September 27, 2006, 8:35 PM CT
The Mystery of Flesh-Eating Bacteria
A Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) international research scholar in Israel has discovered one reason why so-called "flesh-eating" bacteria are so hard to stop.
Emanuel Hanski, a microbiologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and his colleagues have observed that the success of group A Streptococcus is due in part to a protein that blocks the immune system's distress calls. The findings, reported in the October 4, 2006, issue of the EMBO Journal, could lead to new strategies for treating necrotizing fasciitis and halting its rapid destruction of tissue. The paper was published in advance online.
The bacterium, group A Streptococcus, wreaks destruction on muscle and skin tissue in the form of necrotizing fasciitis, which kills roughly 30 percent of its victims and leaves the rest disfigured. Antibiotics and surgical interventions, the known therapys, often fail. Necrotizing fasciitis is a serious but rare infection of the skin and the tissues beneath it.
The work began two years ago, when Hanski developed a mouse model for necrotizing fasciitis. After injecting the mice with a virulent strain of Streptococcus of a type known as M14, isolated from a necrotizing fasciitis patient, the team noticed that unlike most strep infections, in which white blood cells swarm invading bacteria to clear them from the body, few white blood cells appeared at the M14 infection site. A similar phenomenon had been observed in patients with necrotizing fasciitis but did not receive sufficient attention at the time.........
Posted by: Mark Permalink Source
September 27, 2006, 8:20 PM CT
Islet Transplantation Has Potential Benefits
The results of the world's first multicenter clinical trial of islet transplantation have confirmed the technique's potential benefits in patients with difficult-to-control type 1 (or "juvenile") diabetes. Reported in the September 28, 2006 issue of the New England Journal (NEJM), the international team of researchers report that the Edmonton Protocol for islet transplantation can safely and successfully promote long-term stabilization of blood sugar levels in "brittle" diabetes patients and in some cases, relieve them of the need for insulin injections altogether for at least two years.
The multicenter study, begun in 2001, studied 36 volunteers diagnosed with brittle type 1 diabetes: patients who, despite their best efforts, had wide, unpredictable fluctuations in their blood sugar levels. Using the Edmonton Protocol for type 1 diabetes, each participant received up to three infusions of donated insulin-producing islet cells at one of 9 participating clinical centers in the US, Canada and Europe. The study was sponsored by the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN), with funding and support from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). NIAID and NIDDK are both components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).........
Posted by: JoAnn Permalink Source
September 27, 2006, 7:20 PM CT
Spinal Cord Stimulators For Migraine Headaches
Anyone who has gone through the experience of migraine headache knows the misery of this miserable disease. Now there is some active research going on in this field that might interest those who are suffering from those miserable headaches.
A new therapy for migraine headaches is in the horizon: occipital nerve stimulation, a surgical procedure in which an implanted neurostimulator delivers electrical impulses to nerves under the skin at the base of the head at the back of the neck.
This treatment may help migraine sufferers who do not respond to other available therapies, or who cannot tolerate the side effects of existing medications.
"The purpose of the randomized, double-blinded study is to evaluate the safety and efficacy of occipital nerve stimulation as a therapy for refractory migraine headache," says Dr. Sandeep Amin, Rush study investigator and anesthesiologist who surgically implants the device in the two-visit operation.
Rush is recruiting patients through the Diamond Headache Clinic and is the only site in Illinois in the trial.
The study, known as PRISM (Precision Implantable Stimulator for Migraine), uses Boston Scientific's Precision neurostimulator with approximately 150 patients at up to 15 sites in the U.S. The implantable pulse generator will deliver electrical impulses to the occipital nerves located just under the skin at the base of the skull at the back of the neck.........
Posted by: Daniel Permalink Source
September 27, 2006, 6:47 PM CT
IMRT Cures Prostate Cancer
Results from the largest study of men with prostate cancer treated with high-dose, intensity modulated radiation treatment (IMRT) show that the majority of patients remain alive with no evidence of disease after an average follow-up period of eight years. The 561 patients with prostate cancer treated with IMRT at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center were classified into prognostic risk groups. After an average of eight years, 89 percent of the men in the favorable risk group were disease-free and none of the men in any group developed secondary cancers as a result of the radiation treatment. This report, reported in the October 2006 issue of The Journal of Urology, is the first description of long-term outcomes for patients with prostate cancer using IMRT.
"Our results suggest that IMRT should be the therapy of choice for delivering high-dose, external beam radiotherapy for patients with localized prostate cancer," said Dr. Michael J. Zelefsky, Chief of the Brachytherapy Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. "We were able to show long-term safety and long-term efficacy in a very diverse group of patients with prostate cancer that we followed a number of for as long as ten years. Despite the fact that some patients had an aggressive form of their disease with high Gleason scores and PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels, the overwhelming majority of patients had good tumor control with neither recurrence of their original cancer nor development of second cancers, which one might have expected from the high doses of radiation," he added.........
Posted by: Mark Permalink Source
September 27, 2006, 6:37 PM CT
Improving Patient's Meal Experience
Anyone who had spent a day in the hospital knows about the quality of the hospital food. Now there is an innovative idea from the Rush University Medical Center.
Sometimes innovation in health care takes the form of advanced imaging technology or breakthroughs in drug therapys. Sometimes it takes the form of hamburgers cut into squares and soup served in a cup.
It may seem simple, but these innovations are making a big difference for geriatric psychiatry patients at Rush University Medical Center, which recently established a new meal service to increase patient nutrition and satisfaction.
"We totally changed the way we do business on our geriatric psychiatry unit. It is part of our effort to gear our food and nutrition services to the needs of our patients on the different floors," said Marcy Stone, RD/LDN, assistant director of Food Service Operations at Rush, who led the team that developed the new meal service.
The patients in the geriatric psychiatric unit, located in Rush's Johnson R. Bowman Health Center, range in age from 49 to 101 and suffer from Alzheimer's disease and/or clinical depression. The center that is adjacent to Rush's acute care hospital.provides medical and rehabilitative patient care services to older persons and to persons with short-term and long-term disabilities. These illnesses make it difficult to eat, because the patients become overwhelmed when they see too much food in front of them, and their reduced motor skills make it difficult for them to feed themselves.........
Posted by: Sue Permalink Source
September 26, 2006, 8:51 PM CT
Copper Helps Brain Function
The flow of copper in the brain has a previously unrecognized role in cell death, learning and memory, as per research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The researchers' findings suggest that copper and its transporter, a protein called Atp7a, are vital to human thinking. They speculate that variations in the genes coding for Atp7a, as well as other proteins of copper homeostasis, could partially account for differences in thinking among individuals.
Using rat and mouse nerve cells to study the role of copper in the brain, the scientists observed that the Atp7a protein shuttles copper to neural synapses, the junctions that allow nerves to talk to one another.
At synapses, the metal ions affect important components responsible for making neural connections stronger or weaker. The changing strength of neural connections - called synaptic plasticity - accounts for, among other things, our ability to remember and learn.
"Why don't we think a hundred times better than we do?" asks senior author Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. "One answer to that question is, perhaps we could - if the brain could make the right connections. We've observed that copper modulates very critical events within the central nervous system that influence how well we think."........
Posted by: Daniel Permalink Source
September 26, 2006, 7:38 PM CT
Investigational Anti-cancer Drug AT9283
Astex Therapeutics today announced that it had begun dosing first patients in a Phase I/IIa clinical trial of its investigational anti-cancer drug AT9283. Astex discovered AT9283, a potent inhibitor of Aurora kinases, using its innovative fragment-based drug discovery technology, Pyramid-.
This is Astex's second product to enter clinical development. The company's lead product, AT7519, is already in a Phase I trial at sites in the US and the UK. This initial clinical trial of AT9283 is designed to assess safety and tolerability and may provide preliminary evidence of efficacy in patients with haematological malignancies. It is being conducted at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world's leading oncology centres. Astex plans to initiate additional clinical studies of AT9283 in North America and Europe within the next six months.
In addition to its inhibition of Aurora kinases, AT9283 is highly active against the Gleevec® resistant T315I abl mutation and could benefit patients who have failed therapy with agents such as Gleevec® and Sprycel-. AT9283 is also a potent inhibitor of JAK-2 and the present trial will assess its activity in patients with myeloproliferative disorders linked to activating mutations of this protein.
"We are delighted to have initiated this trial in collaboration with Dr Hagop Kantarjian, a leading expert in the field of leukaemia", said Leon Bushara, Chief Executive Officer of Astex. "Astex has moved two products into clinical development within twelve months, underscoring the unique productivity of our R&D effort. Our objective is to advance at least one new product into clinical trials every year".........
Posted by: Janet Permalink Source
September 25, 2006, 10:15 PM CT
Most Complex Protein Knot Ever Seen
Most complicated knot ever observed in a protein
An MIT team has discovered the most complicated knot ever seen in a protein, and they believe it may be associated with the protein's function as a rescue agent for proteins marked for destruction.
"In proteins, the three-dimensional structure is very important to the function, and this is just one example," said Peter Virnau, a postdoctoral fellow in physics and an author of a paper on the work that appears in the Sept. 15 issue of the Public Library of Science, Computational Biology.
Knots are rare in proteins - less than 1 percent of all proteins have any knots, and most are fairly simple. The scientists analyzed 32,853 proteins, using a computational technique never before applied to proteins at this scale.
Of those that had knots, all were enzymes. Most had a simple three-crossing, or trefoil knot, a few had four crossings, and the most complicated, a five-crossing knot, was initially found in only one protein - ubiquitin hydrolase.
That complex knot may hold some protective value for ubiquitin hydrolase, whose function is to rescue other proteins from being destroyed - a dangerous job.
When a protein in a cell needs to be destroyed, it gets labeled with another protein called ubiquitin. "It's a death mark for the protein," said Leonid Mirny, an author of the paper and an associate professor in the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology.........
Posted by: Scott Permalink Source
September 25, 2006, 10:10 PM CT
Bacterial Protein To Treat Intestinal Parasites
Adult hookworm attached to intestine. Credit: Richard Bungiro, Yale
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego and Yale University have discovered that a natural protein produced by Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium sprayed on crops by organic farmers to reduce insect damage, is highly effective at treating hookworm infections in laboratory animals.
Their discovery, detailed in this week's early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could pave the way for the development of more effective therapys for hookworm and other soil-transmitted nematode infections, which are a major global health problem in developing countries. A number of of the nearly two billion people worldwide infected with these intestinal parasites are children, who are at particular risk for anemia, malnutrition and delayed growth.
The UCSD-Yale team observed that a protein produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, given orally to laboratory hamsters infected with hookworms was as effective in eliminating the parasites, curing anemia and restoring weight gain in the hamsters as mebendazole, one of the drugs currently recommended to treat infections in humans. The researchers also discovered that this protein, called Cry5B, targets both developing, or larval, stages and adult parasites, as well as impairs the excretion of eggs by female worms.........
Posted by: Mark Permalink Source
September 25, 2006, 9:59 PM CT
Gene Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) are hoping a new gene treatment that takes a gene called RTVP-1 directly into the prostate tumor will prove effective in preventing recurrence of the disease.
The first phase of the study is designed to test the safety of the therapy and determine the proper dosage of gene, said Dr. Dov Kadmon, professor of urology at BCM. It will be carried out in the department of urology at BCM as well as at Ben Taub General Hospital, The Methodist Hospital and Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
"We are treating patients who are scheduled for a prostatectomy (prostate removal) but who also have a high risk that their disease will recur (or come back)," said Kadmon. "The operation itself is highly successful in eradicating local tumors (in the prostate)".
The design of the study is simple, said Kadmon.
"One injection into the prostate that should take no more than 10 minutes, eventhough patients will be monitored in a special unit of the hospital for 23 hours to make sure there are no side effects. After that, they come to the unit for a check-up once a week".
After about 30 days, the subjects undergo their surgery, which has already been scheduled, he said. He said the hope is that the gene treatment will reduce the risk that cancer will recur at or near the site of the tumor as well as in distant points in the body.........
Posted by: Mark Permalink Source