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Researchers reverse important symptom of schizophrenia in mice by manipulating genes

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This is an announcement of no small importance that appeared on the Columbia University website. The researchers say they have reversed one of the most important symptoms of schizophrenia in mice by reversing the SETD1A gene mutation, a gene already known and previously linked by other studies to schizophrenia. Specifically, the researchers reversed the impairment of spatial working memory.

For schizophrenia, there are currently no real treatments. This pathology, which influences the functioning of the brain as well as behavior and mood, must be linked to a sort of cognitive impairment. However, the drugs that exist today for schizophrenia mostly control the psychotic symptoms and not the cognitive ones. This new study shows that it is possible, in a sense, to repair brain cells made dysfunctional by schizophrenia, at least in mice, bringing their level of working memory back to a pre-existing state.

The study, published in Neuron, therefore shows what Joseph Gogos, a researcher at Columbia’s Brain Behavior Institute and senior author of the study, defines as a “promising path” to treat schizophrenia, particularly damage to working memory, not always treated with antipsychotic drugs. An inoperative working memory makes it difficult to maintain any kind of relationship and even damages everyday life by literally putting on by people with schizophrenia who can no longer interact with other people.

The researchers worked on the SETD1A gene. The latter produces a protein that can influence the activity of other important genes. The researchers worked on a group of memory-deficient mice, mice that had some difficulty, for example, in moving into a simple maze. These mice presented neurons from the different prefrontal cortex of normal mice. Specifically, mice lacking SETD1A had short and poorly developed neuronal branches.

This prevented them from establishing the necessary connections with other groups of brain neurons, as Jun Mukai, the study’s first author and former researcher in the Gogos laboratory, explains. By manipulating the SETD1A gene they discovered that it was linked to another gene, called LSD1. By inhibiting the latter, the memory of the mice greatly improved so that their axons began to grow again, becoming similar to those of healthy mice.

Researchers say SETD1A influences a number of other genes and proteins that, combined, can cause memory deficits. This finding could be useful, according to the researchers, to make personalized drugs for people with SETD1A gene mutations and, in a broader view, even to treat schizophrenia itself.

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New small crustacean living in the depths of the Pacific discovered by researchers

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A new species of crustacean that frequents the deepest depths of the North Pacific has been discovered by two researchers, Torben Riehl, from the Senckenberg Naturmuseum, a German natural history museum, and Bart De Smet, from the University of Ghent.
The new species has been named Macrostylis metallicola (the second term is due to the rock band Metallica, of which Riehl is a fan).

This crustacean was discovered in the Clipperton fracture zone, a marine area off the coast of Mexico. It lives at great depths, between 4000 and 5000 meters, a marine area where the pressure is over 400 meters higher than we experience on the surface.
It is a small crustacean that does not exceed 6.5 mm in length and lives almost in absolute darkness. This is precisely why it has not developed eyes and its body has no colour.

It lives in an environment where manganese nodules dominate, metal elements often millions of years old that can vary greatly in size and contain precious elements such as copper, cobalt, manganese, nickel and rare earths.
In fact, it is expected that the seabed area of the Clarion-Clipperton fracture zone (CCFZ) in the Eastern Central Pacific Ocean may be exploited in the future because of its wealth of manganese nodules.

It is precisely with regard to the exploitation of environments that until a few decades ago no one would ever have thought to reach to extract minerals that the researcher Riehl intends to carry out a form of awareness raising: “Very few people are aware that the vast and largely unexplored depths of the oceans are home to bizarre and unknown creatures, just like our new crustacean Metallica. These species are part of the Earth’s system on which we all depend. The deep sea plays a role in this system linked to the climate and food networks of the oceans. While we cannot prevent mining, we must ensure that the exploitation of the manganese nodule is carried out in a sustainable manner by implementing appropriate management plans and protected areas designed to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

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Bilingualism can counteract dementia because it stimulates the alternation between languages.

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Bilingualism, i.e. the ability to understand and speak two languages at the same time, can act to combat dementia according to a study conducted by researchers at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona together with colleagues from other Spanish institutions.
The researchers analysed more than 100 bilingual or monolingual patients with mild cognitive deficits with an average age of 73 years. The subjects spoke both Spanish and Catalan.

According to César Ávila, one of the authors of the study, the alternative use of these two languages simultaneously on a cognitive level is complex precisely because there are many similarities between them and therefore one needs to be more vigilant and more attentive in order not to get confused.
After following the evolution of the patients during seven months, the researchers found that the bilingual ones showed a lower loss of brain volume while maintaining generally better cognitive abilities.

According to the researchers “there is a cognitive reserve of bilingualism” and this mechanism exists thanks to the cognitive stimulation that is fostered by the alternation of use between languages.
These are interesting results, according to the authors themselves, because it is one of the first studies that shows the possibility that there is in fact a kind of protection by bilingualism against dementia and that explains its mechanism.
The possibilities of therapies to stimulate patients suffering from dementia on a cognitive level through practical exercises in the use of different languages are now becoming more concrete.

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Dangerous cigarette compounds “travel” in every environment clinging to smokers’ clothes

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A further study focuses on so-called “third-hand smoke”, i.e. that type of second-hand smoke in which the injured party is in an environment, usually closed, where someone has smoked. The most striking example may be the interior of a car in which someone has smoked and there are still cigarette butts and ashes in the ashtrays.

This new study confirms that the remains of smoked cigarettes can cling to the bodies or clothes of smokers and then be released into non-smoking environments.
The team of researchers, led by Drew Gentner of Yale, shows in this study that these cigarette compounds can literally travel, and even in abundant quantities, in indoor environments frequented by non-smokers transported by smokers themselves.

According to the researchers, a person, even if he or she is in a room where no one has smoked, can still be exposed to many of the chemical compounds found in a cigarette if a person who had previously smoked has entered that room.
As Gentner explains, “People are substantial carriers of third-hand smoke contaminants in other rooms. Therefore, the idea that someone is protected from the potential health effects of cigarette smoke because they are not directly exposed to second-hand smoke is not right”.

To reach these conclusions, the researchers analysed the traces of cigarette compounds in a movie theatre. The researchers found that the amounts of these substances left by smokers, for example through their clothes on armchairs or in the air, increased dramatically after the screening of R-rated films, i.e. films for adults who naturally saw more smokers in the cinema.

The quantities of these dangerous substances, of which nicotine was the largest representative, were not even to be overlooked, according to the researchers: they were comparable to those of exposure to second-hand smoke.
These compounds continue to make their way into enclosed spaces despite strong bans and numerous regulations in many states around the world prohibiting people from smoking not only inside public places but also near entrances or near air vents.

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We're investigating nicotine pouches and whether they are safe. Instead of smoking or using products like Nicorette, you can just chew on these and they should get rid of your desire to smoke. We like this article on nicotine pouches which has some nice information on the topic.

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