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April 15, 2009, 5:14 AM CT

Is that chemotherapy working?

Is that chemotherapy working?
Oncologists often have to wait months before they can determine whether a therapy is working. Now, using a non-invasive method, scientists at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have shown that they can determine after a single cycle of chemotherapy whether the toxic drugs are killing the cancer or not.

Using a combination Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) scanner, scientists monitored 50 patients undergoing therapy for high-grade soft tissue sarcomas. The patients were receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy therapys to shrink their tumors previous to surgery. The study observed that response could be determined about a week after the first dose of chemotherapy drugs. Typically, patients are scanned at about three months into chemotherapy to determine whether the therapy is working.

"The question was, how early could we pick up a response? We wanted to see if we could determine response after a single administration of chemotherapy," said Dr. Fritz Eilber, an assistant professor of surgical oncology, director of the Sarcoma Program at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and senior author of the study. "There's no point in giving a patient a therapy that isn't working. These therapys make patients very sick and have long-term serious side effects. ".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


April 13, 2009, 12:50 AM CT

DNA Sensors That Could Identify Cancer

DNA Sensors That Could Identify Cancer
Kansas State University engineers think the possibilities are deep for a very thin material.

Vikas Berry, assistant professor of chemical engineering, is leading research combining biological materials with graphene, a recently developed carbon material that is only a single atom thick.

"The biological interfacing of graphene is taking this material to the next level," Berry said. "Discovered only four years ago, this material has already shown a large number of capabilities. K-Staters are the first to do bio-integrated research with graphene".

To study graphene, scientists rely on an atomic force microscope to help them observe and manipulate these single atom thick carbon sheets.

"It's a fascinating material to work with," Berry said. "The most significant feature of graphene is that the electrons can travel without interruptions at speeds close to that of light at room temperature. Commonly you have to go near zero Kelvin -- that's about 450 degrees below zero Fahrenheit -- to get electrons to move at ultra high speeds".

One of Berry's developments is a graphene-based DNA sensor. When electrons flow on the graphene, they change speed if they encounter DNA. The scientists notice this change by measuring the electrical conductivity. The work was published in Nano-Letters.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


April 13, 2009, 12:41 AM CT

Ideal Neural Cells for Clinical Use

Ideal Neural Cells for Clinical Use
Investigators at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) have developed a protocol to rapidly differentiate human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into neural progenitor cells that appears to be ideal for transplantation. This research, which was conducted by Alexei Terskikh, Ph.D., and his colleagues, outlines a method to create these committed neural precursor cells (C-NPCs) that is replicable, does not produce mutations in the cells and could be useful for clinical applications. The research was published on March 13 in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation.

When the C-NPCs created using the Terskikh protocol were transplanted into mice, they became active neurons and integrated into the cortex and olfactory bulb. The transplanted cells did not generate tumor outgrowth.

"The uniform conversion of embryonic stem cells into neural progenitors is the first step in the development of cell-based therapies for neurodegenerative disorders or spinal injuries," said Dr. Terskikh. "A number of of the methods used to generate neural precursor cells for research in the lab would never work in therapeutic applications. This protocol is very well suited for clinical application because it is robust, controllable and reproducible."

Dr. Terskikh notes that the extensive passaging (moving cells from plate to plate) mandatory by some protocols to expand the numbers of neural precursor cells limits the plasticity of the cells, can introduce mutations and may lead to the expression of oncogenes. The Terskikh protocol avoids this by using efficient conversion of hESCs into primary neuroepithelial cells without the extensive passaging.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


April 2, 2009, 5:15 AM CT

How to improve the working memory?

How to improve the working memory?
Psychology experts and neurologists invest considerable effort in the study of working memory. In terms of information retention, there is a difference between long-term memory, which is affected in diseases such as Alzheimer, and short-term or working memory, which allows us to make immediate decisions or structure a discourse. This more ephemeral memory is affected in diseases such as schizophrenia and depression, eventhough a cause-effect relationship has not been established. People with a higher working-memory capacity score higher on intelligence tests and, for this reason, it is thought that it appears to be intimately associated with people's cognitive ability. A study by IDIBAPS uses computational systems neurobiology models and functional magnetic resonance imaging scans to show that there are two parts of the cerebral cortex with highly differentiated roles implicated in this type of memory. The results of the study were reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), in an article headed by Dr. Albert Compte of the Systems Neuroscience team of the Institut d'Investigacions Biomdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS), and with Fredrik Edin as the first author. This study was carried out in collaboration with two other laboratories of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, led by professors Torkel Klingberg and Jesper Tegnr.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


April 2, 2009, 4:56 AM CT

Autism stress hormone level Link

Autism stress hormone level Link
Some of the symptoms of the autistic condition Asperger Syndrome, such as a need for routine and resistance to change, could be associated with levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggests new research led by the University of Bath.

Normally, people have a surge of this hormone shortly after waking, with levels gradually decreasing throughout the day. It is thought this surge makes the brain alert, preparing the body for the day and helping the person to be aware of changes happening around them.

However, a study led by Dr Mark Brosnan and Dr Julie Turner-Cobb from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, and Dr David Jessop from the University of Bristol, has observed that children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) do not experience this surge.

The scientists believe these findings may help to explain why individuals with this condition have difficulties with minor changes to their routine or changes in their environment.

The study has been reported in the peer-evaluated journal Psychoneuroendocrinology

Dr Brosnan explained: "Cortisol is one of a family of stress hormones that acts like a 'red alert' that is triggered by stressful situations allowing a person to react quickly to changes around them.

"In most people, there is a two hundred percent increase in levels of this hormone within 30 minutes of waking up, with levels gradually declining during the day as part of the internal body clock.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 31, 2009, 3:43 PM CT

The limitations of working memory

The limitations of working memory
Scientists at Karolinska Institutet (KI) have constructed a mathematical activity model of the brain´s frontal and parietal parts, to increase the understanding of the capacity of the working memory and of how the billions of neurons in the brain interact. One of the findings they have made with this "model brain" is a mechanism in the brain´s neuronal network that restricts the number of items we can normally store in our working memories at any one time to around two to seven.

Working memory, which is our ability to retain and process information over short periods of time, is essential to most cognitive processes, such as thinking, language and planning. It has long been known that the working memory is subject to limitations, as we can only manage to "juggle" a certain number of mnemonic items at any one time. Functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) has revealed that the frontal and parietal lobes are activated when a sequence of two pictures is to be retained briefly in visual working memory. However, just how the nerve cells work together to handle this task has remained a mystery.

The study, which is reported in the journal PNAS, is based on a multidisciplinary project co-run by two research teams at KI led by professors Torkel Klingberg and Jesper Tegner. Most of the work was conducted by doctors Fredrik Edin and Albert Compte, the latter of whom is currently principal investigator of the theoretical neurobiology group at IDIBAPS in Barcelona.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 26, 2009, 9:56 PM CT

Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease

Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease
This animal, whose giant axon (nerve cell) is visible to the naked eye, has long been used for neuroscience research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

Credit: Roger Hanlon



IMAGE:


Tiny, toxic protein particles severely disrupt neurotransmission and inhibit delivery of key proteins in Alzheimer's disease, two separate studies by Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) scientists have found.

The particles are minute clumps of amyloid beta, which has long been known to accumulate and form plaques in the brain of Alzheimer's patients.

"These small particles that haven't aggregated into plaquesthese are increasingly being seen as the really toxic species of amyloid beta," says Scott Brady of University of Illinois College of Medicine, who has been an MBL investigator since 1982.

Brady and colleagues observed that these particles inhibit neurons from communicating with each other and with other target cells in the body.

