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Many depressed preschoolers still suffer in later school years

Children diagnosed with depression as preschoolers are likely to suffer from depression as school-age children and young adolescents, new research shows.

Depressed preschoolers were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from the condition in elementary and middle school than kids who were not depressed at very young ages, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

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From Snapshot to Real Time: ‘Nanojuice’ Could Aid GI Diagnoses

University at Buffalo researchers are part of an international team developing a novel imaging technique with nanoparticles suspended in liquid to provide an unparalleled, noninvasive, real-time view of the small intestine. The advancement could help doctors better identify, understand and treat a variety of gastrointestinal ailments.

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NIH scientists find six new genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s

Using data from over 18,000 patients, scientists have identified more than two dozen genetic risk factors involved in Parkinson’s disease, including six that had not been previously reported. The study, published in Nature Genetics, was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by scientists working in NIH laboratories.

“Unraveling the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson’s is vital to understanding the multiple mechanisms involved in this complex disease, and hopefully, may one day lead to effective therapies,” said Andrew Singleton, Ph.D., a scientist at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and senior author of the study.

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UTMB researchers discover that brown fat protects against diabetes and obesity in humans

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have shown for the first time that people with higher levels of brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, in their bodies have better blood sugar control, higher insulin sensitivity and a better metabolism for burning fat stores.

Their findings suggest that, because of the brown fat’s ability to better regulate blood sugar, this could be a potential medical weapon against diabetes.

Funding: This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the American Diabetes Association, UTMB Institute for Translational Sciences, the Shriners Hospitals for Children, the UTMB Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Center and the UTMB Sealy Center on Aging.

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Autism risk linked to common gene variants

"Most of the genetic risk for autism appears to come from common gene variants rather than spontaneous gene mutations, according to a new study.

Researchers compared about 3,000 people in Sweden with and without autism and found that about 52 percent of autism was linked to common gene variants and rare inherited variations. Spontaneous genetic mutations accounted for only 2.6 percent of autism risk.”

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Metabolic Enzyme Stops Progression of Most Common Type of Kidney Cancer

"In an analysis of small molecules called metabolites used by the body to make fuel in normal and cancerous cells in human kidney tissue, a research team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania identified an enzyme key to applying the brakes on tumor growth. The team found that an enzyme called FBP1 – essential for regulating metabolism – binds to a transcription factor in the nucleus of certain kidney cells and restrains energy production in the cell body. What’s more, they determined that this enzyme is missing from all kidney tumor tissue analyzed. These tumor cells without FBP1 produce energy at a much faster rate than their non-cancer cell counterparts. When FBP1 is working properly, out-of-control cell growth is kept in check.”

Funding:This work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the National Cancer Institute (CA104838).

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Study examines therapeutic bacteria’s ability to prevent obesity

A probiotic that prevents obesity could be on the horizon. Bacteria that produce a therapeutic compound in the gut inhibit weight gain, insulin resistance and other adverse effects of a high-fat diet in mice, Vanderbilt University investigators have discovered.

“Of course it’s hard to speculate from mouse to human,” said senior investigator Sean Davies, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmacology. “But essentially, we’ve prevented most of the negative consequences of obesity in mice, even though they’re eating a high-fat diet.”

Funding: This research was supported by the New Innovator Award (OD003137) and by other grants from the National Institutes of Health (AT007830, DK059637, DK020593, RR024975, DK092993).

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Disturbed patterns of blood flow induce lasting epigenetic changes to genes in the cells that line blood vessels, and those changes contribute to atherosclerosis, researchers have found. The findings suggest why the protective effects of good blood flow patterns, which aerobic exercise promotes, can persist over time. An epigenetic change to DNA is a chemical modification that alters whether nearby genes are likely to be turned on or off, but not the letter-by-letter sequence itself.

Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fats and inflammatory cells in arteries, a process that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The curvature of arteries and resulting disturbed flow influence where atherosclerotic plaques develop. Biomedical engineer Hanjoong Jo and his colleagues have developed a model that allows them to see the inflammatory effects of disturbed blood flow quickly. Jo is professor of biomedical engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“This new study shows that disturbed blood flow induces epigenetic changes that lead to atherosclerosis,” Jo says. “It had been known for a long time that plaques preferentially develop in curved and branched arteries, but our lab has been able to prove that disturbed blood flow can actually trigger atherosclerosis, in the presence of risk factors such as high blood cholesterol.”

A broader implication is that improving blood flow patterns, through aerobic exercise for example, can induce a lasting imprint on gene expression in the blood vessels, he says.

The research was supported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the Center for Translational Cardiovascular Nanomedicine.

