How Exactly Does Gene Transfer via AAV Work?

Properly functioning genes within our DNA provide the blueprint for the production of proteins. Mutations affecting those genes can result in proteins with altered or zero function. Using gene transfer techniques might be an effective way to restore function of proteins within cells. Gene transfer can occur via adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors because they can target both dividing and non-dividing cells to correct disease-causing improper protein function. Therapeutic genes loaded inside an AAV can correct defective or missing protein function by injecting the AAV’s therapeutic genetic material to restore function of the proteins. A capsid encases the genetic material of the vector and helps target delivery to specific cells. Once inside the targeted cells, an episome is formed from the vector genome which allows for long-term expression of the therapeutic molecule. AAVs are nonpathogenic and can be administered by intravenous drip or direct injection to target tissues. The unique life cycle of adeno-associated virus (AAV) and its ability to infect both nondividing and dividing cells with persistent expression have made it an attractive vector. An additional attractive feature of the wild-type virus is the lack of apparent pathogenicity. Gene transfer studies using AAV have shown significant progress at the level of animal models; clinical trials have been noteworthy with respect to the safety of AAV vectors. No proven efficacy has been observed, although in some instances, there have been promising observations. In this review, topics in AAV biology are supplemented with...

How Do We Help Patients Reduce their Risk of Dementia?

Here’s something to note when helping patients reduce their risk of dementia: each year in the US, doctors diagnose around 3 million cases. However, dementia isn’t a disease, but a grouping of conditions that impair brain functions. These functions can include: Memory Communication and language Ability to focus and pay attention Reasoning and judgment Visual perception Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells, with different types of damage causing different types of dementia. For example, vascular dementia is  caused by conditions that deprive brain cells of oxygen, such as a stroke. Alzheimer’s disease is associated with brain cell damage that prevents communication between the cells.  Dementia associated with aging largely affects those over the age of 60, and although there is no cure, various treatments can help with symptoms or slow progression. However, new research is suggesting that certain lifestyle changes could help decrease the risk of developing dementia in old age. New research published in JAMA shows that there may be a link between chronic or persistent pain and an increased risk for accelerated dementia. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco published results on a longitudinal study that followed patients for up to 12 years, and found that those who reported pain in the first two years of interviews were more likely to have a faster decline in memory performance as they aged and also had an...

This is How to Organize Your Medical Studying Successfully

No one ever said that it was a breeze getting through their medical studies and understandably so. It takes a lot of hard work and focus to get through any part of it. To be honest, I do not want medical studying to be easy, because it has to do with life and death. I take my hat off to the doctors, specialists, surgeons and nurses helping the world. Without them, we would be back to thousands of years ago and not have the development we are seeing in the medical field. We forget that there is so much that builds up to students being accepted into these fields of studies and before they can start studying; there is a process that takes place. Students decide early that they would like to go into the medical field and choose their subjects accordingly. Then there is the application process. When you have to write that personal statement nurse practitioner essay, it can feel like the challenge already starts. Do not fear though, as we have the tips to help you stay organized in your medical studies and rise to the top. Apply early Let’s assume you are still trying to get into a medical field and have to apply. Speak to students who have already been accepted and get some advice as soon as you decide that this is what you...

