Friday, June 14, 2013

Research roundup

Treating Alzheimer’s: MGH investigators have determined that the recently identified CD33 gene, which contributes to the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s, regulates the clearance of the toxic protein amyloid beta (A-beta) from the brains of patients with the disease. The research, published in the journal Neuron, raises the possibility that blocking CD33 activity could help the brain’s immune system remove the brain plaque responsible for Alzheimer’s. “What we discovered is that CD33 is a key switch and when the switch is off and it is deactivated, there is more clearance of that toxic protein,” says Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit in the MGH Department of Neurology and senior author of the paper. “This could represent a potentially powerful new approach to treating and possibly preventing Alzheimer’s disease.”

Treating Obesity: New research shows the amount of weight loss one can expect after gastric bypass surgery can be predicted using a specific gene variant. The findings, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, could potentially guide treatment planning and spark the development of new therapeutic approaches to treating obesity and related conditions such as diabetes. Lee Kaplan, MD, PhD, director of the Obesity, Metabolism and Nutrition Institute at the MGH and senior author of the report, says the medical community once thought patients lost weight after gastric bypass simply because their stomachs were smaller, which forced them to eat less. But, past studies have shown the surgery also alters hormones, gut microbes and the activity of genes. “This is the first study to identify genetic predictors of weight loss after bariatric surgery,” Kaplan says.   

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