EVERY WEEK, SCIENCE TAKES LEAPS AND BOUNDS FORWARD as researchers investigate everything from the human genome to astrophysics, the inner-workings of plant cells to the process of learning in children. The Wanderer Online Sciences Team provides you with a steady dose of updates from the science community.
MAPPING THE HUMAN “CONNECTOME”
It is likely you recall the Human Genome Project from a number of years ago that sought to map the entire human genome. Now scientists are seeking to map the human “Connectome”, a term used to describe the complete neural pathways of the human brain. New magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology enables researchers to create detailed maps of neural pathways involved in some thinking process. While in the past studies involving the brain have been focused on relating specific areas to specific functions, this project differs in that it focuses on connections between these regions, for most processes involve more than one region of the brain. This data may ultimately aid in research into various brain disorders, notably Alzheimers and autism.
Arthur W. Toga, Kristi A. Clark, Paul M. Thompson, David W. Shattuck, John Darrell Van Horn. Mapping the Human Connectome. Neurosurgery, 2012; 71 (1): 1 DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e318258e9ff
NAKED MOLE RATS LEND INSIGHT INTO AGING
Naked mole rats live between 10-30 years, nearly 10 times longer than the life span of the common rat. Researchers have found a protein called NRG-1 is important in the life span of rats. The protein functions as a neuroprotector which protects neurons in the brain. Rats who lived longest had elevated and consistent levels of the the protein. As the rats share an 85% similarity with the human genome, these findings could be useful into studies of human aging.
Yael H. Edrey, Diana Casper, Dorothee Huchon, James Mele, Jonathan A. Gelfond, Deborah M. Kristan, Eviatar Nevo, Rochelle Buffenstein. Sustained high levels of neuregulin-1 in the longest-lived rodents; a key determinant of rodent longevity. Aging Cell, 2012; 11 (2): 213 DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2011.00772.x
BOTULINUM TOXIN USEFUL FOR PREVENTING MS TREMORS.
Researchers at the Royal Melborne Hospital and the University of Melbourne have found that treatment with Botulinum toxin mitigates the severity of tremors. Botulionum toxin is produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, and causes botulism, a life threatening illness. Botulinum toxin is also used in Botox, an injection under the skin which reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Scientists found that patients who were injected with controlled amounts of the toxin suffered less severe tremors and had improved writing and drawing skills at six weeks and three weeks after treatment. While some muscle weakness occurred in nearly half of the subjects, it generally went away within a few weeks. This is an extremely promising technique as there are few treatments available which help control arm tremors, and may inspire further research into controlling MS tremors.
A. Van Der Walt, S. Sung, T. Spelman, M. Marriott, S. Kolbe, P. Mitchell, A. Evans, H. Butzkueven. A double-blind, randomized, controlled study of botulinum toxin type A in MS-related tremor. Neurology, 2012; 79 (1): 92 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31825dcdd9