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Nanotechnology battles malaria parasites

December 10, 2014 8:04 am | News | Comments

Malaria parasites invade human red blood cells, which they bring to burst and infect others. Researchers at the University of Basel and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute called nano imitations of host cell membranes have developed that deceive and trick the pathogen. This could lead to novel therapeutic and vaccine strategies against malaria and other infectious diseases.

Injectable 3-D vaccines could fight cancer, infectious diseases

December 8, 2014 4:13 pm | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

One of the reasons cancer is so deadly is that it can evade attack from the body's immune system, which allows tumors to flourish and spread. Scientists can try to induce the immune system, known as immunotherapy, to go into attack mode to fight cancer and to build long lasting immune resistance to cancer cells. Now, researchers have developed a non–surgical injection of programmable biomaterial to do so.

Resistance and futility

December 8, 2014 8:09 am | by Elizabeth Cooney, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Penicillin, the wonder drug discovered in 1928, works in ways that are still mysterious almost a century later. One of the oldest and most widely used antibiotics, it attacks enzymes that build the bacterial cell wall, a mesh that surrounds the bacterial membrane and gives the cells their integrity and shape. Once that wall is breached, bacteria die, allowing us to recover from infection.

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Flu vaccine doesn’t protect against most dominant strain

December 5, 2014 9:08 am | by Associated Press, Mike Stobbe | News | Comments

The flu vaccine may not be very effective this winter, according to U.S. health officials who worry this may lead to more serious illnesses and deaths. Flu season has begun to ramp up, and officials say the vaccine does not protect well against the dominant strain seen most commonly so far this year. That strain tends to cause more deaths and hospitalizations, especially in the elderly.

Novel approach to treating asthma

December 4, 2014 7:51 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Current asthma treatments can alleviate wheezing, coughing and other symptoms felt by millions of Americans every year, but they don’t get to the root cause of the condition. Now, for the first time, scientists are reporting a new approach to defeating asthma by targeting the trigger—the allergen—before it can spark an attack. They describe their new compound, which they tested on rats, in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Ability of HIV to cause AIDS is slowing

December 3, 2014 10:02 am | by Oxford Univ. | News | Comments

The rapid evolution of HIV, which has allowed the virus to develop resistance to patients' natural immunity, is at the same time slowing the virus's ability to cause AIDS. The Oxford Univ.-led study also indicates that people infected by HIV are likely to progress to AIDS more slowly—in other words the virus becomes less “virulent”—because of widespread access to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

IBM helps you donate computer power to fight Ebola

December 3, 2014 7:00 am | by By Brandon Bailey - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

IBM has engineered a way for everyone to join the fight against Ebola—by donating processing time on their personal computers, phones or tablets to researchers. IBM has teamed with scientists at Scripps Research Institute in southern California on a project that aims to combine the power of thousands of small computers, to each attack tiny pieces of a larger medical puzzle that might otherwise require a supercomputer to solve.

Obama: Ebola still priority as public focus shifts

December 2, 2014 6:00 pm | by By Jim Kuhnhenn And Stacy A. Anderson - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Declaring the "fight is nowhere close to being over," President Barack Obama on Tuesday heralded strides in the effort to confront Ebola in West Africa and in protecting the U.S. against the spread of the deadly virus. He said squelching the disease remains an urgent priority even if the American public's attention has shifted elsewhere.

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White House claims progress in Ebola fight

December 2, 2014 2:03 pm | by By Jim Kuhnhenn - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The White House says the Obama administration is making strides in the fight against Ebola, citing an expanded hospital network and testing capacity at home and gains confronting the deadly disease in West Africa. To sustain that, President Barack Obama was prodding Congress Tuesday to approve his request for $6.2 billion in emergency spending against the outbreak.

Exploring cells in 3-D

December 2, 2014 8:12 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Researchers can now explore viruses, bacteria and components of the human body in more detail than ever before with software developed at The Scripps Research Institute. In a study published online in Nature Methods, the researchers demonstrated how the software, called cellPACK, can be used to model viruses such as HIV.

Protein predicts response to new immunotherapy drug

December 1, 2014 11:00 am | by Vicky Agnew, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The presence of an immune-suppressing protein in non-cancerous immune cells may predict how patients with different types of cancer respond to treatment, a multi-center phase I study using an investigational immune therapy drug has found. The trial included patients with melanoma or cancers of the lung, kidney, colon, GI tract, or head and neck, whose tumors were evaluated for PD-L1 expression by a novel assay.

Seeking answers from a mysterious parasite

December 1, 2014 9:48 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Toxoplasma gondii is a common parasite often spread by cats. Most people who are infected in Europe or North America show no symptoms at all, and only a few suffer from encephalitis or ocular toxoplasmosis, which can cause blindness. However, in South America, toxoplasmosis is associated with much more severe symptoms.

Researchers discover "pre-cancers" in blood

November 26, 2014 6:00 pm | by By Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Many older people silently harbor a blood "pre-cancer"—a gene mutation acquired during their lifetime that could start them on the path to leukemia, lymphoma or other blood disease, scientists have discovered. It opens a new frontier on early detection and possibly someday preventing these cancers, which become more common with age.

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Ebola vaccine seems safe in first-stage testing

November 26, 2014 6:00 pm | by By Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

An experimental Ebola vaccine appears safe and triggered signs of immune protection in the first 20 volunteers to test it, U.S. researchers reported. The vaccine is designed to spur the immune system's production of anti-Ebola antibodies, and people developed them within four weeks of getting the shots at the National Institutes of Health.

Doctor behind "free radical" aging theory dies

November 25, 2014 2:02 pm | by By Josh Funk - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Dr. Denham Harman, a renowned scientist who developed the most widely accepted theory on aging that's now used to study cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses, has died in Nebraska at age 98. Harman, who worked into his mid-90s at the Univ. of Nebraska Medical Center died after a brief illness at a hospital in Omaha.

Angiogenesis drug could provide treatment for TB

November 25, 2014 9:27 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The body responds to tuberculosis infection by locking the bacterial offenders into tiny clusters of immune cells called granulomas, which are a hallmark of the disease. This containment strategy succeeds at first, but eventually the bacteria manage to break out of these intercellular jails and spread throughout the body.

For important tumor-suppressing protein, context is key

November 24, 2014 8:19 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have learned new details about how an important tumor-suppressing protein, called p53, binds to the human genome. As with many things in life, they found that context makes a big difference. The researchers mapped the places where p53 binds to the genome in a human cancer cell line.

U.S. looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

November 23, 2014 8:59 am | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, public health officials are girding for the next health disaster. Ebola sprang from one of those blind spots, in an area that lacks the health systems needed to detect an outbreak before it becomes a crisis.

How mutant gene causes deafness

November 21, 2014 9:47 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered how one gene is essential to hearing, uncovering a cause of deafness and suggesting new avenues for therapies. The new study, published in Neuron, shows how mutations in a gene called Tmie can cause deafness from birth. Underlining the critical nature of their findings, researchers were able to reintroduce the gene in mice and restore the process underpinning hearing.

Biomarker could provide early warning of kidney disease in cats

November 21, 2014 8:27 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from Oregon State Univ. and other institutions have developed a new biomarker called “SDMA” that can provide earlier identification of chronic kidney disease in cats, which is one of the leading causes of their death. A new test based on this biomarker, when commercialized, should help pet owners and their veterinarians watch for this problem through periodic checkups, and treat it with diet or other therapies.

U.S. approves new, hard-to-abuse hydrocodone pill

November 20, 2014 6:00 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

U.S. government health regulators on Thursday approved the first hard-to-abuse version of the painkiller hydrocodone, offering an alternative to a similar medication that has been widely criticized for lacking such safeguards. The FDA approved Purdue Pharma's Hysingla ER for patients with severe, round-the-clock pain that cannot be managed with other treatments.

Many older brains have plasticity, but in a different place

November 20, 2014 8:38 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A widely presumed problem of aging is that the brain becomes less flexible or plastic, and that learning may therefore become more difficult. A new study led by Brown Univ. researchers contradicts that notion with a finding that plasticity did occur in seniors who learned a task well, but it occurred in a different part of the brain than in younger people.

Government wants more clinical trial results made public

November 19, 2014 3:00 pm | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The government proposed new rules Wednesday to make it easier for doctors and patients to learn if clinical trials of treatments worked or not. Thousands of Americans participate in clinical trials every year, testing new treatments, comparing old ones or helping to uncover general knowledge about health. Many of the studies are reported in scientific journals and trumpeted in the news.

Immune system surprise hints at new strategy for fighting HIV

November 19, 2014 10:53 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The discovery of the innate immunity system’s role in mobilizing the body’s defenses against invading microorganisms has been long studied at Yale Univ. Now in Nature Immunology, Yale researchers have discovered a surprising twist to the story that may open a new avenue in the fight against HIV.

Hormone points to potential treatment for metabolic disorders

November 19, 2014 8:13 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered how a previously unknown hormone serves as a messenger from fat cells to the liver and are investigating the potential of developing a new treatment for metabolic disorders. Jiandie Lin of the Life Sciences Institute described how in mice the hormone, NRG4, is secreted by so-called brown fat cells and communicates with the liver to regulate the conversion of sugar into fat.

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