Scientists discover new method for finding therapeutic antibodies
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have devised a new, rapid technique for finding antibodies. The method uses a sensitive “reporter system” in test cells, which gives off a fluorescent light signal as soon as an antibody succeeds in activating a receptor. The system is also set up so that each test cell produces a unique antibody, whose effect is confined to that cell.
As a demonstration of the new method’s potential, the research team discovered an antibody that potently mimics a key hormone for blood clotting. The antibody has already been licensed to a pharmaceutical company for further development.
The technique is described in the journal Chemistry and Biology. News release at http://bit.ly/11f72Ud
Timing radiation therapy may minimize hair loss
Discovering that mouse hair has a circadian clock – a 24-hour growth-and-repair cycle – researchers suspect that hair loss from cancer radiotherapy and chemotherapy might be minimized if treatments are given at strategic times of day.
Researchers, from Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the University of Southern California, and UC Irvine worked out the timing of this circadian clock and also uncovered the molecules that signals hair when to grow and when to repair damage. In tests using radiotherapy, mice lost 85 percent of their hair when radiation therapy was received in the morning compared to a 17 percent hair loss when treatment occurred in the evening.
Of course, scientists cannot conclude these findings will directly translate to human cancer therapy. But, it is apparent that body organs and tissues have their own circadian clocks that, when understood, could be used to time drug therapy for maximum benefit.
Findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. News release at http://bit.ly/czMHqM
Center targets ocean contaminants, human health
A new center based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will address environmental threats to public health by targeting emerging contaminants found naturally in common seafood dishes as well as man-made chemicals that accumulate in human breast milk.
With $6 million in joint NIH and NSF funding, the new Scripps Center for Oceans and Human Health will track natural chemicals known as halogenated organic compounds (HOCs) – whose origins and transmission are poorly understood. [Human-manufactured varieties including toxic polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that until recently were manufactured and broadly used in commercial products as flame retardants in the textile and electronics sectors.]
HOCs accumulate in marine mammals such as seals and dolphins and have been identified in top predator species that humans consume such as tuna and swordfish, while PBDEs have been linked to a variety of human diseases including cancer and thyroid ailments.
Scientists have recently become aware that polybrominated compounds appear to enter the marine environment not only as man-made chemicals but also as naturally produced chemicals synthesized by marine microorganisms and algae. The center will focus on biochemical synthesis pathways in tiny microorganisms all the way up through the marine food web to tracing these compounds into humans.
Scientists from the Scripps’s Center for Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine, San Diego State University’s Graduate School of Public Health, UCSD School of Medicine, and the Salk Institute are also in the research effort. More information at http://bit.ly/165Dcoj
Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.
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