Canceling Noise

30 06 2014

Audio games may enhance hearing in noisy environments

The ability to hear soft speech in a noisy environment is difficult for many and nearly impossible for the 48 million people in the United States living with hearing loss. Harvard Medical School researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear have programmed a new type of game that trained both mice and humans to enhance their ability to discriminate soft sounds in noisy backgrounds. Their findings are published in PNAS.


Image: iStock

Image: iStock

In the experiment, adult humans and mice with normal hearing were trained in a rudimentary “audiogame.” Inspired by sensory foraging behavior, the game required the subjects to discriminate changes in the loudness of a tone presented with a moderate level of background noise. The results suggest new therapeutic options for patients who receive little benefit from conventional sensory rehabilitation strategies.

“Like the children’s game ‘hot and cold,’ our game provided instantaneous auditory feedback that allowed our human and mouse subjects to home in on the location of a hidden target,” said senior author Daniel Polley, HMS assistant professor of otology and laryngology and director of Mass Eye and Ear’s Amelia Peabody Neural Plasticity Unit of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. “Over the course of training, both species learned adaptive search strategies that allowed them to more efficiently convert noisy, dynamic audio cues into actionable information for finding the target.

“To our surprise, human subjects who mastered this simple game over the course of 30 minutes of daily training for one month exhibited a generalized improvement in their ability to understand speech in noisy background conditions,” Polley said. “Comparable improvements in the processing of speech in high levels of background noise were not observed for control subjects who heard the sounds of the game but did not actually play the game.”

The researchers recorded the electrical activity of neurons in auditory regions of the mouse cerebral cortex to gain some insight into how training might have boosted the ability of the brain to separate signal from noise. They found that training substantially altered the way the brain encoded sound.
In trained mice, many neurons became highly sensitive to faint sounds that signaled the location of the target in the game. These neurons also displayed increased resistance to noise, retaining an ability to encode faint sounds even under conditions of elevated background noise.

Daniel Polley in the Amelia Peabody Neural Plasticity Unit of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. Image: Eric Antoniou/Mass Eye and Ear

Daniel Polley in the Amelia Peabody Neural Plasticity Unit of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. Image: Eric Antoniou/Mass Eye and Ear

“Again, changes of this ilk were not observed in control mice that watched, and listened, to their counterparts play the game. Active participation in the training was required; passive listening was not enough,” Polley said.

These findings illustrate the utility of brain-training exercises that are inspired by careful neuroscience research, he added.

“When combined with conventional assistive devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, audio games of the type we describe here may be able to provide the hearing impaired with an improved ability to reconnect to the auditory world,” Polley said.

“Of particular interest is the finding that brain training improved speech processing in noisy backgrounds—a listening environment where conventional hearing aids offer limited benefit,” said Jonathon Whitton, lead author on the paper. A principal investigator at the Amelia Peabody Neural Plasticity Unit, Whitton is affiliated with the Program in Speech Hearing Bioscience and Technology, Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants R01 DC009836 and P30 DC5029 and by a grant from the Mass Eye and Ear Curing Kids Fund.

Adapted from a Mass Eye and Ear news release.


By MARY LEACH [on-line] Cambridge, MA (USA):, 30 de junio de 2014 [ref. 18 Xuño 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:

Paediatrics measurements not always necessary

26 06 2014

Five common measurements or procedures within paediatrics are insufficiently accurate or useful for clinical practice so the popular motto ‘the knowlegde is in the number’ [in Dutch: meten is weten] does not always apply. This has been revealed by research conducted by UMCG PhD student Jolita Bekhof, who works as a paediatrician in the Isala Clinics in Zwolle. Supplementary tests do not lead to less anxiety or symptoms in patients. In paediatrics in particular, it is thus important to critically examine supplementary measurements or tests because most children in the West are healthy. Bekhof will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 18 June.

Doctors are keen on measurements for several reasons: they can reduce the uncertainty factor in a diagnosis and they can reassure the patient – or even the doctor. In addition, doctors are trained in the principle of ‘to measure is to know’ and thus have an almost blind trust in figures. However, every measurement could harm the patient, especially if it is invasive. Further, every measurement costs money and false positive results are also possible. If there is not much chance of a particular disease being present, previous research has already revealed that supplementary tests do not make the patient less anxious or reduce the symptoms.

In her thesis, Bekhof tested the reliability and the usefulness of five common measurements or procedures used in paediatrics: measuring the glucose in the urine in the nappies of neonates with the help of test strips, the diagnostic value of clinical symptoms (including glycosuria) when looking for serious infections in premature babies, the fluid balance in ill neonates, the assessment of the degree of shortness of breath in children, and the use of viral tests with bronchiolitis.

Her research revealed that only the testing of glucose with test strips was reliable; the other measurements or procedures were insufficiently accurate or turned out to be insufficiently useful in clinical practice. Bekhof thus came to the conclusion that the motto ‘to measure is to know’ is definitely not always applicable. Bekhof: ‘This starting point only applies on condition that you know what you are measuring, how, why and who.’ Her research also revealed that it could be useful to re-examine many of the routine measurements. According to Bekhof, this certainly applies to paediatrics: ‘In paediatrics in particular, it is important to critically examine supplementary measurements or tests because most children in the West are healthy.’

In clinical practice in Zwolle, the principle is evidence-based practice. That principle creates a self-critical and enquiring attitude, laying the foundations for Bekhof’s thesis: ‘If we cannot find a satisfactory answer to a question in the available literature, we often draw up a research proposal. We then examine whether we can resolve this proposal with a study within our own practice. The topics examined in my thesis have all arisen from such discussions and the resulting studies.’


Curriculum vitae

Jolita Bekhof (Leeuwarden, 1971) studied medicine at the University of Groningen and trained as a paediatrician at the UMCG. She conducted her research at the Amalia Kindercentrum of the Isala Clinics in Zwolle. Her thesis is entitled ‘Demystification of commonly used measurements in paediatrics’. She will remain working as a paediatrician at the Isala Clinics after receiving her PhD.
 [on-line] Groningen (NED):, 26 de junio de 2014 [ref. 13 Xuño 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:

EyeMusic SSD: Can the blind ‘hear’ colors and shapes?

23 06 2014

What if you could “hear” colors? Or shapes?  These features are normally perceived visually, but using sensory substitution devices (SSDs) they can now be conveyed to the brain noninvasively through other senses.

Prof. Amir Amedi: innovating solutions for the blind and visually impaired, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Photo: Hebrew University)

Prof. Amir Amedi: innovating solutions for the blind and visually impaired, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Photo: Hebrew University)

At the Center for Human Perception and Cognition, headed by Prof. Amir Amedi of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Medicine, the blind and visually impaired are being offered tools, via training with SSDs, to receive environmental visual information and interact with it in ways otherwise unimaginable. The work of Prof. Amedi and his colleagues is patented by Yissum, the Hebrew University’s Technology Transfer Company.

SSDs are non-invasive sensory aids that provide visual information to the blind via their existing senses. For example, using a visual-to-auditory SSD in a clinical or everyday setting, users wear a miniature camera connected to a small computer (or smart phone) and stereo headphones. The images are converted into “soundscapes,” using a predictable algorithm, allowing the user to listen to and then interpret the visual information coming from the camera.

With the EyeMusic SSD (available free at the Apple App store at, one hears pleasant musical notes to convey information about colors, shapes and location of objects in the world.

Using this SSD equipment and a unique training program, the blind are able to achieve various complex. visual-linked abilities. In recent articles in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience and Scientific Reports, blind and blindfolded-sighted users of the EyeMusic were shown to correctly perceive and interact with objects, such as recognizing different shapes and colors or reaching for a beverage. (A live demonstration can be seen at


In another use of EyeMusic, it was shown that other fast and accurate movements can be guided by the EyeMusic and visuo-motor learning.  In studies published in two prestigious scientific journals, Neuron and Current Biology, it was demonstrated that the blind can characterize sound-conveyed images into complex object categories (such as faces, houses and outdoor scenes, plus everyday objects) and could locate people’s positions, identify facial expressions and read letters and words. (See YouTube channel for demonstrations.)

Despite these encouraging behavioral demonstrations, SSDs are currently not widely used by the blind population. However, in a recent review published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, the reasons that have prevented their adoption have changed for the better over the past few years. For instance, new technological advances enable SSDs to be much cheaper, much smaller and lighter, and they can run using a standard Smart phone. Additionally, new computerized training methods and environments boost training and performance.

