A poorly understood component of the immune system may play a major role in triggering allergies. In the May 24 online edition of Nature Immunology, Ruslan Medzhitov, a School of Medicine immunobiologist, and his colleagues reported that cells called basophils, rather than dendritic cells, are the first to react to an allergen. This discovery may help doctors develop a strategy to prevent the overreaction that makes allergy sufferers miserable.


Astrophysicist Charles Baltay ’63PhD and his colleagues have developed the most accurate cosmological yardstick to date. The technique involves a more precise determination of the composition and, hence, distance from Earth, of exploding stars called supernovae. The research, important to understanding the behavior of dark energy in the universe, will appear in an upcoming issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics.


As debate over health care reform heats up in Washington, emeritus public policy professor Theodore Marmor and his colleagues offered "a cautionary tale" in the April issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. In their analysis, such touted measures as health information technology, prevention, pay for performance, and comparative effectiveness research are "ineffective as cost-control measures." What works are "price restraint, spending targets, and insurance regulation" -- politically, note the researchers, "a tough sell."


Biomedical engineer Kim Woodrow and her colleagues have created a "safe and effective" way to deliver compounds called small interfering RNA molecules to sites in the female reproductive tract where they might be able to combat the microbes that cause sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The method, tested successfully in mice, involves biodegradable nanoparticles; the research appeared online in the May 4 issue of Nature Materials.  

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