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Publication: Health Tips Weekly
Scientists grow blood vessels from skin

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       HEALTH TIPS WEEKLY - Thursday, October 11, 2007 
             "News That Keeps You Healthy"   

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       Anthrax vaccine-antitoxin combo is created

LA JOLLA -- U.S. scientists have created an anthrax vaccine-
antitoxin combination that could provide rapid treatment and
long-term protection in a single injection. Scripps Research
Institute scientists Anette Schneemann and Marianne Manches-
ter, who led the study, said the immune response generated 
in rats by the new agent protected against lethal toxin ex-
posure after only one injection and is faster and stronger 
than any currently available vaccine. Concerns about anthrax
being used as a bioterror weapon prompted increased efforts 
to develop better antitoxins and vaccines. The vaccine in 
current use, developed during the 1950s, is safe and effect-
ive but requires multiple injections followed by annual boo-
sters, the researchers said. Current anthrax treatment invo-
lves antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and doxycycline that 
attack the bacteria but provide no protection against dang-
erous toxins secreted by the bacteria. In addition to its 
use against anthrax, Schneemann said the newly developed 
combination creates a multivalent platform that might also 
work against other infectious agents.    

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        One-shot gene therapy successful in mice

PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. scientists, in a study that might lead 
to genetic disease treatments, have discovered one shot of 
gene therapy can spread through the brain of an animal. By 
targeting a site in a mouse brain well connected with other 
areas, researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadel-
phia and the University of Pennsylvania successfully deliv-
ered a beneficial gene to the entire brain in one injection 
of gene therapy. If the results in animals can be replicated
in people, the finding might lead to gene therapy that could
treat many congenital human neurological disorders, such as 
Tay-Sachs disease. 
           AIDS-related virus causes cancer

PHILADELPHIA-- U.S. medical scientists have discovered how 
Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated Herpes Virus, or KSHV, subverts 
normal cells into causing cancer. University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine researchers determined a KSHV protein 
called latency-associated nuclear antigen, or LANA, helps 
the virus hide from the immune system in infected cells. 
When LANA takes the place of other proteins that control 
cell growth, it can cause uncontrolled cell replication.
"This is the first report of LANA interfering with the cru-
cial cellular protein called intracellular Notch," noted 
lead author Professor Erle Robertson, who said Notch is a 
signaling molecule that triggers cell development and main-
tains the stability of cells in many organs, such as the 
brain, heart, blood, and muscle. 

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       Past plant viruses offer ecological clues

EAST LANSING, Mich.-- A U.S. study found even 90-year-old 
plant viruses can be of help to people involved in ecology, 
human health or bioterrorism prevention. Michigan State Uni-
versity Assistant Professor Carolyn Malmstrom and colleagues 
isolated historical viral RNA sequences in native and invas-
ive grasses and found implications for the ways viruses be-
have today. "This work points out that the virus world does 
have an active, long-term role in nature, not just in agri-
culture," Malmstrom said. "We very much need to understand 
how viruses can move and influence our crops." Malmstrom 
said little is known about viruses in nature. But recent ad-
vances in molecular techniques have unveiled natural systems
teeming with viruses -- and thus raise the question of what 
impact such viruses exert. "We've always assumed viruses 
largely are manifested in agricultural systems, because the 
system is unbalanced due to human interaction," Malmstrom 
said. "But now we are understanding viruses are more common
in nature than people realize -- and that there's a whole 
class of biological interactions going on out there that we 
know hardly anything about."

        Scientists grow blood vessels from skin

NOVATO, Calif. -- A team of California researchers has deve-
loped a process to grow blood vessels in a laboratory using 
a sample of a patient's skin. Cytograft Tissue Engineering 
of Novato, Calif., used the six-to-nine month process to 
create the vessels and doctors in Argentina have performed 
the first human tests using the procedure on six patients, 
The New York Times reported Tuesday. The system eliminates 
the need for anti-rejection drugs and circumvents the risk 
of complications from inflammatory reactions by using only 
materials derived from a patient's own cells, rather than 
a donor or synthetic materials. Cytograft said the patients
were followed up on for 13 months, but a longer period of 
observation is required before use of the procedure can be 
made standard. Dr. Todd McAllister of Cytograft said the 
cost of the procedure would be about $15,000 to $25,000 per 
patient, but he said the price would likely be lowered as 
use of the system spreads. The company has submitted an 
application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for 
permission to conduct tests in the United States. 

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       Specific functions of serotonin identified

CINCINNATI -- U.S. scientists have discovered the neurotran-
smitter serotonin is responsible for inhibiting milk produc-
tion and secretion in human mammary glands. "Knowing the 
chemical responsible for inhibiting milk production could 
help us improve milk yields in other mammals," said Univer-
sity of Cincinnati Professor Nelson Horseman, the leader of 
the study. In lactating mammals, milk synthesis and secret-
ion gradually stops when mammary glands become full. Once 
mammary glands are emptied, milk production begins again. 
Horseman and his team determined serotonin -- a naturally 
occurring neurotransmitter made in the brain and intestinal 
tract -- is also produced in human mammary glands, building 
up as the mammary gland fills with milk, thereby inhibiting 
further milk synthesis and secretion. "If we can understand 
how to stop or reduce serotonin production in the mammary 
gland, we can reverse its actions," Horseman said, noting 
improved milk yields could help ease milk shortages in some 
parts of the world.

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