what's the buzz

what's the buzz

Anti-psychotic drugs to treat brain tumours

Researchers have said that FDA-approved anti-psychotic drugs possess tumor-killing activity against the most aggressive form of primary brain cancer, glioblastoma.
The team of scientists, led by principal investigator, Clark C Chen, MD, PhD, vice-chairman, UC San Diego, School of Medicine, division of neurosurgery, used a technology platform called shRNA to test how each gene in the human genome contributed to glioblastoma growth.

Chen said that ShRNAs are invaluable tools in the study of what genes do. They function like molecular erasers, asserting that they can design these ‘erasers’ against every gene in the human genome. He said that these shRNAs can then be packaged into viruses and introduced into cancer cells, explaining that if a gene is required for glioblastoma growth and the shRNA erases the function of that gene, then the cancer cell will either stop growing or die.

Chen said that many genes required for glioblastoma growth are also required for dopamine receptor function. Following clues unveiled by their study, Chen and his team tested the effects of dopamine antagonists against glioblastoma and found that these drugs exert significant anti-tumor effects . These effects are synergistic when combined with other anti-glioblastoma drugs in terms of halting tumor growth.

Lung regeneration comes closer to reality

Researchers have now reported their development of new methods and techniques for engineering lungs for patients with COPD and pulmonary fibrosis.

University of Vermont Professor of Medicine Daniel Weiss, MD, PhD, and his team’s work focuses on lung tissue bioengineering, which involves the use of a scaffold - or framework - of lungs from human cadavers to engineer new lungs for patients with end-stage disease.

Weiss said that it’s expensive and difficult to repopulate an entire human lung at one time, and, unlike in mouse models, this doesn’t readily allow the study of multiple conditions, such as cell types, growth factors, and environmental influences.

To address this, Wagner developed a technique to dissect out and recellularise multiple, small segments in a biological/physiological manner that would take into consideration the appropriate three-dimensional interaction of blood vessels with the lung’s airways and air sacs.

Working with biomaterials scientist Rachel Oldinski, PhD, UVM assistant professor of engineering, they further developed a new method using a nontoxic, natural polymer derived from seaweed to use as a coating for each lung segment prior to recellularisation.

This process allowed the team to selectively inject new stem cells into the small decellularised lung segments while preserving vascular and airway channels. Use of this technique, which resulted in a higher retention of human stem cells in both porcine (pig) and human scaffolds, allows the small lung segments to be ventilated for use in the study of stretch effects on stem cell differentiation.

Tots use known verbs to learn new nouns

Researchers have suggested that even before infants begin to talk in sentences, they pay careful attention to the way a new word is used in conversations, and learn new words from the information in sentences.

For example, if you take an infant to the zoo and say, “Look at the gorilla” while pointing at the cage, the infant may not know what exactly is being referred to. But, if you say, “Look! The gorilla is eating,” the infant can use the word that they do know -- “eating” -- to conclude that “gorilla” must refer to the animal and not, for example, the swing she is sitting on.

The zoo scenario mirrors the method the researchers used for their experiment. First, infants aged 15 and 19 months were shown several pairs of pictures on a large screen. Each pair included one new kind of animal and a non-living object.

Next, the objects disappeared from view and infants overheard a conversation that included a new word, “blick.” Finally, the two objects re-appeared, and infants heard, for example, “Look at the blick.” The researchers said infants usually hear a new word under much more natural and complex circumstances such as the zoo example described.