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  • richardmitnick 1:13 pm on January 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Medicine, Montreal Neurological Institute goes "Open science",   

    From AAAS: “Montreal institute going ‘open’ to accelerate science” 



    Jan. 21, 2016
    Brian Owens

    Temp 1
    The Montreal Neurological Institute plans to free up its findings, including data that point to connections between brain regions communicating at different neural rhythms. SÉBASTIEN DERY, MCCONNELL BRAIN IMAGING CENTRE, MONTREAL NEUROLOGICAL INSTITUTE

    Guy Rouleau, the director of McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) and Hospital in Canada, is frustrated with how slowly neuroscience research translates into treatments. “We’re doing a really shitty job,” he says. “It’s not because we’re not trying; it has to do with the complexity of the problem.”

    So he and his colleagues at the renowned institute decided to try a radical solution. Starting this year, any work done there will conform to the principles of the “open-
science” movement—all results and data will be made freely available at the time of publication, for example, and the institute will not pursue patents on any of its discoveries. Although some large-scale initiatives like the government-funded Human Genome Project have made all data completely open, MNI will be the first scientific institute to follow that path, Rouleau says.

    “It’s an experiment; no one has ever done this before,” he says. The intent is that neuroscience research will become more efficient if duplication is reduced and data are shared more widely and earlier. Opening access to the tissue samples in MNI’s biobank and to its extensive databank of brain scans and other data will have a major impact, Rouleau hopes. “We think that it is a way to accelerate discovery and the application of neuroscience.”

    After a year of consultations among the institute’s staff, pretty much everyone—about 70 principal investigators and 600 other scientific faculty and staff—has agreed to take part, Rouleau says. Over the next 6 months, individual units will hash out the details of how each will ensure that its work lives up to guiding principles for openness that the institute has developed. They include freely providing all results, data, software, and algorithms; and requiring collaborators from other institutions to also follow the open principles.

    Staff at the institute were generally in favor of the plan, according to Lesley Fellows, a neurologist at MNI, though there were concerns about how to implement some aspects of it—such as how to protect patient confidentiality, and whether there would be sufficient financial support. Yet there is a “moral imperative,” according to Fellows, for research to be shared as openly as possible.

    “While the scale of ‘open’ that can be pursued right now may vary across research areas and will certainly depend on the resources that can be brought to bear, the practical challenges seem worth contending with,” she says. Participation is voluntary, and researchers can pursue patents on their own, but MNI will not pay the fees or help with the paperwork.

    Advocates of open science have welcomed MNI’s move. Brian Nosek, a psychologist and director of the Center for Open Science at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, says he is “very impressed” with the institute’s plans. “It’s clear they are looking to move the organization towards the ideals of science,” he says.

    Nosek says the decision to eschew patents is especially intriguing. “I haven’t seen others do that before,” he says. But it’s not something that will necessarily work in other scientific fields, like engineering, Nosek predicts. “There is lots of debate in the life sciences now about what should and should not be patented, but that may not translate across disciplines smoothly.”

    Rouleau concedes that the patent ban might mean MNI has to forgo some future licensing income. But he says the kind of early-stage science that the institute does is not really worth protecting. “There is a fair amount of patenting by people at the institute, but the outcomes have not been very useful,” he says, adding that the institute would rather provide data that others could use to develop patentable medicines. “It comes down to what is the reason for our existence? It’s to accelerate science, not to make money.”

    The insistence that any organization or institute that collaborates with MNI will also have to follow open-science principles for that project could help to spread the approach, says Dan Gezelter, a chemist and open-science advocate at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. “It’s a little bit viral. I’ve never seen that before,” he says. Nosek agrees. “There is little that is more powerful in changing behavior than peer pressure,” he says.

    MNI is developing metrics to monitor its open-science experiment and determine whether it has the hoped-for impact. Officials will look at participation by the institute’s own staff, how much their open resources are being used by other researchers, and whether new products or therapies are being developed more quickly. “In 5 years,” 
Rouleau says, “we’ll be able to say ‘these things worked, and these things didn’t.’”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:05 pm on January 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Medicine, , Translational science   

    From Rutgers: “Rutgers Makes Major Commitment to Translational Science” 

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    January 20, 2016
    No writer credit found

    Temp 1
    Reynold Panettieri will develop Rutgers’ first clinical and translational science institute and serve as RBHS vice chancellor for clinical and translational research.

    Reynold Panettieri will develop the university’s clinical and translational science institute.

    Reynold Panettieri, a pulmonologist from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has joined Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) to develop the university’s first clinical and translational science institute and serve as its director. He will also be the vice chancellor for clinical and translational research.

