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Archive - Mar 25, 2012

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National Lab Licenses Powerful Microbial Detection Techology to MOgene

On March 22, 2012, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) announced that it has licensed its microbial detection array technology to a St. Louis, Missouri-based company, MOgene LC, a supplier of DNA microarrays and instruments. Known formally as the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), the technology could enable food safety professionals, law enforcement, medical professionals, and others to detect within 24 hours any virus or bacteria that has been sequenced and included among the array's probes. Developed between October 2007 and February 2008, the LLMDA detects viruses and bacteria with the use of 388,000 probes that fit in a checkerboard pattern in the middle of a one-inch wide, three-inch long glass slide. The current operational version of the LLMDA contains probes that can detect more than 2,200 viruses and more than 900 bacteria. The LLMDA provides researchers with the capability of detecting pathogens over the entire range of known viruses and bacteria. Current multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques can at most offer detection from among 50 organisms in one test. The Livermore team plans to update probes on the array with new sequences of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms from GenBank and other public databases about once per year, in addition to using sequences obtained from collaborators for their probes. LLNL's current collaborators include the University of California, San Francisco; the Blood Systems Research Institute; the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston); the Statens Serum Institut of Copenhagen, Denmark; the University of California, Davis; Imigene; the U.S. Food & Drug Administration; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Naval Medical Research Center; and the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, California.

Scientists ID Novel Pathway for T-Cell Activation in Leprosy

UCLA researchers and colleagues have pinpointed a new mechanism that potently activates T-cells, the group of white blood cells that plays a major role in fighting infections. In work published March 25, 2012 online in Nature Medicine, the team specifically studied how dendritic cells, immune cells located at the site of infection, become more specialized to fight the leprosy pathogen known as Mycobacterium leprae. Dendritic cells, like scouts in the field of a military operation, deliver key information about an invading pathogen that helps activate the T-cells in launching a more effective attack. It was previously known that dendritic cells were important for a strong immune response and the number of such cells at an infection site positively correlated with a robust reaction. However, until now it was poorly understood how dendritic cells become more specialized to address specific types of infections. The researchers found that a protein called NOD2 triggers a cell-signaling molecule called interleukin-32 that induces general immune cells called monocytes to become specialized information-carrying dendritic cells. "This is the first time that this potent infection-fighting pathway with dendritic cells has been identified, and demonstrated to be important in fighting human disease," said the study's first author Dr. Mirjam Schenk, postdoctoral scholar, division of dermatology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In conducting the study, scientists used monocytes taken from the blood of healthy donors and leprosy patients and incubated the cells with the pathogen M. leprae or specific parts of the mycobacteria, known to trigger NOD2 and TLR2, both associated with immune system activation.