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Form or function? Evolution takes different paths

Story Summary: Evolution takes different pathsBiologists long have known that both the appearance of organisms and their inner workings are shaped by evolution. But do the same genetic mechanisms underlie changes in form and function? Carroll backed up his assertion with examples, but the idea, which challenged previous dogma, was controversial, Zhang said. Physiogenes were more likely to be blueprints for enzymes, receptors, transporters and ion channels (molecules that control the flow of ions across cell membranes). The next step was to examine patterns of evolution in the two groups of genes. In a classic paper published in 1975, evolutionary biologists Mary-Claire King and Allan Wilson argued that evolution of both morphology and ways of life (physiology and behavior) occurred through changes in the way genes are turned on and off, rather than through direct changes in gene products themselves. It was this influential paper that Carroll commemorated 30 years later, but he suggested instead that physiological changes are due to protein sequence changes, while morphological changes result from changes in gene expression. We found more differences in morphogenes than in physiogenes, Zhang said. In other words, morphogenes evolve faster, with respect to expression patterns, than do physiogenes—a finding that supports the idea that morphological changes result mainly from gene expression changes. In other words, morphogenes evolve faster, with respect to expression patterns, than do physiogenes—a finding that supports the idea that morphological changes result mainly from gene expression changes. The finding that morphology and physiology are shaped by different evolutionary genetic processes can not only aid in future evolutionary studies, but can also be helpful in the study of human disease, Zhang said….Read the Full Story

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Scientific breakthrough at the IRCM to combat the HIV-1

Story Summary: Breaking News Apr 8 2010, 5:20 PM ESTScientific breakthrough at the IRCM to combat the HIV-1EUREKALERTContact: Lucette Theriaultlucette. Tetherin is a cellular protein that captures viruses forming at the surface of infected cells, thereby preventing viral transmission and spread. In fact, we have discovered how the Vpu protein neutralizes Tetherin, and as such stimulates HIV-1 production, stated Dr. ric A. Cohen. By directly binding Tetherin, Vpu adversely affects the transport of the restriction factor to the cell surface, which is the site of its antiviral activity. Simian immunodeficiency viruses, considered to be precursors of HIV-1, are unable to antagonize human Tetherin. It would appear that the emergence of HIV-1 strains encoding Vpu proteins with the ability to perturb the intracellular transport of human Tetherin, could have contributed to the pandemic spread of certain groups of HIV-1, specified Mathieu Dub, doctorate candidate at the IRCMs Human Retrovirology Research Unit, and the first author of the article. This is a very important finding by Dr. Cohens research team and another example of the superb research being done in Canada in this area. 1000856(link will go live upon embargo lift)Dr. ric A. Cohen is the Director of the Human Retrovirology Research Unit at the IRCM and holds the Canada Research Chair in Human Retrovirology. Dr. Cohen is also a professor at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Universit de Montral. ca) is dedicated to understanding the causes and mechanisms of diseases with the aim of discovering diagnostic tools and means of prevention and treatment; to training a high-level succession of scientific employees; and to contribute to the socioeconomic development of Quebec by fostering discoveries. ca) is dedicated to understanding the causes and mechanisms of diseases with the aim of discovering diagnostic tools and means of prevention and treatment; to training a high-level succession of scientific employees; and to contribute to the socioeconomic development of Quebec by fostering discoveries. The IRCM has 36 research units….Read the Full Story

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Nanovaccine reverses autoimmunity without general immunosuppression

Story Summary: com617-397-2802A new study, published online April 8 by Cell Press in the journal Immunity, describes a unique therapeutic nanovaccine that successfully reverses diabetes in a mouse model of the disease. In addition to providing new insight into diabetes, the research also reveals an aspect of the pathogenesis of the autoimmune response that may provide a therapeutic strategy for multiple autoimmune disorders. 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, says Dr. Santamaria. MHC molecules are used by another type of white blood cell, called an antigen presenting cell to present antigen to T cells as part of all immune responses. If the paradigm on which this nanovaccine is based holds true in other chronic autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and others, pMHC-nanovaccines might find general applicability in autoimmunity, suggests Dr. Santamaria….Read the Full Story

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Resistance tests useful for patients with very low viral loads

