Researchers find key to avian flu transmission in humans

MIT researchers have uncovered a critical difference between flu viruses that infect birds and humans, a discovery that could help scientists monitor the evolution of avian flu strains and aid in the development of vaccines against a deadly flu pandemic.

The researchers found that a virus’s ability to infect humans depends on whether it can bind to one specific shape of receptor on the surface of human respiratory cells.

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Infertility Treatment For Women Suggested By Mouse Study

A discovery in mice of immune cells that promote the formation of new blood vessels could lead to new treatments for endometriosis, a painful condition associated with infertility that affects up to 15 percent of women of reproductive age. The new research in vascular biology may point the way to treating endometriosis nonsurgically — by inhibiting angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth) so that lesions remain small and harmless.
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Zinc may reduce pneumonia risk in nursing home elderly

When elderly nursing home residents contract pneumonia, it is a blow to their already fragile health. Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and colleagues report that maintaining normal serum zinc concentration in the blood may help reduce the risk of pneumonia development in that population.

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Deficiency of immune system ‘peacekeeper’ pinpointed in mice as cause of ulcerative colitis

n a series of mouse experiments, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have pinpointed a specific immune deficiency as the likely fundamental cause of ulcerative colitis, a chronic, sometimes severe inflammatory disease of the colon or large intestine that afflicts half a million Americans. Remarkably, the researchers also found that once the disease was established in mice, it could be passed from mother to offspring and even between adult animals, with potential implications for public health and prevention.

The researchers have linked ulcerative colitis in mice to a deficiency of a molecular “peacekeeper” in the immune system, allowing harmful bacteria in the large intestine to breach the bowel’s protective lining and trigger damaging inflammation.

Continue reading “Deficiency of immune system ‘peacekeeper’ pinpointed in mice as cause of ulcerative colitis”

Vaccine thwarts the tangles of Alzheimer’s

A new study by NYU Medical Center researchers shows for the first time that the immune system can combat the pathological form of tau protein, a key protein implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers, led by Einar Sigurdsson Ph.D. at New York University School of Medicine, created a vaccine in mice that suppresses aggregates of tau. The protein accumulates into harmful tangles in the memory center of the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The vaccine successfully slowed the deterioration of motor abilities produced by excessive amounts of tau in the central nervous system of mice, according to the study published in the August 22, 2007 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Dr. Sigurdsson plans to conduct follow-up studies using mice that slowly develop tangles and cognitive impairments without movement problems.

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New Drug May Help Treat Crohn’s Disease

Two new studies show that a new drug called Cimzia may ease symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Cimzia hasn’t been approved by the FDA yet. Patients would give themselves injections of the drug, which targets an inflammatory chemical called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha.

The two new studies, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, highlight Cimzia’s clinical trials in Crohn’s disease patients.

Read rest of this article at WebMD site

 

Scientists develop a model that could predict cells’ response to drugs

MIT researchers have developed a model that could predict how cells will respond to targeted drug therapies. Models based on this approach could help doctors make better treatment choices for individual patients, who often respond differently to the same drug, and could help drug developers identify the ideal compounds on which to focus their research.

In addition, the model could help test the effectiveness of drugs for a wide range of diseases, including various kinds of cancer, arthritis and immune system disorders, according to Douglas Lauffenburger, MIT professor of biological engineering and head of the department. Lauffenburger is senior author of a paper on the new model that will appear in the Aug. 2 issue of Nature.

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New technique to ‘see’ and protect transplants successful in diabetic animal model

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found a way to overcome a major stumbling block to developing successful insulin-cell transplants for people with type I diabetes.

Traditional transplant of the cells, accompanied by necessary immune-suppressing drugs, has had highly variable results, from well- to poorly tolerated. Part of the problem, the Hopkins researchers say, is an inability to track the cells—so-called pancreatic beta cells—once they’re inside the body.

