'Reverse vaccine' for Type 1 diabetes seems to pass human test

The therapy is designed to protect cells in the pancreas that make insulin, a hormone the body needs to convert sugars and starches into energy. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the immune system goes haywire and attacks those crucial insulin-producing cells for reasons that medical researchers don’t understand.

Researchers dubbed the treatment a reverse vaccine because it suppresses the immune system instead of stimulating it. As hoped, the experimental vaccine reduced the number of immune system “killer” cells that went on the attack.

“We’re trying to turn off one specific immune response,” said Dr. Lawrence Steinman, an immunologist at Stanford University and senior author of the study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

About 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes. For nearly 100 years, the standard treatment has been insulin replacement therapy, in which insulin is injected in amounts that correspond with blood-sugar levels.

Attempts at new treatments and cures have focused on suppressing large portions of the immune system — sometimes using powerful drugs developed for other conditions, such as the blood cancer lymphoma. Steinman called this the “big hammer” approach.

“We’re trying to do something different,” he said. “We want to eliminate just the immune cells that attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.”

Steinman and his team designed a molecule that contained the gene for making proinsulin, the precursor to insulin. The molecule also included instructions for triggering the killer cells’ response and then shutting it down.

If everything went as planned, the DNA molecule would suppress the killer cells and allow the pancreatic cells to function properly, producing insulin.

After successful trials with diabetic mice, the team prepared to test its vaccine on humans. They selected 80 volunteers ages 18 to 40 who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes within the last five years. After that time, many Type 1 sufferers have already lost all of their insulin-producing cells, Steinman said. (Although many people with Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed as children, the researchers avoided testing their reverse vaccine on kids because of safety concerns.)

Two-thirds of the study volunteers received the reverse vaccine in one of four doses ranging from 0.3 to 6.0 milligrams. The rest of the volunteers got a placebo. Injections were made once a week for 12 weeks.

Throughout the study, both the experimental and placebo groups also received insulin replacement therapy. All subjects were monitored for up to two years after the initial treatment to watch for any side effects.

To see whether the vaccine was working, the team measured two key components of the volunteers’ blood: killer cells and C-peptide, a protein involved with making insulin.

Compared with patients who got the placebo, those who received the vaccine in 1.0 and 3.0 mg doses saw beneficial improvements in their levels of C-peptide during and after treatment. But three months after the treatment stopped, C-peptide levels declined, indicating the vaccine had worn off, the team wrote.

Patients in the vaccine group, no matter the dosage, saw the number of killer cells fall and the amount of proinsulin rise over 15 weeks without affecting the rest of their immune system cells. The changes were much more modest in patients who got the placebo.

No significant side effects or safety concerns arose during the study, the team reported.

Dr. Hertzel Gerstein, an endocrinologist at McMaster University in Ontario who treats Type 1 diabetes patients, called the research encouraging, and said he was looking forward to further studies with many more patients.

“It’s a small study with preliminary findings,” he said. “It could or could not translate into anything clinically relevant. But certainly this holds some promise.”

Dr. Peter Butler, director of the Larry L. Hillblom Islet Research Center at UCLA, said a reverse vaccine was a promising approach, but he was concerned that the benefits lasted only a few weeks. It might be impractical to keep the killer cells at bay with such a narrowly targeted vaccine, he said.

Steinman said his team was planning further tests with longer treatment periods.

“This is only a first step,” he said. “But there is potential for protecting people from the ravages of this disease in the long run.”

The study was funded by Bayhill Therapeutics, a start-up founded by Steinman and three of the study’s co-authors. The company, now known as Tolerion Inc., aims to bring the vaccine to market.


Smallpox? Bigpox more like.

Often described as the most devastating disease in human history, you’d think they’d have renamed it bigpox by now.

There have been no known naturally acquired cases of el pox since 1977, the eradication of which is seen as one of the greatest modern medical achievements (That and those ‘flesh coloured’ cold sore disks that stand out like peach targets). All that exists of the virulent bugger are samples kept by both the USA and Russia and it’s these samples that are currently causing controversy.

The World Health Organization [WHO] meet during May and will decide the fate of these samples. Should all known traces be incinerated to avoid a potential accidental release, as happened in 1978 causing a single death, or should the samples be preserved, in order that scientists can study them more and get as much information as possible in therefore preventing a potential future epidemic?

Smallpox - Bloody unpleasant.

In an excerpt from his book Smallpox: Death of a Disease, published by Prometheus Books, author and previous director of the campaign to eradicate smallpox, Dr DA Henderson says, “If it’s destroyed, the statement is made that after this date, any scientists, any lab, any country that has that smallpox virus is guilty of crimes against humanity.”