Story Summary: A number of major resistance mutations were just as likely to be detected when a patients viral load was below 1000 copies/ml as they were at higher viral loads. The finding of major resistance mutations supports the practice of HIV genotyping among patients with low-level viremia to guide the choice of an effective alternative regimen, write the investigators. However, it is possible to modify these tests so that they are able to detect resistance at lower viral loads. Other factors associated with having a resistance test when viral load was below 1000 copies/ml included treatment centre (three centres accounted for over 80% of tests at lower viral loads); more recent calendar year; antiretroviral therapy that included a ritonavir-boosted protease inhibitor; and no previous virological failure. However, NNRTI resistance fluctuated over time, increasing from 68% in 1999 to 76% in 2003, but then falling to 56% in 2006. In 1999, 52% of tests showed resistance to protease inhibitors, but this had fallen to 24% in 2006. When the investigators conducted an analysis to see if the level of viral load affected the total number of resistance mutations present, they found that this varied little. Patients with a viral load below 300 copies/ml had a median of three mutations, those with a viral load between 300 10,000 copies/ml had a median of four mutations, and individuals with higher viral loads above this level had a median of three resistance mutations. Amongst patients experiencing NRTI failure, the M41L, L210W and T215Y mutations occurred more often in patients with a viral load below 1000 copies/ml. Although uncommon, the L74V mutation was more likely to emerge when a patients viral load was above 1000 copies/ml (7% vs. 3%, p < 0. Amongst patients experiencing NNRTI treatment failure, the most common mutation was K103N, which was detected in 35% of individuals. Amongst patients experiencing NNRTI treatment failure, the most common mutation was K103N, which was detected in 35% of individuals. However, the occurrence of this mutation did not vary by viral load. However, the occurrence of this mutation did not vary by viral load. ReferenceMackie NE et al. Antiretroviral drug resistance in HIV-1 infected patients with low-level viremia. ReferenceMackie NE et al. Antiretroviral drug resistance in HIV-1 infected patients with low-level viremia….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Doubled haploid technology for quickly developing inbred corn lines offered at ISU

Story Summary: Thomas Lubberstedt, associate professor and K. J. Frey chair in agronomy and director of the R. F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding, has launched a Doubled Haploid Facility at ISU that can develop pure, inbred corn lines in less time than traditional methods. Inbred corn lines have two copies of the same genome. This is the reason why hybrid seed has to be reproduced from stably maintained inbred plants. Then you have a chemical treatment, and after that, plants have two identical genomes, so you can get to the inbred lines much faster, said Lubberstedt. The first group of users of the Doubled Haploid Facility includes researchers from both public and private groups from ISU, the United States and overseas. One of the components of the process is a special type of corn called an inducer line. Purebred corn lines are also valuable to researchers as a tool to isolate individual gene functions. If you want to find genome regions that are associated with disease resistance or something like that, the procedure is that you develop a segregating population….Read the Full Story

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Inovio Biomedical Completes Enrollment of Cervical Cancer Therapeutic Vaccine Study

Story Summary: VGX-3100 is a DNA vaccine targeting the E6 and E7 proteins of human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18, and is delivered via in vivoelectroporation. This dose escalation study was designed to test the safety and immunogenicity of VGX-3100 in women with a previous history of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 2/3, a precursor lesion prior to the development of cancer. Antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses were observed against all four antigens (E6 and E7 proteins for HPV types 16 and 18). Generation of tumor-specific T-cell responses is believed to be an important characteristic of a cancer therapeutic vaccine. Inovio also tested the samples for antibody responses against the target antigens and observed strong antibody responses in 10 of 12 subjects (83%). Antibodies were generated against all four antigens, as tested by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The high antibody titers achieved in this study have not previously been observed in human clinical trials of other DNA immunogens. Specific antibody responses to tumor antigens can function as an important surrogate potency marker for determining the immunogenicity of a vaccine, i. e. the ability of a vaccine to induce an immune response. The interim analyses of the vaccinated subjects from the first two cohorts indicate that our vaccine is highly immunogenic, generating antigen-specific T-cell and antibody responses that are amongst the highest reported from any previous human studies of DNA vaccines,a stated Dr. J. Joseph Kim, President and CEO. aWhile VGX-3100 is a potentially important product against cervical cancer, we believe a successful completion of this study will mark an important event for our field as a whole and a strong valuation enhancing event for our company,a Dr. Kim added. Inovio expects complete immunogenicity and safety data to be reported in early Q1 2011. About HPV, Cervical Cancer and Inovioas Therapeutic DNA VaccineHuman papillomavirus (HPV) is the causative agent responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. However, the huge number of patients already infected with HPV cannot be addressed by preventive vaccines and there is no viable therapeutic vaccine or drug to fight HPV and cervical cancer. Inovioas VGX-3100 is designed to express the E6 and E7 genes common to HPV types 16 and 18 and which are present in both pre-cancerous and cancerous cells transformed by these HPV types. Other partners and collaborators include Merck, Tripep, University of Southampton, National Cancer Institute, and HIV Vaccines Trial Network. This press release contains, in addition to historical information, forward-looking statements. This press release contains, in addition to historical information, forward-looking statements….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

New model tracks the immune response to a T

Story Summary: These models have a lot of potential, says Oktay Kirak, who is a postdoctoral researcher in the labs of Whitehead Members Hidde Ploegh and Rudolf Jaenisch. It allows us to study both the biology of T cells as well as their role in toxoplasmosis. Kirak used T cells–a class of white blood cells that include several types of cells including cytotoxic or so-called killer T cells–because they have been difficult to study in current immune system models. Some earlier models rely on transgenic mice in a process that leaves indelible marks created by the experiment itself and depend on a researcher subjectively choosing the mouse with the best immune response. Other models trick the infectious agent into producing a surrogate protein, not usually produced by that pathogen, like a protein found in egg whites. A researcher then documents how immune cells that recognize the egg white protein respond to the infectious agent. And that is an important advance for immune system models….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Ageing gene found to govern lifespan, immunity and resilience

Story Summary: Dr Robin May, who led the research said: Ageing is a process that all organisms experience, but at very different rates. To do that, we looked at a gene that we already knew to be involved in the ageing process, called DAF-16, to see how it may determine the different rates of ageing in different species. Dr May continued: DAF-16 is part of a group of genes that drive the biological processes involved in ageing, immunity and responses to physical or environmental stresses. The research in Birmingham is now moving on to look at the way in which DAF-16 coordinates a complex network of genes in order to balance the differing needs of an individuals immune system over time. Professor Douglas Kell said: Research using model organisms that uncovers the biology underpinning ageing gives us the opportunity to understand some of the mechanisms that determine how humans age in a healthy, or at least normal, way. It is very important to develop a good understanding of healthy ageing if we are to appreciate what happens to an older persons physiology when they become unwell or experience difficulties with everyday tasks such as recalling memories or moving around. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date….Read the Full Story

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Fragile X protein loss alters brain pathways responsible for learning and memory

Story Summary: Fragile X protein loss alters brain pathways responsible for learning and memoryApril 8, 2010 Geneticists have known for two decades that fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability, is due to the functional loss of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) in the brain. Now they are beginning to understand how FMRP regulates signaling pathways in the brain that are essential for learning and memory in adults. Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine have described new discoveries about the role of FMRP in the journal PLoS Genetics. This leads to a reduction in the number of new neurons as well as defective maturation of these neurons. Although scientists have shown that adult neurogenesis and learning are altered in conditions such as stress, diabetes, neurological diseases, stroke, and traumatic injury, the link between adult neurogenesis and mental retardation has not been fully explored. We discovered that mice lacking the Fmr1 gene have a reduced number of new neurons in the dentate gyrus, and that FMRP-deficient neurons have reduced dendritic complexity and length. The research, published by Cell Press in the June issue of the journal . . . com) — The more obese a woman is when she becomes pregnant, the greater the likelihood that she will give birth to an infant with a congenital heart defect, according to a study conducted by researchers at the National . . . com) — How many times have you, after a particularly hard day, reached for some chocolate or ice cream?…Read the Full Story

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Fake skin patches could deliver helpful genes

Story Summary: The team used tiny radio transmitters inserted into the animals arteries to measure blood pressure. Skin is a good target because its accessible, he says. Human trials are still a few years away, Vogel says. For example, Aa topical cream could be used to promote the genes activity, increasing protein production. In the case of diabetes, you could imagine insulin being released at a constant rate, says Vogel. Jeff Morgan, a cell biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and a member of the first group to look into genetically modified skin grafts, thinks the research is exciting. This paper is a significant step towards applications in humans, he says. Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10….Read the Full Story

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McMaster researchers discover a new way HIV infects women

Story Summary: For the first time, researchers at McMaster University have discovered the culprit could be HIV itself and what the virus does when it binds to epithelial cells. What it does is that it makes the electrical barrierresistance of epithelial cells decrease. The study, which appears in the journal PLoS Pathogens, shows HIV can break down the mucosal barrier in the intestinal and female genital tract, allowing the virus to cross during intercourse. Worldwide, half of the 40 million people infected with HIV are women. It is the immune cells underneath that have all the receptors that HIV likes to latch on to and that allow the virus to replicate and establish infection. Then, they began to study how HIV actually interacts with these cells. The electrical resistance in these cultures is used to monitor how well the epithelial cell cultures are growing and functioning. Aisha Nazli, a researcher in Kaushics laboratory, noticed every time she put HIV on epithelial cells their resistance went down significantly. Kaushic said the surface protein of the virus causes the epithelial barrier to break. The surface protein signals to the inside of the epithelial cells by binding to it, she said. She holds a New Investigator Award in HIV from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and an Early Researchers Award from the Ontario government. A new study by a team of researchers at the Montpellier . . . 2 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 | Geneticists have known for two decades that fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disability, is due to the functional loss of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) in the brain. com) — How many times have you, after a particularly hard day, reached for some chocolate or ice cream? com) — How many times have you, after a particularly hard day, reached for some chocolate or ice cream?…Read the Full Story

