The best of 2014

The Immune System

Cambridge scientists have unveiled new data on the mechanisms of a contagious tumor that t...

While many animals face extinction due to poaching or loss of habitat, Tasmanian devil numbers are sbeing dramatically reduced due to a contagious tumor with a mortality rate of 100 percent. Called Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), it kills the animal in a matter of months. Now fresh research from the University of Cambridge has delivered new data on the mechanism of the disease which could increase the chances of developing a vaccine.  Read More

U.S. researchers are developing a new technique to treat autoimmune diseases like  rheumat...

A team of scientists at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has developed a new technique to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The approach, which is based on the infusion of cells that regulate immune responses, has been demonstrated to to be effective in mice, even weeks after the disease was initiated.  Read More

A new gene therapy approach could lead to the end of drug treatments for HIV patients (Ima...

One of the biggest problems in treating HIV patients is the amount of daily individual medications it takes to keep the virus at bay. In a new study, scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have engineered a new approach to tailored gene therapy that they say makes key cells of the immune system resistant to attack from the HIV virus, which may eventually lead to the removal of life-long dependencies on drugs for patients living with HIV.  Read More

A conceptual image of the vaccine patch developed at MIT that could enable the use of DNA ...

Taking a two-month-old in for vaccination shots and watching them get stuck with six needles in rapid succession can be painful for child and parent alike. If the work of an MIT team of researchers pans out, those needles may be thing of the past thanks to a new dissolvable polymer film that allows the vaccination needle to be replaced with a patch. This development will not only make vaccinations less harrowing, but also allow for developing and delivering vaccines for diseases too dangerous for conventional techniques.  Read More

A 750x view of the Poly(lactide-co-glycolide) nanoparticles used in the study (Image: Lonn...

Good news may be on the way for sufferers of multiple sclerosis – a team of scientists from Illinois-based Northwestern University, the University of Sydney, and the Myelin Repair Foundation in California have succeeded in halting the effects of the disease in lab mice. It all comes down to using nanoparticles to trick the immune system.  Read More

A new understanding of the immune system may be paving the way for the development of a va...

Most people probably know that plaque buildup in the arteries surrounding the heart is one of the major causes of heart disease. The reason that the plaque does accumulate, however, is often due to an inflammation of the artery walls. Recently, scientists from California’s La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology were able to identify the type of immune cells responsible for that inflammation. With this knowledge in hand, they now hope to be able to develop a vaccine for heart disease.  Read More

Researchers have found a way to block addiction to various opioid drugs, including heroin ...

Unlike the heroin-specific vaccine we covered last year, an international team of scientists from the University of Adelaide in Australia and the University of Colorado Boulder has now found a way to block addiction to various opioid drugs, including heroin and morphine. Importantly, the new approach doesn’t negatively affect the pain-relieving properties of these drugs.  Read More

The synthetic protein EP67 acts on the immune system to attack the influenza virus (Colori...

We’ve seen promising moves towards developing a universal or near-universal influenza vaccine, but researchers at the Donald P. Shiley BioScience Center have taken a different tack to ward of the crafty virus. Although the flu virus actively keeps the immune system from detecting it for a few days, giving it time to gain a foothold, the researchers have found that a powerful synthetic protein, known as EP67, can kick start the immune system so that it reacts almost immediately to all strains of the virus.  Read More

A single dose of a new nicotine vaccine could provide lifetime protection from the pleasur...

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed a vaccine that could help existing smokers quit for good and prevent those yet to try cigarettes from ever becoming addicted. The vaccine turns the recipient’s kidney into a factory continuously churning out antibodies that clear the bloodstream of nicotine before it has a chance to reach the brain and deliver it’s addictive rush. Unlike previously tested nicotine vaccines that only last a few weeks, the effects of a single dose of this new vaccine should last a lifetime.  Read More

Scientists have developed a method of duplicating an individual person's unique immune sys...

Because everyone’s immune system is different, it’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty how any given person will react to a specific medication. In the not-too-distant future, however, at-risk patients may get their own custom-altered mouse, with an immune system that’s a copy of their own. Medications could be tried out on the mouse first, and if it showed no adverse reactions, then the person could receive them. If the person had an autoimmune disease, the mouse could also provide valuable insight into its treatment. A team led by Columbia University Medical Center’s Dr. Megan Sykes has recently developed a method of creating just such a “personalized immune mouse.”  Read More

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