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10,000 Patients Tested With Personalized mRNA Cancer Immunotherapies by 2030

As of January 10, 2022, over 13 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered — including hundreds of millions of mRNA vaccines by companies like Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Following the surge in mRNA vaccine research for COVID-19, researchers are now seeking to apply their experience to cancer vaccines. Recently, BioNTech announced a strategic partnership with the government of the United Kingdom to provide up to 10,000 patients with personalized mRNA cancer immunotherapies by 2030.

“Our goal is to accelerate the development of immunotherapies and vaccines using technologies we have been researching for over 20 years,” says Prof. Ugur Sahin, CEO and cofounder of BioNTech, in a press release.

The collaboration will cover various cancer types and infectious diseases affecting collectively hundreds of millions of people worldwide. If successful, this collaboration has the potential to improve outcomes for patients and provide early access to our suite of cancer immunotherapies as well as to innovative vaccines against infectious diseases – in the U.K. and worldwide,” he adds.

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Stem Cells to Reverse Glaucoma

Retinal cells grown from stem cells can reach out and connect with neighbors, according to a new study, completing a “handshake” that may show the cells are ready for trials in humans with degenerative eye disorders.

Over a decade ago, researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison developed a way to grow organized clusters of cells, called organoids, that resemble the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. They coaxed human skin cells reprogrammed to act as stem cells to develop into layers of several types of retinal cells that sense light and ultimately transmit what we see to the brain.

Proof of synapses connecting pairs of retinal cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells comes from the red coloring of infection by a modified rabies virus passed from one cell with a yellow nucleus across the synapse to a cell that glows only red

We wanted to use the cells from those organoids as replacement parts for the same types of cells that have been lost in the course of retinal diseases,” says David Gamm, the UW–Madison ophthalmology professor and director of the McPherson Eye Research Institute whose lab developed the organoids. “But after being grown in a laboratory dish for months as compact clusters, the question remained — will the cells behave appropriately after we tease them apart? Because that is key to introducing them into a patient’s eye.

During 2022, Gamm and UW–Madison collaborators published studies showing that dish-grown retinal cells called photoreceptors respond like those in a healthy retina to different wavelengths and intensities of light, and that once they are separated from adjacent cells in their organoid, they can reach out toward new neighbors with characteristic biological cords called axons. “The last piece of the puzzle was to see if these cords had the ability to plug into, or shake hands with, other retinal cell types in order to communicate,” says Gamm, whose new results on successful connections between the cells was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: https://news.wisc.edu/

GPT-3 Could Make Google Search Engine Obsolete

According to The Economist, improved algorithms, powerful computers, and an increase in digitized data have fueled a revolution in machine learning, with new techniques in the 2010s resulting in "rapid improvements in tasks" including manipulating language. Software models are trained to learn by using thousands or millions of examples in a "structure ... loosely based on the neural architecture of the brain". One architecture used in natural language processing (NLP) is a neural network based on a deep learning model that was first introduced in 2017—the Transformer. GPT-n models are based on this Transformer-based deep learning neural network architecture. There are a number of NLP systems capable of processing, mining, organizing, connecting and contrasting textual input, as well as correctly answering questions.

On June 11, 2018, OpenAI researchers and engineers posted their original paper on generative models—language models—artificial intelligence systems—that could be pre-trained with an enormous and diverse corpus of text via datasets, in a process they called generative pre-training (GP). The authors described how language understanding performances in natural language processing (NLP) were improved in GPT-n through a process of "generative pre-training of a language model on a diverse corpus of unlabeled text, followed by discriminative fine-tuning on each specific task." This eliminated the need for human supervision and for time-intensive hand-labeling.

In February 2020, Microsoft introduced its Turing Natural Language Generation (T-NLG), which was claimed to be the "largest language model ever published at 17 billion parameters." It performed better than any other language model at a variety of tasks which included summarizing texts and answering questions.

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A Mass Extinction Is Taking Place in the Human Gut

In November 2022, Swiss scientists opened an eagerly awaited package from rural Ethiopia. It was full of shit. For two months, public health researcher Abdifatah Muhummed had been collecting stool samples from children in a remote, pastoralist community in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, as part of a global effort to catalog and preserve the diversity of human gut bacteria. He split each sample into four tubes, froze them at –80 degrees Celsius, and shipped two of them to Europe.

Trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes live in the digestive tract. Many of them are beneficial to human health—influencing our metabolism and immune system, for example. But their diversity is under threat from industrialization, urbanization, and environmental changes. When Muhummed analyzed some of the samples he’d collected—culturing them in petri dishes and adding a dye to make them visible under a microscope—he was astounded to find signs of antibiotic resistance, even in samples taken from children who had never been exposed to modern antibiotics.

That’s one of the reasons scientists want to create a global biobank—a Noah’s ark of microbes, so to speak—and permanently store samples from around the world, before it’s too late. “Of course, it is difficult to concretely say what we are losing,” says microbiologist Adrian Egli, who is based in Zurich and is part of the launch team for the Microbiota Vault project.

Source: https://www.microbiotavault.org/
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https://www.wired.co.uk/

Universal Flu Vaccine

Because we cannot currently predict which subtype of the influenza virus will cause the next pandemic, researchers have made various attempts to produce a “universal” vaccine that could protect people from a wide swathe of subtypes.

