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  1. New target for Parkinson’s disease identified Emory investigators have discovered a novel link between a protein called SV2C and Parkinson’s disease (PD). Prior work had suggested that the SV2C gene was associated with the curious ability of cigarette smoking to reduce PD risk. The new research published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) uncovers the connection. The synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2C (SV2C) is part of a family of proteins involved in regulating the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine depletion is a well-known feature of Parkinson’s disease and the research shows that SV2C controls the release of dopamine in the brain. The team generated mice lacking the protein SV2C, which resulted in less dopamine in the brain and reduced movement. The mice had a blunted response to nicotine, the chemical in cigarette smoke thought to protect people from PD. In addition, when brains from patients who had died of PD, Alzheimer’s disease, and several other neurodegenerative diseases were examined they found that SV2C was altered only in the PD brains. “Our research reveals a connection between SV2C and dopamine and suggests that drug therapies aimed at SV2C may be beneficial in PD or other dopamine-related disorders.” says Gary W. Miller, PhD, professor and associate dean for research at the Rollins School of Public Health and senior author of the study. Via
  2. Listen to your emotions

    Listen to your emotions Via
  3. The Problem With For Profit Medicine Then ALL THAT MATTERS IS MONEY! Via
  4. Papantonio: Women Victimized Again With Mirena Contraceptive There are currently 61 million American women in their childbearing years ranging in age from 15 to 44. 62% of these women regularly use a contraceptive method, with 6.4% choosing to use an intra-uterine device or IUD to prevent pregnancy. America’s Lawyer Mike Papantonio talks about pharmaceutical giant Bayer and their huge moneymaker IUD device, Mirena Via
  5. medresearch: New Imaging Technique Aims to Ensure Surgeons Completely Remove Cancer Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, along with collaborators at the California Institute of Technology, have developed photoacoustic imaging, a new method to scan a tumor sample and produce images detailed and accurate enough to be used to check whether a tumor has been completely removed. This could replace the current method of determining whether or not all cancerous tissue has been removed, which takes a day or more. More work is needed before photoacoustic imaging is fast enough to be used during an operation. The research is published in Science Advances. “This is a proof of concept that we can use photoacoustic imaging on breast tissue and get images that look similar to traditional staining methods without any sort of tissue processing,” said Deborah Novack, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, and of pathology and immunology, and a co-senior author on the study. Read more Funding: This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grant number DP1 EB016986 and R01 CA186567, and by Washington University’s Siteman Cancer Center’s 2014 Research Development Award. Raise your voice in support of expanding federal funding for life-saving medical research by joining the AAMC’s advocacy community. Via
  6. bpod-mrc: Wrong Wave Whatever noise you can hear right now is thanks to tiny ‘hairs’ inside your ears, called stereocilia. They sense vibrations caused by sound waves coming into the ear, and send nerve signals into the brain which are then interpreted as speech, song or anything else. Stereocilia are normally arranged in clumps in a regular step-like pattern, short to tall – seen here in the inner ear of a healthy baby mouse (top). But the stereocilia in mice with a fault in a gene called SorCS2 look very different (bottom). Rather than growing in neatly arranged rows, they’re disorganised and chaotic, with longer hairs growing in the middle rather than at the back. As might be expected from such chaos, these animals are profoundly deaf. By studying the role of SorCS2 in the growth and development of stereocilia, scientists hope to find clues explaining why some human babies are born deaf too. Deaf Awareness Week 2017 starts today Written by Kat Arney Image adapted from work by Andrew Forge and colleagues UCL Ear Institute, University College London, London, UK Image originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0) Published in PLOS Genetics, March 2017 You can also follow BPoD on Twitter and Facebook Via
  7. currentsinbiology: Folk contraceptives lead researchers to drugs that block fertilization Two chemicals found in anti-fertility folk medicines block a key step in fertilization—the meeting of egg and sperm—and may make effective alternatives to today’s hormone-based contraceptives, which sometimes cause side effects. The chemicals are effective at low doses that seem to have no adverse effect on egg or sperm, other than to prevent the sperm from pushing through the cells that congregate around the egg and an enveloping membrane called the zona pelucida. They work by stopping sperm’s power kick, which is normally stimulated by the hormone progesterone secreted by cells surrounding the egg and makes the sperm’s tail whip forcefully to propel it toward and into the egg. The chemicals could serve as an emergency contraceptive taken either before or after intercourse, or as a permanent contraceptive via a skin patch or vaginal ring, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Human sperm take about five to six hours to mature once they enter the female reproductive system, which is enough time for the drug to enter the system and block the kick. Also, because the chemicals prevent fertilization, they may be a more acceptable alternative in the eyes of those who object to emergency contraceptives, such as Plan B, that prevent the implantation of a potentially viable fertilized egg. “Because these two plant compounds block fertilization at very, very low concentrations—about 10 times lower than levels of levonorgestrel in Plan B—they could be a new generation of emergency contraceptive we nicknamed ‘molecular condoms,’” said Polina Lishko, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, who led the team that discovered the anti-fertility properties of the two chemicals. “If one can use a plant-derived, non-toxic, non-hormonal compound in lesser concentration to prevent fertilization in the first place, it could potentially be a better option.” Lishko, first author Nadja Mannowetz, a project scientist, and former postdoctoral fellow Melissa Miller will report their findings online May 15 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Hormones surrounding the egg trigger hyperactivation in sperm cells. The whip-like motion of the sperm’s tail provides the power kick it needs to penetrate and fertilize the egg. Credit: UC Berkeley graphic by Carin Cain. Compounds extracted from two plants, thunder god vine and aloe, prevent hyperactivation in sperm, the power kick necessary to fertilize the egg. The compounds are potential emergency contraceptives. Credit: Carin Cain, UC Berkeley Via
  8. neurosciencestuff: Immunotherapy has proven to be effective against many serious diseases. But to treat diseases in the brain, the antibodies must first get past the obstacle of the blood-brain barrier. In a new study, a research group at Uppsala University describes their development of a new antibody design that increases brain uptake of antibodies almost 100-fold. Immunotherapy entails treatment with antibodies; it is the fastest growing field in pharmaceutical development. In recent years, immunotherapy has successfully been used to treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, and the results of clinical studies look very promising for several other diseases. Antibodies are unique in that they can be modified to strongly bind to almost any disease-causing protein. In other words, major potential exists for new antibody-based medicines. The problem with immunotherapy for diseases affecting the brain is that the brain is protected by a very tight layer of cells, called the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier effectively prevents large molecules, such as antibodies, from passing from the bloodstream into the brain. It has therefore been difficult to use immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, which affect the brain, as well as cancerous tumours in the brain. It has been known for a long time that some large proteins are actively transported across the blood-brain barrier. These include a protein called transferrin, whose primary task is to bind to iron in the blood and then transport it to the brain. The research group behind this new study has taken advantage of this process and modified the antibodies they want to transport into the brain using components that bind to the transferrin receptor. Then, like a Trojan horse, the receptor transports antibodies into the brain. The number of modifications to and placement of the antibodies have proven to be important factors for making this process as effective as possible. “We’ve placed them so that each antibody only binds with one modification at a time, despite being modified in two places. Our design thus doubles the chances of the antibody binding to the transferrin receptor compared with only one modification. We’ve successfully increased the amount of antibodies in the brain almost 100-fold, which is the largest uptake improvement that has ever been shown,” says Greta Hultqvist, researcher at the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences at Uppsala University. To try out the new format, researchers have used it on an antibody that binds to a protein involved in the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Without the modification, they could only detect very small quantities of antibody in the brain in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, while they could detect high levels of the modified antibody in the same mice. “From a long-term perspective, it’s likely that the new format can be used to effectively treat not only Alzheimer’s disease, but also other diseases affecting the brain,” says Dag Sehlin, researcher at the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences at Uppsala University. Via
  9. medresearch: How ‘Smart’ Stem Cells Could Lead to Arthritis Vaccine Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL) have modified mouse stem cells to combat the kind of inflammation that arthritis and other conditions cause. The stem cells may one day be used in a vaccine that would fight arthritis and other chronic inflammation conditions in humans, a new paper suggests. The research is available in the journal Stem Cell Reports Such stem cells, known as SMART cells (Stem cells Modified for Autonomous Regenerative Therapy), develop into cartilage cells that produce a biologic anti-inflammatory drug that, ideally, will replace arthritic cartilage and simultaneously protect joints and other tissues from damage that occurs with chronic inflammation. Researchers initially worked with skin cells from the tails of mice and converted those cells into stem cells. Then, using the gene-editing tool CRISPR in cells grown in culture, they removed a key gene in the inflammatory process and replaced it with a gene that releases a biologic drug that combats inflammation. “We want to use our gene-editing technology as a way to deliver targeted therapy in response to localized inflammation in a joint, as opposed to current drug therapies that can interfere with the inflammatory response through the entire body,” says Farshid Guilak, the paper’s senior author, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, and a professor of developmental biology and of biomedical engineering and codirector of Washington University’s Center of Regenerative Medicine. “If this strategy proves to be successful, the engineered cells only would block inflammation when inflammatory signals are released, such as during an arthritic flare in that joint.” Read more Funding: The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health supported this work. The Nancy Taylor Foundation for Chronic Diseases; the Arthritis Foundation; the National Science Foundation; and the Collaborative Research Center of the AO Foundation in Davos, Switzerland, provided additional funding. Raise your voice in support of expanding federal funding for life-saving medical research by joining the AAMC’s advocacy community. Via
  10. npr: As a neonatal intensive care nurse, Lauren Bloomstein had been taking care of other people’s babies for years. Finally, at 33, she was expecting one of her own. The prospect of becoming a mother made her giddy, her husband Larry recalled recently— “the happiest and most alive I’d ever seen her.” Other than some nausea in her first trimester, the pregnancy went smoothly. Lauren was “tired in the beginning, achy in the end,” said Jackie Ennis, her best friend since high school, who talked to her at least once a day. “She gained what she’s supposed to. She looked great, she felt good, she worked as much as she could” — at least three 12-hour shifts a week until late into her ninth month. Larry, a doctor, helped monitor her blood pressure at home, and all was normal. On her days off she got organized, picking out strollers and car seats, stocking up on diapers and onesies. After one last pre-baby vacation to the Caribbean, she and Larry went hunting for their forever home, settling on a brick colonial with black shutters and a big yard in Moorestown, N.J., not far from his new job as an orthopedic trauma surgeon in Camden. Lauren wanted the baby’s gender to be a surprise, so when she set up the nursery she left the walls unpainted — she figured she’d have plenty of time to choose colors later. Despite all she knew about what could go wrong, she seemed untroubled by the normal expectant-mom anxieties. Her only real worry was going into labor prematurely. “You have to stay in there at least until 32 weeks,” she would tell her belly. “I see how the babies do before 32. Just don’t come out too soon.” When she reached 39 weeks and six days — Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 — Larry and Lauren drove to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, the hospital where the two of them had met in 2004 and where she’d spent virtually her entire career. If anyone would watch out for her and her baby, Lauren figured, it would be the doctors and nurses she worked with on a daily basis. She was especially fond of her obstetrician/gynecologist, who had trained as a resident at Monmouth at the same time as Larry. Lauren wasn’t having contractions, but she and the ob/gyn agreed to schedule an induction of labor — he was on call that weekend and would be sure to handle the delivery himself. Inductions often go slowly, and Lauren’s labor stretched well into the next day. Ennis talked to her on the phone several times: “She said she was feeling okay, she was just really uncomfortable.” At one point, Lauren was overcome by a sudden, sharp pain in her back near her kidneys or liver, but the nurses bumped up her epidural and the stabbing stopped. Inductions have been associated with higher cesarean-section rates, but Lauren progressed well enough to deliver vaginally. On Saturday, Oct. 1, at 6:49 p.m., 23 hours after she checked into the hospital, Hailey Anne Bloomstein was born, weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Larry and Lauren’s family had been camped out in the waiting room; now they swarmed into the delivery area to ooh and aah, marveling at how Lauren seemed to glow. Larry floated around on his own cloud of euphoria, phone camera in hand. In one 35-second video, Lauren holds their daughter on her chest, stroking her cheek with a practiced touch. Hailey is bundled in hospital-issued pastels and flannel, unusually alert for a newborn; she studies her mother’s face as if trying to make sense of a mystery that will never be solved. The delivery room staff bustles in the background in the low-key way of people who believe everything has gone exactly as it’s supposed to. Then Lauren looks directly at the camera, her eyes brimming. Twenty hours later, she was dead. Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger Via
  11. neurosciencestuff: Bilingualism may save brain resources as you age New research findings show that bilingual people are great at saving brain power, that is. To do a task, the brain recruits different networks, or the highways on which different types of information flow, depending on the task to be done. The team of Ana Inés Ansaldo, PhD, a researcher at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal and a professor at Université de Montréal, compared what are known as functional brain connections between seniors who are monolingual and seniors who are bilingual. Her team established that years of bilingualism change how the brain carries out tasks that require concentrating on one piece of information without becoming distracted by other information. This makes the brain more efficient and economical with its resources. To arrive at this finding, Dr. Ansaldo’s team asked two groups of seniors (one of monolinguals and one of bilinguals) to perform a task that involved focusing on visual information while ignoring spatial information. The researchers compared the networks between different brain areas as people did the