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Andrei Riciu

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According to a research presented at the American Heart Association ( AHA ) annual meeting in Dallas, heart disease could be prevented in the future with a vaccine. Although other studies have to be made in this field, researchers have been able to demonstrate in animals that the level of cholesterol and blood pressure can be reduced by a vaccine.

Until now, two studies have shown that these vaccines interrupt certain processes in the body that lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In the first study it was demonstrated that after the administration of a vaccine that protects the cell ‘s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream, the mice had lower cholesterol level for a year. Dr. James Howard, AHA spokesperson, endocrinologist and internist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC, said that this is one of the most exciting things at this moment regarding the control of cholesterol levels.

This vaccine targets PCSK9, an enzyme involved in cholesterol metabolism, which decreases the ability of the cell to take up cholesterol from the bloodstream and turn it into in hormones or other products. It appears that the vaccine reduces the levels of PCSK9 in the body; in other words, it decreases the level of cholesterol in the blood by increasing the cell capacity to use cholesterol. Howard pointed out that this vaccine has an incredible power to reduce LDL levels in the body and that it can be taken with statins. However, scientists have pointed out that studies on animals do not have the same results when conducted in humans.


The other study conducted on mice showed that high blood pressure can be lowered with a vaccine for a period of 6 months. This vaccine, developed by Japanese researchers, targets angiotensin II, a substance that causes hypertension by causing constriction of blood vessels. There are antihypertensive drugs that block angiotensin II ( ACE inhibitors ), but these must be taken daily for an effective control of hypertension. Barbara Howard, a senior scientist at MedStar Health Research Institute and a professor at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC, said that it is a hormone that increases blood pressure and that there are many drugs that antagonize it and control hypertension. She pointed out that if the production of this hormone is suppressed, you can get a sustained reduction that will last longer. However, there are several concerns about these drugs or vaccines that target angiotensin II because it is part of a network of hormones that regulate sodium balance in the body.

In the study led by Japanese researchers, it was demonstrated that the vaccine can reduce blood pressure for months; also, it can reduce the damage to the heart, kidney, liver or blood vessels. However, Howard noted that other studies are needed until the vaccine will be available to humans. Until this is achieved, cardiologists have several recommendations in order to prevent cardiovascular diseases: a healthy diet, no smoking and regular physical activity.


According to an article published in Journal of Psychiatric Practice, women with depression during the perinatal period prefer therapies rather than antidepressants drugs. These are the results of a preliminary study conducted by Cynthia L. Battle, PhD, of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Butler Hospital, on women’s preferences and decisions about depression treatment during and after birth.

The researchers wanted to see the impact of prenatal and maternal use of antidepressants drugs on fetus and newborn. It was noted that half of the women in the study suffered from depression;  these were further surveyed to evaluate their experiences and preferences regarding treatment of depression. Researchers have found that depression is more common in younger women and in those with lower socioeconomic status. It was also showed that depressed women were more likely to be single and that they had a high level of anxiety.

The study also showed that even though 70% of women who suffer from depression received some form of treatment during pregnancy, they reported conflicting feelings regarding treatment of depression during pregnancy. It seems that women who were uncertain regarding the treatment had higher levels of depression and were less likely to adhere to treatment.

medication during pregnanc

The researchers also found that among pregnant women who suffer from depression there are concerns about the treatment of this condition during pregnancy. Although it was shown that there are some women who had positive feelings about the treatment, most preferred psychotherapy or alternative therapies, so non-drug treatments. Many of the women said they would use drugs for depression during pregnancy only as a last alternative. Their concerns were related to possible adverse effects on the fetus, premature delivery or learning problems during childhood. Also, women in the study also reported feelings of guilt, shame and concerns about the fact that the child could become addicted to these drugs antidepressants.

All women included in the study, with or without depression, were asked what kind of treatment they would prefer if they would suffer from postpartum depression. Most of them said they would prefer psychotherapy rather than medication because of the possible adverse effects of drugs on breastfeeding. These concerns about the use of drugs during pregnancy have also been reported in previous studies. Indeed, among pregnant women there is a general concern about the possible adverse effects of drugs during pregnancy. Researchers concluded that is “a need for greater decisional support for depressed perinatal women who are grappling with difficult treatment decisions, as well as enhanced support and training for clinicians who provide care for these patients”.


Researchers from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Dental Medicine are investigating possible new target in wound healing: FOX01. The skin, the largest organ in the body, has many functions:  barrier protection, secretion, excretion etc. The skin is the first line of defense against bacteria, viruses and parasites , and thus it plays an important role in controlling infection. When the skin is injured, a cascade of events is triggered to restore the continuity of the skin layer.

In the wound – healing process many molecules take part and one of them is FOX01. It seems that this molecule is essential in healing wounds and could provide new therapeutic target for the treatment of skin lesions. A critical event in the healing process is the movement of keratinocytes, the cells that make up the outer layer of skin, the epidermis. Previous studies have shown that during wound healing , FOX01 level is increased but the researchers did not understand what is the role this molecule play. It was also shown that in cancer cells FOX01 interferes with cellular reproduction and promotes cell death.



To learn more about the role of FOX01 in wound healing, a team of researchers led by Dana Graves, a professor in Penn ‘s Department of Periodontics Dental Medicine, conducted a study on mice that lack this protein, FOX01. The goal was to observe the healing process in mice that lack FOX01 and in normal mice. Investigators believed that mice that lack this protein would have a slower healing process but in fact it was the exact opposite. In normal mice, the lesions were cured after one week, while the mice that lack FOX01 still had open wounds.

To find out more about the function of this molecule, researchers investigated the effect of reducing the level FOX01 on other genes involved in wound healing. It was discovered that the level of important factors such as TGF- ß1 is also reduced. When researchers added TGF- ß1 in cells that lack FOX01, they observed that the cells behave normally , which means FOX01 acts upstream of TGF-ß1 in healing wounds. Also, researchers have found that mice that lack FOX01 had increased oxidative stress, which is detrimental to wound healing .

According to Graves, FOX01 that behave differently in certain situations indicate that wound healing is due to microenvironment. When is highly activated, FOX01 promotes cell death, but when is moderately active, it does the opposite. “If you had a small molecule that increased FOX01 expression, you might be able to upregulate TGF-ß1 as well as protect against the oxidative stress associated with wound healing,” researchers said.


A new implantable device for patients with partial-onset epilepsy has been approved by FDA. Epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes repeated seizures, is the third most common neurological disease in the United States after stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. According to statistics, epilepsy affects over 2 million Americans.

Crises are disturbances of brain activity that can cause attention and concentration deficit, muscle contractions, fainting or syncope; because these seizures may occur spontaneously, they can affect daily activities of the patient. There are drugs that control these seizures, but there are situations when treatment is no longer effective. In these situations , the remaining options are either brain surgery or implanted devices such as responsive neurostimulator system.

Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation in the FDA ‘s Center for Devices and Radiological Health , said that the neurostimulator detects abnormal electrical activity of the brain and responds by sending electrical stimulation before the patient experiencing seizures. The device is smaller than a cardiac defibrillator and is  implanted in the skull through surgery. Responsive neurostimulator system, or RNS, is developed by the company Neuropace, and contains some electrodes that reach the areas of the brain responsible for generating seizures. EEG signals are sent to the device so that detect abnormal electrical activity, then the device sends a small electrical charge to interrupt seizures.

Brain stimulator


The new device was tested in a study of 191 epilepsy patients in whom treatment was not effective. The study results showed that patients who had switched -on device had a 38% decrease in the monthly rate of seizures, unlike a 17 % decrease that occurred in patients who had the device but had it switched off.  It seems that the device was well tolerated and in some patients the seizure rate fell by half. In addition, investigators reported that the decrease in seizure rate continued during the follow -up period of 2 years.

Dr. Dileep Nair, an epileptologist and Section Head of the Cleveland Clinic ‘s Epilepsy Center, said that these patients have no other solution in terms of treatment and that the implantable device offers new hope for them. What is interesting is that the device can be programmed after being implanted; moreover,  doctors can monitor patients’ brain activity on a computer in their office, which helps them manage the treatment according to patient needs. “We badly need new, effective therapies for the hundreds of thousands of people in this country as well as the millions around the world who live with uncontrolled seizures,” said Warren Lammert, chairman of the patient advocacy group the Epilepsy Foundation.




Researchers at the Cardiovascular Research Center at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, have made remarkable progress in the treatment of heart failure. In their experiments on laboratory animals, they were able to reverse heart failure using gene therapy injected into the heart. SUMO -1 gene therapy may soon be tested on humans as the results of the studies so far showed promising outcomes.

Heart failure is a leading cause of hospitalization in older people; according to statistics, it is responsible for approximately 300,000 deaths each year in the United States. Heart failure means that the heart can no longer send blood so as to meet the needs of the body. Heart failure is the final stage of many cardiovascular diseases such as heart valve disease ( mitral stenosis , aortic insufficiency ), hypertension, myocardial infarction, etc.

There are several signs and symptoms of heart failure such as dyspnea, fatigue, ankle edema, ascites, hepatomegaly, etc. The main symptom and perhaps the most troubling to the patient is dyspnea or intolerance to exercise, because the heart cannot supply enough blood ( and therefore oxygen) when the patient makes an effort. Dyspnea that occurs at little effort means an advanced stage of heart failure.


Of course, there are drugs that improve cardiac function such as beta -blockers, diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium blockers, antiplatelet agents, etc. . It is worth mentioning that these drugs control some of the symptoms of heart failure but does not cure the disease; in addition, the treatment should aim to heart failure etiology: mitral stenosis, ischemic heart disease , aortic insufficiency, etc.

The study ‘s senior investigator Roger J. Hajjar, MD, Director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said that SUMO -1 may be the first gene therapy treatment that shrinks significantly the enlarged heart and improves cardiac function. In fact, this is actually the second gene therapy to treat heart failure developed by Dr. Hajjar and his Icahn at the Cardiovascular Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. CUPID, as it is called the first trial, had promising results and is now in the final testing phase of the SERCA 2 gene therapy. In heart failure, SERCA 2, a gene involved in myocardial fiber contraction is dysfunctional, and therefore researchers have thought to deliver this gene with an inactivated virus; the virus is deliver through coronary artery during cardiac catheterization.

But researchers found that not only SERCA2 is decreased in heart failure but also SUMO -1 gene. It seems that SUMO -1 gene enhances SERCA2 gene function, therefore the researchers combined the two therapies and compared the results. It seems that, compared to SERCA2 gene therapy alone, high dose SUMO -1 alone, as well as SUMO -1 and SERCA2 together, led to stronger heart contractions and better blood flow in the heart. “These new study findings support the critical role SUMO-1 plays for SERCA2 function, and underlie the therapeutic potential of SUMO-1 gene replacement therapy for heart failure patients,”  researchers said.


A study led by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, shows that exercise not only improves physical fitness but also memory and brain health. Lately, increasingly more studies have proven the benefits of sustained physical exercise not only on physical but also on mental health. “Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance”, researchers pointed out.

Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair and lead author of the paper,  explained that science proved that aging leads to a decrease in memory efficacy and that memory decline is the first complaint of elderly. According to Chapman, this study shows that aerobic exercise brings great benefit on a person’s memory. Moreover, it seems that it reduces reduce both the biological consequences and the cognitive consequences on a person’s memory.

Aerobic exercise


The researchers came to these conclusions after conducting a study in which they included adults aged between 57 and 75 years, who were randomly divided into a physical training or a wait -list control group. The participants in the physical training group had to make supervised aerobic exercise either on a stationary bike or a treadmill for an hour three times a week over a 12 week period. The investigators evaluated several parameters such as cognition, cardiovascular fitness, resting cerebral blood flow, several times in order to assess the benefits of physical activity: before the study, at 6 weeks after starting training and at the end of the study. Sina Aslan, Ph.D., founder and president of Advance MRI and collaborator on the study, said that they can detect changes in the brain much sooner than before by measuring brain blood flow using arterial spin Labeling (ASL) MRI, which is a non-invasive method.

The researchers point out that one of the regions in which there has been an improvement in blood flow is anterior cingulate, which suggests an improvement in neuronal activity and metabolic rate. It seems that this region, the anterior cingulate, is associated with higher cognition in later life. The study also showed that adults who exercised had better blood circulation in the hippocampus, a region associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, Chapman pointed out that exercise led to an improvement in blood flow only certain regions of the brain, and that there was not an overall improvement in cerebral circulation.


Everyone knows that physical activity is essential to lead a healthy lifestyle; in addition to maintaining body weight within normal limits, it also helps prevent many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc. Now researchers at the University of Montreal found that 20 minutes of exercise three times a week during pregnancy stimulates brain development in offspring. Professor Dave Ellemberg, who led the study, said that this is the first randomized clinical trial conducted on humans who objectively measure the effect of exercise on the brain of the newborn. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2013 congress in San Diego.

The researchers hope that these findings will further lead to other studies on brain plasticity and guide new public health interventions. They are optimistic and hope that this study will encourage pregnant women to change their health habits since this could change the future of their children. “Our research indicates that exercise during pregnancy enhances the newborn child’s brain development,” researchers said.

Alcohol during pregnancy

This approach is relatively new in pregnancy; not so long ago pregnant women were advised to avoid exercise and rest as much as possible during pregnancy. Now the recommendations have changed and it is generally accepted that physical inactivity should be avoided during pregnancy. Courier explained that while physical inactivity increases the risk of complications during pregnancy, physical activity can improve postpartum recovery, in addition pregnancy can make pregnant women feel more comfortable and can decrease the risk of obesity in the newborn.

Researchers have thought that since physical activity is beneficial to the adult brain, then it may benefit the offspring as well through actions of the mother. To test this hypothesis, they conducted a study in order to evaluate the effect of maternal physical activity during pregnancy on infants aged between 8 and 12 days. Pregnant women were divided randomly into two groups, one sedentary group and one exercise group. Women in the latter group had 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise three times a week. Then, postpartum, the brain activity of the newborns was measured using an electroencephalography.

LabontĂ© – LeMoyne explained that with the aid of 124 electrodes placed on the head of the newborn, they measured auditory memory using unconscious brain response to repeated and novel sounds. The study results have shown that babies born to mothers who were physically active during pregnancy had a more mature brain activation which means that their brain developed more quickly.







According to a new study led by researchers at Northeastern University, the risk of depression in adolescents may be related to psychological trauma suffered in childhood. Also, it seems that the stress suffered in the past has influences on not only on mental health but also on the immune system. Heather Brenhouse, an assistant professor of psychology at Northeastern University, explained that those who have suffered childhood trauma and adversity have higher levels of inflammatory markers in the blood. The immune system and nervous system lie in close connection, according to Brenhouse. “We’re trying to figure out how early life stress, in particular, changes the development of the immune system and how that winds up leading to neuroinflammation later on,”she said.

The researchers explained that most of the emotional experiences from childhood are manifested only in adolescence. However, if those markers of inflammation are present before symptoms appear, doctors may use these markers to predict future mental illness. Now the investigators from Northeastern University have been conducting experiments on animals to see if these inflammatory biomarkers are present in rats that suffered trauma in early life. Also, they are trying to uncover the mechanism through which this inflammation leads to impaired neuronal circuits in depression. By understanding these mechanisms and connections, they could develop new therapeutic strategies to treat certain mental diseases.

sickness and depression

In their new study, the researchers are going to take blood samples to measure the level of different cytokines (molecules that are released in an immune reaction) in various stages of childhood. During this time, children will be monitored closely to see if they develop symptoms or signs of cognitive dysfunction in adolescence. Also, researchers want to analyze how early life stress affects neural circuits in these adolescents.

In addition, the study will indicate if certain receptors are involved in these cognitive dysfunctions. Researchers are particularly interested to see what exactly is the role of NR2A, a neurotransmitter receptor in the prefrontal cortex. It must be said that this type of receptor binds glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in diseases such as schizophrenia. Laboratory experiments have shown that animals who have suffered mental stress in early life have higher levels of NR2As. Brenhouse said that they know that this receptor is upregulated, but they still do not know yet if it is important. She added that the next step is to determine whether blocking inflammation leads to changes in the function of these receptors.






ART, or assisted reproductive technology, was used for the first time in 1970 and at that time was a breakthrough in the world of reproductive medicine. Statistics show that worldwide more than 5 million children have been born through IVF, in vitro fertilization. Although ART is the only solution for infertile couples, there is a real controversy about assisted reproductive techniques : IVF,  ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), cryopreservation or intra- uterine insemination ( IUI ), regarding ethical and medical implications. There have been studies that have shown that there is a higher risk of genetic disorders and cancer in infants resulting from assisted reproduction. But now the results of a new study conducted by researchers at University College London shows that there is actually no higher risk of cancer among children born through assisted reproduction.

Concerns that occurred recently on the risk of cancer among children born through assisted reproductive technologies have prompted British Researchers to investigate this fact. The study results disproved, however, these concerns. Lead researcher Dr. Alastair Sutcliffe, a specialist in general pediatrics at the University College London, said the risk of cancer to IVF – conceived children is the same as that seen in children born natural. Sutcliffe added that this study provides a strong and reassuring message not only for families but also for specialists and the public.


The study included more than 106,000 children who were born through assisted reproductive technologies between 1992 and 2008. The researchers then compared the number of children who had cancer with expected number of cancers in the general population up to 15 years. The researchers found that during the 7 years of follow-up, there were 108 cases of cancer among children born through assisted reproduction compared to 110 cancer cases in the general population. The study also showed that there is no higher risk of leukemia, neuroblastoma, cancer of the nervous system or kidney cancer among children conceived through IVF. However , there was a slightly increased risk for two rare cancers : hepatoblastoma and rhabdomyosarcoma, among these children.

Dr. Lawrence Grunfeld, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Icahn in New York City, said that the study is extremely reassuring and should remove any anxiety regarding IVF. Dr.Grunfeld explained that most of the medical problems of children born through IVF are not a consequence of the procedure but a genetic risk or an underlying problem that caused infertility of the parents.



Myocardial infarction is an important cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. It is estimated that in a year 3 million people have STEMIs ( ST elevation myocardial infarction)  and 4 million have NSTEMIs ( non-ST elevation myocardial infarction). Emergency treatment is percutaneous coronary intervention ( PCI)  but it is essential that the patients reach the hospital as soon as possible in order to get this treatment. Otherwise, the prognosis is very low because of the heart damage. However, researchers at Temple University School of Medicine have developed a drug that limits the extension of heart injury after heart attack. Laboratory experiments have shown that by blocking a protein called TNNI3K in heart, myocardial lesion is limited; in addition it seems that it protects the heart from a new ischemia.

Ronald Vagnozzi, PhD , lead author on the new study, said that usually what is found in a laboratory cannot be translated in humans, so they wanted to test this new drug in a real scenario. In collaboration with a team of researchers at the Cardiovascular Research Center, Vagnozzi made an experiment on mice that mimicked the blockage of an artery to induce a heart attack; then they administered a drug that inhibits TNNI3K. It appears that cardiac function of mice treated with TNNI3K inhibitor significantly improved compared with the control group, and therefore researchers have thought that this drug may also have beneficial effects in humans.

heart attack treatment


Vagnozzi said that this protein is found only in the heart, which makes it interesting biologically and therapeutically . He added that even if they do not understand too well the function of this protein, however TNNI3K may be a potential therapeutic target in the treatment of heart attack. Experiments have shown that TNNI3K expression is high in patients with heart failure. Heart failure may be present in patients suffering from heart attack or may develop as a result of this attack.

To investigate the importance of this  overexpression of TNNI3K expression, the researchers created two types of mice : one group of mice with overexpressed TNNI3K and one group of mice in which the protein has been removed. Then they measured the response of the two groups of mice to attack heart. Mice with overexpressed TNNI3K  had a worse prognosis than those with TNNI3K deleted because this protein stimulates heart damage after myocardial damage. It seems that TNNI3K promotes the production of superoxide and activated p38 mitogen -activated protein kinase ( MAPK ), which aggravates ischemia. In contrast, in mice with deleted TNNI3K,  the production of superoxide and MAPK was reduced and heart damage limited.