How Hormones May Alleviate Side-specific Movement Difficulties After Brain Injury? (Neuroscience)

Hormones released after a brain injury contribute to movement problems on the left and right sides of the body, scientists from Uppsala University and elsewhere can now show in a new study in rats. The results also suggest that hormone-blocking treatments may help counteract these effects, a finding that has implications for treating people with traumatic brain injuries or stroke. The study has been published in eLife.

A stroke or injury to one side of the brain causes movement difficulties on the opposite side of the body. Scientists have previously thought that this is because nerves from one side of the brain control activity on the opposite side. But recent studies have shown that giving rats without a brain injury certain hormones can cause movement responses similar to human motor deficits on one side of the body. 

“This led us to ask whether pituitary hormones might mediate in part the side-specific movement problems humans can experience after brain injury,” explains Georgy Bakalkin, Professor at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Uppsala University, Sweden, and a co-senior author of the study.

To investigate further, Bakalkin and the team examined the effects of a one-sided brain injury in rats that lacked the connection between the brain and nerves that regulate the hindlimbs. They found that, even without this connection, the hindlimb on the opposite side to the injury had impaired reflexes.

However, animals that lacked the pituitary gland, a hormone-producing gland connected to the brain, did not experience these problems. Two pituitary hormones ß-endorphin and Arg-vasopressin appeared to play a role. When the team gave rats without a brain injury these two hormones, the rats also developed hindlimb contraction on the right side.

Next, they tested what would happen if they gave the rats with a left-sided brain injury drugs that block the effects of these two hormones. They found that the animals did not develop right-sided movement problems. This suggests that the hormones convey side-specific signals after a brain injury and treating patients who have a similar injury with drugs that block the effects of these hormones might be beneficial.

“These observations suggest that the endocrine system through its hormones in the blood may selectively target the left and right sides of the animals’ bodies,” Bakalkin concludes. “This is an unusual phenomenon that requires further studies and verification in other animal models. We must be cautious in the interpretation of these findings and their biological implications before further research is carried out. But if future studies confirm the benefits of treatments that block these hormones, they may offer a new approach to treating movement problems following stroke or injury. Now having this published we could proceed with analysis of underlying mechanisms and a role of this phenomenon in control of our body plan and in neurological disorders”.

Georgy Bakalkin and Jens Schouenborg (Lund University, Sweden) are co-senior authors of the study. The team also includes co-first authors Nikolay Lukoyanov (University of Porto, Portugal), Hiroyuki Watanabe (Uppsala University, Sweden), Liliana Carvalho (University of Porto), and Olga Nosova and Daniil Sarkisyan (both Uppsala University), as well as Mengliang Zhang and Marlene Storm Andersen (University of Southern Denmark), Elena A. Lukoyanova (University of Porto), Vladimir Galatenko (Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia), Alex Tonevitsky (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russia), and Igor Bazov and Tatiana Iakovleva (both Uppsala University).

Reference: Lukoyanov, et al., Left-right side-specific endocrine signaling complements neural pathways to mediate acute asymmetric effects of brain injury, eLife 2021;10:e65247. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.65247

Provided by Uppsala University

How Do Brains Form? New Binghamton Research Studies Folding, Growth in Fetuses (Neuroscience)

Watson College assistant professor of mechanical engineering to lead $587,853 NSF project

Many mysteries continue to surround the human brain, but among the most important are how it forms and how those early weeks affect the rest of a person’s life.

Upcoming research from Binghamton University and Harvard Medical School will use computer modeling and advanced imaging of developing fetal brains to try to answer some of those longstanding questions.

The National Science Foundation’s Biomechanics and Mechanobiology Program recently approved a $587,853 grant to better understand the growth and folding that make each human brain unique.

Assistant Professor Mir Jalil Razavi
Assistant Professor Mir Jalil Razavi © Binghamton University

Leading that study will be Assistant Professor Mir Jalil Razavi from the Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Co-principal investigator will be Assistant Professor Weiying Dai from Watson’s Department of Computer Science, with Harvard Associate Professor Ali Gholipour as a research partner.

Razavi first became interested in brain research in 2014, when earning his PhD at the University of Georgia. His advisor was working on molecular dynamics modeling to predict the physical movements of atoms and molecules, but wanted to branch out by studying the mechanical modeling of soft tissue.

“One of the important topics with soft biological tissue is the brain,” Razavi said. “It’s a mystery for us how our brains start from the smoothest state at 22 to 25 weeks after gestation, but within a few weeks there is expansion in the surface area and volume as well as brain folding.”

When he arrived at Binghamton in 2018, Razavi focused on the mechanics of human skin, doing research with Associate Professor Guy German from Watson College’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Assistant Professor Weiying Dai
Assistant Professor Weiying Dai © Binghamton University

With this NSF project, he hopes to chart the formation of brain folds as faster-growing grey matter (the outer layer where higher-level thinking is done) grows on top of white matter (the inner layer that communicates between different gray matter areas and between the gray matter and the rest of the body).

There are about 100 billion neurons in a human brain, and information is transmitted through a complex network of axonal fibers that would stretch the entire 239,000 miles from the Earth to the Moon if connected end to end. Hardwiring for most of this network happens before birth, as growing brains form folds that connect the neurons in random yet significant ways.

“We don’t understand the underlying mechanism from the biological view, but we can say from the mechanical view that we have folds because we have mismatch in the growth rate of the layers,” Razavi said. “This is not just about the brain. If we have a multilayer system and the outer layer grows faster than the inner layers, then we will have instability and folding.”

Gholipour — Harvard Medical School’s director of translational radiology research — took scans of 50 fetuses at 25 weeks and 36 weeks using standard magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well as brain-specific diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which maps the diffusion process of molecules within cells.

“Professor Gholipour and his team have the most precise MRI and DTI for the fetal brain,” Razavi said. “It is really difficult to get those images because the nature of pregnancy means fetuses are in motion. After birth, people can be put into a static condition.”

Dai, who conducts her own brain-related research, will offer her expertise to parse through those results, he added: “We should find a mutual language between the imaging of the fetal brain and the mechanical model. She will help us to process those data to create our mechanical models.”

How those 50 fetal brains grew and folded then will be compared to Razavi’s computer model to see whether the expected patterns match the actual ones.

“If we are precise, the results should be close to each other,” he said. “Otherwise, we will say: ‘What’s the problem? What kind of other factors haven’t we included in our models?’ We have included a lot of data, but we don’t know what will happen.”

Razavi sees this study as a beginning step to understanding some brain disorders, such as autism, schizophrenia and polymicrogyria (in which the surface of the brain has many ridges or folds). From there, he potentially sees a lifetime of possible brain-related research avenues that could branch out.

“I think we will need a very long time to decipher the mystery of the brain, because it’s not comparable with the other organs at all. It’s completely different and very complex,” he said.

Related brain research

In addition to the NSF grant, Razavi also received two recent seed grants through Binghamton University’s Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence, which encourages researchers to collaborate outside of their usual field of study.

A $15,000 grant with Assistant Professor Guifang Fu from the Mathematical Sciences Department at Binghamton’s Harpur College of Arts and Sciences will offer more expertise when examining the morphology of the brain during early stages of growth.

A second $15,000 grant with German seeks to better understand the mechanical properties of the axons in the inner white matter of the brain. The results could aid treatment for neurodevelopmental disorders and traumatic brain injuries.

Featured image: New research at Binghamton University looks at how brain folds form. © Binghamton University

Provided by Binghamton University

Researchers Computed How Atomic Nuclei Of the Calcium Element Behave in Collisions With Electrons (Physics)

Precise theoretical predictions relevant for future neutrino experiments

A team in the PRISMA+ cluster of excellence at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) succeeded in computing how atomic nuclei of the Calcium element behave in collisions with electrons. Results agree very well with available experimental data. For the first time, a calculation based on a fundamental theory is capable of correctly describing experiments for a nucleus as heavy as Calcium. Of particular relevance is the potential that such calculations could have in the future to interpret neutrino experiments. The renowned journal Physical Review Letters reports on the achieved milestone in its current volume.

The new publication stems from the group lead by Prof. Sonia Bacca, Professor for theoretical nuclear physics in the cluster of excellence PRISMA+, in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Bacca works with great success in predicting various properties of atomic nuclei deriving them from the interactions among their constituents — the nucleons — which can be described within chiral effective field theory. Her research aims at providing a solid connection between experimental observations and the underlying theory of quantum chromodynamics. In physics, such a procedure is described as an “ab initio calculation”, where “ab initio” means “from the beginning” in Latin. 

Also cross sections of atomic nuclei probed by external fields, for example through the interaction with electrons or other particles, can be described within the same theory. This procedure is key to explaining existing data and interpreting future experiments, for example in neutrino physics —an important focus of the PRISMA+ research program.

Understanding neutrinos

Neutrinos are elusive particles that are constantly penetrating our Earth but are very difficult to detect and understand. With new planned experiments, such as the DUNE experiment in the USA, scientists want to investigate their fundamental properties, for example, the phenomenon in which one type of neutrinos transform into another —called in technical jargon, neutrino oscillation. In order to achieve that, they need important information from theoretical calculations. Specifically, the relevant question is: How do neutrinos interact with atomic nuclei in the detector?

Since experimental data on the scattering of neutrinos on atomic nuclei are rare, the team of researchers first looked at the scattering of another lepton —the electron— for which experimental data are available. “Calcium 40 is our test system, so to speak,” explains Dr. Joanna Sobczyk, postdoc in Mainz and first author of the study. “With our new ab initio method we were able to calculate very precisely what happens with electron scattering and how the Calcium atomic nucleus behaves.”

This is a great success: Until now it was not possible to carry out such calculations for an element as heavy as Calcium, which consists of 40 nucleons. “We are very pleased that we have succeeded in basically showing that our method works reliably,” says Sonia Bacca. “Now a new era begins, where the ab initio methods can be used to describe the scattering of leptons – these include electrons and neutrinos – on nuclei,  even for 40 nucleons.”

“One of the nicest features of our approach is that it allows us to rigorously quantify uncertainties associated with our calculation. Uncertainty quantification is very time-consuming, but extremely important in order to be able to appropriately compare theory against experiment,” comments Dr. Bijaya Acharya, PRISMA+ postdoc and also co-author of the study.

After they were able to show the potential of their method for Calcium, the research team wants to look at the element Argon and its interaction with neutrinos in the future. Argon will play an important role as a target in the planned DUNE experiment.

Featured image: Prof. Dr. Sonia Bacca, Dr. Bijaya Acharya, Dr. Joanna Sobczyk ©: Sabrina Hopp / privat / Angelika Stehle

J. Sobczyk et al., Ab initio computation of the longitudinal response function in 40Ca, Phys. Rev. Lett. 127, 072501, 9 August 2021,
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.127.072501

Provided by JGU

Magnetic Patterns Hidden in Meteorites Reveal Early Solar System Dynamics (Planetary Science)

Researchers have developed a novel technique to investigate the dynamics of the early Solar System by analyzing magnetites in meteorites utilizing the wave nature of electrons.

Within meteorites, the magnetic fields associated with the particles that make up the object can act as a historical record. By analyzing such magnetic fields, scientists can deduce the probable events that affected the object and reconstruct a time-lapse of what events occurred on the meteorite and when. 

“Primitive meteorites are time capsules of primordial materials formed at the beginning of our Solar System,” said Yuki Kimura, an associate professor at the Institute of Low Temperature Science at Hokkaido University in Japan who led the study. “To understand the physical and chemical history of the Solar System, it is crucial to analyze various types of meteorites with different origins.” 

While there are many meteorites available for study here on Earth, most of them originated from the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. These samples are used to study what the early Solar System looked like. However, it becomes difficult to reconstruct events that happened farther out in the Solar System, well past the asteroid belt.

This is where the research team took great strides in understanding outer Solar System dynamics soon after the system formed. The paper, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, details a novel technique to study the remnant magnetization of particles in the Tagish Lake meteorite, believed to have been formed in the cold outer Solar System.

The new technique to analyze magnetic fields reveals events that occurred on the Tagish Lake meteorite. Electron microscope image (left), a magnetic flux distribution image (middle), and a color-wheel map image (right) of magnetite particles from the Tagish Lake meteorite. The red arrows and white arrows indicate the directions of the magnetization vectors and the direction of the magnetization, respectively. (Yuki Kimura, et al., The Astrophysical Journal Letters, August 11, 2021).

