A novel and faster way to test cancer drugs has yielded its first big result: An experimental medicine that shows promise against a hard-to-treat form of breast cancer. The method involves studying drugs in small groups of people to quickly separate winners from duds. Bringing a new cancer drug to market usually takes more than a decade and tests in thousands of patients, and costs more than $1 billion.
Cancer involves a breakdown of normal cell behavior. Cell reproduction and movement go haywire, causing tumors to grow and spread through the body. A new finding by Univ. of Pennsylvania scientists has identified key steps that trigger this disintegration of cellular regulation. Their discovery—that a protein called Exo70 has a split personality—points to new possibilities for diagnosing cancer metastasis.
Computational work conducted at Northwestern Univ. has led to a new mathematical theory for understanding the global spread of epidemics. The resulting insights could not only help identify an outbreak’s origin but could also significantly improve the ability to forecast the global pathways through which a disease might spread.
Brown Univ. researchers have shown that optogenetics can be as good as or possibly better than the older technique of using small bursts of electrical current. Optogenetics had been used in small rodent models. Research has shown that optogenetics works effectively in larger, more complex brains.
Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, which identified nearly 20,000 protein-coding genes, scientists have been trying to decipher the roles of those genes. A new approach, called CRISPR, should speed up the process by allowing researchers to study the entire genome at once. The new system allows researchers to permanently and selectively delete genes from a cell’s DNA.
British Prime Minister David Cameron says he hopes to kick-start an international effort to find a cure or effective treatment for dementia by 2025. At a one-day summit on dementia hosted by the U.K., Cameron declared that discovering a cure or treatment for dementia is "within our grasp." The Group of Eight health and science ministers signed a declaration agreeing to identify "a cure or disease-modifying therapy for dementia" by 2025.
Blood clots play an unexpected role in protecting the body from the deadly effects of bacteria by absorbing bacterial toxins, researchers have found. Even with modern antibiotics, septic shock from bacterial infections afflicts about 300,000 people a year in the U.S., with a mortality rate of 30 to 50%. Septic shock is caused by Gram-negative bacteria, which release a toxin called lipopolysaccharide or endotoxin.
For some microbes, the motto for growth is not so much “every cell for itself,” but rather, “all for one and one for all.” Researchers have found that cells in a bacterial colony grow in a way that benefits the community as a whole. That is, while an individual cell may divide in the presence of plentiful resources to benefit itself, when a cell is a member of a larger colony, it may choose instead to grow in a more cooperative fashion.
In early March, in a rural Mississippi hospital, an infant was born to an HIV-infected mother. The chances of an infant contracting HIV from an infected mother not receiving antiretroviral treatment is around 25% in the U.S., and this child was on the wrong end of that statistic. Dr. Deborah Persaud, a Johns Hopkins Children’s Center HIV expert, knew that meant this baby would only have a 50% chance of living past the age of nine years.
Researchers have determined the structure of the rubella virus capsid protein, which is central to the virus's ability to assemble into an infectious particle and to infect humans. Although a successful vaccine is available to protect against rubella virus infection, the discovery could aid efforts to develop vaccines and antiviral drugs to treat related infections.
To learn new motor skills, the brain must be plastic: able to rapidly change the strengths of connections between neurons, forming new patterns that accomplish a particular task. However, if the brain were too plastic, previously learned skills would be lost too easily. A new computational model explains how the brain maintains the balance between plasticity and stability, and how it can learn similar tasks without interference.
Harmless lung cancer? A provocative study found that nearly one in five lung tumors detected on CT scans are probably so slow-growing that they would never cause problems. The analysis suggests the world's No. 1 cause of cancer deaths isn't as lethal as doctors once thought. In the study, these were not false-positives—suspicious results that turn out upon further testing not to be cancer.
Funded by prominent Silicon Valley investors and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hampton Creek Foods seeks to disrupt a global egg industry that backers say wastes energy, pollutes the environment, causes disease outbreaks and confines chickens to tiny spaces. The company, which just started selling a mayonnaise made without eggs, is part of a new generation of so-called food-tech ventures that aim to change the way we eat.
As embryonic tissue develops, cells push and pull on each other, and they must do so correctly for the tissue to develop properly. Now scientists at Harvard Univ. have devised the first method to measure these tiny forces in 3-D tissues and living embryos. The method, which involves injecting tiny oil droplets, could lead to new tools to diagnose cancer, hypertension, connective tissue diseases and more.
In one of the biggest advances against leukemia and other blood cancers in many years, doctors are reporting unprecedented success by using gene therapy to transform patients' blood cells into soldiers that seek and destroy cancer. A few patients with one type of leukemia were given this one-time, experimental therapy several years ago and some remain cancer-free today.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed when individuals exhibit characteristic behaviors that include repetitive actions, decreased social interactions and impaired communication. Curiously, many individuals with ASD also suffer from gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as abdominal cramps and constipation. Using the co-occurrence of brain and gut problems in ASD as their guide, researchers are investigating a new therapy.
New findings by Univ. of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) and German chemists about how cataracts form could be used to help prevent the world’s leading cause of blindness, which currently affects nearly 20 million people worldwide. The UC Irvine team explored and identified the structures of the normal proteins and a genetic mutation known to cause cataracts in young children.
A new method to identify previously hidden details about the structures of proteins may speed the process of novel drug design, according to scientists at Rice Univ. A unique combination of computational techniques and experimental data helped Rice theorists predict intermediate configurations of proteins that, until now, have been hard to detect.
A group of Illinois researchers, led by Centennial Chair Prof. of the Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Huimin Zhao, has demonstrated the use of an innovative DNA engineering technique to discover potentially valuable functions hidden within bacterial genomes. Their work was reported in a Nature Communications article.
Scientists at Penn State Univ. have developed a method that enables a more accurate prediction of how ribonucleic acid molecules (RNAs) fold within living cells, shedding new light on how plants, as well as other living organisms, respond to environmental conditions. The advance was made possible by the ability to analyze more than 10,000 RNA molecules in a single cell.
Researchers have identified a protein that causes loss of function in immune cells combating HIV. The scientists report in a paper appearing online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that the protein, Sprouty-2, is a promising target for future HIV drug development, since disabling it could help restore the cells’ ability to combat the virus that causes AIDS.
Researchers have tried for decades to understand the undulations and gyrations that allow transport proteins to shuttle molecules from one side of a cell membrane to the other. Now scientists report that they have found a way to penetrate the mystery. They have worked out every step in the molecular dance that enables one such transporter to do its job.
Drugs delivered by nanoparticles hold promise for targeted treatment of many diseases, including cancer. However, the particles have to be injected into patients, which has limited their usefulness so far. Now, researchers have developed a new type of nanoparticle that can be delivered orally and absorbed through the digestive tract, allowing patients to simply take a pill instead of receiving injections.
New research from North Carolina State Univ. shows that iron may play a role in preserving ancient tissues within dinosaur fossils, but also may hide them from detection. The finding could open the door to the recovery of more ancient tissues from within fossils.
Researchers have made inroads into tackling a bacterium that plagues hospitals and is highly resistant to most antibiotics. They determined the 3-D structure and likely function of a new protein in this common bacterium that attacks those with compromised immune systems.