Monthly Archives: July 2020
Researchers around the world are developing more than 165 vaccines against the coronavirus, and 27 vaccines are in human trials. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year. But it is likeky that before the end of the summer we will know if one vaccine, at least, is efficient.
Work began in January with the deciphering of the genome. The first vaccine safety trials in humans started in March, but the road ahead remains uncertain. Some trials will fail, and others may end without a clear result. But a few may succeed in stimulating the immune system to produce effective antibodies against the virus.
Check the status of all the vaccines that have reached trials in humans, along with a selection of promising vaccines still being tested in cells or animals.
Scientists find new way to kill tuberculosis (TB). A toxin called MenT can block the use of important amino acids required by the bacteria to produce essential proteins needed for survival. An international team of researchers, led by Durham University, UK, and the Laboratory of Molecular Microbiology and Genetics/Centre Integrative Biology in Toulouse, France, are aiming to exploit this toxin to develop new anti-TB drugs.
Surface electrostatic representation of toxin MenT (blue, positive; red, negative), showing where target tRNA would bind and the enzymatic active site.
TB is the world’s deadliest infectious disease with nearly 1.5 million deaths each year. Whilst most cases can be cured with proper treatment, the number of antibiotic-resistant infections are steadily increasing. It is spread by breathing in tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person and mainly affects the lungs though it can affect any part of the body, including the glands, bones and nervous system.
Bacteria, such as the germs that cause TB, produce toxins to help them adapt to stress in the environment. These toxins are normally counteracted by a matching antidote, but when they are active they can potentially slow bacterial growth and even lead to cell death. The research team found a new toxin, called MenT, produced by the TB bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The researchers built an extremely detailed 3-D picture of MenT which, combined with genetic and biochemical data, showed that the toxin inhibits the use of amino acids needed by the bacteria to produce protein.
If it is not neutralised by its MenA anti-toxin, MenT stalls the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, causing the bacteria to die.
Co-Senior author Dr. Tim Blower, Associate Professor in the Department of Biosciences, and Lister Institute Prize Fellow at Durham University, said: “Effectively the tuberculosis is actively poisoning itself. “Through the forced activation of MenT, or by destabilising the relationship between the toxin and its anti-toxin MenA, we could kill the bacteria that cause TB” The remarkable anti-bacterial properties of such toxins make them of huge therapeutic interest.”
Their findings are published in the journal Science Advances.
A new study found that a simple blood test can detect beta-amyloid protein buildup in a person’s brain years before Alzheimer’s disease symptoms appear. High amounts of beta-amyloid can clump together and form plaques on the brain, which is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Other research has found that amyloid plaques can appear as early as 20 years before the first sign of Alzheimer’s symptoms, such as cognitive decline and memory loss.
In the study, 158 adults in their 60s and 70s — most of whom had normal cognitive function — underwent a PET scan to spot amyloid plaque in the brain, and a blood test to measure beta-amyloid in the body. The blood test looked for two forms of beta-amyloid protein: beta-amyloid 42 and beta-amyloid 40. When beta-amyloid begins to build up, the ratio between the two proteins changes, and the blood test detects this.
The researchers labeled each blood test result as either amyloid positive or negative. They then compared them with the PET scans. They found that the PET scans confirmed the blood test results 88% of the time. When other risk factors were included, such as age and the appearance of the gene variant ApoE4 (which also is linked to a higher risk for Alzheimer’s), the test’s accuracy rose to 94%.
While there is some debate as to whether amyloid plaque actually causes Alzheimer’s, a simple blood test that indicates you may be at a higher risk of the disease would be one more reason to adopt lifestyle changes. The researchers added that they expect the blood test to be available within a few years.
The results were published online Aug. 1, 2019, by the journal Neurology.
A team of interdisciplinary researchers has discovered a new technique to store information in DNA – in this case “The Wizard of Oz,” translated into Esperanto – with unprecedented accuracy and efficiency. The technique harnesses the information-storage capacity of intertwined strands of DNA to encode and retrieve information in a way that is both durable and compact. The technique is described in a paper in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The key breakthrough is an encoding algorithm that allows accurate retrieval of the information even when the DNA strands are partially damaged during storage,” said Ilya Finkelstein, an associate professor of molecular biosciences and one of the authors of the study.
Humans are creating information at exponentially higher rates than we used to, contributing to the need for a way to store more information efficiently and in a way that will last a long time. Companies such as Google and Microsoft are among those exploring using DNA to store information.
