News of Note—Fixing glaucoma with gene therapy, inhibiting colon cancer stem cells and building the 'Legos of life'

Old eye
Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, may someday be able to be treated with gene therapy. (Pixabay)

Gene therapy for glaucoma

Glaucoma, one of the most common causes of blindness, occurs when a clog forms inside the eye, leading to excess pressure. Although the disease can be treated with daily drops, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison believe gene therapy could be a permanent cure. So they are testing a vehicle based on feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) that’s designed to carry healthy genes into the eye’s drainage system. In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, they reported they could improve the chances of success of an FIV-based vector by preventing it from getting destroyed by proteasomes in the eye. They were able to double the transfer of therapeutic genes into the eye, they reported. (Release)

Hedgehog signaling found to promote survival of colon cancer

The hedgehog signaling pathway, a known player in some forms of cancer, controls the survival of colon cancer stem cells, an international team of scientists has discovered. Cancer stem cells are a popular target of oncology researchers because they are believed to cause the disease to recur, even after it has been treated successfully. The scientists made the discovery by sequencing the genes of colon cancer stem cells using mouse models of the disease as well as samples from human patients. They believe that inhibiting the hedgehog signaling pathway could enhance the effectiveness of other drugs used to shrink colon tumors. They published their findings in the journal Cell Reports. (Release)

How 4 chemicals make up the ‘Legos of life’

Scientists at Rutgers have discovered four chemical structures that work together to build the proteins found in every living being, they reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They made the discovery by studying the 3D structures of 9,500 proteins, breaking them down to reveal their origins. They believe their findings could be used to make therapeutic proteins, as the four chemicals can be “stacked” to create energy, leading the scientists to dub the structures the “Legos of life.” (Release)