Scripps Research (April 21, 2023) – Chronic alcohol consumption may make people more sensitive to pain through two different molecular mechanisms—one driven by alcohol intake and one by alcohol withdrawal. That is one new conclusion by scientists at Scripps Research on the complex links between alcohol and pain.
“There is an urgent need to better understand the two-way street between chronic pain and alcohol dependence,” says senior author Marisa Roberto, PhD, the Schimmel Family Chair of Molecular Medicine, and a professor of neuroscience at Scripps Research. “Pain is both a widespread symptom in patients suffering from alcohol dependence, as well as a reason why people are driven to drink again.”
Alcohol use disorder (AUD), which encompasses the conditions commonly called alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction, affects 29.5 million people in the U.S. according to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Over time, AUD can trigger the development of numerous chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, liver disease and some cancers.
Scripps Research (April 11, 2023) – From smartwatches and fitness bands to glucose monitors and in-home ultrasounds, the proliferation of digital devices is igniting a revolution in healthcare and medical research.
Patients can now collect thousands of data points about themselves and share that information with their healthcare providers. At the Scripps Research Translational Institute, researchers are taking advantage of new technology to study disease in novel ways.
Their projects include a platform for early detection of disease outbreaks, a sleep quality study, and even a way to predict and individual’s risk of certain disease based on their genetics. In this video, hear directly from the team about this exciting new frontier.
Calibr at Scripps Research is celebrating a major milestone, a decade of discovery. Take a look at the past 10 years of scientific innovation, and see what the next 10 years have in store.
The California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) is a first-of-its-kind, nonprofit translational research institute dedicated to accelerating the next generation of medicines, celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2022. Affiliated with Scripps Research—among the most innovative institutes worldwide—we spearhead drug discovery from a steady flow of pioneering science.
Our self-sustaining model encourages broad and bold exploration with far-reaching goals, yet rapid transition of our most successful, high-impact programs into the clinic. We pursue audacious and imaginative ideas—bridging scientific and technological advances to develop new medicines for unmet medical needs.
As humans live longer, they’re at increased risk of developing devastating NEURODEGENERATIVE diseases, such as Alzheimer’s—in a treatment landscape with few options and little hope. At Scripps Research, scientists are closer than ever to understanding how these diseases harm the brain and identifying possible drugs to stop them.
“This early preclinical work may identify proteins that protect against cognitive loss. We know it’s a long path to get to a drug, but we’re creating the foundation. We know there’s an entire landscape of potential molecular interactions that maintain healthy synapses, and any of these proteins could be a drug target.”— Hollis Cline, PhD
Take an animated look inside the neuron, and learn how scientists are addressing brain disease. With approximately 86 billion neurons in the brain, humans contain the most complex communications network imaginable. To address diseases of brain development and degeneration, neuroscientists are investigating how and why this network breaks down, and what can be done to repair it.
One area of study is dendrites, which are the tree-like structures of neurons, that receive electrical impulses. Researchers are carefully mapping out brain circuits and uncovering how connectivity changes can result in defects of the visual system or behavioral problems. The core section of the neuron is the cell body. Genetic engineering tools are revealing how mutations impact brain development and contribute to autism spectrum disorder or rare, inherited forms of neurological disease.
The transmission of nerve impulses occurs along the axon, which is insulated, much like an electrical wire, by a fatty layer called the myelin sheath. Scientists have invented a medicine to stop the immune system from mistakenly attacking this layer, which occurs during multiple sclerosis. Other molecules currently in development instruct the body to regenerate the sheath and repair damage. The axon also transports valuable cellular cargo, such as neurotransmitters, along tracks from one end of the neuron to the other.
Researchers are testing drug candidates for their ability to remove molecular traffic jams when this transport system fails, as often occurs in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The axon terminals make connections called synapses with other cells, using neurotransmitters as signals. Some scientists are evaluating how finely tuning the receptors for these chemicals could ease depression and anxiety.
Others are finding ways to promote the regrowth of lost synapses, which could halt neurodegeneration. From genetics to behavior, neuroscience is accelerating new interventions for the most challenging disorders of the nervous system.
