Lab Report: social media and disease, nipple injections and deleted genes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 7:11pm

Social media offers clue to how diseases spread

The biological spread of diseases is intertwined with how society responds to those contagions, suggests a new study in Science.

Based on this, study author Chris Bauch, a professor of applied mathematics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, devised a method to tap social media such as Facebook and Twitter for vital clues on how we respond socially to a new disease control measure, or the threat of infectious disease. "We can create [mathematical] models from this data that allows researchers to observe how social contagion networks interact with better-known biological contagion networks," says Bauch. "Predictive modelling isn't perfect, but it can help gauge how people will respond to disease control measure."

Nipple shot gets to the nub in cancer treatment

A new experimental technique for breast cancer treatment and prevention could spare the healthy regions of the body, and reduce the side effects typically observed with traditional chemotherapy. This is achieved by injecting therapeutics via the nipple, a procedure that offers direct access to the most common origin of breast cancer, the milk ducts.

The method has been demonstrated on mice and appears in the Journal of Visualised Experiments. "It also prevents drug breakdown by the liver, which can rapidly reduce effective drug levels," says Dr Silva Krause, one of the researchers behind the method.

Gene deletions linked with autism

Using powerful genetic sequencing technology, a team of investigators have scanned the genome of more than 800 individuals and discovered those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have gene deletions than were people without the disorder. Led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, the team reports in the American Journal of Human Genetics that their analysis suggests the deletions may result in the miswiring and altered activity of brain neurons.

"But of the extra deletions we see in ASD not all are due to genetic inheritance," says lead investigator Joseph Buxbaum. "Some occur during the development of the egg or sperm, and deletions that develop in this way tend to be associated with the disorder."