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Tuberculosis genomes portray secrets of pathogen’s success

August 22, 2013 8:07 am | News | Comments

By any measure, tuberculosis (TB) is a wildly successful pathogen. It infects as many as two billion people in every corner of the world, with a new infection of a human host estimated to occur every second. Now, thanks to a new analysis of dozens of tuberculosis genomes gathered from around the world, scientists are getting a more detailed picture of why TB is so prevalent and how it evolves to resist countermeasures. 

Brain circuit can tune anxiety

August 22, 2013 7:27 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults in a given year. Currently available treatments, such as antianxiety drugs, are not always effective and have unwanted side effects. To develop better treatments, a more specific understanding of the brain circuits that produce anxiety is necessary. Researchers have now discovered a communication pathway between the amygdala and the ventral hippocampus that appears to control anxiety.

Biophysicists zoom in on pore-forming toxin

August 15, 2013 7:43 am | News | Comments

A new study by Rice Univ. biophysicists offers the most comprehensive picture yet of the molecular-level action of melittin, the principal toxin in bee venom. The research could aid in the development of new drugs that use a similar mechanism as melittin’s to attack cancer and bacteria.

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Immunomedics reports positive study of cancer drug

August 14, 2013 12:23 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Shares of Immunomedics jumped Wednesday after announcing that its treatment for a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma helped to extend the lives of patients that used it in combination with another drug. The company said patients with newly diagnosed follicular lymphoma responded well to a combination of its epratuzumab and Roche's drug, Rituxan.

Neutron’s view of hydrogen yields insight into HIV drug design

August 14, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

A new study from an international team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory is guiding drug designers toward improved pharmaceuticals to treat HIV. The scientists used neutrons and x-rays to study the interactions between HIV protease, a protein produced by the HIV virus, and an antiviral drug commonly used to block virus replication.

New evidence that cancer cells change while moving throughout body

August 13, 2013 8:04 am | News | Comments

For cancer patients, it’s not the primary tumor that is deadly, but the spread or “metastasis” of cancer cells from the primary tumor to secondary locations throughout the body that is the problem. That’s why a major focus of contemporary cancer research is how to stop or fight metastasis. Studies suggest that metastasizing cancer cells undergo a major molecular change when they leave the primary tumor—a process called EMT.

A worm’s-eye view of immunity

August 13, 2013 7:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In 1998, scientists published the first complete genome of a multicellular organism—the worm Caenorhabditis elegans. At the same time, new technologies were emerging to help researchers manipulate genes and learn more about their functions.

New findings in the transmission of viruses

August 12, 2013 10:50 am | News | Comments

Outbreaks such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) have afflicted people around the world, yet many people think these trends are on the decline. Quite the opposite is true. The efforts to combat this epidemic are being spearheaded by a team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists.

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Study ties higher blood sugar to dementia risk

August 7, 2013 5:28 pm | by MARILYNN MARCHIONE - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Higher blood-sugar levels, even those well short of diabetes, seem to raise the risk of developing dementia, a major new study finds. Researchers say it suggests a novel way to try to prevent Alzheimer's disease—by keeping glucose at a healthy level.

Scientists plan controversial lab-made bird flu

August 7, 2013 1:25 pm | by LAURAN NEERGAARD - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists who sparked an outcry by creating easier-to-spread versions of the bird flu want to try such experiments again using a worrisome new strain known as H7N9. Since it broke out in China in March, the bird flu strain has infected more than 130 people and killed 43. Researchers say that genetically engineering this virus in the lab could help track whether it's changing in the wild to become a bigger threat.

Battelle team wins DARPA contract to build medical device to treat sepsis

August 6, 2013 9:48 am | News | Comments

At Battelle, supporting America’s military personnel is woven into the fabric of its business. In that pursuit, a team consisting of Battelle, NxStage Medical Inc. and Aethlon Medical has won a contract from DARPA to develop an innovative, new medical device that may save the lives of soldiers—and civilians as well—by treating sepsis.

Univ. Of Maryland, Baltimore's licensing deals fuel local life sciences community

August 6, 2013 8:30 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Univ. of Maryland Ventures announced agreements between Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore and five different life sciences companies across the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan region. The companies include Rexahn Pharmaceuticals, Plasmonix, IGI Technologies, A&G Pharmaceuticals and BioAssay Works.

Research reveals how the brain keeps eyes on the prize

August 5, 2013 10:15 am | by McGovern Institute for Brain Research | News | Comments

“Are we there yet?” As anyone who has traveled with young children knows, maintaining focus on distant goals can be a challenge. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests how the brain achieves this task, and indicates that the neurotransmitter dopamine may signal the value of long-term rewards.

