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Archive - Dec 17, 2019

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Brain Protein (CD33) Regulates Microglia Cells and May Protect Against Alzheimer’s

Research shows that white blood cells in the human brain are regulated by a protein called CD33 (image)--a finding with important implications in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study by University of Alberta chemists. "Immune cells in the brain, called microglia, play a critical role in Alzheimer's disease," explained Matthew Macauley, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and co-author on the paper. "They can be harmful or protective. Swaying microglia from a harmful to protective state could be the key to treating the disease." Scientists have identified the CD33 protein as a factor that may decrease a person's likelihood of Alzheimer's disease. Less than 10 percent of the population have a version of CD33 that makes them less likely to get Alzheimer's disease. "The fact that CD33 is found on microglia suggests that immune cells can protect the brain from Alzheimer's disease under the right circumstances," said Abhishek Bhattacherjee, PhD, first author and postdoctoral fellow in the Macauley lab. Now, Dr. Macauley's research shows that the most common type of CD33 protein plays a crucial role in modulating the function of microglia."These findings set the stage for future testing of a causal relationship between CD33 and Alzheimer's Disease, as well as testing therapeutic strategies to sway microglia from harmful to protecting against the disease--by targeting CD33," said Dr. Macauley.

Extrachomosomal Circular DNA Drives Oncogenic Remodeling in Childhood Cancer; First Detailed Map of Circular DNA in Neuroblastoma Yields Unanticipated Insights

Cancer development is associated with the gradual accumulation of DNA defects over time. Thus, cancer is considered an age-related disease. But why do children develop cancer? An international team of researchers, led by scientists at Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, now reveal that mysterious rings of DNA known as extrachromosomal circular DNA can contribute to cancer development in children. Producing the first detailed map of circular DNA, the scientists have shed new unanticipated insights on long-standing questions in the field of cancer genetics. The work was published online on December 16, 2019 in Nature Genetics. The article is titled “Extrachromosomal Circular DNA Drives Oncogenic Genome Remodeling.” Every year, nearly half a million people in Germany develop cancer. Approximately 2,100 cancer patients are children under the age of 18. The fact that the majority of cancers develop in old adults is due to the mechanisms contributing to cancer development. A range of exogenous factors, including tobacco smoke and radiation, can cause damage to cellular DNA. If this type of DNA damage is left to accumulate over many years, affected cells may lose control over cell division and growth. This results in cancer development. Children, however, are not old enough to be affected by this mechanism of cancer development. What, then, is the reason for childhood cancers? A team of researchers, led by Dr. Anton Henssen of Charité's Department of Pediatrics, Division of Oncology and Hematology and the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC,) an institution jointly operated by Charité and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), is now a significant step closer to finding an answer.