Researchers discover protective gene mutation in some HIV-infected patients

Mayo Clinic researchers have identified a naturally occurring “good guy” for patients infected with HIV. It is a helpful gene mutation that impairs the HIV virus’ cell-killing machinery, thus preserving immune system function. Moreover, Mayo’s experiments in mice suggest that the presence or absence of this mutation in the gene known as Vpr may play a central role in determining which HIV-infected patients develop full-blown, fatal AIDS.

Antibody therapy can increase the effectiveness of cancer vaccine

The benefit of some cancer vaccines may be boosted by treating patients with an antibody that blocks a key protein on immune system T cells, according to a small, preliminary study led by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The study tested the effect of a single injection of the antibody MDX-CTLA4 in nine patients who had previously been treated with cancer vaccines for either metastatic melanoma or metastatic ovarian cancer. The result, in every patient who had received a particular kind of vaccine, was widespread death of cancer cells and an increase in the number of immune system cells within the tumors ? evidence of a potent immune system attack.

Removing Portion of Spleen Effective in Treating Inherited Childhood Anemias

Researchers have shown that removing a portion, instead of all, of the spleen, can successfully treat children with a variety of congenital anemias while preserving important splenic immune function. In the largest study of its kind in the U.S., the researchers performed the surgery, known as a partial splenectomy, on 25 children with congenital forms of anemia caused by abnormal red blood cells. Typically, these children suffer from fatigue, jaundice and extreme vulnerability to infections that can require repeated hospital or physician visits. Many also need repeated blood transfusions.

Transplant researchers stumble on possible treatment for lupus, blood cancers

Rapamycin, a drug approved for use in kidney transplant patients to prevent organ rejection, could also benefit patients with lupus and other autoimmune diseases as well as patients with blood cancers, such as acute myeloid leukemia, reports a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. Their conclusions, outlined in a paper to be published in the journal Blood and currently posted on the journal’s Web site (www.bloodjournal.org), were based on two key discoveries about rapamycin’s mechanisms.

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