FDA approves psoriasis drug

Alefacept, a specially designed molecule that blocks a specific immune-system reaction involved in the painful skin condition psoriasis, was approved for marketing today under the name Amevive. Biogen, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., will market the drug. Alefacept traces its roots to research done at the U-M in the mid-1990s by a team led by former dermatology faculty member Kevin D. Cooper, M.D. The University and Biogen share the patent on the engineered molecule with Cooper, who is now chair of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Cocaine harms brain’s ‘pleasure center’

New research results strongly suggest that cocaine bites the hand that feeds it, in essence, by harming or even killing the very brain cells that trigger the “high” that cocaine users feel. This most comprehensive description yet of cocaine-induced damage to key cells in the human brain’s dopamine “pleasure center” may help explain many aspects of cocaine addiction, and perhaps aid the development of anti-addiction drugs. It also could help scientists understand other disorders involving the same brain cells, including depression.

Protective protein blocks DNA breaks at fragile sites

With 46 chromosomes and six feet of DNA to copy every time most human cells divide, it’s not surprising that gaps or breaks sometimes show up in the finished product – especially when the cell is under stress or dividing rapidly, as in cancer. But what is surprising is that the breaks don’t always occur at random. They happen at a few specific locations on chromosomes, when cells are under stress, during the stages in the cell cycle where DNA is copied, or replicated, and the cell splits into two identical daughter cells. Scientists call them fragile sites, but the reasons for their inherent instability have remained a mystery. Now researchers have discovered that a protein called ATR protects fragile sites from breaking during DNA replication.