National collaboration to examine resveratrol effects on Alzheimer’s disease
The UW, Veteran Affairs (VA) Puget Sound Health Care System, and more than 24 other academic institutions will begin a nationwide clinical trial soon focusing on using resveratrol, an antimicrobial substance, to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. Dementia from Alzheimer’s — ranging from mild to moderate — affects more than 5.3 million people in the United States, with more than 150,000 in Washington alone suffering from Alzheimer’s or related dementia. The study will be led by R. Scott Turner, director of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Memory Disorders Program, and Elaine Peskind, associate and clinical core director of the UW Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Peskind is currently acting as local principal investigator in Seattle. The study examines the consequences of abstaining from large quantities of foods and beverages containing resveratrol. Currently, there has been no large study determining resveratrol’s actions in humans. Found in red grapes, juice, red wine, chocolate, tomatoes, and peanuts, among others, resveratrol may have several health benefits such as improving cardiovascular health and preventing memory loss, but such claims have yet to be proven conclusively. The study will employ placebos and administered doses of resveratrol intermittently at varying levels as part of its methodology.
HIV vaccine possible
A vaccine trial using the RV144 regimen proved effective in combating certain HIV viruses. The laboratories that performed genetic analysis — one of which is led by James Mullins, professor of microbiology, medicine, and laboratory medicine — found that the vaccine prevented some HIV strains from infecting hosts. The vaccine acted upon viruses with two particular genetic signatures in the coat protein, which is involved in protein transport, and in the region targeted by immune responses, with a success rate of up to 78 percent. The study spanned 16,000 primarily heterosexual men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 in Thailand, all of whom were at low risk for HIV. Splitting the participants equally between placebos and vaccines, the study found that 44 of the vaccinated subjects and 66 on the placebo contracted HIV. The RV144 regimen was previously found in 2009 to operate with 31 percent success at preventing HIV-1 infections over three and a half years.
Stress linked with depression
A peptide called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) plays a major role in linking stress and depression, UW researchers found. Julia Lemos, Matthew Wanat, Nicholas Hollon, Paul Phillips, Jeffery Smith, and Charles Chavkin, from a variety of departments, published a study that employed mice and focused on the effects of stress. They discovered severe stress switched CRF’s function. Normally, CRF — prompted by stressors and other stimuli — helps release dopamine, a chemical that creates pleasurable sensations in the nucleus accumbens, a site affiliated with motivation and reward. However, exposure to severe stress, in which stressors lose ordinary function, overturns CRF’s duties, thereby reversing the reaction to CRF from hunger to aversion. The study obtained this finding via an experiment where researchers gave a mouse a CRF injection in one cage, then in another cage gave the mouse a placebo. Ordinarily, the cage in which CRF injections occurred would be associated with feelings of reward as dopamine was released in that particular location. This held true except in cases where the researchers made mice swim often, which caused stress and led to depression.
Reach reporter Garrett Black at email@example.com. Twitter: @garrettjblack
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