Plant-derived Nanotubes Enable Personalized DNA Delivery
Personalized medicine took one step closer to reality recently with the development of plant-derived nanotubes.
These nanotubes – tiny structures several hundred times thinner than a human hair – hone in on specific tissues in the body and deliver their cargo, in this study’s case, a healthy gene to help override a dysfunctional copy. Nanotubes have many uses, such as delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to a tumor. As of now, chemotherapy is delivered to the entire system and often causes damage to healthy tissue. Using this direct-delivery method, chemotherapy can maximize its effectiveness on tumors while minimizing harm to healthy tissue.
Scientists have solved a decades-old medical mystery – and in the process have found a potentially less toxic way to fight invasive fungal infections, which kill about 1.5 million people a year. The researchers say they now understand the mechanism of action of amphotericin, an antifungal drug that has been in use for more than 50 years – even though it is nearly as toxic to human cells as it is to the microbes it attacks.
“Invasive fungal infections are a very important unmet medical need,” says Univ. of Illinois and Howard Hughes Medical Institute chemistry professor Martin Burke, who led the study with chemistry professor Chad Rienstra. “There are about three million cases per year and what’s striking is that, even in 2014, half the patients who come into the hospital with an invasive fungal infection in their blood die.”
The skull of a newly discovered 325-million-year-old shark-like species suggests that early cartilaginous and bony fishes have more to tell us about the early evolution of jawed vertebrates — including humans — than do modern sharks, as was previously thought. The new study, led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History, shows that living sharks are actually quite advanced in evolutionary terms, despite having retained their basic “sharkiness” over millions of years. The research is published today in the journal Nature.
“Sharks are traditionally thought to be one of the most primitive surviving jawed vertebrates. And most textbooks in schools today say that the internal jaw structures of modern sharks should look very similar to those in primitive shark-like fishes,” says Alan Pradel, a postdoctoral researcher at the Museum and the lead author of the study. “But we’ve found that’s not the case. The modern shark condition is very specialized, very derived and not primitive.”
Like rings of a tree, hair can reveal a lot of information about the past. It can tell if a person recently used drugs or an athlete was doping. It can provide information about hormones and expose environmental toxins.
And, as a team of Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison researchers show in a study of rhesus monkeys, published in the April 2014 edition of the journal Pediatric Research, it can also reveal the womb environment in which an infant formed.
Researchers have succeeded in creating a surface on nanosized cellulose crystals that imitates a biological structure. The surface adsorbs viruses and disables them. The results can prove useful in the development of antiviral ointments and surfaces.
There are many viral diseases in the world for which no pharmaceutical treatment exists. These include, among others, dengue fever, which is spread by mosquitoes in the tropics, as well as a type of diarrhea, which is more familiar in Finland and is easily spread by the hands and can be dangerous especially for small children and the elderly.
From dental implants that are light, strong and porous enough to bond with bone to surgical implants that dissolve over time, modified metals are dramatically extending biomedical potential.
A new nanostructuring technique being researched by Prof. Yuri Estrin at Monash Univ.’s Centre for Advanced Hybrid Materials promises metals with greater strength, better corrosion resistance and increased biocompatibility.
Using just a single drop of blood, a team of Univ. of Wisconsin Madison researchers has developed a faster, cheaper and more accurate tool for diagnosing even mild cases of asthma.
This handheld technology — which takes advantage of a previously unknown correlation between asthmatic patients and the most abundant type of white blood cells in the body — means doctors could diagnose asthma even if their patients are not experiencing symptoms during their visit to the clinic.
No Debate: Cutting Salt Lowers Strokes, Heart Attacks
The salt debate has filled the pages of health magazines and newspapers for years. From John Swales’ original skepticism in 1988 to the Godlee’s sharp call to reality in 1996, the debate has transcended the scientific arena into public opinion and media campaigns with increasingly passionate tones. Now a new study, published in BMJ Open, suggests that a 15 percent drop in daily salt intake in England between 2003 and 2011 led to 42 percent less stroke deaths and a 40 percent drop in deaths from coronary heart disease. So where does this leave the salt debate?
The salt controversy has been particularly heated since the translation of the results of scientific studies into public health and policy actions and the “salt debate” has become for some a “salt war.” The progression of this debate into a war resembles past and present debates (let us think about John Snow and the cholera epidemic in the 19th century, the long-lasting denial of the harm of tobacco smoking in the 20th century, global warming and climate change in the 21st century), when the translation of science into practice clashes with vested interests.
French investigators have begun taking DNA samples from 527 male students and staff at a high school — including boys as young as 14 — as they search for the assailant who raped a teenage girl on the closed campus.
Testing began Monday at Fenelon-Notre Dame high school in western France. All those who received summonses last week were warned that any refusal could land them in police custody, and no one rejected the sweeping request to test the high school’s male population.
Pork products cost about 10 percent more than they did last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and economists expect the prices to continue rising because of diarrhea viruses currently devastating the pork industry.
That’s why researchers at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State Univ. have developed new tests they hope will mitigate the spread of these viruses.
Consider the marvel of the embryo. It begins as a glob of identical cells that change shape and function as they multiply to become the cells of our lungs, muscles, nerves and all the other specialized tissues of the body.
Now, in a feat of reverse tissue engineering, Stanford researchers have begun to unravel the complex genetic coding that allows embryonic cells to proliferate and transform into all of the specialized cells that perform a myriad of different biological tasks.
Borrowing from Astronomy Sharpens Microscopic Images
The complexity of biology can befuddle even the most sophisticated light microscopes. Biological samples bend light in unpredictable ways, returning difficult-to-interpret information to the microscope and distorting the resulting image. New imaging technology developed at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus rapidly corrects for these distortions and sharpens high-resolution images over large volumes of tissue.
The approach, a form of adaptive optics, works in tissues that do not scatter light, making it well suited to imaging the transparent bodies of zebrafish and the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, important model organisms in biological research. Janelia group leader Eric Betzig says his team developed the new technology by combining adaptive optics strategies that astronomers and ophthalmologists use to cancel out similar distortions in their images.
Scientists have unearthed still more evidence that antibiotics can contribute to obesity. Research published ahead of print in the American Society for Microbiology journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy suggests that patients on long-term antibiotic treatment gained weight and had significant changes in their gut microbiota.
The study, led by Didier Raoult of Aix-Marseille Univ., followed 48 patients who were being treated long-term with doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine for Q fever, and 34 control subjects. Nearly one quarter of the treated patients gained anywhere from two to 13 kg (five to 30 lbs), while none of the controls exhibited weight gain. Patients typically received treatment for 18 months.