The Hebrew University research has shown that contrary to the long-held conception of the cortex being divided into separate vision-processing areas, auditory areas, etc., new findings over the past decade demonstrate that many brain areas are characterized by their computational task, and can be activated using senses other than the one commonly used for this task, even for people who were never exposed tooriginalsensory information at all (such as a person born blind that never saw one photon of light in his life).

When processing “visualinformation” conveyed through SSD, it was shown by the researchers that congenitally blind people who learned to read by touch using the Braille script or through their ears with sensory substitution devices use the same areas in the visual cortex as those used by sighted readers. A recent example of this approach was just published in Current biology, showing that blind subjectsseebody shapes via their ears using SSD equipment and training.

There is a whole network of regions in the human brain dedicated to processing and perceiving of body shapes, starting from the areas processing vision in the cortex, leading to the “Extrastriate Body Area,” or EBA, and further connecting to multiple brain areas deciphering people’s motion in space, their feelings and intents.


In tests with the blind, it was found that their EBA was functionally connected to the whole network of body-processing found in the sighted. This lends strength to the researchers’ new theory of the brain as a sensory-independent task machine, rather than as a pure sensory (vision, audition, touch) machine.

“The human brain is more flexible than we thought,” says Prof. Amedi. “These results give a lot of hope for the successful regaining of visual functions using cheap non-invasive SSDs or other invasive sight restoration approaches. They suggest that in the blind, brain areas have the potential to be ‘awakened’ to processing visual properties and tasks even after years or maybe even lifelong blindness, if the proper technologies and training approaches are used.”
 [on-line] Jerusalem (ISR):, 23 Xuño 2014 [ref. 09 Marzo 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:


Combined Vaccines Improve Survival in Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

19 06 2014

Combining two specific anti-cancer vaccines, rather than administering one as monotherapy, doubles the 1-year survival probability in patients with metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), according to the results of a phase II study presented January 14, two days in advance of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) 2014 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium.

Adding the immunotherapy CRS-207 to GVAX Pancreas, rather than giving GVAX alone, sparked the improvement, most markedly in patients who received at least two doses of GVAX and at least one dose of CRS-207, and in those who had received two or more prior treatment regimens, the study’s researchers found in the randomized study.


“This is the first time a randomized study has shown that immunotherapy is effective in pancreatic cancer. This study is just a first step, and we believe we’ll be able to take this approach further,” said lead study author Dung T. Le, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland. “Various chemotherapy drugs are used, but there are no standard treatment options for second- or third-line therapy in this setting. We’re excited these patients may soon have an alternative to chemotherapy that could come with fewer side effects.”


Advanced pancreatic cancer has a very poor prognosis, ASCO said in a written statement. The best reported median survival of 11 months comes from first-line treatment with the chemotherapy regimen FOLFIRINOX. However, due to its side effects, only the fittest patients qualify for this treatment, and reported survival with other chemotherapy regimens is lower, according to the statement. For patients whose disease progresses despite first-line treatment, the median survival ranges from 4 to 6 months with second-line therapy, and 2 to 4 months with third-line therapy.


The new study tested an innovative strategy designed to stimulate an immune response against pancreas tumor cells, potentially improving outcomes for such patients with a regimen that appears to be better tolerated than chemotherapy.


GVAX is made from two pancreatic cancer cell lines that are irradiated so that they secrete the protein GM-CSF, which stimulates the immune system. The drug is given intradermally after low-dose cyclophosphamide (CY), which inhibits regulatory T cells, Le explained. CRS-207 is composed of live-attenuated Listeria monocytogenes engineered to stimulate an immune response against the protein mesothelin, which is present at high levels on pancreatic cancer cells, the authors and ASCO wrote.


In mouse tumor models, the two types of vaccines have proved synergistic, and in a phase I study of CRS-207, three patients with PDAC who had received prior GVAX lived ≥15 months, the authors noted.


The study by Le et al included 90 patients with metastatic PDAC, the most common form of pancreatic cancer, who were randomly assigned 2:1 to treatment with two doses of CY/GVAX followed by four doses of CRS-207 (arm A), all three weeks apart for a 20-week course of treatment; or six doses of CY/GVAX every three weeks (arm B). Courses could be repeated. The primary endpoint was overall survival (OS), and secondary endpoints were safety and clinical and immune responses. Nearly all patients had received at least one prior course of chemotherapy, and 51% of them had received two or more prior regimens.


