If we want to understand how the brain creates memories, and how genetic disorders distort the brain’s machinery, then the fragile X gene is an ideal place to start. That’s why the Stephen T. Warren Memorial Symposium, taking place November 28-29 at Emory, will be a significant event for those interested in neuroscience and genetics.
Stephen T. Warren, 1953-2021
Warren, the founding chair of Emory’s Department of Human Genetics, led an international team that discovered Read more
At a time when COVID-19 appears to be receding in much of Georgia, it’s worth revisiting the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Emory virologist Anne Piantadosi and colleagues have a paper in Viral Evolution on the earliest SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequences detected in Georgia.
Analyzing relationships between those virus sequences and samples from other states and countries can give us an idea about where the first COVID-19 infections in Georgia came from. We can draw Read more
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, made a splash last week predicting the arrival of a universal flu vaccine in the next five years.
Francis Collins told USA Today he is "guardedly optimistic" about the possibility of long-term vaccination that could replace seasonal flu shots.
His prediction came at the same time as a report in Science identifying an antibody that can protect against several strains of the flu virus.Â Taking a look at the Science paper, how the scientists found the “super antibody” seems remarkably similar to how Emory’s Jens Wrammert, Rafi Ahmed and colleagues found a similar broadly protective antibody.Â Their results were published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine in January.
In both cases, the researchers started with someone who had been infected with the 2009 H1N1 swine origin flu virus, sifted through the antibodies that person produced and found some that reacted against several varieties of the flu virus. There must be something special about that 2009 pandemic strain!
While humans have been consuming fermented foods such as yogurt and kimchi for centuries, a visitor to a modern grocery store can see the recent commercial enthusiasm for adding probiotic bacteria to foods.Â A recent article inÂ SlateÂ explores the confusion over potential health benefits for these added bacteria.
The bacteria that live inside us seem to play an important role regulating metabolism, the immune system and the nervous system, but scientists have a lot to learn about how those interactions take place.
A type 2 diabetes intervention program developed by researchers from Emory and the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) in India is showing promising results in improving risk factors, such as lowering weight and decreasing blood pressure and glucose levels.
The ongoing study, called the Diabetes Community Life Improvement Program, (D-CLIP) was designed to test the benefits of a low-cost community program for people at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, most commonly associated with obesity. The curriculum integrates exercise, nutrition education and dietary changes. The study is being conducted in Chennai, India with hopes of expanding the program into other parts of South Asia.
Six-hundred participants with prediabetes were randomly assigned to either a standard of care control treatment or weekly D-CLIP classes for six months, where they learned about making healthy choices in real life situations such as restaurants and grocery stores. They also learned how to incorporate exercise into their daily routines with the goal of completing 150 minutes of physical activity a week.
Of the 200 participants who have completed the course to date, 83 percent have lost between five and 13 pounds. There also was improvement in blood glucose, serum cholesterol and blood pressure levels in participants.
â€œThis initial research is quite encouraging because it shows we can turn the tide of type 2 diabetes onset by promoting simple lifestyle changes through well-structured community programming,â€ says Venkat Narayan, MD, Hubert Professor in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and a professor in Emory School of Medicine. â€œAttendance at the lifestyle classes is 85 to 90 percent, with lifestyle changes strongly evident. More than anything, we have formed strong partnerships with the local community that will ultimately lead to the implementation of more successful programs like this.â€
The study is conducted by the Global Diabetes Research Center, a collaboration between Emory University and MDRF in Chennai, India. The center received its initial support from the Emory Global Health Institute, with funding from BRiDGES (Bringing Research in Diabetes to Global Environments and Systems), an International Diabetes Federation program supported by an educational grant from Eli Lily. Currently, the 17th session of D-CLIP classes is in progress, with the study set to close in early 2013.
Participants in the D-CLIP study learned to incorporate exercise into their lives to stave off type 2 diabetes.
â€œWe have always known that the right diet and exercise can improve health,â€ says V. Mohan, MD, president of the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation. â€œBut there has been no scientific community-based program to quantify this until now. We hope this is just the beginning of efforts to reduce the incidence of the type 2 diabetes epidemic worldwide.â€
Can it really be possible to transform a person’s own cells into a weapon against various forms of disease? And what if those very cells could be retrained to attack cancer cells or to prevent autoimmune diseases?
Answers to these questions and many more are about to soon be realized, as Emory University Hospital will serve as the launch site for the very appropriately-named EPIC (Emory Personalized Immunotherapy Center).
The new Center, which is the creation of Dr. Jacques Galipeau, MD, professor of hematology and medical oncology & pediatrics of Emory University, will soon be operational after final touches have been put on construction of the lab. This cell processing facility will foster development of novel personalized cellular therapies for Emory patients facing catastrophic ailments and unmet medical needs.
According to Galipeau, the premise of EPIC and its overlying mission will focus on cellular and biological therapies that use a patientâ€™s own cells as a weapon to seek and destroy cells that actually make a person sick. In partnership with the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Childrenâ€™s Healthcare of Atlanta, Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center and the Emory School of Medicine, EPIC seeks to improve the health of children and adults afflicted with cancer and immune disease.
â€œFirst and foremost, we seek to bring a level of care and discovery that is first in Georgia, first in human and first in child. Blood and marrow derived cells have been used for more than a quarter century to treat life threatening hematological conditions and are now established therapies worldwide. More recently, the use of specific adult somatic cells from marrow, blood and other tissues are being studied in cellular medicine of a wide array of ailments including heart, lung, neurological and immune diseases,â€ says Galipeau. â€œThe use of blood borne immune cells can also be exploited for treatment of cancer, autoimmune disease, organ transplantation and chronic viral illnesses such as HIV.â€
Galipeau said that once operational, EPIC willÂ begin by working with Crohnâ€™s disease in pediatric and adult patients, an inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms of Crohnâ€™s disease include severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, and the inability for a child to properly grow. Resulting bouts of inflammation may also affect the entire digestive tract, including the mouth, esophagus and stomach.Â In some cases, a radical surgery involving the removal of part of the lower intestinal tract is required.
â€œThere is no current answer for what specifically causes Crohnâ€™s disease, nor is there a cure. But we hope that through our research and efforts, we will be able to first target the inflammatory mechanisms in these patients through immunotherapy, and in turn reduce the amount of flare-ups and limitÂ the damage that occurs from this disease,â€ says Galipeau.
Galipeau says the EPIC program could represent a powerful cornerstone to the launch and the development of an entirely new, Emory-based initiative which bundles the strengths of the School of Medicine, Emory University Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and many Woodruff Health Sciences Center centers of excellence,â€ says Galipeau.
â€œMy ultimate goal is to elevate the biomedical scientific and scholarly enterprise to aÂ higher level – making a difference in the lives of people. The EPIC program and multi-levels of support could be a fundamental underpinning to our success.â€
Emory genetic researchers Daniel Moreno De Luca, Christa Lese Martin and David Ledbetter were part of a team that produced a landmark result in autism genetics. The team identified hundreds of regions of the genome where spontaneous mutations are implicated in autism.Â Spontaneous mutations are those that arise for the first time in an individual, rather than being inherited from parents.
Christa Lese Martin, PhD
The team was led by Matthew State at Yale, and their results were published in the journal Neuron. Moreno De Luca discussed the topic in Spanish on a recent edition of the NPR program Science Friday. The June 10 segment was focused onÂ autism genetics.
The teamÂ made an intriguing finding on a segment of chromosome 7. Deletion of the region is associated with Williams syndrome, where individuals can exhibit “striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.” Duplication of the same region, they found, is associated with autism.
Daniel Moreno De Luca, MD MSc
Companion studies also shed light on the question of why boys are more likely to develop autism than girls, and begin to outline a network of genes whose activity is altered in the brains of individuals with autism.
