Category Archives: Research

Neural Memory traces are formed by listening and learning prior to birth

A cognitive neuroscientist from University of Helsinki, Dr. Eino Partanen led a team to show direct neural evidence that neural memory traces are formed by auditory learning prior to birth. Neural memory traces are formed by listening and learning.  Fetuses were exposed to various words inside the uterus and they showed recognition of these words on birth with enhanced brain activity measurements for the trained words.  Furthermore, greater brain activity was correlated with higher amount of prenatal speech exposure (Read original article here). Simply stated, it means that talking or singing to the baby inside the womb will help the baby develop it’s brain commited to speech features.

Implications in Autism?
These results have important implications for Autism prevention in susceptible communities. Perhaps, prevention education might need to begin during prenatal stage? Along with Vitamin D exposure from sunlight, supplements and nutrition of the parents. Recent studies report Vitamin D plays a role in compensating for stress induced deteriorating effects on the brain.

Neural commitment to speech begins before birth
Until this August 2013 publication by Dr. Partanen’s team, the neural basis of fetal learning had not thus far been investigated. This research will aid scientists learning to compensate for learning disabilities of a genetic nature such as dyslexia. It might also imply that it is important to compensate with early learning and listening protocols for genetically susceptible offsprings while still inside the uterus.

Learning begins while Baby is still inside the uterus and factors can stress them

This baby began to learn at 17 weeks of age inside the uterus and may have been exposed to mother's stress hormones

This baby began to learn at 17 weeks of age inside the uterus with prenatal speech exposure and may have been exposed to mother’s stress hormones

Dr. Gail Cross reviewed a few research studies on prenatal learning for Huffington Post here that inform us the developing brain is very sophisticated in utero. Christie Moon, Ph.D., a psychologist at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington and Dr. Hugo Lagercrantz, a professor at the Karalinska Institute in Sweden and a member of the Nobel Assembly co-authored the first study measurably showing the neurosensory mechanism for hearing is intact at 30 weeks of gestational age, while still in the mother’s womb. Dr. Vivette Glover of Imperial College of London was the first to note the early stage in which a mother’s stress and anxiety might affect an unborn baby. Stress hormones of the mother can cross the placenta, affect the dopamine production of the developing fetus brain around 17 weeks of age, and cause a baby to stress more easily with long term lasting effects.

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Induce new hair follicles for baldness – a future personalized hair regeneration method

Columbia University Medical Center and University of Durham scientists collaborated to bring us a step closer to cure baldness (2013, October 21). Bald guys be patient. This step closer to a  cure in mice may reach humans.  Hair regeneration method is first to induce new human hair growth.  Many laboratories are working on curing baldness.  Growing hair follicle cells further in the laboratory are proving frustrating.  This laboratory circumvented that hurdle by using specific cells called dermal papillae cells and figuring out how the cells “speak” to each other and other cells around them to create a hair follicle. For the first time, researchers have been able to take human dermal papilla cells (those inside the base of human hair follicles) and use them to create new hairs. Dermal papillae cells are embedded in a rich, matrix at the base of the hair follicle and are essential for induction and maintenance of hair growth.

How new hair grows from a hair follicle

How new hair grows from a hair follicle

The study was published today in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on October 21st, 2013, which you may click here to read. 
The significance of this study, briefly quoted below, is that it has the potential to grow new hair using a patient’s own cells – providing a personalized hair growth solution for baldness, says co-study leader Angela M. Christiano. Additionally, according to co-study leader Dr. Jahoda, this is an important step toward the goal of creating a replacement skin that contains hair follicles for use with, for example, burn patients


Growth of de novo hair follicles in adult skin occurs by a process known as hair neogenesis. One way of initiating neogenesis is to place dermal papillae isolated from the hair follicle in contact with an overlying epidermis where they reprogram the epidermis to adopt a follicular fate. This approach, however, has not been successful using cultured human dermal papilla cells in human skin because the cells lose their ability to induce hair growth after expansion in vitro. In this paper, we demonstrate that by manipulating cell culture conditions to establish three-dimensional papilla spheroids, we restore dermal papilla inductivity. We also use several systems biology approaches to gain a comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie this regenerative process.

