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New Brain Cells Grow Later In Life Than We Think

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 29, 2019 (HealthDay News) — New research delivers fresh hope for everyone who struggles with a fading memory: Neurons continue to form well into old age, even in people with mental impairments or Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found that there was active neurogenesis [new neurons forming] in the hippocampus of older adults well into their 90s,” said study author Orly Lazarov, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“The interesting thing is that we also saw some new neurons in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive [thinking] impairment,” she added in a university news release.

The findings could lead to new treatments for mental decline in older adults, the researchers said.

In the study, Lazarov and her colleagues examined hippocampus tissue from the brains of 18 people, average age 90.6 years, after they died.

The hippocampus is involved in the formation of memories and in learning.

On average, there were about 2,000 neural stem cells and 150,000 developing neurons in each brain.

While people with mental impairments and Alzheimer’s disease did have new neurons, their levels were significantly lower than in people with normal brain function, the researchers noted.

This is the first evidence of significant numbers of neural stem cells and newly developing neurons in the hippocampus of elderly adults, even in those with disorders that affect that part of the brain.

The researchers also found that people who scored better on tests of mental skills had more newly developing neurons in the hippocampus than those who scored lower on the tests, regardless of the level of disease in the brain.

“The mix of the effects of pathology and neurogenesis is complex and we don’t understand exactly how the two interconnect, but there is clearly a lot of variation from individual to individual,” Lazarov said.

“The fact that we found that neural stem cells and new neurons are present in the hippocampus of older adults means that if we can find a way to enhance neurogenesis, through a small molecule, for example, we may be able to slow or prevent cognitive decline in older adults, especially when it starts, which is when interventions can be most effective,” she said.

The findings were published May 23 in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: University of Illinois at Chicago, news release, May 24, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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WebMD Health

Emma Thompson Reflects on Life, Loss, and Resilience

emma thompson 2013Emma Thompson is thinking about death.

Having just turned 60 in April, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor and screenwriter is used to the typical media questions about “growing old gracefully” in the film and television world. But she’s more interested in talking about bigger questions.

“With this watershed birthday, I will contemplate what I really want to do next,” she says during an interview from her offices in London, where she’s just wrapped up filming for Last Christmas — a romantic comedy inspired by the George Michael song — which she co-wrote with performance artist Bryony Kimmings. “Time is precious, and it is not unlimited. One feels immortal, I think, until one is about 40. Then intimations of mortality come. My big conversation with myself, which has already started, but will go on this year is, ‘How do I feel about dying? Am I ready to look at that?’ We are in such denial about it, and it’s very strange because it’s the one thing we know absolutely will happen.”

Thompson’s life recently has been “dotted with loss,” she says. Her beloved sister-in-law, Clare (who lived just down the road from Thompson and her husband, Greg Wise, in London’s West Hampstead neighborhood), died of cancer in 2017, just a year after the death of Thompson’s close friend and Love, Actually co-star Alan Rickman, also from cancer. “My mate Jeremy Hardy, a comedian, died just 2 weeks ago, and my best mate’s husband died last year. It seems like people are dying all the time in my life. My existence feels very hard-won and precious at the moment. I’m addicted to doing and action and activity, but this year I’m going to look at how it feels to be less addicted to that and more able to sit.”

Emma Thompson? Sit?

Probably not for very long, she acknowledges: “That’s the point of this patch of time. Sixty isn’t 50. Sixty is well into ‘How many more years have I got when I can be active and useful and produce good and worthwhile work?’ Maybe 10 or 15? Going longer, I think maybe you should let everyone else have a go.” She pauses. “But if I’m lucky enough to reach that age and no one’s able to shut me up, you can remind me of this interview.”

Continued

A Lifetime of Roles

It’s hard to imagine the peripatetic Thompson “just sitting.” Since rising to fame with her role as Princess Catherine of Valois opposite her then-husband Kenneth Branagh in Henry V in 1989, Thompson has appeared in at least one major movie virtually every year — sometimes several. In 1993, for example, she starred as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, as Gareth Peirce in In the Name of the Father, and as Miss Kenton opposite Anthony Hopkins in Merchant Ivory’s The Remains of the Day. Thompson’s also a screenwriter: She wrote and starred in both Nanny McPhee movies and won an Academy Award for screenwriting for 1995’s Sense and Sensibility, in which she played Elinor Dashwood. This summer, she reprises her role as Agent O in Men in Black: International; and her new film with Mindy Kaling, Late Night, which earned praise at the Sundance Film Festival in February, debuts as an Amazon Original Movie.

Thompson’s “good and worthwhile work” has defied genre and categorization. For every restrained, enigmatic, emotions-bubbling-under-the-surface character like Miss Kenton or judge Fiona Maye in 2017’s The Children Act, there’s a kooky Sybill Trelawney, the divination teacher in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, or a passionate, fiery Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. She loves comedy — she began her career in standup with the Cambridge Footlights, alongside Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. And in 2003, she took on the complex dual roles of nurse practitioner Emily and the fantastical Angel in HBO’s Angels in America.

“I’ve enjoyed the really out-there characters more than anything,” she says. “I played a 77-year-old serial killer in The Legend of Barney Thomson. That was something special. And maybe the most remarkable experience I’ve had in the last 10 years was playing Mrs. Lovett on Broadway in the concert version of Sweeney Todd. I suppose I’m probably not very good at repeating stuff. I think I would be bored if I had to do things again and again. It’s like going on a different walk, and the landscape is different, so you’re unlikely not to notice what’s going on. And it’s vital that you know what’s going on when you’re creating.”

Continued

Resilience

Thompson has spoken candidly about plunging into work to help her cope with depression in the 1990s, when she was going through her divorce from Branagh, but says she hasn’t had any serious bouts with it recently. “My brain might be changing,” she says. “Your brain does change as you get older. And life is kind of settled, in a way, now. It’s so interesting to be allowed to live long enough to survive things like depression. I’ve got an awful lot of mechanisms that I can use now to cope with it, so I’m much more resilient, I think, than I was before.”

Some of her resilience may also come from her passion for activism and focus on the needs of others. Thompson is a longtime supporter of Greenpeace UK and the Food Foundation, which focuses on making a healthy diet more affordable for families. And she’s the president of the Helen Bamber Foundation, which provides specialized care for refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced extreme cruelty, such as torture and human trafficking. She has also spent many years campaigning for immigrants’ rights — her son, Tindyebwa Agaba, now 30, escaped life as a child soldier in Rwanda.

Always politically outspoken, Thompson says that as time has passed, she’s become more willing to see things from other people’s point of view. “That’s a great, great gift, and only time gives you that,” she says. But she’s still more than willing to put values ahead of career: In late February, she released a powerful letter explaining why she was dropping out of the animated film Luck after the producers hired a former Pixar executive accused of inappropriate conduct with women.

“I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies, whether they like it or not, is not going to change overnight. Or in a year,” she wrote. “But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand, then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.”

For young women like her daughter — Gaia, who’s now 18 — as well as women of her own age, Thompson has a message: “Summon your powers,” she says. “You’ll find they are great.”

Continued

Death, Meaning, and Your Morning Coffee

Spending time contemplating death, as Thompson plans to do in her 60th year, may not sound appealing. But in her research, social psychologist Laura King, PhD, has found the opposite: After reminders of death, people value life more highly and find more meaning in it. “When we remind people of the idea of death, it makes life seem more wonderful, more precious,” says King, curators’ professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

To find meaning in life in the face of the fact that it’s inevitably going to stop one day, you might imagine the need to achieve something great — a lasting contribution to the world. “But 1,000 years from now, all our lives will be as if they never happened,” says King. “So our meaning has to be located in our present circumstances.”

Indeed, Thompson’s description of a recent “perfect day” has nothing to do with receiving her damehood from the Queen of England or getting an Academy Award. “I got up and pootled in my kitchen, and then I went for a long walk and had a coffee in a glass in one of my favorite food shops. I bought my mother some biscuits and then walked home and had a cup of tea with my mum and my sister.”

King suggests seeking your own meaning in a similar way:

Don’t aim for the gigantic achievement. Seek meaning in everyday, trivial moments — like Thompson’s cup of tea. “We’ve found that just being in a good mood, playing with the dog, having an enjoyable meal with friends, can promote the sense that life is meaningful,” she says.

Love your routine. That regular morning coffee, the after-work walk with your dog, the glass of wine after dinner? They’re more than just mundane. “Everyday habits bring a structure and rhythm to your life that has meaning. They’re about the stamp that you put on your day,” says King.

Take time to notice. When you’re doing your spring cleaning or watching snow fall from your front porch or talking to a friend in the carpool line after school, take a minute now and then to be present. “You don’t have to hire a life coach or find that perfect self-help book,” King says. “Your life is already meaningful — you just have to see it.”

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD Magazine.

Sources

SOURCES:

Emma Thompson, actress.

Laura King, PhD, curators’ professor of psychological sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia.

