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September 14, 2007, 5:25 AM CT

Genes That Improve Survival

Genes That Improve Survival
University of Iowa scientists investigating the basic biology of cell signaling have made a discovery that may have therapeutic implications for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The UI team, led by John Engelhardt, Ph.D., professor and head of anatomy and cell biology in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, discovered that two cell-signaling proteins called Nox1 and Nox2 appear to play an important role in disease progression of an inherited form of ALS. This work is reported in the Sept. 13 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Deleting either Nox1 or Nox2 genes from mice with the inherited type of ALS significantly increased the lifespan of the mice. Nox2 deletion produces the most dramatic effect, nearly doubling the lifespan of the mice. In addition, Nox2 deletion dramatically increased the survival index -- the time from disease onset to death. This is the first report of a single gene that affects the survival index in ALS models.

"The findings provide encouraging data that there are new potential therapeutic targets in ALS," said Engelhardt, who also is the Roy J. Carver Chair in Molecular Medicine. "Whether our findings will bear out in humans still has to be reviewed, but our results suggest that inhibiting Nox proteins might significantly enhance survival in ALS".........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 8:10 PM CT

Putting stem cell research on the fast track

Putting stem cell research on the fast track
Dordick's team is able to use this 3-D platform to test millions of stem cells in one experiment.

Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute/Tiago Fernandez
Engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed tools to help solve two of the main problems slowing the progress of stem cell research how to quickly test stem cell response to different drugs or genes, and how to create a large supply of healthy, viable stem cells to study from only a few available cells.

The scientists have created methods to study millions of stems cells on devices the size of a standard microscope slide. The techniques enable thousands of individual stem cell experiments to be carried out quickly and in parallel on one small device.

Rensselaer is quickly establishing itself as leader in the development of stem cell technology that hastens the speed and accuracy of stem cell research, Provost Robert Palazzo said. Our researchers and engineers are filling a vital niche in the global scientific effort to develop medical therapies using stem cells. Tools like these, which enable high-throughput study of stem cells, will quickly advance stem cell research in medical labs around the world.

The two groups of scientists used microarrays to develop miniaturized stem cell laboratories. With this technique scientists can perform high-throughput analysis of the material or cells on a single slide, analyzing tens of thousands of samples in one experiment. Each of the teams developed separate specialized microarray platforms.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 6:39 PM CT

Area responsible for self-control

Area responsible for self-control
Brain area in the fronto-median cortex that was activated when participants intentionally withhold a planned action in the last moment

Image: Max Planck Instiute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
The results illuminate a very important aspect of the brain's control of behavior, the ability to hold off doing something after you've developed the intention to do it-one might call it 'free won't' as opposed to free will," says Martha Farah, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania. "It is very important to identify the circuits that enable 'free won't' because of the a number of psychiatric disorders for which self-control problems figure prominently-from attention deficit disorder to substance dependence and various personality disorders." Farah was not involved in the experiment.

The findings broaden understanding of the neural basis for decision making, or free will, and may help explain why some individuals are impulsive while others are reluctant to act, says lead author Marcel Brass, PhD, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and Ghent University. Brass and Patrick Haggard, PhD, of University College London, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brain activity of participants pressing a button at times they chose themselves. They compared data from these trials to results when the participants prepared to hit the button, then decided to hold back or veto the action.

Fifteen right-handed participants were asked to press a button on a keyboard. They were asked to choose some cases in which they stopped just before pressing the button. Participants also indicated on a clock the time at which they intended to press the button or decided to hold back. When Brass and Haggard compared fMRI images of the two scenarios, they observed that pulling back yielded activity in the dorsal fronto-median cortex (dFMC), an area on the midline of the brain directly above the eyes, which did not show up when participants followed through and made the action. In addition, those who chose to stop the intended action most often showed greatest contrast in dFMC activity.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


September 12, 2007, 6:07 PM CT

Probing History Of Genes With New Tool

Probing History Of Genes With New Tool
A scanning electron micrograph of one of the seventeen fungal species analyzed in the study. Image courtesy / Janice Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The wheels of evolution turn on genetic innovation -- new genes with new functions appear, allowing organisms to grow and adapt in new ways. But deciphering the history of how and when various genes appeared, for any organism, has been a difficult and largely intractable task.