Others feel that the type of person capable of wilfully releasing the virus – ie terrorists – will not be put off by the ‘crime against humanity’ label for possessing it and it might actually make the virus more attractive to them.  They argue, in fact, that without the live virus, scientists will be unable to prepare for such an event which creates a paradox.

“It would be very important to have something on the shelf that would help prevent or treat an epidemic, whether a virus was introduced by a terrorist or Mother Nature,” according to chief scientific officer of the pharmaceutical company SIGA, Dennis Hruby. SIGA is currently developing a treatment for smallpox. Hruby claims that humans are susceptible to other pox-like viruses and that it is highly likely that smallpox could re-emerge.

That’s so smallpox.

In 2002, scientists created a synthetic virus – worryingly by using instructions they’d found on the internet, meaning that even if it is destroyed, the virus could still be manufactured by some nutjob knob jockey terrorist. Or pharmaceutical company who could then develop a vaccine and sell it to the public at an extortionate price.

Did I type that or just think it?

[adsense]Eckard Wimmer, a professor at Stony Brook University in NYC, is in favor of destroying the virus outright, as he claims it would not be an easy virus to synthesize in a laboratory setting. There is no doubt a recipe for it somewhere on the internet. Look harder Wimmer. Look harder.

“Not only would you have to have experience, you have to have extensive laboratory space, high containment so it would not contaminate the surroundings, and expensive instruments; all of this poses a barrier for malicious intent,” according to Wimmer. “If a government wanted to do that, they would have the resources. But we in the scientific community hope that this will not happen, because in a sense somebody who would release the virus would ultimately hurt him or herself, because the virus will come back. The people who synthesize it may be protected, but their relatives, their friends and the community in which they live, the state in which they live, will not be protected.”

It is said that smallpox has caused more human deaths across the centuries than any other virus. It is a virus unique to human beings, and given our overpopulation now it means that an outbreak could in theory wipe us out entirely, leaving other less virulent species to inhabit the earth without being tortured, poisoned, or hit by cars etc. Doesn’t sound like such a bad thing does it? Yeah we’d miss the finale of We’ve got absolutely no celebrity talent idol, get us out of here but at least we wouldn’t have to go to work, right?

Sadly as a species I think we’ve probably already irrevocably damaged the planet. Ho hum. And I don’t really want to die yet. Who would stop my dog from being stolen by street beggars, tortured by sadists or hit by a car…  Oh, now I get it.

Leave a comment with your thoughts on Smallpox and the rise of stupidity.

Read about the return of Smallpox in House; Epstein-Barr Virus; Rubeola; HIV and AIDS; and the theory of real life zombies.

images: bbc.co.uk; scienceblogs.com

One step closer to AIDS vaccine?

Another breakthrough has been made in the fight against AIDS: Researchers in the United States have reportedly found three new types of antibodies that could neutralize the HIV/AIDS virus. Two of these antibodies are able to target a broad spectrum of HIV virus strains, and are able to neutralize 91 percent of HIV strains.

These latest findings are expected to kick-start and pave the way for further AIDS vaccine research.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a retrovirus, which invades certain white blood cells in the body and drains them of their energy in order to survive and reproduce. This process leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), when the body’s immune system breaks down and becomes invaded by other “opportunistic infections“, the most common of which are meningitis, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Because of the body’s collapsing immune system, these infections become life threatening.

According to Action Against AIDS, over 33 million people lived with AIDS in 2009.

While researchers have been trying to find ways to combat AIDS, either through medication or even the hope of a vaccine, the breakthrough with these new antibodies is immense. According to US News, antibodies have been detected in HIV/AIDS patients since the 1990s, but these antibodies have been too weak to use as a basis to create a vaccine from. This time, it’s different.

“The answer is going to be there, and it’s going to be doable,” co-author of the study, Peter Kwong, a structural biologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda says.

“The discoveries we have made may overcome the limitations that have long stymied antibody-based HIV vaccine design.”

Find out more about HIV/AIDS.

Celebrities who have suffered from AIDS include Magic Johnson and Liberace.

Images: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/901875, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/236263

Sex may help determine response to vaccines

A recently conducted study has revealed that gender plays a major role in determining the efficacy of a vaccine to fight the disease. According to www.sciencedaily.com, the biological difference among the sexes is often overlooked by the physicians while giving a particular vaccine.  The research has been conducted by a team of scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study was based on the review of a number of analysis based on vaccine trials. It revealed that the difference in sexes can very well predict the difference between the frequency and the response to the vaccination which also includes the side effects like pain, fever or inflammation.

“This is likely due to the fact that women typically mount stronger immune responses to vaccinations compared to men. In some cases, women need substantially less of a vaccine to mount the same response as men. Pregnancy is also a factor that can alter immune responses to vaccines,” said Sabra Klein, lead researcher of the study.

