By Putting Cancer Cells into Dormant State, New Drug Could Prevent Tumor Metastasis

A new therapeutic approach prevents the growth of metastatic tumors in mice by forcing cancer cells into a dormant state in which they are unable to proliferate. The study, published November 23, 2021 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM), could lead to new treatments that prevent the recurrence or spread of various cancer types, including breast cancer and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The article is titled “An NR2F1-Specific Agonist Suppresses Metastasis by Inducing Cancer Cell Dormancy.”

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Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC 2022) Will Take Place January 26-28 in Santa Clara, California; Special Awards Ceremony Will Be Held Evening Before Opening of Conference

The world-renowned Precision Medicine World Conference 2022 (PMWC 2022) will be held in person January 26-28 in Santa Clara, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. PMWC 2022 will feature over 400 outstanding speakers and seven different tracks of focus across the full breath of precision medicine over three full days of sessions. There will also be more than 90 company exhibits. You may register to attend this superb conference here. On the Tuesday evening (January 25), before Wednesday’s conference opening, the PMWC will present its 2022 Luminary and Pioneer Awards to five outstanding scientists. This ceremony and award reception require an RSVP and a separate registration ticket. The award ceremony will take place at 6 pm at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Further information on this ceremony can be obtained here. The agenda for the awards ceremony is here. See additional details here and here. Again, RSVP and separate registration are required. Send inquiries by January 4, 2022 to team@pmwcintl.com to see if space is available for this special event. 

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Dopamine Plays Key Role in Songbird Mating

In humans, the dopamine system has been tied to rewards and pleasurable sensations, as well as to memory and learning. A recent study from McGill University, published in the October 25, 2021 issue of Current Biology, suggests that dopamine may also play a key role in shaping what songs female songbirds enjoy, which may ultimately affect mating as females choose (and then remember) their mates based on the songs they prefer. The article is titled “Dopamine in the Songbird Auditory Cortex Shapes Auditory Preference.”

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Revealing Link Between Child Maltreatment, the Bonding Hormone Oxytocin, and Brain Development; Scientists Uncover How Child Maltreatment Epigenetically Alters the Oxytocin Gene (OXT), Leading to Atypical Brain Structure & Function; Results Could Have Ground-Breaking Clinical Applications

In the work described below, scientists demonstrate that child maltreatment is associated with DNA methylation, a chemical modification, of the gene (OXT) that encodes the so-called “love hormone” oxytocin. By altering the regulation of oxytocin, child maltreatment cascades into alterations in brain development, structure, and function, as shown through cutting-edge brain imaging techniques. These insights could pave the way for novel therapeutic strategies to treat psychiatric disorders associated with childhood abuse. Child maltreatment, which spans child abuse and neglect, can adversely affect healthy development of the brain. Adults who were abused as children tend to develop atypical brain structures, which can lead to various psychiatric disorders and even suicide. Fortunately, during and shortly after adolescence, the neocortical regions of the brain (brain regions concerned with thought, perception, and episodic memory) undergo a major reorganization, which provides an opportunity to treat some of the disorders caused by child maltreatment. Is there a biological mechanism that could be effectively targeted during this reorganization to improve the lives of victims of childhood abuse?

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UC Davis Researchers May Have Unlocked Function of Mysterious Structures Found on Neurons in Hippocampus; Unusual Clusters Are Calcium-Signaling “Hotspots” That Activate Gene Transcription, Allowing Neurons to Produce Crucial Proteins

For 30 years, mysterious clusters of proteins found on the cell body of neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain, both intrigued and baffled James Trimmer (photo), PhD. Now, the Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Membrane Biology at the University of California (UC) Davis School of Medicine may finally have an answer. In a new study published on November 16, 2021 in PNAS, Dr. Trimmer and his colleagues reveal these protein clusters are calcium signaling “hotspots” in the neuron that play a crucial role in activating gene transcription. The open-access PNAS article is titled “Regulation of Neuronal Excitation-Transcription Coupling by Kv2.1-Induced Clustering of Somatic L-Type Ca2+ Channels at ER-PM Junctions. Transcription allows portions of the neuron’s DNA to be “transcribed” into strands of messenger RNA (mRNA) that are then used to create the proteins needed by the cell. Video Warning: This video contains flashes of lights, which may be inappropriate for people who are photosensitive.

