Oxytocin, dubbed “the love hormone,” has for years been known by scientists to
facilitate bonding between mothers and newborn babies and between men and women
But a new laboratory study led by Dr. Ruth Feldman from
Bar-Ilan University and recently published in Biological Psychiatry has found
that giving oxytocin to fathers increases their parental engagement, with
similar effects observed in their infants.
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide
that plays an important role in the formation of attachment
Studies have shown that when given as a nasal spray, it increases
trust, empathy and social reciprocity.
It has even been shown in some
studies to alleviate autism.
In this study, researchers examined whether
administering oxytocin to the father enhances physiological and behavioral
processes that support social engagement with his infant and improves his
parenting. They also examined whether oxytocin effects on the parent's behavior
would affect related physiological and behavioral processes in the
Thirty-five fathers and their five-month- old infants were
observed twice – once after oxytocin administration and once after given a
harmless, useless placebo. The fathers received the nasal sprays in a solitary
room while their infants were cared for in another room.
minutes, fathers and infants were reunited and engaged in face-to-face play that
was micro-coded for the parent’s and the child’s social behavior.
of oxytocin in the saliva were measured from the fathers and infants both before
and several times after giving the drug.
“We found that after oxytocin
administration, fathers’ salivary oxytocin rose dramatically – more than tenfold
– and similar increases were found in the infants’ oxytocin.
getting the neuropeptide, key parenting behavior, such as their touching of the
babies and social reciprocity, increased, but infant social behavior, including
social gaze and exploratory behavior, increased as well,” explained
“We should not be surprised that social bonding in male parents
is affected by many of the same biological mechanisms that have been identified
for females,” commented Dr. John Krystal, editor of the journal. “The question
arising from this study is whether there is a way to harness the power of
oxytocin to promote paternal engagement with their infants in families where
this is a problem.”
Feldman concluded, “Such findings have salient
implications for the potential treatment of young children at risk for social
difficulties, including premature infants; siblings of children with autism; or
children of depressed mothers, without the need to administer drugs to a young
Cancer stem cells leading to kidney cancer identified
have isolated cancer stem cells that lead to the growth of Wilms’ tumors – a
type of pediatric cancer of the kidneys. The researchers have used these cancer
stem cells to test a new therapeutic approach that one day might be used to
treat some of the more aggressive types of this disease.
Dekel, head of the pediatric stem cell research institute and a senior physician
at the Sheba Medical Center and Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of
Medicine, recently published his findings in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
earlier studies, cancer stem cells were isolated from adult cancers of the
breast, pancreas and brain, but so far much less is known about stem cells in
pediatric cancers,” he said. “Cancer stem cells contain the complete genetic
machinery necessary to start, sustain and propagate tumor growth, and they are
often referred to as cancer-initiating cells. As such, they not only represent a
useful system to study cancer development but they also serve as a way to study
new drug targets and potential treatments designed to stop the growth and spread
of different types of cancer. We have demonstrated for the first time the
presence of cancer stem cells in a type of tumor that is often found in the
kidneys of young children.”
Wilms’ tumors are the most prevalent type of
tumors found in the kidneys of children. While many patients respond well if the
tumors are surgically removed early and if patients are given chemotherapy,
recurrences may occur and the cancer can spread to other tissues, increasing the
risks to the health of the patient.
Conventional chemotherapy is toxic to
all cells in the body and, if given to children, may lead to the development of
secondary cancers when they reach adulthood. Scientists are looking for ways to
ensure that drugs are targeted specifically to tumor cells; some tumor cells may
be more important to eradicate than others.
The researchers were able to
remove parts of tumors from cancer patients and graft them into mice, leading to
the growth of human tumors in mice. When the cancer stem cells were identified
in these tumors, it was shown that only the cancer stem cells and not the other
cancer cells led to the development of new ones when they were grafted into
additional mice. This process could be repeated multiple times, and the animals
could be used to study the development of cancer and test the action of
potential new cancer drugs against Wilms.
“We identified several
biomarkers, including molecules that are on the cell surface, cell signaling
molecules and micro-RNAs that make it possible to distinguish between cancer stem
cells or cancer- initiating cells and the rest of the cancer cells that are less
likely to lead to cancer. In further experiments, we were able to show that an
antibody drug that targets one such biomarker, the neural cell adhesion
molecule, was able to either almost completely or in some cases completely
eradicate the tumors that we induced in mice,” said Dekel. “This preliminary
result suggests that the cancer stem cells that we have identified, isolated and
propagated may serve as a useful tool to look for new drug targets as well as
new drugs for the treatment of Wilms’ tumors.”
Further work is needed to
identify more precisely how the antibody drug used in the study affects cancer
stem cell populations and to test the long-term suitability of the antibody drug
to treat humans.