Articles from November 2021



Moderna says an omicron variant vaccine could be ready in early 2022

Modernas Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said Sunday the vaccine maker could roll out a reformulated vaccine against the omicron coronavirus variant early next year. It’s not clear whether new formulations will be needed, or if current Covid vaccinations will provide protection against the new varianthat has begun to spread around the globe.

We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks, but the remarkable thing about the MRNA vaccines, Moderna platform is that we can move very fast,” Burton said on BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”

The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant sparked a big rally in shares of Moderna on Monday as the company announced plans to combat the virus with more vaccines. Moderna jumped as much as 10% on Monday, extending its two-day rally to more than 30% amid budding fears of the Omicron variant.

https://www.cnbc.com/

Molecule Derived From Poisonous Plant Blocks All SARS-CoV-2 Variants in Cell Cultures

A plant-based antiviral treatment for Covid-19, recently discovered by scientists at the University of Nottingham, has been found to be just as effective at treating all variants of the virus SARS-CoV-2, even the highly infectious Delta variant.

The struggle to control the Covid-19 pandemic is made more difficult by the continual emergence of virulent SARS-CoV-2 variants, which are either more infectious, cause more severe infection, or both.

In a new study published in Virulencea group of scientists, led by Professor Kin-Chow Chang from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University, found that the Delta variant, compared with other recent variants, showed the highest ability to multiply in cells, and was most able to directly spread to neighbouring cells. In co-infections with two different SARS-CoV-2 variants, the Delta variant also boosted the multiplication of its co-infected partners.

The study also showed that a novel natural antiviral drug called thapsigargin (TG), recently discovered by the same group of scientists to block other viruses, including the original SARS-CoV-2, was just as effective at treating all of the newer SARS-CoV-2 variants, including the Delta variant.

In their previous studies* the team showed that the plant-derived antiviral, at small doses, triggers a highly effective broad-spectrum host-centred antiviral innate immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

In this latest study, the team set out to find out how well the emergent Alpha, Beta and Delta variants of SARS-CoV-2 are able to multiply in cells relative to each other as single variant infections and in co-infections– where cells are infected with two variants at the same time. The team also wanted to know just how effective TG was at blocking these emergent variants. Notably, all SARS-CoV-2 variants were highly susceptible to TG treatment. A single pre-infection priming dose of TG effectively blocked all single-variant infections and every co-infection at greater than 95% relative to controls. Likewise, TG was effective in inhibiting each variant during active infection.

Source: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/

British Man Given 3D Printed Eye

A British man has become the first patient in the world to be fitted with a 3D printed eye, according to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Steve Verze, who is 47 and an engineer from Hackney, east London, was given the left eye on Thursday and first tried it for size earlier this month.

Moorfields Eye Hospital said that the prosthetic is the first fully digital prosthetic eye created for a patient. The eye is more realistic than other alternatives, and is designed to have “clearer definition and real depth to the pupil,” the hospital said. Other prosthetic eyes consist of an iris hand-painted onto a disc that is then embedded into the eye socket. However, their design prevents light from passing into the “full depth” of the eye, the hospital added in the release. As well as appearing more realistic, the procedure is considered less invasive.

Fitting traditional prosthetics requires a mold to be taken of the eye socket, whereas in 3D prosthetic eye development the socket is scanned digitally to create a detailed image.
Verze’s functional eye was also scanned to ensure both eyes look the same. The 3D image was then sent to Germany to be printed before being shipped back to the UK, where it was finished and polished by a Moorfields Eye Hospital ocularist.

I’ve needed a prosthetic since I was 20, and I’ve always felt self conscious about it,” Verze was quoted as saying in the press release. When I leave my home I often take a second glance in the mirror, and I’ve not liked what I’ve seen. This new eye looks fantastic and, being based on 3D digital printing technology, it’s only going to be better and better,” he added. Moorfields Eye Hospital said 3D printing had the potential to “cut in half” the time it takes to develop a prosthetic eye, from six weeks to around two or three.

Superhuman Era

The Pentagon is investigating how to fundamentally alter what it means to be human, funding research into creating super humans that are smarter, faster, and stronger through human performance enhancement. The US Defense and Intelligence communities are on the cusp of ushering in a new era of transhumanism by funding research into gene editing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Bodies (IoB) to enhance human performance.

Soldier in glasses of virtual reality. Military concept of the future.

If successful, these “people” would have the potential to never tire and think smarter, move faster, jump higher, see farther, hear better, hit harder, live longer, adapt stronger, and calculate quicker than any other human being on the planet.

A Pentagon-sponsored RAND report published today outlines the technological potentials of this controversial transhumanist research, which includes potentially “adding reptilian genes that provide the ability to see in infrared,” and “making humans stronger, more intelligent, or more adapted to extreme environments.”

According to the RAND report, “Technological Approaches to Human Performance Enhancement,” modalities for human performance enhancement (HPE) can be grouped into three principal categories: Gene editingApplications of artificial intelligence (AI), Networked technologies that are wearable or even implantable (the so-called Internet of Bodies [IoB])
For the US Defense and Intelligence communities, human performance enhancement (HPE) offers “the potential to increase strength, speed, endurance, intelligence, and tolerance of extreme environments and to reduce sleep needs and reaction times—could aid in the development of better operators.

The report adds that in the next few years, “HPE could help military service and intelligence analysts through the use of multiple techniques to connect technology to human beings.”

If successful, humanity as we know it may split into an entirely new species, where those not genetically edited or technologically altered could never compete with those who were. Worse than being serfs, those not able to keep up in this brave new transhumanistic world would be rendered irrelevant, redundant, uselessunnecessary even for manual labor.

Source: https://sociable.co/

How to Look Back in Time

In an old experimental hall previously used for particle physics experiments, a team of French engineers are checking the filters on what will be the largest digital camera ever built. It’s October 2021, and I’m seeing the camera during its assembly at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. When this high-resolution imager is finally put to work, it will give us breathtaking views of the deep universe.

The instrument is the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) Camera . The 3.2-gigapixel (3.2 billion pixel) camera will eventually be installed at the Vera Rubin Observatory on a Chilean mountaintop, where it will image half of the southern sky every three days. It will give astronomersastrophysicists, and cosmologists complete portrait of that region of the sky about once a week. “We will see dimmer objects than people have looked at before in an area on the sky,” said astrophysicist Aaron Roodman, lead scientist for camera assembly and testing. “People have done things deep, but they’ve been in tiny regions of the sky.” The new telescope will be able to look far, far into distance—and therefore the past—over a huge region.

Source: https://www.lsst.org/

New Vaccine Uses Bacteria to Trigger an Immune Response

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas are investigating the use of whole-cell vaccines to fight urinary tract infection (UTI), part of an effort to tackle the increasingly serious issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Dr. Nicole De Nisco, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Jeremiah Gassensmith, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, recently demonstrated the use of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to encapsulate and inactivate whole bacterial cells to create a “depot” that allows the vaccines to last longer in the body.

Dr. Nicole De Nisco conducts research aimed at understanding the basis for recurring urinary tract infections in postmenopausal women. In her lab, students monitor the growth of various bacteria.

When patients accumulate antibiotic resistances, they’re eventually going to run out of options,” says Dr. Nicole De Nisco, assistant professor of biological sciences in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

The resulting study, published online in the American Chemical Society’s journal ACS Nano, showed that in mice this method produced substantially enhanced antibody production and significantly higher survival rates compared to standard whole-cell vaccine preparation methods.

Vaccination as a therapeutic route for recurrent UTIs is being explored because antibiotics aren’t working anymore,” De Nisco said. “Patients are losing their bladders to save their lives because the bacteria cannot be killed by antibiotics or because of an extreme allergy to antibiotics, which is more common in the older population than people may realize.”

Source: https://news.utdallas.edu/

Virtual Reality System to Ease Back Pain

A 3-D virtual reality system to treat back pain was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week. The EaseVRx system is a prescription device for at-home use that combines cognitive behavioral therapy and other behavioral methods to treat patients 18 and older with chronic lower back pain.

Millions of adults in the United States are living with chronic lower back pain that can affect multiple aspects of their daily life,” said Dr. Christopher Loftus, acting director of the Office of Neurological and Physical Medicine Devices in the FDA‘s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Pain reduction is a crucial component of living with chronic lower back pain. Today’s authorization offers a treatment option for pain reduction that does not include opioid pain medications when used alongside other treatment methods for chronic lower back pain,” Loftus said in an agency news release.

A treatment program includes 56 VR sessions that are 2 to 16 minutes long as part of a daily eight-week treatment program. The FDA approval is based on a clinical trial that included 179 patients with chronic lower back pain assigned to one of two eight-week VR programs: the EaseVRx 3-D program or a control 2-D program that did not feature CBT methods.

At the end of treatment, 66% of EaseVRx participants reported a greater than 30% reduction in pain, compared to 41% of those in the control groupA greater than 50% pain reduction was reported by 46% of the EaseVRx users, compared with 26% of those in the control group, according to the FDA.

One, two and three months after treatment, all EaseVRx users still reported a 30% reduction in pain, which was higher than in the control group. Nearly 21% of EaseVRx users reported discomfort with the headset and about 10% reported motion sickness and nausea, but there were no serious side effects associated with the system, which is made by AppliedVR.

Source:  https://www.upi.com/

Microrobot Fish Swims Through the Body to Vomit Drugs on cancer

Delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to cancers could help reduce side effects, and soon that job could be done by tiny 3D-printed robotic animals. These microrobots are steered by magnets, and only release their drug payload when they encounter the acidic environment around a tumor.

