Syndicate content

Archive - Nov 10, 2013

Blood-Clotting Protein May Offer Early Detection of Multiple Sclerosis—Neuroscience 2013

A protein involved in blood clotting may be a new indicator to help detect multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions before symptoms arise. The presence of the clotting protein, thrombin, signals an early stage of the disease when the blood-brain barrier is breached and the brain’s immune response is set into motion. The research was presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. 30,000 scientists are attending this meeting. “Our research shows this indicator is a promising approach for detecting MS-like lesions early, even before major symptoms appear,” said senior author Katerina Akassoglou, Ph.D., of the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco. “Such sensitive indicators could act as red flags that signal neuroinflammatory changes in the brain not only in MS, but also in other diseases such as Alzheimer’s.” MS is a debilitating disorder that can be intermittent or progressive, and causes numbness, fatigue, difficulty walking, paralysis, and loss of vision in 2 million people worldwide. MS arises when the body’s immune system attacks its own myelin sheaths, the protective coverings that surround neurons and allow signals to move from one cell to the next. The researchers found that thrombin, usually a beneficial protein involved in blood clotting, builds up in the central nervous system as MS progresses. Thrombin enters in the brain together with fibrinogen, another clotting protein when the protective barrier between the blood and brain becomes leaky. Thrombin converts the fibrinogen to fibrin which activates brain’s immune cells that break down the protective myelin sheath that surrounds neurons in the central nervous system.

Dendritic-Cell-Derived Exosomes As Possible Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis--Neuroscience 2013

Currently, no multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments promote remyelination. Richard Kraig, M.D., Ph.D., Professor in Neurosciences and Director of the Migraine Headache Clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine, described to the press on Sunday, May 10, at the Society for Neuroscience 2013 meeting in San Diego, his group’s new work showing that dendritic cells, a type of immune cell present in blood, can be cultured from bone marrow and stimulated to release small particles called exosomes (see image). When administered to the brain, these exosomes significantly increase myelination and improve remyelination following a demyelinating injury, like that caused by MS. MS is an inflammatory disease involving oligodendrocyte loss, demyelination, and failure to remyelinate damaged brain areas. Oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system produce myelin, the insulation surrounding axons, which is necessary for neuronal signaling. Damage to oligodendrocytes and demyelination — loss of this insulation — can lead to severe neurological disability. Remyelination is a spontaneously occurring repair process mediated by recruitment of oligodendrocyte precursor cells to damaged areas. Their subsequent differentiation into mature oligodendrocytes is capable of replacing lost myelin. Initially, MS patients follow a relapsing-remitting disease course, characterized by periods of partial recovery associated with incomplete remyelination. However, over time this ability to repair declines and patients develop a secondary-progressive, steadily worsening disease course. With over 400,000 people currently suffering from MS in the United States, it is a significant and devastating healthcare burden.

Scientists Unveil New Understanding, Warning Signs, and Potential Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis--Neurocience 2013

Scientists are gaining a new level of understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) that may lead to new treatments and approaches to controlling the chronic disease, according to new research released in San Diego on Sunday, November 10, at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. Approximately 30,000 scientists are attending this year’s meeting. MS is a severe, often crippling, autoimmune disease caused by the body’s immune system attacking the nervous system. Today, more than two million people worldwide suffer from MS and other neuroinflammatory diseases. MS usually strikes in early adulthood and manifests with symptoms including vision loss, paralysis, numbness, and fatigue. The disease can be intermittent or progressive and currently has no cure. Today’s new findings show that: scientists are one step closer to understanding how antibodies in the blood stream break past the brain’s protective barrier to attack the optic nerves, spinal cord, and brain, causing the symptoms of neuromyelitis optica, a rare disease similar to MS. Understanding how the antibodies bypass the protective blood-brain barrier could provide new approaches to treating the disease (Yukio Takeshita, M.D., Ph.D., abstract 404.09); a protein involved in blood clotting might serve as an early detection method for MS before symptoms occur. Early detection of the disease could lead to more effective early treatments (Katerina Akassoglou, Ph.D., abstract 404.11); low levels of a cholesterol protein correlate with the severity of a patient’s MS in both human patients and mouse models. The finding suggests the protein, known to protect against inflammation, may protect against developing MS, and possibly even aid in the regeneration of damaged neurons.

Research Reveals Positive Roles for Exercise, Diet, and Meditation in Aging and Depression—Neuroscience 2013

New studies released on Sunday, November 10, 2013, underscore the potential impact of healthy lifestyle choices in treating depression, the effects of aging, and learning. The research focused on the effects of mind/body awareness, exercise, and diet, and was presented in San Diego at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. The 2013 meeting is being attended by approximately 30,000 scientists. The experiences and choices people make throughout life actively impact the brain. As humans live longer, these choices also affect aging and quality of life. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise will be important to aging populations as non-drug, easy-to-follow interventions with few side effects, making ideal potential therapies. Today’s new findings show that: as few as 12 consecutive days of exercise in aging rats helps preserve and improve movement function, an effect possibly caused by changes in dopamine levels. The results suggest that exercise could stave off or reverse the slowed movements that are hallmarks of age (Jennifer Arnold, abstract 334.02); practices like yoga or meditation that increase mind/body awareness help people learn a brain-computer interface quicker. This finding may have implications for those who need brain-computer interfaces to function, such as people with paralysis (Bin He, Ph.D., abstract 16.06); long-term exercise in aging rats improves memory function, as well as increases the number of blood vessels in the white matter of their brains — the tracts that carry information between different areas of the brain.

Lumosity Presents New Data on Measuring Cognitive Training Improvements--Neuroscience 2013

Lumosity, the online cognitive training and neuroscience research company, is presenting today, at the annual 2013 Society for Neuroscience meeting, data on its set of online neuropsychological battery of assessments, the Brain Performance Test (BPT). The poster presentation titled, "Measuring Training-Related Changes in Cognitive Performance with a Repeatable Online Assessment Battery," examined the reliability of the BPT and the variability in training dose and improvement. The study found that the BPT is a reliable assessment, and that larger doses of cognitive training are associated with greater improvements on the BPT. The study also found that training gains were more strongly predictive of improvements on the assessment battery than the training dose alone.,"We created the Brain Performance Test with the goal of improving the way we measure the transfer effects of cognitive training to other tasks and real-world outcomes," said Daniel Sternberg, Ph.D., Data Scientist at Lumosity and lead author of the study. "These results are interesting because they demonstrate that training gains are a powerful predictor of transfer – replicating previous findings from other labs, but in a much larger sample." The study included a final sample of 5,870 participants between the ages of 15-75 who took the pre-test and post-test at least 70 days apart. The study found that those who trained more than the median participants — approximately 10.5 hours over a 10-week period — saw increases in improvements on core cognitive abilities compared to those who trained less. Current ongoing research using the BPT includes a randomized controlled study, multiple studies comparing the effects of different training programs on training improvements, and assessment validation studies.