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Archive - Apr 29, 2009

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Hissing Cockroach Harbors Mold-Fighting Mites

Researchers report that the Madagascar hissing cockroach carries mites that inhibit the growth of molds on the large insect. The scientists suggest that this might reduce the risk of human allergy to these insects, which are popular educational tools and pets. This popularity owes to the insect’s gentle nature, large size, odd sounds, and low maintenance. The mites do not directly destroy the molds, but rather consume water and organic debris that would otherwise be used by the molds. The presence of the mites on the cockroach reduces the presence of molds by at least 50 percent. “By suppressing the molds, the mites have a role in reducing allergic reactions to cockroaches,” said an author of the study, which was published in Symbiosis. [Press release]

Preventive Therapy for Type 1 Diabetes Shows Promise

Scientists in Australia have shown that use of a particular molecule (BCMA) that blocks the action of a B-cell survival hormone (BAFF) may provide a potential preventive therapy for type 1 diabetes. Working with mice that spontaneously develop type 1 diabetes, the researchers found that if BAFF activity was blocked prior to onset of the disease, none of the mice developed diabetes. "This is a remarkable finding, as other B-cell depletion methods tested elsewhere have just delayed or reduced disease incidence," said one of the authors of the study. By removing B-cells from the picture for a while, the researchers indicated, it appears the T regulatory cells are allowed to function as they should, subduing killer T-cells and somehow making them tolerant of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The blocking molecule (BCMA) is already being used in clinical trials for other autoimmune diseases. The research was published online in Diabetes. [Press release]

Oral Delivery System Developed for RNAi

Researchers have shown that interfering RNA (RNAi) enclosed in a yeast-derived particle can be orally delivered to mice to effectively turn off a target gene in cells (macrophages) influencing inflammation. This work has important implications for the promising field of RNAi therapeutics, where progress has been hindered by difficulties in achieving targeted RNAi delivery. "We are very encouraged by these results, which show that oral delivery of a therapeutic dose of small, interfering RNA (siRNA) to a specific cell type in an animal model is possible, and that evidence of gene silencing using this delivery system is measurable," said Professor Michael Czech of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the senior author of the paper. This work is reported in the April 30 issue of Nature. [UMMS press release] [Nature abstract]