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Over 500 million people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, or both. These infections cause inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), which leads to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other liver diseases. Over the course of his career, Mark Feitelson has developed a variety of cell- and animal-based models to study liver disease, and is currently working on several projects that address the best way to diagnose and treat people who are chronically infected with these pathogens.
The thrust of the work being conducted in Dr. Feitelson’s lab involves “Understanding the signal transduction pathways whereby hepatitis B and C promote their own replication, prevent cells from being eliminated by the immune system, and promote cellular growth and survival, which are characteristic of chronic infections and cancer.” Some of this work is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
“We introduce the cancer-causing gene of the viruses into liver cells, and then follow it around to see what it’s doing, what it’s binding to, how expression of host genes are altered by these viruses—basically any changes that take place.” Once these changes are recognized, they can be used as biomarkers for liver disease, which may help doctors identify chronically infected patients most likely to develop cancer.
Some of these markers might also be targets for drug discovery, which is the focus of another NCI-funded project. “Understanding the underlying molecular biology of the virus can lead to unique ways to combat its effects,” said Dr. Feitelson. “If we learn that liver pathways affected by hepatitis B are also affected by hepatitis C, we may be able to treat it with a similar combination of drugs. We can also generate tests for these early markers of cancer, which will result in earlier diagnosis.”
Dr. Feitelson is also heading a study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that examines the relationship between ethanol and hepatitis B, both of which attack the liver. This study is exploring whether treatments that lessen the effects of alcohol also have an antiviral effect, and, by the same token, whether antiviral treatments lessen the effects of alcohol on the liver.
“We have learned that ethanol stimulates virus replication in mice, which is important because the same thing appears to happen among chronically infected alcoholics,” said Dr. Feitelson. “The more virus you have, the more active your immune system, and the greater the risk for more severe liver disease. As a result, the National Institutes of Health recommend that people with hepatitis C should not drink at all. It’s like throwing gasoline on a house fire.”
Dr. Feitelson’s research is a critical part of addressing the spread of hepatitis B and C and curbing the consequences of these viruses. “It is essential to find ways to tell whether the liver disease is progressing in order for efficient and cost-effective treatment strategies,” he said.
Vasileios Megalooikonomou, associate professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, has received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to explore Mining Biomedical and Network Data Using Tensors. This collaborative project with Carnegie Mellon University aims to find patterns and correlations in large amounts of fMRI data over time. Analysis of fMRI data can help understanding how the brain functions, which parts of the brain collaborate with what other parts, and whether there are variations across subjects and across task-related activities.
August 21, 2007
The mechanisms that silence the estrogen receptor gene alpha (ER-α) in certain breast cancer cell lines may be closer to being unlocked, according to a study by researchers at Temple University’s Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine.
The researchers reported their findings, “Epigenetic Modulation of Estrogen Receptor-α by pRb Family Proteins: A Novel Mechanism in Breast Cancer,” in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research (http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/67/16/7731).
August 20, 2007
Researchers at Temple University have observed and documented electron transfer reactions on an electrode surface at the single molecule level for the first time, a discovery which could have future relevance to areas such as molecular electronics, electrochemistry, biology, catalysis, information storage, and solar energy conversion.
The researchers have published their findings, “Dynamics of Porphyrin Electron-Transfer Reactions at the Electrode–Electrolyte Interface at the Molecular Level,” in the international scientific journal, Angewandte Chemie (Journal). Findings have also been reported in Nanowerk News, Science Daily, and A to Z of Nanotechnology.
August 20 , 2007
A group of researchers that includes Chemistry's Daniel Strongin has unlocked the structure of ferrihydrite, a nano-phased mineral that acts as a very effective absorbent in nature and could have possible applications in environmental clean-up.The researchers published their findings, “The Structure of Ferrihydrite, a Nanaocrystalline Material,” in the June 22 issue of Science.