Huntington’s & Heart Disease Treatment | SciByte 59

Huntington’s & Heart Disease Treatment | SciByte 59

We take a look at Possible Treatment for Huntington’s disease, Heart Disease Treatment, Male Contraceptive, pythons, Kennedy Space Center, spacecraft and Curiosity updates and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes

Possible Treatment for Huntington’s disease

Credit: Flickr/amandabhslater

Credit: Study Using Robotic Microscope Shows How Mutant Huntington’s Disease Protein Affects Neurons

  • A compound already in biomedical laboratories and emergency room supplies seems to interrupt the formation of neurodegenerative protein clumps found in Huntington’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to cognitive decline and psychiatric problems
  • It occurs when the C-A-G sequence of DNA base pairs repeat too often on the HTT gene
  • The repeated pairs result in an abnormally long version of the huntingtin protein, that therefore folds incorrectly and forms clumps in the brain
  • It usually begins to affect people in their 30s and 40s, causing movement problems and early death
  • No drug is currently available to stop the disease from progressing
  • Methylene blue
  • Methylene blue has many uses in a range of different fields, such as biology and chemistry.
  • At room temperature it appears as a solid, odorless, dark green powder, that yields a blue solution when dissolved in water.
  • It has been mentioned in medical literature as early as 1897 and was used to treat, at one time or another, ailments ranging from malaria to cyanide poisoning
  • It has not yet been formally approved as a therapy for any illnesses.
  • Because of existing knowledge of methylene blue and the fact that it’s not harmful to humans, I would hope that progress toward clinical trials could go relatively quickly," says
  • Test
  • Researchers fed methylene blue mixed with food for a week to Drosophila flies
  • Their brains showed that protein clumps had been reduced by 87 percent compared with a control group
  • In a similar study using mice those given methylene blue underwent several tests to assess mobility
  • At two months of age, the treated mice showed abnormal clasping of their hind claws only 20 percent of the time while the
    untreated counterparts clasped at a 60 percent rate
  • The number of mice used was not sufficient to provide statistically significant results
  • Also the difference in the test quickly dropped off at nine weeks of age
  • Even as a temporary delaying measure this study shows promise because even a delay in Huntington’s symptoms would be very helpful
  • Of Note
  • Methylene blue need more testing in mouse models with safety and efficacy trial before it could be used for humans
  • Follow-up studies are also needed in a more representative mouse model that expresses the full-length Huntingtin protein
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Common Lab Dye Found to Interrupt Formation of Huntington’s Disease Proteins | ScienticicAmerican
  • Methylene Blue Modulates Huntingtin Aggregation Intermediates and Is Protective in Huntington’s Disease Models |


Heart Disease Treatment

  • Researchers at King’s College London have developed the first artificial functioning blood vessel outside of the body, made from reprogrammed stem cells from human skin
  • Stem Cell Therapy
  • Stem cell therapy to treat heart disease is already being carried out in the clinic using bone marrow cells
  • The long-term effectiveness of stem cells are minimal and some types of stem cells have the potential to become a tumour
  • A new type of partial stem cell developed from fibroblasts (skin cells) can be reprogrammed into vascular cells before going into the body, which have no risk turning into tumours.
  • The process of developing vascular cells from skin cells took two weeks
  • Potential
  • This could have real potential to treat patients with heart disease by either injecting the reprogrammed cells into the leg or heart to restore blood flow
  • It could also be used to graft an artificially developed vessel into the body to replace blocked or damaged vessels
  • Diabetic patients with poor circulation could also benefit by preventing leg amputation
  • The next step
  • The next step is to test this approach in cells from patients with vascular disease
  • The aim is to be able to inject reprogrammed cells into areas of restricted blood flow, or even graft an entirely new blood vessel into a patient to treat serious cardiovascular diseases
  • This is an early study and more research needs to be done into how this approach works in patients
  • The discovery could help lead towards future therapies to repair hearts after they are damaged by a heart attack
  • Possible future regenerative treatment, these cells might also be used in drug screening to find new treatments to tackle inherited diseases
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Pioneering heart disease treatment | MedicalXPress


Male Contraceptive

  • A compound called JQ1, which was originally developed as a cancer therapy, can also cause reversible infertility in male mice without apparent side effects for the rodents or their offspring
  • JQ1
  • JQ1 originally developed as an anticancer agent
  • It was designed to inhibit a protein which helps regulate cell division and is known to be involved in a type of aggressive skin cancer
  • Significance
  • The compound seems to target developing sperm both before and after meiosis
  • After 6 weeks of daily injections of JQ1 the animals’ sperm counts were reduced by nearly 90%. Only 5% of the remaining sperm were able to swim properly, compared with 85% of sperm in control mice.
  • After 3 months of treatment, none of the mice were able to sire offspring
  • JQ1 had no apparent effect on the production of testosterone or other hormones
  • A month or two after treatment stopped, all of the mice were again able to father as many pups as control mice
  • There were no obvious side effects in the mice, and the offspring of the treated animals showed no abnormalities.
  • Of Note
  • The lifespans of mice aren’t sufficient to test the possible long-term effects of drugs that people might want to be able to take for decades
  • Primate experiments, are prohibitively expensive, and funding is scarce
  • Although the compound isn’t ready for testing in healthy men it does offer a promising lead
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • ‘The Pill’ for Men Is Closer to Reality |
  • Cancer-Fighting Compound Might Double as Reversible Male Contraceptive |

