Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Exciting News...Compound that Prevents Nerve Damage Found!

Great news on the science front! Imagine if this could lead to a cure for Huntington's, Alzheimers or Parkinson's Disease!
Read the article below to see what is new in this field. For students online, this is an example of animal research. For on campus students, recall our in class debate on using animals. Would an experiment like this be more acceptable to you than the fetal tissue example from class?


Compounds That Prevent Nerve Damage Discovered
ScienceDaily (Sep. 24, 2008) — Duke University Medical Center scientists have made a significant finding that could lead to better drugs for several degenerative diseases including Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

"We were able to prevent Huntington's disease-like illness in mutant fruit flies by giving them orally active transglutaminase inhibitors," said Charles S. Greenberg, M.D., a Professor of Medicine and Pathology at Duke University Medical Center and senior author of the paper. The drug blocks the action of an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase (TGM2). TGM2 may damage cells by forming strong bonds between proteins. Such bonding is beneficial for blood clotting which happens outside of cells, but if this type of bonding occurs inside cells, it can be harmful, Greenberg said.

The study appears in the current issue of Chemistry and Biology.

Huntington's disease causes uncontrolled movement and mental deterioration that develops later in life, and though there is no cure, people can get tested to learn whether they have the gene that causes the devastating illness, Greenberg said.

Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and polyglutamine diseases including Huntington's disease may possibly be improved with the same compounds, said Thung S. Lai, Ph.D., lead author and a Duke Associate Professor of Medicine. "Our findings may also help to develop drugs that block the pathology related to transglutaminase's action. That action has been linked to the development of tissue fibrosis, organ failure and aging."

While these compounds were promising in the animal system, they are several years away from entering any human trials, Greenberg said. "We will be studying these compounds in diseases in which TGM2 produces tissue injury."

For the study, Lai painstakingly screened 2,000 compounds. Only two groups of drugs were found to be effective TGM2 inhibitors. Some of the most potent TGM2 inhibitors were given to the fruit flies along with their food.

The most effective compound was a kinase inhibitor, a drug that had been developed several years ago for another purpose. The other beneficial compounds fell into a category of drugs that attack a sulfhydryl group in a protein.

The next step is to use the effective compounds as the backbone for developing even more effective drugs, Lai said. The scientists plan to test whether the TGM2 inhibitors they identified would prevent the fibrous tissue process that causes chronic renal, vascular and lung disease.

The work was funded in part by National Institutes of Health grants. This study required extensive teamwork between several departments at Duke and a long-time collaborator at Wake Forest University.

Other authors on the paper include Yusha Liu, Tim Tucker, James R. Burke and Warren J. Strittmatter of the Duke Department of Medicine; Kurt R. Daniel and David C. Sane of the Department of Internal Medicine-Cardiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Eric Toone of the Duke Department of Chemistry.


Adapted from materials provided by Duke University Medical Center.

Evolutionary Psychology: Psychology in the News

Human Or Animal Faces Associated With At Least 90 Percent Of Cars By One-third Of Population

Science Daily (Sep. 24, 2008) — Do people attribute certain personality traits or emotions to car fronts? If so, could this have implications for driving and pedestrian behavior? Truls Thorstensen (EFS Consulting Vienna), Karl Grammer (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology) and other researchers at the University of Vienna joined economic interest with evolutionary psychology to answer these questions.

Science & Society
Energy Issues
"The research project investigates our perception of automotive designs, and whether and how these findings correspond to the perception of human faces.

Throughout evolution, humans have developed an ability to collect information on people's sex, age, emotions, and intentions by looking at their faces. The authors suggest that this ability is probably widely used on other living beings and maybe even on inanimate objects, such as cars. Although this theory has been proposed by other authors, it has not yet been investigated systematically. The researchers therefore asked people to report the characteristics, emotions, personality traits, and attitudes that they ascribed to car fronts and then used geometric morphometrics to calculate the corresponding shape information.

One-third of the subjects associated a human or animal face with at least 90 percent of the cars. All subjects marked eyes (headlights), a mouth (air intake/grille), and a nose in more than 50 percent of the cars. Overall, people agreed which type of car possesses certain traits. The authors found that people liked cars most which had a wide stance, a narrow windshield, and/or widely spaced, narrow headlights. The better the subjects liked a car, the more it bore shape characteristics corresponding to high values of what the authors termed "power", indicating that both men and women like mature, dominant, masculine, arrogant, angry-looking cars.

If these are the traits that people like, does that necessarily mean that this is the type of car they would buy? The authors surmise that this might not always be the case. Do we judge a car by our (perhaps stereotyped) impression of its owner, or do we choose a car based on its communication of desired characteristics? Do we feel that driving a car that looks arrogant and dominant might be of benefit in the daily "battles" on the road? These are interesting questions for car manufacturers and researchers alike, and will be pursued further in the collaboration between EFS Consulting and Karl Grammer's group.

The collaborators conclude, "we show that distinct features in the car fronts correspond to different trait attributions. Thus, humans possibly interpret even inanimate structures in biological terms, which could have implications for driving and pedestrian behavior. With respect to practical applications, a tool for automobile designers to style cars according to a desired image could be derived.""


Journal reference:

Windhager S, Slice DE, Schaefer K, Oberzaucher E, Thorstensen T, Grammer K. Face to face: The Perception of Automotive Designs. Human Nature, (in press) DOI: 10.1007/s12110-008-9047-z
Adapted from materials provided by Springer