Author Archives: sonia

Obama’s New Cancer Initiative Could Use A Shot Of Silicon Valley Innovation

From TechCrunch:

“From Google[x]’s cancer-seeking nanopills to Atomwise, a machine-learning platform working on finding the cure to orphan diseases, the Bay Area offers several startups and organizations coming at the problem in a different way.Incubators such as Y Combinator, IndieBio and Breakout Labs include numerous promising startups in the cancer research space as well.”

A Single Blood Test For All Cancers? Illumina’s GRAIL

Here’s the story in Forbes:

“What if a simple blood test could detect any cancer early, when it was still easy to treat?

It sounds like science fiction. But Illumina ILMN -0.61%, the $24 billion (market cap) biotechnology company that has pioneered cheap, efficient sequencing of DNA, says it could be a reality in a few years. It is launching a new startup, GRAIL (because such a test would be a holy grail for cancer doctors), with $100 million in funding.”

Experimental drug targeting Alzheimer’s disease shows anti-aging effects

From MedicalExpress:

“Salk Institute researchers have found that an experimental drug candidate aimed at combating Alzheimer’s disease has a host of unexpected anti-aging effects in animals.The Salk team expanded upon their previous development of a drug candidate, called J147, which takes a different tack by targeting Alzheimer’s major risk factor—old age. In the new work, the team showed that the drug candidate worked well in a mouse model of aging not typically used in Alzheimer’s research. When these mice were treated with J147, they had better memory and cognition, healthier blood vessels in the brain and other improved physiological features, as detailed November 12, 2015 in the journal Aging.”

Gene editing saves girl dying from leukemia

From New Scientist:

“One-year-old Layla was dying from leukaemia after all conventional treatments failed. “We didn’t want to give up on our daughter, though, so we asked the doctors to try anything,” her mother Lisa said in a statement released by Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, where Layla (pictured above) was treated.

And they did. Layla’s doctors got permission to use an experimental form of gene therapy using genetically engineered immune cells from a donor. Within a month these cells had killed off all the cancerous cells in her bone marrow.

It is too soon to say she is cured, the team stressed at a press conference in London on 5 November. That will only become clear after a year or two. So far, though, she is doing well and there is no sign of the cancer returning. Other patients are already receiving the same treatment.”

Antiaging protein is the real deal, Harvard team claims


“Harvard stem cell biologist Amy Wagers, cardiologist Richard Lee of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and their colleagues claim that a specific protein, GDF11, may explain young blood’s beneficial effects. They have reported that blood levels of GDF11 drop in mice as the animals get older and that injecting old mice with GDF11 can partially reverse age-related thickening of the heart. In two papers last year in Science, Wagers and collaborators also reported that GDF11 can rejuvenate the rodents’ muscles and brains.”

Turning cancer back into healthy tissue

This is rather exciting news. If it works in humans, it would be a game changer. A number of media sites wrote about this work by Dr Panos Anastasiadis and his team at the Mayo Clinic. Here’s the BBC’s story.

“Scientists believe they may have found a way to turn cancerous cells back into healthy tissue.
Their lab-based work suggests there is a biological step that can restore normality and stop cells replicating out of control.”

FDA to consider anti-aging drugs

According to Nature, researchers are poised to meet with the FDA this month to discuss “medicines that delay ageing-related disease as legitimate drugs.” This makes sense, given that there are a number of scientific teams working on such compounds. Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York is one of those scientists, and the compond he’s focused on is metformin, which has shown promise in previous studies.

Scientists Regrow an Entire Rat Limb in the Lab

A huge advance. Here’s the story from Discover Mag:

“A team of regenerative scientists and surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital successfully grew a semi-functional rat forelimb in the lab, employing a technique previously used to build bio-artificial organs. If someday perfected, the experimental approach could be used to create human limbs suitable for transplantation.”

Young blood helps repair fractured bones of ageing mice

From the New Scientist:

“Over the past few years, researchers have reversed muscle atrophy, memory loss, heart degradation and some of the effects of cognitive decline by pumping the blood of young mice into old mice. The results from these animal experiments were so intriguing that last year a team at Stanford University began the ultimate rejuvenation trial: giving blood plasma from under 30s to people with Alzheimer’s. Results are expected next year.

Now, Benjamin Alman, a professor of surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and his colleagues have tested young blood’s ability to heal bones.”

A 3-D-printed airway splint cures babies, then disappears

From the LAT:

“So far, the medical implant has been tested in three children between the ages of 3 months and 16 months. Before getting the implant, the young patients had spent much of their lives in intensive care, where they needed to be on ventilators full-time to help them breathe. But after surgeons inserted the small white device around their narrow airways, all three recovered rapidly, according to a study published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.”

Obama’s BRAIN Initiative’s first study results

Scientists controlled a mouse’s behavior using a method called “DREADDs (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs).” Not a great acronym (given the potential abuse for such a method), but it does reflect a shift away from linking mental “illnesses to “chemical imbalances” in the brain, instead tracing them to miswiring and misfiring in neuronal circuits.” Here’s the story.