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New method to study key targets in Alzheimers disease and prostate cancer

Story Summary: The group headed by Xavier Salvatella, ICREA researcher with the Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Programme at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), has developed a method to obtain structural information about intrinsically disordered proteins. The study appears in this weeks Journal of the American Chemical Society, one of the most important journals in this field. The researchers have simultaneously used a thousand processors of the supercomputer MareNostrum to study a single protein model and develop a new programme for structural calculation, named ERIDU. If our method is as reliable as we think, we could start to decipher the variety of structural forms that this other active part adopts in order to design drugs in the future. In only ten years intrinsically disordered proteins have become one of the most interesting fields of research for biomedicine. We have seen that the greater the complexity of the organism, the more proteins of this kind it has; however, although these proteins are highly relevant we still know very little about them because, among other things, it is very difficult to study their structures, comments Salvatella….Read the Full Story

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Researchers show some cells in pancreas can spontaneously change into insulin-producing cells

Story Summary: The findings come from a study at the University of Geneva, co-funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, that is published today in the online edition of the scientific journal Nature. The researchers, led by Dr. Pedro L. Herrera, demonstrated that beta cells will spontaneously regenerate after near-total beta cell destruction in mice and the majority of the regenerated beta cells are derived from alpha cells that had been reprogrammed, or converted, into beta cells. People with type 1 diabetes are dependent on insulin treatment for the rest of their life. When the mice were exposed to the toxin, the beta cells were rapidly and efficiently destroyed – greater than 99% just 15 days after treatment. Then, to track the source of newly regenerated beta cells, Dr. Herreras team used another genetic manipulation to permanently label mature alpha cells and all their descendents with a fluorescent protein. This genetic lineage tracing approach allowed the scientists to track the fate of the alpha cells and their progeny; the presence of fluorescently labeled beta cells in the recovered animals gave conclusive evidence that alpha cells had reprogrammed into beta cells. The amount of beta-cell destruction thus appears to determine whether regeneration occurs. This study is another step forward for JDRFs research focus on Regeneration as a potential pathway to restore insulin production – and normal blood sugar in people with type 1 diabetes. JDRF has become a leader in this new and exciting research field, funding a wide range of research projects, including studies like Dr. Herreras, and an innovative diabetes drug discovery and development partnership with the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Foundation (GNF), focused on regeneration approaches. JDRF has become a leader in this new and exciting research field, funding a wide range of research projects, including studies like Dr. Herreras, and an innovative diabetes drug discovery and development partnership with the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Foundation (GNF), focused on regeneration approaches….Read the Full Story

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How Does a Heart Know When Its Big Enough?-3/25/10

Story Summary: Pans team identified the gene they named Hippo in 2003, showing that an abnormal copy of it led to an unusually large eye in a developing fruit fly. The new experiments, Pan says, moved the investigation slowly and methodically upstream to find Hippos trigger, where, he believes, the key to size-control lies. The Hippo-Kibra link could be a key to understanding and treating cancer, Pan adds, because cancer is literally a disease of uncontrolled growth. The Johns Hopkins and Florida State teams discovered Kibra by studying ovarian cells from adult flies and by using a gene-controlling technique called RNA interference (RNAi) to systematically turn off each of the approximately 14,000 genes in the fly genome, one at a time, in cultured fly cells. These studies told them that the Hippo pathway was not active in the absence Kibra. Further studies on human cells measured the activity of the Hippo pathway while manipulating human Kibra and showed that like its fruit fly counterpart, human Kibra acts as a tumor suppressor protein that regulates Hippo signaling. Were making progress along the Hippo pathway, heading toward the cell surface, and believe we will find that elusive signal en route. Kibras role in memory performance in humans has already garnered interest. Authors of the paper, in addition to Pan, are Jianzhong Yu, Stephen Klusza and Wu-Min Deng of Florida State University; and Yonggang Zheng and Jixin Dong of Johns Hopkins. htmlhttp://www….Read the Full Story

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New University of Washington Center for Systems and Translational Infectious Disease Research established

Story Summary: Nanette Crochet, UW research scientist in immunology, is standing next to Katze, and Pavel Sova, research scientist in microbiology, is on the right. The University of Washington has launched its newest biomedical research enterprise, the center for Systems and Translational Research on Infectious Disease. I also hope we will gain a better understanding of how viruses cause diseases as well as how the host contributes to the disease process, and what makes a good vaccine, said Katze. They can be viruses as well as harmful bacteria, parasites, yeasts, or fungi. A host is the plant, animal or person that the pathogen exploits to live and reproduce. Systems biology goes beyond figuring out what a single substance does, to looking at what is going on in an entire set of activities in live cells and how and when changes occur. STRIDE will be encouraging new generations of scientists to work in infectious disease research through its training programs and its involvement with BioQuest, a career-inspiring science education effort for high school students and teachers. At a recent Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Katze presented an example of one system biology approach utilized at the new center: Starting with an animal model of a virus infection, researches use rapid, high-throughput technology to amass vast amounts of data from samples taken at many time points and under different conditions. This data includes information about genes and their products or regulatory roles (genomics), proteins and their function and interplay (proteomics) and energy storage and use (metabolomics) — and how the virus interferes with these activities. These scientific findings may suggest interventions that could be tested in models and be translated into novel medical therapies for clinical trials. The STRIDE center, Quigley said, is in line with all five areas that Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, says are ripe for major advances that could reap substantial benefits. These include using high throughput technologies to broadly expand the scope of biological investigations, maximizing the speed of realizing the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of scientific breakthroughs, focusing on global health, improving the quality of health care, and reinvigorating the biomedical community through the training of new scientists. These include using high throughput technologies to broadly expand the scope of biological investigations, maximizing the speed of realizing the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of scientific breakthroughs, focusing on global health, improving the quality of health care, and reinvigorating the biomedical community through the training of new scientists. These include using high throughput technologies to broadly expand the scope of biological investigations, maximizing the speed of realizing the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of scientific breakthroughs, focusing on global health, improving the quality of health care, and reinvigorating the biomedical community through the training of new scientists….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Controls for animals color designs revealed

Story Summary: But now we think weve figured out all the key ingredients and we believe they are generally applicable (to many animals). To ferret out the secret of animal ornamentation, Carroll and his UW-Madison colleagues, Thomas Werner and Shigeyuki Koshikawa, and Thomas Williams, now at the University of Dayton, pried loose the molecular details and evolutionary history of how a species of North American fruit fly, Drosophila guttifera, generates a complex pattern of 16 wing spots. The group discovered a morphogen, a protein present in embryonic tissue and encoded by a gene known as Wingless, which seems to be a linchpin of wing decoration. Late in wing development, the Wingless morphogen is produced and diffuses through tissue where it prompts cells in certain areas of the wing to make pigment. The role of the Wingless morphogen was detailed by the painstaking genetic manipulation of flies that took three years and the injection of nearly 20,000 fly embryos to accomplish. 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. By manipulating the gene, we can make striped flies out of spotted flies. In addition to working out the molecular details of how the fly colors its wings, Carrolls group was also able to deduce the evolutionary history of wing coloring in Drosophila guttifera….Read the Full Story

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Scientists identify how a novel class of antibodies inhibits HIV infection

Story Summary: They say the discovery, published online in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, expands traditional notions about how the immune system fights HIV and offers a potential new strategy for HIV vaccine design. Researchers have been puzzled and frustrated for years by antibody responses to HIV. Moody says the antibodies, PGN632, P1, IS4 and CL1, do not appear to have any pathogenic features, even though other members of the class do. In other words, they dont go after individual viral particles directly, but instead, indirectly, by creating a chemical roadblock at one of the virus most commonly used portals. Since it is one of the earliest events in the process of infection, being able to potentially intervene at that juncture could be meaningful. There are two parts of the immune systemthe innate and adaptive componentsand this study shows a vaccine that could elicit these polyreactive antibodies could recruit both components to fight HIV. We have long assumed that a successful vaccine would probably need to attack HIV on multiple fronts, Haynes says. These findings have given us one more potential way to use the immune system to fight HIV. com) — Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have for the first time isolated an important antibody in human serum that could potentially play a key role in the design of an AIDS vaccine. However, the drugs do not manage to eradicate the virus completely; individuals have to stay on the drugs permanently. A new study by a team of researchers at the Montpellier . . . A new study by a team of researchers at the Montpellier . . . University of Minnesota researchers now report that the defective protein responsible for the disease cuts . . . University of Minnesota researchers now report that the defective protein responsible for the disease cuts . . . 1hour ago | not rated yet | 0 Alpha cells in the pancreas, which do not produce insulin, can convert into insulin-producing beta cells, advancing the prospect of regenerating beta cells as a cure for type 1 diabetes….Read the Full Story

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Gene links lower birth weight and type 2 diabetes

