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October 4, 2006, 10:14 PM CT

Experimental Ragweed Therapy

Experimental Ragweed Therapy
Americans accustomed to the seasonal misery of sneezing, runny noses and itchy, watery eyes caused by ragweed pollen might one day benefit from an experimental allergy therapy that not only requires fewer injections than standard immunotherapy, but leads to a marked reduction in symptoms that persists for at least a year after treatment has stopped, as per a new study in the October 5 issue of The New England Journal (NEJM) (NEJM). The research was sponsored by the Immune Tolerance Network, which is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), both components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International.

"As a number of as 40 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies caused by airborne pollens produced by grasses, trees and weeds," says NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "Finding new therapies for allergy sufferers is certainly an important research goal".

"This innovative research holds great promise for helping people with allergies," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "A short course of immunotherapy that reduces allergic symptoms over an extended period of time will significantly improve the quality of life for a number of people".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 4, 2006, 9:56 PM CT

A Biocontrol Agent That Doesn't Trigger Antibiotic Resistance

A Biocontrol Agent That Doesn't Trigger Antibiotic Resistance
A failed experiment turned out to be anything but for bacteriologist Marcin Filutowicz.

As he was puzzling out why what should have been a routine procedure wouldn't work, he made a discovery that led to the creation of a new biological tool for destroying bacterial pathogens - one that doesn't appear to trigger antibiotic resistance.

The discovery also led to the startup of a promising new biotechnology firm that has already brought Wisconsin a dozen new, high-paying, highly skilled jobs. Filutowicz is a professor of bacteriology in the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

His inspiration came one morning in 1999 when he was puzzling over a failed experiment. A researcher in his lab had been trying to insert two different mutations into an ordinary bacterial plasmid - a routine task for the experienced scientist - but every attempt failed to produce a live bacterium.

Plasmids are circular DNA molecules that are different from chromosomal DNA, the genetic material that encodes the instructions for life in all cells. Plasmids are small, non-chromosomal DNA molecules. They are common in bacteria. The genes in plasmids often encode information that confers some selective advantage to their hosts - such as the ability to resist antibiotics.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


October 4, 2006, 9:53 PM CT

New Drug To Blocks Influenza Virus And Bird Flu

New Drug To Blocks Influenza Virus And Bird Flu Image courtesy of Florida State University
Opening a new front in the war against flu, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have reported the discovery of a novel compound that confers broad protection against influenza viruses, including deadly avian influenza.

The new work, reported online this week in the Journal of Virology, describes the discovery of a peptide -- a small protein molecule -- that effectively blocks the influenza virus from attaching to and entering the cells of its host, thwarting its ability to replicate and infect more cells.

The new finding is important because it could make available a class of new antiviral drugs to prevent and treat influenza at a time when fear of a global pandemic is heightened and available antiviral drugs are losing their potency.

"This gives us another tool," says Stacey Schultz-Cherry, a UW-Madison professor of medical microbiology and immunology and the senior author of the new report. "We're quickly losing our antivirals".

The new drug, which was tested on cells in culture and in mice, conferred complete protection against infection and was highly effective in treating animals in the early stages of infection. Untreated infected animals typically died within a week. All of the infected animals treated with small doses of the drug at the onset of symptoms survived.........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 10:26 PM CT

Treat the Woman, Not Her Age

Treat the Woman, Not Her Age
Women age 65 years or older constitute half of new patients with breast cancer each year, and the number of older women with breast cancer is forecast to double by 2030 as the baby boomers age. Yet despite their increasingly large numbers, older women who develop breast cancer often fail to receive the same care as offered to younger women as per Jeanne Mandelblatt, M.D., of Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In an editorial entitled "Treating Breast Cancer: The Age Old Dilemma of Old Age" which appears in the September 20, 2006, issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, she calls on doctors treating breast cancer in older women to look beyond the year in which a woman was born and to take into account her overall health, frailty and ability to tolerate various cancer therapy.

