Tag Archives: cancer

Premature Aging, Obesity, Brain Disorders: 3 FrontRunners In The CRISP-R Therapy Race

CRISPR is the ultimate child star in the biomedical universe. Just six years old, the gene editing prodigy is now the subject of multiple clinical trials that aim to push the lab tech into the real world. In 2017, a 44-year-old man received the first-ever dose of gene therapy—in the form of zinc-finger nucleases—that targeted a deficient gene in his liver. This type of gene therapy, called “in vivo” in scientist-speak, is markedly different than the most common type these days.

So far, the only gene therapies on the market are CAR-Ts: a procedure targeting blood cancer that extracts a person’s immune cells, genetically edits them within the lab to boost their cancer-killing power, and then infuses them back into the body.

In vivo gene therapy is far more intimate: rather than extracting a person’s cells, a gene editing mix is directly injected into a person, with the hope of performing molecular surgery with a single shot. CRISPR is now making that possibility very real. With dozens of efforts in the making, from premature aging to obesity and developmental brain disorders, here are the frontrunners beyond CRISPR-based cancer therapy to watch out for.

Source: https://singularityhub.com/

‘Epigenetic’ Gene Tweaks Could Trigger Cancer

You could be forgiven for thinking of cancer as a genetic disease. Sure, we know it can be triggered by things you do – smoking being the classic example – but most of us probably assume that we get cancer because of a genetic mutation – a glitch in our DNA. It turns out that this is not quite the end of the story.

We now have the first direct evidence that switching off certain genes – something that can be caused by our lifestyle or the environment we live in – can trigger tumours, without mutating the DNA itself. The good news is that these changes are, in theory, reversible.

All cells contain the same DNA, but individual genes in any cell can be switched on or off by the addition or subtraction of a methyl group – a process known as epigenetic methylation.

For years, researchers have known that mutations to our DNA – either those passed on at birth or those acquired as a result of exposure to radiation, for example – can cause cancer. But epigenetic changes have also been implicated in cancer because abnormal patterns of gene methylation are seen in virtually all types of human tumours.

For example, a gene called MLH1 produces a protein that repairs DNA damage. It is often mutated in colon cancer tumours, but in some tumour samples the gene is healthy, but appears to have been silenced by methylationThe problem is that it has been difficult to test whether abnormal methylation occurs as a result of a tumour or is a cause of its growth.

In genetics you can easily delete a gene and see what the consequence is, but it’s much harder to direct methylation to specific regions of the genome,” says Lanlan Shen of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

To get round this problem, Shen and her colleagues used a naturally occurring sequence of DNA, which draws in methyl groups to methylate nearby genes. They call it their “methylation magnet”.

The team inserted this sequence next to the tumour suppressor gene, p16, in mouse embryonic stem cells. These embryos then developed into mice that carry the “methylation magnet” in all of their cells. The team focused on methylating p16 because it is abnormally methylated in numerous cancers.

They monitored the rodents for 18 months – until they reached the mouse equivalent of middle age. Over this time, 30 per cent of the mice developed tumours around their body, including in their liver, colon, lungs and spleen. None of a control group of genetically identical mice developed tumours.

Some tissues showed faster methylation than others, for example in the liver, colon and spleen, and that’s exactly where we saw the tumours grow,” says Shen. “It seems like methylation predisposed the tissue to tumour development.” She reckons that methylation silences p16, which lifts the break that it normally places on any abnormal cell division.

Source: https://www.newscientist.com/

New Quantum Sensor Improves Cancer Treatment

A new quantum sensor developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) in Canada, has proven it can outperform existing technologies and promises significant advancements in long-range 3D imaging and monitoring the success of cancer treatments.

The sensors are the first of their kind and are based on semiconductor nanowires that can detect single particles of light with high timing resolution, speed and efficiency over an unparalled wavelength range, from ultraviolet to near-infrared.

The technology also has the ability to significantly improve quantum communication and remote sensing capabilities.

Interaction of single incident photon pulses and a tapered semiconductor nanowire array photodetector

A sensor needs to be very efficient at detecting light. In applications like quantum radar, surveillance, and nighttime operation, very few particles of light return to the device,” said principal investigator Michael Reimer, an IQC faculty member and assistant professor in the Faculty of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department. “In these cases, you want to be able to detect every single photon coming in.

The next generation quantum sensor designed in Reimer’s lab is so fast and efficient that it can absorb and detect a single particle of light, called a photon, and refresh for the next one within nanoseconds. The researchers created an array of tapered nanowires that turn incoming photons into electric current that can be amplified and detected.

Remote sensing, high-speed imaging from space, acquiring long range high resolution 3D images, quantum communication, and singlet oxygen detection for dose monitoring in cancer treatment are all applications that could benefit from the kind of robust single photon detection that this new quantum sensor provides.

The semiconducting nanowire array achieves its high speed, timing resolution and efficiency thanks to the quality of its materials, the number of nanowires, doping profile and the optimization of the nanowire shape and arrangement. The sensor detects a broad spectrum of light with high efficiency and high timing resolution, all while operating at room temperature. Reimer emphasizes that the spectrum absorption can be broadened even further with different materials.

