Injury of the spinal cord is a traumatic and life-changing event that affects over three million people worldwide. Over the last decade, researchers have been examining ways to help repair injured individuals through the use of stem cell transplantation. Significant progress has been made in this area yet many unanswered questions remain. For the laboratory of Dr. Wolfram Tetzlaff at the University of British Columbia, these gaps need to be filled to ensure successful treatments in the future.
Neil Merovitch is an impressive and resilient young man who has very personal reasons to believe in the importance of fundamental research. At a young age, he was diagnosed with dystonia, a devastating disease in which normal movement is impaired due to neurological dysfunction. Individuals with this condition deal with sustained or repetitive, and often painful, muscle contractions.
Yet from the moment you meet Neil, his passion for fundamental research is clear. “I’ve always been interested in research,” he says. “It’s fascinating for me to explore the link between brain and behaviour each and every day.” And dystonia does not prevent him from pursuing his goal, which is to obtain a PhD in neuroscience and physiology from the University of Toronto.
One example of the latter recently came from the joint laboratory of Freda Miller and David Kaplan, at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. They found that a type of cell known for transmitting information between nerve cells also plays another vital role. It instructs stem cells that build the brain to make another type of cell called an oligodendrocyte. This cell is crucial for making sure communication and information transmission in the brain happen at the right time in the right place. The results were published in the journal, Neuron, http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)30344-6.
New research from the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health asks: Can “good” cholesterol protect against age-related cognitive decline? A trio of papers from researchers in Dr. Cheryl Wellington’s lab illustrate new context for the role of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) – commonly described as good cholesterol – in protecting the brain against disease.
Major depression affects the expression of genes in the brains of women and men differently
Major depression presents itself quite differently in women and men, and this dimorphism would have genomic foundations, suggests a study that has just been published in Nature Medicine. According to the first author of this study, Benoit Labonté of the CERVO Brain Research Centre at Université Laval, these differences are such that the search for new antidepressants would benefit from targeting mechanisms specific to each sex.
Abnormalities shown to first appear in brain networks involved in sensory processing
Promising finding suggests odour identification tests may help scientists track the evolution of the disease in persons at risk
By the time you start losing your memory, it’s almost too late. That’s because the damage to your brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may already have been going on for as long as twenty years. Which is why there is so much scientific interest in finding ways to detect the presence of the disease early on. Scientists now believe that simple odour identification tests may help track the progression of the disease before symptoms actually appear, particularly among those at risk.
Scientists at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to correct a disease-causing mutation in mice with a form of congenital muscular dystrophy, MDC1A. The findings, published in the July 17 online edition of Nature Medicine, show significant improvement in muscle strength and function among the mice treated with CRISPR, with no remaining signs of paralysis.
MDC1A is a rare neuromuscular disease affecting one in 150,000 worldwide. It is caused by a mutation in a gene called laminin alpha 2 and is characterized at birth by muscle weakness and low muscle tone, as well as brain abnormalities. Babies born with this condition eventually lose all muscle function and live an average of 30 years.
Researchers train brains to use different regions for same task
Practice might not always make perfect, but it’s essential for learning a sport or a musical instrument. It’s also the basis of brain training, an approach that holds potential as a non-invasive therapy to overcome disabilities caused by neurological disease or trauma.
Research at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University (The Neuro) has shown just how adaptive the brain can be, knowledge that could one day be applied to recovery from conditions such as stroke.