    Panettieri, leaving his current role as the Robert L. Mayock and David A. Cooper Professor of Pulmonology Medicine at UPenn, assumed his position last month.

    Brian Strom, chancellor of RBHS, said Rutgers’ commitment to clinical and translational science is vital to its continued evolution into one of the country’s leading academic health centers.

    Translational science is a new and evolving paradigm that makes it easier to translate bench research into new drugs, treatment options and devices that will improve patient and community health,” Strom said. “That clinical and translational science has become a priority for the National Institutes of Health reflects its importance.”

    Translational sciencedescribes the collaborative process involving a combination of scientists – which may include researchers, clinicians, biologists and members of the pharmaceutical industry – to address an unmet medical need, such as the development of cancer drug therapy with reduced toxicity or a best-practices community approach to treating asthma.

    Panettieri’s experience leading major centers at UPenn and his research and expertise in clinical and translational research for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma made him an outstanding choice to head the institute, Strom said.

    “With his stature and reputation, we greatly enhance our ability to undertake major multidisciplinary collaborations and compete strongly for NIH clinical research funding,” Strom said.

    Panettieri, 58, has long studied cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate airway smooth muscle cell growth and is involved in clinical investigations focused on the management of asthma and COPD, a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and in some cases asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15 million Americans say that they have COPD.

    Most recently, he has served as director of both the comprehensive asthma program for the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology.

    Currently, he and Vera Krymskaya are seeking FDA approval for a dual drug approach they’ve developed – rapamycin/simvastatin – to help fight a rare lung disease called lymphangioleiomyomatosis, known as LAM, which kills young women exclusively.

    As institute director, Panettieri will seek to engage researchers throughout Rutgers’ undergraduate and graduate divisions in collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts to achieve common goals. A major focus, Panettieri said, will be understanding the molecular makeup of disease and illnesses.

    “We need to recognize that what we define as an illness very often is a result of many illnesses,” Panettieri said. “We’ve got to become more precise so that physicians can prescribe medications and therapies that treat the right diseases. Patients are our No. 1 priority. If they aren’t benefitting from the medications we prescribe, they won’t and shouldn’t take them.”

    Panettieri’s overall goal is to speed up clinical and translational research and implementation, he said, enabling the institute to demonstrate it can support applications for National Institutes of Health clinical and translational science awards that significantly advance such research.

    Though he has not yet created a priority plan, Panettieri says he will explore opportunities to enhance efforts surrounding COPD and asthma as he establishes the institute’s initial wave of research projects.

    Setting the institute in motion and launching the training of clinical and translational researchers will achieve another goal for Strom and Panettieri – attracting and developing new researchers.

    “Our legacy will not be what we publish,” Panettieri says, “but who we train as researchers. We’re striving to make this a premier program.”

    See the full article here .

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    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

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  • richardmitnick 8:20 am on January 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Medicine,   

    From UCLA: “UCLA Nursing research finds possible answer to why some develop Alzheimer’s — and others don’t” 

    UCLA bloc


    January 19, 2016
    Laura Perry

    Temp 1
    The researchers viewed synapses using a technology called flow cytometry.UCLA School of Nursing

    Alzheimer’s disease affects millions, but there is no cure and no real test for the diagnosis until death, when an examination of the brain can reveal the amyloid plaques that are a telltale characteristic of the disease.

    Interestingly, the same plaque deposits have also been found in the brains of people who had no cognitive impairment, which has led scientists to wonder: Why do some develop Alzheimer’s and some do not?

    Researchers at the UCLA School of Nursing, led by Professor Karen Gylys, may have just uncovered the answer. Their study, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Pathology, is the first to look at disease progression in the synapses — where brain cells transmit impulses.

    The researchers analyzed autopsy tissue samples from different locations of the brains of patients who were considered cognitively normal and those who met the criteria for dementia. Using flow cytometry — a laser-based technology that suspends cells in a stream of fluid and passes them through an electronic detection apparatus — they measured the concentration of two of the known biochemical hallmarks of Alzheimer’s: amyloid beta and p-tau, proteins that when found in high levels in brain fluid are indicative of Alzheimer’s. This allowed the scientists to see large populations of individual synapses — more than 5,000 at a time — versus just two under a microscope.

    They found that people with Alzheimer’s had elevated concentrations of synaptic soluble amyloid-beta oligomers – smaller clusters of amyloid-beta that are toxic to brain cells. These oligomers are believed to affect the synapses, making it harder for the brain to form new memories and recall old ones.

    Temp 2
    Karen Gylys. UCLA School of Nursing

    “Being able to look at human synapses has almost been impossible,” Gylys said. “They are difficult to get a hold of and a challenge to look at under an electron microscope.”

    To overcome that challenge, the UCLA researchers cryogenically froze the tissue samples — which prevented the formation of ice crystals that would have otherwise occluded the synapses had the samples been conventionally frozen. Researchers also did a special biochemical assay for oligomers, and found that the concentration of oligomers in patients who had dementia was much higher than in patients who had the amyloid plaque buildup but no dementia.

    Researchers also studied the timing of the biochemical changes in the brain. They found that the accumulation of amyloid beta in the synapses occurred in the earliest stages of the amyloid plaques, and much earlier than the appearance of synaptic p-tau, which did not occur until late-stage Alzheimer’s set in. This result supports the currently accepted “amyloid cascade hypothesis” of Alzheimer’s, which says that the accumulation of amyloid-beta in the brain is one of the first steps in the development of the disease.

    The researchers now plan to examine exactly how soluble amyloid-beta oligomers lead to tau pathology and whether therapies that slow the accumulation of amyloid-beta oligomers in the synapses might delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s-related dementia.

    “The study indicates there is a threshold between the oligomer buildup and the development of Alzheimer’s,” Gylys said. “If we can develop effective therapies that target these synaptic amyloid beta oligomers, even a little bit, it might be possible to keep the disease from progressing.”

    Gylys said people can reduce their risk for Alzheimer’s through lifestyle and diet choices, but added that one solution is not going to be enough. “Alzheimer’s disease, like heart disease or cancer, is a lot of things going wrong,” she said. “But understanding this threshold effect is very encouraging.”

    Other investigators involved in the study were Tina Bilousova, Harry Vinters, Eric Hayden, David Teplow, Gregory Cole and Edmond Teng of UCLA; Carol Miller of the University of Southern California; and Wayne Poon, Maria Corrada, Claudia Kawas, Charles Glabe and Ricardo Albay III of UC Irvine.

    The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Aging.

    See the full article here .

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    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

  • richardmitnick 8:26 am on January 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Medicine,   

    From Weizmann: “Your Symptoms? Evolution’s Way of Telling You to Stay Home” 

    Weizmann Institute of Science logo

    Weizmann Institute of Science

    No writer credit

    Temp 1
    No image credit

    When you have a fever, your nose is stuffed and your headache is spreading to your toes, your body is telling you to stay home in bed. Feeling sick is an evolutionary adaptation according to a hypothesis put forward by Prof. Guy Shakhar of the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department and Dr. Keren Shakhar of the Psychology Department of the College of Management Academic Studies, in a recent paper published in PLoS Biology.

    We tend to take it for granted that infection is what causes the symptoms of illness, assuming that the microbial invasion directly impinges on our well-being. In truth, many of our body’s systems are involved in being sick: the immune system and endocrine systems, as well as our nervous system. Moreover, the behavior we associate with sickness is not limited to humans. Anyone who has a pet knows that animals act differently when they are ill. Some of the most extreme “sickness behavior” is found in such social insects as bees, which typically abandon the hive to die elsewhere when they are sick. In other words, such behavior seems to have been preserved over millennia of evolution.

    The symptoms that accompany illness appear to negatively affect one’s chance of survival and reproduction. So why would this phenomenon persist? Symptoms, say the scientists, are not an adaptation that works on the level of the individual. Rather, they suggest, evolution is functioning on the level of the “selfish gene.” Even though the individual organism may not survive the illness, isolating itself from its social environment will reduce the overall rate of infection in the group. “From the point of view of the individual, this behavior may seem overly altruistic,” says Dr. Keren Shakhar, “but from the perspective of the gene, its odds of being passed down are improved.”

    In the paper, the scientists go through a list of common symptoms, and each seems to support the hypothesis. Appetite loss, for example, hinders the disease from spreading by communal food or water resources. Fatigue and weakness can lessen the mobility of the infected individual, reducing the radius of possible infection. Along with the symptoms, the sick individual can become depressed and lose interest in social and sexual contact, again limiting opportunities to transmit pathogens. Lapses in personal grooming and changes in body language say: I’m sick! Don’t come near!

    “We know that isolation is the most efficient way to stop a transmissible disease from spreading,” says Prof. Guy Shakhar. “The problem is that today, for example, with flu, many do not realize how deadly it can be. So they go against their natural instincts, take a pill to reduce pain and fever and go to work, where the chance of infecting others is much higher.”

