Discovered: We may not have to get yearly flu shots in the near future; brain stimulation causes Tourette's tics; looking for ALS answers in yeast; what separates overeaters from food addicts?
Yearly flu shots could soon be a thing of the past. While other immunizations last for years—even decades—flu vaccines need to be updated every year to effectively prevent people from being susceptible to the virus. Gary J. Nabel, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hopes to end the hassle of making people return year after year for a new flu shot. "That’s the goal: two shots when you’re young, and then boosters later in life," he tells The New York Times' Carl Zimmer. "That’s where we’d like to go." And Nabel thinks we'll get there soon, thanks in part to research from Oxford University's Sarah Gilbert. She and her colleagues are working on new vaccines that boost the immune system's virus-killing T cells, rather than the B cells that produce antibodies which latch onto viruses to prevent them from entering cells. The difference would mean going after the base structure of flu viruses, rather than addressing their year-to-year evolution, as current vaccines do. Flu strains kill approximately 500,000 people per year, and a flu pandemic could kill untold millions. [The New York Times]
Computer-generated Tourette's. Hypothesizing that symptoms of Tourette's are caused by over-stimulation of the brain's supplementary motor area, a team of researchers led by Heinrich Heine University's Jennifer Finis wanted to see if they could make Tourette's-free subjects exhibit one of the disease's characteristic tics. The symptom in questions is echophenomena, basically the mimicking of other people's movements and behaviors. The researchers hooked patients up to a machine delivering repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to their supplementary motor areas, finding that those who had this brain region overstimulated through rTMS were three times more likely to mime the movements of someone in a video than the control group. "We suspect that this is a mechanism that might underlie tics more generally than just echophenomena in people with Tourette's syndrome," says Peter Enticott of Monash University in Melbourne, who participated in the research. [New Scientist]