Vital Signs, Fall 2011Most people take the functions of the brain and central nervous system for granted—until there is a malfunction. A simple disruption—forgetting where you left the car keys—results in frustration. The serious afflictions—migraine headaches, dementia, nerve damage—are life changing or life threatening.

Despite centuries of study of its structure and interconnections, the central nervous system still holds many mysteries for researchers, physicians, and patients. Neuroscience-related research is a major focus of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, with an estimated $13 billion budgeted for fiscal year 2011 for key neuroscience research areas including Alzheimer’s disease, brain disorders, depression, neuro-degenerative disorders, and schizophrenia.

In this issue of Vital Signs, we look at some of the tools researchers are using to conduct research in all areas of CNS.

Antibodies are the leading research tool in most research labs, including neuroscience laboratories, bringing specificity to the studies. In this issue's lead article, "Antibodies in Neuroscience," researchers share their strategies and applications for antibodies. Differentiation of embryonic stem cells into neurons, cell purification, targeting cells for genetic knockdowns, biomarker studies, and examining neurite growth are a few applications.

In "Tackling the Innovation Gap", the authors suggest a new strategy for drug discovery to reverse late-stage drug failures. Integrating computer-based simulation and quantitative techniques similar to that used in engineering-based industries can lead to shorter cycle times and higher success rates, they argue.

This issue also features profiles of four drugs in development for CNS disorders.

MorphoSys AG, reports on MOR103, a fully human HuCAL antibody directed against granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), an important immune modulator. The drug is being developed for multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

TONIX Pharmaceuticals reports on Phase 2a clinical trial data for very-low dose cyclobenzaprine to improve the sleep quality of fibromyalgia patients.
Ariel Pharmaceuticals describes AP-1531, an orally available, potent and selective EP4 receptor antagonist that specifically targets prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) binding to combat migraine pain.

Afraxis discusses developments in its small molecule PAK inhibitors for the treatment of Fragile X Syndrome.

In addition, we feature some of the latest research developments, as well as kits, imaging tools, software, lab tools, microscopes, and molecular testing tools.

We hope this information helps you build on your research base and add to the collective structure of CNS research.

View the Fall 2011 issue of Vital Signs.