Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bats and Wallabies Maintain "Fossil" Genes from Filovirus Family

Researchers at the University of Buffalo in a recent publication, "Filoviruses are ancient and integrated into mammalian genomes" in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology demonstrated for the first time that mammals have harbored filoviruses for at least ten million years, in stark contrast to the currently estimated thousands of years.

Findings by a trio of biologists at UB reveal that modern marsupials harbor a "fossil" copy of a gene that codes for filoviruses, of which Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers viruses are the most well known.


The study suggests these species maintained a filovirus infection without negative health consequences, and have selectively maintained these so-called "fossil" genes as a genetic defense. Even marsupial species that have never colonized Africa, have had association with filoviruses.

The UB co-authors say that if the rarely captured genes represent antiviral defenses or genomic scars from persistent infections, then the work opens up new possibilities for identifying reservoir species for filoviruses, which harbor the virus but remain asymptomatic.

"The reservoir for filovirus has remained a huge mystery," says Jeremy A. Bruenn, PhD, UB professor of biological sciences and co-author. "We need to identify it because once a filovirus hits humans, it can be deadly."

When the UB researchers studied samples from the fur of a wallaby at the Buffalo Zoo and a brown bat caught on the UB campus, they found that the genomes of both animals as well as some other small mammals contain "fossil" copies of the gene for these deadly viruses, and thus could be candidate reservoir species for them.

The research also demonstrates a new mechanism by which different species of mammals can acquire genes, through non-retroviral integrated RNA viruses, which the UB scientists had previously identified in eukaryotes but was unknown in mammals.

The UB scientists note that it is well-known that RNA retroviruses, like HIV-AIDS, can be integrated into mammal genomes.

"But because filoviruses infect only the cytoplasm of cells and not the nucleus and because they have no means of making DNA copies that might be integrated into the genome -- as retroviruses do -- it was never thought gene transfer could occur between non-retroviral RNA viruses and hosts," says Bruenn. "This paper shows that it does and it may prove to be a far more general phenomenon than is currently known."

"Our findings demonstrate that filoviruses are, at a minimum, between 10 million and 24 million years old, and probably much older," says Taylor. "Instead of having evolved during the rise of agriculture, they more likely evolved during the rise of mammals."

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Scientists call for US to decrease trade of coral reef species


A recent article in the Journal of Marine Policy written by a group of 18 scientists including lead author Brian Tissot, (Washington State University) suggests that international law has failed to protect coral reefs and tropical fish from being threatened by a quickly growing collectors market. The authors point out that reforms in the U.S. could potentially lead to a more responsible, humane, and ecologically sustainable trade in reef material and livestock.

"Our actions have a big impact on what happens in these coral reef ecosystems, which are already hit hard by other forces like global warming, ocean acidification and overfishing," said Tissot, lead author and professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at WSU Vancouver.

Specifically damning data, collected by the United Nation's conservation monitoring program, targets the reefing industry and suggests that trade in coral and coral reef species results in the removal of 30 million fish and 1.5 million live stony corals per year. The aquarium industry alone targets 1,500 species of reef fish and many of these fish die in transit.

This over-harvesting has resulted in the "virtual" extinction of some species, e.g. the Humphead Wrasse, Coral Trout Grouper and Banggai Cardinalfish. The Humphead Wrasse and Coral Trout are both highly sought for food purposes, whereas the Cardinalfish is a very popular aquarium fish.

U.S. buyers account for the majority of trade in live coral, reef fish and invertebrates used in aquariums. The authors recommend leveraging the U.S.' market power to reduce the trade's environmental effects. Among their other recommendations are to protect a wider variety of species, better enforcement of current laws which include tracking a product's chain of custody and reforms in source countries. They also recommend changes in marketing to promote sales of species certified as being humane and sustainable.

"The U.S.," say the authors, "should assume its role as an international leader in coral reef conservation and take steps to reform the international trade it drives."

On a personal note, this story was intriguing to me as I am very interested in coral reefing and have been researching starting my own tank over the past year. At the beginning of my research I was under the naive impression that all fish/coral/invertebrates were originally taken from the reef and then bred in captivity. I now realize that many of these species are harvested directly from the environment (captive raised is becoming more popular and responsible sellers are properly labeling captive bred vs. harvested livestock). I don't plan on changing my plans to begin a reef tank, however I will definitely be making sure as best I can that my livestock is captive bred/raised in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another Ph.D. Friend, Another Major Paper.


A report published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) journal Neglected Tropical Diseases shows two new approaches could form the basis for the first human vaccine for Rift Valley Fever (RVF), a dangerous zoonotic disease. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research have shown that experimental vaccines developed using these approaches produced strong immune responses in mice, and is potentially safe for human use.

RVF is a viral zoonosis which primarily affects domestic livestock, but can also be passed to humans and is potentially fatal. Viral spread is achieved by infected mosquitoes, typically the Aedes or Culex genera. Disease is caused by the RVF virus, a member of the Bunyaviridae family. Other notable Bunyaviridae family members include Crimean-Congo Hemorhagic Fever Virus and Hantavirus Hemorrhagic fever.

The disease, first reported in livestock in Kenya around 1915, wasn't isolated until 1931. RVF outbreaks occur across sub-Saharan Africa, with outbreaks occurring elsewhere infrequently (but sometimes severely - in Egypt in 1977-78, several million people were infected and thousands died during a violent epidemic. In Kenya in 1998, the virus claimed the lives of over 400 Kenyans. In September 2000 an outbreak was confirmed in Saudi Arabia and Yemen).

In humans the virus can cause several different syndromes. Typically, sufferers show no symptoms or only a mild illness with fever, headache, myalgia and liver abnormalities. However, in roughly 2% of people infected, the illness can progress to hemorrhagic fever syndrome, meningoencephalitis, or eye complications. Patients who become ill usually experience fever, generalized weakness, back pain, dizziness, and weight loss at the onset of the illness. Typically, patients recover within 2–7 days after onset.

RVF mainly affects farm animals however, the virus has spread to human populations causing serious illness and death in several regions in Africa and the Middle East. Additionally, it has been classified as a select agent by the U.S. federal government because of its potential use in biowarfare, prompting vaccine development research.

"RVF is a veterinary and public health threat that continues to spread," said Ted M. Ross, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor, University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research. "At the same time, vaccine development has been challenging because of adverse side effects from live virus vaccines and uncertainty about whether the virus could revert to a more dangerous form during vaccine manufacturing."

Using DNA plasmids and alphavirus replicons expressing the Gn glycoprotein of RVFV alone or fused to three copies of complement protein, C3d, each vaccine was administered to mice in an all DNA, all replicon, or a DNA prime/replicon boost strategy and both the humoral and cellular responses were assessed. DNA plasmids expressing Gn-C3d and alphavirus replicons expressing Gn elicited high titer neutralizing antibodies that were similar to titers elicited by the live-attenuated MP12 virus. Mice vaccinated with an inactivated form of MP12 did elicit high titer antibodies, but these antibodies were unable to neutralize RVFV infection. However, only vaccine strategies incorporating alphavirus replicons elicited cellular responses to Gn. Both vaccines strategies completely prevented weight loss and morbidity and protected against lethal RVFV challenge. Passive transfer of antisera from vaccinated mice into na─▒ve mice showed that both DNA plasmids expressing Gn-C3d and alphavirus replicons expressing Gn elicited antibodies that protected mice as well as sera from mice immunized with MP12.

"These vaccine strategies may be advantageous to controlling RVF because they provide a safer alternative and appear to work as well as live virus vaccines," said Dr. Ross.

The graduate student responsible for the vast majority of the work is a friend/classmate of mine from Pitt, Nitin Bhardwaj DVM, MS.

I was at one time considering the Ross lab, however the wind took me elsewhere. Great job guys, nice paper.

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Texas A&M: The Clone List Grows


Scientists at Texas A&M University (TAMU) College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences accomplished another successful cloning first after a foal was created and delivered using oocytes from a live mare. The successful delivery of this first of it's kinda clone, highlight TAMU's long tradition of veterinary science excellence.

Most notably, TAMU scientists created the first cloned domestic animal, a cat named 'cc', on December 22, 2001. TAMU is also the first academic institution to clone each of six different species: cattle, a Boer goat, pigs, a cat, a deer and a horse.

Kit Knotts, the owner of Mouse (the cloned foal) is very happy with the success. She had been emailing breeders around the world that she was looking for another horse, but she just couldn't find the right one. "I called and emailed breeders to spread the word that I was looking. Everything I could turn up was too small, too young, too old, not quite sound, etc. I realized I didn't want just another horse to have another body in the barn, I wanted another Marc." Knotts stated.

Knotts' efforts to find a horse that had the same qualities as her prized Lippizan stallion, Marc, (Pluto III Marcella) would lead her to TAMU's equine reproduction expert, Dr. Katrin Hinrichs.

Noted for achieving the first cloned foal in North American (the 3rd worldwide) in 2005, the lab has since produced twelve cloned foals. As of 2010, there are only three labs in the world that have reported the successful birth of cloned horses – TAMU, Viagen (a very successful commercial venture based in Texas), and the lab of Dr. Cesare Galli, in Italy.

"We have worked on this clone for about two years," said Hinrichs. "This is actually the first foal produced using oocytes, from live mares. We recovered the oocytes from our herd of research mares using the same method used to recover eggs from women for in vitro fertilization. We used the oocytes for the cloning process, which made it difficult as we had very few to work with at any one time. During the cloning process, we tested a new technique that has been reported in mice to decrease birthing problems. Mrs. Knotts has been very supportive of our efforts to clone her horse, and has even named the foal 'Mouse' in honor of the research that produced him."

For this successful clone, the experiment began with a biopsy of skin cells from Marc (the clone donor). Through the cloning process, using oocytes recovered from a live mare, viable embryos were developed and sent to Hartman Equine Reproduction Center, an embryo transfer facility in North Texas which serves a full range of specialized reproductive services. Minnie, the surrogate mare carrying Mouse, stayed at the Hartman Center for approximately 200 days, then was sent to her new home in Florida.

Minnie began to show signs of an early delivery, and was taken to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine for observation and intervention. Mouse was eventually delivered and cared for at UF.

"Having Minnie with us for several months prior to foaling has been great," added Knotts. "The teamwork between Dr. Hinrichs and her colleagues at the University of Florida has been outstanding, frankly saving Mouse's life more than once before and after birth."

An important note, and one that Hinrichs was sure to bring up was that while Mouse is truly an identical twin to the original horse, Marc, but there will be differences as the foal grows due to environmental influences. This was highlighted in numerous news articles and a "This American Life" episode about Chance the bull, another TAMU clone.

Knotts was very happy about the whole process and concluded that she was very proud of the contributions the project has made to the body of knowledge about cloning, which "benefits far more areas of equine reproduction than most realize."

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CDC Confirms Efficacy of HPV Vaccine in Men

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed its provisional recommendation from 2009 that Gardasil (Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine from Merck) is both efficacious and safe against HPV infection in boys and young men ages 9 to 26, and helps protect against 90% of genital warts cases.

Gardasil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 for use in females from age 9 to 26 to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts. Soon after, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which helps to set the US's vaccination policies, recommended that Gardasil become part of routine vaccination for all girls 11 to 12 years old.

Recently, there were concerns about the safety of Gardasil. The CDC reported as of June 1, 2009, over 25 million doses of Gardasil, have been distributed in the U.S. and there was an average of 53.9 Vaccine Adverse Events (VAEs) reports per 100,000 vaccine doses. Of these, 40 percent occurred on the day of vaccination, and 6.2 percent were serious, including 32 reports of death.
Other controversies have arisen, which are summarized nicely in this link.
Last year, the ACIP added males to the list of who can benefit from Gardasil vaccination, but did not advise routine immunization. (The advice was specific to Gardasil and did not apply to the second HPV vaccine approved by the FDA, in 2009, called Cervarix, since that vaccine targets only the cancer-causing strains of HPV and not the strains primarily responsible for genital warts.) Health officials say that the HPV burden (both genital warts and cervical cancer) is heaviest in females. Therefore if herd immunity is established in the female population, this would decrease the HPV cases drastically in boys. They also stated that it would not be cost effective to push for vaccination of boys.

The CDC confirmed that while safe and efficacious in males, the HPV vaccine should not become part of the regular vaccination schedule. The recommendation remains vague on exactly how the vaccine should be used in men, and which males could benefit, stating only that the vaccine “would be most effective when given exposure to HPV through sexual contact.” More detailed advice on the use of HPV in specific, higher risk populations may be forthcoming, say CDC scientists, since the FDA is currently reviewing additional data on the vaccine's ability to prevent precancerous growths among men who have sex with men.

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.

Banana Lectin, Anti-HIV Effects, & the Way We Interpret Science

I want to start this post by disclosing that I am very good friends with the lead author of this paper, soon to be Dr. Michael D. Swanson.

The title of the article "A lectin isolated from bananas is a potent inhibitor of HIV replication" (a superb title I might add) has caused quite a stir around many a news room.

University of Michigan Health System News Room
Ann Arbor.com
Science Daily
Fox News
Chicago Now
Businessweek

Among others, I also had the fortune of hearing it on the BBC World News podcast and it was mentioned that it was recently mentioned in Esquire.

All this publicity was great, but it shortly led to things like this letter to write-in Dr. Frascino. I won't reprint the whole letter, the question being the most interesting part.

Q: Doctor Bob what do you think about using squeeze banana as lubricant since scientist found something that can kill hiv in banana, in short rubbing banana on condom to reduce risk in case of breakage.

Amazing. I can't even begin to imagine what percentage of people hearing about this news story have already tried this. I think this situation exemplifies what happens often to scientists (an especially good cinematic example is Real Genius). We try to understand something, create something, or "fix" something and unfortunately there are always groups of people that misinterpret the results, or even worse, take advantage of those who misinterpret the results.

A prime example of that is occurring with the above study. BanLec Plus (an apparent BanLec oral capsule) is being sold by an anonymous company. If you read the website disclaimers carefully you get the idea that something shady is occuring. I highly doubt this is actually BanLec, and more likely it is a sugar pill. Also, oral BanLec? that doesn't even make sense. How is the protein going to be processed and active upon digestion? What is the mode of action? Obviously none of these tests have been done yet, so this leads me to believe this is a complete hoax. I cringe to think how many people have paid money for this thinking it will prevent them from contracting HIV.

I will never forget a conversation that me and Mike had late one night (probably taking a study break) because it is exactly how I feel, and how I hope most scientists and physicians feel. He mentioned how he hated watching TV and seeing the anti-HIV campaign commercials (my personal favorite seen here (SFWish)) because it made him feel like he wasn't doing enough and should be in the lab. I often feel the same way. But when something like this happens where your research gets twisted and used for nefarious purposes, it can be really disheartening.


"There are no facts, only interpretations" - Nietzsche
One last note. A link to 10 useful inventions that went bad, a scientist's worst nightmare.

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Experimental Treatment for Ebola Zaire Shows Promising Effect in Monkeys

Scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine in collaboration with USAMRIID have developed a novel treatment for Ebola Zaire that has shown promising results and potential for treatment of humans exposed to the virus.
The study published in the Lancet titled "Postexposure protection of non-human primates against a lethal Ebola virus challenge with RNA interference: a proof-of-concept study" is a major step forward in treating Ebola exposure.

Ebola Zaire has the highest mortality rates of all the Ebola viruses at approximately 83% for all recorded epidemics.

Using small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), the authors targeted the L protein, VP24, and VP35. The L protein is the viral polymerase, and is also responsible for capping and polyadenylation of newly synthesized viral proteins making a functional L protein required for Ebola virus replication. VP24 and VP35 have both been identified as inhibitors of IFN-alpha/beta production and IFN-alpha/beta and gamma signaling. The ability of the Ebola virus to interfere with IFN production and signaling allows it to escape host immunity.

Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) are the most widely used siRNA delivery approach. In this study, the research team used a proprietary technology called SNALP, or stable nucleic acid-lipid particles, to deliver the therapeutics to disease sites in animal models infected with Ebola Zaire.

Two test groups were established. The first group of three rhesus macaques was given anti-Ebola Zaire siRNAs intravenously, 30 minutes after exposure to the virus, and again on days 1, 3, and 5 post exposure. A second group of four macaques was given the treatment after 30 minutes, and on days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, after challenge with Ebola Zaire.

Two of the three animals in the first group (30 min, days 1, 3, 5) were protected from Ebola and survived. All four of the monkeys given treatments (30 min, days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) survived. The only side effects observed in either study were elevated liver enzymes which could have been an artifact from the viral infection itself.

This study represents the first demonstration of complete protection against a lethal human infectious disease in nonhuman primates using RNAi, according to lead author Dr. Thomas W. Geisbert of the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Thomas Geisbert and his wife Joan are highly revered experts in the Bio Safety Level-3 (BSL-3) and BSL-4 world doing research on Ebola, Marburg, and others.

Geisbert believes their work justifies the immediate development of Ebola SNALP as a countermeasure to treat Ebola infected patients, either in outbreaks or accidental laboratory exposures. Obviously, clinical trials are difficult in any situation involving a life threatening virus so in order for this to be tested, an outbreak will have to occur. It will be interesting if this therapy will ever be used in the field, and if that opportunity presents itself, how effective it will be in humans.

Ebola virus exists as 5 strains and causes hemorrhagic fever (Reston and Tai, only in monkeys). The virus, which can be infectious by aerosol, but far more contagious via blood and body fluids, is of concern both as a global health threat and a potential agent of biological warfare.

Currently there are no available vaccines or therapies for Ebola, therefore researchers working with the virus have to observe maximum containment (BSL-4) rules. BSL-4 personnel wear positive pressure "space suits" breathing filtered air as they work, and all laboratory waste streams are sterilized.

The SNALP-RNAi therapeutic used in the study was developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation of Vancouver, BC. Previous research showed that these siRNAs completely protected guinea pigs when administered shortly after a lethal dose of Ebola Zaire was administered. Further studies in monkeys will be necessary to refine dosing, toxicology and other issued before the treatment could be licensed for human use.

"The significance of this report goes beyond the protection against Ebola virus," said COL John P. Skvorak, commander of USAMRIID. "It also represents the potential for this concept to be applied to other viral infections."

On a personal note, I am very excited about the potential for this treatment to be successful. I have always been interested in doing more "exotic" viral research and knowing there is a treatment potentially available is a major step forward for treating outbreak victims.

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Director of the Center for Biopharmaceutical Research and Production at North Dakota State University

North Dakota State University has hired a new Director of the Center for Biopharmaceutical Research and Production at NDSU. C. Satishchandran will head the center, of which the focus will be DNA vaccine identification and production. He will also be a tenured professor of pharmaceutical sciences and have teaching responsibilities. Satishchandran came directly from the Nucleic Acid-Based Therapeutics Division of the Biotherapeutics Division at Pfizer Inc. where he was the Chief Technology Officer.

Satishchandran’s base annual salary is going to be $225,000, making him the second-highest-paid employee at NDSU, behind only the president, according to NDSU payroll information for 2009-10 (the new President hired May 24th 2010 will make a base salary of $300,000 and the NDSU head football coach makes a base salary of $180960 but his additional camps, radio appearances, and promotions can exceed $300,000).

Higher education and economic development officials have been working to bring a cluster of vaccine and related biotechnology firms to Fargo-Moorhead to build on academic programs already here. Biotechnology firms already in place include Aldevron, which recently acquired German vaccine company Genovac, as well as the new to Fargo, AltraVax.

Satishchandran stated in a news release his goals are recruit talent, develop investments, facilitate research, and to develop at least one vaccine during the center’s first five years, followed by at least one vaccine each year after that. A pretty lofty goal.

Ideally, the center will focus on public health issues that affect people locally, such as West Nile virus, as well as globally, such as malaria.

