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Cobbers on the Brain
Lane Simonian
Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 10:06 AM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 4982

Each fall Professor Julie Mach and her students at Concordia college in Minnesota write about various neurodegenerative diseases.  I love to read the students' work because they are focusing on presenting highly complicated information in ways that a non-scientist can understand.  I really appreciate this effort because I have learned that this is very difficult to do and is perhaps one of the most important requirements for being a good scientist.

Today's post was on peroxynitrite by a student named Dan who is a senior majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry and neuroscience:

Peroxynitrite is one of several secondary RONS [reactive oxygen and nitrogen species] that are very bad. These secondary RONS are not as easily broken down by those molecules that break down the primary RONS, and they have no other particular enzymes of their own. This means that they last much longer in the body, and can wreak havoc. Plus, they are even more reactive. Peroxynitrite can bind to amino acids, nitrating them and causing them to lose their function. It can also oxidize molecules that have a transition metal in them such as hemoglobin, myoglobin, and cytochrome c. This changes the transition state of the metal and renders the molecule nonfunctional. This is obviously very bad, and leads to cell damage and death. 

As we age, we normally accrue higher amounts of reactive species. In fact this may be one of the main contributors to the breakdown of cells that occurs with normal aging. In neurodegenerative disorders this occurs rapidly in particular neurons, causing a lot of damage and neuronal loss. Anti-oxidants and anti-nitrosatives found in fruits and veggies like blueberries and spinach can help by breaking down some of these reactive species, but more research into finding out more about how we can prevent this process from occurring is definitely warranted. - See more at:

I have a feeling that several of these students are going to make big breakthroughs in the future.

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2015 7:41 AM
Joined: 9/4/2012
Posts: 469

Terrific &  concise validation of the ideas that you have of this disease.
Lane Simonian
Posted: Saturday, November 21, 2015 10:27 AM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 4982

Thanks so much, Vita.  It is always nice to have validation and for some reason I especially enjoy it when it comes from possible future doctors.

I just finished grading papers for my European history class and a few students wrote about the medical knowledge of the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks.  The students reminded me of how important it is to study this knowledge for potential insights on how to treat "modern" diseases.  It also reminded me of some of the historical quotes that I have read about dementia over the years:

In the eighteenth century, John Hill wrote in the Family Herbal: “Sage will retard the rapid progress of decay that treads upon our heels so fast in latter years of life, will preserve faculty and memory more valuable to the rational mind than life itself.”

In 1652, English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper wrote, about rosemary: “Helps a weak memory and quickens the senses. The chymical [essential] oil drawn from the leaves and flowers, is a sovereign help…touch the temples and nostrils with two or three drops.” 

“There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.”

― William ShakespeareHamlet

Lane Simonian
Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2015 10:07 AM
Joined: 12/12/2011
Posts: 4982

Another student entry on Cobbers on the Brain:

NO is produced by enzymes (iNOS, eNOS and nNOS) from the amino acid L-arginine. One of the major players in the production of NO, are glial cells, which produce NO as a response to inflammatory signals. This is important, as it is a way for your body to appropriately respond to harmful stimuli. At low concentrations, NO has many physiological roles as a cellular signaling molecule, but in higher concentrations is associated with various neurodegenerative diseases, as well as multiple sclerosis and strokes. Glial cells overproduce NO in response to a variety of stimuli, such as environmental toxins, and neuronal damage/death products.

Too much NO has been associated with demyelination (removal of the protective and insulating myelin sheath from the axon of the neuron), permeability of the blood brain barrier, and interference with the transmission of the signal within the neuron. Overproduction of NO can also increase the production of more reactive oxygen species, which can wreak havoc on the cell. Such species include ONOO-, the most toxic of the reactive oxygen species. It has been implicated in cell stress, affecting mitochondrial function and a wide variety of vital proteins that help maintain neuronal health.

I really hope some of these students become neuroscientists and neurologists.  Our future lies in their hands.