Psychological Science: “Death, Life, Scarcity, and Value: An Alternative Perspective on the Meaning of Death.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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For Women With HIV, Life Can Hurt Fight for Health

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 17, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Day-to-day struggles prevent many American women with HIV from taking medicines to suppress the AIDS-causing virus, a new study shows.

“Survival is a priority over putting a pill in your mouth for a number of our participants, and that is the public health challenge we must address,” said study first author Dr. Seble Kassaye, an associate professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“The truth of their lives is a lot less rosy than a few lines of statistics in a summary report can reveal,” she added in a medical center news release.

The study of nearly 2,000 HIV-positive women in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and San Francisco who have been followed since 1994 found that many have been able to control their HIV levels, off and on.

But ongoing challenges such as mental health, unstable housing and lack of social support prevent many from achieving effective and sustained HIV suppression, according to the authors of the study published May 17 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The women were interviewed and gave blood samples every six months to determine whether their HIV was well controlled or uncontrolled, a condition called viremia.

Over 23 years, 29% were at low probability for viremia; 39% were at intermediate probability; and 32% were at high probability.

Between 2015 and 2017, 71% of women achieved sustained HIV suppression, including 35% with a high probability of viremia, according to the researchers.

“So, the rosy picture is that 71% of the women achieved viral suppression, but the granular detail tells us that some women are doing very well with 89.6% of the women in the low probability of viremia consistently suppressed in the recent years, but others are still struggling to get to viral suppression,” Kassaye said.

Because current HIV drug treatment is much less toxic than it used to be and is now suggested for anyone who has the virus, it’s widely used. But obstacles persist.

The study found that women in the high viremia group were more likely to report depressive symptoms (54%) and have higher levels of illicit drug (41%) and alcohol use (14%). They were also less likely to have stable housing (66%); and more likely to die prematurely (39%).

Continued

Kassaye said public health issues and stigma surrounding HIV remain common in Washington, D.C.

“My colleagues have treated generations of HIV-positive women: grandmothers, their daughters, and their granddaughters,” she said. “I have seen women with HIV who do not have any support, but if that person develops cancer, there will be a roomful of people coming to the clinic with her.”

Achieving universal HIV treatment and viral suppression will require what is known as “wraparound” care, she said.

That’s a term for non-medical services to assist patients who may need help taking medications regularly, getting to appointments on time or coping with stress. This safety net can also include help with housing, transportation, child care and the like, according to the global health strategy firm Rabin Martin.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: Georgetown University Medical Center, news release, May 17, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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WebMD Health

For Women With HIV, Daily Life Can Impede Fight Against Virus

FRIDAY, May 17, 2019 — Day-to-day struggles prevent many American women with HIV from taking medicines to suppress the AIDS-causing virus, a new study shows.

“Survival is a priority over putting a pill in your mouth for a number of our participants, and that is the public health challenge we must address,” said study first author Dr. Seble Kassaye, an associate professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

“The truth of their lives is a lot less rosy than a few lines of statistics in a summary report can reveal,” she added in a medical center news release.

The study of nearly 2,000 HIV-positive women in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and San Francisco who have been followed since 1994 found that many have been able to control their HIV levels, off and on.

But ongoing challenges such as mental health, unstable housing and lack of social support prevent many from achieving effective and sustained HIV suppression, according to the authors of the study published May 17 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The women were interviewed and gave blood samples every six months to determine whether their HIV was well controlled or uncontrolled, a condition called viremia.

Over 23 years, 29% were at low probability for viremia; 39% were at intermediate probability; and 32% were at high probability.

Between 2015 and 2017, 71% of women achieved sustained HIV suppression, including 35% with a high probability of viremia, according to the researchers.

“So, the rosy picture is that 71% of the women achieved viral suppression, but the granular detail tells us that some women are doing very well with 89.6% of the women in the low probability of viremia consistently suppressed in the recent years, but others are still struggling to get to viral suppression,” Kassaye said.

Because current HIV drug treatment is much less toxic than it used to be and is now suggested for anyone who has the virus, it’s widely used. But obstacles persist.

The study found that women in the high viremia group were more likely to report depressive symptoms (54%) and have higher levels of illicit drug (41%) and alcohol use (14%). They were also less likely to have stable housing (66%); and more likely to die prematurely (39%).

Kassaye said public health issues and stigma surrounding HIV remain common in Washington, D.C.

“My colleagues have treated generations of HIV-positive women: grandmothers, their daughters, and their granddaughters,” she said. “I have seen women with HIV who do not have any support, but if that person develops cancer, there will be a roomful of people coming to the clinic with her.”

