Cancer Researchers Develop New Anti-Leukemia Strategy

Cancer researchers in San Diego have developed a 3-step process in which human leukemia cells and neighboring immune-system T cells are manipulated together in the laboratory to create a powerful and specific cancer-killing cocktail. “For reasons that are not yet entirely clear, leukemia cells fail to trigger immune responses,” said the study’s senior author, Edward D. Ball, M.D., of the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center. “We have developed a method in which we induce the leukemia cell to change its behavior and stimulate the immune system. At the same time, we persuade the immune system to wake up and attack only the leukemia cells.” The details of this approach, known as adoptive immunotherapy or cellular therapy, are reported in the October issue of the journal Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

PC group-think reports first success

For the first time, a distributed computing experiment has produced significant results that have been published in a scientific journal. Writing in the online edition of Nature magazine, Stanford University scientists describe how they — with the help of 30,000 personal computers — successfully simulated part of the complex folding process that a typical protein molecule undergoes to achieve its unique, three-dimensional shape.

A Smile Really Is Contagious

Scientists in Sweden have figured out why it’s so difficult to keep a straight face if others around you are grinning away. It’s your unconscious mind taking control. The researchers at Uppsala University had volunteers look at pictures of expressionless, happy, and angry faces. In return they were told to adopt blank, happy, or angry expressions. When they had to meet a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile, they had trouble. Twitching in the subjects’ faces — measured with electronic equipment — indicated they simply didn’t have control of their muscles. It’s believed that there’s a shortcut to the part of the brain that recognizes faces and expressions that bypasses the area responsible for conscious processing.

Mutation Causes Huntington’s Symptoms

Researchers have discovered a gene mutation that causes a condition apparently identical to Huntington’s Disease, helping explain why some people with the disorder do not have a separate mutation found in most cases. The finding may help reveal why some diseases, like Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, destroy some brain cells while sparing others. “For all practical purposes this is Huntington’s Disease, yet it’s caused by a different mutation on a completely different chromosome,” said Russell L. Margolis, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry at Hopkins and director of the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Genetic Neurobiology. “This is a rare version of an already rare disorder, but the mutation that causes it may not only help us better understand Huntington’s Disease, but could boost our understanding of many other neurodegenerative disorders.”

Neural stem cells used to hunt, kill brain cancer

Using neural stem cells to hunt down and kill cancer cells, researchers have successfully tested a new treatment for brain cancer. They now hope the technique will lead to an effective treatment for glioma, the most aggressive form of primary brain tumor in humans. As the Cedars-Sianai researchers note, the prognosis has historically been extremely poor for patients diagnosed with malignant gliomas. The tumors have poorly defined margins, and glioma cells often spread deep into healthy brain tissue making their surgical removal difficult. Often, pockets of tumor cells break off from the main tumor and migrate deep into non-tumorous areas of the brain. Therefore, even if the original tumor is completely removed or destroyed, the risk of recurrence is high as cells in these distant “satellites” multiply and eventually re-form a new brain tumor. Due to these characteristics, treating brain cancer has been extremely difficult.

Coenzyme Q10 slows Parkinson’s in study

High doses of the naturally occurring compound coenzyme Q10 has been found to slow by 44 percent the deterioration in function that occurs in Parkinson’s disease. The greatest benefit was seen in everyday activities like eating, dressing, bathing and walking. But researchers say that before people run out to RightAid for a barrel of the stuff, a wider study is needed (this one tracked 80 patients). Parkinson?s is a degenerative disorder of the brain in which patients develop tremor, slowness of movement and stiffness of muscles. It affects about 1 percent of Americans over the age of 65.

See also: Parkinson’s patients look to gene therapy

‘Archirtecture of Attention’ identified

I’m sorry, what were you saying? I got distracted by this story from the American Psychological Association that says researchers have successfully mapped different aspects of attention to parts of the brain’s frontal lobes. Turns out that the once-monolithic concept of “attention” has at least three distinct processes that look to be functionally and anatomically different.

Researchers probe possible Strep, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder link

A new study aims to determine once and for all whether a link exists between obsessive-compulsive behavior and strep infections in children. The research, to be conducted by the University of Florida and the National Institutes of Mental Health, is prompted by anecdotal reports from parents with OCD kids that their children’s behavior, such as compulsive hand washing, worsens when the child is ill with strep.

Chaos Seen in Movement of Ring-Herding Moons of Saturn

Chaos can explain the seemingly random behavior of two moons of Saturn, JPL researchers say. The moons — Pandora and Prometheus — are more than 100,000 miles off course of where they would be if their orbits followed conventional physics. “With chaotic interactions, a barely perceptible difference in starting conditions can make such a great difference in later positions that the movements are not fully predictable over time. The two moons give each other a gravitational kick each time Pandora passes inside Prometheus, about every 28 days. Because neither’s orbit is quite circular, the distance between them on those occasions — hence the strength of the kick — varies.”