"Older women who perceive more ageism in their interaction with providers are less likely to receive radiation or chemotherapy," Mandelblatt wrote.

Women want their physicians to consider their disease, not their birthdays. "In our work with older women, we observed that 33 percent would choose chemotherapy if it would extend their lives by 12 or more months," she said.

Older women in good health may do better than younger women in poorer health. "At this time, we do not need more research to document what we already know: older women get less intensive therapy. What we need is an understanding of the biology of cancer in this population [women 65 or older with breast cancer], tools that can help clinicians identify physiological reserve and ability to withstand the rigors of more aggressive therapy, and more consistent elicitation of women's informed preferences".........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 10:22 PM CT

New Fodder For The Next Clean Air Fight

New Fodder For The Next Clean Air Fight
New research from researchers at Harvard University measured secondhand tobacco smoke in cars and found pollution levels that are likely hazardous to children.

"The levels were above the threshold for what's considered unhealthy for sensitive groups -- people like children and the elderly -- as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency," said lead study author Vaughan Rees, Ph.D., a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health.

During 45 driving trials, the scientists strapped a pollution monitor into a child-safety seat, and then asked a smoker-volunteer to light up at different times along the near hour-long route. The road tests were conducted under two different ventilation conditions: all car windows rolled down, then with just the driver's side window cracked about two inches.

"Common sense tells you if you smoke in a pretty confined space, such as a car, without ventilation, there's going to be a lot of secondhand smoke which is potentially dangerous," said Rees.

He added, "Before this study we had no idea what sorts of levels of secondhand smoke were generated. And we had no way of comparing that with other studies that have looked at secondhand smoke levels in other indoor environments like bars and restaurants".........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 10:19 PM CT

Chemical Found In Curry May Help Immune System

Chemical Found In Curry May Help Immune System
Scientists observed that curcumin -- a chemical found in curry and turmeric -- may help the immune system clear the brain of amyloid beta, which form the plaques found in Alzheimer's disease.

Reported in the Oct. 9 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the early laboratory findings may lead to a new approach in treating Alzheimer's disease by enhancing the natural function of the immune system using curcumin, known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Using blood samples from six Alzheimer's disease patients and three healthy control patients, the scientists isolated cells called macrophages, which are the immune system's PacMen that travel through the brain and body, gobbling up waste products, including amyloid beta.

The team treated the macrophages with a drug derived from curcumin for 24 hours in a cell culture and then introduced amyloid beta. Treated macrophages from three out of six Alzheimer's disease patients showed improved uptake or ingestion of the waste product in comparison to the patients' macrophages not treated with curcumin. Macrophages from the healthy controls, which were already effectively clearing amyloid beta, showed no change when curcumin was added.

"Curcumin improved ingestion of amyloid beta by immune cells in 50 percent of patients with Alzheimer's disease. These initial findings demonstrate that curcumin may help boost the immune system of specific Alzheimer's disease patients," said Dr. Milan Fiala, study author and a researcher with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System. "We are hopeful that these positive results in a test tube may translate to clinical use, but more studies need to be done before curcumin can be recommended."........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 10:17 PM CT

Links Between Drugs And Human Disease

Links Between Drugs And Human Disease
A research team led by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has developed a new kind of genetic "roadmap" that can connect human diseases with potential drugs to treat them, as well as predict how new drugs work in human cells.

Called the "Connectivity Map," the new tool and its uses are described in the Sept. 29 issue of Science and in separate papers in the Sept. 28 early edition of Cancer Cell.

The three papers show the map's ability to accurately predict the molecular actions of novel therapeutic compounds and to suggest new applications for existing drugs. Based on these initial results, the scientists propose a public project to expand the Connectivity Map--in the spirit of the Human Genome Project--to accelerate the search for new drugs to treat disease.

"The Connectivity Map works much like a Google search to discover connections among drugs and diseases," said senior author Todd Golub, the director of the Broad Institute's cancer program, an investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an associateprofessor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "These connections are notoriously difficult to find, in part because drugs and diseases are characterized in completely different scientific languages."........

Posted by: Scott      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 10:04 PM CT

Food Sources Of Disease

Food Sources Of Disease
As the recent U.S. outbreak of E. coli infections caused by contaminated spinach demonstrates, the safety of the food we eat cannot be taken for granted. Two studies in the Nov. 1 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, now available online, further illustrate the point, one adding a new bacterial culprit to the mix and the other showing that use of antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock increases the risk of antibiotic resistance in humans.

In one study, scientists led by Katri Jalava, DVM, of the Finnish National Public Health Institute, and J. Pekka Nuorti, MD, DSc, of the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traced an outbreak of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis infection among children in a Finnish town to carrots grown on a single farm. An epidemiologic investigation linked illness to eating raw carrots. Laboratory tests confirmed that the bacteria in infected children's stool samples were indistinguishable from the bacteria isolated from the farm.

The authors noted that this marked the first time that the bacterium had been recovered from an epidemiologically implicated source of food-borne illness. They pointed out that it is well known as a pathogen in wild mammals, and that the farm stored the carrots in a barn in open containers for months. "A combination of direct contact with wildlife feces during storage and cross-contamination during washing and peeling," they concluded, "are the most likely contributing factors." To prevent such outbreaks, "regulations addressing the production, storage and shipping conditions for fresh produce are needed".........

Posted by: Mark      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 9:54 PM CT

Three Molecular Targets For Leukemia

Three Molecular Targets For Leukemia
he road to better therapy for the most common form of adult leukemia will require blocking multiple molecular pathways that fuel the disease, scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center report in the Oct. 1 edition of the journal Blood.

The research team examined blood and bone marrow samples of 188 adults with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and then followed the patients' progress to gauge the cumulative impact of a trio of cell-signaling chain reactions on the disease.

"We observed that the more of these pathways that are active in a patient, the worse their prognosis," says first author Steve Kornblau, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

Patients who had none of the three molecular cascades active had a median survival time of 78.6 weeks. For those with one highly active pathway, median survival was 57.9 weeks. With two, it was 42.3 weeks. Patients with high activation of all three pathways had a median survival time of just 23.4 weeks.

"Targeting just one of these pathways won't be effective because we also observed that they cross-activate each other, they essentially cover for each other," Kornblau said. "New therapies will have to target multiple pathways to be effective".........

Posted by: Janet      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 9:46 PM CT

Target For Skin Cancer Treatment

Target For Skin Cancer Treatment
When normal skin cells become a melanoma tumor, they sometimes turn on genes not commonly found in the skin. As per scientists at the University of Virginia Health System, some of these genes are normally active in the male testis at the time sperm are formed.

The genes, called cancer-testis antigens, could be useful targets for drugs that could selectively kill a melanoma tumor, while sparing the rest of the body's tissues. The antigens could also help scientists develop a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to attack and suppress melanoma tumors.

"Researchers are beginning to see patterns in the profile of genes expressed in individual tumor cells," said John C. Herr, Ph.D., professor of cell biology at UVa and a scientist at the UVa Cancer Center. " Patients who express a given cancer-testis antigen may eventually be helped by such selective therapies. This scenario represents one aspect of the growing opportunities envisioned for personalized medicine".

Researchers at the UVa Cancer Center have studied melanoma tumors from patients at various stages of the disease over the last few years. They discovered that more than half of these tumors made the cancer-testis antigens, called SPANX proteins. As per a research findings reported in the Sept. 29, 2006 online edition of the Journal Molecular Human Reproduction, Herr and his UVa research team showed that the SPANX proteins play a role in the formation of the nuclear envelope of the developing human spermatid. The paper can be found online at this link: http://molehr.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/gal079........

Posted by: George      Permalink         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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