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Report: Childhood cancer cases up, but deaths down

January 31, 2014 11:08 am | by Mike Stobbe - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A new report says childhood cancer cases continue to increase, but death rates have fallen by half. The American Cancer Society report—released Friday—is being called one of the most comprehensive looks at the types of cancer that most commonly affect children and adolescents.

A detailed look at HIV in action

January 31, 2014 9:45 am | by Katie Neith. California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The human intestinal tract, or gut, is best known for its role in digestion. But this collection of organs also plays a prominent role in the immune system. In fact, it is one of the first parts of the body that is attacked in the early stages of an HIV infection. Knowing how the virus infects cells and accumulates in this area is critical to developing new therapies for the over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV.

Cell membrane studied as future diagnostic tool

January 31, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST and in Lithuania have used a NIST-developed laboratory model of a simplified cell membrane to accurately detect and measure a protein associated with a serious gynecological disease, bacterial vaginosis (BV), at extraordinarily low concentrations. The work illustrates how the artificial membrane could be used to improve disease diagnosis.

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Weapon fights drug-resistant tumors

January 31, 2014 9:16 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cancer drugs that recruit antibodies from the body’s own immune system to help kill tumors have shown much promise in treating several types of cancer. However, after initial success, the tumors often return. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals a way to combat these recurrent tumors with a drug that makes them more vulnerable to the antibody treatment.

Antibiotic “smart bomb” can target specific strains of bacteria

January 30, 2014 10:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a de facto antibiotic “smart bomb” that can identify specific strains of bacteria and sever their DNA, eliminating the infection. The technique offers a potential approach to treat infections by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Puzzling question in bacterial immune system answered

January 30, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A central question has been answered regarding a protein that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering. A team of researchers has determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells.

Findings point to potential treatment for virus causing childhood illnesses

January 30, 2014 7:44 am | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered a potential treatment for a viral infection that causes potentially fatal brain swelling and paralysis in children. The findings also point to possible treatments for related viruses including those that cause common cold symptoms. The virus, called enterovirus 71 (EV71), causes yearly outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease in Southeast Asian countries, including China and Malaysia.

Gold DNA strands close electric circuits in biosensors

January 29, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

By letting DNA strands grow together with gold, scientists in Finland have developed a new concept for super-sensitive disease diagnostics. The method relies on growth of a DNA strand over a narrow gap between two electrodes in an electric circuit. The strand will only grow if a certain DNA molecule has bound to the surface of one electrode, which makes it possible to build diagnostic tests for detection of that specific DNA molecule.

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Want to get the flu? Volunteers sneeze for science

January 29, 2014 7:31 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Forget being sneezed on: Government scientists are deliberately giving dozens of volunteers the flu by squirting the live virus straight up their noses. It may sound bizarre, but the rare type of research is a step in the quest for better flu vaccines. It turns out that how the body fends off influenza remains something of a mystery.

Researchers open door to new HIV therapy

January 29, 2014 7:29 am | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

People infected with HIV can stave off the symptoms of AIDS thanks to drug cocktails that mainly target three enzymes produced by the virus, but resistant strains pop up periodically. Researchers have now focused on a fourth protein, Nef, that hijacks host proteins and is essential to HIV’s lethality. By blocking the part of a key host protein to which Nef binds, it may be possible to slow or stop HIV.

Research uncovers historical rise, fall and re-emergence of plague strains

January 28, 2014 9:00 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has discovered that two of the world’s most devastating pandemics, the plague of Justinian and the Black Death, each responsible for killing as many as half the people in Europe, were caused by distinct strains of the same pathogen. Because these plagues were hundreds of years apart, the findings suggest a new strain of bubonic plague could emerge again in humans in the future.

Researchers discover potential drug targets for early onset glaucoma

January 24, 2014 8:18 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Using a novel high-throughput screening process, scientists have, for the first time, identified molecules with the potential to block the accumulation of a toxic eye protein that can lead to early onset of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and cause vision loss and blindness. Elevated eye pressure is the main risk factor for optic nerve damage.

Researchers patent new antibacterial agent

January 22, 2014 8:54 am | by Rhona Schwartz, Univ. of Washington School of Dentistry | News | Comments

Four Univ. of Washington School of Dentistry faculty members have received a patent for a new way of using titanium-based materials to fight oral bacteria. The patent culminates several years of work in which the group studied a novel class of substances called titanates and peroxotitanates, which can inhibit bacterial growth when bound to metal ions.

