I recently found this article in the January issue of Neurology, or rather I was directed to this article by a Tweet!
A study by a team of scientists at the University of South Dakota have shown how people with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, and which many people take as supplements, may also have larger brain volumes in old age. It is known that as we age we lose neurons which can lead to age related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This study of 1,111 women shows that those who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids also had a 2.7% larger volume in the hippocampus area of the brain. The hippocampus of the brain is vital for memory and so these patients with higher levels of omega-3 would, by extension, suffer less from age related memory problems.
City of Hope researchers in the USA have shown a causal link between breast cancer cells and the development of brain tumours.
Cancer cells which had been growing uncontrollably had been shown to travel to the brain, in the bloodstream, where they grow into tumours in the brain after crossing the blood-brain barrier.
It is understandable to think, like I did, that the body’s immune system would simply destroy the cancer cells. However, the cancer cells masquerade as neurons in the brain to avoid detection. The cancer cells exploit the resources in the brain which allows them to proliferate.
What I find incredible about this study is that we are only starting to discover causal links between different cancers. Research such as this is not only scientifically interesting but can allow medical professionals to look for signs of brain tumours in breast cancer suffers and those who are in remission from cancer.
Once again, during my (virtually ongoing) reading of various medical journals, websites and magazines I stumbled across this piece of medical news which I thought to be particularly noteworthy.
Sufferers of a notoriously difficult-to-treat form of leukaemia may benefit from a fifty year old antipsychotic medication if research using zebrafish is to be believed. Perphenazine works by turning on a cancer-supressing enzyme called (rather boringly) PP2A, which causes harmful malignant tumour cells to self-destruct. This type of leukaemia, abbreviated to T-ALL is more aggressive than other types of leukaemia and has quite a poor prognosis, half of adults diagnosed with this type of cancer succumb to it.
Obviously, one major side-effect of taking Perphenazine would be the psychotropic effect also caused by the drug. This study paves the way for a new drug which targets this specific enzyme to be developed, (minus the psychotropic effects).
What I personally find so fascinating is that we are still very early on in the fight against cancer and that every day unlikely medications, such as this one, prove to be effective treatments for cancer.
Hello and welcome to my blog!
Yesterday a very interesting development in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis popped up on my Twitter feed.
A study led by the Harvard School of Public Health, USA has shown how vitamin D can be used in both the prediction of severity of MS and the treatment of the disease also. The researchers found how MS sufferers, especially early onset ones, could improve their outcomes by taking a vitamin D supplement. Levels of vitamin D in the blood were found to predict the severity of the disease and low levels were shown to quicken its progression.
Although this is not the first study on the effects of vitamin D on MS outcomes, it was the first to look at patients who had just started to develop MS symptoms and thus how levels of vitamin D could actually determine the severity of the disease. The study used data from 465 MS patients with early onset symptoms. Due to this the researchers were able to see how the levels of vitamin D affected the type and severity of the disease symptoms over a time period of five years.
Furthermore, they showed how MS sufferers who had normal levels of vitamin D had a vastly lower rate of brain lesions and a vastly lower rate of relapse, both at 57% lower than sufferers with low levels of vitamin D. This shows how levels of vitamin D directly affects how and how severely the disease manifests itself within a person. Therefore, we can see that vitamin D has a protective effect on the brain from the process that underpins MS.
Hopefully this will lead to a better and brighter future for MS sufferers. What I love about the results of this study is that the solution is so very simple and inexpensive. We already have the treatment which will vastly improve the lives of MS sufferers and it is easily accessible and inexpensive. This is not a study which will then lead to multiple other studies which will finally find a suitable drug, it is one that finds a solution which is very easy to implement. This is why I find this particular study heartening because I know the simple solution will help the 2.5 million MS sufferers worldwide against this horrible disease.
Link to the JAMA Neurology study: http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1815002
Hello again! Another neurology post!
You may have thought that girls mature quicker during their teenage years and science may well have proven this to be true by peering into a range of subjects’ brains. During the ages of four and forty the brain undergoes a huge streamlining process called preferential detachment. This process involves a huge reorganisation of the brain where white matter fibres are streamlined or to put it another way, cut back. However, the researchers from the universities of Newcastle, Glasgow and Seoul also found that precious long-distance connections which connect different nodules in the brain are preserved. These long-distance connections are so precious because they allow one to gain information from many different parts of the brain and to coalesce them into more useful information. For example, these long-distance connections may be used to link optical information gained from say a bird with acoustic information from the tweet it gives out which helps us to recognise, if we did not know what a bird looked like, what we are looking at.
The team from the trio of universities used 121 healthy test subjects and used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to show how these neural pathways are being pruned. DTI was also used to create the beautiful multi-coloured images of the brain which showed the white matter tracts, you may have seen these images if you have ever looked at the research of the Human Brain Connectome Project. A method which differs slightly to DTI but uses the same basic principles is tremendously useful in the prevention of strokes and seeing blockages within the brain.
However, circling back from that rather tangental point. This study, which forms part of the Human Green Brain Project, goes on to show how the way in which the brain reorganises the brain is very selective and, as I have said, favours connections such as long distance connections. It also says that this change happens quicker in the female brain than in the male brain and thus maturity occurs quicker in females.
Again, this is a magnificent study which I find very interesting. The very notion that this already amazing organ reshuffles itself and dispenses of unneeded or inefficient pathways is mind-boggling.
Here’s the link to the study itself: http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/12/13/cercor.bht333.full Here’s the link to the Human Green Brain Project: http://www.greenbrainproject.org