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Archive - Mar 12, 2011

Loss of Caspase-2 May Be Protective in Neurodegenerative Disorders

Cell biologists pondering the death of neurons have reported that by eliminating one ingredient from the cellular machinery, they prolonged the life of neurons stressed by a pesticide chemical. The finding identifies a potential therapeutic target to slow changes that lead to neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. The researchers, from The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, found that neurons lacking a substance called caspase-2 were better able to withstand pesticide-induced damage to mitochondria. The research is published in the March 11, 2011 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Caspase-2 appears to be a master switch that can trigger either cell death or survival depending on the amount of cellular damage, the team found. Neurons that lacked caspase-2 showed an increase in protective activities, including the efficient breakdown of obsolete or used proteins. This process, called autophagy, delays cell death. "This research shows, for the first time, that in the absence of caspase-2, neurons increase autophagy to survive," said study co-author Dr. Marisa Lopez-Cruzan, investigator in the cellular and structural biology department at the Health Science Center. Evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction plays an important role in neuronal death in conditions such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease), and Huntington's disease. "Identifying initiators in the cell death process is important for determining therapeutic approaches to provide the maximum protection of neurons during neurodegenerative conditions," said senior author Dr. Brian Herman, vice president for research and professor of cellular and structural biology at the Health Science Center. The team studied neurons from young adult mice.

Creativity Appears an Upside to ADHD

A new study in the April 2011 issue of Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) enjoyed more creative achievement than those who didn't have the disorder. "For the same reason that ADHD might create problems, like distraction, it can also allow an openness to new ideas," said Dr. Holly White, assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and co-author of the paper. "Not being completely focused on a task lets the mind make associations that might not have happened otherwise." Dr. White and Dr. Priti Shah at the University of Michigan gave 60 college students – half of them with ADHD – a series of tests measuring creativity across 10 domains. The ADHD group scored higher across the board. The ADHD group showed more of a preference for brainstorming and generating ideas than the non-ADHD group, which preferred refining and clarifying ideas. The study is a follow-up to one done in 2006, which focused on laboratory measures of creativity and found that ADHD individuals show better performance on tests of creative divergent thinking. "We didn't know if that would translate into real-life achievement," said Dr. Shah. "The current study suggests that it does." [Press release] [Journal of Personality and Individual Differences abstract]