Phobia for snakes? Turn away for a moment

  • A 17.7-foot-long (5.4-meter-long) over 160 pound [72.5kg] Burmese python has been captured in Everglades National Park in Florida
  • To date this is the biggest snake of that species ever found in the southeastern U.S. state,
  • The low down
  • The Everglades is home to a growing population of the invasive Asian pythons, many of which originate from snakes that either escaped into or were dumped into the wild in the 1990s
  • The “monstrous” constrictor will eventually be displayed at the Florida Museum of Natural History,
  • A necropsy on the euthanized python revealed she was carrying 87 eggs, also a state record for the species
  • To biologists those 87 eggs are "just more evidence that they are pretty much established—they’re breeding in the Everglades
  • Of Note
  • Python Patrol, focuses not on eradicating invasive pythons but on stopping the spread of the snake to sensitive areas, such as bird breeding spots
  • It is believed that pythons are going to be part of the native fauna in the next few decades
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Huge Python Caught in Florida Everglades | AssociatedPress
  • Further Reading / In the News
    +Biggest Burmese Python Found in Florida—17.7 Feet, 87 Eggs |

Digital Vacation to Kennedy Space Center

  • Among the images
  • The space shuttle launch pad
  • Vehicle Assembly Building
  • Launch Firing Room #4
  • Gaze down from the top of the enormous launch pad,
  • Peer up at the towering ceiling of the Vehicle Assembly Building (taller than the Statue of Liberty)
  • Get up close to one of the space shuttle’s main engines, which is powerful enough to generate 400,000 lbs of thrust.
  • Even though they recently entered retirement, you can still get an up-close, immersive experience with two of the Space Shuttle Orbiters—the Atlantis and Endeavour —with Street View.
  • Multimedia
  • Kennedy space center ‘Google Street View’
  • YouTube Explore Kennedy Space Center with Street View | Google
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Kennedy space center ‘Google Street View’

Hover Technology!?


X–51A WaveRider hypersonic scramjet woes

Credit: theworacle | Credit: PWRocketdyne

  • Scramjet
  • Scramjet (short for “supersonic combustion ramjet”) is an air-breathing engine, where intake air blows through its combustion chamber at supersonic speeds
  • The engine has no moving parts and the only oxygen needed by the engine to combust is taken from the atmosphere passing through the vehicle, instead of from a tank onboard
  • Some designers have predicted it could reach speeds of anywhere from Mach 12 to Mach 24.
  • Mach 24 is more than 18,000 miles per hour [29,000 km/hour]
  • X–51 Waverider
  • The X–51 Waverider program is a cooperative effort of the Air Force, DARPA, NASA, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
  • In May 2010, the first test of the vehicle had sort of a “successful” flight of 200 seconds of autonomous flight while another test in 2011 failed
  • The craft was carried to about 15,240 meters (50,000 ft.) by a B–52 from Edwards Air Force Base in California then dropped over the Pacific Ocean
  • The August 15th Test
  • The August 15 flight of the X–51A Waverider scramjet ended abruptly after the experimental aircraft suffered a control failure and broke apart
  • The team was hoping that the latest test would have the hit Mach 6
  • A faulty control fin prevented it from starting its unique “airbreathing” scramjet engine caused the craft to break apart about 15 seconds after it was launched
  • Of Note
  • Should this be successful enough it could eventually be used for more efficient transport of payloads into orbit
  • This could cut an 18-hour trip to Tokyo from New York City to less than 2 hours.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube Scramjet Engine Operation | PWRocketdyne
  • YouTube X–51A WaveRider hypersonic scramjet testbed | theworacle
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • X–51 Waverider ‘Scramjet’ Test Flight Fails |

Voyager II

  • Voyager 2 spacecraft celebrated its 35th birthday Monday (Aug. 20) in a milestone for NASA’s longest-running mission ever
  • The previous record of 12,758 days of operation was set by the Pioneer 6 probe, which launched on Dec. 16, 1965, and sent its last signal home on Dec. 8, 2000
  • Voyager 2 launched in 1977 just 16 days before Voyager 1 and are now about to cross into interstellar space. Voyager 1 is due to cross first
  • 35-Year-Old Voyager 2 Probe Is NASA’s Longest Mission Ever |

New Mars lander approved

  • NASA’s next low-budget planetary mission, called InSight, will attempt to determine whether Mars’ core is liquid or solid
  • The lander will carry four instruments, which will determine Mars’ rotation axis and measure the seismic waves and heat flowing through and from the planet’s interior
  • The craft will also sport a robotic arm and two cameras
  • NASA Unveils New Mars Mission to Probe Red Planet’s Core |


Credit: JPLnews


Looking back

  • August 24, 2006 : 6 years ago : Minor planet Pluto : Pluto was declassified as a planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) following a vote at their 10-day General Assembly in Prague. It was given status instead as a “dwarf planet,” on account of its small size—smaller than the Moon—and highly elliptical, tilted orbit which overlaps with that of Neptune. However, only 424 of 2,700 astronomers who remained in Prague for the last day of the meeting took part. Those who voted were about only 4% of the world’s 10,000 astronomers. The decision was criticized, and a petition was started. The vote established other dwarf planets: Ceres (a small body between Mars and Jupiter) and 2003 UB313 (a small body beyond Pluto, where dozens more potential dwarf planets exist).

Looking up this week

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