Monday, July 27, 2009
Charles Nichols is hardly a counterculture figure, but he spends lots of time around LSD. And, helped along by his father, he favors giving steady doses of the drug -- made famous during the '60s -- to a bizarre mix of creatures: rats and fruit flies.
And it's all in the pursuit of knowledge and sanity.
assistant professor of pharmacology at
Nichols has been awarded a $1.4 million grant to isolate novel genes involved in schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis by treating rats and fruit flies with the powerful hallucinogenic LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide.
"I'm the only person combining the flies with rats, " Nichols said. "What I'm doing is using new models to look at schizophrenia and look at genes to see what is going wrong. Most models look (only) at rats, so what I'm trying to do is use fruit flies for a more efficient model of a neurochemistry that goes on in the brain."
colleague and father, David Nichols, a professor of medicinal chemistry and
molecular pharmacology at
The senior Nichols will administer LSD to rats every two days for two months until they exhibit clear signs of schizophrenia, and then study their behavior and effects on their genes. The researchers hypothesize that the drug's effects on the rats will be much the same as what happens to humans who suffer from schizophrenia.
David Nichols has documented behavioral changes in the rats, the rats' brains
will be sent to his son's lab in
The younger Nichols will give the flies LSD, using the rats as a guide in mapping what genes are affected by the acid.
Nichols chose the fly instead of more rats or mice for a second phase of testing because he says genes are easier to identify in the fly. And using flies is much more cost effective: It costs the LSU lab $10 a month to feed and maintain thousands of fruit flies, compared with $1,000 a month to feed and care for less than 100 rats.
Whereas flies have 10,000 fewer genes than rats and humans, many of the genes found in humans match those found in the fly. Also, according to the LSU researcher, fruit flies can exhibit some of the reactions found in humans -- at times exhibiting aggressive behavior, mating problems or difficulties with their vision.
The grant, provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, will cover the costs of research by teams at LSU and Purdue for the next four years.
"It might lead to the discovery of molecules that are important for the development of mental disorders, " said Laurie Nadler, chief of the neuropharmacology program at NIMH. "This will therefore reveal molecules that can lead to new drugs for schizophrenia."
Charles Nichols, a behavioral scientist for more than a decade, said he is confident the researchers will identify a collection of genes that influence schizophrenia and other illnesses within the grant's time frame. That evidence then can be directly applied to humans in new studies, he said.
In time, he said, such research could lead to new medicines and other treatments for mental illnesses.
Jindal discusses health-care views
Gov. Bobby Jindal shared his thoughts on the hot topic of health care with two high-profile national publications last week.
On Monday, the governor listed problems with the health-care plan proposed by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Politico.com.
Then on Wednesday, Jindal laid out seven points for reducing health-care costs in The Wall Street Journal. His suggestions including making health insurance policies more portable, with more coverage for pre-existing conditions; pooling for small businesses, and refundable tax credits.
Jindal criticizes Obama stimulus
Jindal also spent time last week on the national circuit calling President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan “a nearly trillion-dollar stimulus that has not stimulated.”
During much of the rest of the week, Jindal trooped around small towns — Anacoco and Livonia, for instance — on his “Louisiana Working Tour,” where he handed out massive checks — signed by Jindal himself — that used federal funds, much of which came from Obama’s stimulus plan.
Jindal has taken frequent swipes at the president’s recovery plan, approved in February, that Obama said would stimulate a national economy that was near total collapse when the president was inaugurated in January.
Study: Legislature’s staff among largest
Louisiana Legislature has one of the largest staffs of any state’s assembly
Simoneaux asked for decision power
Louisiana Board of Ethics Chairman Frank Simoneaux disclosed last week that he tried to convince the Jindal administration and lawmakers to return board power to decide conflict of interest, nepotism and other cases.
was not well-received,” Simoneaux, a
Simoneaux said he met with representatives of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office as well as state Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, who chairs the House panel overseeing ethics laws to make the pitch.
The 2008 Legislature moved the authority to decide cases to three person administrative law judge panels — saying it’s not right for the board to bring charges and then decide guilt or innocence.
The Ethics Board continues to investigate allegations of wrong-doing, bring charges and prosecute alleged violations.
Simoneaux said he didn’t think the issue was dead. “We will just come up with additional thoughts of how to approach that in the future,” he said.
Brown: Blanco at governor’s meet
Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown said ex-Gov. Kathleen Blanco stole the show
at the recent National Governors Association conference in
Gov. Bobby Jindal did not attend the conference.
But Brown wrote on his blog that Blanco worked the crowd while being “coy” about her presence. He said she got a warm reception.
“If (Jindal) does not rise above the minutia of government, he will have Kathleen Blanco looking over his shoulder as 2011 gets closer,” Brown predicted.
After a difficult legislative session that weakened higher education — and with a continuing Medicaid crisis that could leave the state $1 billion poorer — Gov. Bobby Jindal has returned to the national stage with commentaries and TV appearances that seem aimed at burnishing his political star.
