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Duke Neurology Research Round Up, September 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

In the month of September, new research from the Duke Neurology Department spanned from the bedside to the laboratory bench. Here’s a summary of the latest published stories from our faculty, from discussions of genetic biomarkers to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease to answers on how brain hemispheres communicate during aging, to the best treatment options for elderly patients with glioblastoma.

  • Concussions remain a persistent health risk for amateur and student athletes, yet  what causes some people and not others to get concussions remains an unanswered question. Daniel Laskowitz, MD, MHS, was part of a team of researchers who attempted to answer this question, following more than 1,000 athletes and examining genetics of people at risk, finding significant positive associations for the IL-6RCC gene and negative associations for APOE4 and the risk of concussion. Read the article here.
  • As the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow, developing biomarkers to identify individuals at high risk for late-onset Alzheimer's disease will become more important. Ornit Chiba-Falek, PhD, and Michael Lutz, PhD wrote a review article discussing genetic factors and their potential role for precision medicine in this condition. Read their article here.
  • While myasthenia gravis is in many ways an archetypal autoimmune disease, the scientific literature has not deeply explored the immunopathology of this disease. Jeff Guptill, MD, MHS, and colleagues wrote a review article in Muscle and Nerve on the subject with a focus on the role of adaptive immunity and b cells. It is available here.
  • While atrial fibrillation is a global public health concern, few data are available about this condition for middle-income countries. Ying Xian, MD, PhD, was part of a team that examined more than 2,000 patients from Argentina, Brazil, China, India, and Romania to examine patterns in treatment and outcomes. Read what they found here.
  • Diagnosing and monitoring optic neuropathies in children is often difficult due to their shorter attention spans and reduced cooperation. In a new study, however, M. Tariq Bhatti, MD, and colleagues investigate how the use of optical coherence tomography could be a noninvasive, viable solution for this audience. Read the full story in Seminars in Pediatric Neurology here.
  • Increased communication between distant brain regions helps older adults compensate for the negative aspects of aging, reports a new study published by lead author Simon Davis, PhD, and colleagues in Human Brain Mapping. Read more about what Davis found here.
  • Reducing neuronal inflammation after traumatic brain injury is essential for reducing harm from this condition. Haichen Wang, MD, was part of a research team that found a promising therapeutic target to reduce this inflammation called miR-124-3p. Read their full article in the FASEB Journal here.
  • Wang was also the senior author of a review article in Stroke and Vascular Neurology that examines the small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) conjugation, a protein modification that modulates almost all cellular processes, as well as the conjugation’s possible role in neuroprotection for brain ischemia. Read that article here.
  • Glioblastoma is a common and dangerous form of brain tumor among elderly patients, for for patients over 75, treatment often varies due to comorbidities and other age-related concerns. Katie Peters, MD, PhD, and colleagues examined current treatment options for elderly patients with glioblastoma and discuss ways to improve clinical outcomes for this group. Read their article in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences here.
  • Nicole Calakos, MD, PhD, Justin O’Hare, PhD, Kristen Ade, and other Duke neuroscientists pinpointed a single type of neuron deep within the brain that serves as a “master controller” of habits.The team found that habit formation boosts the activity of this influential cell, and that shutting it down with a drug is enough to break habits in sugar-seeking mice. Read Duke Today’s story on the subject here, or the original article here.