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New detection technique used in analysis of vaccines

Story Summary: The array can detect or identify within a 24-hour period any of the approximately 60,000 viruses or 2,500 bacteria worldwide that have been sequenced. The paper is published Wednesday in the online Journal of Virology. The European Union has opted for continued Rotarix distribution, while Glaxo removed PCV1 from their vaccine production line. The three Livermore researchers – biologist Crystal Jaing, population biologist Shea Gardner and computer scientist Kevin McLoughlin – used a new LLNL detection technology, the Microbial Detection Array (MDA). With 388,000 probes that fit on a one-inch wide, three-inch long glass slide, the MDA can detect or identify within a 24-hour period any of the approximately 60,000 viruses or 2,500 bacteria worldwide that have been sequenced. We have been collaborating with Eric for more than a year, Jaing said. The Livermore microarray confirmed the presence of PCV-1 DNA in the vaccine. The MDA has 40 designed probes to detect the PCV-1 strain of the pig virus; 39 of them showed positive for the virus, almost a guarantee that the virus was present, according to Jaing. In their paper, the team wrote that while the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique is more sensitive than either metagenomic sequencing (where only a small sample is obtained of the total background DNA content of a complex mixture) or microarrays (such as the MDA) when screening for specific viruses, the sheer number of potential contaminating viruses limits the use of PCR to a small number of most commonly suspected viruses. No one expected to see PCV-1 in a vaccine, so it was not on the list to be tested. The use of viral metagenomics and microarrays tests therefore seems warranted for the surveillance of products that are derived from cell cultures, plasma pools, or other biological sources and which may contain and transmit adventitious viruses, the authors wrote. Besides the Blood Systems Research Institute and LLNL, other institutions that collaborated on the Journal of Virologyarticle include the Stanford Genome Technology Center, the David Grant U. S. Air Force Medical Center in Travis, Calif. and UC San Franciscos Department of Laboratory Medicine. In their research, Delwarts team analyzed eight live attenuated viral vaccines – oral poliovirus, rubella, measles, yellow fever, varicella-zoster, measles/mumps/rubella and two rotavirus vaccines, one produced by Glaxo and the other by Merck. Before rotavirus vaccinations started in the United States, about 55,000 children per year were hospitalized for rotavirus infections and several dozen died each year. Merck introduced its vaccine in 2006 and Glaxos came out in 2008. In their paper, the authors wrote that despite an extensive record of safety and efficacy, common misconceptions have continued about vaccine safety, leading to reduced childhood vaccinations and a resurgence of vaccine-preventable infections. Given that live attenuated viral vaccines are safe, effective and relatively inexpensive, their use against human and animal pathogens should be encouraged, the authors said….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

New Honorary Doctors At Karolinska Institutet

Story Summary: This years honorary doctors will be formally appointed at a ceremony in the Stockholm City Hall on May 7, when they will receive their hat, diploma and ring as testimony to their new status. Andrew P. FeinbergAndrew P. Feinberg, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, USA, is to be made honorary doctor of medicine. He has also been a devoted contributor to the formation of Karolinska Institutets Epicenter, an epigenetic profiling platform at the Centre for Molecular Medicine. The Oshers have supported Karolinska Institutet for many years, and with their deep and extensive interest in science and culture they have made significant contributions to the universitys development. Anthony PawsonAnthony (Tony) Pawson, Distinguished Scientist at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute and professor at the University of Toronto, Canada, is to be made honorary doctor of medicine. He is one of the pioneers of cellular signal transduction, which describes how cellular activity is controlled by chemical signals – a process that causes disease when not functioning properly. Professor Pawson has held his leading position for many years, and even expanded it to other fields of science. For more than 15 years, professor Pawson has made invaluable contributions to Karolinska Institutets scientific endeavours as a member of several research groups and as a source of inspiration. In demonstrating his own belief in future opportunities and possessing a unique ability to see the person behind the achievements, he has helped to bring out the beneficial and creative sides of research. Irma ThesleffIrma Thesleff, professor at Helsinki University, is to be made honorary doctor of medicine. Professor Thesleff has made unparalleled contributions to science and is a world-leading researcher in developmental biology, a field that concerns the growth and development of organisms. Professor Thesleff has served as a consultant and external evaluator at Karolinska Institutet and has been an initiator of the Nordic symposia, which have been particularly instrumental in enabling young scientists to develop. As faculty opponent she has demonstrated that scientific argumentation can be as captivating as it is enlightening. Peter Wallenberg Sr. Dr Peter Wallenberg, prominent industrialist and business leader, will be made honorary doctor of medicine. Aside from his successful career in the corporate sector, Peter Wallenberg has demonstrated a strong interest and deep understanding of the conditions and needs of research in many disciplines. Contact Our News EditorsFor any corrections of factual information, or to contact the editors please use our feedback form….Read the Full Story

