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Predicting Heart Attack and Stroke Risk 10 Years Before

A new risk calculator that can better predict people at high risk of heart and circulatory diseases years before they strike, is ready for use across the UK and Europe researchers say. The risk calculator, SCORE2, enables doctors to predict who is at risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years with greater accuracy.

Researchers say the tool will help to save people from having a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke, ultimately saving livesPeople who are flagged as having an increased risk can be put on personalised preventative treatment, such as statins, or will receive lifestyle advice to lower their risk. 

Around 200 investigators and researchers across Europe analysed data from nearly 700,000 participants – mostly middle-aged – from 45 different studiesWhen recruited to the studies, participants had no prior history of heart and circulatory disease, and in the 10 years they were followed up, 30,000 had a cardiovascular event – including fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke.

The risk tool was statistically recalibrated, by using regional-specific cardiovascular and risk factor data from 10.8 million people, to more accurately estimate cardiovascular risk for populations split into four European risk regionsIt uses known risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases such as age, sex, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and smokingThe calculator accounts for current trends in heart and circulatory diseases, can predict both fatal and non-fatal conditions and is adaptable to countries with different levels of risk. Researchers say it can better estimate the cardiovascular risk amongst younger people, and will improve how treatment is tailored for older people and those in high-risk regions across Europe. 

Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio, BHF-funded researcher at the University of Cambridge BHF Centre of Research Excellence, said: “This risk tool is much more powerful and superior than what doctors have used for decades. “It will fit seamlessly into current prevention programmes with substantial real-world impact by improving the prevention of cardiovascular diseases across Europe before they strike.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation and cardiologist, said: “This new risk tool is a major advance and will save many more people from developing heart attacks, stroke and heart disease, all of which develop silently over many years and strike without warning. “It will be the new gold standard for doctors to determine which patients are at the highest risk of these conditions, and enable tailored treatment and lifestyle advice to be given much earlier.”

Carbon NanoTubes Generate Electricity by Scavenging Energy

MIT engineers have discovered a new way of generating electricity using tiny carbon particles that can create a current simply by interacting with liquid surrounding them. The liquid, an organic solvent, draws electrons out of the particles, generating a current that could be used to drive chemical reactions or to power micro– or nanoscale robots, the researchers say.

This mechanism is new, and this way of generating energy is completely new,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “This technology is intriguing because all you have to do is flow a solvent through a bed of these particles. This allows you to do electrochemistry, but with no wires.”

In a new study describing this phenomenon, the researchers showed that they could use this electric current to drive a reaction known as alcohol oxidation — an organic chemical reaction that is important in the chemical industry. Strano is the senior author of the paper, which appears today in Nature Communications.

The new discovery grew out of Strano’s research on carbon nanotubeshollow tubes made of a lattice of carbon atoms, which have unique electrical properties. In 2010, Strano demonstrated, for the first time, that carbon nanotubes can generatethermopower waves.” When a carbon nanotube is coated with layer of fuel, moving pulses of heat, or thermopower waves, travel along the tube, creating an electrical current.

That work led Strano and his students to uncover a related feature of carbon nanotubes. They found that when part of a nanotube is coated with a Teflon-like polymer, it creates an asymmetry that makes it possible for electrons to flow from the coated to the uncoated part of the tube, generating an electrical current. Those electrons can be drawn out by submerging the particles in a solvent that is hungry for electrons.

To harness this special capability, the researchers created electricity-generating particles by grinding up carbon nanotubes and forming them into a sheet of paper-like material. One side of each sheet was coated with a Teflon-like polymer, and the researchers then cut out small particles, which can be any shape or size. For this study, they made particles that were 250 microns by 250 microns.

When these particles are submerged in an organic solvent such as acetonitrile, the solvent adheres to the uncoated surface of the particles and begins pulling electrons out of them. “The solvent takes electrons away, and the system tries to equilibrate by moving electrons,” Strano says. “There’s no sophisticated battery chemistry inside. It’s just a particle and you put it into solvent and it starts generating an electric field.”

The current version of the particles can generate about 0.7 volts of electricity per particle. In this study, the researchers also showed that they can form arrays of hundreds of particles in a small test tube. This “packed bedreactor generates enough energy to power a chemical reaction called an alcohol oxidation, in which an alcohol is converted to an aldehyde or a ketone. Usually, this reaction is not performed using electrochemistry because it would require too much external current.

Source: https://news.mit.edu/

Early Cancer Detection Test

Mayo Clinic today recognized the debut of a groundbreaking multi-cancer early detection (MCED) test called Galleri™ that can detect more than 50 types of cancers through a simple blood draw. The  Galleri test is intended  to complement U.S. guideline-recommended cancer screenings.

Mayo Clinic Oncologist Minetta Liu, M.D. was involved in the development of the new test. “Today, many cancers are found too late, leading to poor outcomes,” says Dr. Liu. “The ability to detect cancer early is critical to successful treatment.”

Cancer is expected to become the leading cause of death in the U.S. this year. Currently recommended cancer screening tests only cover five cancer types and screen for a single cancer at a time. In fact, there are no recommended early detection screening tests for other cancers, which account for 71% of cancer deaths.

Researchers used the Galleri test in the Circulating Cell-free Genome Atlas (CCGA) Study, a prospective, observational, longitudinal study designed to characterize the landscape of genomic cancer signals in the blood of people with and without cancer. In the study, the Galleri test demonstrated the ability to detect more than 50 types of cancers — over 45 of which have no recommended screening tests today — with a low false-positive rate of less than 1%.

According to Dr. Liu, when a cancer signal is detected, the Galleri test can identify where in the body the cancer is located with high accuracy — a critical component to help enable health care providers to direct diagnostic next steps and care.

We are grateful to Mayo Clinic for its dedication to advancing new technologies for early cancer detection and for playing a pivotal role in the development of Galleri,” says Dr. Josh Ofman, chief medical officer and head of external affairs at GRAIL.“A simple blood test capable of detecting more than 50 cancers is a ground-breaking advancement and could have a tremendous human and economic benefit.

Initial results from the interventional PATHFINDER Study, which involved the return of Galleri test results to providers to communicate to participants, were presented today at the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting. They demonstrate Galleri’s performance in the clinical setting was consistent with findings from previous observational studies, underscoring the potential real-world ability of Galleri to find deadly cancers earlier.

Source: https://individualizedmedicineblog.mayoclinic.org/

Anti-diabetic Medication at a Specific Dosage Makes you Loose Weight

A weight-loss drug described as a ‘game-changer by obesity researchers has just been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), representing the first time the agency has endorsed such a treatment in several years. Wegovy, a weight-management therapy to be manufactured by Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, is the the first FDA-approved weight-loss drug since 2014, but it’s not entirely a new medication.

The same drug, called semaglutide, has been used in the US and other countries as an anti-diabetic medication for years. More recently, however, evidence has shown that semaglutide at a different dosage also functions as a powerful and effective appetite-suppressant. In a study published earlier in the year involving almost 2,000 obese adults from 16 different countries, researchers reported that long-term treatment with the medicine led to almost 15 percent weight loss on average across the cohort.

Some lost even more, with over 30 percent of the group dropping in excess of 20 percent of their body weight – results that the scientists singled out as remarkable.

No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss – this really is a game-changer,” obesity researcher Rachel Batterham from University College London said at the time.

For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery.”

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

F.D.A. Approves Alzheimer’s Drug

Aducanumab, or Aduhelm, is the first new Alzheimer’s treatment in 18 years and the first to attack the disease process. But some experts say there’s not enough evidence it can address cognitive symptomsThe Food and Drug Administration  approved the first new medication for Alzheimer’s disease in nearly two decades, a contentious decision made despite opposition from the agency’s independent advisory committee and some Alzheimer’s experts who said there was not enough evidence that the drug can help patients.

The drug, aducanumab, which will go by the brand name Aduhelm, is a monthly intravenous infusion intended to slow cognitive decline in people with mild memory and thinking problems. It is the first approved treatment to attack the disease process of Alzheimer’s instead of just addressing dementia symptoms. Biogen, its manufacturer, announced that the list price would be $56,000 a year. In addition, there will most likely be tens of thousands of dollars in costs for diagnostic testing and brain imaging. Recognizing that clinical trials of the drug had provided incomplete evidence to demonstrate effectiveness, the F.D.A. granted approval for the drug to be used but required Biogen to conduct a new clinical trial. If the new trial, called a Phase 4 trial, fails to show the drug is effective, the F.D.A. can — but is not required to — rescind its approval.

About six million people in the United States and roughly 30 million globally have Alzheimer’s, a number expected to double by 2050. Currently, five medications approved in the United States can delay cognitive decline for several months in various Alzheimer’s stages. Patient advocacy groups had lobbied vigorously for approval because there are so few treatments available for the debilitating condition. Some other drugs in clinical trials are more promising, but they are most likely three or four years away from potential approval.

The F.D.A. advisory committee, along with an independent think tank and several prominent experts — including some Alzheimer’s doctors who worked on the aducanumab clinical trials — said the evidence raised significant doubts about whether the drug is effective. They also said that even if it could slow cognitive decline in some patients, the benefit suggested by the evidence would be so slight that it would not outweigh the risk of swelling or bleeding in the brain that the drug caused in the trials.

The data included in the applicant’s submission were highly complex and left residual uncertainties regarding clinical benefit,” the F.D.A.’s director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, wrote on the agency’s website. But, she said, the agency had decided to approve the drug through a program called accelerated approval, which is designed “to provide earlier access to potentially valuable therapies for patients with serious diseases where there is an unmet need, and where there is an expectation of clinical benefit despite some residual uncertainty regarding that benefit.” Michel Vounatsos, Biogen’s chief executive, hailed the approval and said in a statement, “We are committed to sharing our future insights about Aduhelm with the scientific community as we collect more data from the real-world use of this treatment.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/

Huge Parts of the Internet Facing Outages

Several major websites, including those of the British government, The New York Times, CNN, The Financial Times and The Guardian, were inaccessible for many users on Tuesday morning. According to Downdetector.com, which tracks internet disruptions, sites including Etsy, Hulu, PayPal, Reddit, Twitch and Twitter also reported problems. Many of the affected sites appeared to have been restored after a little less than an hour.

The outage was connected to Fastly, a provider of cloud computing services used by scores of companies to improve the speed and reliability of their websites. Fastly later said on its website that the issue had been identified and that a fix was being made.

Fastly works on technology known as a content delivery network, which is a highly distributed network of servers used to reduce the distance between a server and user, and increase the speed at which a website loads.

https://www.nytimes.com/

Have Kneecap Pain? Exercise Your Hips!

The body is always interesting. For decades some physical therapists have treated knee pain by having their patients perform knee exercises. However, more recently physical therapists have figured out that most kneecap pain is actually coming from a hip problem. Let’s dig in.

The knee cap has to track evenly in the groove or it can become painful and wear away the cartilage on one side or the other. Since the most common way the knee cap is shifted is toward the outside (lateral) and there is a muscle that can pull it toward the inside (the VMO or vastus medialis obliqus), for decades physical therapists would give patients exercises for that muscle. However, there’s another reason the knee cap can track toward the outside. That has to do with the leg bone itself moving inward. That moves the groove for the knee cap, which is controlled at the hip. So which is it? Do you need to exercise the knee muscles? The hip muscles? Or both?

The hip muscles do all sorts of things and one of them is to hold your hips externally rotated. When these muscles get weak, the body caves inward, much like we see in our modern computer and phone-centric worlds (see above). When that happens, the knee cap groove at the end of the femur moves inward. Hence, much of hip physical therapy for patellofemoral problems is working on the hip external rotators. Meaning exercises where you rotate the feet or hip outward, for example, clamshell exercises.

This new research is a meta-analysis of 13 studies on exercises to help patellofemoral pain. The authors broke the studies how into hip+knee, hip-only, and knee-only exercises. They found that hip+knee and hip-only exercises worked about as well as each other to get rid of PF pain, but that knee-only exercises were inferior. This fits with what we know about how this problem develops.

The upshot? If you want to get rid of knee cap pain, the answer lies in strengthening your weak hip muscles! So make sure you get your clamshells and glute bridges in today.

Source: https://stem-cells.in-the.news/

What is the Human Cortex?

The cerebral cortex is the thin surface layer of the brain found in vertebrate animals that has evolved most recently, showing the greatest variation in size among different mammals (it is especially large in humans). Each part of the cerebral cortex is six layered (e.g., L2), with different kinds of nerve cells (e.g., spiny stellate) in each layer. The cerebral cortex plays a crucial role in most higher level cognitive functions, such as thinking, memory, planning, perception, language, and attention. Although there has been some progress in understanding the macroscopic organization of this very complicated tissue, its organization at the level of individual nerve cells and their interconnecting synapses is largely unknown.

Petabyte connectomic reconstruction of a volume of human neocortex. Left: Small subvolume of the dataset. Right: A subgraph of 5000 neurons and excitatory (green) and inhibitory (red) connections in the dataset. The full graph (connectome) would be far too dense to visualize.

Mapping the structure of the brain at the resolution of individual synapses requires high-resolution microscopy techniques that can image biochemically stabilized (fixed) tissue. We collaborated with brain surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (MGH) who sometimes remove pieces of normal human cerebral cortex when performing a surgery to cure epilepsy in order to gain access to a site in the deeper brain where an epileptic seizure is being initiated. Patients anonymously donated this tissue, which is normally discarded, to our colleagues in the Lichtman lab. The Harvard researchers cut the tissue into ~5300 individual 30 nanometer sections using an automated tape collecting ultra-microtome, mounted those sections onto silicon wafers, and then imaged the brain tissue at 4 nm resolution in a customized 61-beam parallelized scanning electron microscope for rapid image acquisition.

Imaging the ~5300 physical sections produced 225 million individual 2D images. The team then computationally stitched and aligned this data to produce a single 3D volume. While the quality of the data was generally excellent, these alignment pipelines had to robustly handle a number of challenges, including imaging artifacts, missing sections, variation in microscope parameters, and physical stretching and compression of the tissue. Once aligned, a multiscale flood-filling network pipeline was applied (using thousands of Google Cloud TPUs) to produce a 3D segmentation of each individual cell in the tissue. Additional machine learning pipelines were applied to identify and characterize 130 million synapses, classify each 3D fragment into various “subcompartments” (e.g., axon, dendrite, or cell body), and identify other structures of interest such as myelin and cilia. Automated reconstruction results were imperfect, so manual efforts were used to “proofread” roughly one hundred cells in the data. Over time, the scientists expect to add additional cells to this verified set through additional manual efforts and further advances in automation.

Source: https://ai.googleblog.com/

High Speed Typing Brain-Computer Interface

The ancient art of handwriting has just pushed the field of brain-computer interface (BCI) to the next level. Researchers have devised a system that allows a person to communicate directly with a computer from his brain by imagining creating handwritten messages. The approach enables communication at a rate more than twice as fast as previous typing-by-brain experiments.

Researchers at Stanford University performed the study on a 65-year-old man with a spinal cord injury who had had an electrode array implanted in his brain. The scientists described the experiment recently in the journal Nature.

The big news from this paper is the very high speed,” says Cynthia Chestek, a biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study. “It’s at least half way to able-bodied typing speed, and that’s why this paper is in Nature.”

For years, researchers have been experimenting with ways to enable people to directly communicate with computers using only their thoughts, without verbal commands, hand movement, or eye movement. This kind of technology offers a life-giving communication method for people who are “locked in” from brainstem stroke or disease, and unable to speak.

Successful BCI typing-by-brain approaches so far typically involve a person imagining moving a cursor around a digital keyboard to select letters. Meanwhile, electrodes record brain activity, and machine learning algorithms decipher the patterns associated with those thoughts, translating them into the typed words. The fastest of these previous typing-by-brain experiments allowed people to type about 40 characters, or 8 words, per minute.

That we can do this at all is impressive, but in real life that speed of communication is quite slow. The Stanford researchers were able to more than double that speed with a system that decodes brain activity associated with handwriting. In the new system, the participant, who had been paralyzed for about a decade, imagines the hand movements he would make to write sentences.

We ask him to actually try to write—to try to make his hand move again, and he reports this somatosensory illusion of actually feeling like his hand is moving,” says Frank Willett, a researcher at Stanford who collaborated on the experiment.

A microelectrode array implanted in the motor cortex of the participant’s brain records the electrical activity of individual neurons as he tries to write. “He hasn’t moved his hand or tried to write in more than ten years and we still got these beautiful patterns of neural activity,” says Willett.

The new findings, published online in Nature, could spur further advances benefiting hundreds of thousands of Americans, and millions globally, who’ve lost the use of their upper limbs or their ability to speak due to spinal-cord injuries, strokes or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, said Jaimie Henderson, MD, professor of neurosurgery.

This approach allowed a person with paralysis to compose sentences at speeds nearly comparable to those of able-bodied adults of the same age typing on a smartphone,” said Henderson, the John and Jene Blume — Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor.” The goal is to restore the ability to communicate by text.”

The participant in the study produced text at a rate of about 18 words per minute. By comparison, able-bodied people of the same age can punch out about 23 words per minute on a smartphone.

Surce: https://med.stanford.edu/
AND
https://spectrum.ieee.org/

The Two Major Obstacles To A Hydrogen Revolution

Hydrogen will play an indispensable role in a future carbon-free energy system, according to nearly everyone concerned with the matter. But scenarios showing its share in final energy in the year 2050 vary considerably. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says 12%, the Brussels-based Hydrogen Council says 18%, while the EU’s announced target is 24%.

Whatever the final outcome may be, industry watchers now largely agree that there are two realms where costs must come down for carbon-free hydrogen to advance. The cost of renewable energy, already the object of remarkable reductions in the past decade, must continue to fall. And the cost of water electrolysis for hydrogen production, encompassing the basic hardware of green hydrogen, the electrolyser, must follow a similar path downward.

Many see both poised to happen. In fact, the two are integrally related, with operating expense and capital cost factoring into the total cost of electrolyser operation. The decline of renewable power prices is expected to continue, with accelerated deployment of renewables into grids. But capital costs must come down as well, with electrolysis equipment being manufactured more quickly and less expensively.

While the price of solar PV power has fallen approximately 90% in the past 10 years, it needs to fall still further and governments appear determined to help. For example, in March, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced its objective that the cost of utility-scale solar power fall by more than half in 10 years, from a current cost of 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 3 cents/kWh by 2025 and 2 cents/kWh by 2030. DOE announced a host of R&D projects and seed capital for improved photovoltaics (perovskites, thin films) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) to achieve higher efficiencies and lower costs.

The cost of electrolysis technology has been declining as well, with design improvements for higher efficiency. Improved alkaline units are being deployed even while buyers are turning increasingly to higher efficiency proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers. Meanwhile the technology is advancing for solid oxide electrolyser cells (SOEC), which promise to achieve very high efficiency from high heat input, from industrial heat sources, and potentially from nuclear reactors.

Source: https://oilprice.com/

Nuclear Fusion One Step Closer

China broke the record by keeping the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) by achieving plasma temperature at 120 million Celsius for 101 seconds and 160 million Celsius for 20 seconds, a major step toward the test run of the fusion reactor.

The Tokamak devise is located at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is designed to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars to provide almost infinite clean energy through controlled nuclear fusion, which is often dubbed the “artificial sun.” The achievement broke a previous record of maintaining the plasma temperature at 100 million C for 100 seconds. According to Li Miao, director of the physics department of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, it is a milestone in reaching the goal of keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time.

The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time,” Li told the Global Times, adding that the next milestone might be to maintain the stability for a week or more.

Achieving a plasma temperature above 100 million C is one of the key challenges to harness the nuclear fusion. At the end of 2020, South Korea reached 100 million C for 20 seconds. The temperature at the core of the sun is widely believed to be 15 million C, meaning that the plasma at the device’s core will be seven times hotter than that of the sun.
The energy generated from nuclear fusion is the most reliable and clean energy, Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Friday, adding that if the technology can be applied commercially, it will have huge economic benefits. However, Lin cautioned that as the technology is still in the experimental stage, it still need at least 30 years for the technology to come out of the lab. “It’s more like a future technology that’s critical for China’s green development push.”

Source: https://www.globaltimes.cn/

Simple Diagnostic Tool Predicts Individual Risk of Alzheimer’s

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed an algorithm that combines data from a simple blood test and brief memory tests, to predict with great accuracy who will develop Alzheimer’s disease in the future.

Approximately 20-30% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease are wrongly diagnosed within specialist healthcare, and diagnostic work-up is even more difficult in primary care. Accuracy can be significantly improved by measuring the proteins tau and beta-amyloid via a spinal fluid sample, or PET scan. However, those methods are expensive and only available at a relatively few specialized memory clinics worldwide. Early and accurate diagnosis of AD is becoming even more important, as new drugs that slow down the progression of the disease will hopefully soon become available.

A research group led by Professor Oskar Hansson at Lund University have now shown that a combination of relatively easily acccessible tests can be used for early and reliable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The study examined 340 patients with mild memory impairment in the Swedish BioFINDER Study, and the results were confirmed in a North American study of 543 people.

A combination of a simple blood test (measuring a variant of the tau protein and a risk gene for Alzheimer’s) and three brief cognitive tests that only take 10 minutes to complete, predicted with over 90% certainty which patients would develop Alzheimer’s dementia within four years. This simple prognostic algorithm was significantly more accurate than the clinical predictions by the dementia experts who examined the patients, but did not have access to expensive spinal fluid testing or PET scans, said Oskar Hansson.

Our algorithm is based on a blood analysis of phosphylated tau and a risk gene for Alzheimer’s, combined with testing of memory and executive function. We have now developed a prototype online tool to estimate the individual risk of a person with mild memory complaints developing Alzheimer’s dementia within four years”, explains Sebastian Palmqvist, first author of the study and associate professor at Lund University.

One clear advantage of the algorithm is that it has been developed for use in clinics without access to advanced diagnostic instruments. In the future, the algorithm might therefore make a major difference in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s within primary healthcare.

The algorithm has currently only been tested on patients who have been examined in memory clinics. Our hope is that it will also be validated for use in primary healthcare as well as in developing countries with limited resources”, says Sebastian Palmqvist.

Simple diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s could also improve the development of drugs, as it is difficult to recruit the suitable study partcipants for drug trials in a time- and cost-effective manner. ”The algorithm will enable us to recruit people with Alzheimer’s at an early stage, which is when new drugs have a better chance of slowing the course of the disease”, concludes Professor Oskar Hansson.

The findings are published in Nature Medicine.

Source: https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/

Inhaled Nanobodies Effective Against COVID-19

In a paper published today in Science Advances, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine showed that inhalable nanobodies targeting the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can prevent and treat severe COVID-19 in hamsters. This is the first time the nanobodies–which are similar to monoclonal antibodies but smaller in size, more stable and cheaper to produce–were tested for inhalation treatment against coronavirus infections in a pre-clinical model.

The scientists showed that low doses of an aerosolized nanobody named Pittsburgh inhalable Nanobody-21 (PiN-21) protected hamsters from the dramatic weight loss typically associated with severe SARS-CoV-2 infection and reduced the number of infectious virus particles in the animals’ nasal cavities, throats and lungs by a million-fold, compared to placebo treatment with a nanobody that doesn’t neutralize the virus.

By using an inhalation therapy that can be directly administered to the infection site–the respiratory tract and lungs–we can make treatments more efficient,” said co-senior author Yi Shi, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology at Pitt. “We are very excited and encouraged by our data suggesting that PiN-21 can be highly protective against severe disease and can potentially prevent human-to-human viral transmission.

Previously, Shi and colleagues discovered a large repertoire of over 8,000 high-affinity SARS-CoV-2 nanobodies. From this repertoire, the scientists selected an ultrapotent nanobody (Nb21) and bioengineered it into a rimeric form to further maximize its antiviral activity. The resulting PiN-21 is by far the most potent antiviral nanobody that has been identified, according to the researchers’ review of published studies.

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/

Blue Origin Launches First Space Flight with Tourists on Board Next July

Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, will launch a rocket into space with passengers on board for the first time in July, the company said on Wednesday. One seat on the flight, which will carry six astronauts on a short jaunt to the edge of outer space, is up for auction. The first astronaut flight of New Shepard, a suborbital spacecraft, is scheduled for July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

We’ve spent years testing, so we’re ready,” Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut sales for Blue Origin, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, also started Blue Origin in 2000. Like other billionaires who have invested in spaceflight, he has stated broad goals for humanity’s expansion around the solar system, imagining millions of people eventually living and working in space.

For now, most of Blue Origin’s business has stayed closer to Earth. It builds and sells rocket engines to another rocket company, United Launch Alliance. A rocket that would lift cargo to orbit is not expected to be ready for years, and the company recently lost a competition with SpaceX for a contract to build a moon lander for NASA’s astronauts (it has protested the award). Customers have also paid to fly science experiments for NASA and private scientists during test flights of the New Shepard spacecraft.

It has been preparing for years for the start of its space tourism program, which would offer suborbital trips to what is considered the boundary of outer space, 62 miles above Earth. A competitor,Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, also plans to fly space tourists on suborbital jaunts. Virgin Galactic’s space plane, known as SpaceShipTwo, is flown by two pilots, so it has carried people to space on test flights, but no paying passengers yet. Blue Origin’s tourist rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space. It has undergone 15 test flights, none of which had passengers aboard. Ahead of the latest test, in April, a crew rehearsed boarding and exiting the capsule.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/

Rejuvenating the brain

Alzheimer’s disease is the main cause of dementia and current therapeutic strategies cannot prevent, slow down or cure the pathology. The disease is characterized by memory loss, caused by the degeneration and death of neuronal cells in several regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is where memories are initially formed. Researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN) have identified a small molecule that can be used to rejuvenate the brain and counteract the memory loss.

The presence of adult-born cells in the hippocampus of old people was recently demonstrated in scientific studies. It suggests that, generally speaking, the so-called process of adult neurogenesis is sustained throughout adulthood. Adult neurogenesis is linked to several aspects of cognition and memory in both animal models and humans, and it was reported to sharply decrease in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found that higher levels of adult neurogenesis in these patients seem to correlate with better cognitive performance before death.

This could suggest that the adult-born neurons in our brain may contribute to a sort of cognitive reserve that could later on provide higher resilience to memory loss,” says Evgenia Salta, group leader at the NIN. Therefore, researchers from the NIN investigated if giving a boost to adult neurogenesis could help prevent or improve dementia in Alzheimer’s disease.

Salta: “Seven years ago, while studying a small RNA molecule that is expressed in our brain, called microRNA-132, we came across a rather unexpected observation. This molecule, which we had previously found to be decreased in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, seemed to regulate homeostasis of neural stem cells in the central nervous system.” Back then, Alzheimer’s was thought to be a disease affecting only mature neuronal cells, so at first glance this finding did not seem to explain a possible role of microRNA-132 in the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Source: https://nin.nl/

The Global Death Toll From Working Too Much on the Rise

Take it easy. Stop working so hard. You’re going to give yourself a heart attack. I’m really worried about you.” At one point in your career, you may have heard this from a loved one.

You probably met this concern with excuses and rationalizations saying things like, “The company is depending on me. I’m close to getting a raise and promotion if I keep this up!” You don’t think of the toll taken on your emotional, mental and physical health. It’s all about building and growing your career, in an attempt to climb the corporate ladder.

It’s easy to believe that you can keep putting in the long hours and endure the unrelenting stress without repercussions. There is a feeling of invincibility. “Bad things happen to other people,” you tell yourself. “I’m relatively young and healthy,” you believe. “These are my prime earning years and I have to hustle.

The problem is, according to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), “Long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000.” The substantial number of strokes and heart disease resulted from workingat least 55 hours a week.” The study by the WHO and ILO concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with a higher risk of a stroke and dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35 to 40 hours a week. There is heightened concern that people are working increasingly longer hours, which puts more people at risk of an “early death.” They are literally working themselves to death.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/

Unhackable

An “unhackablecomputer chip lived up to its name in its first bug bounty competition, foiling over 500 cybersecurity researchers who were offered tens of thousands of dollars to analyze it and three other secure processor technologies for vulnerabilities. MORPHEUS, developed by computer science researchers at the University of Michigan, weathered the three-month virtual program DARPA dubbed the Finding Exploits to Thwart Tampering—or FETTBug Bounty without a single successful attack. In bug bounty programs, organizations or software developers offer compensation or other incentives to individuals who can find and report bugs or vulnerabilities.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, partnered with the Department of Defense’s Defense Digital Service and Synack, a crowdsourced security platform, to conduct FETT, which ran from June through August 2020. It also tested technologies from MIT, Cambridge University, Lockheed Martin and nonprofit tech institute SRI International. The U-M team achieved its results by abandoning a cornerstone of traditional computer security—finding and eliminating software bugs, says team leader Todd Austin, the S. Jack Hu Collegiate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. MORPHEUS works by reconfiguring key bits of its code and data dozens of times per second, turning any vulnerabilities into dead ends for hackers.

MORPHEUS blocks potential attacks by encrypting and randomly reshuffling key bits of its own code and data twenty times per second. 

Imagine trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube that rearranges itself every time you blink,” Austin said. “That’s what hackers are up against with MORPHEUS. It makes the computer an unsolvable puzzle.”

MORPHEUS has previously proven itself in the lab, but the FETT Bug Bounty marks the first time that it was exposed to a group of skilled cybersecurity researchers from around the globe. Austin says its success is further proof that computer security needs to move away from its traditional bugs-and-patches paradigm. “Today’s approach of eliminating security bugs one by one is a losing game,” he said. “Developers are constantly writing code, and as long as there is new code, there will be new bugs and security vulnerabilities. With MORPHEUS, even if a hacker finds a bug, the information needed to exploit it vanishes within milliseconds. It’s perhaps the closest thing to a future-proof secure system.”

For FETT, the MORPHEUS architecture was built into a computer system that housed a mock medical database. Computer experts were invited to try to breach it remotely. MORPHEUS was the second-most popular target of the seven processors evaluated.

Source: https://news.umich.edu/

 

Great Wall to Sell Hydrogen SUV

Great Wall Motor Co., China’s biggest maker of SUVs, plans to roll out its first hydrogen-powered SUV this year.

The company will also deploy its hydrogen-powered cars during the Winter Olympics in China next year, Zhang Tianyu, head of FTXT Energy Technology Co., a Great Wall subsidiary, said in the city of Baoding during a media briefing to outline the automaker’s hydrogen strategy.

Great Wall has invested 2 billion yuan ($305 million) over the past five years to develop hydrogen power-related technologies that can be used for vehicles as well as marine and rail transport, Zhang said. Founder Wei Jianjun added that Great Wall will invest another 3 billion yuan over the next three years and plans to become a top-three seller of hydrogen-powered automobiles by 2025.

Development of the hydrogen-related industry will move forward as quickly as that for electric vehicles,” Wei said.

Great Wall has been stepping up spending to transform from a traditional vehicle assembler to a technology-driven mobility company. It unveiled its Smart Coffee brand in July, calling it the “digital engine” of its transition, covering autonomous driving, electrical systems and smart cabins. The company last month said it will work with Beijing-based Horizon Robotics Inc. to develop intelligent driving technologies, including self-driving systems.

https://www.autonews.com/

How to Track the Brain as it Generates an Antonym

A study using epilepsy patients undergoing surgery has given neuroscientists an opportunity to track in unprecedented detail the movement of a thought through the human brain, all the way from inspiration to response. The findings, published in 2018, confirmed the role of the prefrontal cortex as the coordinator of complex interactions between different regions, linking our perception with action and serving as what can be considered the “glue of cognition“.

Previous efforts to measure the passing of information from one area to the other have relied on processes such as electroencephalography (EEG) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which, while non-invasive, offer less than perfect resolution. The study led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, recorded the electrical activity of neurons using a precise technique called electrocorticograhy (ECoG). This required hundreds of tiny electrodes to be placed right up against the cortex, providing more spatial detail than EEG and improving the resolution in time of fMRI. While this poses an unethical level of risk for your average volunteer, patients undergoing surgery for epilepsy have their brain activity monitored in this very way, giving the researchers a perfect chance to conduct a few tests.

Each of the 16 test subjects performed a number of tasks varied to suit their individual arrangement of electrodes, all while having their neural activity monitored and tracked. Participants were required to listen to a stimulus and respond, or watch images of faces or animals on a screen and asked to perform an action. Some tasks were more complex than others; for example, a simple action involved simply repeating a word, while a more complex version was to think of its antonym.

Researchers monitored the split-second movement of electrical activity from one area – such as areas associated with interpreting auditory stimuli – to the prefrontal cortex, to areas required to shape an action, such as the motor cortex.

Tracking the Brain as it Generates an Antonym. Click on the image to enjoy the video.

While none of this threw up any surprises, the results clearly emphasized the role of the prefrontal cortex in directing activity.

For some tasks its input was fairly limited. In others the area was required to work hard, managing signals from multiple parts of the brain to coordinate the recognition of words, possibly dredging up memories before setting to work a bunch of muscles to provide a novel answer. “These very selective studies have found that the frontal cortex is the orchestrator, linking things together for a final output,” neuroscientist Robert Knight from UC Berkeley said at the time. “It’s the glue of cognition.”

The prefrontal cortex was seen to remain active throughout most of the thought process, as would be expected for a multitasking region of the brain. The quicker the handoff from one area to the other, the faster people responded to a stimulus. “fMRI studies often find that when a task gets progressively harder, we see more activity in the brain, and the prefrontal cortex in particular,” said the study’s lead author, neuroscientist Avgusta Shestyuk. “Here, we are able to see that this is not because the neurons are working really, really hard and firing all the time, but rather, more areas of the cortex are getting recruited.

What did come as something of a surprise were details on the precise timing of each area. Some of the responding areas lit up remarkably early, often during the stimulus, suggesting that even before we have a complete response handy, our brain is already getting those parts of the cortex ready for action. “This might explain why people sometimes say things before they think,” suggests Shestyuk.

This research was published in Nature Human Behaviour.

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

Junk food linked to gut inflammation

Eating a Western diet impairs the immune system in the gut in ways that could increase risk of infection and inflammatory bowel disease, according to a study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Cleveland Clinic.

The study, in mice and people, showed that a diet high in sugar and fat causes damage to Paneth cells, immune cells in the gut that help keep inflammation in check. When Paneth cells aren’t functioning properly, the gut immune system is excessively prone to inflammation, putting people at risk of inflammatory bowel disease and undermining effective control of disease-causing microbes. The findings, published in Cell Host & Microbe, open up new approaches to regulating gut immunity by restoring normal Paneth cell function.

A tiny, 3D model of the intestines formed from anti-inflammatory cells known as Paneth cells (green and red) and other intestinal cells (blue) is seen in the image above. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Cleveland Clinic used such models, called organoids, to understand why a Western-style diet rich in fat and sugar damages Paneth cells and disrupts the gut immune system

Inflammatory bowel disease has historically been a problem primarily in Western countries such as the U.S., but it’s becoming more common globally as more and more people adopt Western lifestyles,” said lead author Ta-Chiang Liu, MD, PhD, an associate professor of pathology & immunology at Washington University. “Our research showed that long-term consumption of a Western-style diet high in fat and sugar impairs the function of immune cells in the gut in ways that could promote inflammatory bowel disease or increase the risk of intestinal infections.”

Paneth cell impairment is a key feature of inflammatory bowel disease. For example, people with Crohn’s disease, a kind of inflammatory bowel disease characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea, anemia and fatigue, often have Paneth cells that have stopped working.

Source: https://medicine.wustl.edu/

Hunting for the Coronavirus’s Origin

More than a year after Covid-19 touched off the worst pandemic in more than a century, scientists have yet to determine its origins. The closest related viruses to SARS-CoV-2 were found in bats over 1,000 miles from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease erupted in late 2019. Initially, cases were tied to a fresh food market and possibly the wildlife sold there. An investigation in early 2021 has highlighted the possibility that they acted as a vector, transferring the virus from bats to humans. More politically charged theories allege the virus accidentally escaped from a nearby research laboratory, or entered China from another country via imported frozen food. Amid all the posturing, governments and scientists agree that deciphering the creation story.

Three closely related viruses to SARS-CoV-2 that had been collected during the previous 15 years. The closest, about 96% identical, was isolated from a species of horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus affinis, in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan in 2013. Some researchers have linked that particular virus to a mineshaft in Mojiang county there, where six men contracted a pneumonia-like disease in 2012 that killed three of them. Although they may share a common ancestor, the two are not similar enough to indicate SARS-CoV-2 was derived from the Yunnan virus. Sampling of bats in Hubei province, which includes Wuhan, haven’t found any positive for the pandemic strain. Coronaviruses sharing genetic features with SARS-CoV-2 have been found in other bat species and pangolins, a scaly, ant-eating mammal, elsewhere in Asia, highlighting the broad distribution that may have contributed to its evolution.

https://www.bloomberg.com/

SANOFI Phase 2 Trial for RNA Covid Vaccine Generated Strong Levels of Antibodies

Sanofi and GSK announced positive results from a Phase 2 clinical trial of their joint Covid-19 vaccine, saying it generated strong levels of neutralizing antibodies in recipients across all ages studied. The partners said a large international Phase 3 trial will begin in coming weeks.

The duo, two of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, is far behind in the effort to produce a Covid vaccine and lock down markets for their product, having suffered a setback in an earlier Phase 1/2 trial last year. But with vaccine supplies expected to trail global need into the foreseeable future, the companies believe there is still a place for their vaccine.

Our Phase 2 data confirm the potential of this vaccine to play a role in addressing this ongoing global public health crisis, as we know multiple vaccines will be needed, especially as variants continue to emerge and the need for effective and, which can be stored at normal temperatures increases,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of the vaccines division at Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

The companies said they will begin producing the vaccineat risk” — meaning before they are certain it will work. While there is financial uncertainty in that approach, if the vaccine does prove to be efficacious, they will have product ready to distribute as soon as the vaccine is authorized for use. The companies are projecting a possible regulatory approval in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The companies released limited information about the results of the trial, saying they will publish the data shortly in a peer-reviewed journal. But they reported the vaccine induced strong rates of neutralizing antibodies, in line with what is seen in people who have recovered from Covid-19. The favorable response was seen across all adult age groups, though there were higher levels observed in people 18 to 59 years old. There were no safety or tolerability concerns arising from the trial.

High neutralizing antibody levels were generated after a single dose in participants with evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, which the companies said suggests the vaccine could be given as a booster used after an initial vaccination series.

We believe that this vaccine candidate can make a significant contribution to the ongoing fight against Covid-19 and will move to Phase 3 as soon as possible to meet our goal of making it available before the end of the year,” said Roger Connor, president of GSK Vaccines, said in a statement.

Source: https://www.statnews.com/

Injectable Chips to Monitor Body Processes

Columbia Engineers develop the smallest single-chip system that is a complete functioning electronic circuit; implantable chips visible only in a microscope point the way to developing chips that can be injected into the body with a hypodermic needle to monitor medical conditions.

Widely used to monitor and map biological signals, to support and enhance physiological functions, and to treat diseases, implantable medical devices are transforming healthcare and improving the quality of life for millions of people. Researchers are increasingly interested in designing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices for in vivo and in situ physiological monitoring. These devices could be used to monitor physiological conditions, such as temperature, blood pressure, glucose, and respiration for both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

To date, conventional implanted electronics have been highly volume-inefficient—they generally require multiple chips, packaging, wires, and external transducers, and batteries are often needed for energy storage. A constant trend in electronics has been tighter integration of electronic components, often moving more and more functions onto the integrated circuit itself.

Researchers at Columbia Engineering report that they have built what they say is the world’s smallest single-chip system, consuming a total volume of less than 0.1 mm3. The system is as small as a dust mite and visible only under a microscope. In order to achieve this, the team used ultrasound to both power and communicate with the device wirelessly.

Chips shown in the tip of a hypodermic needle

We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make,” said the study’s leader Ken Shepard, Lau Family professor of electrical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering. “This is a new idea of ‘chip as system’—this is a chip that alone, with nothing else, is a complete functioning electronic system. This should be revolutionary for developing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices that can sense different things, be used in clinical applications, and eventually approved for human use.”

The study was published online May 7 in Science Advances.

Source: https://www.engineering.columbia.edu/

Nkarta and CRISPR Therapeutics Develop Natural Killer Cell Cancer Treatments

Biopharmaceutical company CRISPR Therapeutics has entered into a strategic research, development and commercialization partnership with cancer-focused Nkarta. The new collaboration will be geared toward advancing CRISPR/Cas9 gene-edited cell therapies for certain cancers.

In a statement on the collaboration, the companies state “their complementary cell therapy engineering and manufacturing capabilities” will join forces to advance “the development of a novel NK+T product candidate harnessing the synergies of the adaptive and innate immune systems.” Financial details of the agreement were not publicly disclosed.

According to terms of the agreement, both CRISPR Therapeutics and Nkarta plan to jointly develop and commercialize up to two CAR NK cell product candidates. One candidate will target the CD70 tumor antigen, while no specific target has been set for the additional product. Nkarta has obtained a license to CRISPR gene-editing technology under the agreement. This license will allow Nkarta to edit up to five gene targets using “an unlimited number” of the company’s own NK cell therapy products.

Additionally, the two companies will share equally the research and development costs as well as global profits related to the products born from the collaboration. While Nkarta will retain global rights to a product candidate using a CRISPR Therapeuticsgene editing target but not developed through the collaboration, Nkarta will provide CRISPR Therapeutics milestone payments as well as royalties on all net sales of the non-collaboration product.

There is a three-year exclusivity on the new agreement, according to the announcement of the collaboration. Overall, the exclusivity agreement covers the research, development as well as commercialization of allogeneic, gene-edited, and donor-derived NK cells and NK+T cells. “This collaboration broadens the scope of our efforts in oncology cell therapy, and expands our efforts to discover and develop novel cancer therapies for patients,” according to a statement made by CRISPR Therapeutics’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Samarth Kulkarni, Ph.D.

Uniting the best-in-class gene editing solution and allogeneic T cell therapy expertise of CRISPR with Nkarta’s best-in-class CAR NK cell therapy platform will be a major advantage to advancing the next wave of transformative cancer cell therapies,” said Nkarta’s CEO, Paul J. Hastings, in a statement. Hastings added that the partnership will enable the company to harness CRISPR’s deep knowledge of CD70 biology as well as experience in the clinical development of allogeneic T cell candidates, which may ultimately “deliver innovative treatments to patients that much faster.

https://www.biospace.com/

Flying at Speeds up to Mach 17

University of Central Florida (UCF) researchers are building on their technology that could pave the way for hypersonic flight, such as travel from New York to Los Angeles in under 30 minutes.

In their latest research published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers discovered a way to stabilize the detonation needed for hypersonic propulsion by creating a special hypersonic reaction chamber for jet engines.

There is an intensifying international effort to develop robust propulsion systems for hypersonic and supersonic flight that would allow flight through our atmosphere at very high speeds and also allow efficient entry and exit from planetary atmospheres,” says study co-author Kareem Ahmed, an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “The discovery of stabilizing a detonation — the most powerful form of intense reaction and energy release — has the potential to revolutionize hypersonic propulsion and energy systems.”

The system could allow for air travel at speeds of Mach 6 to 17, which is more than 4,600 to 13,000 miles per hour. The technology harnesses the power of an oblique detonation wave, which they formed by using an angled ramp inside the reaction chamber to create a detonation-inducing shock wave for propulsionUnlike rotating detonation waves that spin, oblique detonation waves are stationary and stabilized. The technology improves jet propulsion engine efficiency so that more power is generated while using less fuel than traditional propulsion engines, thus lightening the fuel load and reducing costs and emissions.

In addition to faster air travel, the technology could also be used in rockets for space missions to make them lighter by requiring less fuel, travel farther and burn more cleanly.

Source: https://www.ucf.edu/

New Biomaterial Helps Bones Heal Faster

The researchers from CSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and CHI at Temple Street (Ireland),  had previously discovered a molecule called JNK3, which is a key driver of children’s stem cells being more sensitive to their environment and regenerating better than adults’. This explains, at least partially, why children’s bones are able to heal more quickly. Building on this knowledge, they created a biomaterial that mimics the structure of bone tissue and incorporates nanoparticles that activate JNK3.

When tested in a pre-clinical model, the biomaterial quickly repaired large bone defects and reduced inflammation after a month of use. The biomaterial also proved to be safer and as effective as other drug-loaded biomaterials for bone repair whose use has been controversially associated with dangerous side-effects, including cancer, infection or off-site bone formation.

“While more testing is needed before we can begin clinical trials, these results are very promising,” said Professor Fergal O’Brien, the study’s principal investigator and RCSI’s Director of Research and Innovation.

This study has shown that understanding stem cell mechanobiology can help identify alternative therapeutic molecules for repairing large defects in bone, and potentially other body tissues. In a broader sense, this project is a great example of how growing our understanding of mechanobiology can identify new treatments that directly benefit patients – a key goal of what we do here at RCSI.”

The work was carried out by researchers from the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) and SFI AMBER Centre based at RCSI in collaboration with a team from Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Temple Street Hospital. The CHI at Temple Street team was led by Mr Dylan Murray, a lead consultant craniofacial, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the National Paediatric Craniofacial Centre (NPCC), who has collaborated with the RCSI team for a number of years.

It is very exciting to be part of this translational project in which the participation and consent of the patients of the NPCC at Temple Street –whom donated harvested bone cells- have contributed immensely to this success,” said Mr Murray.

The study, led by researchers from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and CHI at Temple Street (Ireland), is published in Biomaterials.

Source: https://www.rcsi.com/

RNA Could Be The Future of Cancer Treatment

Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things. So, in order to treat or cure almost any disease or condition – including cancer – you first need to have a fundamental understanding of cell biology. While researchers have a pretty good understanding of what each component of a cell does, there are still things we don’t know about them – including the role that some RNAs molecules play in a cell.

Finding the answer to this may be key in developing further cancer treatments, which is what our research has sought to uncover. Three types of molecules carry information in a cell, and each of these molecules performs its own important function. The first is DNA, which contains hard-wired genetic information (like a book of instructions). . The second, RNA, is a temporary copy of one particular instruction that is derived from DNA. Last are the proteins produced thanks to the information provided by the RNA. These proteins are the “workhorses” of the cells, which perform specific functions, such as helping cells move, reproduce, and generate energy.

In line with this model, RNA has long been seen as nothing more than an intermediary between DNA and proteins. But researchers are starting to discover that RNA is much more than an intermediary. In fact, this overlooked molecule may hold the secret to cancer progression. The scientists group recently discovered a new type of RNA that drives cancer progression without producing any protein. We think that this type of discovery may pave the way for an entirely new way of targeting cancer cells. But to understand how this is possible, it’s first important to know the different types of RNA we have in our body. Only about 1% of DNA is copied into RNAs that make proteins. Other RNAs help the production of proteins. The rest (known as non-coding RNAs) were long assumed to serve no function in the human body. But recent studies are challenging these assumptions, showing these “uselessRNAs actually performvery specific purpose. In fact, these “non-coding” RNAs regulate the functions of many genes, thereby controlling key aspects of the cells’ lives (such as their ability to move around).

The most abundant type of non-coding RNAs are long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). These are long molecules which interact with many different molecules in the cell. And, as researchers have now discovered, these complex structures allow many different functions to take place between cells.

For example, some lncRNAsgrab” different proteins and gather them to work in a specific cellular space – such as the same gene segment. This function is essential for controlling the inactivation of some genes during development.

Source: https://nationalinterest.org/

Parallel Worlds Probably Exist. Here’s Why

The most elegant interpretation of quantum mechanics is the universe is constantly splitting. I learned quantum mechanics the traditional ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ way. We can use the Schrödinger equation to solve for and evolve wave functions.

Then we invoke wave-particle duality, in essence things we detect as particles can behave as waves when they aren’t interacting with anything. But when there is a measurement, the wave function collapses leaving us with a definite particle detection.

If we repeat the experiment many times, we find the statistics of these results mirror the amplitude of the wave function squared. Hence the Born rule came into being, saying the wave function should be interpreted statistically, that our universe at the most fundamental scale is probabilistic rather than deterministic. This did not sit well with scientists like Einstein and Schrödinger who believed there must be more going on, perhaps ‘hidden variables’.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

In the 1950’s Hugh Everett proposed the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It is so logical in hindsight but with a bias towards the classical world, experiments and measurements to guide their thinking, it’s understandable why the founders of quantum theory didn’t come up with it. Rather than proposing different dynamics for measurement, Everett suggests that measurement is something that happens naturally in the course of quantum particles interacting with each other.

The conclusion is inescapable. There is nothing special about measurement, it is just the observer becoming entangled with a wave function in a superposition. Since one observer can experience only their own branch, it appears as if the other possibilities have disappeared but in reality there is no reason why they could not still exist and just fail to interact with the other branches. This is caused by environmental decoherence.

Source: https://www.veritasium.com/

Indian Antiviral Receives Emergency Authorisation for COVID-19 Treatment

Zydus Cadila said that its antiviral Virafin has been given emergency use authorisation by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for treatment against coronavirus. The pharma company said that a single dose of the antiviral administered subcutaneously early on shows significant clinical and virological improvement in patients with moderate coronavirus. It stated that 91.15 per cent of patients who were treated with the antiviral were RT-PCR negative by Day 7. The treatment also reduces hours of supplemental oxygen in patients.

The company said that when administered early on during COVID-19, the Pegylated Interferon alpha-2b (PegIFN) Virafin will help patients recover faster and avoid many complications. The antiviral will be available on the prescription of medical specialists for use in hospital/institutional setups. A multicentric trial was conducted in 20-25 centres across the nation that showed that with Virafin, patients required less supplemental oxygen. The company said that the trials indicate that the antiviral is able to control respiratory distress and failure that has been one of the biggest challenges in treating coronavirus. The drug also showed efficacy against other viral infections.

The fact that we are able to offer a therapy which significantly reduces viral load when given early on can help in better disease management. It comes at a much-needed time for patients and we will continue to provide them access to critical therapies in this battle against COVID-19,“, said Dr. Sharvil Patel, Managing Director, Cadila Healthcare.

During the Phase III clinical trials, patients administered with the drug were RT-PCR negative by Day 7. “The drug ensures faster viral clearance and has several add-on advantages compared to other antiviral agents,” said the company.

Source: https://www.businesstoday.in/

Next Generation of AR/VR Headsets (Quantglasses)

“Image” is everything in the $20 billion market for AR/VR glasses (Quantglasses). Consumers are looking for glasses that are compact and easy to wear, delivering high-quality imagery with socially acceptable optics that don’t look like “bug eyes.”

University of Rochester researchers at the Institute of Optics have come up with a novel technology to deliver those attributes with maximum effect. In a paper in Science Advances, they describe imprinting freeform optics with a nanophotonic optical element called “a metasurface.”

The metasurface is a veritable forest of tiny, silver, nanoscale structures on a thin metallic film that conforms, in this advance, to the freeform shape of the optics—realizing a new optical component the researchers call a metaform. The metaform is able to defy the conventional laws of reflection, gathering the visible light rays entering an AR/VR eyepiece from all directions, and redirecting them directly into the human eye.

 

Freeform optics is an emerging technology that uses lenses and mirrors with surfaces that lack an axis of symmetry within or outside the optics diameter to create optical devices that are lighter, more compact, and more effective than ever before.

Nick Vamivakas, a professor of quantum optics and quantum physics, likened the nanoscale structures to small-scale radio antennas.  “When we actuate the device and illuminate it with the right wavelength, all of these antennas start oscillating, radiating a new light that delivers the image we want downstream.

Metasurfaces are also called ‘flat optics’ so writing metasurfaces on freeform optics is creating an entirely new type of optical component,” says Jannick Rolland, the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering and director of the Center for Freeform Optics.

Adds Rolland, “This kind of optical component can be applied to any mirrors or lenses, so we are already finding applications in other types of components” such as sensors and mobile cameras.

The first demonstration required many years to complete.

The goal is to direct the visible light entering the AR/VR glasses to the eye. The new device uses a freespace optical combiner to help do that. However, when the combiner is part of freeform optics that curve around the head to conform to an eyeglass format, not all of the light is directed to the eye. Freeform optics alone cannot solve this specific challenge. That’s why the researchers had to leverage a metasurface to build a new optical component.

Integrating these two technologies, freeform and metasurfaces, understanding how both of them interact with light, and leveraging that to get a good image was a major challenge,” says lead author Daniel Nikolov, an optical engineer in Rolland’s research group.

Source: https://www.rochester.edu/

How to Destroy Cancer by Training Immune Cells

While it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, a cancer treatment in which a patient’s own cells are engineered to hunt down and wipe out their disease — and then linger in the body to stop the cancer returning — is helping to save patients’ lives. The results of the treatment, known as CAR T-cell therapy, have been astonishingPatients who had exhausted all other options and been told they had just months to live have gone into remission. Others have even been cured by the one-off dose.

In trials, all signs of cancer disappeared in more than 80 per cent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia — the most common cancer in children — after receiving CAR T-cellsSuccess stories include Emily Whitehead, now 16, who in 2012 became the first child in the world to take part in a CAR T-cell trial. Emily, who only had weeks to live when her leukaemia became resistant to conventional therapies, had the revolutionary treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the U.S. when she was six years old. She is still cancer-free today.

First given in the NHS two years ago to children with a rare blood cancer, CAR T-cell therapy is now used to treat four forms of the disease — and more could follow. It is also being trialled in a number of other blood cancers, such as myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, and could be available soon for these patients. Early research suggests it can also tackle solid tumours. A new study showed that a new generation of CAR T-cells with more advanced genetic engineering could help treat mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and the deadly brain cancer glioblastoma in mice, without side-effects, reported the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The current uses of CAR T-cell therapy are ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, says Dr Andrew Furness, a consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. ‘Doctors and scientists are working tirelessly to expand its reach to many more patients.’

CAR T-cell therapy (or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy) is a form of immunotherapy, using the power of a patient’s immune system to fight the disease.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Human Trials for Pill to Cure COVID

Dozens of volunteers have begun participation in initial trials for a pill that pharmaceutical company Pfizer hopes will be a cure for COVID-19 available later this year, the Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

The trial is being held at two Pfizer locations, one in the US and the other in Belgium, and will involve up to 60 volunteers age 18-60. The trial will be split into three phases spread over 145 days, with an extra 28 days tacked on the end for “screening and dosing,” according to the report, and will include several overnight stays for the participants.

If they have moved to this stage, they will be quietly optimistic,” Prof. Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, told the Telegraph.

The question will be about how the drug is tolerated,” said Ward, who helped develop Tamil, an antiviral treatment against flu.

The first phase will look at how well the new drug is tolerated and if there are “significant side effects, and how people feel after taking it,” according to Pfizer documents cited by the British news outlet. The next phase will include multiple doses while the third will look into the influence of eating food at the same time.

For that part, participants could receive instructions such as to consume a high-fat breakfast of “two eggs fried in butter, two strips of pork bacon, two slices of toast with butter, 4 oz. of hash brown potatoes, and 8 oz. of whole milk,” all of which must be consumed in 20 minutes.

Volunteers have been warned that the drug has so far only been tested on animals, according to the Pfizer documents.

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/ 
AND
  https://www.timesofisrael.com/

Animal Muscle Tissue to Move Robots

The US Army Research Laboratory believes its bots could use real muscle, which allows most living things to move and manipulate their environments, instead of mechanical arms, wheels, tracks, and other systems to travel across the battlefield. The concept, which some might find disturbing, is an example of the new field of “biohybrids.”  Today’s military robots, particularly ground-based robots, navigate the battlefield on wheels and tracks, methods of locomotion copied over from human-occupied vehicles.

But researchers “are reaching a point where they’re experiencing diminishing returns in the design of these robots with wheels as their primary locomotor, and batteries as their centralized power system,” NextGov reports. Modern army robots use batteries that power motors, which then drive axles and turn wheels. A biohybrid-powered robot would replace this entire system with lab-grown organic muscle tissue that might power artificial legs or other limbs. Electrical impulses or chemical actuation would control the muscles.

One of the major advantages of using organic muscle tissue is its inherent flexibility. Muscles and tendons can flex, pull, and give as an animal moves over mixed terrain, and especially as it encounters unexpected problems.

Dr. Dean Culver, a research scientist at the Army Research Lab, explains it like this, via NextGov:

If you run through a field, and your foot steps into a rabbit hole, even before the signal from your foot has reached your brain to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m in a rabbit hole,’ your body is already moving to accommodate that sudden change. Part of that is the way that control systems are designed in organisms—that’s obviously really amazing—but another part of that is the ability of muscles and tendons to bend and flex a little bit, and offer those control systems an opportunity to adapt. So that is a huge capability that we could offer.”

A wheel-bound robot can’t do that, instead relying on shock absorbers to make up for the sudden shift.  “Robots who are, obviously, in Army applications going to go into unknown and unpredictable environments—they need to be able to adapt to things that they weren’t planning for,” Culver said. “So, that’s a big part of this effort as well.”

Source: https://www.popularmechanics.com/

COVID-19 Can Cause Antibodies that Mistakenly Target your Own Tissues

An increasing body of research is pointing toward the possibility that COVID-19 causes the development of autoantibodies linked to other autoimmune diseases — and may be tied to the long-hauler symptoms associated with coronavirus.

In the latest preprint study (which means it has not yet undergone peer review) researchers analyzed the levels of 18 different autoantibodies between four groups:

  • 29 unexposed pre-pandemic individuals from the general population
  • 20 individuals hospitalized with moderate-to-severe COVID-19
  • 9 recovering COVID-19-infected individuals with asymptomatic to mild viral symptoms during the acute phase, with samples collected between 1.8 and 7.3 months after infection
  • 6 unexposed pre-pandemic subjects with lupus (an autoimmune disease that involves different kinds of autoantibodies)
  • Autoantibodies are antibodies that mistakenly target your own tissues or organs and are associated with diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that autoantibodies were detected in five out of the six lupus subjects, compared to just 11 of 29 non-lupus, pre-pandemic controls.

However, the researchers also found that autoantibodies were detected in seven out of nine patients recovering from SARS-CoV-2 and in 12 out of the 20 hospitalized individuals with moderate to severe COVID-19. In the first group, autoantibodies were detected in all patients with reported persistent symptoms and two of the four without any long-term symptoms.

The autoantibodies that set SARS-CoV-2  infected patients apart from the pre-pandemic subjects are widely associated with myopathies (neuromuscular disorders), vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), and antiphospholipid syndromes (when your body creates antibodies that make your blood much more likely to clot), all of which are conditions that share some similarities with COVID-19. The researchers note that these results underscore the importance of further investigating autoimmunity during a COVID-19 infection, and the role of autoimmunity in lingering symptoms. That said, they do urge caution in interpreting the results, which still need to undergo peer review.

It’s a signal; it is not definitive,” lead researcher Nahid Bhadelia, MD, told the New York Times. We don’t know how prevalent it is, and whether or not it can be linked to long COVID.” (Long COVID is sometimes used to describe the syndrome that causes long-hauler symptoms in those who have recovered from COVID-19.)

Still, as many as one-third of COVID-19 survivors say they still experience symptoms — and determining the role autoimmunity may play after coronavirus infection is critical.

This is a real phenomenon,” Dr. Bhadelia said. “We’re looking at a second pandemic of people with ongoing potential disability who may not be able to return to work, and that’s a huge impact on the health symptoms.”

Source: https://creakyjoints.org/
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https://www.medrxiv.org/

Skin and Bones Repaired by Bioprinting

Fixing traumatic injuries to the skin and bones of the face and skull is difficult because of the many layers of different types of tissues involved, but now, researchers have repaired such defects in a rat model using bioprinting during surgery, and their work may lead to faster and better methods of healing skin and bones.

Schematic of the skin and bone bioprinting process. After scanning, the bone and then skin layers are bioprinted creating a layered repair with bone, a barrier layer, and dermis and epidermis

This work is clinically significant,” said Ibrahim T. Ozbolat, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery, Penn State. “Dealing with composite defects, fixing hard and soft tissues at once, is difficult. And for the craniofacial area, the results have to be esthetically pleasing.

Currently, fixing a hole in the skull involving both bone and soft tissue requires  using bone from another part of the patient’s body or a cadaver. The bone must be covered by soft tissue with blood flow, also harvested from somewhere else, or the bone will die. Then surgeons need to repair the soft tissue and skin. Ozbolat and his team used extrusion bioprinting and droplet bioprinting of mixtures of cells and carrier materials to print both bone and soft tissueThere is no surgical method for repairing soft and hard tissue at once,” said Ozbolat. “This is why we aimed to demonstrate a technology where we can reconstruct the whole defect — bone to epidermis — at once.”

The researchers attacked the problem of bone replacement first, beginning in the laboratory and moving to an animal model. They needed something that was printable and nontoxic and could repair a 5-millimeter hole in the skull. The “hard tissue ink” consisted of collagen, chitosan, nano-hydroxyapatite and other compounds and mesenchymal stem cells — multipotent cells found in bone marrow that create bone, cartilage and bone marrow fat. The hard tissue ink extrudes at room temperature but heats up to body temperature when applied. This creates physical cross-linkage of the collagen and other portions of the ink without any chemical changes or the necessity of a crosslinker additive.

The researchers used droplet printing to create the soft tissue with thinner layers than the bone. They used collagen and fibrinogen in alternating layers with crosslinking and growth enhancing compounds. Each layer of skin including the epidermis and dermis differs, so the bioprinted soft tissue layers differed in composition. Experiments repairing 6 mm holes in full thickness skin proved successful. Once the team understood skin and bone separately, they moved on to repairing both during the same surgical procedure. “This approach was an extremely challenging process and we actually spent a lot of time finding the right material for bone, skin and the right bioprinting techniques,” said Ozbolat.

The scientists have reported their results in Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: https://news.psu.edu/

Simple test Improves Prostate Cancer Detection

A new urine-based test improved prostate cancer detection — including detecting more aggressive forms of prostate cancer — compared with traditional models based on prostate serum antigen — or PSA — levels, a new study finds. The test, developed at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center (University of Michigan), is called Mi-Prostate Score, or MiPS. It combines PSA with two markers for prostate cancer, T2:ERG and PCA3, both of which can be detected through a urine sample. The test has been available clinically since September 2013.

Around 50 percent of men who undergo a prostate biopsy will not have cancer. We need better ways to manage elevated PSA and determine who really needs to have a biopsy. MiPS gives men and their doctors better information to help make those decisions,” says lead study author Dr. Scott A. Tomlins, assistant professor of pathology and urology at the Medical School.

The study looked at 1,977 men undergoing prostate biopsy because of elevated PSA levels. Using urine samples, the researchers conducted MiPS testing and compared results to various combinations of PSA, PCA3, T2:ERG and other PSA-based risk calculators. They assessed how well the individual biomarkers and combinations of biomarkers predicted the likelihood of cancer and the likelihood of high-risk cancer — the aggressive type that needs immediate treatment.

The test reports individual risk estimates for prostate cancer and high-grade cancer. Each patient’s personal threshold for choosing to undergo biopsy may vary, so there is no single cutoff for a “positive” result. However, using one MiPS cutoff score to decide whether to biopsy patients would reduce the number of biopsies by one-third, while delaying the diagnosis of only about 1 percent of high-risk prostate cancers.

MiPS gives men a more individualized risk assessment for prostate cancer, so that men concerned about their serum PSA levels can have a more informed conversation with their doctor about next steps in their care,” Tomlins says. A cost-benefit analysis of MiPS is being conducted. PCA3 is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for prostate cancer risk assessment in men with a previous negative biopsy. Most of the men involved in this study were undergoing initial biopsy, suggesting MiPS can be useful earlier in the process.

The study is published in European Urology.

Source: https://record.umich.edu/

Reversible Gene Editing

The gene-editing system, CRISPR-Cas9, is truly revolutionizing medicine: in the future, it may help us eradicate ailments from sickle cell, cancer, and even blindness. While this system allows scientists to make changes to DNA, the changes are permanent. On the one hand, this is useful, because it could potentially cure genetic diseases without requiring a lifetime of treatment. The downside is that unintended consequences of the edits are difficult to fix — especially “off-targetedits, where CRISPR changes the wrong stretch of DNA. This is a huge concern for the scientific community — no one wants to be responsible for genetic mutations that go awry.

But what if the changes were not permanent? What if we could simply turn CRISPR off whenever we wanted?  A team of researchers at MIT and UCSF has developed a new gene-editing system that they call “CRISPRoff.” According to the researchers, this system can change how specific genes behave, much like CRISPR, while leaving the DNA strand unaltered — and even better, these modifications are completely reversible.

The traditional CRISPR system invented in 2012 relies on a protein called Cas9, which is found in bacterial immune systems. Cas9 can target specific genes and cut the DNA strand, removing or replacing defective genes. The DNA then self-repairs and continues functioning after the gene has been removed. Because this system alters the DNA sequence, the changes are permanent, and even though CRISPR is one of the most accurate ways to change DNA, it can be difficult to ensure that the modification will always be limited to that one gene.

As beautiful as CRISPR-Cas9 is, it hands off the repair to natural cellular processes, which are complex and multifaceted,MIT‘s Jonathan Weissman and coauthor of the study, said in a press release. “It’s very hard to control the outcomes.”

CRISPRoff is a new kind of gene-editing technology that doesn’t modify the DNA sequence, but instead changes the way those sequences are read. With this system, scientists can silence or activate various genes by adding chemical tags onto the DNA strand, without making any permanent changes. The tags cause the DNA to become unreadable by the cell’s messenger RNA, the molecule responsible for carrying instructions from the DNA to make proteins.

Source: https://news.mit.edu/

How to Speed up Bone Implant Recovery

An international research team led by Monash University has uncovered a new technique that could speed up recovery from bone replacements by altering the shape and nucleus of individual stem cells. The research collaboration involving Monash University, the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, CSIRO, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, developed micropillar arrays using UV nanoimprint lithography that essentially ‘trick’ the cells to become boneNanoimprint lithography allows for the creation of microscale patterns with low cost, high throughput and high resolution.

When implanted into the body as part of a bone replacement procedure, such as a hip or knee, researchers found these pillars – which are 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair – changed the shape, nucleus and genetic material inside stem cells. Not only was the research team able to define the topography of the pillar sizes and the effects it had on stem cells, but they discovered four times as much bone could be produced compared to current methods.

Novel micropillars, 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair, can change the size, shape and nucleus of individual stem cells and ‘trick’ them to become bone

What this means is, with further testing, we can speed up the process of locking bone replacements with surrounding tissue, in addition to reducing the risks of infection,” Associate Professor Jessica Frith from Monash University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering said. “We’ve also been able to determine what form these pillar structures take and what size they need to be in order to facilitate the changes to each stem cell, and select one that works best for the application.

Researchers are now advancing this study into animal model testing to see how they perform on medical implants. Engineers, scientists and medical professionals have known for some time that cells can take complex mechanical cues from the microenvironment, which in turn influences their development.

However, Dr Victor Cadarso from Monash University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering says their results point to a previously undefined mechanism where ‘mechanotransductory signalling’ can be harnessed using microtopographies for future clinical settings. “Harnessing surface microtopography instead of biological factor supplementation to direct cell fate has far-reaching ramifications for smart cell cultureware in stem cell technologies and cell therapy, as well as for the design of smart implant materials with enhanced osteo-inductive capacity,” Dr Cadarso said.

The findings were published in Advanced Science.

Source: https://www.monash.edu/

Self-Assembling Nanofibers Prevent Damage from Inflammation

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have developed a self-assembling nanomaterial that can help limit damage caused by inflammatory diseases by activating key cells in the immune system. In mouse models of psoriasis, the nanofiber-based drug has been shown to mitigate damaging inflammation as effectively as a gold-standard therapy. One of the hallmarks of inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis, is the overproduction of signaling proteins, called cytokines, that cause inflammation. One of the most significant inflammatory cytokines is a protein called TNF. Currently, the best treatment for these diseases involves the use of manufactured antibodies, called monoclonal antibodies, which are designed to target and destroy TNF and reduce inflammation.

Although monoclonal antibodies have enabled better treatment of inflammatory diseases, the therapy is not without its drawbacks, including a high cost and the need for patients to regularly inject themselves. Most significantly, the drugs also have uneven efficacy, as they may sometimes not work at all or eventually stop working as the body learns to make antibodies that can destroy the manufactured drug. To circumvent these issues, researchers have been exploring how immunotherapies can help teach the immune system how to generate its own therapeutic antibodies that can specifically limit inflammation.

The graphic shows the peptide nanofiber bearing complement protein C3dg (blue) and key components of the TNF protein, which include B-cell epitopes (green), and T-cell epitopes (purple)

We’re essentially looking for ways to use nanomaterials to induce the body’s immune system to become an anti-inflammatory antibody factory,” said Joel Collier, a professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University. “If these therapies are successful, patients need fewer doses of the therapy, which would ideally improve patient compliance and tolerance. It would be a whole new way of treating inflammatory disease.”

In their new paper, which appeared online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Collier and Kelly Hainline, a graduate student in the Collier lab, describe how novel nanomaterials could assemble into long nanofibers that include a specialized protein, called C3dg. These fibers then were able to activate immune system B-cells to generate antibodies. “C3dg is a protein that you’d normally find in your body,” said Hainline. “The protein helps the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system communicate, so it can activate specific white blood cells and antibodies to clear out damaged cells and destroy antigens.”

Due to the protein’s ability to interface between different cells in the immune system and activate the creation of antibodies without causing inflammation, researchers have been exploring how C3dg could be used as a vaccine adjuvant, which is a protein that can help boost the immune response to a desired target or pathogen.

Source: https://pratt.duke.edu/

How to Convert Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into Fuels

If the CO2 content of the atmosphere is not to increase any further, carbon dioxide must be converted into something else. However, as CO2 is a very stable molecule, this can only be done with the help of special catalysts. The main problem with such catalysts has so far been their lack of stability: after a certain time, many materials lose their catalytic properties.

At TU Wien (Austria), research is being conducted on a special class of minerals – the perovskites, which have so far been used for solar cells, as anode materials or electronic components rather than for their catalytic properties. Now scientists at TU Wien have succeeded in producing a special perovskite that is excellently suited as a catalyst for converting CO2 into other useful substances, such as synthetic fuels. The new perovskite catalyst is very stable and also relatively cheap, so it would be suitable for industrial use.

We are interested in the so-called reverse water-gas shift reaction,” says Prof. Christoph Rameshan from the Institute of Materials Chemistry at TU Wien. “In this process, carbon dioxide and hydrogen are converted into water and carbon monoxide. You can then process the carbon monoxide further, for example into methanol, other chemical base materials or even into fuel.”

This reaction is not new, but it has not really been implemented on an industrial scale for CO2 utilisation. It takes place at high temperatures, which contributes to the fact that catalysts quickly break down. This is a particular problem when it comes to expensive materials, such as those containing rare metals.

Christoph Rameshan and his team investigated how to tailor a material from the class of perovskites specifically for this reaction, and he was successful: “We tried out a few things and finally came up with a perovskite made of cobalt, iron, calcium and neodymium that has excellent properties,” says Rameshan.

Because of its crystal structure, the perovskite allows certain atoms to migrate through it. For example, during catalysis, cobalt atoms from the inside of the material travel towards the surface and form tiny nanoparticles there, which are then particularly chemically active. At the same time, so-called oxygen vacancies form – positions in the crystal where an oxygen atom should actually sit. It is precisely at these vacant positions that CO2 molecules can dock particularly well, in order to then be dissociated into oxygen and carbon monoxide.

We were able to show that our perovskite is significantly more stable than other catalysts,” says Christoph Rameshan. “It also has the advantage that it can be regenerated: If its catalytic activity does wane after a certain time, you can simply restore it to its original state with the help of oxygen and continue to use it.

Initial assessments show that the catalyst is also economically promising. “It is more expensive than other catalysts, but only by about a factor of three, and it is much more durable,” says Rameshan. “We would now like to try to replace the neodymium with something else, which could reduce the cost even further.“Theoretically, you could use such technologies to get CO2 out of the atmosphere – but to do that you would first have to concentrate the carbon dioxide, and that requires a considerable amount of energy. It is therefore more efficient to first convert CO2 where it is produced in large quantities, such as in industrial plants. “You could simply add an additional reactor to existing plants that currently emit a lot of CO2, in which the CO2 is first converted into CO and then processed further,” says Christoph Rameshan. Instead of harming the climate, such an industrial plant would then generate additional benefits.

Source: https://www.tuwien.at/

How to Completely Wipe out Colon Cancer in Anybody Who Gets Screened

Michael Wallace has performed hundreds of colonoscopies in his 20 years as a gastroenterologist. He thinks he’s pretty good at recognizing the growths, or polyps, that can spring up along the ridges of the colon and potentially turn into cancer. But he isn’t always perfect. Sometimes the polyps are flat and hard to see. Other times, doctors just miss them. “We’re all humans,” says Wallace, who works at the Mayo Clinic. After a morning of back-to-back procedures that require attention to minute details, he says, “we get tired.”

Colonoscopies, if unpleasant, are highly effective at sussing out pre-cancerous polyps and preventing colon cancer. But the effectiveness of the procedure rests heavily on the abilities of the physician performing it. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new tool that promises to help doctors recognize precancerous growths during a colonoscopy: an artificial intelligence system made by Medtronic. Doctors say that alongside other measures, the tool could help improve diagnoses.

 

We really have the opportunity to completely wipe out colon cancer in anybody who gets screened,” says Wallace, who consulted with Medtronic on the project.

The Medtronic system, called GI Genius, has seen the inside of more colons than most doctors. Medtronic and partner Cosmo Pharmaceuticals trained the algorithm to recognize polyps by reviewing more than 13 million videos of colonoscopies conducted in Europe and the US that Cosmo had collected while running drug trials. To “teach” the AI to distinguish potentially dangerous growths, the images were labeled by gastroenterologists as either normal or unhealthy tissue. Then the AI was tested on progressively harder-to-recognize polyps, starting with colonoscopies that were performed under perfect conditions and moving to more difficult challenges, like distinguishing a polyp that was very small, only in range of the camera briefly, or hidden in a dark spot. The system, which can be added to the scopes that doctors already use to perform a colonoscopy, follows along as the doctor probes the colon, highlighting potential polyps with a green box. GI Genius was approved in Europe in October 2019 and is the first AI cleared by the FDA for helping detect colorectal polyps. “It found things that even I missed,” says Wallace, who co-authored the first validation study of GI Genius. “It’s an impressive system.”

Source: https://www.wired.com/

How to Produce Drinkable Water from Sea Water

University of California, Berkeley, chemists have discovered a way to simplify the removal of toxic metals, like mercury and boron, during desalination to produce clean water, while at the same time potentially capturing valuable metals, such as gold.

Desalination — the removal of salt — is only one step in the process of producing drinkable water, or water for agriculture or industry, from ocean or waste water. Either before or after the removal of salt, the water often has to be treated to remove boron, which is toxic to plants, and heavy metals like arsenic and mercury, which are toxic to humans. Often, the process leaves behind a toxic brine that can be difficult to dispose of.

The new technique, which can easily be added to current membrane-based electrodialysis desalination processes, removes nearly 100% of these toxic metals, producing a pure brine along with pure water and isolating the valuable metals for later use or disposal.

A flexible polymer membrane incorporating nanoparticles of PAF selectively absorbs nearly 100% of metals such mercury, copper or iron during desalination, more efficiently producing clean, safe water

Desalination or water treatment plants typically require a long series of high-cost, pre- and post-treatment systems that all the water has to go through, one by one,” said Adam Uliana, a UC Berkeley graduate student who is first author of a paper describing the technology. “But here, we have the ability to do several of these steps all in one, which is a more efficient process. Basically, you could implement it in existing setups.”

The UC Berkeley chemists synthesized flexible polymer membranes, like those currently used in membrane separation processes, but embedded nanoparticles that can be tuned to absorb specific metal ionsgold or uranium ions, for example. The membrane can incorporate a single type of tuned nanoparticle, if the metal is to be recovered, or several different types, each tuned to absorb a different metal or ionic compound, if multiple contaminants need to be removed in one step.

The polymer membrane laced with nanoparticles is very stable in water and at high heat, which is not true of many other types of absorbers, including most metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), when embedded in membranes.

Source: https://news.berkeley.edu/

How to Heal Osteoarthritis in the Knee

Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, affects over 32 million people in the U.S. each year. Characterized by a progressive degeneration of cartilage resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, and most frequently occurring in the hands, hips, and knees, OA has no pharmacological, biological, or surgical treatment to prevent progression of the condition. The authors of this case report focus specifically on potential treatment options for OA of the knee.

With the emergence of stem cell-based therapies for a multitude of health conditions, stem cells, and specifically mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), have demonstrated immunosuppressive activities that could prove beneficial in supporting the regeneration of cartilage tissue in and around joints in the body.

Research has demonstrated that MSCs are effective in differentiating into essential connective tissues like fat, cartilage, and bone; MSCs have also demonstrated immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects, the ability to self-renew, and plasticity, making MSCs a potentially powerful treatment of OA in the knee (and other parts of the body).

This specific case study details cartilage regeneration in the knee of a 47-year-old woman diagnosed with OA when treated with bone marrow-derived MSC cells. For the course of this treatment, autologous MSCs were collected from bone marrow harvested from the iliac crest. After processing and preparing the MSCs, the sample was confirmed to be free of microbial contamination and was prepared and transplanted into the patient’s knee joint.

Periodic follow-ups with the patient revealed no local or systemic adverse events associated with the MSC transplant procedure. The authors of this case report found that the patient’s functional status of her knee, the number of stairs she could climb, reported pain on a visual analog scale, and walking distance all improved in the two months following the MSC transplant procedure.

Source: https://stem-cells.in-the.news/

Scribe Therapeutics change the genes responsible for causing diseases

Imagine being able to change the genes responsible for causing diseases. For Scribe Therapeutics, a gene-editing company that develops genetic medicines, this is no longer a dream but a reality. Scribe Therapeutics is one of several companies approaching genetic medicines through Crispr, the now-famous “molecular scissors” employed to cut and edit DNA. But the company is taking a new approach to leveraging Crispr technology. Instead of relying on wild-type or naturally occurring Crispr molecules such as Cas9, Scribe Therapeutics have built their own, highly-specialized varieties.

Founded by Jennifer Doudna, Benjamin Oakes, Brett Staahl, and David Savage, Scribe Therapeutics is creating an advanced platform for Crispr-based genetic medicine.

Crispr is changing how we think about treating diseases,” says co-founder, President, and CEO of Scribe Therapeutics, Benjamin Oakes. “When I finished my undergraduate degree, I shadowed doctors and realized we had no way to treat the underlying causes of diseases. This changed my career path to creating Crispr-based tools that can actually treat the underlying causes.”

Scribe Therapeutics has collaborated with Biogen to create Crispr-based genetic medicines for diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The company is also studying how to use adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors to deliver Crispr components to the nervous system, eyes, and muscles. AAV vectors can deliver DNA to specific target cells for therapeutic uses.

Today, Scribe Therapeutics announced a $100 million Series B funding round that will help the company grow and expand. One of the key ways it stands out from other synthetic biology and gene-editing companies is through its approach to doing science. Other companies sometimes create tools without thinking about the problems they can solve, but Scribe Therapeutics is different. Instead of building technology in need of a solution, Scribe Therapeutics finds the problem first and creates the technology to fix it.

We face challenges head-on and continue to inspire people to try the hard things. You have to encourage fearlessness in science. If your experiment failed today, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You have to keep trying,” says Oakes.

Scribe Therapeutics‘ “Crispr by designplatform has custom-engineered millions of novel molecules specifically designed for therapeutic uses within the human body. For example, its X-editing (XE) technology is an engineered molecule that offers greater specificity, activity, and deliverability when used therapeutically.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/

How to Clear Brain Plaques with Light and Oxygen to Prevent Alzheimer’s

A small, light-activated molecule recently tested in mice represents a new approach to eliminating clumps of amyloid protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. If perfected in humans, the technique could be used as an alternative approach to immunotherapy and used to treat other diseases caused by similar amyloids. Researchers injected the molecule directly into the brains of live mice with Alzheimer’s disease and then used a specialized probe to shine light into their brains for 30 minutes each day for one week. Chemical analysis of the mouse brain tissue showed that the treatment significantly reduced amyloid protein. Results from additional experiments using human brain samples donated by Alzheimer’s disease patients supported the possibility of future use in humans.

