In what is a first for biology, a team of investigators is reporting that the human body makes ozone. The team has been slowly gathering evidence over the last few years that the human body produces the reactive gas — most famous as the ultraviolet ray-absorbing component of the ozone layer — as part of a mechanism to protect it from bacteria and fungi. “Ozone was a big surprise,” says researcher Bernard Babior. “But it seems that biological systems manufacture ozone, and that ozone has an effect on those biological systems.”
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced the award of two contracts totaling up to $20 million in first-year funding to develop safer smallpox vaccines. The three-year contracts were awarded to Bavarian Nordic A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Acambis Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will administer the contracts.
A study of long-term, low-dose warfarin to prevent the recurrence of the blood clotting disorders deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism resulted in such a high degree of benefit to the patients — without significant adverse effects — that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health has stopped the study early.
Results from a new study may lead to the first medical treatment for celiac disease, a hereditary digestive disease that can damage the small intestine and interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food. Celiac disease sufferers cannot tolerate gluten, a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease affects an estimated one in 250 Americans, mostly those of European descent, and there is no known medical treatment or cure.
America is facing a major roadblock to medical progress. For the speedy translation of promising scientific discoveries into patient treatment, we need a special breed of medical researchers who are trained to ask clinically relevant questions in a health research environment. It’s these individuals who transform clinical observations into research studies and eventual medical advances.
FDA today announced that a final rule outlining new labeling regulations designed to help reduce the development of drug-resistant bacterial strains is on display at the Federal Register. This final rule is aimed at reducing the inappropriate prescription of antibiotics to children and adults for common ailments such as ear infections and chronic coughs.
Advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology can detect heart attack in emergency room patients with chest pain more accurately and faster than traditional methods, according to a new study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Published in the February 4 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the findings suggest that more patients who are suffering a heart attack or who otherwise have severe blockages in their coronary arteries could receive treatment to reduce or prevent permanent damage to the heart if they are assessed with MRI.
Like a well-trained soldier with honed survival skills, the common bacterium, Group A Streptococcus (GAS), sometimes can endure battle with our inborn (innate) immune system and cause widespread disease. By investigating the ability of combat-ready white blood cells (WBCs) to ingest and kill GAS, researchers have discovered new insights into how this disease-causing bacteria can evade destruction by the immune system. The research is being published this week in the Online Early Edition of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.”
NIH scientists have shown that a common gene variant influences memory for events in humans by altering a growth factor in the brain’s memory hub. On average, people with a particular version of the gene that codes for brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) performed worse on tests of episodic memory ? tasks like recalling what happened yesterday. They also showed differences in activation of the hippocampus, a brain area known to mediate memory, and signs of decreased neuronal health and interconnections. These effects are likely traceable to limited movement and secretion of BDNF within cells, according to the study, which reveals how a gene affects the normal range of human memory, and confirms that BDNF affects human hippocampal function much as it does animals’.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has announced the release of a comprehensive research plan from HHS’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fight autoimmune diseases, a collection of disorders including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis that affect an estimated 14 to 22 million Americans. The plan will foster research to identify genetic, environmental and infectious causes of autoimmune diseases and to develop new treatments and prevention strategies.
The international Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium today announced the publication of a high-quality draft sequence of the mouse genome – the genetic blueprint of a mouse – together with a comparative analysis of the mouse and human genomes describing insights gleaned from the two sequences. The paper appears in the Dec. 5 issue of the journal Nature. The achievement represents a landmark advance for the Human Genome Project. It is the first time that scientists have compared and contrasted the contents of the human genome with that of another mammal. This milestone is all the more significant given that the laboratory mouse is the most important animal model and is widely used in the study of human diseases.
A report of an individual infected with a second strain of HIV despite effective drug treatment following the first infection has researchers concerned. “For the first time, we’ve shown it is possible for an individual to become infected with two closely related strains of HIV,” says Bruce D. Walker, M.D., a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The findings underscore the challenges vaccine developers face in creating a broadly effective vaccine against HIV. The first HIV vaccines may not prevent infection altogether, but rather may prevent HIV from causing disease by limiting the virus’ ability to reproduce, explains Dr. Walker. This case shows that a hypothetical vaccine against one strain of HIV may not necessarily protect the vaccinee against other, closely related strains.