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June 27, 2007, 6:00 AM CT

A New Line Of Communication Between Neurons

A New Line Of Communication Between Neurons
In a host of neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and several neuropathies, the protective covering surrounding the nerves an insulating material called myelin is damaged. Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science have now discovered an important new line of communication between nervous system cells that is crucial to the development of myelinated nerves a discovery that may aid in restoring the normal function of the affected nerve fibers.

Nerve cells (neurons) have long, thin extensions called axons that can reach up to a meter and or more in length. Often, these extensions are covered by myelin, which is formed by a group of specialized cells called glia. Glial cells revolve around the axon, laying down the myelin sheath in segments, leaving small nodes of exposed nerve in between. More than just protection for the delicate axons, the myelin covering allows nerve signals to jump instantaneously between nodes, making the transfer of these signals quick and efficient. When myelin is missing or damaged, the nerve signals cant skip properly down the axons, leading to abnormal function of the affected nerve and often to its degeneration.

In research published recently in Nature Neuroscience, Weizmann Institute scientists Prof. Elior Peles, graduate student Ivo Spiegel, and their colleagues in the Molecular Cell Biology Department and in the United States, have now provided a vital insight into the mechanism by which glial cells recognize and myelinate axons.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


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 27, 2007, 5:22 AM CT

Computerized doctors' orders reduce medication errors

Computerized doctors' orders reduce medication errors
Doctors are famous for sloppy scribbling and handwritten prescriptions lead to thousands of medicine errors each year. Electronics to the rescue: U.S. hospitals that switched to computerized doctor order entry systems saw a 66 percent drop in prescription errors, as per a new review of studies.

Illegible handwriting and transcription errors are responsible for as much as 61 percent of medicine errors in hospitals. A simple mistake such as putting the decimal point in the wrong place can have serious consequences because a patients dosage could be 10 times the recommended amount.

Drugs with similar names are another common source of error, such as the pain medicine Celebrex and the antidepressant Celexa, or the tranquilizer Zyprexa and the antihistamine Zyrtec.

These medicine errors are very painful for doctors, as well as the patients. Nobody wants to make a mistake, said Tatyana Shamliyan, lead review author and a research associate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The review appears online in the journal Health Services Research.

The University of Minnesota scientists looked at 12 studies that compared medicine errors with handwritten and computerized prescriptions from in-hospital doctors. Nearly a quarter of all hospital patients experience medicine errors, a rate that has increased from 5 percent in 1992, as per the study.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


June 27, 2007, 5:10 AM CT

Nanoparticles hitchhike on red blood cells

Nanoparticles hitchhike on red blood cells
Nano-Hitchhikers
Credit: Image prepared by Mr. Peter Allen, UCSB. Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered that attaching polymeric nanoparticles to the surface of red blood cells dramatically increases the in vivo lifetime of the nanoparticles. The research, reported in the July 07 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine, could offer applications for the delivery of drugs and circulating bioreactors.

Polymeric nanoparticles are excellent carriers for delivering drugs. They protect drugs from degradation until they reach their target and provide sustained release of drugs. Polymeric nanoparticles, however, suffer from one major limitation: they are quickly removed from the blood, sometimes in minutes, rendering them ineffective in delivering drugs.

The research team, led by Samir Mitragotri, a professor of chemical engineering, and Elizabeth Chambers, a recent doctoral graduate, observed that nanoparticles can be forced to remain in the circulation when attached to red blood cells. The particles eventually detach from the blood cells due to shear forces and cell-to-cell interactions, and are cleared from the system by the liver and spleen. Red blood cell circulation is not affected by attaching the nanoparticles.

Attachment of polymeric nanoparticles to red blood cells combines the advantages of the long circulating lifetime of the red blood cell, and their abundance, with the robustness of polymeric nanoparticles, said Mitragotri. Using red blood cells to extend the circulation time of the particles avoids the need to modify the surface chemistry of the entire particle, which offers the potential to attach chemicals to the exposed surface for targeting applications.........

Posted by: Scott      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, 4:41 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 20, 2007, 10:02 AM CT

How Enzymes Work?

How Enzymes Work?
In a publication selected as a "2007 Hot Article" by the journal Biochemistry, University at Buffalo chemists report the discovery of a central mechanism responsible for the action of the powerful biological catalysts known as enzymes.

The UB research provides critical insight into why catalysis is so complex and may help pave the way for improving the design of synthetic catalysts.

"The more that is known about catalysis, the better chances we have of designing active catalysts," said John P. Richard, Ph.D., professor of chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the paper with Tina L. Amyes, Ph.D., UB adjunct associate professor of chemistry.

"Attempts to replicate evolution and design catalysts of non-biological reactions with enzyme-like activity have failed, because researchers have yet to unravel the secrets of enzyme catalysis," Richard said.

But, he said, these secrets, once revealed, have the potential to transform the chemical industry in processes ranging from soft-drink manufacturing to the production of ethanol and countless other industrial processes.

"Enzymes are the products of billions of years of cellular evolution," he said.

While attempts to design catalysts have been somewhat successful, the catalysis that results is far less efficient than that produced by reactions with enzymes.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


June 19, 2007, 5:09 AM CT

Nanoparticle Offers Promise for Treating Glaucoma

Nanoparticle Offers Promise for Treating Glaucoma
Photo: Jerry Klein.
Glaucoma affects millions of people and if left untreated can cause blindness
A unique nanoparticle made in a laboratory at the University of Central Florida is proving promising as a drug delivery device for treating glaucoma, an eye disease that can cause blindness and affects millions of people worldwide.

"The nanoparticle can safely get past the blood-brain barrier making it an effective non-toxic tool for drug delivery," said Sudipta Seal, an engineering professor with appointments in UCF's Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center and the Nanoscience Technology Center.

The findings will be published in an article appearing in the June 28 issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Seal and colleagues from North Dakota State University note in the article that while barely 1-3 percent of existing glaucoma medicines penetrate into the eye, earlier experiments with nanoparticles have shown not only high penetration rates but also little patient discomfort. The miniscule size of the nanoparticles makes them less abrasive than some of the complex polymers now used in most eye drops.

Seal and his team created a specialized cerium oxide nanoparticle and bound it with a compound that has been shown to block the activity of an enzyme (hCAII) believed to play a central role in causing glaucoma.

The disease involves abnormally high pressure of the fluid inside the eye, which, if left untreated, can result in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. High pressure occurs, in part, because of a buildup of carbon dioxide inside the eye, and the compound blocks the enzyme that produces carbon dioxide.........

Posted by: Mike      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



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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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