The Physicians Committee

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Improved Miniature Brain Model Reveals How Zika Virus Infects Brain Cells

Researchers optimized tissue culturing conditions to efficiently and reliably make miniature brain models called brain organoids from stem cells with minimal variability. Compared to previous methods, the authors controlled the cell number, used a specialized culture dish, and added a critical human brain growth factor called LIF. 

Cell-Based Model Advances Research for Prion Disease in Humans

By using stem cells to make astrocytes (a key support cell in the brain), scientists were able to develop a new cell culturing system using astrocytes to support the production of prions, the causative agent of the fatal neurodegenerative disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (similar to mad cow disease).

Mathematical Model Unifies Multiple Sclerosis as a Single Disease

Using data from 66 patients followed for up to 20 years, researchers developed a mathematical model to simulate the biological processes involved in the disease of multiple sclerosis, a chronic autoimmune disease leading to damage to nerve fibers in the brain with variable clinical presentation rates and symptoms and leading to blurred vision, memory problems, weakness, and more.

Scientists Identify a New Genetic Mutation Associated with Tourette Disorder

By sequencing all the genes of affected and unaffected members of a three-generation family with Tourette or Tic Disorder, scientists linked the disease to a loss-of-function mutation in the gene PNKD, a protein that plays a role in the connections between brain cells and has been associated with other movement disorders.

3-D Human Heart Images Identify Heart Defect

Researchers devised a new method to study donated heart tissues with high-resolution 3-D images down to the single level by prepping the tissue in a solution that allows it to be visible using modern X-ray scanners.