Researchers have discovered a communication link between proteins in the brain that could lead to improved treatments for psychiatric disorders and stroke. The discovery could create the possibility that new antipsychotic medication could be designed to modify the interaction related to cell-to-cell communication to prevent abnormal activity and cell death.
Researchers say they’ve developed a new test for prions that improves the accuracy and speed with which the malformed and infectious proteins can be detected. Prions cause neurodegenerative diseases in sheep, deer and elk, plus Mad Cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans.
Researchers have discovered a gene mutation that causes a condition apparently identical to Huntington’s Disease, helping explain why some people with the disorder do not have a separate mutation found in most cases. The finding may help reveal why some diseases, like Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, destroy some brain cells while sparing others. “For all practical purposes this is Huntington’s Disease, yet it’s caused by a different mutation on a completely different chromosome,” said Russell L. Margolis, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry at Hopkins and director of the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Genetic Neurobiology. “This is a rare version of an already rare disorder, but the mutation that causes it may not only help us better understand Huntington’s Disease, but could boost our understanding of many other neurodegenerative disorders.”
Using neural stem cells to hunt down and kill cancer cells, researchers have successfully tested a new treatment for brain cancer. They now hope the technique will lead to an effective treatment for glioma, the most aggressive form of primary brain tumor in humans. As the Cedars-Sianai researchers note, the prognosis has historically been extremely poor for patients diagnosed with malignant gliomas. The tumors have poorly defined margins, and glioma cells often spread deep into healthy brain tissue making their surgical removal difficult. Often, pockets of tumor cells break off from the main tumor and migrate deep into non-tumorous areas of the brain. Therefore, even if the original tumor is completely removed or destroyed, the risk of recurrence is high as cells in these distant “satellites” multiply and eventually re-form a new brain tumor. Due to these characteristics, treating brain cancer has been extremely difficult.
Researchers may have discovered the mechanism behind how prions ? pieces of protein molecules? can kill nerve cells in the brain and lead to some serious degenerative diseases. The key seems to lie in how one particular protein misfolds within an organelle inside the cell, transforming itself into a new agent and then poisoning the neuron in which it was made.
High doses of the naturally occurring compound coenzyme Q10 has been found to slow by 44 percent the deterioration in function that occurs in Parkinson’s disease. The greatest benefit was seen in everyday activities like eating, dressing, bathing and walking. But researchers say that before people run out to RightAid for a barrel of the stuff, a wider study is needed (this one tracked 80 patients). Parkinson?s is a degenerative disorder of the brain in which patients develop tremor, slowness of movement and stiffness of muscles. It affects about 1 percent of Americans over the age of 65.
I’m sorry, what were you saying? I got distracted by this story from the American Psychological Association that says researchers have successfully mapped different aspects of attention to parts of the brain’s frontal lobes. Turns out that the once-monolithic concept of “attention” has at least three distinct processes that look to be functionally and anatomically different.
A new study aims to determine once and for all whether a link exists between obsessive-compulsive behavior and strep infections in children. The research, to be conducted by the University of Florida and the National Institutes of Mental Health, is prompted by anecdotal reports from parents with OCD kids that their children’s behavior, such as compulsive hand washing, worsens when the child is ill with strep.
Chaos can explain the seemingly random behavior of two moons of Saturn, JPL researchers say. The moons — Pandora and Prometheus — are more than 100,000 miles off course of where they would be if their orbits followed conventional physics. “With chaotic interactions, a barely perceptible difference in starting conditions can make such a great difference in later positions that the movements are not fully predictable over time. The two moons give each other a gravitational kick each time Pandora passes inside Prometheus, about every 28 days. Because neither’s orbit is quite circular, the distance between them on those occasions — hence the strength of the kick — varies.”
Medical researchers have successfully reversed the progression of Parkinson’s disease in rats through the use of gene therapy. By adding a gene for a single enzyme, they were able to reprogram brain circuits and halt the deterioration of dopamine-producing brain cells, one of the key problems in the disease. The lack of dopamine is what leads the the tell-tale shaking and muscle twitches of Parkinson’s patients.