Tag Archives: cells

Potential Revolutionnary Treatment For Alzheimer’s

Leaky capillaries in the brain portend early onset of Alzheimer’s disease as they signal cognitive impairment before hallmark toxic proteins appear, new USC research shows. The findings, which appear in Nature Medicine, could help with earlier diagnosis and suggest new targets for drugs that could slow or prevent the onset of the disease.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is expected to more than double to about 14 million in 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five Alzheimer’s drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to temporarily help with memory and thinking problems, but none treats the underlying cause of the disease or slow its progression. Researchers believe that successful treatment will eventually involve a combination of drugs aimed at multiple targets.

USC’s five-year study, which involved 161 older adults, showed that people with the worst memory problems also had the most leakage in their brain’s blood vessels — regardless of whether abnormal proteins amyloid and tau were present.

This image depicts a blood vessel in the brain that has become leaky, or permeable.

The fact that we’re seeing the blood vessels leaking, independent of tau and independent of amyloid, when people have cognitive impairment on a mild level, suggests it could be a totally separate process or a very early process,” said senior author Berislav Zlokovic, director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “That was surprising that this blood-brain barrier breakdown is occurring independently.”

In healthy brains, the cells that make up blood vessels fit together so tightly they form a barrier that keeps stray cells, pathogens, metals and other unhealthy substances from reaching brain tissue. Scientists call this the blood-brain barrier. In some aging brains, the seams between cells loosen, and the blood vessels become permeable.

If the blood-brain barrier is not working properly, then there is the potential for damage,” said co-author Arthur Toga, director of the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine. “It suggests the vessels aren’t properly providing the nutrients and blood flow that the neurons need. And you have the possibility of toxic proteins getting in.

Participants in the study had their memory and thinking ability assessed through a series of tasks and tests, resulting in measures of cognitive function and a “clinical dementia rating score.” Individuals diagnosed with disorders that might account for cognitive impairment were excluded. The researchers used neuroimaging and cerebral spinal fluid analysis to measure the permeability, or leakiness, of capillaries serving the brain’s hippocampus, and found a strong correlation between impairment and leakage.

“The results were really kind of eye-opening,” said first author Daniel Nation, an assistant professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “It didn’t matter whether people had amyloid or tau pathology; they still had cognitive impairment.”

Source: https://news.usc.edu/

Cartilage-like Material Boosts Batteries Durability

Your knees and your smartphone battery have some surprisingly similar needs, a University of Michigan professor has discovered, and that new insight has led to a “structural battery” prototype that incorporates a cartilage-like material to make the batteries highly durable and easy to shape.The idea behind structural batteries is to store energy in structural components—the wing of a drone or the bumper of an electric vehicle, for example. They’ve been a long-term goal for researchers and industry because they could reduce weight and extend range. But structural batteries have so far been heavy, short-lived or unsafe.

In a study published in ACS Nano, the researchers describe how they made a damage-resistant rechargeable zinc battery with a cartilage-like solid electrolyte. They showed that the batteries can replace the top casings of several commercial drones. The prototype cells can run for more than 100 cycles at 90 percent capacity, and withstand hard impacts and even stabbing without losing voltage or starting a fire.

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A battery that is also a structural component has to be light, strong, safe and have high capacity. Unfortunately, these requirements are often mutually exclusive,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, who led the research.

To sidestep these trade-offs, the researchers used zinc—a legitimate structural material—and branched nanofibers that resemble the collagen fibers of cartilageAhmet Emrehan Emre, a biomedical engineering PhD candidate, sandwiches a thin sheet of a cartilage-like material between a layer of zinc on top and a layer of manganese oxide underneath to form a battery

Nature does not have zinc batteries, but it had to solve a similar problem,” Kotov said. “Cartilage turned out to be a perfect prototype for an ion-transporting material in batteries. It has amazing mechanics, and it serves us for a very long time compared to how thin it is. The same qualities are needed from solid electrolytes separating cathodes and anodes in batteries.”

In our bodies, cartilage combines mechanical strength and durability with the ability to let water, nutrients and other materials move through it. These qualities are nearly identical to those of a good solid electrolyte, which has to resist damage from dendrites while also letting ions flow from one electrode to the other.

Source: https://news.umich.edu/

How To Use The Body’s Inbuilt Healing System

Imperial researchers have developed a new bioinspired material that interacts with surrounding tissues to promote healing. Materials are widely used to help heal wounds: Collagen sponges help treat burns and pressure sores, and scaffold-like implants are used to repair broken bones. However, the process of tissue repair changes over time, so scientists are looking to biomaterials that interact with tissues as healing takes place.

Now, Dr Ben Almquist and his team at Imperial College London have created a new molecule that could change the way traditional materials work with the body. Known as traction force-activated payloads (TrAPs), their method lets materials talk to the body’s natural repair systems to drive healing.

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The researchers say incorporating TrAPs into existing medical materials could revolutionise the way injuries are treated.

Our technology could help launch a new generation of materials that actively work with tissues to drive healing,” said Dr Almquist, from mperial’s Department of Bioengineering.
After an injury, cells ‘crawl’ through the collagen ‘scaffolds’ found in wounds, like spiders navigating webs. As they move, they pull on the scaffold, which activates hidden healing proteins that begin to repair injured tissue. The researchers in the study designed TrAPs as a way to recreate this natural healing method. They folded the DNA segments into three-dimensional shapes known as aptamers that cling tightly to proteins. Then, they attached a customisable ‘handle’ that cells can grab onto on one end, before attaching the opposite end to a scaffold such as collagen.
During laboratory testing of their technique, they found that cells pulled on the TrAPs as they crawled through the collagen scaffolds. The researchers tailor TrAPs to release specific therapeutic proteins based on which cells are present at a given point in time.

This is the first time scientists have activated healing proteins using differing cell types in man-made materials. The technique mimics healing methods found in nature. “Creatures from sea sponges to humans use cell movement to activate healing. Our approach mimics this by using the different cell varieties in wounds to drive healing,” explains Dr Almquist.”

This approach is adaptable to different cell types, so could be used in a variety of injuries such as fractured bones, scar tissue after heart attacks, and damaged nerves. New techniques are also desperately needed for patients whose wounds won’t heal despite current interventions, like diabetic foot ulcers, which are the leading cause of non-traumatic lower leg amputationsTrAPs are relatively straightforward to create and are fully man-made, meaning they are easily recreated in different labs and can be scaled up to industrial quantities.

TrAPs could harness the body’s natural healing powers to repair bone

TrAPs provide a flexible method of actively communicating with wounds, as well as key instructions when and where they are needed. This intelligent healing is useful during every phase of the healing process, has the potential to increase the body’s chance to recover, and has far-reaching uses on many different types of wounds. This technology could serve as a conductor of wound repair, orchestrating different cells over time to work together to heal damaged tissues,” said Dr Almquist.

The findings are published in Advanced Materials.

Source: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/

The Immune System’s Fountain of Youth

If only we could keep our bodies young, healthy and energetic, even as we attain the wisdom of our years. New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel suggests this dream could be at least partly obtainable in the future. The results of this research, led by Prof. Valery Krizhanovsky and Dr. Yossi Ovadya in the Molecular Cell Biology Department, were recently published in Nature Communications.

The research began with an investigation into the way that the immune system is involved in a crucial activity: clearing away old, senescent cells that spell trouble for the body when they hang around. Senescent cells – not completely dead but suffering loss of function or irreparable damage – have been implicated in diseases of aging by promoting inflammation. The researchers used mice in which a crucial gene for this immune activity was missing. At two years (elderly, for mice), the bodies of these mice had a greater accumulation of senescent cells compared with the mice in which the gene for removing these cells was intact. The mice missing the gene suffered from chronic inflammation, and various functions in their bodies appeared to be diminished. They also looked older – and died earlier – than their normal counterparts.

Drug treatment eliminates senescent cells from tissues of old mice. The blue staining shows senescent cells in lung and liver tissue. The amount of the staining is significantly reduced following the drug treatment

Next, the researchers gave the mice a drug that inhibits the function of certain proteins that help the aging cells survive in their senescent state, to see if this would contribute to the removal of these cells from the body. The drugs were administered to mice whose aging was a result of the malfunctions the group had uncovered in the immune system as well as those suffering premature aging from a different genetic error. The treated mice responded exceptionally well to the drug: Their blood tests and activity tests showed improvement, and their tissues appeared to be much closer to those of young mice. The scientists counted senescent cells, finding many fewer of them remaining in the treated mice’s bodies; and when they looked for signs of inflammation, they found that this, too, was significantly lower. The mice treated with the drug were more active and their median lifespan rose.

