Articles from December 2022



BioNTech Doses First Patient in Herpes Vaccine Trial

 BioNtech (22UAy.DE) has dosed the first patient with its BNT163 herpes vaccine candidate designed to prevent genital lesions as part of a first-in-human Phase 1 clinical research study, the German vaccine maker said on Wednesday.

The vaccine candidate is meant to prevent HSV-2, the herpes simplex virus that causes genital herpes, and potentially HSV-1, which causes oral herpes and can lead to genital herpes.

It is the first result of the research collaboration established in 2018 between the University of Pennsylvania and BioNtech aimed at developing novel mRNA vaccine candidates for the prevention and treatment of various infectious diseases.

The World Health Organization estimates the number of people aged 15-49 suffering from HSV-2 infection at around 491 million.

BioNTech expects to enrol 100 people between ages 18 and 55 for its Phase 1 trial of the drug, the firm added.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

Paper-Thin Solar Cells Generate 18 Times More Power-per-Kilogram Than Solar Panel

MIT engineers have developed ultralight fabric solar cells that can quickly and easily turn any surface into a power source.

These durable, flexible solar cells, which are much thinner than a human hair, are glued to a strong, lightweight fabric, making them easy to install on a fixed surface. They can provide energy on the go as a wearable power fabric or be transported and rapidly deployed in remote locations for assistance in emergencies. They are one-hundredth the weight of conventional solar panels, generate 18 times more power-per-kilogram, and are made from semiconducting inks using printing processes that can be scaled in the future to large-area manufacturing.

Because they are so thin and lightweight, these solar cells can be laminated onto many different surfaces. For instance, they could be integrated onto the sails of a boat to provide power while at sea, adhered onto tents and tarps that are deployed in disaster recovery operations, or applied onto the wings of drones to extend their flying range. This lightweight solar technology can be easily integrated into built environments with minimal installation needs.

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Meat Made Without Any Animals

People in lab coats may soon be replacing farm animals. Upside Foods has developed a version of “slaughter-free,” lab-grown meat, which can be made without a single real animal. And now the FDA has approved this chickenless chicken for consumer consumption, meaning we may soon see it in restaurants and grocery stores.

Cultivating meat in a lab is a high-tech process, which involves taking cell samples from an animal and then nurturing them in a “cultivator,” where they grow and multiply into tissue.

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Voice, a Biomarker to Detect Diseases

To the general public, it may sound like something out of a science fiction movie: diagnosing serious diseases such as cancer by listening to someone’s voice. But in fact, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are now investigating whether changes in a person’s voice could serve as a new biomarker in clinical care for detecting illnesses early.

The project, called Voice as a Biomarker of Health, will include 12 research institutions and is being funded by the Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI) program out of the NIH Common Fund. The project will use machine learning to build a database of vocal biomarkers, and then use the science of acoustic analysis to identify changes—such as pitch, amplitude, cadence, and words per minute—that could become a low-cost diagnostic tool, alongside other clinical tests.

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Sugar Linked to Alzheimer’s

In a bit of “reverse engineering” research using brain tissues from five people who died with Alzheimer’s disease, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they discovered that a special sugar molecule could play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. If further research confirms the finding, the molecule, known as a glycan, could serve as a new target for early diagnostic tests, treatments and perhaps prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, say the researchers. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the United States. Affecting an estimated 5.8 million Americans, the progressive disorder occurs when nerve cells in the brain die due to the buildup of harmful forms of proteins called amyloid and tau.

Cleaning up the disease-causing forms of amyloid and tau is the job of the brain’s immune cells, called microglia. Earlier studies found that when cleanup is impaired, Alzheimer’s disease is more likely to occur. In some people, this is caused by an overabundance of a receptor on the microglia cells, called CD33.

Receptors are not active on their own. Something needs to connect with them to block microglia from cleaning up these toxic proteins in the brain", says Ronald Schnaar,  Professor of Pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the laboratory that led the study. Past studies by the researchers showed that for CD33, these “connector” molecules are special sugars. Known to scientists as glycans, these molecules are ferried around the cell by specialized proteins that help them find their appropriate receptors. The protein-glycan combination is called a glycoprotein.

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3D Bioprinting to Cure Macular Degeneration

Scientists used patient stem cells and 3D bioprinting to produce eye tissue that will advance understanding of the mechanisms of blinding diseases. The research team from the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, printed a combination of cells that form the outer blood-retina barrier—eye tissue that supports the retina’s light-sensing photoreceptors.

The outer blood-retina barrier is the interface of the retina and the choroid, including Bruch’s membrane and the choriocapillaris

The technique provides a theoretically unlimited supply of patient-derived tissue to study degenerative retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

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How to Generate Cartilage Cells

 As any weekend warrior understands, cartilage injuries to joints such as knees, shoulders, and hips can prove extremely painful and debilitating. In addition, conditions that cause cartilage degeneration, like arthritis and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), affect 350 million people in the world and cost the US public health system more than $303 billion every year. Patients suffering from these conditions experience increased pain and discomfort over time.

However, an exciting study led by faculty at The Forsyth Institute suggests new strategies for making cartilage cells with huge implications in regenerative medicine for future cartilage injuries and degeneration treatments. In a paper, entitled “GATA3 mediates nonclassical β-catenin signaling in skeletal cell fate determination and ectopic chondrogenesis,” co-first authors Takamitsu Maruyama and Daigaku Hasegawa, and senior author Wei Hsu, describe two breakthrough discoveries, including a new understanding of a multifaced protein called β-catenin. Dr. Hsu is a senior scientist at the Forsyth Insitute and a Professor of Developmental Biology at Harvard University. He is also an affiliate faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

The goal of this study,” said Dr. Maruyama of Forsyth, “was to figure out how to regenerate cartilage. We wanted to determine how to control cell fate, to cause the somatic cell to become cartilage instead of bone.

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New Drug ‘Lights Up’ Lung Cancer Cells During Surgery

To help surgeons with the exacting task of finding and removing lung cancer cells, and sparing healthy tissue, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a fluorescent imaging agent that "lights up" lung cancer cells for easier detection. The prescription medication, Cytalux, or pafolacianine, was first approved by the FDA in November 2021 to help detect ovarian cancer during surgery. It received permission for the additional use on Friday.

Purdue ‘Light Up’ Cancer Technology Earns FDA Approval

Now, researchers cite its potential to improve the outcomes of thousands of lung cancer patients. Cytalux, which is given as an intravenous injection to adults prior to surgery, is designed to improve the ability to locate cancerous lung tissue that is normally difficult to detect during surgery, the FDA said. In a study of safety and effectiveness, of the 110 non-small cell lung cancer patients who received a dose of Cytalux and were evaluated under both normal light and fluorescent light during surgery. The FDA said 24% had at least one cancerous lesion detected that was not observed by standard visual inspection or by touch.

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Skin Patch Monitors Conditions Deep Into Body

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed an electronic patch that can monitor biomolecules in deep tissues, including hemoglobin. This gives medical professionals unprecedented access to crucial information that could help spot life-threatening conditions such as malignant tumors, organ dysfunction, cerebral or gut hemorrhages and more. 

A photoacoustic sensor could help clinicians diagnose tumors, organ malfunctions and more

The amount and location of hemoglobin in the body provide critical information about blood perfusion or accumulation in specific locations. Our device shows great potential in close monitoring of high-risk groups, enabling timely interventions at urgent moments,” said Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego and corresponding author of the study.

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Major Advance In Cancer Therapy

Immune checkpoint inhibitors such as Keytruda and Opdivo work by unleashing the immune system’s T cells to attack tumor cells. Their introduction a decade ago marked a major advance in cancer therapy, but only 10% to 30% of treated patients experience long-term improvement. In a paper published online today in The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI), scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine describe findings that could bolster the effectiveness of immune-checkpoint therapyRather than rally T cells against cancer, the Einstein research team used different human immune cells known as natural killer (NK) cells—with dramatic results.

“We believe the novel immunotherapy we’ve developed has great potential to move into clinical trials involving various types of cancer,” said study leader Xingxing Zang, M.Med., Ph.D., Professor of microbiology  at Einstein and a member of the Cancer Therapeutics Program of the Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center.

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