"The disease symptoms for Alzheimer's are associated not with the death of the neurons that is a very late event but with the loss of functional connections. It's when the neuron is no longer talking to its targets that you start to get the memory deficits and dementia linked to the disease," Brady says.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 19, 2009, 5:10 AM CT

How Brain Remembers Single Events

How Brain Remembers Single Events
Single events account for a number of of our most vivid memories - a marriage proposal, a wedding toast, a baby's birth. Until a recent UC Irvine discovery, however, researchers knew little about what happens inside the brain that allows you to remember such events.

In a study with rats, neuroscientist John Guzowski and his colleagues observed that a single brief experience was as effective at activating neurons and genes linked to memory as more repetitive activities.

Knowing how the brain remembers one-time events can help researchers design better therapies for diseases such as Alzheimer's in which the ability to form such memories is impaired.

"Most experiences in life are encounters defined by places, people, things and times. They are specific, and they happen once," says Guzowski, UCI neurobiology and behavior assistant professor. "This type of memory is what makes each person unique".

It is well known that a brain structure called the hippocampus is critical to memory and learning, but a number of questions exist about how brief experiences trigger the physical changes necessary for memory. In his study, Guzowski set out to learn how neurons in the hippocampus react to single events - especially in the CA3 region, which is believed to be most critical for single-event memory.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 18, 2009, 5:11 AM CT

Cloning major sperm-binding proteins

Cloning major sperm-binding proteins
New treatments for infertility could be closer to reality, thanks to a discovery from scientists at the University of Montreal and Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Center. According to a study published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, the researchers have become the first to clone, produce and purify a protein important for sperm maturation, termed Binder of Sperm, which may have implications for both fertility treatments and new methods of male contraception

Credit: University of Montreal and Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Research Center

Dr. Manjunath and his colleagues have tried to isolate human BSPs for more than 10 years. In most mammals, these proteins are typically produced by the seminal vesicles and added to sperm at ejaculation. Yet this is not the case for humans, primates and rodents. As per Dr.Manjunath and his team, these species produce small amounts of BSPs only in the epididymis, a duct that connects the testes to the urethra.

"For a few years, we were looking in the wrong place," says Dr. Manjunath. "In addition, the minute quantities of BSP produced in humans has made it impossible to isolate and characterize".



Cloning leads to purification


Dr. Manjunath and his team went back to the basics. Using molecular biology technique they cloned the gene (DNA) that encodes human BSP. Through cloning, they were able to produce and purify this protein.

"After considerable troubleshooting, we were able to produce functional human BSP. Our next steps are to confirm its biological role in human fertility," says Dr. Manjunath.



Role of BSPs in other animals


Following ejaculation, sperm undergo a complex series of modifications inside the female reproductive tract. The changes sperm undergo during this process include redistribution of surface proteins, loss of sperm membrane lipids and increased sperm movement. A family of sperm-binding proteins (BSPs) secreted by the seminal vesicles has been shown to be essential for sperm maturation in female reproductive tracts of cows, sheep, pigs and other hoofed animals.........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


March 12, 2009, 9:52 PM CT

New way to explore DNA

New way to explore DNA
A team that includes scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found a new way of detecting functional regions in the human genome. The novel approach involves looking at the three-dimensional shape of the genome's DNA and not just reading the sequence of the four-letter alphabet of its DNA bases.

In a paper reported in the early online edition of Science, a team led by Elliott Margulies, Ph.D., of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), and Thomas Tullius, Ph.D., of Boston University, describes an innovative approach for detecting functional genomic regions. By combining chemical and computer analyses, the scientists survey the landscape, or topography, of DNA structure for areas likely to play a key role in biological function.

The method involves identifying all of the grooves, bumps and turns of the DNA that makes up the human genome and then comparing those structural features to those seen in the genomes of other animal species. Structural features that have been preserved across a number of species are likely to play important roles in how the human body functions, while those that have changed over the course of evolution may play a less central role or no role at all.

"This new approach is an exciting advance that will speed our efforts to identify functional elements in the genome, which is a main challenges facing genomic scientists today," said NHGRI Scientific Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. "Coupled with continued innovations in DNA sequencing, this topography-informed approach will expand our ongoing efforts to use genomic information to improve human health."........

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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