Brain circuit can tune anxiety

Anxiety disorders, which include posttraumatic stress disorder, social phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder, affect 40 million American adults in a given year. Currently available treatments, such as antianxiety drugs, are not always effective and have unwanted side effects.

To develop better treatments, a more specific understanding of the brain circuits that produce anxiety is necessary, says Kay Tye, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

Brain circuit can tune anxiety

The tips of long neuronal extensions from the amygdala (green) contact neurons of the hippocampus (blue). This communication pathway helps to modulate anxiety. 

IMAGE: ADA FELIX-ORTIZ

via Brain circuit can tune anxiety – MIT News Office.

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Miniature brains grown in test tubes – a new path for neuroscience?

Scientists have grown miniature human brains in test tubes, creating a “tool” that will allow them to watch how the organs develop in the womb and, they hope, increase their understanding of neurological and mental problems.

Just a few millimetres across, the “cerebral organoids” are built up of layers of brain cells with defined regions that resemble those seen in immature, embryonic brains.

The scientists say the organoids will be useful for biologists who want to analyse how conditions such as schizophrenia or autism occur in the brain. Though these are usually diagnosed in older people some of the underlying defects occur during the brain’s early development.

The organoids are also expected to be useful in the development and testing of drugs. At present this is done using laboratory animals or isolated human cells; the new organoids could allow pharmacologists to test drugs in more human-like settings.Organoid 'brain' from test tube

Stem cell scientists at Edinburgh and the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna grew this organoid, or tiny ‘brain’, which measures just 4mm across. Photograph: Madeline A Lancaster/PA

via Miniature brains grown in test tubes – a new path for neuroscience? | Science | The Guardian.

Could the triple whammy technique that beat HIV/Aids win battle against cancer?

The key development that has transformed scientists’ strategy for battling cancer has been the recent discovery that tumours are far more genetically complex than previously realised. “By analysing cancer tissue samples from patients we have found there is an enormous genetic difference between cells found within a single tumour,” said Professor Martin Gore of London’s Royal Marsden hospital. “It was a surprise.”

Chris Jones of The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, agreed. “Until recently, it was assumed cancer cells were more or less identical clones of each other. We have found this is not true. Cells, taken from a single tumour from one person, can have many different genetic alterations within them. This presents us with a huge challenge in trying to develop treatments, though in the long term our new awareness should also provide us with an opportunity to create powerful anti-cancer drug regimes.”

For most of the past 40 years, cancers have been treated by surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. This last technique involves the use of cytotoxic drugs which can kill cells that they encounter. By carefully adjusting doses of these drugs, doctors have been able to kill off cancer cells while leaving normal cells unaffected – in many cases. But the considerable toxicity of chemotherapy drugs means they can only be administered for a few weeks, which limits their tumour-killing potential.

Could the triple whammy technique that beat HIV/Aids win battle against cancer? | Science | The Observer.