Preventing people from contracting Lyme disease, identifying autism at an early age and shrinking ovarian tumors in women.
(VPR, 6/7/2017, Jane Lindholm & Ric Cengeri)
Ticks are a big concern this time of year. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a way to prevent people from contracting Lyme disease? Well, a group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School are hoping to make Lyme disease in humans a thing of the past. They are working on an antibody drug that would prevent people from contracting the tick-borne disease. The drug is called Lyme PReP, which stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis.” Lyme PReP is not a vaccine, and as such works differently. Researchers have identified the specific antibody that would defend your body against Lyme disease if bitten by an infected tick. In mice, it is 100% effective and human trials could start as early as next spring.
(New Scientist, 6/7/2017, Anil Ananthaswamy)
A recent study is being hailed as a game-changer for the early diagnosis of autism. A machine-learning algorithm has analyzed brain scans of 6-month-old children and predicted with near-certainty whether they will show signs of autism when they reach the age of 2. The finding means we may soon be able to intervene before symptoms appear, although whether that would be desirable is a controversial issue. Previous work has identified that bundles of nerve fibers in the brain develop differently in infants with older siblings with autism from how they do in infants without this familial risk factor. The changes in these white matter tracts in the brain are visible at 6 months.
(Lab Roots, 6/8/2017, Xuam Pham)
Ovarian cancers have one of the highest mortality rates, ranking fifth in cancer deaths among women. Of the 22,000 new estimated cases of ovarian cancer this year, only 10-15 percent of patients will be successfully treated. Those are some alarming statistics. Thankfully a new trial designed to test the safety of an ovarian cancer drug showed some stunning results in shrinking the tumor in women. The mechanism of action behind the drug ONX-0801 is similar to folic acid. Once inside the cancer cells, the drug blocks a molecule called thymidylate synthase, which induces lethal damage to the cells’ DNA structure. Half of the women in the trial showed reduced tumor size, which has prompted the swift move towards bigger clinical trials.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola