A group of researchers led by C. Justin Lee, PhD, at the Institute for Basic Science in Dae-jeon, South Korea, recently published a preclinical study describing the possible underlying mechanism for how focused ultrasound induces neuromodulation in the brain. The team investigated the star-shaped glial cells that insulate and protect neurons – called astrocytes – and found that low-intensity, low-frequency ultrasound opened their TRPA1 ion channels. While the TRPA1 channels are open, calcium ions enter the cells, which releases gliotransmitters in the astrocytes; the released gliotransmitters activate receptors in neighboring neurons, causing them to fire. Could knowing this mechanism allow scientists to better optimize focused ultrasound for neuromodulation?
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Patients with type 1 diabetes may someday no longer need to inject insulin if pancreatic islet transplantation can become a viable treatment option. To aid in this endeavor, innovative researchers from the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine’s Interventional Regenerative Medicine and Imaging Laboratory recently conducted an in vitro preclinical study to assess the role for focused ultrasound in improving both function and engraftment during pancreas islet cell transplantation.
In the study, islets treated with pulsed focused ultrasound (pFUS) showed improved function when compared to an untreated control group, and this improvement was due to the pFUS increasing the intracellular concentration of calcium within islets, which in turn increased the resting membrane potential of the islets. After the stimulated islets were transplanted into diabetic mice, additional application of pFUS improved the function of the transplanted islets and reestablished glycemic control.
The pFUS also enhanced engraftment by facilitating islet revascularization and reducing inflammation. According to the paper, the study shows promise for human translation and for improving islet allo-transplantation, which is the process of transplanting healthy beta cells from the pancreas of a deceased organ donor into the liver of a person with type 1 diabetes. The islets begin to make and release insulin in the recipient’s body. More than one injection of transplanted islet cells is often needed to stop using insulin. In the United States, islet transplantation is considered an experimental procedure. Furthermore, patients who receive transplanted islets must take long-term immunosuppressants, and donor islets are in short supply.1
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