Mono Virus Linked To Some Cases of Lupus

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

John B. Harley, MD, PhD Professor and Director David Glass Endowed Chair Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) Department of Pediatrics University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Cincinnati, Ohio 45229

Dr. Harley

John B. Harley, MD, PhD
Professor and Director
David Glass Endowed Chair
Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE)
Department of Pediatrics
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Cincinnati, Ohio 45229

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Previous work has shown that Epstein-Barr virus infection is associated with systemic lupus erythematosus and studies of the origins of the autoimmune response have also suggested that the autoimmunity of this disease may originate with the immune response against this virus. In the meantime, many investigators have been studying the genetics of lupus over the past 25 years. They have found about 100 convincing genes that alter the risk of developing lupus.

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How Does the Brain Switch Between Automatic and Controlled Decision Making?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ksenija Marinkovic and Lauren Beaton

Psychology Department – College of Sciences Spatio-Temporal Brain Imaging Lab Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience
San Diego State University
San Diego CA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In general, we subjectively perceive our actions to be under our deliberate and voluntary control. However, our results are consistent with other accruing evidence suggesting that a large portion of our behavior is automatic and not accessible to conscious experience. The automatic processing primarily underlies predictable daily routines when we seem to be on an “auto-pilot”. In contrast, situations that are ambiguous or that evoke incompatible response tendencies engage cognitive control which allows conscious override of the preplanned actions and results in flexible behavior. Our study used a multimodal imaging approach that combines perfect time sensitivity of magnetoencephalography (MEG) with structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate spatio-temporal stages of the seamless interplay between automatic and controlled processing. MEG is a highly sensitive method that records magnetic fields generated by the brain’s neural activity in real time.

Young, healthy, participants performed a version of the Eriksen Flanker task, which presents two colored squares on either side of a centrally presented target square that appears after a short delay. Participants are instructed to press a button corresponding to the color of the target square in the middle and to pay no attention to the flankers. Although participants know that the flankers are irrelevant, they are unable to disregard them deliberately. Instead, flankers trigger an automatic preparation to respond. This is particularly apparent on mismatch trials on which the flanker color is misleading and it activates the wrong hand. Target appearance overrides the initial automatic response as the response plan is switched to the other hand to make a correct response. This process reflects recruitment of cognitive control or the decision-making capacity which includes a range of functions such monitoring contextual demands, selecting the correct response, and suppressing an automatic but irrelevant action.

Our multimodal MEG imaging method has allowed us to track the neural response as the brain prepares an incorrect response to flankers and then “switches” motor preparation between hemispheres. This approach makes it possible to investigate the interplay between automatic and controlled processing and dissect decision making as it unfolds.

The addition of a moderate dose of alcohol dysregulates this frontal network involved in motor decision making, which decreases accuracy when response conflict is present and lowers neural activity reflecting cognitive control. Related to this overall decrease, and of clinical importance, is the reduced ability to employ cognitive control to refrain from drinking excessively. However, the underlying patterns of response-switching were preserved under alcohol, suggesting that alcohol primarily induces deficits upstream during decision making and not during executing motor commands.  Continue reading

Full-Term Infant Deaths in US Remain High, Many From Suffocation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Neha Bairoliya, Ph.D. Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies Cambridge, MA 02138

Dr. Bairoliya

Neha Bairoliya, Ph.D.
Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Cambridge, MA 02138

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: While the high prevalence of preterm births and its impact on infant mortality in the US have been widely acknowledged, recent data suggest that even full-term births in the US face substantially higher mortality risks compared to European countries with low infant mortality rates.

In this paper, we use the most recent birth records in the US to more closely analyze the primary causes underlying mortality rates among full-term births. We show that infants born full-term in the US face 50%-200% higher risks of infant mortality compared to leading European countries.

The two main drivers of these high relative risks are increased risk of mortality due to congenital malformations, which patients cannot really do much about other than ensuring adequate screening during pregnancy, and high risk of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy, which should largely be preventable through appropriate sleeping arrangements. While we do not have data on actual sleeping arrangements from our study, other data sources suggest that a substantial number of babies continue to sleep on their tummy; we also found a shockingly large number of babies dying from suffocation, which suggests that parents either use covers that are not safe, or let children sleep in their own beds.

