viral targeting of tumour cells

cryoelectron microscopy map of Sinbis virusResearchers at NYU School of Medicine have found that Sindbis virus, a Togavirus that causes cold-like symptoms in humans, can systemically and specifically target tumour cells in mice. The press release is here, and the original paper in Nature Biotech is here. The virus enters mammalian cells by binding to the 67kDa high-affinity laminin receptor (LAMR), which makes it highly selective for tumour cells. Relative to healthy cells, the vast majority of tumour cells express greatly increased numbers of LAMR on their surfaces, and (again, unlike healthy cells) the majority of those receptors are unoccupied. (Normal LAMR function is involved in interaction with the extracellular matrix.)
Tseng and colleagues showed that Sindbis virus could infect tumours without infecting surrounding normal tissue and cause significant reduction in tumour mass (up to complete regression in some models) whether they induced the tumours subcutaneously or in the surface topology model of Sindbis viruspancreas, lungs or peritoneum of immunocompromised mice using human cancer cells, or subcutaneously in immunocompetent mice using mouse cancer cells. This indicates that the results are not species specific and that a working immune system does not interfere with the anti-tumour activity despite repeated treatments with the virus. They also showed that the virus could infect and reduce spontaneous tumours in a cancer-prone mouse breed, decreasing the likelihood that the anti-tumour activity depended in some way on the manner in which the tumours were induced.
The virus was injected intraperitoneally or intravenously at as great a remove from the tumor sites as possible, which means that the virus targeted the tumours after being disseminated in the blood. This is great news, because it indicates that we can build a tumour-seeking virus missile that will find metastatic tumours no pathologist or surgeon could detect. It’s also important to note that Sindbis is not a retrovirus (and so does not integrate its genome into the host cell’s) and is highly lethal, so it kills virtually any cell it enters well before that cell could become a Sindbis-induced cancer itself. The virus used in this study was created in such a way that it cannot package itself into new particles after infecting a cell: it is replication incompetent, and cannot spread on its own through the patient’s body. (Barring frankenviral recombination events, it only gives you a cold anyway.)
The images are from a different paper entirely (Zhang et al. J Virol vol. 76 pp. 11645-11658). Right, cryoelectron microscopy map of a partially deglycosylated Sindbis particle; left, surface topology model of same. Both pictures are to the same scale, the bar in the map represents 20 nm.

hello world

photo of me That’s me, more or less. I took that shot about a week ago; the spousal unit says that if it were all you had to go on, you’d recognise me easily enough. What’s left of the hair is mousy brown, the beard is reddish where it’s not grey, and the eyes are blue: standard WASP-y hybrid. (Another photo here.) Born Papua New Guinea 1969, moved to Australia 1976; high school here, university here; Hons with this bloke, PhD here on vaccine candidate antigens in this disease with this bloke (photo here, works here), just before he moved to Tulane. First post-doc in HIV replication with David Harrich, to whom I owe an enormous debt and not just for all the science. Met wife online Nov 01, married Aug 02, moved to Portland OR Nov 02. Until June 2005, worked with Caroline Enns on the molecular basis of iron homeostasis in humans, with a particular emphasis on haemochromatosis. Now working with [redacted, see update below]
Anything else you want to know, just ask.
Update 041207: no one asked, but for Google juice and because I never actually meant to be anonymous (I keep the handle because it’s how most of my online friends know me): Bill Hooker. Search here for “Hooker CW” to see most of my scientific publications.
Update, 2008: It has been brought rather forcefully to my attention that my employers do not want anyone ever to get the impression that I represent them in any capacity. So if you, dear reader, should happen to find out where I work, please ignore that information and know that the contents of this site are my fault and my fault alone, having nothing whatsoever to do with my current employers.

updates on the avalanche

Boo, hiss! Scratch Sandoval County thanks to New Mexico’s backwards asshole Attorney General:

The Sandoval County clerk’s office granted licenses to 26 same-sex couples before New Mexico attorney general Patricia Madrid issued a late afternoon opinion saying the licenses were “invalid under state law.”
The clerk’s office stopped issuing licenses and told newly wed couples their licenses were invalid.

Full story here, thanks to PDP at Alas, a blog for the link.
That’s not how Atrios reads the New Mexico law, by the way. Atrios also provides a reference for that New York opinion I mentioned: Lawrence C Moss, a Manhattan lawyer and chairman of the Reform Caucus of the New York State Democratic Committee in the NY Daily News.
In local news: I didn’t know that Kip’s Short Pier is in Portland OR; he sent mail to mayor Vera Katz and got a spineless cop-out (that’s my opinion there, Kip is more gracious) in reply.
Digital prozac: the original LJ thread is full of responses from people who sent flowers, people who received flowers, and more. For the record, the name of the guy whose idea started it all is Greg Scanlan; let history remember him with favour. Speaking of names and history books, someone in the thread commented that Gavin Newsom is getting hate mail, so you might want to send him a note of thanks (I just did).
Speaking further of history books, I don’t think it diminishes Mayor Newsom’s achievement to point out that he is standing on the shoulders not of giants but of hundreds of unsung heroes in the long struggle for glbt rights. Pericat provided a link a while ago on the backstory of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, which I meant to feature at the time but forgot. I lack the background to do it, but now would be a good time for someone to write a short summary, aimed at the general public, of the history of “the other civil rights movement”.
P.S. the new category is about folk, not just glbt issues!


Amid speculation that Chicago might follow San Francisco’s lead, Sandoval County in New Mexico steps up. I read a comment somewhere to the effect that New York admits no legal impediments to the marriage of true minds either.
Obtaining a Marriage License in Multnomah County doesn’t appear to be regulated according to sex. I can’t seem to find a County Clerk, but the director of the Department of Business & Community Services, which issues marriage licences, is Cecilia Johnson (503-988-5880; and the Marriage License Section phone number is 503-988-3027. Hmm.
Update: I called the MLS number and got Ms Johnson’s answering machine. Stay tuned for further developments.
Update the second: spousal unit writes to tell me that b!X is covering it. Four ballot initiatives have been filed that seek to prevent Oregon from recognising same-sex marriages performed in other states, all by the same three contemptible scumbags. B!X has the details.


scissors icon Language Hat points to “one of the most charming articles I’ve read in a while”, If You Build a Restaurant, He Will Not Come in the New York Times. I agree; go read it. (Unlike LH, I haven’t gone to any trouble about the link. Get yer own fake member account.) Use one of these. (thanks to randomWalks for the link)
scissors icon Scott J Bloch is a worthless maggot. (another registration required)
scissors iconfractal flowers, a video feedback image by Tom Holroyd (via jwz) The Ultimate Video Feedback Page. Humans make art from the strangest things. Tom Holroyd’s explanation and gallery are a good starting point if, like me, you can’t read Danish.

scissors iconwaterwheels.jpg (via Dave Barry) St. Petersburg inventor Tim Englert has created Water Wheels, a bicycle-mounted pump-operated squirt gun capable of directing two independent jets of water up to fifty feet. He predicts that “Water Wheels will do for bikes, squirt guns and extreme sports what Peter Fonda and the film Easy Rider did for Harley Davidson and motorcycles.” After sinking twelve years and $300K into it and quitting his job to market it full-time, he’d better hope so. (photo credit: James Borchuck, St Petersburg Times)
scissors icon (also from Dave Barry) Noon, Feb 23. Yeeeeeee-haaaaa! Update: Booooooooom!
scissors icon Sisyphus Shrugged reminds me that we are all Tommy Chong now, and TalkLeft reports that the gummint has spent $12 million bringing that desperate drug fiend to justice. (The 65-year-old father of five plead guilty to a bullshit charge related to his son’s business, Chong’s Bongs, to shield his family from prosecution; he got nine months in jail, a $20K fine and $100K in forfeited assets.)

with love from Portland, OR

I wish I’d thought of this:

Today a coworker of mine had a thought to send flowers to a random couple waiting in line at SF city hall.
He called a florist and they agreed to do it. He told them to deliver to any couple — it didn’t matter who — standing in line to get married, with his blessing. The card will read simply “With love, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

Instead, I read about it on Boing Boing, opened up my email client to write to the spousal unit and say “let’s do this!”, only to find that she’d already done it. Aw. *snif* I’m all teary again.
In case anyone else is thinking of doing this, it might be a good idea to spread the love among the local florists, too:
Flowers By The Bay (a Rainbow Pride business; start here, but they might be overwhelmed pretty soon)
Delicate Daisy House of Flowers
Amy Kee Floral Design
Directories of local florists: Yellow Pages, Yahoo! , Online Flowers Network,, Florist Locators. Go on, you know you wanna.
Update: if your funds are limited, perhaps you’d like to have more lasting impact. Powazek is selling a poster (“Justly Married”, heh) and donating the funds to Don’t Amend, who sell neat stuff themselves (and accept donations, of course). The ACLU is also fighting the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Update the second (thanks again to Boing Boing): if you want to chip in but can’t afford a bouquet on your own, Darren is collecting PayPal donations for bulk buys. At the time of writing he’s up to nearly $1000.


8< If you haven’t been reading Henry Raddick‘s Amazon reviews, you’re in for a treat.
8< Ever wonder what happened to HMS Beagle of Charles-Darwin-goes-to-the-Galapagos fame? Never occurred to me until now, but marine archaeologist Robert Prescott thinks he’s found her under 12 feet of Essex mud. Early indications are that the ship, whoever she is, is pretty much intact; and wouldn’t the Beagle make a superb museum, though? (via
8< (via Boing Boing) In the video of his arrest, Dudley Hiibel seems kind of obnoxious to me, but you can’t (yet) be sent to jail for being an asshole. I think most citizens should cooperate with most cops most of the time, but no law that I know of says they have to. Predictably, I’m on the side of the assholes here.
8< This is a fascinating and deeply unsatisfying story. For about a week, a glitch at’s Canadian site displayed the real names of anonymous reviewers, but no one seems to have really dug into the wealth of information thus revealed. I’m not so interested in writers pushing their own books as in those who claim to be fighting back against unfair anonymous reviewers:

The suspicion that […] the Underground Literary Alliance had anonymously attacked his friend Heidi Julavits prompted the novelist Dave Eggers to write a review last August calling Ms. Julavits’s first novel “one of the best books of the year.”

So why didn’t Eggers, or the writer of the NYT piece I linked, check to see who wrote the attacks? Gah.
8< Eliot points to a Morning News article by Mighty Girl Margaret Berry: ten charities who know the value of ten dollars.
8< Do you know anything about Leonora O’Reilly, Mary Breckinridge, Dorothy Kenyon or Patty Andrews? Neither did I, but keeping up with bean’s series ejumacated me.

can’t have too many watchdogs

Here’s an update to two earlier entries on places to go to get away from the spin and find some facts, this time with a focus on electronic voting.
For the Record points to a post by Jeanne D’arc at Body and Soul about voting machines and the importance of a paper trail; if you haven’t been keeping up, those two posts are a good starting point. This is a vital issue for all Americans. (A commenter in the BaS thread recommended absentee voting as a way to force a hand-count of your vote, and I could not agree more.)
FtR also links to Verified Voting, a watchdog site concerned with “transparent, reliable, and publicly verifiable elections in the United States”. They say they have been operating for the last 8 months without funding from anyone but their core group of volunteers, but now that they are registered as a 501(c)(4) non-profit (can engage in political activity, donations not tax-deductible) they are beginning fundraising. No word on whose money they will or won’t take. Of particular note, they have a good background on the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act and accompanying Senate bill which require require a voter-verifiable audit trail on every voting system.
Verified Voting links to Votewatch, “a nonprofit non-partisan organization of citizen volunteers, statisticians, lawyers, technologists, journalists and election officials who monitor public elections in the U.S.A., analyze patterns, and make their findings public prior to the certification of the election”. It looks to be mainly exit polling plus a forum for citizen reporting on individual elections. When you follow the money, things get a bit fuzzy:

As of October 7th, 2003, Votewatch has been internally funded through the generosity of its team members and the good will of its partners. Votewatch is embarking on an external funding plan that will target foundations of all ideologies, the general public, organizations and philanthropists.

There’s also the matter of partnership with for-profit research firm Aguirre International.
While I’m on the topic, Marylaine Block’s Neat New Stuff links to the Center for Public Integrity, a “nonprofit, nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization” founded by Charles Lewis which “does not accept contributions from anonymous donors or from corporations, labor unions or governments” and lists donors over $500 in the last year, with a contact address for more information. The Center was founded in 1989, has a full-time staff of 40 and has “issued more than 200 investigative reports, including 12 books”, and its “findings or perspective have appeared in roughly 8,000 news media stories”. For an idea of what they do, check out this story on the windfalls of war:

More than 70 American companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity. Those companies donated more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush