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December 17, 2007, 9:05 PM CT

Toward engineered blood vessels

Toward engineered blood vessels
When endothelial progenitor cells are grown on a nanopatterned substrate, they align in the direction of the pattern, left. At right are cells grown on a flat surface. Images / Christopher Bettinger
MIT researchers have found a way to induce cells to form parallel tube-like structures that could one day serve as tiny engineered blood vessels.

The scientists observed that they can control the cells' development by growing them on a surface with nano-scale patterning. A paper on the work was posted this month in an online issue of Advanced Materials.

Engineered blood vessels could one day be transplanted into tissues such as the kidneys, liver, heart or any other organs that require large amounts of vascular tissue, which moves nutrients, gases and waste to and from cells.

"We are very excited about this work, said Robert Langer, MIT Institute Professor and an author of the paper. It provides a new way to create nano-based systems with what we hope will provide a novel way to someday engineer tissues in the human body.

The work focuses on vascular tissue, which includes capillaries, the tiniest blood vessels, and is an important part of the circulatory system. The team has created a surface that can serve as a template to grow capillary tubes aligned in a specific direction.

The scientists built their template using microfabrication machinery at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge. Normally such technology is used to build micro-scale devices, but the scientists adapted it to create nano-scale patterns on a silicone elastomer substrate. The surface is patterned with ridges and grooves that guide the cells' growth.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 13, 2007, 10:06 PM CT

Effective new treatment for schizophrenia

Effective new treatment for schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating of the major psychiatric disorders, and is also one of the most difficult to treat. Eventhough numerous antipsychotic therapys are available, they can cause significant side effects and a number of patients experience only a partial relief of their symptoms and up to 30% no relief at all. In a new study scheduled for publication in the December 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry, Marder and his colleagues examined the efficacy and safety of a new psychotropic agent for the therapy of schizophrenia in a 6-week, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

The authors studied paliperidone extended-release (ER) tablets, an investigational drug which orally delivers the active metabolite of the drug risperidone, which is an already established efficacious antipsychotic. The authors recruited 444 patients who were experiencing an acute episode of schizophrenia and, after evaluating the severity of their symptoms, administered one of four therapys for 6 weeks: 6 mg or 12 mg/day of paliperidone ER, 10 mg/day of olanzapine (the active comparator), or placebo. During the six weeks of therapy, the researchers monitored the patients for side effects and assessed their symptom improvement.

Dr. Stephen Marder, senior author on the paper, explains the findings: This double-blind study observed that two doses of paliperidone extended release tablets were more effective than placebo for treating the symptoms of acute schizophrenia. Patients receiving the most effective dose of paliperidone (6 mg) also demonstrated improvements in their social functioning. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, comments, This study demonstrates the efficacy of the 9-hydroxy metabolite of risperidone that has antipsychotic efficacy and an acceptable safety profile which provides psychiatry experts with yet another therapy option. It has practical advantages with its long half life, duration of action and extended release formulation. Dr. Lieberman cautions though that this finding is not a novel or breakthrough therapy and does not provide major differences or advantages over existing therapys. Additional studies are currently underway to further evaluate the long-term (up to one year) efficacy and safety of paliperidone ER in the therapy of schizophrenia.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 13, 2007, 9:53 PM CT

Why vaccines directed against cancer don't work

Why vaccines directed against cancer don't work
Scientists from the University of Missouri and Imperial College London have found evidence suggesting why vaccines directed against the virus that causes AIDS and a number of cancers do not work. This research is being reported in the Dec. 14 edition of The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

In research spanning more than a decade, Gary Clark, associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Womens Health in the MU School of Medicine, and Anne Dell, an investigator at Imperial College London, observed that HIV, aggressive cancer cells, H. pylori, and parasitic worms known as schistosomes carry the same carbohydrate sequences as a number of proteins produced in human sperm.

Its our major Achilles heel, Clark said. Reproduction is mandatory for the survival of our species. Therefore we are hard-wired to protect our sperm and eggs as well as our unborn babies from any type of immune response. Unfortunately, our results suggest that a number of pathogens and tumor cells also have integrated themselves into this protective system, thus enabling them to resist the human immune response.

During the initial stages of life, the body goes through a process where it self-identifies, determining which cells and proteins belong in the body, so it can detect those that do not. After this time, anything foreign is deemed as dangerous, unless the immune system is specifically told to ignore those cells and proteins. This situation arises primarily during reproduction.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 13, 2007, 9:46 PM CT

Early treatment stops epilepsy

Early treatment stops epilepsy
Yale graduate student standing in front of neuroimage.

Credit: Yale University

Yale School of Medicine researchers have shown for the first time that it is possible to suppress the development of epilepsy in genetically predisposed animalswhich could open the door to treating epilepsy as a preventable disease.

According to the study published this month in Epilepsia, early treatment of epilepsy-prone rats with the anti-convulsant medicine ethosuximide before the onset of seizures led to a marked suppression of seizures both later in life and months after treatment stopped.

Current treatments for epilepsy may control seizures, but they do nothing to alter the underlying disease, said Hal Blumenfeld, M.D., associate professor of neurology and lead author of the study. These findings are important because they set the stage for prevention of epilepsy in genetically susceptible people.

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that affects about 50 million people worldwide. Typically typically it is characterized by seizurestemporary loss of consciousness or muscular controlthat are precipitated by abnormal electrical overload on neurons within the brain.

Using a combination of molecular profiling, electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings, and power spectral analysis, Blumenfeld and his colleagues demonstrated that ethosuximide effectively blocked the expression of an epilepsy-associated maladaptive protein within neurons of the brain and reduced the number of seizures in treated animals.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 11, 2007, 8:25 PM CT

First-line therapy for multiple myeloma

First-line therapy for multiple myeloma
A new combination of bortezomib (Velcade) and two other drugs is showing a very high response rate in patients newly diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a team headed by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

The three-pronged regimen of Velcade, lenalidomide (Revlimid) and dexamethasone referred to as Rev/Vel/Dex has achieved an overall response rate of 98 percent in 42 patients reviewed thus far in a Phase 1-2 trial, said Paul Richardson, MD, of Dana-Farber and the studys principal investigator. He added that 52 percent of the patients had high quality responses (very good partial response or better), with 30 percent achieving complete response to date.

These may be some of the best response rates weve seen to date with up-front therapies, and eventhough these are preliminary results, they are extremely promising, Richardson said. The patients were previously untreated when they received the Rev/Vel/Dex combination.

Velcade is a smart drug known as a proteasome inhibitor that blocks the myeloma cells waste disposal system, creating an accumulation of toxic compounds that poison the cell. Revlimid is a chemical relative of thalidomide that affects several pathways in cancer cells, including immune mechanisms and blood vessel growth to tumors. Dexamethasone is a steroid hormone that counters inflammation and is used to treat hematologic malignancies such as myeloma. Studies leading to the trial of the three drugs in combination were carried out at Dana-Farber.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 10, 2007, 10:28 PM CT

Missing protein may be key to autism

Missing protein may be key to autism
A missing brain protein may be one of the culprits behind autism and other brain disorders, as per scientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

The protein, called CASK, helps in the development of synapses, which neurons use to communicate with one another and which underlie our ability to learn and remember. Improperly formed synapses could lead to mental retardation, and mutations in genes encoding certain synaptic proteins are linked to autism.

In work reported in the Dec. 6 issue of Neuron, Li-Huei Tsai, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, reported that she has uncovered an enzyme that is key to the activity of CASK.

Tsai studies a kinase (kinases are enzymes that change proteins) called Cdk5. While Cdk5's best-known role is to help new neurons form and migrate to their correct positions during brain development, "emerging evidence supports an important role for Cdk5 at the synapse," she said.

To gain a better understanding of how Cdk5 promotes synapse formation, Tsai's lab looked into how Cdk5 interacts with synapse-inducing proteins like CASK. A key scaffolding protein, CASK is one of the first proteins on the scene of a developing synapse.

Scaffolding proteins such as CASK are like site managers, supporting protein-to-protein interactions to ensure that the resulting architecture is sound. Mutations in the genes responsible for Cdk5 and CASK have been found in mental retardation patients.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 9, 2007, 5:22 PM CT

Genetic links between cancer and schizophrenia

Genetic links between cancer and schizophrenia
A series of studies presented today at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) annual meeting elucidates evidence that there is a genetic link between schizophrenia and cancer, providing a surprising possible scientific explanation for lower rates of cancer among patients with schizophrenia despite having poor diets and high rates of smoking and their parents.

Scientists at the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) emphasize that a number of of the genes linked to schizophrenia are the same as the genes linked to cancer, but that the cells that have these genes use them in opposite ways in the two disorders. While cancer results from changes in the genes that cause cells to go into metabolic overdrive and multiply rapidly, those same genes cause cells in schizophrenia to slow to a crawl.

