GENE THERAPY: Inadvertent changes: how engineered viruses disrupt normal gene expression Gene therapy holds the promise of treating genetic conditions by restoring normal gene function. The field has developed slowly over the last several decades with high importance placed on safety to reduce the chance that introduced genes cause problems. Gene therapy often relies on engineered viruses that use viral machinery to deliver the desired gene product in cells. Two recent studies - led by Fulvio Mavilio of the Istituto Scientifico H. San Raffaele and Eugenio Montini at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy - examine how virus integration impacts gene expression with the hope of improving viral vectors used in gene therapy. When genes are expressed a primary mRNA transcript is spliced so that sequences that do not encode for protein are eliminated.
According to a study in the April 25 issue of JAMA, the coverage for children to get vaccinated against influenza increased amongst low-income, hard-to-reach, minority children and adolescents if their patients received education-related text message reminders, as compared with the standard care, even though the overall coverage remained low. The researchers explained: "Timely vaccination is the cornerstone of influenza prevention through vaccination of susceptible populations before illness becomes epidemic in communities. The effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in children and adolescents ranges from 66 percent to 95 percent, depending on age, vaccine type, and season." Influenza is one of the most prevalent causes of hospitalization in children and adolescents. Between the ages 6 months to 18 years, children and adolescents are at increased risk for influenza illness and death.
Rotavirus vaccines offer the best hope for preventing severe rotavirus disease and the deadly dehydrating diarrhea that it causes, particularly in low-resource settings where treatment for rotavirus infection is limited or unavailable, according to studies published in the April 2012 special supplement to the journal Vaccine. The special supplement, "Rotavirus Vaccines for Children in Developing Countries, " summarizes data on the performance of rotavirus vaccines to help maximize their impact in developing countries and adds to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that rotavirus vaccines are a safe, proven, cost-effective intervention that save children's lives. Diarrhea is one of the top two killers of children under five years of age worldwide, and rotavirus is the leading cause of severe and fatal diarrhea in infants and young children.
Researchers at UC have confirmed that fat surrounding the outside of arteries in humans - particularly the left coronary artery - may influence the onset of coronary artery disease, or atherosclerosis, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. These findings, presented at the American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB) 2012 Scientific Sessions in Chicago, may help in identifying the molecular culprit, with the goal of creating targeted therapies for atherosclerosis before the disease forms. Coronary artery disease is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Tapan Chatterjee, PhD, and researchers in the division of cardiovascular diseases at UC found through global gene expression analysis (measurement of the activity of thousands of genes at once) that this outer fat tissue - known as perivascular fat tissue - is different from subcutaneous (beneath the skin) fat tissues in other parts of the body.
According to a study in the April 2012 International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, the plasma of children with autism disorder (AD) had significantly lower levels of various cytokines, compared with that of unrelated healthy siblings from other families, who had family members with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cytokines are small proteins released by cells of the immune system that act as intercellular mediators and communicators between cells. Researchers of the University of Kansas Medical Center analyzed 29 cytokine levels and discovered abnormal cytokine levels in five cells related to the T-helper cell immune system. They found three abnormal levels in the production of blood cells (hematopoiesis), which could potentially affect the production of antibodies that are needed in order to have a normally functioning immune system.