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China, Russia halt some imports in botulism scare

August 4, 2013 9:52 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

China and Russia have halted imports of some New Zealand dairy products in response to a botulism scare, according to New Zealand government officials. New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra announced Saturday that up to 1,000 tons of infant formula, sports drinks and other products sold in seven countries could be tainted after tests turned up bacteria in whey protein that could cause botulism.

Controlling contagion by restricting mobility

July 31, 2013 7:50 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

In an epidemic or a bioterrorist attack, the response of government officials could range from a drastic restriction of mobility to moderate travel restrictions in some areas or simple suggestions that people remain at home. Deciding to institute any measure would require officials to weigh the costs and benefits of action, but at present there’s little data to guide them. However, a new study comparing contagion rates may come in handy.

Pfizer sells key vaccine cheaply to poor countries

July 29, 2013 6:34 am | by LINDA A. JOHNSON - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has agreed to provide hundreds of millions of doses of its lucrative vaccine against pneumonia and meningitis at a fraction of the usual price for young children in poor countries. The deal to provide 260 million shots of its Prevnar 13 vaccine for a few dollars each is Pfizer's third agreement under an innovative program.

Discovery of gene function may help prevent kidney stones

July 25, 2013 10:35 am | News | Comments

The discovery of a gene's function in E. coli and other bacteria might lead to a probiotic to prevent the most common type of kidney stone, according to a Purdue Univ. study. Human cells can't metabolize oxalate, an acidic chemical found in nearly all plants we eat, so any oxalate we absorb from food must be excreted from the body. Calcium-oxalate urinary stones can form when oxalate reaches a high concentration in the kidneys.

NIH funds new grants exploring use of genome sequencing in patient care

July 24, 2013 12:21 pm | News | Comments

The National Institutes of Health has awarded four grants for up to four years to multidisciplinary research teams to explore the use of genome sequencing in medical care. The awards total approximately $6.7 million in the first year and, if funding remains available, approximately $27 million in total.

New clues illuminate Alzheimer’s roots

July 24, 2013 7:45 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Miami have figured out how synthetic molecules designed at Rice latch onto the amyloid peptide fibrils thought to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. Their discovery could point the way toward therapies to halt or even reverse the insidious disease.

Skipping breakfast may increase heart attack risk

July 22, 2013 4:00 pm | by MIKE STOBBE - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Another reason to eat breakfast: Skipping it may increase your chances of a heart attack. A study of older men found those who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of a heart attack than those who ate a morning meal. There's no reason why the results wouldn't apply to other people, too, the Harvard researchers said.

Bacteriophages battle superbugs

July 18, 2013 4:11 pm | News | Comments

Microbiologists in France are reinvigorating a way of battling C. difficile infections that they hope will help overcome the growing problem of antibiotic resistant superbugs in hospitals. Using a model human colon, the researchers showed that the administration of a specific bacteriophage significantly reduced toxins and the number of C. difficile cells produced without significantly affecting the other members of the gut microbiota.

New way to target an old foe: malaria

July 18, 2013 3:57 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Although malaria has been eradicated in many countries, including the United States, it still infects more than 200 million people worldwide, killing nearly a million every year. In a major step toward reducing that number, a team led by MIT researchers has now developed a way to grow liver tissue that can support the liver stage of the life cycle of the two most common species of malaria.

New approach protects prion protein from altering shape

July 18, 2013 2:15 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have identified a mechanism that can prevent the normal prion protein from changing its molecular shape into the abnormal form responsible for neurodegenerative diseases. This finding offers new hope in the battle against a foe that until now has always proved fatal.

Nature’s own nanoparticles harnessed to target disease

July 10, 2013 10:56 am | News | Comments

Using a novel form of immune-genetic therapy, researchers from Yale Univ. and Jagiellonian Univ. in Poland have successfully inhibited a strong immune allergic inflammatory response in the skin of mice. The results suggest the technique could be used to combat a variety of diseases. The delivery system consists of naturally occurring nanoparticles called exosomes that are about one-thousandth the size of donor cells that release them.

Two stem cell patients stop HIV drugs, no virus seen

July 3, 2013 10:41 am | by EILEEN NG - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Two HIV-positive patients in the United States who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer have stopped anti-retroviral therapy and still show no detectable sign of the HIV virus, researchers said Wednesday. The Harvard Univ. researchers stressed it was too early to say the men have been cured, but said it was an encouraging sign that the virus hasn't rebounded in their blood months after drug treatment ended.

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