Scientists discover protective Alzheimer’s gene and develop rapid drug-testing platform

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PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease.

A gene has been discovered that can naturally suppress the signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in human brain cells, in research led by Queen Mary University of London. The scientists have also developed a new rapid drug-screening system for treatments that could potentially delay or prevent the disease.

The main challenge in testing Alzheimer’s drugs in clinical trials is that participants need to have symptoms. But once people have symptoms, it is usually too late for treatments to have a significant effect, as many brain cells have already died.

The only current way to test potential preventative treatments is by identifying participants who are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and seeing if treatments prevent the onset of their disease. This includes people with Down’s syndrome (DS) who have around a 70 per cent chance of developing Alzheimer’s during their lifetime. This is because the extra chromosome 21 they carry includes the gene for amyloid precursor protein which causes early Alzheimer’s when overdosed or mutated.

In the study, published in the Nature group journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researchers collected hair cells from people with DS and reprogrammed them to become stem cells, which were then directed to turn into brain cells in a dish.

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Mini human livers grown from stem cells successfully implanted into rats

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Miniature human livers can be grown from stem cells and implanted into rats – and hopefully, one day humans

 Imagine needing a liver transplant, and instead of waiting for a donor, a new one could be grown from your own skin cells. Scientists have now taken quite a big step towards that future, by successfully transplanting miniature human livers grown from induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) into rats.

Organ transplants save lives, but there are hurdles to overcome. For one, there’s a constant shortage of donors and, even when one is found, the patient’s immune system often rejects the new tissue.

Growing a replacement organ from a patient’s own cells could solve both problems. It can be done on demand when a patient needs one, and the organ won’t be rejected because the immune system recognizes the cells as “self.”

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Reprogrammed skin cells inserted in brain help Parkinson’s patient regain function – study

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REUTERS – Skin cells reprogrammed to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and inserted deep into the brain of a 69-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease have allowed him to tie his shoes again and resume swimming and biking, researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

The experimental treatment, initiated two years ago and financed partly by the patient, used the man’s own skin cells to create dopamine-releasing nerve cells. Using his own cells dramatically lowers the risk of rejection by the immune system.

Parkinson’s, a progressive disease that affects millions of people worldwide, produces tremors, stiffness, and problems walking and speaking as the dopamine-producing cells in the brain degenerate.

Researchers say the transformed skin cells, transplanted into both hemispheres of the brain in surgical procedures six months apart, continued to produce the dopamine needed to ease the Parkinson’s symptoms.

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Experimental study speeds up bone healing with 2 common medications

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In rat experiments the duo of drugs increased levels of circulating stem cells and sped up healing of a spinal fracture

A new proof-of-concept study has found a combination of two drugs, already approved by the FDA for other uses, may boost the release of stem cells from bone marrow and accelerate the healing of broken bones. Only demonstrated in animals at this stage, the researchers suggest clinical trials could progress rapidly considering the drugs have already been demonstrated as safe in humans.

“The body repairs itself all the time,” says corresponding author on the study Sara Rankin. “We know that when bones break they will heal, and this requires the activation of stem cells in the bone. However, when the damage is severe, there are limits to what the body can do of its own accord.”

A great deal of current research is focusing on mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapies. MSCs are a type of adult stem cell that can grow into a variety of different cell types including muscle, fat or bone. Many current MSC treatments in development involve extracting a small number from a patient, growing them in laboratory conditions, then injecting them back into the patient.

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Scientists build “first living robots” from frog stem cells

 

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“It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

A team of researchers have built what they claim to be the first living robots. The “xenobots,” they say, can move, pick up objects, and even heal themselves after being cut.

The team is hoping the biological machines could one day be used to clean up microplastics in the ocean or even deliver drugs inside the human body, The Guardian reports.

To build the robots, the team used living cells from frog embryos and assembled them into primitive beings.

“These are novel living machines,” research co-lead Joshua Bongard, robotics expert at the University of Vermont, said in a statement. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

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Japan approves scientist’s plan to create world’s first Humanimals

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For the first time, a government is supporting a plan to create animal embryos with human cells and bring them to term, resulting in a type of humanimal known as a human-animal chimera.

According to Nature, a committee from Japan’s science ministry signed off on a request by researchers to grow human pancreases in either rats or mice, the first such experiment to gain approval since a government ban was reversed earlier this year.

“Finally, we are in a position to start serious studies in this field after 10 years of preparation,” lead researcher Hiromitsu Nakauchi told the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

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Scientists create a device that can mass-produce human embryoids

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These human embryo-like structures (top) were synthesized from human stem cells; they’ve been stained to illustrate different cell types. Images (bottom) of the “embryoids” in the new device that was invented to make them. Yi Zheng/University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Scientists have invented a device that can quickly produce large numbers of living entities that resemble very primitive human embryos.

Researchers welcomed the development, described Wednesday in the journal Nature, as an important advance for studying the earliest days of human embryonic development. But it also raises questions about where to draw the line in manufacturing “synthetic” human life.

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Mini-brains grown in a lab have human-like brain activity

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A new study promises new paths to research mental illness, but raises questions about whether so-called organoids could develop consciousness

Alysson Muotri was dumbfounded when the pea-sized blobs of human brain cells that he was growing in the lab started emitting electrical pulses. He initially thought the electrodes he was using were malfunctioning.

Muotri was wrong. What the cells were emitting were brain waves — rhythmic patterns of neural activity. “That was a big surprise,” he says.

The 3D blobs of brain cells, known as organoids, are commonly used in disease and drug research to replicate organs. But no “mini-brain” had ever shown signs of brain waves before.

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Cambridge scientists reverse ageing process in rat brain stem cells

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Aged rat brain stem cells grown on a soft surface (right) show more healthy, vigorous growth than similar aged brain stem cells grown on a stiff surface (left)

New research reveals how increasing brain stiffness as we age causes brain stem cell dysfunction, and demonstrates new ways to reverse older stem cells to a younger, healthier state.

…when the old brain cells were grown on the soft material, they began to function like young cells – in other words, they were rejuvenated

The results, published today in Nature, have far-reaching implications for how we understand the ageing process, and how we might develop much-needed treatments for age-related brain diseases.

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‘Extraordinary’ breakthroughs in anti-Aging research ‘will happen faster than people think’

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People 50 and older have a lot to look forward to, according to Juvenescence’s Greg Bailey—mainly that we won’t be aging as fast or poorly as our parents. “Science fiction has become science,” said the UK-based anti-aging biotech’s CEO about the company’s completing its $100 million Series B round of financing last week. “I think the world is going to be shocked,” he said in an interview. In total, Juvenescence has now raised $165 million in just 18 months to fund longevity projects with the lofty goal of extending human lifespans to 150 years.

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This Lab-grown patch could repair your heart after a heart attack

 

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 Patches could help repair damaged hearts.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US for both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 735,00 Americans have a heart attack each year, and 610,000 die of heart disease.

Those who survive heart attacks remain at serious risk for heart failure. During a heart attack, the network of blood vessels that delivers blood to the heart, called the coronary arteries, experiences a blockage due to buildup of cholesterol and fatty deposits. Blood can’t flow through to the heart, which means it doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients it needs, causing tissue to die.

Heart attack survivors are thus left with a heart that’s weaker, making everyday tasks like lifting objects or climbing stairs exhausting or even dangerous. Restoring damaged heart tissue has proved difficult if not impossible, but a research team from Imperial College London has a new tool they hope will be able to heal wounded hearts.

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Dentists are asking parents not to throw their kids’ baby teeth, here’s why

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Do you remember the strange thrill of losing a tooth when you were a child? On the one hand, you had the distressing feeling of seeing blood and feeling it pop out. At the same time, you knew something exciting was going to happen when you put it under your pillow. If you were lucky, by the next morning, the tooth was gone and some money had magically appeared.

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