Your brain is keenly aware of what’s going on inside your body at all times. Some things are obvious – like when you feel hungry or thirsty. But some things you never notice – like how blood vessels all over your body simultaneously contract as you stand up, so you don’t lose blood flow to your brain. But how does your brain know when to send the signal to squeeze? It’s all part of concept scientists call interoception – the dialogue between your brain and the rest of your body.
Interoception is involved in everything from keeping us balanced while we walk, to keeping our blood pressure and heart rate steady. It even appears to influence our moods and emotions. And thanks to recent discoveries, we’re learning more about how interoception works. Researchers identified two special channels in neurons that react to touch and named them PIEZO1 and PIEZO2. Since first identifying these pressure sensors, researchers have found PIEZOs in internal organs like the heart, lungs, and blood vessels lining the stomach… suggesting many physiological functions involve mechanical forces that our brain and other parts of our nervous system must monitor and influence. As the study of interoception grows, scientists are hopeful the field could lead to breakthroughs in treating heart disease, controlling blood pressure, relieving anxiety and depression, and treating a number of other disorders. Learn more about Scripps Research at scripps.edu.
Although growing older comes with a number of major life changes, science can help inform the things we do in the here in and now to forestall the most serious features of the aging self, promoting healthspan and not just lifespan.
Build Muscle – Muscle mass is one the best predictors of health and longevity. Muscle tissue is known to release its own chemicals called myokines, which can have benefits that span cognition, immunity and anti-cancer activity. By performing regular, resistance-based exercise that prioritizes strength, we can delay the loss of bone density and risk of physical injuries.
Vitamin D – Commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is in fact a critical hormone that helps maintain healthy bones, boost our immune system and improve our cardiovascular function. With age, the production of vitamin D in the skin can become less efficient, so if we don’t spend enough time outdoors, our risk of vitamin D deficiency may increase.
Neurodegenerative Diseases – One of the most unsettling aspects of aging is the potential for neurodegenerative disease. These conditions are increasingly prevalent in those with diabetes, suggesting that the brain’s blood flow and energy supply may be compromised. Research indicates that regular physical exercise, a healthy whole foods diet and staying intellectually active could at least slow the rate of decline.
Mindfulness – As we get older, major arteries can become thicker and less flexible, leading to increased blood pressure and undue strain on the heart. A regular mindfulness practice such as yoga or meditation has been shown to stem the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. By freeing us from this “fight-or-flight” state, this habit can improve blood flow and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Stay Social – As social animals, maintaining a strong sense of community and close personal relationships into old age are underestimated contributors to longevity. While social isolation in seniors can result in significant physical and mental decline, research suggests that close loved ones offer important emotional support and behavioral modifications that can overcome periods of high stress.
Metabolism – “My metabolism is slowing down!” That’s what we often hear, as the aging body becomes less effective at using energy, placing us at risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. By maintaining our muscle mass and reducing sugar consumption, we can support hormonal health, preserve our metabolism and keep our vitality into those advanced years. As scientists continue to find ways to extend our lives, paying attention to these keys to healthy aging can help increase the quality of those extra years.
Neuroscience Professor Seth Tomchik, PhD, focuses on two major research areas, the neuroscience of learning and memory, and diseases that affect learning and memory, including neurofibromatosis type one. Neuroscience is now the largest department on the Florida campus of Scripps Research.
The department’s faculty and staff, together with graduate students enrolled in the institute’s Skaggs Graduate School, push the boundaries of scientific knowledge to benefit humanity. Watch all 11 videos in this series to see their work in more detail. Scripps Research is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institute ranked the most influential in the world for its impact on innovation. With campuses in La Jolla, California, and Jupiter, Florida, the institute advances human health through profound discoveries that address pressing medical concerns around the globe. Scripps Research also trains the next generation of leading scientists at the Skaggs Graduate School, consistently named among the top 10 U.S. programs for chemistry and biological sciences. Learn more at http://www.scripps.edu.