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Antibodies ‘neutralize’ HIV

A global collaboration has led to the discovery of two powerful new antibodies against HIV.

The newly discovered neutralizing antibodies are the first to have been identified in more than a decade and are the first to have been isolated from donors in developing countries, where the majority of new HIV infections occur. A neutralizing antibody is capable of keeping an infectious agent from infecting cells by inhibiting its biological effect, such as blocking cell receptors.

The effort involved researchers with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, The Scripps Research Institute, and biotechnology companies Theraclone Sciences and Monogram Biosciences. The discovery is described in the journal Science.

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Researchers will now try to exploit the newfound HIV vulnerability in an effort to design an AIDS vaccine.

Beliefs affect perception and memory

In social interactions, facial expressions are blends of multiple emotions open to interpretation. Two people, therefore, can have different recollections about an encounter, and both can be correct about what they “saw.”

This is the conclusion of UCSD psychologists and colleagues from New Zealand and France who found that the way we initially think about the emotions of others biases our subsequent perception (and memory) of their facial expressions.

Researchers showed photographs of faces, altered by computer, to show ambiguous emotion and instructed experiment participants to think of these faces as either angry or happy. Participants then watched movies of the faces slowly changing expression, from angry to happy, and were asked to identify the original still photograph they had been shown. People’s initial interpretations were found to influence their memories. Thus, faces initially interpreted as angry were remembered as expressing more anger than faces initially interpreted as happy.

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Implications of the findings range from everyday misunderstandings to social anxiety to faulty eyewitness memory. The results are reported in the journal Psychological Science.

Understanding progressive hearing loss

A team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has discovered a genetic cause of progressive hearing loss. The team found that the gene (Loxhd1) responsible for the hearing loss is necessary for maintaining proper functioning hair cells in the inner ear. When functioning normally, these hair cells (stereocilia) respond to fluid motion or fluid pressure changes caused by sound waves. Stereocilia movement, in turn, transmits signals to sensory neurons sending signals to the brain and eventually resulting our ability to hear.

Mutations in Loxhd1 were found to degrade the hair cells and disrupt the signaling process eventually leading to hearing loss. The findings will help scientists better understand the nature of age-related decline in hearing and may lead to new therapies to prevent or treat the condition. The study appears online in American Journal of Human Genetics.

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.