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Researchers Harness Basic Survival Tactic to Fight Childhood Obesity

Story Summary: Laboratory-based experiments have shown that, compared to non-obese participants, obese persons are slower to reach that disinterest point, so they continue to eat and consume more calories. If the approach changes behavior, it would result in weight loss. Despite the consistent body of research showing that habituation is a mechanism that can influence energy intake, says Epstein, there has been no research designed to translate habituation theory to interventions for adult or pediatric obesity. Understanding how variety influences energy intake may be important in understanding how food variety is related to the increasing prevalence of obesity. One of these studies will test the effects of simultaneously reducing the variety of high-energy-density (high calorie, non-nutritious) foods while increasing the variety of low-energy-density (low calorie, healthy) foods. In years two and three, researchers will test these approaches with participants in their homes. If they are successful, during years four and five these findings will be translated into interventions pediatricians can use in their practices to treat childhood obesity. Childhood obesity is a prevalent problem that tracks over time, says Epstein. Obese youth are at increased risk of becoming obese adults. We think this research will provide new treatment strategies to interrupt this extremely unhealthy progression….Read the Full Story

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New insights into diabetic blindness

Story Summary: This disorder activates the growth of new leaky blood vesselsin the eye and is responsible for the death of photoreceptors, the neurons that send visual messages to our brain. Dr Kennedy and his team found that new blood vessels and the neuronal cell death in diabetic retinopathy can arise independently of each other. In addition, they identified that cone photoreceptor neurons, those involved in colour visionand which we use to see during daylight are most affected by the high glucose levels. The research team made their observations by successfully generating a zebrafish model of diabetes. This novel model of the disease resembles the early stages of diabetic retinopathy in humans. It is an exciting development for the Kennedy group who now hope to further extend their research and establish a model of late stage diabetic disease. Current treatment for diabetic retinopathy sufferers tries to prevent the growth of new blood vessels in the late stage of the disease. There are associated side effects and the treatments halt but do not cure the disease. This research suggests a need to also protect the neurons before the disease progresses to the late stage. Commenting on the research, Dr Kennedy said, By establishing a robust model for early and late stage diabetic retinopathy, we would hope to better understand the progression of the disease and pave the way for identifying new drug targets for its successful treatment….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Preexisting Patterns Guide Evolutionas Paintbrush

Story Summary: The new report is published in the April 7, 2010, issue of Nature. For the current study, though, Carroll and colleagues focused on Drosophila melanogasters prettier cousin, a polka-dotted fly species called Drosophila guttifera. Unlike the rather plain D. melanogaster, which has spotless wings, each D. guttifera fly boasts 16 black spots and four gray swatches on each wing. Carroll says the pattern likely evolved to help the flies attract mates or to provide camouflage from predators. Much of Carrolls research has explored the evolutionary role of these switches, finding that small changes in them can account for large differences in morphology and appearance. This discovery was a great hint, says Carroll, that a single molecule might act as an input that triggered the formation of all the spots. But the fact that there was one regulatory element made us think that there was one triggering molecule at play. Carroll and his team garnered another critical clue by observing their large colony of D. guttifera. Evolution is really painting the spots on top of a landscape that has already been determined, says Carroll. This observation fueled Carrolls speculation that a single input molecule – one also involved in the development of the wing structures, perhaps – might be at play in triggering the spots. The D. melanogaster flies did not develop spots, but the enhancer region produced a distinctive pattern in wings of the developing flies, showing up in the veins and along the edges of the wings. Carroll showed the pattern to two D. melanogaster experts, Seth Blair at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Ethan Bier at the University of California, San Diego. That is, the pattern closely matched the distribution in D. melanogaster of expression of a key developmental gene called wingless. It is winglesss job to place appendages in the right spot and ensure that wings develop in the proper location. Whereas Drosophila melanogaster deploys wingless in a certain pattern, D. guttifera deploys wingless in these new areas which correspond perfectly to the polka dots, says Carroll. One lesson here is that complexity can be generated in pretty simple ways, says Carroll. But its a pretty good example of a strategy that might be used in the generation of color pattern diversity in ladybug beetles, dragonflies, butterflies, and so on. He adds that his groups new Nature paper unravels an elegant evolutionary mechanism….Read the Full Story

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Protein folding: The dark side of proteins

Story Summary: The amylome, as Eisenberg calls it, is restricted because most proteins hide these sticky segments out of harms way or otherwise keep their stickiness under control. His results and other work suggest that evolution treats amyloids as a fundamental threat. Several laboratories are now trying to find ways to supplement or boost these protective mechanisms, in the hope of treating or preventing a host of amyloid-linked diseases. Fibrils aboundThe recent work on amyloids has partially confirmed a prediction made 75 years ago by the British biophysicist William Astbury. Astbury proposed that almost any globular protein could be made to form dysfunctional fibrils by damaging — or denaturing — it with heat or chemicals. By the 1980s, researchers had come to understand that these artificially induced fibrils had the same peculiar structure seen in disease-linked amyloids, such as the amyloid-b deposits in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease. Researchers were also linking more and more amyloid-forming proteins to disease, including tau proteins in Alzheimers disease, a-synuclein in Parkinsons disease, polyglutamine in Huntingtons disease, prion protein in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and amylin in type 2 diabetes3. Eisenberg and his colleagues studied such proteins using fibril-forming assays and X-ray diffraction techniques and found that their tendency to form amyloids came from specific segments within them4. These amyloidogenic segments, Eisenbergs team found, have a self-complementary steric zipper structure that lets them mesh very tightly with an identical segment exposed on another protein5. Segments stack atop one another to form sheets, two of which zip together to form the spine of the fibril. As it grows, the fibril is fringed by the remnants of the segments host proteins. Eventually, this sprouting fibril breaks to form two smaller fibrils, each of which will grow from both ends again — and so on. In their study1, Eisenbergs team used a computer algorithm to determine when any short protein segment has sufficient steric-zipper-forming potential, based on its predicted three-dimensional structure. It gives us a better idea of why some proteins have to partially unfold before they can start forming amyloids. Moreover, reports have started to emerge of proteins that function normally in the amyloid state, for example some pituitary hormones6. Thats why biology can use them and not suffer the consequences. Other systems are in place to recognize, sequester and destroy amyloids when they do form. So it may have been unnecessary for evolution to get rid of the segments outright. Some mutations and toxins, and the cellular wear and tear associated with ageing, can result in proteins that are less well folded and less protected by chaperoning and disposal mechanisms — and thus more liable to become amyloids. The 40 or 50 amyloid-associated diseases weve found so far are probably only the ones in which our proteins are the most vulnerable, says Dobson. If we could just enhance the natural protective mechanisms that stabilize a protein, says Dobson, we could take it back over to the side of the line where its soluble and stable. In Alzheimers disease, many scientists now believe that small and still-soluble forms of amyloid are the most toxic to brain cells. By contrast, the larger, insoluble fibrils might even be protective to the extent that they sequester more toxic forms, says Dobson. The general hope is that by preventing or slowing the initial cascade of amyloid formation, the true toxic species of amyloid will be stopped at its source. A third strategy is to boost the activity of these clearance mechanisms — which, according to work by Kellys lab, includes enzymes that specifically disaggregate amyloids7. Theres a group of 500-600 genes that protect us when were young, even if weve been so unlucky as to inherit, for example, a predisposing Parkinsons or Alzheimers mutation, he says. Remember our threads are for feedback and discussion – not for publishing papers, press releases or advertisements….Read the Full Story

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Controls for animalsa color designs revealed

Story Summary: The vivid colors and designs animals use to interact with their environments is one of natures wonders. But how they build those designs from scratch and deploy color has also been one of natures most closely held secrets. It acts by triggering responding cells to do things, in this case make color, Carroll explains. In Drosophila guttifera, the morphogen acts in proximity to existing physical landmarks such as the intersections of veins and cross veins on the wing. The positioning of the spots, in short, is dictated by these pre-existing patterns, notes Carroll: The Wingless molecule is deployed in this species at specific points in time and in specific places — the places where the spots are going to be. Complicating the project is the fact that Drosophila guttifera is little used in research and its genome has not been sequenced. However, by inserting the Wingless gene into different parts of the flys genome, the team was able to successfully manipulate the decoration of the flys wing, creating stripes instead of spots, and patterns not seen in nature. In short, says Carroll, the patterns found on the wings of Drosophila guttifera came about through the flys manipulation of the Wingless gene: It evolved by simply turning this gene on in places where it hadnt been on before. Although the study was conducted in a lowly fruit fly, the principles uncovered by Carrolls group, he argues, very likely apply to many animals, everything from butterflies to boa constrictors….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