The importance of our study is developing this technique to target the amyloid protein to enhance clearance of it by the immune system,” said Yukiko Hori, a lecturer at the University of Tokyo and co-first author of the research recently published in Brain. The small molecule that the research team developed is known as a photo-oxygenation catalyst. It appears to treat Alzheimer’s disease via a two-step process.

First, the catalyst destabilizes the amyloid plaques. Oxygenation, or adding oxygen atoms, can make a molecule unstable by changing the chemical bonds holding it together. Laundry detergents or other cleaners known as “oxygen bleach” use a similar chemical principle. The catalyst is designed to target the folded structure of amyloid and likely works by cross-linking specific portions called histidine residues. The catalyst is inert until it is activated with near-infrared light, so in the future, researchers imagine that the catalyst could be delivered throughout the body by injection into the bloodstream and targeted to specific areas using light.

Second, the destabilized amyloid is then removed by microglia, immune cells of the brain that clear away damaged cells and debris outside healthy cells. Using mouse cells growing in a dish, researchers observed microglia engulfing oxygenated amyloid and then breaking it down in acidic compartments inside the cells. “Our catalyst binds to the amyloid-specific structure, not to a unique genetic or amino acid sequence, so this same catalyst can be applied to other amyloid depositions,” said Professor Taisuke Tomita, who led the project at the University of Tokyo.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology estimates that each year in the U.S., 4,000 people are diagnosed with diseases caused by amyloid outside of the brain, collectively known as amyloidosis. The photo-oxygenation catalyst should be capable of removing amyloid protein, regardless of when or where it formed in the body. Although some existing Alzheimer’s disease treatments can slow the formation of new amyloid plaques, eliminating existing plaques is especially important in Alzheimer’s disease because amyloid begins aggregating years before symptoms appear.

Source: https://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/

Neuralink Wants to Implant Human Brain Chips Within a Year

Tesla CEO Elon Musk released a video showing how his company Neuralink – a brain-computer-interface company – had advanced its technology to the point that the chip could allow a monkey to play video games with its mind.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY VIDEO

Neuralink could transition from operating on monkeys to human trials within the year, if the startup meets a previous prediction from Musk. In February, he said the company planned to launch human trials by the end of the year after first mentioning his work with the monkey implants.

At the time, the CEO gave the timeline in response to another user’s request to join human trials for the product, which is designed to implant artificial intelligence into human brains as well as potentially cure neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Musk has made similar statements in the past about his project, which was launched in 2016. He said in 2019 that it would be testing on humans by the end of 2020.

There has been a recent flurry of information on the project. Prior to the recent video release on Twitter, Musk had made an appearance on the social media site, Clubhouse, and provided some additional updates on Neuralink back in February.

During his Clubhouse visit, Musk detailed how the company had implanted the chip in the monkey’s brain and talked about how it could play video games using only its mind.

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

New Battery Charges Ten Times Faster than a Lithium-ion Battery

It is difficult to imagine our daily life without lithium-ion batteries. They dominate the small format battery market for portable electronic devices, and are also commonly used in electric vehicles. At the same time, lithium-ion batteries have a number of serious issues, including: a potential fire hazard and performance loss at cold temperatures; as well as a considerable environmental impact of spent battery disposal.

According to the leader of the team of researchers, Professor in the Department of Electrochemistry at St Petersburg University Oleg Levin, the chemists have been exploring redox-active nitroxyl-containing polymers as materials for electrochemical energy storage. These polymers are characterised by a high energy density and fast charging and discharging speed due to fast redox kinetics. One challenge towards the implementation of such a technology is the insufficient electrical conductivity. This impedes the charge collection even with highly conductive additives, such as carbon.

Looking for solutions to overcome this problem, the researchers from St Petersburg University synthesised a polymer based on the nickel-salen complex (NiSalen). The molecules of this metallopolymer act as a molecular wire to which energy-intensive nitroxyl pendants are attached. The molecular architecture of the material enables high capacitance performance to be achieved over a wide temperature range.

We came up with the concept of this material in 2016. At that time, we began to develop a fundamental project “Electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries based on organometallic polymers”. It was supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation. When studying the charge transport mechanism in this class of compounds, we discovered that there are two keys directions of development. Firstly, these compounds can be used as a protective layer to cover the main conductor cable of the battery, which would be otherwise made of traditional lithium-ion battery materials. And secondly, they can be used as an active component of electrochemical energy storage materials,‘ explains Oleg Levin.

A battery manufactured using our polymer will charge in seconds — about ten times faster than a traditional lithium-ion battery. This has already been demonstrated through a series of experiments. However, at this stage, it is still lagging behind in terms of capacity — 30 to 40% lower than in lithium-ion batteries. We are currently working to improve this indicator while maintaining the charge-discharge rate,’ says Oleg Levin.

Source: https://english.spbu.ru/

 

 

Carbon Dots from Human Hair Boost Solar Cells

In a study published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A, the researchers led by Professor Hongxia Wang in collaboration with Associate Professor  Prashant Sonar  of the Queensland University of technology  (QUT) in Australia  showed the carbon nanodots could be used to improve the performance of perovskites solar cells, a relatively new photovoltaic technology, are seen as the best PV candidate to deliver low-cost, highly efficient solar electricity in coming years. They have proven to be as effective in power conversion efficiency as the current commercially available monocrystalline silicon solar cells, but the hurdles for researchers in this area is to make the technology cheaper and more stable. Unlike silicon cells, they are created with a compound that is easily manufactured, and as they are flexible they could be used in scenarios such as solar-powered clothing, backpacks that charge your devices on the go and even tents that could serve as standalone power sources.

This is the second major piece of research to come as a result of a human hair derived carbon dots as multifunctional material. Last year, Associate Professor Prashant Sonar led a research team, including Centre for Materials Science research fellow Amandeep Singh Pannu, that turned hair scraps into carbon nanodots by breaking down the hairs and then burning them at 240 degrees celsius. In that study, the researchers showed the carbon dots could be turned into flexible displays that could be used in future smart devices.

In this new study, Professor Wang’s research team, including Dr Ngoc Duy Pham,  and Mr Pannu, working with Professor Prashant Sonar’s group, used the carbon nanodots on perovskite solar cells out of curiosity. Professor Wang’s team had previously found that nanostructured carbon materials could be used to improve a cell’s performance. After adding a solution of carbon dots into the process of making the perovskites, Professor Wang’s team found the carbon dots forming a wave-like perovskite layer where the perovskite crystals are surrounded by the carbon dots.

It creates a kind of protective layer, a kind of armour,” Professor Wang said. “It protects the perovskite material from moisture or other environmental factors, which can cause damage to the materials.”

The study found that perovskite solar cells covered with the carbon dots had a higher power conversion efficiency and a greater stability than perovskite cells without the carbon dots.

Source: https://www.qut.edu.au/

How to Spot Blood Clot Symptoms, And What to Do About It

Blood clots are an extremely rare but serious side effect of AstraZeneca‘s COVID-19 vaccine, regulators announced on Wednesday. The benefits of AstraZeneca‘s vaccine still outweigh the risks, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in a press release. Still, the agency’s safety committee said it’s important to know the signs of a possible clot.

blood clot occurs when the blood thickens and forms a semi-solid mass. It can be a helpful response to stop bleeding in the case of injury, but these blockages can cause problems if they cut off blood flow to a vital areaBlood clots can cause blockages in the legs, abdomen, and lungs. Most of the blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine have occurred in veins in people’s brains. These clots, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), can lead to stroke, seizures, and death.

So far, most of the clots reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination. Since young people are more likely to experience this side effect, UK vaccine regulators recommend that people under 30 do not get the AstraZeneca shot unless they’ve already received their first dose. The EMA said patients who got the AstraZeneca vaccine should seek medical assistance immediately if they have the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • swelling in your leg
  • persistent abdominal (belly) pain
  • neurological symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches or blurred vision
    Some mild side effects, like pain at the injection site or other body aches, are common in the days post-vaccine.But if you experience severe or persistent symptoms around four to 20 days after vaccination, you should seek medical attention, according to the World Health OrganizationBlood clots are typically treated with anti-clotting medication. Complications can be avoided if the clot is caught early.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/

A Third of COVID Survivors Suffer Mental or Neurological Problems

A third of coronavirus patients were found to suffer from psychiatric or brain problems within six months of their COVID-19 diagnosis, according to a study published recently.

Researchers analyzed the health records of 236,379 COVID patients, mostly from the US, and found that 34 percent had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric disorders six months on.

About one in eight of the patients, or 12.8 percent, were diagnosed for the first time with such an illness, the study showed.

Anxiety, at 17 percent, and depression or mood disorders, at 14 percent, were the most common diagnoses, according to the research.

Instances of post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, but still significant — especially in people who had been seriously ill with the virus, the scientists said.

https://www.thelancet.com/

World’s Biggest Solar Company Joins the Hydrogen Game

China’s Longi Green Energy Technology, the world’s biggest solar company, is entering the hydrogen market, industry publication Solarzoom reported.

Xi’an Longi Hydrogen Technology Co. was registered March 31 in China, according to Solarzoom. Longi’s billionaire founder and president Li Zhenguo is serving as the company’s chairman, and the shareholders are Xi’an Longi Green Energy Venture Capital Management Co. and Shanghai Zhuqueying Private Equity Investment Fund Partnership.

Longi didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment. The firm, which manufactures wafers, cells and panels, is the world’s largest solar company by market capitalization, at about $52 billion as of Friday’s close. Shares rose as much as 4.9% on Tuesday morning in Asia. Energy companies are increasingly turning to hydrogen as a possible carbon-free fuel that could be produced by electrolysis of water powered by renewable energy, and then stored and transported and used in everything from cars to electrical generators to steel mills. Most industrially used hydrogen is currently made using fossil fuels, a cheaper form of production than electrolysis but one that leaves a carbon footprint. Figuring out how to scale up and reduce costs of cleaner hydrogen output is one of the best chances the world has at avoiding the worst impacts of climate change while maintaining the trappings of modern life.

In an interview last year, Li said a combination of solar and storage would be the cheapest form of energy in most nations globally by the end of the decade. He also said his company plans for the long term. “We don’t only look at today, but also three, five years later or even eight or 10 years later,” he said. “After finding the direction, we don’t begrudge money on research and development.

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Energy Conversion Efficiency of Perovskite Solar Cells could Go Beyond 30%

Solar cells are excellent renewable energy tools that use sunlight to drive an electrical current for power. They’ve been used to power homes since the 1980s, and their performance and production cost have improved dramatically since then. The most common solar cells, based on silicon, work well for a long time. They retain more than 80% of their functionality even after 25 years. However, the efficiency—i.e., how much of the incoming sunlight is converted to electrical power—of commercial-scale silicon solar cells is currently only around 20%.

Maximizing solar cells‘ energy conversion efficiency will improve their competitiveness compared to fossil fuels and help optimize them as a sustainable energy source. Researchers have intensively focused on an alternative to silicon: perovskite materials to enhance solar cells’ efficiency. Designs based on such materials must meet certain requirements, such as ease of fabrication on a large scale, and minimize reflected—i.e., wasted—light.

In a recent study published in Nano-Micro Letters, researchers from Kanazawa University applied a thin metal oxide filmreproducible, uniform, and compact—onto a perovskite solar cell. The researchers used a combination of lab work and computational studies to evaluate their solar cell design performance fairly.

(a) Schematic diagram of the perovskite/perovskite tandem solar cell, and (b)  current–voltage characteristic curves of the best-investigated perovskite/perovskite tandem solar cell. Inset shows quantum efficiency for top perovskite and bottom perovskite.

We used spray pyrolysis to deposit a front contact layer of titanium dioxide onto a perovskite solar cell,” explains Md. Shahiduzzaman, lead and corresponding author. “This deposition technique is common in the industry for large-scale applications.

Upon finding an optimum thickness for the front contact layer, the researchers measured an energy conversion efficiency of 16.6%, assuming typical sunlight conditions. As mentioned, this isn’t quite as good as commercial silicon-based solar cells. Nevertheless, electromagnetic simulations were a powerful tool for predicting the possible energy conversion efficiency limit by optimizing specific parameters.

Computational simulations suggest that the energy conversion efficiency of perovskite/perovskite tandem solar cells could go beyond 30% by a multi-layer front contact,” says Md. Shahiduzzaman, lead and corresponding author. “This is close to the theoretical efficiency limit of silicon-based solar cells.”

Source: https://www.kanazawa-u.ac.jp/

Summer Sunlight Could Inactivate 90% of Coronavirus Particles in 30 minutes

A team of scientists is calling for greater research into how sunlight inactivates SARS-CoV-2 after realizing there’s a glaring discrepancy between the most recent theory and experimental results. UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineer Paolo Luzzatto-Fegiz and colleagues noticed the virus was inactivated as much as eight times faster in experiments than the most recent theoretical model predicted.

The theory assumes that inactivation works by having UVB hit the RNA of the virus, damaging it,” explained Luzzatto-Fegiz.

But the discrepancy suggests there’s something more going on than that, and figuring out what this is may be helpful for managing the virus.

UV light, or the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, is easily absorbed by certain nucleic acid bases in DNA and RNA, which can cause them to bond in ways that are hard to fix.

But not all UV light is the sameLonger UV waves, called UVA, don’t have quite enough energy to cause problems. It’s the mid-range UVB waves in sunlight that are primarily responsible for killing microbes and putting our own cells at risk of Sun damage.

Short-wave UVC radiation has been shown to be effective against viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, even while it’s still safely enveloped in human fluids.

But this type of UV doesn’t usually come into contact with Earth’s surface, thanks to the ozone layer.

UVC is great for hospitals,” said co-author and Oregon State University toxicologist Julie McMurry. “But in other environments – for instance, kitchens or subways – UVC would interact with the particulates to produce harmful ozone.”

In July 2020, an experimental study tested the effects of UV light on SARS-CoV-2 in simulated saliva. They recorded the virus was inactivated when exposed to simulated sunlight for between 10-20 minutes.

Natural sunlight may be effective as a disinfectant for contaminated nonporous materials,” Wood and colleagues concluded in the paper.

Luzzatto-Feigiz and team compared those results with a theory about how sunlight achieved this, which was published just a month later, and saw the math didn’t add up. his study found the SARS-CoV-2 virus was three times more sensitive to the UV in sunlight than influenza A, with 90 percent of the coronavirus‘s particles being inactivated after just half an hour of exposure to midday sunlight in summer.

By comparison, in winter light infectious particles could remain intact for days.

Source: https://www.news.ucsb.edu/
AND
https://www.sciencealert.com/

Rapid Fat Burning when you Work Out After Drinking Coffee

If you’re looking to maximize the amount of fat burned in your next workout, think about having a coffee half an hour before you get started – as a new study suggests it can make a significant difference to fat burning, especially later on in the day. Researchers found that 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight – about half a single dose of caffeine, commonly held to be about 6 mg/kg – can boost the rate of fat burning during aerobic exercise, based on results gathered from 15 male volunteers.

The coffee dose was shown to increase maximal fat oxidation rate (MFO, a measure of how efficiently the body burns off fat) by an average of 10.7 percent in the morning and 29 percent in the afternoon. It adds to what we already know about MFO: that it’s lower in the morning than the afternoon, just like overall aerobic capacity.

The recommendation to exercise on an empty stomach in the morning to increase fat oxidation is commonplace,” says physiologist Francisco José Amaro-Gahete from the University of Granada in Spain.

However, this recommendation may be lacking a scientific basis, as it is unknown whether this increase is due to exercising in the morning or due to going without food for a longer period of time.”

The researchers were also keen to look in closer detail at the relationship between caffeine and exercise. The stimulant is often associated with improved athletic performance, though the science behind this link isn’t as comprehensive as it could be.

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/
AND
https://www.sciencealert.com/

The Gene Responsible For One of The Deadliest Breast Cancer Identified

A new cancer-causing gene and protein which creates highly aggressive hard to treat breast cancers has been discovered by cancer researchers at the Harry Perkins Institute in Australia.

A team of researchers lead by Associate Professor Pilar Blancafort, Perkins’ Cancer Program Head and Group Leader for Cancer Epigenetics, made the discovery after analysing a major collection of data from Stanford USA of thousands of breast cancers. Pilar said her team looked at the hormone receptor positive cancers with the worst outcomes and analysed how they were different from cancers with better survival rates.

Hormone sensitive cancers make up 70% of all breast cancers. They usually have better outcomes for patients than the hormone receptor negative ones, such as triple negative breast cancer. “However, we found a small percentage of patients experience a very aggressive cancer that results in the worst outcomes of all breast cancers, with half of all women dying from the disease.” This group was previously not recognised as a sub-group of hormone sensitive breast cancers.

When we looked at these cancers, we found that approximately 1 out of 4 women diagnosed with this aggressive disease carry an amplification, or high level of this gene, and that the presence of the gene is associated with larger tumours, with cancer spread into lymph nodes and with treatment resistance. “What we needed was to find a way to identify them and then find other targeted strategies to treat them,” says Pilar.

Pilar and her team discovered these aggressive cancers with extra copies of the particular cancer-causing gene use this gene to make a cancer driving protein at higher than normal levels. “This protein is not like any other protein yet discovered, it is unique. It has a different structure or shape to all other proteins so far discovered in the human body. “It promotes growth of the cancer, but it is unusual in that it does so independently of the estrogen and progesterone, the hormones in breast tissue which are typically the major controllers of cell growth in the breast tissue. “As a result, this cancer protein makes the breast cancer unresponsive to anti-cancer hormone treatments typically used to treat hormone sensitive breast cancers,” she says.

The newly discovered protein can reprogram the metabolism of breast cancer cells, making them more adaptable when cancer treatments starve them of nutrients and energy supplies.

The discovery has been published in Nature Communications journal.

Source: https://perkins.org.au/

Artificial Cell Grows And Divides Like a Natural One

Five years ago, scientists created a single-celled synthetic organism that, with only 473 genes, was the simplest living cell ever known. However, this bacteria-like organism behaved strangely when growing and dividing, producing cells with wildly different shapes and sizes. Now, scientists have identified seven genes that can be added to tame the cells’ unruly nature, causing them to neatly divide into uniform orbs.

Identifying these genes is an important step toward engineering synthetic cells that do useful things. Such cells could act as small factories that produce drugs, foods and fuels; detect disease and produce drugs to treat it while living inside the body; and function as tiny computers. But to design and build a cell that does exactly what you want it to do, it helps to have a list of essential parts and know how they fit together.

We want to understand the fundamental design rules of life,” said Elizabeth Strychalski, a co-author on the study and leader of NIST’s Cellular Engineering Group. “If this cell can help us to discover and understand those rules, then we’re off to the races.”

Scientists at JCVI constructed the first cell with a synthetic genome in 2010. They didn’t build that cell completely from scratch. Instead, they started with cells from a very simple type of bacteria called a mycoplasma. They destroyed the DNA in those cells and replaced it with DNA that was designed on a computer and synthesized in a lab. This was the first organism in the history of life on Earth to have an entirely synthetic genome. They called it JCVI-syn1.0.

Since then, scientists have been working to strip that organism down to its minimum genetic components. The super-simple cell they created five years ago, dubbed JCVI-syn3.0, was perhaps too minimalist. The researchers have now added 19 genes back to this cell, including the seven needed for normal cell division, to create the new variant, JCVI-syn3A. This variant has fewer than 500 genes. To put that number in perspective, the E. coli bacteria that live in your gut have about 4,000 genes. A human cell has around 30,000.

This achievement, a collaboration between the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Bits and Atoms, is described in the journal Cell.

Source: https://www.nist.gov/

Intravenous Immunoglobulins Could Stop Thrombosis after Astrazeneca Vaccination

Some people have developed dangerous blood clots in the brain after receiving the corona vaccination with the AstraZeneca preparation The University Medical Center Greifswald in Germany has now broken down the likely cause of the blood clots. According to Andreas Greinacher, he and his team found special antibodies in the blood of those affected, which are directed against the body’s own blood platelets. These cells play an important role in blood clotting. The antibodies activate the platelets: they clump together, as they normally do to close a wound, and thus form blood clots. The basic problem is therefore an autoimmune reaction.

In Germany, 13 cases of sinus vein thrombosis were reported shortly after an AstraZeneca vaccination, all of which were associated with a lack of blood platelets, i.e. a so-called thrombocytopenia. Around 1.6 million people in Germany were vaccinated. According to Greinacher, the problems that arose shortly after the vaccination are similar to a long-known complication with the administration of another agent, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, or HIT for short. There, too, antibodies activate platelets so that clots form. In both cases the symptoms appear within 5 to 14 days after administration of the preparation. Greinacher therefore emphasized that the flu-like symptoms that often occur on the day after the vaccination are not a warning signal that a blood clot is developing. But anyone who has a painful leg about five days after the vaccination – as a sign of a deep vein thrombosis – or a severe headache should see a doctor immediately.

The Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis Research has already published recommendations for doctors based on the Greifswald findings. She assumes that the formation of clots in people with sinus vein thrombosis and thrombocytopenia can be stopped by giving high doses of intravenous immunoglobulins. Greinacher could not answer how reliably this therapy helps those affected. That is not his area of expertise, he said.

Source: https://www.uni-greifswald.de/
AND
https://www.quora.com/

Global Warming Is ‘Fundamentally’ Changing The Structure of Oceans

Climate change has wrought major changes to ocean stability faster than previously thought, according to a study published recently, raising alarms over its role as a global thermostat and the marine life it supports. The research published in the journal Nature looked at 50 years of data and followed the way in which surface waterdecouples” from the deeper oceanClimate change has disrupted ocean mixing, a process that helps store away most of the world’s excess heat and a significant proportion of CO2.

Water on the surface is warmer – and therefore less dense – than the water below, a contrast that is intensified by climate changeGlobal warming is also causing massive amounts of fresh water to flush into the seas from melting ice sheets and glaciers, lowering the salinity of the upper layer and further reducing its density. This increasing contrast between the density of the ocean layers makes mixing harder, so oxygen, heat and carbon are all less able to penetrate to the deep seas.

Similar to a layer of water on top of oil, the surface waters in contact with the atmosphere mix less efficiently with the underlying ocean,” said lead author Jean-Baptiste Sallee of Sorbonne University and France’s CNRS national scientific research center. He said while scientists were aware that this process was under way, “we here show that this change has occurred at a rate much quicker than previously thought: more than six times quicker.

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

How to Make Renewable Energy from Water

One prospective source of renewable energy is hydrogen gas produced from water with the aid of sunlight. Researchers at Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden have developed a material, nanoporous cubic silicon carbide, that exhibits promising properties to capture solar energy and split water for hydrogen gas production.

Cubic silicon carbide immersed in water

New sustainable energy systems are needed to meet global energy and environmental challenges, such as increasing carbon dioxide emissions and climate change”, says Jianwu Sun, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at Linköping University, who has led the new study that has been published in the journal ACS Nano.

Hydrogen has an energy density three times that of petrol. It can be used to generate electricity using a fuel cell, and hydrogen-fuelled cars are already commercially available. When hydrogen gas is used to produce energy, the only product formed is pure water. In contrast, however, carbon dioxide is created when the hydrogen is produced, since the most commonly used technology used today depends on fossil fuels for the process. Thus, 9-12 tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted when one tonne of’ hydrogen gas is produced.

Producing hydrogen gas by splitting water molecules with the aid of solar energy is a sustainable approach that could give hydrogen gas using renewable sources without leading to carbon dioxide emissions. A major advantage of this method is the possibility to convert solar energy to fuel that can be stored. “Conventional solar cells produce energy during the daytime, and the energy must either be used immediately, or stored in, for example, batteries. Hydrogen is a promising source of energy that can be stored and transported in the same way as traditional fuels such as petrol and diesel”, says Jianwu Sun.

It is not, however, an easy task to split water using the energy in sunlight to give hydrogen gas. For this to succeed, it is necessary to find cost-efficient materials that have the right properties for the reaction in which water (H2O) is split into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) through photo-electrolysis. The energy in sunlight that can be used to split water is mostly in the form of ultraviolet radiation and visible light. Therefore, a material is required that can efficiently absorb such radiation to create charges that can be separated and have enough energy to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Most materials that have been investigated until now are either inefficient in the way they use the energy of visible sunlight (titanium dioxide, TiO2, for example, absorbs only ultraviolet sunlight), or do not have the properties needed to split water to hydrogen gas (for instance, silicon, Si).

Jianwu Sun’s research group has investigated cubic silicon carbide, 3C-SiC. The scientists have produced a form of cubic silicon carbide that has many extremely small pores. The material, which they call nanoporous 3C-SiC, has promising properties that suggest it can be used to produce hydrogen gas from water using sunlight. The present study has been published in the journal ACS Nano, and in it the researchers show that this new porous material can efficiently trap and harvest ultraviolet and most of the visible sunlight. Furthermore, the porous structure promotes the separation of charges that have the required energy, while the small pores give a larger active surface area. This enhances charge transfer and increases the number of reaction sites, thus further boosting the water splitting efficiency.

The main result we have shown is that nanoporous cubic silicon carbide has a higher charge-separation efficiency, which makes the splitting of water to hydrogen much better than when using planar silicon carbide”, says Jianwu Sun.

Source: https://liu.se/

Novel System Sequesters CO2 And Generates Electricity

A recent study, affiliated with UNIST (South Korea) has unveiled a novel system, capable of producing hydrogen and electricity quickly and effectively while cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions significantly.  Published in the journal Nano Energy, this breakthrough has been carried out by Professor GunTae Kim and his research team in the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST. In this study, the research team succeeded in developing a membrane-free aqueous metal-CO2 battery. Unlike the existing aqueous metal-CO2 systems, the new battery is not only easier to manufacture, but also allows continuous operation with one type of electrolyte.

The research team designed a membrane-free (MF) Mg-CO2battery, as an advanced approach to sequester CO2 emissions by generating electricity and value-added chemicals without any harmful by-products. According to the research team, their MF Mg-CO2 battery operates based on the indirect utilization of CO2with facile hydrogen generation process. It has been also found that the new battery exhibits high faradaic efficiency of 92.0%.

In order to translate the newly-developed laboratory-scale MF Mg-CO2 battery technology into a commercial reality, we have envisioned an operational prototype system that produces electricity and value-added chemicals, as a cornerstone to better support sustainable human life from CO2 and earth-abundant renewable power (e.g., wind, solar, seawater),” noted the research team.

The MF Mg-CO2 battery system has a structure similar to that of hydrogen fuel cells for use in cars, since it only requires a Mg-metal negative electrode, an aqueous electrolyte, and a positive-electrode catalyst. However, unlike the existing fuel cells, they are based on aqueous electrolytes. As a result, the newly-developed MF Mg-CO2 battery had successfully sequestered CO2 emissions by generating electricity and value-added chemicals without any harmful by-products.

Our findings indicate great benefits for the newly-developed MF Mg-CO2 battery technology to produce various value-added chemicals of practical significance and electricity from CO2without any wasted by-products,” noted the research team. “Through this we have opened the door to electrochemical utilization of CO2 with indirect circulation for future alternative technologies.”

Source: https://www.eurekalert.org/

A Cannabis Molecule Reduces Plaque, Improves Cognition in Alzheimer’s

A two-week course of high doses of CBD helps restore the function of two proteins key to reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and improves cognition in an experimental model of early onset familial Alzheimer’s, investigators report. The proteins TREM2 and IL-33 are important to the ability of the brain’s immune cells to literally consume dead cells and other debris like the beta-amyloid plaque that piles up in patients’ brains, and levels of both are decreased in Alzheimer’s.

The investigators report for the first time that CBD normalizes levels and function, improving cognition as it also reduces levels of the immune protein IL-6, which is associated with the high inflammation levels found in Alzheimer’s, says Dr. Babak Baban, immunologist and associate dean for research in the Dental College of Georgia (DCG) and the study’s corresponding author. There is a dire need for novel therapies to improve outcomes for patients with this condition, which is considered one of the fastest-growing health threats in the United States, DCG and Medical College of Georgia (MCG) investigators write in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Right now we have two classes of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. John Morgan, neurologist and director of the Movement and Memory Disorder Programs in the MCG Department of Neurology. “One class increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which also are decreased in Alzheimer’s, and another works through the NMDA receptors involved in communication between neurons and important to memory. But we have nothing that gets to the pathophysiology of the disease,” says Morgan, a study coauthor.

The DCG and MCG investigators decided to look at CBD’s ability to address some of the key brain systems that go awry in Alzheimer’s.

They found CBD appears to normalize levels of IL-33, a protein whose highest expression in humans is normally in the brain, where it helps sound the alarm that there is an invader like the beta-amyloid accumulation. There is emerging evidence of its role as a regulatory protein as well, whose function of either turning up or down the immune response depends on the environment, Baban says. In Alzheimer’s, that includes turning down inflammation and trying to restore balance to the immune system, he says.

CBD also improved expression of triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2, or TREM2, which is found on the cell surface where it combines with another protein to transmit signals that activate cells, including immune cells. In the brain, its expression is on the microglial cells, a special population of immune cells found only in the brain where they are key to eliminating invaders like a virus and irrevocably damaged neurons.

Source: https://jagwire.augusta.edu/

5G Is Completely Safe

Two new scientific reviews have backed up all the previous research we’ve seen into 5G technology to date, finding that the next-generation connectivity standard doesn’t pose any health risks.

Overseen by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, the reviews looked back at 138 previous studies and reanalyzed over 100 experiments to look for possible dangers in the millimeter wave frequencies (low-level radio waves above 6 GHz).

While the research and scientific analysis will likely continue, this in-depth look at what we know so far about 5G and its associated technologies points to it being perfectly safe at the kinds of levels that people would be exposed to it.

In conclusion, a review of all the studies provided no substantiated evidence that low-level radio waves, like those used by the 5G network, are hazardous to human health,” says Ken Karipidis, Assistant Director of Assessment and Advice at ARPANSA.

While frequencies above 6 GHz have regularly been used in radar, medical instruments, and security equipment – like the airport screening scanners you have probably walked through – they’re about to be used much more widely as 5G networks get rolled out worldwide.

Combing through the data and the reported results on genotoxicity (mutations), cell proliferation, gene expression, cell signalling, membrane function, and other biological effects, the researchers could findno confirmed evidence that low-level RF fields above 6 GHz such as those used by the 5G network are hazardous to human health“.

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

How to Construct Machines as Small as Cells

If you want to build a fully functional nanosized robot, you need to incorporate a host of capabilities, from complicated electronic circuits and photovoltaics to sensors and antennas. But just as importantly, if you want your robot to move, you need it to be able to bend.

Cornell researchers have created micron-sized shape memory actuators that enable atomically thin two-dimensional materials to fold themselves into 3D configurations. All they require is a quick jolt of voltage. And once the material is bent, it holds its shape – even after the voltage is removed. As a demonstration, the team created what is potentially the world’s smallest self-folding origami bird. And it’s not a lark.

The group’s paper, “Micrometer-Sized Electrically Programmable Shape Memory Actuators for Low-Power Microrobotics,” published in Science Robotics and was featured on the cover. The paper’s lead author is postdoctoral researcher Qingkun Liu. The project is led by Itai Cohen, professor of physics, and Paul McEuen, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science, both in the College of Arts and Sciences.

We humans, our defining characteristic is we’ve learned how to build complex systems and machines at human scales, and at enormous scales as well,” said McEuen. “But what we haven’t learned how to do is build machines at tiny scales. And this is a step in that basic, fundamental evolution in what humans can do, of learning how to construct machines that are as small as cells.”

McEuen and Cohen’s ongoing collaboration has so far generated a throng of nanoscale machines and components, each seemingly faster, smarter and more elegant than the last.

We want to have robots that are microscopic but have brains on board. So that means you need to have appendages that are driven by complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) transistors, basically a computer chip on a robot that’s 100 microns on a side,” Cohen said.

Imagine a million fabricated microscopic robots releasing from a wafer that fold themselves into shape, crawl free and go about their tasks, even assembling into more complicated structures. That’s the vision.

Source: https://news.cornell.edu/

How to Stop Allergies and Autoimmune Disease

We found this absolutely fascinating mechanism of our own bodies that stops the production of rogue antibodies that can cause either autoimmunity or allergies,” senior author, ANU Professor Carola Vinuesa, said. “It’s been known for years that neuritin has a role in the brain and in the nervous system but we found an abundance of neuritin in the immune system and its mechanism – which has never been described in biology. “We have shown it is one of our immune system’s own mechanisms to prevent autoimmunity and allergy and now we have the evidence, we can go on to harness that for treatment.”

The researchers say they set out over five years ago to bridge a knowledge gap on how the immune system works following an educated guess that neuritin might have a regulatory function in stopping allergies and autoimmune disease.

The study, published today in Cell, found neuritin can prevent the production of pathogenic antibodies.

It is an incredible discovery. We saw that in the absence of neuritin there is increased susceptibility to death from anaphylaxis, highlighting its role in the prevention of life-threatening allergies,” first author, ANU researcher Dr Paula Gonzalez Figueroa, said.

For people with allergies, when the immune system overreacts to allergens – like pollen, dust or peanut butter – it produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E, (IgE). Allergies happen when the body produces excessive IgE in response to otherwise harmless substances, leading to the release of histamine that causes allergic reactions. “We have discovered neuritin prevents excessive formation of IgE that is typically associated with some common forms of allergy and food intolerances,” Professor Vinuesa said.

Many autoimmune diseases are caused or exacerbated by antibodies that go on to destroy our own tissues and cause autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. “There are over 80 autoimmune diseases, in many of them we find antibodies that bind to our own tissues and attack us instead of targeting pathogens – viruses and bacteria,” Dr Paula Gonzalez-Figueroa said. “We found neuritin supresses formation of rogue plasma cells which are the cells that produce harmful antibodies.”

The researchers hope the discovery will now form the basis of new treatments.

Source: https://www.anu.edu.au/

Moderna Is Testing new Vaccine Stored in Refrigerators, no More in Freezers

Moderna Inc said it had dosed the first participant in an early-stage study of a new COVID-19 vaccine candidate that could potentially be stored and shipped in refrigerators instead of freezers. The company said its new candidate could make it easier for distribution, especially in developing countries where supply chain issues could hamper vaccination drives.

The early-stage study will assess the safety and immunogenicity of the next-generation vaccine, designated as mRNA-1283, at three dose levels, and will be given to healthy adults either as a single dose or in two doses 28 days apart, the company said. Moderna also plans to evaluate the new vaccine, mRNA-1283, as a potential booster shot in future studies.

Last week, Moderna began dosing the first participants in a study testing COVID-19 booster vaccine candidates targeting the variant, known as B.1.351, that first emerged in South Africa.

The booster vaccine candidates, designated mRNA-1273.351, will be tested in a trial of both a variant-specific shot and a multivalent shot, according to the company’s announcement.

Immunotherapy Drug for Advanced Lung Cancer

Lung cancer spreads to the brain in about one-quarter of patients with an advanced form of the disease. To date, radiation has been the only treatment option, but it comes with toxic side effects. Researchers at Yale Cancer Center (YCC) have found that use of the checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab in place of radiation can extend life with very few side effects in this patient population.

The findings, published in The Lancet Oncology, found that patient response depended on the level of the biomarker (PD-L1) expressed in their tumors. Of those that did respond, overall survival at one year was 40% and 34% at two years.

Pembrolizumab monoclonal antibody drug protein.

Survival in this cohort of patients exceeds the historically documented survival for patients with brain metastasis from non-small cell lung cancer or NSCLC, which is a two-year survival of about 14%,” said the study’s lead investigator Sarah B. Goldberg, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine (medical oncology) at YCC.

This is the first study to specifically test the benefit of the treatment in a prospective clinical trial of lung cancer patients who had not yet been treated for brain metastasis or whose tumors recurred after radiation. Before this, most clinical trials of a checkpoint immunotherapy drug did not include patients with brain metastasis, but the few that did provided hints of benefit when retrospectively analyzed.

Source: https://news.yale.edu/

How to Make 3D Printed Organs 50 Times Faster

It looks like science fiction: A machine dips into a shallow vat of translucent yellow goo and pulls out what becomes a life-sized handBut the seven-second video (click here to watch the video), which is sped-up from 19 minutes, is real. The hand, which would take six hours to create using conventional 3D printing methods, demonstrates what University at Buffalo engineers say is progress toward 3D-printed human tissue and organsbiotechnology that could eventually save countless lives lost due to the shortage of donor organs.

3D-printed  human liver model that includes a vascular network. 

The technology we’ve developed is 10-50 times faster than the industry standard, and it works with large sample sizes that have been very difficult to achieve previously,” says the study’s co-lead author Ruogang Zhao, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering.

It centers on a 3D printing method called stereolithography and jelly-like materials known as hydrogels, which are used to create, among things, diapers, contact lenses and scaffolds in tissue engineering. The latter application is particularly useful in 3D printing, and it’s something the research team spent a major part of its effort optimizing to achieve its incredibly fast and accurate 3D printing technique.

Our method allows for the rapid printing of centimeter-sized hydrogel models. It significantly reduces part deformation and cellular injuries caused by the prolonged exposure to the environmental stresses you commonly see in conventional 3D printing methods,” says the study’s other co-lead author, Chi Zhou, PhD, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering.

The work is described in a study published Feb. 15 in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

Source: http://www.buffalo.edu/

Ultralow-Temperature Supercapacitors Could Power Mars, Polar Missions

NASA‘s Perseverance Rover recently made a successful landing on Mars, embarking on a two-year mission to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples. Because Mars is extremely cold — nighttime temperatures can drop below -112 Fheaters are required to keep the rover’s battery system from freezing. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Nano Letters have 3D printed porous carbon aerogels for electrodes in ultralow-temperature supercapacitors, reducing heating needs for future space and polar missions.

Jennifer Lu, Yat Li and colleagues wanted to develop an energy storage system that could operate at very low temperatures without heating units, which add weight and energy requirements to instruments and machinery, such as the Mars rovers. So the researchers 3D printed a porous carbon aerogel using cellulose nanocrystal-based ink, and then freeze-dried it and further treated the surface. The resulting material had multiple levels of pores, from the 500-µm pores in the lattice-like structure, to nanometer-sized pores within the bars of the lattice. This multiscale porous network preserved adequate ion diffusion and charge transfer through an electrode at -94 F, achieving higher energy storage capacitance than previously reported low-temperature supercapacitors. The team will collaborate with NASA scientists to further characterize the device’s low-temperature performance.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Merced nAnomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing, NASA, the University of California, Santa Cruz and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Faster-Than-Light Travel Is Possible, Astrophysicist Shows

For decades, we’ve dreamed of visiting other star systems. There’s just one problem – they’re so far away, with conventional spaceflight it would take tens of thousands of years to reach even the closest one. Physicists are not the kind of people who give up easily, though. Give them an impossible dream, and they’ll give you an incredible, hypothetical way of making it a reality. Maybe. In a new study by physicist Erik Lentz from Göttingen University in Germany, we may have a viable solution to the dilemma, and it’s one that could turn out to be more feasible than other would-be warp drives.

This is an area that attracts plenty of bright ideas, each offering a different approach to solving the puzzle of faster-than-light travel: achieving a means of sending something across space at superluminal speeds. There are some problems with this notion, however. Within conventional physics, in accordance with Albert Einstein‘s theories of relativity, there’s no real way to reach or exceed the speed of light, which is something we’d need for any journey measured in light-years. That hasn’t stopped physicists from trying to break this universal speed limit, though.

While pushing matter past the speed of light will always be a big no-no, spacetime itself has no such rule. In fact, the far reaches of the Universe are already stretching away faster than its light could ever hope to match. To bend a small bubble of space in a similar fashion for transport purposes, we’d need to solve relativity’s equations to create a density of energy that’s lower than the emptiness of space. While this kind of negative energy happens on a quantum scale, piling up enough in the form of ‘negative mass‘ is still a realm for exotic physics. In addition to facilitating other kinds of abstract possibilities, such as wormholes and time travel, negative energy could help power what’s known as the Alcubierre warp drive.

This speculative concept would make use of negative energy principles to warp space around a hypothetical spacecraft, enabling it to effectively travel faster than light without challenging traditional physical laws, except for the reasons explained above, we can’t hope to provide such a fantastical fuel source to begin with. But what if it were possible to somehow achieve faster-than-light travel that keeps faith with Einstein’s relativity without requiring any kinds of exotic physics that physicists have never seen?

