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THE BIOWORLD BIOME: Our Habitat for All Things Science

HONG KONG — Researchers from the Riken Institute in Japan have demonstrated for the first time the profound effect that chronic hepatitis infections can have on the genetic mutations found in liver tumors, potentially paving the way for development of tailored therapies for the different types of liver cancer. The research was part of the ongoing International Cancer Genome Consortium project.
HONG KONG – The identification of a promising novel candidate therapeutic target in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tissue by Chinese researchers could lead to the development of urgently needed new lung cancer immunotherapies. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, lung cancer was the most common cancer worldwide with nearly 1.83 million new cases in 2012.
Two independent research teams have engineered microorganisms that are dependent on synthetic amino acids for their survival, making them unable to grow without a constant supply of synthetic nutrients. The resulting bacteria, termed genomically recoded organisms (GROs), are a subset of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and could pave the way for their wider use in industrial biotechnology as well as bioremediation and therapeutics development.
HONG KONG — The characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer's disease (AD) can be reduced in mice when sugars are prevented from binding to one of the key enzymes implicated in the disease, clearing the way to a new treatment approach, according to researchers from the Riken-Max Planck Joint Research Center in Japan. AD affected an estimated 44.4 million people with dementia worldwide in 2013.
LONDON – It has long been known that cooling the brain is neuroprotective. Now scientists have uncovered a molecular mechanism behind that effect, opening up a new area for target discovery in neurodegenerative diseases. The researchers identified a protein expressed in response to cold, which prevents the loss of synapses in the brain and halts the progress of Alzheimer's and prion disease in mice models.
HONG KONG — A member of a new class of small-molecule drugs has proved to be an attractive candidate for lead optimization in the search for new drugs for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB), researchers from the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) in Singapore reported in the Jan. 7, 2015, issue of Science Translational Medicine. Infections by Mycobacterium tuberculosis continue to pose major threats to public health worldwide.
Through large-scale sequencing and screening, researchers have gained new insights into the role – and sometimes the lack of a role – of the protein titin in heart disease. The new findings do not suggest that screening the general population for titin mutations will be a useful strategy.
Myrbetriq (mirabegron, Astellas Pharma Inc.), which is approved for the treatment of overactive bladder, may find itself useful in another indication. In a phase I trial, the drug activated brown fat and increased the metabolic rate of healthy male volunteers.
Last week, policy-makers, researchers and vaccine developers met at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters to review the landscape of current and upcoming Ebola vaccine clinical trials. Their goal, in the words of Director-General Margaret Chan, was to "take stock, plan the next steps and make sure that all partners are working in tandem."

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