A genetic gift for sushi eaters

Story Summary: The enzymes break down algal carbohydrates including one found in red algae of the genus , best known to sushi lovers as nori. Its only because of this exotic niche and the very rare specificity of this enzyme that we were able to pinpoint where it came from. You are what you eatMany of the microbes residing in the human gut are likely to be beneficial to their host. Some may give their host a calorific boost by breaking down ingested plant carbohydrates that human enzymes cannot touch. In the genome of the marine bacterium they found enzymes that were similar to those that degrade the algal compounds agarose and carrageenans. But the enzymes lacked a crucial region needed to recognize these polysaccharides. The team searched databases for related enzymes and found that they are all also made by marine microbes — except one found in the genome of a human gut bacterium called . The bacterium also contained an enzyme that breaks down agarose. And on the basis of the similarity in DNA sequence and the finding that the two genes appear near others in the genome that appear to come from marine bacteria, the researchers concluded that the genes had been transferred from a marine bacterium to microbes living in the human gut. Genetic richesThe results suggest that ingested bacteria may have provided a valuable genetic resource for gut microbes throughout human history, says Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford University in California. Western sushi eaters are unlikely to harbour nori-digesting bacteria, says Michel. Gene-transfer events are extremely rare, and there would be little need for bacteria exposed to a Western diet to hang on to such genes, he adds. It is far higher than just eating sushi once a week. You can be controversial, but please dont get personal or offensive and do keep it brief. You can be controversial, but please dont get personal or offensive and do keep it brief….Read the Full Story

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Darwins finch and the evolution of smell

Story Summary: Today, exactly 150 years after Darwins famous book, finches can still teach us a lesson about evolution. A large, international group of researchers, among them Prof. Doron Lancet and Dr. Tsviya Olender of the Weizmann Institutes Molecular Genetics Department, recently produced the full genome of the zebra finch and analyzed it in detail. Significantly, the scientific team found that a large percentage of the genes expressed in the finch brain are devoted to vocal communication. Their findings revealed that while the finch has the same total number of smell genes, it possesses three times as many that are active: Around 200 of the finchs genes can potentially produce functional smell receptors. This figure supports the claim that some birds do rely on the sense of smell. A comparison of the zebra finch genome to those of other bird species sheds some light on how this sense evolved in the birds: Unlike mammals, in which all the different species share most of their smell receptor gene families, 95% of the receptors in the finches appeared to belong to families unique to them….Read the Full Story

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Pennsylvania Department of Health Announces Nearly (Dollor) 20 Million in Health Research Grant Awards

Story Summary: These competitive ants focus on specific research priorities established by the Health Research Advisory Committee. This years priorities are cancer vaccines and blindness and visual impairment. Wills Eye Health System, in partnership with and School of Medicine, will receive to study ways to reduce racial disparities in vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, a major cause of blindness. Drexel University, in association with University, Inovio Biomedical Corporation and the , will receive to conduct pre-clinical studies to test the safety and effect on the immune system of a vaccine that is designed to treat persons who are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and have not responded to currently available therapies. Persons with chronic HCV infection face an increased risk of developing hepatocellular cancer, a difficult-to-treat cancer with a poor prognosis. The , working in concert with Fox Chase Cancer Center and , will receive to develop and test cancer vaccines and therapies to boost the immune systems ability to attack cancer cells. Together, these cancers account for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths in . These grants are awarded as part of the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement Program (CURE), which supports clinical, health services and biomedical research….Read the Full Story

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Sand fly barcoding in Panama reveals Leishmania strain and its potential control

Story Summary: Two species carried Leishmania naiffi, a parasite that causes cutaneous leishmaniasis: persistent, itchy skin lesions. By characterising another gene fragment from the nucleus of Leishmania, we discovered which fly species carried this disease-causing trypanosome. Leishmaniasis is not new in central Panama – it poses a long-standing health risk to residents and visitors in the region. L. naiffi, the species carried by the flies in this survey, was previously known only to be in the Caribbean and the Amazon. Researchers hope that the presence of Wolbachia in the same species of flies that carry Leishmania may be useful in disease control. Wolbachia affects the flies ability to reproduce and has been proposed as a possible biological control of other insect pests. Source: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute– 29 July 2009A higher density of blood vessels and other unique physiological features in the flight muscles of bar-headed geese allow them to do what even the most elite of human athletes struggle. — full story– 27 July 2009Researchers have developed a new technique that allows them to make a movie of bacteria infecting their living host. — full story– 27 July 2009Researchers have developed a new technique that allows them to make a movie of bacteria infecting their living host….Read the Full Story

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Toxoplasma gondii spreads in the habitat of the Iberian lynx

Story Summary: This latest study reveals that the parasite is widespread in areas where the wild Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) lives, and also in captive breeding centres. This is the case of the Iberian Lynx, the most endangered felid species in the world and the most endangered carnivore in Europe. While no cases of clinical toxoplasmosis have been reported in the Iberian Lynx, mortality associated to Toxoplasma gondii infection has been recorded in bobcats (Lynx rufus). Results reveal that Toxoplasma gondii are widespread among a large population of Iberian Lynx, the main author of the study and Animal Health researcher at the UCO Ignacio Garcia Bocanegra told SINC. This is not the first study to analyse the seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in the Iberian Lynx, but it is the most complete. A Disease that Affects Warm-blooded SpeciesToxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease that above all affects warm-blooded species, including humans. The final hosts of this parasite are cats, the only animals capable of faecally excreting the parasites. Source: Plataforma SINC– 29 July 2009A higher density of blood vessels and other unique physiological features in the flight muscles of bar-headed geese allow them to do what even the most elite of human athletes struggle. Whilst most studies of bacterial infection are done after the death. — full story– 23 July 2009A small green beetle may have some interesting lessons to teach scientists about optics and liquid crystals – complex mechanisms the insect uses to create a shell so strikingly beautiful. — full story– 23 July 2009A small green beetle may have some interesting lessons to teach scientists about optics and liquid crystals – complex mechanisms the insect uses to create a shell so strikingly beautiful. — full story– 9 July 2009Although the fact that we generate new brain cells throughout life is no longer disputed, their purpose has been the topic of much debate. — full story– 9 July 2009Although the fact that we generate new brain cells throughout life is no longer disputed, their purpose has been the topic of much debate….Read the Full Story

