Monthly Archives: August 2013

Alzheimer’s: Mice are pointing researchers in a new direction

iStock_000012365285XSmallA new research study at Stanford may shed some light on the cause of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Through research in mice, it was found that an immune protein called C1q is involved in the process of creating and destroying synapses (a normal process in the developing brain). The characteristics of C1q also make it capable of accumulating on dead or dying cells. As C1q clings to synapses, a chain reaction occurs, and as more and more C1q accumulates, immune cells are triggered to ‘attack’ these areas. Previously, it was thought that loss of synapses triggers inflammation, but it may be the other way around.

Human and mouse brains that have been studied post-mortem show that C1q increases dramatically with age. This could explain why aging brains are vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases, why kids are not affected. This new find gives researchers a better insight into the immune system’s function as it relates to aging diseases, and could point them in a new direction for a possible cure. Stay tuned… this will certainly be investigated further, and hopefully give scientists a better understanding of Alzheimer’s in human patients!

Check out the article here:

Pregnant? Still smoking? New research may REALLY help you quit!

cigarette-smoking-during-pregnancy-2 nosmokingawareness.wordpress.comNew research in rats may really change your mind. There is plenty of evidence showing that exposure to nicotine while in utero can increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage, birth defects, and SIDS. But if that isn’t enough to make expectant moms put out those cigarettes, maybe a new study done at the Rockefeller University in New York will change their minds.
A study in pregnant rats showed that nicotine exposure caused their babies to have addictive personalities. What happens is simple- nicotine exposure while in the womb increases the production of certain brain neurons that are responsible for stimulating appetite as well as reward mechanisms in the brain that promote addiction. The rat pups self-administered more nicotine and ate more fatty foods as adolescents.
The scariest part? The dosages in these experiments were about the same as the nicotine from just one cigarette a day. Quitting smoking can be difficult for various reasons, but hopefully this study will give expectant moms more of a reason to quit. We all want healthy, happy babies- make sure that your decisions are in the best interest of their long-term health, as well.
Check out details of the study here:
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Alzheimer’s and arthritis: Research helps our pets too!

jackrussellpixabayBiomedical research in mice doesn’t just help humans- it can also benefit our four-legged companions. Stem cell therapy- using stem cells derived from the patient’s own fat- is extremely effective in treating arthritis in dogs, cats and horses. Take a look at this video, showing the improvement in a dog suffering from arthritis. This clip is from a Dogs 101 episode featured on Animal Planet about the Bearded Collie. Pay special attention to the footage between 2:15 and 5:30!

These results offer hope to human patients as well. Clinical trials are currently underway, and some doctors are already offering treatments using fat-derived stem cells to humans. A benefit of using stem cells derived from the patient’s own fat is that there is almost no chance of rejection- it comes from their own body! If you didn’t catch my earlier post about a new stem cell therapy in mice that is actually treating Alzheimer’s, scroll down to read “Alzheimer’s Disease: Can your FAT cure it?”

And stay tuned- with these results, it will be exciting to see what else fat-derived stem cells can do!


Breast cancer: Is genetic testing for you?

mammogram breast cancer istockEstimates show that about 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer, but 60% of women who have inherited a mutation at BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (genes that are a type of tumor suppressor) will develop breast cancer. Got your attention?

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins that suppress tumors and repair damaged DNA. A mutation at one of these genes means that DNA damage isn’t repaired correctly, and cells are more likely to continue to develop alterations that can lead to cancer.

Genetic testing can give you a better idea of your risk. If you have a mutation at one of these genes, you have the benefit of knowing how to be proactive! Your doctor will set up regular screenings (mammograms, breast exams, ultrasounds) to be able to catch any problems early on. Certain  drugs, diet changes and lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. And there are plenty of clinical trials out there for those with known mutations at these genes- researchers are working to gather as much information as possible so the implications of mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can be understood.

Check this out! A mouse research study in North Carolina intends to determine  whether or not transmission of the mutated genes can be prevented!

What about you? Would you want to know?

Pregnant? Might want to reconsider that morning coffee…

Two Pregnant Friends Having Coffee TogetherMost doctors recommend that during pregnancy, you should limit yourself to only one or two cups of coffee or caffeinated beverages a day. But recently, a study in mice showed that caffeine exposure during pregnancy negatively affected fetal brain development. Researchers found that mouse pups exposed to caffeine (at a dose equivalent to 3-4 cups of coffee/day for a human) showed a significant delay in migration of important neurons- similar to the effects seen in cocaine and amphetamine exposures. Long-term effects were also seen- these pups performed badly on memory tests and were more susceptible to seizures as they aged.
There are no studies to date showing evidence that caffeine exposure harms fetal growth, but this is possibly because 1) it is difficult to differentiate between the effects of caffeine versus other variables in pregnant women, and 2) women aren’t going to volunteer to consume high doses of a drug and then undergo invasive testing on their babies. Environmental factors throughout the child’s life- as well as genetic factors- also need to be considered, so it is extremely difficult to conclusively prove long-term effects in humans.
That being said, maybe expectant moms should listen to the mice and limit caffeine exposure- your kids may thank you for it later!

Alzheimer’s Disease: Can your FAT cure it?

alzheimer's freeAlzheimer’s Disease affects almost 40 million people worldwide, and the numbers are climbing. For those who have gone through the experience of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you know that it can make you feel helpless. But what if a patient’s FAT could not only provide a treatment for the disease, but also possibly prevent it? When we hear “stem cells,” we think of controversial stem cells derived from fetal tissue- but did you know that adult stem cells can be derived from bone marrow or fat? Adult stem cells don’t differentiate quite as well as fetal stem cells, but studies are showing that they can be extremely useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. In a recent research study in Alzheimer’s mouse models, not only was the ability to learn and remember greatly improved after treatment with fat-derived stem cells, but there were significant differences in the pathology of these animals, suggesting a great potential to not only stop but to prevent the disease. Follow the link to check out the research study, performed by Bio Stem Cell Technology Institute, showing that stem cells derived from human fat can cause REGENERATION in the brains of mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease!