Archive by category | Odds and ends

Stanford program gives discoveries a shot at commercialization

In the late 1990s, Daria Mochly-Rosen, a protein chemist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, discovered that a certain class of drugs that inhibit enzymes known as protein kinase C could reduce cardiac damage after a heart attack. Working with Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), she patented the finding with hopes of licensing it to a pharmaceutical company. No one showed any interest.  Read more

Graphic design in pharma ads traces the history of healthcare

Graphic design in pharma ads traces the history of healthcare

Modern-day print ads for medicine are hardly worth a glance, with their universal fine print detailing drug side effects amidst stock-photo graphics and vague illusions to disease. However, such ads would be unrecognizable to their predecessors in the mid-twentieth century. At the time, pharmaceutical advertising was a new frontier for American artists working in marketing. And with a heavy influence from the European avant-garde movement, drug ads became bold, colorful statements for the nascent field of graphic design.  Read more

Python fatty acids could provide heart repair treatment

Python fatty acids could provide heart repair treatment

Hearts under stress need to work harder, and cardiac cells bulk up to facilitate this output. But healthy heart cell growth, caused by exercise or pregnancy, occurs by a different mechanism than so-called pathological growth, induced by heart attack or high blood pressure.  Read more

New patent sharing scheme targets neglected diseases, but with a possible catch

Diseases that disproportionally afflict the world’s poor provide few incentives for profit-seeking drug companies. In the past couple years, collaborative patent sharing schemes have popped up to remedy this by helping drugmakers develop low-cost medicines for less developed nations. Last year, for example, UNITAID launched the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which focuses on HIV drugs.  Read more

Polio eradication endpoint of 2012 will not be met, according to report

Polio eradication endpoint of 2012 will not be met, according to report

In 1988, health groups and governments around the world launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership aimed at eradicating the poliovirus by 2000. That year has come and gone, and still the contagious virus plagues many parts of the world, with ongoing outbreaks in China, Pakistan and Madagascar, just to name a few countries.  Read more

Ten years on from anthrax scare, analysis lags behind sequencing

Ten years on from anthrax scare, analysis lags behind sequencing

By Amber Dance A decade ago this month, a microbiologist at Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, took a special delivery from the US government. Federal investigators wanted the scientist, Paul Keim, to identify the anthrax that appeared in letters mailed to news organizations and US lawmakers. Overnight, he used PCR to determine that the anthrax sent was the Ames strain, commonly used in research—but that was just the beginning of a scientific investigation that would catapult the still wet-behind-the-ears science of microbial forensics to the forefront of the criminal inquiry. Ten years on, Keim’s PCR-based technique seems downright quaint in  … Read more

There’s no tiring of controversy in the XMRV–chronic fatigue syndrome link

There’s no tiring of controversy in the XMRV–chronic fatigue syndrome link

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks for Judy Mikovits. First, her controversial research on the viral cause of chronic fatigue syndrome was condemned by the journal that published it. Then, her alternative hypothesis — that a new gammaretrovirus closely related to the originally proposed culprit, xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), is responsible for chronic fatigue — was received with misgivings by the scientific community at a major international conference. Add to the mix allegations of fabricated results and a blow-out with her boss, and Mikovits ended up being fired from her job at the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI) for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nevada.  Read more

UPDATED: Nobel Prize stands despite laureate’s untimely death

UPDATED: Nobel Prize stands despite laureate’s untimely death

The Nobel Foundation today awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to three immune system pioneers. Bruce Beutler of the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and Jules Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg in France will split half of the 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.5 million) prize for their work on the activation of the immune system through the Toll pathway. The other half was awarded to Ralph Steinman, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York, for his discovery that dendritic cells are key to next stage in the body’s defenses.  Read more

Urine for a treat: Research into full bladders wins spoof medicine prize

Urine for a treat: Research into full bladders wins spoof medicine prize

The old adage goes that if you have a hard decision to make, you should just “sleep on it”. But perhaps a better strategy might be to drink half a dozen cups of water and wait for the pressure to build on your bladder. Then you might be able to make the best decision, according to research that was recognized with this year’s Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine, an award given out last night by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the true Nobel Prize (which will be announced on Monday).  Read more