Missing Link Found Between Brain and Immune System; Major Implications for Diseases
A new study from scientists at the University of Virginia may overturn the knowledge found in many health textbooks. Researchers have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. The discovery could have profound implications for diseases from autism to Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis.
The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels raises numerous questions that now need answers, both about the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it. For example, look at Alzheimer’s disease. “In Alzheimer’s, there are accumulations of big protein chunks in the brain,” said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “We think they may be accumulating in the brain because they’re not being efficiently removed by these vessels.” He noted that the vessels look different with age, so the role they play in aging is another avenue to explore. On top of Alzheimer’s, there’s an enormous range of other neurological diseases, from autism to multiple sclerosis (MS), that must be reexamined in light of this recent discovery.
Alzheimer’s Conference and the Coming Results of a Potential Drug for Alzheimer’s Patients
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference begins this weekend in Toronto, with almost 500 presentations on the latest research in dementia and neurodegeneration. The big news for biotech comes next Wednesday, when the privately held Singapore-based TauRx Pharmaceuticals Ltd is expected to unveil results from a phase 3 trial of its Alzheimer’s treatment. The company enrolled nearly 900 patients with mild to moderate disease in hopes its drug could demonstrate a significant effect on cognition and function compared with placebo—something no therapy has been able to do in a late-stage trial.
Claude Wischik, a professor at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, has spent his career looking for a drug to dissolve clumps of a protein called tau, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s brain abnormalities. The majority of Alzheimer’s researchers have focused on another kind of protein clump known as beta-amyloid, which has had mixed results.
If successful, we might see the first potential therapy for millions of people suffering from the devastating neurodegenerative disease.
The Importance of Sleep in Children
Candice Alfano, a clinical psychologist and associate psychology professor at the University of Houston, says children who experience inadequate or disrupted sleep are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders later in life. Funded by a grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the study seeks to determine the exact ways inadequate sleep in childhood produces increased risk for emotional disorders as they grow older.
The researchers’ findings reveal that inadequate sleep impacts children’s emotional health. This occurs not only by creating more negative emotions, but also by altering positive emotional experiences they may have experienced during their days. For example, after just two nights of insufficient sleep, children derive less pleasure from positive things, are less reactive to them and less likely to recall details about these positive experiences later. When their normal nightly sleep habits are adequate in duration, however, they’re finding these emotional effects are less apparent.
President Obama’s Administrations Effort to Make Precision Medicine Commonplace in Medicine and Healthcare
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