Source: https://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/

Man With Multiple Sclerosis Walks Again After Stem Cell Transplant

For a decade, Roy Palmer had no control of his legs. The man from Gloucester, England, had multiple sclerosis, or MS, which results in the body’s immune system eating away at the protective covering of nerves, disrupting communication between the brain and the body.  Palmer had no feeling in his legs and used a wheelchair. But last year, he received a life-changing treatment that restored his ability to walk — and dance — again,the BBC reports. The dad first heard of the treatment, called HSCT (hematopoietic stem cell transplantation), on the BBC program, “Panorama.”

Two people on that program went into Sheffield Hospital in wheelchairs and they both came out walking,” Palmer said. “As soon as we saw that, we both cried,” Palmer’s wife told the BBC. According to the National MS Society, HSCT still considered experimental, but Palmer decided it was worth a try.

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If they can have that done, on a trial, why can’t I have it done?” Palmer said. So last year, the 49-year-old started the grueling treatment, which is potentially risky, the BBC reports. HSCT doesn’t always work and there is a long-term risk of infection and infertility. “They take the stem cells out of your body. They give you chemotherapy to kill the rest of your immune system,” Palmer told the BBC. The stem cells are then used to reboot the immune system. “Let’s hope it works,” Palmer adds in a home video taken just before the treatment. It did. After HSCT, he regained feeling in his left leg within two days. “I haven’t felt that in 10 years,” comments Palmer. “It’s a miracle.” Eventually, he regained feeling in both of his legs and began to walk.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/

Human Retinas Grown In A Dish

Biologists at Johns Hopkins University grew human retinas from scratch to determine how cells that allow people to see in color are made. The work, set for publication in the journal Science, lays the foundation to develop therapies for eye diseases such as color blindness and macular degeneration. It also establishes lab-created “organoids” as a model to study human development on a cellular level.

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Everything we examine looks like a normal developing eye, just growing in a dish,” said Robert Johnston, a developmental biologist at Johns Hopkins. “You have a model system that you can manipulate without studying humans directly.” Johnston’s lab explores how a cell’s fate is determined—or what happens in the womb to turn a developing cell into a specific type of cell, an aspect of human biology that is largely unknown. Here, he and his team focused on the cells that allow people to see blue, red and green—the three cone photoreceptors in the human eye.

While most vision research is done on mice and fish, neither of those species has the dynamic daytime and color vision of humans. So Johnston’s team created the human eye tissue they needed—with stem cells. “Trichromatic color vision differentiates us from most other mammals,” said lead author Kiara Eldred, a Johns Hopkins graduate student. “Our research is really trying to figure out what pathways these cells take to give us that special color vision.”

Source: https://hub.jhu.edu/

Antipsychotic Drug Reduces Aggressive Type Of Breast Cancer Cells

A commonly-used anti-psychotic drug could also be effective against triple negative breast cancer, the form of the disease that is most difficult to treat, new research has found. The study, led by the University of Bradford, also showed that the drug, Pimozide, has the potential to treat the most common type of lung cancer.

Anti-psychotic drugs are known to have anti-cancer properties, with some, albeit inconclusive, studies showing a reduced incidence of cancer amongst people with schizophrenia. The new research, published inOncotarget, is the first to identify how one of these drugs acts against triple negative breast cancer, with the potential to be the first targeted treatment for the disease.

Triple negative breast cancer has lower survival rates and increased risk of recurrence. It is the only type of breast cancer for which only limited targeted treatments are available. Our research has shown that Pimozide could potentially fill this gap. And because this drug is already in clinical use, it could move quickly into clinical trials,” said lead researcher, Professor Mohamed El-Tanani from the University of Bradford

The researchers, from the University of Bradford, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Salamanca, tested Pimozide in the laboratory on triple negative breast cancer cells, non-small cell lung cancer cells and normal breast cells. They found that at the highest dosage used, up to 90 per cent of the cancer cells died following treatment with the drug, compared with only five per cent of the normal cells.

