Food for Thought: Weekly Wrap-Up

According to a study by researchers from the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD, Dresden, Germany), it is possible to increase the brain’s pool of brain stem cells by overexpressing cdk4 and cyclinD1 via the introduction of programmed viral vectors. Subsequently, the increased stem cell pool leads to the increased production of neuronal cells, reports Die Welt. The study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine was conducted in the brains of adult mice and may allow researchers to better understand the function of neuronal stem cells and to develop new therapies to combat neurodegenerative diseases.

Brain cell formation is also boosted by certain antidepressant drugs, reports Jessica Hamzelou in New Scientist. The study conducted at King’s College, London found that antidepressants such as sertraline work by acting on glucocorticoide receptors. However, they activate the receptor in a different way than glucocorticoide hormones.

Hayley Crawford in the New Scientist introduces the world’s first  computerized map of the human brain. This novel Human Brain Atlas developed by the Allen Institute for Brain Research in Seattle (Wash.) is an interactive tool scientists can use to search for data, e.g. all known locations in the brain where targets of a certain drug are expressed.

In Forbes, Parmy Olson reports on Seedcamp, a concept developed in 2007 by Index Ventures partners Saul Klein and Reshma Sohoni. Seedcamps are conferences in which start-ups present their business ideas and have the opportunity to sell a 8-10% equity stake in return for 50,000 Euros and a year-long support program. The conferences are held throughout Europe, but also in India, Singapore and South Africa. The program at present support 38 start-ups and is now expanding to the US.

The Economist reports on Asthmapolis, a US-based company, and its Spiroscout inhaler that comes with a built-in Global Positioning System locator and a wireless link to the internet. Whenever someone uses the inhaler, it broadcasts the location and time to a central computer. Asthmapolis plots and analyses the data, and sends weekly reports to participating patients and their doctors summarizing the observations and making recommendations.  The device allows to identify threats patients are unaware of and helps doctors identify those patients whose asthma is not under proper control.

Roni Caryn Rabin in The New York Times reports on a recent study in more than 800 elderly people. Researchers observed  that older people suffering from mild memory and cognition problems seem to be less likely to develop full-blown Alzheimer’s disease if they receive proper treatment for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol.