MBF Bioscience Featured on Vermont Public Television

MBF Bioscience was featured in an episode of Emerging Science,  a television series that features Vermont scientists who expand human knowledge and help solve problems around the world.   The episode explored the link between traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder in military personnel coming back from war.

MBF Bioscience President Jack Glaser and Staff Scientist Susan Hendricks give us some perspective from a research standpoint as they briefly address the ways in which learning more about the injured brain could help find a cure. How does a brain injury affect the neurons in the affected area? Are there fewer neurons than there were before?  Has the shape of the neurons changed? Are there fewer connections between neurons than there were before injury? There is still so much more to explore.

Watch the episode online.

DHA Supplementation Prior to Brain Injury May Reduce Severity

Helmet, neck roll, shoulder pads, thigh pads, knee pads, mouth guard…  A football player’s list of protective gear goes on and on. New research suggests adding one more item to the list: DHA.

Formally known as docosahexaenoic acid, DHA is one of the human brain’s primary fatty acids. Essential for proper brain function, the omega-3 fatty acid is known to benefit patients with heart disease, cancer, and traumatic brain injuries. Researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine say DHA may also help lessen the blow to the brain when taken prior to a head injury.

In their study, the scientists examined the brains of a population of rats, which had received dietary supplementation of DHA for 30 days prior to a traumatic brain injury. They used the Optical Fractionator with Stereo Investigator to quantify the amyloid precursor protein-positive axons, a marker of injury in the brain. A stereological count of injured axons revealed a significantly decreased amount of APP-positive axons in the rats who had received DHA supplements.

In addition to stereological analysis, the researchers assessed the brain damage with immunohistochemistry and water maze testing. Each trial revealed evidence that supplemental DHA was beneficial in reducing the injury response.

“Our findings suggest that meaningful public health benefits are likely from increasing currently low dietary DHA omega-3 intakes in our population overall and, in particular, our at-risk populations,” say the authors.

Read the free abstract or access the full article in Neurosurgery.

Mills, J. D MD; Hadley, K. PhD; Bailes, J. E MD; “Dietary Supplementation With the Omega-3 Fatty Acid Docosahexaenoic Acid in Traumatic Brain Injury” Neurosurgery. 68(2):474-481, February 2011: doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3181ff692b

{Image: Public Domain via Wikipedia}

University of Kansas Researchers use Stereo Investigator to Map Fetal Brain Hypoxia Sites

Long before a newborn baby takes its first breath, oxygen plays an integral role in its development. Oxygen-rich blood fed through the placenta facilitates the growth of a healthy fetus, powering cells to form organs and biological systems so that a healthy human emerges after nine months in utero.

However, when a fetus doesn’t receive enough oxygen, birth defects such as cerebral palsy can occur. Scientists at the University of Kansas Medical Center are researching perinatal brain injury. In one recent study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the researchers determined that chronic hypoxia, a condition where the body is deprived of oxygen, causes selective brain injury as opposed to global, in a developing fetus. They also determined that the injury is associated with altered nitric oxide synthases, the enzymes that produce nitric oxide—key cell-signaling molecules in mammals, which contribute to the development of the nervous system.

Led by Dr. Yafeng Dong, the researchers examined the fetal brains of guinea pigs. Two third of the animals developed in an environment with low levels of oxygen. To test the role of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), half of this group received L-N6-(1-Iminoethyl)-lysine (L-NIL)—a selective pharmacologic inhibitor of iNOS—in their drinking water. The remaining third, the control group, developed in normal room air.

Brain sections were examined with 3,3’-diaminobenzidine–based immunostaining, multilabeled fluorescence immunostaining, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining, Nissl staining, and laser capture microdissection (LCM). Stereo Investigator helped quantify neuronal density in the Nissl stained sections.

Researchers used the resulting data to create a unique map showing the sites of injury in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and thalamic and hypothalamic nuclei. “In the present study, we map for the first time the geography of fetal brain injury that results from chronic fetal hypoxia and reveal specific injury to neuronal and glial cells at locations that are analogous to those reported in children with CP. This map provides a reference point for the future study of chronic hypoxia-induced fetal brain injury and the impact of therapeutic interventions to ameliorate or prevent the injury,” the authors said in their paper.

Read the free abstract, or download the full article “Chronic fetal hypoxia produces selective brain injury associated with altered nitric oxide synthases” at www.ajog.org.

Yafeng Dong, Zhiyong Yu, Yan Sun, Hui Zhou, Josh Stites, Katherine Newell, Carl P. Weiner, Chronic fetal hypoxia produces selective brain injury associated with altered nitric oxide synthases. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2011;204:254.e16-28.

{Image of the hippocampus of a fetal guinea pig brain from the control group courtesy of The University of Kansas Medical Center}

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