Study sheds light on asthma and respiratory viruses

People with asthma often have a hard time dealing with respiratory viruses such as the flu or the common cold, and researchers have struggled to explain why.

In a new study that compared people with and without asthma, the answer is becoming clearer. The researchers found no difference in the key immune response to viruses in the lungs and breathing passages. The work, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, suggests that a fundamental antiviral defense mechanism is intact in asthma. This means that another aspect of the immune system must explain the difficulty people with asthma have when they encounter respiratory viruses.

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Funding: This study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (grant numbers AADCRC U19-AI070489 and U19-AI000000, U10-HL109257, and CTSA UL1 TR000448), and Roche Postdoctoral Fellowship awards.

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Healthy humans make nice homes for viruses

The same viruses that make us sick can take up residence in and on the human body without provoking a sneeze, cough or other troublesome symptom, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

On average, healthy individuals carry about five types of viruses on their bodies, the researchers report online in BioMed Central Biology. The study is the first comprehensive analysis to describe the diversity of viruses in healthy people.

The research was conducted as part of the Human Microbiome Project, a major initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that largely has focused on cataloging the body’s bacterial ecosystems.

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Different forms of Alzheimer’s have similar effects on brain networks

Brain networks break down similarly in rare, inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease and much more common uninherited versions of the disorder, a new study has revealed.

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that in both types of Alzheimer’s, a basic component of brain function starts to decline about five years before symptoms, such as memory loss, become obvious.

The breakdown occurs in resting state functional connectivity, which involves groups of brain regions with activity levels that rise and fall in coordination with each other. Scientists believe this synchronization helps the regions form networks that work together or stay out of each other’s way during mental tasks.

Funding: This work was funded by grants U19-AG032438 from the National Institute on Aging; K23MH081786 and R21MH099979 from the National Institute of Mental Health; R01NR014449, R01NR012657, and R01NR012907 from the National Institute of Nursing Research; P30NS048056, P50 AG05681, P01 AG03991, and P01 AG026276 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and G0601846 from the Medical Research Council. The study was also supported by the National Institute for Health Research Queen Square Dementia Biomedical Research Unit and the Washington University in St Louis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Genetics Core. Jack received grants R01-AG011378, U01-HL096917, U01-AG024904, RO1 AG041851, R01 AG37551, R01AG043392, and U01-AG06786 from the National Institutes of Health. Morris received grants P50AG005681, P01AG003991, P01AG026276, and U19AG032438 from the National Institutes of Health. Ourselin received grants EP/H046410/1, EP/J020990/1, and EP/K005278 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; MR/J01107X/1 from the Medical Research Council; and FP7-ICT-2011-9-601055 from the EUFP7 project at the National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre High Impact Initiative.

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Preemies’ gut bacteria may depend more on gestational age than environment​

Scientists believe babies are born with digestive systems containing few or no bacteria. Their guts then quickly become colonized by microbes — good and bad — as they nurse or take bottles, receive medication and even as they are passed from one adoring relative to another.

However, in infants born prematurely, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the population of bacteria in babies’ gastrointestinal tracts may depend more on their biological makeup and gestational age at birth than on environmental factors. The scientists discovered that bacterial communities assemble in an orderly, choreographed progression, with the pace of that assembly slowest in infants born most prematurely.

Funding: This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant numbers UH3AI083265, U54HG004968 and P30DK052574 (Biobank Core); the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of the NIH; the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, of the NIH, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

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Nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while leaving surrounding cells unharmed, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown. The finding is an important step toward developing a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.


Image: Nanoparticles (purple) carrying melittin (green) fuse with HIV (small circles with spiked outer ring), destroying the virus’s protective envelope. Molecular bumpers (small red ovals) prevent the nanoparticles from harming the body’s normal cells, which are much larger in size. (Credit: Joshua L. Hood, MD, PhD)
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This. is. insane.

19-year-old WUSTL student Kevin Hays kills it with a 6x6 Rubik’s cube. World record at a minute forty.

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