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Study hints at therapeutic uses of ecstasy

January 21, 2014 11:10 am | News | Comments

Brian imaging experiments have revealed for the first time how ecstasy produces feelings of euphoria in users. The findings hint at ways that ecstasy, or MDMA, might be useful in the treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. MDMA has been a popular recreational drug since the 1980s, but there has been little research on which areas of the brain it affects.

Can sunlight lower your blood pressure?

January 20, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure and, thus, cut the risk of heart attack and stroke, a recently published study suggests. Research carried out at the Univs. of Southampton and Edinburgh shows that sunlight alters levels of the small messenger molecule, nitric oxide (NO) in the skin and blood, reducing blood pressure.

Preventing cell death from infection

January 20, 2014 8:25 am | News | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have demonstrated the power of a new drug discovery technique, which allows them to find, relatively quickly and cheaply, antibodies that have a desired effect on cells. The TSRI scientists used the technique to discover two antibodies that protect human cells from a cold virus.

Erasing traumatic memories

January 17, 2014 7:49 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition marked by severe anxiety stemming from a traumatic event such as a battle or violent attack. Many patients undergo psychotherapy. However, Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have now shown that they can extinguish well-established traumatic memories in mice by giving them a type of drug called an HDAC2 inhibitor.

Early gene therapy trial for blindness promising

January 16, 2014 10:43 am | by MARIA CHENG - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A small, preliminary study using gene therapy to treat a rare form of blindness is promising and could trigger similar efforts for other causes of vision loss, British doctors say. They studied just six patients. Of those, two have had dramatic improvements in their vision and none has reported any serious side effects. The study was only designed to test the treatment's safety, not its effectiveness.

Study dispels "obesity paradox" idea for diabetics

January 15, 2014 5:57 pm | by MARILYNN MARCHIONE - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The controversial notion that being overweight might actually be healthier for some people with diabetes seems to be a myth, researchers report. A major study finds there's no survival advantage to being large, and a disadvantage to being very large. More than 24 million Americans have diabetes, mostly Type 2, the kind that is on the rise because of obesity. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight, including one-third who are obese.

Merck blood thinner gets "yes" vote from FDA panel

January 15, 2014 5:10 pm | by MATTHEW PERRONE - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A panel of federal experts has recommended approval for an experimental blood thinner from Merck despite serious side effects including internal bleeding. The Food and Drug Administration's panel of cardiology experts voted 10-1 Wednesday in favor of approving the pill vorapaxar to help prevent blood clots in patients with a history of heart attacks.

Key to Lyme disease’s locale may be found in a tick’s gut

January 15, 2014 4:28 pm | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The prevalence of Lyme disease varies greatly between different locales throughout the Northeast, even though the deer ticks that transmit Lyme bacterium are common throughout the entire region. A new study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine suggests an unusual explanation to the mystery: differences in the makeup of microbes in the guts of the ticks.

Smart gels deliver medicine on demand

January 15, 2014 10:04 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Delaware have developed a “smart” hydrogel that can deliver medicine on demand, in response to mechanical force. Over the past few decades, smart hydrogels have been created that respond to pH, temperature, DNA, light and other stimuli.

Molecular nano-spies to make light work of disease detection

January 14, 2014 9:26 am | News | Comments

A world of cloak-and-dagger pharmaceuticals has come a step closer with the development of stealth compounds programmed to spring into action when they receive the signal. Researchers in the U.K. have designed and tested large molecular complexes that will reveal their true identity only when they’ve reached their intended target, like disguised saboteurs working deep behind enemy lines.

Scientists develop promising drug candidates for pain, addiction

January 14, 2014 8:07 am | News | Comments

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have described a pair of drug candidates that advance the search for new treatments for pain, addiction and other disorders. The two new drug scaffolds offer researchers novel tools that act on a demonstrated therapeutic target, the kappa opioid receptor (KOR), which is located on nerve cells and plays a role in the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

How the immune system fights off malaria

January 14, 2014 7:47 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The parasites that cause malaria are exquisitely adapted to the various hosts they infect; so studying the disease in mice doesn’t necessarily reveal information that could lead to drugs effective against human disease. Now, a team of researchers has developed a strain of mice that mimics most features of the human immune system and can be infected with the most common human form of the malaria parasite, known as Plasmodium falciparum.

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