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Archive - Aug 19, 2014

New Vaccine Shows Promise As Stronger Weapon Against Both Tuberculosis and Leprosy

In many parts of the world, leprosy and tuberculosis live side-by-side. Worldwide there are approximately 233,000 new cases of leprosy per year, with nearly all of them occurring where tuberculosis is endemic. The currently available century-old vaccine Bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG, provides only partial protection against both tuberculosis and leprosy, so a more potent vaccine is needed to combat both diseases. UCLA-led research may have found a stronger weapon against both diseases. In a study published in the September 2014 issue of Infection and Immunity, the researchers found that rBCG30, a recombinant variant of BCG that overexpresses a highly abundant 30 kDa protein of the tuberculosis bacterium known as Antigen 85B, is superior to BCG in protecting against tuberculosis in animal models, and also cross protects against leprosy. In addition, they found that boosting rBCG30 with the Antigen 85B protein, a protein also expressed by the leprosy bacillus, provides considerably stronger protection against leprosy. "This is the first study demonstrating that an improved vaccine against tuberculosis also offers cross-protection against Mycobacterium leprae (image), the causative agent of leprosy," said Dr. Marcus A. Horwitz, professor of medicine and microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and the study's senior author. "That means that this vaccine has promise for better protecting against both major diseases at the same time. It is also the first study demonstrating that boosting a recombinant BCG vaccine further improves cross-protection against leprosy," he added. In one experiment, mice were immunized with either rBCG30 or the old BCG vaccine, or they were given a salt solution.

Progeria Film (Premature Aging Syndrome) Wins Emmy

The Progeria Research Foundation (PRF) is thrilled to announce that Life According To Sam won the Emmy last week for "Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking." Congratulations to HBO Documentary Films, Sean Fine, and Andrea Nix Fine, and the entire talented, passionate team of people who have helped raise awareness of Progeria and PRF's work through this exceptional film. Sam continues to impact viewers every day with his lasting legacy of hope, determination and love. Watch the awards on Sunday, August 24 at 8 pm ET/PT on FXM; Click here ( and choose "Where to Watch" for local listings. Obtain a copy of the film Life According to Sam here ( and share it with a friend! As depicted in the film, one of Sam's greatest passions was music, and he realized his lifelong dream of being in his school's marching band. Keep Moving Forward ( was commissioned by the Foxborough Music Association in Sam's memory. It is based on Sam's life philosophy (, his enthusiasm, and the spirit of inclusion and solidarity his classmates showed him. "Keep Moving Forward" was part of Sam's philosophy for a happy life, and thanks to composer Mark Miller and other supporters, PRF is proud to provide the sheet music and full score for "Keep Moving Forward" at no cost to band directors. Visit ( for details.

MIT Scientists Develop Technique to Stimulate New Bone Growth

MIT chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue. This type of coated scaffold could offer a dramatic improvement over the current standard for treating bone injuries, which involves transplanting bone from another part of the patient’s body — a painful process that does not always supply enough bone. Patients with severe bone injuries, such as soldiers wounded in battle; people who suffer from congenital bone defects, such as craniomaxillofacial disorders; and patients in need of bone augmentation prior to insertion of dental implants could benefit from the new tissue scaffold, the researchers say. “It’s been a truly challenging medical problem, and we have tried to provide one way to address that problem,” says Nisarg Shah, a recent Ph.D. recipient and lead author of the paper, which as published online on August 18, 2014 in PNAS. Dr. Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Department of Chemical Engineering, is the paper’s senior author. Other authors are postdocs Dr. M. Nasim Hyder and Dr. Mohiuddin Quadir, graduate student Noémie-Manuelle Dorval Courchesne, Howard Seeherman of Restituo, Myron Nevins of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Myron Spector of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Two of the most important bone growth factors are platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2). As part of the natural wound-healing cascade, PDGF is one of the first factors released immediately following a bone injury, such as a fracture.

New Signaling Mode ID’d for Brassinosteroid Plant Hormones

Plants can adapt extremely quickly to changes in their environment. Hormones, chemical messengers that are activated in direct response to light and temperature stimuli help them achieve this. Plant steroid hormones similar to human sex hormones play a key role here. Online on August 19, 2014 in Nature Communications, scientists describe a new signaling mode for the brassinosteroid class of hormones. Plants are superior to humans and animals in a number of ways. They have an impressive ability to regenerate, which enables them to regrow entire organs. After being struck by lightning, for example, a tree can grow back its entire crown. But there is one major downside to life as a plant: They are quite literally rooted to the habitats in which they live and therefore completely at the mercy of the elements. In response to this dilemma, plants have developed mechanisms that enable them to rapidly adapt their growth and development to changes. Plant hormones are important enablers of this flexibility. Brassinosteroids play a key role here. These hormones have an effect at the lowest concentrations; they regulate cell elongation and division and are active throughout the entire life cycle of a plant. A team of researchers from Technische Universität München (TUM) and the University of Vienna have now mapped a new signaling mode for brassinosteroids. When brassinosteroids bind to a receptor on a cell wall, they trigger a multi-level cascade of reactions that regulates the activity of the CESTA (CES) transcription factor. Transcription factors bind to the DNA in a cell's nucleus and are capable of activating genes that change the protein composition in the cell.