Author Archives: Bob Miller

Diabetes: scientists discover new therapeutic options to limit collateral damage caused by insulin

A protein that can act as a regulator of blood sugar and lipids under certain conditions has been identified by a group of researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE). The protein, called S100A9, could counteract the side effects of insulin administered to diabetics.

The study published in Nature Communications mentions what a new treatment for diabetes and in general a significant improvement in the quality of life of tens of millions of people could be. In fact, millions of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have to resort to insulin injections. Overdose can cause hypoglycemia, a drop in blood glucose levels, while underdose can lead to dangerous hyperglycemia.

In experiments on mice, scientists found that the administration of S100A9 to insulin-deficient diabetic rats led to better glucose management and better control of ketones and lipids. They then discovered that this protein appears to work only when there is TLR4, a receptor placed on the membrane of certain cells, including adipocytes and immune system cells.

Now Roberto Coppari, one of the authors of the study together with Giorgio Ramadori, and his team want to understand the function of the protein S100A9. In this context, they are developing a new treatment that combines low doses of insulin and S100A9 to understand whether it is possible to better control glucose and ketones and limit the same negative side effect of insulin.

“We also want to decipher the exact role of TLR4 to offer a therapeutic strategy that achieves the delicate balance between blood sugar, ketones and optimal lipid control,” explains Coppari himself in the press release.



According to a new study, 15,000 Spaniards could suffer from a rare hereditary bone disease without knowing it

Some 15,000 Spaniards may not know they have rare bone hypophosphatasia, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports and conducted by a group of scientists from the CIBERFES research group and the University of Granada (UGR).

In fact, the researchers have created a new protocol to better detect hypophosphatasia, a rare metabolic bone disease that can also be fatal.

The researchers have discovered two new genetic mutations that can be associated with this disease, which at the diagnostic stage can be confused with other bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

By extrapolating the data from the database they analyzed, based on 78,590 patients, the researchers concluded that there could be several thousand Spaniards, between 4000 and 15000, who could be affected by this disease without knowing it.

Hypophosphatasia can lead to loss of bone mineralization and increased risk of fracture, as well as chronic pain. In children or infants (pituitary gland in childhood), it can be even more severe, leading to premature death, brain damage and respiratory problems.

This hereditary disease is potentially life-threatening, difficult to diagnose and is caused by several genetic code mutations for alkaline phosphatase (ALPL).



Schizophrenia: 10 new genes involved have been identified

In one of the largest studies on DNA sequencing associated with schizophrenia, a group of researchers led by Tarjinder Singh discovered 10 new genes involved in the development of this disease using a method called “whole exome sequencing.” The researchers used the genetic data of more than 125,000 people to obtain different information about the genetic basis of the same schizophrenia. The research results were then presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics 2019 in Houston.

One of the reasons why researchers have used DNA sequencing to obtain information about schizophrenia is that there has been limited progress in the development of new schizophrenia drugs over the past 50 years. However, the use of new genetic techniques has proved very useful in many areas in recent years, and researchers themselves believe that useful results can be obtained to discover the mechanisms of schizophrenia.

The latter is one of the psychiatric disorders not yet fully understood. However, it is believed that its development can be accelerated by disorders of certain genes encoding certain proteins.
It is precisely because these are rare genetic changes that researchers have used a very large number of people. Of the 125,000 people tested, 25,000 were diagnosed with schizophrenia. People came from all five continents.

After the analysis, the researchers identified 10 genes that, once they stopped functioning, caused an increased risk of schizophrenia, according to Singh himself in the press release. Two of these 10 genes encode glutamate receptors, suggesting that these receptors may be a target for future schizophrenia therapies.



New antibody-based eye drops developed that reduce dryness

A new eye drop based on aggregated human antibodies was developed by a group of researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago. These eye drops have already shown a reduction in symptoms and signs in some patients with dry eyes in response to treatment.

Eye drops target protein autoantibodies against anti-citrullinated proteins or ACPA, specific antibodies found in human tear fluid.

Dry eyes are a disease that sees an abnormality in the amount of tear fluid in the eye, leading to drier eye regions. This, in turn, can be a problem as it leads to eye pain and poor sensitivity to light. The dry eye, as Sandeep Jain, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and senior author of the study, explains, can also seriously affect the quality of daily life and vision.

It was Jain and his colleagues who discovered that DNA strands can form “cobwebs” on the surface of eyes with dry eyes, and they discovered ACPA as a major cause of inflammation. The eye drops they developed then interrupt this cycle, at least partially, and weaken the immune system.

The new eye drops were tested on 27 participants in two groups: The participants of the first group received one drop of eye drops with antibodies aggregated twice daily for eight weeks. The second group was the control group and their participants received eye drops without the antibodies. People in the first group showed a significant reduction in corneal inflammation and a general improvement in the dry eye situation compared to the control group.

The eye drops contained aggregated antibodies from blood-based immunoglobulins donated by several individuals. In this way, it is possible to counteract the negative effects of ACPA. As Jain explains, there are currently only two drugs available to treat dry eyes, but both do not work well in the most severe cases.


Antibody-based eye drops show promise for treating dry eye disease


Sleep deprivation can negatively affect synaptic functions

Sleep deprivation can lead to very negative consequences for the synaptic activities of the brain, especially plasticity, which are performed thanks to the group of key proteins.

In two separate studies, researchers Sara Noya and colleagues and Franziska BrĂ¼ning and colleagues show how much more important sleep is than ever before in terms of synaptic activity and thus the risk of cognitive impairment.

Noya and colleagues evaluated the circadian rhythm of synaptic messenger RNA (mRNA) and the amount of protein over 24 hours in experiments on mice and found that this model was very different in sleepless people.

BrĂ¼ning and colleagues investigated the relationships between sleep-wake cycles, sleep pressure and synaptic phosphoteomics, again in experiments on mice, and discovered that sleep deprivation led to abrupt interruptions of daily cycles in almost 1000 phosphoproteins.