C. Satishchandran Ph.D., has had a long and outstanding career. Dr. Satishchandran received his M.S. in Microbiology from the University of Baroda in India. He then went on to achieve his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada. He next moved to the Fox Chase Cancer Center and was there as a Post-Doc and Research Associate for roughly 6 years. Next he served as a Sr. Research Fellow, Associate Director, and Acting Director at Apollon and Wyeth (Apollon was acquired by Wyeth in 1998 and Wyeth was subsequently purchased by Pfizer in 2009). After leaving Apollon/Wyeth in 2000, he co-founded his own company Nucleonics, Inc. where he held the titles of Executive VP & Cheif Operating Officer. This lasted five years until there were charges of data falsification brought against him. Originally fired, Dr. Satishchandran and his co-founder Catherine Pachuck sued the company for wrongful termination, where they were then countersued by Nucleonics for alleged scientific misconduct.

After a brief (less than 2 years) stay at Pfizer, Dr. Satishchandran was hired by NDSU for his current position.

Being an alumni of NDSU, I sincerly hope that Dr. Satishchandran can follow through on his promises to NDSU. I have two major concerns. Obviously my first concern are the charges of misconduct. I am all for innocent until proven guilty, however I feel as though science is a lot like the current situation in major league baseball. Everyone is guilty of cheating until proven innocent. There are so many ways to manipulate data, and with the funding situation as poor as it is for academics and the millions and potentially billions of dollars at stake in new drug/vaccine development, cheating is to be expected. Second, I hope that this wasn't a situation where Dr. Satishchandran knew he was about to be canned and put out his hook for whoever would take him.

Whatever the situation, I wish both NDSU and Dr. Satishchandran the best of luck and will be carefully watching how this new center develops.

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.


Vertex Reports Strong Late-Stage Hepatitis-C Drug Data

In a report by the Wall Street Journal, Vertex reports some nice results from the first of three highly anticipated anti-HCV drug trials. The study included 1095 people with HCV genotype 1 which is the most common form of the virus found in the U.S. and Europe. Genotype 1 is also the most difficult to treat and has the lowest success rate of any of the 11 major types.

The data shows that 75% of subjects taking teleprevir (a protease inhibitor) for 12 weeks along with standard therapy for 12 weeks + an additional 12 weeks (24 total weeks of standard therapy*) achieved a sustained virological response (SVR) which is not complete elimination of the virus but is defined as the suppression of virus to undetectable levels. As compared to the control subjects who recieved the standard therapy*, achieved an SVR of 44%. Unfortunately, it is expected that the cost for the drug regimen will cost in the 10's of thousands of dollars. The other important thing to remember is like HIV, HCV is an RNA virus which means rapid mutation, which means rapid selection for resistance to drugs. It is a step in the right direction, and as more drugs are synthesized, cocktails can be changed to adapt to the mutating virus.

These findings are key for 3 reasons:
1. Increase of 31% in the treated subjects of SVR
2. Treatment is shortened from 48 to 24 weeks
3. Very minimal side effects (rash, anemia)

The results from 2 other large trials will be reported by Vertex in the 3rd quarter. Vertex plans on marketing the drug by itself, with overseas help form Johnson & Johnson. Numerous other companies are working on HCV therapeutics including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Gilead Sciences Inc., Roche Holding AG, and Abbott Labs.

The major alternative therapy for HCV is milk thistle (silymarin) may have various benefits to the liver, such as:

•Promoting the growth of liver cells
•Fighting oxidation and oxidative stress
•Inhibiting inflammation

Thus far, few scientific studies have found evidence that milk thistle helps in treating HCV. Some studies showed a possible benefit, while other studies have not.

Polyak SJ, Morishima C, Hawke R, Antiviral effects of silymarin against hepatitis C: the jury is still out., Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.) 48: 1, 345-6, Jul, 2008.


* Standard therapy is currently Pegylated interferon-alpha-2a or Pegylated interferon-alpha-2b (brand names Pegasys or PEG-Intron) and the antiviral drug ribavirin for 48 weeks

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.


First Post

I just want to say hello to everyone. This is the first post. This blog will be primarily about scientific news stories, thoughts, and ideas. I guarantee I will stray from this from time to time. I am also unsure at this point in time how often it will be updated. To start, I will be aiming for once a week, and I will try to maintain at least this pace, but I hope to make it more frequent.

Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology, and is a Public Health Laboratorian.