We observed that a number of of the same genes are involved in schizophrenia as in cancer, but in a yin and yang way. This will provide critical insight into the molecular structure of schizophrenia, said lead researcher and ACNP member Dr. Daniel Weinberger of NIMH. Some of the genes showing this yin-yang effect include NRG1, AKT1, PIK3, COMT, PRODH and ErbB4. While these genes cant be used to predict exactly who will develop these diseases, Dr. Weinberger says they can be used to help determine risk.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


December 9, 2007, 5:20 PM CT

Homosexuality is biological but not hard-wired

Homosexuality is biological but not hard-wired
While the biological basis for homosexuality remains a mystery, a team of neurobiologists reports they may have closed in on an answer -- by a nose.

The team led by University of Illinois at Chicago researcher David Featherstone has discovered that sexual orientation in fruit flies is controlled by a previously unknown regulator of synapse strength. Armed with this knowledge, the scientists found they were able to use either genetic manipulation or drugs to turn the flies' homosexual behavior on and off within hours.

Featherstone, associate professor of biological sciences at UIC, and his colleagues discovered a gene in fruit flies they called "genderblind," or GB. A mutation in GB turns flies bisexual.

Featherstone found the gene interesting initially because it has the unusual ability to transport the neurotransmitter glutamate out of glial cells -- cells that support and nourish nerve cells but do not fire like neurons do. Prior work from his laboratory showed that changing the amount of glutamate outside cells can change the strength of nerve cell junctions, or synapses, which play a key role in human and animal behavior.

But the GB gene became even more interesting when post-doctoral researcher Yael Grosjean noticed that all the GB mutant male flies were courting other males.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 5, 2007, 8:46 PM CT

Gene that influences alcohol consumption

Gene that influences alcohol consumption
A variant of a gene involved in communication among brain cells has a direct influence on alcohol consumption in mice, as per a new study by researchers supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Army.

Researchers do not know yet whether a similar gene variant, with a similar effect on alcohol consumption, exists in humans.

Known as Grm7, the gene encodes a receptor subtype that inhibits the release of glutamate and other neurotransmitter molecules that brain cells use to communicate with one another. Scientists identified a gene variant, or polymorphism, that reduces the abundance of Grm7 messenger RNA (mRNA) in brain tissue. mRNA is the molecular intermediate between a gene and its protein product. Mice that possess this gene variant drink more alcohol than do mice with higher brain levels of Grm7 mRNA. A report of the study appears as an online Article in Press in Genomics.

This is a noteworthy contribution, especially since identifying genes that predispose to alcohol-related behaviors is such an arduous task, says NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D.

Researchers have long known that genes account for a significant proportion of the risk for alcoholism. However, the fact that there are multiple such genes that interact with each other and with multiple environmental factors to influence drinking behavior has hampered studies aimed at isolating individual genes.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 4, 2007, 10:11 PM CT

Transcendental meditation reduces high blood pressure

Transcendental meditation reduces high blood pressure
People with hypertension may find relief from Transcendental Meditation, as per a definitive new meta-analysis of 107 published studies on stress reduction programs and high blood pressure, which would be reported in the recent issue of Current High blood pressure Reports.

The Transcendental Meditation technique produces a statistically significant reduction in hypertension that is not found with other forms of relaxation, meditation, biofeedback or stress management.

The new meta-analysis evaluated randomized, controlled trials of all stress reduction and relaxation methods in participants with hypertension that have been published in peer-evaluated scientific journals.

Blood pressure changes for the Transcendental Meditation technique included average reductions of 5.0 points on systolic blood pressure and 2.8 on diastolic blood pressure, which were statistically significant, as per the review. The other stress reduction programs did not show significant changes in blood pressure.

Blood pressure changes linked to Transcendental Meditation practice were consistent with other controlled studies showing reductions in cardiovascular risk factors, improved markers of heart disease, and reduced mortality rates among participants in the Transcendental Meditation program.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Scientists at Yale have brought to light a mechanism that regulates the way an internal organelle, the Golgi apparatus, duplicates as cells prepare to divide, according to a report in Science Express.Graham Warren, professor of cell biology, and colleagues at Yale study Trypanosoma brucei, the parasite that causes Sleeping Sickness. Like a number of parasites, it is exceptionally streamlined and has only one of each internal organelle, making it ideal for studying processes of more complex organisms that have a number of copies in each cell.

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