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Backstage with a command performer

Some cells sing with the chorus, while others unwittingly achieve fame on their own. The immune system’s B cell is a true diva that spends its early days preparing for the ultimate audition. Its repertoire of possible antibodies to invading microbes totals 50 million. For the immune system, this repertoire means the difference between destroying a potentially lethal antigen or not. Since the late 1970s, the genes for making immunoglobulin, a family of blood proteins that compose the antibodies, sufficed to explain the B cell’s vast oeuvre. A B cell that is mature enough to respond to antigen does so by combining genes in a process called immunoglobulin gene rearrangement. Many possible combinations during this process allow a wide catalog of antibodies to literally take shape. Now, a biochemical phenomenon involving changes to stationary proteins in the B cell’s nucleus, called histones, is known also to contribute to the cell’s various solo performances.

Blood Proteins Put Dialysis Patients at Higher Risk of Heart Disease

A new study shows that two proteins are accurate predictors of heart attack or stroke in kidney dialysis patients. The research team found that high levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, and low levels of albumin, a sign of malnutrition, had strong ties to heart disease in these patients, who are many times more likely to develop heart problems than the general population. “Both inflammation and malnutrition play an important role in the high risk of cardiovascular disease among dialysis patients,” says Josef Coresh, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology, medicine and biostatistics at Hopkins. “Testing for these proteins will allow us to sooner identify patients at high risk, and to manage heart disease risk factors more effectively.”