COMPARATIVE EFFECTIVENESS RESEARCH: Promoting physical activity with virtual health advisers among Latino populations.

The use of virtual health advisers may be an effective and cost-efficient way to increase levels of physical activity and promote healthy living among Latino adults.

Stanford University research partially funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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A UW-Madison research team received a five-year, $16 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to discover drugs from bugs, marine life and other species.

“We’re finding compounds that have never been described before,” said Andes, chief of infectious diseases at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “We’ve only scratched the surface.”


Photo by John Hart (State Journal): Laura Muller, a researcher in the lab of UW-Madison bacteriologist Cameron Currie, views a petri dish containing ants. Currie and other researchers on campus have received a $16 million federal grant to look for potential new antibiotics in bacteria that associate with ants, beetles, bees and other species.

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historyatnih:

He won the Nobel Prize in 1970, discovered the analgesic properties of acetaminophens like Tylenol, and spurred the development of the first anti-depressants.  And Dr. Julius Axelrod used this “National” model 1767 slide rule to simplify his calculations.  Far from being a glorified ruler, this slide rule, produced by Dietzgen Co. 1955-1959, was used by Axelrod to analyze the data from his seminal experiments on neurotransmitter re-uptake.  Before electronic calculators became available in the early 1970s, scientists used slide rules to accurately calculate logarithms, square roots, and trigonometric and exponential functions.

Axelrod enjoyed a long and productive career in neurological research at NIMH.  He worked at the NIH while earning his PhD at George Washington University, studying the tissue distribution and metabolism of caffeine, amphetamines, LSD, and narcotic drugs.  After becoming a principal investigator, he discovered that the physical effects of the pineal gland are due to its production of melatonin.  His most famous breakthrough, the discovery of the regulation of brain chemistry through neurotransmitter re-uptake, won him a Nobel Prize in 1970 and paved the way for the development of modern antidepressant drugs.

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Neuroscientists Find Brain Activity May Mark the Beginning of Memories

By tracking brain activity when an animal stops to look around its environment, neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins University believe they can mark the birth of a memory.

Using lab rats on a circular track, James Knierim, professor of neuroscience in the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute at Johns Hopkins, and a team of brain scientists, noticed that the rats frequently paused to inspect their environment with head movements as they ran. The scientists found that this behavior activated a place cell in their brain, which helps the animal construct a cognitive map, a pattern of activity in the brain that reflects the animal’s internal representation of its environment.

In a paper recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the researchers state that when the rodents passed that same area of the track seconds later, place cells fired again, a neural acknowledgement that the moment has imprinted itself in the brain’s cognitive map in the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is the brain’s warehouse for long- and short-term processing of episodic memories, such as memories of a specific experience like a trip to Maine or a recent dinner. What no one knew was what happens in the hippocampus the moment an experience imprints itself as a memory.

“This is like seeing the brain form memory traces in real time,” said Knierim, senior author of the research. “Seeing for the first time the brain creating a spatial firing field tied to a specific behavioral experience suggests that the map can be updated rapidly and robustly to lay down a memory of that experience.”

A place cell is a type of neuron within the hippocampus that becomes active when an animal or human enters a particular place in its environment. The activation of the cells help create a spatial framework much like a map, that allows humans and animals to know where they are in any given location. Place cells can also act like neural flags that “mark” an experience on the map, like a pin that you drop on Google maps to mark the location of a restaurant.

“We believe that the spatial coordinates of the map are delivered to the hippocampus by one brain pathway, and the information about the things that populate the map, like the restaurant, are delivered by a separate pathway,” said Knierim. “When you experience a new item in the environment, the hippocampus combines these inputs to create a new spatial marker of that experience.”

In the experiments, researchers placed tiny wires in the brains of the rats to monitor when and where brain activity increased as they moved along the track in search of chocolate rewards. About every seven seconds, the rats stopped moving forward and turned their heads to the perimeter of the room as they investigated the different landmarks, a behavior called “head-scanning.”

“We found that many cells that were previously silent would suddenly start firing during a specific head-scanning event,” said Knierim. “On the very next lap around the track, many of these cells had a brand new place field at that exact same location and this place field remained usually for the rest of the laps. We believe that this new place field marks the site of the head scan and allows the brain to form a memory of what it was that the rat experienced during the head scan.”

Knierim said the formation and stability of place fields and the newly-activated place cells requires further study. The research is primarily intended to understand how memories are formed and retrieved under normal circumstances, but it could be applicable to learning more about people with brain trauma or hippocampal damage due to aging or Alzheimer’s.

“There are strong indications that humans and rats share the same spatial mapping functions of the hippocampus, and that these maps are intimately related to how we organize and store our memories of prior life events,” said Knierim. “Since the hippocampus and surrounding brain areas are the first parts of the brain affected in Alzheimer’s, we think that these studies may lend some insight into the severe memory loss that characterizes the early stages of this disease.”

(Image: Shutterstock)

This research was supported by NIH grants R01 MH094146, R01 NS039456 and P01 NS038310.

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Startup may transform joint replacement surgery

OMAHA, Neb. – About 15 years ago, Hani Haider, Ph.D., had an idea.

Dr. Haider, a mechanical and biomedical engineer and professor of orthopedic surgery research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, his laboratory team and a team of UNMC orthopedic surgeons thought hip and knee replacement surgeries could be better.

The problem: A successful joint replacement requires a talented surgeon with a mastery of skills gained through countless hours of experience and repetition. Success also requires a complement of specialized nurses, staff and very costly and cumbersome mechanical implant alignment instruments.

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New Tool Pinpoints Genetic Sources Of Disease

Scientists have shown a connection between the “map” of genes in the genome and the “map” of reversible chemical changes to DNA, the epigenome.  Their finding could help disease trackers find patterns in those overlays that could offer clues to the causes of and possible treatments for complex genetic conditions.

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The 2014 AAMC Health Equity Research Snapshot is a collection of videos highlighting seven new research projects underway at AAMC-member institutions which are focused on identifying solutions to systematic and avoidable inequities in health and health care. These efforts demonstrate how research at every stage—from basic discovery to community-based participatory research—can contribute to closing or narrowing gaps in heath and health care.

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Spinal stimulation helps 4 men with paraplegia regain voluntary movement

Four men with paraplegia are able to voluntarily move previously paralyzed muscles as a result of a novel therapy that involves electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, according to a new study.

The participants, each of whom had been paralyzed for more than two years, were able to voluntarily flex their toes, ankles, and knees while the stimulator was active, and the movements were enhanced over time when combined with physical rehabilitation. Researchers involved in the study say the therapy has the potential to change the prognosis of people with paralysis even years after injury.

"What was astounding about him was that not only was there voluntary movement, but we saw it in the first week of stimulation. We then saw it in the next two patients as well," said Susan Harkema, Ph.D., the director of rehabilitation research at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University of Louisville, and a researcher in the study.

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Source: NIH/National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering


Photo: Kent Stephenson, the second person to undergo epidural stimulation of the spinal cord, voluntarily raises his leg while stimulated at the Human Locomotion Research Center laboratory, a part of the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, Frazier Rehab Institute, Louisville, Kentucky.

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COMMUNITY-BASED TRANSLATION RESEARCH: Sharing genetic information with African American patients to prevent kidney disease

Sharing genetic information with patients and their providers may allow African Americans with a particular gene variant to better focus on the management of their high blood pressure to avoid related kidney disease.

This Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai research is partially funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Johns Hopkins researchers say they have confirmed suspicions that DNA modifications found in the blood of mice exposed to high levels of stress hormone — and showing signs of anxiety — are directly related to changes found in their brain tissues.

The proof-of-concept study, reported online ahead of print in the June issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology, offers what the research team calls the first evidence that epigenetic changes that alter the way genes function without changing their underlying DNA sequence — and are detectable in blood — mirror alterations in brain tissue linked to underlying psychiatric diseases.

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The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (UO1 AA020890) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD055030), the Kenneth A. Lattman Foundation, a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, the Margaret Ann Price Investigator Fund and the James Wah Fund for Mood Disorders via the Charles T. Bauer Foundation.

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GENETICS: Investigating viral and genetic contributors to Asian American liver cancer disparities

Differences in viral sequences and immune responses may hold the key to understanding and intervening on disparities in hepatitis B-related liver cancer between Asian-American populations.

UC Davis School of Medicine research partially funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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BASIC SCIENCE: Understanding African American kidney disease disparities at the molecular level

Building on evidence that gene variation largely explains certain racial disparities in kidney disease, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center aim to learn how the disease progresses at the molecular and cellular levels.

Partially funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Cells in the body need to be acutely aware of their surroundings. A signal from one direction may cause a cell to react in a very different way than if it had come from another direction. Unfortunately for researchers, such vital directional cues are lost when cells are removed from their natural environment to grow in an artificial broth of nutrients and growth factors.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have devised a way to mimic in the laboratory the spatially oriented signaling that cells normally experience.

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Funding: The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, CIRM, HHMI and the Center for Regenerative Therapies in Dresden.

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Rush University Medical Center has been named one of only five clinical sites in the U.S. to lead a landmark, two-year, multi-site study exclusively focused on discovering new biomarkers for Parkinson’s disease.     

The discovery of a biomarker is critical to the development of new and improved treatments for Parkinson’s disease, particularly treatments that could slow or stop the progression of the disease, which is something currently not available,” said Dr. Jennifer G. Goldman, neurologist in the Parkinson’s disease and Movement Disorders Center at Rush.  Goldman is also an associate professor in the department of neurological sciences at Rush.

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Funding: The BioFIND study is sponsored by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and funded in part by The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study lymphocytes, the body’s “natural killer” cells, and determine the signaling pathways that elicit disease-fighting responses at a cellular level in the body.

The organization of signaling events in lymphocytes is not well understood.  Hundreds of signaling molecules “share” information that results in cellular functions, but the precise mechanisms that coordinate that response remain an enigma.

The ultimate goal of Dr. Malarkannan’s laboratory research is to specifically augment the cytotoxic potentials of human lymphocyte cells and utilize that potential to eliminate cancerous tumors in patients.

Read more about this research project

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