task. They found that monolinguals recruited a larger circuit with multiple connections, whereas bilinguals recruited a smaller circuit that was more appropriate for the required information. These findings were published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics. Two different ways of doing the same task The participants did a task that required them to focus on visual information (the colour of an object) while ignoring spatial information (the position of the object). The research team observed that the monolingual brain allocates a number of regions linked to visual and motor function and interference control, which are located in the frontal lobes. This means that the monolingual brain needs to recruit multiple brain regions to do the task. “After years of daily practice managing interference between two languages, bilinguals become experts at selecting relevant information and ignoring information that can distract from a task. In this case, bilinguals showed higher connectivity between visual processing areas located at the back of the brain. This area is specialized in detecting the visual characteristics of objects and therefore is specialized in the task used in this study. These data indicate that the bilingual brain is more efficient and economical, as it recruits fewer regions and only specialized regions,” explained Dr. Ansaldo. Bilinguals have a double advantage as they age Bilinguals therefore have two cognitive benefits. First, having more centralized and specialized functional connections saves resources compared to the multiple and more diverse brain areas allocated by monolinguals to accomplish the same task. Second, bilinguals achieve the same result by not using the brain’s frontal regions, which are vulnerable to aging. This may explain why the brains of bilinguals are better equipped at staving off the signs of cognitive aging or dementia. “We have observed that bilingualism has a concrete impact on brain function and that this may have a positive impact on cognitive aging. We now need to study how this function translates to daily life, for example, when concentrating on one source of information instead of another, which is something we have to do every day. And we have yet to discover all the benefits of bilingualism,” concluded Dr. Ansaldo. Via
  12. neurosciencestuff: Play an instrument? You probably react faster, too Could learning to play a musical instrument help the elderly react faster and stay alert? Quite likely, according to a new study by Université de Montréal’s School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, part of UdeM’s medical faculty. Published in the U.S. journal Brain and Cognition, the study shows that musicians have faster reaction times to sensory stimuli than non-musicians have. And that has implications for preventing some effects of aging, said lead researcher Simon Landry, whose study is part of his doctoral thesis in biomedical science. “The more we know about the impact of music on really basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals who might have slower reaction times,” Landry said. “As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them.” Click on the mouse, please In his study, co-authored with his thesis advisor, audiology associate professor François Champoux, Landry compared the reaction times of 16 musicians and 19 non-musicians. They were sat in a quiet, well-lit room with one hand on a computer mouse and the index finger of the other on a vibro-tactile device, a small box that vibrated intermittently. They were told to click on the mouse when they heard a sound (a burst of white noise) from the speakers in front of them, or when the box vibrated, or when both happened. Each of the three stimulations – audio, tactile and audio-tactile – was done 180 times. The subjects wore earplugs to mask any buzzing “audio clue” when the box vibrated. “We found significantly faster reaction times with musicians for auditory, tactile and audio-tactile stimulations,” Landry writes in his study. “These results suggest for the first time that long-term musical training reduces simple non-musical auditory, tactile and multisensory reaction times.” Two instruments, not just one The musicians were recruited from UdeM’s music faculty, started playing between ages 3 and 10, and had at least seven years of training. There were eight pianists, 3 violinists, two percussionists, one double bassist, one harpist and one viola player. All but one (a violinist) also mastered a second instrument, or more. The non-musicians were students at the School of Speech Language Pathology. As with the musicians, roughly half were undergraduates and half graduates. Landry, whose research interest is in how sound and touch interact, said his study adds to previous ones that looked at how musicians’ brains process sensory illusions. “The idea is to better understand how playing a musical instrument affects the senses in a way that is not related to music,” he said of his study. Via
  13. currentsinbiology: Eating cheese does not raise risk of heart attack or stroke, study finds Consuming cheese, milk and yoghurt – even full-fat versions – does not increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to research that challenges the widely held belief that dairy products can damage health. The findings, from an international team of experts, contradict the view that dairy products can be harmful because of their high saturated fat content. The experts dismiss that fear as “a misconception [and] mistaken belief”. The results come from a new meta-analysis of 29 previous studies of whether dairy products increase the risk of death from any cause and from either serious heart problems or cardiovascular disease. The study concluded that such foodstuffs did not raise the risk of any of those events and had a “neutral” impact on human health. “This meta-analysis showed there were no associations between total dairy, high- and low-fat dairy, milk and the health outcomes including all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease,” says the report, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology. The study concluded that dairy products had a neutral impact on human health. Photograph: Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley Via
  14. neurosciencestuff: (Image caption: diagram of the research findings (Taken from article’s Table of Contents Image) bFGF is produced in the injured zone of the cerebral cortex. Ror2 expression is induced in some population of the astrocytes that receive the bFGF signal, restarting their proliferation by accelerating the progression of their cell cycle) How brain tissue recovers after injury: the role of astrocytes A research team led by Associate Professor Mitsuharu ENDO and Professor Yasuhiro MINAMI (both from the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, Graduate School of Medicine, Kobe University) has pinpointed the mechanism underlying astrocyte-mediated restoration of brain tissue after an injury. This could lead to new treatments that encourage regeneration by limiting damage to neurons incurred by reduced blood supply or trauma. The findings were published on October 11 in the online version of GLIA. When the brain is damaged by trauma or ischemia (restriction in blood supply), immune cells such as macrophages and lymphocytes dispose of the damaged neurons with an inflammatory response. However, an excessive inflammatory response can also harm healthy neurons. Astrocytes are a type of glial cell*, and the most numerous cell within the human cerebral cortex. In addition to their supportive role in providing nutrients to neurons, studies have shown that they have various other functions, including the direct or active regulation of neuronal activities. It has recently become clear that astrocytes also have an important function in the restoration of injured brain tissue. While astrocytes do not normally proliferate in healthy brains, they start to proliferate and increase their numbers around injured areas and minimize inflammation by surrounding the damaged neurons, other astrocytes, and inflammatory cells that have entered the damaged zone. Until now the mechanism that prompts astrocytes to proliferate in response to injury was unclear. The research team focused on the fact that the astrocytes which proliferate around injured areas acquire characteristics similar to neural stem cells. The receptor tyrosine kinase Ror2, a cell surface protein, is highly expressed in neural stem cells in the developing brain. Normally the Ror2 gene is “switched off” within adult brains, but these findings showed that when the brain was injured, Ror2 was expressed in a certain population of the astrocytes around the injured area. Ror2 is an important cell-surface protein that regulates the proliferation of neural stem cells, so the researchers proposed that Ror2 was regulating the proliferation of astrocytes around the injured areas. They tested this using model mice for which the Ror2 gene did not express in astrocytes. In these mice, the number of proliferating astrocytes after injury showed a remarkable decrease, and the density of astrocytes around the injury site was reduced. Using cultured astrocytes, the team analyzed the mechanism for activating the Ror2 gene, and ascertained that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) can “switch on” Ror2 in some astrocytes. This research showed that in injured brains, the astrocytes that show (high) expression of Ror2 induced by bFGF signal are primarily responsible for starting proliferation. bFGF is produced by different cell types, including neurons and astrocytes in the injury zone that have escaped damage. Among the astrocytes that received these bFGF signals around the injury zone, some express Ror2 and some do not. The fact that proliferating astrocytes after brain injury are reduced during aging raises the possibility that the population of astrocytes that can express Ror2 might decrease during aging, which could cause an increase in senile dementia. Researchers are aiming to clarify the mechanism that creates these different cell populations of astrocytes. By artificially controlling the proliferation of astrocytes, in the future we can potentially minimize damage caused to neurons by brain injuries and establish a new treatment that encourages regeneration of damaged brain areas. *Glial cell: a catch-all term for non-neuronal cells that belong to the nervous system. They support neurons in various roles. Via
  15. bpod-mrc: Metal Detectors Cisplatin – a chemotherapy drug based on the metal platinum – has been used to treat cancers for many years; however, resistance to platinum has become an issue, prompting researchers to look for other metal compounds. Researchers tracked the activity of different compounds based on the metals zinc (top left), osmium (top right) and calcium (bottom) in ovarian cancer cells using x-ray fluorescence. Colours shown represent the compound’s concentration – white being strongest. The team could see that one, called organo-osmium FY26, made its way into and was concentrated in the cell’s energy-producing mitochondria (highlighted in red top right), killing the cell from the inside. Organo-osmium FY26 is fifty times more active and also more selective than cisplatin, making it a promising candidate for a new cancer treatment. Written by Katie Panteli Images from work by Dr. Carlos Sanchez-Cano and colleagues Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK Image copyright held by cloetens@esrf.fr, p.j.sadler@warwick.ac.uk, c.sanchez@warwick.ac.uk Research published in Chemistry – A European Journal, January 2017 You can also follow BPoD on Twitter and Facebook Via