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COVID-19 — It’s Everywhere . . . Breakthrough in Basic Research May Defeat COVID-19

Breakthrough in Basic Research May Defeat COVID-19

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refers to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

 

Exciting results indicate that a novel idea might bring COVID-19 under control.  The new technology has been shown to work at the lab bench.  Now scientists are doing animal studies and, later, human studies.

Scientists at Boston University (BU) and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have made coated nanoparticles that are covered with pieces of lung cell membrane. (About 1000 tiny particles, or “nanoparticles,” can line up in the space equal to the width of a human hair.) The coated nanoparticles mimic the lung cells that normally bind the virus and allow an infection to start.  But, when the virus tries to infect a coated nanoparticle, the virus dies.  Essentially, the coated nanoparticle is a lethal decoy.

Research in the lab indicates that the new technology might be able to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, if the technology works in humans, coated nanoparticles will likely be important for inactivating other viruses and for dealing with future pandemics.

Specific nanoparticles can be made to mimic any cell that any virus infects.  So, coated nanoparticles can be made that are specific for any virus (for example, for influenza virus or for Ebola virus).  Also, once the cell normally infected by a previously unknown virus to start an infection has been identified (as it was for COVID-19), the relevant coated nanoparticles can be made. So, a novel virus can be inactivated even though little is known about the molecular details of its biology.

Scientists were surprised to learn that the coated nanoparticles for COVID-19 bind the SARS-2 coronavirus even better than the lung cells normally infected by the virus.  So, this approach for COVID-19 is likely be very efficient.

In COVID-19 infections, sometimes the immune response is too active and causes severe disease or death.  The dexamethasone breakthrough I wrote about earlier works by dampening the immune response.  The scientists surprisingly found that coating another batch of nanoparticles with membrane pieces from cells of the immune system also dampened the immune response.

The scientists envision a protective coated nanoparticle mixture for COVID-19 that has two types of coated nanoparticles (one that mimics the lung cells that are infected and another that dampens the immune response). The mixture would be simply administered as a nasal spray.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

A young Boston University professor, Steve Ramirez, a neuroscientist, has identified cells of a mouse brain that enhance the positive or negative scientist-clip-art-41a38614afbd47caca00c32a563f44defeelings of a memory.

Stimulating cells that enhance positive feelings can suppress or deaden the trauma associated with a bad memory. In contrast, stimulating cells that enhance negative feelings makes a bad memory feel worse.

The hippocampus in both the mouse brain and the human brain is the region of the brain responsible for storing memories, including all the details and emotions associated with them. Each memory activates a unique combination of cells of the hippocampus.  Some of the cells affect emotion and behavior.

mouse-clip-art-grey-pink-mouse-mdRamirez and his collaborators (including first author Briana Chen of Columbia University) used genetically engineered mice whose neurons glow when they’re activated. Those cells can later be artificially activated with laser light. The team found that a negative memory (like getting a mild electric shock to the feet) activates cells at the bottom of the hippocampus.  A positive memory (like being in the presence of a female mouse) activates cells at the top of the hippocampus.

They then were able to stimulate those same cells with a laser.  When the bottom cells of the hippocampus were activated, the mouse behaved (freezing and/or avoidance behavior) as if it were recalling the negative memory of the shock. Stimulation of the cells in the top region of the hippocampus reduced the avoidance response.51wUt-P+FKL._SL500_

This is basic research, but it is a significant first step in the eventual development of treatments for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression.  (Full story)

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SPEAK OUT! News Bit . . . . . Football, Brain Injury & Kids

Football, Brain Injury & Kids

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

newsboy-thIs American football a dying sport? With football’s prominence in American culture, it seems safe to assume no one would predict that its days are numbered. But, there is a growing undercurrent that may eventually lead to the demise of football as we know it. There is more and more evidence that the constant subconcussive hits experienced by football players lead to a high risk of the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE can lead to early dementia, football12depression, suicidal thoughts, or problems with cognition, memory, or impulsive behavior.

Recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association is more evidence of the enormous risk of developing CTE by playing American football. (CTE can at present only be confirmed upon studying brain tissue at autopsy, although research is being directed to finding a test that can detect CTE in the brains of living players.) A study of 202 brains of former football players was done by researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University. They found CTE in 87% of all the brains studied. Of the 110 brains of former professional players in the NFL (National Football League, the premier professional football league in the US), 109 (99%) showed CTE. Playing only college football did not significantly reduce the risk of having CTE, which was found in 91% of the brains of former college players. Playing less football did seem to lower the risk. Only 27% of the brains of former players who played through high school, but no further, showed evidence of CTE. Also, the severity of CTE was probably less with less playing time.

brain4The results have important implications for players. Many players feel they’ve been left ignorant of the risks of brain injury by the NFL, or worse, assured by the league that there is minimal risk. [Some players have quit or retired early (1, 2). Recently, a class-action lawsuit about concussions brought by former players against the NFL was settled for $1 billion.] The NFL has argued, and most players and fans who know about CTE believe, that the brains being studied are biased toward CTE because the autopsied brains in large part are from players already suspected of having a brain injury. Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University researcher who has examined many of the brains, has stated that the results are staggering even for a biased sample (go to 1:35:58 in the video). She has stated, “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football; there is a problem.”

Evidence of any CTE in high school football players is particularly disturbing (go to 1:29:08 in the video). Parents have taken note. Even though the NFL is actively promoting football directly to children, enrollment in youth football leagues is significantly down. Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE by studying the brain of Mike Webster, the football-teamfamous Pittsburgh Steeler Center, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “Don’t Let Kids Play Football.” During my radio interview of George Visger, a former lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers who had to quit the game because of a brain injury, he speculated that the preeminence of football in American society will disappear because the NFL’s talent pool will dry up. He speculates that the cost of liability insurance will be too high for youth football leagues to pay (go to 30 minutes into my interview of him).

There is no doubt that American football is exciting to watch, and there are many benefits to playing such a demanding team sport. But, difficult as it is to believe, it seems likely that the high risk of brain injury will eventually end the game.

 

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . Inosine Helps Brain-Injured Monkeys Recover Fine Motor Control

SPEAK OUT! NewsBit

Inosine Helps Brain-Injured Monkeys Recover Fine Motor Control

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

My husband, David, is a traumatic brain injury survivor since 2005. He is physically disabled as a result of his brain injury. As a molecular biologist from Columbia University, David is always searching for ways to improve his own life after his brain injury. He recently stumbled on this exciting research project, and we wanted to share this hopeful concept with others.

 

Disclaimer:

Neither David nor I is a medical doctor, and we are not suggesting any medical solutions. We are only publishing this article for your information.

 

Newsboy th

 

Inosine is a small molecule found in cells. Research with mice and rats has shown that inosine is released by stressed or damaged neurons. Inosine can turn on the genes for axon development. Axons are the long, threadlike membrane extensions needed for neurons to send an electrochemical message to other neurons. The new axons from undamaged neurons can rewire the brain (plasticity) to allow circuits to form that compensate for circuits lost from damage.

Adding inosine to neurons in culture stimulates the formation of more axons. Would inosine stimulate an increase in plasticity by increasing axon formation and thereby help recovery from brain injury? Consistent with this idea, neuroscientists found that rats recovered from brain injury better when inosine was present.pTqKnRpgc

Now neuroscientists at Boston University report testing inosine’s effect on a primate – the rhesus monkey. The study was small (8 monkeys) because monkey experiments are expensive, but, despite the small number, the results were significant. At the beginning, all 8 monkeys could easily grasp food treats with their dominant hand. The part of the brain needed for the required motor skills in the dominant hand was then deliberately damaged in each monkey. The 8 brain-injured monkeys were divided into two groups: 4 monkeys were treated by giving them inosine, and 4 were given a placebo. The researchers didn’t know which monkeys were getting inosine and which were getting the placebo.

After 14 weeks of treatment, the monkeys were examined for their ability to grasp a food treat. Three of the four inosine-treated monkeys grasped the food with their dominant hand normally. Fine motor control in the hand seemed to be the way it was prior to the brain injury. In contrast, the placebo-treated monkeys retrieved their food by using a compensatory strategy. The placebo-treated monkeys still had a problem with fine motor control in the hand.

mouse-hiThis preliminary study has extended evidence of the inosine benefit from mice and rats to a primate. The result indicates that inosine may one day benefit human victims of brain injury. Inosine is already in clinical trials for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease. Inosine appears to be safe – athletes have taken inosine supplements for decades.

