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Scientists Create a 3-D Model That Mimics Brain Function

For the first time, bioengineers have produced a kind of rudimentary “brain in a dish.” The 3-D model could eventually lead to new ways of studying disease, injury, and treatment.

The research, led by David Kaplan, the chairman of the bioengineering department at Tufts University, and published Monday in the journal PNAS, is the latest example of biomedical engineering being used to make realistic models of organs such as the heart, lungs and liver.

Brain models have been mostly two-dimensional or made with a three-dimensional gel, said Rosemarie Hunziker, program director of tissue engineering and biomaterial at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which funded Dr. Kaplan’s research.

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Columbia University Medical Center researchers have identified the immune cells responsible for destroying hair follicles in people with alopecia areata and restored hair growth with an FDA-approved drug.

Watch the video story here: http://bit.ly/1BgykcI

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Funding: This work was supported in part by USPHS NIH/NIAMS

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Model to predict COPD hospital readmission developed

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have identified predictors of early rehospitalization among patients hospitalized for complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This study was recently published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

In a nationwide analysis of more than 8,000 commercially insured adult patients with COPD, UTMB researchers concluded that several modifiable factors, such as appropriate prescriptions upon discharge and early follow up after discharge from the hospital, were associated with lower likelihood of early readmission.

Funding: This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and a University of Texas System Information Technology grant.

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CWRU, UH researchers’ discovery behind first approved stool DNA colorectal cancer screening test

The Food and Drug Administration this week approved the first stool-based colorectal screening test approved for the detection of colorectal cancer and precancerous growths that can be used in the privacy of one’s home. The technology used to create the test emerged more than a decade ago from labs at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University.

Those who would rather avoid having a colonoscopy now have the option of Cologuard, a noninvasive test that detects the presence of red blood cells and DNA mutations that may indicate the presence of certain kinds of abnormal growths.

People can order the test through their physician or other health care provider, who can have the test sent directly to patients’ homes. The time frame for sending the tests is still being determined, said a spokeswoman for Exact Sciences, which makes the test.

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Funding: Since 2011, UH has enrolled 450 patients in a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of sDNA compared with colonoscopy. Patients are given both. It’s one of several studies of the GI SPORE (Specialized Program of Research and Excellence)- GI Cancers Research Center at CWRU, created with a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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Newly discovered heart molecule could lead to effective treatment for heart failure

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown cardiac molecule that could provide a key to treating, and preventing, heart failure.

The newly discovered molecule provides the heart with a tool to block a protein that orchestrates genetic disruptions when the heart is subjected to stress, such as high blood pressure.

When the research team, led by Ching-Pin Chang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, restored levels of the newly discovered molecule in mice experiencing heart failure, the progression to heart failure was stopped. The research was published in the online edition of the journal Nature.

The newly discovered molecule is known as a long non-coding RNA. RNA’s usual role is to carry instructions — the code — from the DNA in a cell’s nucleus to the machinery in the cell that produces proteins necessary for cell activities. In recent years, scientists have discovered several types of RNA that are not involved in protein coding but act on their own. The role in the heart of long non-coding RNA has been unknown.

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Funding: The research was supported by the American Heart Association; the National Institutes of Health; et. al

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Researchers uncover cancer-causing mechanism behind powerful human oncogene

A protein present at high levels in more than half of all human cancers drives cell growth by blocking the expression of just a handful of genes involved in DNA packaging and cell death, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The researchers found that the protein, called Myc, works through a tiny regulatory molecule called a microRNA to suppress the genes’ expression. It marks the first time that a subset of Myc-controlled genes has been identified as critical players in the protein’s cancer-causing function, and suggests new therapeutic targets for Myc-dependent cancers.

Funding: The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants R01CA170378, U54CA149145, 1F32CA177139 and 5T32A107290), the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

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@ummedschool scientists at the forefront of developing vaccine for #Ebola virus

As the number of lives taken by the Ebola virus in West Africa quickly approaches 1,000, and the U.S. prepares as rapidly as it can, it is clear that little is known in the medical community about the virus. In fact, some experts point out that the number of medical professionals who can properly diagnose and recommend the next steps for treatment is alarmingly small.

Some scientists, however, like Alan Schmaljohn, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), have spent decades studying the Ebola virus and similar viruses identifying key characteristics that have aided in the development of vaccines, antivirals and treatment methods.

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Funding: The UM SOM has been an international leader in both vaccine development and study of infectious disease for many years with longstanding support from NIH and other federal agencies.

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Patti Neighmond - A Coping Plan Can Help Fend Off Depression From Vision Loss
  • Song A Coping Plan Can Help Fend Off Depression From Vision Loss
  • Artist Patti Neighmond
  • Album National Public Radio (NPR)
  • Plays 158

As we age, we can’t see things like we used to. For some, a stronger eyeglass prescription does the trick, but for the more than two million people over the age of 50 suffering from age-related macular degeneration, glasses are not enough.

Dr. Barry W. Rovner, a geriatric psychiatrist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, recently spoke with National Public Radio about occupational therapy treatment for patients suffering from depression related to macular degeneration.

“If you can see somebody’s face, you feel disengaged and frightened because you don’t know how other people perceive you and you can’t perceive other people, and so the consequence is that many people withdraw,” said Dr. Rovner.

Dr. Rovner’s innovative approach reduced clinical depression in patients by about 60 percent, causing improved quality of life and lower healthcare costs.

You can listen to the full story here.

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An unusual patient is helping scientists study diabetes.

In a recently published paper, Stanford researchers report a new way to use fruit flies to sort through the complicated genetics of Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, once known as adult-onset diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes and affects millions of Americans. The condition is partly genetic, and past studies have uncovered many possible risk genes associated with the disease.

"Moving forward, Kim will use his fruit fly system to study the many human genes associated with Type 2 diabetes. His experiments will help researchers prioritize which genes to focus on in more challenging experimental systems — such as mouse and human cells — to ultimately develop new approaches to treating diabetes."

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Pinpointing Genes that Protect Against Frailty

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have been awarded a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the role of genetics in protecting against frailty. The study will be led by Nir Barzilai, M.D., director of the Institute for Aging Research and the Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert Chair in Aging Research at Einstein and attending physician, medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, and Joe Verghese, M.B.B.S., the Murray D. Gross Memorial Faculty Scholar in Gerontology at Einstein, chief of geriatrics at Einstein and Montefiore and director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain.

“People who are frail are more vulnerable to serious complications from falls or surgery and more susceptible to infection,” said Dr. Verghese. “Understanding why some elderly people do not experience a loss of balance or strength and do not suffer from abnormal gait may help us prevent and treat such physical decline.”

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Funding: The five-year grant, “Role of exceptional longevity genotypes in protection against frailty in aging” (R01AG044829), was awarded by the National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH.

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Preemies’ gut bacteria may depend more on gestational age than environment​

Scientists believe babies are born with digestive systems containing few or no bacteria. Their guts then quickly become colonized by microbes — good and bad — as they nurse or take bottles, receive medication and even as they are passed from one adoring relative to another.

However, in infants born prematurely, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the population of bacteria in babies’ gastrointestinal tracts may depend more on their biological makeup and gestational age at birth than on environmental factors. The scientists discovered that bacterial communities assemble in an orderly, choreographed progression, with the pace of that assembly slowest in infants born most prematurely.

Funding: This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant numbers UH3AI083265, U54HG004968 and P30DK052574 (Biobank Core); the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of the NIH; the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, of the NIH, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

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New procedure may save babies with holes in their hearts

A new technique for repairing the most common cardiac birth defect in newborns, commonly referred to as “a hole in the heart,” has been used successfully to mend the condition in six premature infants without subjecting the tiny patients to open-heart surgery. Evan Zahn, MD, explains. http://ow.ly/A5aqo

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Studies show importance of cholesterol screening in children

For most parents, a cholesterol screening is not likely to be on the list of tests needed during their child’s annual well check. But research is showing that conducting this simple test on children can identify silent risk factors for heart disease and help prevent the early onset of the world’s number one killer.

High cholesterol is a condition that most people associate with middle age or later stages of life; few people realize that the precursors of adult heart disease can develop during early childhood and slowly grow over time. For some, the seeds of heart disease are present from birth. Those who have a family history of early heart attacks or heart disease may have a lipid disorder called Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic disease associated with an over production or inability to clear the “bad cholesterol” from the blood.

“FH is one of the most common inherited diseases, with a greater occurrence than all other congenital defects that newborns are routinely screened for,” said Sean T. Gregory, Ph.D., who has a joint appointment as an assistant professor with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health and the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

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Could a blood test predict suicide risk?

"Clues to whether a person is at risk for suicide could lie in a simple blood test, a new study suggests. Chemical changes to a gene involved in the brain’s response to stress hormones may help spur suicidal thoughts and behaviors, the study’s authors explained. Spotting those changes in a blood sample might help alert doctors to a patient’s risk for suicide, they said.

"Suicide is a major preventable public health problem, but we have been stymied in our prevention efforts because we have no consistent way to predict those who are at increased risk of killing themselves," study lead researcher Zachary Kaminsky, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.”

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Protein that plays role in muscle formation identified

Alternative splicing (the process during gene expression that generates multiple proteins from a single gene) plays an important role in many developmental processes. In muscle formation, it has been known that this process occurs in multiple genes when muscle cells called myoblasts fuse to become fibers called myotubes; however, not much is known about the mechanisms that coordinate this process. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have now identified a protein Rbfox2 that regulates alternative splicing during this step.

Funding: Funding for the study came from: the American Heart Association (12POST11770017, 11SDG4980011); the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation; the Ford Foundation; Baylor Research Advocates for Student Scientists (BRASS); the National Institutes of Health (R01HG007538, R01HL045565, R01AR060733, R01AR045653); and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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