Achieving universal HIV treatment and viral suppression will require what is known as “wraparound” care, she said.

That’s a term for non-medical services to assist patients who may need help taking medications regularly, getting to appointments on time or coping with stress. This safety net can also include help with housing, transportation, child care and the like, according to the global health strategy firm Rabin Martin.

More information

The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more on HIV/AIDS.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: May 2019

Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Just A Little More Exercise Adds Years to Life

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) — No matter your fitness level, adding just a little more exercise may prolong your life, new research suggests.

“People think they have to start going to the gym and exercising hard to get fitter,” said researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak, from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm.

“But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. For most people, just being more active in daily life — taking the stairs, exiting the metro station early, cycling to work — is enough to benefit health since levels are so low to start with,” she said. “The more you do, the better.”

Ekblom-Bak and her colleagues looked at more than 316,000 adults in Sweden, aged 18 to 74, whose heart-lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness was assessed between 1995 and 2015.

Participants rode a stationary cycle to determine the maximum amount of oxygen the heart and lungs can provide the muscles during exercise, a measure called VO2 max.

Overall, the risk of all-cause death and death from cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke fell 2.8% to 3.2% for each milliliter increase in VO2 max. The benefits of increased activity were seen in men and women, in all age groups, and at all fitness levels.

The study was to be presented Friday at a European Society of Cardiology meeting, in Lisbon, Portugal. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“It is particularly important to note that an increase in fitness was beneficial, regardless of the starting point,” Ekblom-Bak said in a meeting news release. “This suggests that people with lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness have the most to gain from boosting their fitness.”

She said the findings are “more motivational than just telling people they need to do better. People in the lower range of VO2 max will reduce their risk even more [9%] while those at the upper end of VO2 max will reduce their risk by 1%,” she said.

Improving fitness should be a public health priority and doctors should assess patients’ fitness during health screening, according to Ekblom-Bak.

“Our previous research has shown that fitness levels in the general population have dropped by 10% in the last 25 years,” she noted.

“In 2016-2017, almost every second man and woman had a low fitness level, so this is a huge problem,” Ekblom-Bak added. “Poor fitness is as detrimental as smoking, obesity and diabetes, even in otherwise healthy adults, yet unlike these other risk factors it is not routinely measured.”

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, April 12, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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WebMD Health

Muscle Power Might Be Key to Long Life

FRIDAY, April 12, 2019 — If you want to celebrate many more birthdays, new research suggests you should speed up your weight-lifting routine.

Boosting muscle power, which is different than muscle strength, translated into longer lives, the Brazilian scientists said.

What exactly is the difference?

For example, climbing stairs requires muscle power — the faster you climb, the more power you need. But holding or pushing a heavy object only requires muscle strength.

“Rising from a chair in old age and kicking a ball depends more on muscle power than muscle strength, yet most weight-bearing exercise focuses on the latter,” said researcher Claudio Gil Araujo. He’s director of research and education at the Exercise Medicine Clinic – CLINIMEX, in Rio de Janeiro.

“Our study shows for the first time that people with more muscle power tend to live longer,” Araujo said in a European Society of Cardiology news release.

The study included nearly 3,900 adults, aged 41 to 85, with an average age of 59, whose maximum muscle power was assessed.

Over an average follow-up of 6.5 years, 10% of the men and 6% of the women died.

Participants with maximal muscle power above the median for their gender had the best survival rates. Compared to those above the median, those in the lowest and second-lowest quarters below the median had a 10 to 13, and 4 to 5 times greater risk of dying during the study period, respectively.

The study was to be presented Friday at a European Society of Cardiology meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“We now show that power is strongly related to all-cause [death]. But the good news is that you only need to be above the median for your sex to have the best survival, with no further benefit in becoming even more powerful,” Araujo said.

“For strength training at the gym, most people just think about the amount of weight being lifted and the number of repetitions, without paying attention to the speed of execution,” Araujo said. “But for optimal power training results, you should go beyond typical strength training and add speed to your weight lifts.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about exercise and physical activity.

© 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: April 2019

Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Common MS Drug Can Bring Longer, Healthier Life

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) — An older but still common multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment has an unexpected perk: It not only quells symptoms, but patients may also live longer.

New research revealed that patients taking a beta interferon drug for more than three years were likely to live longer than those who took one for a shorter time or who didn’t take one at all.

