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Vol. LXIII, No. 18
September 2, 2011
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Digest

Any Mix of Injected or Spray Flu Vaccine Shields Toddlers

In this British medical journal image, the head and shoulders of John Merrick, who became known as the Elephant Man, are illustrated.
Children younger than 3 receive the same protective antibody response from the recommended two doses of licensed seasonal influenza vaccines regardless of whether the doses are injected by needle, inhaled through a nasal spray or provided through one dose of each in any order, according to NIAID-funded research.

Children younger than 3 years old receive the same protective antibody response from the recommended two doses of licensed seasonal influenza vaccines regardless of whether the two doses are injected by needle, inhaled through a nasal spray or provided through one dose of each in any order, according to NIAID-funded research at vaccine and treatment evaluation units.

Doctors usually give young children two matching vaccines and one goal of the study was to determine whether giving two different types of vaccines works just as well. In addition, the researchers found that young children who received at least one dose of the nasal spray vaccine— a live, attenuated influenza virus vaccine— made a wide array of immune T cells. Stimulating broad T-cell responses may be important for protection against many diverse flu strains. The report appeared online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

New Model of ALS Developed

By isolating cells from patients’ spinal tissue within a few days after death, NIH-funded researchers have developed a new model of the paralyzing disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They found that during the disease, cells called astrocytes become toxic to nerve cells—a result previously found in animal models but not in humans. The new model could be used to investigate many more questions about ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

ALS can run in families, but in the majority of cases, it is sporadic, with no known cause. The researchers derived astrocytes from patients who had succumbed to either type of ALS and found that the cells secrete toxic factors that cause nerve cells to degenerate. A similar mechanism has been found in mouse models of ALS.

“The mouse models capture a type of familial ALS that accounts for only 2 percent of all cases. The field has begged for new disease models that can provide a clear window into sporadic ALS,” said senior author Dr. Brian Kaspar at the Nationwide Children’s Research Institute in Columbus, Ohio.

The research is reported in Nature Biotechnology and was funded in part by NINDS. ALS is characterized by the death of motor neurons, which are muscle-controlling nerve cells in the spinal cord. As these neurons die, the body’s voluntary muscles weaken and waste away.

Cigarette Smoking Implicated in Half of Bladder Cancers In Women

Current cigarette smokers have a higher risk of bladder cancer than previously reported and the risk in women is now comparable to that in men, according to a study by NCI. The report was published Aug. 16 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This latest research uses data from more than 450,000 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, a questionnaire-based study that was initiated in 1995, with follow-up through the end of 2006.

While previous studies showed that only 20 to 30 percent of bladder cancer cases in women were caused by smoking, these new data indicate that smoking is responsible for about half of female bladder cancer cases—similar to the proportion found in men in current and previous studies.

The increase in the proportion of smoking-attributable bladder cancer cases among women may be a result of the increased prevalence of smoking by women, so that men and women are about equally likely to smoke, as observed in the current study and in the U.S. population overall, according to CDC surveillance.

eMERGE Moves Closer to Tailored Treatments Based on Patients’ Genome

Researchers in the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) network will receive $25 million over the next 4 years to demonstrate that patients’ genomic information linked to disease characteristics and symptoms in their electronic medical records can be used to improve their care. The grants are from NHGRI, which supports research by the network’s seven institutions and coordinating center.

“Our goal is to connect genomic information to high-quality data in electronic medical records during the clinical care of patients. This will help us identify the genetic contributions to disease,” said NHGRI director Dr. Eric Green. “We can then equip health care workers everywhere with the information and tools that they need to apply genomic knowledge to patient care.”—compiled by Carla Garnett


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