This device uses Indium Phosphide (InP) nanowires. Changing the material to Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs), for example, can extend the bandwidth even further towards telecommunications wavelengths while maintaining performance,” Reimer said. “It’s state of the art now, with the potential for further enhancements.”

Once the prototype is packaged with the right electronics and portable cooling, the sensor is ready for testing beyond the lab.  “A broad range of industries and research fields will benefit from a quantum sensor with these capabilities,” said Reimer.

Source: https://uwaterloo.ca/

Better Treat Salmonella Than Face Cancer

An interdisciplinary team of three Virginia Tech faculty members affiliated with the Macromolecules Innovation Institute has created a drug delivery system that could radically expand cancer treatment options. The conventional cancer treatment method of injecting nanoparticle drugs into the bloodstream results in low efficacy. Due to the complexities of the human body, very few of those nanoparticles actually reach the cancer site, and once there, there’s limited delivery across the cancer tissue.

The new system created at Virginia Tech is known as Nanoscale Bacteria-Enabled Autonomous Drug Delivery System (NanoBEADS). Researchers have developed a process to chemically attach nanoparticles of anti-cancer drugs onto attenuated bacteria cells, which they have shown to be more effective than the passive delivery of injections at reaching cancer sites.

NanoBEADS has produced results in both in vitro (in tumor spheroids) and in vivo (in living mice) models showing up to 100-fold improvements in the distribution and retention of nanoparticles in cancerous tissues.This is a product of Bahareh Behkam, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Collaborators on this interdisciplinary team are Rick Davis, professor of chemical engineering, and Coy Allen, assistant professor of biomedical sciences and pathobiology in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

You can make the most amazing drugs, but if you cannot deliver it where it needs to go, it cannot be very effective,” Behkam said. “By improving the delivery, you can enhance efficacy.

Humans have noticed, even as far back as Ancient Egypt, that cancer went into remission if the patient also contracted an infection like salmonella. Neither are ideal, but humans can treat salmonella infections more effectively than cancer.

In modern times, Allen said the idea of treating cancer with infections traces back to the late 1800s and has evolved into immunotherapy, in which doctors try to activate the immune system to attack cancerous cells. Of course, salmonella is harmful to humans, but a weakened version could in theory provide the benefits of immunotherapy without the harmful effects of salmonella infection. The concept is similar to humans receiving a weakened flu virus in a vaccine to build immunity.

The work, which combines expertise in mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, and veterinary medicine, was recently detailed in Advanced Science.

Source: https://vtnews.vt.edu/

How To Nullify Proteins That Allow Cancer Cells To Grow

A physicist in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University hopes to improve cancer detection with a new and novel class of nanomaterials. Liviu Movileanu, professor of physics, creates tiny sensors that detect, characterize and analyze protein-protein interactions (PPIs) in blood serum. Information from PPIs could be a boon to the biomedical industry, as researchers seek to nullify proteins that allow cancer cells to grow and spread.

Movileanu’s findings are the subject of a paper in Nature Biotechnology (Springer Nature, 2018), co-authored by Ph.D. student Avinash Kumar Thakur. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has supported their work with a four-year, $1.17 million grant award.

 

A digital illustration of a cancer cell undergoing mitosis

Detailed knowledge of the human genome has opened up a new frontier for the identification of many functional proteins involved in brief physical associations with other proteins,” Movileanu says. “Major perturbations in the strength of these PPIs lead to disease conditions. Because of the transient nature of these interactions, new methods are needed to assess them.”

Enter Movileanu’s lab, which designs, creates and optimizes a unique class of biophysical tools called nanobiosensors. These highly sensitive, pore-based tools detect mechanistic processes, such as PPIs, at the single-molecule level.

Source: https://news.syr.edu/

Immunotherapy Technique Specifically Targets Tumor Cells

A new immunotherapy screening prototype developed by University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers can quickly create individualized cancer treatments that will allow physicians to effectively target tumors without the side effects of standard cancer drugsUCI’s Weian Zhao and Nobel laureate David Baltimore with Caltech led the research team that developed a tracking and screening system that identifies T cell receptors with 100-percent specificity for individual tumors within just a few days.

In the human immune system, T cells have molecules on their surfaces that bind to antigens on the surface of foreign or cancer cells. To treat a tumor with T cell therapy, researchers must identify exactly which receptor molecules work against a specific tumor’s antigens. UCI researchers have sped up that identification process.

This technology is particularly exciting because it dismantles major challenges in cancer treatments,” said Zhao, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences. “This use of droplet microfluidics screening significantly reduces the cost of making new cancer immunotherapies that are associated with less systemic side effects than standard chemotherapy drugs, and vastly speeds up the timeframe for treatment.

Zhao added that traditional cancer treatments have offered a one-size-fits-all disease response, such as chemotherapy drugs which can involve systemic and serious side effects.

Research findings appear in Lab on a Chip.

Source: https://news.uci.edu/

Fasting Is A powerful Anti-Aging Weapon

A molecule produced during fasting or calorie restriction has anti-aging effects on the vascular system, which could reduce the occurrence and severity of human diseases related to blood vessels, such as cardiovascular disease, according to a study led by Georgia State University.

As people become older, they are more susceptible to disease, like cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Ming-Hui Zou, senior author of the study, director of the Center for Molecular and Translational Medicine at Georgia State. “Age is the most important so-called risk factor for human disease. How to actually delay aging is a major pathway to reducing the incident and severity of human diseaseThe most important part of aging is vascular aging. When people become older, the vessels that supply different organs are the most sensitive and more subject to aging damage, so studying vascular aging is very important. This study is focused on vascular aging, and in old age, what kind of changes happen and how to prevent vascular aging.”

In this study, the research team explores the link between calorie restriction (eating less or fasting) and delaying aging, which is unknown and has been poorly studied. The findings are published in the journal Molecular Cell.

The researchers identified an important, small molecule that is produced during fasting or calorie restriction conditions. The molecule, β-Hydroxybutyrate, is one type of a ketone body, or a water-soluble molecule that contains a ketone group and is produced by the liver from fatty acids during periods of low food intake, carbohydrate restrictive diets, starvation and prolonged intense exercise.

Source: https://news.gsu.edu/

Antipsychotic Drug Reduces Aggressive Type Of Breast Cancer Cells

A commonly-used anti-psychotic drug could also be effective against triple negative breast cancer, the form of the disease that is most difficult to treat, new research has found. The study, led by the University of Bradford, also showed that the drug, Pimozide, has the potential to treat the most common type of lung cancer.

Anti-psychotic drugs are known to have anti-cancer properties, with some, albeit inconclusive, studies showing a reduced incidence of cancer amongst people with schizophrenia. The new research, published inOncotarget, is the first to identify how one of these drugs acts against triple negative breast cancer, with the potential to be the first targeted treatment for the disease.

Triple negative breast cancer has lower survival rates and increased risk of recurrence. It is the only type of breast cancer for which only limited targeted treatments are available. Our research has shown that Pimozide could potentially fill this gap. And because this drug is already in clinical use, it could move quickly into clinical trials,” said lead researcher, Professor Mohamed El-Tanani from the University of Bradford

The researchers, from the University of Bradford, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Salamanca, tested Pimozide in the laboratory on triple negative breast cancer cells, non-small cell lung cancer cells and normal breast cells. They found that at the highest dosage used, up to 90 per cent of the cancer cells died following treatment with the drug, compared with only five per cent of the normal cells.

Source: https://bradford.ac.uk/

CRISPR-SKIP, New Gene Editing Technique

What if doctors could treat previously incurable genetic diseases caused by errors or mutations in genes? Thanks to new research by American scientists at the University of Illinois, we are one step closer to making that a reality. Published in Genome Biology, their work is based on CRISPR-Cas9, a groundbreaking genome editing system.

Typically, cells in the body “readDNA to produce the proteins needed for different biological functions. . Scientists can change how the DNA is read using CRISPR gene-editing technology. CRISPR-Cas9 is often used to cut out specific areas of DNA and repair faulty genes. In the current study, the researchers modified existing technology to create CRISPR-SKIP. Instead of breaking DNA to cut faulty genes out, CRISPR-SKIP changes a single base of the targeted DNA sequence, causing the cell to skip reading that section of DNA.

According to the study authors, CRISPR-SKIP can eliminate faulty sections of DNA permanently, allowing for long-lasting treatment of some genetic diseases with one treatment. They successfully tested their technique in cell lines from both mice and humans. The scientists aim to test the method in live organisms in the future.

CRISPR-SKIP has the potential to help treat many diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Huntington’s disease, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy to name a few. Because the method only requires editing of a single base, it is simple, precise, and adaptable to a variety of cell types and applications.

Source: https://news.illinois.edu/
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One Dollar Hand Kit Detects and Diagnoses Diseases

A test kit that can fit into the palm of a hand could be changing the face of disease screening and diagnosis. Developed by a multidisciplinary team of the National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers, the device named enVision (enzyme-assisted nanocomplexes for visual identification of nucleic acids) is a versatile platform that can conduct specific and sensitive screening and detection for a range of diseases, from infectious diseases and high-prevalence infections, to various types of cancers and genetic diseases.

More effective and less costly than existing infection diagnostic methods, enVision, which took about one-and-a-half years to develop, takes between 30 minutes to one hour to detect diseases — two to four times faster — and each test kit costs under $1 — about 100 times cheaper.

The enVision platform is extremely sensitive, accurate, fast, and low-cost. It works at room temperature and does not require heaters or special pumps, making it very portable. With this invention, tests can be done at the point-of-care, for instance in community clinics or hospital wards, so that disease monitoring or treatment can be administered in a timely manner to achieve better health outcomes,” said team leader Assistant Professor Shao Huilin from the Biomedical Institute for Global Health Research and Technology (BIGHEART) at NUS and NUS Biomedical Engineering.

Source: https://news.nus.edu.sg/