Mayo Clinic publishes its findings in the top journals, but it isn’t every week that we have two papers in a single issue of Nature. Mayo Drs. Jan van Deursen, Darren Baker and James Kirkland have what’s being called an important and significant paper in the field of cell senescence in the Letters section (that’s what Nature calls its shorter papers). It’s already been picked up by Shirley Wang of the Wall St. Journal and Nicholas Wade in the Times. They found that using a drug to purge the aging cells from specialized mice, they were able to significantly delay aging. Not only is this being noted in the research world, but I saw it’s being carried by the AARP. — The other paper comes from the lab of Dr. Roberto Cattaneo, a Mayo molecular virologist who has explained why measles is one of the most fast-spreading viral diseases on the planet.
“The measles virus has developed a strategy of diabolic elegance,” says Dr. Cattaneo. “It first hijacks immune cells patrolling the lungs to get into the host. It then travels within other immune cells everywhere in the body. However, the infected immune cells deliver their cargo specifically to those cells that express the protein nectin-4, the new receptor. Remarkably, those cells are located in the trachea. Thus, the virus emerges from the host exactly where needed to facilitate contagion.”
The researchers were also excited about another aspect of these findings.
Nectin-4 is a biomarker of several types of cancer such as ovarian, breast and lung. Clinical trials are under way that use measles and other viruses to attack cancer — including current ovarian, glioma and myeloma clinical trials at Mayo Clinic.
Because measles actively targets nectin-4, measles-based cancer therapy may be more successful in patients whose cancer express nectin-4. Many researchers believe that modified viruses could be a less toxic alternative to chemotherapy and radiation.
By the way… a plug for the measles vaccine is warranted here: In recent years, the spread of the virus has increased due to lack of people being vaccinated, and measles is still a significant public health problem in the United States.