Dr Lezanne Ooi, a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, has found that the progression of cardiac hypertrophy can be halted by increasing one of the body’s naturally occurring proteins. “This is a significant discovery because whilst the symptoms can be managed, the cause of heart hypertrophy cannot yet be treated. This research provides a first step in the search for a possible treatment.” says Dr Ooi.
Cardiac hypertrophy is a relatively common condition often caused by high blood pressure, or can be the result of a genetic predisposition, resulting in an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle. It is known to affect 1 in 500 people in the UK and US and can lead to heart failure, arrhythmias and sudden death. The condition varies in its manifestation, with some people suffering severe symptoms – such as breathlessness, fatigue and chest pain - and others being entirely asymptomatic. In those not displaying any symptoms, death can be its first presentation, therefore the scale of the problem is not fully known. It is also the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in athletes, as hypertrophic hearts are unable to cope with intense physical activity.
Dr Ooi’s study is the first to identify the mechanism behind specific changes in protein levels that impact upon cardiac cell size. Levels of two proteins, known as ANP and BNP, are naturally higher in foetal hearts and the hearts of babies and children, but should drop as an individual matures. However, in adults with cardiac hypertrophy these levels increase to become abnormally high .
Dr Ooi has found that an increase in a third protein in the body, known as REST, can halt the rise of the proteins causing cardiac hypertrophy, which, for the first time, offers an approach to treating the cause of heart hypertrophy rather than its symptoms.
“The challenge is now to find a therapy that controls the source of the problem on an ongoing basis. If a way can now be found to translate this research into a therapeutic application, our findings will have an enormous impact on individuals suffering from the condition”, says Dr Ooi.
Dr Ooi’s work on cardiac hypertrophy has recently been recognised at the Experimental Biology conference in Washington DC in May. She was presented with the postdoctoral award from the American Association of Anatomists for her work, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation .
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22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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