Screen Your Newborns

By: Nina Jean-Jacques

Production of white blood cells

Expecting parents are usually overwhelmed with concerns about the health of their unborn child. When the baby is born with ten fingers and toes and all is well, the parents breathe a sigh of relief and start to think about the future. However, sometimes there can be a major bump in the road that can be seen a few months after the birth of their child.

The blood disorder, T-cell lymphopenia, is characterized by have an abnormally low amount of white blood cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cell and are what the body uses to fight infection. The disease can appear in infants that seem healthy at birth after a short period of time. Symptoms of the disease do not appear until infections arise, putting the child in danger.

There is hope for parents. A study, led by John M. Routes, M.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Research Institute in Milwakee, WI, shows that T-cell lymphopenia can be screened for at birth. There is a list of standard diseases that newborns are screened for. The yearlong study screened every infant born in Wisconsin in 2008 and took dried blood from the standard screening blood sample to test for the presence of a high amount of DNA circles that produce cells that a T cell can bind. In the time the study was conducted, 71,000 infants were screened for T-cell lymphopenia, eight of which displayed characteristics of the illness. The use of screening programs can prevent many health expenses for families and even prevent premature deaths. The cost for this type of screen is around $5.50 and could take a large burden off of a family, just by knowing the health status of their child. Most states already screen for at least 30 diseases for newborn infants and adding T-cell lymphopenia would not be a large problem.

Newborn screening is an essential part of preventing early deaths. Every parent should be aware of what is and what is not being screened for. Diseases can occur without having any history of them in the family. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to children’s health.

Fore more information on newborn screening tests.


Old Chinese Medicine, New Cancer Treatment

Sara Braniecki

    Dr. Ahmed Chadli and fellow researchers at the Medical College of Georgia believe that they are on the right track to finding a new cancer treatment using celastrol, a plant derivative derived from trees and shrubs called celastracaea that the Chinese have used to treat symptoms such as fever, chills, and inflammation for centuries.

    Dr. Chadli and his colleagues think that they can devise a way for celastrol to be used for cancer treatment by using it to inactivate P23, a protein required for cancer growth.  Normally, P23 is a chaperone protein aiding the heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90).  Hsp90 has many chaperone proteins for its many different functions, and it is challenging for researchers to find a chaperone protein that will selectively target the Hsp90 implicated in a specific tumor.  The MCG researchers believe that celastrol has the specificity to control cancer cell growth by forcing the Hsp90 to cluster together, inactivating it.

    “Cancer cells need Hsp90 more than normal cells because cancer cells have thousands of mutations.  They need chaperones all the time to keep their mutated proteins active.  By taking heat shock proteins away from cells, the stabilization occurs and cell death occurs,” explains Dr. Chadli.

Dr. Chadli in the laboratory
Dr. Chadli researching in the laboratory.


Dr. Chadli is a researcher and professor at the Medical College of Georgia and an alumnus of the Mayo Clinic.  He has been researching Hsp90 for over 10 years and has several works published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry and other journals.  He conducts thorough research to understand the intricacies of all the molecules and pathways associated with Hsp90.  Cancer therapy can be greatly refined with ambitious research like his.  Dr. Chadli looks forward to future studies on cancer patients with greater dosage of celastrol, hopefully leading to greater results in the therapy.

Further information.

New Treatment Plan for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

By Nina Jean-Jacques

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that affects approximately 3000 people in the United States every year. The disease is characterized by a translocation between two genes which results in over-expression of the cell cycle, creating enlarged lymph nodes and is found in inner mantle cell B-cells. MCL readily spreads to bone marrow and therefore, can be irresponsive to chemotherapy treatment.

Cells that display MCL

Studies show the addition of rituximab to the current regimen of treatment for MCL greatly increases response rates. Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody which protects against a protein found on B-cell surfaces.

Rituximab mechanism of action

The current routine for treating the disease is cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP). Combining these drugs with rituximab (R-CHOP), forms an alternative chemotherapy option for sufferers of MCL. Because chemotherapy is toxic to cells, good and bad, developing a mixture of treatments that show the best results in the least amount of time keeps the patient in the finest physical condition. A study showed 16 out of 26 patients treated with R-CHOP achieved remission. Five of these 16 patients needed repeated doses. The other ten patients did relapse, but did show a response to the treatment. The study also gave 38 patients high dose CHOP treatments. Of these, 33 patients went remained in remission. From this study, it can be determined that R-CHOP is effective in treating MCL. However, many patients do not need the rituximab and would be given the antibodies unnecessarily (full article).

Chemotherapy is known to have devastating side effects. People of all ages are subjected to this treatment. It is sometimes the only option for those suffering from various illnesses, as of now. Researchers should start from scratch when trying to find the treatment of a disease, rather than seeing the effect of a medication for a different disease. Giving a person, who is already suffering from a deathly disease, a needless drug is almost cruel. Finding drugs that directly and specifically target a disease would minimize the unnecessary side effects of medication. Using drugs that are already known is a good starting point. This method of research has aided in the development of uncountable drugs. It is also important to get drugs to the public that do fabricate a response in patients so that there is some hope for recovery. Hopefully in the near future, drugs will be made highly specific to a disease and create fewer side effects.

Structure of key HIV protein solved, offers hope to millions of HIV/AIDS patients

Views of the integrase enzyme bound to viral DNA and to the integrase inhibitors MK0518 and GS9137 (b and c).

By Liz H.

After nearly 4 years and 40,000 trials, a team of researchers from Harvard University and Imperial College London has reported the structure of the HIV enzyme integrase in a landmark study published in the January 31st issue of Nature (full article).  Integrase is a key retroviral enzyme that allows the virus to insert its DNA into the chromosomes of host cells and replicate. This discovery sheds light on how current integrase inhibitors target the enzyme and may lead to the development of more effective therapeutics.

Scientists grew a crystal of the enzyme obtained from the Prototype Foamy Virus, a model for HIV, and used a synchotron machine at the Diamond Light Source in South Oxfordshire to take a picture of the enzyme’s structure using a method known as x-ray diffraction.  These crystals were then soaked in integrase inhibitors and the drugs’ actions were also studied using x-ray diffraction.  Scientists hope that their findings will allow them to develop improved next-generation integrase inhibitors.

Over 33 million people are infected by HIV and combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) is used to slow the progression of disease (source). However, the increasing prevalence of multi-drug resistance, high cost, and side effects of therapeutics undermines the efficacy of current treatments.