At a planned interim analysis, with a median follow-up of 7.8 months, the median OS was 6.1 months for the two-vaccine therapy compared with 3.9 months for therapy with GVAX (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.59, two-sided log rank P = .03). About 24% of patients in arm A were still alive after 1 year, compared with 12% in arm B, Le said.


Among patients who received at least three doses of vaccine (about 70% of all patients), those in arm A who received two doses of GVAX and at least one dose of CRS-207 had a median OS of 9.7 months compared to 4.6 months for those who took three or more doses of CY/GVAX alone (HR = 0.53, two-sided log rank P = .03). Investigators observed stabilization of CA19-9, a tumor marker in PDAC, in 32% of patients in arm A versus 13% of patients in arm B.


Based on the benefit observed at this interim analysis, the study was stopped and patients were allowed to cross over from arm B to arm A.


The side effects of the vaccine were relatively mild, resolved quickly, and did not get worse with each dose of treatment (as is often the case with chemotherapy), ASCO wrote. The side effects included local reactions after GVAX, and transient fevers, rigors, and lymphopenia after CRS-207, according to the authors.


“CY/GVAX followed by CRS-207 shows extended survival with manageable toxicity in previously treated metastatic PDA and warrants further study,” the authors concluded.


The GVAX/CRS-207 combination is also being looked at in other clinical studies. The researchers are about to launch a large phase II study that will compare the vaccine combination versus CRS-207 alone versus chemotherapy as second-line or greater therapy for metastatic pancreatic cancer, according to ASCO. They are also looking at combining GVAX/CRS-207 with immune checkpoint inhibitors such as ipilimumab and anti-PD-1/PD-L1. A study testing GVAX/ipilimumab as a maintenance treatment for patients whose disease became stable on FOLFIRINOX has recently opened.



Le DT, Wang-Gillam A, Picozzi V Jr, et al. A phase 2, randomized trial of GVAX Pancreas and CRS-207 immunotherapy versus GVAX alone in patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma: Updated results. Presented at: the ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium; January 16-18, 2014; San Francisco, California. Abstract 177.


By Beth Fand Incollingo [on-line] New Jersey (USA):, 19 Xuño 2014 [ref. 14 Xaneiro 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:

With the right rehabilitation, paralyzed rats learn to grip again

16 06 2014

After a large stroke, motor skills barely improve, even with rehabilitation. An experiment conducted on rats demonstrates that a course of therapy combining the stimulation of nerve fiber growth with drugs and motor training can be successful. The key, however, is the correct sequence: Paralyzed animals only make an almost complete recovery if the training is delayed until after the growth promoting drugs have been administered.


A constricted carotid artery – as pictured here above right – can lead to a stroke. (Photo: Zephyr / Science Photo Library)

A constricted carotid artery – as pictured here above right – can lead to a stroke. (Photo: Zephyr / Science Photo Library)


Only if the timing, dosage and kind of rehabilitation are right can motor functions make an almost full recovery after a large stroke. Rats that were paralyzed down one side by a stroke almost managed to regain their motor functions fully if they were given the ideal combination of rehabilitative training and substances that boosted the growth of nerve fibers. Anatomical studies confirmed the importance of the right rehabilitation schedule: Depending on the therapeutic design, different patterns of new nerve fibers that sprouted into the cervical spinal cord from the healthy part of the brain and thus aid functional recovery to varying degrees were apparent. The study conducted by an interdisciplinary team headed by Professor Martin Schwab from the Brain Research Institute at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich’s Neuroscience Center is another milestone in research on the repair of brain and spinal cord injuries.


“This new rehabilitative approach at least triggered an astonishing recovery of the motor skills in rats, which may become important for the treatment of stroke patients in the future,” says first author Anna-Sophia Wahl. At present, patients have to deal with often severe motor-function, language and vision problems, and their quality of life is often heavily affected.


Allow nerves to grow first, then train


On the one hand, the treatment of rats after a stroke involves specific immune therapy, where so-called Nogo proteins are blocked with antibodies. These proteins in the tissue around the nerve fibers inhibit nerve-fiber growth. If they are blocked, nerve fibers begin to sprout in the injured sections of the brain and spinal cord and relay nerve impulses again. On the other hand, the stroke animals, whose front legs were paralyzed, underwent physical training – namely, gripping food pellets. All the rats received antibody treatment first to boost nerve-fiber growth and – either at the same time or only afterwards – motor training.