Similar baldness research in other laboratories
For years, scientists had thought that people suffering from hair loss had a depletion of hair follicles and follicle stem cells, which are necessary to grow hair. Dr. George Cotsarelis, a professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, published a study showing that bald people have the same number of follicle stem cells as those with hair. So if researchers could identify the signals that stimulate the stem cells into producing more hair follicle progenitor cells, then it would be possible to generate bigger hair follicles that could grow hair. Such studies have shown that men with male pattern baldness still have stem cells in follicle roots but these stem cells lose the ability to initiate hair regeneration.

University of Toronto scientists have discovered cells in hair follicles that seem to function like dermal stem cells and could have potential uses in many areas of medicine.

Whilst nobody currently offer stem cell therapy for hair loss, this research offers insight into how stem cell therapy can be used for a range of skin conditions, including scarring and skin cancer.

Freda Miller, Ph.D., professor of molecular and medical genetics at the University, reviewed her and her colleagues’ current and prior research at a recent International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting.

The research may someday offer stem cell therapy for hair loss.

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What is the status of blood cancer or leukemia research and stem cell therapy today?

Most of us know someone or have heard of someone with blood cancer or Leukemia.  Some times, it is difficult to hear that a four year child died from blood cancer.  It is harder still to hear about the cancer clusters that develop in certain countries and in particular states.

In memory of all the children who lost their lives to childhood leukemia

In memory of all the children who lost their lives to childhood leukemia

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had begun to compile a list of cancer clusters in USA which you may read by clicking here. It lists three clusters of childhood blood cancers. In 1997 to 2001, Churchill County, Nevada, Siera Vista, Arizona and Toms River, New Jersey reported a significant increase in number of children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute mylocytic leukemia. The goal was to identify possible triggers associated with the rising rates of blood cancer in children. You may click here to read how the small community of Woburn, MA, with a childhood leukemia rate higher than the nation’s average collaborated to solve the silent health risks of environmental contamination. A blockbuster movie has highlighted such a cluster.  An energized scientific community is committed to the study of blood cell production and it has already resulted in one of last century’s scientific breakthroughs – Stem Cell Therapy.  The search for leukemia triggers continues, to prevent the unnecessary loss of innocent children.

Blood Cancer Therapy
Therapy choices for blood cancer vary ranging from limited success to promising. The National Cancer Institute discusses here the key options currently available: Bone Marrow Transplantation (dependent on a donor match program) and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation.  Many dedicated scientists are working on saving the lives of these children suffering from blood cancer.

Leukemia is diagnosed often during a routine blood count check

Leukemia is diagnosed often during a routine blood count check

Their job becomes difficult when some pediatricians, especially when faced with a cluster of children with early stages of blood cancer, fail to recognize the symptoms until it is too late to save their lives. Toddlers have several ailments in their little lives and the doctor generally mistakes early symptoms of blood cancer for a far lesser evil like fatigue. How is a doctor to even suspect that he/she may be faced with a cluster of children with not fatigue but blood cancer? It is hard for a doctor to imagine that a number of children in his/her practise may have blood cancer.  Early leukemia detection is critical for favorable treatment outcome.  So, researchers are trying to develop early blood cancer detection tools and therapy compounds.

Blood Cancer Stem Cell Therapy Scientists
Hematopoiesis is the term applied to the myriad processes in blood cell production. A culmination of the blood cell research by several scientists over several years led to a profoundly beneficial medical therapy for leukemia or blood cancer, namely blood stem cell transplantation. This activity of forming blood cells using stem cells is a tremendous scientific milestone of the last century and will save the lives of many. Several limitations remain, which are discussed here, and future research is focussed on overcoming these. One of the primary limitations is in virus infection after stem-cell transplantation with virus-specific cell lines.

Stem Cell Research has led to a promising therapy. Unequivocal proof that stem cells exist in blood (hematopoietic system) has given rise to their isolation and their utility studies in regenerative medicine (Read 2001 review).  Stem cells can be grown from embryonic cells or from a patient’s own mature cells transformed into stem cells. The ultimate goal is to take a person’s own cells, and transform them into the spcific cell/s the patient needs most. Say, a blood cancer patient needs more blood. Instead of requesting blood donation, the patient’s own stem cells for blood can be developed and injected right back into the bone marrow to make more blood. Since, it originated from the patient itself, there is little immune rejection issues and the patient’s chances of survival are quite good.  Currently, some limitations remain so success is not 100%.

Dr Irving Weissman, MD, Stem Cell Therapy Pioneer 2002 California Scientist of the Year. Photo California Science Center

Dr Irving Weissman, MD, Stem Cell Therapy Pioneer 2002 California Scientist of the Year. Photo California Science Center

One of the leaders of blood cancer therapy with stem cells is Dr. Irving Weissman of Stanford University, who is among the pioneers in this field and is determined to save many lives by creating a standard for stem cell therapy. He is confident that personalized stem cell therapy for leukemia, using the patient’s own cells for a source of blood regenerating stem cells (to lower rejection rates) for complete remission, is an attainable goal. He isolated the human hematopoietic stem cell and his lab discovered a novel method to transplant blood-forming stem cells into the bone marrow. In a 2011 Nature article, which you may click here to read, Irv discusses the difficulties his team encounters fourteen years after the first patient got a stem cell transplant.  He is focussed on treating the AML patient.

Another, who may soon become a leader among stem cell biologists is George Daley, MD PhD of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.

George Daley MD PhD, Boston Children's Hospital. His lab is focussed on chronic myeloid leukemia (AML) and direct diffentiation to cell of interest

George Daley MD PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital. His lab is focussed on chronic myeloid leukemia (AML) and direct diffentiation to cell of interest

He coauthored the latest 2013 review, “A blueprint for engineering cell fate: current technologies to reprogram cell identity“, which he claims is already outdated because the field of stem cell engineering is moving so quickly. George says in a NOVA interview that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) have all the properties of embryonic stem cells and can be made quite readily from specific patients. But limitations of iPS cells include the fact that viruses are used to make them. He envisions scientists studying many kinds of stem cells including embryonic, iPS and direct conversion to cell of interest, with stem cells isolated from many sources, not just embryos. Scientists use various regulatory factors to coax stem cells to become specific cells and this field is growing.  The Daley lab focuses on blood/hematopoietic differentiation from human stem cell sources and the BCR-ABL oncoprotein of chronic myeloid leukemia.  Their primary research area is direct differentiation, where they attempt to bypass the route via pluripotent cells by coaxing a cell to directly become the cell of interest.  They continue to define the molecular genetic programming of cells.  The Daley lab was amongst the first to show that mature cells from a patient’s biopsy are capable of being reprogrammed to an embryonic – like state – a Scientific Breakthrough of the year 2008.   A key direction of future work is in beginning with the purest source of cells, because stem celsl retain the signature of the starting source cell.

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Bringing brain disorders back into balance with Brain’s thermostat?

Bringing a new path of hope to people with brain development disorders is Dr. Gina Turrigiano and her team at Brandeis University. They demonstrated for the first time in a live animal that the brain has a “thermostat” that maintains a balance of excitement. When it gets too excited a system exists to tone down the firing rate of the neurons or vice versa. This discovery has implications in brain disorder conditions in which the balance is lost in psychiatric conditions like autism where the brain does not get excited enough, or epilepsy in which the brain gets too excited. The brain’s “thermostat” keeps the neurons on an even keel even as they change in response to learning, development or environment factors. This thermostat worked even when the animal was awake or asleep. Read the original article published in the journal Neuron as the cover article on October 16, 2013 by clicking here.

Dr. Turrigiano says that if scientists can figure out how these set points are built, then researchers may be able to adjust them and bring the brains of people suffering from such disorders back into balance.

Dr. Gina Turrigiano, Brandeis University, pioneered "synaptic scaling" where neurons and neural circuits maintain both stability and flexibility

Dr. Gina Turrigiano, Brandeis University, pioneered “synaptic scaling” where neurons and neural circuits maintain both stability and flexibility

Dr. Gina Turrig1ano, was conferred the 2012 HFSP Nakasone award, McArthur Foundation award and the NIH Director’s Pioneering award for her pioneering work and introduction of the term “synaptic scaling”. The concept is that the developing and fully developed brain has inbuilt mechanisms that allow balancing the need for plasticity. It allows the brain to enable learning and development while maintaining the stability and integrity of the circuits that drive behavior.

