Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Strategies to Protect New Brain Cells Against Alzheimer's Disease

ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2009) — Stimulating the growth of new neurons to replace those lost in Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an intriguing therapeutic possibility. But will the factors that cause AD allow the new neurons to thrive and function normally? Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease (GIND) have discovered that two main causes of AD amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides and apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) impair the growth of new neurons born in adult brains.

What is more, they have identified drug treatments that can normalize the development of these cells even in the presence of Aβ or apoE4. The findings are described in two separate papers published in the current issue of Cell Stem Cell. Although it had long been assumed that neurons cannot be renewed, it is now well established that new neurons are generated throughout the lives of mammals. One brain region in which new neurons are born in adults, the hippocampus, is involved in learning and memory and affected severely by Alzheimer's disease.

For more information, please click on the title above.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Schizophrenia Gene's Role May Be Broader, More Potent, Than Thought

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2009) — UCSF scientists studying nerve cells in fruit flies have uncovered a new function for a gene whose human equivalent may play a critical role in schizophrenia. Scientists have known that the mutated form of the human gene -- one of three consistently associated with schizophrenia -- mildly disrupts the transmission of chemical signals between nerve cells in the brain.

The new study focuses on genes involved in "adaptive plasticity," the capacity of nerve cells to compensate for a wide range of perturbations and continue to function normally.
Studies ranging from fruit flies to human have shown that if a nerve cell is functionally impaired then the surrounding cells can compensate and restore normal cell-to-cell communication. This type of "adaptive plasticity" stabilizes brain function, but the molecules involved remain largely unknown.

For more information, please click on the title above.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Can Cleft Palate Be Healed Before Birth?

ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2009) — In a study newly published in the journal Development, investigators at the USC School of Dentistry describe how to non-surgically reverse the onset of cleft palate in fetal mice -- potentially one step in the journey to a better understanding of similar defects in humans.

Yang Chai, the study's principal investigator and director of the School of Dentistry's Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology, said that cleft palate is one of the most common congenital birth defects in humans and that current surgical treatment for the craniofacial abnormality is often complex and invasive, sometimes stretching over a period of years before the treatment is considered complete. Cleft palate can cause serious complications, including difficulty eating and learning to speak. However, close regulation of important signaling molecules during palate formation may one day allow doctors to reverse a cleft palate before the baby is even born, Chai said.
For more information, please click on the title above.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Educational Home Visits Can Improve Asthma in Children, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Nov. 30, 2009) — A few home visits by a health care specialist to educate children with asthma about basic strategies for earlier symptom recognition and improving medication use can lead to fewer flare-ups and less frequent trips to the ER, according to research from Johns Hopkins Children's Center published in the December issue of Pediatrics. An estimated 6.5 million children in the United States have asthma, which is the leading pediatric chronic illness in this country and disproportionately affects minorities.

"We compared several strategies to improve asthma control among children and, much to our delight, we found that taking a few simple steps can go a long way toward doing so," says senior investigator Kristin Riekert, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at Hopkins and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Adherence Research Center.
For more information, please click on the title above.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good News on Multiple Sclerosis and Pregnancy

ScienceDaily (Nov. 19, 2009) — There is good news for women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. A new study shows that pregnant women with multiple sclerosis are only slightly more likely to have cesarean deliveries and babies with a poor prenatal growth rate than women who do not have MS.

Plus, the women with MS were no more likely to have other pregnancy problems, such as preeclampsia and other high blood pressure problems and premature rupture of membranes, than women in the general population. The study is published in the November 18, 2009, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The large study used a national database from all non-federal short-stay hospitals in 38 states. The data included an estimated 18.8 million deliveries, with about 10,000 of those occurring in women with MS.
For more information, please click on the title above.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Auditory Illusion: How Our Brains Can Fill in the Gaps to Create Continuous Sound

ear clip art
ScienceDaily (Nov. 27, 2009) — It is relatively common for listeners to "hear" sounds that are not really there. In fact, it is the brain's ability to reconstruct fragmented sounds that allows us to successfully carry on a conversation in a noisy room. Now, a new study helps to explain what happens in the brain that allows us to perceive a physically interrupted sound as being continuous. The research, published by Cell Press in the November 25 issue of Neuron provides fascinating insight into the constructive nature of human hearing.

"In our day-to-day lives, sounds we wish to pay attention to may be distorted or masked by background noise, which means that some of the information gets lost. In spite of this, our brains manage to fill in the information gaps, giving us an overall 'image' of the sound," explains senior study author, Dr. Lars Riecke from the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. Dr. Riecke and colleagues were interested in unraveling the neural mechanisms associated with this auditory continuity illusion, where a physically interrupted sound is heard as continuing through background noise.

To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Light Shed on Epilepsy

brain clip art
ScienceDaily (Dec. 1, 2009) — Pioneering research using human brain tissue removed from people suffering from epilepsy has opened the door to new treatments for the disease.

Scientists at Newcastle University have for the first time been able to record spontaneous epileptic activity in brain tissue that has been removed from patients undergoing neurosurgery.

Led by Newcastle University's Dr Mark Cunningham, the research has revealed that a particular type of brain wave pattern associated with epilepsy is caused by electrical connections between nerve cells in the brain -- rather than chemical ones. This means the traditional drugs are useless to them.

To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fear of Anxiety Linked to Depression in Above-Average Worriers

turtle in shell clip art
ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2009) — Anxiety sensitivity, or the fear of feeling anxious, may put people who are already above-average worriers at risk for depression, according to Penn State researchers. Understanding how sensitivity to anxiety is a risk factor for depression may make anxiety sensitivity a potential target for treating depression in the future.

"Anxiety sensitivity has been called a fear of fear," said Andres Viana, graduate student in psychology. "Those with anxiety sensitivity are afraid of their anxiety because their interpretation is that something catastrophic is going to happen when their anxious sensations arise."

Statistical analyses of questionnaire responses showed that anxiety sensitivity, after controlling for worry and generalized anxiety symptoms in above-average worriers, significantly predicted depression symptoms. In addition, two of the four dimensions that make up anxiety sensitivity -- the "fear of cognitive dyscontrol" and the "fear of publically observable anxiety symptoms" specifically predicted depression symptoms. The third and fourth dimensions, the fear of cardiovascular symptoms and the fear of respiratory symptoms, were not significant predictors.

To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Cause for Alzheimer's Disease?

brain clip artScienceDaily (Nov. 27, 2009) — Dr. Carme Espinet and colleagues at the University of Lleida, Lleida, Spain have discovered that a precursor to nerve growth factor (pro-NGF) may play a pathogenic role in Alzheimer's disease. They present these findings in the December 2009 issue of The American Journal of Pathology.

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative, terminal form of dementia that affects over 35 million people world-wide. Oxidative stress, which occurs in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, may modify molecules, resulting in loss or alteration of their function.

To view the entire article. please click on the link above

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Startled Flies May Provide Insight Into ADHD

flies clip art
ScienceDaily (Nov. 26, 2009) — It seems obvious that naturally waking up from sleep and being startled by something in the environment are two very different emotional states. However, the neuroscience that underlies these different forms of arousal has, for the most part, remained a mystery. Now, new research published by Cell Press in the November 25 issue of the journal Neuron demonstrates that there are at least two completely separate and independent forms of arousal in fruit flies. The study answers critical questions about how the nervous system processes arousal and may even shed some light on the neurobiology of human affective disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A state of arousal can be defined as in increase in activity or sensitivity and is central to many behaviors in all sorts of organisms. It has not been fully established whether arousal is a generalized state that can be heightened by specific stimuli or is more multidimensional. Further, although many studies have implicated key neurochemicals in arousal, the specific roles of these neuromodulators are unclear. "Previous studies with the fruit fly, Drosophila, have provided evidence that dopamine plays a role in arousal from sleep, known as endogenous arousal. However, evidence for a role for dopamine in exogenously generated arousal, that which is stimulated by a factor in the environment, is less consistent," explains senior study author Dr. David J. Anderson from the California Institute of Technology.

To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Study points to treatment for Down syndrome

brain clip art
Reuters (Wed Nov 18, 2009) -- CHICAGO (Reuters) - Increasing the levels of a message-carrying chemical in the brain may help prevent some of the memory deficits in Down syndrome that hinder learning and make it hard for the brain to develop normally, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

They said mice with a rodent version of Down syndrome that were injected with drugs to increase levels of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine -- which nerve cells use to communicate -- showed improvements in their thinking ability.

The finding points to a new way of trying to improve some of the deficits seen in Down syndrome, which affects 5,000 newborns in the United States each year.

"If you intervene early enough, you will be able to help kids with Down syndrome to collect and modulate information," said Dr Ahmad Salehi of the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, whose study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Exposure to smoke, lead ups risk of ADHD

cigarette clip art
Reuters (Tue Nov 24, 2009) -- If you need another reason to stop smoking while pregnant, or to rid your home of lead, a new study suggests that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy and who are exposed to the metal have more than twice the usual risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Study co-author Dr. Tanya E. Froehlich, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, told Reuters Health that the lead finding is particularly "surprising," given that the blood lead levels in the study children -- even those in the top third of the sample - were, on average, about a tenth of the threshold for harmful effects set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "These are not high levels of lead exposure; they are historically what we would consider to be low levels," Froehlich said. In a study of almost 2,600 children aged 8 to 15, Froehlich found that the rate of ADHD in the whole group was about 9 percent (222 children). The rate of ADHD was about 17 percent in kids whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, and about 14 percent in kids who had blood lead levels in the top third. Almost 30 percent of kids who had both exposures had ADHD. Although the study was not designed to prove that smoking and lead actually caused ADHD, the take home messages are still clear, Froehlich said: "Moms should make every effort to stop smoking before they become pregnant."

By Megan Brooks NEW YORK (Reuters Health)

To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

UI student's wheelchair features rolling, with changes

photo of inentor with wheelchair
University of Illinois mechanical engineering graduate student Scott Daigle shows the first prototype of a wheelchair he is building that features a continuously variable transmission on each wheel designed to maximize a user's shoulder function. By Heather Coit

The News-Gazette (Monday, November 30, 2009) --
URBANA – If gear shifting is good for motorists and bicyclists, why not for wheelchair users?

That's what Scott Daigle wondered as he watched people propel themselves around the University of Illinois campus in wheelchairs.

"They were going about as fast as they could. Their arms were the only things limiting them," said Daigle, a first-year graduate student in mechanical engineering.

Adding gear shifting to the wheelchair could help them get around more efficiently, he figured. So he set about designing improvements and came up with a continuous variable transmission.

There are already wheelchairs with gears, but Daigle's concept is distinct.

"The way mine is different is, it automatically senses your conditions, so if you're going quickly, it will shift to a higher gear, or if you're going up a hill, it will shift to a lower gear. The user doesn't even think about it," he said.

By Don Dodson

To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Is Gene-Therapy Medical Treatment Ready for Prime Time?

genes clip artTime (Nov 28, 2009) -- At first it sounded like science fiction, curing genetic diseases by giving people new genes. Then it seemed like simple fiction: while theoretically possible, gene therapy appeared unlikely to become a true therapeutic option, the field having suffered years of complications and high-profile setbacks. But over the past year, a series of small but intriguing advances has suggested that the technique may hold real future potential.

In September, researchers at the University of Washington reported in the journal Nature that they had produced color vision in squirrel monkeys, which are normally born colorblind. Using a tiny syringe, researchers injected the single missing gene for color vision into the monkeys' eyes. The result was clear: monkeys that previously could not distinguish red, green and gray were easily able to pass a simian equivalent of a color-detection test. (See the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2008.)

Another study published in the Lancet in October found that gene therapy had restored partial vision to five children and seven adults with a congenital eye disease that causes blindness. And a paper published earlier this month in Science reported the successful treatment of two children with ALD, or adrenoleukodystrophy - a neurological disorder that leads to progressive brain damage and death in two to five years.


To view the entire article. please click on the link above.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Autism treatment works in kids as young as 18 mos.

party with children clip artAP Associated Press (Nov 30 2009) -- CHICAGO— The first rigorous study of behavior treatment in autistic children as young as 18 months found two years of therapy can vastly improve symptoms, often resulting in a milder diagnosis.

The study was small _ just 48 children evaluated at the University of Washington _ but the results were so encouraging it has been expanded to several other sites, said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks. Dawson, a former University of Washington professor, led the research team.

Early autism treatment has been getting more attention, but it remains controversial because there's scant rigorous evidence showing it really works. The study is thus "a landmark of great import," said Tony Charman, an autism education specialist at the Institute of Education in London.

There's also a growing emphasis on diagnosing autism at the earliest possible age, and the study shows that can pay off with early, effective treatment, said Laura Schreibman, an autism researcher at the University of California at San Diego.

By LINDSEY TANNER - AP Medical Writer

To view the entire article, please click on the link above.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Polyphenols and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Boost the Birth of New Neurons, Study Finds

produce clip artScienceDaily (Nov. 30, 2009) — Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) researchers have confirmed that a diet rich in polyphenols and polyunsaturated fatty acids, patented as an LMN diet, helps boost the production of the brain's stem cells -neurogenesis- and strengthens their differentiation in different types of neuron cells.

The research revealed that mice fed an LMN diet, when compared to those fed a control diet, have more cell proliferation in the two areas of the brain where neurogenesis is produced, the olfactory bulb and the hippocampus, both of which are greatly damaged in patients with Alzheimer's disease. These results give support to the hypothesis that a diet made up of foods rich in these antioxidant substances could delay the onset of this disease or even slow down its evolution.

To view the entire article, please click on the link above.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Discovery of New Function of Prion Protein Improves Understanding of Epilepsy

microscope clip art
ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2009) — Cellular prion protein (PrPc) plays an essential role in maintaining neurotransmitter homeostasis in the central nervous system. This discovery has been made possible by the observation that both a deficiency and an excess of the protein have a considerable effect on this homeostasis. Surprisingly, in both cases, the central nervous excitability threshold is altered to such an extent that an epileptic seizure may result. Thanks to this discovery, we now have more tools at our disposal that can help us to deepen our basic understanding of epilepsy.

The discovery, carried out by researchers of the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the University of Barcelona (UB), led by José Antonio Del Río, with the collaboration of researchers at Pablo de Olavide University and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture Technology Research, was presented in a study published in PLoS ONE.

To view the entire article, please click on the link above.