Story Summary: One of the genes is also associated with type 2 diabetes, which helps to explain why small babies have higher rates of diabetes in later life. The research published in the journal Nature Genetics is the first robust evidence that a well-known link between lower birth weight and susceptibility to type 2 diabetes has a genetic component. This is a key finding because it has long been known that babies that weigh less are more at risk of type 2 diabetes in adulthood, but it was not clear why. This effect is equivalent to the reduction in birth weight caused by a mother smoking four to five cigarettes per day in pregnancy. Dr. Rachel Freathy, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, commented: Our study shows that genes are part of the reason why babies born with a lower birth weight are more at risk of type 2 diabetes 50 or 60 years later. It is important for us now to establish how much of the association is due to our genes and how much is due to the environment because this will inform how we target efforts to prevent the disease. Also our own studies have demonstrated that a number of environmental factors influence foetal growth and that some foetuses are more vulnerable to those than the others….Read the Full Story

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Defective protein is a double hit for ataxia

Story Summary: University of Minnesota researchers now report that the defective protein responsible for the disease cuts the number of synaptic terminals and snarls traffic inside neurons. Symptoms usually start when patients are in their 20s or 30s, and they can gradually lose the ability to walk and speak. But the protein also helps the adapter protein dynactin hitch cargoes to dynein motors, pointing to a disruption of intracellular transportation. At the neuromuscular junctions where nerves and muscles meet, the larvae showed fewer presynaptic terminals. Vesicles from flies that made the faulty {beta}-III?spectrin were slower and more likely to change direction, and thus traveled shorter distances. Other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimers disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, involve faulty transport, and the results indicate that SCA5 does too. The two mechanisms might have a common link, the researchers suggest. At the synapse it might snag microtubules that strengthen the membrane and prevent degeneration. About The Journal of Cell BiologyFounded in 1955, The Journal of Cell Biology(JCB) is published by The Rockefeller University Press. All editorial decisions on manuscripts submitted are made by active scientists in conjunction with our in-house scientific editors. Authors retain copyright of their published works and third parties may reuse the content for non-commercial purposes under a creative commons license. is good for youAbout usScience Blog was started in August 2002. is good for youAbout usScience Blog was started in August 2002. Most of what you read here are press releases from the outfits named in the stories themselves….Read the Full Story

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Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Reports Data From Newly Published Research Reinforcing Potential of Targeting PS in HIV Infection

Story Summary: (Nasdaq: PPHM) today announced the publication of data showing phosphatidylserine (PS)-targeting antibodies can block one of the key ways the AIDS virus gains entry into certain blood cells. The data were generated by scientists at as part of their ongoing AIDS vaccine research. In the presence of monocytes, the antibodies prevented HIV infection in vitro85% of the time in these studies. In November, 2009 Peregrine researchers presented positive data on progress in this program, showing that the PS-targeting antibodies increase survival in a model of lethal VHF infection. This publication is the latest in a series of presentations and publications that supports the potential of PS as a target in HIV infection and provides new insights into the unique mechanisms of action of our PS-targeting antibodies, said , president and CEO of Peregrine. While past studies have focused on the broad nature of the PS target, these new data reveal that some of these antibodies may also have highly specific effects. Published Online First . The study was supported by a Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a Veterans Affairs Merit Review Award, an NIAID NIH grant, the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology as well as resources from the and the Birmingham Center for AIDS Research. About PS-Targeting Anti-Viral AgentsPhosphatidylserine (PS), a lipid molecule normally found only on the inside of cell membranes, becomes exposed on the outside of the membranes of viruses and virally infected cells. Peregrines PS-targeting antibodies have been shown to help clear infectious virus from the bloodstream and to induce antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity. PS is exposed on the outer membrane of cells infected with a wide range of viruses, including HIV, influenza, herpes simplex viruses, hemorrhagic fever viruses, cytomegalovirus, measles and members of the smallpox and rabies virus families. Because the PS target is host-derived rather than pathogen-derived, PS-targeting antibodies are expected to be less susceptible to the viral genomic mutations that lead to anti-viral drug resistance. Peregrine is the exclusive licensee of broad patents covering anti-viral applications of PS-targeting antibodies issued to the System. The company is pursuing three separate clinical programs in cancer and HCV infection with its lead product candidates bavituximab and Cotara(r). avidbio. Additional information about Peregrine can be found at www. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially or otherwise adversely impact the companys ability to obtain regulatory approval for its product candidates include, but are not limited to, uncertainties associated with completing preclinical and clinical trials for our technologies; the early stage of product development; the significant costs to develop our products as all of our products are currently in development, preclinical studies or clinical trials; obtaining additional financing to support our operations and the development of our products; obtaining regulatory approval for our technologies; anticipated timing of regulatory filings and the potential success in gaining regulatory approval and complying with governmental regulations applicable to our business. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially or otherwise adversely impact the companys ability to obtain regulatory approval for its product candidates include, but are not limited to, uncertainties associated with completing preclinical and clinical trials for our technologies; the early stage of product development; the significant costs to develop our products as all of our products are currently in development, preclinical studies or clinical trials; obtaining additional financing to support our operations and the development of our products; obtaining regulatory approval for our technologies; anticipated timing of regulatory filings and the potential success in gaining regulatory approval and complying with governmental regulations applicable to our business….Read the Full Story

