May 4, 2009 | 1
Researchers have already demonstrated in the lab that the materials the body uses to make proteins can also successfully suppress several different types of viruses, including HIV and influenza A, by disrupting the formation of viral proteins. Less clear, however, was how to get these virus-busting molecules where they needed to be in the body in order to keep viruses from spreading. Now a team of Yale University researchers believe they have found an effective way of delivering these special, short-interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules to specific locations within the body's biological battlefield.
Feb 13, 2009 | 7
Could the common cold become a thing of the past? Scientists have unraveled the genetic code for all 99 strains of the rhinovirus, but there may be a disconnect between excitement over the feat in the lab versus at pharmaceutical companies that would ordinarily develop a cure or vaccine against infection.
The discovery, published this week in Science, means that, in theory, drug or vaccine developers have a map of possible targets against the cold virus. "There is real promise now, based on full understanding of this virus, that we have never had before," study co-author Stephen Liggett, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the Baltimore Sun. "Let's get, perhaps, a single pill [that] will kill the virus that day, that moment, and within six hours you are cured. It is possible."
Feb 10, 2009 | 1
The U.S. Army has halted research on most germs at the same biodefense lab fingered as the source of the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings, after discovering that some of the pathogens stored in its refrigerators and freezers aren’t listed in its database.
Col. John P. Skvorak, commander of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland, ordered the suspension Friday. The shutdown could last up to three months as investigators attempt to get to the bottom of the questionable inventory, and will affect "most or much" of the research projects at the lab, where government scientists study drugs and vaccines that could be used to make biological weapons, a lab spokesperson, Caree Vander Linden, tells ScientificAmerican.com. The blog ScienceInsider was the first to report the story and yesterday posted the memo from Skvorak ordering the review.
Dec 1, 2008 | 4
Why can mosquitoes carry deadly viruses without succumbing to them and live on to give humans West Nile, dengue fever, and a host of other fatal illnesses. According to new research, the insects' primitive immune systems recognize that the viruses are dangerous and slice the microbes' genetic material into harmless pieces.
But while fighting the viruses, mosquitoes pass them to people (and in some cases other animals), who do not seem to have the capacity to chop them up. The finding, which was published in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to therapies to beef up human immunity against such microbes or ways to remove mosquitoes' defenses so that they kick the bucket when invaded by viruses instead of surviving to spread them far and wide.
Oct 29, 2008 | 1
Worried environmentalists charge that a new biodefense lab opening in Texas next month, smack in the middle of a hurricane zone, may not be able to withstand the strongest of storms.
The Galveston National Laboratory, set to open on Nov. 11, suffered only minor flooding in its lobby while under construction during September's Hurricane Ike; most of the other buildings on the island were more heavily damaged, The New York Times reports today.
But critics say Ike, a Category 2 storm with 100-mile- (161-kilometer-) per-hour winds, may not be the toughest test faced by the lab, where scientists will study deadly, contagious viruses including Ebola and Marburg — both hemorrhagic fevers that cause victims to bleed to death. In 1900, more than 8,000 people were killed in the Galveston area by a hurricane.
Aug 27, 2008 | 2
Computer viruses—the scourge of technology on Earth—have now become a problem in space, too. NASA has confirmed that the malevolent programs have also posed problems in computers astronauts bring with them on missions, the latest occurring when laptops infected with the Gammima.AG virus were ferried to the International Space Station (ISS) last month. The possible source, according to SpaceRef.com: a software download, a personal flash card or USB storage device. The site also reports that some laptops used in the ISS lack virus protection and detection software.
Aug 25, 2008 | 10
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the U.S. has seen more cases of measles than at any time since 1996 in the last six months—and its stories like that that have caught the attention of actress Amanda Peet, among others concerned about the resurgence. In Europe and the U.K., children are dying of measles. Declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and as recently as the early 1960s, as many as 500 children in this country died every year from the viral disease, characterized by a red rash and highly infectious cough.
The first outbreak of 2008 came via a 7-year-old boy from San Diego, who traveled to Switzerland with his family. He had not been vaccinated and contracted measles, which he subsequently passed on to schoolmates, infants at his doctor's office and children around him in the hospital.
Aug 22, 2008 | 94
If you didn't vaccinate your kids, you too could find yourself partly responsible for the resurgence of a disease thought eliminated in 2000.
Measles—a highly contagious disease-causing virus—is making a comeback in the U.S., thanks to parents fears over vaccines. Fifteen children under 20, including four babies, have been hospitalized and 131 sickened by the red splotches since the beginning of this year in 15 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC had announced in 2000 that the disease was eliminated in the U.S. thanks to a vaccine that can completely control it. But fears of autism have led some parents to forego this treatment and at least 63 of the sickened children were unvaccinated.
Aug 4, 2008 | 1
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) missed more than 16,000 new HIV infections in its last tally of the disease, according to a new analysis.
The CDC reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association yesterday that its 2006 estimate of new HIV infections in the U.S. was 40 percent off: 56,000 contracted the human immunodeficiency virus—the virus that leads to full-blown AIDS—that year, not 40,000.
Here's why they got it wrong: First, previous estimates relied on extrapolating from limited data taken from small studies on HIV incidence in high-risk populations, like men who have sex with men. Also, the earlier estimates did not take advantage of a new HIV test (called STARHS or Serological Testing Algorithm for Recent HIV Seroconversion), which can tell whether a person has been infected within the last six months. Beforehand, researchers only knew that someone had been diagnosed with HIV, not when someone contracted the virus—and many people diagnosed with HIV contracted it several months or even years prior.
Jul 3, 2008 | 1
The season's first cases of the West Nile Virus have been reported the past few weeks in places like Colorado and Pennsylvania. But lest you worry too much, take note: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the virus, transmitted by infected mosquitoes, is harmless to most people and that 80 percent who have it show no symptoms. The most vulnerable are infants, young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. The CDC says that about one in 150 people stricken with the infection develop serious symptoms, which may include high fever, nausea, convulsions and temporary paralysis. Although it rarely is fatal, seven out of the 576 people in Colorado confirmed to have the disease died last year, for example. Birds, especially crows and robins, are known to harbor the virus, and mosquitoes become carriers when they feast on their carcasses. Worried? Then you might want to toss some insect repellent in your beach bag.
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