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FAU scientists receive $1.7 million NIH grant for novel neuroinflammation study

FAU scientists receive $1.7 million NIH grant for novel neuroinflammation study

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Project will investigate critical links between neuroinflammation and psychopathology

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Credit: Florida Atlantic University

Anxiety, depression and cognitive decline are prominent psychopathologies that together affect more than 40 million people in the United States. These symptoms may manifest as co-morbidities of acute brain injury, chronic neurodegenerative diseases, central nervous system (CNS) autoimmune diseases, or as consequence of chronic stress, CNS infection, aging, or drug treatments with inflammatory molecules. The common thread among all these conditions is the presence of neuroinflammation.

Although neuroinflammation has recently been implicated as an important cause of these psychopathologies and a new target for the treatment of these conditions, the mechanisms underlying neuroinflammation-induced dysfunction of relevant neurocircuits remain poorly understood.

Neuroscientists from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine and Brain Institute (I-BRAIN) have received a five-year, $1.7 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled, “Neuroinflammation, Neuronal IL-1R1, and Behavior.” This novel project is the first to investigate how the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) influences neurotransmission through a direct action on neurons and how this action triggers behavioral changes.

“Many studies have suggested that elevated expression of IL-1 is one of the most critical links between neuroinflammation and psychopathology. Increased IL-1 expression, especially in the brain, has been observed in human patients with anxiety, depression, autism and/or cognitive deficits,” said Ning Quan, Ph.D., principal investigator, a professor of biomedical science in FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, and a member of FAU’s I-BRAIN. “Evidence strongly suggests that IL-1 could be a mediator of anxiety, depression and learning/ memory deficits. However, we lack a good understanding of the precise neuronal circuits through which IL-1 affects neurons and how the receptor signals to induce these psychopathologies.”

Quan and co-investigator Randy Blakely, Ph.D., executive director of FAU’s I-BRAIN and a professor of biomedical science, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine, will establish nIL-1R1 as a crucial link that could convert neuroinflammation to neural dysfunction, providing a new pathogenic mechanism for anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction. For the study, they will focus on the specific sets of neurons that express IL-1R1, identifying them as the vulnerable targets to this pathogenic mechanism. Results from their research could suggest new targets for the treatment of psychopathology.

“Very few studies have attempted to investigate how IL-1 directly modulates neuronal activity and little is known about the function of neuronal IL-1 receptor in the central nervous system,” said Quan. “This missing gap can be attributed to the inability to identify IL-1mediated responses. In addition, because nIL-1R1 is expressed at low levels, detection by traditional immunohistochemical methods is difficult.”

To overcome these technical limitations, Quan and Blakely recently generated a mouse system to both visualize and express IL-1R1 in specific cell types in the brain or to eliminate its expression in these cells to understand how IL-1R1 loss influences behavior.

For the project, the researchers will pursue three specific aims: map and characterize IL-1R1 expressing neurons in the brain to provide the first brain map of nIL-1R1 distribution; determine the role of neuronal IL-1R1 in the induction of behavioral deficits and neuropathology caused by neuroinflammation; and elucidate the cellular and molecular pathways by which neuronal IL-1R1 causes psycho- and neuro-pathology. The research team recently reported in the journal Immunity that IL-1R1 is expressed at high levels by a limited set of neurons in the brain and have recently observed that sub-inflammatory levels of brain IL-1 appear to selectively activate nIL-1R1 on these cells whereas higher levels of IL-1 are required to activate non-neuronal cells.

“Florida Atlantic University neuroscientists are on the cutting-edge of developing genetic tools and techniques to help researchers pinpoint mechanisms that contribute to some of the most debilitating neurodegenerative diseases that affect us globally,” said Blakely. “With this latest grant from the National Institutes of Health, we hope to elucidate the key signaling pathways of a key neuroinflammatory pathway linked to behavioral deficits and neuropathology following neuroinflammation – a pathological feature of a wide range of central nervous system diseases.”

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About the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine:

FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine is one of approximately 152 accredited medical schools in the U.S. The college was launched in 2010, when the Florida Board of Governors made a landmark decision authorizing FAU to award the M.D. degree. After receiving approval from the Florida legislature and the governor, it became the 134th allopathic medical school in North America. With more than 70 full and part-time faculty and more than 1,300 affiliate faculty, the college matriculates 64 medical students each year and has been nationally recognized for its innovative curriculum. To further FAU’s commitment to increase much needed medical residency positions in Palm Beach County and to ensure that the region will continue to have an adequate and well-trained physician workforce, the FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine Consortium for Graduate Medical Education (GME) was formed in fall 2011 with five leading hospitals in Palm Beach County. The Consortium currently has five Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited residencies including internal medicine, surgery, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and neurology.

About the FAU Brain Institute:

Inaugurated in 2016 on the John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter, Fla., the FAU Brain Institute, supports research, education and community outreach among more than 100 faculty level researchers at FAU and its affiliate research centers. One of FAU’s four pillars that guide the University’s goals and strategic actions, the Institute seeks to unlock the secrets of brain development, function and plasticity and how the mechanisms uncovered can be compromised to drive devastating brain disorders. From the study of neuronal development and signaling to investigations of brain diseases including addiction, autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers from FAU’s Brain Institute seek to generate knowledge that benefits society. For more information about the Institute and its members, visit http://www.ibrain.fau.edu.

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit http://www.fau.edu.

Media Contact
Gisele Galoustian
ggaloust@fau.edu

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Economics

How digital technology can help keep cities green and pleasant

We know cities need green spaces – but what should they look like and where should they go?

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Preechar Bowonkitwanchai / shutterstock

Parks, small woodlands and even simple patches of grass not only keep a city attractive, but also help people find a sense of bliss in an otherwise bustling urban environment. With new technologies, we can plan and monitor these urban “green spaces” better than ever before.

As several studies have highlighted, nature within urban settings plays a pivotal role in combating many of the global public health challenges commonly associated with urbanisation. This includes maladies such as depression and high blood pressure. A 2022 study showed that trees actually have the ability to improve urban air quality as leaves and pine needles capture pollutants from the air.

That cities do need green spaces is therefore not a particularly contentious issue. It is, however, an open question as to how much green space a city ought to have. Even here, science can provide some guidelines, as research points to at least 9 square metres of green space per individual, with an ideal value of 50 square metres per capita in a city (for comparison, an average UK car parking space takes up about 12 square metres).

A small park viewed from above
Small parks for all? Sahara Prince / shutterstock

Green landscaping

The big question is therefore what kind of green space do we want? A well-kept but human-made park? Or something more natural and unkempt, such as groves, meadows or field-like areas? As we discuss in our forthcoming book, Designing Smart and Resilient Cities for a Post-Pandemic World: Metropandemic Revolution, this is largely contingent on the geographic preconditions of the city in question. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a diversity of different kinds of green areas if possible, yet it is an inescapable fact that some cities are blessed with lush vegetation while others are not.

However, all is not lost for cities without much natural green area, as such environments can be constructed in urban settings that have previously been bereft of naturally growing trees and grass. This “green landscaping” can be undertaken even in areas that would otherwise seem unlikely. One prime example is the High Line in New York City, a 1.45 mile (2.33km) long elevated linear park built on an abandoned railway viaduct. Since it opened in stages about a decade ago, the High Line has become an exemplar of green landscape redesign that seeks to turn obsolete infrastructure into green, vibrant public spaces.

People walk through park between tall buildings
All aboard the High Line. Massimo Salesi / shutterstock

While it is known that greenery has positive effects on mankind at large, it is more difficult to prove the exact causal relationship in exactly how green areas affect our health. In this regard, digital technology can be an essential tool for urban planners to determine where green landscape redesign is best employed.

Smart technology

One concept that is seeing particularly rapid development is “smart urban forests”, which refers to using tree monitors, 3D-imagery and other internet of things-linked technologies to help manage the forest. This “internet of nature” could monitor soil health, measure air pollution or ensure urban forests are adequately hydrated.

Future technology could also enable the use of open data platforms and more public engagement. Planners could collect various perspectives from the general population using an app, for instance, while also using digital technology to map and boost urban biodiversity and to ensure that green areas are placed where they will achieve maximum efficiency.

