News of Note—Preventing cancer spread with a surgical spray; a vaccine against opioid addiction

A spray-on gel could prevent cancer from spreading after surgery, UCLA scientists reported. (Pixabay)

A spray-on gel for reducing cancer metastasis after surgery

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, are developing a gel that surgeons can spray on surgical sites immediately after removing tumors. The idea is to prevent metastasis, which is a leading cause of cancer deaths. The gel is made of calcium-carbonate nanoparticles containing antibodies against the protein CD47, which cancer cells normally use to evade the immune system. It’s designed to promote healing at the tumor site while traveling throughout the body to combat the re-emergence of the cancer. They tried the solution in a mouse model of melanoma and reported that half the animals stayed cancer-free for 60 days after surgery. The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. (Article)

Preventing opioid addiction with an antibody

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have created a vaccine made of monoclonal antibodies that block the pain-relieving effects of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. They believe such a vaccine could be used to prevent opioid addiction and reduce overdose deaths. When they gave the vaccine to mice along with fentanyl and then applied a heated beam of light to their tails, they quickly showed a pain response, whereas animals that weren’t given the vaccine did not withdraw their tails as quickly. When the researchers administered the vaccine along with a dose of fentanyl that would normally be fatal, the mice did not overdose. They presented the research at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Annual Meeting. (Release)

How one mutation in a single gene leads to early-onset dementia

Frontotemporal dementia accounts for 20% of cases of the early-onset form of the disease, which can affect people as young as 40. A team led by Washington University School of Medicine has found one mutation in the gene MAPT that they believe causes an inherited form of the disease. Using pluripotent stem cells grown from the skin cells of patients with frontotemporal dementia, the researchers discovered that the MAPT mutation disrupts the ability of neurons to communicate. The mutation is also associated with 61 gene alterations that further disrupt cell signaling, they reported in the journal Translational Psychiatry. They believe the MAPT mutation—as well as some of its downstream genetic impact—could be targeted with drugs. They plan to evaluate whether FDA-approved compounds targeting the genes can prevent memory loss associated with the disease. (Release)