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Prilenia Receives Fast Track Designation for Pridopidine for the Treatment of Huntington’s Disease (HD); Pridopidine Also Granted Orphan Drug Status for Treatment of HD

On November 17, 2021, Prilenia Therapeutics B.V., a clinical-stage biotech company focused on developing novel treatments for neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders, today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Fast Track designation to pridopidine for development as a potential treatment for Huntington’s Disease (HD). Fast Track is a process designed to facilitate the development and expedite the review of new treatments for serious conditions with unmet medical need such as HD. Drugs that receive Fast Track designation may be eligible for more frequent communications with the FDA to review the drug’s development plan, including the extent of data needed for approval. Drugs with Fast Track designation may also qualify for accelerated approval and priority review of new drug applications.

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Key Brain Region Responds to Faces Similarly in Infants and Adults; MIT Study Suggests This Area of the Visual Cortex Emerges Much Earlier in Development Than Previously Thought

Within the visual cortex of the adult brain, a small region is specialized to respond to faces, while nearby regions show strong preferences for bodies or for scenes such as landscapes. Neuroscientists have long hypothesized that it takes many years of visual experience for these areas to develop in children. However, a new MIT study suggests that these regions form much earlier than previously thought. In a study of babies ranging in age from two to nine months, the researchers identified areas of the infant visual cortex that already show strong preferences for either faces, bodies, or scenes, just as they do in adults.

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Neurobiologists Identify Tango10 Gene As Important for Healthy Daily Rhythms in Fruit Fly; Loss of This Gene in Drosophila Affects Daily Behavior, Disrupting ~24-Hour Sleep-Wake Cycles

Life is organized on a 24-hour schedule. Central to this regular rhythm is the circadian clock, timekeepers that are present in virtually every organ, tissue, and cell type. When a clock goes awry, sleep disruption or a variety of diseases can result. A recent Northwestern University discovery could help in understanding how this clock is linked to daily cycles. A team of neurobiologists has identified a gene, called Tango10, that is critical for daily behavioral rhythms. This gene is involved in a molecular pathway by which the core circadian clock (the “gears”) controls the cellular output of the clock (the “hands”) to control daily sleep-wake cycles.

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When Gut’s Internal Ecosystem Goes Awry, Could Ancient Treatment Make It Right? Lemur Researchers Make Case for Fecal Transplants to Reduce Side-Effects of Antibiotics

Dr. Cathy Williams, Senior Veterinarian at the Duke Lemur Center, knew something wasn’t right. She had felt off for weeks after her 2014 trip to Madagascar. At first, she just felt bloated and uncomfortable and wasn’t interested in eating much. But eventually she developed a fever and chills that sent her to the emergency room. When tested, doctors found that what she had wasn’t just a stomach bug. She was suffering from an infection of Clostridium difficile, a germ that causes severe diarrhea and abdominal pain and can quickly become life-threatening if not treated promptly. “It was horrible,” Dr. Williams said. The condition is often triggered when antibiotics disrupt the normal balance of bacteria that inhabit the gut, allowing “bad” bacteria such as C. difficile to multiply unchecked and wreak havoc on the intestines.

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Unique Glioblastoma Treatment Sees Encouraging Early Results During Phase 1 Clinical Trials; Newly Developed Peptide Checkpoint Ligand (CD200AR-L) from OX2 Therapeutics Is First-of-Its Kind Cancer Treatment

On November 17, 2021, OX2 Therapeutics, Inc., a privately-held Minneapolis-based company, announced encouraging early results from phase 1 human trials of its new cancer treatment. Developed to combat recurrent high-grade brain tumors, the treatment utilizes a newly-developed peptide inhibitor. “OX2 works to explore the therapeutic potential of the new immune checkpoint agent, CD200AR-L (CD200AR-ligand),” said Christopher Moertel, MD, and Michael Olin (photo), PhD, co-founders, with Sumant Dhawan, of OX2 Therapeutics. “Our team of doctors developed the new peptide inhibitor with high binding affinity to the immune activation receptor. This activates an anti-tumor response and simultaneously downregulates the inhibitory PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 and a major immune checkpoint CD200 inhibitory receptor.”

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