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Clue to cause of motor neurone disease revealed in new genetic study

Story Summary: Ultimately, the researchers hope that understanding what is causing motor neurone disease (MND) will lead to new avenues for treatment. MND is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the upper and lower motor neurones. Previous studies have found a similar association between genetic mutations linked to protein aggregation and MND. Children of a parent with familial MND have a one in two risk of inheriting the disease. In the study, all of the family members with motor neurone disease had the R199W mutation, whereas none of the individuals with parents unaffected by the disease carried it. Dr Brian Dickie, director of research development at the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said: Identifying definitive causes of motor neurone disease (MND), no matter how rare, is of vital importance. They looked at the genetic makeup of 1,002 individuals, 780 of whom had no history of motor neurone disease, 23 who had sporadic MND, and 199 who had familial MND, and found no incidences of the mutation. They looked at the genetic makeup of 1,002 individuals, 780 of whom had no history of motor neurone disease, 23 who had sporadic MND, and 199 who had familial MND, and found no incidences of the mutation….Read the Full Story

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Illumina Introduces VeraCodeA(r) ADME Core Panel for Pharmaceutical Research

Story Summary: (NASDAQ:ILMN) today announced the launch of its VeraCode ADME Core Panel designed to help researchers study genetic predispositions for differential drug response and adverse events. The VeraCode ADME Core Panel offers the most complete representation of the key biomarkers associated with drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) as standardized by pharmaceutical industry experts in the PharmADME Core List. This database will be widely used to link genotypes to drug response phenotypes extracted from electronic health record data. aUnderstanding genetic variability associated with drug response and disposition is a key step toward the realization of personalized medicine, and the VeraCode ADME Core Panel will help enable this exciting transformation,a said Jay Flatley, president and CEO of Illumina. With its emphasis on rapid operation and high-quality data, the VeraCode ADME Core Panel can help bring safe and effective therapies to patients as quickly as possible. Using our proprietary technologies, we provide a comprehensive line of products and services that currently serve the sequencing, genotyping, and gene expression markets, and we expect to enter the market for molecular diagnostics. Our customers include leading genomic research centers, pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, clinical research organizations, and biotechnology companies. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in any forward-looking statements include challenges inherent in new product development and manufacturing and the other factors detailed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our most recent filings on Forms 10-K and 10-Q, or in information disclosed in public conference calls, the date and time of which are released beforehand. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in any forward-looking statements include challenges inherent in new product development and manufacturing and the other factors detailed in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our most recent filings on Forms 10-K and 10-Q, or in information disclosed in public conference calls, the date and time of which are released beforehand….Read the Full Story

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The first HFSP Nakasone award goes to Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University

Story Summary: Karl Deisseroths contribution has been to engineer neurons of defined specificity in a way that makes them sensitive to light, and to use light as a stimulus to activate or inhibit their activity. The cells could be stimulated with blue light with millisecond time resolution, thus allowing for the first time optical activation of nerve cells at physiological time scales. Using the power of genetics to create different modified viral vectors, Karl Deisseroth has been able to apply this approach in living animals to make defined sets of neurons sensitive to light, even in deep brain structures of mammals. He has also developed sophisticated optical fibre technologies to allow both the optical stimulation and recording of neuronal activity together with behavioural observation. Karl Deisseroth holds joint appointments as Associate Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. The Human Frontier Science Program Organization was founded in 1989 to support international research and training at the frontier of the life sciences and on creating opportunities for young scientists….Read the Full Story

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Pro-Test rally supports researchers, denounces harassment by animal extremists

Story Summary: The Stand up for Science rally and march on UCLAs campus was organized by Pro-Test for Science, a grassroots organization of faculty, staff and students modeled after a group formed by Oxford University students in England. Organizers staged the rally with the goal defending the right of researchers to pursue their work free from harassment by extremists and to providing the public with a better understanding of animal research. David Jentsch, a UCLA professor of psychology and psychiatry, whohelped form the group last year after extremists came to his home and firebombed his car in the middle of the night. We need animal research to tease apart the complex functioning of the brain so we can understand and treat these disorders, he said. Animal research does not produce medical breakthroughs every day, said Michael Steinmetz, a program director with the National Eye Institute. The foundations of those breakthroughs are discovered one building block at a time by basic research that must be supported, he said. Along with the privilege of using animals comes a responsibility to see that the animals are used in a humane fashion . . . We should all take a very firm stand on that. A Los Angeles County grand jury indicted two people for stalking and other felony charges relating to harassment of UCLA researchers. Last month, two plea agreements were reachedthat included jail time and probation, Waugh said. That sends a strong message that violence, threats and other criminal activity are never a viable alternative to dialogue. I chose this profession because . . . Our children and our neighbors are squarely in the crosshairs of some of the extremists….Read the Full Story

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For stem cells, practice makes perfect

Story Summary: In a new study, researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science have found that reprogramming is imperfect in the early stages of differentiation, with some genes turned on and off at random. As cell divisions continue, the stability of the differentiation process increases by a factor of 100. If the programming of a reporter gene was perfectly transmitted from parent to daughter cell, then the follicle cells would express the gene at the same level after each division. Spradling explains that the mechanism by which the reprogramming and stabilization occurs is not well understood, but their research confirmed the expectation that at least some of the critical changes take place in the gene-bearing chromosomes themselves, rather than in external factors such as the cells environment or signals from other cells. Most likely the reprogramming alters proteins on the chromosome which package the DNA and control which genes are expressed. Changes in chromosome structure, as opposed to changes in the genes themselves, that can be passed on from one generation to the next are called epigenetic changes. Epigenetic inheritance underlies the ability of multi-celled organisms to develop from single-celled zygotes to complex creatures with an array of specialized cells and tissues, says Spradling. But the amount of epigenetic information transmitted at different stages of cellular differentiation remains little known….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Researchers use novel nanoparticle vaccine to cure type 1 diabetes in mice

Story Summary: The study, co-funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, provides new and important insights into understanding how to stop the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes, and could even have implications for other autoimmune diseases. The study, conducted at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, was published today in the online edition of the scientific journal Immunity. Essentially there is an internal tug-of-war between aggressive T-cells that want to cause the disease and weaker T cells that want to stop it from occurring, said Dr. Santamaria, who is a JDRF Scholar a research award to academic scientists taking innovative and creative approaches to better treating and curing type 1 diabetes and its complications. The potential that nanoparticle vaccine therapy holds in reversing the immune attack without generally suppressing the immune system is significant, said Dr. Staeva. Dr. Santamarias research has provided both insight into pathways for developing new immunotherapies and proof-of-concept of a specific therapy that exploits these pathways for preventing and reversing type 1 diabetes. Dr. Santamaria noted that the study had implications for other autoimmune diseases beyond type 1 diabetes. Parvus Therapeutics is focused on the development and commercialization of the nanotechnology-based therapeutic platform for the potential treatment of type 1 diabetes. Insulin, however, is not a cure for diabetes, nor does it prevent its eventual and devastating complications which may include kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation. Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than $1. Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than $1….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Rewiring of gene regulation across 300 million years of evolution

Story Summary: Rewiring of Gene Regulation Across 300 Million Years of Evolution Researchers from Cambridge, Glasgow and Greece have discovered a remarkable amount of plasticity in how transcription factors, the proteins that bind to DNA to control the activation of genes, maintain their function over large evolutionary distances. The text books tell us that transcription factors recognise the genes that they regulate by binding to short, sequence-specific lengths of DNA upstream or downstream of their target genes. It was widely assumed that, like the sequences of the genes themselves, these transcription factor binding sites would be highly conserved throughout evolution. By mapping the binding of CEBPA and HNF4A in the genomes of each species and comparing those maps, they found that in most cases neither the site nor the sequence of the transcription factor binding sites is conserved, yet despite this, these transcription factors still manage to regulate the largely conserved gene expression and function of liver tissue. Paul Flicek, leader of the Vertebrate Genomics Team at EMBL-EBI, an outstation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and coauthor on the paper said The evolutionary changes in transcription factor binding in the five species have left clues that we can use to explain how function is preserved but not necessarily sequence. The results reveal that sequence conservation is not the whole story when it comes to maintaining tissue-specific gene regulation. Journal Reference:D. Schmidt, M. D. Wilson, B. Ballester, P. C. Schwalie, G. D. Brown, A. Marshall, C. Kutter, S. Watt, C. P. Martinez-Jimenez, S. Mackay, I. Talianidis, P. Flicek, D. T. Odom….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Gene bandage rejuvenates wasted muscle

