Posts Categorized: Research News

Untwist scoliosis by clipping wings of an overactive ladybird

Untwist scoliosis by clipping wings of an overactive ladybird

People with scoliosis, a twisting of the spine that can occur as a birth defect or more commonly starts during the teen years, are now closer to a genetic explanation for their condition. An overactive gene, called ladybird homeobox 1 (LBX1), is the start of a genetic chain reaction that causes the spine to grow abnormally. The report from collaborations at Hiroshima University, Kyoto University, RIKEN, and Kanazawa University is the first to demonstrate the functional association of scoliosis with LBX1. “A genetic test called the ScoliScore AIS Prognostic Test already exists for adolescents recently diagnosed with scoliosis to predict if the curve of the spine will get worse, which… Read more

The ups and downs of transportation within cells

The ups and downs of transportation within cells

New role for Rab6 How do cells avoid growing topsy-turvy?  Growing so your top, front, bottom and back all wind up on the correct side requires a good sense of direction at the cellular level.  A Hiroshima University research group has identified a familiar gene with an unexpected role in directing proteins around the cell. “I really want to figure out how proteins know where to go inside the cell.  The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to researchers who laid the groundwork for understanding transportation within cells, but the process of how different proteins are sorted to go to different locations is still unknown,” said Akiko… Read more

Genetic cause of neurological disease identified

Genetic cause of neurological disease identified

Using the genetic information of two different families with three generations of disease, researchers have identified a new mutation responsible for a degenerative and ultimately fatal movement disorder. Through induced pluripotent stem cell techniques, researchers also grew neurons from one patient in the laboratory to be used in future experiments. Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) is a genetic disease that causes wasting away of the cerebellum, the portion of the brain responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement, like walking, speaking, and even the direction of our eyes. Currently, SCA has no cure or treatment. The mutations responsible for about 30 percent of cases are still unidentified. Two different families with SCA sought… Read more

The tortoise and the hare of spinal neural circuits

The tortoise and the hare of spinal neural circuits

After an injury, practicing movements at different speeds improves certain nerve functions Changes in one circuit of nerves, but not another, in the spinal cord depend on how quickly muscles must move to complete a task, according to results from the Human Motor Control Laboratory of Professor Kozo Funase, PhD, at Hiroshima University.  The results could influence physical therapy routines for patients struggling to control their bodies after a stroke or spine injury. Multiple different types of circuits of nerves control the communication between motor and sensory nerves in the spine.  One, called presynaptic inhibition, works like a gate to control incoming sensory information and prevents muscle spasms.  Another, called… Read more

New targets for reducing nerve pain identified

New targets for reducing nerve pain identified

A specific molecule involved in maintaining pain after a nerve injury has been identified and blocked in mice by Hiroshima University researchers.  These results reveal a promising therapeutic strategy for treating neuropathic pain. Mice with an injury to their sciatic nerve showed less pain after multiple injections of a drug that blocks the activity of a molecule called high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1).  Researchers also discovered that a single dose of a drug to block the activity of a different molecule, called matrix metalloprotease-9 (MMP-9), could also alleviate pain from the injury. The chemical pathways that these drugs use to inhibit HMGB1 or MMP-9 are different from common pain relievers, like… Read more

Pathway to better metabolism discovered in fat cells

Pathway to better metabolism discovered in fat cells

Control over obesity and diabetes may be one step closer thanks to a Hiroshima University study in fat tissue. The research team of Professor Kazunori Imaizumi, PhD, at Hiroshima University has mapped the activation pathway for a protein responsible for burning excess energy in the body. If the pathway can be confirmed in living animal studies, control of this pathway may lead to treatments for obesity and related metabolic diseases.  Researchers studied mouse fat cells growing in a dish using a combination of chemical treatments and protein measurements. Part of the pathway involves a protein found only in brown fat cells.  Fat cells are classified as either brown or white.  White… Read more