iStock
iStock

New Study Explains Why Some Flu Vaccines Work Better Than Others

iStock
iStock

Scientists say some flu-shot formulations activate our dendritic cells, encouraging our immune systems to fight harder against the virus. The researchers published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Guarding against the flu is a tricky thing. Every flu season, public health officials have to predict which strains will predominate. But sometimes, even when they’ve got that right, the vaccine just doesn’t work as well as it should. During 2009, for example, one of the available vaccines (MIV-09) was 35 percent less effective than another (TIV-09)—despite the fact that both were made by the same company. This wasn’t an issue of quality control. Something else was going on.

One group of immunologists had a theory.

Dendritic cell. Image Credit: Sriram Subramaniam, National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Donny Bliss, National Library of Medicine (NLM) via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dendritic cells (so called for their branching protrusions, or dendrites) are the messengers of the immune system. They’re found on your skin and in your stomach, lungs, intestines, and nose, patrolling the borders between the inside and outside of your body. As security guards, they’re pretty sharp, responding differently to different types of intruders.

Could it be that dendritic cells were helping one vaccine work or hindering another?

To find out, the researchers cultured human cells in the lab, then exposed them to the two vaccines while watching to see how the dendritic cells would respond. The trivalent vaccine aims to protect against three types of influenza strains; the monovalent vaccine, one.

Carla Schaffer / S. Athale / Science Translational Medicine (2017).

Sure enough, the TIV-09 that had fared so much better in 2009 inspired more cooperation from dendritic cells. Dendritic cells treated with MIV-09 were less likely to respond, even when they’d already been activated.

Further studies will be needed to confirm these tests in actual human bodies, but these findings are a good start.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
travel
Netherlands Officials Want to Pay Residents to Bike to Work
iStock
iStock

Thinking about relocating to the Netherlands? You might also want to bring a bike. Government officials are looking to compensate residents for helping solve their traffic congestion problem and they want businesses to pay residents to bike to work, as The Independent reports.

Owing to automobile logjams on roadways that keep drivers stuck in their cars and cost the economy billions of euros annually, Dutch deputy infrastructure minister Stientje van Veldhoven recently told media that she's endorsing a program that would pay employees 19 cents for every kilometer (0.6 miles) they bike to work.

That doesn't sound like very much, but perhaps citizens who need to trek several miles each way would appreciate the cumulative boost in their weekly paychecks. For employers, the benefit would be a healthier workforce that might take fewer sick days and reduce parking needs.

Veldhoven says she also plans on designing a program that would assist employers in supplying workers with bicycles. The goal is to have 200,000 people opting for manual transportation over cars. If the program proceeds, it might find a receptive population. The Netherlands is already home to 22.5 million bikes, more than the 17.1 million people living there. In Amsterdam, a quarter of residents bike to work.

There's no timeline for implementing the pay-to-bike plan, but early trial studies indicate that the expense might not have to be a long-term prospect. Study subjects continued to bike to work even after the financial rewards stopped.

[h/t The Independent]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
New Health-Monitoring Litter Box Could Save You a Trip to the Vet
iStock
iStock

Unsure if your cat is sick or just acting aloof per usual? A “smart toilet” for your fur baby could help you decide whether a trip to the vet is really necessary.

Enter the Pet Care Monitor: More than a litter box, the receptacle is designed to analyze cat urine for health issues, The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo reports. Created by the Japan-based Sharp Corporation—better known for consumer electronics such as TVs, mobile phones, and the world's first LCD calculator—the product will be available for purchase on the company’s website starting July 30 (although shipping limitations may apply).

Sensors embedded in the monitor can measure your cat’s weight and urine volume, as well as the frequency and duration of toilet trips. That information is then analyzed by an AI program that compares it to data gleaned from a joint study between Sharp Corp and Tottori University in Japan. If there are any red flags, a report will be sent directly to your smartphone via an application called Cocoro Pet. The monitor could be especially useful for keeping an eye on cats with a history of kidney and urinary tract problems.

If you have several cats, the company offers sensors to identify each pet, allowing separate data sets to be collected and analyzed. (Each smart litter box can record the data of up to three cats.)

The Pet Care Monitor costs about $225, and there’s an additional monthly fee of roughly $3 for the service. Sharp Corporation says it will continue developing health products for pets, and it has already created a leg sensor that can tell if a dog is nervous by measuring its heart and respiratory rates.

[h/t The Asahi Shimbun]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios