In their search for new gene diagnostics, cardiologists areborrowing the ras gene from oncologists to use as a geneticmarker for a hereditary form of cardiac arrhythmia.

At least 300 extended families in the United States have longQT syndrome (LQT), which is characterized by sudden deathdue to irregular heartbeats. Although LQT is treatable, therehas not been a straightforward diagnostic to identify high-riskindividuals.

Now, writing in today's Science, University of Utah researchersreport an extremely high correlation between LQT and an H-rasDNA marker.

In the same issue, oncologists are proposing to use p53 tumorsuppressor gene probes to screen urine samples for bladdercancer.

Dr. Bert Vogelstein from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimoreand his colleagues report that they have found p53 mutationsin 11 of 18 bladder cancer tumors. Using polymerase chainreaction (PCR) analysis, the researchers also identified mutatedp53 tumor cells in the urine of three patients with bladdercancer.

These findings suggest the ability to screen urine samples todiagnose or monitor bladder cancer, a disease that strikesabout 18 people per 100,000 each year. The authors suggestthat lung, colon and cervical tumors, all of which also shed cells,may be monitored using a similar technique.

RIBI'S ADJUVANT IMPROVES MALARIA VACCINE

Ribi Immunochem Research Inc. of Hamilton, Mont., announcedThursday that its Detox adjuvant works at least 10 times aswell as alum in promoting a response to malariacircumsporozoite antigen (CS) vaccines.

The results, published in the April 27 issue of the Lancet,reflect a Phase I clinical study conducted by Ribi, SmithKlineBeecham, and the U.S. Army and Navy. Phase II testing isunder way.

Detox, which contains bacterial lipid (fat) and cell wallfractions, works by priming the body to produce an immuneresponse to a given vaccine. Ribi (NASDAQ: RIBI) hascollaborations to develop 17 "new-generation vaccines" fordiseases such as influenza, hepatitis, herpes, Lyme disease andAIDS.

In a related development, scientists from the Naval MedicalResearch Institute and the National Institutes of Healthdescribe in today's issue of Science an improved malariavaccine consisting of both CS and sporozoite surface protein 2(SSP2). Mice vaccinated with both CS and SSP2 were fullyprotected from malaria infection. -- CTV

-- Carol Talkington Verser, Ph.D. Special to BioWorld

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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