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What's new in HSCI research

The hormone irisin is found to confer benefits of exercise on cognitive function

HSCI researchers led by Christiane Wrann, DVM, PhD, have found that the hormone irisin, which is secreted during exercise, is effective against cognitive decline.
  • What they did: Researchers isolated the hormone and studied its beneficial effect on cognitive functioning, including in aged animals and in models of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • What they found: Irisin was identified as critical to cognitive functioning, in that its deletion resulted in cognitive decline while elevated levels showed improved cognitive functioning.
  • Why it matters: Irisin could be instrumental in developing effective therapeutics for the cognitive decline that accompanies aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

New brain model sheds patient-specific light on AD

iPSC-Derived neurons
HSCI researchers led by Tracy Young-Pearse, Ph.D., have developed a method to examine living brain cells and predict the rate of Alzheimer’s disease progression and cognitive decline.
  • What they did: Researchers used stem cells derived from a research population for which longitudinal and quantitative data were available, as well as genetic and molecular profiling, to study Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
  • What they found: Specific forms of amyloid beta-protein (Aβ) and tau protein associated with cognitive decline and AD were identified, allowing the scientists to understand individual risk of disease progression.
  • Why it matters: AD is a heterogenous disease, and this research opens a path to predicting individual susceptibility or resistance to AD and to understanding which drugs might impact which patient subsets.

Researchers generate protective embryonic heart cells

HSCI researchers led by Harald C. Ott, M.D., have developed embryonic heart cells that support the development of the fetal heart.
  • What they did: Using human-induced pluripotent stem cells, researchers produced pre-epicardial cells that are an important part of forming 3D heart tissue.
  • What they found: In contact with cardiomyocytes, these lab-generated pre-epicardial cells developed into the epicardial cells that form the epicardium, a protective membrane that supports embryonic heart development.
  • Why it matters: Such cells could be used to generate the 3D structure to replace diseased or failing heart tissue.
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