NIH Research Matters
September 2006 Archive
September 29, 2006
The need for new drugs against tuberculosis (TB) has never been more urgent. Although many people think TB is a disease of the past, it's still one of the world's leading killers.
Several genes have been implicated in cleft lip and palate, one of the world's most common birth defects. Now, researchers have found that problems in a much-studied gene called SUMO1 can also cause cleft lip and palate. SUMO1 seems to play a key role in the network of proteins responsible for forming the palate, or roof of the mouth.
SEPTEMBER 15, 2006
High levels of two proteins in the blood of pregnant women appear to signal the subsequent development of preeclampsia, a life-threatening complication of pregnancy.
New research shows that prevention programs conducted in middle school can reduce methamphetamine abuse among rural adolescents years later. Because methamphetamine addiction leads to social problems and a wide range of medical conditions, research into early interventions is critical to protecting the nation's youth.
In a massive sequencing effort, researchers have, as they put it, defined the genetic landscape of two of the most common types of cancer, revealing nearly 200 genes involved in breast and colorectal cancer. Most weren't previously known to play a role in cancer, and now provide a wealth of new targets for developing diagnostic tests and therapies. The study illustrates the potential of a large new effort to find the genetic causes of cancer.
Experimental vaccines based on live, weakened versions of H5N1 avian influenza viruses protected mice and ferrets from a deadly infection with naturally-occurring H5N1 flu viruses. The findings demonstrate that a vaccine based on one strain of the H5N1 flu virus could potentially protect against different emerging strains.
September 8, 2006
It's no secret that medical costs have skyrocketed over the past few decades. Annual medical spending per person has gone from about $700 in 1960 to more than $6,000 today — and that's adjusted for inflation. In any public discussion about whether such spending increases are excessive, it's important to understand the true relationship between medical spending and life expectancy.
Humans can taste many different compounds, but they fall into five basic groups: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami (the taste of monosodium glutamate). The cells that detect sweet, bitter and umami have already been identified. Now, the same research group that pinpointed those has identified the long-sought mammalian taste cells that serve as our sour sensor.
Scientists have spent years studying an effect in the brain called long-term potentiation (LTP) in the belief that it's responsible for memory formation. Now, a research group has finally figured out a way to demonstrate that LTP is an important mechanism for memory.
This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first totally implanted artificial heart for patients with advanced heart failure in both of the heart's pumping chambers. The new device can extend and improve the quality of life for patients who have no other treatment option.
September 1, 2006
Your nose can detect bread baking, natural gas leaking, day-old garbage reeking and countless other scents. New research suggests it may also be able to sniff out subtler signals, like signs of stress or signals from the opposite sex. Researchers have discovered a family of receptors that can detect such signals in mice and are found in humans, too.
For years, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, has frustrated drug developers. The virus rapidly mutates and, as parts of its structure change, it becomes resistant to treatment. But doctors will soon have a potent new tool in their arsenal. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Prezista (darunavir), the first antiviral drug designed to treat drug-resistant strains of HIV.
Laboratories across the U.S. can perform some basic tests on an influenza (flu) virus within several hours. However, only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a handful of other labs around the world have the high-level biosafety facilities needed to perform specialized tests that can reveal critical details about a virus such as its geographic origin. A new test may change that, allowing labs across the country to diagnose influenza infections and learn more about the viruses causing illness.
Melanoma accounts for only about 4% of skin cancer cases, but it's the most serious and aggressive type of skin cancer. An estimated 62,190 new cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year and approximately 7,910 people will die of the disease. A team of researchers at NIH's National Cancer Institute (NCI) have now genetically engineered patients’ own white blood cells to recognize and attack advanced melanomas. This is the first time that gene therapy has been used successfully to treat cancer. .
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About NIH Research Matters
Harrison Wein, Ph.D., Editor
Vicki Contie, Assistant Editor
NIH Research Matters is a weekly update of NIH research highlights from the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health.