Shark molecule may wipe out human viruses like hepatitis
Research could lead to an injection that will fortify certain organs from viruses and diseases.
Shark molecule may wipe out human viruses like hepatitis
Just about wherever scientists look—deep within the earth, on grains of sand blown off of the Sahara Desert, under mile-thick layers of Antarctic ice—they find viruses. And when they look in familiar places, they find new ones. In 2009, Dana Willner, a biologist at San Diego State University, led a virus-hunting expedition into the human body. The scientists had ten people cough up sputum and spit it into a cup. Five of the people were sick with cystic fibrosis, and five were healthy. Out of that fluid, Willner and her team fished out fragments of DNA, which they compared to databases of the tens of millions of genes already known to science. Before Willner’s study, the lungs of healthy people were believed to be sterile. But Willner and her colleagues discovered that all their subjects, sick and healthy alike, carried viral menageries in their chests. On average, each person had 174 species of viruses in the lungs. But only 10 percent of those species bore any close kinship to any virus ever found before.
When you are a still starting off, everything is new and everything is exciting. Once you have seen a condition a few times that novelty factor wears off. In all of my years, I have already seen so many wild things that my wow-factor threshold has gone up and up. I would need something crazy like diagnosing Tangier’s disease to get me as excited as I did as a student.
DNDi and New Drugs for Neglected Diseases
Founded in 2003, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) brings together the academic, medical, public health, and pharmaceutical worlds to create effective drugs to treat neglected diseases like Chagas disease, sleeping sickness, and visceral leishmaniasis. DNDi has developed an innovative not-for-profit model for drug research and development that is patient-centered and based on needs rather than profits.
in 2003 MSF brought together five prominent public sector research institutes—Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, the Indian Council for Medical Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Ministry of Health of Malaysia, and France’s Pasteur Institute—and the UNDP/World Bank/World Health Organization’s Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases to create DNDi.
In just seven years, under the leadership of former General Director of MSF in France, Dr. Bernard Pecoul, DNDi has introduced four new treatments: two treatments for drug-resistant malaria that have already reached 80 million people; the first new treatment in 25 years for the advanced stage of sleeping sickness; and a new combination therapy for treatment of visceral leishmaniasis in Africa.
Photo: Screening for Chagas in Colombia.
Colombia 2010 © Mads Nissen
Getting Better: 200 Years of Medicine
This 45-minute documentary explores three remarkable stories of medical progress that have taken place over the course of the long history of the New England Journal of Medicine. In 1812, we had no understanding of infectious disease, surgery was unsanitary and performed without anesthesia, and cancer was unrecognized. Two centuries later, this film tells the story of research, clinical practice, and patient care, and of how we have continued to get better over the last 200 years.
Inspired by the paper-folding art of origami, a new 3-D sensor is designed to detect diseases for less than 10 cents a pop.
Such low-cost, “point-of-care” sensors could be useful in the developing world, where the resources often don’t exist to pay for lab-based tests, and where, even if the money is available, the infrastructure often doesn’t exist to transport biological samples to the lab.
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP for short) is a very rare disease that causes parts of the body (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) to turn to bone when they are damaged. This can often cause damaged joints to fuse together, preventing movement. Unfortunately surgical removal of the bone growths is ineffective as the body “heals” itself by recreating the removed bone. To make matters worse, the disease is so rare that it is often misdiagnosed as cancer, leading doctors to perform biopsies which can spark off worse growth of these bone-like lumps. The most famous case is Harry Eastlack whose body was so ossified by his death that he could only move his lips. His skeleton is now on display at the Mütter Museum.
Shortly after the 2010 earthquake and hurricane that struck the country, Haiti was (and is) deeply immersed in an outbreak of cholera. Amazingly, social networks accurately tracked the spread of the disease, faster and more accurately than traditional tracking methods. As Rumi Chunara of Harvard Medical School details in CHE:
The social media matched the official reports very closely right at the start of the outbreak, in October 2010, and right after another surge when the hurricane hit, in early November. But the reports were ahead of the official records by two weeks. And with Twitter in particular, they identified the geographic locations of the cases “because a lot of people were Tweeting from their phones, right where they saw patients” in villages, Ms. Chunara said. Not all cholera patients go to hospitals to be counted officially, she noted.
It’s safe to assume that tracking a disease by social media alone wouldn’t be perfect, and further studies will be required to prove that this is a reliable method by which to base the distribution of medicine and supplies. Even a few days advantage can make a huge difference in an outbreak like this, though. By tracking real-time data, patients could be located and catalogued before they even saw a doctor.
I’m fascinated by the blossoming uses of geographic information coming out of Twitter’s API. Just this week, these infographics by Eric Fischer showed up on FastCo.Design:
You can practically re-draw traditional maps based on the density and geography of geotagged tweets. The possibilities for real-time information tracking seem endless (for good and evil). Any ideas?
(via The Chronicle of Higher Education, photo by AP)
Contrary to an age-old dogma, the brain is not fixed and immutable. After decades of research, we now know that the brains of mammals – including humans – can produce new cells after embryonic development is ended. We also know that experience alters the connections between nerve cells in a number of ways, and it is widely believed that this process, which is referred to as synaptic plasticity, is critical for learning and memory.
Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is a genetic disease characterized by progressive cerebellar ataxia, associated with the presence of telangiectasias in the eyes and skin. Progressive cerebellar ataxia is the first symptom, usually observed around the first year of life. The typical telangiectasias appeared in the conjunctiva of the eyes around the age of 3-7 years (arrows). Telangiectatic lesions will appear later in the face, palate, antecubital fossa, and popliteal fossa.