Tag Archives: understanding

Lasers: A new way to map the brain!

pixabay lasersResearchers have found a way to map the brain using lasers! Chemists from Stanford University have come up with a way to track blood vessels in the brain in a new, non-invasive technique. Ultimately, this research could help improve the understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Current methods for investigating the brain are either too invasive or not detailed enough. Surgery can cause trauma that can negatively impact brain activity, and while MRIs and CT scans can give a good amount of information, sometimes it just isn’t enough.

That’s where this new technique comes in. Researchers inject water-soluble carbon nanotubes into a mouse’s bloodstream. These nanotubes fluoresce at particular wavelengths, so when researchers shine a near-infrared laser over the mouse’s skull, they can see the nanotubes, which show the structures of blood vessels. Scientists were able to see about 3mm underneath the scalp, and this technique doesn’t appear to have any negative effects on brain functions.

This research was developed in mice, but it may be able to be used in humans as well. The technique would need to be modified to allow researchers to see deeper into the brain, and they would need to identify an appropriate fluorescing agent to use. But hopefully, this new technique could give researchers a new way to study strokes, migraines, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Read more about it here:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/skull-blood-flow-080614.html

Hearing loss linked to a clock!

iStock_000014889492SmallDon’t worry, your alarm clock probably isn’t causing hearing loss. Well, at least not during the day! Let me explain. You probably know that your sleep patterns, hormone levels, body temperature, and immune system are affected by circadian rhythms, which are controlled by biological clocks. Circadian rhythms have also been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, metabolism, and depression- and new research shows a potential link to hearing loss.

Researchers at the Karolinsksa Institutet in Stockholm have discovered that there is a biological clock in the ear, controlled by genes that regulate circadian rhythms. Through research in mice, they found that higher noise levels during the night resulted in permanent hearing damage, but the same noise levels during the day didn’t affect their hearing.

There is a growth hormone (called BDNF) that protects auditory nerve cells. These levels fluctuate through the day, regulated by your ‘ear clock.’ BDNF levels were lower at night, so the mice were more prone to hearing damage. But by stimulating BDNF levels at night, researchers were able to protect hearing during noise exposure!

This is an important discovery. Many people work in professions that expose them to higher noise levels at night, and understanding the mechanisms behind protecting hearing could help researchers develop new treatments for hearing loss. Read more about it here:

http://news.cision.com/karolinska-institutet/r/new-discovery-paves-the-way-for-medicine-for-people-with-hearing-disabilities,c9540948

Cats and understanding obesity- there’s an important link!

iStock_000004772370SmallThere are over 1,000 X-linked genes, including the genes for red-green color blindness, hemophilia, male pattern baldness, and body fat distribution. And if you remember your high school genetics, males have one “X” and one “Y” chromosome, and females have two “X” chromosomes.

Since females have two “X” chromosomes, only one of the X chromosomes will be expressed in any given cell. The determination of which one is expressed is random. Tortoiseshell and calico cats (all females) are the perfect example- they have a gene for orange fur on one of their X chromosomes, and a gene for black fur on the other. Their random coat patterns are due to the random expression of X-chromosomes; areas where the fur is black express the X-chromosome with the black fur gene, and areas where the fur is orange express the X-chromosome with the orange fur gene.

OK, so the cats look pretty awesome. But it doesn’t stop there. Researchers are working with calico cats to try to understand how X-chromosomes are inactivated, in an attempt to figure out a way to turn certain genes on or off in a way that isn’t random. How cool would it be if genes linked to obesity or other diseases could be selectively silenced without altering a person’s DNA? Or if X-chromosome linked disorders could be silenced in a way that they wouldn’t be passed down to our offspring?

tortoiseshell cat pixabayRead more here: http://news.discovery.com/animals/pets/how-calico-cats-could-help-cure-obesity-140218.htm?utm_source=FB&utm_medium=DNews&utm_campaign=DNewsSocial

Research and patients: Understanding helps everyone!

Double portraitIt’s a great question: How much do patients actually know about animals in research, specifically, as they relate to advances in their own diseases or ailments?

Genetic Alliance UK and Understanding Research teamed up to find out. They held sessions at local universities and invited members of families affected by different genetic conditions. Patients and family members were able to go behind the scenes to see the animals, the caretakers, and the researchers at work.

Visitors were pleasantly surprised by the high standards of care, the bond between the staff and the animals, the strict rules and regulations, and the honesty and candor of the research staff they encountered! Now, attendees are learning how to discuss what they learned with the public, in an attempt to explain a patient’s perspective of animals in research.

This is such a great way to get people connected with research! We often hear from people either in the field of research or far removed from it, but giving patients a better understanding of where their treatments originate could allow us to hear from a whole new type of voice.

Do you know what research led to the development of treatments that have helped you or your family members? I urge you to look into it- a better understanding of the process can only help us all!

http://www.insight.mrc.ac.uk/2013/10/21/introducing-patients-to-animal-research/