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. A new study led by researchers at BIDMC and the University of Pennsylvania sheds light on a protein that elicits a protective response in the liver that might be targeted to help treat alcoholic liver disease. The team also found that the same protective response may be involved in aversion to alcohol and could therefore help in the treatment of alcoholism. The study, published in Molecular Metabolism, revealed people who binged on alcohol over a one-hour period exhibited massive increases of a protein called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) in their blood six hours later. “We showed that alcohol consumption induces FGF21 as a protective response in the liver that reduces the degree of alcohol-induced damage,” said co-senior author Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, MD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at BIDMC. “Our results may encourage the development of drugs that mimic FGF21 for the treatment of alcoholic liver disease, and possibly to produce alcohol aversion.”
. Results from an early-stage clinical trial called APPROACH show that an investigational HIV vaccine regimen was well-tolerated and generated immune responses against HIV in healthy adults. The APPROACH findings, as well as results expected in late 2017 from another early-stage clinical trial called TRAVERSE, will form the basis of the decision whether to move forward with a larger trial in southern Africa to evaluate vaccine safety and efficacy among women at risk of acquiring HIV. “The promising, early-stage results from the APPROACH study support further evaluation of these candidate vaccines to assess their ability to protect those at risk of acquiring HIV,” said Dan H. Barouch, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC. The APPROACH results will be presented at the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in Paris.
. Researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) developed a new light-based technique that can identify precancerous and cancerous cysts—small, fluid-filled cavities in the body—by piggybacking on a standard diagnostic procedure. "This approach can be called a virtual biopsy, as it does not collect any tissue," said Lev Perelman, MD, professor at Harvard University and director of the Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging and Photonics at BIDMC, whose team developed the tool with the support of the NSF Directorate for Engineering Biophotonics program. His team applied light-scattering spectroscopy to several organs before discovering its potential to help overcome the unique challenges posed by the pancreas. The researchers inserted a tiny fiber optic probe connected to a broadband light source into the needle used to collect fluid samples in pancreatic cysts. They gathered the photons reflected from a cyst's surface and then used an algorithm to process the data, providing an immediate result.
. The urge to satisfy hunger is a primal one, but – as any dieter knows – choices about when and what to eat can be influenced by cues in the environment, not just how long it’s been since breakfast. By developing a new approach to imaging and manipulating particular groups of neurons in the mouse brain, scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have identified a pathway by which neurons that drive hunger influence distant neurons involved in the decision of whether or not to react to food-related cues. Their findings could open the door to targeted therapies that dampen food cue-evoked cravings in people with obesity. The research was published online today in the journal Nature. “The main question we were asking is: how do evolutionarily ancient hunger-promoting neurons at the base of the brain, in the hypothalamus, influence ‘cognitive’ brain areas to help us find and eat calorie-rich foods in a complex and changing world?” said co-corresponding author Mark Andermann, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at BIDMC and Assistant Professor at HMS.