Science & Research

Science & Research Roundup: Sept. 10, 2014

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Science & Research Editor
Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grad student determines best way to see through cells

While three-dimensional cell cultures are often more realistic than two-dimensional ones, they are more difficult to view due to their complex, multi-layered structure. This challenge led Molly Boutin GS to set out to determine the best existing technique for viewing three-dimensional cultures that does not involve the labor-intensive process of cutting cultures apart, according to a University press release.

Boutin, along with her advisor Diane Hoffman-Kim, associate professor of medical science and engineering, examined and compared three recently released methods for viewing three-dimensional cell cultures, according to their paper published online last month in the journal Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods.

Of the three methods — ClearT2, SeeDB and Scale — Boutin and Hoffman-Kim determined ClearT2 is the optimal method due to its efficacy and maintenance of the original culture’s size, according to the paper. Both ClearT2 and Scale increased visibility of the cells, but only ClearT2 left the size of the original culture unchanged, they wrote in the paper.

ClearT2 was also a more efficient method than the other two. While Scale and SeeDB took three days to work, ClearT2 took only one-and-a-half hours, Boutin said in the release.

 

Christianson syndrome provides link to autism

Recently published University research contains both the most complete description of Christianson syndrome as well as the first list of diagnostics for families and doctors, according to a University press release. These advances are detailed in a paper published online in the July 2014 issue of the journal Annals of Neurology.

Through the study, researchers observed the behavior, symptoms and genetic mutations of 14 boys with Christianson syndrome, according to the release.

Some of the symptoms the researchers listed in the paper include intellectual disability, epilepsy, difficulty or inability to talk or walk and autism-like behavior, according to the release.

The researchers hope this work will increase syndrome awareness, said senior author Eric Morrow, assistant professor of biology and psychiatry and human behavior, in the release.

New, higher estimates of the number of boys who have the syndrome — somewhere between one in every 16,000  to 100,000 — were released in the paper. Because the genetic mutations behind the syndrome are linked to the X chromosome, they tend to only be expressed as symptoms in males.

The paper also noted that it is still unclear whether Christianson syndrome limits the lifespan of those who are afflicted.

Research on the disease also provides new avenues for understanding autism — the area on which much of Morrow’s research is centered, he said in the release.

 

U. research inspires preeclampsia gene database

University researchers will release a searchable database of the genes related to the gestational disorder preeclampsia in a few months, impacting future preeclampsia treatment and research. The findings that inspired this database’s creation were published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology in May by a team of University researchers.

Preeclampsia, a disease that occurs during pregnancy and impacts both the mother and unborn child, affects 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies. High blood pressure and a reduced flow of blood through the placenta commonly mark the disease, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation website.

Preeclampsia and similar hypertensive disorders are the leading cause of both maternal and infant deaths, killing at least 76,000 pregnant women and 500,000 unborn children per year, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.

The researchers closely examined 535 sets of genes belonging to mothers with preeclampsia and their fetuses, taken from 729 journal articles about the disease. The researchers found that different variables related to preeclampsia — including onset time and severity — manifest themselves differently in the genes of both the mother and the fetus, according to a University press release.

These genetic differences suggest that the treatment for preeclampsia should also vary depending on disease presentation, the authors found.