ALSO NOTED: New therapeutic path discovered; Protein involved in cell structure; Viral protein plays role in EBV-related cancer

A scientific team at the Georgia Institute of Technology used ultrasound energy to open holes in cellular membranes, creating a path for therapeutics to directly enter the cell. The process, which kept the holes open for several minutes, allowed therapeutics 50 nanometers in size. That's bigger than most proteins and large enough for gene therapy. The researchers said the technique works by using ultrasound to collapse bubbles, which in turn triggers shock waves that open the cells up for outside molecules. Their finding may well open new doors to targeting new drugs directly at cells. Report

Researchers at Barcelona's Institute for Research in Biomedicine, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg and the Pasteur Institute in Paris say they have discovered a protein that is directly involved in the assembly of the cell's nucleus. Each time a cell divides, the protective sheath around the nucleus has to be rebuilt into two new ones. That envelope is made up of proteins and membranes that require a complex assembly. And malformed envelopes are linked with a variety of rare diseases. "Understanding how the nuclear envelope forms in the first place may eventually help us understand how changes in it can cause these diseases and potentially how they can be treated," says Peter Askjaer of the IRB. Release

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health have identified a critical segment of a viral protein that is needed to support Epstein-Barr virus related tumors. When blocked, the viral life cycle is broken. EBV-related cancers kill some 100,000 people each year. Release

Using genetic engineering, researchers at the University of Minnesota "knocked out" the gene in mice that encodes the protein gamma actin, which is a protein found in normal muscle cells. Scientists previously thought that if this gene were absent, muscle development would be seriously impaired. But James Ervasti, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics, and his team found that knocking out gamma actin still allowed for muscle formation in the mice but impaired muscle cell function, ultimately leading to muscle cell death. Now researchers have a mouse model for centronuclear myopathy, a very poorly understood muscle disease similar to muscular dystrophy that is characterized by generalized muscle weakness and cramps. Release

Daughters bearing an HLA-B immune gene that closely matches their mother's are particularly susceptible to schizophrenia, according to researchers at UCLA. The gene is one of a group of genes referred to as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex. The researchers had focused on the gene because it was also linked to prenatal conditions in children who later suffered from schizophrenia. Their work is reported in the October issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics. Report

Teenagers with ADHD were able to drive better after taking the controlled release OROS methylphenidate rather than extended release amphetamine salts, say researchers at the University of Virginia Health System. Car collisions are two to four times more likely to occur among teens with ADHD. Release

A type of protein crucial for the growth of brain cells during development appears to be equally important for the formation of long-term memories, according to researchers at UC Irvine. The findings could lead to a better understanding of, and treatments for, cognitive decline associated with normal aging and diseases such as Alzheimer's. Release

A researcher from the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, found that children exposed to high levels of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, have a lowered response to vaccinations. The researchers studied children in the North Atlantic who are exposed to high levels of PCBs in whale blubber but note that pollution around the globe may be eroding the effectiveness of pediatric vaccinations. Report

The bark of the French maritime pine tree contains an antioxidant plant extract--Pycnogenol--that can heal leg ulcers in diabetic patients. The finding may help prevent amputations that are common to diabetic leg ulcerations. Patients treated with oral and local Pycnogenol resulting in a 74.4 percent decrease in ulcer size within six weeks. Release

Breast density--the measure of how tissue appears on a mammogram--can be as important as age in determining a woman's susceptibility to breast cancer, according to a new report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. That knowledge may lead to new preventive measures for women with a high breast density. Report

A dart-like molecule that adheres to proteins in the eye plays a key role in age-related macular degeneration. Scientists at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute say the molecule turns on the uncontrolled growth of blood vessels. Report

Higher levels of dopamine D2 receptors may provide protection against alcoholism by triggering the brain circuits involved in inhibiting behavioral responses to the presence of alcohol, researchers say. Release

Researchers have found that, in mice, producing a single genetic defect in a molecule that "reloads" neurons to trigger one another using the neurotransmitter acetylcholine impairs the mice's ability to recognize objects or other mice. Release

Researchers have uncovered what appears to be a natural protective mechanism against a central cause of neuronal death in Alzheimer's and similar neurodegenerative diseases. They theorize that it may be possible to use drugs to enhance that mechanism, to alleviate Alzheimer's pathology. Release

Boston University researchers created a mouse lacking the gene that encodes for the LITAF protein. They found that several cytokines were induced at lower levels in the LITAF-deficient mice compared with the levels observed in the LITAF-positive control mice. Specifically, the deficient mice were more resistant to LPS-induced lethality. "The generation of the macrophage-specific LITAF-deficient animals opens new opportunities for assessing the role of LITAF in inflammation in hopes of designing anti-LITAF drugs for major inflammatory diseases," says Dr. Salomon Amar of Boston University, the lead author of the paper. Amar discovered the LITAF transcription factor in 1999. Release

Tools and Technology

A company called Focusmarketing has released software that can data mine the biomedical research work of hundreds of thousands of U.S. scientists. Release

Deals and Dollars

An antiepileptic drug developed by researchers at the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy has been licensed by Shire Pharmaceuticals. Shire intends to study valrocemide's efficacy against a range of central nervous system disorders. Report

The Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders has handed out more than a million dollars in new research grants. Release

Faculty at Florida State University reported a record $190 million in new research grants in the past academic year. Release

Madiscon, WI-based Mithridion has won two new research grants for its work on Alzheimer's disease. Report

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences--part of the NIH--will award $13 million over four years to create four centers to develop innovative therapies for acute and chronic wounds. Report

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has issued $3.6 million in grants to a group of eight up-and-coming scientists. Release