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Weight Gain Causes Loss of Taste Buds and Flavor Intensity

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Robin Dando, PhD Assistant Professor Director, Cornell Sensory Evaluation Facility Department of Food Science Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853

Dr. Dando

Robin Dando, PhD
Assistant Professor
Director, Cornell Sensory Evaluation Facility
Department of Food Science
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: For many years, people have been interested in if gaining weight can change how we perceive foods, thus maybe encouraging less healthy food choices.  There is some evidence in previous work that if we become obese, we seem to perceive things as tasting less intense.  Now if this were the case, to make up for this we might eat more of whatever food it was we were eating, or conversely we might choose something that tasted more intense, to make up this difference.  More intense usually means higher calories, so if we took either of these approaches, we’re at risk for weight gain.

In our study, we examined the taste buds of mice who were fed an unhealthy diet that induces obesity, versus sibling mice fed a more healthy diet that keeps them lean.  The mice gaining weight ended up after only 8 weeks with a lot fewer taste buds than the lean mice.  This loss of taste buds represents one explanation for foods tasting less intense to the obese.

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Salivary Assay Developed for HIV Can Be Used To Detect Zika

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Researchers at NYU College of Dentistry are developing a test for Zika virus that uses saliva to identify diagnostic markers of the virus in a fraction of the time of current tests. NYU/Sapna Parikh

Researchers at NYU College of Dentistry are developing a test for Zika virus that uses saliva to identify diagnostic markers of the virus in a fraction of the time of current tests.
NYU/Sapna Parikh

Maite Sabalza Ph.D
Post Doctoral Associate
Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology
College of Dentistry, New York University
New York, NY 10010

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: With previous NIH funding we were able to develop an automated “dual assay” (able to detect both host antibodies and viral RNA) for HIV.

In relatively short time, we were able to migrate those findings into the new assay for ZIKA Virus. Continue reading

ZIKA: Mouse Study Finds Antioxidant Ebselen Reduces Risk of Sexual Transmission

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Image of a baby with microcephaly (left) compared to a normal baby (right). This is one of the potential effects of Zika virus. Signs of microcephaly may develop a few months after birth. Wikipedia image

Image of a baby with microcephaly (left) compared to a normal baby (right). This is one of the potential effects of Zika virus. Signs of microcephaly may develop a few months after birth.
Wikipedia image

Yogy Simanjuntak PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute of Biomedical Sciences
Academia Sinica, Taiwan 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Despite the low case fatality, Zika virus infection has been associated with microcephaly in infants and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Primarily transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, Zika also can be sexually transmitted in humans. By August 2016, the sexual transmission of Zika had been documented in 11 countries worldwide and most of the cases were from male to female. Infectious Zika in semen has been reported. Moreover, unlike in serum or urine samples, Zika RNA can still be detected in semen up to 188 days after the onset of symptoms. In the absence of approved antiviral drugs or vaccines for Zika infection, preventing the disease transmission is critical.

We observed Zika progressively damaged testes by gaining access to testicular cells including sperm. Notably, Zika caused signs of increased testicular oxidative stress and inflammation, characterized by high levels of reactive oxygen species and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Our data indicate that these factors may contribute to testicular damage as well as successful sexual transmission of Zika; thus, we speculate antioxidants might display beneficial effects to alleviate these disease outcomes.

We found that antioxidant ebselen both alleviated testicular damage and prevented sexual transmission of Zika via sperm from infected male mice to uninfected female mice.

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Genetic Pathways Determine Susceptibility to Dengue Shock Syndrome

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

CDC/ Frederick Murphy

This transmission electron microscopic (TEM) image depicts a number of round, Dengue virus particles that were revealed in this tissue specimen. CDC image

Luisa Pereira PhD
Institute for Research and Innovation in Health
University of Porto 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: By using admixture mapping along the genome in Thai cohorts, we were able to identify new candidate genes conferring protection/susceptibility to dengue fever. A very interesting result was that the set of genes differed with the dengue phenotype: genes coding proteins that may link to the virus, conditioning its entrance in the host cells and mobility therein were associated with the less severe phenotype; genes related with blood vessels permeability were associated with the dengue shock syndrome.  Continue reading

Endocrine Disrupter PFAS Chemicals Linked To Weight Regain, Especially in Women

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Gang Liu, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Department of Nutrition Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Gang Liu

Gang Liu, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Nutrition
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Although many approaches can be used to achieve a short-term weight loss, maintenance of weight loss has become a key challenge for sustaining long-term benefits of weight loss. Accumulating evidence has suggested that certain environmental compounds may play an important role in weight gain and obesity development.

