Breaking through a virus' defenses

A University of Minnesota Medical School student is lead author of a study looking at how to prevent two viruses - including the one that causes the "kissing disease" - from developing into cancer.

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Adam Cheng, who is enrolled in the school's Medical Scientist Training Program, worked with other researchers from the University of Minnesota, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Toronto, according to a news release from the university's public relations wing.

The research, which was published in Nature Microbiology, focuses on how the Epstein-Barr virus and Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus shield themselves from destruction inside the human body. The latter is the virus that causes infectious mononucleosis, aka the "kissing disease."

"In most cases, the virus will remain dormant," Cheng said. "However, sometimes these viruses can reactivate and lead to abnormal, cancerous cell growth. But now, in the wake of our research, data suggest it may be possible to suppress the virus indefinitely."

The viruses are able to produce proteins that defend it against the body's natural virus-destroying enzymes, according to the news release. But Cheng and the other researchers used genome engineering to neutralize the virus' protein and allow the enzymes to do their work.

"The preliminary data are very promising," said Reuben Harris, a senior author, also from the University of Minnesota.

Care advised with genetic tests

If there's an at-home genetic testing kit under your tree this Christmas, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America wants you to be informed about its use.

The kits provide information about ancestry and, potentially, genetic risk for a medical condition. That's where the Alzheimer's Foundation, in a news release, advises cautious use. Some may find the results upsetting, said Dr. J. Wesson Ashford, an advisory board chairman for the foundation.

People using the kits should also consider genetic counseling, the foundation suggests. Also, keep in the mind that being "at risk" isn't the same thing as "certainty" that you'll develop Alzheimer's. And make sure your privacy is protected.

Specialists travel to Grand Rapids, Deer River

Heart and vascular services now are being provided to patients at Essentia Health's Grand Rapids and Deer River clinics, the health system announced.

At the Grand Rapids clinic, 1542 Golf Course Road, three Essentia physicians will care for patients one day a month, and a cardiologist will see patients four days a month.

At the Deer River clinic, 115 10th Ave. N.E., one physician will see patients two days a month and another will care for patients one day a month.

Classes, workshops, etc.

• A fall prevention and balance class will be offered from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Orthopaedic Associates physical therapy office, Suite 400, 4310 Menard Drive, Hermantown. Orthopaedic Associates is providing the class, which is free, but reservations are required. Call (218) 336-7676 to reserve a spot.


• The spread of influenza in Minnesota continues to be sporadic so far this flu season, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. No pediatric influenza-related deaths have been reported, and only two flu-related hospitalizations were recorded the previous week, bringing the total to 41. There still have been no flu-related hospitalizations in Northeastern Minnesota.