The results are surprising: The animals that began their training later regained a remarkable 85 percent of their original motor skills. For the rats that were trained straight after the stroke in parallel with the growth-enhancing antibodies, however, it was a different story: At 15 percent, their physical performance in the grip test remained very low.


Meticulous design very promising


The researchers consider timing a crucial factor for the success of the rehabilitation: An early application of growth stimulators – such as antibodies against the protein Nogo-A – triggers an increased sprouting and growth of nerve fibers. The subsequent training is essential to sift out and stabilize the key neural circuits for the recovery of the motor functions. For instance, an automatic, computer-based analysis of the anatomical data from the imaging revealed that new fibers in the spinal cord sprouted in another pattern depending on the course of treatment. By reversibly deactivating the new nerve fibers that grow, the neurobiologists were ultimately able to demonstrate for the first time that a group of these fibers is essential for the recovery of the motor function observed: Nerve fibers that grew into the spinal cord from the intact front half of the brain – changing sides – can reconnect the spinal cord circuits of the rats’ paralyzed limbs to the brain, enabling the animals to grip again.


“Our study reveals how important a meticulous therapeutic design is for the most successful rehabilitation possible,” sums up study head Martin Schwab. “The brain has enormous potential for the reorganization and reestablishment of its functions. With the right therapies at the right time, this can be increased in a targeted fashion.”


YouTube Preview Image [on-line] Zürich (CH):, 16 de junio de 2014 [ref. 13 Xuño 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:

Caracterización molecular de familias de cáncer de colon hereditario sin causa genética identificada

12 06 2014

Durante las últimas décadas, se ha realizado un gran esfuerzo para dilucidar las causas genéticas de los casos de cáncer colorrectal familiar. A pesar de eso, incluidos los últimos avances tecnológicos que han permitido estudiar el exoma o genoma completo de los miembros de familias afectadas, todavía no es posible explicar gran parte de la predisposición genética al cáncer colorrectal.

En el Programa de Cáncer Hereditario del ICO-IDIBELL la línea de trabajo que dirige la investigadora Laura Valle Velasco está dedicada al estudio molecular de familias de alto riesgo en las que aún se desconoce la causa genética de esta predisposición a desarrollar cáncer de colon y recto.


Con el fin de identificar nuevos genes de cáncer hereditario se ha secuenciado el exoma completo, es decir la parte codificante del genoma, de los miembros afectos de cáncer de una de estas familias. La familia estudiada mostraba un patrón de herencia aparentemente dominante, y los familiares con cáncer no habían desarrollado pólipos en el colon. De forma inesperada, se identificaron mutaciones en un gen ya conocido de predisposición al cáncer colorrectal y a poliposis colónica que sigue un patrón de herencia recesivo, el gen MUTYH.

En base a los resultados obtenidos en este estudio, se propone una reorientación del proceso de selección de familias para el estudio de MUTYH donde se contempla la presencia de un patrón de herencia dominante debido al riesgo que aportan las mutaciones en un solo alelo, la posibilidad de que no existan pólipos en el momento del diagnóstico, así como de que existan tumores con rasgos moleculares característicos de otros síndromes de cáncer colorrectal hereditario como es la inestabilidad de microsatélites.

Por otro lado, apoyando estudios previos, se propone el análisis de una mutación concreta [KRAS c.34G>T (p.G12C)], característica de los tumores asociados a MUTYH, como test de selección de familias elegibles para el estudio del gen en línea germinal.

Además de la implicación del Programa de Cáncer Hereditario este estudio ha contado con la colaboración de grupos de la Universidad de Frankfurt (Dr. Guido Plotz), de la Universidad de Oviedo (Dr. Xose S. Puente) y del Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG).


Otro estudio del equipo de Valle para caracterizar las familias con cáncer colorrectal hereditario sin causa genética conocida, ha realizado un estudio exhaustivo de los rasgos moleculares de los tumores desarrollados en el contexto del cáncer colorrectal hereditario no polipósico sin alteraciones en los genes de reparación del ADN, que causarían el síndrome de Lynch.

Para ello, se han estudiado las alteraciones genómicas, mutaciones en genes relevantes en cáncer de colon como son KRAS, BRAF, TP53 y PIK3CA, y el nivel de metilación global de islas CpG tanto en tumores hereditarios como esporádicos. Los resultados obtenidos indican que estos tumores hereditarios muestran perfiles genómicos muy similares a los perfiles de los tumores esporádicos, ambos sugerentes de una alta inestabilidad cromosómica y un bajo nivel de metilación de islas CpG.

Sin embargo, han identificado algunas características específicas, como la ganancia del cromosoma 2, la pérdida de 10q o una menor frecuencia de mutaciones en TP53, que podrían ser relevantes para el manejo clínico de estos pacientes o para la identificación de los defectos en línea germinal causantes de la agregación de cáncer en estas familias. Para este proyecto el Programa de Cáncer Hereditario ha contado con la colaboración de otros grupos del ICO-IDIBELL (Unidad de Biomarcadores y Susceptibilidad y Laboratorio de Investigación Translacional).


Referencias de los artículos

Nuria Seguí, Matilde Navarro, Marta Pineda, Nicole Köger, Fernando Bellido, Sara González, Olga Campos, Silvia Iglesias, Rafael Valdés-Mas, Adriana López-Doriga, Marta Gut, Ignacio Blanco, Lázaro Conxi, Gabriel Capellá, Xose S. Puente, *Guido Plotz, *Laura Valle. Exome sequencing identifies MUTYH mutations in a family with colorectal cancer and an atypical phenotype. Gut 2014 [Epub ahead of print]


Fernando Bellido, Marta Pineda, Rebeca Sanz-Pamplona, Matilde Navarro, Marga Nadal, Lázaro Conxi, Ignacio Blanco, Victor Moreno, Gabriel Capellá, Laura Valle. Comprehensive molecular characterisation of hereditary non-polyposis colorectal tumours with mismatch repair proficiency. European Journal of Cancer 2014 [Epub ahead of print]
 [on-line] Barcelona (ESP):, 12 de junio de 2014 [ref. 03 Xuño 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:

AlexanderSashaShulgin, psychedelic pioneer, RIP

9 06 2014


 AlexanderSashaShulgin, maverick chemist, psychedelic pioneer, and inspiring human being, died June, 2 at 88 years old. Sasha is best known for popularizing MDMA (Ecstasy) and introducing it to the psychological community, and synthesizing hundreds of new psychoactive chemicals that he first tested on himself. His scientific research is detailed in a huge output of papers and books including the seminal tomes TIHKAL and PIHKAL, co-authored with his wife and research partner Ann Shulgin.

As Sasha once said, everyone deservesthe license to explore the nature of his own soul.

Sasha, you will be missed, and rest-assured the research will continue.


By David Pescovitz


AlexanderSashaShulgin, Ph.D., was a pharmacologist and chemist known for his creation of new psychoactive chemicals. After serving in the Navy, he earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from U.C. Berkeley in 1954. In the late 50s and early 60s he did post-doctorate work in psychiatry and pharmacology at U.C. San Francisco and worked briefly as research director at BioRad Laboratories before becoming a senior research chemist at Dow Chemical Co.

In 1960, Sasha tried mescaline for the first time. He the experimented with synthesizing chemicals with structures similar to mescaline such as DOM. After leaving Dow in 1966 to become an independent consultant, Sasha taught public health at Berkeley and San Francisco General Hospital. Although he didn’t invent it, Sasha first synthesized MDMA in 1965; however, he did not try it at that time. In 1976, the effects of MDMA were described to Sasha by an undergrad at San Francisco State University. Sasha was inspired to cook up a batch of the drug, which he began testing on himself in September of that year. Finding the compound to have worthwhile qualities, in 1977 he introduced the material to Leo Zeff, an Oakland psychologist who worked with psychedelics in his therapy practice. Zeff introduced hundreds of therapists to MDMA and word quickly spread outside the therapist community. Sasha’s partner Ann Shulgin also conducted psychedelic therapy sessions with MDMA before it was scheduled in 1985.

Since that time, Sasha Shulgin synthesized and bioassayed (self-tested) hundreds of psychoactive chemicals, recording his work in five books and more than two hundred papers. He was a fixure in the psychedelic community, who has spoken at countless conferences, granted frequent interviews, and instilled a sense of rational scientific thought into the world of self-experimentation and psychoactive ingestion. In April of 2010, Sasha and Ann Shulgin were honored for their lifetime of achievements in the field at the Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century conference in San Jose, CA, where a portrait of the couple painted by Alex Grey was unveiled for the first time.

On November 17, 2010, Sasha had a stroke. His recovery went well, but he continued to face a variety of age-related health challenges. On June 2nd, 2014, he died at home in bed surrounded by friends and family.


YouTube Preview Image [on-line] San Francisco, CA (USA):, 09 de junio de 2014 [ref. 03 Xuño 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:

Avances en Cáncer de Próstata: Enzalutamide

5 06 2014

Un nuevo fármaco disminuye un 81% el riesgo de progresión del cáncer de próstata metastático


Un estudio internacional de fase III, publicado en The New England Journal of Medicine, en el que han participado el Hospital Vall d’Hebron y el Vall d’Hebron Institut d’Oncologia (VHIO), demuestra que la administración de un fármaco (enzalutamida) antes de la quimioterapia en pacientes con cáncer de próstata metastático, reduce un 81% la progresión de la enfermedad y, por tanto, el inicio del tratamiento y mejora la supervivencia y la calidad de vida de los enfermos.



Un estudio internacional de fase III, realizado sobre 1.717 pacientes con cáncer de próstata metastásico resistentes a la castración, demuestra que el uso del fármaco enzalutamide antes de la quimioterapia disminuye el riesgo de muerte por la enfermedad y permite retrasar su progresión. En los pacientes con cáncer de próstata metastásico (resistente a la castración) el tumor ya no responde a los tratamientos hormonales que buscan disminuir las hormonas masculinas (andrógenos) de las que se alimentan las células cancerígenas para crecer. Este estudio ha demostrado que la administración de enzalutamide antes de la quimioterapia en pacientes con metástasis que no presentaban prácticamente síntomas, bloquea estas hormonas y permite retrasar el inicio de la quimioterapia hasta 28 meses.


El ensayo, en el que han participado el Hospital Universitario Vall d’Hebron y el Vall d’Hebron Instituto de Oncología (VHIO), ha demostrado que los pacientes que recibieron enzalutamide consiguieron reducir la progresión del cáncer un 81%, versus los enfermos que recibieron placebo. Por otro lado, se trata de un tratamiento con menos toxicidad que prácticamente no comporta efectos secundarios, salvo fatiga e hipertensión.


Hasta ahora, los pacientes con cáncer de próstata metastásico que no respondían al tratamiento hormonal, no disponían de alternativas a la quimioterapia, pero los resultados del estudio avalan que con este nuevo tratamiento, los pacientes que no tengan muchos síntomas, pueden retrasar el inicio de la quimioterapia hasta 28 meses con una mejor calidad de vida.


El Dr. Joan Carles, jefe del Programa de Tumores Genitourinarios, del SNC y Sarcomas del Hospital Vall d’Hebron y del VHIO, explica que “el tratamiento con enzalutamide es fácil de administrar, tiene poca toxicidad y mejora la

supervivencia y la calidad de vida de los pacientes con cáncer de próstata metastásico. Este es el segundo fármaco que demuestra que podemos controlar la enfermedad, atrasando su progresión”. “Gracias a los estudios

que se están realizando en los últimos años en esta línea, la supervivencia de estos pacientes se ha doblado hasta los 35-40 meses”, añade el Dr. Joan Carles.


El cáncer con más incidencia en el hombre 


El cáncer de próstata es el tumor más relevante y el que tiene más incidencia en el hombre, ya que afecta a 57 de cada 100.000 hombres. Esto significa que cada año se diagnostican en España 25.000 nuevos casos. El tratamiento habitual en este tipo de cáncer consiste en cirugía y radioterapia asociada o no a la hormonoterapia (tratamiento hormonal). Entre un 20 y un 30% de los pacientes con cáncer de próstata recaerán y acabarán haciendo metástasis. En esta situación y desde hace más de 60 años, el tratamiento con hormonas ha demostrado que es el más eficaz pero después de un periodo prolongado con este tratamiento, estos enfermos se hacen resistentes a la terapia hormonal. Este grupo de pacientes (resistentes a la castración) tenían una supervivencia de 12 meses antes del 2004, pero actualmente, gracias al desarrollo de nuevos fármacos más efectivos, se sitúa en 3-4 años. En el Servicio de Oncología Médica del Hospital Universitario Vall d’Hebron cada año se diagnostican unos 200 nuevos casos de cáncer de próstata, 60 de los cuales son resistentes a la castración. Estos pacientes cuentas con el apoyo y seguimiento de un equipo multidisciplinario formado por profesionales de Urología, Oncología Radioterápica y Oncología Médica.