Cut the daydreaming, and you can lessen the neurodegenerative burden on your brain? Surprising new research suggests that how we use our brains may influence which parts of the brain are most vulnerable to amyloid-beta (AÎ²), which forms plaques in the brain in Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
Lary Walker, PhD, has been investigating why amyloid accumulation seems to lead to Alzheimer's in humans but not non-human primates
Neuroscientists have described a set of interconnected brain regions called the â€œdefault mode network,â€ which appear to be activated during activities such as introspection, memory retrieval, daydreaming and imagination. When a person engages in an externally directed task, such as reading, playing a musical instrument, or solving puzzles, activity in the default network decreases.
The Nature Neuroscience paper, from David Holtzman and colleagues at Washington University St. Louis, suggests prolonged metabolic activation of the default-mode network in mice can render that system vulnerable to AÎ² by accelerating AÎ² deposition and plaque growth.
This line of research turns the â€œuse it or lose itâ€ idea upside-down. Use the default network too much, and the effect may be harmful. Walker and Jucker suggest why education, for example, appears to head off Alzheimerâ€™s in epidemiological studies: by getting the brain involved in non-default/externally directed mode activity.
This idea has additional consequences that can be tested in the clinic. For example, by increasing metabolism in default-mode regions of the brain, prolonged wakefulness caused by sleep disorders might increase AÎ² burden.
Walker and Jucker conclude: â€œMeanwhile, perhaps the best strategy for lessening soluble AÎ² in the default mode network may be simply to work diligently, play hard and sleep well.â€
In people with HIV, low vitamin D levels have been linked to thicker carotid arteries as well as a weaker comeback for the immune system after starting antiretroviral therapy.
These results, published online recently in the journal Antiviral Therapy, are the first to confirm an association between low vitamin D levels and a measure of higher cardiovascular risk in people with HIV. They also suggest that the benefits of vitamin D supplementation for people with HIV should be evaluated in a clinical trial.
Allison Ross, MD, is an infectious disease specialist in the Department of Pediatrics and theÂ Emory-Children's Pediatric Research Center.
The advent of effective antiretroviral therapy against HIV has dramatically improved life expectancies for people with HIV over the last 15 years. The presence of HIV is known to perturb cardiovascular health, even in the absence of an active infection. Since vitamin D levels are known to have an impact on the immune system and cardiovascular disease risk, that drove infectious disease specialist Allison Ross and her colleagues to probe these connections in people living with HIV.Â The results were also described on the Web sitesÂ AidsMeds and NAM/AidsMap.
Ross studied a group of HIV-positive people enrolled in Case Western Reserve Universityâ€™s HIV clinic in Cleveland. Colleagues from Emory and Case Western were co-authors.
They tested vitamin D levels, immune function and heart health in 149 HIV-positive people and a matched group of 34 HIV-negative people. Vitamin D levels were significantly lower in the HIV-positive group, even when controlling for known factors that affect vitamin D.
The researchers looked at how much the immune system was able to come back after starting retroviral therapy. This involves comparing someoneâ€™s lowest ever CD4 T cell count from the current CD4 count. They found that people with the poorest level of immune restoration were the most likely to have the lowest level of vitamin D. In addition, people with the lowest vitamin D levels were more than 10 times as likely to have thickening of the carotid arteries, as measured by ultrasound.
Inflammation can be a driving factor for heart disease, but in the study, low vitamin D was not linked to higher levels of inflammation markers.Â Additional research could determine whether those who are starting antiretroviral therapy would see better immune recovery if they took a vitamin D supplement.
While many people have never heard of an eosinophil, most people do know what a white blood cell is and have some understanding of its disease and infection-fighting role in the human body.
While these strange-sounding cells play an incredibly important part of the immune system by helping to fight off certain infections, when eosinophils occur in higher than normal numbers in the body without a known cause, a rare eosinophilic disorder may be present.