Jindal repeatedly has said he has the job he wants and has no plans to seek the GOP presidential nomination. Even so, his actions suggest a man with national political aspirations.
admire ambition, but we believe the best way for the governor to advance his
There is, after all, so much to do.
commentary was short on gravitas and long on self-congratulation, beginning
with the triumphal sentence, “Things in
“We trimmed government spending, protected vital services and refused to raise taxes,” Jindal said of the recent legislative session, seeming to offer it as a national model.
his fiscal conservatism, the governor then delivered a lot of GOP boilerplate
take issue with any assertion that the recent legislative session was a victory
A subsequent commentary by Jindal in The Wall Street Journal showed more substance, offering a detailed critique of President Barack Obama’s proposed health-care changes.
favor open debate, and Jindal is free to say whatever he wants about issues
of national importance. But one would think, given the huge health-care crisis
post-Hurricane Katrina dollars flowed into
That fluke, coupled with some other shortfalls in the Medicaid budget, could force the state to find an extra $ 1 billion to pay its share of the Medicaid program — a nightmare scenario for the state budget.
At the same time that Alan Levine, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, is trying to reach an accord on the Medicaid issue with the Obama administration, Jindal seems to be picking a fight with the president on national health-care strategy.
This seems to be a case in which Jindal’s national political interests and the state’s interests could be at odds.
The Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium launched a new Web site, http://www.lcrc.info to share with the public LCRC’s mission to develop a coordinated program that will lead to opportunities for the early detection, treatment and prevention of cancer in the region.
Web site showcases the work of researchers and caregivers from LSU Health
Sciences Center of New Orleans,
S. NOBILE has been elected president of LSU Health Sciences Foundation in
Gov. Bobby Jindal has appointed Shreveporter DIANA MERENDINO to the Louisiana Respiratory Care Advisory Committee, which advises the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners on issues affecting applicants for licenses and regulation of respiratory therapy in the state. Merendino, who was nominated for the post by the Louisiana Society of Respiratory Therapy, is an assistant professor at LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport and a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care.
Deonta Henderson said he wants to have a second career as a nurse. His first choice?
Art, he said on Friday at the start of the HOPE (Help Occupation Possibilities Explored) clinical workshop at Huey P. Long Medical Center.
"Nursing is an art, you know. An art and a science," replied Sandy Duck, Huey P. Long's registered nurse program manager.
an 18-year-old senior at
The program, paid for through federal stimulus funds, is under the umbrella of a variety of agencies and groups - the Rapides Parish Police Jury and its Economic and Workforce Development office, the Rapides Business and Career Solutions and the Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center (AHEC).
Youths eligible for the program are between the ages of 16 and 24, who also are eligible for assistance through the Workforce Investment Act. The program seeks to increase youth work readiness skills, job retention and employment so youth can be successful in today's workforce, according to youth facilitator Melisa Bromley.
At the program's beginning, students were given aptitude tests to determine their strengths. For six weeks, the students have worked in internships at Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in a variety of occupations.
Several students have been offered jobs at Cabrini, Bromley said.
some of the students already are in college studying in medical-related
fields, some weren't quite sure which direction they wanted to go. And one
student at the workshop is attending
19-year-old Karleena Robinson, a recent graduate of
She said she's been looking toward a career in the medical field for years, and wants to take nursing and phlebotomy classes.
"I've always cared for people," Robinson said after she finished listening to breath and heart sound simulations. She said by listening to the sounds, and to the instructor's direction, she was able to detect the difference in different conditions.
At other stations, students practiced taking blood pressure readings and drawing blood. At the end of the workshop, a Huey P. Long physician led the students in learning how to suture wounds by practicing on pigs' feet.
Jason Parks, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said there is a possibility that the program could be offered again next year if more stimulus funds are available.
The program will wrap up on Monday with a College and Career Day for the students, said Joy Gilhousen, the health careers program coordinator with Central Louisiana AHEC.
LSUHSC Research On How Like Cell Receptor Systems Determine Very Different Functions, Supported By Grant
Andy Catling, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has been awarded a $177, 500 supplement to his RO1 grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to support his research on the mechanism by which seemingly similar cell receptor systems determine quite different functions influenced by hormones and drugs.
"We are interested in how the generic ERK signaling pathway confers specific physiological outcomes such as proliferation, differentiation and cell migration," notes Dr. Catling. "We hypothesize that specificity is conferred by the action of input- and output-specific 'scaffolding' molecules that assemble the pathway around growth factor receptors."
The supplement was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will be used to help retain key personnel needed to identify and characterize ERK phosphorylation targets - proteins to which phosphate groups can be added, increasing or decreasing protein function - specified by the scaffold. These phosphorylation targets are involved in the development of disease.
Dr. Ashok Pullikuth in Catling's lab has recently identified a protein that functions in the intracellular movement and cell division activity of growth factor receptors as a novel phosphorylation target. Understanding this novel mechanism might be important in treating conditions that are dependent upon specific growth factor receptors, like some breast cancers in which the EGF receptor family drives growth and survival.
"Our studies might provide insight into how specific functions of a pathway might be targeted therapeutically while not eliminating all essential housekeeping functions of the pathway," Dr. Catling says. "The beauty of research is that no one knows just how useful their findings will be in the future - there may be entirely unexpected benefits in addition to more predictable outcomes."
These key personnel and the data they generate are essential to submit a competitive renewal of this RO1 grant in November.
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