A hair-trigger for cells fighting infection

In response to infection the immune system produces unique antibodies to target each illness. To make these new antibodies, cells in the immune system must intentionally damage their own genes, meaning they run the risk of becoming cancer cells. New research reveals how a proteins called Tia1 acts as a hair-trigger for DNA repair, allowing the immune system to walk the line between health and harm.

Zinc transporter key to fighting pancreatic cancer and more

Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease harbor significantly higher levels of zinc and iron in their brains than healthy patients. Those with pancreatic cancer have an unusually high amount of a specific zinc transporter. So, controlling those levels could be an effective plan of attack against these diseases and others, say researchers.

Could calcium hold the key to fighting a dangerous hospital infection?

It lurks in hospitals and nursing homes, preying upon patients already weak from disease or advanced age. It kills nearly 30,000 Americans a year, and sickens half a million more. But new research shows that Clostridium difficile bacteria can’t do all this without enough of a humble nutrient: calcium. And that new knowledge may lead to better treatment for the most vulnerable patients.

New method helps fighting future pandemics — ScienceDaily

By developing a new technique for labeling the gene segments of influenza viruses, researchers now know more about how influenza viruses enter the cell and establish cell co-infections — a major contributing factor to potential pandemic development.

Seasonal influenza viruses are estimated to cause 3-5 million cases of severe illness each year. Since the most severe infections are caused by influenza type A and type B viruses, the available vaccines provide coverage against these two types. However, influenza viruses are constantly evolving, which requires that vaccines are designed to match the circulating variants of the virus each year.

Influenza viruses evolve by acquiring mutations in the viral genome or by a process called reassortment. Reassortment, which was responsible for the 2009 pandemic virus, occurs when one or more of the eight genome segments are exchanged between two different influenza viruses.

With current techniques it is not easy to make comparative analysis of influenza viruses with single mutations in their genomes, and it is extremely difficult to identify factors that limit the reassortment process between two influenza genomes that have infected the same cell. Through a collaborative effort, scientists from Stockholm University, SciLifeLab, Karolinska Institute and the Leibniz Institute developed a procedure to analyze influenza virus infections in cells and lung tissue by labeling and visualizing the viral genome.

The specificity of the approach enabled the researchers to visualize the delivery of the eight influenza genome segments to the cell nucleus where the virus replicates, and to analyze co-infections by two influenza viruses that differed by single mutations. Using this technique, the researchers concluded that productive cell co-infections, which are necessary for reassortment, only occur when both viruses enter the same cell within two hours.

“This unique approach will make it easier to evaluate how new mutations affect influenza pathogenicity and help to identify the underlying properties that enable or restrict influenza gene segment reassortment,” says Robert Daniels, the lead researcher from Stockholm University. “This can help the community predict the possibility of two strains reassorting into a potential pandemic virus. While further research is needed to achieve these goals, the current approach can already help to characterize and assess treatments aimed at inhibiting influenza entry into cells. Through additional improvements the technique also has potential diagnostic applications for identifying influenza virus infections as well as many other pathogens.”

The research is published in the scientific journal Cell Reports.

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Materials provided by Stockholm University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

How To Avoid Fighting In the Car on 4th of July

Happy Fourth of July! Doing anything fun for the weekend? Like, for instance, getting into a car with your significant other tonight to drive somewhere with a beach or some beautiful nature…just like everybody else? And then you’re idling on I-95 for hours, you’re out of podcasts, and one of you is quietly seething that if you’d just taken 78 West you could have avoided most of this traffic, even though it looked longer on the map, and you always ruin things you never listen to me I hate you.

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We’ve all been there, and while getting into fights is something that happens to all couples, they’re particularly annoying if you are stuck in a metal box in the middle of the highway with no bathrooms in sight. Traffic can’t be avoided, but with some planning and emotional honesty, maybe your fight can be.

Samantha Burns, a relationship counselor and dating coach, says it’s no surprise fights happen in the car. “Traffic can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing situation, especially if you’re the driver and splitting your mental attention between the road and your partner,” she told ELLE.com. Stress makes your brain go into fight-or-flight mode, and instead of being able to take a walk or do something else to calm yourself down, when you’re stuck in a car “you’re left with engaging in the argument or ignoring your partner, which can be just as damaging.”

The thing is, long car rides can also be wonderful times to reconnect, whether it’s with deep conversations or listening to albums or podcasts you both enjoy. And ultimately, we never stop being children who need games and toys and songs to distract us from how little control we have over the world around us. Pick out books on tape to listen to in advance, bring a crossword puzzle and call out the questions, or play the same games you played as a kid. “It sounds silly, but can be a good distraction from the mundane scenery or tense conversations, and will get you into a playful state of mind,” says Burns. “It’s also important to pack plenty of snacks and water since hunger can get the best of you, and it’s never fun to deal with a hangry partner.”

“It’s also important to pack plenty of snacks and water since hunger can get the best of you, and it’s never fun to deal with a hangry partner.”

Unfortunately, the best-laid plans, etc., etc. You may yet run out of snacks, or reach the end of your playlist, or entered a slightly wrong address into your phone only to discover you’ve been driving for an hour in the wrong direction. At home you can yell, go to a different room and take a breather, and then revisit the conversation with clearer heads. But you don’t have the luxury of a door here, so you need to be proactive if you feel you’re about to snap.

As always, safety first. Fighting and driving is a recipe for disaster, so pull over if you need to. But no matter what, “take a mental pause and rate your current frustration on a scale from 1 to 10. If you’re over a 5, you could be approaching an explosion or shutting down and ignoring your partner,” Burns says.

If that’s the case, say so. “It’s essential to communicate that you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a few moments to calm down so that you can really listen and respond without the conversation escalating.” Don’t just shut down and pretend everything is fine until you’re both so stressed from the tension that the fight is 10 times worse than it should have been. What? Who does that? Not me, never.

Once you’ve communicated that you’re overwhelmed, cool off by listening to some music (Burns suggests a comedy album or podcast to shift the mood), or talking about experiences you’ve shared that make you feel connected, like “the first time you slept together, your wedding day, or the epic vacations you’ve taken together.”

A lot of the frustrations that lead us to snap at each other during long car rides are out of our control. We can’t make the traffic move faster. We can’t catch the ferry we missed. We can’t suddenly be somewhere else where there are no outside stressors. Admit you’re frustrated and that things aren’t perfect, and see what you can do to make things better for the moment. And honestly, just buy that extra pack of string cheese before you leave. It’ll be worth it.