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Researchers unlock secret of deadly brain cancer’s ‘immortality’

By University of California, San Francisco

Killer T cells surround a cancer cell. Photo credit NIH

UC San Francisco researchers have discovered how a mutation in a gene regulator called the TERT promoter—the third most common mutation among all human cancers and the most common mutation in the deadly brain cancer glioblastoma—confers “immortality” on tumor cells, enabling the unchecked cell division that powers their aggressive growth.

The research, published September 10, 2018 in Cancer Cell, found that patient-derived glioblastoma cells with TERT promoter mutations depend on a particular form of a protein called GABP for their survival. GABP is critical to the workings of most cells, but the researchers discovered that the specific component of this protein that activates mutated TERT promoters, a subunit called GABP-ß1L, appears to be dispensable in normal cells: Eliminating this subunit using CRISPR-based gene editing dramatically slowed the growth of the human cancer cells in lab dishes and when they were transplanted into mice, but removing GABP-ß1L from healthy cells had no discernable effect. Read more.

Published September 10, 2018 by Medical Xpress

If you’ve had anesthesia, you can likely thank this veterinarian who just won a top science prize

By Frankie Schembri

John “Iain” Glen Photo credit: The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation has awarded its three annual prizes, regarded as the United States’s most prestigious biomedical research awards, to four researchers in fields including genetics and anesthetic drug development. The Laskers often precede a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: Since the awards were founded in 1945, 87 Lasker laureates have later gotten the call from Stockholm.

The basic research prize is shared by Michael Grunstein of the University of California, Los Angeles, and C. David Allis of The Rockefeller University in New York City, who investigated the histone, once considered to be inert packing material for DNA. It is now recognized as an essential component in gene regulation. Read more.

Published September 11,2018 by Science Magazine

Scientists make tiny DNA ‘Trojan horse’ to strangle tumors

Photo credit: CGTN

Chinese scientists have folded DNA molecules in an origami-like process to make a minuscule “Trojan horse” – 4,000 times thinner than a human hair – that can release “killers” to fight cancer tumors.  Cancer cells need a lot of nutrition to multiply, but they don’t produce their own nutrients, according to lead researcher Nie Guangjun of China’s National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST).  All the blood, oxygen and energy are conveyed to the cancer cells through blood vessels, so many scientists are trying to block the blood vessels that are feeding the tumor. Read more.

Published Aug 11, 2018 by CGTN

Scientists Discover the Secret Weapon of Stomach Viruses

Written by: Melody Schreiber

A cluster of rotaviruses. The image is made by a transmission electron micrograph and has been colored. Photo credit WBUR

Researchers have discovered why some stomach bugs hit us so hard — and spread so fast.

New research published Wednesday in Cell Host & Microbe found that stomach infections, like norovirus and rotavirus, are more contagious and more potent when the virus particles cluster together.  These findings may help treat — and even prevent — these viruses more effectively. Read more.

Published Aug 9, 2018 by WBUR

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