The potential endocrine-disrupting effects of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are extensively used in many industrial and consumer products including food packaging, paper and textile coatings, and non-stick cookware, have been demonstrated in animal studies, but whether PFASs may interfere with body weight regulation in humans is largely unknown.

In a 2-year POUNDS Lost randomized clinical trial that examined energy-restricted diets on weight changes, baseline plasma concentrations of major PFASs were measured among 621 overweight and obese participants aged 30-70 years. Body weight was measured at baseline, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) and other metabolic parameters, including glucose, lipids, thyroid hormones, and leptin, were measured at baseline, 6, and 24 months.

We found that higher baseline levels of PFASs were significantly associated with a greater weight regain, primarily in women. On average, women in the highest tertile of PFASs regained 1.7-2.2 kg more body weight than women in the lowest tertile. In addition, higher baseline plasma PFAS concentrations, especially perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), were significantly associated with greater decline in RMR during the first 6 months and less increase in RMR during weight regain period.  Continue reading

Modeling Intelligence As Ability To Access Multiple Brain States

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Glenn N. Saxe, MD Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry  Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Child Study Center, One Park Avenue New York, NY 10016

Dr. Saxe

Glenn N. Saxe, MD
Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Child Study Center, One Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by brain entropy and how it relates to intelligence?

Response: Think of human intelligence as the capacity for a human being to understand their complex and ever-changing world. The world of a person is really complex and constantly in flux so the human brain must be ready to understand whatever may come – when there is no way beforehand to predict what might come. How does the brain understand its world? It creates specific models of the information it receives through specific patterns of neuronal connection. These are called brain states. The way the brain understands its world is largely through using such models, or brain states, to accurately predict what comes next. So you can see that for an intelligent brain to properly understand and predict events in the world, it will need to have access to a very, very large number of brain states. And this is how entropy is defined.

Entropy is a very old and very powerful concept in the history of science. Not only is it fundamental for thermodynamics – what we learned in high school physics – but it is also fundamental for the nature of information and it’s processing. Entropy is defined as the number of states – or distinct configurations – any system has access to at any point in time. High entropy means access to a very large number of states. Low entropy means access to a very small number of states. A solid is a phenomenon with very low entropy. A gas is a phenomenon with very high entropy. Life, and the brain, are somewhere in between.

Although it is impossible to precisely measure the number of states a brain has access to at any one moment, there is a highly related concept that can be measured. A system with access to a very high number of possible states (like a gas) has components with behavior that is highly unpredictable. A system with access to very few possible states (like a solid) has components whose behavior is highly predictable. We measured brain entropy through the predictability of the brains components at the smallest scale we had access to: what are called voxels in an fMRI scan. These are 3mm cubes of neurons in a functional MRI scan, and there are many thousands of these voxels in our measurement and each of these voxels contains information on the activity of hundreds of thousands of neurons. We measured the predictability of each of these voxels and then found clusters of voxels where their predictability – or entropy – was related to intelligence.

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Brief Interruption of HIV Treatment Did Not Lead To Irreversible Expansion of Viral Reservoir

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

“HIV-infected T cell” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0

HIV-infected T-cell
NIAID image

Tae-Wook Chun, Ph.D.
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: While antiretroviral therapy (ART) has improved the clinical outcome for people living with HIV, persistence of viral reservoirs in the peripheral blood and lymphoid tissues remains a hurdle to complete eradication of virus and cure of the infection. We know the vast majority of people living with HIV will experience plasma viral rebound within weeks of cessation of therapy. Considering that current research on the treatment of people living with HIV has been heavily focused on developing strategies aimed at achieving sustained virologic remission in the absence of ART, it is of great interest to investigate whether treatment interruption results in expansion of the viral reservoir and/or damage to the immune system. Using data from a recently concluded trial that employed short-term analytical treatment interruption (ATI), we found that, as expected, HIV DNA increased in the CD4+ T cells of individuals living with HIV during the treatment interruption phase. However, the size of the HIV reservoirs as well as immune parameters returned to baseline 6–12 months after the participants resumed ART.  Continue reading