Friday, February 25, 2011

0 The Friday Four

Bringing you four news-worthy or interesting bits to your Friday, this edition focuses on nanoparticles in vaccine development (mentioned in the vlsE patent), differences in spinal fluid in Lyme disease and CFS patients,  an artificial intestine for researching bacteria, and how drug information is presented differently online for Americans and Canadians.

1) Virus-Mimicking Nanoparticles Can Stimulate Long-Lasting Immunity

Vaccine scientists say their "Holy Grail" is to stimulate immunity that lasts for a lifetime. Live viral vaccines such as the smallpox or yellow fever vaccines provide immune protection that lasts several decades, but despite their success, scientists have remained in the dark as to how they induce such long lasting immunity.

ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2011,
from­ /releases/2011/02/110223133846.htm

Original Source Publication:
Sudhir Pai Kasturi, Ioanna Skountzou, Randy A. Albrecht, Dimitrios Koutsonanos, Tang Hua, Helder I. Nakaya, Rajesh Ravindran, Shelley Stewart, Munir Alam, Marcin Kwissa, Francois Villinger, Niren Murthy, John Steel, Joshy Jacob, Robert J. Hogan, Adolfo GarcĂ­a-Sastre, Richard Compans, Bali Pulendran. Programming the magnitude and persistence of antibody responses with innate immunity. Nature, 2011; 470 (7335): 543 DOI:10.1038/nature09737

Comments: It's worth reading more about this technology and how it affects the immune system, given it is one application of the vmp-like DNA sequence, vlsE, that patent holders are looking to use.

2) Spinal Fluid Proteins Distinguish Lyme Disease From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Patients who suffer from Neurologic Post Treatment Lyme disease (nPTLS) and those with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome report similar symptoms. However unique proteins discovered in spinal fluid can distinguish those two groups from one another and also from people in normal health, according to new research conducted by a team led by Steven E. Schutzer, MD, of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – New Jersey Medical School, and Richard D. Smith, Ph.D., of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This finding, published in the journal PLoS ONE (February 23, 2011), also suggests that both conditions involve the central nervous system and that protein abnormalities in the central nervous system are causes and/or effects of both conditions.

Original Source Publication:

Comments: This is a fascinating study, and I would like to see a confirmatory study with a larger group of subjects. Particularly notable to those with CFS or Lyme disease is this bit from the original paper: "An illustration, where the same proteins are elevated in abundance in both conditions, but at different magnitudes, is provided by inspection of proteins in the complement system. This is of interest because both syndromes may be triggered by infections (nPTLS in all cases by B. burgdorferi; many CFS cases by one or more microbes yet to be identified). We found that the complement cascade related proteins were identified and significantly enriched in both CFS and nPTLS pooled CSF proteomes by the Fisher Exact test (p = 0.005) implemented in Ingenuity Pathways Analysis (Figure S1A). In individual patient samples analyzed, we identified and quantified 4 components (C1S, C4B, C1QB, C1QC) which are seen with activation of the complement cascade and which were differentially increased in abundance consistently across the nPTLS patients compared to CFS (Figure S1B and C). This represents the type of data that can be useful in the formulation of pathogenetic hypotheses because the role of complement in these disorders is under-explored." Also noteworthy is this bit:"... identification of diagnostic CSF biomarkers may be the necessary prelude to a search for the same markers in the highly complex blood, because it permits targeted searches for markers that might otherwise be obscured or have uncertain relevance." This, I think, is a roundabout way of saying that CSF biomarker analysis may be of more utility than serological testing. The downsides are obvious: 1) this test could be used to support a hypothesis of a post-infectious syndrome without considering the possibility of current infection, and 2) lumbar punctures are higher risk and more invasive than standard blood tests. What I'd like to see, though, is a study comparing CSF proteins in those with "nPLDS" and acute Lyme disease... now that might be interesting.

3) Scientists Devise Artificial Intestine to Help Engineer Disease-Fighting Gut Bacteria

Confocal microscope image of caco-2 cells on
collagen scaffold, after staining for
actin (green) and nucleic acid (blue).
Cornell professor John March is attempting to transform bacteria in our gut into disease-fighting machines. Now, thanks to two members of his research team, he has a powerful new tool to help him do so: an artificial intestine.

The 3-D hydrogel scaffolds developed by graduate student Jiajie Yu and former postdoctoral researcher Jong Hwan Sung will allow scientists to grow cells under realistic physiological conditions, an important breakthrough. Until now, they have had to rely on two-dimensional cultures or live animal models.


Comments: I just think this is cool... and imagine the potential applications, such as testing the action of probiotics against C. Diff. Seems like this is the closest we can get to an in vivo model but it's still in vitro.

4) Americans and Canadians Get Different Drug Information Online: UBC study

Americans and Canadians are getting vastly different search results when they look up prescription drug information online, says a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia.


Comments: This is one reason why when doing drug side effect and interaction research, one should always be aware of what results are presented. I would actually invest some time in reviewing the pharmaceutical companies' package insert data sheets, because they are fairly reliable for what side effects do occur. But I would also look for additional less common side effects in patient reports on review sites -- and check reliable sites for interactions with herbs and supplements -- as those are rarely mentioned in any pharmaceutical insert sheets.


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