News of Note—Silkworms for drug delivery; immunotherapy in bladder cancer

A drug capsule inspired by silkworm cocoons may improve drug delivery. (Natural Materials Group, Weizmann Institute of Science)

Silkworm cocoons inspire new drug-delivery method

An international research team led by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel has designed tiny silk capsules, inspired by silkworm cocoons, that they believe will be able to be used in drug delivery. Natural proteins spun by silkworms have limitations because they tend to clump together, so the scientists used microfluidics to prompt proteins extracted from silkworm glands to reassemble into a useful and biodegradable gel capsule. In so doing, they believe they will be able to control the size and shape of the capsules and make them durable enough to deliver drugs or vaccines. (Weizmann Institute)

Boosting immunotherapy in bladder cancer

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Genentech’s bladder cancer drug Tecentriq (atezolizumab), which inhibits the immune checkpoint PD-L1, only works in about 20% of patients, and now researchers at the University of British Columbia believe they’ve discovered why. Some bladder tumors block immune cells by activating a pathway called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-γ). The research team is developing a drug to target PPAR-γ, in the hopes it will be able to be used along with checkpoint inhibitors in bladder cancer. (University of British Columbia)

Gene variant raises the risk of depression

Scientists at the University of Central Florida have discovered that people with the gene variant apolipoprotein-E4 (ApoE4) have a 20% increased risk of developing depression late in life. The discovery was made with health data and surveys taken from 3,203 participants in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, research involving people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. The researchers believe the finding may be related to ApoE4’s negative impact on vascular health and are planning more research into how the gene variant impacts late-onset depression. (University of Central Florida)