The Big Eater: How the immune system alters the pancreas during obesity

by Lara Roach figures by Rebecca Senft In Greek, macrophage means “big eater,” and that is exactly their job. Like a growing teenager or athlete after a big game, macrophages are activated immune cells whose primary focus is to “eat.” But instead of, say, a plate of pasta, macrophages take in and digest pathogenic microbes, unhealthy molecules, and even other cells in the body when they … Continue reading The Big Eater: How the immune system alters the pancreas during obesity

Understanding Ownership and Privacy of Genetic Data

by Julian Segert figures by Aparna Nathan In Mountain View, California, near the headquarters of Facebook and Google, lies 23andMe, a company that set out to make genetic testing approachable and affordable for the general public. The company started with the goal of providing risk assessments for genetic diseases, but has recently gained more popularity by offering insights into geographical ancestry. 23andMe is unique among … Continue reading Understanding Ownership and Privacy of Genetic Data

Bacteria may live naturally inside the human brain

Over the past decade, the gut microbiome and its effects on human health have become a topic of considerable interest in the scientific community and popular media. The gut microbiome is composed of bacteria that naturally reside in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which have an effect on various biological processes such as digestion, metabolism, regulation of the immune system and protection against pathogens. Interestingly, researchers … Continue reading Bacteria may live naturally inside the human brain

Facing Facts: Why a transmissible facial cancer is decimating Tasmanian devil populations

by Garrett Dunlap figures by Aparna Nathan Perhaps no animal is better suited to its name than the Tasmanian devil. While it might look cute and cuddly, in reality this animal is quite the opposite. With the strongest bite of any mammal and an infamous blood-curdling scream, the Tasmanian devil is a fierce and formidable creature known to attack animals many times its size. But … Continue reading Facing Facts: Why a transmissible facial cancer is decimating Tasmanian devil populations

Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely

Infectious diseases — including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria — are a leading cause of death worldwide, particularly in low income countries and among young children. A new study found that the vaccines aimed to prevent many of the world’s most deadly diseases may not be developed any time soon. The study, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, focused on 538 … Continue reading Vaccines for World’s Most Deadly Infectious Diseases Unlikely

Catching Cancer: Blood Test for Early-Stage Diagnosis

What is the difference between a normal cell and a cancer cell? The answer lies in their DNA. Cancer results from the accumulation of genetic mutations, which trigger uncontrolled cell growth. Cancer’s mutated DNA can reveal its presence early on in the disease. Like leaving fingerprints at a crime scene, tumor cells release small pieces of DNA into the bloodstream. This “circulating tumor DNA” can now … Continue reading Catching Cancer: Blood Test for Early-Stage Diagnosis

Expanding the Antibiotic Arsenal: A New Drug of Last Resort

Prior to the discovery of antibiotics, bacterial infections were the leading cause of death worldwide. Now, treating infections is often a routine procedure – simply requiring a doctor’s visit and a prescribed antibiotic. However, this simple routine has become marred by the emergence of antibiotic resistance. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is fueling the rise of resistant bacteria. In response to antibiotic exposure, bacteria have evolved … Continue reading Expanding the Antibiotic Arsenal: A New Drug of Last Resort

Bacteria Resistant to Last-Line Antibiotic Found in US

In May, researchers identified for the first time a bacterial infection in the US that was resistant to the last-resort antibiotic colistin. Colistin was the last remaining antibiotic effective against all bacteria in the country – a weapon of last resort. This particular infection was sensitive to other antibiotics and was cured, but the presence of colistin resistant bacteria in the US (it was known … Continue reading Bacteria Resistant to Last-Line Antibiotic Found in US

Can Cataracts Be Cured With a Simple Eye Drop?

An article titled “Eye Drops Could Dissolve Cataracts” described new research findings that eye drops containing a biomolecule, called lanosterol, could be a new treatment for cataracts. Cataracts create cloudy vision due to clumps of proteins that form on the lens inside of the eye. The article reported that the eye drops not only dissolved the clumps in lens cells in the lab, but that … Continue reading Can Cataracts Be Cured With a Simple Eye Drop?

Is Disease in My Future? How Your Genome Might One Day Answer That Question

Many human diseases are influenced by genetics, and scientists and doctors have attempted to understand the connection between rare mutations in a person’s genome, called genetic variants, and the likelihood of a disease outcome. Some variants can have little to no effect on a person developing a particular disease, while others can have a much larger impact and are considered disease-causing, or pathogenic. Doctors often … Continue reading Is Disease in My Future? How Your Genome Might One Day Answer That Question