Now a new technique encapsulates the insulin-producing cells in magnetic capsules, using an FDA-approved iron compound with an off-label use, which can be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The product, tested in swine and diabetic mice, also simultaneously avoids rejection by the immune system, likely a major reason for transplant failure. The work will be published online next week in Nature Medicine.

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Risk genes for multiple sclerosis uncovered

A large-scale genomic study has uncovered new genetic variations associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), findings that suggest a possible link between MS and other autoimmune diseases. The study, led by an international consortium of clinical scientists and genomics experts, is the first comprehensive study investigating the genetic basis of MS. Findings appear in the July 29 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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White blood cells are picky about sugar

Biology textbooks are blunt—neutrophils are mindless killers. These white blood cells patrol the body and guard against infection by bacteria and fungi, identifying and destroying any invaders that cross their path. But new evidence, which may lead to better drugs to fight deadly pathogens, indicates that neutrophils might actually distinguish among their targets.

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New ‘asthma gene’ could lead to new therapies

A gene that is strongly associated with a risk of developing childhood onset asthma was identified by an international team of scientists, whose findings are published today in the journal Nature.

In a genetic study of more than 2,000 children, scientists from the University of Michigan and colleagues from London, France and Germany found genetic markers that dramatically increase a child’s risk for asthma. These markers are located on chromosome 17, and children with this marker had higher levels of a new gene called ORMDL3 in their blood, which occurs in higher amounts in children with asthma. The presence of the disease-associated version of ORMDL3 increases the risk of asthma by 60-70 percent, the study suggests.

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Virus Uses Tiny RNA To Evade The Immune System

In the latest version of the hide-and-seek game between pathogens and the hosts they infect, researchers have found that a virus appears to cloak itself with a recently discovered gene silencing device to evade detection and destruction by immune cells.

The report by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers in an article published in the June 2, 2005, issue of Nature may be the first to show how a virus uses the gene silencing machinery for its own infectious purposes.

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Blood inflammation plays role in Alzheimer’s disease

eople whose blood shows signs of inflammation are more likely to later develop Alzheimer’s disease than people with no signs of inflammation, according to a study published in the May 29, 2007, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
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Scientists find bird flu antibody

Scientists working in Switzerland, Vietnam and the United States say they have isolated antibodies that they hope could offer protection against several different strains of the virus simultaneously. Antibodies are used by our immune system to neutralise bacteria and viruses – in this case, the scientists have isolated antibodies that bird flu survivors in Vietnam produced to fight off the disease. Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia, at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Switzerland, says the antibodies have already proven effective in the lab and in mice and he is confident that they could be used in humans.

Read rest of the story at BBC News site.

Precursor Cells Generated From Human Embryonic Stem Cells Show Ability to Repair Vascular Damage

Scientists reported for the first time that hemangioblast precursor cells derived from human embryonic stem (hES) cells can be used to achieve vascular repair.

The research, which appears today online (ahead of print) in the journal Nature Methods, by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) and its collaborators, describes an efficient method for generating large numbers of bipotential progenitors–known as hemangioblasts–from hES cells that are capable of differentiating into blood vessels, as well as into all blood and immune cell lineages.
Continue reading “Precursor Cells Generated From Human Embryonic Stem Cells Show Ability to Repair Vascular Damage”

Link found between immune system and high plasma lipid levels

Researchers at the University of Chicago have found an unsuspected link between the immune system and high plasma lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood) in mice. The finding could lead to new ways to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering elevated lipid levels.
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Stem cell transplantation may treat type 1 diabetes

A therapy that includes stem cell transplantation induced extended insulin independence in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, according to a preliminary study in the April 11 issue of JAMA.
Continue reading “Stem cell transplantation may treat type 1 diabetes”

Study uncovers a lethal secret of 1918 influenza virus

In a study of non-human primates infected with the influenza virus that killed 50 million people in 1918, an international team of scientists has found a critical clue to how the virus killed so quickly and efficiently. Writing this week (Jan. 18, 2007) in the journal Nature, a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka reveals how the 1918 virus – modern history’s most savage influenza strain – unleashes an immune response that destroys the lungs in a matter of days, leading to death.

The finding is important because it provides insight into how the virus that swept the world in the closing days of World War I was so efficiently deadly, claiming many of its victims people in the prime of life. The work suggests that it may be possible in future outbreaks of highly pathogenic flu to stem the tide of death through early intervention.
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Researchers create genetically matched embryonic stem cells for transplantation

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston report a new and efficient strategy, using eggs alone, for creating mouse embryonic stem cells that can be transplanted without the risk of rejection because the cells are compatible with the recipient’s immune system. The findings are published online in the journal Science on December 14.

Though done in mice, the work establishes the principle of using unfertilized eggs as a source of customized embryonic stem cells that are genetically matched to the egg donor at the genes that control recognition of cells by the immune system, making them potentially useful for transplantation therapies. There are several caveats, including the fact that only females could benefit from this technique, donating their own eggs to generate the stem cells, and concerns that the tissues derived from this special type of embryonic stem cells might not function normally.
Continue reading “Researchers create genetically matched embryonic stem cells for transplantation”

Diabetes breakthrough

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body’s nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.
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Cellular pathway yields potential new weapon in vaccine arsenal

When a cell has to destroy any of its organelles or protein aggregates, it envelops them in a membrane, forming an autophagosome, and then moves them to another compartment, the lysosome, for digestion. Two years ago, Rockefeller University assistant professor Christian Münz showed that this process, called autophagy, sensitizes cells for recognition by the immune system’s helper T cells. But he didn’t know how often this pathway is used or how efficient it is. Now, a new study published online today in the journal Immunity goes a long way toward addressing these questions and shows that the pathway is so common that it could be a valuable new way of boosting vaccine efficacy.

DCs
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Regulating the nuclear architecture of the cell

An organelle called the nucleolus resides deep within the cell nucleus and performs one of the cell’s most critical functions: it manufactures ribosomes, the molecular machines that convert the genetic information carried by messenger RNA into proteins that do the work of life.

Gary Karpen and Jamy Peng, researchers in the Life Sciences Division of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, have now discovered two pathways that regulate the organization of the nucleolus and other features of nuclear architecture, maintaining genome stability in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster.
Continue reading “Regulating the nuclear architecture of the cell”

Molecule linked to autoimmune disease relapses identified

The ebb and flow of such autoimmune diseases as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis has long been a perplexing mystery. But new findings from the Stanford University School of Medicine bring scientists closer to solving the puzzle, identifying a molecule that appears to play a central role in relapses.
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Vaccine for brain tumors shows promising results

A vaccine for treating a recurrent cancer of the central nervous system that occurs primarily in the brain, known as glioma, has shown promising results in preliminary data from a clinical trial at UCSF Medical Center.

Findings from the first group of six patients in the study, being conducted at the UCSF Brain Tumor Research Center, showed that vitespen (trademarked as Oncophage), a vaccine made from the patient’s own tumor, was associated with tumor-specific immune response in patients with recurrent, high-grade glioma.
Continue reading “Vaccine for brain tumors shows promising results”

Immune cell communication key to hunting viruses

Immunologists at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have used nanotechnology to create a novel “biosensor” to solve in part a perplexing problem in immunology: how immune system cells called killer T-cells hunt down invading viruses.

They found that surprisingly little virus can turn on the killer T-cells, thanks to some complicated communication among so-called “antigen presenting” proteins that recognize and attach to the virus, in turn, making it visible to the immune system. T-cell receptors then “see” the virus, activating the T-cells.
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New study indicates moderate exercise may protect against colds

A moderate exercise program may reduce the incidence of colds. A study published in the November issue of The American Journal of Medicine, led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, found that otherwise sedentary women who engaged in moderate exercise had fewer colds over a one year period than a control group.
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Scientists find gene target that may protect against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

The discovery by a six-member Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Genetics Consortium of a genetic risk factor for IBD has been reported in Science Express, the online publication of the journal Science. According to one of the Canadian principal investigators, director of the Laboratory in Genetics and Genomic Medicine of Inflammation at the Montreal Heart Institute, Dr. John D. Rioux, “This discovery may lead to a paradigm shift in our thinking from ‘genetics of diseases to genetics of health’, particularly as concerns Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.”
Continue reading “Scientists find gene target that may protect against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis”

Scientists provide insights into how the immune system avoids attacking itself

finding by University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers about how immune cells “decide” to become active or inactive may have applications in fighting cancerous tumors, autoimmune diseases, and organ transplant rejection. Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Professor Gary A. Koretzky, MD, PhD, director of the Signal Transduction Program at Penn’s Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute describes, in the current issue of Nature Immunology, one way in which T cells may develop tolerance to host cells and proteins. Koretzky and colleagues found that small fatty acids called diacylglycerols (DAGs), and the enzymes that metabolize them, are critical players in the molecular pathway that leads to activity versus inactivity.
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Landmark study of islet transplantation reveals potential benefits in uncontrolled type 1 diabetes

The results of the world’s first multicenter clinical trial of islet transplantation have confirmed the technique’s potential benefits in patients with difficult-to-control type 1 (or “juvenile”) diabetes. Published in the September 28, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the international team of investigators report that the Edmonton Protocol for islet transplantation can safely and successfully promote long-term stabilization of blood sugar levels in “brittle” diabetes patients and in some cases, relieve them of the need for insulin injections altogether for at least two years.
Continue reading “Landmark study of islet transplantation reveals potential benefits in uncontrolled type 1 diabetes”

Reconstructed 1918 influenza virus induces immune response that fails to protect

An analysis of mice infected with the reconstructed 1918 influenza virus has revealed that although the infection triggered a very strong immune system response, the response failed to protect the animals from severe lung disease and death.
Continue reading “Reconstructed 1918 influenza virus induces immune response that fails to protect”

Researchers map out networks that determine cell fate

A two-step process appears to regulate cell fate decisions for many types of developing cells, according to researchers from the University of Chicago.

This finding sheds light on a puzzling behavior. For some differentiating stem cells, the first step leads not to a final decision but to a new choice. In response to the initial chemical signal, these cells take on the genetic signatures of two different cell types. It often requires a second signal for them to commit to a single cellular identity.
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Researchers genetically transform immune cells into tumor fighters

A team of researchers has genetically engineered normal immune cells to become specialized tumor fighters, demonstrating for the first time that these engineered cells can persist in the body and shrink large tumors in humans.
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Study Provides Insight Into How the Brain Loses Plasticity of Youth

A protein once thought to play a role only in the immune system could hold a clue to one of the great puzzles of neuroscience: how do the highly malleable and plastic brains of youth settle down into a relatively stable adult set of neuronal connections?

Harvard Medical School researchers report in the August 17 Science Express that adult mice lacking the immune system protein paired-immunoglobulin like receptor-B (PirB) had brains that retained the plasticity of much younger brains, suggesting that PirB inhibits such plasticity.
Continue reading “Study Provides Insight Into How the Brain Loses Plasticity of Youth”

Scientists Discover Key to Growing New Stem Cells

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have demonstrated they can grow human stem cells in the laboratory by blocking an enzyme that naturally triggers stem cells to mature and differentiate into specialized cells.
The discovery may enable scientists to rapidly grow stem cells and transplant them into patients with blood disorders, immune defects and select genetic diseases, said the Duke researchers.
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Researchers develop T-cells from human embryonic stem cells

Researchers from the UCLA AIDS Institute and the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine have demonstrated for the first time that human embryonic stem cells can be genetically manipulated and coaxed to develop into mature T-cells, raising hopes for a gene therapy to combat AIDS.

