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Study of tick-borne disease dynamics could thwart future outbreaks

Kurt Vandegrift is an assistant research professor of biology at Penn State. His research group is working to develop solutions that could help stop outbreaks of infectious diseases, like the tick-borne illnesses mentioned in the CDC report, before they start. Photo credit: Patrick Mansell

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report earlier this year on the increase of tick-, flea- and mosquito-borne illnesses in the United States, but don’t panic.

Kurt Vandegrift, assistant research professor of biology at Penn State, works on emerging infectious diseases, and his lab studies ticks. Vandegrift’s lab is part of a National Science Foundation grant studying virus community dynamics. His research group is working to develop solutions that could help stop outbreaks of infectious diseases, like the ones mentioned in the recent CDC report, before they start.

“Mice that live in our houses and garages are reservoirs of some pretty nasty pathogens, like hantavirus,” said Vandegrift. “The only way viruses like these get discovered is if they get into humans and start causing illness.” Read more.

Published Aug 7, 2018 by Medical Xpress (Pennsylvania State University)

Vaccines for animal and human health

Vaccines are understood to be one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine. Here, Health Europa explores how vaccines have benefitted not only humans but also animals, and limited the transmission of zoonotic diseases.

Treatment using vaccines is understood to be one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine; no single medical intervention method has contributed more to the reduction of fatality and the improvement of quality of life. As a result of vaccinations, smallpox has been eradicated, whilst cases of polio are near eradication. Read more.

Published Aug 3, 2018 by Health Europa

Grow-your-own organs could be here within five years, as scientists prove they work in pigs

Written by Sarah Knapton

Lungs being grown in the lab Photo credit: UTMB

Grow-your-own organs could be available for desperately ill patients within five years, after scientists successfully transplanted bioengineered lungs into pigs for the first time.

The team at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) showed that lab-grown organs were quickly accepted by the animals, and within just two weeks had developed a network of blood vessels. Read more.

Published Aug 1st, 2018 by The Telegraph

 

Targeted Gene Editing Cures Blood Disorder in Fetal Mice

Provided by UConn Communications

Nanoparticle circulation in an extraembryonic vein (larger vessel) and artery (smaller vessel) three hours after injection. (Gif supplied by Ramon Bahal) Nanoparticle circulation in an extraembryonic vein (larger vessel) and artery (smaller vessel) three hours after injection. Photo credit:(Media/Yale University)

A team of researchers, including UConn assistant professor of pharmaceutics Raman Bahal, has, for the first time, corrected a genetic mutation in a mammalian fetus using a targeted gene editing technique. The approach offers a potential new pathway for treating inherited genetic disorders during the earliest stages of development.

Every year, an estimated 8 million children are born with severe genetic disorders or birth defects. While genetic conditions can be detected during pregnancy using amniocentesis, there are no treatment options currently to correct the conditions before birth. Read more.

Published July 26th, 2018 by UConn Today

Rewriting our understanding of gastric tumors

Provided by MgGill University

Artist rendition of a growing stomach polyp from a Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome patient. The red cells represent pro-inflammatory T cells that promote polyp development. Credit: Ella Maru Studio. Photo credit MedicalXpress

The immune system can be an important ally in the fight against cancer. A study from McGill scientists published today in Science suggests that the reverse may also be true—that abnormal inflammation triggered by the immune system may underlie the development of stomach tumours in patients with a hereditary cancer syndrome known as Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome (PJS). The findings are likely to prompt a re-thinking of how gastric tumours form in patients with this syndrome and in others with gastrointestinal cancers. They should also open the door to potential new treatments based on targeting inflammation rather than tumour cells. Read more.

Published July 26, 2018 by MedicalXpress

New ‘Double Hit’ Strategy May Provide New, Minimally Toxic Therapies For Breast Cancer

Written by Victoria Forster

Photo credit: Forbes/ AP Damian Dovarganes

A new research study has identified a potential new target for therapies that could be used in triple-negative breast cancer, while sparing healthy cells.

The work published in Nature Communications by a U.S.-China team, led by researchers at Scripps Research in California, shows how a protein called Rad52 might be a new therapeutic target in some types of cancer. Rad52 participates in the repair of a certain type of DNA damage called a double-strand-break. Repairing DNA may seem like a good idea and in healthy cells it is, but in cancer cells, it can actually keep them alive in a damaged state and prevent therapies from working properly.

One cancer type that the researchers believe a Rad52-targeting drug might be useful in is that of triple-negative breast cancers, an aggressive form of the disease that affects an estimated 28,000 Americans per year. This type of breast cancer also has a lower survival than many other types, with 77% of women with triple-negative breast cancer surviving for 5 years or more, compared to 93% of women with other types of breast cancer. Read more.

Published July 25, 2918 by Forbes

Nanoparticles improve tumor treatment in mice

Written by Eric Hamilton

Atomic-scale images of gemcitabine-loaded nanoparticles reveal an unusual cylindrical shape. Photo credit; University of Wisconsin- Madison Courtesy of Tony Tam

In the treatment of cancer, chemotherapy is a cleaver, not a scalpel. By attacking rapidly dividing cells, chemotherapy effectively fights tumors, but it also ravages healthy cells in the gut, bone marrow, the scalp and other organs, leading to severe side effects. These toxic chemicals save lives, but at a great cost to patient well-being.

In an effort to tip the balance toward the upsides of chemotherapy, Glen Kwon, a professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy, is turning to nanoparticles capable of enhancing these drugs’ therapeutic properties.

In new work recently published in the journal ACS Nano, Kwon’s lab developed a stabilized form of a common chemotherapy agent, gemcitabine, and encased it in nanoparticles capable of slowing down their release. In mouse models of human lung cancer, the improved drug inhibited tumor growth more effectively than standard gemcitabine. Read more.

Published July 25, 2018 by University of Wisconsin-Madison News

Drug gets body cells to ‘eat and destroy’ cancer

Photo credit BBC News/ Getty Images

Scientists have designed a special type of drug that helps the body eat and destroy cancerous cells.

The treatment boosts the action of white blood cells, called macrophages, that the immune system uses to gobble up unwanted invaders. Tests in mice showed the therapy worked for aggressive breast and skin tumours, Nature Biomedical Engineering journal reports.

The US team behind the study hope to begin human trials within a few years. Read more.

Published by July 3, 2018 by BBC News

Rhesus Macaque Model Offers Route to Study Zika Brain Pathology

Written by Andy Fell

Photo Credit: Kathy West/California Primate Research Center

Rhesus macaque monkeys infected in utero with Zika virus develop similar brain pathology to human infants, according to a report by researchers at the California National Primate Research Center and School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, published June 20 in Nature Communications.

Rhesus macaques may be a suitable model system to study how Zika virus infection during pregnancy affects the fetus and to find ways to prevent, diagnose, mitigate or treat it, said Koen Van Rompay, research virologist at the CNPRC. Read more.

Published June 20, 2018 by UC Davis