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Latest Advancements in Research

Researchers at Johns Hopkins are constantly advancing science through basic, translational and clinical investigations. Here are highlights of our most current findings.

Star-Shaped Brain Cells 'Eavesdrop' on Neurons

Astrocyte activity is shown in green in this magnified view of cells from the brain region that controls movement in mice

New research shows that star-shaped brain cells, or astrocytes, surrounding mouse neurons can monitor and respond to nearby neural activity, but only after being activated by the fight-or-flight chemical norepinephrine. Because astrocytes can alter the activity of neurons, they may help control the brain’s ability to focus during stressful situations.

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Schizophrenia Brain Cell ‘Skeletons’ Altered

two images showing brightly dyed neural stem cells

Beginning with stem cells made from people with schizophrenia, researchers have discovered that the loss of a particular gene alters the structure of brain cells and how they connect to one another—a finding that adds to the understanding of schizophrenia and shows how other mental illnesses might be investigated.

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Protons Power Protein Portal to Push Zinc out of Cells

Diagram showing how zinc ion channel opens and closes

Researchers have deciphered the inner workings of a protein called YiiP that prevents the lethal buildup of zinc inside bacteria. Their findings should help in the design of drugs aimed at modifying the behavior of similar human proteins that play important roles in hormone secretion and in signaling between neurons.

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Neurons Get Their Neighbors to Take Out Their Trash

Electron microscope image showing an axon shedding mitochondria

A new study challenges the principle that cells function like self-cleaning ovens, chewing up and recycling their own worn out parts. Instead, some nerve cells found in the eye pass off their old energy-producing factories to neighboring support cells to be “eaten.” The finding has implications for many different diseases.

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Vaccine Makes Pancreatic Cancers Respond to Drugs

Syringe drawing medicine from vial

Researchers have developed and tested a vaccine that triggered the growth of immune cells within pancreatic tumors, essentially reprogramming these intractable cancers and potentially making them more vulnerable to drugs that boost the immune system.

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