Llama antibodies may lead to new treatments for HIV

Antibodies found in llamas are smaller and denser than ours and may be better at getting at receptor sites that the HIV binds to. Five antibodies against HIV, which work in vitro, have been identified. There’s still the problem that our antibodies may react against the llama antibodies. Read about the newly discovered llama antibodies.

The image below compares a human antibody to a llama antibody.


Mammograms: when and how often?

At what age should we start getting mammograms and how often should we get them? It’s necessary to balance the dangers of ionizing radiation against the benefits of detecting cancer early. Read “Mammography’s Limits are Becoming Clear.”

Penicillin breeding experiments!

Scientists used their understanding of the MAT (mating) genes to induce penicillin mold to reproduce sexually, producing spores with new gene combinations. They hope to breed new strains that will kill antibiotic-resistant disease germs. And now that they have induced penicillin to breed, instead of merely producing identical spores, for the first time in a hundred years, they’ll try the same with other important fungi, such as those that produce other antibiotics.

Breakthrough in cancer tests

Jack Andraka (BBC image)


Jack Andraka, a high school student in Maryland has invented a new test for cancer of the liver, breast, or pancreas while they are still in early stage. It’s a blood test that takes seconds. It takes 1/168 of the time, is 400 times more sensitives, and it costs 1/26,000 as much. It costs 3¢ and takes five minutes.

The test uses single-walled carbon nanotubes to detect mesothelin, a protein that is overproduced by certain cancers, including mesothelioma and ovarian and pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Jack sent 200 e-mails about his proposed experimental procedure and collected 199 rejections. He found one lab where he test his idea.

Jack credits the Internet for online journals–he was reading in biology class about nanotubes as biosensors–and search engines that let him learn enough to do this.

Classic Orac on “CAM Natural”

Orac of Respectful Insolence points out the flaws and follies of Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s touting of  “natural” medicine. I like to spell it out because when I see “CAM” I think Crassulacean Acid Metabolism.

Andrew Wakefield’s Medical fraud

This is from the British Medical Journal’s editorial:

Drawing on interviews, documents, and data made public at the GMC [General Medical Council] hearings, Deer shows how Wakefield altered numerous facts about the patients’ medical histories in order to support his claim to have identified a new syndrome; how his institution, the Royal Free Hospital and Medical School in London, supported him as he sought to exploit the ensuing MMR scare for financial gain; and how key players failed to investigate thoroughly in the public interest when Deer first raised his concerns.

Deer published his first investigation into Wakefield’s paper in 2004.12 This uncovered the possibility of research fraud, unethical treatment of children, and Wakefield’s conflict of interest through his involvement with a lawsuit against manufacturers of the MMR vaccine. Building on these findings, the GMC launched its own proceedings that focused on whether the research was ethical. But while the disciplinary panel was examining the children’s medical records in public, Deer compared them with what was published in the Lancet. His focus was now on whether the research was true.

… He found that not one of the 12 cases reported in the 1998 Lancet paper was free of misrepresentation or undisclosed alteration, and that in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal.

… A great deal of thought and effort must have gone into drafting the paper to achieve the results he wanted: the discrepancies all led in one direction; misreporting was gross. Moreover, although the scale of the GMC’s 217 day hearing precluded additional charges focused directly on the fraud, the panel found him guilty of dishonesty concerning the study’s admissions criteria, its funding by the Legal Aid Board, and his statements about it afterwards.

… Wakefield has been given ample opportunity either to replicate the paper’s findings, or to say he was mistaken. He has declined to do either.

The GMC requisitioned the records of the cases that Wakefield used. Their inspection of the records revealed that Wakefield re-wrote the profiles in the paper so that symptoms that appeared before vaccination were not mentioned until afterwards, children with normal bowel tissue were recorded as having pathology, children recorded as being normal before vaccination had long histories of fits and bowel problems, and symptoms that started months later were changed to starting within a couple of weeks. Not one single case in the paper accurately matched the hospital’s records of the same patient. Children who were assumed to be from the London area were recruited from far and wide. They came from families suspicious about the vaccines, who had already applied for legal aid to sue the vaccine manufacturers. In addition, some of the children were referred by lawyers hoping to win lawsuits and claim damages.

Research may help to cure the common cold

Researchers at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, led by Dr. Leo James, are is discovering how antibodies work within living cells to eliminate viruses. It’s possible that effective medicines to trigger this reaction more quickly can be tested within two to five years against the common cold and gastroenteritis, which is deadly without medical support.

I found this on The Independent: A cure for the common cold may finally be achieved as a result of a remarkable discovery in a Cambridge laboratory, by Steve Connor, Science Editor.

The researchers said that many other viruses responsible for a range of diseases could also be targeted by the new approach. They include the norovirus, which causes winter vomiting, and rotavirus, which results in severe diarrhoea and kills thousands of children in developing countries.

Briefly, antibodies that enter the cell with the virus recruit a protein called TRIM21 to pull the virus apart before it can take over the biochemistry of the nucleus and start copying itself. Here’s an artist’s concept of the process:

It makes sense that we have some way of cleaning viruses out of our cells; otherwise our first viral infection would be our last.

Other links:

Pithy reply

À propos of pharmacists not wanting to fill birth control prescriptions and other lapses in professional practice…

On the subject of religious interpretations interfering with sound medical practice, Moses og Penguin has this to say:

These kind of people drive me nuts, take your fucking bronze age religion and shove it up your ass. If you don’t like washing Mr. Surgeon, drive a fucking taxi. If you don’t want to fill Birth Control or Morning After prescriptions, get a job roofing. You want to teach creationism in public schools, get a job at Starbucks and tell me to have a “blessed day.”

But if you want to work in a public profession, keep your damn religiosity to yourself and take care of the people you’re [dealing with] in the way our society demands.

[I’m in the process of publishing old draft posts.]

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