Alzheimer’s drug study gives ‘tantalising’ results

A drug that destroys the characteristic protein plaques that build up in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s is showing “tantalising” promise, scientists say.

Experts are cautious because the drug, aducanumab, is still in the early stages of development.

But a study in Nature has shown it is safe and hinted that it halts memory decline.

Larger studies are now under way to fully evaluate the drug’s effects.

The build-up of amyloid in the brain has been a treatment target for many years.

This study, of 165 patients, was designed to test aducanumab was safe to take.

After a year of treatment, it also showed the higher the dose the stronger the effect on amyloid plaques.


Read at BBC 


Link to paper 

Biomedical researchers lax about validating antibodies for experiments

Failure to test common research component could undermine reproducibility of results.


Nearly one-third of junior scientists spend no time validating antibodies, even though accurate results depend on these reagents working as expected, according to the results of a survey reported today in BioTechniques1.

“This is quite alarming,” says Matthias Uhlén, a protein researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm who heads an international working group on antibody validation, but who was not directly involved in the survey.

Poorly performing antibodies can give false positive signals if they bind to proteins other than their intended targets, and false negative signals when they fail to bind to the correct protein. Such problems have led scientists and journals to retract papers, and have caused researchers to reach invalid and highly disputed conclusions.

Laboratories have reported wasting years of work, thousands of human samples, and hundreds of thousands of dollars when antibodies did not work as expected. Yet more than half of the nearly 400 biomedical researchers who answered the survey’s online questions about how they assess antibodies said they had not received specific training on validation.


Read at Nature

Most Scientists Believe There Is A “Crisis” Reproducing Experiments

More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. Those are some of the telling figures that emerged from Nature‘s survey of 1,576 researchers who took a brief online questionnaire on reproducibility in research.

The data reveal sometimes-contradictory attitudes towards reproducibility. Although 52% of those surveyed agree that there is a significant ‘crisis’ of reproducibility, less than 31% think that failure to reproduce published results means that the result is probably wrong, and most say that they still trust the published literature.


Read at Nature

“Unprecedented” discovery of mysterious structures created by Neanderthals

176,500 years ago, long before modern humans left Africa for the Eurasian continent, a band of Neanderthals conducted an elaborate ritual deep inside Bruniquel Cave in a region we know today as southern France. The Neanderthal group wrested hundreds of stalagmites from the floor of the cave to build elaborate circular structures, their work illuminated only by firelight. Discovered by archaeologists in the 1990s, the cave system is so large that many of its great treasures are hidden far from its entrance, which suggests it was thoroughly explored and probably inhabited for some period of time. This new part of the cave, analyzed only recently, adds to our understanding of Neanderthal social life


The Neanderthal structure was mostly undisturbed for tens of thousands of years with the exception of a few hibernating bears. Recounting their discovery in Nature, a group of archaeologists say there is no question that the structures were created deliberately by humans, especially because there is evidence that the stalagmites were wrenched from the cave floor and stacked in circular patterns.


Read at ArsTechnica

Breast cancer: Scientists hail ‘milestone’ genetic find

Scientists say they now have a near-perfect picture of the genetic events that cause breast cancer.

The study, published in Nature, has been described as a “milestone” moment that could help unlock new ways of treating and preventing the disease.

The largest study of its kind unpicked practically all the errors that cause healthy breast tissue to go rogue.

Cancer Research UK said the findings were an important stepping-stone to new drugs for treating cancer.

To understand the causes of the disease, scientists have to understand what goes wrong in our DNA that makes healthy tissue turn cancerous.

The international team looked at all 3 billion letters of people’s genetic code – their entire blueprint of life – in 560 breast cancers.

They uncovered 93 sets of instructions, or genes, that if mutated, can cause tumours. Some have been discovered before, but scientists expect this to be the definitive list, barring a few rare mutations.


Read at BBC

Dengue virus disables the immune system by blocking mass transit

Proteins never get to where they need to be to start an antiviral attack.


The Dengue virus comes in four distinct but related varieties called serotypes, and they’re all bad. Rather than inducing tolerance for each other, infection with one Dengue serotype actually makes people more sensitive to the other three. Victims infected by a second serotype can develop hemorrhagic fevers, which can be fatal. Somewhere around 400 million people are infected with Dengue annually—more than any other mosquito-borne ailment. There is no cure.

Dengue is also in the same family as Zika and is spread by the same mosquitos, so learning more about one could have broad applications for the other. This week, researchers published a paper in Nature describing how the Dengue virus avoids one arm of our immune system.


Read at Ars Technica

3D simulation depicting how a tumor grows

Healthy tissues are like healthy ecosystems: Both composed of diverse populations. But in tumors, a single, malignant cell type often dominates. A new computer model is helping researchers understand why, and it could pave the way to more effective cancer treatments.

Using mathematical algorithms, a team of researchers has developed a new, 3D simulation depicting how a tumor grows from a handful of rogue cell types (represented by different colors) into a malignant mass comprised of millions of cancerous mutants. The model, published this week in Nature, is reinforcing something that laboratory studies have also shown: Tiny movements of cells within a tumor can cause the mass to quickly expand, or allow it to rebound after chemotherapy.

Link to article

Drug could help slow half of breast cancers, study suggests

A cheap and safe drug could help half of women with breast cancer to live longer, scientists suggest.

Their study, published in Nature, is in its early stages, but hints that the hormone progesterone could be used to slow the growth of some tumours.

The UK and Australian researchers say the findings are “very significant” and they are planning clinical trials.

Cancer Research UK said the study was “highly significant” and could help thousands of women.

Hormones play a huge role in breast cancer.

They can make a cancerous cell divide by hooking up with “hormone receptors” on the surface of a cancer.

One of the most successful breast cancer drugs, tamoxifen, bungs up the oestrogen receptor.


Link to article on BBC

Pancreatic cancer blood test breakthrough

The test, which they describe as “a major advance”, hunts for tiny spheres of fat that are shed by the cancers.

Early results published in the journal Nature showed the test was 100% accurate.

Experts said the findings were striking and ingenious, but required refinement before they could become a cancer test.

The number of people who survive 10 years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is less than 1% in England and Wales compared with 78% for breast cancer.

The tumour results in very few symptoms in its early stages and by the time people become unwell, the cancer has often spread around the body and become virtually untreatable.


Link to complete article

DNA Deciphers Roots of Modern Europeans

For centuries, archaeologists have reconstructed the early history of Europe by digging up ancient settlements and examining the items that their inhabitants left behind. More recently, researchers have been scrutinizing something even more revealing than pots, chariots and swords: DNA.

On Wednesday in the journal Nature, two teams of scientists — one based at the University of Copenhagen and one based at Harvard University — presented the largest studies to date of ancient European DNA, extracted from 170 skeletons found in countries from Spain to Russia. Both studies indicate that today’s Europeans descend from three groups who moved into Europe at different stages of history.

Read full article at NYT