    The scientists have proposed several ways of testing this hypothesis, but they also hope its message sinks in: When you feel sick, it’s a sign you need to stay home. Millions of years of evolution are not wrong.

    See the full article here .

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    Weizmann Institute Campus

    The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research institutions. Hundreds of scientists, laboratory technicians and research students working on its lushly landscaped campus embark daily on fascinating journeys into the unknown, seeking to improve our understanding of nature and our place within it.

    Guiding these scientists is the spirit of inquiry so characteristic of the human race. It is this spirit that propelled humans upward along the evolutionary ladder, helping them reach their utmost heights. It prompted humankind to pursue agriculture, learn to build lodgings, invent writing, harness electricity to power emerging technologies, observe distant galaxies, design drugs to combat various diseases, develop new materials and decipher the genetic code embedded in all the plants and animals on Earth.

    The quest to maintain this increasing momentum compels Weizmann Institute scientists to seek out places that have not yet been reached by the human mind. What awaits us in these places? No one has the answer to this question. But one thing is certain – the journey fired by curiosity will lead onward to a better future.

  • richardmitnick 2:57 pm on January 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Medicine, Regenerating heart tissue, ,   

    From UCLA: “UCLA researchers make progress toward healing scarred hearts” 

    UCLA bloc


    January 12, 2016
    Mirabai Vogt-James

    Researchers observed clusters of cardiac muscle cells (in red and green) derived from human embryonic stem cells 40 days after transplantation. UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center

    Scientists at the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have uncovered two specific markers that identify a stem cell able to generate heart muscle and the vessels that support heart function. This discovery may eventually aid in identifying ways to use stem cells to regenerate damaged heart tissue after a heart attack.

    Dr. Reza Ardehali, the study’s senior author, and his team published their findings in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

    “In a major heart attack, a person loses an estimated 1 billion heart cells, which results in permanent scar tissue in the heart muscle. Our findings seek to unlock some of the mysteries of heart regeneration in order to move the possibility of cardiovascular cell therapies forward,” said Ardehali, who is an associate professor of cardiology and a member of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center. “We have now found a way to identify the right type of stem cells that create heart cells that successfully engraft when transplanted and generate muscle tissue in the heart, which means we’re one step closer to developing cell-based therapies for people living with heart disease.”

    download/watch mp4 video here.

    The method is still years away from being tested in humans, but the findings are a significant step forward in the use of human embryonic stem cells for heart regeneration. The research team used human embryonic stem cells, which are capable of turning into any cell in the body, to create cardiac mesoderm cells. Cardiac mesoderm cells have some stem cell characteristics, but only generate specific cell types found in the heart.

    The researchers pinpointed two distinct markers on cardiac mesoderm cells that specifically create heart muscle tissue and supporting vessels. They then transplanted these cells into an animal model and found that a significant number of the cells survived, integrated and produced cardiac cells, resulting in the regeneration of heart muscle and vessels.

    Dr. Reza Ardehali. UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

    Ardehali, who is both a physician and a scientist, treats patients with advanced heart disease and also studies ways to cure or reverse heart disease. His goal is to one day be able to develop regenerative heart cells from stem cells and then transplant them into the heart through a minimally invasive procedure, replacing scar tissue and restoring heart function.

    Another study recently published by Ardehali and his team helps further this goal by outlining a novel approach to image, label and track transplanted cells in the heart using MRI, a common and non-invasive imaging technique.

    That study, which was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, used specialized particles that are easily identified using an MRI. The labeling approach allowed Ardehali and his team to track cells in an animal model for up to 40 days after transplantation.

    The first author on both studies was Rhys Skelton, who was a visiting graduate student in Ardehali’s lab when he completed the research. Skelton has since completed his studies at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia and received a Ph.D. from the University of Melbourne. He plans to return to UCLA as a postdoctoral scholar to continue his research on human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiac cells with the hope of one day developing a cell-based therapy for heart disease patients in need.

    “Our findings show, for the first time, that specific markers can be used to isolate the right kind of early heart cells for transplantation,” said David Elliott, a co-author of both studies, leader of the cardiac development research group at the Murdoch Institute and Skelton’s doctoral supervisor. “Furthermore, our cell labeling and tracking approach allows us to determine the viability and location of transplanted cells.”

    Both studies were supported by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center.

    See the full article here .

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    UC LA Campus

    For nearly 100 years, UCLA has been a pioneer, persevering through impossibility, turning the futile into the attainable.

    We doubt the critics, reject the status quo and see opportunity in dissatisfaction. Our campus, faculty and students are driven by optimism. It is not naïve; it is essential. And it has fueled every accomplishment, allowing us to redefine what’s possible, time after time.

    This can-do perspective has brought us 12 Nobel Prizes, 12 Rhodes Scholarships, more NCAA titles than any university and more Olympic medals than most nations. Our faculty and alumni helped create the Internet and pioneered reverse osmosis. And more than 100 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.

  • richardmitnick 5:49 pm on January 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Atherosclerosis Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's diseases related, Medicine,   

    From Wash U: “Atherosclerosis is Alzheimer’s disease of blood vessels, study suggests” 

    Wash U Bloc

    Washington University in St.Louis

    January 11, 2016
    Julia Evangelou Strait

    A new study suggests that plaque forming in arteries has much in common with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The image shows a cross section of a mouse aorta, the main artery in the body, with a large plaque. Red lines near the top are the wall of the aorta. The plaque contains a dysfunctional buildup of immune cells called macrophages (pink) and protein waste (green). I. Sergin

    In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up on the inner walls of arteries that deliver blood to the body. Studying mice and tissue samples from the arteries of patients, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine​ in St. Louis suggest this accumulation is driven, at least in part, by processes similar to the plaque formation implicated in brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

    The study is published in the journal Science Signaling.

    A look behind the scenes in the process of plaque accumulating in arteries, the new study is the first to show that another buildup is taking place. Immune cells attempting to counteract plaque formation begin to accumulate misshapen proteins. This buildup of protein junk inside the cells interferes with their ability to do their jobs.

    Protein buildup is widely studied in the brain — accumulation of proteins such as amyloid beta and tau are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other degenerative neurological disorders. But until now, the process of misshapen protein buildup within cells has not been implicated in atherosclerosis.

    “In an attempt to fix the damage characteristic of atherosclerosis, immune cells called macrophages go into the lining of the arteries,” said senior author Babak Razani, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine. “The macrophage is like a firefighter going into a burning building. But in this case, the firefighter is overcome by the conditions. So another firefighter goes in to save the first and is likewise overcome. And another goes in, and the process continues to build on itself and worsen.”

    The researchers showed that this protein buildup inside macrophages results from problems with the waste-disposal functions of the cell. They identified a protein called p62 that is responsible for sequestering waste and delivering it to cellular incinerators called lysosomes. To mimic atherosclerosis, the researchers exposed the cells to types of fats known to lead to the condition. The researchers noted that during atherosclerosis, the macrophages’ incinerators become dysfunctional. And when cells stop being able to dispose of waste, p62 builds up. In a surprise finding, when p62 is missing and no longer gathers the waste in one place, atherosclerosis in mice becomes even worse.

    Razani and his colleagues, including the study’s first author, Ismail Sergin, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow, also found these protein aggregates and high amounts of p62 in atherosclerotic plaque samples taken from patients, suggesting these processes are at work in people with plaque building up in the arteries.

    “That p62 sequesters waste in brain cells was known, and its buildup is a marker for a dysfunctional waste-disposal system,” Razani said. “But this is the first evidence that its function in macrophages is playing a role in atherosclerosis.”

    The study demonstrates that p62’s role in gathering up the misfolded proteins is protective against atherosclerosis, even if the cell can’t actually dispose of the waste it gathers.

    “If p62 is missing, the proteins don’t aggregate,” Razani said. “It’s tempting to think this might be good for the cell, but we showed this is actually worse. It causes more damage than if the waste were corralled into a large ‘trash bin.’ You can imagine a situation where lots of trash is being generated and see that it would be better to keep it all in one place, rather than have it strewn across the floor. You might have difficulty removing the trash to the dumpster, but at least it’s contained.”

    In atherosclerosis, and perhaps in the brain disorders characterized by protein accumulation, such evidence suggests it would be better to focus on ways to fix the cells’ waste-disposal system for getting rid of the large protein aggregates, rather than on ways to stop the aggregates from forming.

    This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant numbers 5K08HL098559, 1R01HL125838 and 1R01AG037120; the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital; and the Washington University Diabetic Cardiovascular Disease Center.

    Sergin I, Bhattacharya S, Emanuel R, Esen E, Stokes CJ, Evans TD, Arif B, Curci JA, Razani B. Inclusion bodies enriched for p62 and polyubiquitinated proteins in macrophages protect against atherosclerosis. Science Signaling. Jan. 5, 2016.

    See the full article here .

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    Wash U campus

    Washington University’s mission is to discover and disseminate knowledge, and protect the freedom of inquiry through research, teaching, and learning.

    Washington University creates an environment to encourage and support an ethos of wide-ranging exploration. Washington University’s faculty and staff strive to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of the greater St. Louis community, the country, and the world.

  • richardmitnick 10:13 pm on January 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ageing, , Life-extending hormone bolsters the body’s immune function, Medicine,   

    From Yale: “Life-extending hormone bolsters the body’s immune function” 

    Yale University bloc

    Yale University

    January 11, 2016

    Karen N. Peart

    Temp 1
    Aging thymus with fatty degeneration. NO image credit found.

    A hormone that extends lifespan in mice by 40% is produced by specialized cells in the thymus gland, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers. The team also found that increasing the levels of this hormone, called FGF21, protects against the loss of immune function that comes with age.

    Published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 11, the study’s findings have future implications for improving immune function in the elderly, for obesity, and for illnesses such as cancer and type-2 diabetes.

    When functioning normally, the thymus produces new T cells for the immune system, but with age, the thymus becomes fatty and loses its ability to produce new T cells. This loss of new T cells in the body is one cause of increased risk of infections and certain cancers in the elderly.

    Led by Vishwa Deep Dixit, professor of comparative medicine and immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, the researchers studied transgenic mice with elevated levels of FGF21. The team knocked out the gene’s function and studied the impact of decreasing levels of FGF21 on the immune system. They found that increasing the levels of FGF21 in old mice protected the thymus from age-related fatty degeneration and increased the ability of the thymus to produce new T cells, while FGF21 deficiency accelerated the degeneration of the thymus in old mice.

    “We found that FGF21 levels in thymic epithelial cells is several fold higher than in the liver — therefore FGF21 acts within the thymus to promote T cell production,” said Dixit.

    “Elevating the levels of FGF21 in the elderly or in cancer patients who undergo bone marrow transplantation may be an additional strategy to increase T cell production, and thus bolster immune function,” said Dixit.

    Dixit added that FGF21 is produced in the liver as an endocrine hormone. Its levels increase when calories are restricted to allow fats to be burned when glucose levels are low. FGF21 is a metabolic hormone that improves insulin sensitivity and also induces weight loss; therefore it is being studied for its therapeutic effects in type-2 diabetes and obesity.

    Dixit said further studies will focus on understanding how FGF21 protects the thymus from aging, and whether elevating FGF21 pharmacologically can extend the human healthspan and lower the incidence of disease caused by age-related loss of immune function.

    “We will also look to developing a way to mimic calorie restriction to enhance immune function without actually reducing caloric intake.”

    Other authors on the study include Yun-Hee Youm, Tamas Horvath, David Mangelsdorf, and Steven Kliewer.

    The study was funded by The National Institutes of Health, The Robert Welch Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

    See the full article here .

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    Yale University Campus

    Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

  • richardmitnick 12:17 am on January 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Medicine, Medicine in China,   

    From Nature: “China embraces precision medicine on a massive scale” 

    Nature Mag

    06 January 2016
    David Cyranoski

    Temp 1
    Precision medicine uses genomic and physiological data to tailor treatments to individuals. Fernando Moleres/Panos Pictures

    Formidable capacity in genome sequencing, access to millions of patients and the promise of solid governmental support: those are the assets that China hopes to bring to the nascent field of precision medicine, which uses genomic, physiological and other data to tailor treatments to individuals.

    Almost exactly one year after US President Barack Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, China is finalizing plans for its own, much larger project. But as universities and sequencing companies line up to gather and analyse the data, some observers worry that problems with the nation’s health-care infrastructure — in particular a dearth of doctors — threaten the effort’s ultimate goal of improving patient care.

    Precision medicine harnesses huge amounts of clinical data, from genome sequences to health records, to determine how drugs affect people in different ways. By enabling physicians to target drugs only to those who will benefit, such knowledge can cut waste, improve health outcomes using existing treatments, and inform drug development. For example, it is now clear that individuals with a certain mutation (which is mostly found in Asian people) respond better to the lung-cancer drug Tarceva (erlotinib; W. Pao et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 101, 13306–13311; 2004), and the discovery of a mutation that causes 4% of US cystic fibrosis cases led to the development of the drug Kalydeco (ivacaftor).

    The Chinese government is expected to officially announce the initiative after it approves its next five-year plan in March. Just how much the effort will cost is unclear — but it will almost certainly be larger and more expensive than the US$215-million US initiative.

    Since last spring, Chinese media has been abuzz with estimates of a 60-billion yuan (US$9.2-billion) budget, spread over 15 years. But this figure is not finalized, cautions Zhan Qimin, director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Oncology at Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, who is involved in the initiative. He says that the effort will consist of hundreds of separate projects to sequence genomes and gather clinical data, with support for each ranging from tens of millions of yuan to more than 100 million yuan.

    Anticipating the initiative, leading institutes — including Tsinghua University, Fudan University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences — are scrambling to set up precision-medicine centres. Sichuan University’s West China Hospital, for instance, plans to sequence 1 million human genomes itself — the same goal as the entire US initiative. The hospital will focus on ten diseases, starting with lung cancer.

    Both the US and the Chinese efforts will focus on genetic links to diseases that are particularly deadly, such as cancer and heart disease. But China will target specific cancers, such as stomach and liver cancer, which are common there.

    The Chinese initiative is part of a series of research-funding efforts that will replace two major grant programmes, known as 863 and 973, that are due to be phased out by 2017. The new programmes will be “more organized, more efficient”, says Zhan.

    Genome-sequencing companies are already vying to provide services to deal with the anticipated demand. For several years, China has boasted high genome-sequencing capacity. In 2010, the genomics institute BGI in Shenzhen was estimated to host more sequencing capacity than the entire United States. This was thanks to its equipment, purchased from Illumina of San Diego, California, which at the time represented state-of-the-art technology. But Illumina has since sold upgraded machines to at least three other genomics firms — WuXi PharmaTech and Cloud Health, both in Shanghai, and the Beijing-based firm Novogene.

    Jason Gang Jin, co-founder and chief executive of Cloud Health, says that this trio, rather than BGI, will be the main sequencing support for China’s precision-medicine initiative — although BGI’s director of research, Xu Xun, disagrees. Xu says that precision medicine is a priority for BGI and that the organization has a diverse portfolio of sequencers that still gives it an edge. “If you are talking about real data output, BGI is still leading in China, maybe even globally,” he says. BGI has already established a collaboration with the Zhongshan Hospital’s Center for Clinical Precision Medicine in Shanghai, which opened in May 2015 with a budget of 100 million yuan and is run by Fudan University.
    Numbers game

    Regardless of the details, Jin thinks that China will be faster than the United States at sequencing genomes and identifying mutations that are relevant to personalized medicine because China’s larger populations of patients for each disease will make it easier to find sufficient numbers to study.

    Still, it remains to be seen whether China has the resources to apply these insights to the individualized care of patients. “China wants to do it, and everybody is very excited,” says Ta Jen Liu, project director at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, who helps to establish collaborations in China and is familiar with the precision-medicine scene there.

    But there are hurdles. He notes that Chinese researchers and pharmaceutical companies have not had much success in developing drugs so far; that the pathologists needed to diagnose specific diseases are scarce in China; and that physicians there are notoriously overworked. “Doctors are always overwhelmed with patients, seeing 60 or 70 a day,” he says. “They don’t have time to sit down and think about what is best for specific patients.”

    David Weitz, a physicist at Harvard University who is starting a company in Beijing to develop diagnostic instruments for use in precision medicine, agrees that there will be obstacles, but notes the initiative’s assets. “We need lots of data to validate ideas, to validate tests,” he says. “There’s lots of data here.”

    He thinks that this, combined with the Chinese government’s determination to succeed, will mean that the effort will ultimately win out. “They really seem devoted to meeting the needs of the society,” he says. “It’s an exciting thing, to try to help that many people.”

    Nature 529, 9–10 (07 January 2016) doi:10.1038/529009a

    See the full article here .

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    Stem Education Coalition

    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

  • richardmitnick 3:17 pm on January 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Medicine, Safer surgery,   

    From U Oxford: “Making patients safer in surgery” 

    U Oxford bloc

    Oxford University

    5 Jan 2016
    No writer credit found

    Temp 1

    Surgery is getting safer thanks to research by an Oxford University team that has brought together two previously competing theories about how best to protect patients.

    Previous attempts to improve patient safety in surgery used one of two approaches. Some investigators tried to improve teamwork and communication by training team members to interact better, using principles developed in the aviation industry. Others have focused on the systems of work and used industrial quality improvement techniques to rationalise these and remove or modify steps which carry a high risk of error.

    A programme of studies, funded by the Programme Grants for Applied Research section of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), was carried out over four years by the Department of Surgical Sciences at Oxford University. It is believed to be the largest, direct observational study of surgical team performance during whole procedures ever completed.

    The team ran five identical studies comparing the culture approach, two different systems approaches and two combined culture/system approaches. They found that the combined system/culture approaches were clearly better than either of the single approaches. This is an important idea which may change practice internationally.

    Two new papers, published in the journal Annals of Surgery, outline the results of their research.

    Professor Peter McCulloch, Principal Investigator of the project and head of the Quality, Reliability, Safety and Teamwork Unit (QRSTU), said: ‘One set of interventions tried to modify the culture of the team and the other tried to improve the system of work. No one had asked which of these was better, or whether combining the approaches would be more effective. It is not enough to just fix the system and it’s not enough to just train the team. You have to do both.’

    In addition, the research showed that clinical staff who receive teamwork training become better motivated and more knowledgeable about safety risks, but are not able to change their working practices. Those who are helped to improve their system are able to do this, but are not educated or motivated to focus on the changes which will be most beneficial for patients. Staff who received the combined intervention developed more ambitious projects and demanded more help from the experts.

    Lorna Flynn, Human Factors Research Assistant within QRSTU and first author of the second, qualitative paper, commented: ‘In addition to telling us that integrated approaches targeting systems and culture produce the best outcomes; our research has highlighted the fact that frontline staff do not have the time or means to address patient safety issues alone. Whilst frontline staff will possess local in-depth knowledge about their systems and working context, effective improvement work still requires substantial support from experts in the fields of Human Factors/Ergonomics and Quality Improvement. These findings have implications for practice in organisations where frontline clinical staff are often expected to do this work as part of their everyday clinical work; such an approach is not going to be sufficient in making significant change to patient safety unless healthcare organisations engage with experts in these fields.’

    The papers, Combining systems and teamwork approaches to enhance the effectiveness of safety improvement interventions in surgery: the Safer Delivery of Surgical Services (S3) and The Safer Delivery of Surgical Services Programme (S3): explaining its differential effectiveness and exploring implications for improving quality in complex systems, are published in the journal Annals of Surgery.

    See the full article here.

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    U Oxford campus

    Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character.

    The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

  • richardmitnick 6:31 pm on January 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Medicine, Monitoring cardiovascular issues,   

    From U Waterloo: “New touchless device makes earlier detection of heart problems possible” 

    U Waterloo bloc

    University of Waterloo

    January 7, 2016
    Media Contact:

    Pamela Smyth
    University of Waterloo

    Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a revolutionary system for monitoring vital signs that could lead to improved detection and prevention of some cardiovascular issues, as well as greater independence for older adults.

    Using patent-pending technology called Coded Hemodynamic Imaging, the device is the first portable system that monitors a patient’s blood flow at multiple arterial points simultaneously and without direct contact with the skin. It is ideal for assessing patients with painful burns, highly contagious diseases, or infants in neonatal intensive care whose tiny fingers make traditional monitoring difficult.

    download or watch the mp4 video here.

    “Traditional systems in wide use now take one blood pulse reading at one spot on the body. This device acts like many virtual sensors that measure blood flow behaviour on various parts of the body. The device relays measurements from all of these pulse points to a computer for continuous monitoring,” said Robert Amelard, a PhD candidate in systems design engineering at Waterloo and recipient of the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. “By way of comparison, think of measuring the traffic flow across an entire city rather than through one intersection.”

    Continuous data collection at different parts of the body provides a more complete picture of what’s happening in the body. Whole-body imaging opens doors for advanced monitoring that can’t be done with the traditional, single-point methods.

    “Since the device can also scan multiple patients individually at once and from a distance, consider the potential in mass emergency scenarios or long-term care homes,” said Professor Alexander Wong, of the Faculty of Engineering at Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Medical Imaging Systems. “This technology provides for a more predictive approach to monitor vitals and the potential for its use is extensive, such as indicating arterial blockages that might otherwise go undetected, or warning older adults who risk falling as a result of getting dizzy when they stand.”

    Temp 1
    Professor Alexander Wong and Robert Amelard at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging analyzing blood-flow data extracted with their new touchless device, pictured right. (Credit: UWaterloo/Fred Hunsberger)

    Amelard won an AGE-WELL award in Technology and Aging earlier this year to support the development of his system to help enhance or maintain older adults’ independence. He is the lead author of the recent paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports that details part of the technology behind the device.

    See the full article here .

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    U Waterloo campus

    In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada’s technology hub, has become a leading comprehensive university with nearly 36,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

    Consistently ranked Canada’s most innovative university, Waterloo is home to advanced research and teaching in science and engineering, mathematics and computer science, health, environment, arts and social sciences. From quantum computing and nanotechnology to clinical psychology and health sciences research, Waterloo brings ideas and brilliant minds together, inspiring innovations with real impact today and in the future.

    As home to the world’s largest post-secondary co-operative education program, Waterloo embraces its connections to the world and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research, and commercialization. With campuses and education centres on four continents, and academic partnerships spanning the globe, Waterloo is shaping the future of the planet.

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