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Growing Human Antibodies in Algae is Inexpensive, Fast

A group of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have used algae to express an antibody that targets herpes virus, describing the work in an upcoming issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This antibody could potentially be an ingredient in an anti-herpes topical cream or other anti- herpes treatments, but more importantly the algae expression technology that the TSRI team used could facilitate production of any number of human antibodies and other proteins on a massive scale.

MIT sugars research affecting bypass patients, drug industry

A young MIT professor's basic research on complex sugars has led to a cascade of potential medical applications that could, for example, significantly improve outcomes for patients undergoing major operations such as heart bypass surgery and impact a multi-billion dollar drug industry. In the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of January 13, a team led by the professor, Ram Sasisekharan, reports the creation of designer drugs for preventing the blood clots that can cause strokes and heart disease during surgery. The resulting drugs have major advantages over the conventional form they are based on, which has an annual market of $2-3 billion. Further, an additional drug based on Sasisekharan's work is presently in Phase III clinical trials for heart bypass patients.

Scientists Develop New Gene Therapy Approach

Researchers have developed a new gene therapy approach that prevents the AIDS virus from entering human cells. The technique offers a potential way to treat HIV patients and could apply to any disease caused by a gene malfunction, including cancer. The research team created a new application for a genetic technology called small interfering RNA (siRNA). The synthetically designed siRNAs act as a catalyst to reduce the expression of specific genes and slow the progression of disease.

Firefly molecule could quickly shed light on how well new drugs...

The process that makes fireflies glow bright in the summer night can also shed light on how well new medicines work, showing immediately whether the drugs are effective at killing cells or causing other effects. That's the conclusion of a team of scientists who report that they have inserted the gene for a firefly's glow-producing molecule into mice with cancer, and kept it from producing its telltale beacon of light until the cells started to die in response to cancer treatment.

Researchers find 3,000-Year-Old Microbes in Mars-Like Antarctic Environment

Researchers drilling into Lake Vida, an Antarctic "ice-block" lake, have found the lake isn't really an ice block at all. In the December 16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team reveals that Antarctic Lake Vida may represent a previously unknown ecosystem, a frigid, "ice-sealed," lake that contains the thickest non-glacial lake ice cover on Earth and water seven times saltier than seawater. Because of the arid, chilled environment in which it resides, scientists believe the lake may be an important template for the search for evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars and other icy worlds.

Satellite Could Help Predict Hantaviral Transmission Risk

Researchers report that satellite imagery could be used to determine areas at high-risk for exposure to Sin Nombre virus (SNV), a rodent-born disease that causes the often fatal hantaviral pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in humans. According to the researchers, satellite imaging detects the distinct environmental conditions that may serve as a refuge for the disease-carrying deer mice. Higher populations of infected deer mice increase the risk of HPS to humans.

Large-scale climate changes occur naturally, new research says

A Canadian researcher has found new evidence that -- contrary to previous belief -- the past 6,000 years have been marked by large-scale climate changes occurring naturally, on a regular basis. He and his research team have documented four abrupt climate shifts over the past 5,500 years in western Canada, occurring on average every 1,220 years. Until now the last 6,000 years has been considered climatically stable, with the main evidence of large-scale shifts being found in the Greenland ice cores and sediments from the Atlantic Ocean. The team's findings are reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Little Yellow Molecule Comes Up Big

Bilirubin has been a mystery of a molecule, associated with better health if there's just a little more than normal, but best known for being at the root of the yellow color in jaundice and, at high levels, for causing brain damage in newborns. In the current online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team from Johns Hopkins reports that bilirubin and the enzyme that makes it appear to be the body's most potent protection against oxidative damage.

Statistics Help Infants Build Knowledge of Visual World

A baby's first look at the world is likely a dizzying array of shapes and motion that are meaningless to a newborn, but researchers at the University of Rochester say they have now shown that babies use relationships between objects to build an understanding of the world. By noting how often objects appear together, infants can efficiently take in more knowledge than if they were to simply see the same shapes individually, says the paper published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists find insects can alter plant chemistry to help find mates

Entomologists have discovered that as adult gall wasps feed in warm weather, they change the ratio of plant chemicals so that males emerging after the winter season can recognize when they are on the right stems at the right time. The finding is the first to suggest that insects can alter the chemical composition of plants for the purpose of mate location.

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