Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Alzheimer Executioner

New reports are giving more information in the molecular cascade that leads to beta-amyloid plaques, and now certain genes have been identified as being predisposed to that condition.

The team said that the cell death caused by a brain injury such as a stroke or head injury enhances formation of brain-clogging amyloid plaques by means of a molecular chain reaction

In a series of experiments, they showed that "executioner" enzymes that kill brain cells during stroke or head trauma also interfere with the normal disposal of an enzyme that helps generate the plaques that are a hallmark of the illness.

This interference increases the level of the enzyme BACE in brain cells, they found.

BACE snips apart a brain protein called amyloid precursor protein to form a shorter protein called A beta peptide. It is this A beta peptide that is the building block for the amyloid plaques that clog up the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Essentially, you've got an inhibitor of an inhibitor system going on, which forunately is easy to detect empirically, but more challenging to address therapeutically.

And it's important to get on this trail now, as the future looks to balloon Alzheimer's diagnoses. It appears, however, that the industry is going to capitalize on this to everyone's benefit. Pure science only goes so far, right?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pissed Off Genius

Being angry helps in decision making.

These kind of experiments I find a bit cagey with the use of college students. Throw in a few dock workers, teenagers and DMV employees and lets see what shakes out. Still, I like some of the theory:

Once again, they found that the angry subjects were better able to discriminate between strong and weak arguments than the ones who were not angry—suggesting that anger can transform even those people who are, by disposition, not very analytical into more careful thinkers.

Does being angry boil away the superfluous and leave the critical? This is begging for follow up studies.