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Autism as a disorder of prediction

October 10, 2014 11:13 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Autism is characterized by many different symptoms: difficulty interacting with others, repetitive behaviors and hypersensitivity to sound and other stimuli. Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have put forth a new hypothesis that accounts for these behaviors and may provide a neurological foundation for many of the disparate features of the disorder.

Molecular structure of Hep C envelope protein unveiled

October 10, 2014 9:09 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Hepatitis C, an infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affects 160 million people worldwide. There’s no vaccine for HCV and the few treatments that are available do not work on all variants of the virus. Before scientists can develop potential vaccines and additional therapies they must first thoroughly understand the molecular-level activity that takes place when the virus infects a host cell.

Researchers capture images of elusive protein HIV uses to infect cells

October 9, 2014 11:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

HIV is adept at eluding immune system responses because the protein it uses to infect cells is constantly changing. Now a team of researchers including scientists from Yale Univ. have stripped the cloak from this master of disguise, providing a high-resolution image of this surface spike protein and monitoring how it constantly changes its shape, information that suggests new ways to attack the virus through drugs and vaccines.

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New weapons against multi-drug resistance in tuberculosis

October 9, 2014 8:51 am | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | News | Comments

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that infects the lungs of an estimated 8.6 million people worldwide. The fight against the disease is hampered by the fact that treatment requires a long time and that the bacterium often develops multi-drug resistance. Scientists have used a sensitive screening assay to test new compounds that can be used against the bacterium, and have discovered two small molecules that show remarkable promise.

U.S. Ebola patient dies; airport screening expanded

October 8, 2014 6:37 pm | by Mike Stobbe - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. died Wednesday despite intense but delayed treatment, and the government announced it was expanding airport examinations to guard against the spread of the deadly disease. The checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travelers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports.

Do-it-yourself flu vaccine? Study shows it works

October 8, 2014 10:40 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A study suggests that do-it-yourself flu vaccine might be possible. Researchers found that military folks who squirted a nasal vaccine up their noses were as well-protected as others who got it from health workers. The study leader says there is no reason that ordinary people could not be taught to give the vaccine, especially for children who might be less scared if they received it from mom or dad.

Getting metabolism right

October 8, 2014 7:59 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Metabolic networks are mathematical models of every possible sequence of chemical reactions available to an organ or organism, and they’re used to design microbes for manufacturing processes or to study disease. Based on both genetic analysis and empirical study, they can take years to assemble. Unfortunately, a new analytic tool suggests that many of those models may be wrong.

Ebola's victims may include dog in Spain

October 7, 2014 7:38 pm | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Ebola's victims may include a dog named Excalibur. Officials in Madrid got a court order to euthanize the pet of a Spanish nursing assistant with Ebola because of the chance the animal might spread the disease. At least one major study suggests that dogs can be infected with the deadly virus without having symptoms. But whether or how likely they are to spread it to people is less clear.

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Researchers turn computers into powerful allies in the fight against AIDS

October 7, 2014 9:54 am | News | Comments

Until now, researchers searching for compounds that have the potential to become a new HIV drug have been hampered by slow computers and inaccurate prediction models. Now, researchers in Denmark have developed an effective model based on quantum mechanics and molecular mechanics that has found, out of a half-million compounds, 14 of interest in just weeks.

Health officials work to contain Ebola virus in U.S.

October 3, 2014 4:35 am | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Texas health officials have confined four people to their home, under guard, after they had close contact with an Ebola patient hospitalized in Dallas, as disease detectives work to make sure the deadly virus doesn't spread in the U.S. Five things to know about containing the virus: 1. WHY ORDER...

Government confirms first case of Ebola in U.S.

September 30, 2014 7:38 pm | by David Warren - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal health officials on Tuesday confirmed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S., a patient who recently traveled from Liberia to Dallas and a sign of the far-reaching impact of the out-of-control epidemic in West Africa. The unidentified patient was critically ill and has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sunday, officials said.

New discovery approach accelerates identification of potential cancer treatments

September 30, 2014 9:50 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have described a new approach to discovering potential cancer treatments that requires a fraction of the time needed for more traditional methods. They used the platform to identify a novel antibody that is undergoing further investigation as a potential treatment for breast, ovarian and other cancers.

Research suggests new strategies for fighting TB

September 30, 2014 8:22 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Over the past few years, a class of compounds called ADEPs (cyclic acyldepsipeptides) has emerged as a promising new weapon in the fight against drug-resistant bacteria. The compounds work by attaching themselves to a cellular enzyme called ClpP, which bacterial cells use to rid themselves of harmful proteins. With an ADEP attached, ClpP can’t function properly, and the bacterial cell dies.

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Protein “map” could lead to potent new cancer drugs

September 26, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

Chemists in the U.K. have gained fresh insights into how a disease-causing enzyme makes changes to proteins and how it can be stopped. The scientists hope their findings will help them to design drugs that could target the enzyme, known as N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), and potentially lead to new treatments for cancer and inflammatory conditions.

Math model designed to replace invasive kidney biopsy for lupus patients

September 19, 2014 8:34 am | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

Mathematics might be able to reduce the need for invasive biopsies in patients suffering kidney damage related to the autoimmune disease lupus. In a new study, researchers developed a math model that can predict the progression from nephritis, or kidney inflammation, to interstitial fibrosis, scarring in the kidney that current treatments cannot reverse. A kidney biopsy is the only existing way to reach a definitive diagnosis.

A new way to prevent the spread of devastating diseases

September 19, 2014 8:01 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | Videos | Comments

For decades, researchers have tried to develop broadly effective vaccines to prevent the spread of illnesses such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. While limited progress has been made along these lines, there are still no licensed vaccinations available that can protect most people from these devastating diseases. So what are immunologists to do when vaccines just aren't working?

Researchers study vital on/off switches of deadly bacteria

September 19, 2014 7:50 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

No matter how many times it’s demonstrated, it’s still hard to envision bacteria as social, communicating creatures. But by using a signaling system called “quorum sensing,” these single-celled organisms radically alter their behavior to suit their population. In short, some bacteria “know” how many of them are present, and act accordingly.

Chemists modify antibiotic to vanquish resistant bacteria

September 18, 2014 10:14 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have devised a new antibiotic based on vancomycin that is powerfully effective against vancomycin-resistant strains of MRSA and other disease-causing bacteria. The new vancomycin analog appears to have not one but two distinct mechanisms of anti-microbial action, against which bacteria probably cannot evolve resistance quickly.

New diagnostic method identifies genetic diseases

September 18, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Fewer than half of all patients who are suspected of having a genetic disease actually receive a satisfactory diagnosis. To solve this problem, scientists have developed an innovative diagnostic procedure, called PhenIX, that combines the analysis of genetic irregularities with the patient's clinical presentation. The method involves a search for genes that cause disease and its related phenotypes to produce a short, testable list.

Ebola unlikely to become airborne

September 17, 2014 3:37 pm | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

It's incredibly unlikely that Ebola would mutate to spread through the air, and the best way to make sure it doesn't is to stop the epidemic, a top government scientist told concerned lawmakers Wednesday. "A virus that doesn't replicate, doesn't mutate," Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.

CDC study: Americans' bellies are expanding fast

September 16, 2014 4:37 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The number of American men and women with big-bellied, apple-shaped figures—the most dangerous kind of obesity—has climbed at a startling rate over the past decade, according to a government study. People whose fat has settled mostly around their waistlines instead of in their hips, thighs, buttocks or all over are known to run a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related ailments.

Is the U.S. doing enough to fight Ebola?

September 16, 2014 11:46 am | by Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press | News | Comments

The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal is to speed up medical research and put hospitals on alert should an infected traveler arrive.

Muscular dystrophy: Repair the muscles, not the genetic defect

September 16, 2014 7:52 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A potential way to treat muscular dystrophy directly targets muscle repair instead of the underlying genetic defect that usually leads to the disease. Muscular dystrophies are a group of muscle diseases characterized by skeletal muscle wasting and weakness. Mutations in certain proteins, most commonly the protein dystrophin, cause muscular dystrophy in humans and also in mice.

New glaucoma cause discovered

September 15, 2014 10:57 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a novel cause of glaucoma in an animal model, and related to their findings, are now developing an eye drop aimed at curing the disease. They believe their findings will be important to human glaucoma. A cure for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., has been elusive because the basis of the disease is poorly understood.

Researchers find neural compensation in people with Alzheimer’s-related protein

September 15, 2014 10:43 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

The human brain is capable of a neural workaround that compensates for the buildup of beta-amyloid, a destructive protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study led by Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers. The findings could help explain how some older adults with beta-amyloid deposits in their brain retain normal cognitive function while others develop dementia.

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