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Research Briefs

Understanding division
Writing in the journal Science, Geisel researchers from the Department of Biochemistry reported the key role played by the protein INF2 in the division of mitochondria, the organelles that produce energy for cells. The finding may lead to a better understanding of the development of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Harnessing a protein's power
A novel approach to attacking chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) seems to offer the possibility of treating the disease in patients whose cancers are resistant to the standard treatment. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology Manabu Kurokawa described research he carried out as a postdoc at Duke University. Rather than inhibiting BCR-ABL, the protein that causes the disease, Kurokawa harnessed the protein to force apoptosis in cancer cells. As BCR-ABL is not present in normal cells, this technique could be used to target only cancer cells.

Signature finding
Research led by associate professor of genetics Michael Whitfield identified gene expression signatures that can accurately identify patients with scleroderma who will respond positively to a particular treatment. There is no known cure for scleroderma—a rare autoimmune disease—and only some patients respond to the one drug often used to treat it. Finding a way to identify those patients who do not stand to benefit could help them avoid unnecessary treatment.

The secret to satisfaction
Experiencing improvements in function is more important than a decrease in pain for patients with chronic disabling back pain, according to research led by Rowland Hazard, a professor of orthopaedics and of medicine and the director of the functional restoration program at DHMC. The study followed patients enrolled in the functional restoration program. Before beginning the program, patients were asked to record goals to achieve over the next three months. They were later surveyed about their satisfaction with the program and about how fully they felt they had achieved their initial goals. "At least three months after the treatment, functional goal achievement had by far the greatest impact on patient satisfaction," the researchers concluded in The Spine Journal.

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Geisel School of Medicine at DartmouthDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College