kids and emotional cues | Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have found that how children’s brains process emotional cues is set at a young age. The team studied brain scans from hundreds of children ages 5 to 15 who watched videos that dealt with emotional topics. “It appears that activation patterns in the brain for processing naturalistic emotional cues are pretty well set by the time a child reaches school age,” says the study’s first author M. Catalina Camacho, Ph.D. “While the patterns become more refined in adolescence, they don’t change substantially. What that means is that when the response to others’ emotions is unusual—as it can be in anxiety, autism or depression—we really need to intervene during early childhood to better support the child’s social and emotional development.”

gastric cancer and inflammation
Type 2 inflammation is usually associated with allergies and asthma, but Rich DiPaola, interim chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Saint Louis University, is investigating whether it’s also a risk factor for gastric cancer thanks to a four-year $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq), which allows researchers to understand the similarities and differences between precancerous and normal cells, DiPaola’s team found that precancerous cells have a unique transcriptional profile before they become gastric cancer. Translating these findings into predicting cancer risk could lead to targeted screening, earlier diagnosis and increased survival for patients.

hope for diabetes
Diabetes is the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States, and people with the disease can spend twice as much on medical costs. To help patients move toward better health, Mercy is using electronic health records to identify individuals with high blood sugar. “Our team works like ‘care traffic controllers’ to figure out what the barriers are for our patients so they can conquer their diabetes,” says Jennifer Gist, manager of Mercy’s diabetes care team. “We knew if we could help patients control this one thing, their overall health would improve immensely. In fall 2021 we developed an algorithm that could search our electronic health records and identify patients who needed extra help. Once it finds that person, we reach out and help them navigate their care.”

bacteria vaccines
The bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae is a common cause of urinary tract infection, pneumonia and bloodstream infection. Some of these infections are easily treatable, but sometimes, Klebsiella can be resistant to antibiotics. A study at Washington University School of Medicine in partnership with vaccine
start-up Omniose, has made strides toward developing a vaccine for the bacterium. Researchers created two experimental sugar-protein conjugate vaccines based on two different sugars, or polysaccharides, on Klebsiella’s surface—an approach that has proved effective in combating other bacteria. Using mice models, the team looked at the effectiveness of each vaccine, and found the one based on a capsular polysaccharide to be more effective. The findings could help with optimizing the design for a Klebsiella vaccine.