Using the technique, together with numerical simulation, the team showed that the parent body of the Tagish Lake meteorite was formed in the Kuiper Belt, a region in the outer Solar System, sometime around 3 million years after the first Solar System minerals formed. It then moved to the orbit of the asteroid belt as a result of the formation of Jupiter. The magnetite was formed when the parent body was heated to about 250°C by radiogenic heating and an energetic impact which is thought to have occurred during the body’s transit from the Kuiper belt to the Asteroid belt.

“Our results help us infer the early dynamics of Solar System bodies that occurred several million years after the formation of the Solar System, and imply a highly efficient formation of the outer bodies of the Solar System, including Jupiter,” says Kimura.

The new technique, called “nanometer-scale paleomagnetic electron holography,” involves using the wave nature of electrons to examine their interference patterns, known as a hologram, to extract high resolution information from the structure of the meteorites. This high-resolution technique adds another crucial tool to the toolbox of researchers working to understand the early dynamics of the entire Solar System. 

Armed with their new technique, the team hopes to apply it to more samples, including samples from an asteroid still in orbit around the Sun, called Ryugu. Kimura detailed their ongoing research plan: “We are analyzing the samples that Hayabusa 2 brought back from the asteroid Ryugu. Our nanometer-scale paleomagnetic method will unveil a detailed history of the early Solar System.”

From the left: Yuki Kimura (Hokkaido University), Kazuo Yamamoto (Japan Fine Ceramics Center), and Shigeru Wakita (Purdue University) of the research team. © Hokkaido University

Original article:

Yuki Kimura, Kazuo Yamamoto, Shigeru Wakita. Electron holography reveals early planetary dynamics of the Solar SystemThe Astrophysical Journal Letters (ApJL), August 11, 2021. DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac13a8 


This study was supported by Grant-in-Aids for Challenging Exploratory Research and Scientific Research (S) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI (16K13909, 20H05657).

Featured image: Jupiter and a comet formed in a cold outer region of the early solar system.(Illustration provided by Yuki Kimura).

Provided by Hokkaido University

Deletion Of Single Gene Promotes Growth Of Functional Lymphatic Valves (Biology)

Targeting the gene Foxo1 may offer an early treatment approach for hereditary lymphedema, USF Health preclinical study reports

University of South Florida (USF Health) preclinical study unexpectedly identified the gene Foxo1 as a potential treatment target for hereditary lymphedema. The research, published July 15 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, was done with colleagues from Tulane University and the University of Missouri.

Lymphedema — a chronic condition in which lymphatic (lymph) fluid accumulates in soft tissue under the skin, usually in the arms and legs — causes minor to painfully disfiguring swelling. Primary, or hereditary, lymphedema is rare, present at birth and caused in part by genetic mutations that regulate normal lymphatic valve development. Secondary, or acquired, lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system from surgery, radiation therapy, trauma, or parasitic infection. In the U.S., lymphedema most commonly affects breast cancer patients, with prevalence ranging from 10 to 40% after lymph node removal and radiation therapy.

While lymphedema can be managed with massage and compression garments, no treatment exists to address its underlying cause: the build-up of fluid that eventually backs up in the lymph system like an overflowing sink with a blocked drain. This stagnant lymph triggers an inflammatory response that can induce connective and fatty tissue to form and harden the skin, restricting movement and increasing the risk of recurrent infections.

Green immunostained image of a lymphatic vessel with one valve in the center and another in the top left corner. To the upper right of the lymph vessel is a large vein. | Photo courtesy of Joshua Scallan, PhD.

“The later fibrosis stage of lymphedema cannot be massaged away,” said study principal investigator Ying Yang, PhD, assistant professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “Targeting lymph valves early in the disease is one critical aspect in identifying an effective treatment for lymphedema. If the disease progresses too far, it’s difficult to reverse.”

Valve loss or dysfunction that disrupts the flow of lymph fluid is strongly associated with lymphedema in patients. But no one has discovered whether new valves can be grown or if defective ones can be fixed.

The USF Health-led study shows that both are possible.

Dr. Yang’s group hypothesized that the protein encoded by the gene Foxo1 plays a key role in lymph valve formation based on an earlier USF Health discovery of cell signaling processes controlling formation of lymph valves. The researchers showed that deleting a single gene — lymphatic vessel-specific Foxo1 — promoted the growth of markedly more valves in both young postnatal mice and adult mice than in control littermates without Foxo1 deletion. Furthermore, deleting Foxo1 in a mouse model mimicking human lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome fully restored the both the number of valves and valve function.

Dr. Yang (left) and with biologist Luz Knauer | Photo by Allison Long, USF Health Communications

“It was exciting to see that Foxo1 is the only gene so far reported that, when deleted, induces more lymphatic valves to form, instead of inhibiting valve growth,” said Dr. Yang, a member of the USF Health Heart Institute. “We actually reversed valve loss and repaired the structure and function of defective valves in a genetic mutation model of lymphedema…That type of discovery makes a study clinically relevant.”

The lymphatic circulatory system – a parallel of the blood vessel circulatory system – helps maintain healthy fluid balance in the body by collecting and controlling the flow of extra lymph fluid that leaks from tissue. This complex network propels watery lymph fluid carrying proteins, nutrients and toxin-destroying immune cells through the body in one direction before returning the fluid to circulating blood. Small valves inside lymph vessels open and close in response to force exerted by the lymph fluid, moving it forward and preventing backward flow into tissues.

Dr. Yang in her lab where she researches lymphedema, which in the U.S. most commonly occurs in some breast cancer patients after lymph node removal and radiation therapy. Some of the research is light sensitive and must be conducted in near darkness. | Photo by Allison Long, USF Health Communications

Among the key study findings:

  • The protein FOXO1 (encoded by gene Foxo1) inhibits lymph valves from developing by suppressing many genes, which collectively contribute to the multi-step process of making a mature valve. FOXO1 behaves like a brake on a set of valve-forming genes, Dr. Yang said. “Once the brake is removed, all those genes can now be expressed so that new valves can successfully grow.”
  • Inactivation (knockout) of Foxo1 in lymphatic endothelial cells (LEC) of young postnatal mice promoted valve formation at multiple stages. Likewise, deleting LEC-specific Foxo1 in adult mice also increased valve formation, compared to control mice without the gene knockout.
  • A mouse model of lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome had 50% fewer lymphatic valves and the remaining valves closed abnormally and exhibited fluid backflow. But when Foxo1 was deleted, the number of valves increased to the same levels as those in healthy control mice and the structure of defective valves was restored to normal. Further analysis showed that the loss of Foxo1 also significantly improved valve function in this mouse model of human primary lymphedema disease.
Photo by Allison Long | USF Health Communications

This study was supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health. USF Health’s Joshua Scallan, PhD, was the lead author.

Featured image: Principal investigator Ying Yang, PhD, is an assistant professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and a member of the college’s Heart Institute. | Photo by Allison Long, USF Health Communications

Provided by USF Health

Penn Study Finds New Possible Cell Target to Treat Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (Medicine)

Researchers show this type of kidney cancer is dependent on cholesterol, specific receptor

Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) cells can be destroyed and kept from multiplying by inhibiting the HDL cholesterol receptor SCARB1, according to research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The scientists found the health of these specific cancer cells and tumors are dependent upon cholesterol and this receptor while also showing that medication that specifically targets the receptor could make it impossible for the cancer cells to survive and spread. The research also suggests that controlling cholesterol through diet could minimize the growth of ccRCC tumors. Researchers say future trials can investigate specific therapeutics and diets that can be clinically used to treat ccRCC. The study was published in the journal Cancer Discovery.

“Previous studies demonstrated that SCARB1 and cholesterol were both part of the story of ccRCC, but our work here shows a causal role,” said lead study author M. Celeste Simon, PhD, the Arthur H. Rubenstein, MBBCh Professor in the department of Cell and Developmental Biology and the scientific director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute. “My colleagues and I hope these investigations at the bench can translate to new and successful SCARB1 inhibitors and treatments for people facing this aggressive cancer.”

Worldwide, renal cell carcinoma is a common cancer for both men and women, killing 15,000 people in the United States last year. Roughly 70 to 80 percent of renal cell carcinomas are ccRCC. Many are treated by targeted and or immune-based therapies with varying degrees of success. Radiation may also be used.

For this study, the Penn researchers cultured ccRCC cells and put them in environments with varying degrees of cholesterol availability. Cancerous cells, and not normal kidney cells, relied on exogenous cholesterol – or outside cholesterol – in order to grow and survive whereas normal kidney cells are able to synthesize their own cholesterol for typical cellular needs.

“That difference between cancer cells and regular kidney cells is important because it suggests that kidney cells can create cholesterol they need if cholesterol, available in the body, is restricted,” Simon said.

Next, the team identified that there is a greater number of Scavenger Receptors B1 (SCARB1), receptors that import cholesterol for cells, in ccRCC tumors. This led researchers to knock out these receptors in both in vitro and in vivo mouse studies as well as block SCARB1 with a molecule called Block Lipid Transporter-1. ccRCC cells and tumors could not survive without functioning SCARB1.

“There are multiple reasons why the scientific community will likely focus on SCARB1 and the development of SCARB1 inhibitors in the near future,” Simon said. A Phase 1 clinical trial was started to investigate the potential for ITX-5061, a SCARB1 inhibitor, to be used as a way to treat hepatitis-C, the researchers said, and other research has tied SCARB1 to the disease progression of SARS-CoV-2.

The research team says that while these results are promising, future work will need to confirm the safety and efficacy of using inhibitors like ITX-5061 to impede SCARB1 and ccRCC in people. They also say the increased incidence of ccRCC in both men and women over the last decade has been suspected to be linked to increased rates of obesity and elevated body mass indices (BMIs) in western populations. This study suggests a causative relationship between obesity, BMI, and circulating HDL cholesterol and likelihood of developing ccRCC that can be further investigated.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (P01CA104848) (R35CA197602), Diabetes UK (17/0005587), the Wellcome Trust (202802/Z/16/Z), the World Cancer Research Fund and their international grant program (IIG_2019_2009), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (P30ES013508).

Reference: Romain Riscal, Caroline J Bull, Clementina Mesaros, Jennifer M Finan, Madeleine Carens, Elaine S Ho, Jimmy P Xu, Jason Godfrey, Paul Brennan, Mattias Johansson, Mark P Purdue, Stephen J Chanock, Daniela Mariosa, Nicholas J Timpson, Emma E Vincent, Brian Keith, Ian A Blair, Nicolas Skuli and M Celeste Simon, “Cholesterol auxotrophy as a targetable vulnerability in clear cell renal cell carcinoma”, Cancer Discov July 8 2021 DOI: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-21-0211

Provided by Penn Medicine

New Species of Resedaceae Found in Dehong, Yunnan (Botany)

Resedaceae is a family of mainly Mediterranean herbs. The genus Stixis is one of the six genera in family Resedaceae. To date, China has recorded three species and one subspecies of the genus Stixis, and all these species were reported in Yunnan province. 

When surveying Extremely Small Population of plants in southwest Yunnan, researchers from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Yunnan Tongbiguan provincial Nature Reserve collected an unknown species in Dehong. After careful morphological study and literature review, they confirmed the species was new to science. 

The new species was named Stixis yingjiangensis, referring to the type locality, Yingjiang County, Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan, China. It was published in Taiwania

Stixis yingjiangensis is morphologically similar to S. philippinensis and S. villiflora, but differs from the two species by both surfaces with sparsely strigillose on lateral nerves, midrib and pustules, inflorescences axillary, filaments lower third pubescent, upper two thirds glabrous, ovary glabrous, etc. 

Currently, only two populations have been found in Yingjiang County, the first population (eight individuals were observed) is in Nabang Town, climbs trees at the edge of the forest. The second population (only two individuals were observed) is in Kachang Town, grows by the roadside. 

Since the species is found on the border between China and Myanmar, and the investigation in China has not been through enough to fully understand the natural distribution of the species. The researchers proposed the conservation status of Stixis yingjiangensis as Data Deficient (DD) according to the Red List criteriaof the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

Stixis yingjiangensis (Image by SHEN Jianyong) 
Stixis yingjiangensis (Image by SHEN Jianyong) 
Stixis yingjiangensis (Image by SHEN Jianyong)  
Stixis yingjiangensis (Image by SHEN Jianyong) 

Featured image: Stixis yingjiangensis (Image by SHEN Jianyong) 

Reference: Jian-Yong Shen, Xing-Da Ma, Qiang-Bang Gong, Guo-Hui Huang, Xue-Lian Yang, Ji-Pu Shi, “Stixis yingjiangensis, a new species of Resedaceae from Yunnan, China”, Taiwania, Page: 326 – 331. DOI: 10.6165/tai.2021.66.326

Provided by Chinese Academy of Sciences

Patients with Early-onset Schizophrenia Have Already Exhibited Alteration in Their Brain Structural Network Globally and Regionally (Psychiatry)

Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by both brain structural and functional abnormalities. Most of the existing findings, however, were limited to adult patients with established schizophrenia with a long duration of illness. It is still not clear whether the altered brain structural and functional abnormalities observed in adult patients have also been exhibited in children and adolescents with schizophrenia.

In order to address this issue, Dr. Raymond Chan’s team from the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his collaborators have recruited 25 individuals (aged 10-15 years) with early-onset schizophrenia (EOS) and 31 typically-developing (TD) controls to specifically examine whether structural connectivity with different brain regions has been altered during childhood onset schizophrenia.

Their findings showed that patients with EOS exhibited significantly increased clustering and local efficiency across a range of network densities comparing to TD controls.

They also found that the network of patients with EOS also demonstrated more modules than their TD counterparts, indicating a more segregated network at the cost of functional integration, especially in the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus and the cerebellum.

Interestingly, patients with EOS did not exhibit the typical left-hemispheric-dominant hub distribution compared with the TD controls. Bearing the relatively small sample and the preliminary nature of the study, these findings did suggest that patients with early onset schizophrenia have already exhibited alteration in their brain structural network both globally and regionally.

The study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Programme of China, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, the Humanity and Social Science Youth foundation of the Ministry of Education, and the CAS Key Laboratory of Mental Health of the Institute of Psychology.

The study is now published online on Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging with the title of “Altered topographical organization of grey matter structural network in early-onset schizophrenia” on July 31.

Reference: Han-yu Zhou, Li-juan Shi, Yan-mei Shen, Yu-min Fang, Yu-qiong He, Hua-bing Li, Xue-rong Luo, Eric F.C. Cheung, Raymond C.K. Chan, Altered topographical organization of grey matter structural network in early-onset schizophrenia, Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, Volume 316, 2021, 111344, ISSN 0925-4927, (

Provided by Chinese Academy of Sciences

Researchers Reveal Molecular Subtypes and New Precise Therapy for KRAS Mutant Cancers (Biology)

KRAS protein serves as an on/off molecular switch to relay signals from outside the cell to the cell nucleus. When the gene is mutated, KRAS will be continuously activated to promote the initiation and progression of cancers. It is one of the most commonly mutated genes, which approximately presents in 20% of all human cancers.

A team of researchers led by TAN Minjia and HUANG Min from the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed new molecular subtypes of KRAS mutant cancer and identified new precise therapy. The study was published in Molecular Cell on August 9.

The researchers conducted a large-scale proteomic and phosphoproteomic analysis of 43 KRAS mutant cancer cell lines across different tissue origins, and identified three molecular subsets of KRAS mutant cancers with distinct biological characteristics.

“The subtyping result is useful to molecularly classify the large cohort of KRAS mutant clinical samples. Prognosis among the three subsets of clinical samples could be effectively distinguished, which demonstrated the potential clinical utility of the subtyping result,” said TAN, the corresponding author of the study.

The researchers also investigated the subset-specific drugs, drug sensitivity biomarkers, and potential therapeutic targets, and developed a new method to predict the synergistic effects of drug combinations based on the integrative analysis of phosphoproteome and drug sensitivity information. This analysis led to the identification of a set of drug combinations with therapeutic potentials.

Among these drug combinations, they further demonstrated that the combined inhibition of the histone methyltransferase DOT1L and phosphatase SHP2 was an effective treatment for a subset of KRAS mutant cancer, corresponding to the clinical tumors with poorest prognosis.

This study provides a comprehensive proteomic and phosphoproteomic landscape of KRAS mutant cancers, inspiring a better understanding of the molecular characteristics of KRAS mutant cancer and new therapeutic possibilities.

Featured image: Proteomic and phosphoproteomic characterization of KRAS mutant cancers identifies combination therapies (Image by TAN Minjia’s team)

Reference: Zhiwei Liu et al, A proteomic and phosphoproteomic landscape of KRAS mutant cancers identifies combination therapies, Molecular Cell (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2021.07.021

Provided by Chinese Academy of Sciences