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A Confused Immune System Could Be Behind Parkinson’s Disease

Science Alert

This latest study led by CUMC and researchers from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in California has shown a normally soluble protein that aggregates in the substantia-nigra’s cells called alpha-synuclein can trigger the body’s immune system. They took blood samples from 67 volunteers with Parkinson’s disease and 36 controls, and mixed them with proteins found in nerve cells, including alpha-synuclein. While there was little reaction in the samples taken from the control subjects, there was a clear immune response in those with Parkinson’s, indicating that the white blood cells in their immune system had previously been exposed to the proteins. “Our findings show that two fragments of alpha-synuclein, a protein that accumulates in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s, can activate the T cells involved in autoimmune attacks,” said [David] Sulzer.

How to Monitor the Care of a Loved One in a Nursing Home

U.S. News

A meta-analysis of previous research published last month in the American Journal of Infection Control determined that 27 percent of nursing home residents are colonized with multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria, which are associated with an increasing proportion of infections among nursing home residents. “Meaning that 1 in 4 have it,” says lead study author Sainfer Aliyu, a registered nurse, who has a doctorate in nursing from Columbia University School of Nursing.

For some traumatized veterans, the best therapy can be stroking a velvety nose

Washington Post

“Horses, by nature, they’re sort of prey animals, and so they’re hyper-vigilant and reactive to people’s behavior,” said Prudence Fisher, a professor of clinical psychiatric social work at Columbia, who has been co-directing the study for the past year. “If you approach them aggressively they’ll move away from you. So it helps people recognize how they’re approaching people.”

Smell Test May Sniff Out Oncoming Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

Scientific American

More than 90 percent of Parkinson’s patients report some level of olfactory dysfunction. And because problems with smell progress in Alzheimer’s, nearly all of those diagnosed with moderate to severe forms of the illness have odor identification issues. “It’s important, not just because it’s novel and interesting and simple but because the evidence is strong,” says Davangere Devanand, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at Columbia University. His most recent paper on the subject, a review, was published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in December.

Preparing ‘Emerging Adults’ for College and Beyond

New York Times

Rachel Ginsberg is a clinical psychologist at the NewYork-Presbyterian Youth Anxiety Center, a research and clinical program that brings together experts from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medicine. She is part of its Launching Emerging Adults Program aimed at teenagers and young adults. Dr. Ginsberg works with clients on lack of emotional readiness and academic and “adulting” skills, as well as on social anxiety — issues that can become more apparent in college and can lead to students’ lives’ unraveling.

Thyroid in girls may be impacted by household chemicals


“The thyroid acts as the master controller of brain development,” Pam Factor-Litvak, a professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School, said in a press release. “Thyroid hormones set the schedule, and if the timing is out of synch, there may be later consequences in the brain. The thyroid disruptions we see in this study, although they fall within the normal range, could explain some of the cognitive problems we see in children exposed to phthalates and we are currently investigating that. As we know from lead, even small exposures can make a big difference.”

Study uncovers stroke risk factors in preeclampsia


“We have suspected that certain conditions raise the risk of stroke in women with preeclampsia, but few studies have taken a rigorous look at this issue,” Dr. Eliza C. Miller, a postdoctoral vascular neurology fellow in the Department of Neurology at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said in a press release. “Since strokes can be so devastating, it is critical to know whether these are just random events or due to modifiable risk factors.”

One Girl’s Mishap Led to the Creation of the Antibiotic Bacitracin

Smithsonian Magazine

One day in May of 1943 seven-year-old Margaret Treacy was playing ball near her home in Upper Manhattan when she was hit by an ice truck. She broke a leg so badly the shinbone pierced the skin. The wound became infected, and Treacy ended up at Presbyterian Hospital, where a bacteriologist named Balbina Johnson made an observation that would forever change how Americans stock their medicine cabinets.

You Asked: Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?


Instead, the term “non-celiac wheat sensitivity” may be more accurate. “We don’t know for sure if it is the gluten in wheat and related cereals that is the sole trigger of these symptoms,” says Armin Alaedini, an assistant professor at Columbia University who researches immune-related GI disorders. “There is some ambiguity there, which is why many investigators are calling it ‘non-celiac wheat sensitivity’ for now.” It’s also unclear at this point how to diagnose the condition. “Currently, the only way to form a diagnosis is through a clinical examination that would involve food restriction or food challenge,” Alaedini says. He also says that both celiac disease and wheat allergies—conditions for which there is an agreed-upon diagnostic criteria—have to be ruled out first.

Former gang member gets Master’s degree from Columbia University

ABC New York

Richard Gamarra spent years behind bars, but the former gang member is proving that second chances are possible. Now, the 28-year-old is an Ivy League graduate and a proud alumnus of Columbia University. “I started off a really good kid, then to a really bad kid, then to a bad juvenile, bad inmate,” he said. “A good student, and now, a graduating grad student.”

