Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Deletion of a Gene May Completely Prevent Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive form of cancer that tends to diagnosed quite late and often resists treatment. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. One of the make drivers behind pancreatic can cancer is the KRAS oncogene. But new research has identified another gene whose action is crucial for the development of this cancer. Dr. Simeone, who is the corresponding author of this new research, carried out a study in ,ice and human patient samples to examine a role of a gene called “ataxia-telangiectasia group D complimenting” (ATDC) in pancreatic tumor formation.

The new research started from the theory that tumors arise as a result of adult cells reverting to an earlier, more “primitive” stage similar to that of high-growth fetal development cells. Adult cells revert to this stage to repair injury and inflammation and supply the body with new called that can replace the ones that are lost. However, what our bodies intend as a healing process does not stop, but instead goes awry and causes cancer. Dr. Simeone focused on a type of pancreatic cell called acinar calls. These cells secret digestive enzymes that can also cause damage to the tissue in the small intestine.

In the present study, Dr. Simeone used mice to create a model of pancreatitis which caused acinar cells to turn into high-growth ductal cells.  They found that the ATDC gene expression went up a few after pancreatitis caused tissue damage, and it increased to the levels requires for acinar cells to transform into ductal cells. When the ATDC gene was present, in combination with the KRAS oncogene, all of the study mice developed aggressive pancreatic cancer. However, when researcher removed the ATDC gene, none of the cancer-prone mice developed cancer.

Use of Stem Cells for Surgical Glue

Science Daily recently published an article discussing the research which was originally published in Nature Communications. This research was conducted by scientists at the University of Bristol. Dr. Adam Perriman directed the study which led to the advancement of surgical glue. This new technology involved modifying the membrane of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) with the enzyme thrombin. When these altered cells were combined with fibrinogen, which is found in the blood, they were observed to fuse together. This fusion occurred through the mechanism of a hydrogel on the surface of the cells. The success of this experiment was the solution to a big problem within cell therapies. It is unfortunately common for cell transplantations to fail, however this new technology equipped cells to grow an artificial extracellular matrix which provided them increased protection.

This amazing technology would decrease the time a wound takes to heal considerably. The use of cell therapies for surgical procedures also has the possibility of reducing post surgical infections from a wound which is not sealed efficiently. Reducing the number of hospital acquired infections would allow doctors and resources to be utilized elsewhere. In addition to being used as a welding technology, this invention could open the door for many other new biotechnologies.

Circular RNA & Lupus

A biochemist and her team of scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology believe that people who have lupus have low levels of circular RNA. For those that don't know, lupus is an autoimmune disorder that will turn on the bodies virus-fighting mechanisms, even if no viruses are present, causing the body to attack itself. These scientists found that if the circular RNA levels are raised in a lupus patient, normal activity of a protein that triggers this autoimmune response will instead return to normal function. These circular RNAs stop the activity of protein PKR, which is part of innate immunity. If circular RNA levels are too low, the PKR protein is free to keep triggering an immune response without a virus present, thus attacking the body at its own will. 
3D circular RNA
This is a pretty amazing discovery for people who have lupus. If this truly is the cause of the auto-immune disease, it could open up a large new avenue of research to combat it. If a new drug can be developed to increase a persons level of circular RNA, then hopefully, this will shut down the PKR protein from an unregulated immune response.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

How Native American DNA Adapted to European Diseases

During the 15th century when the Americas became inhabited by European settlers, indigenous peoples were exposed to diseases new to their body systems, leading to death in masses of native Americans whose bodies could not defend themselves. Recent findings have informed us that those infectious diseases that once threatened their entire population have since “molded the immunes systems of today’s indigenous Americans, down to a genetic level” (Genetic Mark 1). Using whole exome sequencing, researchers were able to compare immune-related genes from skeletal remains of indigenous people living between 500 and 6000 years ago to DNA samples from indigenous people living today, both samples deriving from the Tsimshian group. The estimated genetic shift took place around 175 years ago, when variants less likely to fight off illnesses such as smallpox became less apparent in DNA samples. As the disease landscape became altered by the presence of more aggressive diseases, the genetic variants in indigenous people became adapted and more capable of defending against illnesses.

Friday, May 10, 2019

2nd Death Reported in Spinal Muscular Atrophy Gene Therapy Study

Company called Novartis and AveXis’ gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is progressing toward approval as second patient death was reported. Novartis announced interim data from its Phase III STR1VE clinical trial of Zolgensma  in SMA Type 1. SMA is a sever neuromuscular disease caused by a mutation in the SMN1 gene, which codes for SM, a protein necessary for motor neuron function. The disease is noted by the loss of motor neurons, which leads to progressive muscle weakness and paralysis. It is rare, occurring in about one in 10,000 live births. Type 1 is lethal and typically results in death by the age of 2 years old.

Zolgensma is a gene therapy in development as a one-time infusion for SMA Type 1. It uses a virus vector to deliver a copy of the human SMN gene. The gene therapy has encouraging results in improving motor function and skills, such as the ability to sit up.

One patient dies from respiratory failure, and an investigation found it was unrelated to the gene therapy. Subsequent, the companies reported that there was another death in a different trial, this in 6-month-old patient with Type 1 SMA in Europe. An autopsy has been performed and the results are pending.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Suffering from a broken heart? This new discovery could help.

In a very recent article written by Ana Sandoiu and published by Medical News Today, new research on regenerating heart tissue is discussed. This research was originally published in the journal Nature Communications. The study was conducted by Da-Zhi Wang from Boston M.A. and his colleagues. Continuing on from previous research conducted by Prof. Wang, the research team further expanded on the function of microRNAs in the generation of cardiomyocytes. The team identified two specific microRNA molecules which influenced the inflammatory response and cell death which follows a heart attack. These microRNA molecules are known as miR-19a and miR-19b. Experiments were conducted on mice who displayed promising results. The team intends to test the microRNAs on larger mammals and hopefully proceed to human studies. They hope this could be a revolutionary treatment and prevention of heart disease.

In America, heart disease is the leading cause of death. Heart disease can be caused by a variety of factors. A major element which causes this steep number of fatalities, is due to the hearts lack of ability to continue to proliferate new cardiomyocytes. This means that once the hearts cells are damaged they can not regenerate thus putting individuals at risk for heart failure. Our heart is the crucial for life and it deserves to be carefully cared for. However some events are out of our control. Discoveries such as these have the potential to save many people equip the heart to replace deceased cells.  

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Antibody Suppresses HIV

Discussed in this article by The Science Daily, an antibody has been discovered that suppresses HIV for up to four months. This study was conducted in Taiwan and led by Dr. Chang Yi Wang. Twenty-nine volunteers with well-controlled HIV discontinued their normal regimen of daily normal ART at the time of their first infusion. Fourteen of the participants received eight weekly infusions of UB-421 and fifteen of the participants received eight higher dose infusions. At the end of the treatment all the participants started up their regular ART regimen. One participant discontinued due to a skin rash side effect but all the other participants maintained HIV suppression during the study. UB-421 avoids the possibility of HIV mutation by blocking a stable human protein that HIV uses to infect the T cells. Resistance to UB-421 was not seen because the small study did not include a comparator group receiving a placebo infusion. Further studies are planned in Taiwan to evaluate the safety and efficacy  of UB-421 as a treatment for HIV. We are constantly looking for better treatments and this could potentially be another very successful treatment for many HIV patients worldwide.

Microscopic image of an HIV infected T Cell

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Dangers of Fluoride

           The inorganic anion fluoride is used in many aspects of modern life. From dental health products and services to being added to the water supply, many of us are getting rather large doses in order to maintain dental “health”. But fluoride is not an essential vitamin. Until recently much of the human population had not even been exposed to this dangerous anion. One study shows how dramatic overexposure to fluoride can have rather immediate affects such as vomiting cramping, nausea, and even death.
Many scientists are now coming out stating that fluoride is known to be a neurotoxin. It can affect neural development and has been linked to a variety of cancers. This is a very important problem in today’s world as people regularly visit the dentist for fluoride treatments, not to mention the toothpaste they use everyday also contains the harmful substance. More frightening however, is how much fluoride is added to the public water supply. It seems people don’t really get a say in the matter anymore, and it is critically important that people become aware of how their local governments are poisoning them.