The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: spinal cord

Friday Science Review: June 4, 2010

New fixes for spinal injury, Staph infection and cancers…

Spinal Cord Self-Repair: A natural repair mechanism in our bodies may be the key to treating spinal-cord injuries.  Following a spinal cord injury, there is an increase in expression of serotonin receptors and the receptors are spontaneously active even in the absence of serotonin.  This autoactivation is thought to be a response or repair mechanism that is initiated as a result of the injury.  Pharmacological agents may be used to try to enhance this receptor activity to promote recovery.  The caveat, however, is that the receptors remain “on” and may explain the spasms experienced by spinal injury patients.  In this case, inhibitory drugs may be beneficial to preventing these muscle spasms.  Dr. Karim Fouad and his team conducted the research at the University of Alberta (Edmonton) and present their work in Nature Medicine.

Super Bug’s Magic Revealed:  MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a strain of Staph that has become resistant to most types of antibiotics.  Scientists now know why and what makes a harmless bacteria become pathogenic Super Bugs.  A small chemical (aureusimines) made by MRSA bugs is the key factor that determines their virulence and ability to cause severe disease.  The researchers discovered how these chemicals are made in the bacterium and then tried to shut off the different pathways involved in the synthesis of these chemicals.   Blocking aureusimine production resulted in a much weaker and less virulent bug, which allowed the mouse model patients to recover from S. aureus infections.  This information comes at a crucial time when drug resistance is on the rise and new anti-bacterial targets are desperately needed.  McMaster University scientists led by Dr. Nathan Magarvey describe their breakthrough discovery in the latest Science magazine.

Controlling Cell Growth: The research of Dr. Nahaum Sonenberg and his McGill University team on the mechanisms controlling cell growth and proliferation have had significant impact in advancing the field.  They continue their key discoveries with the delineation of mTORC1 and the 4E-BP proteins.  Although mTORC1 is known to be involved in connecting growth and nutrient signals to control cell size and cell division, 4E-BPs are only involved in mediating the cell proliferation pathway and not cell growth.  This distinction is important because mTORC1 is implicated in a variety of diseases and these related pathways are targets for therapeutic drugs, so further refinements can be made accordingly.  The report is published here in Science magazine.

A Cancer Cure in Sponge? A peptide found in sea sponge can inhibit tumour cell metastasis.  The Neopetrosiamide A (NeoA) peptide prevents tumour cells from sticking to surfaces by decreasing cell surface proteins such as integrins and inducing the disassembly of structural complexes called focal adhesions.  Its mechanism of action is unknown but it somehow causes important “sticky” proteins to be kicked out of the cell rather than trafficking to their proper locations.  This is a developing story to keep an eye on.  The study is published in PLoS One by Dr. Calvin Roskelley’s team at the University of British Columbia.

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