Research Report: Key trigger in lupus identified

More than 1.5 million Americans have lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the normal chain of events leading to protective antibody production in the body goes awry leading to painful or swollen joints, extreme fatigue, skin rashes, fever and kidney problems.

Helping to unravel this mystery, researchers at The Scripps Research Institute report three proteins, so-called Toll-like receptors (TLRs), as responsible for this autodestruction to occur.

Humans have 10 different types of TLRs and scientists had suspected that some were involved in lupus. By engineering mice that lack specific TLRs evidence was gathered as to which play a role in the disease. This knowledge may provide effective targets for the development of new treatments for lupus, as well as other autoimmune diseases. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

High CO2 levels affect fish

Rising carbon dioxide levels in the ocean have been shown to adversely affect shell-forming creatures and corals. Now a new study by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD has shown that CO2 can impact development of a fundamental structure in fish.

A paper published in the journal Science describes experiments in which fish that were exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide experienced abnormally large growth in their otoliths (ear bones). Otoliths serve a vital function in fish by helping them sense orientation and acceleration.

The researchers had hypothesized that otoliths in young white sea bass growing in waters with elevated carbon dioxide would grow more slowly than a comparable group growing in seawater with normal CO2 levels. They were surprised to discover the reverse, finding significantly larger otoliths in fish developing in high-CO2 water.

More research is needed to determine if larger otoliths affect fish behavior or survival.

Robot aids in heart treatment

Patients seeking treatment for atrial fibrillation may benefit from a new technology available at UCSD Medical Center that utilizes the steady arm of a robotic system to help “short circuit” the abnormal electrical activity that causes irregular heart beat.

More than 2.2 million Americans suffer from the “quivering” sensation of atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the upper heart chambers beat in a rapid, irregular manner, out of sync with the lower chambers. The condition is most often treated through a procedure which introduces a catheter through a blood vessel in the leg and up into the heart. Electrodes on the catheter then record the heart’s electrical signals to locate the abnormality.

The new robotic system, combined with software that creates a 3-D map of the heart, offers more precision during treatment, reduces X-ray exposure, and shortens the procedure time.