Is Junk Food Addictive?

ResearchBlogging.org

In a recent paper in Nature Neuroscience, two researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida report that obese rats with extended access to what they deemed “palatable food” — bacon, sausage, cheesecake, pound cake, frosting and chocolate — exhibited compulsive like eating behavior, much like rats with extended access to cocaine or heroin [1]. This compulsive eating meant that they continued eating despite negative ramifications, in this case a flash of light signaling an oncoming electric shock administered to their foot. This lack of control over behavior with known negative consequences is a hallmark of both drug addiction and obesity. The investigators found that just like drug addicted rats, these obese rats had fewer striatal (a region of the forebrain) dopamine D2 receptors; this is responsible for the observed dampening of their neural reward responses to the food, which caused them to continue to eat, seeking that elusive high.

NIH Study Reveals a Genetic Basis for Stuttering

ResearchBlogging.org

Although the root cause(s) of stuttering remain unknown, evidence has accumulated from twin and adoption studies that genetics plays a role. Dennis Drayna, a geneticist at the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), undertook a study to identify the genes involved in the disorder with the ultimate goal to elucidate poorly defined neural structures and functions regulating human speech. Results from the study were reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine [1].

Stuttering

The study focused on a Pakistani family in whom previous work had determined that stuttering was linked to the long arm of chromosome 12 (chromosome 12q). In addition to the affected and unaffected members of these families, the study also included 123 Pakistani stutterers who were unrelated and 270 stutterers from the United States and England. Children under the age of eight were excluded, as they often recover from stuttering, as were people with neurologic or psychiatric symptoms. The control group (non-stutterers) consisted of 96 Pakistanis and 276 North American whites.

Chromosome arms: All human chromosomes have 2 arms — a short arm and a long arm — that are separated from each other by the centromere, the point at which the chromosome is attached to the spindle, a cytoskeletal structure in¬†eukaryotic cells,¬†during cell division. The short arm is termed the “p arm” while the long arm of the chromosome is termed the “q arm.”

Crohns Disease Treatment Also Helps Protect the Gut From Infection

ResearchBlogging.org

The gene Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) encodes a cytokine, a signaling molecule secreted by immune cells that has an effect on other cells and is involved in inflammation. A recent report in Cell Host and Microbe reveals that in the gut, GM-CSF helps protect against infection by a bacterial pathogen [1].

Dendritic cell

GM-CSF has long been known to promote the survival and differentiation of dendritic cells, immune cells that are present in small quantities in tissues that are in contact with the external environment, including the skin and the inner lining of the nose, lungs, stomach and intestines. Dendritic cells are immune modulators that originate in the bone marrow and travel through the blood and lymph to the peripheral tissues in an immature state. Once they arrive, they differentiate and function as professional “antigen presenting cells”: they alert T cells and B cells to the presence of any foreign invaders. The T and B cells then mount an immune response.

Personalized Medicine Approach Provides More Benefit for Patients with High Cholesterol than Current Guidelines

ResearchBlogging.org

Statins are a class of drugs that lower cholesterol and thereby reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. They work by preventing the synthesis of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) in the liver and promoting its clearance from the blood. They are the most effective cholesterol-lowering drugs currently available and are the cornerstone of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) treatment guidelines.

The NCEP recommends a “treat-to-target” strategy, in which patients are given specific statin doses to achieve a desired level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. In this case, low LDL cholesterol is the “target.” Yet some physicians are questioning whether treating to any target is the best approach to fighting disease. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that “tailored treatment”, an approach attempts to practice personalized medicine by estimating three factors, is more effective than a treat-to-target strategy [1].

Alzheimer’s Disease May Protect Against Cancer and Vice Versa

ResearchBlogging.org

As we get older, and care for our parents as they get older, the most feared age-related conditions we face are arguably Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. But researchers at Washington University have just shown that at least we don’t have to fear both of them at the same time; they recently published a paper in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology demonstrating that people with Alzheimer’s disease have a significantly reduced risk of being hospitalized for cancer [1].

Feared age-related conditions

This potential link between these two diseases had been noted for some time, but in this study researchers devoted considerable effort to overcoming the limitations in their previous work. Firstly, they used a population-based sample of 3,020 people older than 65, so their results were not limited to a particular geographic area or socio-economic segment of society. Secondly, they used hospital records rather than informant reports to quantify cancer diagnoses. This controlled for the risk that people with Alzheimer’s disease may be less likely to report their cancers than those without. And lastly, to ensure that they were not seeing less cancer in Alzheimer’s patients because physicians were less likely to look for cancer in people with dementia, or because people with dementia simply die earlier than those without it and thereby avoid cancer, they also looked at cancer risk among people with vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is not neurodegenerative in origin; rather, it results from brain damage due to vascular pathology.