October 25, 2014

University of Missouri team finds way to fight cancer with communication

Researchers at the University of Missouri might have found a way to fight cancer by interrupting its communication.

Cancer cells in the right image were treated and in the left image are shown to have been killed.  (courtesy; University of Missouri News Bureau)

Cancer cells in the right image were treated and in the left image are shown to have been killed. (courtesy; University of Missouri News Bureau)

Those researchers were studying a molecule used by bacteria to communicate. That molecule would allow bacteria to tell one another to do things like multiply, to flee from a body’s immune system, or to stop spreading.

Assistant Research Professor Senthil Kumar says the team then made a discovery “by accident.”

“We’ve found that this molecule can be effectively used against cancer cells,” says Kumar, by introducing the same molecule to cancer cells. It can be used to tell cancer cells to stop spreading, or even to die.

“The cancer cells migrate to form metastasis in the distant organs … we are able to stop that migration when we use this compound. We also found that the genes responsible for this migration can be influenced by this compound.”

Much more research must be done before the technique will be tried on humans, but so far it’s shown promising results against one of the most treatment resistant cancers there is; pancreatic

Professor Senthil Kumar

Professor Senthil Kumar

In the study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, Kumar and co-author Jeffrey Bryan, an associate professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, treated pancreatic cancer cells and were successful in ceasing their multiplication. The cells failed to migrate and began to die.

“Because this treatment shows promise in such an aggressive cancer like pancreatic cancer, we believe it could be used in other types of cancer cells and our lab is in the process of testing this treatment in other types of cancer,” says Kumar.

The next step, he says, is to find a more efficient way to introduce the molecules to the cancer cells.

“At this time, we are only able to treat cancer cells with this molecule in a laboratory setting.”

MU Professor calls findings of UC-Davis autism study exciting

A University of Missouri professor says he’s excited by the findings of a University of California-Davis study that reinforces the need to detect and treat autism spectrum disorder as early as possible.

Associate Professor SungWoo Kahng with the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Missouri.

Associate Professor SungWoo Kahng with the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Missouri.

The study indicates that when infants showing signs of autism were treated between the ages of 6 and 15 months old, they experienced significantly reduced symptoms. Most were reported to have no autism spectrum disorder or developmental delays by age 3.

UC-Davis says treatment for children diagnosed with autism typically begins when they are 3 or 4.

University of Missouri Professor SungWoo Kahng says he’s cautiously optimistic about the findings, but says it drives home to parents and doctors that early detection and treatment are vital.

“It has significant implications for early intervention with kids with autism,” says Kahng. “The sooner parents and practitioners can identify these symptoms and potentially diagnose kids with autism, the sooner the kids can start receiving treatment and the better off the child will be.”

Kahng says most significant, perhaps, is that those carrying out the study were able to identify symptoms of autism in children so young.

“As a behavioral researcher, the idea of intervening at such an early age is very, very exciting,” says Kahng. “It’s something that myself or my colleagues would love to pursue.”

He could have the chance to pursue it. Kahng says more study must be undertaken of larger groups – only seven babies were involved in UC-Davis’ study.

“Until researchers are able to have larger studies that demonstrate a broader change in symptoms, we’re still a little cautious to say, ‘Yes, this is a great method of preventing these symptoms from occurring,'” says Kahng.

Read more about UC-Davis’ findings on the University’s website.

Washington University finds multiple disorders make up schizophrenia (AUDIO)

Ground-breaking research at Washington University points to a major change in understanding  and eventually treating or preventing the disorder.

People with schizophrenia don’t have multiple personalities.  They do have hallucinations or delusions or disorganized thinking.  Washington University researchers looking at gene clusters say the issue is not “does someone have schizophrenia?” but “what kind of schizophrenia does a person have?”

One of the researchers, Doctor Dragan Svrakic (Su-RAH-kiss), says previous research has looked at individual genes.  He and his partners have located specific clusters of genes that contribute to eight classes of schizophrenia.   He says the study has identified different genetic pathways to the disorder.  “We will be able to find what are the pathways that lead eventually to the illness and maybe act to act therapeutically or prophylactically when the rain has not developed yet and when the round wiring the brain has not happened yet to … increase the chances of the illness not even to develop,”  he says.

It might lead to development of medicines that can treat the specific disorders. He says the research could also open the doors to treatment of all other forms of mental illness, including bipolar disorder and autism, or could lead to greater understanding of the development of intelligence.  He says all require  interactions within clusters of genes.

The study has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

AUDIO: Svrakic interview 16:10

Senate overrides veto of abortion waiting period bill (AUDIO)

The legislature has overturned Governor Nixon’s veto of a new anti-abortion bill. But the action has led to an early end to the veto session.

The House and Senate oveturned dozens of Nixon vetoes before calling it a session early this morning. Senate Republicans shut things down first after using a seldom-utilized parliamentary move to end debate on the bill extending the 24-hour abortion waiting period to 72 house. Irate Democrats spread the word after the vote that nothing else was going to come to a vote in the Senate.

Democrats had launched a filibuster attacking the bill as unnecessary and dangerous.

One of the leaders of the effort, Scott Sifton of St. Louis, had argued that tripling the waiting time for an abortion can be a life-or-death issue for mothers.

AUDIO: Sifton :21

Senate Minority leader Jolie Justus says Republicans have passed so many bills limiting access to abortions that it’s a wonder Missouri has even one clinic left.

The bill got just enough votes for the override. Senate leaders adjourned with a handful of vetoed bills overriden by the House waiting for action after Justus told them the debate cutoff so antagonized Democrats, who had control of the floor after the override, that they would block votes on any of those other bills.


Missouri lawmaker’s challenge of contraceptive mandate continues

A case filed by a Missouri lawmaker challenging the requirement that his state-sponsored insurance plan provide birth control coverage has been heard in a federal appeals court in St. Louis.

Representative Paul Wieland (courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

Representative Paul Wieland (courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

Timothy Belz is an attorney for the Thomas Moore Society, a public interest law firm in Chicago, and represents Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, and his wife Teresa. Belz says Wieland and his wife used to opt out of contraceptive coverage. Belz says under the federal health care reform plan, contraceptive coverage must be provided, so the state’s health insurance company quit allowing people to opt out.

Belz says the decision by the Supreme Court this summer that private companies such as Hobby Lobby that have religious objections can opt out of the contraceptive requirement of federal health care law bolsters the Wielands’ argument.

“If, as in Hobby Lobby, a for-profit, commercial enterprise does not have to provide contraceptive coverage for its employees, then certainly mom and dad don’t have to provide it for their daughters,” says Belz. “Mom and dad are to Hobby Lobby like their girls are to Hobby Lobby’s employees. That’s the parallel.”

The Wielands have three daughters, ages 13, 19 and 20.

A federal district judge in November dismissed the Wieland’s lawsuit saying that the couple lacked standing to bring it.

The three-judge panel that heard the case on Monday could issue a ruling at any time.