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3-D vaccine spontaneously assembles to pack a powerful punch against cancer, infectious diseases

“This vaccine is a wonderful example of applying biomaterials to new questions and issues in medicine,” says David Mooney, Ph.D., a professor of bioengineering at Harvard University in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, whose lab developed the vaccine. The project was co-led by Jaeyun Kim, Ph.D. and Aileen Li, a doctoral student in the Mooney lab. Their findings were published in the December 8, 2014 issue of Nature Biotechnology. …

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Origins of colorectal cancer tumor cells traced

The scientists employed a “Big Bang” model of human colorectal cancer growth similar to the theory that the universe started from a single point and exploded outward. The team was led by Keck faculty researchers Darryl Shibata, M.D., professor of pathology, Keck School of Medicine of USC and Christina Curtis, Ph.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford University and adjunct assistant professor, department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC. “It’s like going back in time,” said Shibata. …

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Armed virus shows promise as treatment for pancreatic cancer

The study, funded by the UK charity Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, investigated whether the effectiveness of the Vaccinia oncolytic virus — a virus modified to selectively infect and kill cancer cells — as a treatment for pancreatic cancer, would be improved by arming it with a gene which modulates the body’s immune system. Despite laboratory studies which show that they can both kill cancer cells and provide immunity against cancer regrowth, oncolytic viruses have not performed well in clinical trials, as the immune system naturally attacks the virus before it can be effective…

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Light-emitting e-readers before bedtime can adversely impact sleep

“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” said Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, corresponding author, and associate neuroscientist in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.” Previous research has shown that blue light suppresses melatonin, impacts the circadian clock and increase alertness, but little was known about the effects of this popular technology on sleep. The use of light emitting devices immediately before bedtime is a concern because of the extremely powerful effect that light has on the body’s natural sleep/wake pattern, and may thereby play a role in perpetuating sleep deficiency…

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Scientists identify new, beneficial function of endogenous retroviruses in immune response

But researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, found that endogenous retroviruses (ERV) also play a critical role in the body’s immune defense against common bacterial and viral pathogens. “Most scientists have become used to the view that retroviruses are generally harmful,” said Nobel Laureate Dr. …

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Getting antibodies into shape to fight cancer

The latest types of treatment for cancer are designed to switch on the immune system, allowing the patient’s own immune cells to attack and kill cancerous cells, when normally the immune cells would lie dormant. In a study, funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the journal Cancer Cell, the Southampton team have found that a particular form of antibody, called IgG2B, is much more effective at stimulating cancer immunity than other types. Unlike other forms of antibody, IgG2B can work independently without needing help from other immune cells, making it more active and able to work in all tissues of the body. The team have also been able to engineer antibodies that will be locked into the particular shape (called a locked B structure) that is most active, making them much stronger immune stimulators than previous drugs…

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