The study, to be published the week of July 3 in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that it is possible to convert human embryonic stem cells into blood-forming stem cells that in turn can differentiate into the helper T-cells that HIV specifically targets. T-cells are one of the body’s main defenses against disease.
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Scientists find previously unknown receptors on adult stem cells

For many years, researchers believed that stem cells in the bone marrow spent most of their existence in a slumber-like state, unaware of — and unaffected by — the daily battles fought by the body's immune system.
Not so.

Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have discovered that marrow stem cells — undifferentiated cells that eventually give rise to the blood cells that fight infection — possess receptors that recognize bacteria and viruses. When activated, these receptors kick the stem cells and immature blood cells into action, enlisting them to help fight whatever pathogen is attacking the body.

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Cracking a virus protection shield

Scientists reveal the structure of a protein that packages the viral genome and helps viruses to replicate while avoiding human immune reactions

Ebola, measles and rabies are serious threats to public health in developing countries. Despite different symptoms all of the diseases are caused by the same class of viruses that unlike most other living beings carry their genetic information on a single RNA molecule instead of a double strand of DNA. Now researchers from the Institut de Virologie Moléculaire et Structurale [IVMS] and the Outstation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL] in Grenoble have obtained a detailed structural picture of a protein that allows the rabies virus to withstand the human immune response and survive and replicate in our cells.

The study that is published in this week’s online edition of Science suggests new potential drug targets in rabies and sheds light on how similar approaches can help fighting other viral diseases.
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HIV-1’s high virulence might be an accident of evolution

The virulence characteristic of HIV-1–the virus predominantly responsible for human AIDS–might amount to an accident of evolution, new evidence reveals. A gene function lost during the course of viral evolution predisposed HIV-1 to spur the fatal immune system failures that are the hallmarks of AIDS, researchers report in the June 16, 2006 Cell.

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AIDS vaccine research offers new insights on survival in monkey models of HIV infection

New insights into how a subpopulation of helper T-cells provides immunity and promotes survival following infection with an AIDS-like virus offer a new means of predicting an AIDS vaccine's effectiveness, a discovery that could help scientists as they test these vaccines in clinical trials.

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Study Reveals New Vaccine Reverses Memory Loss

Imagine an Alzheimer's patient receiving a vaccine made of specialized blood cells and then showing a much- improved memory. Also, imagine that vaccine having no side effects and needing to be given only occasionally.

Researchers at the Johnnie B. Byrd, Sr. Alzheimer's Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, have not only imagined these things, they have actually developed such a vaccine that they show reverses memory loss in Alzheimer's mice.
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Research produces images of HIV that may shape vaccine

As the world marks the 25th year since the first diagnosed case of AIDS, groundbreaking research by scientists at Florida State University has produced remarkable three-dimensional images of the virus and the protein spikes on its surface that allow it to bind and fuse with human immune cells.

Findings from this AIDS research could boost the development of vaccines that will thwart infection by targeting and crippling the sticky HIV-1 spike proteins.

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Mice Lacking Key Immune Component Still Control Chronic Viral Infections

Despite lack of a key component of the immune system, a line of genetically engineered mice can control chronic herpes virus infections, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.

Scientists can't prove it yet, but they suspect the missing immune system component, a group of molecules known as the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Class Ia, has a previously unrecognized backup that is similar enough to step in and fill the void left by its absence. If so, that backup may become a new focus for efforts to design antiviral vaccines.
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Research links cancer and inflammatory disease

The biological processes underlying diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and cancer are fundamentally linked, and should be linked in how they are treated with drugs, a series of MIT studies indicates. Key to the work: The researchers applied an engineering approach to cell biology, using mathematical and numerical tools normally associated with the former discipline.

