Campus & Community

Research in brief

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New research shows Pin1 enzyme key in preventing onset of Alzheimer’s

New research shows Pin1 enzyme key in preventing onset of Alzheimers

A new discovery has found that Pin1, an enzyme previously shown to prevent the formation of the tanglelike lesions found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients, also plays a pivotal role in guarding against the development of amyloid peptide plaques, the second brain lesion that characterizes Alzheimer’s.

These new findings, shown in an animal study, provide further evidence that Pin1 (prolyl isomerase) is essential to protect individuals from age-related neurodegeneration and for the first time establish a direct link between amyloid plaques and tau tangles, the two abnormal structures that are considered the pathological hallmarks of this devastating disease. Led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School, the study appears in the March 23 issue of the journal Nature.

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Novel vaccine approach stimulates protective immunity against Listeria

When bacterial pathogens attack the surface of a cell, vaccine-induced antibodies can mount a formidable defense and fend off the bad bugs. The trouble comes when antibodies cannot recognize the pathogen because the bacteria have infected the cell and are hidden, growing inside the cell’s wall. To mount a defense against these cloaked attackers, Darren Higgins, associate professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, and H.G. Archie Bouwer, immunology research scientist at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute and Portland VA Medical Center, have developed a vaccine strategy for generating an attenuated strain of an intracellular bacterial pathogen. The vaccine approach could also protect against other intracellular bacterial pathogens, such as tularemia. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) online early edition the week of March 20.

The team has initially applied its strategy to Listeria monocytogenes, which affects the most vulnerable humans – the chronically ill, the elderly, pregnant women, and young children – who are susceptible to a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. In the United States, an estimated 2,500 persons become seriously ill with the infection each year. Of these, 500 die.

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– Compiled by Alec Solomita