TWiV 257 letters

Patrick writes:

Dear TWiV Team,

I’m writing with the sad news that Leonard Herzenberg passed away this morning, Sunday October 27, 2013. Len was a brilliant scientist, and among many major contributions to the field of immunology with his wife and colleague Leonore Herzenberg, he is perhaps best known as the ‘father of flow cytometry.” I’ve attached a short autobiographical sketch that was published few years ago outlining their partnership and shared contributions to science. Len was also a fantastic human being. Together, Lee and Len have built a legacy not only through their research, but also through countless trainees that are very much part of the Herzenberg family. Lee and Len took a chance on me as an undergraduate summer research student, and I’m ever indebted to them for giving me my start in science.

Thank you for sharing their story.

Patrick S. Mitchell

Malik Lab

Division of Basic Sciences

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

HHMI

Chris writes:

Howdy TWiV hosts,

Better late than never: a well-written, one-page article from the Economist magazine on the problems of “crap” in our biomedical publications. I don’t believe in all of their proposed solutions, but a topic that’s worth a “good thinking” from all of us.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong

Many thanks to all of you!

Still enjoying a TWiV bump from being a guest on last week’s show,

Chris

Christopher S. Sullivan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

The University of Texas at Austin

William writes:

Dear Doctors,

Last week, there was a question regarding vaccine trials and whether researchers could “challenge” their study subjects. In other words, can researchers emulate Jenner and intentionally infect someone with a live pathogen to test their vaccine? The short answer is yes, depending on the pathogen. The most recent and high-profile example comes from a study that appeared in last month’s issue of Science. Researchers in Maryland published the results of a phase I clinical trial in which they tested a promising new malaria vaccine. Their subjects were vaccinated and later challenged by being bitten by infected mosquitoes. Of course, all of this was carefully controlled and monitored! Subjects who received several doses of the vaccine were fully protected; in other words, they didn’t develop parasitemia. Amazing! From an immunologist’s point of view, the “correlates of protection” are still a little hazy but if it works, it works. Stay tuned for the phase II/III trials.

Seder, RA et al. (2013). Science. “Protection against malaria by intravenous immunization with a nonreplicating sporozoite vaccine.” 341: 1359-1365

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6152/1359.abstract

I also wanted to say that I adore the show and have so much respect for the whole team. I know how much time goes into it each week so keep up the great work. Besides, who else will keep me company during those endless plaque assays?

All my best,

Will

Marianne writes:

Hi TWiV team

Just a couple of follow ups from your last show..

On vaccination:

There were a couple of interesting stories this week on vaccination rates and pertussis outbreaks in particular.

The is a study published in Pediatrics where they linked the severity of pertussis outbreaks in California to areas with the highest areas of ‘non-medical exemptions’ to vaccines. Here is a link to the story that links to the article.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/01/anti-vaccine-parents-caused-californias-lethal-whooping-cough-epidemic/

On a related front, here the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology in Halifax conducted studies looking at boosting pregnant moms for pertussis so that they have high antibody levels to pass on to infants during that critical first two months, prior to their vaccination. So far, the data looks very promising.

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/nationwide-study-started-at-iwk-aims-to-protect-babies-from-whooping-cough-1.1478717

2. Human challenge studies

Although the types of studies that Jenner did with smallpox are no longer conducted (with good reason) there are considerations with viruses of very differing severity. In diseases where natural infection is unlikely to happen except in isolated, often severe outbreaks (I’m thinking Ebola) the correlates of immunity are incredibly important, and often have to be correlated with animal studies because conducting a clinical trial based upon epidemiology is unlikely to happen.

However, in diseases that are typically relatively mild in normal human adults but can be severe in other groups (i.e the immunosuppressed, young children and the elderly) challenge studies are possible. I’m thinking influenza, norovirus and respiratory syncytial virus. These are all conducted under strict controlled conditions and strict ethical approval. They also often provide important data.

Both of these fall outside the typical clinical trial progression for vaccines.

Keep up the great work, I enjoy listening every week!