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What we're talking about Frontiers in Viral Medicine Friday, May 29, 2015

Frontiers in Viral Medicine

One of my favorite stories is the tale of a GMO virus deployed to treat Hemophilia B: Gene therapy for Hemophilia B … Hemophilia B is a disease in males caused by point mutations/deletions/etc in the clotting Factor IX gene. If you dont make Factor IX, you wont clot properly, and will have all of…

You all might have heard about ‘delta32′ or ‘delta-CCR5′ people in association with HIV infection. People who naturally, by chance, have deletions and mutations in the CCR5 gene of their DNA dont make functional CCR5 proteins. It doesnt appear to be ‘a big deal’, and people who have this particular mutation seem to live normal…

You all know me. There are two things I really love: Studying HIV Using viruses for gene therapy One would think I would be over-the-moon about the FDA approving human trials for a gene therapy to stop HIV. HIV! Gene therapy! YAY!! With HIV Cure as the Goal, Gene Therapy Research Expands When this line…

Five kids in the first trial. Then eleven. Now thirty (ultimately 39): Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells for Sustained Remissions in Leukemia Slowly but surely, HIV genetically modified to genetically modify relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients T-cells are prolonging (saving?) kids lives. Ive written about this treatment a couple times before: ‘Dismal prognosis’ with…

On ERV, Abbie Smith provides an update on a pioneering treatment for hemophilia that uses viruses to insert missing genes in a patient's DNA. Hemophilia results from from the mutation or deletion of a gene that makes a blood clotting agent called Factor IX; without it, hemophiliacs are at risk for uncontrolled bleeding. While Factor IX can be delivered pharmaceutically, utilizing viruses to modify patients' DNA yields long-term improvements in natural Factor IX production. Abbie writes, "the amount of therapeutic Factor IX these patients needed (on average) dropped from 2613 IU/kg to 206. The people who got the ‘high’ dose of virus dropped that down to 92 IU/kg. They went from 15-16 ‘bleeding episodes’ a year, to one." They also saved $2.5 million.

Next, Abbie revisits research on treating HIV by removing CCR5 receptors that the virus uses to enter white blood cells. Much excitement was generated in 2008 when the "Berlin Patient" was declared to be functionally cured of HIV after receiving bone marrow from a donor with a mutation that preludes manufacture of the CCR5 protein. Now scientists are considering using gene therapy to disable CCR5 production in HIV patients, but there's a catch: some HIV quasispecies utilize other receptor proteins, and even a small population of such viruses can take over when a patient is not producing CCR5. For this reason, Abbie writes that this therapy may hold more promise as a vaccine for HIV than as a cure. Meanwhile, HIV itself has been genetically modified to help some sufferers of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by training cytotoxic T cells to target cancerous B cells. Abbie writes, "for all the time HIV has stolen from people, from families, its nice to see it giving some time back."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

The Society It all started with a not-very-chance meeting in a European bar. At the time I was living in Belgium, just off a job running goods for mercenaries stationed in Greece who needed constant supplies during down times from a war going on in the Balkans. That job was a break from my usual…

Jerry Coyne is is on tour for his new book Fact Versus Faith: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. That title’s a little vague. What do you suppose the book’s about? It turns out that he was making a stop in Washington DC. Since that’s not so far from my digs in Harrisonburg, I decided…

Physical Science

The heat death of the Universe is the idea that increasing entropy will eventually cause the Universe to arrive at a uniformly, maximally disordered state. Every piece of evidence we have points towards our unfortunate, inevitable trending towards that end, with every burning star, every gravitational merger, and even every breath we, ourselves, take. Yet even…

Last week, the blog Last Word On Nothing did a piece on the best and worst sciences to write about, and the two writers tapping physics as the worst said things that were really disappointing to hear from professional writers. I nearly wrote an angry rant here in response, but Jennifer Ouellette covered it more…

“Oh leave the Wise our measures to collate. One thing at least is certain, light has weight. One thing is certain and the rest debate. Light rays, when near the Sun, do not go straight.” –Arthur Eddington While we know full well today that Newtonian gravity is just an approximation to a more correct theory…

Environment

Food & Water Watch released “Factory Farm Nation,” a report this week on the dominance of industrial beef, pork, chicken, dairy, and egg production in the US. Besides overuse of antibiotics, foodborne disease, water and air pollution, and loss of local independent farms, the mountains of manure are monstrous and largely unregulated.

Hard on the heels of Wegman’s farcical attempt to sue Mashey comes Watts’s incompetent attempt to meat-puppet wiki. If you want to see my comments at WUWT that didn’t survive moderation, you’ll need to read stoat spam or just imagine them; I said nothing that wasn’t obvious. My favourite, I think, was The context here…

[As part of the Pacific Institute’s ongoing efforts to evaluate the impacts of the California drought and offer strategies, technologies, and policies to reduce those impacts, we are presenting a series of short assessments on “Understanding the Numbers.” This piece is the part of that series.] California is a wonderful place to grow food. The…

Humanities

Another day, another study that finds poverty is linked to adverse and often preventable health outcomes. This time, it’s vision loss.

“Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.” –Ronald Reagan Three years ago, Sally Ride — the first American woman in space — died of pancreatic cancer. This past week would have been her 64th birthday;…

For more than a decade, biologist Mariam Barlow has been working on the theory that administering antibiotics on a rotating basis could be a solution to antibiotic resistance. After years of research, Barlow had lots of data, but she needed a more precise way to make sense of it all — something that was so specific it could easily be used to treat patients. So, she joined forces with a team of mathematicians. And the amazing results could help solve an enormous, worldwide problem.

Education

Speaking of octopuses, the ability for the animals to squeeze through narrow openings has inspired the creation of a new surgical robotic device that can squeeze into a patient’s body. An EU team created STIFFness controllable Flexible and Learnable manipulator for surgical OPerations, dubbed “STIFF-FLOP”, made from silicone. Unlike conventional robots used during surgeries, the…

New research shows how octopus skin is able to respond to variations in light

After 18 years as a professional house cleaner in the suburbs of Chicago, Magdalena Zylinska says she feels very lucky. Unlike many of her fellow domestic workers, she hasn’t sustained any serious injuries.

Politics

Another day, another study that finds poverty is linked to adverse and often preventable health outcomes. This time, it’s vision loss.

Jerry Coyne is is on tour for his new book Fact Versus Faith: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. That title’s a little vague. What do you suppose the book’s about? It turns out that he was making a stop in Washington DC. Since that’s not so far from my digs in Harrisonburg, I decided…

A large majority of voters have approved gay marriage: Ireland’s citizens have voted in a landslide to legalize gay marriage, electoral officials announced Saturday–a stunningly lopsided result that illustrates what Catholic leaders and rights activists alike called a “social revolution.” Friday’s referendum saw 62.1 percent of Irish voters say “yes” to changing the nation’s constitution…

Medicine

Another day, another study that finds poverty is linked to adverse and often preventable health outcomes. This time, it’s vision loss.

I’ve frequently written about the “arrogance of ignorance,” a phenomenon that anyone who’s paid attention to what quacks, cranks, or antivaccine activists (but I repeat myself) write and say beyond a certain period of time will have encountered. Basically, it’s the belief found in such people—and amplified in groups—that somehow they can master a subject…

I’ve been at this skeptical blogging thing for over a decade now. I realize that I periodically remind you, my readers, of this and that perhaps I do it too often, but my reminders generally serve a purpose. Specifically, they serve to put an exclamation point on my surprise when I discover a new purveyor…

Brain & Behavior

“Inclusion bodies – those clumps of protein that are found in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients – are, sadly, a product of aging,” says Dr. Maya Schuldiner. “They can form naturally in practically all cells, but when these cells get old, the mechanism for clearing them away starts to fail.” That is not great…

Speaking of octopuses, the ability for the animals to squeeze through narrow openings has inspired the creation of a new surgical robotic device that can squeeze into a patient’s body. An EU team created STIFFness controllable Flexible and Learnable manipulator for surgical OPerations, dubbed “STIFF-FLOP”, made from silicone. Unlike conventional robots used during surgeries, the…

New research shows how octopus skin is able to respond to variations in light

Technology

Speaking of octopuses, the ability for the animals to squeeze through narrow openings has inspired the creation of a new surgical robotic device that can squeeze into a patient’s body. An EU team created STIFFness controllable Flexible and Learnable manipulator for surgical OPerations, dubbed “STIFF-FLOP”, made from silicone. Unlike conventional robots used during surgeries, the…

I am thrilled to see Dr. Stan Lindstedt’s review article published in the April 2015 issue of American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology from his 2013 August Krogh lectureship at the annual Experimental Biology conference. My original blog from the lecture can be found here. Dr. Lindstedt and co-author Dr. Niisa Nishikawa (Northern…

Dr. Vivek Jayaraman and colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus discovered that the ellipsoid body located in the middle of a fly’s brain acts like a compass to help navigate flight even in darkness. By placing the flies into a small virtual reality arena and having the flies walk on a…

Information Science

I am not trying to deny the transformative nature of the Internet, but rather that we’ve lived with it long enough to ask tough questions. … I’ve tried to avoid the Manichean view of technology, which assumes either that the Internet will save us or that it is leading us astray, that it is making…

I’ve written about The Recompense here, and that writeup includes interviews with the creative team putting the film together. This is just a quick note to remind you that The Recompense has a kick starter project with one week left. So, now, you have to go there and kick in a few bucks! The graphic…

Did you ever wonder? And if you did wonder, did you Google it? And if you did google it, did you get the results shown above? And if you did, did you click “feedback” and do something like the following? No? Do so now, please. This is important. Why? Because we have been hearing rumors…

Jobs

After 18 years as a professional house cleaner in the suburbs of Chicago, Magdalena Zylinska says she feels very lucky. Unlike many of her fellow domestic workers, she hasn’t sustained any serious injuries.

OSHA gave DuPont a 50 percent discount on a repeat violation that contributed to the death in November 2014 of four workers at the company’s LaPorte, TX plant. Instead of a $70,000 penalty, the company got off cheap with an even cheaper $35,000 one.

Injured workers testify before Illinois lawmakers on preserving the workers’ comp system; OSHA fines DuPont for failing to prevent the deaths of four workers; journalists arrested in Qatar while trying to investigate migrant working conditions; and a new report finds that service members who report sexual assault are likely to face retaliation.