Although most of these efforts have focused on a limited set of antigens that are shared by many subtypes, an alternate approach has been to generate a multivalent vaccine that would encode all known subtypes. Arevalo et al. took advantage of recent advances in nucleic acid–based vaccine platforms to develop a nucleoside-modified messenger RNA–lipid nanoparticle vaccine encoding hemagglutinin antigens from all 20 known influenza A and B virus subtypes (see the Perspective by Kelvin and Falzarano). This vaccine elicited high levels of cross-reactive and subtype-specific antibodies in both mice and ferrets, which protected these animals from matched and mismatched influenza virus strains.

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How to Fight Cancer With Cancer

Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found a way to fight cancer with cancer. The team genetically engineered cancer cells to release anti-cancer drugs at the site of established tumors, as well as stimulating the immune system against the disease. Tests in mice proved promising as both a therapy and a preventative vaccine.

Cancer vaccines are an emerging area of research, where patients are often administered inactive tumor cells or proteins expressed at high levels by cancer cells. This trains the immune system to recognize existing tumors and mount an assault on them, and can prevent the spread or appearance of new tumors. For the new study, the BWH team took a new approach, using living tumor cells instead.

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One in Five Post-COVID Patients Have Brain Abnormalities

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in five adults have a health condition that might be related to having previously been infected with COVID-19. In addition to cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, blood clots and vascular issues, kidney failure, and musculoskeletal conditions, these individuals may also experience changes in their neurological and mental health conditions.

Researchers shared how their use of a special type of MRI revealed brain changes in patients up to 6 months after they have recovered from COVID-19 at the 2022 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting.

For their study, a team led by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology used susceptibility-weighted imaging (SWI) to analyze the effects that COVID-19 has on the brain. Magnetic susceptibilitydenotes how much certain materials, such as blood, iron and calcium, will become magnetized in an applied magnetic field,” the authors noted in an RSNA statement summarizing the findings. “This ability aids in the detection and monitoring of a host of neurologic conditions including microbleeds, vascular malformations, brain tumors, and stroke.”

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Solar Panels for Cells

New research in the journal Nature Aging takes a page from the field of renewable energy and shows that genetically engineered mitochondria can convert light energy into chemical energy that cells can use, ultimately extending the life of the roundworm C. elegans.  While the prospect of sunlight-charged cells in humans is more science fiction than science, the findings shed light on important mechanisms in the aging process.

Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) has been the source of major discoveries in molecular and cell biology

We know that mitochondrial dysfunction is a consequence of aging,” said Andrew Wojtovich, Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmacology & Physiology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and senior author of the study.  “This study found that simply boosting metabolism using light-powered mitochondria gave laboratory worms longer, healthier lives.  These findings and new research tools will enable us to further study mitochondria and identify new ways to treat age-related diseases and age healthier.”

Mitochondria are organelles found in most cells in the body.  Often referred to as cellular power plants, mitochondria use glucose to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the compound that provides energy for key functions in the cell, such as muscle contraction and the electrical impulses that help nerve cells communicate with each other.

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3D Prosthetic Hand For Ukraine

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the need for prosthetic hands has increased sharply. In Netherlands TU Delft researcher Gerwin Smit has designed a prosthetic hand that can be made through a combination of 3-D printing and laser-cutting, which means that they be produced easily and relatively cheaply in countries that have little money to spend on such things.

These prosthetic hands are already being used in India and now, the Indian technology company Vispala has donated 350 of Smit’s 3D-printed prosthetic hands to war victims in Ukraine, sponsored by the American IT-company, Cisco. Biomechanical engineer Gerwin Smit is the designer of the so-called ‘Hundred Dollar Hand’ which is easy and inexpensive to produce using a combination of 3-D printing and laser-cutting. 80% of people needing a prosthetic hand live in countries which have little money for such things so Smit’s robust and artificial hand offers a robust and reliable solution. Last year, the social enterprise, Vispala made the Hundred Dollar Hand design ready for production and already, several hundred have been made and distributed around India since 2021.
Meanwhile, Gerwin Smit and his team are monitoring the use of these prosthetic hands  and are gathering feedback to see how the design can be made even better.

Source: https://www.tudelft.nl/ 

You Can Now Buy a Quantum Computer

Shenzhen SpinQ Technology Co., Ltd. has come out with three models 

The year 2022 has witnessed many momentous moments: multiple moon missions, fusion power, JWST’s new but ancient galaxies, ChatGPT, quantum leaps in quantum computing etc. Yet, what 2022 might one day end up being largely remembered for, is as the year when the first affordable retail quantum computer went on sale.

Shenzhen SpinQ Technology Co., Ltd. has come out with three models Gemini, Gemini Mini and Triangulum that are ‘portablequantum computer models anyone can buy. While the first two are “2 qubits desktop NMR quantum computer”, Triangulum is a “3 qubits desktop NMR quantum computer”. Though the Chinese company had begun shipping their quantum computers earlier and the firstrealquantum computer IBM’s Quantum System One was installed in Germany on June 15 2021, what is unique about these models is weight and cost: at 14 kilograms and $5,000 Gemini Mini is the lightest and most affordable quantum computer in a market where the average low price is still a few hundred thousand with the high-end models selling for millions of dollars.

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