Food for Thought: Weekly Wrap-Up

Joachim Müller-Jung in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports on the rapid spread of infections with enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) in Germany. In about 20-25% of cases, the disease leads to the life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) associated with kidney failure. Jung reports about promising treatment strategies using Soliris eculizumab. The monoclonal antibody by Alexion Pharmaceuticals has been approved in the US and the EU in 2007 for the treatment of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria.

Also in FAZ, Nicola von Lutterotti features results from molecular psychiatry studies in children brought up in orphanages and adults suffering from trauma. Results demonstrate that there is a strong association between length of stay in an orphanage and factors like learning ability as well as length of telomers. Adults suffering severe trauma during childhood also have significantly shorter telomers.

In Focus, Monika Preuk reports on instant dental implants for diabetics, osteoporosis patients and smokers. These patients often cannot undergo conventional implantation procedures that need careful planning and complex steps of building bone material, placement of titanium posts and periods of long healing times. The new method involves skewed planting of very long implants into the healthy parts of the jawbones. The method stabilizes the jawbone so that implants can be planted within a day.

Matthew Herper in Forbes introduces the 25 most innovative countries in biology and medicine based on data provided by SciVal analytics, an Elsevier division. The complex analysis is based on publications output, number of citations, etc. Still the US dominates the fields, and papers by US scientists are more likely to be cited by other researchers than those in any country – except the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Andrew Pollack in the New York Times introduces Sherwood L. Gorbach, a researcher who helped to develop Dificid, a novel antibiotic against severe diarrheas. The drug by Optimer Pharmaceuticals has just been approved by FDA for the treatment of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea.

The Economist features new attempts to vaccinate people against drug abuse. The challenging task is to develop an effective vaccine against  really small and therefore very flexible molecules. A new trick applied for the design of a metamphetamine vaccine uses computer models to design haptens mimicking various metamphetamine-shapes and using these haptens to generate antibodies. Already it has been possible to generate efficacious metamphetamine-antibodies in mice with this method.

And finally, Die Zeit this week deals with the question whether mosquitos get drunk upon sucking blood from drunk people. The answer to the question is that after the blood meal, the mosquitos have about half the blood alcohol concentration of their victim. However, it is unclear whether they show behavioral deficits thereafter. 😉