Outsmarting HIV with vaccine antigens made to order

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Outsmarting HIV with vaccine antigens made to order. Duke Research blog, June 29, 2015. AIDS vaccine researchers may be one step closer to outwitting HIV, thanks to designer antibodies and antigens made to order at Duke. HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS in 1983. Despite decades of progress in understanding the virus, an effective vaccine remains elusive. Now, a team of researchers have published a 3-D close-up of a designer protein that, if injected into patients, could help the immune system make better antibodies against the virus — a step forward in the 30-year HIV vaccine race.

Model could help counteract poisoning from popular painkiller

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Model could help counteract poisoning from popular painkiller. Duke Today, June 22, 2015. New research could help reverse deadly side effects caused by excessive doses of the drug acetaminophen, the major ingredient in Tylenol and many other medicines. Duke University researchers have developed a mathematical model of acetaminophen metabolism based on data from rats. The findings suggest that giving patients glutamine — a common amino acid in the body — alongside the standard antidote for acetaminophen overdose could prevent liver damage and boost the body’s ability to recover. Picked up by the Durham Herald-Sun.

Baboon friends swap gut germs

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Baboon friends swap gut germs. Duke Today, March 16, 2015. The warm soft folds of the intestines are teeming with thousands of species of bacteria that help break down food, synthesize vitamins, regulate weight and resist infection. If they’re so key to health, what factors shape an individual’s gut microbial makeup? Previous studies have pointed to the food we eat, the drugs we take, genetics, even house dust. Now, a new study in baboons suggests that relationships may play a role, too. Picked up by The Scientist.

Urging HPV vaccine for boys could protect more people for same price

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Urging HPV vaccine for boys could protect more people for same price. Duke Today, March 11, 2015. Whether vaccinating U.S. boys against HPV in addition to girls is worth the cost has been hotly debated. But with HPV-related cancers in men on the rise, and coverage in girls stagnating below the levels needed to ensure that most people are protected, research suggests that devoting a portion of HPV funding to boys — rather than merely attempting to improve female coverage — may protect more people for the same price. Picked up by National Public Radio affiliate WUNC.

Predicting superbugs’ countermoves to new drugs

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Predicting superbugs’ countermoves to new drugs. Duke Today, Jan. 5, 2015. With drug-resistant bacteria on the rise, even common infections that were easily controlled for decades are proving trickier to treat with standard antibiotics. New drugs are desperately needed, but so are ways to maximize the effective lifespan of these drugs. To accomplish that, Duke University researchers used software they developed to predict a constantly-evolving infectious bacterium’s countermoves to one of these new drugs ahead of time, before the drug is even tested on patients. Picked up by the Duke Chronicle, The Scientist and Time Magazine.

Tie-dye fly

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Tie-dye fly. 1,100 Words, August 29, 2014. It may look like a poster for the Grateful Dead, but these Day-Glo rainbow stripes belong to a fruit fly. Duke biologist Amy Bejsovec is studying the patterns that emerge during a fruit fly’s development from egg to adult — information that may help treat diseases that arise when normal development goes awry.

Cancer-fighting drugs might also stop malaria early

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Cancer-fighting drugs might also stop malaria early. Duke Today, August 25, 2014. Scientists searching for new drugs for malaria have identified a number of compounds — some of which are in clinical trials to treat cancer — that could lead to new ways to fight the disease. Researchers identified 31 enzyme-blocking molecules, called protein kinase inhibitors, that curb malaria before symptoms start. By focusing on treatments that act early, the researchers hope to give drug-resistant strains less time to spread. Picked up by the Duke Chronicle and the Durham Herald-Sun.

Scientists uncover navigation system used by cancer, nerve cells

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Scientists uncover navigation system used by cancer, nerve cells. Duke Today, August 25, 2014. Researchers have identified a ‘roving detection system’ on the surface of cells that may point to new ways of treating diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The study sheds light on the molecular mechanisms that enable both normal and cancerous cells to break through normal tissue boundaries and burrow into other tissues and organs.

Genome sequences show how lemurs fight infection

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Genome sequences show how lemurs fight infection. Duke Today, May 30, 2014. Coquerel’s sifakas are the only lemur species out of 17 at the Duke Lemur Center to fall prey to Cryptosporidium, a waterborne illness that causes weakness and diarrhea. Young sifakas are more likely to get sick, but if researchers can harness next-generation sequencing technology to figure out how older animals manage to fight the infection, they might be able to develop vaccines that provide infants the same protection. Picked up by National Geographic.

Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep

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Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep. Duke Today, September 4, 2013. By studying hibernation, a Duke University team is providing a window into why humans sleep. Observations of a little-known primate called the fat-tailed dwarf lemur in captivity and the wild has revealed that it goes for days without the deepest part of sleep during its winter hibernation season. The findings support the idea that sleep plays a role in regulating body temperature and metabolism. Picked up by WUNC, National Geographic, NBC News, US News and World Report, Huffington Post, Futurity, Discovery News and the Los Angeles Times.

Ethiopians and Tibetans thrive in thin air using similar physiology, but different genes

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Ethiopians and Tibetans thrive in thin air using similar physiology, but different genes. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, December 6, 2012. Scientists have pinpointed genetic changes that allow some Ethiopians to live more than a mile and a half above sea level without getting altitude sickness. The genes differ from those reported previously for high-altitude Tibetans, even though both groups cope with low-oxygen in similar physiological ways, the researchers say. The study adds to our understanding of how high-altitude populations worldwide have evolved to be different from their low-altitude ancestors. Picked up by Futurity.

Deadly bird parasite evolves at exceptionally fast rate

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Deadly bird parasite evolves at exceptionally fast rate. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, February 9, 2012.  A new study of a devastating bird disease that spread from poultry to house finches in the mid-1990s reveals that the bacteria responsible for the disease evolves at an exceptionally fast rate. What’s more, the fast-evolving microbe has lost a key chunk of its genome since jumping to its new host, scientists were surprised to find. Picked up by MSNBC.

Microbe-managing your life

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Microbe-managing your life. Raleigh News and Observer, September 19, 2011. Can gut parasites be good for you? It may sound far-fetched. But for those with off-kilter immune systems, scientists are finding hope in some unlikely allies.

To age is primate

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To age is primate. Duke Today, March 10, 2011. For a long time scientists thought that humans aged more slowly than other animals, especially given our relatively long life spans and access to modern medicine. But now, the first-ever comparison of human aging patterns with those in chimps and other primates suggests the pace of human aging may not be so unique after all. Picked up by Discovery News, US News & World Report, ABC News, MSNBC, Science Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, and NPR’s Science Friday.

The worms within

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The worms within. Scientific American Guest Blog, December 17, 2010. Some of the worms and germs we’ve been warding off may actually keep us well. One solution, some scientists say, is to welcome them back.