Researchers have discovered one way in which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) wins its cat-and-mouse game with the body’s immune system. The study, published in the March 20, 2003, issue of the journal Nature, shows that HIV-1, a common strain of the virus that causes AIDS, uses a strategy not seen before in other viruses to escape attack by antibodies, one of the immune system’s prime weapons against invading viruses and bacteria.
Tumor cells have evolved a crafty scheme for protecting themselves from the killing power of the host immune system; in part, they disable the immune response. New studies implicate a receptor for prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) in this phenomenon of tumor-induced immune suppression. The findings, published in the March 1 Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggest that drugs that block the PGE2 receptor, called EP2, might restore the immune system’s tumor-killing capacity.
Researchers are working to develop a non-surgical approach to brain cancer that uses radiation and the injection of specially cultured bone marrow cells into the tumor. The combination sets in motion a local and systemic immune response to kill surviving tumor cells. The novel approach has provided promising results in a study on rats, described in the March 3 issue of the Journal of Immunotherapy. Human trials are expected to begin within the year.
With the delivery next month of the Cray X1 supercomputer, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cray Inc. will take a big step toward investigating computer architectures for scientific discovery. The Cray X1 is the first U.S. computer to offer vector processing and massively parallel processing capabilities in a single architecture and will be used to solving scientific problems in climate, biology, nanoscale materials, fusion and astrophysics.
We all know people who can take pain or stress much better than we can, and others who cry out at the merest pinprick. We’ve heard stories of people who did heroic deeds despite horrible injuries, and stereotypes about women’s supposedly sensitivity to pain that don’t mesh with their ability to withstand childbirth’s pain. But what accounts for all these differences in how individuals feel and respond to pain? And why are some people, especially women, more frequently prone to disorders – like temporomandibular joint pain and fibromyalgia – that cause them to feel crippling pain day and night?
For the first time, researchers have eavesdropped on the brains of mice as they go about the normal behaviors of detecting the subtle chemical signals called pheromones from other animals. The researchers have discovered that the animals’ pheromone-processing machinery in the brain forms, in essence, a specific “pheromonal image” of another animal. Such an “image” of another animal’s sex, identity, social standing and female reproductive status governs a range of mating, fighting, maternal-infant bonding and other behaviors. The scientists said that the specificity they discovered in the neurons that process pheromonal signals is akin to the “face neurons” in the visual areas of primate brains that are specifically triggered by facial features of other animals.