Monthly Archives: April 2014

Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona claim to have reversed memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease mouse models, using gene therapy.

The team of researchers discovered the cellular mechanism involved in memory consolidation and were able to inject the hippocampus with a gene which causes the production of a protein blocked in patients with Alzheimer’s, Crtc1 (CREB regulated transcription coactivator-1). Once restored, the protein allows free passage to signals needed to activate the genes involved in long-term memory functioning.

“When the Crtc1 protein is altered, the genes responsible for the synapsis or connections between neurons in the hippocampus cannot be activated and the individual cannot perform memory tasks correctly”, explained Carlos Saura, head of the research team.

The study authors suggest that a cure for AD lies in developing pharmacological therapies, which can activate the Crtc1 protein thus preventing, slowing down or reverting cognitive changes.

Their research appears on the cover of the 23 April edition of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Source: Journal of Neuroscience

JPND has launched a rapid action call for leading scientists in the field to establish working groups to enhance the use of existing longitudinal cohort studies for neurodegenerative disease research.

Current population and disease-focused cohorts offer a significant opportunity for advancing our understanding of the risks of developing neurodegenerative conditions and the influences on disease progression. Such cohorts also offer the prospect of providing platforms for prevention and intervention studies in the longer term.

As identified in the recently published report of the JPND Action Group on Longitudinal Cohort studies in ND research, a number of methodological challenges remain if such resources are to be fully exploited. The report also identified a number of areas where further thinking is specifically needed to provide the necessary consensus and framework to support future studies of impact for the field. These were:

  • assessing the presymptomatic stages of ND, where new methodological approaches, tools and measures are required.
  • the development of standards to support brain imaging, where guidelines are needed to frame future multimodal imaging approaches and perspectives in molecular imaging.
  • measurement of cognitive, behavioural and functional changes of relevance to ND progression and outcome , where a consensus on the methodologies to be used is needed.
  • data handling, where the emergence of ‘omics’ technologies requires new approaches to data integration and the interrogation and accessibility of big data sets.
  • cohort alignment: in depth work is needed to identify where cohorts can be brought together in selected areas, with concurrent work on how data pooling can realistically be achieved.
  • clinical data linkage: an assessment is needed of how studies with clear clinical linkage might be exploited in prospective studies, such that study harmonisation might be achieved, with the identification of best practice for of data protection, storage and dissemination solutions.
  • the potential for exploiting intervention-studies of potential risk factors where ND is not the primary focus (eg. clinical trials in hypertension, diabetes etc), to ascertain how they could be used to adequately address risk of ND as an outcome.

JPND has decided that these issues can be progressed most effectively through assembling motivated groups of leading experts in the ND field. Accordingly community-led Working Groups are to be supported that can push forward the conceptualization of such topics in order to provide guidelines and/or best practice frameworks of value to the wider research community. Areas to be considered are highlighted above, although other topics that are similar in theme may be proposed.

Funds available and form of support

Up to €450,000 in total will be available to fund Working Groups under this call, with each Working Group able to bid up to €50,000 for support of its activities, which are expected to run for a maximum of 6 months. As the Working Groups will be expected to deliver reports of wide applicability to the field of ND research, only one activity will be funded in any topic area. Funding will cover the costs of meetings and travel required to deliver the Working Groups’ objectives.

Participating JPND countries

This is a transnational call and Working Groups can be comprised of members of any JPND-member country and beyond. However, the lead-coordinator of the Working Group should be based in one of the following countries that are contributing to this call:

  • Denmark, Danish Strategic Research Council
  • France, French National Research Agency
  • Germany, Federal Ministry of Education and Research (pending final approval)
  • Italy, Ministry of Health
  • Luxemburg, National Research Fund
  • The Netherlands, The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development
  • Norway, The Research Council of Norway
  • Sweden, The Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
  • United Kingdom, Medical Research Council

Notes:

The proposal submission deadline for the call is 17:00 (GMT+1, Summer Time) on June 16th, 2014

More information on the call is available at:

http://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/initiatives/jpnd-alignment-actions/longitudinal-cohorts/call-for-working-groups  

Media enquiries should be directed to:

Derick Mitchell, dmitchell@hrb.ie, +353 1 2345103

A new line of mice promises to circumvent many of the problems of existing models by recapitulating much of the pathology seen in presymptomatic Alzheimer’s, without overexpressing APP or interrupting other mouse genes.