1 million patient cohort being prepared to fuel precision medicine

Healthcare IT News

Access to the data will be managed through the program’s Data and Research Support Center which is expected to build an active community of researchers who can learn from the information and propose new research intiaitives. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, working with the Broad Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Verily, Mountain View, California won the primary award for this program. Additional funding is going to Columbia University Medical Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, University of Michigan School of Public Health and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Biomedical Informatics.

Researchers find a new target for antidepressants


“Our work highlights a novel way to provide antidepressant treatment and provides a new avenue for the development of potentially more effective antidepressants that offer relief to patients who do not respond to current treatments,” Rene Hen, professor of neuroscience and pharmacology at Columbia University, said in a press release.

The Bug Problem in Nursing Homes

Wall Street Journal

Residents of long-term care facilities are vulnerable to drug-resistant infections known as superbugs and can easily spread the deadly germs to others. Between 11% and 59% of nursing-home residents have been “colonized” with certain types of superbugs, putting them at more risk of developing a full-blown infection, according to researchers at Columbia University School of Nursing.

The Power Of Genes, And The Line Between Biology And Destiny


As researchers work to understand the human genome, many questions remain, including, perhaps, the most fundamental: Just how much of the human experience is determined before we are already born, by our genes, and how much is dependent upon external environmental factors? Oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross the answer to that question is complicated. “Biology is not destiny,” Mukherjee explains. “But some aspects of biology — and in fact some aspects of destiny — are commanded very strongly by genes.”

Now That We Can Read Genomes, Can We Write Them?

The Atlantic

Better news arrived on Wednesday when the team announced that Boeke and Harris Wang from Columbia University have secured $500,000 for a GP-write pilot project, from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They’ll use that money to engineer human cells into self-sufficient nutrient factories.

Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger


“The training was quite variable across the U.S.,” said Mary D’Alton, chair of ob/gyn at Columbia University Medical Center and author of papers on disparities in care for mothers and infants. “There were some fellows that could finish their maternal-fetal medicine training without ever being in a labor and delivery unit.”

Peabody Essex Museum hires neuroscientist to enhance visitor experience

Boston Globe

Nobel Prize recipient Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist, applauded the museum’s effort, saying it is breaking important new ground.  “I think this is the future,” said Kandel, an emeritus professor at Columbia University who’s written extensively on the relationship between neuroscience and the visual arts. “It would be extremely interesting if museums started working on how visitors engage with a work of art — not only for the museums, but for visitors.”

A Second Drug Is Approved to Treat A.L.S.

New York Times

Dr. Neil A. Shneider, director of the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig ALS Center at Columbia University Medical Center, said, “The effect is modest but significant.” He added, “I’m very happy, frankly, that there is a second drug approved for A.L.S.”

How Dr. Eric Kandel, Neuroscientist, Spends His Sundays

New York Times

Forget that he’s 87. Eric R. Kandel, who specializes in the biology of memory and is a professor in the neuroscience and psychiatry departments at Columbia University, works more than he ever has before, he said. Dr. Kandel, who won a Nobel Prize in 2000, continues to write books and is co-director of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia and a senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md. He lives with his wife of 60 years, Denise Kandel, 84, an epidemiology professor at Columbia, in Harlem.

Columbia med student proves historic force in triathlon event

Fox Sports

But what makes Davis-Hayes’ monumental finish so noteworthy isn’t just her historic margin of victory, the largest since USA Triathlon took ownership of the event in 2003 — though that, alone, is certainly worthy of recognition. It’s that the 28-year-old has risen to the top of the ranks at an astounding pace after participating in her first triathlon in May 2015. And she’s done so as a Columbia medical school student, juggling a rigorous Ivy League course load and an intensive concussion research project while dedicating the time and effort required to become the country’s top amateur triathlete.

Local Girl May Hold Key to Unlocking Certain Disorders and Diseases

CBS Sacramento

They turned to Dr. Wendy Chung, a world-renowned medical detective at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York. She only takes on the most difficult cases- the ones that have no answers. Dr. Chung led a 2015 study that linked Jordan’s genetic variation to intellectual disability and autism. Now, doctors from hospitals including Columbia, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Vanderbilt and the University of Iowa are about to begin first-of-its-kind research into how the genetic variation can be treated, or even reversed.

Meet the 34-year-old neuroscientist developing a drug to prevent depression and PTSD

Washington Post

That’s the scenario neuroscientist Rebecca Brachman described as she stood on the TED stage here Monday and told the audience she may have helped discover a drug that could make people more resilient under the most stressful circumstances. …The 34-year-old neuroscientist at Columbia University was among two dozen TED Fellows chosen to present at the annual conference this year. The Fellows program provides them a platform for their ideas and access to the larger TED network to grow them.

What Makes Ashkenazi Jews More Susceptible to Breast Cancer?

U.S. News

According to a 2014 study conducted at Columbia University and published in the journal Nature Communications, today’s worldwide population of roughly 10 million Ashkenazi Jews is descended from a core group of about 350 people 25 to 32 generations ago, or roughly 600 to 800 years back. This small original group is referred to as a population “bottleneck” and the subsequent generations passed on their same genes, putting them at higher risk for certain genetic disorders.

