Malfunctioning protein contributes to Alzheimer’s plaques

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a protein made by a key Alzheimer’s gene slows the brain’s ability to get rid of amyloid beta, the main ingredient of the amyloid plaques that characterize the devastating illness.

Sleep switch found in fruit flies

Rather than count sheep, drink warm milk or listen to soothing music, many insomniacs probably wish for a switch they can flick to put themselves to sleep. Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, including Paul Shaw, PhD, have discovered such a switch in the brains of fruit flies.

Blast-related injuries detected in the brains of U.S. military personnel

An advanced imaging technique has revealed that some U.S. military personnel with mild blast-related traumatic brain injuries have abnormalities in the brain that have not been seen with other types of imaging. The abnormalities were found in the brain’s white matter, the wiring system that nerve cells in the brain use to communicate with each other.

Protein keeps sleep-deprived flies ready to learn

A protein that helps the brain develop early in life can fight the mental fuzziness induced by sleep deprivation, according to Paul Shaw, PhD, a researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Cells talk more in areas Alzheimer’s hits first, boosting plaque component

Higher levels of cellular chatter boosts levels of amyloid beta in the brain regions that Alzheimer’s hits first, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report. Amyloid beta is the main ingredient of the plaque lesions that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. The finding may help explain why areas that are most active when the brain rests are often among the first to develop these plaques, according to the researchers.

Cholesterol drugs may improve blood flow after stroke

Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins may help clot-busting drugs treat strokes, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “We’ve known that patients on statins have better stroke outcomes, but the data in this study suggest a new reason why: Statins may help improve blood flow to brain regions at risk of dying during ischemic stroke,” says senior author Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, director of the cerebrovascular disease section in the Department of Neurology. The results appear online in the journal Stroke.

Welders may be at increased risk for brain damage

Workers exposed to welding fumes may be at increased risk of damage to the same brain area harmed by Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study by Brad Racette, MD, and researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.