Over the last two decades, researchers have generated dozens of different mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. The most commonly used lines carry mutant forms of human Abeta precursor protein (APP), either alone or in combination with human presenilin, tau, or other genes.

Used for both basic research and drug discovery, these animals have provided a wealth of information. However, there have been niggling doubts from the beginning that some of their phenotypes may have little to do with the human disease, and negative clinical trials later reinforced critical debate about the validity of overexpression models.

For example, some models can only be maintained on specific genetic backgrounds, some die young or have surprising phenotypes when crossed with other mouse lines, and in others amyloidosis drifts later in successive generations, suggesting gene expression changes from parents to offspring.

Enter a new line of mice that promises to circumvent many of these problems. Researchers led by Takaomi Saido have engineered APP knock-ins. These animals recapitulate much of the pathology seen in presymptomatic AD, without overexpressing APP or interrupting other mouse genes. How do these knock-ins compare? Click on the link below:

Source: AlzForum

Autopsies have revealed that some individuals develop the cellular changes indicative of Alzheimer’s disease without ever showing clinical symptoms in their lifetime.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center memory researchers have discovered a potential genetic variant in these asymptomatic individuals that may make brains more resilient against Alzheimer’s.

"Most Alzheimer’s research is searching for genes that predict the disease, but we’re taking a different approach. We’re looking for genes that predict who among those with Alzheimer’s pathology will actually show clinical symptoms of the disease," said principal investigator Timothy Hohman, Ph.D., a post-doctoral research fellow in the Center for Human Genetics Research and the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center.

The article, "Genetic modification of the relationship between phosphorylated tau and neurodegeneration," was published online recently in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia. (click to access the Pubmed abstract)

The researchers used a marker of Alzheimer’s disease found in cerebrospinal fluid called phosphorylated tau. In brain cells, tau is a protein that stabilizes the highways of cellular transport in neurons. In Alzheimer’s disease tau forms "tangles" that disrupt cellular messages.

Analyzing a sample of 700 subjects from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, Hohman and colleagues looked for genetic variants that modify the relationship between phosphorylated tau and lateral ventricle dilation—a measure of disease progression visible with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). One genetic mutation (rs4728029) was found to relate to both ventricle dilation and cognition and is a marker of neuroinflammation.

"This gene marker appears to be related to an inflammatory response in the presence of phosphorylated tau," Hohman said. "It appears that certain individuals with a genetic predisposition toward a ‘bad’ neuroinflammatory response have neurodegeneration. But those with a genetic predisposition toward no inflammatory response, or a reduced one, are able to endure the pathology without marked neurodegeneration."#

Hohman hopes to expand the study to include a larger sample and investigate gene and protein expression using data from a large autopsy study of Alzheimer’s disease.

Source:  Vanderbilt University, USA

Google Glass is being used by people suffering from Parkinson’s disease in a groundbreaking experiment to see if the technology can help improve their day-to-day lives.

Newcastle University, UK is trialling new technology to help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease live more independently by reminding them to swallow, speak up and take their medication.

The Google technology, which is not yet available in Europe, reminds the patients to take their medication, contacts relatives in an emergency and can even prevent debilitating episodes of paralysis – known as ‘freezing.’

The system works like a hands-free smartphone, displaying information on the lens of the Glass. It is voice-operated and linked to the internet.

“The beauty of this research project is we are designing the apps and systems for Glass in collaboration with the users so the resulting applications should exactly meet their needs,” said Dr John Vines of the School of Computing Science.

Source: Newcastle University

Results out of a study funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) have enabled researchers to secure a $23 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, continuing a repurposed drug approved for hypertension to Phase III testing for slowing Parkinson’s progression.

The trial investigating the compound isradipine will be the most advanced, current study into a disease-modifying therapy for Parkinson’s, an unmet need.

Isradipine is a calcium channel blocker prescribed to treat high blood pressure. Epidemiological data from population-scale studies note a lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease (PD) among people who take this drug.

Furthering PD researchers’ interest, laboratory tests have shown that blocking calcium channels protects dopamine neurons, degeneration of which is one of the hallmarks of Parkinson’s disease.

Source: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research