Welcome to today's edition of Morning Headlines, keeping you updated with the latest emerging stories this morning in key science and technology sectors worldwide.
This morning, we have picked the following trending stories:
New Throat Cancer Gene Uncovered
Researchers at King's College London and Hiroshima University, Japan, have identified a specific gene linked to throat cancer following a genetic study of a family with 10 members who have developed the condition. The study, published in American Journal of Human Genetics, uncovered a mutation in the ATR gene, demonstrating the first evidence of a link between abnormality in this gene and an inherited form of cancer. The researchers say this finding raises new ideas about genetic factors linked to throat cancer and provides a platform for exploring the role of ATR more generally in cancer biology.
Professor John McGrath from the King's College London Genetic Skin Disease Group at St John's Institute of Dermatology, said: 'This is an intriguing study which not only provides a genetic explanation for an unusual syndrome, but also provides a unique novel insight into how the ATR gene may be associated with a specific form of cancer. It is a classic example of how we can use rare conditions to give us insight into more common diseases.
Vaccination May Eliminate HIV-1
In what may prove to be a major step forward for the treatment of HIV-1 infection, scientists have discovered an effective way to eliminate a notoriously persistent form of the virus that does not respond to current therapies. The research, published online by Cell Press on March 8th from the journal Immunity, describes a vaccination strategy that may be essential for successful eradication efforts and should therefore be considered for future clinical trials. Current antiretroviral therapies suppress the ability of HIV-1 to copy itself, but they cannot completely eliminate the virus, the researchers said. Under these treatment conditions, HIV-1 enters a silent, or "latent," state that rapidly becomes active again as soon therapy is stopped.
Previous research has suggested that reactivation of the latent HIV-1 is an important first step for complete elimination of the virus, but it is not clear whether the activated virus or the host immune response will then lead to elimination of the infected cells. In the current study, the researchers observed that infected T cells survived after the latent virus was reactivated. However, when the immune response of the host T cells was heightened before the virus was reactivated, the infected cells were efficiently eliminated.
Pig Model May Lead to Treatment of Eye Disease
A newly developed, genetically modified pig may hold the keys to the development of improved treatments and possibly even a cure for retinitis pigmentosa (RP), the most common inherited retinal disease in the United States. The pig model was developed by researchers in the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and at the National Swine Resource and Research Center at the University of Missouri. The researchers used miniature pigs, which weigh about 150 pounds at maturity, because they are much more manageable than the larger, domestic pig. The results of the study were published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
Researchers used an abnormal gene, RHO P23H, the most common cause of autosomal dominant RP, in which affected individuals have a 50/50 chance of passing the disease on to their children. They inserted the mutant gene into the nucleus of miniature pig embryos, which were then transferred into surrogate mothers for gestation. The offspring expressed the mutant gene that causes RP and their eyes showed classic features of the eye disease. This animal model will now be used to screen the efficacy of various novel therapies for this disease, including stem cell transplantation, drug therapy, gene therapy and the retinal prosthesis. Retinitis pigmentosa affects about 1 in 4000 Americans and can cause retinal degeneration, which leads to night blindness, loss of peripheral vision, and ultimately total vision loss.