Week in Review: February 1–5

Microbiota restoration in C-section babies; timing of circadian clock gene disruption tested; toward improved Zika diagnostics; in situ antibodies in the clinic

Feb 5, 2016
Tracy Vence

Microbe exposure at birth

WIKIMEDIA, ERNEST FSwabbing babies born by Cesarean section with the vaginal fluid of their mothers helped enhance the infants’ microbiota in a small pilot study published in Nature Medicine this week (February 1).

“Through the analysis of these data, we found that the microbiota of C-section babies that were exposed to maternal vaginal fluids was more similar to that of vaginally born infants than to [that of] unexposed C-section infants,” study coauthor Jose Clemente from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City told reporters during a press briefing.

Anita Kozyrskyj of the University of Alberta, Canada, who was not involved in the study told The Scientist that the microbial profiles of the swabbed babies may have been influenced by other factors. “That’s the issue with having a report on such a small [sample size],” she said.

Pre- versus postnatal knockout

WIKIMEDIA, RAMAThe developmental timing of deleting the circadian clock regulator Bmal1 from mice genomes impacts the animals’ aging-related phenotypes, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine this week (February 4). The findings show that “certain early developmental stages are likely more sensitive to circadian clock disruptions compared to adulthood,” said Ghislain Breton from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston who was not involved in the work.

Going forward, Breton added, “the authors now have a perfect tool, with the conditional Bmal1 knockout mouse, to address when Bmal1 is necessary.”

Where they’re needed

LEAF BIO/MAPP BIOPHARMACEUTICALResearchers are working to deliver therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies directly where they’re needed in patients. With a dissolving film called MB66, Leaf Bio—the commercialization arm of Mapp Biopharmaceutical—helps to deliver antibodies that protect women from genital herpes and HIV. Researchers are now evaluating the safety of the film, which is meant to deliver the antibodies to the vaginal mucosa.

“Therapeutic antibodies dominate eight out of 10 current blockbuster drug classes,” David Grainger of the University of Utah told The Scientist. “There are hundreds of clinical trials going on with new antibodies . . . to this day, most of those formulations are intravenous.”

Other news in life science:

Injections of progenitor cells into damaged rat hearts may improve function, but not because the implants themselves are creating new muscle.

Additional Zika Tests in Development
Scientists design diagnostics to improve the detection of current infections.

Embryo Editing Gets Green Light in U.K.
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London will use CRISPR/Cas9 to modify genes in early human embryos.

IOM: Mitochondrial Replacement “Ethically Permissible”
Experts from the US National Institute of Medicine outline their conditional approval of clinical research on mitochondrial replacement techniques.

Organ Engineer Re-Examined for Misconduct
The Karolinska Institute may reopen its investigation into the work of artificial trachea researcher Paolo Macchiarini based on stories presented in a Swedish documentary series.