Work in her lab has shown that neurons can “tune” themselves and scale down excitement or vice versa. However, this concept of “synaptic scaling” or thermostat control had never been observed in a life animal until now.

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The nutritive, medicinal and diuretic properties of Pumpkin flour

When fall arrives so does pumpkin season.  With so many people looking for avoiding gluten and looking for wheat substitutes, there is a new candidate – pumpkin flour.

Ancient Food Habits included Whole Grain. Yet, a gluten - free diet and other life style changes in modern day may keep many free of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Arthritis. Copyright 2013 (c) Pursue Natural

Ancient Food Habits included Whole Grain. Yet, a gluten – free diet and other life style changes in modern day may keep many free of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Arthritis. Copyright 2013 (c) Pursue Natural

Physiochemical characteristics of pumpkin flour
Fresh pumpkin is rather popular all around the world. Pumpkin pie is a staple in a Thanksgiving meal. Pumpkin spice latte is a fall treat in coffee shops. Pumpkin is added to soups and curries, and their young flowers dipped and fried around the world.  This vegetable is highly valued because it is so easy to grow and produce, and has a high nutritive value.

A delicious Pumpkin Pie - An American Tradition

A delicious Pumpkin Pie – An American Tradition

Nutrition value
Pumpkins are rich in carotene, minerals, vitamins, pectin, and dietary fiber.

Medicinal value
They are diuretic, tonic and calm thirst. Because they are diuretic do not overeat. You may also want to read “Pumpkin is mildly diuretic – so eat in moderation“. The yellow – orange characteristic color is due to the presence of carotenoids. They can be converted in the body to retinol (Vitamin A). Vitamin A is essential for normal immune function and vision. At present researchers are uncertain whether the biological effects of carotene is from antioxidant or non-antioxidant activities. Carotenoids are best absorbed in the intestine with fat in a meal, so you know what to do to truly enjoy the benefits of pumpkin. To read more click here.

Comparing Pumpkin flour with Wheat flour
Researchers have studied and compared fresh pumpkin, pumpkin flour and wheat flour. Fresh pumpkin (Curcurbita moschata, C. pepo, and C. maxima) has significantly higher moisture content and lower fat, protein, crude fiber and ash content than pumpkin flour. The researchers prepared cake substituting wheat flour with pumpkin flour and measured the contents. They found a significantly higher beta carotene, crude fiber and ash and decreased crude fat, crude protein and crude carbohydrate in pumpkin flour containing cakes. Wheat flour has higher protein content (>14%) than pumpkin flour (>9%). You may read more of the original article by clicking here.

Colors of Pumpkins
Depending on the species their colors may vary from green, white, blue-grey, yellow, red and ofcourse, the characteristic orange that we know and love.  Here are a collective exhibition of pumpkins at the 2013 New York Botanical Garden. a

A pumpkin caterpillar at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin caterpillar at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural


A pumpkin sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin sculpture at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural


A pumpkin sculptur at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural

A pumpkin sculptur at the New York Botanical Garden 2013. Copyright (c) PursueNatural


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Autism Scientists seek public assistance to detect, measure and prevent Autism and major psychiatric disorders

You may want to visit and contribute your experiences at the  Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force  site and inspire them in their public – private effort to achieve their goal. Their vision is to get the desired outcome in three to five years as a result of the work laid out to implement the Minnesota Autism Spectrum Disorder strategic plan. Help them in your own, unique creative way.

You may also contact the Science Department Leadership at various autism foundations, such as Autism Speaks, and Autism Support Network with your personal experiences, hunches and suggestions on which public – private large scale database efforts to fund.

Autism rates continue to rise at an alarming rate
Tomorrow the autistic child could be someone born in your family – 1/50 to 1/80th chance of happening today, with more boys being born with autism than girls. States are drowning with the rising numbers of autism cases. The role of environment cannot be ignored which you may read by clicking “Why is Autism observed in America and not in underdeveloped countries?“, although dyslexia and mild communication disorder is rising worldwide (Read more). The role of shared family genes is not being ignored but so far, no clear association has scientific merit. You may call it the Geek syndrome but as Steve Silberman describes, if the autism spectrum genes were eliminated from society, it would be disastrous for the evolution of society. He also adds here that Microsoft recently became the first major US corportion to offer its employees insurance benefits to cover the costs of behavioral training for their autistic children. The number of autistic children among their employees were high enough to justify that – a fact that did not exist even over a decade ago. And their numbers continue to rise.

History of Autism
John Hopkins Neuroimmunopath has a FAQ site on their “Focus on Autism“.  They are researching the role of the immune system in Autism.  You might want to visit their site to consider what unseen factors inside the body control the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  After all, the first cases of Autism in USA were diagnosed at John Hopkins by Dr. Leo Kanner and published in 1943 to alert the public.  Dr. Hans Asperger of Austria described a similar group of patients around the same time and the distinctive sypmtoms got a diagnostic name.

Although historical accounts point to the existence of what could be isolated cases of autism, the mid 20th century is the first time clusters of patients with distinct ASD symptoms began to be diagnosed.  Unfortunately, ASD cases are rising at a rate that we find alarming, even if we allow for a certain threshold of misdiagnosis.  There is no known cure for ASD.  Since we do not know a cause we cannot begin to prevent onset of ASD, which usually strikes suddenly and without warning around the age of 18 months, according to parental reports.  Although there is no doubt that genetics or inherited family factors plays a role in susceptibility to ASD, scientists cannot rule out a potential major role for non-heritable risk factors.  A strong supporting reason for this is an observation by parents of Somali origin, which you may read by clicking “Why is Autism observed in America and not in underdeveloped countries?“. Scientist urge for more research on the important role of Vit D, as a possible environmental risk factor in Autism Spectrum Disorder. You may read their review by clicking here. Research studies on gene x environment are identifying which pesticide, herbicide, fungicide classes are of greatest concern in susceptible populations.

What is Autism
Sceptics abound (Read Forbes magazine article here).  Many do not know what is Autism.  Just like in the early 1980s the average person had no idea what HIV and AIDS was; similarly, the average skeptic today is unacquainted with autism and untouched by the daily adversities of living with autism.  Those who have never seen or been in the same room, let alone family, of an autistic individual, will not have any empathy for this discussion. Take your autistic child to public museums, movie theaters, enclosed botanical garden exhibitions. Tell every skeptic who frowns with displeasure that this disruptive individual is a healthy, autistic person. Your job is educational in nature and to reach as many skeptics as you can. If you believe that Autism research needs more believers, then you will have to leave a skeptic alone in the same room with a severely autistic child. Then, leave the skeptic alone in the same room with simply a misbehaved child. The skeptic will realize that there is a difference. Then, to justify urgency, you can show evidence as to how the numbers of autistic children are growing, and soon to become a growing burden on society as they age and their parent – caretakers die. Who will take care of them? Additionally, society is losing 1/50 of every young male or 1/80 of every young child who could contribute gainfully to social security or medicare. Can society let such monetary contributors get lost without a question? In 1960 there were 4.9 workers paying into the social security system for every beneficiary collecting (click here for Time magazine article). In 2035 there will be 1.9 workers for every social security recipient. With rising autism rates, how many of these 1.9 workers will be unable to contribute to this social equation and instead require social care as their caretaker parents die?

AutismIt is possible that part of the reason why no other risk factors have been identified may be that genetic and non – genetic factors need to be studied together in order to get a complete ASD profile.  What factor/s changed globally in the developed world around mid 20th century?  The scientists need the assistance of the public to solve this mystery as observant team members.  You may click here to learn more about facts of ASD and the Autism Fact Sheet of John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.  The origins, detection, measurement and prevention of conditions that affect behavioral, socioemotional and/or cognitive development are specific to Autism and ASD and are discussed here.

Role of Dirt/Microbial biome in Allergy, Asthma and ASD?

A variety of Hookworms

A variety of Hookworms

A blogger, summarizes a recent research study and it’s conclusion that dirt may be necessary to prevent allergies in “Dirt Prevents Allergies“. The researchers, headed by Professor Bisgaard, followed a cohort of asthma patients for several years to identify what factors might have triggered their disease. While these researchers are still looking for asthma trigger factor/s in early childhood, they did find that there was a connection between lack of diversity of bacteria in the intestine and allergy and have published their results in the journal of allergy and clinical immunology in 2011. The “microbial biome” is the term used to define all the bacteria that a healthy intestine supports. You may click here to read “Worm Theory: to improve the immune system to fight asthma, multiple sclerosis and more”. Several families have reported the presence of a parent with multiple sclerosis and children with autism and/or allergy. There apparently is a age – related connection. A younger family member presents with autism while an older family member has symptoms of multiple sclerosis. neuron

Since, researchers are finding that the immune system is involved in both Autism – which is on the rise recently, and in food allergy – which too is on the rise in recent decades and often in the same family, we have to wonder if it is correct to ask, “Is Autism an immune reaction with an allergic profile?” However, why did the recent study of Bisgaard and colleagues not find a common factor in allergy and asthma yet?  Multiple sclerosis, a nerve disease, is also on the rise in recent decades, and often reported in families with autism and severe allergies.

Babies with no autism or allergy

Babies with no autism or allergy

When is the earliest trigger for the diseases that are on the rise in recent years? Why is the first symptom seen not at birth but a few months, several months or years later? What factors control later symptoms? Is it an age – related control? You may want to read a popular article “How I gave my son autism” by Thinking Mom’s Revolution, which lists eight things this mother would change given a change to move time back.

Health Analyses of Families with Autism using the internet

Health Analyses of Families with Autism using the internet

No single gene appears to control autism. Studies indicate that the main immune mechanism in autism is an innate immune reaction. Contrast this to adaptive immune response seen in diseases such as meningitis and encephalitis. What is the difference between innate and adaptive immune system? A simple biological explanation is given by the Univesity of Arizona researchers here.

The Autism Genome Project
The Autism Genome project(AGP) is a large-scale, public – private collaborative, genetics research project initiated by the National Alliance for Autism Research and the National Institute of Health and is aimed at sifting through the human genome in search of autism susceptibility genes. The vision is to identify predisposition to Autism and to identify the causal mechanisms.  A new born screening mechanism would allow for early intervention. AGP has identified a dozen autism related genes researched by 120 scientists from 11 countries. They indicate that two important gene networks in the central nervous system contribute to the susceptibility to autism, leading to impairments in social and communication skills. The estimated prevalence of autism in siblings is about 10%, while it is a whopping 90% in twins. However, although heredity plays a definite role, such children with autism are born only under certain environmental conditions, underlining the fact that unknown life-style changes trigger autism.  The role of lack of exposure to enough Vit D in autism is being researched, especially in countries like Sweden. AGP has also revealed that Autism shares risk genes with major psychiatric disorders. Which leads to the question, whether searching for a cure for autism might lead to an early diagnosis of major psychiatric disorders, prevention and cures? It appears that the diagnosis of dyslexia is more common in underdeveloped countries. However, when this same gene pool is exposed to the life – style changes of a developed country the diagnosis of moderate to severe autism is observed.

Innate and Adaptive Immunity
There is a growing body of evidence linking Vit D to various immune related conditions including allergy and auto-immunity, but none show a convincing link, meaning there is a connecting missing link which remains to be discovered. Lack of Vit D would normally not cause diseases like autism but, given the presence of this missing link, lack of Vit D or specific life-style changes, one becomes predisposed to diseases like autism.  Various diseases involve the innate and/or adaptive immune system:

Dr Belbedos and colleagues want to modulate the innate immune reaction in allergy and asthma therapy in young children.

Lyme disease is an innate immune reaction.

Measles suppreses both innate and adaptive.

Pertussis or whooping cough involves both innate and adaptive.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis is different – see fatal tuberculosis , where an acquired immunity is not enough but an innate immune response additionally, is required. The MyD88 pathway is crucial to protect against this disease. 90% of infected people do not show any symptoms. What protects them?

Vitamin D initiates an innate immune reaction. Apparently, its role in adaptive immune response has been known, but not in innate immune response. Too much Vit D is bad.

The National Institute of Health has explained immunity and the immune response in an article and include a video on immune response and a video on vaccines. The definitions of innate, acquired and passive immunity are followed by a video; if you scroll down, you will see the videos.

Related Video
Watch a video of a Pro-surfer, a father of an autistic son, and founder of a non-profit foundation school of Surfing for Autistic kids and how it makes them smile. Volunteers are pro-surfers.

Related Articles
A single shared component has been confirmed in allergy and autoimmune diseases
Proteins neuroligins and neurexins are important in Autism and Schizophrenia
G proteins: the connector proteins that try to prevent Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Your blood pressure is influenzed by hot to cold weather

Heart expert Dr. Padmanabhan has discovered that there is a connection between a drop in temperature during the day to your blood pressure (BP).  This may be because the arteries and veins tend to collapse with colder weather making it harder for blood to travel around the body.  This response to temperature changes may be under genetic control too. Which means some families may be more susceptible to temperature changes than others, so all people may not respond in the same way to weather changes. Those susceptible are 30% more likely to die from a deadly rise in BP than those who are not.

These heart experts realize that not many studies have correlated effect of weather on BP and recommend that physicians be aware of this. Quote

Temperature-sensitive subjects had significantly higher mortality (1.35 [95% confidence interval, 1.06–1.71]; P=0.01) and higher follow-up systolic blood pressure (1.85 [95% confidence interval, 0.24–3.46]; P=0.02) compared with temperature-nonsensitive subjects. Blood pressure response to temperature may be one of the underlying mechanisms that determine long-term blood pressure variability. Knowing a patient’s blood pressure response to weather can help reduce unnecessary antihypertensive treatment modification, which may in turn increase blood pressure variability and, thus, risk.

Sunshine plays a role in monitoring BP. Cloudy days raise BP.

Nature - the blazing, glorious sun that sustains all life shows one form in the sand dunes of Morocco. Copyright (C) Pursue Natural

Nature – the blazing, glorious sun that sustains all life shows one form in the sand dunes of Morocco.
Copyright (C) Pursue Natural

To read the original article published in Journal of Hypertension on 23 May 2013 by researchers in Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK click here.

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Rising fungal infections, Future Antifungal therapy and WHO recommendations

With the sudden worldwide spike in hospital acquired secondary fungal infections, a search is on for prevention and cure of fungal diseases, especially antifungals against the deadly fungal diseases.  How can you help? Your assistance in spreading the 10 steps WHO recommends to be taken (click here to read) for making safer antifungal therapy for invasive fungal infections more widely available, in addtion to stopping the practice of unnecessary antifungal prescription would be invaluable.  Fungal diseases of humans have been around for a long time but only recently have they become a reason for public health concern.  Although the first fungal diseases were described in 1840s, they began to be studied intensively since 1940s, when United States soldiers returned from the South Pacific humid tropical warzone. To read a wonderful historical account of the Fungi as human  disease agents by University of Hawaii researchers click here.

Prescription sales of antifungal drugs show a major increase since late 1980s, say scientists from the Center for Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine, University Hospital, Freiburg, Germany.  They summarized here in 2005 that cancer units are intense antifungal drug prescribing areas. Fluconazole and other azol antifungal drugs are the most prescribed drugs in all patient care areas while amphotericin B use has considerably decreased.  Role of corticosteroids, immunotherapy and antifungal drugs have also been studied in allergic fungal rhinosinusitis (AFRS) in an individual who is hypersensitive to fungi (Read more). A variety of fungi can be found in such allergic sinuses.

Antifungal drug resistance
Unexpectedly high mortality rate associated with resistant fungal infections indicates that innovative new antifungal drugs are needed. Sustained efforts are now advised to urgently disseminate and implement World Health Organization (WHO) treatment guidelines. WHO recommends increased access to antifungal drugs that can lower mortality rates in subsaharan Africa from crytococcal meningitis and 20% of AIDS related mortality in low and middle income countries (Read more).

Alternative uses of current drugs
One research method is to find alternative uses of current drugs as an antifungal. Zoloft, an antidepressant can also act against Cryptococcus sp., a fungal causal agent of meningitis with the added benefit of being able to penetrate the blood brain barrier. The mode of action was revealed in 2012 by a team at Texas A&M University to be blocking protein synthesis ability of the the fungus at the translation level. You may read the published research by clicking here.

It is a challenge to find antifungals that can penetrate the blood – brain barrier.  The fact that Zoloft can penetrate the blood – brain barrier and act against a fungus that causal a neural infection such as meningitis will help antifungal discovery scientists. Unfortunately, this antidepressant is very selective in its antifungal activity and has no action against other fungi tested.

