Release Date: 08/01/2013

A team of researchers says it has solved the longstanding puzzle of why a key protein linked to learning is also needed to become addicted to cocaine. Results of the study, published in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Cell, describe how the learning-related protein works with other proteins to forge new pathways in the brain in response to a drug-induced rush of the “pleasure” molecule dopamine. By adding important detail to the process of addiction, the researchers, led by a group at Johns Hopkins, say the work may point the way to new treatments.

“The broad question was why and how cocaine strengthened certain circuits in the brain long term, effectively re-wiring the brain for addiction,” says Paul Worley, M.D., a professor in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “What we found in this study was how two very different types of systems in the brain work together to make that happen.” Cocaine addiction, experts say, is among the strongest of addictions.

Worley did not come to the problem as an addiction researcher, but as an expert in a group of genes known as immediate early genes, which rapidly ramp up production in neurons when the brain is exposed to new information. In 2001, he said, a European group led by François Conquet of GlaxoSmithKline reported that deleting mGluR5, a protein complex that responds to the common brain-signaling molecule glutamate, made mice unresponsive to cocaine. “That finding came out of the blue,” says Worley, who knew mGluR proteins for their interactions with immediate early genes. “I never would have thought this type of protein was linked to dopamine and addiction, because the functions for it that we knew about up to that point were completely unrelated. That’s what scientists love: when you’re pretty sure something is right, but you don’t have a clue why.”

The finding set Worley’s research group on a long search for an explanation. Eventually, in addition to studying the effects of altering genes for the relevant proteins in mice, they partnered with experts in measuring the brain’s electrical signals and in a biophysical technique that detects when chemical bonds are rotated within protein molecules. Using different types of experiments, they pieced together a complex story of how dopamine released in response to cocaine works together with mGluR5 and immediate early genes to switch cells into synapse-strengthening mode.

“The process we identified explains how cocaine exposure can co-opt normal mechanisms of learning to induce addiction,” Worley says. Knowing the details of the mechanism may help researchers identify targets for potential drugs to treat addiction, he adds.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (grant numbers DA011742 and DA010309), the National Institute of Mental Health (grant numbers (MH084020 and MH51106), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (grant number NS050274), the National Cancer Institute (grant number CA110940), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Office of Basic Energy Sciences’ Catalysis Science Program at the U.S. Department of Energy (grant number DE-FG02-05ER15699).

Other authors on the report are Joo Min Park, Jia-Hua Hu, Ping-Wu Zhang, Chester G. Moore, Sungjin Park, Bo Xiao and David J. Linden of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Dorothee Kern and Aleksandr Milshteyn of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Brandeis University; Karen K. Szumlinski, Michael C. Datko, Racquel D. Domingo and Cindy M. Reyes of the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Xiaodong J. Wang and Felicia A. Etzkorn of Virginia Tech.

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As common as this problem is, it isn’t any less serious. Snoring is something that might seem irritating to those who sleep next to the snorer, but there’s a large probability that there might be more behind the noise. Sometimes, snoring is overlooked, or misdiagnosed. There are plenty of ways it might be affecting your body as well as your life, and it’s time that you learn about them, now! You can also visit for more info about snoring and its solutions.

Relationships Affected

Not only is the person sleeping next to you disturbed from the noise, he/she tends to be cranky too. People who snore become short-tempered and are seen to be on-edge more than often. There’s no questioning on how that can get in the way of relations, and how that’s bad for your mental health!

Disrupted Sleep

People who snore tend to wake up more often, even though they might not know it themselves. Also, the oxygen supply to your body is cut for many seconds at a stretch, which can be damaging to the overall development of the body. You’re more likely to feel tired, worked-up and might feel crankier. It might even cause frequent headaches or the constant feeling of sleep deprivation.

Prolonged Discomfort

Some people might face adverse effects of snoring. They might be seen sleeping during their working hours, being extremely irritable, losing their concentration or even becoming depressed. It’s important to go to a doctor if you see these conditions happening to you or a loved one.

Sleep Apnea

This is a dangerous medical condition which causes the airway to collapse. If left untreated, it may lead to high blood pressure, strokes and even heart attacks. If not so severe, it is also a factor behind poor memory, fatigue, the excessive need to nap during the day, and even impotency. A person suffering from this condition might wake up as many as 100 times a night, and sometimes wake up gasping.


Stats show that the lack of sleep causes 20% of the road accidents that occur. Other charts show that excessive sleepiness might lead to mishaps while using machinery, cranes, trucks and other utilities that require handling with extreme care. So, if you’re losing a grip on the pedal, it’s time to you head to the doctor, before you lose your grip on life.

Fight-And-Flight Response

As experts say, snoring blocks your airway, which makes your brain think that you’re being choked. In this short duration and in response to the situation, chemicals and hormones are released by the brain, such as insulin and adrenalin. Though the release is stopped with your next breathe, it’s enough to cause problems like weight gain and increased sugar levels on a long-term, doing you no good.

Strained Heart

Some causes of snoring are linked with heart diseases, while in every other case, there is still a constant pressure being built on your heart as your oxygen supply is cut for those 10 seconds. Eventually, it obviously will affect your body systems, and deteriorate the quality of your life.

Bariatric surgery is a well-documented treatment for obesity that leads to considerable weight loss and health improvement, but is the surgery successful in the long run in reducing costs associated with medical care for obesity? A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Medicine recently undertook a multi-year analysis of health insurance claims data to examine this question and found that although the procedure’s success rate is well documented, it does not have a similar impact on health care costs. The findings were released in the February 20 online edition of the journal JAMA-Surgery.

Bariatric surgery

“The results of our study are important because they demonstrate bariatric surgery does not lower overall health care costs in the long term and we found is no evidence that any one type of surgery is more likely to reduce long-term health care costs,” said Jonathan Weiner, DrPH, professor of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School and lead author of the study. He added, “Future studies should focus on the potential benefit of improved health and well-being of patients undergoing the procedure rather than on cost savings.” Continue reading

Research Shows Fewer Donor Cells May Be Needed for Transplantation and Bone Marrow Banking May Be Possible

NEW YORK (March 21, 2013) — More than 50,000 stem cell transplants are performed each year worldwide. A research team led by Weill Cornell Medical College investigators may have solved a major issue of expanding adult hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) outside the human body for clinical use in bone marrow transplantation — a critical step towards producing a large supply of blood stem cells needed to restore a healthy blood system.

Stem cellsIn the journal Blood, Weill Cornell researchers and collaborators from Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center describe how they engineered a protein to amplify adult HSCs once they were extracted from the bone marrow of a donor. The engineered protein maintains the expanded HSCs in a stem-like state — meaning, they will not differentiate into specialized blood cell types before they are transplanted in the recipient’s bone marrow.

Finding a bone marrow donor match is challenging and the number of bone marrow cells from a single harvest procedure are often not sufficient for a transplant. Additional rounds of bone marrow harvest and clinical applications to mobilize blood stem cells are often required. Continue reading