Now a team led by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has broken new ground by developing a method, described in the September 6 advance online edition of Nature, that can reveal the ancestry of all genes across a number of different genomes. First applied to 17 species of fungi, the approach has unearthed some surprising clues about why new genes pop up in the first place and the biological nips and tucks that bolster their survival.

"Having the ability to trace the history of genes on a genomic scale opens the doors to a vast array of interesting and largely unexplored scientific questions," said senior author Aviv Regev, an assistant professor of biology at MIT and a core member of the Broad Institute. Eventhough the principles laid out in the study pertain to fungi, they could have relevance to a variety of other species as well.

It has been recognized for decades that new genes first arise as carbon copies of existing genes. It is thought that this replication allows one of the gene copies to persist normally, while giving the other the freedom to acquire novel biological functions. Though the importance of this so-called gene duplication process is well appreciated -- it is the grist for the mill of evolutionary change -- the actual mechanics have remained murky, in part because researchers have lacked the tools to study it systematically.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


September 11, 2007, 11:37 PM CT

Aspartame is safe, study says

Aspartame is safe, study says
Looking at more than 500 reports, including toxicological, clinical and epidemiological studies dating from 1970s preclinical work to the latest studies on the high-intensity sweetener, along with use levels and regulations data, an international expert panel from 10 universities and medical schools reviewed the safety of aspartame for people of all ages and with a variety of health conditions. Their study is reported in the recent issue of Critical Reviews in Toxicology.

There have been continued questions in the media and on the internet about the safety of aspartame, said panel member and University of Maryland food and nutrition professor Bernadene Magnuson. Our study is a very comprehensive review of all of the research thats been done on aspartame. Never before has a group with the breadth of experience of this panel looked at this question.



Aspartame


A non-nutritive sweetener, aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sucrose, the accepted standard for sweetness. Though aspartame has the same number of calories as sugar on a weight-to-weight basis, it can be added to food or pharmaceuticals at a fraction of what would be needed with sucrose to achieve the same sweetness, with far fewer calories.

Aspartame was discovered by accident in 1965, and since then has become a popular sweetener in more than 6000 food and pharmaceutical products that range from soft drinks to ketchup.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


September 11, 2007, 11:34 PM CT

New Clues to Breast Cancer Development

New Clues to Breast Cancer Development
Physicians who treat women with the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1 often remove their patients' ovaries to eliminate the source of estrogen they believe fuels cancer growth. Yet they also know that anti-estrogen therapies don't work to treat breast or ovary cancer that might develop. That paradox has led researchers to question exactly how, or if, estrogen is involved in cancer development and whether removal of ovaries makes sense.

Now, a team of scientists from Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center have shed light on the mechanism that makes ovary removal protective against tumor development in this unique population. They discovered that estrogen is needed to start the cancer process, but then the BRCA1 mutations somehow render the new tumors unresponsive to estrogen, producing cancer that is more aggressive and difficult to treat.

As per a research findings published electronically on July 23 in the journal Oncogene, Georgetown scientists observed that mutations of the BRCA1 gene can cause the estrogen-signaling pathway to go awry after cancer starts to grow. The mutated gene somehow causes the tumor cells to stop expressing the estrogen receptor, a protein that sits on the surface of the cell and recognizes the presence of the hormone. This means that these cancers lose sensitivity to estrogen (and potent anti-estrogen therapies like Tamoxifen) after tumors begin to form.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


September 10, 2007, 9:31 PM CT

Implantable device to detect, stop seizures

Implantable device to detect, stop seizures
A small device implanted in the skull that detects oncoming seizures, then delivers a brief electrical stimulus to the brain to stop them is under study at the Medical College of Georgia.

Credit: Medical College of Georgia
A small device implanted in the skull that detects oncoming seizures, then delivers a brief electrical stimulus to the brain to stop them is under study at the Medical College of Georgia.

MCG is among 28 U.S. centers participating in a study to determine if the neurostimulator device can help patients whose seizures are not well controlled by drugs.

The device constantly monitors electrical activity of the brain, gets accustomed to what is normal for that patient and, when it detects activity that is abnormal, within a few milliseconds, sends out a small electrical stimulus to stop it, says Dr. Yong Park, MCG pediatric epileptologist and a principal investigator.

At MCG Medical Center, the RNS System, developed by California-based medical device manufacturer NeuroPace, will be used in about 10 patients age 18-70 who have failed to get their seizures controlled with at least two medications. About 240 patients are expected to enroll nationwide.

