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Intervention may prevent depression in young mothers

An interpersonal intervention program called REACH might be an effective way to prevent postpartum depression in adolescent mothers, according to a Women and Infants Hospital study that included three Brown researchers as authors.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology earlier this month and is currently in press.

The study evaluated the REACH — Relax, Encourage, Appreciate, Communicate, Help — method, which helps expectant mothers develop skills like stress management and conflict resolution, according to the study. Adolescent mothers in the REACH program developed postpartum depression in 12.5 percent of cases, compared to 25 percent of cases in the control group, the authors wrote.

Nationally, more than one-fourth of adolescent mothers develop postpartum depression, according to the study. Despite its prevalence, most studies focus on curing postpartum depression and not on preventing it, the authors wrote in the study.

“Waiting until the postpartum period leaves adolescent mothers and their infants vulnerable,” lead author Maureen Phipps, associate professor of  obstetrics and gynecology, said in a Women and Infants Hospital press release in 2011, shortly after the study began. “Many teens with (postpartum depression) may not seek care and, therefore, will be unrecognized, untreated or undertreated.”


Study connects skin response to UV, visual processing 

An ion channel involved in detecting the flavor of particularly pungent foods may also be involved in skin responses to ultraviolet light, according to a study by Brown researchers.

The study was published online last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers found that the ion channel TRPA1 responds to UV rays by allowing calcium into skin cells, prompting the production of skin pigment melanin, according to a University press release.

The TRPA1 process resembles the light transduction pathways found in the visual system, a parallel that senior author Elena Oancea called “exciting” in the release. Oancea is an assistant professor of medical science in molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology.

In the future, scientists might be able to use drugs to manipulate skin pigmentation by affecting the TRPA1 ion channel, lead author Nicholas Bellono GS said in the press release.


Alzheimer’s protein may guide cell growth in culture

The ability to effectively grow neurons in a lab setting could eventually have major clinical benefits for patients with nervous system diseases like Alzheimer’s. In a forthcoming study in the journal Biomaterials, researchers from the School of Engineering identified a protein that promotes neuron growth better than the previous standard.

When growing neurons in the lab, scientists try to mimic the scaffolding naturally found in the body that aids the growth of nerve cells. For years, scientists assumed laminin was the best protein to serve as that scaffolding when growing central nervous system cells, given the success of laminin in growing peripheral nervous system cells, lead author Kwang-Min Kim GS said in a University press release.

Counterintuitively, the researchers found that apoE4 — a protein associated with the buildup of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles seen in Alzheimer’s disease — was a much more effective scaffolding, according to the press release. In contrast, laminin did not promote neuron growth any better than bare glass did.

Neither the role of apoE4 in Alzheimer’s nor the pathway through which it promotes neuron growth in cell culture is well understood, according to the release.


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