“We need a way to store this data so that it is available when and where it’s needed in a format that will be readable,” said Stephen Jones, a research scientist who collaborated on the project with Finkelstein; Bill Press, a professor jointly appointed in computer science and integrative biology; and Ph.D. alumnus John Hawkins. “This idea takes advantage of what biology has been doing for billions of years: storing lots of information in a very small space that lasts a long time. DNA doesn’t take up much space, it can be stored at room temperature, and it can last for hundreds of thousands of years.”
KFC is taking the next step in its innovative concept of creating a “restaurant of the future” by launching the development of innovative 3D bioprinting technology to create chicken meat in cooperation with the 3D Bioprinting Solutions research laboratory. The idea of crafting the “meat of the future” arose among partners in response to the growing popularity of a healthy lifestyle and nutrition, the annual increase in demand for alternatives to traditional meat and the need to develop more environmentally friendly methods of food production. The project aims to create the world’s first laboratory-produced chicken nuggets. They will be as close as possible in both taste and appearance to the original KFC product, while being more environmentally friendly to produce than ordinary meat. Receiving a final product for testing is already planned for the fall of 2020 in Moscow.
3D Bioprinting Solutions is developing additive bioprinting technology using chicken cells and plant material, allowing it to reproduce the taste and texture of chicken meat almost without involving animals in the process. KFC will provide its partner with all of the necessary ingredients, such as breading and spices, to achieve the signature KFC taste. At the moment, there are no other methods available on the market that could allow the creation of such complex products from animal cells.
The bioprinting method has several advantages. Biomeat has exactly the same microelements as the original product, while excluding various additives that are used in traditional farming and animal husbandry, creating a cleaner final product. Cell-based meat products are also more ethical – the production process does not cause any harm to animals.
A phase 2 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate conducted in China has found that the vaccine is safe and induces an immune response, according to a new study published Monday in medical journal The Lancet.
The results provide data from a wider group of participants than the phase 1 trial, which was published in May. Phase 1 trial involved 108 healthy adults and it demonstrated promising results.
“The phase 2 trial adds further evidence on safety and immunogenicity in a large population than the phase 1 trial. This is an important step in evaluating this early-stage experimental vaccine and phase 3 trials are now underway,” said Professor Fengcai Zhu from Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China.
According to The Lancet, the trial of the Ad5 vectored COVID-19 vaccine candidate was conducted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan with 508 participants taking part. Approximately two thirds of participants were aged 18-44 years, with a quarter aged 45-54 years, and 13 percent aged 55 years or older.
For the first time, Rochester chemical engineers have demonstrated a ‘potassium-promoted’ catalyst’s potential for use on an industrial scale. Now, the Navy’s quest to power its ships by converting seawater into fuel is nearer fruition.
University of Rochester chemical engineers—in collaboration with researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory, the University of Pittsburgh, and OxEon Energy—have demonstrated that a potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide catalyst efficiently and reliably converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a critical step in turning seawater into fuel.
“This is the first demonstration that this type of molybdenum carbide catalyst can be used on an industrial scale,” says Marc Porosoff, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Rochester. In a paper in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers describe an exhaustive series of experiments they conducted at molecular, laboratory, and pilot scales to document the catalyst’s suitability for scale-up.
If navy ships could create their own fuel from the seawater they travel through, they could remain in continuous operation. Other than a few nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, most navy ships must periodically align themselves alongside tanker ships to replenish their fuel oil, which can be difficult in rough weather.
In 2014, a Naval Research Laboratory team led by Heather Willauer announced it had used a catalytic converter to extract carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater and then converted the gases into liquid hydrocarbons at a 92 percent efficiency rate.
Since then, the focus has been on increasing the efficiency of the process and scaling it up to produce fuel in sufficient quantities.
The carbon dioxide extracted from seawater is extremely difficult to convert directly into liquid hydrocarbons with existing methods. So, it is necessary to first convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide via the reverse water-gas shift (RWGS) reaction. The carbon monoxide can then be converted into liquid hydrocarbons via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.
Typically, catalysts for RWGS contain expensive precious metals and deactivate rapidly under reaction conditions. However, the potassium-modified molybdenum carbide catalyst is synthesized from low-cost components and did not show any signs of deactivation during continuous operation of the 10-day pilot-scale study. That’s why this demonstration of the molybdenum carbide catalyst is important.