Written by Enrique Rivero
Tuberculosis is a potentially deadly though curable disease. Each year about 10 million people develop active cases, and 1.6 million people die. In addition, about 1.7 billion people around the world are infected with TB bacteria, which can lie dormant for weeks to years, then become active and cause disease in up to 10 percent of those who are infected.
Today, people who contract tuberculosis typically take a course of drugs for six to eight months. However, the length of treatment means some patients don’t stick with the therapy or may develop adverse effects from drug toxicity. Some may develop resistance to the drugs, requiring changes in the drug regimen that can lengthen the treatment to as long as two years. Even worse, there is a high fatality rate among those with drug-resistant TB. Read more.
Written by Jordana Lennon
For the first time, scientists have used a genetically engineered herpes virus to achieve significant vaccine protection against the AIDS virus in monkeys. Only live attenuated strains of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the monkey version of HIV, have previously provided similar protection. Read more.
Written by Dr. Francis Collins
In recent years, researchers have figured out how to take a person’s skin or blood cells and turn them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that offer tremendous potential for regenerative medicine. Still, it’s been a challenge to devise safe and effective ways to move this discovery from the lab into the clinic. That’s why I’m pleased to highlight progress toward using iPSC technology to treat a major cause of vision loss: age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Read more.
Written by: Fiona MacDonald
A drug developed for type 2 diabetes has “significantly reversed memory loss” in mice with Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers now want to test it on humans.
The treatment is exciting for scientists because it works by protecting the brain cells attacked by Alzheimer’s disease in three separate ways, rather than relying on a single approach.
And seeing as the drug has already been tested and approved for use in humans, it’s something that could hit the market a lot faster than other experimental treatment options. Read more.
Written by: Ed Yong
A team of scientists wants to accelerate research into a genetic disorder by using CRISPR to copy unique mutations from affected children into pigs.
When Charles Konsitzke and Dhanu Shanmuganayagam first met, they were both just trying to get some peace and quiet. It was early 2014, and they were representing the University of Wisconsin-Madison at a fancy event to promote the university’s research to local politicians. After hours of talking to senators, Shanmuganayagam was fried, and went for a walk to clear his head. That’s when he bumped into Konsitzke, an administrator at the University of Wisconsin’s Biotechnology Center. They introduced themselves, and discussed their work. Shanmuganayagam said that he ran a facility that rears miniature pigs, which are genetically engineered to carry mutations found in human genetic disorders. Scientists can study the mini-pigs to better understand those diseases.
“And I said: I have a project for you,” Konsitzke recalls.
Konsitzke’s son Mason, now aged 7, was born with little brown birthmarks on his buttocks. Many kids have one or two of these café-au-lait spots and at first, Konsitzke thought they were cute. But after more appeared, he did some research and found that such spots are a common symptom of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF-1)—an incurable inherited disease. Around Mason’s first birthday, a pediatrician confirmed the diagnosis. Read more.
Written by Joey Palacios
Scientists at Texas BioMedical Research Institute in San Antonio are using a type of primate to help prevent birth defects caused by the Zika virus. Texas BioMed is using four marmosets as its animal model for Zika infection. Virologist Dr. Jean Patterson said Zika infection in marmosets is similar to that in humans.
“Like humans, they develop almost immediate Viremia — meaning they have virus in their blood — and, for the males, after the virus declines in blood it then goes into semen, saliva and blood,” she said. Read more.