Concern is brewing in Europe over new rules for gene-edited crops, could a new flu treatment be the answer, and why people might be prone to binge drinking.
(U.S. Food & Drug, 10/24/2018)
It’s that time of year again! Flu season is here, and most people are debating the effectiveness (or not) of the flu shot and ways to prevent influenza. Earlier this week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inched closer to a record-breaking year of drug approvals, green lighting the first new antiviral flu medicine with a unique action mechanism in nearly two decades. The drug, Japanese pharmaceutical company Shionogi’s Xofluza, is different from existing medication in the sense that it attacks the virus through a different method. In clinical trials, that method—delivered through a single-dose, oral drug—was found to relieve flu symptoms in people who had been experiencing them for two days or less faster than a placebo (and in about the same amount of time as other existing options). FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb hailed the new treatment option while also warning that it shouldn’t be considered a replacement for a flu shot given that the influenza season is now officially upon us.
(Forbes, 10/25/2018, David DiSalvo)
Binge drinking among college students is on the rise, but could there be an underlying reason why? Scientists may have just uncovered why some people are prone to binge drinking while others can keep their alcohol intake under control. While it’s tempting to write off the difference entirely to willpower, research is pointing to a chemical distinction in how brains are wired, and the discovery could change the game when it comes to treating alcoholism. The specific brain area affected by alcohol is called the ventral tegmental area (VTA). While the chemical’s effects on the VTA are known, the specific pathway alcohol uses to cause the release of more dopamine in the VTA hasn’t been – until now. Using a mouse model, researchers with the Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago have identified a potassium channel in the VTA (labeled KCNK13) that is blocked by alcohol, causing neurons in the brain area to become hyperactive and release more dopamine.
(Nature, 10/25/2018, Andrew J Wight)
Dozens of research institutes have warned that a European court ruling that severely restricts the use of a revolutionary gene editing technique to create new crops will jeopardize the Continent’s ability to feed itself. This week 170 European scientists from 75 research centers in more than a dozen countries released a position paper urging that the law should change in the short term so that crops with small DNA adaptations made through gene editing would follow the regulations for varieties produced through conventional methods such as selective breeding, not GM organisms. “From a scientific point of view, the ruling makes no sense,” their paper says. They add that the ruling will likely squeeze out start-ups and small biotech companies, as only the big multinationals will be able to afford to go through the very long and expensive regulatory process needed to get their crops to market.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola