Study looks at brain cooling after stroke

Researchers at UCSD Medical Center are collaborating with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston on the largest clinical trial to date of hypothermia (super cooling) following stroke. Brain cooling has been shown to decrease brain swelling and reduce loss of neurologic function after an acute stroke. The trial will look specifically at whether hypothermia improves patient outcomes.

Cooling is achieved by inserting a special catheter into the inferior vena cava — the body’s largest vein. No fluid enters the patient; instead, an internal circulation within the catheter transfers heat out. Study participants are covered with a warming blanket to “trick” the body into feeling warm, and temperature sensors in the skin and a mild sedative help suppress shivering. In the study, body temperature will be cooled to 92.4 degrees F and maintained at that level for 24 hours. At the conclusion of the cooling period, participants will be re-warmed over a period of 12 hours.

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Chronobiology center launched

Understanding the basic biology of circadian rhythms, or chronobiology, is vital to our daily lives as one-half of the population suffers from some problem in their daily sleep cycle. The shift to daylight-saving time, medications, artificial lighting, shift-work, airline travel, even 24/7 Internet access all represent chronobiological changes that affect productivity and physical and mental well-being.

UCSD scientists studying the biological clocks of bacteria, fungi, plants and animals have joined forces to apply their knowledge across these groups of organisms in a newly established Center for Chronobiology. The center’s researchers will investigate the basic mechanisms of the circadian clock as well as the role of human circadian disorders in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, glucose stability and weight control with the long-term goal of developing new treatments for disorders as diverse as insomnia, diabetes, and obesity.

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Use of algae explored

Pharmaceutical companies could substantially reduce the expense of costly treatments for cancer and other diseases by growing these human therapeutic proteins in algae — rapidly growing aquatic plant cells that have recently gained attention for their ability to produce biofuels. That’s the conclusion of a study, published in Plant Biotechnology Journal, which sought to determine whether seven diverse human therapeutic proteins could be produced in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a green alga used widely in biology laboratories as a genetic-model organism.

Algae cells can be grown cheaply and quickly, doubling in number every 12 hours.

The scientists reported that all of the algal-produced proteins in their study showed biological activity comparable to the same proteins produced by traditional commercial culture techniques that use mammalian or bacterial cells.

UCSD headed the study, which involved scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, San Diego biofuel company Sapphire Energy, and ProtElix, a protein engineering company in Hayward.

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