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Most Americans Support Vaccination

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Despite the misinformation being trumpeted by some very high-profile figures, a new report from the Pew Research Center finds that Americans remain largely in favor of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations for schoolchildren.

Researchers collected survey responses from 1549 American adults hailing from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The participants were diverse in age, income, education, and cultural background. Some were parents, and others were not.

Cary Funk is lead author of the report and associate director of research at Pew. She emphasized the uniquely communal nature of immunization. “Public health benefits from vaccines hinge on very high levels of immunization in the population,” she said in a statement, “so it’s important to understand which group hold reservations about the MMR vaccine.”

By and large, the survey results were quite positive, with 82 percent of Americans agreeing that children attending public school should get the MMR vaccine. Around 88 percent felt that the benefits of vaccination outweighed any potential risks, and 73 percent said that medical scientists should have a major role in any policy regarding childhood vaccines.

Once the survey respondents were broken into smaller groups, philosophical disagreements emerged. Senior citizens (age 65 and up) were 90 percent in favor of school-based requirements for vaccination. This number dropped to 77 percent for younger adults (18 to 29). Young adults were less likely to trust that scientists understand the health effects of vaccination and less likely to understand that scientists are strongly in agreement that vaccines are safe.

The divide was even more apparent between parents and non-parents. Only 52 percent of parents of young kids agreed that there is a low risk of side effects from the MMR vaccine, compared to 70 percent of respondents with no small children. Three other groups were also less likely to trust the vaccine and vaccine scientists: people under age 30, African Americans, and people with a low understanding of science.

“Like many surveys, the findings raise a number of further questions to explore,” Funk told mental_floss. “Each of the groups with comparatively more concern about the MMR vaccine may have different underlying reasons for those concerns.”

She noted that parents of young children are actively facing the question of whether or not to vaccinate their kids on the recommended schedule.

“Yet, like other Americans,” she said in the statement, “they hold broadly positive views about medical scientists and their research on childhood vaccines.”

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Medicine
New Cancer-Fighting Nanobots Can Track Down Tumors and Cut Off Their Blood Supply
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Scientists have developed a new way to cut off the blood flow to cancerous tumors, causing them to eventually shrivel up and die. As Business Insider reports, the new treatment uses a design inspired by origami to infiltrate crucial blood vessels while leaving the rest of the body unharmed.

A team of molecular chemists from Arizona State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences describe their method in the journal Nature Biotechnology. First, they constructed robots that are 1000 times smaller than a human hair from strands of DNA. These tiny devices contain enzymes called thrombin that encourage blood clotting, and they're rolled up tightly enough to keep the substance contained.

Next, researchers injected the robots into the bloodstreams of mice and small pigs sick with different types of cancer. The DNA sought the tumor in the body while leaving healthy cells alone. The robot knew when it reached the tumor and responded by unfurling and releasing the thrombin into the blood vessel that fed it. A clot started to form, eventually blocking off the tumor's blood supply and causing the cancerous tissues to die.

The treatment has been tested on dozen of animals with breast, lung, skin, and ovarian cancers. In mice, the average life expectancy doubled, and in three of the skin cancer cases tumors regressed completely.

Researchers are optimistic about the therapy's effectiveness on cancers throughout the body. There's not much variation between the blood vessels that supply tumors, whether they're in an ovary in or a prostate. So if triggering a blood clot causes one type of tumor to waste away, the same method holds promise for other cancers.

But before the scientists think too far ahead, they'll need to test the treatments on human patients. Nanobots have been an appealing cancer-fighting option to researchers for years. If effective, the machines can target cancer at the microscopic level without causing harm to healthy cells. But if something goes wrong, the bots could end up attacking the wrong tissue and leave the patient worse off. Study co-author Hao Yan believes this latest method may be the one that gets it right. He said in a statement, "I think we are much closer to real, practical medical applications of the technology."

[h/t Business Insider]

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Medicine
New Peanut Allergy Patch Could Be Coming to Pharmacies This Year
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About 6 million people in the U.S. and Europe have severe peanut allergies, including more than 2 million children. Now, French biotechnology company DBV Technologies SA has secured an FDA review for its peanut allergy patch, Bloomberg reports.

If approved, the company aims to start selling the Viaskin patch to children afflicted with peanut allergies in the second half of 2018. The FDA's decision comes in spite of the patch's disappointing study results last year, which found the product to be less effective than DBV hoped (though it did receive high marks for safety). The FDA has also granted Viaskin breakthrough-therapy and fast-track designations, which means a faster review process.

DBV's potentially life-saving product is a small disc that is placed on the arm or between the shoulder blades. It works like a vaccine, exposing the wearer's immune system to micro-doses of peanut protein to increase tolerance. It's intended to reduce the chances of having a severe allergic reaction to accidental exposure.

The patch might have competition: Aimmune Therapeutics Inc., which specializes in food allergy treatments, and the drug company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. are working together to develop a cure for peanut allergies.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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