Immunology

The sweetness of summer vacations can quickly turn sour for those affected by lupus erythematosus.

For them, absorption of the UV-light component in sunlight may cause florid inflammation and redness of the skin. Lupus erythematosus (LE) is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system erroneously attacks the body's own tissues. Where most people merely suffer sunburn, LE prone patients may develop severe redness and inflammation in sun-exposed skin. 

Researchers have now discovered which signaling pathway of the innate immune system promotes autoimmune symptoms following sun-induced DNA damage and an immune mechanism that triggers LE skin lesions.


It is generally accepted that Parkinson's disease is aggravated when a specific protein is transformed by an enzyme but a new study found instead that this transformation tends to protect against the progression of the disease. 

Parkinson's disease is characterized by the accumulation of a protein known as alpha-synuclein in the brain. If too much of it is produced or if it's not eliminated properly, it then aggregates into small clumps inside the neurons, eventually killing them. Several years ago scientists discovered that these aggregated proteins in the brain had undergone a transformation known as "phosphorylation" -- a process in which an enzyme adds an extra chemical element to a protein, thus modifying its properties. 


Tuberculosis (TB) is a wildly successful pathogen, if your goal is to infect up to two billion people in every corner of the world, with a new infection of a human host every second.

A new analysis of dozens of tuberculosis genomes gathered from around the world has shed some light on how it evolves to resist countermeasures - it that marches in lockstep with human population growth and history, evolving to take advantage of the most crowded and wretched human conditions.

The analysis reveals that tuberculosis experienced a 25-fold expansion worldwide in the 17th century, a time when human populations underwent explosive growth and European exploration of Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania was at its peak.


More people are seeking natural alternatives to medicine and products containing probiotics have flooded the marketplace. Probiotics are safe and tolerable but their value remains unknown. Studies are being done with specific illnesses to see if probiotics work and how.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that the probiotic Saccharomuces boulardii (S. boulardii) does not appear to have any significant beneficial effects for patients with Crohn's disease who are already in remission.
Obesity has risen for decades and social scientists and government officials have scrambled to link cause and correlation, proposing everything from low income to public parks to a thrifty phenotype hypothesis, which says that poor people are biologically unfit to not be poor.

Income may be less of a factor, according to a report by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite record-level food stamp usage, chronic under-employment and earnings increases below the rate of inflation, 19 states saw obesity among low-income preschoolers decline between 2008 and 2011. 

An article in BMJ reports on the first instance of probable person-to-person transmission of the new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus, which was recently identified in Eastern China.  As of June 30th 2013, 133 cases had been reported, resulting in 43 deaths. 

Most cases appear to have visited live poultry markets or had close contact with live poultry 7-10 days before illness onset. Currently no definite evidence indicates sustained human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus.


Researchers have identified new genetic mutations in the gene KCNK3 that can cause pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare fatal disease characterized by high blood pressure in the lungs.

The
KCNK3
 mutations appear to affect potassium channels in the pulmonary artery, a mechanism not previously linked to the condition. Cell culture studies showed that the mutations' effects could be reversed with a phospholipase inhibitor.   The effects of the KCNK3 mutations were reversed in cell cultures with an experimental phospholipase inhibitor called ONO-RS-082. 


Stem cell gene therapy has been used to treat a fatal genetic brain disease - Sanfilippo, which in human children causes progressive dementia and death - in mice for the first time. 

The researchers are hoping to begin a clinical trial within two years.


Concerned parents have been worried about the potential impact of exposure to low levels of mercury on the developing brain, such as when pregnant women consume fish, and that has led to claims that the chemical may be responsible for behavioral disorders such as autism.


The main active constituent of cannabis - tetrahydrocannabinol or THC - has not shown to be effective in slowing the course of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).

The CUPID (Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease) study was carried out by researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry,the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit and University College London and is the first large, non-commercial clinical study of THC for MS progression.