Parasite proteins help mice fight cancer
New research published in PLOS Genetics suggests proteins from the parasite Toxoplasma gondii could stimulate the immune system to fight cancer. In mice and humans, the immune system can become tolerant to cancer and fail to identify tumor cells it should attack. In this study, T. gondii proteins injected into mice with ovarian cancer reactivated the rodents’ immune systems so that they attacked tumors, increasing survival rates. Using infectious organisms to break tumor immune tolerance could become an effective new tool to treat cancer.
Connecting brain size and mental illness
Weaker long-distance nerve connections in primate brains may explain the link between larger brain size and mental illness. A study published in PLOS Biology compared the network of neuron connections in large-brained macaques with that of small-brained mice, discovering a common underlying network organization that might be shared by all mammals, including humans. This shared architecture means larger primate brains have exponentially weaker long-distance connections, which could explain why large brains are more susceptible to certain mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Snail control to reduce schistosomiasis
Controlling the snail hosts of the schistosomiasis parasite may be the most effective way to tackle the disease. A new literature review published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases evaluated schistosomiasis control efforts ranging from snail control to mass administration of the antiparasitic drug praziquantel. While most methods had little effect, snail control was the most effective way to reduce disease prevalence. The authors note that their findings ‘call into question the wisdom of current approaches,’ which emphasize praziquantel treatment over snail control.
Image Credit: African land snail by Chris Eason via Flickr