Parkinson's symptoms shown on PET scans

A neurologist has used an advanced form of brain imaging to identify changes in small regions of the brains of living Parkinson’s disease patients for the first time. These scientists analyzed positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brains of 41 Parkinson’s patients and 16 normal individuals obtained at the Hammersmith Hospital, part of the Imperial College of Medicine in London, England. The scans focused on two small areas found deep in the brain called the locus coeruleus and raphe, areas that control attention and wakefulness. The analysis found positive evidence of degeneration of nerve cells in these areas.

Link found between estrogen, changes in brain structure, and learning and memory

Scientists have discovered how estrogen initiates physical changes in rodent brain cells that lead to increased learning and memory — a finding, the researchers contend, that illustrates the likely value of the hormone to enhance brain functioning in women. Their study, published in the March 15 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, describes for the first time a chain of molecular events that is activated in the brain’s primary memory center, called the hippocampus, when estrogen bathes nerve cells.

Normal nerve cells can mimic viruses

A Montreal researcher has discovered that nerve cells can bypass the body’s normal protein-making machinery in the same way that viruses do when they infect a cell. Why would they? To produce large quantities of a particular protein under certain physiological conditions.

Fasting forestalls Huntington's disease in mice

Decreasing meal frequency and caloric intake protects nerve cells from genetically induced damage, delays the onset of Huntington’s disease-like symptoms in mice, and prolongs the lives of affected rodents, according to investigators at the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Intramural Research Program. This animal study* is the first to suggest that a change in diet can influence the course of Huntington’s disease.

Researchers Combine Dietary Supplement, Antibiotic to Treat Lou Gehrig's disease

A new study shows that combining the supplement creatine and the antibiotic minocycline significantly slows disease progression and prolongs survival in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The combined treatment was significantly more effective than either compound administered alone. Both creatine and minocycline have previously been shown to improve outcomes in a mouse model of this disabling neurological disease, but this study is the first to test a combination of the two.

Protein Research Provides Clues to How Blood Clots, Wounds Heal

They are proteins that cut other proteins, enabling a wide range of essential functions such as wound healing, blood clotting and formation of muscle and nerve cells.
But serine proteases also can cut a path of destruction, contributing to the plaques involved in heart disease and Alzheimer’s and to extensive birth defects as well when something goes awry. Understanding this sort of physiological crescendo called a protease cascade is a goal of Dr. Ellen K. LeMosy, developmental biologist at the Medical College of Georgia.

Animal studies confirm hormone replacement can improve learning

For estrogen to enhance learning and memory, nerve cells in the brain called cholinergic neurons are essential to the process, suggest animal studies performed by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. “Estrogen replacement in postmenopausal women has important effects on mood and cognition. This research was focused on trying to understand what estrogen does in the brain to reduce the effects on brain aging and cognitive decline,” said Robert Gibbs, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.

New hope for Alzheimer’s vaccine

Researchers have discovered a way to refine an experimental Alzheimer’s vaccine, a finding that could pave the way for new treatment and prevention of the debilitating disease that affects people’s ability to think and recall information. Alzheimer’s occurs when toxic biochemical compounds known as amyloid-beta peptides accumulate in the brain, forming plaque deposits and injuring nerve cells, which eventually causes dementia. In 2000, researchers at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases published a paper showing how the amyloid-beta peptide vaccine blocked the production of the plaques and reversed learning impairment. The vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system into forming antibodies against the plaques in the brain, but it also caused inflamation. This new research claims to have found a way to better isolate the active epitope detected by antibodies. After testing a more refined, targeted amyloid-beta vaccine on mice, the scientists found that the antibodies generated by the vaccine cleared away the plaques — improving cognitive function in the mice and leaving no evidence of brain inflammation.

Study Identifies Gene That Prevents Nerve Cell Death

Many neurological diseases occur when specific groups of neurons die because of nerve damage, toxins, inflammation, or other factors. A new study suggests that activity of a single gene can stop neurons from dying regardless of what triggers this process. The findings could lead to new ways of treating neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers Discover ‘Doorways’ Into Brain Cells

Come on in, we saved a place for youBrain cell membranes have established “doorways” that accept or reject molecules trying to pass into the cell, researchers have founbd. The discovery fundamentally changes how researchers think about the behavior of neurons. It had been long believed that surface molecules such as receptors are enveloped right where they rest in the fatty membrane, to be drawn into the cell’s interior.

Parkinson’s patients look to gene therapy

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.