One example of this is the Treepedia research initiative, which was launched in 2016 by Massachusetts-based MIT Senseable City Lab. Treepedia aspires to raise awareness of urban forests by the use of digital vision techniques based on Google Street View images.

Map of Turin showing street tree dots
Treepedia calculates how much tree canopy is visible at various points on google street view. Treepedia, CC BY-SA

Treepedia focuses on pedestrian street trees found in multiple cities around the world, as opposed to parks. The main reason is that pedestrians are more likely to see street trees without planning to, whereas most people in parks made an active choice to be there. Using an open-source library, Treepedia means the public can calculate the quantities of tree coverage for their own city or region.

If urban planners become more aware of the potential of digital technology, then urban green spaces should have a bright future. However, designing the optimal green space that we want for our cities may also call for a deeper future collaboration between urban planners and engineers.


Read more: Neighbourhood green space is in rapid decline, deepening both the climate and mental health crises


Anthony Larsson works for the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.

Andreas Hatzigeorgiou is also CEO of the the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, and sits on the board of the Stockholm Senseable Lab, which is a collaboration between MIT and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

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Economics

EUR/GBP price prediction: is the bears’ pain over?

Ever since Brexit happened, the British pound gained against the common currency, the euro. Despite many analysts calling for the pound’s decline, it…

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Ever since Brexit happened, the British pound gained against the common currency, the euro. Despite many analysts calling for the pound’s decline, it gained ground in a relentless bearish trend.

The downtrend was so strong that even in 2022, some analysts believe that the EUR/GBP exchange rate will still hover around 0.84 in March 2023 – about 10 months from now.

Currently, EUR/GBP trades at 0.85, bouncing from its lows and looking constructive from fundamental and technical perspectives. So, where will the exchange rate go next?

Here is a price prediction considering both the technical and fundamental aspects.

The two central banks’ policies are set to diverge

Let’s start with the fundamental perspective. A currency pair moves based on the monetary policy differences between the two central banks.

In this case, the Bank of England was one of the first major central banks in the world that decided to increase the interest rate in the aftermath of the COVID-19 induced recession. Moreover, it did so not once but multiple times.

At the same time, the European Central Bank did nothing. It couldn’t do so, as a war started in Eastern Europe (Russia invaded Ukraine) in February.

In order to shelter European economies from the war’s economic impact, the European Central Bank preferred a wait-and-see stance. However, inflation is running way higher than the central bank’s target, and one of the causes is just the war.

As such, the central bank recently announced that it plans to end negative rates by September. Considering that the deposit facility rate is at negative 50bp, it means that a couple of rate hikes are on the table during the summer.

Yet, the Bank of England is now in a wait-and-see mode. Therefore, the fundamentals favor a move higher in the EUR/GBP exchange rate over the summer.

An inverse head and shoulders shows EUR/GBP struggling to overcome resistance

From a technical perspective, the market may have bottomed with the move to 0.82. It was quickly retraced, suggesting the presence of an inverse head and shoulders pattern.

A close above 0.86 should put the 0.90 area in focus. That is where the pattern’s measured move points to, and the move also implies that the lower highs series would be broken, thus ending the bearish bias.

All in all, EUR/GBP looks bullish here. Both technical and fundamental aspects favor more strength in the months ahead.

The post EUR/GBP price prediction: is the bears’ pain over? appeared first on Invezz.

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Economics

Weekly investment update – Weaker economic outlook weighs on markets

Global equities have continued their sell-off over the last week. What is new is that markets are now reacting to risks of weaker economic data weighing…

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Global equities have continued their sell-off over the last week. What is new is that markets are now reacting to risks of weaker economic data weighing on earnings. Real bond yields, whose rise triggered the recent drop in equity markets, have fallen as investors price a higher probability of a recession.   

Yields of US Treasury bonds have slipped since reaching around 3.12% in early May (see Exhibit 1). The rally has been driven by fears of a global recession due to poor economic data, strong inflation numbers, aggressive talk from central bankers and concerns over the consequences of Covid in China.

