Tag: Roni Caryn Rabin

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.

Food for Thought: Weekly Wrap-Up

In Germany, science pages were dominated by Japan’s nuclear disaster. Apart from topics such as radioactivity as a threat to human health and the environment, Christiane Hucklenbroich in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) deals with an upcoming new definition of autism. Instead of seeing autism as a defined disease category, physicians have come to the conclusion that one should rather use the term “autism spectrum”, comprising several aspects of autism. The medical community also has started focusing on co-morbidity aspects as well as autism-like symptoms in other psychiatric diseases.

Susanne Kutter in Wirtschaftswoche summarizes latest advances in stem cell medicine. Among others, she features a clinical trial conducted at the University of Rostock in which the heart muscle of patients suffering from an infarction is injected with adult stem cells to initiate regeneration of muscle. The trial includes more than 150 patients and will be finished end of 2012. A method already successful has been established in India, where more than 700 people with blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency regained eyesight after injection of stem cells into the cornea.

Roni Caryn Rabin in The New York Times reports on a Lancet study that pooled data from 58 studies involving more than 220,000 people with a mean age of 58 to find out whether the idea that obese people with an apple shape (carrying the overweight predominantly in the belly) are more at risk for heart disease than overweight people with a pear shape. The answer is: they are not. Overweight matters, but shape does not.

Ferris Jabr in New Scientist introduces a small implantable device developed by researchers from the  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that can track tumor growth in the body of cancer patients. The device contains magnetic nanoparticles covered with monoclonal antibodies able to bind cancer-related molecules, e.g. human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), a hormone released by testicular and ovarian cancers. The first generation had read-out by MRI scans that detect formation of clusters within the device due to binding of the molecules. However, the researchers now improved detection so that readout can now be done by a hand-held device. The principle can also be adapted to monitor other changes in the body, e.g. silent heart attacks.

For blood transfusion, medical doctors need to carefully choose the right blood group from 29 possible combinations of the AB0, Rhesus, the MNS and other systems. This challenge sometimes needs to complications and logistic problems. The Economist reports on a successful approach by researchers from the University of Montreal to disguise the antigenic proteins from red blood cells. The trick is done by first dressing the fatty surface membrane of the cells and then attaching another cover so that the immune system does not pay attention to the cells. The cover is fully permeable by oxygen and carbon dioxide.

David Whelan in Forbes calls for a psychological study of people investing in biotech stocks, in particular those writing rude comments on articles featuring the ups and downs of stocks. He claims the phenomenon is only seen with articles on biotech stocks.

And finally, David M. Ewalt in Forbes reports about errors in Craig Venter’s first synthetic life form in which Venter inserted DNA composed on a computer. The DNA included quotes from James Joyce and Richard Feynman, however Craig used the Joyce quote without written permission from Joyce’s estate and misquoted Feynman by obtaining the quote from the internet. Craig said he was now going back to the organism to correct the error.