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Vol. LIX, No. 12
June 15, 2007

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  Infection with the H5N1 strain of bird flu seems to be affecting fewer wild birds such as these.  
  Infection with the H5N1 strain of bird flu seems to be affecting fewer wild birds such as these.  
Past Saves Present

An international team of scientists, including NIAID researchers, has successfully used human antibodies to protect mice from the avian flu. In the research, published May 29 in PLoS Medicine, the group reported using antibodies derived from immune cells of four Vietnamese adult survivors of H5N1 avian influenza to treat H5N1-infected mice, while they also protected the mice from an otherwise lethal dose of the virus. It's a finding that, if confirmed through further trials, could lead to valuable public health interventions for an influenza pandemic. The scientists noted that the idea of using blood products from flu survivors for treatment isn't new: research shows that using serum from recovered flu patients for victims of the 1918-19 flu pandemic sometimes saved recipients' lives. The World Organisation for Animal Health announced in May that the H5N1 strain of bird flu is infecting fewer wild birds (like those in photo), however, a form of the bird flu virus that can be transmitted between domestic flocks remains unchanged.

Live Action Enzyme Tracking

NIAMS-supported scientists have developed a method that allows researchers to track an immune system enzyme in live animals. The enzyme, known as activation-induced cytidine deaminase, is believed to play a crucial role in normal immune response, as well as in autoimmunity and B-cell tumor development. Being able to trace the enzyme's activity-which scientists did by creating two mouse strains with a green fluorescent protein and a yellow fluorescent protein, respectively-in live animals has the potential to help solve some mysteries of the immune system, leading to possible treatments and even methods of prevention, researchers said. The report, also supported by NCI, was published in the May 14 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Enzymes and Resistance

At the same time, a study conducted in part by NCI researchers revealed that low levels of another enzyme can be key to resistance in Ewing's sarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The findings, published in the June issue of the American Journal of Pathology, focus on a protein called TRAIL that binds to receptors on the surface of cancer cells and sets off a series of signals that cause the cells to kill themselves. Researchers found that Ewing's sarcoma cells that express low levels of an enzyme, caspase- 8, are resistant to TRAIL-induced killing. However, adding a protein produced by cells of the immune system to treatment with TRAIL caused the resistant cells to produce more caspase- 8, making them once again sensitive to TRAIL-induced death. This research could eventually lead to better forms of treatment for Ewing's sarcoma, the second most common bone tumor in children and adolescents.

High Volume, High Quality

Finally, according to recent NICHD-supported research, very low birth weight infants are significantly more likely to survive when delivered in hospitals with high-level neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) that care for more than 100 such newborns each year, over comparable facilities that provide care to fewer than 100 such children annually. The findings, published in the May 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, provide further evidence of the link between high volume and high quality in NICUs that previous studies have established and point to the need for better care of very low birth weight infants, who weigh less than 1,500 grams, or about 3.3 pounds. High-level NICUs offer mechanical ventilation and sometimes provide major surgery.-

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