Immunology

Researchers have created a molecule known as a peptide mimic that displays a functionally critical region of the virus that is universally conserved in all known species of Ebola. This new tool can be used as a drug target in the discovery of anti-Ebola agents that are effective against all known strains and likely future strains. 

Ebola is a lethal virus that causes severe hemorrhagic fever with a 50 percent to 90 percent mortality rate. There are five known species of the virus. Outbreaks have been occurring with increasing frequency in recent years, and an unprecedented and rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak is currently spreading through several countries in West Africa with devastating consequences.


It's an early lesson in genetics: we get half our DNA from Mom, half from Dad.

But that straightforward explanation does not account for a process that sometimes occurs when cells divide. Called gene conversion, the copy of a gene from Mom can replace the one from Dad, or vice versa, making the two copies identical.

In a new study, researchers investigated this process in the context of the evolution of human populations. They found that a bias toward certain types of DNA sequences during gene conversion may be an important factor in why certain heritable diseases persist in populations around the world. 


Though it has been researched for decades, the cause of nodding syndrome, a disabling disease affecting African children, is unknown. A new report suggests that blackflies infected with the parasite Onchocerca volvulus may be capable of passing on a secondary pathogen responsible for the spread of the disease. 

Concentrated in South Sudan, Northern Uganda, and Tanzania, nodding syndrome is a debilitating and deadly disease that affects young children between the ages of 5 and 15. When present, the first indication of the disease is an involuntary nodding of the head, followed by epileptic seizures. The condition can cause cognitive deterioration, stunted growth, and in some cases, death.
To fight leukemia, we have to fight on its terms, and that means understanding the nature of the fight for superiority between mutated genes and normal genes, according to a paper that investigated Acute Myeloid Leukemia to understand why leukemic cells are not able to develop normally into mature blood cells.

Stem cells in the bone marrow generate billions of different blood cells each day. The process resembles a production line with genes acting as regulators to control each step of the blood formation. Leukemia arises when the DNA encoding regulators in the stem cells is changed by a mutation. When a mutation occurs in the relevant regulator genes, the finely balanced order of the production line is disrupted with drastic consequences. 

Scientists have devised a new antibiotic based on vancomycin that is effective against vancomycin-resistant strains of  methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other disease-causing bacteria. The new vancomycin analog appears to have not one but two distinct mechanisms of anti-microbial action, against which bacteria probably cannot evolve resistance quickly.

The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 2000 lives and has spurred calls for a deeper understanding of the molecular biology of the virus that could be critical in the development of vaccines or antiviral drugs to treat or prevent Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

A team at the University of Virginia, under the leadership of Dr. Dan Engel, a virologist, and Dr. Zygmunt Derewenda, a structural biologist, has obtained the crystal structure of a key protein involved in Ebola virus replication, the C-terminal domain of the Zaire Ebola virus nucleoprotein (NP).


By Marsha Lewis, Inside Science

(Inside Science TV) – One of the deadliest forces on earth is the humble mosquito. Mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, chikungunya, yellow fever and West Nile virus infect more than 350 million people and kill another 1 million people every year.

Now, scientists in Florida hope to wipe out some of these deadly diseases by genetically modifying their winged carriers.

“Mosquitoes are probably the most dangerous animal in the world. More people are killed by them [than] by anything else," said Michael Doyle, an entomologist at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District in Key West, Florida.

The saying goes that we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, so while there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, rather than solely focusing on the underlying genetic defect might not help people right now as directly targeting muscle repair. 

Muscular dystrophies are a group of muscle diseases characterized by skeletal muscle wasting and weakness. Mutations in certain proteins, most commonly the protein dystrophin, cause muscular dystrophy in humans and also in mice.


When it comes to defense against viruses, the immune system has an arsenal of weapons at its disposal, including killer cells, antibodies and messenger molecules, and when a pathogen attacks the body, the immune system usually activates the appropriate mechanisms. 


Doctors in Australia are reporting 61 percent fewer cases of genital warts among young women since the introduction of the national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program.

The study reviewed more than a million patient encounters between 2000 and 2012 and found a significant year-on-year reduction in the management rate of genital warts in women aged 15-27 years since the vaccination program started. 

The HPV vaccination program was introduced in 2007, and the rate of genital wart presentation fell dramatically from 4.33 per 1,000 encounters pre-program (2002-2006) to 1.67 per 1,000 encounters in the post-program period (2008-2012).