples between 1993 and 1995 and whose subsequent health status was followed.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 20, 2007, 10:11 AM CT

Brain's voluntary chain-of-command

Brain's voluntary chain-of-command
Scientists exploring the upper reaches of the brain's command hierarchy were astonished to find not one but two brain networks in charge, represented by the differently-colored spheres on the brain image above. Starting with a group of several brain regions implicated in top-down control (the spheres on the brain), they used a new brain-scanning technique to identify which of those regions work with each other. When they graphed their results (bottom half), using shapes to represent different brain regions and connecting brain regions that work with each other with lines, they found the regions grouped together into two networks. The regions in each network talked to each other often but never talked to brain regions in the other network.
Credit: Washington University
June 19, 2007 -- A probe of the upper echelons of the human brain's chain-of-command has found good evidence that there are not one but two complementary commanders in charge of the brain, as per neuroresearchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

It's as if Captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard were both on the bridge and in command of the same starship Enterprise.

In reality, these two captains are networks of brain regions that do not consult each other but still work toward a common purpose control of voluntary, goal-oriented behavior. This includes a vast range of activities from reading a word to searching for a star to singing a song, but likely does not include involuntary behaviors such as control of the pulse rate or digestion.

"This was a big surprise. We knew several brain regions contribute to top-down control, but most of us thought we'd eventually show all those regions linking together in one system, one little guy up top telling everyone else what to do," says senior author Steven Petersen, Ph.D., James S. McDonnell Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and professor of neurology and psychology.

The findings, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may aid efforts to understand the effects of brain injury and develop new strategies to treat such injuries.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 15, 2007, 12:50 AM CT

Stress And The Development Of Alzheimer Tangles

Stress And The Development Of Alzheimer Tangles
Stress and Tau Phosphorylation
Credit: Image courtesy of Dr. Paul E. Sawchenko and Dr. Robert A. Rissman, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Subjecting mice to repeated emotional stress, the kind we experience in everyday life, may contribute to the accumulation of neurofibrillary tangles, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimers disease, report scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. While aging is still the greatest risk factor for Alzheimers disease, many studies have pointed to stress as a contributing factor.

A long-term study of about 800 members of religious orders had observed that the people who were most prone to stress were twice as likely to develop Alzheimers disease, but the nature of the link between the two has been elusive, says Paul E. Sawchenko, Ph.D., a professor in the Neuronal Structure and Function Laboratory, who led a phalanx of Salk scientists contributing to the current study.

The groups findings, detailed in this weeks Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that the brain-damaging effects of negative emotions are relayed through the two known corticotropin-releasing factor receptors, CRFR1 and CRFR2, which are part of a central switchboard that mediates the bodys responses to stress and stress-related disorders.

Alzheimers disease is defined by the accumulation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. While plaques accumulate outside of brain cells, tangles litter the inside of neurons. They consist of a modified form of the tau protein, whichin its unmodified formhelps to stabilize the intracellular network of microtubules. In Alzheimer's disease, as well as various other neurodegenerative conditions, phosphate groups are attached to tau. As a result, tau looses its grip on the microtubules, and starts to collapse into insoluble protein fibers, which ultimately cause cell death.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


June 13, 2007, 10:00 AM CT

Neural stem cells reduce Parkinson's symptoms

Neural stem cells reduce Parkinson's symptoms
Stem cells
New Haven, Conn.Primates with severe Parkinsons disease were able to walk, move, and eat better, and had diminished tremors after being injected with human neural stem cells, a research team from Yale, Harvard, the University of Colorado, and the Burnham Institute report today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These results are promising, but it will be years before it is known whether a similar procedure would have therapeutic value for humans, said the lead author, D. Eugene Redmond Jr., professor of psychiatry and neurosurgery at Yale.

Not only are stem cells a potential source of replacement cells, they also seem to have a whole variety of effects that normalize other abnormalities, Redmond said. The human neural stem cells implanted into the primates survived, migrated, and had a functional impact. Its an important step, but there are many studies that need to be done before determining if this would be of any value in clinical settings.

Parkinsons disease is caused by a degeneration of dopamine neurons in an area of the midbrain known as the substantia nigra, which is responsible for dopamine production. Reduced production of dopamine in late stage Parkinsons causes symptoms such as severe difficulty in walking, fewer movements, delays in moving, lack of appetite, difficulty eating, periods of remaining motionless known as freezing, and head and limb tremors.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 12, 2007, 4:51 AM CT

Racial differece in slow wave brain activity during sleep

Racial differece in slow wave brain activity during sleep
Slow wave activity (SWA), a stable trait dependent marker of the intensity of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, is lower in young healthy African-Americans in comparison to Caucasians who were matched for age, gender and body weight, as per a research abstract that will be presented Tuesday at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

Dr. Esra Tasali and his colleagues at the University of Chicago collected overnight polysomnographic data from 12 African-Americans and 12 Caucasians, none of whom had any sleep complaints or disorders. The authors observed that African-Americans had markedly lower SWA as in comparison to Caucasians.

"The current findings provide evidence for ethnic differences in the intensity of NREM sleep," said Tasali. "Lower levels of SWA in African-Americans could be correlation to their reported poor sleep quality and higher risk for insulin resistance".

The amount of sleep a person gets affects his or her physical health, emotional well-being, mental abilities, productivity and performance. Recent studies associate lack of sleep with serious health problems such as an increased risk of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 10, 2007, 7:33 PM CT

Early identification of at-risk readers

Early identification of at-risk readers
Taken together, functional brain scans and tests of reading skills strongly predict which children will have ongoing reading problems. Whats more, the two methods work better together than either one alone, as per new research in the recent issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Neuroresearchers at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities think this double-barreled diagnostic can help identify at-risk readers as early as possible. That way, schools can step in before those children fail to learn to read or develop poor reading habits that might interfere with remediation, such as relying on memory for words rather than sounding out new ones. Early identification and systematic intervention can very often turn likely non-readers into readers, as per the study authors.

This study of 73 Pittsburgh-area children of ages 8 to 12, all identified as struggling readers, ran for a school year. At the start of the year, the scientists administered standard tests of early literacy skills, including word identification, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, efficiency, and phonological processing this last a critical measure of how well children process the sounds of letters and letter combinations. The scientists also used functional MRIs (fMRIs) to depict how the childrens brains worked when they had to read two words and say whether they rhymed, a test of phonological awareness. To make the fMRI results more sensitive to differences among children, the authors further analyzed the images using a method called voxel-based morphometry that uses the density of the brains white and grey matter to zero in on activation patterns in specific parts of key brain regions.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
The drug Ativan is better than Valium or Dilantin for controlling severe epileptic seizures, according to a new review of studies.Ativan, or lorazepam, and Valium, or diazepam, are both benzodiazepines, the currently preferred class of drugs for treating severe epileptic seizures. Dilantin, or phenytoin, is an anticonvulsant long used for the treatment of epileptic seizures.

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