Strictly speaking, this experiment addressed recovery of only a specific movement. The brain injuries were highly controlled – all were nearly identical, and they were in a specific area of the frontal lobe that affects fine motor control of the hand. Inosine experiments of this type have only been done in animal models. But even with all these caveats, there is reason to be optimistic. Inosine treatment may become a common human therapy for brain injury. Clearly more research is needed before inosine is shown to be useful in the clinic. (Full story)

 

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On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with Author, Jim Proebstle

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road”

with

Author, Jim Proebstle

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1

 

Jim Proebstle, author of “Unintended Impact: One Athlete’s Journey From Concussions in Amateur Football to CTE Dementia,” tells the story of his older brother, Dick Proebstle, who didn’t get the fame and fortune of some NFL Football players, but did get the repercussions as he received countless head injuries while playing high school and college football.

Dick’s life went from the stars to an abyss over the course of 50 years. He lost so much without his knowing or understanding why. In fact, his children and family didn’t understand his decline either. Jim Proebstle 1It wasn’t until CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) came to the forefront when neuropathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu  discovered the disease in the autopsied brain of 50-year-old Mike Webster, a once-upon-a-time revered Pittsburgh Steeler whose life unexpectedly declined soon after retirement. This left Webster homeless and exhibiting abnormal behaviors. Soon after, the brains of many other deceased NFL players were examined and various degrees of (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) were also found. Dr. Omalu’s discovery began to open eyes of many other scientists and Boston University began a study. 89 of the 93 donated NFL player brains, were found to have CTE, which explained to the families the many bizarre behaviors their loved ones were exhibiting before they died.

Jim Proebstle Unintended Impact BookJim wrote his book, “Unintended Impact” to not only honor his brother, but also to  raise awareness of the dangers of all head injuries. Jim also authored two other books, “Fatal Incident” and “In the Absence of Honor.” You can find any of Jims’ books at amazon.com

If you missed this show with Jim Proebstle, author of “Unintended Impact: One Athlete’s Journey from Concussions in Amateur Football to CTE Dementia” on “Another Fork in the Road” on March 20th, 2016, don’t fret. You can listen to the archived show here. Click the link below.

To learn more about Jim Proebstle, please visit his website.

See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with author, Jim Proebstle

 

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . U.S. Soccer Bans Heading for Players Age 10 and Under

U.S. Soccer Bans Heading for Players Age 10 and Under

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

newsboy-thConcussions from playing soccer rank second to football in boys’ sports, but they are first in girls’ sports and second among all sports. Of the more than 3 million youths playing soccer in the U.S., 50,000 concussions were reported among high-school soccer players in 2010, more than the number from wrestling, basketball, baseball, and softball combined.  Parents and players brought a lawsuit accusing U.S. Soccer and other U.S. youth soccer organizations of negligence. As a result, U.S. Soccer established new rules that prevent heading by players age 10 and under and prohibits heading by 11- to 13-year-olds in practice. There are also new guidelines for soccer-trophy-clipart-soccer-team-clipartsoccer-team-with-trophy-clip-art-soccer-team-with-trophy-image-efwxwwe3substitution. For example, a player who replaces another player who has to leave the game because of a suspected concussion does not count as a substation.

U.S. Soccer governs only a fraction of youth soccer teams in the U.S., so they are recommending strongly that other leagues follow suit.  Dr. Cantu, a neurologist and a concussion specialist at Boston University, said that children’s brains are crucially developing and that the ages of 10 to 14 are especially critical in brain development. He also maintains that children’s neck muscles are not strong enough to support the head, making the risk of injury even greater. Safer Soccer, an organization that seeks a ban on 131181714310586452912266140-vector-illustration-for-a-anatomy-brain-in-separate-color-mdheading for players 14 and under, applauds the new rules. (The advisory board of Safer Soccer includes Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone, and Joy Fawcett – former players of the women’s U.S. national soccer team, which has won four Olympic gold medals since 1996.) (Full story with video)

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