Science News: Week of August 9, 2009

Our weekly compilation of science news for the week of August 9, 2009.

Anti-psychotic drugs could help fight cancer: The observation that people taking medication for schizophrenia have lower cancer rates than other people has prompted new research revealing that anti-psychotic drugs could help treat some cancers.

To read the study:

Wiklund, E., Catts, V., Catts, S., Fong Ng, T., Whitaker, N., Brown, A., & Lutze-Mann, L. (2009). Cytotoxic effects of antipsychotic drugs implicate cholesterol homeostasis as a novel chemotherapeutic target International Journal of Cancer DOI: 10.1002/ijc.24813

Cancer mortality rates experience steady decline : The number of cancer deaths has declined steadily in the last three decades. Although younger people have experienced the steepest declines, all age groups have shown some improvement, according to a recent report in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Cost of decoding a genome is lowered: A Stanford engineer has invented a new technology for decoding DNA and used it to decode his own genome for less than $50,000.

Experimental drug helps treat Osteoporosis: An experimental drug has successfully reduced the risk of hip and spine fractures in two key patient populations: postmenopausal women and men being treated for prostate cancer.

To read the studies:

New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0809003


New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0809493

New genes at work in patients with hereditary lung disease: Gene therapy trial succeeds in spurring production of a protective protein.

New light-emitting biomaterial could improve tumor imaging, study shows: A new material developed at the University of Virginia – an oxygen nanosensor that couples a light-emitting dye with a biopolymer – simplifies the imaging of oxygen-deficient regions of tumors. Such tumors are associated with increased cancer aggressiveness and are particularly difficult to treat.

Patients are reminded of Aspirin’s risks: Experts were quick to warn that the medicine cabinet staple has its risks after a study suggested new benefits.

Scientists make multiple types of white blood cells directly from embryonic and adult stem cells: In an advance that could help transform embryonic stem cells into a multipurpose medical tool, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have transformed these versatile cells into progenitors of white blood cells and into six types of mature white blood and immune cells.

Taking the needle’s sting out of diabetes: Tel Aviv University’s easy-to-swallow drug restores autoimmune function in diabetics.

Unlikely genetic suspect implicated in common brain defect: A genetic search using patients and mouse models has uncovered an unlikely gene critically involved in Dandy-Walker malformation, a common birth defect which causes mental retardation, motor delays and sometimes autism. This newly discovered function of the gene, which is never expressed in the brain, reveals a previously unknown role of the skull in directing brain development.

Urine samples could be used to predict responses to drugs, say researchers: Researchers may be able to predict how people will respond to particular drugs by analyzing their urine samples, suggest scientists behind a new study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.