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Down Syndrome Helps Researchers Understand Alzheimer’s Disease

The link between a protein typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on memory and cognition may not be as clear as once thought, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center. The findings are revealing more information about the earliest stages of the neurodegenerative disease.

The researchers — including lead study author Sigan Hartley, UW-Madison assistant professor of human development and family studies, and Brad Christian, UW-Madison associate professor of medical physics and psychiatry and director of PET Physics in the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior — looked at the role of the brain protein amyloid-β in adults living with Down syndrome, a genetic condition that leaves people more susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s. They published their findings in the September issue of the journal Brain.

How Pneumonia Bacteria Can Compromise Heart Health

Bacterial pneumonia in adults carries an elevated risk for adverse cardiac events (such as heart failure, arrhythmias, and heart attacks) that contribute substantially to mortality — but how the heart is compromised has been unclear. A study published on in PLOS Pathogens now demonstrates that Streptococcus pneumoniae, the bacterium responsible for most cases of bacterial pneumonia, can invade the heart and cause the death of heart muscle cells.

Carlos Orihuela, from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, USA, and colleagues initially studied the reasons for heart failure during invasive pneumococcal disease (when S. pneumoniae bacteria infect major organs such as the lungs, bloodstream, and brain) in mice, and subsequently confirmed some of their main findings in rhesus macaques and in heart tissue from deceased human patients.

Making Light Of A Serious Situation

The last item on a hospitalized patient’s agenda is to contract more illnesses during their stay. Unfortunately, The CDC estimates that 5% t of all hospital admissions result in infections that patients acquire during their stay while receiving treatment for other conditions. This culminates in 1.7 million infections and 99,000 deaths each year, as well as $28–$33 billion in excess costs. These healthcare-associated infections (HAIs, for those content with a far less frightening abbreviation) are especially dangerous because many of them are the result of drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). No patient wants to undergo treatment for a routine infection and be forced to return due to a superbug impervious to most antibiotics.

Healthcare workers undoubtedly concentrate a great deal of effort in sterilizing hospital rooms, but the room can only be disinfected as precisely as the human worker is able. Try as they might, anything close to complete sterilization is near-impossible for a person unless they are willing to douse the room and all of its equipment with alcohol, dispersed via firehose or Super Soaker. Sure, it sounds exciting, but valuable time is wasted waiting for the room to dry, and alcohol in combination with electrically-powered medical equipment has to be against some sort of fire code. The room becomes as sterile as the cleaner is able to achieve, and every nagging “you missed a spot” spells potential infection for the next inhabitant of the room.

Wireless Sensor Transmits Tumor Pressure

The interstitial pressure inside a tumor is often remarkably high compared to normal tissues and is thought to impede the delivery of chemotherapeutic agents as well as decrease the effectiveness of radiation therapy. While medications exist that temporarily decrease tumor pressure, identifying the optimal window to initiate treatment — when tumor pressure is lowest — remains a challenge. With support from NIBIB, researchers at Purdue University have developed a novel sensor that can wirelessly relay pressure readings from inside a tumor.

New Insights On An Ancient Plague Could Improve Treatments For Infections

Dangerous new pathogens such as the Ebola virus invoke scary scenarios of deadly epidemics, but even ancient scourges such as the bubonic plague are still providing researchers with new insights on how the body responds to infections.

d_medicine_horz_rgbIn a study published online in the journal Immunity, researchers at Duke Medicine and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore detail how the Yersinia pestis bacteria that cause bubonic plague hitchhike on immune cells in the lymph nodes and eventually ride into the lungs and the blood stream, where the infection is easily transmitted to others.

The insight provides a new avenue to develop therapies that block this host immune function rather than target the pathogens themselves – a tactic that often leads to antibiotic resistance.

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