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Archive - Apr 25, 2017

Promising Candidate for Generation of Photocatalysts for Next Generation of Solar Fuel Production from Earth-Abundant Elements; Process Reduces CO2 and Produces Energy from Incident Blue Light

A chemistry professor in Florida has just found a way to trigger the reduction of carbon dioxide with visible light in a synthetic material, turning greenhouse gases into clean air and producing energy all at the same time. The process has great potential for creating a technology that could significantly reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy. "This work is a breakthrough," said University of Central Florida (UCF) Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo. "Tailoring materials that will absorb a specific color of light is very difficult from the scientific point of view, but from the societal point of view we are contributing to the development of a technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases." The findings of his research were published online on April 7, 2017 in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A. The article is titled “Systematic Variation of the Optical Bandgap in Titanium-Based Isoreticular Metal-Organic Frameworks for Photocatalytic Reduction of CO2 Under Blue Light.” Dr. Uribe-Romo and his team of students created a way to trigger a chemical reaction in a synthetic material called metal-organic frameworks (MOF) that breaks down carbon dioxide into harmless organic materials. Think of it as an artificial photosynthesis process similar to the way plants convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight into food. But instead of producing food, Dr. Uribe-Romo's method produces solar fuel. To see an explanation see this YouTube video: It is something scientists around the world have been pursuing for years, but the challenge is finding a way for visible light to trigger the chemical transformation.

Lyme Disease Researchers Seek Consensus As Number of Cases Grows

Scientists have assembled a large body of knowledge about Lyme disease over the past 40 years, yet controversies remain and the number of cases continues to rise. In the United States, reported cases of Lyme disease, which is transmitted from wild animals to humans by tick bites, have tripled in the past 20 years. A multitude of interacting factors are driving the increase in Lyme disease cases, but their relative importance remains unclear, according to Marm Kilpatrick, PhD, a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California (UC) at Santa Cruz. Nevertheless, he noted that there are a number of promising strategies for controlling the disease that have not been widely implemented. Dr. Kilpatrick is lead author of a paper published April 24, 2017 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B that examines the complex array of factors influencing the prevalence of Lyme disease And Identifies The Major Gaps In Understanding That Must Be Filled To Control This Important Disease. The Paper Is Titled “Lyme Disease Ecology In A Changing World: Consensus, Uncertainty And Critical Gaps For Improving Control.” Some of the unresolved issues are highly contentious, so Dr. Kilpatrick sought input for the paper from a wide range of Lyme disease researchers and developed a consensus on areas of agreement. "I wanted to address these big disputes. We've done so much work, let's identify what the gaps are and fill them so we can move on," he said. A key missing piece in the Lyme disease puzzle is that scientists lack a detailed understanding of what limits populations of the Ixodes ticks that transmit the disease. Deer are the most important hosts for adult ticks, so the ticks are mostly absent from areas with no deer. But efforts to control ticks by reducing deer populations have had mixed results.

JAMA Study & Planned Clinical Trials Offer Fresh Hope for Children with Rare Brain Disease (Glut1 Deficiency)

Anna Gunby can’t run around as smoothly as most 4-year-olds because her wobbly legs are affected by a rare brain disease that also hinders her intellect. She can’t identify colors. She can’t count objects. Her attention span is short. “But there’s definitely hope,” said Anna’s mother, Courtney Gunby. “Maybe one day she’ll be able to live on her own, operate a vehicle or go swimming by herself. There’s hope that she could have some sense of normalcy to her life.” A newly published study led by investigators in the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute has offered novel insight into how a newly designed diet can help children like Anna cope with Glut1 deficiency – a rare disease that severely inhibits learning and muscle control by starving the brain of glucose, its main energy source. And scientists are already beginning to expand on the findings that were published in JAMA Neurology by testing an edible oil that smaller studies indicate can improve cognitive abilities in patients. Combining the new diet with the supplemental oil derived from castor beans could provide a life-changing treatment that trail blazes a brighter future for thousands of children in the U.S., who otherwise face a lifetime of stunted brain function. Patients with Glut1 deficiency usually can’t learn beyond an elementary school level and often can’t live independently as adults. “We’re talking about helping people be independent from their parents. The question every parent asks is, ‘Will my child be able to have an independent life when we’re gone?’ Right now it’s very questionable whether they’ll be able to achieve independence,” said Dr. Juan Pascual, Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, Pediatrics, and Physiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr.

Freshman Takes Top Honors in ASHG’s 2017 National DNA Essay Contest for High School Students

In recognition of National DNA Day, the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) hosted the 2017 DNA Day Essay Contest to encourage high school students and teachers to learn about human genetics concepts beyond the standard curriculum. This year, ASHG awarded first place to Adele Peng (at left in photo with her teacher Aubrie Holman at right), a freshman at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. Sophia Spiegel, a junior at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey., won second place in the contest. Alvin Ya, a senior at Poolesville High School in Poolesville, Maryland, was awarded third place. “Recent advances in biology have made gene therapy, the focus of this year’s contest, more promising than ever, and have expanded the field beyond its original concept,” said Michael Dougherty, PhD, Director of Education for ASHG. “We were interested to see students’ perspectives on these advances and their potential effects in the clinic.” National DNA Day, celebrated annually on April 25, commemorates the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure and the completion of the Human Genome Project, two key milestones in the field of genetics. Each year since 2006, ASHG has run a DNA Day Essay Contest to challenge students to examine, question, and reflect on important concepts in human genetics by writing an original essay. Winning essays use well-reasoned arguments to show a grasp of topics that are not always well-covered in high school biology courses. This year, the contest invited students to choose one modern example of gene therapy, describe the disease or condition researchers are attempting to treat, and explain how the therapy/approach might repair the underlying cause of the disease or condition. Students from 38 U.S. states and 21 non-U.S. countries submitted essays to the contest this year.

Novel “Enveloping” Mechanism of Prodrug Tramiprosate Inhibits Aß42 Amyloid Misfolding and Blocks Toxic Amyloid Oligomer Formation Early in Pathogenic Amyloid Aggregation Cascade Seen in Alzheimer’s Disease

On April 25, 2017, Alzheon, Inc. announced publication of a newly elucidated molecular mechanism of action for tramiprosate, the active agent in the company's lead clinical drug candidate, ALZ-801. The company's Phase 3-ready candidate ALZ-801 is an optimized prodrug of tramiprosate, with a substantially improved pharmacokinetic and safety profile compared to tramiprosate. Alzheon scientists discovered that tramiprosate acts to inhibit the production of neurotoxic beta amyloid oligomers by “enveloping” the amyloid peptide to prevent its misfolding into soluble amyloid aggregates. Beta amyloid oligomers are believed to be key drivers of the pathogenic process in Alzheimer's disease (AD). This novel enveloping mechanism of tramiprosate prevents the self-assembly of misfolded proteins into beta amyloid oligomers that lead to amyloid aggregation and, subsequently, cause neuronal toxicity and clinical progression in Alzheimer's disease. These peer-reviewed results were published online on April 24, 2017 in the medical journal CNS Drugs, and the paper is available through open access at: The article is titled “Elucidating the Aβ42 Anti-Aggregation Mechanism of Action of Tramiprosate in Alzheimer’s Disease: Integrating Molecular Analytical Methods, Pharmacokinetic and Clinical Data.” "While we have recognized for nearly four decades that amyloid plaques are the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, the emerging insights are pointing to small protein aggregates that exhibit many of the properties of prions, as the key driver of neuronal degeneration," said Stanley B. Prusiner (photo) , MD, Nobel Laureate, Director, Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) and Chair of Alzheon's Scientific Advisory Board.