A new microrobot fish could one day swim through the body with a mouthful of drugs, and automatically spit them up when it encounters cancer cells

The new microrobots are made of hydrogel 3D printed into the shape of different animals, like a fish, a crab and a butterfly, with voids that can carry particles. The team adjusted the printing density in specific areas, like the edges of the crab’s claws or the fish’s mouth, so that they can open or close in response to changes in acidity. Finally, the microrobots were placed in a solution containing iron oxide nanoparticles to make them magnetic.

The end result was microrobots that could be loaded up with drug nanoparticles and steered towards a target location using magnets, where they would release their payload automatically due to changes in pH levels.

In lab tests, the researchers used magnets to guide a fish microrobot through simulated blood vessels, towards a cluster of cancer cells at one end. In that area, the team made the solution slightly more acidic and the fish opened its mouth and spat out the drugs on cue, killing the cancer cells. In other tests, crab microrobots could be made to clasp drug nanoparticles with their claws, scuttle to a target location, and release them.

Source: https://newatlas.com/

Nasal Vaccine to prevent Alzheimer’s

Brigham and Women’s Hospital will test the safety and efficacy of a nasal vaccine aimed at preventing and slowing Alzheimer’s disease, the Boston hospital announced Tuesday. The start of the small, Phase I clinical trial comes after nearly 20 years of research led by Howard L. Weiner, MD, co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at the hospital.

The trial will include 16 participants between the ages of 60 and 85, all with early symptomatic Alzheimer’s but otherwise generally healthy. They will receive two doses of the vaccine one week apart, the hospital said in a press release. The participants will enroll from the Ann Romney Center.

A Phase I clinical trial is designed to establish the safety and dosage for a potential new medication. If it goes well, a much larger trial would be needed to test its effectiveness. The vaccine uses a substance called Protollin, which stimulates the immune system. “Protollin is designed to activate white blood cells found in the lymph nodes on the sides and back of the neck to migrate to the brain and trigger clearance of beta amyloid plaques — one of the hallmarks of AD [Alzheimer’s disease],” the hospital explains. It notes that Protollin has been found to be safe in other vaccines.

The launch of the first human trial of a nasal vaccine for Alzheimer’s is a remarkable milestone,” said Weiner in the hospital’s press release. “Over the last two decades, we’ve amassed preclinical evidence suggesting the potential of this nasal vaccine for AD. If clinical trials in humans show that the vaccine is safe and effective, this could represent a nontoxic treatment for people with Alzheimer’s, and it could also be given early to help prevent Alzheimer’s in people at risk.”

The researchers say they aim to “determine the safety and tolerability of the nasal vaccine” in the trial and observe how Protollin affects participants’ immune response, including how it affects their white blood cells.

The immune system plays a very important role in all neurologic diseases,” Weiner added. “And it’s exciting that after 20 years of preclinical work, we can finally take a key step forward toward clinical translation and conduct this landmark first human trial.”

Source: brighamandwomens.org
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https://www.cbsnews.com/

How to Repair Severe Spinal Cord Injuries

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new injectable therapy that harnessesdancing molecules” to reverse paralysis and repair tissue after severe spinal cord injuries. In a new study, researchers administered a single injection to tissues surrounding the spinal cords of paralyzed mice. Just four weeks later, the animals regained the ability to walk.

By sending bioactive signals to trigger cells to repair and regenerate, the breakthrough therapy dramatically improved severely injured spinal cords in five key ways: (1) The severed extensions of neurons, called axons, regenerated; (2) scar tissue, which can create a physical barrier to regeneration and repair, significantly diminished; (3) myelin, the insulating layer of axons that is important in transmitting electrical signals efficiently, reformed around cells; (4) functional blood vessels formed to deliver nutrients to cells at the injury site; and (5) more motor neurons survived. After the therapy performs its function, the materials biodegrade into nutrients for the cells within 12 weeks and then completely disappear from the body without noticeable side effects.

 

A new injectable therapy forms nanofibers with two different bioactive signals (green and orange) that communicate with cells to initiate repair of the injured spinal cord.

Our research aims to find a therapy that can prevent individuals from becoming paralyzed after major trauma or disease,” said Northwestern’s Samuel I. Stupp, who led the study. “For decades, this has remained a major challenge for scientists because our body’s central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, does not have any significant capacity to repair itself after injury or after the onset of a degenerative disease. We are going straight to the FDA to start the process of getting this new therapy approved for use in human patients, who currently have very few treatment options.”

Stupp is Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern, where he is founding director of the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology (SQI) and its affiliated research center, the Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine.

The research has been published in the journal Science. The study is now available online.

Source: https://news.northwestern.edu/