Stay Young: Drinking Coffee Adds Years To Your Life

Who knew that your morning cup of joe could actually be doing more than just keeping you awake? Two recently published studies published by the Annals of Internal Medicine show that drinking coffee will decrease your mortality rate, allowing you to actually have more time for more cups of coffee. So all those 2 a.m cups while studying for the MCATs or the 10 p.m cup just when you get back from class have actually been more beneficial than you thought. One study had results that showed lower mortality: During a mean follow-up of 16.4 years, 41 693 deaths occurred. Compared with nonconsumers, participants in the highest quartile of coffee consumption had statistically significantly lower all-cause mortality (men: HR, 0.88 [95% CI, 0.82 to 0.95]; P for trend < 0.001; women: HR, 0.93 [CI, 0.87 to 0.98]; P for trend = 0.009). Inverse associations were also observed for digestive disease mortality for men (HR, 0.41 [CI, 0.32 to 0.54]; P for trend < 0.001) and women (HR, 0.60 [CI, 0.46 to 0.78]; P for trend < 0.001). Among women, there was a statistically significant inverse association of coffee drinking with circulatory disease mortality (HR, 0.78 [CI, 0.68 to 0.90]; P for trend < 0.001) and cerebrovascular disease mortality (HR, 0.70 [CI, 0.55 to 0.90]; P for trend = 0.002) and a positive association with ovarian cancer mortality (HR, 1.31 [CI, 1.07 to 1.61]; P for trend = 0.015). In the EPIC Biomarkers subcohort, higher coffee consumption was associated with lower serum...

This Is How To Take Time Off During Medical School

Here is a list of a few experiences I’m happy that I did to take time off during medical school my first two years.  Recently I was up late clicking through my old Facebook pictures reliving some of the more fun moments of the past few years. As I was doing this I realized that I have done SO MANY amazing and wonderful things since starting medical school. At the beginning of M1 year, everyone tells you (jokingly or not, I can never tell) to kiss your social life (or any kind of life outside of books and medicine) goodbye. I have not found this to be necessary AT ALL and I want to encourage you all to reject this mindset. While it’s true there were times I spent 14 hour days in the library or when I was so stressed about an upcoming lab practical that I couldn’t bear to do anything besides study, there were also many times when I put other things in my life first. I think this has helped me to be more balanced and allowed me to build up a reserve of emotional strength to draw from when it comes to the tough parts of medical school. By having things outside of medical school to plan and look forward to, I don’t let studying completely define who I am as a person, which...

Chef Uy Presents: Blackberry Chia Parfait

Natalie Uy is a resident in Internal Medicine who loves to eat and doodle. Her food blog, Obsessive Cooking Disorder, is a collection of recipes she made during her study breaks and stories on my medical / life adventures. Here is her recipe on how to prepare Blackberry Chia Parfait. Hi everyone, I’m officially done with intern year! Yay! I finished off intern year with VA hospital nights which can be exhausting – if you’ve never been jolted awake from pages at 3am (or worse, hammer pages, which is non stop back to back paging), you’re not missing out on anything. Sometimes you’ll even get 2 or 3 pagers going off simultaneously (“Oh nice, they’re harmonizing” – my med school surgeon attending). While finishing intern year is always a cause for celebration (goodbye waking up earlier to pre-round on patients, endless note-writing, and answering constant pages), I can’t help but have mixed feelings about stepping up to second year, since now I’ll be in charge of the team when it comes to running the team, making decision and handling emergencies. I’m going to miss the ability of saying, “Wait, let me ask my senior…” Although I’m know I’ve learned so much intern year, I still feel like there’s so much I don’t know (I have no idea how doctors managed without internet -all of our medical resources are there, from looking up medication doses...

The Reasons Why Sleep Matters

My personal experience has taught me that consistently getting decent sleep is THE most important factor in my overall well-being—more than relationships, exercise, diet, money, or anything else. Let me list the reasons why sleep matters. Obviously I don’t currently, and likely never will (except maybe during research sabbatical), get 8 hours of sleep 7 days per week. But I always get as much sleep as possible. This means that sleep almost always comes before my husband, family, friends, studying, drinking, TV, and whatever else keeps me away from my bed.  (Of course there are exceptions.) A mentor once told me, “Whenever you say ‘yes’ to something, you’re saying ‘no’ to something else.” Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to sleep means my life appears pretty boring from the outside. For example, when I was a 4th year med student on my surgery sub-internship, I woke up at 4:00am every day and usually didn’t get home until 7pm or later. When I got home, I ate dinner while I talked to my husband, showered, and then got in bed around 8:00pm. This was also in July, so I was actually in bed before the sun set every night. This sounds like a really pathetic existence, but I swear I was happy. Giving up some time with my husband after work in favor of getting enough sleep was worth it because I wasn’t...

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