Blogs for November 2017

Breast Cancer Survives by Releasing Self-Serving Glutamate

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 15:24
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By Jamshed Arslan Pharm.D.

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is difficult to treat because it does not express the receptors (estrogen, progesterone, and HER2) against which effective therapies are available. TNBC defeats the body’s regulation on unchecked growth, but its winning strategy remained unclear until recently. A research team, led by Dr. William Kaelin at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, recently discovered that TNBC cells release glutamate to disable a cancer-stunting enzyme, EglN1. This enzyme targets the...

How to switch from apoptotic to necroptotic cell death? Answer: Autophagy!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 08:49

By Christina Towers, PhD.

It has long been known that programmed cell death can take place in many forms.  The most well characterized form, apoptosis, occurs when either extrinsic or intrinsic stimuli stimulate signaling cascades that result in a series of caspase cleavage events resulting in cleavage and activation of the effector caspase-3.  The end result is cell shrinkage, condensation and cleavage of chromosomal DNA, and plasma membrane blebbing that leaves the cell membrane intact1.  Apoptotic cells are engulfed by antigen presenting cells and induce anti-inflammatory and tolerogenic immune responses2.  Alternatively, necroptosis, a programmed form of necrosis, is less characterized.  However, it is now known that this process is also tightly regulated and mediated by a complex...

Autophagy’s Paradoxical Role in ALS

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 10:21

By Yoskaly Lazo-Fernandez, PhD

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that affects the motor neuron system and thus voluntary control of muscle movement. This disease belongs to a broader group of disorders known as motor neuron diseases, characterized by progressive degeneration and death of motor neurons. There are two types of motor neurons, including upper- and lower-motor neurons, based on the position of their somas within the CNS. Upper motor neuron somas are located in the motor cortex and their axons descend to the spinal cord where they activate the lower motor neurons. Lower motor neurons have somas within the spinal cord and extend their axons peripherally to innervate skeletal muscles. In ALS patients...

Autophagy as a Therapeutic Target: The Double-edged Sword

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 09:46

By Christina Towers, PhD

Autophagy is an important cellular process that facilitates the degradation of damaged cytoplasmic material and toxic protein aggregates. Its role in neuronal function is apparent by the neurodegenerative phenotypes observed in autophagy deficient genetic mouse models. Mice with neuron-specific knock out of the core autophagy protein, ATG7, are viable but most go on to develop behavioral defects and eventually massive neuronal loss in the cerebral corticies1.

But perhaps the most causative links between autophagy and neurological functioning have been observed in animal models of progressive neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease. Each of these devastating diseases is characterized by a build-up of toxic protein aggregates: β-...


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