By Lynne Friedmann
Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have shown a single protein can make the difference between an infection clearing out of the body or persisting for life.
Mice engineered without the protein TLR7 (toll-like receptor-7) were infected with a virus employed to study the response of the immune system to microbes. While normal mice infected with the virus could clear a persistent infection in 60 to 90 days, TLR7-deficient mice were unable to purge the infection throughout their lives.
The possibility that targeting this signaling pathway could be beneficial for treatment of persistent viral infections in humans because many viruses induce signaling through TLR7. This includes HIV and Hepatitis C, which currently afflicts hundreds of millions of people around the world with persistent infections.
The study appears in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. News release at
New calculator improves tech education
Many American high school graduates — including some who aspire to careers in science technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) — can’t fully explain basic mathematical functions. This because the problem-solving norm is to punch “sin,” “cos,” or “log” into a calculator and accept the resulting value without question.
A new kind of calculator is posed to change that and is already making a measurably impact on student math performance.
The QAMA (Quick Approximate Mental Arithmetic) calculator challenges and engages students by requiring they provide a reasonable estimation of an expected answer as part of problem solving. If the calculator’s algorithms approve the approximation as reasonable for the given task, the QAMA (pronounced “kaama”) provides the exact answer as confirmation.
A product of the inventor-in-residence program at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UC San Diego, the QAMA has been tested in three San Diego schools and one school in The Netherlands demonstrating remarkable improvements in math test scores.
At the UC San Diego Preuss School, for example, 28 students were split into two groups, with one group using the QAMA and the other group using a traditional calculator. Tested at the beginning and end of a four-week period, the group using the QAMA calculator scored 42 percent higher overall than the control group, and performed twice as well on recently studied material. More information at
Easier way to make new drug compounds
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have developed a powerful new technique for manipulating the building blocks of organic chemistry. The technique enables chemists to add new functional molecules to previously hard-to-reach positions on existing compounds — making it easier to generate new drugs and other organic chemicals.
The new advance is a method for “CH activation” — the removal of a simple hydrogen atom from the carbon backbone of an organic molecule, and the replacement of that hydrogen atom with a functional chemical group. Compared to the traditional method, in which chemists modify only the existing functional groups on a compound, CH activation more directly boosts the complexity of a compound, giving it potentially valuable new properties.
In addition to the interest the technique is expected to generate among pharmaceutical chemists, it also has application to the fields of polymer chemistry and materials chemistry.