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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.
A 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 area. Blood 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 Organization. Blood clots are typically treated with anti-clotting medication. Complications can be avoided if the clot is caught early.
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.
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 same. Longer 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 water “decouples” from the deeper ocean. Climate 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 change. Global 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.”