eNewsletter | May 15th, 2017.

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Prescription vs Precision Medicine

By Jeya Chelliah B.Vsc Ph.D

Why personalized medicine?

To date, medical treatment is usually designed to be beneficial for the average patient. However, since many diseases can be divided into multiple subtypes, each with a unique genetic profile, such a "onesize-fits-all" approach is not always effective. Physicians often employ a trial and error strategy until the most effective drug is found for a particular patient. Such an approach can be a high burden for patients, both physically and mentally.

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Complement inhibition: a promising concept for cancer treatment

The complement system helps or "complements" the ability of antibodies and phagocytic cells to clear pathogens from an organism. The complement system consists of a number of small proteins found in the blood, generally synthesized by the liver, and normally circulating as inactive precursors (pro-proteins). When stimulated by one of the several triggers, proteases in the system cleave specific proteins to release cytokines and initiate an amplifying cascade of further cleavages. The end result of this activation cascade is a massive amplification of the response and activation of the cell-killing membrane attack complex. Over 25 proteins and protein fragments make up the complement system, including serum proteins, serosal proteins, and cell membrane receptors. They account for about 5% of the globulin fraction of blood serum.

For decades, complement has been recognized as an effector arm of the immune system that contributes to the destruction of tumor cells. In fact, many therapeutic strategies have been proposed that are based on the intensification of complement-mediated responses against tumors. However, recent studies have challenged this paradigm by demonstrating a tumor-promoting role for complement.

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A Gene Mystery: How Are Rats With No Y Chromosome Born Male?

In most mammals, us included, biological sex is determined by a lottery between two letters: X and Y, the sex chromosomes. Inherit one X each from mom and dad, and develop ovaries, a womb and a vagina. Inherit an X from mom and a Y from dad, and develop testes and a penis.

But there are rare, mysterious exceptions. A small number of rodents have no Y chromosomes, yet are born as either females or males, not hermaphrodites. Now, scientists may be one step closer to figuring out how sex determination works in one of these rodents.

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NIH to impose grant cap to free up funds for more investigators

In a major policy shift that is reverberating across the biomedical research community, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, says it plans to cap the number of grants an investigator can hold in order to free up funding for early-career scientists and those struggling to keep their labs afloat..

The new policy, announced yesterday by NIH Director Francis Collins, will limit the amount of support a single investigator can have to the equivalent of three bread-and-butter NIH R01 grants. About 6% of the investigator pool now has more than this level of support, and freeing up the money going to those awards could support 1600 new grants, NIH concludes. This will ensure “that the funds we are given are producing the best results from our remarkable scientific workforce,” Collins wrote.

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