Typically, eosinophils make up less than five percent of circulating white blood cells in healthy individuals and can vary over time, but when the body wants to attack a substance, , eosinophils respond by moving into the area and releasing a variety of toxins. When the body produces too many eosinophils, they can cause chronic inflammation, resulting in tissue damage within the body.
â€œI am honored to be part of a collaborative effort among patients, families, physicians, researchers, policy makers and others to develop diagnostics and therapeutics for rare diseases,â€ says Dr. Book. â€œWe are grateful to work with NORD and other member organizations to provide a voice for those living with rare, and often poorly understood, diseases.â€
The awards were presented at the annual NORD Partners in Progress Celebration.Â Each year, NORDâ€”a nonprofit organization that represents the 30 million Americans with rare diseasesâ€”celebrates pioneering achievements of individuals, organizations, and companies in public policy, patient advocacy, medical research, and product development.
A womanâ€™s body shape – often described as pear, apple or hourglass – is usually determined by the amount of fat in various regions of the body including the bust, waist, arms and hips. New research from Emory University School of Medicine suggests that these patterns of fat distribution may help predict arterial stiffness â€“ a precursor to cardiovascular disease.
Stiff arteries make the heart work harder to pump blood and are associated with atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaques in vessels that can block blood flow and cause a heart attack.
Noting that fat distribution generally differs between black and white womenâ€™s bodies, researchers enlisted 68 black women and 125 white women, all middle-aged, to see whether these patterns could help assess cardiovascular risk.
Using skin calipers, the researchers measured subcutaneous fat in seven sites: the upper chest; midaxillary, or the side of the torso just under the armpit; triceps, or the back of the arm; subscapular, or on the back just below the shoulder blade; abdominal; suprailiac, or just above the front of the hip bone; and the thigh.
â€œBlack women have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than white women and are more likely to die from it,â€ says Eapen. â€œBlack and white women also have different patterns of fat distribution, so we were interested in measuring these pockets of fat at various regions of the body to evaluate whether it might be helpful in predicting cardiovascular risk between the two groups.Â Our hope was to evaluate whether a quick, easy-to-use clinical tool could aid in further risk stratifying our female patients.â€
The study also assessed the arterial stiffness of the women, adjusting for heart rate.
As a group, the black women had greater arterial stiffness than the white women. They also had more subcutaneous fat in the armpit, triceps, shoulder blade and hip bone areas.
In addition, they also found specific race dependent pockets of fat that could be related to arterial stiffness â€“ fat measurements in the triceps area could predict increased arterial stiffness in black women, while fat in the suprailiac areas was a predictor in white women.
Content contributed in part by Sarah Goodwin, Emory’s Center for Health Discovery and Well Being.
Tracey-Ann Read, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neurosurgery, Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Laboratory at Emory was awarded a $75,000 grant for her work. She is studying the cell of origin that is responsible for the highly malignant pediatric brain tumor known as an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT). She is also developing a mouse model to study this very lethal brain cancer that occurs in early childhood.
Robert Craig Castellino, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory and pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Childrenâ€™s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston received $50,000 to support his research efforts. He is studying how the childhood brain cancer, known as medulloblastoma, can metastasize from the brain to other sites in the body, specifically the spine. Medulloblastoma is the most common pediatric malignant brain tumor.
SBTF board members and researchers who were awarded grants pose following the April ceremony.
Read and Castellino received the awards at the SBTFâ€™s Grant Awards Ceremony in April at Emory University Hospital Midtown. Two other researchers from Duke University were also presented with grant money for their contributions in brain tumor research in adults.
Emory neurosurgeon Costas Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD, is the president of the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation. He says research, from young investigators such as these, is crucial in the race to find a cure for brain tumors. As federal research funding becomes even more difficult to obtain with cuts in funding, private foundation grants, such as from the SBTF, can permit researchers to start important research projects that can provide preliminary data for bigger grant proposals.
The SBTF awards $200,000-300,000 each year to major medical centers throughout the Southeast in support of cutting-edge brain and spinal tumor research.