“This study was the first and largest of its kind, and we found that a commonly used drug for MS may prolong life,” said the study’s senior author, Helen Tremlett. She’s the Canada Research Chair in Neuroepidemiology and Multiple Sclerosis at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Beta interferon drugs include Avonex, Betaseron, Extavia, Plegridy and Rebif. Beta interferons were the first disease-modifying drugs available to treat MS. They were introduced in the 1990s to treat relapsing MS. Newer medications are now available, but beta interferons are still widely used, the study authors noted.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. The symptoms include muscle weakness, trouble with coordination and balance, visual disturbances and problems with thinking and memory. MS can shorten life span an average of six years or more, the study authors said.

Dr. Nicholas LaRocca is vice president of Health Care Delivery and Policy Research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He explained that, in MS, “tissues in the central nervous system are attacked by the immune system. Beta interferon modulates the immune system, trying to bring the immune system back into balance.”

But exactly how it does so still isn’t clear, Tremlett said. It’s also not clear exactly how beta interferons might improve survival, and the study could not prove cause and effect.

The study was challenging because the researchers needed a large group of people and health information over a long period of time. They relied on two databases with information on nearly 6,000 people with MS — one in Canada and one in France. The Canadian information spanned 1980 through 2004, and the French, 1976 through 2013.

Continued

The researchers compared 742 people who died during the study period with those who did not.

The study participants hadn’t received drug treatments before the study began. Their average age at the start was 42. Those who died during the study were 61, on average.

Tremlett said the survival benefit of beta interferons was seen in both the Canadian and the French groups. Findings were similar for men and women.

According to LaRocca, “Beta interferon was the very first of the disease-modifying drugs. There are an additional 14 drugs on the market now. These findings indicate that treatment with beta interferon was associated with a lower risk of mortality.”

Newer medications tend to be more expensive, though beta interferons can also be costly, he added.

“The treatment landscape in MS is very complex, and the course of treatment isn’t 100 percent determined by a patient and physician. Sometimes people may have to try older drugs first,” LaRocca said.

Overall, though, he said, “We’ve been very fortunate in MS because we’ve been able to develop so many new treatments, and life expectancy has increased.”

Funding for the study was provided by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Fondation ARSEP, an MS organization in France. The researchers recently received funding from the Canadian Health Institute for a similar study with newer MS medications, Tremlett said.

The study was published March 18 in the journal Brain.

WebMD News from HealthDay

Sources

SOURCES: Helen Tremlett, Ph.D., professor and Canada Research Chair in Neuroepidemiology and Multiple Sclerosis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; Nicholas LaRocca, Ph.D., vice president of health care delivery and policy research, National Multiple Sclerosis Society; March 18, 2019,Brain

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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‘Coco,’ ‘Toy Story 3’ Director Lee Unkrich Trading Pixar for Personal Life

After a quarter century serving as part of the creative core of Pixar Animation Studios, director Lee Unkrich has announced he is leaving the company and stepping away from the Hollywood animation game. The helmer of numerous globally beloved and critically acclaimed films — including animated feature Oscar winners Coco and Toy Story 3 — confirmed his decision on Twitter Friday:

In a statement, Unkrich said, “I’m not leaving to make films at another studio; instead, I look forward to spending much-needed time with my family and pursuing interests that have long been back-burnered.”

Pete Docter, Chief Creative Officer of Pixar, lauded Unkrich’s creative contributions to the studio over the years:

“Lee arrived at Pixar as we were crafting Toy Story, and he’s had a profound effect on all Pixar films since. He literally taught us rookie filmmakers about staging, composition, and cutting. His artistry and expert craftsmanship as an editor and co-director became a major reason for the high quality of our filmmaking, and as Lee went on to direct, his ability to find the deep humor and emotion enabled him to create some of the strongest films we’ve made. He will be sorely missed — but we are enormously grateful for his tireless dedication to quality, and his ability to touch the hearts of audiences around the world.”

Unkrich began his Pixar career as a film editor on the first Toy Story. His credits with the studio also include the smash hit features Toy Story 2 (co-director & editor), Monsters, Inc. (co-director & additional editor), Finding Nemo (co-director & supervising film editor), Toy Story 3 (director & story writer), Coco (director & story writer), and the Coco short Dante’s Lunch (director). He was also executive producer on Monsters University and The Good Dinosaur, and conceived the original story for this year’s Toy Story 4 (June 21), directed by Josh Cooley.

In addition to the two Best Animated Feature Film Oscars and an adapted screenplay Oscar nomination for Toy Story 3, Unkrich has racked up two animated feature BAFTA Awards (Coco & TS3) plus one Children’s BAFTA nomination (Finding Nemo); four feature production Annie Awards, a VES Award and numerous other festival and critical honors.

[Source: Deadline]

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