Scott Small, MD, of Columbia University has utilized advanced fMRI techniques to detect the precise location of Alzheimer's. His new work has discovered that the disease begins in a very precise location of the brain, the lateral entorhinal cortex ( LEC), and spreads to other regions of the brain as the disease progresses. Additionally, they have demonstrated that AD exclusively develops when both tau and amyloid precursor protein ( APP) co-exist in the LEC The study has implications for both research and treatment. "Now that we've pinpointed where Alzheimer's starts, and shown that those changes are observable using fMRI, we may be able to detect Alzheimer's at its earliest preclinical stage, when the disease might be more treatable and before it spreads to other brain regions," said Dr. Small.
Alain Carpentier led the world's first successful artificial heart transplantation on Wednesday at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris. Carpentier is a french surgeon who has been working towards developing a completely artificial heart for the last 30 years. The artificial heart is expected to be fully functional for 5 years. With over 100,000 patients in the US in need of a heart transplant, this biotechnology may very well pave the way for conventional cardiac treatment in the future.
If we had a method to track when a patient would receive their next seizure, a plethora of innovations could spring forth to help fight them off. Nearly 50 million people in the world suffer from seizures, which are neuronal disturbances that yield a loss of consciousness accompanied by an inability to control the bowel or bladder. Researchers have now developed the first computer model that can predict future seizures with a 70% accuracy rate. By developing a personal library of a patient's emitted brain waves, the computer model can foretell a seizure 30 minutes before it manifests in the brain. In a recent human clinical trial, 10 patients had their electroencephalography ( EEG) readings inserted into the computer model. The computer successfully predicted the oncoming of a seizure in 7 of these patients.
Patients find themselves on an organ transplant list quite frequently. However, we simply do not have the ability to provide organs to even 10% of the patients waiting for these transplantations. Therefore, a surge of research is being undertaken to develop methods to bioengineer human organs. Currently, the Methuselah Foundation is offering a prize reward to a research group that develops a viable liver. The liver must have the ability to be inserted into a live mammal, enable the mammal to survive without any original liver present in the body, and allow the mammal to live a normal lifestyle for 3 months.
Pancreatic cancer is an arena of oncology which begs for innovation because of its poor prognosis. Researchers from the University of Manchester have discovered a novel way to turn off the energy supply in pancreatic cancer cells. Unique to pancreatic cancer cells is their ability to utilize calcium pumps on the surface of their cells to provide energy for themselves. Most cells utilize glycolysis and the mitochondria to maintain their energy levels; however, pancreatic cancer cells favor a glycolytic pathway to supply ATP to drive the calcium pumps. Hence, by blocking the glycolytic pathway in human pancreatic cancer cells, researchers were successful in causing the cells to die due to the tolerable calcium levels caused by an ineffective calcium pump. Dr. Jason Bruce shared that we may be able to design new drugs to cut off the supply of calcium pumps to these cells, and thereby kill the cancer cells while saving the normal cells within the pancreas.
The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology reports a novel method to induce stem cells to develop into functioning kidney cells. "Our goal was to develop a simple, efficient, and reproducible method of differentiating human pluripotent stem cells into cells of the intermediate mesoderm, the earliest tissue in the developing embryo that is fated to give rise to the kidneys," said Dr. Lam. This research outlined a conglomerate of chemicals which transform stem cells into kidney cells by turning on the necessary genes to build a functioning kidney. The genetic switch which turns on by adding these chemicals to the stem cells are the identical genes which turn on in embryonic kidney development. Regenerative medicine techniques for kidney failure may one day replace conventional dialysis and transplantation treatment.
The first map outlining the network of genetic alterations underlying the precise cellular response to UV radiation has been developed at UCSD School of Medicine. This map enables researchers to explore the manner by which cells are damaged by UV radiation, and their respective repair mechanisms. The degree of genetic rewiring following radiation correlates with the dose of UV radiation.
When does a psychiatric illness begin? And what is its cause? Theories hypothesize that key demonstrations begin to occur in the teen years, when personality changes begin to become evident. The implicated culprit behind these changes is the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judgement and higher cognitive functions. Researchers at McGill have isolated a gene, DCC, which is responsible for dopamine connectivity in the medial prefrontal cortex during adolescence. Abnormalities in this gene cause disruption in the concentration of dopamine in this very essential section of the brain, perhaps leading to psychological impairment later on in life. Small changes in the DCC gene in adolescence can produce serious alterations in the prefrontal cortex later on in life. In order to verify if DCC and dopamine are altered in psychiatric patients researchers examined DCC expression in postmortem brains of people who had committed suicide. These brains showed higher levels of DCC expression some 48 per cent higher when compared to control subjects. This research is essential in the battle against mental illness, as it provides a specific target for future pharmacological interventions for mental health patients.
Scientists in Belgium have worked in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic to create a novel catheter for the transplantation of stem cells into a beating heart. Medical scientists are looking for ways to repair damaged heart tissue after a heart attack, and the introduction of stem cells to immediately repair damaged tissue is an avenue of great interest. This catheter will allow for increased distribution and retention of stem cells into the heart, allowing them to subsequently integrate into physiologically functioning heart cells. The first Phase III clinical trial is currently underway in Belgium.
Dr. James F. Hainfeld claims that an injection containing nanoparticles followed by 3 minutes in a magnetic field "completely cured" test animals of cancer. This is possible because when an iron particle is inserted into an alternating magnetic field, it spins in a manner which generates enough heat to burn the tumor. However, the toxic levels of iron in the nanoparticles would prove to be harmful in a human patient. Hence, Hainfeld and his colleagues spent 6 years engineering a nanoparticle with an iron core and a biocompatible shell. This could be injected into the bloodstream without adverse effects. An experiment using an infrared camera to measure the temperature inside of tumors after being treated with the nanoparticles demonstrated a rise in temperature hot enough to melt the cancer away. This technology is also being used to cross the blood-brain barrier and attack brain cancers.