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Diagnostics Biochemistry and molecular biology, Technology and innovation, Genetics and epigenetics, Neurology

Research Review

An Unlikely Connection
Researchers have connected frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with the genetic mutation associated with Huntington’s disease (1). They found that a small sample of FTD/ALS patients had a repeat expansion mutation of the huntingtin protein, but without clinical symptoms of the disease.

Microscope for All
A collaboration of institutions in Jena, Germany, has developed an optical toolbox – the UC2 – to build cost-effective microscopes with high resolution comparable to their commercial counterparts (2). They hope it will provide an alternative for laboratories that cannot access expensive modern microscopes.

Scientist’s Best Friend
Low-cost nanodiamonds improve sensitivity of paper-based diagnostic tests, with the potential to aid early detection of diseases such as HIV (3). The i-sense McKendry group found that the nanodiamonds – thousands of times more sensitive than gold nanoparticles – detected lower viral loads in early disease stages.

Speeding Things Up
A new motorized microsensor seeks to solve the speed versus sensitivity trade-off in biomolecule sensing (4). In motorizing the sensor, the team at Cockrell School of Engineering have increased the speed at which low-concentration molecules collide with each other – improving early disease detection.

Unhealthy Gut, Unhealthy Mind
Major depressive disorder (MDD) has been found to be associated with disturbances in the gut microbiome (5), with significant differences in three bacteriophages, 47 bacterial species, and 50 fecal metabolites compared with healthy controls. This may support development of a biomarker-based tool for improving MDD diagnosis.

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  1. R Dewan et al., Neuron, [Online ahead of print] (2020). PMID: 33242422.
  2. B Diederich et al., Nat Commun, 11, 5979 (2020). PMID: 33239615.
  3. BS Miller et al., Nature, 587, 588 (2020). PMID: 33239800.
  4. J Guo et al., ACS Nano, 14, 15204 (2020). PMID: 33095572.
  5. J Yang et al., Sci Adv, 6, eaba8555 (2020). PMID: 33268363.

About the Author

Olivia Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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