Following a concerted H1N1 vaccination campaign throughout Europe in 2009, children immunized with GlaxoSmithKline’s Pandemrix vaccine, but not Novartis’s Focetria, were at an increased risk of developing narcolepsy. In support of an autoimmune hypothesis about the connection between the chronic sleep disorder and the vaccine, Stanford neurologist and immunologist Lawrence Steinman, rheumatologist Sohail Ahmed, formerly of Novartis Vaccines in Italy, and their colleagues identified an influenza peptide that resembled a brain receptor peptide found in higher abundance in Pandemrix than in Focetria.
The peptide, from a portion of the influenza virus nucleoprotein A that is exposed on the protein’s surface, turns out to have homology to a surface-exposed peptide in a human receptor that normally binds hypocretin, the hormone that helps keep people awake. The researchers also found more antibodies that bound both the peptide and the hypocretin receptor in the blood of patients who were vaccinated with Pandemrix than in the blood of Focetria-vaccinated individuals. The results suggest that the vaccine may trigger an autoimmune reaction that leads to narcolepsy, but concrete evidence of a vaccine-narcolepsy connection remains to be found. The results are published today (July 1) in Science Translational Medicine.
A climate-induced change of male dragons into females occurring in the wild has been confirmed for the first time, according to University of Canberra research recently published on the cover of international journal Nature.
The researchers, who have long studied Australia's bearded dragon lizards, have been able to show that a reptile's sex determination process can switch rapidly from one determined by chromosomes to one determined by temperature.
Lead author Dr Clare Holleley, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Canberra's Institute for Applied Ecology, explained: "We had previously been able to demonstrate in the lab that when exposed to extreme temperatures, genetically male dragons turned into females."
"Now we have shown that these sex reversed individuals are fertile and that this is a natural occurring phenomenon."
Using field data from 131 adult lizards and controlled breeding experiments, Dr Holleley and colleagues conducted molecular analyses which showed that some warmer lizards had male chromosomes but were actually female.
"By breeding the sex reversed females with normal males, we could establish new breeding lines in which temperature alone determined sex. In doing so, we discovered that these lizards could trigger a rapid transition from a genetically-dependent system to a temperature-dependent system," she said.
"We also found that sex-reversed mothers -- females who are genetic males -- laid more eggs than normal mothers," Dr Holleley said. "So in a way, one could actually argue that dad lizards make better mums."
University of Canberra Distinguished Professor Arthur Georges, senior author of the paper, also highlighted the importance that these discoveries have in the broader context of sex determination evolution.
"The mechanisms that determine sex have a profound impact on the evolution and persistence of all sexually reproducing species," Professor Georges said.
"The more we learn about them, the better-equipped we'll be to predict evolutionary responses to climate change and the impact this can have on biodiversity globally."
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Canberra. The original item was written by Claudia Doman. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Clare E. Holleley, Denis O'Meally, Stephen D. Sarre, Jennifer A. Marshall Graves, Tariq Ezaz, Kazumi Matsubara, Bhumika Azad, Xiuwen Zhang, Arthur Georges. Sex reversal triggers the rapid transition from genetic to temperature-dependent sex. Nature, 2015; 523 (7558): 79 DOI: 10.1038/nature14574
A series of fascinating studies at Harvard University showed that many people respond positively to placebo pills — even when they are told that the pills don't have any active ingredients. Researchers at UAB are partnering with a Harvard scientist to test these "open-label" placebos for the first time among cancer survivors.
DNA from a man who lived 40,000 years ago in Romania reveals that up to 11 percent of his genome came from Neanderthals.
Because large segments of the individual’s chromosomes are of Neanderthal origin, a Neanderthal was among the man’s ancestors as recently as four generations back in his family tree, reports a study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature.
The finding reveals that some of the first members of our species who came to Europe interbred with the local Neanderthals.
According to a new study published in the journal Child Development, infants are capable of understanding abstract relations like ‘same’ and ‘different.’
“This suggests that a skill key to human intelligence is present very early in human development, and that language skills are not necessary for learning abstract relations,” said Dr Alissa Ferry of the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati in Italy, lead author of the study.
To trace the origins of relational thinking in infants, Dr Ferry and her colleagues from Northwestern University tested whether 7-month-old infants could understand the simplest and most basic abstract relation – the same-different relation.
Infants were shown pairs of items that were either the same (two Elmo dolls) or different (Elmo doll and a toy camel) until their looking time declined.
In the test phase, the infants looked longer at pairs showing the novel relation, even when the test pairs were composed of new objects. That is, infants who had learned the same relation looked longer at test pairs showing the different relation during test, and vice versa.
This suggests that the infants had encoded the abstract relation and detected when the relation changed. “We found that infants are capable of learning these relations. Additionally, infants exhibit the same patterns of learning as older children and adults – relational learning benefits from seeing multiple examples of the relation and is impeded when attention is drawn to the individual objects composing the relation,” Dr Ferry said.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and almost 10,000 will die from this deadliest form of skin cancer. Over the past several years, treatment of advanced cases of melanoma has been transformed as new FDA-approved therapies developed by several different companies have come onto the market. An FDA advisory committee recently approved a therapy that takes a totally novel approach that involves injecting a live attenuated virus directly into regionally or distant metastatic melanoma tumors.
HSV-1 infections cause cold sores and sometimes genital herpes, although infection with human simplex virus 2 is more often the cause of genital herpes. Researchers have characterized the virulence genes of the virus. Talimogene laherparepvec, sometimes shortened to T-VEC, is made by depleting those virulence genes and inserting sequences that generate GM-CSF. It’s believed that removal of the virulence genes decreases the chances that the virus will infect nerve cells and will instead home in on tumor cells. By delivering GM-CSF, the genetically engineered virus enhances tumor antigen presentation to the immune system and induction of immune system attack on the malignancy.
Encouraging durable response results
Talimogene laherparepvec was studied in a randomized, open label phase 3 study to compare the new therapy with GM-CSF injections in subjects with unresectable stage IIIB, IIIC, and IV melanoma. A total of 437 subjects were randomized into the study at 64 study sites. The study was designed to demonstrate an improvement in durable response rate, which was defined as a complete response or partial response maintained for at least six months. Subjects were to receive therapy until Week 24, even if their melanoma was progressing. GM-CSF was used for comparison purposes because at the time that this study was designed, it was also in clinical studies as a treatment for melanoma. It is unclear, though, if GM-CSF by itself has any therapeutic value.
To be enrolled in the study, people had to be age 18 or older, have a histologically confirmed malignant melanoma of the stages listed in the previous paragraph, measurable disease of at least 1 cm, injectable disease (either on the surface of the skin or through the use of ultrasound guidance), ECOG performance of 0 or 1, and a life expectancy greater than four months from date of randomization. The study exclusions included active cerebral disease, any bone metastases, history of secondary cancer unless disease-free for at least five years, open herpetic skin lesions, and primary ocular or mucosal melanoma.
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