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Newly discovered brain network offers clues to social cognition

Photo credit: Kathy West – Speaking of Research

Scientists call our ability to understand another person’s thoughts—to intuit their desires, read their intentions, and predict their behavior—theory of mind. It’s an essential human trait, one that is crucial to effective social interaction. But where did it come from?

Working with rhesus macaque monkeys, researchers in Winrich Freiwald’s Laboratory of Neural Systems at The Rockefeller University have discovered tantalizing clues about the origins of our ability to understand what other people are thinking. As reported in Science on May 18, Freiwald and postdoc Julia Sliwa have identified areas in the brains of these primates that are exclusively dedicated to analyzing social interactions. And they may have evolved into the neural circuitry that supports theory of mind in the human brain. Read more.

Published by Rockefeller University May 18th, 2017

Scientists hail ‘promising cure’ for HIV after study in mice

Written by: Ian Johnston – Science Correspondent

A “promising cure” for HIV and Aids has been discovered, according to scientists who managed to almost entirely eliminate the devastating immune disease from infected mice.

The researchers said they had demonstrated the “feasibility and efficiency” of removing the HIV-1 provirus using a gene-editing technique called Crispr. Read more.

Published May 3, 2017 by The Independent

California National Primate Research Center Successfully Demonstrates Gene Editing in Nonhuman Primates

(U.C. DAVIS) – Imagine a world where maladies such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s Disease, or sickle cell anemia no longer exist. While the U.S. is far from achieving this lofty goal, it recently came a step closer at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), where scientists have efficiently used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to modify the genes of rhesus macaque embryos.

The research, recently published in the latest edition of Human Molecular Genetics, paves the way for future studies where the possibility of birthing gene-edited monkeys that can serve as models for new therapies is greatly increased.

CRISPR, an acronym for Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is essentially a DNA segment that scientists can manipulate using a system known as CRISPR/Cas9 to edit the genes within organisms. CRISPR/Cas9 seeks and targets specific genes in organisms that are linked to diseases. It does this by utilizing a single strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a nucleic acid present in all living cells, as a guide to target specific genes for editing. Read more.

Published May 2, 2016 by California National Primate Research Center UC Davis

 

Children’s Hospital’s ‘artificial womb’ raises hope for extreme preemies

Written by: Tom Avril – Staff Writer

Photo credit: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Premature lambs were kept alive in a bag filled with synthetic amniotic fluid, and their umbilical cords were connected to an external oxygenator.

In a major step aimed at improving the survival odds for extremely premature infants, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia researchers have created an artificial womb — a fluid-filled “BioBag” that kept fetal lambs alive and healthy outside their mothers until they could survive on their own.
The animals received oxygen through their umbilical cords and continued to develop much as if they had remained in the uterus, leading the team to express hope that the procedure could be tried on the youngest human preemies within three to five years.

The authors of the research stressed that they were not trying to enable the delivery of babies earlier than the current limit of viability, generally 22 to 23 weeks of pregnancy. Read more.

Published April 25th, 2017 by philly.com

Molecule kills elderly cells, reduces signs of aging in mice

By Mitch Leslie

Even if you aren’t elderly, your body is home to agents of senility—frail and damaged cells that age us and promote disease. Now, researchers have developed a molecule that selectively destroys these so-called senescent cells. The compound makes old mice act and appear more youthful, providing hope that it may do the same for us.

“It’s definitely a landmark advance in the field,” says cell and molecular biologist Francis Rodier of the University of Montreal in Canada who wasn’t connected to the study. “This is the first time that somebody has shown that you can get rid of senescent cells without having any obvious side effects.” Read more.

Published by Science Magazine March 23, 2017

Antibody Fights Pediatric Brain Tumors in Preclinical Testing

By Stanford University Medical Center

Five types of pediatric brain cancer were safely and effectively treated in mice by an antibody that causes immune cells to engulf and eat tumors without hurting healthy brain cells, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The immune therapy studied consists of antibodies against a cellular “don’t eat me” signal called CD47. Developed at Stanford, the anti-CD47 antibodies are already being tested in early clinical trials in adults who have tumors outside the central nervous system. But they have never been tried against pediatric brain tumors until now.

The new study pitted anti-CD47 antibodies against human cancer cells that had been grown in a dish and implanted in mice. The tests targeted five aggressive pediatric brain tumors: Group 3 medulloblastoma, atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, primitive neuroectodermal tumor, pediatric glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. Read more.

Published by LAB March 16, 2017

Can tilapia skin be used to bandage burns?

 

Photo credit STAT News

Written By Nadia Sussman

FORTALEZA, Brazil — In this historic city by the sea in northeast Brazil, burn patients look as if they’ve emerged from the waves. They are covered in fish skin — specifically strips of sterilized tilapia.

Doctors here are testing the skin of the popular fish as a bandage for second- and third-degree burns. The innovation arose from an unmet need. Animal skin has long been used in the treatment of burns in developed countries. But Brazil lacks the human skin, pig skin, and artificial alternatives that are widely available in the US.

The three functional skin banks in Brazil can meet only 1 percent of the national demand, said Dr. Edmar Maciel, a plastic surgeon and burn specialist leading the clinical trials with tilapia skin. Read more.

Published March 2, 2017 by STAT news.

Fasting diet ‘regenerates diabetic pancreas’

Written by: James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News website

The pancreas can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet, say US researchers. Restoring the function of the organ – which helps control blood sugar levels – reversed symptoms of diabetes in animal experiments.The study, published in the journal Cell, says the diet reboots the body.

Experts said the findings were “potentially very exciting” as they could become a new treatment for the disease. People are advised not to try this without medical advice.

In the experiments, mice were put on a modified form of the “fasting-mimicking diet”. Read more.

Published February 24, 2017 by BBC News

Human neurons in mouse brains are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s pathology

Cells behave differently when removed from their environments, just as cells that develop in cultures do not behave like cells in living creatures. To study the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in a more natural environment, scientists from the lab of professor Bart De Strooper (VIB-KU Leuven, Dementia Research Institute-UK) in collaboration with scientists from ULB (profs Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Jean-Pierre Brion) successfully circumscribed this challenge by transplanting human neural cells into mouse brains containing amyloid plaques, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. The results of their research showed that, unlike mouse neurons, human neurons that developed in this environment were extremely susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease. Their high-impact results are published in leading academic journal Neuron.

The study of the development of Alzheimer’s disease on a molecular level presents unique challenges, as neurons behave differently in vivo vs. in vitro. Using mice as models presents useful insights, but mouse models never fully develop the disease, despite the fact that their brains and neurons share many similarities with those of humans. Read more.

Published February 24,2017 by Science Daily