New technology may enable earlier cancer diagnosis

Finding ways to diagnose cancer earlier could greatly improve the chances of survival for many patients. One way to do this is to look for specific proteins secreted by cancer cells, which circulate in the bloodstream. However, the quantity of these biomarkers is so low that detecting them has proven difficult.

A new technology developed at MIT may help to make biomarker detection much easier. The researchers, led by Sangeeta Bhatia, have developed nanoparticles that can home to a tumor and interact with cancer proteins to produce thousands of biomarkers, which can then be easily detected in the patient’s urine.


These nanoparticles created by MIT engineers can act as synthetic biomarkers for disease. The particles (brown) are coated with peptides (blue) that are cleaved by enzymes (green) found at the disease site. The peptides then accumulate in the urine, where they can be detected using mass spectrometry. 
Image: Justin H. Lo

via New technology may enable earlier cancer diagnosis – MIT News Office.


In search of better antidepressants

A new study from researchers at MIT and Stanford University pinpoints brain cells that appear to be critically involved in depression, offering a possible target for new, more effective antidepressants.

By stimulating these cells to deliver dopamine to other parts of the brain, the researchers were able to immediately eliminate symptoms of depression in mice. They also induced depression in normal mice by shutting off the dopamine source.

The findings could help researchers develop antidepressants that are more precisely targeted, says Kay Tye, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT and one of the lead authors of a paper on the work appearing in the Dec. 12 online edition of Nature.

via In search of better antidepressants – MIT News Office.

Transgenic fish wins US regulatory backing

The first genetically engineered GE animal for human consumption — a fast-growing salmon — has come a step closer to the dinner table, with a piece of paperwork posted online today by the US Food and Drug Administration FDA.The FDA’s draft environmental assessment concludes that the fish poses no foreseeable risk to nature. After 60 days of public comment, the FDA may issue a final assessment and approval — at which time AquaBounty, of Maynard, Massachusetts, can begin selling the fish.

via Transgenic fish wins US regulatory backing : Nature News & Comment.

‘Burden of Disease’ study shows a world living longer and with more disability

The health of most of the planet’s population is rapidly coming to resemble that of the United States, where death in childhood is rare, too much food is a bigger problem than too little, and life is long and often darkened by disability.

High blood pressure is now the leading “risk factor” for disease around the world. Alcohol use is third. Low-back pain now causes more disability than childbirth complications or anemia.

via ‘Burden of Disease’ study shows a world living longer and with more disability – The Washington Post.

A Drug Used to Treat HIV Might Defuse Deadly Staph Infections

A new study by NYU School of Medicine researchers suggests that an existing HIV drug called maraviroc could be a potential therapy for Staphylococcus aureus, a notorious and deadly pathogen linked to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year. Their study is published online this week in Nature.

“What are the chances that a drug for HIV could possibly treat a virulent Staph infection?” asks Victor J. Torres, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology, and senior author of the study. “These findings are the result of a fantastic collaboration that we hope will result in significant clinical benefit.” Staph causes toxic shock syndrome, pneumonia, and food poisoning, among other illnesses, and is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

The discovery arose from a serendipitous finding that was a part of a collaborative study between Dr. Torres, a bacteriologist, and immunologist Derya Unutmaz, MD, associate professor of microbiology and pathology and medicine, whose laboratories are adjacent to each other. Continue reading “A Drug Used to Treat HIV Might Defuse Deadly Staph Infections”

New antidepressant acts very rapidly and is long lasting

A first-of-its-kind antidepressant drug discovered by a Northwestern University professor and now tested on adults who have failed other antidepressant therapies has been shown to alleviate symptoms within hours, have good safety and produce positive effects that last for about seven days from a single dose.

The novel therapeutic targets brain receptors responsible for learning and memory — a very different approach from existing antidepressants. The new drug and others like it also could be helpful in treating other neurological conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading “New antidepressant acts very rapidly and is long lasting”