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Archive - Jul 31, 2017

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CLL Cancer Cells Put Brakes on Immune System Using Exosomes Containing Y RNA; Tumor-Derived Exosomes Modulate PD-L1 Expression in Monocytes

In order for cancer cells to successfully spread and multiply, they must find a way to avoid the body's immune system. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have recently published an explanation for how this occurs with chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL). The CLL cells cause an inflammatory reaction and influence other blood cells with it so much, that the immune system is suppressed. The cells send out messages via exosomes, little subcellular vesicles, that the cells transmit to their surroundings. The new discovery by the DKFZ scientists paves the way for new therapy approaches. Tumor cells influence their environment in order to avoid an immune response and to facilitate favorable conditions for growth. It has been known for a long time that solid tumors, those that grow as solid tissue inside an organ, manipulate macrophages, the “big eater” cells of the immune system, for their own purposes. "Recently, we have seen more and more evidence that something similar must be happening in leukemia,” says Dr. Martina Seiffert of the DKFZ in Heidelberg. So, leukemia cells, acquired by the patient through CLL, could only survive in a culture cell if it also contains macrophages or monocytes, the precursors of the “big eaters.” They serve as a form of nourishment for cancer cells. Dr. Seiffert's team has now discovered how the interplay between leukemia cells and monocytes becomes a catalyst for cancer development. "We know that the so-called PD-L1 receptor occurs more frequently on the surface of these nourishing cells, and suppresses the immune response,” says Dr. Seiffert. "What we have here is a so-called immune checkpoint, which prevents excessive immune responses." In this case, however, the immune response is suppressed so much that the cancer cells can multiply unopposed.

New Drug May Treat and Limit Progression of Parkinson's Disease--Multifunctional Compound D-512 Provides Longer Relief Than Current Medications in Rat Model of Parkinson’s

Researchers at Binghamton University in New York have developed a new drug that may limit the progression of Parkinson's disease while providing better symptom relief to potentially hundreds of thousands of people with the disease. Symptoms of Parkinson's disease are commonly managed using selective dopamine receptor agonists. While these drugs are useful in early-stage Parkinson's, they tend to lose efficacy in later disease stages. Equally important is the fact that currently marketed drugs do not appear to modify disease progression. A research team including Binghamton University psychology professor Chris Bishop, PhD, and former graduate student Dr. David Lindenbach recently employed a preclinical model of Parkinson's disease to compare the effects of the dopamine agonist ropinirole to their new drug, known as D-512. Results demonstrated that D-512 was more efficacious than ropinirole in treating the symptoms of Parkinson's disease while also prolonging the time window during which the animals showed benefits. These findings followed on the heels of prior work by this collaborative group which demonstrated that D-512 may also protect again the progression of Parkinson's disease. "A major issue for Parkinson's disease patients is the need to take multiple medications, multiple times per day. So, we were quite astounded to discover that our new compound, D-512, was superior to the widely-used drug, ropinirole, in terms of maximal symptom relief and duration of action," said Dr. Lidenbach. The researchers also noted that D-512 may have fewer side effects than current medications. When patients take anti-parkinsonian drugs, over time they develop hyperkinetic movements that are hard to control, called dyskinesia.

Katherine Ward Wins California Outstanding Biology Teacher Award 2017 from National Association of Biology Teachers

Katherine (Katie) E. Ward (photo) has been named the Outstanding Biology Teacher from California (2017) by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). Ms. Ward will be recognized at the NABT Honors Luncheon at the NABT Professional Development Conference in St. Louis this November. Ms. Ward is a lead teacher at Aragon High School in San Mateo, CA, where she teaches AP Biology and Biotechnology. She also serves as a teacher in residence at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco, is an active AP Leadership Academy participant, and is a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Professional Development Leader, She also facilitates professional development for educators using activities sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

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