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How Huntington’s disease kills brain cells

Researchers have claimed to have discovered how the fatal inherited disorder Huntington’s disease kills brain cells.

They believe they have learned how mutations in the gene that causes Huntington’s disease kill brain cells, a finding that could open new opportunities for treating the fatal disorder. Scientists first linked the gene to the inherited disease more than 20 years ago.

Huntington’s disease affects five to seven people out of every 100,000. Symptoms, which typically begin in middle age, include involuntary jerking movements, disrupted coordination and cognitive problems such as dementia.

Lead author Hiroko Yano, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, found in mice and in mouse brain cell cultures that the disease impairs the transfer of proteins to energy-making factories inside brain cells. 

The factories, known as mitochondria, need these proteins to maintain their function. When disruption of the supply line disables the mitochondria, brain cells die.

Yano, assistant professor of neurological surgery, neurology and genetics, said they showed the problem could be fixed by making cells overproduce the proteins that make this transfer possible. She said that they don’t know if this will work in humans, but it’s exciting to have a solid new lead on how this condition kills brain cells.
Self-powered pacemaker to make patients’ life easier

Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a self-powered artificial cardiac pacemaker that is operated semi-permanently by a flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator.

The team headed by Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST and Professor Boyoung Joung, M.D. of the Division of Cardiology at Severance Hospital of Yonsei University, newly designed flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator directly stimulated a living rat’s heart using electrical energy converted from the small body movements of the rat.

This technology could facilitate the use of self-powered flexible energy harvesters, not only prolonging the lifetime of cardiac pacemakers but also realizing real-time heart monitoring.

The research team fabricated high-performance flexible nanogenerators utilizing a bulk single-crystal PMN-PT thin film (iBULe Photonics). The harvested energy reached up to 8.2 V and 0.22 mA by bending and pushing motions, which were high enough values to directly stimulate the rat’s heart. 

Diabetes drug could help lower cardiac risk factors

Researchers have said that treatment with the diabetes drug liraglutide, in combination with diet and exercise, led to a significant decline in weight and improved a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The results, from more than 3,700 overweight and obese nondiabetic adults, were presented Saturday at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago. 

Study’s principal investigator, Carel Le Roux, MD, PhD, Diabetes Complications Research Centre, University College Dublin, said if these improvements continue over time, they may result in a lower risk of heart disease.

The drug is undergoing testing at a 3 milligram (mg) dose for long-term weight management as part of the SCALE (Satiety and Clinical Adiposity—Liraglutide Evidence in Nondiabetic and Diabetic Subjects) Obesity and Prediabetes trial. Liraglutide currently is marketed as Victoza in 1.2 mg and 1.8 mg injectable doses for adults with Type 2 diabetes to help control blood glucose (sugar) when used along with diet and exercise.

As part of the study’s weight loss efforts, all subjects exercised and ate 500 fewer calories per day than usual. 

In addition, they were randomly assigned, in a 2-to-1 ratio, to a once-daily injection with either 3 mg of liraglutide (2,487 subjects) or placebo (1,244 subjects) for 56 weeks

On average, individuals treated with liraglutide 3 mg lost 5.4 per cent more of their body weight, achieving a total of 8 per cent, and nearly 1.7 more inches (4.2 centimeters) around their waist than did those who received placebo, the investigators reported.

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