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May 9, 2006, 0:00 AM CT

Nanotubes To Send Signals To Nerve Cells

Nanotubes To Send Signals To Nerve Cells
Texas researchers have added one more trick to the amazing repertoire of carbon nanotubes -- the ability to carry electrical signals to nerve cells.

Nanotubes, tiny hollow carbon filaments about one ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, are already famed as one of the most versatile materials ever discovered. A hundred times as strong as steel and one-sixth as dense, able to conduct electricity better than copper or to substitute for silicon in semiconductor chips, carbon nanotubes have been proposed as the basis for everything from elevator cables that could lift payloads into Earth orbit to computers smaller than human cells.

Thin films of carbon nanotubes deposited on transparent plastic can also serve as a surface on which cells can grow. And as scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and Rice University suggest in a paper reported in the recent issue of the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, these nanotube films could potentially serve as an electrical interface between living tissue and prosthetic devices or biomedical instruments.

"As far as I know, we're the first group to show that you can have some kind of electrical communication between these two things, by stimulating cells through our transparent conductive layer," said Todd Pappas, director of sensory and molecular neuroengineering at UTMB's Center for Biomedical Engineering and one of the study's senior authors. Pappas and UTMB research associate Anton Liopo collaborated on the work with James Tour, director of the Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory at Rice's Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, Rice postdoctoral fellow Michael Stewart and Rice graduate student Jared Hudson.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


May 8, 2006, 11:37 PM CT

Genetic Insights Into Retinoblastoma

Genetic Insights Into Retinoblastoma
Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have discovered the role of several key genes in the development of the retina, and in the process have taken a significant step toward understanding how to prevent or cure the potentially deadly eye cancer retinoblastoma. Retinoblastoma is the third most common cancer in infants after leukemia and neuroblastoma (nerve cancer). Retinoblastoma that has spread outside the eye is among the deadliest childhood cancers, with an average survival rate of less than 10 percent.

A key finding of the new study is that humans are more susceptible to developing retinoblastoma than mice, because mice can compensate for the loss of a gene critical to normal retinal development while humans cannot. The results of the study appear in the open-access journal BMC Biology.

"Our study gives us important new information on the normal development of the retina and suggests new studies that could lead to the design of more effective drugs to treat retinoblastoma," said Michael Dyer, Ph.D., an associate member of the Department of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Jude and senior author of the paper.

The scientists discovered that during the development of the retina in mice, three genes that belong to the Rb gene family are expressed at different times. Specifically, the p107 gene is active before birth in cells that are going to become the retina. This gene ensures that the retinal cells stop multiplying at the proper time during development of this tissue. The Rb gene is expressed after birth in those cells that are actively multiplying as they also help form the retina.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


May 4, 2006, 5:07 PM CT

'Cellular Antennae' On Algae

'Cellular Antennae' On Algae
By studying microscopic hairs called cilia on algae, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that an internal structure that helps build cilia is also responsible for a cell's response to external signals.

Cilia perform many functions on human cells; they propel egg and sperm cells to make fertilization possible, line the nose to pick up odors, and purify the blood, among other tasks.

With such a range of abilities, cilia serve as both motors and "cellular antennae," said Dr. William Snell, a professor of cell biology at UT Southwestern and senior author of new research on cilia published in the May 5 issue of Cell.

Genetic defects in cilia can cause people to develop debilitating kidney disease or to be born with learning disabilities, extra fingers or toes, or the inability to smell.

But no one really knows how cilia work, or, in some parts of the body, what their function is.

"There are cilia all over within our brain, and we don't have a clue about what they're doing," Dr. Snell said.

He and his team use the microscopic green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which has two individual cilia. This alga allows researchers to manipulate genes and study the resulting effects on cilia in a way that would be impossible in animals such as mice.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


April 29, 2006, 9:43 AM CT

Neuroimaging Tools Available On Web

Neuroimaging Tools Available On Web The Biomedical Informatics Research Network has developed open-source neuroimaging tools and datasets available to researchers around the world as they investigate the causes and potential therapies for Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and other brain-related disorders. (Image courtesy of The BIRN Coordinating Center, University of California, San Diego)
A roving band of five unnamed researcher participants-who traveled across the country to nine different sites to have their brains examined via MRI-has contributed to a first-of-its-kind neuroimaging dataset that will help researchers to standardize and calibrate imaging data for multisite studies for years to come. The dataset, known as the Function BIRN Phase I Traveling Subjects Dataset, is the latest of more than two dozen open-source data and software tools made available to researchers worldwide by the Biomedical Informatics Research Network (BIRN).

Created in 2001 with NCRR support, BIRN is a national consortium of 28 research institutions and 37 research groups dedicated to creating a usable cyberinfrastructure that shares and integrates data, expertise, and unique technologies from multiple disciplines and research institutions thereby enabling collaborations that address complex health-related problems. (For more information, see the NCRR Reporter, Fall 2003, BIRN Putting Heads Together in Cyberspace.) Initial efforts focus on neuroimaging data, but the tools and technologies developed by BIRN will ultimately be applicable to other disciplines.

Calibration across sites is important, because brain scans from a single individual can appear surprisingly dissimilar when collected using different MRI instruments and methodologies. "In fact, we found there is more variation between sites than there is between subjects," says Steven Potkin, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine, and head of a series of BIRN projects correlation to functional imaging. "Unless this can be corrected, there is no point in doing a multisite imaging study".........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


April 29, 2006, 9:24 AM CT

Daring To Take Risks and Reap the Rewards

Daring To Take Risks and Reap the Rewards Innovative brain-mapping techniques allow scientists to detect subtle disease-associated brain changes, including percentages of brain tissue loss, represented by different colors, in AIDS patients. (Image courtesy of The Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, University of California, Los Angeles)
Medical advances often originate with a flash of creativity and a tolerance for risk. Recognizing that the safe bet is not always the best path when pursuing scientific knowledge, NCRR funds Exploratory/Developmental Research Projects, known as R21 grants, to give researchers the freedom to pursue innovative, high-risk scientific ideas, methods, or technologies that may ultimately lead to significant health-related payoffs. For instance, neuroscientist Paul Thompson depended on R21 funding to develop sophisticated computational tools for imaging and analyzing how diseases or adverse events affect the brain. A different R21 grant allowed geneticist Carl Pinkert to create a unique animal model for studying mitochondria disease, which has broad implications for human health.

NIH created the R21 funding mechanism to provide up to two years of support for the early and conceptual stages of innovative research projects. NCRR funds R21 grants in two broad categories: biomedical technology and comparative medicine.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, Thompson and colleagues developed a novel computational framework that effectively stretches, contorts, and changes the geometry of highly detailed three-dimensional brain images obtained via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These manipulations allow researchers to overlap and meld multiple brain images, collected over time or from multiple individuals, and enable comparisons between normal and dysfunctional brains. To date, the images have clearly revealed the changes wrought by Alzheimer's disease, methamphetamine abuse, schizophrenia, and AIDS. "With R21 funding, we developed new mathematical methods for understanding the effects of disease," says Thompson, an associate professor of neurology. "These images are really snapshots of a disease spreading over time".........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


April 28, 2006, 6:42 AM CT

Impact Of Injury On Cartilage Cells

Impact Of Injury On Cartilage Cells
Documented in extensive studies, backed by the anecdotal evidence of professional athletes, impact injury to joints causes degeneration of cartilage. In most cases, the eventual result is the pain, stiffness, and compromised mobility of osteoarthritis (OA). Yet, questions remain surrounding the role of the inflammatory system in the cartilage destruction following mechanical trauma.

Tissue damage typically stimulates an influx of leukocytes, white blood cells known for promoting tissue regeneration and healing--to tissue protecting organs. However leukocytes can be a double edged sword. In the May 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritis), scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and the Michael E DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Texas, present the results of a study to test the hypothesis that leukocytes extend the zone of damage and cell death in cartilage after an acute injury.

The research team began with a collection of dog bones--the hind knee joints of 24 fresh young adult cadaver canines. Within one hour after death, each bone was subjected to impact injury with a metal weight, determined sufficient to cause cartilage damage without shattering the bone. A comparable collection of cadaver canine bones was preserved to serve as controls. All of the knee joints were cultured with blood leukocytes from the same dogCartilage biopsies were taken at various intervals between 12 hours and 7 days.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


April 28, 2006, 0:13 AM CT

Stem Cell Technology For Spinal Cord Repair

Stem Cell Technology For Spinal Cord Repair
Scientists believe they have identified a new way, using an advance in stem-cell technology, to promote recovery after spinal cord injury of rats, as per a research studypublished in today's Journal of Biology.

Researchers from the New York State Center of Research Excellence in Spinal Cord Injury showed that rats receiving a transplant of a certain type of immature support cell from the central nervous system (generated from stem cells) had more than 60 percent of their sensory nerve fibers regenerate. Just as importantly, the study showed that more than two-thirds of the nerve fibers grew all the way through the injury sites eight days later, a result that is much more promising than prior research. The rats that received the cell transplants also walked normally in two weeks.

The University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y., and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, collaborated on the work. Scientists believe they made an important advance in stem cell technology by focusing on a new cell type that appears to have the capability of repairing the adult nervous system.

"These studies provide a way to make cells do what we want them to do, instead of simply putting stem cells into the damaged area and hoping the injury will cause the stem cells to turn into the most useful cell types," explains Mark Noble, Ph.D., co-author of the paper, professor of Genetics at the University of Rochester, and a pioneer in the field of stem cell research. "It really changes the way we think about this problem."........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


April 27, 2006, 11:48 PM CT

Researchers Identify Intelligence Gene

Researchers Identify Intelligence Gene Caption: Anil Malhotra, MD, and Katherine Burdick, PhD Credit: Adam Cooper, RBP North Shore-LIJ Studios
Psychiatric scientists at The Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have uncovered evidence of a gene that appears to influence intelligence. Working in conjunction with scientists at Harvard Partners Center for Genetics and Genomics in Boston, the Zucker Hillside team examined the genetic blueprints of individuals with schizophrenia, a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by cognitive impairment, and compared them with healthy volunteers. They discovered that the dysbindin-1 gene (DTNBP1), which they previously demonstrated to be associated with schizophrenia, may also be linked to general cognitive ability. The study is reported in the May 15 print issue of Human Molecular Genetics, available online today, April 27.

"A robust body of evidence suggests that cognitive abilities, especially intelligence, are significantly influenced by genetic factors. Existing data already suggests that dysbindin may influence cognition," said Katherine Burdick, PhD, the study's primary author. "We looked at several DNA sequence variations within the dysbindin gene and found one of them to be significantly associated with lower general cognitive ability in carriers of the risk variant compared with non-carriers in two independent groups."

The study involved 213 unrelated Caucasian patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 126 unrelated healthy Caucasian volunteers. The scientists measured cognitive performance in all subjects. They then analyzed participants' DNA samples. The scientists specifically examined six DNA sequence variations, also known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in the dysbindin gene and found that one specific pattern of SNPs, known as a haplotype, was associated with general cognitive ability: Cognition was significantly impaired in carriers of the risk variant in both the schizophrenia group and the healthy volunteers as compared with the non-carriers.........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


April 25, 2006, 7:53 PM CT

Predicting Success In Cancer Treatment

Predicting Success In Cancer Treatment
Chemotherapy drugs, given intravenously, are the mainstay of the fight against cancer. But doctors know that sometimes these drugs effect a complete cure, while other times they can be nearly ineffective. How to turn some of those failures into successes? A team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute, headed by Prof. Hadassa Degani of the Biological Regulation Department, has come up with a non-invasive, magnetic resonance imaging- (MRI-) based method for predicting possible problems. The findings of their studies on animals, which appear today in the journal Cancer Research, may, in the future, influence therapy regimes for millions of cancer patients.

Intravenous infusions rely on the bloodstream to carry drugs to where they are needed. Normally, a material such as a chemotherapy drug crosses into a tissue on the principle of concentration equalization -- the material diffuses from an area of high concentration to one of low concentration until the concentrations become equal all around. However, in some cancers, even though the material "wants" to spread out evenly, fluids inside the tumor may be exerting pressure to prevent this. When the internal pressure created by these fluids rises above a certain level, it acts as a barrier that keeps drugs and other materials from entering the tumor.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


April 25, 2006, 7:08 AM CT

Pioneer Of Angiogenesis Reports Panel Of Biomarkers For Early Cancer Diagnosis

Pioneer Of Angiogenesis Reports Panel Of Biomarkers For Early Cancer Diagnosis Judah Folkman
Dr. Judah Folkman, the scientist whose discoveries founded the growing field of angiogenesis research, now reports the finding of a panel of biomarkers in platelets that may permit very early diagnosis of cancer. Working with mice bearing human tumors, Dr. Folkman and Dr. Giannoula Klement found that platelets took up angiogenesis regulatory proteins secreted by these tumors. When the microscopic tumors began to grow new blood vessels and grow, these angiogenesis regulatory proteins began to appear in the plasma as well as in the platelets. If this biomarker can be validated in patients, says Dr. Folkman, it may be used in conjunction with other biomarkers to diagnose the recurrence of cancer years before such a minute tumor burden became symptomatic or able to be located by conventional methods such as imaging.

Dr. Folkman described the work April 2 in the keynote lecture of the American Association of Anatomists meeting, part of Experimental Biology 2006 in San Francisco.

The finding of selective uptake of angiogenesis regulatory proteins secreted by tumors also marks a novel function of platelets, the blood cells responsible for blood coagulation and repair of damaged blood vessels.

The "platelet angiogenesis proteome" provides a stable, sensitive, and reliable biomarker for very early diagnosis of cancer, says Dr. Folkman. It could be used to detect recurrence of cancer or to diagnose a new primary tumor, for example in women with the mutated breast cancer gene who have still not developed a clinically detectable cancer.........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         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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