Fighting HIV, ALS Targets (Abstract Science: March 5 – 9)
Pinpointing genes that reveal ALS details, new ways to fight HIV and tuberculosis and when it comes to head injuries is soccer the new football?
(GEN News Highlights, 3/5/2018)
A team at Stanford University School of Medicine has used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to gain new insights into the genes that might represent new targets for the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Led by Aaron Gitler, Ph.D., professor of genetics, and Michael Bassik, Ph.D., assistant professor of genetics, the team applied CRISPR/Cas9 knockout (KO) screens in human cells and in primary mouse neurons to identify genes that promote or prevent toxicity of the abnormal ALS protein aggregates that are believed to cause the death of neurons. They suggest such genes could potentially represent promising new drug targets for ALS. Drs. Gitler and Bassik are now using the same technology to help understand other causes of ALS and other neurological disorders, such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases, which involve toxic proteins.
(Science, 3/5/2018, Jon Cohen)
Some people naturally handle HIV infection better than others, but only two clear genetic explanations have ever been found. Now, a new study reported at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections finds a third: a genetic signature that leads to a better control of the virus in people of African descent. It could clarify sometimes puzzling differences in the way the disease progresses in untreated people, and it might offer clues about new treatment strategies. A separate report at the meeting found a simpler way to prevent tuberculosis, the No. 1 reasons people with AIDS die from the disease.
(Cornell College News, 3/7/2018)
Football is constantly under the microscope when it comes to head injuries, concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). New behavioral neuroscience research suggests there’s likely a connection between heading the ball in soccer and brain imbalance. In a recent study at Cornell College, athletes voluntarily kept track of how many times they hit the soccer ball with their head over a short, two-week soccer season in Costa Rica. The results showed a strong relationship between the number of times they headed the ball and a decrease in performance on the memory tasks while engaging in the balance challenges. The soccer players also did worse on a computer test that measured reaction time. The researchers say the drop in test scores could dissipate over time and could also be caused by a number of other factors such as travel or sleep deprivation. With very little research in the area of brain imbalance from smaller impacts, such as heading a soccer ball, scientists know that this is important work.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola