Tag Archives: protein

Anthrax as a secret weapon to kill cancer?

pixabay petri dishBacillus anthracis, commonly known as anthrax, is extremely efficient at injecting its toxin into host cells. This characteristic is part of the reason that live Bacillus anthracis is handled at high biosafety levels in the laboratory. But it also prompted researchers at MIT to consider ways to use anthrax’s efficient delivery method to their advantage. The result? A new potential drug delivery method for cancer treatments!

Antibody mimics can disrupt protein interactions inside cells- including cancer-causing proteins. But getting them there is the challenge. Researchers used a component of the anthrax toxin to carry them. But this time, instead of injecting anthrax toxin into cells, the antibody mimics were injected. And it worked! The next step in this research is to attempt to translate it into animal models. Hopefully, this research will move forward and prove to be successful enough in animals to start human clinical trials! Read about it here.

This isn’t the first time researchers have used the Trojan horse approach in disease treatment research. Read about a similar method used in Alzheimer’s research here.


Patriotic turkeys teaching researchers how to detect explosives

SONY DSCBenjamin Franklin suggested that the turkey should have been the official symbol of the United States of America instead of the bald eagle. While that didn’t quite work out, it might have been fitting! Turkeys are more patriotic than you might think- while the skin on their necks and heads is normally red, when they get excited, it can change to blue or white.

Pretty cool. And researchers thought so, too. In fact, by studying turkey skin, researchers at UC Berkeley found that skin color was determined by the organization of underlying bundles of collagen (structural proteins). When a turkey gets excited, blood vessels in the skin contract, exposing collagen bands and altering the way light reflects off the turkey’s skin. So researchers decided to re-create the collagen structures in order to develop a sensor that changes colors in the presence of different compounds.

They developed a sensor that can detect low levels of the explosive TNT, and created an iPhone app that can analyze the color changes. And it works- this system can detect TNT at concentrations as low as 300 parts per billion! Now, in addition to having a cool color-changing party trick, the turkey can add “bomb detection inspiration” to its resume!


New understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease for 2014!

Toward Digital EncryptionResearchers at Columbia University Medical Center have unlocked several important pieces of information about Alzheimer’s Disease: exactly where it starts, why it starts there, and how the disease spreads.

They’ve identified the specific part of the brain where Alzheimer’s starts- the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC). The LEC normally accumulates tau, which makes it more likely to accumulate a specific protein called APP- and the combination of tau and APP damages neurons. Not good. 

And Alzheimer’s spreads like a domino effect. When neurons are compromised in the LEC, the neurons in surrounding areas also become compromised- including the hippocampus, which plays an important role in long-term memory storage.

Researchers used fMRI imaging and worked with humans and mice to discover this information. By showing that early changes can be detected using fMRI- and knowing exactly how the process works- detecting the disease before it spreads could be much easier. And this new imaging method could be a very helpful way to determine effectiveness of potential drugs! Read more here: