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Archive - Oct 3, 2014

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NIH Announces $46 Million Initial Funding of BRAIN Initiative

On September 30, 2014, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced its first wave of investments totaling $46 million in fiscal year 2014 funds to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. More than 100 investigators in 15 states and several countries will work to develop new tools and technologies to understand neural circuit function and capture a dynamic view of the brain in action. These new tools and this deeper understanding will ultimately catalyze new treatments and cures for devastating brain disorders and diseases that are estimated by the World Health Organization to affect more than one billion people worldwide. “The human brain is the most complicated biological structure in the known universe. We’ve only just scratched the surface in understanding how it works — or, unfortunately, doesn’t quite work when disorders and disease occur,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “There’s a big gap between what we want to do in brain research and the technologies available to make exploration possible. These initial awards are part of a 12-year scientific plan focused on developing the tools and technologies needed to make the next leap in understanding the brain. This is just the beginning of an ambitious journey and we’re excited about the possibilities.” Creating a wearable scanner to image the human brain in motion, using lasers to guide nerve cell firing, recording the entire nervous system in action, stimulating specific circuits with radio waves, and identifying complex circuits with DNA barcodes are among the 58 projects announced today.

Complex Three-Way Interaction between the Non-Integrin Laminin Receptor, Galectin-3, and Life-Threatening Neisseria meningitides

Previously undiscovered secrets of how human cells interact with a bacterium which causes a serious human disease have been revealed in new research by microbiologists at The University of Nottingham. The scientists at the University’s Centre for Biomolecular Sciences have shed new light on how two proteins found on many human cells are targeted by the human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis (image) which can cause life-threatening meningitis and septicemia. The proteins, laminin receptor 1 (LAMR1) and galectin-3 (Gal-3) are found in and on the surface of many human cells. Previous research has shown that they play diverse roles in a variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases. For example, the LAMR1 is a key receptor targeted by disease-causing pathogens and their toxins and is also a receptor for the spread of cancer around the body and for the development of Alzheimer’s. Using the latest bimolecular fluorescence and confocal imaging techniques, the researchers have shown that these two separate proteins can form pairs made up of two similar molecules (homodimers) or one of each molecule (heterodimers) which are targeted by Neisseria meningitidis. They have also identified critical components which cause the formation of these pairs of molecules. These new mechanistic insights into the three-way relationship between proteins and bacterial pathogens could have significant implications in the fields of infection, vaccination, and cancer biology. Associate Professor of Microbiology, Dr. Karl Wooldridge, said: “We have shown evidence for the self and mutual association of these two important proteins and their distinctive surface distribution on the human cell. We’ve also demonstrated that they are targeted by the serious human pathogen Neisseria meningitidis.