Eligible participants must have at least three seizures per month and no more than two seizure foci in the brain. Seizure activity is closely monitored through a diary and monthly doctor visits for three months before patients become eligible.

Participants have a device implanted in the skull, with up to two wires containing electrodes placed near the seizure focus. A modified laptop computer looks at electrical activity picked up by the neurostimulator, then is used to program the device to recognize a patients seizure activity. Physicians can continue to fine-tune the detection and stimulation patterns.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


September 6, 2007, 10:04 PM CT

Higher social skills are distinctly human

Higher social skills are distinctly human
Esther Herrmann and colleagues compared 105 2-year-old human children, 106 chimpanzees and 32 organutans in a comprehensive battery of physical and social cognitive tests. Credit: Image courtesy of MPI EVAN
Apes bite and try to break a tube to retrieve the food inside while children follow the experimenter's example to get inside the tube to retrieve the prize, showing that even before preschool, toddlers are more sophisticated in their social learning skills than their closest primate relatives, as per a report reported in the 7 recent issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

This innate proficiency allows them to excel in both physical and social skills as they begin school and progress through life.

"We compared three species to determine which abilities and skills are distinctly human," explained Esther Herrmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Gera number of and lead author of the research paper. Humans differ from their great ape relatives because human brains are about three times the size of the closest primate relatives and humans have language, symbolic math and scientific reasoning.

"Social cognition skills are critical for learning," Herrmann said. The children were much better than the apes in understanding nonverbal communications, imitating another's solution to a problem and understanding the intentions of others," she said.

This is the first comprehensive test comparing social and physical skills of children, chimpanzees and orangutans, Herrmann explained, adding that the findings provide important insight into the evolution of human cognition.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


September 6, 2007, 10:01 PM CT

Embryonic stem cells used to grow cartilage

Embryonic stem cells used to grow cartilage
Rice University biomedical engineers have developed a new technique for growing cartilage from human embryonic stem cells, a method that could be used to grow replacement cartilage for the surgical repair of knee, jaw, hip, and other joints.

"Because native cartilage is unable to heal itself, scientists have long looked for ways to grow replacement cartilage in the lab that could be used to surgically repair injuries," said lead researcher Kyriacos A. Athanasiou, the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Bioengineering. "This research offers a novel approach for producing cartilage-like cells from embryonic stem cells, and it also presents the first method to use such cells to engineer cartilage tissue with significant functional properties".

The results are available online and slated to appear in the recent issue of the journal Stem Cells. The study involved cells from an NIH-sanctioned stem cell line.

Using a series of stimuli, the scientists developed a method of converting the stem cells into cartilage cells. Building upon this work, the scientists then developed a process for using the cartilage cells to make cartilage tissue. The results show that cartilages can be generated that mimic the different types of cartilage found in the human body, such as hyaline articular cartilage -- the type of cartilage found in all joints -- and fibrocartilage -- a type found in the knee meniscus and the jaw joint. Athanasiou said the results are exciting, as they suggest that similar methods may be used to convert the stem cell-derived cartilage cells into robust cartilage sections that can be of clinical usefulness.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


September 4, 2007, 7:11 PM CT

Halting Lethal Rabies Infection in Brain

Halting Lethal Rabies Infection in Brain
While rabies, an ancient scourge that still kills 70,000 every year in developing countries worldwide can be combated with a series of vaccines today, it nearly is always fatal when it reaches the brain.

But now, immunology scientists at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson have shown how a type of bat rabies infection can be prevented in mice - even after the virus reaches the brain, when it is most lethal. They observed that by opening the central nervous system's (CNS) protective blood-brain barrier, powerful infection fighting substances can swarm in, essentially driving off the invading virus. A better understanding of the process, they say, may lead to improved therapy for late-stage rabies infections in humans.

"The findings indicate that delivering immune system 'effector cells' - T and B cells - to the CNS can reverse an otherwise lethal rabies infection even after the virus has reached the brain," says D. Craig Hooper, Ph.D., associate professor of cancer biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, who led the work. "While that's not a practical way to help infected humans, finding a method to open the blood brain barrier may be crucial to saving a person who is already showing clinical signs of rabies infection, where a vaccine is useless." They report their work in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of Virology.........

Posted by: Mark      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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