As reported by www.physorg.com, the research study might lead to better understanding of the response to various vaccines by women and men, which will help health officials to optimize the dosage and the timing of the vaccines for better results. The study has been published in the journal called the Lancet Infectious Disease.

Images: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/901875, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1069414

Vaccine to cure skin cancer developed

A latest discovery has given clue to development of a new vaccine which might help cure skin cancer. According to www.sify.com, a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Centre, Chicago, has worked out a vaccine named as OncoVEX which might put an end to the plight of skin cancer patients.

The experiment revealed that vaccine directly attacks the tumour cells while leaving healthier cells undamaged and sends across the boosting agents that tend to increase body’s resistance towards melanoma.  Also, the vaccine seems to have helped patients recover from advanced stages of melanoma.

As per www.healthcarendiet.com, the study was conducted on about 50 patients who were in their advanced stages and were given about 6 to 9 months of survival period. The findings of the study found that by the end of course period of the vaccine more than 16  percent of patients were found to be disease free and continue to live cancer free lives even after 4 years now.

Actress Melanie Griffith reportedly had skin cancer removed from her face in late 2009

“Our study shows we may have a cure for some advanced melanoma patients and a drug which has real benefits for others. This will save thousands of lives a year,” said Howard Kaufman, lead researcher of the study.

Celebrities who have fought skin cancer in some form include Melanie Griffith, Bob Marley and Elizabeth Taylor.

Images: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1238929, PR Photos

Swine flu is still a real threat in the United States

The cases of swine flu contractions and deaths are still high, even though media reports on the subject are dwindling.  The swine flu has now essentially replaced the regular seasonal flu, and is still something that needs to be taken very seriously, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns, especially since new strains have been discovered in the U.S. and China.

Now the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Protection (CDC) are urging Americans to get swine flu vaccines, Reuters reports. Out of all countries that have reported cases of the swine flu (officially referred to as the H1N1 virus), America is the hardest hit, and continues to report deaths. According to CNN, the CDC has released figures that estimate that between 7,880 and 16,460 swine flu-related deaths occurred between April 2009, which is when the virus emerged, and December 12, 2009.

These statistics seem to have little affect on the American population, with many avoiding the readily available vaccinations. A mistake, Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC says.

“Many people believe the outbreak is over and I think it is too soon for us to have that complacency.”

And while an estimated 70 million Americans have gotten the vaccine, many are being careless about the follow-up shots, a necessity for protection. Particularly children are susceptible to the virus, with nine deaths having been reported in the U.S. just last week.

Schuchat tells CNN getting the follow-up flu shots is the right thing to do, especially when it comes to children.

“It would just be tragic for you to have gone so far to do the right thing and have your child get sick because they weren’t completely protected,” she says.

“This pandemic isn’t over yet.”

Find out more about the swine flu.

Celebrities who have battled the swine flu include Rupert Grint and Marilyn Manson.

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syringe2.jpg

Swine flu claims further victims in the United States

The death of a toddler in Massachusetts earlier this week underlines the fact that young individuals are particularly susceptible to the H1N1 virus. The nearly four-year-old child is the first to die during the autumn flu season this year, is however, the second child to die overall this year in the state due to swine flu.

According to Boston.com, Medical Director of the State Department of Health Dr. Lauren Smith said: “Death due to H1N1 is rare, but it does happen.”

“I understand that the death of the child is a tragic thing,” she continued.

Parents in Massachusetts and the rest of the United States are encouraged to pay particular attention to their children’s hygiene, including washing their hands more often than they perhaps normally would.

The toddler was not the only death in Massachusetts this week; an adult (age not specified) also succumbed to the H1N1 virus. This brings the Massachussets swine flu death toll to 17 this year.

While Dr. Smith maintains the influx of patients with flu-like symptoms is normal at this time of the year, special attention is being paid to ensure those with swine flu-like symptoms are treated appropriately.

The news of the two deaths in Massachusetts comes as North Carolina reported three deaths of individuals who had a drug-resistant form of swine flu. The three patients, all adults, were from different parts of the state and were treated in isolation at a hospital in Raleigh. A fourth patient, a woman, is currently still in treatment.

While doctors maintain that obtaining the swine flu vaccination is essential and state that the drugs used to combat the H1N1 virus are effective, health officials are reportedly watching the virus for mutations.

WRAL.com reports that Infectious Disease Specialist at Duke Medical Center, Dr. Cameron Wolfe, says mutations of the virus will not have an effect on the vaccination.

“The mutation is not expected to have any effect on the vaccine at all,” he said.

“So, the vaccine will still be very effective in protecting patients against this form of H1N1. If anything, it re-encourages us to encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

58 people have died in North Carolina since the pandemic began earlier this year.

If learning more about how to take care of yourself, loved ones and others is important to you consider a health course at Creighton University online.

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tamiflu_pill_Roche.jpg, Author: andrew wales from berks, uk