Optogenetics research shows brain's plasticity | NSAID shows potential to ease Alzheimer's symptoms | Researchers use CRISPR to turn fibroblasts into neurons
August 17, 2016
FBR Smartbrief
Top Story
Optogenetics research shows brain's plasticity
Optogenetics research shows brain's plasticity.
(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Researchers at Columbia University used a modified virus to deliver light-sensitive proteins to cells in a mouse's brain, then used a laser to activate the cells and implant what they believe is something like an image or memory in the animal's brain. Columbia University researcher Rafael Yuste said the study shows that the brain is not hard-wired as scientists have believed but is flexible and malleable.
The Independent (London) (tiered subscription model) (8/11),  The Scientist online (8/11) 
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Research Breakthroughs
NSAID shows potential to ease Alzheimer's symptoms
NSAID shows potential to ease Alzheimer's symptoms
Studies have implicated brain inflammation in Alzheimer's disease severity, and mefenamic acid, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to reverse memory problems akin to Alzheimer's in mice. The drug targets the NLRP3 inflammasome, an inflammatory pathway linked to damaged brain cells.
United Press International (8/11) 
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Researchers use CRISPR to turn fibroblasts into neurons
Scientists have turned on transcription factors in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, changing the cells into neurons using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, according to findings published in Cell Stem Cell. "We're flipping the epigenetic switch to convert cell types rather than driving them to do so synthetically," said Joshua Black, who co-authored the study.
The Scientist online (8/15) 
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2 proteins in Zika cause microcephaly, researchers say
NSAID shows potential to ease Alzheimer's symptoms.
(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Only two of the 10 proteins in the Zika virus are linked to fetal microcephaly, according to a study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell. The researchers are studying the proteins, NS4A and NS4B, in mice and brain organoids as they work to lay the groundwork for treatments.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch/HealthDay News (8/11) 
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Timing appears to affect severity of viral infections
Studies in mice showed that viral loads associated with influenza and herpes were 10 times higher among animals infected in the morning than those infected in the evening, and disrupting the body's circadian rhythm increases vulnerability to infection, something that has implications for people with erratic work schedules. The effect might be due to BMAL1 gene activity, which peaks in the afternoon in mice and in people, and drops off in the winter.
BBC (8/16) 
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Continuous light exposure weakens muscles, bones in rats
Rats exposed to light 24 hours per day for six months had less muscle strength than those exposed to only 12 hours of light each day, and they had early symptoms of osteoporosis, more body fat, higher blood glucose levels and signs of worsening immune health, researchers reported in Current Biology. After two subsequent weeks of exposure to a 12-hour light-dark cycle, the test group rats' health returned to normal.
The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (8/12) 
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Other News
Animal Health
Clinical trials in pets offer cross-species benefits
Pets might bridge the research gap between mice and humans
Because dogs and cats live alongside people and are affected by many of the same diseases as humans, researchers say pets are especially valuable clinical trial participants, and the results can benefit people and animals. Studies involving pet dogs and cats might yield more useful information than more traditional lab studies, but pets are not as easy to work with, and there is less funding available for the work.
ScienceMag.org (8/11) 
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Rapamycin has positive effect on heart function in initial trials
A 24-dog trial at the University of Washington to test the safety of rapamycin showed the drug improved cardiac function without significant side effects. The results are part of an ongoing study of the drug in pets to determine whether it can prolong the life of dogs and possibly humans and mitigate some of the problems associated with aging.
The Telegraph (London) (tiered subscription model) (8/15) 
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