Las principales líneas de investigación que se están desarrollando actualmente en el Vall d’Hebron Instituto de Oncología (VHIO) y en los centros de referencia internacional en este campo, van en la línea de desarrollar fármacos que consigan vencer la resistencia a los tratamientos desarrollada por este grupo de pacientes y que permitan prolongar su calidad y esperanza de vida. [on-line] Barcelona (ESP):, 05 de junio de 2014 [ref. 01 Xuño 2014] Dispoñible en Internet:

La Fe trata las alergias con vacunas personalizadas más efectivas

2 06 2014

Las técnicas de análisis de biología molecular facilitan la elaboración de vacunas personalizadas que han beneficiado ya a 800 pacientes

  • El Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe ha acogido un curso deDiagnóstico Molecular en el Paciente Polínico.
  • 1 de cada 4 españoles sufre algún tipo de alergia, según la Sociedad Española de Alergología e Inmunología Clínica.


El Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe mejora el diagnóstico de las alergias con nuevas técnicas de biología molecular más eficaces que permiten la elaboración de vacunas personalizadas para el paciente.

El análisis de la alergia a nivel molecular se introdujo como técnica en el Hospital Universitari i Politècnic La Fe en 2009, después de que investigadores del Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria La Fe (IIS La Fe) la testaran en pacientes con anafilaxia alimentaria y propusieran extenderla a las alergias respiratorias.

Hasta el momento más de 800 pacientes se han beneficiado de esta nueva técnica.


Combinar las clásicas pruebas cutáneas de detección de alergias con el análisis molecular, sin olvidar la historia clínica del paciente, permite determinar con más exactitud la causa de la enfermedad alérgica. Las pruebas cutáneas identifican el agente causante, y la biología molecular, las proteínas exactas de ese agente que desencadenan la reacción alérgicaha explicado la Doctora Hernández Fernández de Rojas.

Esta precisión diagnóstica, ha añadido el Doctor Ramón López Salgueiro, investigador del IIS La Fe en el Servicio de Alergia de La Fe, permite desarrollar vacunas (en el caso de las alergias respiratorias) que inciden específicamente en la sensibilización de cada paciente, aumentando la eficacia terapéutica y la adhesión al tratamiento.

Hay estudios que demuestran que el diagnóstico molecular modifica la composición del extracto alergénico seleccionado para la vacuna a partir de las pruebas cutáneas en un 55% de pacientes”, advierte el Doctor López Salgueiro, por lo que insiste en la efectividad de la técnica.


El análisis de la alergia a nivel molecular se hace a partir de una muestra de sangre y se puede realizar molécula a molécula o mediante microarrays que, por nanotecnología, se consigue identificar hasta 112 componentes potencialmente alergénicos en una sola gota de sangre.

Estas técnicas de biología molecular se aplican a la Alergología también en la Clínica Universidad de Navarra y en el Hospital Universitari Vall D’Hebrón de Barcelona.



Curso de Diagnostico Molecular en el paciente Policlínico

El Hospital ha acogido un curso deDiagnóstico Molecular en el Paciente Polínicodirigido a especialistas, centrado en la Salsolakali (planta característica de las dunas de playa) y coorganizado por la Doctora Dolores Hernández Fernández de Rojas, responsable del Grupo Acreditado del IIS La Fe en Alergia y Enfermedades Respiratorias, y jefe del Servicio de Alergología del Hospital La Fe.

Agora, uno de cada cuatro españoles sufre algún tipo de alergia, según el último estudio Alergológica de la Sociedad Española de Alergología e Inmunología Clínica(SEAIC). [on-line] Valencia (ESP):, 02 Xuño 2014 [ref. 22 de mayo de 2014] Dispoñible en Internet: