Immunology



Pictured is Sydney Kandell with MSU and Sparrow Hospital residents Tiffany Burns and Lee Murphy just after surgery to remove the aggressive tumor that was causing her rare form of Cushing disease. Credit: Sydney Kandell


The symptoms of Cushing disease are unmistakable to those who suffer from it – excessive weight gain, acne, distinct colored stretch marks on the abdomen, thighs and armpits, and a lump, or fat deposit, on the back of the neck. Yet the disorder often goes misdiagnosed.


While probiotics don't do much of anything except make companies rich, fecal microbiota transplantation --- the process of delivering stool bacteria from a healthy donor to a patient suffering from intestinal infection with the bacterium Clostridium difficile --- has been shown to work by restoring healthy bacteria and functioning to the recipient's gut, according to a new study.


The gluten-specific enzyme ALV003 reduces a patient's exposure to gluten and its potential harm, according to a new phase 2 study appearing in Gastroenterology. It's the first time a non-dietary intervention has been shown to potentially benefit celiac disease patients.  


By boosting a protein called oligoadenylate synthetases-like (OASL) that naturally exists in our cells, researchers may have found a way to enhance our ability to inhibit viral infections like the flu. 

OASL appears in increased quantities in people with liver cancer caused by the hepatitis C virus. 

Hepatitis C, influenza, the childhood respiratory illness RSV, and many other viruses are known as ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses, which use RNA as their genetic material when they replicate. The OASL protein enhances cells' ability to detect virus RNA, activating the immune system to sense the virus and inhibit replication.


Heart attack is the leading natural killer worldwide, with up to one in two men and one in three women past the age of 40 having heart attacks in their lifetimes. What if one shot, similar to a vaccine, could prevent that?

Writing in Circulation Research, researchers show they have developed a “genome-editing” approach for permanently reducing cholesterol levels in mice through a single injection, a development that could reduce the risk of heart attacks in humans by 40 to 90 percent.

One of the hazards of summer is picking up an itchy poison ivy rash but researchers say they have found a natural and effective way to kill it - a fungus named
olletotrichum fioriniae
that grows on the fleshy tissue surrounding the plant's seed. 

For being so annoying, poison ivy has had surprisingly little research done on it. John Jelesko, an associate professor of plant pathology at Virgina Tech, began studying the plant after experiencing a nasty poison ivy rash himself while doing some yard work. He found that most of the work was focused on urushiol, the rash-causing chemical found in the plant's oils. Urushiol is extremely potent. Only one nanogram is needed to cause a rash, and the oil can remain active on dead plants up to five years. 


A bovine TB control strategy under consideration risks spreading the disease rather than supressing it, according to researchers who predict that culling badgers which test positive for TB could increase the movement of remaining badgers, potentially infecting more cattle with the disease.


Liver cancer is among the fastest-growing and deadliest cancers in the United States with a 17 percent three-year survival rate. Vaccines help direct the immune system to attack invaders by showing it a representative substance, called an antigen, that the body will recognize as foreign, in this case,  Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) – normally expressed during development and by liver cancer cells. 

AFP is expressed by about 80 percent of most common liver cancer cells but not typically by healthy adults. For cancer to flourish, cells must revert to an immature state, called dedifferentiation, which is why liver cancer cells express a protein during development and why the immune system can recognize AFP as "self."


There is a joke among abortion proponents that if men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be more common on city streets than Starbucks coffee shops. If that is so, the best way to get something done about insects in developing nations would be to send environmentalists there.  Sitting in cozy western offices, it is easy to rail against DDT and genetic modification but the first time a Union of Concerned Scientists fundraiser gets dengue fever they would be all for science solutions to mosquitoes.


The germ Helicobacter pylori is the cause of most stomach ulcers, but a new review of the literature published in Alimentary Pharmacology&Therapeutics suggests that treating the bacteria is linked to weight gain.