Source: https://www.uni-goettingen.de/
AND
 https://www.sciencealert.com/

How to Reverse Parkinson’s Symptoms

Grafting neurons grown from monkeys’ own cells into their brains relieved the debilitating movement and depression symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW) reported today.

In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, the UW team describes its success with neurons made from induced pluripotent stem cells from the monkeys’ own bodies. This approach avoided complications with the primates’ immune systems and takes an important step toward a treatment for millions of human Parkinson’s patients.

This result in primates is extremely powerful, particularly for translating our discoveries to the clinic,” says UW–Madison neuroscientist Su-Chun Zhang, whose lab grew the brain cells.

Parkinson’s disease damages neurons in the brain that produce dopamine, a brain chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells. The disrupted signals make it progressively harder to coordinate muscles for even simple movements and cause rigidity, slowness and tremors that are the disease’s hallmark symptoms. Patients — especially those in earlier stages of Parkinson’s — are typically treated with drugs like L-DOPA to increase dopamine production.

Those drugs work well for many patients, but the effect doesn’t last,” says Marina Emborg, a Parkinson’s researcher at UW–Madison’s Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. “Eventually, as the disease progresses and their motor symptoms get worse, they are back to not having enough dopamine, and side effects of the drugs appear.”

Scientists have tried with some success to treat later-stage Parkinson’s in patients by implanting cells from fetal tissue, but research and outcomes were limited by the availability of useful cells and interference from patients’. Zhang’s lab has spent years learning how to dial donor cells from a patient back into a stem cell state, in which they have the power to grow into nearly any kind of cell in the body, and then redirect that development to create neurons.

The idea is very simple,” Zhang says. “When you have stem cells, you can generate the right type of target cells in a consistent manner. And when they come from the individual you want to graft them into, the body recognizes and welcomes them as their own.

Source: https://news.wisc.edu/

Blocking Cancer Cells’ Use of Sugar to Boost Immune Cells

Cancer cells and immune cells share something in common: They both love sugarSugar is an important nutrient. All cells use sugar as a vital source of energy and building blocks. For immune cells, gobbling up sugar is a good thing, since it means getting enough nutrients to grow and divide for stronger immune responses. But cancer cells use sugar for more nefarious ends. So, what happens when tumor cells and immune cells battle for access to the same supply of sugar? That’s the central question that Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) researchers Taha Merghoub,Jedd Wolchok, and Roberta Zappasodi explore in a new study published in the journal Nature.

Using mouse models and data from human patients, the researchers found a direct relationship between the amount of sugarspecifically glucose — that a tumor consumes and the effectiveness of immunotherapy: The more sugar the tumor consumed, the less effective the immunotherapy. The findings suggest that blocking cancer cells’ use of sugar could tip the scales in favor of immune cells, especially when they are activated by immunotherapy drugs.

If we reduce a tumor’s use of glucose, then we free up more of it for immune cells to use, which benefits the immune response,” says Dr. Merghoub, who co-led the research effort.

What we think we’ve identified is a new means to improve checkpoint blockade immunotherapy,” adds Dr. Wolchok. Immune checkpoint inhibitors release the brakes on immune cells and can provide lasting benefits for people with cancer, but they do not work for everyone. The new research may provide a way to boost their effectiveness.

Dr. Wolchok, Chief of the Immuno-Oncology Service in the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at MSK, also directs the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK and co-directs the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK.

Source: https://www.mskcc.org/

CRISPR Treatment Cuts Cholesterol by Up to 57% in a Single Shot

Scientists have improved upon a form of gene-editing therapy, creating an experimental treatment that looks to hold great promise for treating high cholesterol – a diagnosis affecting tens of millions of Americans, and linked to a number serious health complications. In new research conducted with mice, researchers used an injection of a newly-formulated lipid nanoparticle to deliver CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing components to living animals, with a single shot of the treatment reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by up to 56.8 percent. In contrast, an existing FDA-approved lipid nanoparticle (or LNP; a tiny, biodegradable fat capsule) delivery system could only manage to reduce LDLs by 15.7 percent in testing. Of course, these results have so far only been demonstrated in mice, so the new therapy will take a lot of further testing before we know it’s both safe and equally effective in humans. But based on these results so far, signs are promising.

The way the treatment works relates to a gene in humans called Angiopoietin-like 3 (Angptl3), which produces proteins that inhibit the breakdown of certain fats in the bloodstream. People with a mutation in this gene tend to have lower amounts of fatty triglycerides and cholesterol in their blood – without showing other kinds of health complications – and for years scientists have been trying to recreate the process, with treatments that effectively mimic the effects of the mutation.

If we can replicate that condition by knocking out the Angptl3 gene in others, we have a good chance of having a safe and long term solution to high cholesterol,” says biomedical engineer Qiaobing Xu from Tufts University. “We just have to make sure we deliver the gene editing package specifically to the liver so as not to create unwanted side effects.

In the new research, Xu’s team developed a new formulation of LNPs called 306-O12B to target the gene, producing therapeutic effects in wild-type C57BL/6 mice that lasted at stable levels for 100 days after just a single injection of the treatment.

In addition to the cholesterol reduction, the experiment produced a 29.4 percent decrease in triglycerides in the animals’ blood, whereas the FDA-approved delivery method showed only a 16.3 percent reduction.

The findings are reported in PNAS.

New Nanoparticle-delivered COVID-19 Vaccine

Researchers from Cleveland Clinic’s Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health have developed a promising new COVID-19 vaccine candidate that utilizes nanotechnology and has shown strong efficacy in preclinical disease models.

According to new findings published in mBio, the vaccine produced potent neutralizing antibodies among preclinical models and also prevented infection and disease symptoms in the face of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). An additional reason for the vaccine candidate’s early appeal is that it may be thermostable, which would make it easier to transport and store than currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

Our vaccine candidate delivers antigens to trigger an immune response via nanoparticles engineered from ferritin–a protein found in almost all living organisms,” said Jae Jung, PhD, director of the Global Center for Human Health & Pathogen Research and co-senior author on the study. “This protein is an attractive biomaterial for vaccine and drug delivery for many reasons, including that it does not require strict temperature control.”

Added Dokyun (Leo) Kim, a graduate student in Dr. Jung’s lab and co-first author on the study, “This would dramatically ease shipping and storage constraints, which are challenges we’re currently experiencing in national distribution efforts. It would also be beneficial for distribution to developing countries.”

Other benefits of the protein nanoparticles include minimizing cellular damage and providing stronger immunity at lower doses than traditional protein subunit vaccines against other viruses, like influenza.

The team’s vaccine uses the ferritin nanoparticles to deliver tiny, weakened fragments from the region of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that selectively binds to the human entry point for the virus (this fragment is called the receptor-binding domain, or RBD). When the SARS-CoV-2 RBD binds with the human protein called ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2), the virus can enter host cells and begin to replicate.

The researchers tested their vaccine candidate on a ferret model of COVID-19, which reflects the human immune response and disease development better than other preclinical models. Dr. Jung, a foremost authority in virology and virus-induced cancers, previously developed the world’s first COVID-19 ferret model–a discovery that has significantly advanced research into SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission.

Source: https://www.lerner.ccf.org/
AND
https://www.eurekalert.org/

Smart Stem Cells Made From Fat Have the Power to Heal

A new type of stem cell – that is, a cell with regenerative abilities – could be closer on the horizon, a new study led by UNSW Sydney shows. The stem cells (called induced multipotent stem cells, or iMS) can be made from easily accessible human cells – in this case, fat – and reprogrammed to act as stem cells.

The results of the animal study, which created human stem cells and tested their effectiveness in mice, were published online in Science Advances – and while the results are encouraging, more research and tests are needed before any potential translation to human therapies.

 

The smart stem cells, made from human fat, adapt to their surroundings to repair damaged tissue.

The stem cells we’ve developed can adapt to their surroundings and repair a range of damaged tissues,” says haematologist John Pimanda, a professor at UNSW Medicine & Health and co-senior author of the study. “To my knowledge, no one has made an adaptive human multipotent stem cell before. This is uncharted territory.”

The scientists created the iMS cells in a lab by exposing human fat cells to a compound mixture that caused the cells to lose their original identity. This process also erased ‘silencing marks’ – marks responsible for restricting cell identity. The researchers injected the human iMS cells into mice where they stayed dormant – at first. But, when the mice had an injury, the stem cells adapted to their surroundings and transformed into the tissue that needed repairing, be it muscle, bone, cartilage, or blood vessels.

The stem cells acted like chameleons,” says lead author Dr Avani Yeola, a post-doctoral stem cell researcher in Prof. Pimanda’s laboratory. Dr Yeola conducted this work as part of her doctoral thesis at UNSW Medicine & Health. “They followed local cues to blend into the tissue that required healing.

Source: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/

New Variant of SARS-CoV-2 Spreading Fast

A coronavirus variant called B1525 has become one of the most recent additions to the global variant watch list and has been included in the list of variants under investigation by Public Health England.

Scientists are keeping a watchful eye on this variant because it has several mutations in the gene that makes the spike protein – the part of the virus that latches onto human cells. These changes include the presence of the increasingly well-known mutation called E484K, which allows the virus to partly evade the immune system, and is found in the variants first identified in South Africa (B1351) and Brazil (P1).

While there is no information on what this means for B1525, there is growing evidence that E484K may impact how effective COVID vaccines are. But there is no suggestion so far that B1525 is more transmissible or that it leads to more severe disease.

There are other mutations in B1525 that are also noteworthy, such as Q677H. Scientists have repeatedly detected this changeat least six times in different lineages in the US, suggesting that it gives the virus an advantage, although the nature of any benefit has not been identified yet.

The B1525 variant also has several deletions – where “letters” (G, U, A and C) of the virus’s RNA are missing from its genome. These letters are also missing in B117, the variant first detected in Kent, England. Research by Ravindra Gupta, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, found that these deletions may increase infectivity twofold in laboratory experiments.

As with many variants, B1525 appears to have emerged quite recently. The earliest example in the shared global database of coronavirus genomes, called Gisaid, dates from 15 December 2020. It was identified in a person in the UK. And like many variants, B1525 had already travelled the world before it came to global attention. A total of 204 sequences of this variant in Gisaid can be traced to 18 countries as of 20 February 2021.

Johnson & Johnson One-Shot Coronavirus Vaccine Approved in the U.S.

A Centers for Disease Control advisory panel on Sunday recommended Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 and over, clearing the way for inoculations to begin as soon as this week. The recommendation comes one day after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday authorized Johnson & Johnson‘s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said Saturday.

The FDA, through our open and transparent scientific review process, has now authorized three COVID-19 vaccines with the urgency called for during this pandemic, using the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.”

The vaccine is the third to be approved for use in the U.S., and the first that requires only one shot. The FDA‘s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) voted unanimously to recommend authorizing the vaccine by Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson, on Friday. The committee provides expert advice to the FDA, but does not have final say on approval.

https://www.cbsnews.com/

AI  Learns to Manipulate Human Behavior


Artificial intelligence
 (AI) is learning more about how to work with (and on) humans. A recent study has shown how AI can learn to identify vulnerabilities in human habits and behaviours and use them to influence human decision-making.
It may seem cliched to say AI is transforming every aspect of the way we live and work, but it’s true. Various forms of AI are at work in fields as diverse as vaccine development, environmental management and office administration. And while AI does not possess human-like intelligence and emotions, its capabilities are powerful and rapidly developing. There’s no need to worry about a machine takeover just yet, but this recent discovery highlights the power of AI and underscores the need for proper governance to prevent misuse.

A team of researchers at CSIRO’s Data61, the data and digital arm of Australia’s national science agency, devised a systematic method of finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the ways people make choices, using a kind of AI system called a recurrent neural network and deep reinforcement-learning. To test their model they carried out three experiments in which human participants played games against a computer.

The first experiment involved participants clicking on red or blue coloured boxes to win a fake currency, with the AI learning the participant’s choice patterns and guiding them towards a specific choice. The AI was successful about 70 percent of the time.

The third experiment consisted of several rounds in which a participant would pretend to be an investor giving money to a trustee (the AI). The AI would then return an amount of money to the participant, who would then decide how much to invest in the next round. This game was played in two different modes: in one the AI was out to maximise how much money it ended up with, and in the other the AI aimed for a fair distribution of money between itself and the human investor. The AI was highly successful in each mode.

In each experiment, the machine learned from participants’ responses and identified and targeted vulnerabilities in people’s decision-making. The end result was the machine learned to steer participants towards particular actions. The research does advance our understanding not only of what AI can do but also of how people make choices. It shows machines can learn to steer human choice-making through their interactions with us.

Source: https://theconversation.com/

New Blood Test Could Replace Biopsies

No one enjoys getting a biopsy, in which a tissue sample is surgically taken and analyzed in a lab for signs of disease, such as cancer. It’s not only unpleasant for the patient, but has clinical drawbacks: A biopsy doesn’t always extract the diseased tissue and isn’t helpful in detecting disease at early stages. These concerns have encouraged researchers to find less invasive and more accurate diagnostic methods. Prof. Nir Friedman and Ronen Sadeh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a blood test that enables lab technicians to diagnose cancer and diseases of the heart and liver by identifying and determining the state of the dead cells throughout the body.

Millions of cells die every day and are replaced by new cells. When cells die, their DNA is fragmented. Some of these DNA fragments reach the blood and can be “read” by advanced DNA sequencing methods.

As a result of these scientific advancements, we understood that if this information is maintained within the DNA structure in the blood, we could use that data to determine the tissue source of dead cells and the genes that were active in those very cells. Based on those findings, we can uncover key details about the patient’s health,” Friedman said.

We are able to better understand why the cells died — whether it’s an infection or cancer — and based on that, be better positioned to determine how the disease is developing,” he said. Co-author Israa Sharkia added the simple blood test could “be administered often and quickly, allowing the medical staff involved to follow the presence or development of a disease more closely.”

A startup company, Senseera, has been established to pursue clinical testing of this innovative approach in partnership with major pharmaceutical companies.

The multi-author study published in Nature Biotechnology explains the test can even identify markers that may differentiate between patients with similar tumors, which could help physicians develop personalized treatments.

Source: https://www.zenger.news/

How to Repair Injured Spinal Cord Using Patients’ Own Stem Cells

Intravenous injection of bone marrow derived stem cells (MSCs) in patients with spinal cord injuries led to significant improvement in motor functions, researchers from Yale University and Japan. For more than half of the patients, substantial improvements in key functions — such as ability to walk, or to use their hands — were observed within weeks of stem cell injection, the researchers report. No substantial side effects were reported.

The patients had sustained, non-penetrating spinal cord injuries, in many cases from falls or minor trauma, several weeks prior to implantation of the stem cells. Their symptoms involved loss of motor function and coordination, sensory loss, as well as bowel and bladder dysfunction. The stem cells were prepared from the patients’ own bone marrow, via a culture protocol that took a few weeks in a specialized cell processing center. The cells were injected intravenously in this series, with each patient serving as their own control. Results were not blinded and there were no placebo controls.

Yale scientists Jeffery D. Kocsis, professor of neurology, and Stephen G. Waxman, professor of neurology, neuroscience and pharmacology, were senior authors of the study, which was carried out with investigators at Sapporo Medical University in Japan. Key investigators of the Sapporo team, Osamu Honmou and Masanori Sasaki, both hold adjunct professor positions in neurology at Yale.

Kocsis and Waxman stress that additional studies will be needed to confirm the results of this preliminary, unblinded trial. They also stress that this could take years. Despite the challenges, they remain optimistic.

Similar results with stem cells in patients with stroke increases our confidence that this approach may be clinically useful,” noted Kocsis. “This clinical study is the culmination of extensive preclinical laboratory work using MSCs between Yale and Sapporo colleagues over many years.”

The idea that we may be able to restore function after injury to the brain and spinal cord using the patient’s own stem cells has intrigued us for years,” Waxman said. “Now we have a hint, in humans, that it may be possible.”

The findings are reported in the Journal of Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery. 

Source: https://news.yale.edu/

COVID-19: Single vaccine jab linked to 85% and 94% drop in risk of coronavirus hospital admissions

The COVID-19  vaccines being used in the UK could reduce a person’s risk of being admitted to hospital by as much as 94% four weeks after the first dose, new data suggests. Experts examined coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland among people who have had their first jab and compared them to those who had not yet received a vaccine.

Four weeks after receiving the initial dose, the Oxford/Astrazeneca  jab appeared to reduce a person’s risk of hospital admission by 94%. Those who received the Pfizer jab had a reduction in risk of 85% between 28 and 34 days after the first dose. Data for the two jabs combined showed that among people over the age of 80 – who are at high risk of severe disease – the reduction in risk of hospital admission was 81% four weeks after the first dose.

https://news.sky.com/

Printing Food to Mitigate Climate Change

The convergence of two technologies is making it possible to free up millions of hectares of agricultural land devoted to livestock. A combination of culturing cells and 3D printing of all types of meat is likely to change land use and the diet of hundreds of millions of people around the world. It could provide reliable food sources even in the face of floods, drought and other environmental catastrophes.

I’m not a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) afficionado. But imagine if KFC were to produce its chicken nuggets from stem cells and 3D-printing plants. In 2020 the news wires lit up with stories of a Moscow, Russia, research laboratory under contract to the fried chicken restaurant chain to produce 3D-printed chicken nuggets.

For KFC the announcement could be seen as a public relations coup since the company is often the target of animal rights advocacy groups. KFC is truly a global enterprise, found in 145 countries at 24,000 individual locations. According to PETA, an organization focused on the ethical treatment of animals, 9 billion chickens raised on factory farms are slaughtered for their meat in the U.S. every year. A good percentage of that number go to fast-food chains like KFC.

That’s why KFC sees the growing of meat harvested from cell-cultures as a way out of the ethical dilemma. A future where the restauranteur can say “no chickens were killed here” would be a welcome mantra with other potential benefits to the global enivronment.

This is cellular agriculture. Its products are called cultured meat. The source of cultured meat is animal stem cells harvested from subject hosts that are not slaughtered. Once ideal chicken, pig, sheep, cattle, etc., candidates are identified, stem cells are harvested and then using electronic, chemical and biological culturing cultivated to create vast populations of cells of various tissue types from muscle to fat.

Turning stem cells from host animals into chicken pieces, beef steaks, pork and lamb chops, and other cuts of meat requires scaffoldings of bio-absorbable materials which form a framework for 3D printers to apply these cells as “ink” to create finished cuts. Getting the balance of fat to protein to give the 3D-printed meat the same look, texture, and taste is a challenge that the technology in time can meet. The company KFC has produced plant-based “chicken” nuggets and tried them on customers in the United States using Beyond Meatschicken products.

KFC Singapore has announced that it has debuted its first-ever meat-free alternative product called Zero Chicken Burger. It will be available for consumers at all KFC Singapore restaurants except the outlets at Singapore Polytechnic and Singapore Zoo.

Claiming to have a similar taste to that of chicken, the poultry-free Zero Chicken Burger showcases a mycoprotein meat-free patty made with Colonel Sandersoriginal recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Mycoprotein is a protein derived from fungi popularised by Quorn for its meat-like texture. The burger preparation also includes lettuce and sliced cheese topped with mayonnaise and BBQ sauce making the sesame bun burger unsuitable for vegans.

Source: https://stem-cells.in-the.news/
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https://www.greenqueen.com.hk/

Janssen Vaccine could be Rolled Out in Europe by March 15

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has received an application for conditional marketing authorisation (CMA) for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Janssen-Cilag International N.V. Janssen is a subsidiary of the giant pharma-company Johnson & Johnson.

EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) will assess the vaccine, known as COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen, under an accelerated timetable. The Committee could issue an opinion by the middle of March 2021, provided the company’s data on the vaccine’s efficacy, safety and quality are sufficiently comprehensive and robust.

Such a short time for evaluation is only possible because EMA has already reviewed some data during a rolling review. During this phase, EMA assessed quality data and data from laboratory studies which looked at how well the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies and immune cells that target SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The Agency also looked at clinical safety data on the viral vector used in the vaccine.

EMA is now assessing additional data on the efficacy and safety of the vaccine as well as its quality. If EMA concludes that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks, it will recommend granting a CMA. The European Commission will then issue a decision on whether to grant a CMA valid in all EU and EEA Member States within days.

This is the fourth CMA application for a COVID-19 vaccine since the start of the current pandemic. It comes after EMA’s evaluation of vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. These vaccines are now authorised in the EU and are among the tools Member States are using to combat COVID-19.

Source: https://www.ema.europa.eu/

The Vaccination against Covid-19 Prevents the Transmission of the Virus

A growing body of evidence suggests that the Covid-19 vaccine can slow the spread of the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday. Whether vaccination can prevent transmission of the virus is “the looming question,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House coronavirus response team briefing.

If a person gets infected despite being vaccinated — we refer to that as a ‘breakthrough’ infection — does that person have the capability of transmitting to another person?” “There have been some studies that are pointing in a very favorable direction,” he said, adding that these studies will have to be corroborated by additional research.

Fauci highlighted two recent studies that looked at a person’s viral load — that is, how much virus he or she has in the body — and transmissibility. One study from Spain, published Feb. 2 in The Lancet, found a direct correlation between viral load and transmissibility. The higher the viral load, the greater the transmissibility of the virus.

That’s in line with what years of research on HIV have shown: there’s a direct link between the viral load in someone’s blood and the likelihood that individual will transmit HIV to a sexual partner, Fauci said.

For SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, researchers are focused on how much virus is found the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose that’s reached with a long, skinny swab.

https://www.nbcnews.com/

How to Create the Tiniest MicroChip yet

he tiniest microchips yet can be made from graphene and other 2D-materials, using a form of ‘nano-origami’, physicists at the University of Sussex have found. This is the first time any researchers have done this, and it is covered in a paper published in the ACS Nano journal.

By creating kinks in the structure of graphene, researchers at the University of Sussex have made the nanomaterial behave like a transistor, and have shown that when a strip of graphene is crinkled in this way, it can behave like a microchip, which is around 100 times smaller than conventional microchips.

The base of the 2D-material with the white lines showing the structural kinks which modify the electrical properties mechanically.

We’re mechanically creating kinks in a layer of graphene. It’s a bit like nano-origami,”said Prof Alan Dalton in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex.

Using these nanomaterials will make our computer chips smaller and faster. It is absolutely critical that this happens as computer manufacturers are now at the limit of what they can do with traditional semiconducting technology. Ultimately, this will make our computers and phones thousands of times faster in the future.

“This kind of technology – “straintronics” using nanomaterials as opposed to electronics – allows space for more chips inside any device. Everything we want to do with computers – to speed them up – can be done by crinkling graphene like this.

Dr Manoj Tripathi, Research Fellow in Nano-structured Materials at the University of Sussex and lead author on the paper, explained: “Instead of having to add foreign materials into a device, we’ve shown we can create structures from graphene and other 2D materials simply by adding deliberate kinks into the structure. By making this sort of corrugation we can create a smart electronic component, like a transistor, or a logic gate.

Source: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/

United Airlines to Fly People from Cities to Airport in 2025

eVTOL start-up, Archer, is to go public soon via a merger with “a blank-check company” backed by a USD3.8 billion deal including a major order and investment from United Airlines (UA), reports reuters.com. UA is among the first leading airlines to commit to the purchase of air taxis.

An Archer deal with Atlas Crest Investment announced this week, is expected to provide USD1.1 billion. These monies include USD600 million private investment from United Airlines Holdings, Stellantis, and investment banker Ken Moelis and Mubadala Capital, an arm of Abu Dhabi’s state investor Mubadala Investment Co.

This ‘heavyweight deal’ is the latest in an increasingly crowded market dominated by aerospace companies and tech start-ups. Archer explained it has received an order from United Airlines worth USD1 billion alongside an option for additional USD500 million of eVTOL aircraftUnited is teaming up with regional carrier, Mesa Airlines, to buy 200 Archer eVTOL craft to fly people from cities to airports within the next four to five years. Raymond James, a financial analyst, pointed out,  “Given the electric aircraft market is in its infancy, it will take time to refine the product and get the regulatory approvals.

U.S Palo Alto-based Archer was only launched last May and is developing an eVTOL aircraft that can travel up to 60 miles at 150 mph (242 km/h). Yet, it is already attracting extraordinary interest from some of the biggest investors in the world. The company is backed by Marc Lore, former CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S.

Source: https://www.archer.com/
AND
https://www.urbanairmobilitynews.com/

Cannabis Ingredient to kill meningitis and pneumonia

Cannabidiol (CBD), the main nonpsychoactive ingredient of the cannabis plant, can kill Gram-positive bacteria and, more impressively, Gram-negative bacteria, which excel at antibiotic resistance because they enjoy an extra layer of protection, an outer cell membrane. The ability of CBD to slay Gram-negative bacteria is a new finding, one reported by a team of scientists in Australia. According to the scientists, CBD analogs could constitute the first new class of antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria that has been developed since the 1960s.

The new finding appeared in the journal Communications Biology, in an article titled, “The antimicrobial potential of cannabidiol.” According to this article, CBD not only killed Gram-positive bacteria such as highly resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Clostridioides difficile, it also showed potency against the Gram-negative bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Neisseria meningitides, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Legionella pneumophila. These Gram-negative bacteria are responsible for sexually transmitted gonorrhea, life-threatening meningitis, airway infections (such as bronchitis and pneumonia), and Legionnaires’ disease, respectively.

Our results demonstrate that cannabidiol has excellent activity against biofilms, little propensity to induce resistance, and topical in vivo efficacy,” the authors of the article wrote. “Multiple mode-of-action studies point to membrane disruption as cannabidiol’s primary mechanism.”

The authors included scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia and Botanix Pharmaceuticals. At the University of Queensland’s Centre for Superbug Solutions, scientists led by associate professor Mark Blaskovich, PhD, mimicked a two-week patient treatment in laboratory models to see how fast the bacteria mutated to try to outwit CBD’s killing power.

Cannabidiol showed a low tendency to cause resistance in bacteria even when we sped up potential development by increasing concentrations of the antibiotic during ‘treatment,’” said Blaskovich, the corresponding author of the article in Communications Biology. “We think that cannabidiol kills bacteria by bursting their outer cell membranes, but we don’t know yet exactly how it does that, and we need to do further research.

Source: https://www.genengnews.com/

‘Game-Changer’ Drug Promotes Weight Loss Like No Medicine Ever Seen

One third (35%) of people who took a new drug for treating obesity lost more than one-fifth (≥20%) of their total body weight, according to a major global study involving University  College London (UCL) researchers. The findings from the large-scale international trial, published in the New England Journal for Medicine, are being hailed as a “game changer” for improving the health of people with obesity and could play a major part in helping the UK to reduce the impact of diseases, such as COVID-19.

The drug, semaglutide, works by hijacking the body’s own appetite regulating system in the brain leading to reduced hunger and calorie intake. Rachel Batterham, Professor of Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology who leads the Centre for Obesity Research at UCL and the UCLH Centre for Weight Management, is one of the principal authors on the paper which involved almost 2,000 trial participants in 16 countries.

The findings of this study represent a major breakthrough for improving the health of people with obesity. Three quarters (75%) of people who received semaglutide 2.4mg lost more than 10% of their body weight and more than one-third lost more than 20%No other drug has come close to producing this level of weight loss – this really is a game changer. For the first time, people can achieve through drugs what was only possible through weight-loss surgery,” said Professor Batterham (UCL Medicine).

Professor Batterham added: “The impact of obesity on health has been brought into sharp focus by COVID-19 where obesity markedly increases the risk of dying from the virus, as well as increasing the risk of many life-limiting serious diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease and certain types of cancers. This drug could have major implications for UK health policy for years to come.

The average participant in the trial lost 15.3kg (nearly 3 stone); this was accompanied by reductions in risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as waist circumference, blood fats, blood sugar and blood pressure and reported improvements in their overall quality of life.

Source: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

Katalin Kariko, RNA Hero, Future Nobel Prize

The development of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the first approved jab in the West, is the crowning achievement of decades of work for Hungarian biochemist Katalin Kariko, who fled to the US from communist rule in the 1980s.

When trials found the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to be safe and 95 percent effective in November, it was the crowning achievement of Katalin Kariko’s 40 years of research on the genetic code RNA (ribonucleic acid). Her first reaction was a sense of “redemption,” Kariko told The Daily Telegraph.

I was grabbing the air, I got so excited I was afraid that I might die or something,” she said from her home in Philadelphia. “When I am knocked down I know how to pick myself up, but I always enjoyed working… I imagined all of the diseases I could treat.”

Born in January 1955 in a Christian family in the town of Szolnok in central Hungary – a year before the doomed heroism of the uprising against the Soviet-backed communist regimeKariko grew up in nearby Kisujszellas on the Great Hungarian Plain, where her father was a butcher. Fascinated by science from a young age, Kariko began her career at the age of 23 at the University of Szeged’s Biological Research Centre, where she obtained her PhD.

It was there that she first developed her interest in RNA. But communist Hungary’s laboratories lacked resources, and in 1985 the university sacked her. Consequently, Kariko looked for work abroad, getting a job at Temple University in Philadelphia the same year. Hungarians were forbidden from taking money out of the country, so she sold the family car and hid the proceeds in her 2-year-old daughter’s teddy bear. “It was a one-way ticket,” she told Business Insider. “We didn’t know anybody.”

Not everything went as planned after Kariko’s escape from communism. At the end of the 1980s, the scientific community was focused on DNA, which was seen as the key to understanding how to develop treatments for diseases such as cancer. But Kariko’s main interest was RNA, the genetic code that gives cells instructions on how to make proteins.

At the time, research into RNA attracted criticism because the body’s immune system sees it as an intruder, meaning that it often provokes strong inflammatory reactions. In 1995, Kariko was about to be made a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, but instead she was consigned to the rank of researcher.

Usually, at that point, people just say goodbye and leave because it’s so horrible,” Kariko told medical publication Stat. She went through a cancer scare at the time, while her husband was stuck in Hungary trying to sort out visa issues. “I tried to imagine: Everything is here, and I just have to do better experiments,” she continued. Kariko was also on the receiving end of sexism, with colleagues asking her the name of her supervisor when she was running her own lab.

Kariko persisted in the face of these difficulties. “From outside, it seemed crazy, struggling, but I was happy in the lab,” she told Business Insider. “My husband always, even today, says, ‘This is entertainment for you.’ I don’t say that I go to work. It is like play.” Thanks to Kariko’s position at the University of Pennsylvania, she was able to send her daughter Susan Francia there for a quarter of the tuition costs. Francia won gold on the US rowing team in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

It was a serendipitous meeting in front of a photocopier in 1997 that turbocharged Kariko’s career. She met immunologist Drew Weissman, who was working on an HIV vaccine. They decided to collaborate to develop a way of allowing synthetic RNA to go unrecognised by the body’s immune system – an endeavour that succeeded to widespread acclaim in 2005. The duo continued their research and succeeded in placing RNA in lipid nanoparticles, a coating that prevents them from degrading too quickly and facilitates their entry into cells.

The researchers behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs used these techniques to develop their vaccines.

Source: https://www.france24.com/

Amazon is now selling COVID-19 tests for customers to use at home

The DxTerity COVID-19 Saliva at-Home Collection Kit detects the presence of the virus but does not confirm immunity or detect antibodies. DxTerity‘s molecular-based PCR test received approval from the Food and Drug Administration last month. The test differs from the quicker and less expensive antigen tests, which use a nasal swab or throat swab to detect the virus.

A single COVID-19 testing kit is listed for $110, and a 10-pack bundle is available for $1,000.

Test takers must spit into a tube provided by the kit. The saliva sample is then inserted into a plastic bag and packed back into the box for shipment to one of DxTerity‘s laboratories certified by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments. Customers are also granted prepaid express return shipping with the test and should expect to receive results within 24 to 72 hours of sample receipt at the laboratory. DxTerity’s test is currently the only COVID-19 testing kit on Amazon.

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We have demonstrated the reliability and quality of our COVID-19 testing solution with big business and now we want to expand access to customers at home and small businesses,” said Bob Terbrueggen, founder and CEO of DxTerity, when he first announced the collaboration with the company last month. “Amazon is the perfect partner for expanding access to millions of U.S. customers.”

The test may not be valid for all travel purposes because sample collection is unsupervised, according to the product description. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends saliva specimens should be collected under supervision.

Amazon joins other retail giants in offering at-home COVID-19 saliva tests. Costco offers both regular and those approved for travel requirements to Hawaii, Bermuda and some other destinations for $129.99 and $139.99, respectively. However, the test has several dozen one-star reviews, with most complaining about delayed shipping and poor customer service from provider AZOVA.

Source: https://eu.usatoday.com/

COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca confirms 100% protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death

The primary analysis of the Phase III clinical trials from the UK, Brazil and South Africa, published as a preprint in The Lancet confirmed COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, with no severe cases and no hospitalisations, more than 22 days after the first dose.

Results demonstrated vaccine efficacy of 76% (CI: 59% to 86%) after a first dose, with protection maintained to the second dose. With an inter-dose interval of 12 weeks or more, vaccine efficacy increased to 82% (CI: 63%, 92%).

The analysis also showed the potential for the vaccine to reduce asymptomatic transmission of the virus, based on weekly swabs obtained from volunteers in the UK trial. The data showed that PCR positive readings were reduced by 67% (CI: 49%, 78%) after a single dose, and 50% (CI: 38% to 59%) after the two dose regimen, supporting a substantial impact on transmission of the virus.

The primary analysis for efficacy was based on 17,177 participants accruing 332 symptomatic cases from the Phase III UK (COV002), Brazil (COV003) and South Africa (COV005) trials led by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a further 201 cases than previously reported.

“This primary analysis reconfirms that our vaccine prevents severe disease and keeps people out of hospital. In addition, extending the dosing interval not only boosts the vaccine’s efficacy, but also enables more people to be vaccinated upfront. Together with the new findings on reduced transmission, we believe this vaccine will have a real impact on the pandemic,”said Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President BioPharmaceuticals R&D.

These new data provide an important verification of the interim data that has helped regulators such as the MHRA in the UK and elsewhere around the world to grant the vaccine emergency use authorisation. It also helps to support the policy recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for a 12-week prime-boost interval, as they look for the optimal approach to roll out, and reassures us that people are protected 22 days after a single dose of the vaccine,” explained Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, and co-author of the paper.

Data will continue to be analysed and shared with regulators around the world to support their ongoing rolling reviews for emergency supply or conditional approval during the health crisis. AstraZeneca is also seeking Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization for an accelerated pathway to vaccine availability in low-income countries.

The vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (two-eight degrees Celsius/36-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months and administered within existing healthcare settings.

Source: https://www.astrazeneca.com/

Emergency Use Authorization of the J&J Covid Vaccine is Imminent

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is getting a lot of people excited. Not only is it another potential option to protect more people from COVID-19, but their vaccine is only one dose, making it a lot easier to reach a broad swath of the population.

In Orange County, the fourth-highest county in the state for vaccine distribution, more than 82,000 initial doses have gone out. Across the sunshine state, more than 1.6 million Floridians have received at least their first dose with nearly 300,000 having completed their vaccine series. Nationwide, the U.S. is inching closer toward 30 million Americans having received at least one dose of the vaccine to protect them against COVID-19.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine isn’t approved just yet but it is expected to become  the third vaccine for roll out across the country. With just a single dose needed, health leaders say this could be a game changer.  Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is only 66 percent effective compared to the 90 plus efficacy rate of both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine. However, health leaders stress that data is still promising. And Johnson & Johnson’s doses can remain stable for two years at -4 degree temperatures or at least three months when stored at 36 to 46 degree (8 degree  Celsius) temperatures.

Johnson & Johnson say they have product ready to ship out immediately pending approvals. They’re expected to file for emergency use authorization for their vaccine early February.

https://www.baynews9.com/

Signs of Unusual Symptoms Spread on Twitter Well Before Official COVID-19 Reports

People in Europe were tweeting about a “dry cough” more than usual as early as January 2020, newly analysed data reveal. While social media has played a key role in disseminating health information during the relentless COVID-19 pandemic, the new findings show it has the potential to be useful in other ways, too. Authorities could be using such platforms to obtain real time, localised information about emerging viral hotspots before they’re detected by official means, statistician Milena Lopreite from the University of Calabria and colleagues suggest in their new study.

Our study adds on to the existing evidence that social media can be a useful tool of epidemiological surveillance,” said economist Massimo Riccaboni from IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca.

They can help intercept the first signs of a new disease, before it proliferates undetected, and also track its spread.”

Within a dataset of over 570,000 unique users and more than 890,000 tweets, Lopreite and team searched for tweets from seven European countries with keyword “pneumonia” (in seven European languages) from last winter, and compared them with previous winters as far back as 2014. After excluding links to news to take out mass media coverage, they found a significant increase in their keyword in most of the countries during the 20190-2020 winter, compared to previous years. They repeated this with other terms for common COVID-19 symptoms like “dry cough” and once again found similar patterns.

For Italy, the tweets showed signs of brewing virus hotspots in the first week of 2020weeks before the first case was officially announced on 20 February 2020. A similar pattern was seen in France. For Spain, Poland and the UK this social signal of COVID-19‘s presence appeared two weeks before their official cases. These findings show just how much of a delay there can be between the presence of a new disease and our detection of it.

What’s more, “whistleblowing came primarily from the geographical regions that turned out to be the key breeding grounds for infections,” the researchers explained in their paper.

By integrating this information with data on environmental drivers like pollution, social media could prove a powerful tool for tracking new outbreaks, the team recommends. Lopreite and colleagues note that this strategy is not a forecasting tool for unknown new diseases, because we do need to understand enough about the disease first – to know what to look for. However, it could be a useful tool for tracking new waves of COVID-19 that are likely to arise once restrictions like social distancing are lifted around the world.

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

Soon a Vaccine to Prevent Melanoma

A personalized “cancer vaccine” may help keep a deadly form of skin cancer from growing for years, a small new study in humans suggests. Unlike vaccines that prevent infections, such as measles and influenza, cancer vaccines are a form of immunotherapy that take down cancer cells that already exist. The vaccines train immune cells, called T cells, to better recognize cancer and target it for destruction, while sparing healthy cells in the body. For example, the new experimental vaccine works by training T cells to spot specific proteins on melanoma cells, a type of skin cancer. In the study, scientists found that the T cells continue to “remember” these proteins for at least four years after the vaccination — and they even learn to recognize more melanoma-related proteins over time.

The only way that could have happened is if there was actually killing of the tumor cells. And presumably it was the T cells induced by the vaccine that did that killing,” said study author Dr. Catherine Wu, a physician-scientist with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. That’s because, once killed, tumor cells fall apart and spill their contents; T cells then swoop in to examine these remains and log that information away for future attacks, Wu said.

While the results are promising, the new study only included eight patients, and more trials need to be conducted to pin down exactly how effective the vaccine is, she added. But as of now, the limited data hint that the vaccine triggers a persistent immune response and can help keep cancer under control, especially when combined with other immunotherapies, the authors noted. The new study, published Jan. 21 in the journal Nature Medicine, included patients with advanced melanoma who had recently undergone surgery for the cancer. The researchers took samples of the patients’ removed tumors and used them to craft personalized vaccines for each of the eight participants.

Source: https://www.realclearscience.com/

How to Link Human Brains To Computers

Elon Musk has a vision of linking human brains to computers in order to avoid our species from being outpaced by artificial intelligence – and this dream is set to become a reality. Speaking on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the billionaire said his company Neuralink will have a version of its brain implant ready ‘within a year.’ Musk explained that the process involves removing a chunk of the skull, robots then insert electrodes into the brain and the device into the hole, with only a small scar left behind.

Neuralink, which was founded in 2016, is designing tiny flexible ‘threads‘ that are ten times thinner than a human hair with the goal of treating brain injuries and trauma. The tech tycoon also revealed that the technology could develop into a full brain interface in just 25 years, which would enable ‘symbiosis‘ between humans and AI.

Wait until you see the next version vs what was presented last year. It’s *awesome*, he wrote. In the podcast, Musk dished to Rogan about the technology, how it is implanted and what it can do to improve the human body. The tech tycoon explained that the device is about one inch in diameter, similar to the face of a smart watch, and is implanted by removing a small chunk of the skull. A small robot connects the thread-like electrodes to certain areas of the brain, stitches up the hole and the only visible remains is a scar left behind from the incision.

The process involves removing a chunk of the skull, robots then insert electrodes into the brain and the device into the hole, with only a small scar left behind 

If you got an interface into the motor cortex, and then an implant that’s like a microcontroller near muscle groups you can then create a sort of a neural shunt that restores somebody who quadriplegic to full functionality, like they can walk around, be normal – maybe slightly better overtime,’ Musk explained.

When asked about the risks involved with placing a foreign object in the body, Musk said there is ‘a very low potential risk for rejection.’ ‘People put in heart monitors and things for epileptic seizures, deep brain simulation, artificial hips and knees that kind of thing,’ he said, noting that ‘it’s well known what is cause for a rejection or not.

Along with curing ailments, the chip could change the way human beings interface with each other‘You wouldn’t need to talk,’ Musk said, who foresees the technology going further to enable ‘symbiosis’ between humans and AI‘I think this is one of the paths to like AI is getting better and better,’ Musk added. ‘We are kind of left behind, we are just too dumb.’ ‘We are already a cyborg to some degree,’

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

A Protein that Can Melt Tumors Discovered

For the second time, cancer researchers at Vanderbilt have discovered a protein that—when genetically manipulated to impede it from interacting with a gene responsible for cancer genesis—effectively melts tumors in days. 

William Tansey, professor of cell and developmental biology, is dedicated to understanding how the oncogene MYC, an  highly conserved, noodle-like protein, works. It performs important functions in normal human development, and it often becomes reactivated in the deadliest and most difficult to treat cancers. 

Conducted experiment shows six tumor sizes grow for 15 days, at which point the MYC–HCF1 interaction is broken. After day 15, the tumors shrink and are gone. Cancer cells are dead by four days. 

MYC becomes the nitro in the tank, driving relentless rounds of cell duplication and division,” Tansey said. “The faster the cells grow and divide, they accumulate mutations, which give rise to cancer growth.” 

MYC has been an elusive drug target for at least 30 years, Tansey says, and has been considered “undruggable” because of its lack of structure. To work around this roadblock, Tansey set out to identify MYC’s more structured partner proteins with the goal of engineering mutations that disrupt the partners’ interactions with MYC that cause cancer growth. “If we can validate the physical contact between MYC and a protein, we can go after it therapeutically,” Tansey explained.  

Tansey and his collaborators have identified the protein Host Cell Factor-1 (HCF1) as a definite candidate for this type of therapeutic development. HCF1 is touched by MYC and is important for stimulating protein synthesis. When a cancer cell with MYC is genetically engineered to no longer interact with HCF1, the cancer cell begins to self-destruct. Developing a therapy that limits this interaction is a hugely promising step in cancer treatment 

The article, “MYC regulates ribosome biogenesis and mitochondrial gene expression programs through interaction with Host Cell Factor-1,” was published in the journal eLIFE on Jan. 8. 

Source: https://news.vanderbilt.edu/

How To Reverse Aging in the Brain

The aging global population is the greatest challenge faced by 21st-century healthcare systems. Even COVID-19 is, in a sense, a disease of aging. The risk of death from the virus roughly doubles for every nine years of life, a pattern that is almost identical to a host of other illnesses. But why are old people vulnerable to so many different things?

It turns out that a major hallmark of the aging process in many mammals is inflammation. By that, I don’t mean intense local response we typically associate with an infected wound, but a low grade, grinding, inflammatory background noise that grows louder the longer we live. This “inflammaging” has been shown to contribute to the development of atherosclerosis (the buildup of fat in arteries), diabetes, high blood pressure , frailty, cancer and cognitive decline.

Now a new study published in Nature reveals that microglia — a type of white blood cells found in the brain — are extremely vulnerable to changes in the levels of a major inflammatory molecule called prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). The team found that exposure to this molecule badly affected the ability of microglia and related cells to generate energy and carry out normal cellular processes.

Fortunately, the researchers found that these effects occurred only because of PGE2’s interaction with one specific receptor on the microglia. By disrupting it, they were able to normalize cellular energy production and reduce brain inflammation. The result was improved cognition in aged mice. This offers hope that the cognitive impairment associated with growing older is a transient state we can potentially fix, rather than the inevitable consequence of aging of the brain. Levels of PGE2 increase as mammals age for a variety of reasons — one of which is probably the increasing number of cells in different tissues entering a state termed cellular senescence. This means they become dysfunctional and can cause damage to tissue by releasing PGE2 and other inflammatory molecules.

But the researchers also found that macrophages — another type of white blood cells related to microglia — from people over the age of 65 made significantly more PGE2 than those from young people. Intriguingly, exposing these white blood cells to PGE2 suppressed the ability of their mitochondria — the nearest thing a cell has to batteries — to function. This meant that the entire pattern of energy generation and cellular behavior was disrupted.

Although PGE2 exerts its effects on cells through a range of receptors, the team were able to narrow down the effect to interaction with just one type (the “EP2 receptor” on the macrophages). They showed this by treating white blood cells, grown in the lab, with drugs that either turned this receptor on or off. When the receptor was turned on, cells acted as if they had been exposed to PGE2. But when they were treated with the drugs that turned it off, they recovered. That’s all fine, but it was done in a petri dish. What would happen in an intact body?

The researchers took genetically modified animals in which the EP2 receptor had been removed and allowed them to grow old. They then tested their learning and memory by looking at their ability to navigate mazes (something of a cliche for researchers) and their behavior in an “object location test.” This test is a bit like someone secretly entering your house, swapping your ornaments around on the mantelpiece and then sneaking out again. The better the memory, the longer the subject will spend looking suspiciously at the new arrangement, wondering why it has changed.

It turned out that the old genetically modified mice learned and remembered just as well as their young counterparts. These effects could be duplicated in normal old mice by giving them one of the drugs that could turn the EP2 receptor off for one month. So it seems possible that inhibiting the interaction of PGE2 with this particular receptor may represent a new approach to treating late-life cognitive disorders.

Source: https://www.theconversation.com/

Novavax and Janssen Present 2 Anti-Covid Vaccines With Respectively 89,3% and 85% Efficacity

Novavax, Inc. (Nasdaq: NVAX), a biotechnology company developing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, today announced that NVX-CoV2373, its protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, met the primary endpoint, with a vaccine efficacy of 89.3%, in its Phase 3 clinical trial conducted in the United Kingdom (UK). The study assessed efficacy during a period with high transmission and with a new UK variant strain of the virus emerging and circulating widely. It was conducted in partnership with the UK Government’s Vaccines Taskforce. Novavax also announced successful results of its Phase 2b study conducted in South Africa.

With today’s results from our UK Phase 3 and South Africa Phase 2b clinical trials, we have now reported data on our COVID-19 vaccine from Phase 1, 2 and 3 trials involving over 20,000 participants. In addition, our PREVENT-19 US and Mexico clinical trial has randomized over 16,000 participants toward our enrollment goal of 30,000. NVX-CoV2373 is the first vaccine to demonstrate not only high clinical efficacy against COVID-19 but also significant clinical efficacy against both the rapidly emerging UK and South Africa variants,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer,Novavax.NVX-CoV2373 has the potential to play an important role in solving this global public health crisis. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, collaborators, investigators and regulators around the world to make the vaccine available as quickly as possible.

For its part, Johnson & Johnson announces Single-Shot Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate that met primary endpoints in interim analysis of its Phase 3 ENSEMBLE Trial. The vaccine is ‘85% Effective Overall in Preventing Severe Disease and Demonstrated Complete Protection Against COVID-19 related Hospitalization and Death as of Day 28′ reports Johnson & Johnson.

Sources: https://ir.novavax.com/
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https://www.jnj.com/

1st Long-acting HIV Drug Combo

U.S. regulators have approved the first long-acting drug combo for HIV, monthly shots that can replace the daily pills now used to control infection with the AIDS virus. The approval of the two-shot combo called Cabenuva is expected to make it easier for people to stay on track with their HIV medicines and to do so with more privacy. It’s a huge change from not long ago, when patients had to take multiple pills several times a day, carefully timed around meals.

That will enhance quality of life” to need treatment just once a month, said Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who has no ties to the drug’s makers. “People don’t want those daily reminders that they’re HIV infected.”

Cabenuva combines rilpivirine, sold as Edurant by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit, and a new drug — cabotegravir, from ViiV Healthcare. They’re packaged together and given as separate shots once a month. Dosing every two months also is being tested.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Cabenuva for use in adults who have had their disease well controlled by conventional HIV medicines and who have not shown signs of viral resistance to the two drugs in Cabenuva. The agency also approved a pill version of cabotegravir to be taken with rilpivarine for a month before switching to the shots to be sure the drugs are well toleratedViiV said the shot combo would cost $5,940 for an initial, higher dose and $3,960 per month afterward. The company said that is “within the range” of what one-a-day pill combos cost now. How much a patient pays depends on insurance, income and other things. Studies found that patients greatly preferred the shots.

Even people who are taking one pill once a day just reported improvement in their quality of life to switch to an injection,” said Dr. Judith Currier, an HIV specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles. She consults for ViiV and wrote a commentary accompanying one study of the drug in the New England Journal of Medicine. Deeks said long-acting shots also give hope of reaching groups that have a hard time sticking to treatment, including people with mental illness or substance abuse problems. “There’s a great unmet need” that the shots may fill, he said.

Source: https://www.pbs.org/

Afternoon Napping Linked To Better Mental Agility

Taking a regular afternoon nap may be linked to better mental agility, suggests research published in the online journal General Psychiatry. It seems to be associated with better locational awareness, verbal fluency, and working memory, the findings indicate. Longer life expectancy and the associated neurodegenerative changes that accompany it, raise the prospect of dementia, with around 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 affected in the developed world.

As people age, their sleep patterns change, with afternoon naps becoming more frequent. But research published to date hasn’t reached any consensus on whether afternoon naps might help to stave off cognitive decline and dementia in older people or whether they might be a symptom of dementia.

The researchers explored this further in 2214 ostensibly healthy people aged at least 60 and resident in several large cities around China, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian. In all, 1534 took a regular afternoon nap, while 680 didn’t. All participants underwent a series of health checks and cognitive assessments, including the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) to check for dementia. The average length of night time sleep was around 6.5 hours in both groups. Afternoon naps were defined as periods of at least five consecutive minutes of sleep, but no more than 2 hours, and taken after lunch. Participants were asked how often they napped during the week; this ranged from once a week to every day.

The dementia screening tests included 30 items that measured several aspects of cognitive ability, and higher function, including visuo-spatial skills, working memory, attention span, problem solving, locational awareness and verbal fluency. The MMSE cognitive performance scores were significantly higher among the nappers than they were among those who didn’t nap. And there were significant differences in locational awareness, verbal fluency, and memory.

This is an observational study, and so can’t establish cause. And there was no information on the duration or timing of the naps taken, which may be important.

Source: https://www.eurasiareview.com/

Highly Efficient Grid-scale Electricity Storage at Fifth of Cost

Rows of huge tanks full of chemical solutions storing energy generated from massive solar and wind farms and powering whole cities: It’s a landscape that millennials might very well equate with the new normalBatteries will power this new paradigm, and they won’t necessarily all be lithium-ion batteries. The flow battery is staking a claim in the renewable energy world of the future. Flow batteries are definiively the future of energy storage, or at least an important part of it.

What are flow batteries? They are systems of two connected tanks, both containing electrolyte liquids: one with a positively charged cathode and the other with the negatively charged anode, just like a lithium-ion battery. Electricity passes from one electrolyte liquid to the other via a membrane between the tanks.

 

Rechargeable like lithium-ion batteries, flow batteries have longer lives because the electric current flowing from tank to tank does not degrade the membrane. True flow batteries are also called redox flow batteries, after the two reactions they utilize: reduction, or a gain of electrons, and oxidation, or loss of electrons from electrolyte liquid to electrolyte liquid.

Now researchers in WMG at the University of Warwick, in collaboration with Imperial College London, have found a way to enhance hybrid flow batteries and their commercial use. The new approach can store electricity in these batteries for very long durations for about a fifth the price of current technologies, with minimal location restraints and zero emissions.

The scientists enhanced three hybrid flow cells using nitrogen doped graphene (exposed to nitrogen plasma) in a binder-free electrophoresis technique (EPD). Wind and solar power are increasingly popular sources for renewable energy. Unfortunately, intermittency issues keep them from connecting widely to the National grid. One potential solution to this problem involves in the deployment of long-duration battery technology, such as the redox flow battery. Despite its great promise the current costs of this system are a key determining factor to real-world adoption. An affordable grid battery should cost £75/kWh, according to the US Department of Energy. Lithium-ion batteries, which lead the charge for grid storage, cost about £130/kWh. The hybrid flow battery’s total chemical cost is about 1/30th the cost of competing batteries, such as lithium-ion systems. Scaled-up technologies may be used to store electricity from wind or solar power, for multiple days to entire seasons, for about £15 to £20 per kilowatt hour.

https://warwick.ac.uk/

Colchicin-based Anti COVID treatment Reduces Deaths by 44%

A team of researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute believe they have found an effective weapon against COVID-19: colchicine, an oral tablet already known and used for other diseases. For Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, who led the study, this is a “major scientific discovery,” he said. Colchicine is the first “effective oral drug to treat out-of-hospital patients.” As colchicine is a well-understood drug, it could be used very quickly to treat people with COVID-19, the researcher says.

Colchicine is old as it is — we’ve been treating gout with it for hundreds of years — so it’s available in pharmacies,” Tardif said, speaking in French. “So any doctor, tomorrow, who reads this can definitely decide to prescribe if he wants.”

Analysis of the study found that colchicine resulted in reductions in hospitalizations by 25 per cent, the need for mechanical ventilation by 50 per cent, and deaths by 44 per cent.

https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/

COVID: the Risk of Death is 70% Higher for Male than for Female Patients

Evidence increasingly indicates that male sex is a risk factor for more severe disease and death from COVID-19. Male bias in COVID-19 mortality is observed in nearly all countries with available sex-disaggregated data, and the risk of death in males is ∼1.7 times higher than in females. Aging is strongly associated with higher risk of death in both sexes, but at all ages above 30 years, males have a significantly higher mortality risk, rendering older males the most vulnerable group. Sex differences are intertwined with differences in gender roles socially and with behavioral factors, which also influence COVID-19 incidence and outcomes. However, there are also possible biological mechanisms of male sex bias that affect the severity of COVID-19, particularly with respect to immune responses.

Sex differences beyond sex organs are present across species and extend to physiological systems, including the immune system. Infection by different pathogens results in differential immune responses and disease outcomes by sex, and although the pattern depends on age and other host factors, male sex is more often associated with lower immune responses and higher susceptibility and/or vulnerability to infections in animals. This is generally also the case in humans: Male patients have higher viral loads for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV. Conversely, females generally mount a more robust immune response to vaccines, such as influenza vaccines. However, the heightened immune responses in females can also lead to detrimental immunopathology in infections.

The physiological response to virus infection is initiated when virus replication is detected by pattern recognition receptors. This leads to two antiviral programs by the infected cells.
Source: https://science.sciencemag.org/

Half of Israel’s Population Will Be Vaccinated by the End of the Month

Israel‘s Health Minister Edelstein provided ministry data showing that 2,272,000 people have so far had the first of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, including 550,000 who have also had their second dose. The number represents close to a quarter of Israel’s 9.3 million citizens and maintains its position as the country with the highest per capita vaccination rate in the world, according to monitoring groups.

Edelstein on Wednesday presented figures showing that over 210,000 vaccination shots were administered the day before, a new record for the country’s mass inoculation program.

Israelis recieve a Covid-19 vaccine, at a vaccination center operated by the Tel Aviv Municipality

Urging continued adherence to Health Ministry lockdown guidelines, which on Tuesday were extended until January 31, Edelstein wrote “a little more and this will be behind us.

His figures were more optimistic than numbers released by the ministry during the morning, which showed that 56,008 people had their first dose on Tuesday and another 114,769 had the second shot for a total of 170,777. It was not clear why there was a discrepancy in the numbers.

The ministry said 8,511 new cases were confirmed Tuesday, a drop of some 1,500 from the record-shattering 10,058 cases detected on Monday. The figure for Tuesday was the lowest weekday daily caseload in over a week. The positive test rate also dropped to 9.2%, having reached 10.2% on Monday.

Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/

How Does an mRNA Vaccine Work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unusual attention to everything from handwashing to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. As we move into the later stages of this pandemic, though, a different scientific concept has dominated the national conversation: vaccines. The study of the human immune system and how vaccines influence it is complex and sometimes counterintuitive, and the deployment of a new method for immunization based on mRNA has made it all the more confusing.

The two vaccines that have received Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) from the Food and Drug Administration are both mRNA vaccines. And since they’re our only hope for ending this pandemic, it’s crucial to understand how they work—and why you should get one.

Vaccines come in a few main forms, but they share the same central goal: equip our immune systems with the tools to handily defeat a pathogen we might encounter in the future. Think of it like a practice round before your body sees the real thing.

The exact way our bodies develop this preemptive immunity depends on the kind of vaccine we’re given. Live-attenuated vaccines provide our cells with a weakened version of a pathogen; protein subunit vaccines give just one part of a bad guy, so immune cells know how to recognize that part of a virus or bacterium. But mRNA (short for messenger RNA) vaccines actually provide our cells with the instructions for making a protein from the pathogen, in essence creating their own practice dummy. Our own cells produce the viral protein specific to, say, SARS-CoV-2, and then our immune system learns to recognize the proteins.

Source: https://www.popsci.com/

Base Editing Could Cure a Host of Genetic Diseases

Picture the familiar double helix of human DNA — a long, twisted ladder with 3 billion rungs on it, each made of a pair of genetic bases (A, T, C, and G). A mistake in just one base along that ladderan A where there should be a G — can be enough to cause a disease. In fact, researchers have linked over 31,000 different mistakes, known as “point mutations,” to human diseases. Now, an advanced form of gene therapy — called base editing — could make it possible to safely correct them.

Base editing is a type of gene editing technology, just like CRISPR. However, while CRISPR cuts through both strands of the DNA ladder to swap in different genes, a base editor makes precise changes to individual letters along the genome — a much less invasive kind of DNA surgery.

It’s like your spell-checker,” neuroscientist Jeffrey Holt said. “If you type the wrong letter, spell checker fixes it for you.” Base editing was first developed by Broad Institute researcher David Liu in 2016, and it’s not perfect — the best base editors still make off-target edits and aren’t 100%  efficient. However, the technique is more efficient than CRISPR and causes fewer errors, which has made it the focus of considerable research into correcting disease-causing point mutations.

Base editing is like your spell-checker. If you type the wrong letter, it fixes it for you,” explained Jeffrey Holt. Holt was part of a team that used base editing to partially restore the hearing of mice with a point mutation that causes deafness in people. Earlier in 2020, University of Illinois researchers used base editing to slow the progression of ALS in mice. More recently, Liu was part of a group that used base editing to correct the point mutation that causes progeria, a premature-aging syndrome, in mice. By changing a T to a C in a single gene, they were able to more than double the lifespan of mice with the disease.

There’s no guarantee that a therapy that works in mice will translate to humans (although gene editing is conceptually much simpler than drugs that rely on complex chemistry). To find out whether base editing can live up to its promise as a disease-curing technology, we need human studies — and now, one is just on the horizon.

On January 12, Massachusetts-based biotech company Verve Therapeutics announced the promising results of a study testing a base editing treatment for heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH), a genetic heart diseaseHeFH is fairly common, affecting about one in 500 people, and it causes consistently high levels of “badcholesterol (LDL-C) — that makes people with the disease susceptible to heart attacks or strokes at a relatively young age. In primates with HeFH, Verve used base editing to change an A to a G in a single gene. Within two weeks, the animals’ blood LDL-C levels had dropped by 59%. Six months later, they were still just as low.The treatment, dubbed “VERVE-101,” was well-tolerated, with no adverse effects reported.

When we started, we had no idea this would work,” Verve CEO Sekar Kathiresan said in a press release, adding, “It works, and we expect this to be durable for the lifetime of the animals.” Now, Verve wants to find out if VERVE-101 works in humans.

Source: https://www.freethink.com/

Norway Raises Concern Over Vaccine Jabs for the Elderly

Norway expressed increasing concern about the safety of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine on elderly people with serious underlying health conditions after raising an estimate of the number who died after receiving inoculations to 29. The latest figure adds six to the number of known fatalities in Norway, and lowers the age group thought to be affected to 75 from 80. While it’s unclear exactly when the deaths occurred, Norway has given at least one dose to about 42,000 people and focused on those considered most at risk if they contract the virus, including the elderly.

There are 13 deaths that have been assessed, and we are aware of another 16 deaths that are currently being assessed,” the agency said. All the reported deaths related to “elderly people with serious basic disorders,” it said. “Most people have experienced the expected side effects of the vaccine, such as nausea and vomiting, fever, local reactions at the injection site, and worsening of their underlying condition.”

Official reports of allergic reactions have been rare as governments rush to roll out vaccines to try to contain the global pandemic. U.S. authorities reported 21 cases of severe allergic reactions from Dec. 14-23 after administration of about 1.9 million initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The first Europe-wide safety report on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is due to be published at the end of JanuaryUntil Friday, the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech SE was the only one available in Norway, and “all deaths are thus linked to this vaccine,” the Norwegian Medicines Agency said in a written response to Bloomberg on Saturday.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/

Nanomicelles Are Perfect Carrier To Destroy Cancerous Cells

With the advance in nanotechnology, researchers across the globe have been exploring how to use nanoparticles for efficient drug delivery. Similar to nanoshells and nanovesicles, nanomicelles are extremely small structures and have been noted as an emerging platform in targeted therapy. Nanomicelles are globe-like structures with a hydrophilic outer shell and a hydrophobic interior. This dual property makes them a perfect carrier for delivering drug molecules.

Now a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional team has created a nanomicelle that can be used to deliver a drug named docetaxel, which is commonly used to treat various cancers including breast, colon and lung cancer.

Modus operandi: Once injected intravenously, these nanomicelles can easily escape the circulation and enter the solid tumours.

The ideal goal for cancer therapy is destroying the cancer cells without harming healthy cells of the body, and chemotherapeutics approved for treatment of cancer are highly toxic. The currently used docetaxel is a highly hydrophobic drug, and is dissolved in a chemical mixture (polysorbate-80 and alcohol). This aggravates its toxic effects on liver, blood cells, and lungs. So, there was an urgent and unmet need to develop effective drug delivery vehicles for docetaxel without these side effects,” explains Avinash Bajaj, from the Laboratory of Nanotechnology and Chemical Biology at the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Faridabad. He is one of the corresponding authors of the paper recently published in Angewandte Chemie.

The nanomicelles are less than 100nm in size and are stable at room temperature. Once injected intravenously these nanomicelles can easily escape the circulation and enter the solid tumours where the blood vessels are found to be leaky. These leaky blood vessels are absent in the healthy organs. “Chemical conjugation would render the phospholipid-docetaxel prodrug to be silent in the circulation and healthy organs. But once it enters the cancer cells, the enzymes will cleave the bond to activate the drug, and kill the cancer cells,” adds Dr. Bajaj.

The team tested the effectiveness of the nanomicelles in a mice breast tumour model and was found to help in tumour regression. Its toxicity was compared with the currently used FDA approved formulation and found to be less toxic. Similar promising results were seen when tested in higher model organisms including rats, rabbits and rhesus monkeys.

https://www.thehindu.com/

Immune System Killer Cells Controlled By Circadian Rhythms

An analysis of an exhaustive dataset on cells essential to the mammalian immune system shows that our ability to fight disease may rely more heavily on daily circadian cycles than previously assumed.

Malfunctions in , the process that keeps our bodies in tune with the day/night cycles, are increasingly associated with diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases. An investigation published today in Genome Research shows that the activity of macrophagescells within us that seek and destroy intruders like bacteria—may time daily changes in their responses to pathogens and stress through the circadian control of metabolism. In this study, Jennifer Hurley, the Richard Baruch M.D. Career Development Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and senior author on this study, and her team investigated how the levels of RNA and proteins in macrophages change over two days.

We have shown there is an incredible amount of circadian timing of macrophage behavior, but the clock is timing macrophages in unexpected ways” said Hurley.

The circadian system is comprised of a set of core clock proteins that anticipate the day/night cycle by causing daily oscillations in levels of enzymes and hormones, and ultimately affecting physiological parameters such as body temperature and the immune response. This molecular clock marks time through a self-regulating cycle of  production and decay. The “positive” element proteins of the clock trigger production of the “negative” element proteins, which in turn block production of positive element proteins until the negative element proteins decay, thus creating a negative feedback cycle that occurs once every 24 hours.

Positive element proteins also regulate fluctuations in a substantial number of gene products, known as messenger RNA or mRNA. Genetic instructions are transcribed from DNA to mRNA, which are then used as a recipe for assembling proteins, the functional building blocks of the cell. It has long been assumed that the levels of each subsequent step could be predicted from the previous. If that were the case, oscillating mRNA would correspond with oscillating levels of cellular proteins, and therefore, if one could track mRNA, they would know what proteins the circadian clock controlled in the cell.

However, this investigation showed that this paradigm may not always be true. The analysis of the macrophage dataset revealed that there was a substantial mismatch between the proteins and mRNAs that are controlled by the circadian clock. This data paralleled research published in Cell Systems in 2018 by the Hurley lab, showing that about 40% of oscillating proteins in the fungus and circadian model system, Neurospora crassa, had no corresponding oscillating mRNA.

But the scale of the difference in macrophages really surprised us,” Hurley said. “Eighty percent of the proteins that oscillate don’t have associated oscillating mRNA in macrophages. That means we were really missing how the clock was timing immunity.”

Source: https://medicalxpress.com/

New Drug Reduces Risk Of Death By 24% For Critically Ill COVID Patients

Patients across the UK who are admitted to intensive care units due to COVID-19 are set to receive new life-saving treatments which can reduce the time spent in hospital by up to 10 days, the government has announced today (Thursday 7 January).

Results from the government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial published today showed tocilizumab and sarilumab reduced the relative risk of death by 24%, when administered to patients within 24 hours of entering intensive care.

Most of the data came from when the drugs were administered in addition to a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone – also discovered through government-backed research through the RECOVERY clinical trial – which is already provided as standard of care to the NHS.

Patients receiving these drugs, typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, left intensive care between 7 to 10 days earlier on average. The rollout of these treatments could therefore contribute significantly towards reducing pressures on hospitals over the coming weeks and months.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/

From Tobacco Plant To 100% Efficient COVID Vaccine

Under a winter’s snow cover on the outskirts of Quebec City in Canada, a high-tech greenhouse, set at a balmy 23 C, is growing row after row of a weed that could help end the coronavirus pandemicIt’s called Nicotiana benthamiana, a relative of the tobacco plant, native to Australia, and it is a key to biopharmaceutical company Medicago’s COVID-19 vaccineMedicago is the leading Canadian-based contender to produce a vaccine, with an agreement to provide the federal government with 76 million doses if approved for use.

Medicago’s vaulting onto the mainstage could provide a breakthrough for vaccine science. It involves a new technology that’s rapid and nimble, and a vaccine that can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, of 2 C to 8 C, unlike the two other vaccines currently in circulation, which each require frozen or ultra-cold frozen storage. While it’s possible the company may emerge as the new wunderkind of the Canadian biotech sector, it wasn’t without adversity. For years, Medicago warned that Canada needed to prepare itself for a pandemic and lobbied government officials for funding to build a domestic manufacturing site for a vaccine. But Medicago didn’t get what it needed from the federal government until after the COVID-19 crisis struck. On top of that, in the middle of a pandemic, Medicago is restructuring. In July, it announced plans to distance itself from a significant shareholder, Philip Morris International, which owns about one-third of the company — a controversial association with Big Tobacco that has been the source of roadblocks and criticism. Then in December, the company replaced its president and CEO. But despite this, Medicago hasn’t lost sight of its goal: a vaccine.

In phase one of its clinical trials, 100 per cent of people who received its COVID-19 vaccine developed significant antibody responses with no severe adverse effectsPhase two clinical trials are currently wrapping up and phase three is expected to begin later this month. It will involve 30,000 people in 11 countries — including Canada — and will ultimately determine if the vaccine protects people from COVID-19. The vaccine requires two doses, 21 days apart, and if approved by Health Canada, could be in the arms of Canadians by the second half of this year.

Source: https://globalnews.ca/

Alzheimer’s Is Actually 3 Distinct Disease Subtypes

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is probably more diverse than our traditional models suggest. Postmortem, RNA sequencing has revealed three major molecular subtypes of the disease, each of which presents differently in the brain and which holds a unique genetic risk.  Such knowledge could help us predict who is most vulnerable to each subtype, how their disease might progress and what treatments might suit them best, potentially leading to better outcomes. It could also help explain why effective treatments for AD have proved so challenging to find thus far.

The mouse models we currently have for pharmaceutical research match a particular subset of AD,  but not all subtypes simultaneouslyThis may partially explain why a vast majority of drugs that succeeded in specific mouse models do not align with generalised human trials across all AD subtypes,”  say the authors. “Therefore,” the authors conclude, “subtyping patients with AD is a critical step toward precision medicine for this devastating disease.

Traditionally, AD is thought to be marked by clumps of amyloid-beta plaques (), as well as tangles of tau proteins (NFTs) found in postmortem biopsies of the brain. Both of these markers have become synonymous with the disease, but in recent years our leading hypotheses about what they actually do to our brains have come under question. Typically, accumulations of and NFT are thought to drive neuronal and synaptic loss, predominantly within the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Further degeneration then follows, including inflammation and degeneration of nerve cells‘ protective coating, which causes signals in our brains to slow down.

Strangely enough, however, recent evidence has shown up to a third of patients with a confirmed, clinical diagnosis have no Aβ plaques in postmortem biopsies. What’s more, many of those found with plaques at death did not show cognitive impairment in life. Instead of being an early trigger of AD, setting off neurodegeneration and driving memory loss and confusion, in some people, Aβ plaques appear to be latecomers. On the other hand, recent evidence suggests tau proteins are there from the very earliest stages.

In light of all this research, it’s highly likely there are specific subtypes of AD that we simply haven’t teased apart yet. The new research has helped unbraid three major strands. To do this, researchers analysed 1,543 transcriptomes – the genetic processes being express in the cellacross five brain regions, which were collected post mortem from two AD cohorts.

Source: https://advances.sciencemag.org/

Single Dose Nanoparticle Vaccine Efficient To Produce Covid Antibodies

Across the world, health care workers and high-risk groups are beginning to receive COVID-19 vaccines, offering hope for a return to normalcy amidst the pandemic. However, the vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. require two doses to be effective, which can create problems with logistics and compliance. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have developed a nanoparticle vaccine that elicits a virus-neutralizing antibody response in mice after only a single dose.

The primary target for COVID-19 vaccines is the spike protein, which is necessary for SARS-CoV-2’s entry into cells. Both of the vaccines currently authorized in the U.S. are mRNA vaccines that cause human cells to temporarily produce the spike protein, triggering an immune response and antibody production.

Peter Kim and colleagues wanted to try a different approach: a vaccine consisting of multiple copies of the spike protein displayed on ferritin nanoparticles. Ferritin is an iron storage protein found in many organisms that self-assembles into a larger nanoparticle. Other proteins, such as viral antigens, can be fused to ferritin so that each nanoparticle displays several copies of the protein, which might cause a stronger immune response than a single copy.

The researchers spliced spike protein and ferritin DNA together and then expressed the hybrid protein in cultured mammalian cells. The ferritin self-assembled into nanoparticles, each bearing eight copies of the spike protein trimer. The team purified the spike/ferritin particles and injected them into mice. After a single immunization, mice produced neutralizing antibody titers that were at least two times higher than those in convalescent plasma from COVID-19 patients, and significantly higher than those in mice immunized with the spike protein alone. A second immunization 21 days later produced even higher antibody levels. Although these results must be confirmed in human clinical trials, they suggest that the spike/ferritin nanoparticles may be a viable strategy for single-dose vaccination against COVID-19, the researchers say.

Source: https://www.acs.org/

‘Imminent’ Stratospheric Warming Could Induce Cold Weather

Another ‘Beast from the East‘ as seen in 2018 is on the cards thanks to a sudden stratospheric warming event around the North Pole, a study reported. During such episodes, the stratosphere — the layer 6–31 miles (10–50 km) above the Earth’s surface — can increase in temperature by up to 90°F (50°C) over mere days. This disturbance can travel down through the atmosphere and — if it reaches the ground — can cause shifts in the jet stream that cool Europe and northern Asia.

UK experts studied 40 stratospheric warming episodes from the last six decades — and learnt to track their signals that they travel down to the Earth’s surface. They said the current warming could bring snowfall within weeks — a prediction that appears to have come true with London dusted white this morning. The Met Office predicted the stratospheric warming episode back in late December — and forecast, as a result, increased changes of cold weather across January.

While an extreme cold weather event is not a certainty, around two thirds of sudden stratospheric warmings have a significant impact on surface weather,’ said paper author and climate dynamics expert Richard Hall of the University of Bristol. There is an increased chance of extreme cold temperatures — and potentially snow, also — over the next week of two, he continued. ‘What’s more, [the current] sudden stratospheric warming is potentially the most dangerous kind, where the polar vortex splits into two smaller “child” vortices.’ 

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Blocking Enzymes Reverse Alzheimer’s Memory Loss

Inhibiting certain enzymes involved in abnormal gene transcription may offer a way to restore memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a new study in mice suggests.

The findings could pave the way toward new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

“By treating AD mouse models with a compound to inhibit these enzymes, we were able to normalize gene expression, restore neuronal function, and ameliorate cognitive impairment,” says senior author Zhen Yan, a professor in the department of physiology and biophysics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

Alzheimer’s disease alters the expression of genes in the prefrontal cortex, a key region of the brain controlling cognitive processes and executive functions.

When they focused on gene changes caused by epigenetic processes (those not related to changes in DNA sequences) such as aging, the researchers could reverse elevated levels of harmful genes that cause memory deficits in AD.

The current research extends the work the team reported in 2019 in the journal Brain, in which they reversed the loss or downregulation of genes beneficial to cognitive function in AD.

In the new paper in Science Advances, the team reports they reversed the upregulation of genes involved in impairing cognitive function.

http://www.buffalo.edu/

Nanoparticle Drug-Delivery To Treat Brain Disorders

In the past few decades, researchers have identified biological pathways leading to neurodegenerative diseases and developed promising molecular agents to target them. However, the translation of these findings into clinically approved treatments has progressed at a much slower rate, in part because of the challenges scientists face in delivering therapeutics across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and into the brain.

To facilitate successful delivery of therapeutic agents to the brain, a team of bioengineers, physicians, and collaborators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital created a nanoparticle platform, which can facilitate therapeutically effective delivery of encapsulated agents in mice with a physically breached or intact BBB. In a mouse model of traumatic brain injury (TBI), they observed that the delivery system showed three times more accumulation in brain than conventional methods of delivery and was therapeutically effective as well, which could open possibilities for the treatment of numerous neurological disorders.

It’s very difficult to get both small and large molecule therapeutic agents delivered across the BBB,” said corresponding author Nitin Joshi, PhD, an associate bioengineer at the Center for Nanomedicine in the Brigham’s Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine. “Our solution was to encapsulate therapeutic agents into biocompatible nanoparticles with precisely engineered surface properties that would enable their therapeutically effective transport into the brain, independent of the state of the BBB.”

The technology could enable physicians to treat secondary injuries associated with TBI that can lead to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases, which can develop during ensuing months and years once the BBB has healed.

To be able to deliver agents across the BBB in the absence of inflammation has been somewhat of a holy grail in the field,” said co-senior author Jeff Karp, PhD, of the Brigham’s Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine. “Our radically simple approach is applicable to many neurological disorders where delivery of therapeutic agents to the brain is desired.”

Findings were published in Science Advances.

https://www.eurekalert.org/

Highly Efficient Supercapacitors Better Than Batteries

A team working with Roland Fischer, Professor of Chemistry at the Technical University Munich (TUM) in Germany has developed a highly efficient supercapacitor. The basis of the energy storage device is a novel, powerful and also sustainable graphene hybrid material that has comparable performance data to currently utilized batteries.

Usually, energy storage is associated with batteries and accumulators that provide energy for electronic devices. However, in laptops, cameras, cellphones or vehicles, so-called supercapacitors are increasingly installed these days.

Unlike batteries they can quickly store large amounts of energy and put it out just as fast. If, for instance, a train brakes when entering the station, supercapacitors are storing the energy and provide it again when the train needs a lot of energy very quickly while starting up. However, one problem with supercapacitors to date was their lack of energy density. While lithium accumulators reach an energy density of up to 265 Kilowatt hours (KW/h), supercapacitors thus far have only been delivering a tenth thereof.

The team working with TUM chemist Roland Fischer has now developed a novel, powerful as well as sustainable graphene hybrid material for supercapacitors. It serves as the positive electrode in the energy storage device. The researchers are combining it with a proven negative electrode based on titanium and carbon. The new energy storage device does not only attain an energy density of up to 73 Wh/kg, which is roughly equivalent to the energy density of an nickel metal hydride battery, but also performs much better than most other supercapacitors at a power density of 16 kW/kg. The secret of the new supercapacitor is the combination of different materials – hence, chemists refer to the supercapacitor as “asymmetrical.”

The researchers are betting on a new strategy to overcome the performance limits of standard materials – they utilize hybrid materials. “Nature is full of highly complex, evolutionarily optimized hybrid materials – bones and teeth are examples. Their mechanical properties, such as hardness and elasticity were optimized through the combination of various materials by nature,” says Roland Fischer.

The abstract idea of combining basic materials was transferred to supercapacitors by the research team. As a basis, they used the novel positive electrode of the storage unit with chemically modified graphene and combined it with a nano-structured metal organic framework, a so-called MOF.

Clean Water At Low Cost

Producing clean water at a lower cost could be on the horizon after researchers from The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) and Penn State solved a complex problem that had baffled scientists for decades, until now. Desalination membranes remove salt and other chemicals from water, a process critical to the health of society, cleaning billions of gallons of water for agriculture, energy production and drinking. The idea seems simple — push salty water through and clean water comes out the other side — but it contains complex intricacies that scientists are still trying to understand.

The research team, in partnership with DuPont Water Solutions, solved an important aspect of this mystery, opening the door to reduce costs of clean water production. The researchers determined desalination membranes are inconsistent in density and mass distribution, which can hold back their performance. Uniform density at the nanoscale is the key to increasing how much clean water these membranes can create.

Reverse osmosis membranes are widely used for cleaning water, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about them,” said Manish Kumar, an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at UT Austin, who co-led the research. “We couldn’t really say how water moves through them, so all the improvements over the past 40 years have essentially been done in the dark.”

The paper documents an increase in efficiency in the membranes tested by 30%-40%, meaning they can clean more water while using significantly less energy. That could lead to increased access to clean water and lower water bills for individual homes and large users alike.

Reverse osmosis membranes work by applying pressure to the salty feed solution on one side. The minerals stay there while the water passes through. Although more efficient than non-membrane desalination processes, it still takes a large amount of energy, the researchers said, and improving the efficiency of the membranes could reduce that burden.

Fresh water management is becoming a crucial challenge throughout the world,” said Enrique Gomez, a professor of chemical engineering at Penn State who co-led the research. “Shortages, droughts — with increasing severe weather patterns, it is expected this problem will become even more significant. It’s critically important to have clean water availability, especially in low-resource areas.”

The findings have been published in Science.

Source: https://news.utexas.edu/

Magnetic Nanoparticles Fry Cancerous Cells

Chemotherapy could be up to 34 per cent more effective thanks to a new technique which combines the treatment with magnetic particles that fry cancerous cells. Researchers at University College London (UCL) found the combination of heat and chemo drugs makes the process more effective. Tiny magnetic nanoparticles attach themselves to the cancerous cells of a tumour and also carry the chemotherapy drug.

When doctors apply a harmless magnetic field to the area from outside the body it activates the nanoparticles’ magnetic properties and causes them to warm up, heating the trapped cancerous cells. Research reveals this damages the tumour and makes it more vulnerable to pre-existing drugs.

The research has so far only been tested in a lab, but researchers say the early findings are significant. Human breast cancer cells, glioblastoma (brain cancer) cells, and mouse prostate cancer cells were all treated, in a test tube, with this new technique. Doxorubicin — a commonly used chemo drug — was applied to the magnetic nanoparticlesHeat and doxorubicin together killed 98 per cent of brain cancer cells after 48 hours. The drug only killed 73 per cent of cells when applied without heat. For the breast cancer cells, 89 per cent of the cancer was eliminated by the combination, and this drops to just 77 per cent for the drug alone.

Our study shows the enormous potential of combining chemotherapy with heat treatment delivered via magnetic nanoparticles,” said Senior author Professor Nguyen T. K. Thanh. ‘While this combination of therapy is already approved for the treatment of fast-growing glioblastomas, our results suggest it has potential to be used more widely as a broad anti-cancer therapy. ‘This therapy also has potential to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, by ensuring it is more highly targeted on cancer cells rather than healthy issue. This needs to be explored in further pre-clinical tests.’

The results have been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B,

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Dancing Robots

Boston DynamicsAtlas and Spot robots can do a lot of things: sprinting, gymnastic routines,parkour, backflips, open doors to let in an army of their friends, wash dishes, and (poorly) get actual jobs. But the company’s latest video adds another impressive trick to our future robotic overlords’ repertoire: busting sick dance moves.

CLICK THE PICTURE TO ENJOY THE DANCING ROBOT

The video sees Boston Dynamics entire lineup of robots — the humanoid Atlas, the dog-shaped Spot, and the box-juggling Handle — all come together in a bopping, coordinated dance routine set to The Contours’ “Do You Love Me.”

t’s not the first time Boston Dynamics has shown off its robotsdancing skills: the company showcased a video of its Spot robot doing the Running Man to “Uptown Funk” in 2018. but the new video takes things to another level, with the Atlas robot tearing it up on the dance floor: smoothly running, jumping, shuffling, and twirling through different moves.

Things get even more incredible as more robots file out, prancing around in the kind of coordinated dance routine that puts my own, admittedly awful human dancing to shame. Compared to the jerky movements of the 2016 iteration of Atlas, the new model almost looks like a CGI creation.

Boston Dynamics was recently purchased by Hyundai, which bought the robotics firm from SoftBank in a $1.1 billion deal. The company was originally founded in 1992 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where it became known for its dog-like quadrupedal robots (most notably, the DARPA-funded BigDog, a precursor to the company’s first commercial robot, Spot.) It was bought by Alphabet’s X division in 2013, and then by Softbank in 2017.

While the Atlas and Handle robots featured here are still just research prototypes, Boston Dynamics has recently started selling the Spot model to any company for the considerable price of $74,500. But can you really put a price on creating your own personal legion of boogieing robot minions?

Source: https://www.bostondynamics.com/
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https://www.theverge.com/

First Antibody Treatment For COVID-19

Scientists in the UK have just recruited the first participants in the world to be part of a new long-acting antibody study. If the treatment is effective, it could give those who have already been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 protection from developing COVID-19.

We know that this antibody combination can neutralise the virus,explains University College London Hospitals (UCLH) virologist Catherine Houlihan. So we hope to find that giving this treatment via injection can lead to immediate protection against the development of COVID-19 in people who have been exposed – when it would be too late to offer a vaccine.”

This might not be the first antibody treatment for COVID-19 you’ve heard of. Outgoing US President Donald Trump was given monoclonal antibodies when he came down with the disease, and in the US two different antibody treatmentscasirivimab and imdevimab – received emergency approval back in November. But those antibody treatments are given to patients with mild or moderate COVID-19, who risk progressing to a severe version of the disease.

In a clinical trial of patients with COVID-19, casirivimab and imdevimab, administered together, were shown to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalisation or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo,the FDA explained in a press statement when the drugs were approved. This new antibody therapy, called AZD7442 and developed by UCLH and AstraZeneca, is a little different. AZD7442 is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies AZD8895 and AZD1061, which both target the receptor binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

By targeting this region of the virus’s spike protein, antibodies can block the virus’s attachment to human cells, and, therefore, is expected to block infection,” the team wrote on the US ClinicalTrials.gov website.  “Amino acid substitutions have been introduced into the antibodies to both extend their half-lives, which should prolong their potential prophylactic benefit, and decrease Fc effector functionin order to decrease the potential risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease.”

Antibodies are little Y-shaped proteins that lock on to a particular section – called an antigen – of a virus, bacterium or other pathogen, and either ‘tag‘ it to be attacked by the immune system, or directly block the pathogen from invading our cells. Normal antibodies are produced by your body after an infection, while monoclonal antibodies are cloned in a lab and can be injected into a person already infected, to give the immune system a hand in the fight.

The researchers are hoping that AZD7442 – which is just starting the Storm Chaser study (the name for its phase 3 trial) – provides protection for those that have been exposed to the virus but do not yet have symptoms. Effectively, they’re trying to stop COVID-19 happening in the first place. “If you are dealing with outbreaks in settings such as care homes, or if you have got patients who are particularly at risk of getting severe COVID, such as the elderly, then this could well save a lot of lives,” said University of East Anglia infectious disease expert Paul Hunter.

Source: https://www.sciencealert.com/

‘Winning Formula’ Astrazeneca/Oxford Covid Vaccine Rollout To Begin On January 4 In UK

The Astrazenezca/Oxford vaccine could be rolled out across the UK within the next fortnight as the head of the company raised hopes of the jab’s “winning formula”. The Government is aiming for mass vaccination centres to start administering patients with either the AstraZeneca/Oxford or Pfizer jab from January 4, according to told the Sunday Telegraph, as the new variant of coronavirus first found in the UK continues to spread across the worldThe Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) could reportedly approve the homegrown jab within days, with millions poised to start receiving the jab at the start of next month

It comes as the AstraZeneca chief said he believed researchers had found the “winning formula” using two doses and promised to publish the results.

We think we have figured out the winning formula and how to get efficacy that, after two doses, is up there with everybody else,” Pascal Soriot told The Sunday Times. “I can’t tell you more because we will publish at some point.”

Source: https://www.standard.co.uk/

The U.S. has vaccinated just 1 million people out of a goal of 20 million for December

Just over 1 million people in the U.S. have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of Wednesday morning, a far cry from the federal government’s goal of inoculating 20 million Americans by the end of the year.

Now that two Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for emergency use, the biggest hurdle to  the pandemic in the U.S. is getting the doses to the roughly 331 million Americans across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 1,008,025 shots had been administered as of Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET.

https://www.cnbc.com/

AI Will Take Away Lots Of Jobs in UK

The scale of the challenge that automation poses to the jobs market needs to be met with much stronger action to upskill the workforce, finds a new report published by a committee in the UK Parliament.

The House of Lords’ select committee on artificial intelligence raised concerns at the “inertia” that is slowing down the country when it comes to digital skills, and urged the government to take steps to make sure that people have the opportunity to reskill and retrain, to be able to adapt to the changing labor market that AI is bringing about.

Citing research carried out by Microsoft, the committee stressed that only 17% of UK employees say that they have been part of reskilling efforts, which sits well below the global average of 38%.

Microsoft also recently reported that almost 70% of business leaders in the UK believe that their organization currently has a digital skills gap, and that two-thirds of employees feel that they do not have the appropriate digital skills to fulfil new and emerging roles in their industry.Even basic digital skills are lacking: a recent Lloyds Bank survey found that 19% of individuals in the UK couldn’t complete tasks such as using a web browser.

For the past three years, the government has been offering a national retraining scheme, which aims to upskill UK citizens, partly as a result of automation. Wendy Hall, a professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, who provided evidence to the Lords for the report, said that the UK is currently “nowhere near ready” when it comes to building up the skills that are necessary to mitigate the impact of automation on jobs.

Meanwhile, found the report, AI systems are growing at a fast pace. While in 2015, the UK saw £245 million ($326 million) invested in AI, that number jumped to £1.3 billion ($1.73 billion) in 2019. Automated systems are now prevalent in many industries, ranging from agriculture to healthcare, through to financial services, retail and logistics.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/

General Cognitive Assessment Of The Brain In Seven Minutes

React Neuro, a startup founded three years ago by veterans of Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), wants to analyze how healthy your brain is.

Rudy Tanzi, a well-known Alzheimer’s disease researcher and professor of neurology at HMS and MGH, started the company in 2017 with Brian Nahed, a neurosurgical oncologist specializing in brain tumors and associate program director of neurosurgery at MGH and HMS. The two had worked with the NFL for years — Tanzi as a brain-health advisor to the New England Patriots, Nahed as a neurotrauma consultant for the league — and wanted to focus on the issue of concussions in football players. Specifically, they wanted to take a scientific approach to figuring out when a player could safely return to the sport following a concussion. The startup has evolved since then to take a holistic look at brain health through AI software and a VR headset.

From a consumer health standpoint, the idea is essentially [that by] using software, we can assess people’s brain health and provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not working,” said React Neuro CEO Shahid Azim, who joined the company in early 2019. “What really got me interested was not so much the concussion use case, but the more fundamental question that the team was looking to ask, which was, ‘Is there a better way to measure your brain health?’”

React Neuro answers that question with digital exams administered through a custom VR headset, which is developed by Pico Interactive in San Francisco. Designed based on the tools, techniques and exams traditionally used to assess neurological conditions, the tests return results that the startup’s AI software turns into actionable insights for physicians.

Azim, a 2009 MIT Sloan School of Management grad, calls the brain assessments via headsetdigital exams,” or “experiences on screen.” The exams, he said, can last anywhere from two and a half minutes to 10 minutes, depending on the use case. A general cognitive assessment typically lasts seven minutes.

We’re using eye tracking and voice analysis [for the exams],” Azim said. “In some cases, they’re voice-based, so you’re asked to repeat something that you see on the screen.

Source: https://reactneuro.com/
AND
https://www.bizjournals.com/

How To Fine-Tune Bacterial Metabolism To Boost Longevity

Studies have shown that gut microbes can influence several aspects of the host’s life, including aging. Given the complexity and heterogeneity of the human gut environment, elucidating how a specific microbial species contributes to longevity has been challenging.

To explore the influence of bacterial products on the aging process, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University developed a method that uses light to directly control gene expression and metabolite production from bacteria residing in the gut of the laboratory worm Caenorhabditis elegans.

The team reports (“Optogenetic control of gut bacterial metabolism to promote longevity”) in eLife that green-light-induced production of colanic acid by resident Escherichia coli bacteria protected gut cells against stress-induced cellular damage and extended the worm’s lifespan. The researchers indicate that this method can be applied to study other bacteria and propose that it also might provide in the future a new way to fine-tune bacterial metabolism in the host gut to deliver health benefits with minimal side effects.

Illustration of bacteria in the intestine.

Gut microbial metabolism is associated with host longevity. However, because it requires direct manipulation of microbial metabolism in situ, establishing a causal link between these two processes remains challenging. We demonstrate an optogenetic method to control gene expression and metabolite production from bacteria residing in the host gut. We genetically engineer an E. coli strain that secretes colanic acid (CA) under the quantitative control of light,” the investigators wrote.

Using this optogenetically-controlled strain to induce CA production directly in the C. elegans gut, we reveal the local effect of CA in protecting intestinal mitochondria from stress-induced hyper-fragmentation. We also demonstrate that the lifespan-extending effect of this strain is positively correlated with the intensity of green light, indicating a dose-dependent CA benefit on the host.

“Thus, optogenetics can be used to achieve quantitative and temporal control of [the microbiome] metabolism in order to reveal its local and systemic effects on host health and aging. “We used optogenetics, a method that combines light and genetically engineered light-sensitive proteins to regulate molecular events in a targeted manner in living cells or organisms,” said co-corresponding author Meng Wang, PhD, professor of molecular and human genetics at the Huffington Center on Aging at Baylor.

Source: https://www.genengnews.com/

New Molecule Kills The Flu Virus

Influenza is one of the most widespread viral diseases and constitutes a major public health problem. For some, it means spending a week in bed; for others, it could lead to hospitalization or, in the most severe cases, death. Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)’s Supramolecular Nano-Materials and Interfaces Laboratory (SuNMIL) within the School of Engineering, working in association with the team headed by Caroline Tapparel, a professor at the University of Geneva’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Medicine, have synthesized a compound that can kill the virus that causes influenza. Their discovery paves the way to effective drug therapies against the seasonal disease.

With the flu virus, the risk of a pandemic is high,” says Francesco Stellacci, the EPFL professor who heads SuNMIL. “Scientists have to update the vaccine every year because the strain mutates, and sometimes the vaccine turns out to be less effective. So it would be good to also have antivirals that could limit the effects of large-scale infection.

“Antiviral drugs already exist, and Tamiflu is the most well-known. But it has one major drawback – it has to be taken within 36 hours of infection or it loses its efficacy completely. And with influenza, symptoms generally start appearing 24 hours after infection. “By the time patients seek medical treatment, it’s often too late for Tamiflu,” explained Stellacci. “In addition, for antivirals to really work, they have to be virucidal – that is, they have to irreversibly inhibit viral infectivity. But today that’s not the case.

The research has been published in Advanced Science.

Source: https://actu.epfl.ch/

How to Protect Neurons and Encourage Their Growth

Many neurodegenerative conditions, from glaucoma to Alzheimer’s disease, are characterized by injury to axons — the long, slender projections that conduct electrical impulses from one nerve cell to another, facilitating cellular communications. Injury to axons often leads to neuronal impairment and cell death.

Researchers know that inhibiting an enzyme called dual leucine zipper kinase (DLK) appears to robustly protect neurons in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases models, but DLK also inhibits axonal regeneration. Until now, there have been no effective methods to modify genes to improve both the long-term survival of neurons and promote regeneration.

In a paper published December 14, 2020 in PNAS, a multi-university team led by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health identified another family of enzymes called germinal cell kinase four kinases (GCK-IV kinases) whose inhibition is robustly neuroprotective, while also permitting axon regeneration, making it an attractive therapeutic approach for treating at some neurodegenerative diseases.

Example of retinal ganglion cells with axons and dendrites in the retina of a healthy eye.

We basically figured out that there are a set of genes that, when inhibited, allow optic nerve cells to survive and regenerate,” said senior author Derek Welsbie, MD, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology in the Viterbi Family Department of Ophthalmology at Shiley Eye Institute.

Prior to this work, the field knew how to get these cells to survive, but not regenerate. Conversely, there are ways to promote regeneration, but then the survival was rather modest. Of course, for a successful strategy of vision restoration, you need both and this is a step in that direction.”

Source: https://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/

Engineered Thymus From Human Cells

Researchers at University College London (UCL)  and the Crick Institute have rebuilt a human thymus, an essential organ in the immune system, using human stem cells and a bioengineered scaffold. Their work is an important step towards being able to build artificial thymi which could be used as transplants.

The thymus is an organ in the chest where T lymphocytes, which play a vital role in the immune system, mature. If the thymus does not work properly or does not form during foetal development in the womb, this can lead to diseases such as severe immunodeficiency, where the body cannot fight infectious diseases or cancerous cells, or autoimmunity, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the patient’s own healthy tissue.

In their proof-of-concept study, published in Nature Communications, the scientists rebuilt thymi using stem cells taken from patients who had to have the organ removed during surgery. When transplanted into mice, the bioengineered thymi were able to support the development of mature and functional human T lymphocytes.

Showing it is possible to build a working thymus from human cells is a crucial step towards being able to grow thymi which could one day be used as transplants,” says Sara Campinoti, author and researcher in the Epithelial Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the Crick. 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
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https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

New Variant Of Coronavirus Identified In England

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 60 different local authorities had recorded Covid infections caused by the new variantHe said the World Health Organization had been notified and UK scientists were doing detailed studies.“Nothing to suggest” it caused worse disease or that vaccines would no longer work, he added. Over the last week, there had been sharp, exponential rises in coronavirus infections across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire.

We’ve currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the South of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas.“We do not know the extent to which this is because of the new variant but no matter its cause we have to take swift and decisive action which unfortunately is absolutely essential to control this deadly disease while the vaccine is rolled out”, he explained.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty said current coronavirus swab tests would detect the new variant that has been found predominantly in Kent and neighbouring areas in recent weeks. The changes or mutations involve the spike protein of the virus – the part that helps it infect cells, and the target Covid vaccines are designed around.

It is too soon to know exactly what this will do to the behaviour of the virus.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/

Perovskite/Silicon Tandem Solar Cells Reaches 30% Efficiency

Solar cells, which consist of two semiconductors with different bandgap, can achieve significantly higher efficiency when used in tandem than when used alone. This is because tandem cells use the solar spectrum more efficiently. In particular, traditional silicon solar cells primarily efficiently convert the infrared component of light into electrical energy, but this is a powerful combination because certain perovskite compounds can effectively utilize the visible component of sunlight.

In early 2020, a team led by Professor Steve Albrecht of Helmutholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB) in Germany broke the previous world record (28.0%, Oxford PV) for tandem solar cells made of perovskite and silicon, setting a new world record of 29.15%. did. This is a huge step forward when compared to the highest certified and scientifically announced efficiency (DOI 26.2%: 10,1126 / science.aba3433). The new values ​​have been certified by Fraunhofer ISE and are listed on the NREL chart.Results are currently published in the journal Science With a detailed description of the manufacturing process and the underlying physics.

29.15% efficiency is not only a record for this technology, but also at the top of the overall Emerging PV category on the NREL chart,” said Eike Köhnen, PhD student and lead author of the study on the Albrecht team. .. In addition, the new perovskite / silicon tandem cell features consistent performance for over 300 hours under continuous exposure to air and simulated sunlight, unprotected by encapsulation. .. The team took advantage of a complex perovskite composition with a bandgap of 1.68 eV and focused on optimizing the substrate interface. The researchers analyzed the two cells individually and calculated the maximum efficiency of 32.4% possible with this design. “You can certainly achieve more than 30%,” says Albrecht.

Source:  https://www.helmholtz-berlin.de/
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https://californianewstimes.com/

Sensitive Robotic Fingers

Although robotics has reshaped and even redefined many industrial sectors, there still exists a gap between machines and humans in fields such as health and elderly care. For robots to safely manipulate or interact with fragile objects and living organisms, new strategies to enhance their perception while making their parts softer are needed. In fact, building a safe and dexterous robotic gripper with human-like capabilities is currently one of the most important goals in robotics.

One of the main challenges in the design of soft robotic grippers is integrating traditional sensors onto the robot’s fingers. Ideally, a soft gripper should have what’s known as proprioception–a sense of its own movements and position–to be able to safely execute varied tasks. However, traditional sensors are rigid and compromise the mechanical characteristics of the soft parts. Moreover, existing soft grippers are usually designed with a single type of proprioceptive sensation; either pressure or finger curvature.

To overcome these limitations, scientists at Ritsumeikan University, Japan, have been working on novel soft gripper designs under the lead of Associate Professor Mengying Xie. In their latest study published in Nano Energy, they successfully used multimaterial 3D printing technology to fabricate soft robotic fingers with a built-in proprioception sensor. Their design strategy offers numerous advantages and represents a large step toward safer and more capable soft robots.

The use of multimaterial 3D printing, a simple and fast prototyping process, allowed the researchers to easily integrate the sensing and stiffness-tuning mechanisms into the design of the robotic finger itself.

Our work suggests a way of designing sensors that contribute not only as sensing elements for robotic applications, but also as active functional materials to provide better control of the whole system without compromising its dynamic behavior,” says Prof Xie. Another remarkable feature of their design is that the sensor is self-powered by the piezoelectric effect, meaning that it requires no energy supply–essential for low-power applications.

Source:  https://eurekalert.org/

AI-generated Science Ready In Minutes

No matter how many months or years authors take to produce a scientific paper, Sabine Louët needs only a few seconds to generate a coherent 300-word summary of it. But she leaves the thinking to an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that statistically analyses the text, identifies meaningful words and phrases, and pieces it all together into a crisp, readable chunk.

We’re trying to tell a story, and we want to make it as digestible as possible,” says Louët, chief executive of SciencePOD, a Dublin-based science communication company.

As the volume of research continues to grow, natural-language processing programs that can rapidly sort and summarize scientific papers have become an increasingly important tool for scientific publishers and researchers alike, says Markus Kaindl, senior manager for data development at Springer Nature, which publishes Nature Index. (Nature Index is editorially independent of its publisher.)

He points to the roughly 2,000 papers published on COVID-19 each week, enough to overwhelm anyone trying to stay on top of the field. “It’s like an ocean of content, and it feels like our users are close to drowning,” he says. “We need to help them surf that wave instead.”

AI can help identify the papers most suited to a particular user’s needs. For example, Semantic Scholar, developed by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle, Washington, goes beyond keywords to rank the most relevant papers for any query. “It’s a brilliant platform because it really tries to understand what the publications are about,” Kaindl says. Springer Nature expects to go further by offering personalized summaries and search results. “If you are a senior career researcher, a postdoc or a principal investigator, your needs from a paper or a chapter may be very different from someone at an earlier career stage,” he says.

The company has engaged SciencePOD and others to explore the use of AI to enhance content appeal and accessibility. “AI can really help us as science publishers, by summarizing information, translating it for wider audiences and increasing the impact,” says Kaindl.

Source: https://www.nature.com/

Innovative Universal Flu Vaccine

For epidemiologists, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly intensified their long-standing nightmare about another virus: the emergence of a new and deadly strain of flu. A universal flu vaccine, effective against any strain of the influenza virus that can infect humans, could protect us from this peril, but progress has been slow. A novel concept for one universal vaccine candidate has now passed its first test in a small clinical trial, its developers report today in Nature Medicine.

Seasonal flu vaccines induce antibodies against the “head” (slate) of the influenza surface protein hemagglutinin, but a new universal vaccine triggers antibodies (fragments of them shown in gray) that bind to the stalk (light blue) portion

This is an important paper,” says Aubree Gordon, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who studies influenza transmission and vaccines.

The influenza virus rapidly accumulates mutations and easily “reassorts,” or swaps, genes between strains, creating variants that can dodge any past immunity people had acquired naturally or from vaccines. That’s why a new flu vaccine must be developed each year. Existing flu vaccines contain weakened or inactivated influenza viruses with a mix of hemagglutinins (HAs), the proteins that stud their surfaces. These vaccines primarily aim to trigger antibody responses against HA’s top part, or head. Genetic changes in flu viruses rarely alter most of the head. But a small part of the head does reassort, or mutate, frequently, which allows new viral strains to dodge any immune memory and forces flu vaccinemakers to prepare new formulations each year, with updated HAs.
In the trial, 51 participants received the various vaccines and their antibodies were compared with those of 15 people who received placebos. A single shot of vaccine with chimeric HA inactivated viruses, the researchers report, “induced remarkably high antistalk antibody titers.”

Source: https://www.sciencemag.org/

Paper-based Sensor Detects COVID-19 in Five minutes

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, testing remains a key strategy for tracking and containing the virus. Bioengineering graduate student, Maha Alafeef, has co-developed a rapid, ultrasensitive test using a paper-based electrochemical sensor that can detect the presence of the virus in less than five minutes. The team led by professor Dipanjan Pan reported their findings in ACS Nano

“Currently, we are experiencing a once-in-a-century life-changing event,” said Alafeef. “We are responding to this global need from a holistic approach by developing multidisciplinary tools for early detection and diagnosis and treatment for SARS-CoV-2.” 

There are two broad categories of COVID-19 tests on the market. The first category uses reverse transcriptase real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and nucleic acid hybridization strategies to identify viral RNA. Current FDA-approved diagnostic tests use this technique. Some drawbacks include the amount of time it takes to complete the test, the need for specialized personnel and the availability of equipment and reagents. The second category of tests focuses on the detection of antibodies. However, there could be a delay of a few days to a few weeks after a person has been exposed to the virus for them to produce detectable antibodies.

n recent years, researchers have had some success with creating point-of-care biosensors using 2D nanomaterials such as graphene to detect diseases. The main advantages of graphene-based biosensors are their sensitivity, low cost of production and rapid detection turnaround. “The discovery of graphene opened up a new era of sensor development due to its properties. Graphene exhibits unique mechanical and electrochemical properties that make it ideal for the development of sensitive electrochemical sensors,” said Alafeef. The team created a graphene-based electrochemical biosensor with an electrical read-out setup to selectively detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material.

There are two components to this biosensor: a platform to measure an electrical read-out and probes to detect the presence of viral RNA. To create the platform, researchers first coated filter paper with a layer of graphene nanoplatelets to create a conductive film. Then, they placed a gold electrode with a predefined design on top of the graphene as a contact pad for electrical readout. Both gold and graphene have high sensitivity and conductivity which makes this platform ultrasensitive to detect changes in electrical signals.

Source: https://pubs.acs.org
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https://bioengineering.illinois.edu/

Stem Cells To Treat Parkinson’s Disease

While adult stem cells have long been used to treat a handful of blood and immune disorders, the excitement has centered on two more versatile varieties: embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and  induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), both of which can be transformed into any cell type in the body.
The New England Journal of Medicine published the first case report from a study using custom-grown stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease in humans. The debilitating condition, which affects 10 million people worldwide, primarily results from the loss of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Existing treatments have had limited success. Stem cell researchers aim to replace dying neurons with healthy ones grown in the lab. The neurosurgeon Jeffrey Schweitzer at Massachusetts General Hospital and neurobiologist Kwang-Soo Kim at McLean Hospital — used what are known as autologous iPSCs. These are stem cells generated from the recipient’s own mature cells, which greatly reduces the likelihood that immunosuppressants will be needed to prevent rejection. The team collected skin cells from a 69-year-old man and reprogrammed them into iPSCs. They then guided the stem cells to take on the characteristics of dopaminergic neurons, which they implanted into the patient’s putamen, a brain region implicated in Parkinson’s. Over a 24-month period, PET scans showed evidence that the new cells were functional. The man’s motor symptoms and quality-of-life scores improved, while his daily medication requirement decreased. He experienced no side effects or complications.
Dopaminergic neurons can be derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs
This represents a milestone in ‘personalized medicine’ for Parkinson’s,” Kim wrote in a statement. It also represented a milestone for the patient — George “Doc” Lopez, a physician-turned-medical equipment entrepreneur, whose financial contributions to Kim’s research helped make the surgery possible.

Source: https://www.discovermagazine.com/

AI Makes Gigantic Leap And Heralds A Revolution In Biology

An artificial intelligence (AI) network developed by Google AI offshoot DeepMind has made a gargantuan leap in solving one of biology’s grandest challengesdetermining a protein’s 3D shape from its amino-acid sequence.

DeepMind’s program, called AlphaFold, outperformed around 100 other teams in a biennial protein-structure prediction challenge called CASP, short for Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction. The results were announced on 30 November, at the start of the conference — held virtually this year — that takes stock of the exercise.

A protein’s function is determined by its 3D shape

This is a big deal,” says John Moult, a computational biologist at the University of Maryland in College Park, who co-founded CASP in 1994 to improve computational methods for accurately predicting protein structures. “In some sense the problem is solved.

The ability to accurately predict protein structures from their amino-acid sequence would be a huge boon to life sciences and medicine. It would vastly accelerate efforts to understand the building blocks of cells and enable quicker and more advanced drug discovery.

AlphaFold came top of the table at the last CASP — in 2018, the first year that London-based DeepMind participated. But, this year, the outfit’s deep-learning network was head-and-shoulders above other teams and, say scientists, performed so mind-bogglingly well that it could herald a revolution in biology.

It’s a game changer,” says Andrei Lupas, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, who assessed the performance of different teams in CASP. AlphaFold has already helped him find the structure of a protein that has vexed his lab for a decade, and he expects it will alter how he works and the questions he tackles. “This will change medicine. It will change research. It will change bioengineering. It will change everything,” Lupas adds.

Source: https://www.nature.com/

Operation Warp Speed chief predicts coronavirus vaccines for all Americans by June

Over the next six months there will be enough coronavirus vaccine produced to immunize every American, Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui is predicting. “Hopefully, by the middle of the year, I hope most Americans will have been immunized,” Slaoui, head of the Trump administration’s vaccine initiative, said at a Post Live event yesterday. “If enough people are immunized, we should have this pandemic under control in the second half of 2021.”

It requires not only manufacturing of more than 600 million doses of the two-shot vaccine, but also transporting it to all corners of the country, making it accessible to Americans of all stripes, and persuading them it’s safe.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

Drug-free Nasal Spray Prevents SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Auris Medical Holding Ltd. (NASDAQ: EARS), a clinical-stage company dedicated to developing therapeutics that address important unmet medical needs in neurotology, rhinology and allergy and CNS disorders, today announced positive efficacy data from testing AM-301 in vitro. AM-301 is a drug-free nasal spray being developed by the Company’s affiliate Altamira Medica for protection against airborne pathogens and allergens.

AM-301 was tested for its capability to prevent or mitigate SARS-CoV-2 infection of nasal epithelial cells, which are part of the nasal mucosa and the first barrier against continuously inhaled substances such as pathogens and allergens. The experiment was performed over four days on reconstituted human nasal epithelia, which are frequently used to study the effects of human respiratory viruses. In saline-treated control cultures, Sars-CoV-2 replicated efficiently, resulting in a rapid increase in viral titer.

In contrast, daily treatment with AM-301, beginning right before inoculation, showed effective protection against viral infection. 48 hours post-infection, average virus titers were 90.0% lower than those observed in controls (p<0.05). 72 hours and 96 hours post-infection, average virus titers were 99.2 and 99.4% lower, respectively (p<0.001). Even when unbound virus was not removed daily through apical washing, allowing the virus to accumulate in the culture for 4 days, the reduction in viral titer was 92.4% compared to saline-treated controls (p<0.001).

https://ir.aurismedical.com/

Converting Electricity Into Heat And Vice Versa

A new University of Wollongong (UOW) study in Australia overcomes a major challenge of thermoelectric materials, which can convert heat into electricity and vice versa,improving conversion efficiency by more than 60%. Current and potential future applications range from low-maintenance, solid-state refrigeration to compact, zero-carbon power generation, which could include small, personal devices powered by the body’s own heat.

The decoupling of electronic (electron-based) and thermal (phonon-based) transport will be a game-changer in this industry,” says the UOW‘s Prof Xiaolin Wang.

Bismuth telluride-based materials (Bi2Te3, Sb2Te3 and their alloys) are the most successful commercially-available thermoelectric materials, with current and future applications falling into two categories: converting electricity into heat, and vice versa:

  • Converting electricity into heat: reliable, low-maintenance solid-state refrigeration (heat pump) with no moving parts, no noise, and no vibration.
  • Converting heat into electricity including fossil-free power generation from a wide range of heat sources or powering micro-devicesfor free‘, using ambient or body temperature.

Heatharvesting‘ takes advantage of the free, plentiful heat sources provided by body heat, automobiles, everyday living, and industrial process. Without the need for batteries or a power supply, thermoelectric materials could be used to power intelligent sensors in remote, inaccessible locations.

An ongoing challenge of thermoelectric materials is the balance of electrical and thermal properties: In most cases, an improvement in a material’s electrical properties (higher electrical conductivity) means a worsening of thermal properties (higher thermal conductivity), and vice versa.

The key is to decouple thermal transport and electrical transport“, says lead author, PhD student Guangsai Yang.

Source:http://www.fleet.org.au/
AND
https://www.eurekalert.org/

Human Brain Cells Gene-edited To reduce The Risk Of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease

Cells in the human brain could one day be edited by scientists to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests. The causes of Alzheimer’s are still not well understood, but a leading theory is that it is triggered by the build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid outside the brain cells. Researchers from Laval University in Canada have been investigating how a key gene in human nerve cells could reduce the formation of this protein. Many variants of this gene increases beta-amyloid production, but one variant, called A673T, instead reduces it.

A673T was first discovered in 2012, and is only active in one in 150 people in Scandinavia, but those that have it are four times less likely to get Alzheimer’s. The researchers believe that switching on this gene variant in brain cells could reduce the production of beta-amyloid and thereby reduce Alzheimer’s risk. As the A673T variant doesn’t become relevant until later in life, it isn’t selected for by evolution, according to the study authors. It differs from other variants of the gene by a single DNA letter. Researchers showed that, by editing this one DNA letter, they were able to activate the A673T variant in brain cells growing in a culture dish. Jacques Tremblay and colleagues say this is the first step to proving that engineering the variant into brains could have the same benefits as inheriting it.

The team are still refining the technique before they try it on animals. The researchers initially used a CRISPR technique called base editing, which allows the direct, irreversible conversion of a DNA base into another, targeted base. However, they have now switched to a relatively new method called prime editing – a ‘search and replace‘ technique for editing genomes that directly writes new genetic information into a targeted DNA site using a fusion protein.  Working with cells in a dish they managed to edit about 40 per cent of the cells, but they think a higher proportion might be needed for it to work in a human brain.

The researchers  worked with a process known as base editing, a relatively new method that allows the direct, irreversible conversion of a DNA base into another, targeted base
Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

How To Lure Stem Cells To A Specific Location Without Causing Inflammation

Transplanted stem cells instigate healing only after they reach a repair site, or “pathologic niche.” To help transplanted stem cells find their way, scientists have considered exploiting a natural inflammo-attraction system. It guides stem cells to inflammatory signals emitted by damaged tissue. The system, however, has usually been deemed too hot, that is, too apt to worsen inflammation and harm the body.

If only it were possible to shed the “inflammo” part of inflammo-attraction. Then, therapeutic stem cells could be deployed like smart bombs—except that they’d provide more balm than blam.

Neural stem cells maturing into astrocytes (yellow). [Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute]

The possibility has been investigated by scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP). In a recent study, they reported that they modified an inflammatory “homing” molecule to create a drug that enhances stem cell binding and minimizes inflammatory signaling. They assert that this drug, which is called SDV1a, can be injected anywhere to lure stem cells to a specific location without causing inflammation.

Details appeared online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Source: https://www.genengnews.com/

World’s Smallest Atom-Memory Unit Created

Faster, smaller, smarter and more energy-efficient chips for everything from consumer electronics to big data to brain-inspired computing could soon be on the way after engineers at The University of Texas at Austin created the smallest memory device yet. And in the process, they figured out the physics dynamic that unlocks dense memory storage capabilities for these tiny devices.

The research published recently in Nature Nanotechnology builds on a discovery from two years ago, when the researchers created what was then the thinnest memory storage device. In this new work, the researchers reduced the size even further, shrinking the cross section area down to just a single square nanometer. Getting a handle on the physics that pack dense memory storage capability into these devices enabled the ability to make them much smaller. Defects, or holes in the material, provide the key to unlocking the high-density memory storage capability.

When a single additional metal atom goes into that nanoscale hole and fills it, it confers some of its conductivity into the material, and this leads to a change or memory effect,” said Deji Akinwande, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Though they used molybdenum disulfide – also known as MoS2 – as the primary nanomaterial in their study, the researchers think the discovery could apply to hundreds of related atomically thin materials.

The race to make smaller chips and components is all about power and convenience. With smaller processors, you can make more compact computers and phones. But shrinking down chips also decreases their energy demands and increases capacity, which means faster, smarter devices that take less power to operate.

The results obtained in this work pave the way for developing future generation applications that are of interest to the Department of Defense, such as ultra-dense storage, neuromorphic computing systems, radio-frequency communication systems and more,” said Pani Varanasi, program manager for the U.S. Army Research Office, which funded the research.

The original device – dubbed “atomristor” by the research team – was at the time the thinnest memory storage device ever recorded, with a single atomic layer of thickness. But shrinking a memory device is not just about making it thinner but also building it with a smaller cross-sectional area. “The scientific holy grail for scaling is going down to a level where a single atom controls the memory function, and this is what we accomplished in the new study,” Akinwande said.

Source: https://news.utexas.edu/

Russia’s Sputnik V Coronavirus Vaccine 92% Effective

Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine is 92% effective, its developers said as the global race heats up over mass vaccination to slow the spread of the pandemic that has killed nearly 1.3 million people and battered economies worldwide.

Interim results showed that 20 of the 16,000 volunteers who received both Sputnik V doses have contracted Covid-19, the Russian Health Ministry, state-run Gamaleya research center and Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement.

As a result of a statistical analysis of 20 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates that the Sputnik V vaccine had an efficacy rate of 92% after the second dose,” the statement said.

More than 20,000 volunteers have received the first dose of Sputnik V as of Wednesday, according to Gamaleya, the Health Ministry and RDIF.

The developers said that “some” of the volunteers experienced short-term “pain at the injection site [and] flu-like syndrome including fever, weakness, fatigue and headache.” They noted that these adverse effects were expected. Sputnik V’s final, or Phase 3, trials involve a total of 40,000 volunteers at around two dozen Moscow clinics.

Separate Sputnik V injections being administered to medics and other at-risk groups outside Moscow demonstrated the vaccine’s efficacy rate of over 90%, the developers said. Officials in the Altai region of Siberia reported earlier that three out of the 42 medics who received the adenovirus vector-based vaccine there ended up contracting Covid-19.

Source: https://www.themoscowtimes.com/

New Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Coronavirus Vaccine To Cost Just £2 Per Dose

Britain could have 19million doses of Oxford and AstraZeneca‘s coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year after clinical trials showed it is up to 90 per cent effective at preventing infection and can be stored cheaply in a fridge. President of AstraZeneca, Tom Keith-Roach said today that, on top of the four million doses on standby for the UK, a further 15million could be ready to roll out by the end of next month. They will be given to healthcare workers and the elderly first, subject to approval by regulators.

The vaccine is expected to cost just £2 per dose and can be stored in ordinary equipment, unlike other jabs made by Pfizer and Moderna that showed similarly promising results last week but need to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures using expensive equipment.  It’s also a fraction of the price, with Pfizer‘s costing around £15 per dose and Moderna‘s priced at about £26 a shot.

Oxford‘s trials found the jab has a nine in ten chance of working when administered as a half dose first and then a full dose a month later. Efficacy drops to 62 per cent when someone is given two full doses a month apart.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

CRISPR Treatment Destroys Cancer Cells

Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have demonstrated that the CRISPR/Cas9 system is very effective in treating metastatic cancers, a significant step on the way to finding a cure for cancer. The researchers developed a novel lipid nanoparticle-based delivery system that specifically targets cancer cells and destroys them by genetic manipulation. The system, called CRISPR-LNPs, carries a genetic messenger (messenger RNA), which encodes for the CRISPR enzyme Cas9 that acts as molecular scissors that cut the cells’ DNA.

The revolutionary work was conducted in the laboratory of Prof. Dan Peer at TAU. Dr. Daniel Rosenblum led the research together with Ph.D. student Anna Gutkin and colleagues.

To examine the feasibility of using the technology to treat cancer, Prof. Peer and his team chose two of the deadliest cancers: glioblastoma and metastatic ovarian cancer. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of brain cancer, with a life expectancy of 15 months after diagnosis and a five-year survival rate of only 3%. The researchers demonstrated that a single treatment with CRISPR-LNPs doubled the average life expectancy of mice with glioblastoma tumors, improving their overall survival rate by about 30%. Ovarian cancer is a major cause of death among women and the most lethal cancer of the female reproductive system. Most patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease when metastases have already spread throughout the body. Despite progress in recent years, only a third of the patients survive this disease. Treatment with CRISPR-LNPs in a metastatic ovarian cancer mice model increased their overall survival rate by 80%.

The CRISPR genome editing technology, capable of identifying and altering any genetic segment, has revolutionized our ability to disrupt, repair or even replace genes in a personalized manner,” said Prof. Peer. “Despite its extensive use in research, clinical implementation is still in its infancy because an effective delivery system is needed to safely and accurately deliver the CRISPR to its target cells. The delivery system we developed targets the DNA responsible for the cancer cells’ survival. This is an innovative treatment for aggressive cancers that have no effective treatments today.

This is the first study in the world to prove that the CRISPR genome editing system can be used to treat cancer effectively in a living animal,” explained Prof. Peer. “It must be emphasized that this is not chemotherapy. There are no side effects, and a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again. The molecular scissors of Cas9 cut the cancer cell’s DNA, thereby neutralizing it and permanently preventing replication.”

The results of the groundbreaking study were published in November 2020 in Science Advances.

Source: https://english.tau.ac.il/
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 https://www.eurekalert.org/

AI Detects In Your Language Early Sign Of Alzheimer’s Disease

An artificial intelligence program analyzing language predicted whether people with no memory or thinking problems would develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life, researchers said. The study by IBM, funded by drug giant Pfizer, found a computerized model analyzing language patterns accurately predicted up to 74% of participants diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease later in lifeEarly detection of Alzheimer’s disease is crucial, as the memory-robbing disease  afflicts about 5.8 million Americans.

Many researchers are working to develop blood tests to detect Alzheimer’s before memory and thinking problems occur. Blood tests can potentially be more precise than memory and cognitive tests now used to diagnose the disease. The tests also could be a less expensive way to conduct clinical studies.

IBM officials say their study of language patterns show another possible tool for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Ajay Royyuru, IBM’s vice president of health care and life sciences research, said IBM‘s research efforts to track language shows the potential for a noninvasive test that “presents a better window for targeted interventions.”

The research analyzed more than 700 written samples from 270 participants in the decades-old Framingham Heart Study, which has collected detailed medical histories, physical exams and lab tests from thousands of participants. Participants were shown a cookie-theft picture and asked to write a description of the image. The samples were collected when participants showed no signs of memory loss. The datas predicted Alzheimer’s disease an average of 7.6 years before participants were diagnosed.

The findings are reported in the journal EClinicalMedicine.

Source: https://www.ibm.com/
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https://eu.usatoday.com/

 

Artificial Intelligence Detects 100% Of Asymptomatic COVID-19 Coughs

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed an artificial intelligence model that could distinguish between a healthy cough and one that comes from an asymptomatic coronavirus patient. The differences are nonexistent to the naked human ear, but the AI was able to accurately identify nearly 99% of coughs from people with COVID-19, including all of the coughs from individuals without symptoms. The model was trained by listening to more than 200,000 recordings of coughs and spoken words, the “largest cough dataset that we know of.”  The team said it’s working on incorporating the model into apps, and eventually smart speakers and other listening devices, so that people can consistently and conveniently be screened for coronavirus infection. This, researchers say, can help prevent asymptomatic individuals from unknowingly spreading the virus to others. What’s more, the method would be free and save you from having a cotton swab poked up your nose.

The effective implementation of this group diagnostic tool could diminish the spread of the pandemic if everyone uses it before going to a classroom, a factory, or a restaurant,” study co-author Brian Subirana, a research scientist in MIT’s Auto-ID Laboratory, said in the release. “We think this shows that the way you produce sound changes when you have COVID, even if you’re asymptomatic,” Subirana added.
When the pandemic began, the MIT scientists thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if an AI model they invented to detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease could also work to detect COVID-19. The team felt confident the model could work because there’s growing evidence that coronavirus patients experience similar symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s such as neuromuscular impairment that affects the vocal cords.

The sounds of talking and coughing are both influenced by the vocal cords and surrounding organs. This means that when you talk, part of your talking is like coughing, and vice versa,” Subirana said in the release. “It also means that things we easily derive from fluent speech, AI can pick up simply from coughs, including things like the person’s gender, mother tongue, or even emotional state. There’s in fact sentiment embedded in how you cough.”

In April, the team collected 70,000 recordings of people forcibly coughing into their cell phones or laptops, which amounted to about 200,000 cough audio samples. About 2,500 of those were submitted by people with COVID-19. Participants also had to answer surveys about symptoms they were experiencing, their COVID-19 diagnosis, gender, geographical location and native language. After using a couple thousand recordings to “train” the AI, 1,000 audio samples were used to officially test if the model can discern between a healthy and sick cough, even if the person is asymptomatic.

By listening for “vocal cord strength, sentiment, lung and respiratory performance, and muscular degradation” specific to COVID-19, the AI model identified 98.5% of coughs from coronavirus patients, and 100% of asymptomatic coughs.

Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is 95% Effective

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that a final data analysis found their coronavirus vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 and, in addition, appeared to fend off severe disease.

Vaccine, called BNT162b2, was highly effective against the virus 28 days after the first dose, and its effectiveness was consistent across all ages, races and ethnicities, the drugmakers said. Additionally, the elderly, who are seen as at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, saw vaccine effectiveness of more than 94%, they added.

The final analysis underlines the results of the positive interim efficacy analysis announced on November 9,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement. “The data indicates that our vaccine … is able to induce a high rate of protection against COVID-19 only 29 days after the first dose. In addition, the vaccine was observed to be well-tolerated in all age groups with mostly mild to moderate side effects, which may be due in part to the relatively low dose.”

The vaccine also appeared to prevent severe disease in volunteers. There were 10 cases of severe cases of COVID-19 observed in the phase three trial, with nine of the cases occurring in the placebo group, the companies said. There were also no “serious” safety concerns, they said, with most adverse events resolving shortly after vaccination. The company’s shares jumped 3% in premarket trading.

The final analysis evaluated 170 confirmed COVID-19 infections among the late-stage trial’s more than 43,000 participants. The companies said 162 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus eight cases observed in the group that received its two-dose vaccine. That resulted in an estimated vaccine efficacy of 95%, they said.

The news comes more than a week after the companies announced that their vaccine was more than 90% effective and two days after Moderna said preliminary phase three trial data showed its vaccine was 94.5%. Both vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. It’s a new approach to vaccines that uses genetic material to provoke an immune response.

A safe and effective vaccine is seen by investors and policymakers as a solution to get the global economy back on track after the pandemic wreaked havoc on nearly every country across the globe and upended businesses. The virus continues to spread rapidly, with more than 55.6 million cases worldwide and at least 1.33 million deaths as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Pfizer and BioNTech‘s initial results on Nov. 9 were based on the first interim efficacy analysis conducted by an external and independent Data Monitoring Committee from the phase three clinical trial. The independent group of experts oversees U.S. clinical trials to ensure the safety of participants. Medical experts note it remains unclear how long the vaccines will provide immunity and whether or how often people may need periodic booster shots.

These vaccines are going to be approved and then rolled out with basically a few months’ worth of data. You’re not going to do a two-year study to see whether it’s effective for two years with more than 200,000 people dying this year” in the U.S., Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a recent interview.

Pfizer said it plans to submit an application for emergency use authorization to the Food and Drug Administrationwithin days.” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said at Tuesday’s New York Times Dealbook conference that the company had accumulated enough safety data needed to submit the vaccine for review.

The companies reiterated that they expect to produce up to 50 million doses this year and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. They also said they are “confident” in their ability to distribute the vaccine, which requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Moderna‘s vaccine can be stored for up to six months at negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Source: https://www.nbcdfw.com/

Virgin Hyperloop pod transport tests first passenger journey

The futuristic transport concept involves pods inside vacuum tubes carrying passengers at high speeds.In the trial, two passengers – both company staff – travelled the length of a 500m test track in 15 seconds, reaching 107mph (172km/h).However, this is a fraction of Virgin’s ambitions for travel speeds of more than 1,000km/h.

Virgin Hyperloop is not the only firm developing the concept but nobody has carried passengers before.

Sara Luchian and Josh Giegel inside their pod

Sara Luchian, director of customer experience, was one of the two on board and described the experience as “exhilarating both psychologically and physically” to the BBC shortly after the event.

She and chief technology officer Josh Giegel wore simple fleeces and jeans rather than flights suits for the event, which took place on Sunday afternoon outside of Las Vegas. Ms Luchian said the journey was smooth and “not at all like a rollercoaster” although the acceleration was “zippier” than it would be with a longer track. Neither of them felt sick, she added.She said that their speed was hampered by the length of the track and acceleration required.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective

The Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to early data released Monday by the company, making it the second vaccine in the United States to have a stunningly high success rate.”These are obviously very exciting results,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor. “It’s just as good as it gets — 94.5% is truly outstanding.”

Moderna heard its results on a call Sunday afternoon with members of the Data Safety and Monitoring Board, an independent panel analyzing Moderna‘s clinical trial data.
It was one of the greatest moments in my life and my career. It is absolutely amazing to be able to develop this vaccine and see the ability to prevent symptomatic disease with such high efficacy,” said Dr. Tal Zacks, Moderna‘s chief medical officer.

Vaccinations could begin in the second half of December, Fauci said. Vaccinations are expected to begin with high-risk groups and to be available for the rest of the population next spring.

The company says its vaccine did not have any serious side effects. A small percentage of those who received it experienced symptoms such as body aches and headaches.
Moderna plans to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration for authorization of its vaccine soon after it accumulates more safety data later this month.

Fauci says he expects the first Covid-19 vaccinations to begin “towards the latter part of December, rather than the early part of December.”

Brain Implants Imminent

It’s inevitable that we’ll see brain implants become a common piece of technology — first for those who suffer from certain neurological disorders like epilepsy, then later on as an enhancement for the average person looking for a cognitive boost. Despite growing research and development in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), there has been little progress when it comes to the ethics of this technology.

Two new papers have been published by researchers with North Carolina State University addressing the ethical matters around BCI technology, including external devices that aren’t implanted and internal devices that are implanted in the brain. The researchers pay particular focus on implanted BCIs and such technologies intended for cognitive enhancement.

Put simply, BCI devices are designed to take brain signals and translate them into data for a computer to utilize. Perhaps the best example of such technology comes from Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which recently gave a demonstration of a brain implant involving pigs. Musk presented the technology as promising for people suffering from neurological conditions, among other things.

The invasive devices are more efficient, since they can read signals directly from the brain. However, they also raise more ethical concerns. For example, invasive BCI technologies carry more associated risks such as surgery, infection, and glial scarring – and invasive BCI devices would be more difficult to replace as technology improves.” said Veljko Dubljević, a co-author on both of the new papers, pointing out the particularly tricky issue of implants.

Among other things, the papers note that there are two areas, in particular, that should get priority when it comes to exploring ethical considerations: the psychological and physical effects of brain-computer interfaces. Multiple issues are presented, including the potential long-term effects of these devices, whether it is ethical to use animals to test invasive technologies, and what kind of psychological effects may manifest related to various BCI technologies.

The researchers present one example of potential unwanted psychological outcomes, noting a study in which people with epilepsy were given an advanced warning of seizures via an invasive BCI — and some of those patients went on to develop ‘radical psychological distress’ as a result. The researchers also explore the potential future use of BCIs for enhancing cognition, a technological future that would expand beyond the current trend of using ‘smart drugs.’ If someone with an enhancing implant takes a test, are the results ‘authenticas they would be from someone who doesn’t have a BCI?

Source: https://www.slashgear.com/

Bringing drugs to the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases

The blood-brain barrier is the main obstacle in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson. According to a recent study conducted by Jean-Michel Rabanel, a postdoctoral researcher under the supervision of Professor Charles Ramassamy, nanoparticles with specific properties could cross this barrier and be captured by neuronal cells. Researchers are confident that these results will open important prospects for releasing drugs directly to the brain. This breakthrough finding would enable improved treatment for neurodegenerative diseases affecting more than 565,000 Canadians, including 141,000 Quebecers.

The blood-brain barrier filters out harmful substances to prevent them from freely reaching the brain. But this same barrier also blocks the passage of drugs,” explains the pharmacologist Charles Ramassamy. Typically, high doses are required to get a small amount of the drug into the brain. What remains in the bloodstream has significant side effects. Often, this discomfort leads the patient to stop the treatment.  The use of nanoparticles, which encapsulate the drugs, would result in fewer collateral side effects while increasing brain efficiency.

To prove the effectiveness of this method, the research team first tested it on cultured cells, then on zebrafish. “This species offers several advantages. Its blood-brain barrier is similar to that of humans and its transparent skin makes it possible to see nanoparticles’ distribution almost in real time,” says Professor Ramassamy, Chairholder of the Louise and André Charron Research Chair on Alzheimer’s disease, from the Fondation Armand-Frappier.

Using in vivo tests, researchers were able to observe the crossing of the blood-brain barrier. They also confirmed the absence of toxicity in the library of selected nanoparticles. “We made the particles with polylactic acid (PLA), a biocompatible material that is easily eliminated by the body. A layer of polyethylene glycol (PEG) covers these nanoparticles and makes them invisible to the immune system, so they can longer circulate in the bloodstream,” he explains.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Controlled Release.

http://www.inrs.ca

Mask-wearing Protects You, Not Just Those Around You.

Breaking from its tentative recommendations on mask use thus far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday that using masks benefits wearers, which is a step beyond its previous declaration that said wearing masks would only protect those around them.

Experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread” of the virus, the C.D.C. said in a document that details scientific evidence supporting mask use. “Individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use,” it said.

The unequivocal statements are a departure from the agency’s previous language, which suggested that “the latest science may convince” Americans to wear masks and that mask use could prevent an infected person from spreading the virus to others. “The main protection individuals gain from masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face coverings,” it said.

The agency also offered an economic argument, saying that increasing the proportion of people who wear masks by 15 percent could prevent the need for lockdowns and cut associated losses of up to $1 trillion, or about 5 percent of gross domestic product. The document also referred to a study of 124 Beijing households in which mask use significantly cut transmission of the virus, and an outbreak aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt in which face coverings appeared to have reduced risk of infection by 70 percent.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/

Pfizer And Biontech Announce Vaccine Against COVID-19

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) and BioNTech SE (Nasdaq: BNTX) today announced their mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, against SARS-CoV-2 has demonstrated evidence of efficacy against COVID-19 in participants without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, based on the first interim efficacy analysis conducted on November 8, 2020 by an external, independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) from the Phase 3 clinical study.

After discussion with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the companies recently elected to drop the 32-case interim analysis and conduct the first interim analysis at a minimum of 62 cases. Upon the conclusion of those discussions, the evaluable case count reached 94 and the DMC performed its first analysis on all cases. The case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90%, at 7 days after thed second dose. This means that protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, which consists of a 2-dose schedule. As the study continues, the final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary. The DMC has not reported any serious safety concerns. 

Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO. “We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen. With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

Source: https://www.pfizer.com/

Spread Of Mutated Coronavirus In Danish Mink

Denmark set off alarm bells this week with its announcement that it is culling the nation’s entire mink herd — the largest in the world — to stop spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the prized fur species because of potentially dangerous mutationsInter-species jumps of viruses make scientists nervous — as do suggestions of potentially significant mutations that result from those jumps. In this case, Danish authorities say they’ve found some genetic changes that might undermine the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines currently in development. But is this latest twist in the Covid-19 saga reason to be deeply concerned?

This hits all the scary buttons,” noted Carl Bergstrom, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington. But Bergstrom and others argued that while the virus’s penchant for infecting mink bears watching, it isn’t likely to lead to a nightmare strain that is more effective at infecting peoplethan the current human virus.

I don’t believe that a strain which gets adapted to mink poses a higher risk to humans,” said Francois Balloux, director of University College London’s Genetics Institute. “We can never rule out anything, but in principle it shouldn’t. It should definitely not increase transmission. I don’t see any good reason why it should make the virus more severe,” he said.

Let’s take a look at what’s known about the Danish situation, why inter-species jumps make scientists nervous, whether the mutations are likely to affect vaccine effectiveness, and why Balloux thinks this situation is “fantastically interesting.” Denmark is the world’s largest producer of mink — by some estimates 40%. Unfortunately, mink are susceptible to the SARS-2 virus, a fact that came to light in April when the Netherlands reported outbreaks on mink farms there. Infected humans who work in the farms transmit the virus to captive minks, which are housed in close quarters ideal for rapid transmission from mink to mink.

 

Occasionally, the mink infect people — a phenomenon recorded in both the Netherlands and in Denmark. In a statement, the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food said the country would cull its entire herd — estimated to be about 17 million animals — after finding mutations in the viruses from the mink that it believes would allow those viruses to evade the immune protection generated by Covid-19 vaccines.

Source: https://www.statnews.com/

How To Regenerate Optic Nerve Cells

Scientists have found a new way to regenerate damaged optic nerve cells taken from mice and grown in a dish. This exciting development could lead to potential eye disease treatments in the future. Damage to full-grown nerve cells causes irreversible and life-altering consequences, because once nerve fibres mature, they lose their ability to regenerate after injury or disease. The new experiments show how activating part of a nerve cell’s regenerative machinery, a protein known as protrudin, could stimulate nerves in the eye to regrow after injury.

With more research, the achievement is a step towards future treatments for glaucoma, a group of eye diseases which cause vision loss by damaging the optic nerve (that links the eye to the brain).

What we’ve seen is the strongest regeneration of any technique we’ve used before,said ophthalmologist Keith Martin from the University of Melbourne in Australia. “In the past it seemed impossible we would be able to regenerate the optic nerve but this research shows the potential of gene therapy to do this.”

In this study, scientists stimulated nerve cells of the eye to produce more protrudin, to see if this would help protect the cells from damage and even repair after injury. First, in optical nerve cells cultured in a dish, the researchers showed that ramping up protrudin production stimulated regeneration of nerve cells that had been cut by a laser. Their spindly axons regenerated over longer distances, and in less time, than untreated cells.  Next, adult mice were administered gene therapy – an injection straight into the eye – carrying instructions for nerve cells to bump up protrudin production. As painful as that sounds, this procedure can actually be done safely in people (the injection, that is, not yet the gene therapy).

A few weeks and one optic nerve injury later, these mice had more surviving nerve cells in their retinas than the control group did. In one final experiment, the scientists used whole retinas from mice removed two weeks after giving them a protrudin boost, to see if this treatment could prevent nerve cells from dying in the first place. The researchers found, three days later, that stimulating protrudin production had been almost “entirely neuroprotective, with these retinas exhibiting no loss of [retinal] neurons,” the researchers wrote in their paper. Usually, about half of retinal neurons removed in this way die within a couple of days.

“Our strategy relies on using gene therapy – an approach already in clinical use – to deliver protrudin into the eye,” said Veselina Petrova, a neuroscience student at the University of Cambridge. “It’s possible our treatment could be further developed as a way of protecting retinal neurons from death, as well as stimulating their axons to regrow.”

Source: https://www.cam.ac.uk/

Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Detects Signs 20 years Before Falter

A new blood test detected Alzheimer’s disease as accurately as expensive brain scans or spinal taps, raising the possibility for a new, inexpensive option to diagnose the most common form of dementia, researchers said. Researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference presented the results of multiple studies of whether a blood test could distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other forms of dementia.

In one study published in JAMA, researchers said the blood test could could identify Alzheimer’s disease and even detected signs of disease 20 years before cognitive problems were expected in a group of people who carry a rare genetic mutation. A blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease early could be more precise than memory and thinking tests now used to diagnose the disease. Invasive and expensive brain scans and spinal taps that measure spinal fluid are used, but insurance does not always cover those tests. Researchers reported the blood test measuring the protein tau accurately distinguished Alzheimer’s from other forms of dementia in 89% to 98% of cases.

It is a promising blood test that seems to be highly accurate and seems to detect (Alzheimer’s) relatively early,” said Dr. Eric Reiman, a researcher in one of the studies and executive director of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix

But experts warned it could take a few years to validate a blood test as a reliable option for both doctors and researchers. And would patients want to know they are destined to develop memory and thinking problems if there are no reliable medications to slow the deadly disease?

Randall J. Bateman, a Washington University neurology professor and Alzheimer’s researcher, said blood tests could be useful both for patients and doctors as well scientists studying new drugs to slow the mind-robbing disease. Doctors might use the test to accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier and begin treatments with existing Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs that ease symptoms, if not mental decline. But perhaps the bigger payoff would come for accelerating research for new drugs that seek to slow or halt a disease that afflicts 5.8 million older Americans. Drug companies for decades have developed therapies targeting amyloid proteins on the theory it is responsible for scuttling memory and thinking in Alzheimer’s patients. Some recent studies have sought to administer drugs targeting these proteins before memory and thinking problems emerge.

Source: https://jamanetwork.com/ 
And
https://eu.usatoday.com/

Transparent Solar Cells To Boost Personalized Energy

Today, the imminent climate change crisis demands a shift from conventionally used fossil fuels to efficient sources of green energy. This has led to researchers looking into the concept of “personalized energy,” which would make on-site energy generation possible. For example, solar cells could possibly be integrated into windows, vehicles, cellphone screens, and other everyday products. But for this, it is important for the solar panels to be handy and transparent. To this end, scientists have recently developed “transparent photovoltaic” (TPV) devices–transparent versions of the traditional solar cell. Unlike the conventionally dark, opaque solar cells (which absorb visible light), TPVs make use of the “invisible light that falls in the ultraviolet (UV) range.

Conventional solar cells can be either “wet type” (solution based) or “dry type” (made up of metal-oxide semiconductors). Of these, dry-type solar cells have a slight edge over the wet-type ones: they are more reliable, eco-friendly, and cost-effective. Moreover, metal-oxides are well-suited to make use of the UV light. Despite all this, however, the potential of metal-oxide TPVs has not been fully explored until now. To this end, researchers from Incheon National University, Republic of Korea, came up with an innovative design for a metal-oxide-based TPV device. They inserted an ultra-thin layer of silicon (Si) between two transparent metal-oxide semiconductors with the goal of developing an efficient TPV device.

Our aim was to devise a high-power-producing transparent solar cell, by embedding an ultra-thin film of amorphous Si between zinc oxide and nickel oxide,” explains Prof Joondong Kim, who led the study.

This novel design consisting of the Si film had three major advantages. First, it allowed for the utilization of longer-wavelength light (as opposed to bare TPVs). Second, it resulted in efficient photon collection. Third, it allowed for the faster transport of charged particles to the electrodes. Moreover, the design can potentially generate electricity even under low-light situations (for instance, on cloudy or rainy days). The scientists further confirmed the power-generating ability of the device by using it to operate the DC motor of a fan.

These findings has been published in a study in Nano Energy.

Source: http://www.inu.ac.kr/

Priming The Immune System To Attack Cancer

Immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibitor drugs, have made worlds of difference for the treatment of cancer. Most clinicians and scientists understand these drugs to act on what’s known as the adaptive immune system, the T cells and B cells that respond to specific threats to the body.

New research from an international team co-led by George Hajishengallis of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine suggests that the innate immune system, which responds more generally to bodily invaders, may be an important yet overlooked component of immunotherapy’s success.

Their work, published in the journal Cell, found that “training” the innate immune system with β-glucan, a compound derived from fungus, inspired the production of innate immune cells, specifically neutrophils, that were primed to prevent or attack tumors in an animal model.

The focus in immunotherapy is placed on adaptive immunity, like checkpoint inhibitors inhibit the interaction between cancer cells and T cells,” says Hajishengallis, a co-senior author on the work. “The innate immune cells, or myeloid cells, have not been considered so important. Yet our work suggests the myeloid cells can play a critical role in regulating tumor behavior.”

The current study builds on earlier work published in Cell by Hajishengallis and a multi-institutional team of collaborators, which showed that trained immunity, elicited through exposure to exposure to the fungus-derived compound β-glucan, could improve immune recovery after chemotherapy in a mouse model.

In that previous study, the researchers also showed that the “memory” of the innate immune system was held within the bone marrow, in hematopoetic stem cells that serve as precursors of myeloid cells, such as neutrophils, monocytes, and macrophages.

Source: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/

How To Create a Spectrum of Natural-looking Hair Colors

We’ve long been warned of the risks of dyeing hair at home and in salons. Products used can cause allergies and skin irritation — an estimated one percent of people have an allergy to dye. Furthermore, repeated use of some dyes has been linked to cancer. But there soon may be a solution for the growing list of salons and hair color enthusiasts searching for natural alternatives to dyes and cosmetics.

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new way to create a spectrum of natural-looking hair colors, ranging from blond to black, by using enzymes to catalyze synthetic melaninMelanin is an enigmatic and ubiquitous material often found in the form of brown or black pigment. Northwestern’s Nathan Gianneschi, the research lead and associate director for the International Institute for Nanotechnology, said every type of organism produces melanin, making it a readily available and versatile material to use in the lab.

Synthetic melanin can create colors ranging from blond to black

In humans, it’s in the back of our eye to help with vision, it’s in our skin to help with protecting skin cells from UV damage,” Gianneschi said. “But birds also use it as a spectacular color display — peacock feathers are made of melanin entirely.”

Gianneschi is Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of materials science and engineering and biomedical engineering in Northwestern Engineering. Claudia Battistella, a postdoctoral fellow in Gianneschi’s lab, is the paper’s first author.

The research was published in the journal Chemistry of Materials.

Source: https://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/

Scientists Identify Prolific And Dangerous New Coronavirus Strain

A coronavirus strain that emerged in Spain in June has spread across Europe and now makes up a large proportion of infections in several countries, researchers said, highlighting the role of travel in the pandemic and the need to track mutations. The variant, which has not been found to be inherently more dangerous, was first identified among farm workers in the eastern Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia.

Over the last two months, it has accounted for close to 90% of new infections in Spain, according to the research paper, authored by seven researchers with backing by Swiss and Spanish public-sector science institutions. It was posted on a so-called preprint server  https://www.medrxiv.org/ and is yet to be peer reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

https://sports.yahoo.com/

Everybody Can Now Get A COVID-19 Vaccine In China

Li Shurui didn’t hesitate. Faced with putting his life on hold indefinitely or the risk of catching COVID-19 by returning to university in the U.K., the 22-year-old business student decided to roll up his sleeve and receive an experimental coronavirus vaccine.

Two injections of CoronaVac made by SinoVac (otherwise known as Beijing Kexing Bioproducts) cost 2,000 rmb ($300) at the private Taihe Hospital in the Chinese capital. The treatment still hasn’t passed final (Stage 3) clinical trials but is already being offered to the public on a first come, first served basis. Anyone can turn up, pay their money and get the jab. Li says hundreds were queuing to get immunized at the same time as him.

I’m a little worried about side effects but more worried catching the virus overseas,” says Li . “But I haven’t had any problems from the jabs so far.”

It’s not just the CoronaVac vaccine on offer in China. An unofficial vaccine rollout is gathering pace despite the warnings of international public health experts. In September, state-owned SinoPharm revealed that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had already taken its experimental COVID-19 vaccines as part of a state initiative to protect frontline health workers and officials traveling to high-risk nations. In the eastern manufacturing hub of Yiwu this week, hundreds of people queued for a $60 dose of CoronaVac.

This is insane,” Adam Kamradt-Scott, associate professor specializing in global health security at the University of Sydney, says of China’s gung-ho vaccine rollout. “It is just unsound public health practice. We have previous examples of where vaccines that have not gone through sufficient clinical trials have demonstrated adverse reactions with long-term health consequences.

But it’s not just China that’s getting ahead of itself. U.S. President Donald Trump has put enormous public pressure on regulators and pharmaceutical companies to make a vaccine available in time for the American election. On Oct. 16, Pfizer revealed it may begin rolling out its vaccine for emergency use in the U.S. by late November. Moderna has a similar timeline for emergency use, though cautions widespread vaccine distribution may not happen until the spring.

Source: https://time.com/

Reprogramming Blood Cells To Fight Against COVID-19

Scientists report that they have successfully created airway basal stem cells in vitro from induced pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming blood cells taken from patients. Given that airway basal cells are defined as stem cells of the airways because they can regenerate the airway epithelium in response to injury, this study may help accelerate research on diseases impacting the airway, including COVID-19, influenza, asthma, and cystic fibrosis, according to the team led by researchers at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Boston Medical Center and Boston University (CReM), in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

These findings represent a critical first step towards airway regeneration, which will advance the field of regenerative medicine as it relates to airway and lung diseases, added the scientists.

The study, “Derivation of Airway Basal Stem Cells from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells,” published in Cell Stem Cell, outlines how to generate and purify large quantities of airway basal stem cells using patient samples. This allows for the development of individual, disease-specific airway basal stem cells in a lab that can be used to develop disease models, which may ultimately lead to drug development and a platform in which targeted drug approaches can be tested.

The study’s findings and cells will be shared freely given the CReM’s “Open Source Biology” philosophy, or sharing of information and findings that will help advance science across the globe.

Human lungs, computer illustration.

Human Airway Basal Stem Cells

The derivation of tissue-specific stem cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) would have broad reaching implications for regenerative medicine. Here, we report the directed differentiation of human iPSCs into airway basal cells (iBCs), a population resembling the stem cell of the airway epithelium,” the investigators wrote.

Simply put, we have developed a way to reproduce patient-specific airway basal cells in the lab, with the ultimate goal of being able to regenerate the airway for patients with airway diseases,” said Finn Hawkins, MB, a pulmonologist and physician-scientist at Boston Medical Center, principal investigator in the CReM and the Pulmonary Center, and the study’s first author.

These results could lead to a better understanding, and therefore treatments for, a variety of airway diseases,” noted Shingo Suzuki, PhD, co-first author and post-doctoral researcher at UTHealth. For example, cystic fibrosis is caused by a genetic mutation that is present in all of the airway cells. “If we could make pluripotent stem cells using a sample from a patient who has cystic fibrosis, correct the mutation and replace the defective airway cells with corrected airway basal cells that are otherwise genetically identical, we might eventually be able to cure the disease, and other diseases in the future using this same technology,” added Hawkins.

Source: https://www.genengnews.com/

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 Vaccine Produces An Immune Response in Older People

Immunogenicity responses similar between older and younger adults

One of the world’s leading COVID-19 experimental vaccines produces a immune response in both old and young adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus.  The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L, which is helping manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday. A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people.

It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said.

https://uk.reuters.com

Hair Loss Pre­ven­ted By Reg­u­lat­ing Stem Cell Meta­bol­ism

An international research group headed by Associate Professor Sara Wickström at the University of Helsinki has identified a mechanism that is likely to prevent hair lossHair follicle stem cells, which promote hair growth, can prolong their life by switching their metabolic state. In experiments conducted with mice, a research group active in Helsinki and Cologne, Germany, has demonstrated that a protein called Rictor holds a key role in the process. Ultraviolet radiation and other environmental factors damage our skin and other tissues every day, with the body continuously removing and renewing the damaged tissue. On average, humans shed daily 500 million cells and a quantity of hairs weighing a total of 1.5 grams. The dead material is replaced by specialised stem cells that promote tissue growth. Tissue function is dependent on the activity and health of these stem cells, as impaired activity results in the ageing of the tissues.

Hair follicle stem cells, which promote hair growth, can prolong their life by switching their metabolic state.

Although the critical role of stem cells in ageing is established, little is known about the mechanisms that regulate the long-term maintenance of these important cells. The hair follicle with its well understood functions and clearly identifiable stem cells was a perfect model system to study this important question,” says Sara Wickström.

At the end of hair folliclesregenerative cycle, the moment a new hair is created, stem cells return to their specific location and resume a quiescent state. The key finding in the new study is that this return to the stem cell state requires a change in the cells’ metabolic state. They switch from glutamine-based metabolism and cellular respiration to glycolysis,

a shift triggered by signalling induced by a protein called Rictor, in response to the low oxygen concentration in the tissue. Correspondingly, the present study demonstrated that the absence of the Rictor protein impaired the reversibility of the stem cells, initiating a slow exhaustion of the stem cells and hair loss caused by ageing.

The research group created a genetic mouse model to study the function of the Rictor protein, observing that hair follicle regeneration and cycle were significantly delayed in mice lacking the protein. Ageing mice suffering from Rictor deficiency showed a gradual decrease in their stem cell, resulting in loss of hair.

The study was published in the Cell Metabolism journal.

Source: https://www.helsinki.fi/

How The Coronavirus Infects Human Cells

Tiny artificial lungs grown in a lab from adult stem cells have allowed scientists to watch how coronavirus infects the lungs in a new ‘major breakthrough‘. Researchers from Duke University and Cambridge University produced artificial lungs in two independent and separate studies to examine the spread of Covid-19. The ‘living lung‘ models minimic the tiny air sacs that take up the oxygen we breathe, known to be where most serious lung damage from the deadly virus takes place.   Having access to the models to test the spread of SAS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, will allow researchers to test potential drugs and gain a better understanding of why some people suffer from the disease worse than others.

In both studies the 3D min-lung models were grown from stem cells that repair the deepest portions of the lungs when SARS-CoV-2 attacks – known as alveolar cells. To date, there have been more than 40 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 1.13 million deaths worldwide. The main target tissues of SARS-CoV-2, especially in patients that develop pneumonia, appear to be alveoli, according to the Cambridge team. They extracted the alveoli cells from donated tissue and reprogrammed them back to their earlierstem cell‘ stage and forced them to grow into self-organising alveolar-like 3D structures that mimic the behaviour of key lung tissue. Dr Joo-Hyeon Lee, co-senior author of the Cambridge paper, said we still know surprisingly little about how SARS-CoV-2 infects the lungs and causes disease.

Representative image of three – dimensional human lung alveolar organoid produced by the Cambridge and Korean researchers to better understand SARS-CoV-2

Our approach has allowed us to grow 3D models of key lung tissue – in a sense, “mini-lungs” – in the lab and study what happens when they become infected.’

Duke researchers took a similar approach. The team, led by Duke cell biologist Purushothama Rao Tata, say their model will allow for hundreds of experiments to be run simultaneously to screen for new drug candidates. ‘This is a versatile model system that allows us to study not only SARS-CoV-2, but any respiratory virus that targets these cells, including influenza,‘ Tata said.

Both teams infected models with a strain of SARS-CoV-2 to better understand who the virus spreads and what happens in the lung cells in response to the disease. The Cambridge team worked with researchers from South Korea to take a sample of the virus from a patient who was infected in January after travelling to Wuhan. Using a combination of fluorescence imaging and single cell genetic analysis, they were able to study how the cells responded to the virus.

When the 3D models were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus began to replicate rapidly, reaching full cellular infection just six hours after infectionReplication enables the virus to spread throughout the body, infecting other cells and tissue, explained the Cambridge research team. Around the same time, the cells began to produce interferonsproteins that act as warning signals to neighbouring cells, telling them to activate their defences. After 48 hours, the interferons triggered the innate immune response – its first line of defence – and the cells started fighting back against infectionSixty hours after infection, a subset of alveolar cells began to disintegrate, leading to cell death and damage to the lung tissue.

Source: https://today.duke.edu/

Covid-19 : Close Contact With Someone To Include Cumulative Exposure

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its definition of a close contact with a Covid-19 patient to include multiple, brief exposures, director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday.

The new definition includes exposures adding up to a total of 15 minutes spent six feet or closer to an infected person. Previously, the CDC defined a close contact as 15 minutes of continuous exposure to an infected individual.

The agency changed the definition after a report from Vermont of a corrections officer who became infected after several brief interactions with coronavirus-positive inmates – none of them lasting 15 minutes, but adding up over time.

As we get more data and understand the science of Covid, we are going to incorporate that in our recommendations,” Redfield said at a news conference held at CDC headquarters in Atlanta. “Originally, contact that was considered to be high risk for potential exposure to Covid was someone within six feet for more than 15 minutes.”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/

How To Bring Hydrogen Into Your Home

Australian-based venture LAVO, a university spin-off that has developed an innovative hydrogen-based energy storage system for homes and businesses, is one step closer to commercialisation, announcing that the technology is now ‘commercially-ready’ and will soon start taking orders for the first systems.

The LAVO system has been developed by researchers at the University of New South Wales, and uses compressed hydrogen as the main medium for energy storage. The company says that by using hydrogen, the LAVO device can offer three times the amount of energy storage compared to other devices of similar size, and offers double the operational life.

The LAVO system utilises a metal hydride material, which absorbs hydrogen that provides a safe and stable medium for storing hydrogen over the long-term.

LAVO said the system would be available for advanced purchase in November, with the first systems ready for installation in June 2021.

Source: https://lavo.com.au/ 
AND
https://reneweconomy.com.au/

All-Terrain NanoRobot Flips Through A Live Colon

A rectangular robot as tiny as a few human hairs can travel throughout a colon by doing back flips, Purdue University engineers have demonstrated in live animal models. Why the back flips? Because the goal is to use these robots to transport drugs in humans, whose colons and other organs have rough terrain. Side flips work, too. Why a back-flipping robot to transport drugs? Getting a drug directly to its target site could remove side effects, such as hair loss or stomach bleeding, that the drug may otherwise cause by interacting with other organs along the way.

The study, published in the journal Micromachines, is the first demonstration of a microrobot tumbling through a biological system in vivo. Since it is too small to carry a battery, the microrobot is powered and wirelessly controlled from the outside by a magnetic field.


CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

When we apply a rotating external magnetic field to these robots, they rotate just like a car tire would to go over rough terrain,” said David Cappelleri, a Purdue associate professor of mechanical engineering. “The magnetic field also safely penetrates different types of mediums, which is important for using these robots in the human body.

The researchers chose the colon for in vivo experiments because it has an easy point of entry – and it’s very messy. “Moving a robot around the colon is like using the people-walker at an airport to get to a terminal faster. Not only is the floor moving, but also the people around you,” said Luis Solorio, an assistant professor in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. “In the colon, you have all these fluids and materials that are following along the path, but the robot is moving in the opposite direction. It’s just not an easy voyage.

But this magnetic microrobot can successfully tumble throughout the colon despite these rough conditions, the researchers’ experiments showed. The team conducted the in vivo experiments in the colons of live mice under anesthesia, inserting the microrobot in a saline solution through the rectum. They used ultrasound equipment to observe in real time how well the microrobot moved around.

Source: https://www.purdue.edu/

Covid-19: Type O blood Divides By 2 The Risk Of Intubation

Research is coalescing around the idea that people with Type O blood may have a slight advantage during this pandemicTwo studies published this week suggest that people with Type O have a lower risk of getting the coronavirus, as well as a reduced likelihood of getting severely sick if they do get infected. One of the new studies specifically found that COVID-19 patients with Type O or B blood spent less time in an intensive-care unit than their counterparts with Type A or AB. They were also less likely to require ventilation and less likely to experience kidney failure.

These new findings echo similar findings about Type O blood seen in previous research, creating a clearer picture of one particular coronavirus risk factor. Both new studies came out Wednesday in the journal Blood AdvancesOne looked at 95 critically ill COVID-19 patients at hospitals in Vancouver, Canada, between February and April. They found that patients with Type O or B blood spent, on average, 4.5 fewer days in the intensive-care unit than those with Type A or AB blood. The latter group stayed, on average, 13.5 days in the ICU. The researchers did not see any link between blood type and the patient’s total hospital stay, however. They did, however, find that only 61 percent of the patients with Type O or B blood required a ventilator, compared to 84 percent of patients with Type A or AB.

Patients with Type A or AB, meanwhile, were also more likely to need dialysis, a procedure that helps the kidneys filter toxins from the blood.

“Patients in these two blood groups may have an increased risk of organ dysfunction or failure due to COVID-19 than people with blood types O or B,” the study authors concluded.

A June study found a similar link: Patients in Italy and Spain with Type O blood had a 50 percent reduced risk of severe coronavirus infection (meaning they needed intubation or supplemental oxygen) compared to patients with other blood types.

The second new study found that people with Type O blood may be at a lower risk of getting he coronavirus in the first place relative to people with other blood types. The team examined nearly half a million people in the Netherlands who were tested for COVID-19 between late February and late July. Of the roughly 4,600 people who tested positive and reported their blood type, 38.4 percent had Type O blood. That’s lower than the prevalence of Type O in a population of 2.2 million Danish people, 41.7 percent, so the researchers determined that people with Type O blood had disproportionately avoided infection. “Blood group O is significantly associated with reduced susceptibility,” the authors wrote.

In general, your blood type depends on the presence or absence of proteins called A and B antigens on the surface of red blood cells – a genetic trait inherited from your parents. People with O blood have neither antigen. It’s the most common blood type: About 48 percent of Americans have Type O bloodaccording to the Oklahoma Blood Institute.

The new studies about blood type and coronavirus risk align with prior research on the topic. A study published in July found that people with Type O were less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than those with other blood types. An April study, too, (though it has yet to be peer-reviewed) found that among 1,559 coronavirus patients in New York City, a lower proportion than would be expected had Type O blood.

And in March, a study of more than 2,100 coronavirus patients in the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Shenzhen also found that people with Type O blood had a lower risk of infection.

Past research has also suggested that people with Type O blood were less susceptible to SARS, which shares 80 percent of its genetic code with the new coronavirusA 2005 study in Hong Kong found that most individuals infected with SARS had non-O blood types. Despite this growing body of evidence, however, Mypinder Sekhon, a co-author of the Vancouver study, said the link is still tenuous.

I don’t think this supersedes other risk factors of severity like age and comorbidities and so forth,” he told CNN, adding, “if one is blood group A, you don’t need to start panicking. And if you’re blood group O, you’re not free to go to the pubs and bars.”

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/

COVID-19 Thirty Seconds Test Has Successful Results

Rapid detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in about 30 seconds following the test, has had successful preliminary results in Mano Misra’s lab at the University of Nevada, Reno. The test uses a nanotube-based electrochemical biosensor, a similar technology that Misra has used in the past for detecting tuberculosis and colorectal cancer as well as detection of biomarkers for food safety.

Professor Misra, in the University’s College of Engineering Chemical and Materials Department, has been working on nano-sensors for 10 years. He has expertise in detecting a specific biomarker in tuberculosis patients’ breath using a metal functionalized nano sensor.

Testing a nanotube-based electrochemical biosensor

I thought that similar technology can be used to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a folded protein,” Misra said. “

This is Point of Care testing to assess the exposure to COVID-19. We do not need a laboratory setting or trained health care workers to administer the test. Electrochemical biosensors are advantageous for sensing purposes as they are sensitive, accurate and simple.”

The test does not require a blood sample, it is run using a nasal swab or even exhaled breath, which has biomarkers of COVID-19. Misra and his team have successfully demonstrated a simple, inexpensive, rapid and non-invasive diagnostic platform that has the potential to effectively detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The team includes Associate Professor Subhash Verma, virologist, and Research Scientist Timsy Uppal at the University’s School of Medicine, and Misra’s post-doctoral researcher Bhaskar Vadlamani.

Our role on this project is to provide viral material to be used for detection by the nanomaterial sensor developed by Mano,” Verma said. “Mano contacted me back in April or May and asked whether we can collaborate to develop a test to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection by analyzing patients’ breath. That’s where we came in, to provide biological material and started with providing the surface protein of the virus, which can be used for detecting the presence of the virus.”

Source: https://www.unr.edu

How To Protect Cells From Premature Aging

Molecules that accumulate at the tip of chromosomes are known to play a key role in preventing damage to our DNA. Now, researchers at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland) have unraveled how these molecules home in on specific sections of chromosomes—a finding that could help to better understand the processes that regulate cell survival in aging and cancer.

Much like an aglet of a shoelace prevents the end of the lace from fraying, stretches of DNA called telomeres form protective caps at the ends of chromosomes. But as cells divide, telomeres become shorter, making the protective cap less effective. Once telomeres get too short, the cell stops dividing. Telomere shortening and malfunction have been linked to cell aging and age-related diseases, including cancer.

A new study by EPFL researchers shows how RNA species called TERRA muster at the tip of chromosomes, where they help to prevent telomere shortening and premature cell aging

Scientists have known that RNA species called TERRA help to regulate the length and function of telomeres. Discovered in 2007 by postdoc Claus Azzalin in the team of EPFL Professor Joachim Lingner, TERRA belongs to a class of molecules called noncoding RNAs, which are not translated into proteins but function as structural components of chromosomes. TERRA accumulates at chromosome ends, signaling that telomeres should be elongated or repaired.

However, it was unclear how TERRA got to the tip of chromosomes and remained there. “The telomere makes up only a tiny bit of the total chromosomal DNA, so the question is ‘how does this RNA find its home?’”, Lingner says. To address this question, postdoc Marianna Feretzaki and others in the teams of Joachim Lingner at EPFL and Lumir Krejci at Masaryk University set out to analyze the mechanism through which TERRA accumulates at telomeres, as well as the proteins involved in this process. The findings are published in Nature.

By visualizing TERRA molecules under a microscope, the researchers found that a short stretch of the RNA is crucial to bring it to telomeres. Further experiments showed that once TERRA reaches the tip of chromosomes, several proteins regulate its association with telomeres. Among these proteins, one called RAD51 plays a particularly important role, Lingner says.

RAD51 is a well-known enzyme that is involved in the repair of broken DNA molecules. The protein also seems to help TERRA stick to telomeric DNA to form a so-called “RNA-DNA hybrid molecule”. Scientists thought this type of reaction, which leads to the formation of a three-stranded nucleic acid structure, mainly happened during DNA repair. The new study shows that it can also happen at chromosome ends when TERRA binds to telomeres. “This is paradigm-shifting,” Lingner says.

The researchers also found that short telomeres recruit TERRA much more efficiently than long telomeres. Although the mechanism behind this phenomenon is unclear, the researchers hypothesize that when telomeres get too short, either due to DNA damage or because the cell has divided too many times, they recruit TERRA molecules. This recruitment is mediated by RAD51, which also promotes the elongation and repair of telomeres. “TERRA and RAD51 help to prevent accidental loss or shortening of telomeres,” Lingner says. “That’s an important function.”

Source: https://actu.epfl.ch/

Algorithms Boost Cell Therapy

Cellular therapy is a powerful strategy to produce patient-specific, personalised cells to treat many diseases, including heart disease and neurological disorders. But a major challenge for cell therapy applications is keeping cells alive and well in the lab.

That may soon change as researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, and Monash University, Australia, have devised an algorithm that can predict what molecules are needed to keep cells healthy in laboratory cultures. They developed a computational approach called EpiMogrify, that can predict the molecules needed to signal stem cells to change into specific tissue cells, which can help accelerate treatments that require growing patient cells in the lab.

Computational biology is rapidly becoming a key enabler in cell therapy, providing a way to short-circuit otherwise expensive and time-consuming discovery approaches with cleverly designed algorithms,” said Assistant Professor Owen Rackham, a computational biologist at Duke-NUS, and a senior and corresponding author of the study, published today in the journal Cell Systems.

In the laboratory, cells are often grown and maintained in cell cultures, formed of a substance, called a medium, which contains nutrients and other molecules. It has been an ongoing challenge to identify the necessary molecules to maintain high-quality cells in culture, as well as finding molecules that can induce stem cells to convert to other cell types.

The research team developed a computer model called EpiMogrify that successfully identified molecules to add to cell culture media to maintain healthy nerve cells, called astrocytes, and heart cells, called cardiomyocytes. They also used their model to successfully predict molecules that trigger stem cells to turn into astrocytes and cardiomyocytes. “Research at Duke-NUS is paving the road for cell therapies and regenerative medicine to enter the clinic in Singapore and worldwide; this study leverages our expertise in computational and systems biology to facilitate the good manufacturing practice (GMP) production of high-quality cells for these much needed therapeutic applications,” said Associate Professor Enrico Petretto, who leads the Systems Genetics group at Duke-NUS, and is a senior and corresponding author of the study.

Source: https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/

Machine Learning Predicts Heart Failure

Every year, roughly one out of eight U.S. deaths is caused at least in part by heart failure. One of acute heart failure’s most common warning signs is excess fluid in the lungs, a condition known as “pulmonary edema.” A patient’s exact level of excess fluid often dictates the doctor’s course of action, but making such determinations is difficult and requires clinicians to rely on subtle features in X-rays that sometimes lead to inconsistent diagnoses and treatment plans.

To better handle that kind of nuance, a group led by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has developed a machine learning model that can look at an X-ray to quantify how severe the edema is, on a four-level scale ranging from 0 (healthy) to 3 (very, very bad). The system determined the right level more than half of the time, and correctly diagnosed level 3 cases 90 percent of the time.

Working with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Philips, the team plans to integrate the model into BIDMC’s emergency-room workflow this fall.

This project is meant to augment doctors workflow by providing additional information that can be used to inform their diagnoses as well as enable retrospective analyses,” says PhD student Ruizhi Liao, who was the co-lead author of a related paper with fellow PhD student Geeticka Chauhan and MIT professors Polina Golland and Peter Szolovits.

The team says that better edema diagnosis would help doctors manage not only acute heart issues, but other conditions like sepsis and kidney failure that are strongly associated with edema.

As part of a separate journal article, Liao and colleagues also took an existing public dataset of X-ray images and developed new annotations of severity labels that were agreed upon by a team of four radiologists. Liao’s hope is that these consensus labels can serve as a universal standard to benchmark future machine learning development.

An important aspect of the system is that it was trained not just on more than 300,000 X-ray images, but also on the corresponding text of reports about the X-rays that were written by radiologists. “By learning the association between images and their corresponding reports, the method has the potential for a new way of automatic report generation from the detection of image-driven findings,says Tanveer Syeda-Mahmood, a researcher not involved in the project who serves as chief scientist for IBM’s Medical Sieve Radiology Grand Challenge. “Of course, further experiments would have to be done for this to be broadly applicable to other findings and their fine-grained descriptors.”

Chauhan, Golland, Liao and Szolovits co-wrote the paper with MIT Assistant Professor Jacob Andreas, Professor William Wells of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Xin Wang of Philips, and Seth Berkowitz and Steven Horng of BIDMC.

Source: https://news.mit.edu/

Coronavirus Vaccine: Moderna and Pfizer Final Test Results Imminent

Moderna should have enough data from its late-stage trial to know whether its coronavirus vaccine works in November, CEO Stephane Bancel said Thursday. The company could have enough data by October, but that’s unlikely, Bancel said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.

If the infection rate in the country were to slow down in the next weeks, it could potentially be pushed out in a worst-case scenario in December,” he added.

Moderna is one of three drugmakers backed by the U.S. in late-stage testing for a potential vaccine. The other two are companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Moderna‘s experimental vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which scientists hope provokes the immune system to fight the virus. In July, the company released early-stage data that showed its potential vaccine generated a promising immune response in a small group of patients.

Bancel’s comment came four days after the CEO of Pfizer said its vaccine could be distributed to Americans before the end of the year. CEO Albert Bourla told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the company should have key data from its late-stage trial for the Food and Drug Administration by the end of October. If the FDA approves the vaccine, the company is prepared to distribute “hundreds of thousands of doses,” he said.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/

Nobel Chemistry Prize Awarded For CRISPR ‘NanoScissors’

A humbling lesson of science is that, even when it comes to many of humanity’s most brilliant inventions, nature got there first. The 2020 selection for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to two scientists who share credit for identifying and developing a revolutionary method of genome editing — one that has allowed researchers to modify and investigate the genomes of microbial, plant and animal cells with an ease, precision and effectiveness that would have been unfathomable even a decade ago. Yet the technology that came out of their work, revolutionary as it is, springs from an innovation that first evolved in bacteria, probably more than a billion years ago, and went unnoticed until recently.

Emmanuelle Charpentier (right) and Jennifer Doudna (left) have been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their development of CRISPR/Cas9 genetic editing.

Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens Institute for Infection Biology and Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley have been recognized for their work on CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing — a technique routinely called CRISPR for short and often referred to as “genetic scissors.” This award marks the first time that two women have been award a Nobel Prize for science.

In a seminal 2012 paper, Charpentier and Doudna showed that key components of the ancient immune system found in bacteria and archaea could be retooled to edit DNA, to essentially “rewrite the code of life,” as the Nobel committee put it this morning.

In the eight years since, the discovery has transformed the life sciences, making genome editing commonplace in laboratories around the world. It has enabled researchers to probe the functions of genes at will, pushing the field of molecular biology ahead by leaps and bounds; to innovate new methods of plant breeding; and to develop promising new gene therapies, some now in clinical trials, for conditions such as sickle cell disease.

The Nobel committee’s selection will undoubtedly be greeted as controversial because of well-publicized disputes about the intellectual property associated with CRISPR. Virginijus Šikšnys of Vilnius University in Lithuania independently developed the idea of using these genetic features of bacteria as a genome-editing tool at about the same time as Charpentier and Doudna, and he has sometimes been honored alongside them. Two other scientists, Feng Zhang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and George Church of Harvard University, are also often credited as early co-discoverers and developers of CRISPR technology, and their exclusion will fuel arguments. However, no one in the scientific community would dispute that Charpentier and Doudna’s work laid the foundation for CRISPR’s prolific and game-changing use today.

Source: https://www.quantamagazine.org/

Diabetics die 3 times more of Covid-19

From the outset of the pandemic, data coming out of early coronavirus hot spots like China, Italy, and New York City foretold that certain groups of people would be more vulnerable to Covid-19. The disease hit older people and people with underlying medical conditions the hardest. As early as February, diabetes had emerged as one of the conditions associated with the highest risk. In one large study out of China, people with diabetes were more than three times as likely to die of Covid-19 than the overall population.

But that’s not what brought four diabetes experts from Australia and the United Kingdom onto a Zoom call back in April. They were supposed to just be catching up—a virtual tea among friends. But talk soon turned to something strange that they’d been seeing in their own hospitals and hearing about through the grapevine. The weird thing was that people were showing up in Covid-19 wards, after having tested positive for the virus, with lots of sugar in their blood. These were people with no known history of diabetes. But you wouldn’t know it from their lab results.

After that call, the experts reached out to colleagues in other countries to see if they’d seen or heard of similar cases. They had. Acute viral infections of all sorts can stress the body, causing blood sugar levels to rise. So that in itself wasn’t unusual, says Francesco Rubino, a bariatric surgeon and diabetes researcher at King’s College in London, who was on that first Zoom call. “What we were seeing and hearing was a little bit different.”

Doctors around the world had described to him strange situations in which Covid-19 patients were showing symptoms of diabetes that didn’t fit the typical two-flavor manifestation of the disease. In most people with type 1 diabetes, their immune cells suddenly turn traitorous, destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin—the hormone that allows glucose to exit the bloodstream and enter cells. People with type 2 diabetes have a different problem; their body slowly becomes resistant to the insulin it does produce. Rubino and his colleagues were seeing blended features of both types showing up spontaneously in people who’d recently been diagnosed with Covid-19.

That was the first clinical puzzle,” he says. For clues to an explanation, Rubino and his colleagues looked to ACE2, the protein receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to invade human cells. It appears in the airways, yes, but also in other organs involved in controlling blood sugar, including the gut. Doctors in China discovered copies of the coronavirus in the poop of their Covid-19 patients. And a meta-analysis found that gastrointestinal symptoms plague one out of 10 Covid-19 sufferers.

In the last few decades, scientists have discovered that the gut is not the passive digestive organ once thought. It actually is a major endocrine player—responsible for producing hormone signals that talk to the pancreas, telling it to make more insulin, and to the brain, ordering it to make its owner stop eating. If the coronavirus is messing with these signals, that could provide a biological basis for why Covid-19 would be associated with different forms of diabetes, including hybrid and previously unknown manifestations of the disease. Rubino is one of a growing number of researchers who think that the relationship between the coronavirus and diabetes is actually a two-way street. Having diabetes doesn’t just tip the odds toward contracting a worse case of Covid-19. In some people, the virus might actually trigger the onset of diabetes, and the potential for a lifetime of having to manage it.

Source: https://www.wired.com/

How To Recycle Plastic Infinitely And Reduce Plastic Pollution

The scientists who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzymecocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster. A second enzyme, found in the same rubbish dwelling bacterium that lives on a diet of plastic bottles, has been combined with PETase to speed up the breakdown of plasticPETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change. PET is the most common thermoplastic, used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets and it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but PETase can shorten this time to days.

The team was co-led by the scientists who engineered PETaseProfessor John McGeehan, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth in UK, and Dr Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US. “Gregg and I were chatting about how PETase attacks the surface of the plastics and MHETase chops things up further, so it seemed natural to see if we could use them together, mimicking what happens in nature,” said  Professor McGeehan

Our first experiments showed that they did indeed work better together, so we decided to try to physically link them, like two Pac-men joined by a piece of string. “It took a great deal of work on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was worth the effort – we were delighted to see that our new chimeric enzyme is up to three times faster than the naturally evolved separate enzymes, opening new avenues for further improvements.

The initial discovery set up the prospect of a revolution in plastic recycling, creating a potential low-energy solution to tackle plastic waste. The team engineered the natural PETase enzyme in the laboratory to be around 20 percent faster at breaking down PET. Now, the same trans-Atlantic team have combined PETase and its ‘partner’, a second enzyme called MHETase, to generate much bigger improvements: simply mixing PETase with MHETase doubled the speed of PET breakdown, and engineering a connection between the two enzymes to create a ‘super-enzyme’, increased this activity by a further three times.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

https://www.port.ac.uk/

Hundreds of Thousands Of People In China Should Have Been Vaccinated At Present

China in recent months has been injecting hundreds of thousands of people with three preliminary coronavirus vaccines that are being tested for safety and efficacy. While the world awaits a proven drug to fight the pandemic, at least three vaccine candidates have been given to front-line medical professionals, staff of state-owned companies, and government officials since July under an emergency use program approved by Beijing.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, has administered two experimental vaccine candidates to around 350,000 people outside its clinical trials, CNBG chairman Yang Xiaoming said recently. The company also donated 200,000 doses of one of the candidate vaccines that is still undergoing clinical trials in Wuhan, where the pandemic was first reported.

Another drugmaker, Sinovac Biotech, has injected 90% of its employees and their family members, or about 3,000 people, Yin Weidong, the company’s CEO, said this month.

At present, tens of thousands of people in Beijing should have been vaccinated with Sinovac’s vaccine,” Yin told Chinese state media. Separately, Beijing also gave approval in June for members of the armed forces to receive an experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics, a biopharmaceutical company that is backed by the military.

Under China’s law, vaccines developed for major public health emergencies can be deployed for urgent use if the National Medical Products Administration considers that the benefits of the treatment outweigh the risks.

Source: https://www.voanews.com/

What Is Regeneron, The Antibody Cocktail Used To Cure Trump?

A descriptive analysis of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals‘ Phase I/II/III clinical trial has found that its antibody cocktail REGN-COV2 lowered viral load and the time to symptoms improvement in non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients. The therapy also demonstrated positive trends in decreasing medical visits. During the ongoing, randomised, double-blind trial, the combination of REGN-COV2 and usual standard-of-care is being compared to placebo plus standard-of-care.

Regeneron noted that trial participants were given a one-time infusion of 8g or 2.4g of REGN-COV2 or placeboData from the descriptive analysis is based on the findings from the initial 275 patients. The analysis evaluated anti-viral activity with the therapy and is intended to detect patients who are most likely to benefit from treatment. Safety analysis revealed that both doses of the therapy were well-tolerated, with infusion reactions found in four patients.

The greatest treatment benefit was in patients who had not mounted their own effective immune response, suggesting that REGN-COV2 could provide a therapeutic substitute for the naturally-occurring immune response, ” said Regeneron Pharmaceuticals president and chief scientific officer George Yancopoulos. “We are highly encouraged by the robust and consistent nature of these initial data, as well as the emerging well-tolerated safety profile, and we have begun discussing our findings with regulatory authorities while continuing our ongoing trials.

This trial is part of a clinical programme, which includes studies of REGN-COV2 to treat hospitalised patients and to prevent infection in people exposed to Covid-19 patients. More than 2,000 subjects have been recruited across the overall REGN-COV2 development programme. At least 1,300 participants will be part of the Phase II/III portion of the outpatient trial overall. In July, Regeneron launched Phase III trials of REGN-COV2 for the treatment and prevention of Covid-19.

Source: https://www.clinicaltrialsarena.com/

Autonomous Vehicles: The Accident Preventers

Before autonomous vehicles participate in road traffic, they must demonstrate conclusively that they do not pose a danger to others. New software developed at the Technical University of Munich (TUM)  in Germany prevents accidents by predicting different variants of a traffic situation every millisecond.

A car approaches an intersection. Another vehicle jets out of the cross street, but it is not yet clear whether it will turn right or left. At the same time, a pedestrian steps into the lane directly in front of the car, and there is a cyclist on the other side of the street. People with road traffic experience will in general assess the movements of other traffic participants correctly.

Computer scientists have developed software that prevents autonomous cars from causing accidents

These kinds of situations present an enormous challenge for autonomous vehicles controlled by computer programs,” explains Matthias Althoff, Professor of Cyber-Physical Systems at TUM. “But autonomous driving will only gain acceptance of the general public if you can ensure that the vehicles will not endanger other road users – no matter how confusing the traffic situation.

The ultimate goal when developing software for autonomous vehicles is to ensure that they will not cause accidents. Althoff, who is a member of the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at TUM, and his team have now developed a software module that permanently analyzes and predicts events while driving. Vehicle sensor data are recorded and evaluated every millisecond. The software can calculate all possible movements for every traffic participant – provided they adhere to the road traffic regulations – allowing the system to look three to six seconds into the future.

Based on these future scenarios, the system determines a variety of movement options for the vehicle. At the same time, the program calculates potential emergency maneuvers in which the vehicle can be moved out of harm’s way by accelerating or braking without endangering others. The autonomous vehicle may only follow routes that are free of foreseeable collisions and for which an emergency maneuver option has been identified.

Source: https://www.tum.de/

‘Game Changing’ 15-Minute Covid-19 Test Cleared in Europe

Becton Dickinson and Co.’s Covid-19 test that returns results in 15 minutes has been cleared for use in countries that accept Europe’s CE marking, the diagnostics maker said Wednesday. The test is part of a new class of quicker screening tools named for the identifying proteins called antigens they detect on the surface of SARS-CoV-2. Becton Dickinson expects to begin selling the test, which runs on the company’s cellphone-sized BD Veritor Plus System, in European markets at the end of October. It will likely be used by emergency departments, general practitioners and pediatricians.

Becton Dickinson said its antigen assay is 93.5% sensitive, a measure of how often it correctly identifies infections, and 99.3% specific, the rate of correct negative tests. The data, which differ from the U.S. label’s 84% sensitivity and 100% specificity, come from a new clinical study that was recently submitted to the U.S.  , spokesman Troy Kirkpatrick said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/

Secure Nano-Carrier Delivers Medications Directly To Cells

Medications often have unwanted side-effects. One reason is that they reach not only the unhealthy cells for which they are intended, but also reach and have an impact on healthy cells. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), working together with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, have developed a stable nano-carrier for medications. A special mechanism makes sure the drugs are only released in diseased cells.

The human body is made up of billions of cells. In the case of cancer, the genome of several of these cells is changed pathologically so that the cells divide in an uncontrolled manner. The cause of virus infections is also found within the affected cells. During chemotherapy for example, drugs are used to try to destroy these cells. However, the therapy impacts the entire body, damaging healthy cells as well and resulting in side effects which are sometimes quite serious.

A team of researchers led by Prof. Oliver Lieleg, Professor of Biomechanics and a member of the TUM Munich School of BioEngineering, and Prof. Thomas Crouzier of the KTH has developed a transport system which releases the active agents of medications in affected cells only.

The drug carriers are accepted by all the cells,” Lieleg explains. “But only the diseased cells should be able to trigger the release of the active agent.”

The scientists have now shown that the mechanism functions in tumor model systems based on cell cultures. First they packaged the active ingredients. For this purpose, they used so-called mucins, the main ingredient of the mucus found for example on the mucus membranes of the mouth, stomach and intestines. Mucins consist of a protein background to which sugar molecules are docked. “Since mucins occur naturally in the body, opened mucin particles can later be broken down by the cells,” Lieleg says.

Another important part of the package also occurs naturally in the body: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the carrier of our genetic information. The researchers synthetically created DNA structures with the properties they desired and chemically bonded these structures to the mucins. If glycerol is now added to the solution containing the mucin DNA molecules and the active ingredient, the solubility of the mucins decreases, they fold up and enclose the active agent. The DNA strands bond to one another and thus stabilize the structure so that the mucins can no longer unfold themselves.

The DNA-stabilized particles can only be opened by the rightkey” in order to once again release the encapsulated active agent molecules. Here the researchers use what are called microRNA molecules. RNA or ribonucleic acid has a structure very similar to that of DNA and plays a major role in the body’s synthesis of proteins; it can also regulate other cell processes.

Cancer cells contain microRNA strands whose structure we know precisely,” explains Ceren Kimna, lead author of the study. “In order to use them as keys, we modified the lock accordingly by meticulously designing the synthetic DNA strands which stabilize our medication carrier particles.” The DNA strands are structured in such a way that the microRNA can bind to them and as a result break down the existing bonds which are stabilizing the structure. The synthetic DNA strands in the particles can also be adapted to microRNA structures which occur with other diseases such as diabetes or hepatitis.

Source: https://www.tum.de/

How To Control Computers With The Mind

A new type of brain implant allows a paralyzed person to learn how to control a computer cursor with their mind. This kind of technology could be revolutionary for people with very limited mobility as it could open up computer-based communication and give them more freedom in every day life.

So-called ‘brain-computer interfaces’ have been developed for this purpose before, but a key problem with them was that the user had to retrain on a daily basis, making progress difficultBrain-computer interface implants work by a user thinking about moving the cursor on a screen in different directions by imagining they are moving their arm and neck in a specific way.  Electrical impulses picked up by the brain implant allow the cursor to move. A computer algorithm then ‘learns’ how the brain signals correlate to the cursor movements and adjusts them giving the implant user control.

This is akin to relearning how to move your arm every day,” explained Karunesh Ganguly, an associate professor in neurology at the University of California San Francisco, who led the current research.

Previous implants have had “technical issues related to having small wires in the brain that are not stable over time,” he added.

Source: https://www.ucsf.edu/
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https://www.forbes.com/

BCG, Long-used Tuberculosis Vaccine Cuts Respiratory Infections. Why not Covid-19?

Three years ago, doctors in Greece began recruiting 198 older people for a unique experiment. They injected half of them with a century-old tuberculosis vaccine typically given to newborns in the developing world. They gave the other half a placebo. They wanted to find out if the vaccine, called Bacillus Calmette–Guérin, or BCG, would protect older people—not against TB, but more broadly against viral infections. Results are now in: During the year after receiving the shot, the BCG group had 80 percent fewer serious respiratory viral infections than the unvaccinated group. The results were published in Cell at the end of August by doctors at the University of Athens Medical School in Greece, and Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, Netherlands.

That’s a big deal for a few reasons. People 65 years and older are more likely than any other age group to be hospitalized due to respiratory infections such as influenza, and this study is a preliminary signal that some vaccines could have broad beneficial effects beyond protection from a particular disease. And Covid-19, too, is a respiratory viral illness that disproportionately leads to the hospitalization of older people.

The chances are increased that BCG would have the same effect on Covid-19 as on other viral respiratory infections like the flu,” says Mihai Netea, the senior author of the study and experimental internal medicine chair at Radboud University. Tests of whether BCG specifically protects against Covid-19 are ongoing; there are now at least 20 randomized clinical trials around the world to see whether it can indeed protect health workers and the elderly. Many scientists now believe that BCG and some vaccines like it that contain a live, weakened virus may act against non-target diseases. A 2016 review commissioned by the World Health Organization found that BCG and the measles vaccines reduce overall mortality by “more than would be expected through their effects on the diseases they prevent.”

I think that we have to acknowledge that vaccines have effects much broader than the target disease and the effects can be used,” Netea says.

The research that became the Cell study began in 2017, when Netea’s team recruited patients who were visiting the hospital at the University of Athens Medical School. Most were around 80 years old. Netea was nervous about patients having an adverse reaction to the vaccination, itself. In aging patients, there’s always a risk that an immune response can overfire, and BCG has traditionally been given to newborns, not the aged.

Then, Covid-19 hit, and observational studies done by scientists such as Luis Escobar, a disease ecologist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, hinted that nations where newborns get BCG shots are associated with lower Covid-19 mortality. Netea and his colleagues decided to fast track their analysis. In mid-May, they learned that the vaccinated patients had 80 percent fewer moderate-to-severe respiratory infections.

That is pretty damn good,” says Kim Mulholland, a vaccinologist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, who was more skeptical of broad beneficial effects of vaccines before this study. “This study left me with the feeling that I should go out and get a BCG vaccine.”

How To Connect Neurons To Electrodes Using 3D Printing

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new method of 3D-printing gels and other soft materials. Published in a new paper, it has the potential to create complex structures with nanometer-scale precision. Because many gels are compatible with living cells, the new method could jump-start the production of soft tiny medical devices such as drug delivery systems or flexible electrodes that can be inserted into the human body.

A standard 3D printer makes solid structures by creating sheets of material — typically plastic or rubber — and building them up layer by layer, like a lasagna, until the entire object is created.

Using a 3D printer to fabricate an object made of gel is a “bit more of a delicate cooking process,” said NIST researcher Andrei Kolmakov. In the standard method, the 3D printer chamber is filled with a soup of long-chain polymers — long groups of molecules bonded togetherdissolved in water. Then “spices” are added — special molecules that are sensitive to light. When light from the 3D printer activates those special molecules, they stitch together the chains of polymers so that they form a fluffy weblike structure. This scaffolding, still surrounded by liquid water, is the gel.

Biocompatible interface shows that hydrogels (green tubing), which can be generated by an electron or X-ray beam 3D printing process, act as artificial synapses or junctions, connecting neurons (brown) to electrodes (yellow)

Typically, modern 3D gel printers have used ultraviolet or visible laser light to initiate formation of the gel scaffolding. However, Kolmakov and his colleagues have focused their attention on a different 3D-printing technique to fabricate gels, using beams of electrons or X-rays. Because these types of radiation have a higher energy, or shorter wavelength, than ultraviolet and visible light, these beams can be more tightly focused and therefore produce gels with finer structural detail. Such detail is exactly what is needed for tissue engineering and many other medical and biological applications. Electrons and X-rays offer a second advantage: They do not require a special set of molecules to initiate the formation of gels.

But at present, the sources of this tightly focused, short-wavelength radiation — scanning electron microscopes and X-ray microscopes — can only operate in a vacuum. That’s a problem because in a vacuum the liquid in each chamber evaporates instead of forming a gel.

Kolmakov and his colleagues at NIST and at the Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste in Italy, solved the issue and demonstrated 3D gel printing in liquids by placing an ultrathin barrier — a thin sheet of silicon nitridebetween the vacuum and the liquid chamber. The thin sheet protects the liquid from evaporating (as it would ordinarily do in vacuum) but allows X-rays and electrons to penetrate into the liquid. The method enabled the team to use the 3D-printing approach to create gels with structures as small as 100 nanometers (nm) — about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. By refining their method, the researchers expect to imprint structures on the gels as small as 50 nm, the size of a small virus.

Source: https://www.nist.gov/

Coronavirus Vaccine: When Will We Have One?

There are around 40 different coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials – including one being developed by the University of Oxford that is already in an advanced stage of testing. The virus spreads easily, and the majority of the world’s population is still vulnerable to it. A vaccine would provide some protection by training people’s immune systems to fight the virus so they should not become sick. This would allow lockdowns to be lifted more safely, and social distancing to be relaxed.

Research is happening at breakneck speed. About 240 vaccines are in early development, with 40 in clinical trials and nine already in the final stage of testing on thousands of peopleTrials of the Oxford vaccine show it can trigger an immune response, and a deal has been signed with AstraZeneca to supply 100 million doses in the UK alone. The first human trial data back in May indicated the first eight patients taking part in a US study all produced antibodies that could neutralise the virus. A group in China showed a vaccine was safe and led to protective antibodies being made. It is being made available to the Chinese military.

Other completely new approaches to vaccine development are in human trials. However, no-one knows how effective any of these vaccines will be. A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. Researchers hope to achieve the same amount of work in only a few months. Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become widely available by mid-2021, about 12-18 months after the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, first emerged. That would be a huge scientific feat, and there are no guarantees it will work. But scientists are optimistic that, if trials are successful, then a small number of people – such as healthcare workers – may be vaccinated before the end of this year. It is worth noting that four coronaviruses already circulate in human beings. They cause common cold symptoms and we don’t have vaccines for any of them.

https://www.bbc.com/

Electric Road Powers Buses

The city of Tel Aviv is working on creating wireless electric roads to charge and power public transportation in the city. The electric roads are part of a pilot program led by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in collaboration with ElectReon, a company developing a system that can charge electric vehicles while they are moving, and Dan Bus Company. The project is being funded by a combination of government and private funds, according to a spokesperson for ElectReon, though a full budget has not been released. The roads will span from Tel Aviv University Railway station to Klatzkin Terminal in Ramat Aviv, a route of about 1.2 miles. The electric road itself will be about .37 miles long, a little less than half a mileElectric infrastructure under the road will charge specially-equipped buses. The system consists of a set of copper coils that are placed under the asphalt of the street, according to ElectReon.

Energy is transferred from the electricity grid to the road infrastructure and manages communication with the approaching vehicles,” according to the company’s website.

As for the vehicles, receivers are installed on the floor of the vehicle to transmit energy directly to the battery while driving.

The last few days have been spent constructing the road,” a spokesperson for the city told CNN Business. “Testing and trial runs will be required in the coming weeks before commencing regular operations.”

If the pilot is successful, the municipality of Tel Aviv will look into expanding and using the electric roads to more sections in the city. “Our strategic action plan to prepare for climate change has placed the fight against pollution at the top of the municipality’s environmental agenda,” Ron Huldai, the city’s mayor, said in a press release. “If the pilot is successful, we will evaluate — together with the Ministry of Transportation — its expansion to additional locations in the city.

Relying on direct charging of vehicles from the road itself will remove the need to establish charging stations or be operationally bound to terminals,” Meital Lehavi, the deputy mayor for transportation at the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, commented.

The technology’s testing and integration timeline is expected to take about two months, after which Dan Bus Company will commence regular journeys on the route, transporting passengers who are traveling to and from Tel Aviv University, according to a press release from the municipality of Tel Aviv.

Source: https://www.electreon.com/
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https://www.kezi.com/

New Composite Material Boosts Electric Vehicles

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ONRL) used new techniques to create a composite that increases the electrical current capacity of copper wires, providing a new material that can be scaled for use in ultra-efficient, power-dense electric vehicle traction motors.

The research is aimed at reducing barriers to wider electric vehicle adoption, including cutting the cost of ownership and improving the performance and life of components such as electric motors and power electronics. The material can be deployed in any component that uses copper, including more efficient bus bars and smaller connectors for electric vehicle traction inverters, as well as for applications such as wireless and wired charging systems.

To produce a lighter weight conductive material with improved performance, ORNL researchers deposited and aligned carbon nanotubes on flat copper substrates, resulting in a metal-matrix composite material with better current handling capacity and mechanical properties than copper alone.

Incorporating carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, into a copper matrix to improve conductivity and mechanical performance is not a new idea. CNTs are an excellent choice due to their lighter weight, extraordinary strength and conductive properties. But past attempts at composites by other researchers have resulted in very short material lengths, only micrometers or millimeters, along with limited scalability, or in longer lengths that performed poorly.

The ORNL team decided to experiment with depositing single-wall CNTs using electrospinning, a commercially viable method that creates fibers as a jet of liquid speeds through an electric field. The technique provides control over the structure and orientation of deposited materials, explained Kai Li, a postdoctoral researcher in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. In this case, the process allowed scientists to successfully orient the CNTs in one general direction to facilitate enhanced flow of electricity.

The team then used magnetron sputtering, a vacuum coating technique, to add thin layers of copper film on top of the CNT-coated copper tapes. The coated samples were then annealed in a vacuum furnace to produce a highly conductive Cu-CNT network by forming a dense, uniform copper layer and to allow diffusion of copper into the CNT matrix.

Using this method, ORNL scientists created a copper-carbon nanotube composite 10 centimeters long and 4 centimeters wide, with exceptional properties. Researchers found the composite reached 14% greater current capacity, with up to 20% improved mechanical properties compared with pure copper.

By embedding all the great properties of carbon nanotubes into a copper matrix, we are aiming for better mechanical strength, lighter weight and higher current capacity. Then you get a better conductor with less power loss, which in turn increases the efficiency and performance of the device. Improved performance, for instance, means we can reduce volume and increase the power density in advanced motor systems,” said Tolga Aytug, lead investigator for the project.

The findings are reported in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials.

Source: https://www.ornl.gov/

Airbus Reveals Hydrogen Aircraft For 2033

Airbus has unveiled conceptual designs for a potential zero-emission commercial aircraft, which it believes could be developed for service entry in the next 15 years. All three of the preliminary designs – branded as ‘ZEROe’ aircraft – would use hydrogen as the main power sourceAirbus’s most radical proposition is a blended-wing body concept, seating up to 200 passengers, which would have a range of up to 2,000nm (3700 km). It has also shown off a more conventional-looking turbofan idea – with a similar range – which would be fitted with modified hydrogen-fuelled gas-turbine combustion engines. This concept would involve storing liquid hydrogen in tanks behind the aft pressure bulkhead. Its third proposal is a 100-seat turboprop, also using modified gas turbines, able to operate over a range of at least 1,000nm. Airbus says hydrogenholds exceptional promise” as a fuel for zero-emission transport.

It is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets,” it adds. The airframer claims the aircraft outlined could potentially enter service by 2035 – a date which has been suggested by the French government for development of highly-efficient regional aircraft and an Airbus A320 successor. These targets had been included in a recent €15 billion aid package from the French government to the country’s aeronautical sector. Its strategy, based on improved fuel consumption and examining the potential of zero-emission hydrogen-based technology, suggests an initial demonstrator could be produced by 2026-28 and enter service in 2033-35.

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury says the concepts offer a “glimpse of our ambition” to “drive a bold vision” for zero-emission flight. “I strongly believe that the use of hydrogen, both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft, has the potential to significantly reduce aviation’s climate impact,” he adds. But he warns that, for such designs to be validated and eventually materialise, the transition to hydrogen power will require “decisive action from the entire aviation eco-system”. “In order to tackle these challenges, airports will require significant hydrogen transport and refuelling infrastructure to meet the needs of day-to-day operations,” adds Airbus, pointing out that government support to meet the objectives will be essential.

Source: https://www.flightglobal.com

Coronavirus Breathalyzer Test Gives Results In 30 Seconds

An Israeli company is developing a coronavirus breathalyzer test that gives results in 30 seconds, billing it as a “front-line” tool that can help restore a sense of normality during the pandemic. NanoScent, the firm making the test kits, said an extensive trial in Israel for the presence of live virus delivered results with 85 percent accuracy, and the product could receive regulatory approval within months. Chief Executive Officer Oren Gavriely told Agence France-Presse the breathalyzer would not replace lab tests, but was a mass screening tool that could help people gain “the confidence to go back and act as normal.” NanoScent has been operating for several years, specializing in rapid recognition technology, including for medical purposes.

Gavriely said that while visiting the United States in January, he sensed his firm’s expertise might be needed to help confront the novel virus circulating in Asia that appeared to be spreading to the West.

We said we’ll invest one week into it and see what’s happening, and this one week never stopped,” he explained. The test begins with a few short questions about COVID-19 exposure and symptoms, displayed on the phone of the person administering the procedure. Test subjects then inhale through the nose, hold their breath, close one nostril and exhale through the other, pushing breath through a handheld tube into a small bag called the “Air Trap.”

The tube is then plugged into the “Scent Reader“, a small rectangular device that whirs softly as it sucks the air out of the bag. Within seconds the results – “COVID-19 negative” during AFP’s visit – appear on the phone.

Source: https://news.cgtn.com/

China: Explosive Growth In The Digital Economy

China has over 110 million 5G users and is expected to have more than 600,000 5G base stations by the end of this year, covering all cities at prefecture level and above, according to the 5G Innovation and Development Forum held on Sept 15 during the Smart China Expo Online in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality.

Since 5G licenses for commercial use for more than one year were issued, the country has made steady progress in the construction of its 5G network infrastructure, said Han Xia, director of the telecom department at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, adding that Chinese telecommunications companies have already built over 500,000 5G base stations with over 100 million 5G internet terminals.

So far, 5G has been deployed in sectors and fields including ports, machinery, automobiles, steel, mining and energy, while 5G application has been accelerated in key areas such as industrial internet, Internet of Vehicles, medical care, and education, Han noted.

The value of the country’s industrial internet hit 2.13 trillion yuan last year, Yin Hao, an academician from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said at the forum, adding that the figure is expected to exceed 5 trillion yuan in 2025.

The integrated development of “5G plus industrial internet” can create new products, generate new models and new forms of business, reduce enterprises’ operating costs, improve their production efficiency, and optimize their resource allocation, Yin noted.

According to Chen Shanzhi, vice president of the China Information and Communication Technologies Group Corporation (CICT), the combination of 5G and other emerging information technologies, including artificial intelligence, cloud computing and big data, will help accelerate the integrated development and innovation of other sectors and bring about explosive growth in the digital economy.

http://global.chinadaily.com.cn/

Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Ready For Public By November

Chinese manufacturers have been bullish about development, with companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm even putting their vaccine candidates on display at a trade fair in Beijing this month. A China-developed coronavirus vaccine could be ready for the public as early as November, a Chinese official has told state television, as the global race to clear the final round of trials heats up.

Representatives of the firms told AFP that they hope their vaccines will be approved after phase 3 trials as early as year-end.

And on late Monday, the chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control told state broadcaster CCTV that a vaccine would be available to the general public “around November or December.”
https://medicalxpress.com/

Life On Venus?