Music and why our brain likes it so much.

Based on fMRI and PET studies, it has been shown that music activates the same dopamine pathways in the brain that some of the most important activities such as eating and sex  do. Coupled with previous theories, researchers believe that it is the pattern recognition and analysis element involved in listening to music that activates these reward pathways in the brain. So the next time you have a song stuck in your head, take satisfaction in the fact that your brain is solving patterns and is proud of it! Brains are Fancy!

How Fluorescent Tagging Can Helps Surgeons Excise Tumors

This is another “old”  Ted Talk Video, but still one that shows how basic science using fluorescence can help surgeons identify tumors and identify organ specific cancers visually rather than solely depending on pathologists in the laboratory.  I don’t think Roger Tsien set out to study Aequorea victoria and isolated Green Fluorescent Protein so that we could do better surgery one day. But as a result of his basic–nobel prize winning–research many cancer patients are able to benefit from improved surgical techniques. It’s Fancy! Hope you enjoy it!

HIV-Vaccine…It Made the Cover!!!

Cover of Science

I know many of us have talked about the potential for the new HIV vaccine (NOT to be confused with the HVTN 505), but I wanted to share the actual journal article that published the findings initially.  It was the cover of this week’s issue of Science.  There is some heavy information packed in there but what I appreciated most was the interaction between the fields of immunology, biochemistry, genetics, and nanoparticle chemistry that took in developing this immunagen that engages B cell receptors and results in an antibody response.  The innovation has the potential to revolutionize not only vaccine methods targeting HIV but also other diseases where highly variable viruses are involved.  Furthermore, it shows how the lines between the traditional established “fields” and “disciplines” are fading and how research is becoming more and more interdisciplinary.

Click to access 711.full.pdf


Discovery of A New Leukemia Oncogene

Discovery of New Leukemia Gene

The molecular cause of many cancers associated with blood remains unclear. However, using deep sequencing techniques, scientists at the Oregon Health & Science University were able to identify mutations in colony-stimulating factor 3 receptors (CSF3R) in 16 of 27 patients (59%) with chronic neutrophilic leukemia or chronic myeloid leukemia. These mutations caused alterations in kinase signaling pathways (JAK and TNK2). The discovery could serve as a new tool for diagnosing leukemia in patients.

From the Lab of Our Favorite Researcher (Dough Melton) : Discovery of Betatrophin–Potential for New Diabetes Treatment Replacing Insulin Injections

From the Lab of Our Favorite Researcher (Dough Melton) : Discovery of Betatrophin--Potential for New Diabetes Treatment Replacing Insulin Injections

A paperfrom Doug Melton’s group published in Cell (153, 4, 747-758) this month made a fascinating new discovery. Pancreatic B cells are responsible for the production of insulin in the body. Thus, regulating the proliferation of these cells is of great interest. The researchers used a mouse model of diabetes and using an antagonist blocked insulin receptors that surprisingly led to a higher proliferation of these cells. To determine what proteins were responsible for the proliferation, a microarray study was performed in which Betatrophin was found as a potential new hormone regulator. Expression of Betatrophin in mouse liver significantly increased B cell replication rates (red stained cells on the bottom row of the figure) causing higher levels of insulin (green bottom row) and improved glucose tolerance compared to control mice (top row). The study helps provide new methods for treatment of diabetes in the future and highlights the importance of basic research! It’s also Fancy!

Full Article Link:

Color in Nature

Color in Nature

To keep up with the theme of being fascinated with color in our class, I wanted to share this RadioLab segment.  It is one that discusses several features in how we both perceive color in terms of biology as well as the cultural influences on color identifications.  Enjoy!

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Accelerates Progression of ALS

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Accelerates Progression of ALS

Researchers in the UK set out to study the effect of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) on ALS. While compounds like Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) have been previously shown to have neuroprotective effects, the researchers found that in cases of mutant SOD1, the gene that has been linked with ALS, mice on a diet containing 300 mg/kg/day dose of EPA (blue line) had decreased survival rate compared to the same mice on the control diet (red line). Furthermore, the group also observed increased vacuolization and lipid-linked oxidation of microglia in the spinal cord. While the dosage is really high and the study is done in mice, the data provides new insight into potential new factors that relate to ALS progression.