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Archive - Oct 20, 2009

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Over-Expressed Gene Produces Smarter Rat

Over-expression of a particular gene (NR2B) that lets brain cells communicate just a fraction of a second longer makes a smarter rat, according to a recent research report. The researches showed that a transgenic Long Evans rat that overexpressed NR2B was able to remember novel objects, such as a toy she played with, three times longer than the average Long Evans female rat, which is considered the smartest rat strain. The transgenic rat was also much better at more complex tasks, such as remembering which path she last traveled to find a chocolate treat. NR2B is a subunit of NMBA receptors, which are like small pores in brain cells that let in electrically-charged ions that increase the activity and communication of neurons. Dr. Joe Tsien, an author of the report, referred to NR2B as the "juvenile" form of the receptor because its levels decline after puberty and the adult counterpart, NR2A, becomes more prevalent. While the juvenile form keeps communication between brain cells open maybe just a hundred milliseconds longer, that's enough to significantly enhance learning and memory and why young people tend to do both better, Dr. Tsien said. The report was published October 19 in PLoS ONE. [Press release] [PLoS ONE article]

Potential Anti-Melanoma Compound Synthesized

Researches at the University of Alberta in Canada have synthesized a natural compound (palmerolide A) that they believe shows exceptional potential to specifically treat melanoma, a frequently fatal form of skin cancer. "The potency of palmerolide is exceptional and melanoma is a very aggressive cancer for which there is almost no chemotherapeutic recourse," said Dr. Dennis Hall, senior author of the report. "Natural substances like palmerolide offer real hope for such treatments. One of the problems with most cancer drugs is the lack of selectivity for cancer cells versus normal cells. Preliminary data for palmerolide A looks very promising in terms of solving this issue." Dr. Hall emphasized that "for commercialization, the structure needs to be made more 'drug-like;' smaller, and more water-soluble, while preserving the potency." The report was published in the October 14 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. [Press release] [JACS abstract]