Biosingularity

Archive for April 2007

Mice whose brains had lost a large number of neurons due to neurodegeneration regained long-term memories and the ability to learn after their surroundings were enriched with toys and other sensory stimuli, according to new studies by Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers. The scientists were able to achieve the same results when they treated the mice with a specific type of drug that encourages neuronal growth.

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By giving ordinary adult mice a drug – a synthetic designed to mimic fat – Salk Institute scientist Dr. Ronald M. Evans is now able to chemically switch on PPAR-d, the master regulator that controls the ability of cells to burn fat. Even when the mice are not active, turning on the chemical switch activates the same fat-burning process that occurs during exercise. The resulting shift in energy balance (calories in, calories burned) makes the mice resistant to weight gain on a high fat diet.
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Hopkins researchers have identified a backup supply of stem cells that can repair the most severe damage to the nerves responsible for our sense of smell. These reservists normally lie around and do nothing, but when neighboring cells die, the scientists say, the stem cells jump into action. A report on the discovery will appear online next week in Nature Neuroscience.
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A relative of the anti-aging gene Klotho helps activate a hormone that can lower blood glucose levels in fat cells of mice, making it a novel target for developing drugs to treat human obesity and diabetes, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found.

Dr. Makoto Kuro-o, associate professor of pathology, has reported that a relative of the anti-aging gene Klotho helps activate a hormone that can lower blood glucose levels in fat cells of mice. This discovery of a particular type of Klotho protein could eventually make it a novel target for developing drugs to treat human obesity and diabetes.
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Researchers are adding to the list of cancer types for which pomegranates seem to halt growth. A recent study at the University of Wisconsin–Madison using a mouse model shows that consuming pomegranates could potentially help reduce the growth and spread of lung cancer cells or even prevent lung cancer from developing.
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In the most comprehensive look at genetic risk factors for type 2 diabetes to date, a U.S.-Finnish team, working in close collaboration with two other groups, has identified at least four new genetic variants associated with increased risk of diabetes and confirmed existence of another six. The findings of the three groups, published in the journal Science, boost to at least 10 the number of genetic variants confidently associated with increased susceptibility to type 2 diabetes — a disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide.
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A naturally occurring compound found in many fruits and vegetables as well as red wine, selectively kills leukemia cells in culture while showing no discernible toxicity against healthy cells, according to a study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. These findings, which were published online March 20 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and will be in press on May 4, offer hope for a more selective, less toxic therapy for leukemia.
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So much for the adage, ‘All things in moderation.’ Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that people who consume a single, high-fat meal are more prone to suffer the physical consequences of stress than those who eat a low-fat meal.
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Using a new type of drug that targets a specific genetic defect, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, along with colleagues at PTC Therapeutics Inc. and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, have for the first time demonstrated restoration of muscle function in a mouse model of Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (DMD). The research appears ahead of print in an advanced online publication of Nature.

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Researchers have devised a clever way to activate neurons in a living mouse by shining light on the surface of the animal’s brain. The “light switch” that turns neurons on is actually a light-sensitive protein that is produced by algae. When this protein is genetically engineered into the neurons of living mice, researchers can precisely trigger those neurons with light, causing them to generate electrical impulses.

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Scientists in the United Kingdom have developed a way to monitor the health of individual cells by recording their electrical activity in much the same way that an electrocardiogram (EKG) monitors the heart. They say that the technique could revolutionize the way we test drugs and carry out environmental sensing. Using extremely sensitive equipment, the scientists have captured the last pulse of electrical activity in a cell, the equivalent of a final heartbeat, before the cell died.

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Life signs: Superconducting electrodes (pink) act like leads of an electrocardiogram, measuring the electrical activity of an individual yeast cell (yellow blob). Credit: Dr. Irina Barbolina, University of Manchester

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Memorizing a series of facts is one thing, understanding the big picture is quite another. Now a new study demonstrates that relational memory — the ability to make logical “big picture” inferences from disparate pieces of information – is dependent on taking a break from studies and learning, and even more important, getting a good night’s sleep.
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New Haven, Conn. — Yale School of Medicine and University of Crete School of Medicine researchers report in Cell April 20 the first evidence of a molecular mechanism that dynamically alters the strength of higher brain network connections.

This discovery may help the development of drug therapies for the cognitive deficits of normal aging, and for cognitive changes in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
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A type of omega-3 fatty acid may slow the growth of two brain lesions that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, UC Irvine scientists have discovered. The finding suggests that diets rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

This study with genetically modified mice is the first to show that DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, can slow the accumulation of tau, a protein that leads to the development of neurofibrillary tangles. Such tangles are one of two signature brain lesions of Alzheimer’s disease. DHA also was found to reduce levels of the protein beta amyloid, which can clump in the brain and form plaques, the other Alzheimer’s lesion.
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A new category of drug has shown promising results for HIV/AIDS patients who failed to respond to other treatments, a study to be shows.

Especially when combined with other medications, raltegravir — the first in a new class of anti-retroviral drugs called integrase inhibitors — dramatically reduced the presence of the HIV virus and boosted immunity in clinical-trial patients, according to the study in the British journal The Lancet.
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This fascinating 3D medical animation shows a time lapse view of labor and delivery during normal vaginal birth in a simplified form with only the mother’s skeletal structures and the baby in the uterus. Also shown in detail is dilatation (dilation or dilating) and effacement (thinning) of the cervix during childbirth contractions.

Credit: Nucleus Medical Art

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found an unsuspected link between the immune system and high plasma lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood) in mice. The finding could lead to new ways to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering elevated lipid levels.
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A therapy that includes stem cell transplantation induced extended insulin independence in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, according to a preliminary study in the April 11 issue of JAMA.
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In a study that could help reveal how illusions are produced in the brain’s visual cortex, researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine have found new evidence of rapid integration of auditory and visual sensations in the brain. Their findings, which provide new insight into neural mechanisms by which visual perception can be altered by concurrent auditory events, will be published online in the April 12 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.
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Preliminary results from a large, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial for patients with primary gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), a type of tumor usually found in the stomach or small intestine, showed that patients who received imatinib mesylate (Gleevec ®) after complete removal of their tumor were significantly less likely to have a recurrence of their cancer compared to those who did not receive imatinib. The clinical trial was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and conducted by a network of researchers led by the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG).
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Scientists have identified the most clear genetic link yet to obesity in the general population as part of a major study of diseases funded by the Wellcome Trust, the UK’s largest medical research charity. People with two copies of a particular gene variant have a 70% higher risk of being obese than those with no copies.
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Much research has shown that reduced calorie intake can increase health and longevity. Professor Stephen Spindler (University of California) and his collaborators have discovered that reducing calorie intake later in life can still induce many of the health and longevity benefits of life-long calorie reduction. Importantly, this also includes anti-cancer effects. They are using this knowledge to establish a novel screening technique to find drugs which mimic this longevity effect.
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Will you lose weight and keep it off if you diet? No, probably not, UCLA researchers report in the April issue of American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychological Association.

“You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back,” said Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.”
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Researchers in San Diego announce a new molecule that stops bacteria from mutating to become resistant to antibiotics.

A biochemist at Scripps Research Institute, Dr. Romesberg has announced the discovery of a molecule that inhibits bacteria’s ability to change its DNA and fend off the mortal threat of antibiotics. The moleculer was found after the lab screened more than 100,000 possible compounds. The molecule also slips easily into a bacterial cell, which is critical to creating an effective tool to zap the bugs.

Read rest of this story on Technology Review site.

For the first time, scientists from the University of Washington School of Medicine, Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Cambridge have determined how a plant hormone — auxin — interacts with its hormone receptor, called TIR1. Their report, on the cover of this week’s issue of Nature, also may have important implications for the treatment of human disease, because TIR1 is similar to human enzymes that are known to be involved in cancer.
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Flavonoids. You’ve heard of them — the good-for-your-health compounds found in plants that we enjoy in red wine, dark chocolate, green tea and citrus fruits. Mother Nature is an ace at making them, producing different ones by the thousands, but no chemist has figured out a good way to synthesize a special class of these chemicals in the laboratory. Until now.

Karl Scheidt, assistant professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, and his research team have synthesized 10 different flavanones, a type of flavonoid, using a new general method they developed that takes advantage of one simple catalyst.
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New research from Columbia University Medical Center may explain why people who are able to easily and accurately recall historical dates or long-ago events, may have a harder time with word recall or remembering the day’s current events. They may have too much memory – making it harder to filter out information and increasing the time it takes for new short-term memories to be processed and stored.
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