Recent data that contributed to the bond market’s unease about the prospects for the US economy includes: 

  • The Richmond Federal Reserve Manufacturing survey, which fell to its lowest since 2020 at -9.
  • The monthly survey of manufacturers in New York State conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York fell to -11.6, with the shipment measure falling at its fastest pace since the start of the pandemic two years ago.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s May business index dropped 15 points to 2.6, with the six-month outlook falling to its lowest since December 2008 (though the underlying details were better than the headline number).
  • Existing and new home sales dropped for a third month, to its lowest since 2020, held back by lean inventory, rising prices and higher mortgage rates. 

Taken together, the various regional Federal Reserve surveys suggest that the ISM Report for Business may come in at around 53, above 50 so still clearly in expansion territory for the US economy, but down noticeably from the upper 50s/lows 60s readings to which markets have become accustomed.

US equities still weak

US equities have remained weak as the down move continues for its seventh week.

It has been apparent that, in contrast to the start of the year when rising real bond yields were undermining equity markets, it is now fears of falling earnings due to a weaker economy that are weighing on stocks.

The last week has seen, in accordance with the risk-off regime, more buying-the-dip and selling-the-rally. There has also been a rotation out of growth and cyclicals into value and defensives (healthcare, real estate, utilities and staples).

European markets under the cosh

Bearish sentiment is prevalent in Europe, too, with investors cutting exposures to European equities.

There was another outflow in the week to 18 May, taking the total to 14 weeks of outflows in a row. Cyclicals, in particular, saw strong outflows, led by the materials, financials and energy sectors.

Our multi-asset team are inclined to reduce exposure to equity markets given the deterioration in the outlook.

European economy resists

Economic activity indicators have fallen so far in May, but remain above 50. Activity edged up in the manufacturing sector despite the fallout from the Ukraine war and supply chain disruptions that have intensified with China’s coronavirus lockdowns.

Although factories continue to report widespread supply constraints and diminished demand for goods amid elevated price pressures, the eurozone economy is being boosted by pent-up demand for services as pandemic-related restrictions are wound down.

While purchasing manager indices are still pointing to growth, it may be that these surveys understate the shock to activity, while sentiment surveys likely overstate the shock. Markets are increasingly tilting towards anticipation of a contraction in the coming quarters.

Higher food prices

Restrictions on the export of Ukrainian cereals continue and risks increasing food insecurity as the UN World Food Programme has highlighted.

As much of Russian and Ukrainian wheat goes to poorer nations, hunger could be a critical risk, driving up political instability.

The risk of further rises in food prices will be a key driver of inflation, particularly in emerging markets, the worst-case scenario being that the situation worsens significantly.

Moreover, lower fertiliser supply will have a greater impact on the next few months’ harvests, while the pass-through of costlier logistics and input prices is likely to drive food prices even higher.

Coming up…

Minutes of the meeting of the US Federal Open Markets Committee on 3-4 May will be published later on Wednesday.

However, market conditions have soured appreciably since the Fed’s first 50bp rate rise, so some of the language in the minutes pertaining to financial risks and market conditions will be outdated.

Instead, the three major focus points for market participants will likely be: 

  • Policymakers’ views on the conditions which could lead to a shift down, back to a pace of raising rates by 25bp at each FOMC meeting;
  • Any hints as to how far and for how long policymakers intend to push policy rates into restrictive territory;
  • Guidance shaping expectations for the next Summary of Economic Projections — aka the dot plot — due to be released at the June meeting. 

Forthcoming economic data  

US personal income and spending data for April should give investors an insight into the US consumer’s behaviour: Are they tightening the purse strings? The report may also show the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge (core PCE deflator) starting to decelerate.

Perhaps equally important, the report should shed light on how consumers are responding to the current high inflation environment, indicating how wages are performing relative to inflation and how aggressively consumers are tapping into the USD 2.5 trillion of accumulated savings from the pandemic period.

Disclaimer

Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients. The views expressed in this podcast do not in any way constitute investment advice.

The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns.

Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher-than-average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions).

Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.

Writen by Andrew Craig. The post Weekly investment update – Weaker economic outlook weighs on markets appeared first on Investors' Corner - The official blog of BNP Paribas Asset Management, the sustainable investor for a changing world.

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