May 1, 2014

Medical breakthroughs roundup: paralysis, obesity, cholesterol, cancer, anorexia and editing DNA

Stimulation restores some function for 4 paralyzed men

Paralysis may not last forever anymore. In an experiment hailed as "staggering," a team of researchers at the University of Louisville and the University of California-Los Angeles restored some voluntary movement to four men who were told they would never move their legs again.
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By coursing an electrical current through the four men's spines, the research team, which included scientists from the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in Russia, appears to have "dialed up" signals between the brain and legs that were believed to have been completely lost.

Researchers at Beth Israel claim  a major breakthrough in the fight against obesity - and say they have found a genetic switch that controls our metabolism.

Researchers have identified a protein that controls metabolism - and used it to dramatically reduce the development of obesity and diabetes in mice.  Investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) published their research in the April 10 issue of the journal Nature.

The new findings show that reducing the amount of nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT) protein in fat and liver dramatically reduces the development of obesity and diabetes in mice.
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NNMT is an enzyme that processes vitamin B3 and has been linked to certain types of cancer, as well as Alzheimer's disease, said co-corresponding author Qin Yang, MD, PhD, a Klarman Scholar in the Kahn laboratory at BIDMC and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.Now we have identified an entirely new role for this enzyme in fat tissue, and that is to regulate energy metabolism,' he said.

Groundbreaking experiment stops the buildup of cholesterol inside blood vessels

Scientists successfully prevented the development of atherosclerosis. Team identified and halted the action of a single molecular culprit responsible for excess cholesterol forming.
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The offender, the researchers say, is a fat-and-sugar molecule called glycosphingolipid, or GSL, which resides in the membranes of all cells, and is mostly known for regulating cell growth.
Results of the experiments, the scientists say, reveal that this very same molecule also regulates the way the body handles cholesterol.
The Johns Hopkins team used an existing man-made compound called D-PDMP to block the synthesis of the GSL molecule, and by doing so, prevented the development of heart disease in mice and rabbits fed a high-fat, cholesterol-laden diet.

Cancer breakthrough as scientists successfully target cells resistant to chemotherapy

Findings could pave way for drugs to target these 'resilient' cells
Scientists made the discovery while investigating why certain drugs, such as those often used to treat breast and colon cancer, hindered chemo

Could these 'smart scales' cure anorexia? 75% of patients who used device were free of symptoms a year later
Swedish invention used to re-train the brain on how to eat normally

The Mandometer is a scale for your plate, connected to a computer.  It registers how much food is on the plate and how fast you eat.  It also asks you to register how full you feel, to encourage normal satiation

DNA is 'edited' to cure liver disease for first time - and the technique could someday be used to prevent Down's Syndrome

Named Crispr, technique can correct a single ‘letter’ of the genetic alphabet. It does this by using enzymes to target specific parts of the DNA database.

It could treat disorders like sickle-cell anaemia and Huntington’s disease Crispr might also be used to correct gene defects in human IVF embryos, allowing disorders to be ‘ironed out’ before a baby is born
Posted by Jill Fallon at May 1, 2014 12:10 PM | Permalink