Story Summary: Around 1 in 3500 boys are born with DMD, the result of mutations in a gene on the X chromosome for the protein dystrophin. Boys with DMD tend to need wheelchairs by age 12 and die of cardiac or respiratory failure before they reach 30. If injected, these bandages cause the mutations, which normally prevent dystrophin production, to be skipped over during protein-making. If you would like to reuse any contentfrom New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndicationdepartment first for permission. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the Report link in that comment to report it to us. 15:34 08 April 2010Analysis of the monsters genome shows that it builds its own virus factory, supporting the idea that giant viruses shaped all animal and plant cells18:00 07 April 2010We are starting to understand why deep brain stimulation works – and its changing our view of the brain12:00 05 April 2010Eye-tracking could improve medical diagnosis or baggage scanning security checks by forcing viewers to look at new parts of an image second time round18:16 08 April 2010Another long-lost cousin is unearthed – of all the australopithicines yet found, its the closest anatomically to the true humans that evolved into us18:00 08 April 2010All todays stories on newscientist….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Researchers Identify Gene Pivotal for Immune System Balance

Story Summary: Chemical messengers known as cytokines control the development of naive T-helper cells into a variety of more specialized cells, including the Th1 or Th2 cells. Researchers reported this gene works indirectly by regulating production of interleukin 4 (IL-4), a cytokine that plays a central role in balancing Th1 and Th2 cells. Mice that made large amounts of the Mina protein had low IL-4 levels. Certain diseases are characterized by an imbalance between those cells. An imbalance favoring Th2 cells, known as Th2 bias, is linked to an increased risk of problems like allergies and asthma. In this study, investigators used a variety of tests to sort through 92 known or predicted genes within Dice1. Bix described Mina as a molecular handle scientists can use to grasp the rest of the new pathway, whose other elements Bix described as links in a chain. Each one of those links, including the gene we discovered, constitutes a novel target for therapeutic interventions that could help either promote or diminish development toward the Th2 fate, he explained. The researchers pointed to a region of DNA that included the Mina promoter. SNPs are relatively common variations in the makeup of particular genes. The researchers noted the same DNA region might contain other genomic variations that explain differences in Mina activity. Mina lacks an obvious location for binding to the IL-4 promoter. Minas role in response to a Leishmania major infection also remains unclear. Other St. Jude authors of the paper are Melanie Van Stry, PhD, and Linda Chung, both of Immunology; and Madoka Koyanagi, PhD, formerly of St. Jude. The research was supported in part by the Cancer Research Institute, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the National Institutes of Health and ALSAC. Jude Childrens Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering research and treatment of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by Parents magazine, St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children, and has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world. St. Jude has developed research protocols that helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancer from less than 20 percent when the hospital opened to almost 80 percent today. In addition to pediatric cancer research, St. Jude is also a leader in sickle cell disease research and is a globally prominent research center for influenza. Founded in 1962 by the late entertainer Danny Thomas, St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world, publishing more research articles than any other pediatric cancer research center in the United States. St. Jude treats more than 5,400 patients each year and is the only pediatric cancer research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance. St. Jude is financially supported by thousands of individual donors, organizations and corporations without which the hospitals work would not be possible. D. , is an assistant member in the St. Jude Department of Immunology. His research is focused on the developmental regulation of cytokine gene expression within T cells….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Counterfeit drugs: an opportunity for innovative chemical thinking?

Can you tell the difference? Left is authentic sample. Right is fake.

A recent article [1] in “Trends in Pharmaceutical Sciences” illustrates the interesting problem of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, especially fake anti-malarials. In the long term, I suspect that as pharmaceutical prices trend upwards, folks at the margins will be looking for ways to cut costs. Doubtless that some will be taken in by the global trade in fake or substandard pharmaceuticals, possibly even in the US.

One village in Burma was definitely taken in [2]: a young man with malaria was treated with what was thought to be arteminisin, the natural product that is an effective means of treating the disease. After he died of malaria, experts discovered that the packages had fake authentication holograms and the tablets failed a colorimetric test. MS results indicated that the main ingredient was acetaminophen and HPLC indicated that the levels of arteminisin was only 20% of the claimed dosage.

The authors ([1], Newton et al.) argue for more support for governmental medicinal regulatory agencies in developing countries; they also push for more inspections of GMP facilities. While I think both of these strategies will bear long-term fruit, there is potential room for innovation from the chemistry front.

Presented with this problem (questionable organic starting materials), the typical university-equipped chemist would perform a number of tests (NMR, MS) to determine the identity of the unknown material. The articles I looked at also mentioned colorimetric tests and TLC, both relatively low-tech analytical chemistry techniques. I like TLC as a potential answer for part of this problem; you’d want something that didn’t rely on silica gel plates, a UV light or complicated stains. You’d want something that worked with paper chromatography and very common chemicals (H2SO4?)

