University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Research Roundup

Tourette’s syndrome

The Medical Center is leading a multicenter clinical research study of a new experimental treatment for Tourette’s syndrome. The study will examine whether or not a drug that alters the chemical activity in the brain can alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by multiple, repeated tics that often consist of abrupt and involuntary vocal outbursts or muscular jerks. Symptoms usually begin at an early age and can increase in frequency and severity over time.

“While the precise mechanism that causes Tourette’s is unknown, we have long observed that the neuro-chemical dopamine is overly active in individuals with the disease,” says neurologist Roger Kurlan, the study’s principal investigator head of the Tourette’s Syndrome Study Group, an international network of researchers who are involved in almost every major clinical study of the disease. Read more at urmc.rochester.edu/pr/

Updated theory of cells’ engines

Biologists have known for decades that cells use tiny molecular motors to move chromosomes, mitochondria, and many other organelles within the cell, but no one has been able to understand what “steers” these engines to their destinations. Now, researchers at the University have shed new light on how cells accomplish this feat, and the results may eventually lead to new approaches to fighting pathogens and neurological diseases. Michael Welte, associate professor of biology, shows in a paper published December 11 that the mechanisms that control the molecular motors are quite different from what biologists have previously believed. Read more at www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=3287.

Sharing results

While an estimated 2.3 million people in the U.S. take part in clinical trials every year, there currently exists no formal requirement to inform them of study results; an oversight that leaves participants confused, frustrated, and, in some cases, lacking information that may be important to their health. In an article published December 8, Medical Center researchers propose a novel and effective approach to disseminate the results of clinical trials to study volunteers. “It is critical that we treat participants as partners in research,” says neurologist Ira Shoulson, Louis C. Lasagna Professor of Experimental Therapeutics and the study’s principal investigator. “It is our hope that the commitment that the investigators and sponsor made to communicate the results of the clinical trial in a timely and personalized manner to research participants will set the standard for future clinical trials.”

HIV’s evolution

HIV is deadly largely because it evolves so rapidly and so uniquely in each patients. That is what allows HIV to evade the body’s defenses and to develop resistance to a pantheon of antiviral drugs. “A huge amount of HIV diversity accumulates in the body of a patient with HIV, and it’s a big reason why HIV is such a powerful virus,” says Ha Youn Lee, assistant professor of biostatistics and computational biology and corresponding author of the study. Lee and colleagues have settled a longstanding question about just how HIV morphs in the body. In a paper published December 12, the scientists show that HIV evolution in the body does not occur at a constant rate. Rather, the virus’s rate of change suddenly slows when the level of crucial immune cells. The team also suggests several possible reasons for why HIV slows its evolution later in the disease process. Read more at www.urmc.rochester.edu/pr/news/story.cfm?id=2314.

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