Ebola virus assembly yields a big surprise

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered the molecular mechanism by which the deadly Ebola virus assembles, and what they discovered comes as a surprise:  The same molecule that assembles and releases new viruses also rearranges itself into different shapes, with each shape controlling a different step of the virus’s life cycle.

The finding revises a central dogma of molecular biology: That a protein molecule has one shape that predestines one biological function.

The newly discovered “shape-shifting” or “transformer” behavior of Ebola explains how the virus can control a multi-step viral lifecycle using a limited number of genes. More importantly, insight from the TSRI study means that new drugs to block viral replication could target any of the structures themselves or the intermediate steps in the structural transformation process.

Findings appear in the journal Cell.  News release http://bit.ly/1aCMTfd

Tech-enabled TB treatment-monitoring system

Tuberculosis patients now have a less-intrusive treatment option that uses mobile-health technology to improve the likelihood that they will take all their critical medications. The new system, known as Video Directly Observed Therapy (VDOT), allows TB patients to video record themselves taking their daily medications on smartphones, which they then send to the health department as a means to remotely monitor and document each dose of medication. This is necessary because poor compliance with treatment protocols – a combination of pills taken daily for six months – leads to ongoing disease, acquisition of drug resistant forms of TB, and the risk of further transmission of TB to the community.

Currently, health departments in the U.S. spend millions of dollars driving to patients’ homes every day just to watch them take their pills. VDOT provides the same level of adherence monitoring at a fraction of the cost, and with much greater acceptability to patients than in-person observation.

Creation of VDOT was a collaborative effort involving researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, developers from Qualcomm Institute/Calit2, and public health officials from San Diego and Tijuana.  Industry partner Verizon provided grant funding and in-kind technology – such as HIPAA-enabled cloud services and smartphones – to support the expansion of this first-of-its-kind remote treatment-monitoring system.

More information at http://bit.ly/17cOqDF

Potential new drug for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

More than one million Americans suffering from inflammatory bowel disease do not respond to available treatments.

Vedolizumab, a new intravenous antibody medication, has shown positive results in two clinical studies treating both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, according to researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. Both studies showed that the use of vedolizumab resulted in remission and discontinued use of prednisone, a common yet difficult-to-tolerate drug used to treat both diseases.

Vedolizumab is targeted to disease within the digestive tract where it blocks immune system cells that release proteins (cytokines) that trigger inflammation, causing tissue damage and diarrhea to move into the small intestine and colon. The targeted nature of the medication helps reduce side effects such as weight gain, nausea and headaches caused by other treatment options such as steroids, immune suppressive drugs and anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) biologic drugs.

The ulcerative colitis trial involved 895 patients in 34 countries. The Crohn’s disease clinical trial involved 1,115 patients in 39 countries. Eligible patients in both trials were treated for 52 weeks. Benefits could be seen six weeks into the study.

The findings, published in two papers, appear in the New England Journal of Medicine. News release at http://bit.ly/1778cSO

—Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.

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Posted by Staff on Aug 30, 2013. Filed under Columns, Editorial Columns, Region, Research Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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