Fungi enter a host cell using penetration structures called Haustoria

Fungi enter a host cell using penetration structures called Haustoria

Current advances in antifungal drug development
As drug resistance in fungi have been increasing we find ourselves in need of truly novel future approaches to combat fungi. Researchers are following different paths:
1) Virulence factors of fungi and their inhibitors – discovery and characterization. The fungus Candida albicans secretes a virulent factor, aspartic proteinase, and it would be particularly rewarding for many when it’s inhibitor is discovered (Read more).
2) Echinocandins are a new class of antifungal agents with a novel mechanism of action (interference with fungal cell wall synthesis). Caspofungin (Cancidas), Caspofungin MSD) is the first echinocandin to be approved and is administered intravenously against candidiasis and aspergilliosis(Read more).
3) A lipid-associated formulation – Liposomal amphotericin B (AmBisome) is a lipid-associated formulation of the broad-spectrum polyene antifungal agent amphotericin B.  In autopsy tissue, the highest concentrations of the drug were found in the liver and spleen, followed by the kidney, lung, myocardium and brain tissue.  Read more.
4) Adjunctive immune therapy with cytokines – since patients with invasive fungal infection often have a weakened immune system, for example during cancer chemotherapy. The role played by pattern recognition receptors and the induction of proinflammatory cytokines during the early phases of fungal infection are being investigated (Read more).
5) Combination therapy – cryptococcal meningitis patients showed a survival benefit with combination antifungal therapy (Read more).
6) Inhibitors of Beta Glucan synthesis – and second-generation azole and triazole derivatives have characteristics that render them potentially suitable agents against some resistant fungi (Read more).

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In recent years one of the groups most active in drug discovery has been Merck – Antifungal Drug Discovery: Something Old Something New

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Can we repair the brain? A UK research-USA industry collaboration

Collaborating transatlantically are UK based Center for Clinical Brain Sciences established as recently as 2004 and USA based Biogen. A landmark clinical study will observe three licensed drugs for neurological conditions. Late stage progressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients will be monitored for two years says Prof. Siddharthan Chandran, Director of the Anne Rowling Clinic. MRI scans will test for signs of MS disease progression. The research initiative is being funded by Biogen. The UK researchers will provide greater insight into the cell and biological processes behind progressive neurological diseases.

Over 35 million people are affected and the global cost for treatment and care is at 700 billion and rising.  Multiple sclerosis progresses fast.  Within 18 months of the first symptoms a person may become wheel chair bound. How does the brain cell wiring system get damaged so rapidly? The hope lies in a new discovery – stem cells can spontaneously repair damaged brain cells, by laying new myelin over nerve cells.  Treatment options being considered for research are by either activating existing stem cells in the brain or by transplanting stem cells to replace dead or dying brain cells. The UK research team has done the ground work for this research since their public is open to the advantages of stem cell research and understand the implications of using a patient’s own stem cells. This risky and super expensive research needs visionary and patient funding leaders. That is where Biogen comes in.  Naturally, such collaborations cannot be done in countries where the citizens do not understand or are opposed to the possibilities of stem cell research.

Dr. Siddharthan Chandran gave a talk at TEDGlobal 2013 describing his vision of hope for neurodegenerative diseases of the brain. See a description of his talk and more images by clicking here or at:

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Could “brain to brain” via internet communication research help autistics?

Researchers at University of Washington plugged the wirings of a human brain into the most advanced computer known by man – another human brain. They predict such “brain to brain” communication research might help people with disabilities communicate their needs for food, water or a game better. Amazingly, brain signals between these two human beings might work even if they spoke different languages, thus signaling the age of unification via grey matter.

This research was conducted at University of Washington between two human researchers located at opposite ends of the same campus. One human researcher wearing a brain cap contraption controlled via the internet the action of another human researcher wearing a wired contraption over the motor cortex area. Similar research has been done between rats or a human and a rat at Duke University and Harvard University.

Such research requires intereactions between mechanical engineers, bioengineers, neuroscientists, robotics experts, and computer scientists. Bringing them together are visionary leaders with a long – term approach to results and possible applications. Those who expect immediate economic impact will naturally not fund such research. University of Washington has been fortunate to have been funded with patient, visionary leaders. Their research is helping build a dynamic computer and robotics campus exploring the last frontier – the brain.

Read more in this Forbes article by Jennifer Hicks explained after interviews with researchers and accompanied with pictures and diagrams.

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