Zika funding woes, brain cancer cell line missteps, multiple macrophage personalities and promising results of an Alzheimer’s study. 

Zika Funding Woes

Two top leaders in public health said the patchwork way that the US government has been using to finance the Zika response is a recipe for disaster. In a commentary in the Washington Post, Tom Frieden, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there have been 16,800 cases of Zika reported in the US and its territories, including 2,700 on the mainland. Pending a supplemental appropriation to meet this emerging crisis, the Obama administration has twice repurposed or transferred funding away from other pressing health priorities, including funds to immunize children, fight HIV/AIDS, and stop other outbreaks, they said. “This “robbing Peter to pay Paul” approach to an emerging public health threat is detrimental to both the Zika response and to the important non-Zika activities being tapped,” they wrote.

Brain Cancer Cell Line Missteps

(Nature, 8/ 31/2016, Elie Dolgin)

A cell line that is widely used to study brain cancer does not match the cells used to create the line nearly 50 years ago, or the tumor purported to be its source. The cell line in question, U87, was established in 1966 in Sweden using tissue from a 44-year-old woman with an aggressive brain cancer known as glioblastoma, and it has since become a workhorse of brain-cancer research and yielded around 2,000 scientific papers. A Swedish tumor biologist discovered the discrepancies, which were reported this week in Science Translational Medicine. The American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), a cell repository in Manassas, Virginia, that houses the world’s largest collection of biological materials, plans to update the details in its listing for U87.

Multiple Macrophage Personalities

(The Scientist, 8/31/2016, Ruth Williams)

Macrophages are often seen as biological trash collector because of their ability to gobble up microbes and other molecules. But macrophages are actually quite the multi-tasker. In addition to detecting and killing pathogens, they also recognize and repair damage to host tissues. How they determine which hat to wear is the subject of a new study that appeared this week in Science Signaling. The study, led by an Oxford University scientist, show how two key molecules trigger different pathways and proteins in the macrophages that govern contrasting responses. The paper addresses a major question concerning immune function, namely how does it distinguish been infectious and non-infectious tissue damage.

Encouraging Findings from AD Immunotherapy

(Science, 8/31/2016, Emily Underwood)

Newly published results from a closely watched clinical trial are being hailed as a big win by some in the Alzheimer’s treatment field. The trial data hint that an anti–β amyloid antibody drug called aducanumab warded off cognitive decline in people diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. Nearly all the data published in Nature had been presented earlier at science conferences. But this is the first time the results have been written up in a peer-reviewed journal, providing a “coherent, comprehensive, carefully vetted presentation of the data,” says neurologist Stephen Salloway of Brown University, one of the study investigators. “This is first time that a β amyloid–lowering drug is associated with a potential clinical benefit.”



—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery