Posts Tagged ‘UCLA’

NEW ADVANCE ANNOUNCED IN REDUCING ‘BAD’ CHOLESTEROL

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Leicester, UK

Researchers identify enzyme that could be targeted to help body tackle LDL’s

Scientists from the University of Leicester and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have announced a major advance towards developing drugs to tackle dangerous, or ‘bad’, cholesterol in the body.

Prof. John Schwabe
Prof. John Schwabe
University of Leicester
Prof. of Structural Biology
Photo:le.ac.uk

They have filed two patents for developing targeted drugs that would act as a catalyst for lowering levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. Two research papers published by the academics enhance the understanding of the regulation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.

LDL, the so called ‘bad’ cholesterol, is often linked to medical problems like heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries.

In the body, cells in the liver produce an LDL receptor that binds LDL and removes it from the blood, thereby lowering cholesterol levels.

The scientists have characterised an enzyme called IDOL that plays a key role in regulating the amount of LDL receptor available to bind with ‘bad’ cholesterol. Therefore targeting the enzyme with drugs could increase the levels of LDL receptors present, thus lowering circulating cholesterol in humans.

Professor John Schwabe, Head of Biochemistry at the University of Leicester, said: “Development of a drug that interferes with IDOL’s activity could help lower levels of LDL. Our research has greatly enhanced our understanding of this important process.”

Prof John Schwabe, Dr Ben Goult and Dr Louise Fairall at the University of Leicester in collaboration with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) published their research in the top research journals: Genes & Development and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The research was funded by The Wellcome Trust, the NIH and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The study published in Genes & Development announced the first atomic structural information on IDOL and identified the E2 ligase, UBE2D that works with IDOL to degrade the LDL receptor.

In the second research article published in PNAS, the team elucidated the molecular basis for the stringent specificity of IDOL for the LDL receptor.

Professor Schwabe added: “Remarkably, IDOL only targets three proteins for degradation (all lipoprotein receptors) and this research paper greatly enhances our understanding of this specificity and identifies key residues involved in mediating this interaction.”

“A potential future drug that targets IDOL could be prescribed in conjunction with statin drugs, which also cut cholesterol levels by increasing production of the LDL receptor and these two studies make considerable headway towards this.”

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TAI CHI FIGHTS DEPRESSION IN ELDERLY

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Los Angeles, CA

The numbers are, well, depressing: More than 2 million people age 65 and older suffer from depression, including 50 percent of those living in nursing homes. The suicide rate among white men over 85 is the highest in the country - six times the national rate.

Dr. Helen Lavretsky
Dr. Helen Lavretsky
UCLA professor
in residence
of psychiatry
Photo: ucla.edu

And we’re not getting any younger. In the next 35 years, the number of Americans over 65 will double and the number of those over 85 will triple.

So the question becomes, how to help elderly depressed individuals?

Researchers at UCLA turned to a gentle, Westernized version of tai chi chih, a 2,000 year old Chinese martial art. When they combined a weekly tai chi exercise class with a standard depression treatment for a group of depressed elderly adults, they found greater improvement in the level of depression - along with improved quality of life, better memory and cognition, and more overall energy - than among a different group in which the standard treatment was paired with a weekly health education class.

The results of the study appear in the current online edition of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

“This is the first study to demonstrate the benefits of tai chi in the management of late life depression, and we were encouraged by the results,” said first author Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor in residence of psychiatry. “We know that nearly two thirds of elderly patients who seek treatment for their depression fail to achieve relief with a prescribed medication.”

In the study, 112 adults age 60 or older with major depression were treated with the drug escitalopram, a standard antidepressant, for approximately four weeks. From among those participants, 73 who showed only partial improvement continued to receive the medication daily but were also randomly assigned to 10 weeks of either a tai chi class for two hours per week or a health education class for two hours per week.

All the participants were evaluated for their levels of depression, anxiety, resilience, health related quality of life, cognition and immune system inflammation at the beginning of the study and again four months later.

The level of depression among each participant was assessed using a common diagnostic tool known as the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, which involves interviewing the individual. The questions are designed to gauge the severity of depression. A cut off score of 10/11 is generally regarded as appropriate for the diagnosis of depression.

The researchers found that among the tai chi participants, 94 percent achieved a score of less than 10, with 65 percent achieving remission (a score of 6 or less). By comparison, among participants who received health education, 77 percent achieved scores of 10 or less, with 51 percent achieving remission.

While both groups showed improvement in the severity of depression, said Lavretsky, who directs UCLA’s Late Life Depression, Stress and Wellness Research Program, greater reductions were seen among those taking escitalopram and participating in tai chi, a form of exercise that is gentle enough for the elderly.

“Depression can lead to serious consequences, including greater morbidity, disability, mortality and increased cost of care,” Lavretsky said. “This study shows that adding a mind body exercise like tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults, who may also have other, coexisting medical conditions, or cognitive impairment.

“With tai chi,” she said, “we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications.”

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