Scientists see progress on a methamphetamine vaccine
By Lynne Friedmann
Meth poses a problem for vaccine development in that the methamphetamine molecule is structurally simple, making it relatively unnoticeable to the immune system. TSRI researchers are getting around this by linking a chemical similar to the methamphetamine molecule to a larger carrier molecule in order to produce the desired antibody response. Vaccinated animals that received the experimental vaccine were largely protected from typical signs of meth intoxication.
— The findings are scheduled for publication in the journal Biological Psychiatry. News release at https://bit.ly/SK8NjW
How intellect and behavior emerge during childhood
Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have shown that a single protein plays an oversized role in intellectual and behavioral development. Furthermore, mutations in the gene that encodes this protein severely disrupt the organization of developing brain circuits during early childhood leading to intellectual disabilities.
The study focused on a critical synaptic protein known as SynGAP1. Using animal models that were missing just one copy of SynGAP1, researchers found that certain synapses develop prematurely in the period shortly after birth. This dramatically enhances what is known as “excitability” — how often brain cells fire — in the developing hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for memory. The balance between excitability and inhibition is especially critical during early developmental periods, when neural connections that ultimately give rise to normal cognitive and behavioral functions are forming.
Until this study, it was unclear precisely how pathogenic genetic mutations and synapse function were related to the failure to develop normal intellect.
— News release at https://bit.ly/TxTFon
Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.