News of Note—Superstrong eye repair; gene therapy for ‘bubble boy’ disease; mapping genetic risks for brain disorders

A temporary sealant for eye injuries could help prevent permanent damage.

A reversible superglue for eyes

Scientists and engineers at the University of Southern California teamed up to create a temporary seal that can shore up eye injuries and prevent vision loss. It’s made out of a temperature-sensitive liquid that becomes a semisolid bandage of sorts when placed on an eye injury. When the patient is ready for surgery, the seal can be removed with cool water, the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. They believe the technology will be useful on the battlefield and in other situations where access to emergency medical facilities is lacking. (Release)

Gene therapy could mean hope for victims of ‘bubble boy’ disease

X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency disorder is commonly known as “bubble boy” disease because infants born with the disorder lack functioning immune systems and must be heavily protected from viruses and other pathogens. Now scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital have early evidence that a gene therapy they developed could be a promising cure for the disease. The therapy delivers a normal copy of IL2RG—the gene that becomes mutated to cause the disease—as well as genetic “insulators” to protect against the accidental activation of cancer-causing genes. Five of seven patients enrolled in a clinical trial at St. Jude now have normal immune systems and no longer require isolation, the researchers reported at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting. (Release)

Brain ‘map’ IDs 35 cell types associated with common disorders

Using a new type of single-cell DNA sequencing, a multi-institutional team of researchers has identified 35 types of neurons and glial cells in the brain that may portend serious illnesses such as bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, they explain that they scrutinized cells in the cerebellum and cerebral cortex, narrowing down and ranking them according to their likelihood of carrying genetic risk factors for the diseases. The team included scientists from the University of California San Diego, Harvard Medical School and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. Among their findings: Cell subtypes called microglia and oligodendrocytes carry the highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease. (Release)