Scientists, Feeling Under Siege, March Against Trump Policies

New York Times

Although drizzle may have washed away the words on some signs, they aimed to deliver the message that science needs the public’s support. “Science is a very human thing,” said Ashlea Morgan, a doctoral student in neurobiology at Columbia University. “The march is allowing the public to know that this is what science is, and it’s letting our legislators know that science is vitally important.”

Climate: What’s At Stake For Your Health


“It’s no coincidence that during that stable period of climate that we’ve had the development of human civilization as we know it,” said Jeffrey Shaman, director of the climate and health program and an associate professor at Columbia University.

Could a Bone Protein Help Shed Pounds?

Scientific American

Stavroula Kousteni, a physiologist at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and her colleagues showed 90 percent of the hormone lipocalin 2 was produced by osteoblasts, bone cells that create the chemicals necessary to build new bone. Because of its chemical structure scientists previously thought fat cells made the hormone. Lipocalin 2 is released after eating and reaches peak levels about an hour after a meal.

Scientists say most marijuana strains act basically the same


“The lay public has really taken on the notion of the entourage effect, but there’s not a lot of data,” says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist at Columbia University and cannabis researcher. “The cannabis field can say anything and it does. I’m not against marijuana. I want to study it carefully. We know it can affect pain and appetite but the large majority of what’s being said is driven by anecdotal marketing. These guys are really trying to make money.”

As AstraZeneca chases rivals, immuno-oncology gets complicated


Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche already have similar drugs approved in lung cancer and the race is on to launch effective combinations for previously untreated disease in patients – a potentially huge market. “I think there will be multiple approvals in the first-line (untreated) space,” Naiyer Rizvi, head of thoracic oncology at Columbia University Medical Center, told Reuters. “The question is going to be how do you position all these different options.”

The Endangered ‘Good Doctor’

Wall Street Journal

Occasionally recognition did come. In 2007, I joined Dr. and Mrs. Lee at a tribute organized by Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. That evening, Dr. Lee joined former colleagues from Sloan Kettering and two patients, myself and Ms. Beckwith, whom he had saved from lymphoma years back.

Anti-depressant use before, during pregnancy tied to autism risk


“I think this is one of these situations where this gets a lot of attention in the media, but the results are actually pretty challenging to interpret,” said Dr. Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, of the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry in New York. “In some ways, the strongest association with preconception exposure and increased risk of ASDs suggests to me at least there is something hidden here.”

7 Tips for Talking to Your Kids About the Lethal Dangers of Opioids

U.S. News

3. Honestly discuss why some people use drugs. Be straightforward in discussing the allure of drugs, says Dr. Nasir Naqvi, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry, division on substance use disorders in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City. It’s important to explain that “drugs can make you feel good, and like many things that make you feel good, they can also damage you, especially because you can lose control and they have harmful effects on your body,” Naqvi says. Acknowledging that drugs can temporarily evoke feelings of euphoria or an escape from life – rather than just discussing the negative effects of substance abuse – is important to maintain credibility. “It’s absolutely important to talk about both sides,” he says. “If you just talk about the downside, it will sound like any other admonishment.”

Why Children Face The Greatest Danger From Chemical Weapons


“Toxic stress affects brain development, learning, and the social-emotional ability to regulate one’s own behavior,” said Lindsay Stark of Columbia University, who studies childhood trauma in refugee and conflict settings. But children are also incredibly resilient, Stark said. Child soldiers in war-ravaged African countries didn’t turn out to be a lost generation as mental health professionals feared, she said. Many learned to cope with their traumatic pasts and went on to have productive lives.

Siddhartha Mukherjee

Charlie Rose

A look at the future of automated medicine with Columbia University assistant professor of medicine Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of a piece in The New Yorker, “The Algorithm Will See You Now.”

Decades of ’60 Minutes’ couldn’t prepare Lesley Stahl for shock and aww! of grandparenting

Chicago Tribune

Linda Fried, dean of Columbia University’s school of public health, told Stahl, “The elderly are the only increasing natural resource in the entire world.” “We’re a surplus value,” Stahl writes. “Using that value to help grandchildren is a perfect solution, and the advantages for our overly stretched daughters, daughters-in-law, sons and sons-in-law are immeasurable.”

Brain cancer survival improves with novel electrical device, data suggest

Washington Post

Trial investigator Andrew Lassman, the chief of neuro-oncology at Columbia University, first heard about the device some years ago. He remembers thinking, “What is this thing, is it a joke?” Now he believes the approach is here to stay — “I don’t think it’s sci-fi,” he said — and calls the results “pretty good” even though the improvements are “incremental, not curative.”

For Bristol-Myers, A Victory And A Mystery


“I think that’s obviously been the topic of debate for the last seven or eight months,” says Naiyer Rizvi, director of thoracic oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, of the lung cancer failure. “I don’t think anyone has an answer.”