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  1. Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Awarded Second Broad U.S. Patent for Anti-Viral Applications of Phospholipid-Targeting Antibodies
  2. Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Presents Promising Antiviral Data at 2009 Chemical and Biological Defense Science & amp; Technology Conference
  3. GeoVax Labs, Inc. Reports Data on Prototype Adjuvant – Supplemented HIV Vaccine Tested in Preclinical Animal Studies


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Providing Long-Term Affordable Supply Of Pneumococcal Vaccines To The Worlds Poorest Children

Story Summary: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer Inc. are the first two companies to make long-term commitments to supply new vaccines against pneumococcal disease. Supply may start as early as 2010 and at a fraction of the price charged in industrialised countries. Through this AMC and thanks to the political will demonstrated by donors and least developed nations and the participation of the pharmaceutical companies, prevention against the worlds biggest childhood killer is now within reach, said GAVI CEO Julian Lob-Levyt. For approximately 20% of the doses, companies will also receive an additional payment of US $ 3. 50 for each dose they provide, which is paid with donor commitments (AMC funds). In total, this is a fraction of the current cost of pneumococcal vaccines in many industrialised countries. GSK is delighted to be among the first suppliers of vaccines to GAVI through this innovative mechanism. Through the AMC, donors commit money to guarantee the price of vaccines once they have been developed. These commitments help provide vaccine makers with the incentive to invest the considerable sums required to finalise development of vaccines and build adequate manufacturing capacity to serve developing countries. The AMC pilot will enable low income countries to access state of the art vaccines with assurance of affordable and sustainable supply in the future, said Nina Schwalbe, GAVIs Managing Director for Policy & Performance. We expect todays announcement will be an incentive to additional manufacturers, particularly those in developing countries, to accelerate production of new pneumococcal vaccines. Firms can still make offers under the AMC as new calls for supply offers will be issued over time. As more companies participate in the AMC, the long term vaccine price could drop further. To provide the new vaccines to countries, GSK and Pfizer Inc. have committed to scale up their manufacturing capacity to appropriate levels. Source: Jeffrey Rowland Burness Communications Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. Source: Jeffrey Rowland Burness Communications Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional….Read the Full Story

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  1. Worlds poorest children among first to receive new life-saving pneumococcal vaccines
  2. GSK Joins Global Vaccine Alliance to Help Prevent Millions of Children from Contracting Pneumococcal Disease in the Worlds Poorest Countries
  3. FDA Collaboration Seeks to Speed Development of Pneumococcal Vaccines for Children in Developing Countries


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Antibiotic-resistant Gram-Negative Bacteria

You’ve probably never even heard of Acinetobacter baumannii or Enterobacter aerogenes. But these and other little-known gram-negative bacteria are killing tens of thousands of hospitalized patients every year, according to some estimates.

Gram-negative bacteria (so-called because of the way they are stained during the Gram staining protocol) have a cell wall structure that makes them more difficult to kill with antibiotics in the first place. But some strains of these bacteria are now resistant to every modern antibiotic we have.

In an ironic twist, two antibiotics (colistin and polymyxin B) that are somewhat effective against these resistant bacteria are still effective only because they were essentially abandoned decades ago, when it was learned that they can cause nerve and kidney damage. Now it’s become an unpleasant trade-off at times; risk death from the bacteria, or risk possible nerve and kidney damage from the antibiotics.

New antibiotics are needed, but so far there do not appear to be any “magic bullet”-type antibiotics on the horizon. This is a battle we’re slowly losing.

Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

You are my density … I mean Destiny*

(for other entries in the Chemistry in Space series, click here)


Chemistry in space has been greatly aided by the addition of the Destiny Laboratory Module (see also: here for overview, and here for images) to the International Space Station.  Destiny was delivered by the Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-98 in February 2001.  It is the first permanent operating orbital research station since Skylab was vacated in February 1974.  Destiny is a cylinder measuring 28 feet long and 14 feet wide.  Inside, there are 24 ‘racks’ (6 on each side) measuring 73 inches by 42 inches.  The racks can be configured for storage, life support systems, or – more importantly – science experiments (check out the interactive on this page).   13 racks are available for science, while 11 are used for other purposes.

One rack bay remains open and houses the highlight of the module: a 20 inch optically perfect window made of telescope-quality glass – the largest produced for use in space.  It allows the use of high quality video and still cameras primarily for capturing images of Earth in detail not before possible.  One rack bay houses the Minus Eighty Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI).  It has 4 dewars of 75 liters which can hold samples of various sizes and shapes and keep them at variable controlled temperatures.  Currently, temperatures of -80 degC, -24 degC and +4 degC are in operation on the ISS.

The purpose of Destiny is to provide space for scientific research, including experiments in the physical sciences.  Experiments are designed and built into the shape of one rack, which is ported into space and installed in Destiny.  Racks can be built to be controlled by astronauts aboard the ISS or remotely by scientists on Earth.  Destiny is joined by Columbus and Kibo as the main research ‘wing’ of the ISS.  Columbus is the science laboratory contributed by the European Space Agency and Kibo is the science laboratory contributed by the Japanese space agency JAXA.  Kibo also includes a ‘terrace’ where experiment payloads are fully exposed to the space environment.

Check back for stories of experiments conducted in the microgravity of space aboard the ISS.  There’s some pretty awesome research being undertaken.

*Bonus points if you can tell me what movie that’s from :)


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Depression associated with sustained brain signals: Genetic mutation in mice elevates their risk of stress-induced depression

Story Summary: However, some people have a higher predisposition to develop these diseases, which highlights a role for genetics in determining a persons disease risk. A high number of people with depression have a genetic change that alters a protein that cells use to talk to each other in the brain. This model has good validity for understanding depression in the human, in particularly in cases of stress-induced depression, which is a fairly widespread phenomenon says Dr. Alessandro Bartolomucci, the first author of the research published in the journal, Disease Models and Mechanisms(DMM). There is a clear relationship between a short form of the serotonin transporter and a very high vulnerability to develop clinical depression when people are exposed to increasing levels of stressful life events. It suggests that the genetic mutation impedes the removal of signaling protein from communication areas in the brain, which may result in an exaggerated response to stress. What we were surprised by was the magnitude of vulnerability that we observed in mice with the genetic mutation and the selectivity of its effects. Story Source:Adapted from materials provided by , via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. Journal Reference:Alessandro Bartolomucci, Valeria Carola, Tiziana Pascucci, Stefano Puglisi-Allegra, Simona Cabib, Klaus-Peter Lesch, Stefano Parmigiani, Paola Palanza, Cornelius Gross….Read the Full Story

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  1. Science Centric | News | Analysis does not support association between genetic marker, stress and risk of depression
  2. Stress-induced changes in brain circuitry linked to cocaine relapse
  3. Analysis Does Not Support Association Between Genetic Marker, Stress And Risk Of Depression


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith

Dr. Alecia Willis honored as the 2010 Signature Genomic Laboratories Travel Award winner

Story Summary: D. , ABMG Certified Clinical Molecular Geneticist, was honored as the 2010 recipient of the Signature Genomic Laboratories Travel Award at the American College of Medical Genetics 2010 Annual Clinical Genetics MeetingAlecia Willis, Ph. The Signature Genomics Travel Award is given to a selected student, trainee or junior faculty ACMG member whose abstract submission was chosen as a platform presentation during the ACMG Annual Clinical Genetics. The ACMG program committee selects the Travel Award recipient based on scientific merit. We are proud to be sponsoring this award to support and recognize exceptional young researchers in the field of medical genetics, said Lisa G. Shaffer, PhD, FACMG, president and CEO of Signature Genomics. net) offers a variety of resources including Policy Statements, Practice Guide- lines, Educational Resources, and a Medical Geneticist Locator. org) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding the Colleges diverse efforts to translate genes into health. About Signature Genomic Laboratories Signature Genomic Laboratories, founded in 2003, was the first laboratory to provide microarray-based cytogenetic diagnostics with its proprietary SignatureChip and is the leader in providing microarray-based chromosome analysis. Signatures worldwide client base includes clinical geneticists, neurologists, pediatricians, neonatologists, obstetricians, and the research community. Signature is CAP accredited, CLIA certified, and has clinical licenses from New York, California, Rhode Island and Florida. Additional information about Signature Genomic Laboratories is available at www. signaturegenomics….Read the Full Story

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  1. Researchers at Signature Genomic Laboratories Identify Likely Causative Gene for New Genetic Disorder
  2. News: Signature Genomic Laboratories Detects Chromosome Abnormalities in Individuals with Pallister-Killian Syndrome without Invasive Skin Biopsy.
  3. Dr. Marilyn M. Li, M.D., FACMG, is the 2010 Luminex/ACMGF award recipient


Recommendation and review posted by Bethany Smith


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