Monday, October 26, 2015

News Briefs 10.26.2015

Die, Leukemia. Just die. 

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed a possible new way of treating leukemia. Leukemia, cancer that affects blood and bone marrow, is notorious for being a bitch to treat. It is known to relapse mid-treatment and become resistant to chemotherapy. But lo! There is a glimmer of light in the tunnel!

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute have stumbled upon a technique that convinces leukemia cells to transform into leukemia-killing immune cells, rewriting their biological programming. The glimmer of light lies in an extremely rare human antibody, the proteins produced by the human body’s immune system. They act as the “handcuffs”  for the policing white blood cells and stick to foreign invaders like microbes neutralizing them or flagging them for destruction. 

We have different types of white blood cells that circulate our bodies - neutrophils, which go after and kill bacteria and virus, and monocytes, which go after and kill anything they recognize as foreign as well as act as a messenger to our lymphocytes, of which we have 2 kinds: T cells and B cells. Our T cells have a few functions, including being a natural-killer cell, and these are known to attack and remove cancer cells but are not very efficient. The T cells also "read" messages from the monocytes when they are presented with a foreign antigen. That T cell then knows the recipe for an antibody to attack, teaches it to B cell, and then the B cell matures into a plasma cell and starts to produce antibodies to the foreign invader. Some B cells actually take the recipe and just remember it so if it ever comes in contact with it, it can immediately produce the antibodies which is why there many illnesses that most people only get once (chicken pox, anyone?) we build an immunity to it and are well prepared for it if we ever encounter it again. What makes this most interesting is that the cancerous cells were transformed into dendritic cells, or messenger cells, responsible for communicating any antigen material to T-cells. They are important in the immune system because the create the database of information on foreign invaders in the body. We do not know nearly as much about them as we know about the other cell lines.

Scientists were attempting to find antibody therapies to treat people with immune cell deficiencies in which the bone marrow doesn't produce enough white blood cells. They hoped that they could find antibodies that would activate receptors on immature bone marrow cells that would cause them to change into mature cells. Over the last few years, they have succeeded in doing this. What was unexpected was that a handful of these growth-induced antibodies turn immature bone marrow cells into completely different types, such as cells normally found in the nervous system.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a particularly aggressive type of leukemia that attacks myeloid cells in the body; these cells deal with bacterial infections, parasites and prevent the spread of tissue damage. Sufferers of AML produce far too many white blood cells in their bone marrow, which interferes with the normal production of other blood cell types.

The researchers flooded a human blood sample rich in dangerous AML cells with these growth-activating antibodies, and what they found was remarkable: the antibodies transformed the AML cells into dendritic cells. With longer exposure to the antibodies, these cells were matured even further into cells that resemble, and behave similarly to, cells that hunt down and kill threats in the body, including viruses, bacteria and cancer cells. These “natural killer” cells showed the ability to extend their tendrils into their cancerous brethren, destroying 15% of them in one sample within a single day. Incredibly, these NK cells only seem to engage in fratricide, targeting only their former AML cell type, not other types of cancer cell.

The researchers hope that this technique, which they’ve called “fratricidin therapy,” can be used to transform a range of cancer cells into specific NK cells in order to actually cure a patient of their cancer altogether. Such fratricidal therapies would have several potential advantages. First, especially if they are antibodies, they could be clinically useful with little or no further modification. Second, their high specificity for their target receptors, and the resulting NK cells' specificity for related cancer cells, should reduce the likelihood of adverse side effects, possibly making them much more tolerable than traditional cancer chemotherapies.

Finally, the peculiar dynamics of fratricidin therapy, in which every cancerous cell is potentially convertible to a cancer-killing NK cell, suggests that—if the strategy works—it might not just reduce the targeted cancer-cell population in a patient, but eliminate it altogether. 

Need more info? Look here!




Make Sure You Vote
(I don't care about who you vote for but make sure you vote)

Everybody has a friend that believes they're too intelligent to vote. 

"It's picking the less of two evils, man."
"Democrats and Republicans are all the same, bro."
"Our votes don't actually count."

I'm here to tell you not to listen to this friend. Whether or not it's true (as true as 'beliefs' can be) that Republicans and Democrats have more in common than either would like to admit, you should still vote because no two people are the same and at the end of the day, we vote for people. Here's how to do it:

1) Are you registered? If not, here you go.

2) Do you know where your voting location is?  If not, here you go.

3) Do you have state ID? If not, go to your local DMV and get a non-drivers' ID for twenty-five dollars, or if you're feeling like it's time you stopped waiting for that bus that never comes, get a permit or license, but those are a whopping ninety-five bucks at most places. 

We all have opinions about this country we live in and I assure you that no matter what the guy at that Brooklyn party discussing his kickstarter campaign says, your vote matters. 

See you guys at the polls,


But This was Actually Cool

On Wednesday, October 21st, something happened. I think you know what I'm talking about.

That's right, all Facebook users were reminded of the existence of every forgotten (and now drunken) high school friend, elusive Facebook family elders, and even the Republican middle-schooler. If your News Feed was anything like mine, all these people and more slammed on the 'Post' button to prove how delightfully ~nerdy~ they are (I realize I'm saltier than the Black Sea).

That's right, October 21, 2015 was the date Marty McFly and Doc arrived in Back to the Future Part II. Everyone and Jimmy Kimmel lost their freaking minds. Including myself.

Lyft, Über's less creepy cousin, got good. From 11am to 5pm on Wednesday, they provided New Yorkers with "McFly Mode," which entitled the patron to a ride in a DeLorean to his or her destination. 

Man. Can you imagine this pulling up to Brooklyn College, you pulling on your 'life preserver' vest, and being all "1.21 GIGAWATTS?!" while no one actually pays attention nor blinks an eye because this is New York? I almost did, before I remembered what class was. I cri evrytiem.

Did I mention this ride was FREE?! For $10 worth of a ride and below, but FREE! 

I'm so sad that I didn't get to participate, but I'm sure I did in some alternate timeline (har har).

Your partner in time, 

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