Pavlov’s Neurons: Brain Cells That Are A Key To Learning Discovered

More than a century after Ivan Pavlov’s dog was conditioned to salivate when it heard the sound of a tone prior to receiving food, scientists have found neurons that are critical to how people and animals learn from experience.

Using a new imaging technique called Arc catFISH, researchers from the University of Washington have visualized individual neurons in the amygdalas of rat brains that are activated when the animals are given an associative learning task.

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Scientists find potential strategy to eliminate poisonous protein from Alzheimer brains

Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease (GIND) have identified a new strategy to destroy amyloid-beta (AB) proteins, which are widely believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Li Gan, PhD, and her coworkers discovered that the activity of a potent AB-degrading enzyme can be unleashed in mouse models of the disease by reducing its natural inhibitor cystatin C (CysC). Continue reading “Scientists find potential strategy to eliminate poisonous protein from Alzheimer brains”

Researchers identify Achilles heel of common childhood tumor

Researchers have discovered a mechanism for the rapid growth seen in infantile hemangioma, the most common childhood tumor.

The tumors, which are made up of proliferating blood vessels, affect up to 10 percent of children of European descent, with girls more frequently afflicted than boys. The growths appear within days of birth—most often as a single, blood-red lump on the head or face—then grow rapidly in the ensuing months. The development of infantile hemangioma slows later in childhood, and most tumors disappear entirely by the end of puberty. However, while the tumors are benign, they can cause disfigurement or clinical complications. This new research offers hope for the most severe of these cases, pointing at a potential, non-invasive treatment for the condition. Continue reading “Researchers identify Achilles heel of common childhood tumor”

Emotion and scent create lasting memories – even in a sleeping brain

When French memoirist Marcel Proust dipped a pastry into his tea, the distinctive scent it produced suddenly opened the flood gates of his memory.

In a series of experiments with sleeping mice, researchers at the Duke University Medical Center have shown that the part of the brain that processes scents is indeed a key part of forming long-term memories, especially involving other individuals. Continue reading “Emotion and scent create lasting memories – even in a sleeping brain”

Can genetic information be controlled by light?

DNA, the molecule that acts as the carrier of genetic information in all forms of life, is highly resistant against alteration by ultraviolet light, but understanding the mechanism for its photostability presents some puzzling problems. A key aspect is the interaction between the four chemical bases that make up the DNA molecule. Researchers at Kiel University have succeeded in showing that DNA strands differ in their light sensitivity depending on their base sequences. Their results are reported by Nina Schwalb and colleagues in the current issue of the journal Science appearing on October 10, 2008. Continue reading “Can genetic information be controlled by light?”

Study unlocks stem cell DNA secrets

In a groundbreaking study led by an eminent molecular biologist at Florida State University, researchers have discovered that as embryonic stem cells turn into different cell types, there are dramatic corresponding changes to the order in which DNA is replicated and reorganized.

The findings bridge a critical knowledge gap for stem cell biologists, enabling them to better understand the enormously complex process by which DNA is repackaged during differentiation — when embryonic stem cells, jacks of all cellular trades, lose their anything-goes attitude and become masters of specialized functions.

Continue reading “Study unlocks stem cell DNA secrets”

Searching For HIV’s Achilles Heel

Why is it so hard to make an HIV vaccine? Dr. John Coffin, who is one of the fathers of modern retrovirology,  Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Tufts University asks in his insightful blog article, full of humor and historical metaphors. Dr. Coffin proposes that the answer to this question, which has eluded us for the last 25 years, lies in the unusual relationship of this particular virus with its host. He explains variety of ingenious ways HIV is able to evade the immune system and how it has evolved to exploit it for its own benefit.

Despite incredible challenges remaining to find this HIV’s Achilles, Dr. Coffin maintains his optimism for overcoming these: ” Given the obvious need for effective prevention to stem the AIDS pandemic, we must keep trying. Unfortunately, HIV has evolved into a niche whose very properties seem designed to thwart our attempts to turn the immune system against it. As an article of faith, we must believe that there is an Achilles’ heel in the virus’s sugary armor that we can exploit, but we haven’t found it yet.”

Read this excellent article at Small Things considered: the microbe blog.