Source: https://bradford.ac.uk/

A Wearable Device For Regrowing Hair

Although some people embrace the saying “bald is beautiful,” for others, alopecia, or excessive hair loss, can cause stress and anxiety. Some studies have shown that stimulating the skin with lasers can help regrow hair, but the equipment is often large, consumes lots of energy and is difficult to use in daily life. Now, researchers have developed a flexible, wearable photostimulator that speeds up hair growth in mice. 

Affecting millions of men and women worldwide, alopecia has several known causes, including heredity, stress, aging and elevated male hormones. Common treatments include medications, such as minoxidil, corticosteroid injections and hair transplant surgery. In addition, irradiating the bald area with a red laser can stimulate hair follicles, causing cells to proliferate. However, this treatment is often impractical for home use. So, Keon Jae Lee and colleagues wanted to develop a flexible, durable photostimulator that could be worn on human skin.

Shaved mice with flexible vertical LEDs (f-VLEDs) regrows hair faster than no treatment (Con) or minoxidil injections (MNX)

The team fabricated an ultrathin array of flexible vertical micro-light-emitting diodes (mLEDs). The array consisted of 900 red mLEDs on a chip slightly smaller than a postage stamp and only 20 mm thick. The device used almost 1,000 times less power per unit area than a conventional phototherapeutic laser, and it did not heat up enough to cause thermal damage to human skin. The array was sturdy and flexible, enduring up to 10,000 cycles of bending and unbending. The researchers tested the device’s ability to regrow hair on mice with shaved backs. Compared with untreated mice or those receiving minoxidil injections, the mice treated with the mLED patch for 15 minutes a day for 20 days showed significantly faster hair growth, a wider regrowth area and longer hairs.

The findings are reported in ACS Nano.

Source: https://www.acs.org/

Blood Vessels Can Contribute To Tumor Suppression

A study from the Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology in Toulouse (France) has introduced a novel concept in cancer biology : Blood vessels in human tumors are not all the same and some types of blood vessels found in the tumor microenvironment (i. e. HEVs) can contribute to tumor suppression rather than tumor growth(Cancer Res 2011).

 A better understanding of HEVs at the molecular level, which is one of the major objectives of the research team, may have an important impact for cancer therapy.

Dendritic cells, which are well known for their role as antigen-presenting cells, play an unexpected and important role in the maintenance of HEV blood vessels in lymph nodes (Nature 2011). In addition, the scientists discovered the frequent presence of HEVs in human solid tumors, and their association with cytotoxic lymphocyte infiltration and favourable clinical outcome in breast cancer. They also showed that IL-33 is a chromatin-associated cytokine (PNAS 2007, 453 citations) that function as an alarm signal (alarmin) released upon cellular damage (PNAS 2009, 312 citations). Inflammatory proteases can generate truncated forms of IL-33 that are 30-fold more potent than the full length protein for activation of group 2 innate lymphoid cells (PNAS 2012, 133 citations, PNAS 2014).

An important objective  is now to further characterize IL-33 regulation and mechanisms of action in vivo, through the use of multidisciplinary approaches.

Source: http://www.ipbs.fr/

AI creates 3D ‘digital heart’ to aid patient diagnoses

Armed with a mouse and computer screen instead of a scalpel and operating theater, cardiologist Benjamin Meder carefully places the electrodes of a pacemaker in a beating, digital heart.  Using this “digital twin” that mimics the electrical and physical properties of the cells in patient 7497’s heart, Meder runs simulations to see if the pacemaker can keep the congestive heart failure sufferer alivebefore he has inserted a knife.

A three-dimensional printout of a human heart is seen at the Heidelberg University Hospital (Universitaetsklinikum Heidelberg)

The digital heart twin developed by Siemens Healthineers, a German company is one example of how medical device makers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to help doctors make more precise diagnoses as medicine enters an increasingly personalized age.

The challenge for Siemens Healthineers and rivals such as Philips and GE Healthcare is to keep an edge over tech giants from Alphabet’s Google to Alibaba that hope to use big data to grab a slice of healthcare spending.

With healthcare budgets under increasing pressure, AI tools such as the digital heart twin could save tens of thousands of dollars by predicting outcomes and avoiding unnecessary surgery.

Source: https://www.healthcare.siemens.com/
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https://www.reuters.com/