By Lynne Friedmann
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder of out-of-control skin cell proliferation. For hard-to-heal wounds, the problem is just the opposite: Restorative skin cells don’t grow well or fast enough. An international team of scientists, led by the UC San Diego School of Medicine, report on a molecule that may lead to new treatments for both conditions.
Researchers analyzed skin biopsies of patients with and without psoriasis, as well as the skin of mice with psoriasis and with wounds. They discovered that the molecule regenerating islet-derived protein 3-alpha (REG3A) is highly expressed in skin cells during psoriasis and wound-healing, but not under normal skin conditions.
In tests on mice, researchers found that inhibiting REG3A slowed wound-healing but cleared up psoriasis. Thus, a drug that inhibits the expression of REG3A could represent a targeted way to treat psoriasis without the systemic immunosuppression problems of current treatments. Conversely, a drug that stimulates or mimics REG3A could boost cell growth and improve wound healing.
The findings appear in the journal Immunity. News release at http://bit.ly/KX81Nh.
Reversing Huntington’s disease symptoms
A drug treatment has been shown to silence the mutated gene responsible for Huntington’s disease, slowing and partially reversing progression of the fatal neurodegenerative disorder in animal models.
Huntington’s disease afflicts approximately 30,000 Americans, whose symptoms include uncontrolled movements and progressive cognitive and psychiatric problems. The cause is a single-gene mutation which results in the production and accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain. Currently, there is no effective treatment.
Researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (UCSD School of Medicine) infused mouse and primate models of Huntington’s disease with one-time injections of a DNA drug that selectively binds to and destroys the mutant gene’s molecular instructions for making the toxic protein. A singular treatment produced rapid results: Animals moving better within one month and achieving normal motor function within two. The benefits also persisted nine months, well after the drug had cleared from an animal’s system and production of the toxic proteins resumed.
The findings appear in the journal Neuron. News release at http://bit.ly/MmdXzv.
Nanocubes for next generation antennas, lenses
Researchers at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering have developed a technique that enables metallic nanocrystals to spontaneously self-assemble and organize into complex materials for next-generation antennas and lenses.
The research comes from the new field of nanoplasmonics; the goal of which is to develop materials to manipulate light using structures smaller than the wavelength of light itself. Nanocubes used in this study were less than 0.1 microns; by comparison, the breadth of a human hair is 100 microns.
Normally when cubes stack, they pack side-by-side. A new method was developed to graft polymer chains to the cube surfaces. Shorter polymer chains caused cubes to stack normally, while placing long polymer chains produced edge-to-edge stacking. This ability to create macroscopic films of nanocubes with two different orientations allowed for the reflection and transmission of different wavelengths of light.
The findings appear in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. News release at http://bit.ly/LWMLJC.
— Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.