FDA resumes cancer trial, mice regain partial vision and a CDC assessment of the Zika threat for Olympic-bound individuals.
(The Scientist, 7/11/2016, Tanya Lewis)
Scientists from Stanford have shown that combining visual stimulation and chemical activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin led retinal ganglion cells in blind mice to regenerate, restoring partial vision. The regenerated axons also reconnected to their correct targets in the brain, the researchers reported. The findings appeared this week in Nature Neuroscience. Scientists had previously succeeded in partially regenerating murine retinal axons by stimulating growth factors or removing growth inhibitors. However, the regenerated retinal nerves did not regrow the full length of the optic nerve and reconnected to the wrong targets.
(STAT, 7/12/2016, Damian Garde)
Testing of an experimental cancer treatment that removesa patient’s own white blood cells and then rewires them to home in on cancerous growths resumed July 13 after being halted two days earlier in the wake of three patient deaths. The deaths sparked widespread fears over the approach known as CAR-T therapy—a type of immunotherapy—but Juno Therapeutics, which developed the therapy, attributed the deaths to an unforeseen reaction between the re-engineered blood cells and a chemotherapy drug that was being used to prepare the patients for trial, and is now no longer part of the protocol. The US Food and Drug Administration apparently accepted the biotech’s explanation and approved the new protocol this week.
(Washington Post, 7/13/2016, Lena Sun)
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has cast a shadow over athletes or travelers headed to Brazil for the Olympics this summer, but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that with the exception of four countries—Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea and Yemen—the virus did not pose a significant risk for further transmissions. The CDC based its conclusions on a mathematical model that looked at the worst-case scenarios. They conducted the analysis to predict those countries at risk for importing Zika virus solely from “introduction by a single traveler” to the competitions. As many as 500,000 international visitors and athletes from 206 countries are expected to travel to Rio for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, according to Brazilian tourism officials.
—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery