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Vit-D may help fight multiple sclerosis

A new study has revealed that ‘sunshine vitamin’ D may help combat multiple sclerosis by blocking the migration of destructive immune cells to the brain.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins found in mice with a rodent form of multiple sclerosis (MS), vitamin D appears to block damage-causing immune cells from migrating to the central nervous system, offering a potential explanation for why the so-called "sunshine vitamin" may prevent or ease symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease.

The quest to understand the role of the nutrient began with the observation that the disease is more prevalent in regions of the world farthest from the equator where there is less sunshine, the main natural source of vitamin D.

“With this research, we learned vit-D might be working not by altering the function of damaging immune cells but by preventing their journey into the brain,” study leader Anne R. Gocke, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said. For their study, Gocke and her colleagues simultaneously gave mice the rodent form of MS and a high dose of vitamin D. They found that this protected the mice from showing symptoms of the disease. The researchers still found a large number of T cells in the bloodstream of the mice, but very few in their brains and spinal cords.

How good cholesterol can help stop inflammation

A team of researchers has identified a central switch by which High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known colloquially as “good cholesterol”, controls the inflammatory response.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is commonly referred to as the “bad cholesterol”, because it promotes atherosclerosis. In contrast, the “good cholesterol”, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), helps transport excess cholesterol out of the bloodstream and can counteract an inflammatory reaction in damaged vessel walls.

Prof. Eicke Latz, Director of the Institute of Innate Immunity at the University of Bonn said the molecular causes to which this protective effect of HDL can be attributed were unclear until now.

In a very extensive study over a period of about three years, the group performed experiments in human and mouse cells, to determine which genes are regulated by high HDL levels.

How brain balances learning skills while retaining old ones

Researchers have developed a new computational model that explains how the brain maintains the balance between plasticity and stability, and how it can learn very similar tasks without interference between them.

To learn new motor skills, the brain must be plastic: able to rapidly change the strengths of connections between neurons, forming new patterns that accomplish a particular task. However, if the brain were too plastic, previously learned skills would be lost too easily.
The key, the neuroscientists at MIT said, is that neurons are constantly changing their connections with other neurons. However, not all of the changes are functionally relevant- they simply allow the brain to explore many possible ways to execute a certain skill, such as a new tennis stroke.

“Your brain is always trying to find the configurations that balance everything so you can do two tasks, or three tasks, or however many you’re learning. There are many ways to solve a task, and you’re exploring all the different ways,” lead author Robert Ajemian said.

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