Syndicate content

Archive - Aug 28, 2015

fMRI Brain Scans Predict Patient Response to Anti-Psychotic Medications; First-Time Such Results “Open Door for Precision Medicine Approaches to Psychiatry”

Investigators at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhassett, New York have discovered that brain scans can be used to predict patients' response to antipsychotic drug treatment. The findings are published online on August 28, 2015 in The American Journal of Psychiatry. The article is titled “Baseline Striatal Functional Connectivity as a Predictor of Response to Antipsychotic Drug Treatment.” Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts and behavior. These disorders are estimated to occur in up to three percent of the population and are a leading cause for disability worldwide. Psychotic episodes are currently treated with antipsychotic drugs, but this treatment is given without guidance from lab tests or brain scans, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Doctors often use "trial-and-error" approach when choosing treatment for psychotic disorders, without knowing if patients will respond well. This lack of knowledge places a large burden on not only patients and their families, but also on healthcare professionals and healthcare systems. Led by Anil Malhotra, M.D., Director of Psychiatry Research at Zucker Hillside Hospital and an Investigator at the Feinstein Institute, and Todd Lencz, Ph.D., Associate Investigator at the Zucker Hillside Hospital and the Feinstein Institute, researchers used fMRI scans obtained before treatment to predict ultimate response to medications in patients suffering from their first episode of schizophrenia. Connectivity patterns of a region of the brain called the striatum, which tends to be atypical in patients suffering from psychotic disorders, were used to create an index. This index significantly predicted if psychotic symptoms were decreased in the studies' patients.

Plasma MicroRNAs As Biomarkers for Possible Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States and has a 5-year survival rate of just 6 percent, which is the lowest rate of all types of cancer according to the American Cancer Society. This low survival rate is partially attributed to the difficulty in detecting pancreatic cancer at an early stage. According to a new “proof of principle” study published online on August 27, 2015 in Cancer Prevention Research, Moffitt Cancer Center researchers in Tampa, Florida hope to improve pancreatic cancer survival rates by identifying markers in the blood that can pinpoint patients with premalignant pancreatic lesions called intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs). The article is titled “Plasma MicroRNAs as Novel Biomarkers for Patients with Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms of the Pancreas.” "One promising strategy to reduce the number of people affected by pancreatic cancer is to identify and treat premalignant pancreatic lesions," said first author Jennifer Permuth-Wey, Ph.D., Assistant Member in the Departments of Cancer Epidemiology and Gastrointestinal Oncology at Moffitt. "IPMNs are established precursor lesions to pancreatic cancer that account for approximately half of all asymptomatic pancreatic cysts incidentally detected by computerized tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the U.S. each year." IPMNs can be characterized as either low- or high-risk for the development of pancreatic cancer; however, the only way to accurately characterize the severity of IPMNs is by their surgical removal that is, in itself, associated with a risk of complications, such as long-term diabetes and death.

First Nanoscale DNA Vehicle for Delivery of CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing System into Cells

Researchers from North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) have, for the first time, created and used a nanoscale vehicle made of DNA to deliver a CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells in both cell culture and an animal model. The article was published online on August 27, 2015 in Angewandte Chemie. The article is titled “Self-Assembled DNA Nanoclews for the Efficient Delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Editing." The CRISPR/Cas system, which is found in bacteria and archaea, protects bacteria from invaders such as viruses. It does this by creating small strands of RNA called CRISPR RNAs, which match DNA sequences specific to a given invader. When those CRISPR RNAs find a match, they unleash Cas9 proteins that cut the DNA. In recent years, the CRISPR/Cas9 system has garnered a great deal of attention in the research community for its potential use as a gene editing tool - with the CRISPR RNA identifying the targeted portion of the relevant DNA, and the Cas9 protein cleaving it. But for Cas9 to do its work, it must first find its way into the cell. The current work focused on demonstrating the potential of a new vehicle for directly introducing the CRISPR/Cas9 complex - the entire gene-editing tool - into a cell. "Traditionally, researchers deliver DNA into a targeted cell to make the CRISPR RNA and Cas9 inside the cell itself - but that limits control over its dosage," says Dr. Chase Beisel, co-senior author of the paper and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State.