This might be the first foray into a chemical version of “appropriate technology”, which attempts to improve the lives of people in developing countries using materials that are available and sustainable. What do you all think?

References:

1. Newton, P.N., Green, M.D., Fernandex, F.M. “Impact of poor-quality medicines in the ‘developing’ world.” Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 2010, 31 (3), 99-101.

2. Newton P.N., McGready R., Fernandez F., Green M.D., Sunjio M., et al. “Manslaughter by fake artesunate in Asia—Will Africa be next?” PLos Med 2006, 3(6): e197.


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Giant mimivirus does its replication in-house

Story Summary: THE worlds largest known virus just got bigger, and analysis of its genome supports the controversial idea that giant virusesshaped the cells of all animals and plants. Armed with almost 1000 genes, the mimivirus is a monster compared with classic virusessuch as HIV or the flu virus, which seldom have more than 10 genes. Jean-Michel Claverie of the Structural and Genomic Information Laboratory in Marseilles, France, has performed the first analysis of its genetic machinery, identifying which of the mimiviruss genes are switched on during each stage of infection. The only other viruses that replicate outside the nucleus are poxviruses, but even they rely on the nucleus to replicate some of their DNA. In fact, the factory is so large it was originally mistaken for a nucleus. Claverie says the mimiviruss independence supports the theory that giant viruses gave rise to the nuclei that package up DNA in all plant and animal cells. This is one of the key aspects of my theory. Abraham Minsky of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, says the results support his own teams recent study showing that the mimivirus lives in a cells cytoplasm entirely independently of the host nucleus. If you would like to reuse any contentfrom New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndicationdepartment first for permission. 18:16 08 April 2010Another long-lost cousin is unearthed – of all the australopithicines yet found, its the closest anatomically to the true humans that evolved into us10:24 08 April 2010No one expected it to happen so quickly, and certainly not everywhere – but Homo sapiensis ageing fast….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Drug-resistant HIV set for rapid upsurge

Story Summary: To see how this might increase in future, Blowers team created a model of HIV transmission that predicts how and when resistant strains will emerge. The model suggested that 60 per cent of the resistant strains currently circulating in San Francisco could cause self-sustaining epidemics, says Blower, in which each infected individual spreads the resistant strain to more than one new recipient. The most serious surge in resistance it predicted was against non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) such as nevirapine, introduced in the mid-1990s. Like the earliest anti-HIV drugs such as zidovudine(AZT), introduced 10 years earlier, these block enzymes vital for viral multiplication. The more individuals infected with resistant strains, the faster they will spread. Resistant strains can be kept in check provided infected individuals are diagnosed rapidly, before they pass on the virus, and treated with drugs to which the virus remains vulnerable, says Blower. And according to Blower, a strategy recently unveiled by the World Health Organization to test and treat as many people as possiblein such countries may hasten the emergence of drug-resistant strains, by exposing more people to the drugs. However, Carl Dieffenbach, director of the division of AIDS at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland – which this week launched a similar pilot test and treat program in Washington DC – says that development of resistance is not an insoluble problem. The emergence of HIV drug resistance is not a dead end, he says. Without human promiscuity the virus would virtually cease to exist among humans. The best combat to the virus and prevention from it are monogamous relationships. No mention of barebacking nor that even with a condom anal intercourse that the risk to the passive partner is only reduced four- to five-fold. Time now to understand better why gaymen engage in acts that led to this terrible disease–otherwise the hospice scenes of the 80s will be quickly back. I can see the day where this virus is so resistant to drugs and treatments that it simply ignores them all. There would have to be some genetic engineering of our own cells involved and that science is still developing and hardly reliable. With HIV, you have to get it at the very beginning of infection because once its actually inside the cells, no amount of leafy greens and immuno-boosting supplements are going to prevent it from proliferating. Does the virus attack white blood cell creation in the bone marrow?Because you also have white blood cells outside your blood vessels, in a parallel system called lymph nodes (and vessels). All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Infection insight raises hopes of better anti-HIV gels

Story Summary: If you would like to reuse any contentfrom New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndicationdepartment first for permission. Surely any woman who allows sexual intercourse with someone other than a long-term partner to occur *without* a condom is simply asking for trouble? Such a gel should be used in conjunction with condoms (they arent 100% effective), rather than being marketed as a risky replacement. That just isnt the way it works in Africa or most of the developing world. To show trust, you dont use a condom with your partner – if you use a condom, you are suggesting to him that you or he is cheating. A surgeon wouldnt show his certificate on a wall because if he had to, it is fake. Surely any woman who allows sexual intercourse with someone other than a long-term partner to occur *without* a condom is simply asking for trouble?Really? A gel that women can apply independently of what men do gives them autonomy and protection, even if its not perfect. Why cant I find the paper this article refers to? Why cant I find the paper this article refers to? . . help appreciated!All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith


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