In a series of three papers, the latest of which appeared in the March 24 issue of Cell,  members of MIT's Center for Cancer Research, looked at how cells make life-or-death decisions. Understanding what tips a cell toward survival or death is key to treating diseases and fighting cancer through radiation, drug therapy and chemotherapy. Continue reading “Research links cancer and inflammatory disease”

Research provides clues to obesity’s cause and hints of new approach for curbing appetite

Hot fudge sundaes and french fries aside, new research suggests obesity is due at least in part to an attraction between leptin, the hormone that signals the brain when to stop eating, and a protein more recently associated with heart disease. Reporting in Nature Medicine, University of Pittsburgh researchers provide evidence that C-reactive protein (CRP) not only binds to leptin but its hold impairs leptin’s role in controlling appetite. The results may help explain why obese people have so much trouble losing weight as well as point to a different target for the pharmaceutical treatment of obesity.

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Newly discovered killer cell fights cancer

A mouse immune cell that plays dual roles as both assassin and messenger, normally the job of two separate cells, has been discovered by an international team of researchers. The discovery has triggered a race among scientists to find a human equivalent of the multitasking cell, which could one day be a target for therapies that seek out and destroy cancer.
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Making Mice Old Before Their Time

Knocking out a gene that helps repair nicks in DNA causes young mice to develop many of the degenerative characteristics of their wizened elders. Mice lacking the gene develop hunchback, thinning skin, decreasing bone density, and a declining immune system — all in the span of a month.

The researchers do not know whether the accelerated aging-like effects of losing the gene, called SIRT6, relate to its role in DNA repair. Nor do they know whether the degenerative effects are relevant to the natural aging process. However, they said, the discovery offers an intriguing new model for studying DNA repair, as well as its possible role in aging-related degeneration.

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Role of the nervous system in targeting stem cells in their niches is discovered

A group, led by Dr. Paul Frenette at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, found that the sympathetic–or “fight or flight” branch–of the nervous system plays a critical role in coaxing bone marrow stem cells into the bloodstream. Bone marrow cells known as hematopoietic stem cells are the source for blood and immune cells.

New study by Mount Sinai researchers may lead to improved stem cell therapies for patients with compromised immune systems due to intensive cancer therapy or autoimmune disease. Continue reading “Role of the nervous system in targeting stem cells in their niches is discovered”

Immune system cells may help to maintain cognition and brain cell renewal

A team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science, has come up with new findings that may have implications in delaying and slowing down cognitive deterioration in old age. The basis for these developments is, published today in the February issue of Nature Neuroscience, that immune cells contribute to maintaining the brain’s ability to maintain cognitive ability and cell renewal throughout life.
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Study suggests way to re-energize immune response to chronic viral infection

Like boxers wearied by a 15-round bout, the immune system’s CD8 T cells eventually become “exhausted” in their battle against persistent viral infection, and less effective in fighting the disease.

In a study to be published Dec. 28 on the journal Nature’s website, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Emory University have traced the problem to a gene that turns off the infection-fighting drive of CD8 T cells in mice. The discovery raises the possibility that CD8 cell exhaustion can be reversed in human patients, reinvigorating the immune system’s defenses against chronic viral infections ranging from hepatitis to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Continue reading “Study suggests way to re-energize immune response to chronic viral infection”

Scientists lift malaria’s cloak of invisibility

The world’s deadliest malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, sneaks past the human immune system with the help of a wardrobe of invisibility cloaks. If a person’s immune cells learn to recognize one of the parasite’s many camouflage proteins, the surviving invaders can swap disguises and slip away again to cause more damage. Malaria kills an estimated 2.7 million people annually worldwide, 75 percent of them children in Africa.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) international research scholars in Australia have determined how P. falciparum can turn on one cloaking gene and keep dozens of others silent until each is needed in turn. Their findings, published in the December 28, 2005, issue of Nature, reveal the mechanism of action of the genetic machinery thought to be the key to the parasite’s survival.

Continue reading “Scientists lift malaria’s cloak of invisibility”