The Vascular System and Alzheimer’s Disease

Image: blood vessels in the brain   by Sarah Baker, Graduate Fellow, Laboratory of Neurobiology and Genetics, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY Field of Research: Neuroscience   Proteins carry out virtually all of the biochemical processes within the body. Each protein must be folded into a precise three-dimensional shape in order to carry out its proper function, and when this precise folding fails to happen, this can lead to drastic negative consequences to human health. Many different diseases are characterized by faulty proteins that have gained an incorrect shape, causing them to become “sticky” and clump together, and these diseases are classified as amyloid diseases. One well known amyloid disease is Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder characterized by protein build-ups in the brain which lead to the death of brain cells and, consequently, memory loss and other cognitive deficits. Alzheimer’s disease does not become diagnosable until patients start to show signs of memory loss, but there is increasing evidence that this disease may begin much sooner in life as a result dysfunction of the vascular system. This is what I study: how the vascular system is linked with proper brain functioning in Alzheimer’s disease. The brain has high energy needs and is critically reliant on sufficient blood flow to carry out its processes. The fact that cardiovascular health risk factors such as stroke, blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease suggests that this disease may also be driven by vascular mechanisms originating in the blood. In addition, Alzheimer’s patients often have increased blood clotting as well as chronic inflammation. I am interested in studying...

A Taste of Honey Is Worse Than None At All: Bee-Harming Pesticides Are Found in Most Honey

  by Hope Henderson   Honey bees on every inhabited continent face exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides, which growing evidence suggests are a culprit in the decline in bee populations. In a study published this month in the academic journal Science, researchers surveyed honey from almost 200 locations worldwide, and found that 75% of samples contained these pesticides. Neonicotinoids are the most commonly used class of insecticides in the world. They are meant to damage the nervous system of plant-eating pests like aphids in order to protect crops, but studies have shown that neonicotinoids can also harm bees: they are implicated in slowing growth, reducing immune function, lowering ability to forage for nectar and pollen, decreasing chances of surviving winter, and reducing reproduction. Honey is bees’ main food source. These findings indicate that bees are not just being exposed to these pesticides occasionally, depending on where they forage on a given day, but that they are subject to chronic exposure through diet. The level of neonicotinoids found in nearly half of the honey samples was within the range known to harm bees. 55% of all samples contained multiple neonicotinoid pesticides, bringing to light the need for studies that look at the possible additive effects of being exposed to multiple pesticides at once. The good news: you can keep adding honey to your tea for now. All neonicotinoid concentrations were below the limits for safe human consumption according to current US and EU regulations.   Original article: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6359/109 Additional sources: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12459 http://science.sciencemag.org/content/336/6079/351 http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6345/1393 http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6345/1395 Please follow and like...

HIV: IT’S TIME TO RAISE OUR AWARENESS, AGAIN

by Alessandro Zancla, MD     I sometimes share experience and points of view with colleagues who work abroad and we talk about the differences between countries and healthcare systems. One of the most important topics in Public Health is HIV and its prevention: on this, we all seem to agree that not enough is being done to inform and educate the public (especially young people) on HIV and STDs in general. Family and the school system have left an educational void on sex and STD prevention; without that education, adolescents often turn to the Web for answers. If we take a quick look at online forums and websites boys and girls use to share information and advice on sexual matters, we immediately realize one thing: they know little, and what they do know is often dangerously incorrect. Some teenagers are even convinced that there is a vaccine for HIV or that the contraceptive pill can protect against STDs. It is clear that there is a desperate and urgent need for correct information and education.   We all share responsibilities in this. – Families need to acknowledge that the average age for having sexual intercourse for the first time is about 17 years old (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/key_statistics/s.htm). Parents should talk about sex and health with their children, and they should do so in time. – Governments should seriously consider their role in safeguarding public health and put more effort and resources into education and prevention. This is difficult since it means fighting against pressure from certain ideological and religious groups who insist on standing, for example, against the use of condoms;...

What is DNA?

Edited by: Chiara Bertipaglia, Science Editor, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University & Kaitlyn Powers, Blog Editor, Marketing Student at Fordham University     The DNA is a molecule that encodes all the information needed to build and maintain living organisms. One could say the DNA is the blueprint of life. It is stored inside the nucleus of every cell, and is made up of two helices, intertwined to form a long thread. Each living being you can think of (bacteria, fungi, plants, animals, humans) has its own unique DNA that distinguishes it as an individual from the rest of the organisms on Earth. By translating its information into any characteristics of a living being, the DNA is responsible for encoding the instructions to build any part of our body i.e. a muscle, the eyes, the skin, the heart. How can this be achieved? Within every organism, every cell contains the exact same, identical copy of DNA (depicted as a red thread in every cell). If we think of a neuron and a skin cell, we quickly realize how different they are from one another. Neurons are responsible for our thoughts, memories and feelings, while skin cells form a barrier that offers mechanical protection from the environment. However, both these types of cells carry the same copy of DNA, and both use the same blueprint to define themselves and to perform their very distinct functions. What makes these cells diverse is that they use only some parts of the DNA and not others. In a way, a skin cell has all the information to be a neuron but “chooses” to...

Know Science at the March for Science

by Chiara Bertipaglia, Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Columbia University and KnowScience editor   Yesterday, Saturday 22nd April 2017, on Earth Day, Know Science marched together with thousands of protesters at the March for Science in New York City. We are incredibly proud to have joined such a big event. We felt relieved to be part of a lively community of science supporters that care about science and realize how fundamental it is to society. Following the statement issued by our founder and president Dr. Simona Giunta, we manifested to express our deep concern about recent political orders that undermine the independence of scientific research and jeopardize scientific funding. We hope that all the science supporters that joined the satellite marches in more than 600 cities from all 7 continents have been successful in shaking the conscience of those that get to decide about science funding.   Please follow and like...

RAGE AGAINST THE VACCINES

VACCINES, AMONG URBAN LEGENDS AND COLLECTIVE PSYCHOSIS by Alessandro Zancla, MD   An anti-vaccination philosophy has spread for long among people, supported by blogs and websites that have taken advantage of people’s fears and susceptibility. As a consequence of this, we may risk destroying the progress reached in more than two hundred years of scientific research. This anti-vaccination attitude thrives thanks to general disinformation, a false sense of safety against infectious diseases and lack of historical memory, and it is starting to produce its results: in some areas of developed countries vaccine coverage levels risk being insufficient to guarantee adequate protection. Maybe we forgot too quickly that not many years ago diseases such as Diphtheria, Poliomyelitis, Pertussis and Rubella were a daily hazard, and so were the deaths they would cause and the serious consequences they would leave in the survivors (mainly children). Perhaps we physicians have some responsibility in this too. We evidently failed to reassure and inform the public proficiently, but believe me when I say it is terribly hard to speak convincingly against fears and persuasions that are stuck in the deepest irrational psychological sphere of mankind, especially when people are not willing to get informed. Sometimes a doctor proposing a vaccination is treated like a salesman you quickly want to get rid of. Trust me, it is not nice at all. When a doctor proposes a vaccine to a patient he only does so because he believes that it is useful and that the risks-to-benefits ratio is favorable to the vaccination, otherwise he would not.   I think it is time to clear a few...
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