Findings

Science  30 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6076, pp. 1552
  1. One Drug to Shrink All Tumors

    A single drug can shrink human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors that have been transplanted into mice, researchers have found. The treatment, an antibody that blocks a “do not eat” signal displayed on tumor cells, coaxes the immune system to destroy the cells.

    Survivor.

    When mice with human tumors received anti-CD47, the cancers shrank and disappeared.

    CREDIT: FOTOSEARCH

    A decade ago, biologist Irving Weissman of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, discovered that leukemia cells produce higher levels of a protein called CD47 than do healthy cells. CD47 blocks the immune system from destroying blood cells as they circulate. Cancers take advantage of this flag to trick the immune system into ignoring them. Now, Weissman and colleagues have shown that a CD47-blocking antibody can work on a range of tumors.

    The scientists exposed tumor cells to macrophages, a type of immune cell. When the CD47 antibody was present, the macrophages destroyed cancer cells from all tumor types. Human tumors transplanted into the feet of mice and treated with anti-CD47 shrank and did not spread, the team reported online 26 March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Weissman's team has received a $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to move the findings to human safety tests. http://scim.ag/onedrug

  2. Genome Sequencing Without the Fuss

    The potential of using nanotechnology to decipher genetic codes is one step closer to reality. Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that they can continuously read the chemical letters of DNA as it travels through a tiny pore, paving the way for a new kind of sequencing machine that decodes DNA much like an announcer reading a ticker tape. The advance might drop the cost of sequencing a complete human genome below $1000, which is expected to revolutionize personalized medicine and help usher in a new era of genetic-based diagnostics and medicines.

    Nanopore sequencing made headlines in February when Oxford Nanopore Technologies announced it would start selling machines by early next year, but the company released little supporting data. One major problem is that the DNA moves too fast through the pore to be decoded. Now Jens Gundlach, a physicist at the University of Washington, Seattle, has put a protein in the pore that slows the DNA down, and, as reported this week in Nature Biotechnology, allows the sequence to be determined. http://scim.ag/DNAseq

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