A new genetic defect that predisposes people to acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplasia has been discovered. The mutations were found in the GATA2 gene. Among its several regulatory roles, the gene acts as a master control during the transition of primitive blood-forming cells into white blood cells.
The researchers started by studying four unrelated families who, over generations, have had several relatives with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer. Their disease onset occurred from the teens to the early 40s. The course was rapid.
The findings will be reported Sept. 4 in Nature Genetics. The results come from an international collaboration of scientists and the participation of families from Australia, Canada, and the United States.
A potential vaccine against tuberculosis has been found to completely eliminate tuberculosis bacteria from infected tissues in some mice. The vaccine was created with a strain of bacteria that, due to the absence of a few genes, are unable to avoid its host’s first-line immune response. Once this first-line defense has been activated, it triggers the more specific immune response that can protect against future infections.
The research, by scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Colorado State University, appears in the September 4, 2011, issue of Nature Medicine.
Tuberculosis, an infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is a global health concern, accounting for 2-3 million deaths annually. One third of the world’s population is infected with the bacterium, and according to the World Health Organization, new infections occur at a rate of about one per second. Most people who are infected don’t get sick, because the immune system keeps the bacteria under control. However, people whose immune systems are weakened, such as those with HIV/AIDS, are highly susceptible to the active form of the infection. With staggering rates of HIV infection in some parts of the world, such as Africa, co-infection with TB is a serious problem. To make matters worse, some strains of M. tuberculosis have become resistant to every drug currently used to treat tuberculosis.
“We’re back to where we were before there were drugs for TB,” says William R. Jacobs, Jr., an HHMI investigator at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.