Briefly

    The immune response triggered by pneumonia vaccinations also reduces atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammation in blood vessels that leads to heart attacks and strokes, according to researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine.

    The researchers used mice to demonstrate that vaccination with pneumococci microbes, and the resulting immune response triggered by the body, reduced the extent of atherosclerosis by 21 percent.

    A complex disease with multiple causes, atherosclerosis has traditionally been considered a disorder caused by excess levels of cholesterol in the body. More recently, scientists have identified the chronic inflammatory process of the disease, with recent studies suggesting that the body’s natural immune responses might be able to modulate the progression of atherosclerosis.

    The study was published in the June 2003 issue of the journal Nature.

    Two UCSD faculty elected AAAS fellows

    An economist at UCSD and an oceanographer at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been elected Fellows in the 2003 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Vincent P. Crawford, UCSD professor of economics, and Lynne D. Talley, SIO professor of oceanography, are among 187 Fellows from across the nation named to the academy, an international society of the world’s leading scientists, scholars, artists, business people and public leaders.

    Economic theorist Crawford has received numerous honors for research in microeconomics and game theory. Crawford has also received numerous National Science Foundation grants, as well as other grants and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He is a member of the Council of the Game Theory Society and a fellow of the Econometric Society.

    Crawford received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Princeton University and a doctorate in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been on the UCSD faculty since 1976.

    Talley is a member of the physical oceanography and climate curricular groups at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is a seagoing oceanographer, having led a number of hydrographic cruises, and her current projects include joint Russian/Korean/Japanese/U.S. studies of water mass formation processes.

    Talley is an editor of the Journal of Physical Oceanography, a member of the National Research Council’s Climate Research Committee and co-chair of the U.S. Repeat Hydrography Oversight committee.

    Talley received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Oberlin College. She holds a doctorate in physical oceanography from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program. She has been on the SIO faculty since 1984.

    Cellular defect in retina linked to blindness

    A defective cellular process within the retina was discovered to be the cause of Usher syndrome 1B blindness by UCSD School of Medicine researchers.

    Usher syndrome type 1 is a rare disorder that causes severe deafness and blindness in about 7,000 Americans. Children are born profoundly deaf, and start going blind later in life. Previous studies had identified a mutant gene called myosin VIIa as playing a role in Usher syndrome 1B. The current investigation details the method the defective gene uses to undermine normal cellular function in the retina.

    Using mice, the researchers identified that the intercellular process that results in Usher syndrome 1B takes place between the photoreceptor and retinal pigment epithelium cells, which are one of the outer layers of the retina. As a result, the study demonstrates that the RPE needs to be targeted for gene therapy of Usher IB, which can be affected by simply adding the normal gene to the cells.

    The study is published online the week of May 12, 2003, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Brain chemical important for mammary glands

    A molecule long associated with nerve cell growth in the brain also orchestrates the growth of mammary glands during puberty, according to UC Santa Cruz researchers.

    During puberty, the mammary gland grows into the fat pad, led by the vigorous growth and branching of the gland’s tips, called end buds. The molecule, a signaling protein called netrin-1, was found to act as a kind of glue holding these buds together.

    Because of the important role of netrin-1 in the mammary glands, UCSC researchers believe that mutations in the genes for netrin-1 may be associated with invasive breast cancer.

    The study is published in the March issue of the journal Development Cell.

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