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LSUHSC contributes to work identifying new DNA regions associated with schizophrenia

"Nancy Buccola, MSN, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, CNE, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Nursing, contributed samples used in a study reporting new locations of genetic material associated with schizophrenia and also suggesting a possible link between the immune system and schizophrenia. The study, “Biological insights from 108 schizophrenia-associated genetic loci,” was published online July 22, 2014 in Nature, available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13595.html.

Buccola collected samples as part of the Molecular Genetics of Schizophrenia (MGS) study. A large international collaboration, called the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, combined these previously collected samples with published or unpublished genome-wide association study genotypes into a single, systematic analysis. To the Consortium’s knowledge this is the largest molecular genetic study of schizophrenia ever conducted.”

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Reversal of Blindness

Harvard Medical School researchers have identified a way to enhance regrowth of human corneal tissue to restore vision, using a molecule known as ABCB5 that acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells. This work, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute (Mass. Eye and Ear), Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the VA Boston Healthcare System, provides promise to burn victims, victims of chemical injury and others with damaging eye diseases.

Funding: The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (grant K08NS051349), the Veterans Administration (BLR&D 1I01BX000516 and VA RR&D 1I01RX000989), the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the National Cancer Institute (R01CA113796, R01CA158467, R01CA138231), the Department of Defense (PR0332453), the National Institutes of Health (R01EY018624, P30EY014801, R01EY021768, R01CA138231, R01EB017274, U01HL100402, P41EB015903 and NIH New Innovator Award DP2OD007483), the Corley Research Foundation, the Western Pennsylvania Medical Eye Bank Core Grant for Vision Research (EY08098), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Life Sciences Research Foundation.

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Researchers successfully eliminate HIV virus from cultured human cells

The HIV-1 virus has proved to be tenacious, inserting its genome permanently into its victims’ DNA, forcing patients to take a lifelong drug regimen to control the virus and prevent a fresh attack. Now, a team of Temple University School of Medicine researchers has designed a way to snip out the integrated HIV-1 genes for good.

 ”This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS,” said Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple. Dr. Khalili and his colleague, Wenhui Hu, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Temple, led the work which marks the first successful attempt to eliminate latent HIV-1 virus from human cells. “It’s an exciting discovery, but it’s not yet ready to go into the clinic. It’s a proof of concept that we’re moving in the right direction,” added Dr. Khalili, who is also Director of the Center for Neurovirology and Director of the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple.

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Study shows depression in younger women linked to higher risk of death from heart disease

An Emory University study, published June 19th in the Journal of the American Heart Association, shows women age 55 and younger are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, die or require artery-opening procedures if they are moderately or severely depressed.


The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Emory Heart & Vascular Center, also showed that women in this age group are at greater risk than men and older women to suffer from depression — possibly a “hidden” risk factor that helps explain why more women die after a heart attack.

“Women in this age group are also more likely to have depression, so this may be one of the ‘hidden’ risk factors that can help explain why women die at a disproportionately higher rate than men after a heart attack,” says study author Amit J. Shah, MD, assistant professor of epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH), and assistant professor of medicine (cardiology), Emory University School of Medicine (SOM).

"Although the risks and benefits of routine screening for depression are still unclear, our study suggests that young women may benefit from special consideration," says senior study author Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, professor and Wilton Looney Chair of Epidemiology at RSPH and professor of medicine, Emory University SOM. “Unfortunately, this group has largely been understudied before.”

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Climate change may bring more kidney stones

As daily temperatures increase, so does the number of patients seeking treatment for kidney stones. In a study that may both reflect and foretell a warming planet’s impact on human health, a research team found a link between hot days and kidney stones in 60,000 patients in several U.S. cities with varying climates.

"We found that as daily temperatures rise, there is a rapid increase in the probability of patients presenting over the next 20 days with kidney stones," said study leader Gregory E. Tasian, M.D., M.Sc., M.S.C.E., a pediatric urologist and epidemiologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), who is on the staff of the Hospital’s Kidney Stone Center as well as the Hospital’s Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness (CPCE).

Funding: Funds from the National Institutes of Health (grants HD060550 and DK70003), supported this study, along with a research fellowship from the Medical Research Council, U.K. In addition to their CHOP titles, Tasian and Keren are on the faculty of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Great research coming from UC Davis School of Medicine in conjunction with the Shriners Hospitals for Children. 

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01NS061983, R01ES015988, R21 MH087925), the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Career Development Award (K12 HD001259), the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Shriners Hospitals for Children, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (RT1-011071, RT1-01108, TR1-01250, CL1-00502), the Memorial Hermann Foundation (Staman Ogilvie Fund), the Bentsen Stroke Center, the Esther O’Keeffe Foundation, and the Hartwell Foundation.

neurosciencestuff:

'Support cells' in brain play important role in Down syndrome

Researchers from UC Davis School of Medicine and Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California have identified a group of cells in the brain that they say plays an important role in the abnormal neuron development in Down syndrome. After developing a new model for studying the syndrome using patient-derived stem cells, the scientists also found that applying an inexpensive antibiotic to the cells appears to correct many abnormalities in the interaction between the cells and developing neurons.

The findings, which focused on support cells in the brain called astroglial cells, appear online today in Nature Communications.

“We have developed a human cellular model for studying brain development in Down syndrome that allows us to carry out detailed physiological studies and screen possible new therapies,” said Wenbin Deng, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine and principal investigator of the study. “This model is more realistic than traditional animal models because it is derived from a patient’s own cells.”

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal cause of mild to moderate intellectual disabilities in the United States, where it occurs in one in every 691 live births. It develops when a person has three copies of the 21st chromosome instead of the normal two. While mouse models have traditionally been used in studying the genetic disorder, Deng said the animal model is inadequate because the human brain is more complicated, and much of that complexity arises from astroglia cells, the star-shaped cells that play an important role in the physical structure of the brain as well as in the transmission of nerve impulses.

“Although neurons are regarded as our ‘thinking cells,’ the astroglia have an extremely important supportive role,” said Deng. “Astroglial function is increasingly recognized as a critical factor in neuronal dysfunction in the brain, and this is the first study to show its importance in Down syndrome.”

Creating a unique human cellular model

To investigate the role of astroglia in Down syndrome, the research team took skin cells from individuals with Down syndrome and transformed them into stem cells, which are known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). The cells possess the same genetic make-up as the donor and an ability to grow into different cell types. Deng and his colleagues next induced the stem cells to develop into separate pure populations of astroglial cells and neurons. This allowed them to systematically analyze factors expressed by the astroglia and then study their effects on neuron development.

They found that a certain protein, known as S100B, is markedly increased in astroglial cells from patients with Down syndrome compared with those from healthy controls. S100B released by astroglial cells promotes harmful astroglial activation (astrogliosis) and adversely affects neurons, causing them to die at increased rates or develop in multiple dysfunctional ways.

The investigators obtained further evidence of the critical role of astroglial cells in Down syndrome by implanting the skin-cell derived astroglial cells from Down syndrome patients into mice. Those mice then developed the neuropathological phenotypes of Down syndrome, while mice implanted with Down syndrome neurons did not.

Neuroprotective effects of antibiotics

The research team also screened candidate drugs using a ‘disease-in-a-dish’ model. When they administered minocycline — a tetracycline antibiotic with anti-inflammatory properties commonly used to treat bacterial infections, acne and arthritis — many of the abnormalities in the astroglial cells were corrected and there were more healthy interactions between the astroglia and neurons compared to the control cells without the defect.

“The advent of induced pluripotent stem cell technology has created exciting new approaches to model neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases for the study of pathogenesis and for drug screening,” said David Pleasure, professor of neurology and pediatrics and a co-author of the study. “Using this technology, the study is the first to discover the critical role of astroglial cells in Down syndrome as well as identify a promising pathway for exploring how a drug such as minocycline may offer an effective way to help treat it.”

Pleasure, who is research director at Shriner’s Hospital for Children Northern California and also directs the Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine, noted that considerable research interest has arisen about the use of minocycline for diseases of the central nervous system because of the increasing evidence about its neuroprotective effects. Unlike many drugs, minocycline can cross from the bloodstream into the brain so that it can act on the astroglial cells. The drug has never been tested as a treatment for Down syndrome, and both Pleasure and Deng cautioned that its safety and efficacy will require clinical trials in people with Down syndrome.

Currently, Deng’s laboratory is conducting additional preclinical studies using the human-derived stem cells from Down syndrome patients and mouse models to determine whether cellular and behavioral abnormalities can be improved with minocycline therapy and other candidate drugs.

“The abnormalities we identified occur in the early stages of Down syndrome,” said Deng. “While much more research is needed, it is exciting to consider that pharmacological intervention in these cellular processes might help slow or even prevent disease progression.”

(Image: iStockphoto)

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Bacteria Hijack Plentiful Iron Supply Source to Flourish

In an era of increasing concern about the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant illness, Case Western Reserve researchers have identified a promising new pathway to disabling disease: blocking bacteria’s access to iron in the body.

The scientists showed how bacterial siderophore, a small molecule, 
captures iron from two abundant supply sources to fan bacterial growth — as well as how the body launches a chemical counterassault against this infection process. Their findings appear in a recent edition of The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Bacterial siderophore will be an important target for therapeutics one day because it can be modified to prevent bacteria from acquiring iron, but at the same time, it’s possible to preserve host access to iron,” said senior author Laxminarayana Devireddy, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of pathology, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Funding: This work was supported by NIH R01DK081395, Case Western Reserve University startup funds to Devireddy, an American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award, and March of Dimes and American Society of Hematology career development awards.

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