Nasal Spray Blocks Covid-19 and Other Viruses

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have created a new COVID-19 therapeutic that could one day make treating SARS-CoV-2 infections as easy as using a nasal spray for allergies. The therapeutic uses short snippets of synthetic DNA to gum up the genetic machinery that allows SARS-CoV-2 to replicate within the body.

In a new study published online in the journal Nature Communications, the team shows that these short snippets, called antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), are highly effective at preventing the virus from replicating in human cells. When administered in the nose, these ASOs are also effective at preventing and treating COVID-19 infection in mice and hamsters.

Vaccines are making a huge difference, but vaccines are not universal, and there is still a tremendous need for other approaches,” said Anders Näär, a professor of metabolic biology in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology (NST) at UC Berkeley and senior author of the paper. “A nasal spray that is cheaply available everywhere and that could prevent someone from getting infected or prevent serious disease could be immensely helpful.”

Because the ASO treatment targets a portion of the viral genome that is highly conserved among different variants, it is effective against all SARS-CoV-2variants of concern” in human cells and in animal models. It is also chemically stable and relatively inexpensive to produce at large scale, making it ideal for treating COVID-19 infections in areas of the world that do not have access to electricity or refrigeration.

If the treatment proves to be safe and effective in humans, the ASO technology could be readily modified to target other RNA viruses. The research team is already searching for a way to use this to disrupt influenza viruses, which also have pandemic potential.

If we can design ASOs that target entire viral families, then when a new pandemic emerges, as long as we know which family the virus belongs to, we could use the nasally delivered ASOs to suppress the pandemic in its early stages,” said study first author Chi Zhu, a postdoctoral scholar in NST at UC Berkeley. “That’s the beauty of this new therapeutic.”

Source: https://news.berkeley.edu/

mRNA Breakthrough Offers a Potential Heart Attack Cure

King’s College London researchers are turning to the same technology behind the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to develop the first damage-reversing heart attack cure. They used mRNA to deliver the genetic instructions for specific proteins to damaged pig hearts, sparking the growth of new cardiac muscle cells. “The new cells would replace the dead ones and instead of forming a scar, the patient has new muscle tissue,” lead researcher Mauro Giacca said. Researchers are turning to the same technology behind Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines to develop the first damage-reversing heart attack cure.

Diseases of the heart are the leading cause of death around the world; the WHO estimates that 17.9 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2019, representing almost a third of all deaths. Of those, 85% are ultimately killed by heart attacks and strokes. Heart attacks occur when blood flow to parts of the heart is blocked, often due to fat or cholesterol build up. The cardiac muscle cells — marvelous little powerhouses that keep you beating throughout your entire life — are starved of oxygen and can be damaged or killed. Left in its wake is not the smoothly pumping cardiac muscle, but instead scar tissue.

We are all born with a set number of muscle cells in our heart and they are exactly the same ones we will die with. The heart has no capacity to repair itself after a heart attack,” explained Giacca.

At least, until now. To develop their heart attack cure, the researchers turned to mRNA, which delivers the instructions for protein creation to cells. Whereas the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines instruct cells to make the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, priming the immune system against the virus, the same technology can deliver a potential heart attack cure by carrying the code for proteins that stimulate the growth of new heart cellsPharmaTimes reported. In an experiment with pigs (a close match for the human heart), the mRNA treatment stimulated new heart cells to grow after a heart attackregenerating the damaged tissues and creating new, functional muscle rather than a scar.

According to BioSpace, harnessing mRNA in this way has been dubbed “genetic tracking,” named for the way the mRNA’s progress is tracked via the new proteins it is creating. The technique is being explored to create vaccines for pathogens like HIV, Ebola, and malaria, as well as cancers and autoimmune and genetic diseases. While thus far their heart attack cure has only been successfully tested in porcine pumpers, the team hopes to begin human clinical trials within the next couple years. “Regenerating a damaged human heart has been a dream until a few years ago,” Giacca said, “but can now become a reality.”

Source: https://www.freethink.com/

Sanofi Covid Vaccine Shows 100% Efficacy Against Severe Disease

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the pharma giants that stumbled in the race to develop a Covid-19 shot, found their vaccine protects against severe disease and hospitalization and will submit data to regulators for clearance. The duo said data from a trial shows that two doses of the Sanofi-GSK vaccine have 100% efficacy against severe Covid-19 and hospitalizations and 58% efficacy against any symptomatic Covid-19 disease. They said the safety of the vaccine was favorable too.

Meanwhile, a separate study showed it could increase neutralizing antibody levels 18- to 30-fold when used as a booster in people who’ve received other types of shots first. Shares in Sanofi rose as much as 1.7% in Paris on Wednesday, while GSK rose as much as 1.6% in London.

The data should allow the vaccine giants to finally play a big role in the pandemic fight, after repeated development delays allowed nimbler competitors like Moderna Inc. and the BioNTech SEPfizer Inc. alliance to rush ahead with messenger-RNA products. Those companies, along with AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson, steered highly effective products rapidly to market, helping save millions of lives and earning tens of billions of dollars in revenue.

While the Sanofi-Glaxo product appears to be on par with the mRNA shots when it comes to preventing severe disease and hospitalization, the efficacy may trail somewhat in terms of symptomatic disease, Sam Fazeli, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said in a note.

The vaccine will find a place among people reticent to take mRNA vaccines and in lower-income countries, making for a modest commercial impact on Sanofi and Glaxo,” Fazeli said.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/

Engineered Antibody Helps Block SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

Researchers at UC Davis Health have engineered a novel antibody, FuG1, that can directly interfere with the cell-to-cell transmission ability of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19FuG1 targets the enzyme furin, which the  uses for its efficient chain of infections in human cells. The approach could be added to existing SARS-CoV-2 antibody cocktails for greater function against emerging variants.

We developed an approach that interferes with the transmission chain of SARS-CoV-2. The COVID-19 vaccines are a great lifesaver in reducing hospitalizations and severe illness. Yet, we are now learning that they may not be as effective in controlling the transmissibility of the virus,” said Jogender Tushir-Singh, senior author of the study.

Tushir-Singh is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and a member of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center therapeutics program. His research uses rational protein engineering to generate multi-targeting  as cancer therapeutics. When the pandemic hit, he began thinking of similar strategies that might work to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Furin, found throughout the human body, is involved in various functions of cells. It is a type of enzyme, a protease, that can break down proteins into smaller components. It does this by cutting, or cleaving, the polybasic peptide bonds within the proteins. In cleaving these bonds, furin often acts as a switch, changing an inactive protein into an active one. For example, furin cleaves the inactive proparathyroid hormone into parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium levels in the blood. It can also cleave and activate viruses that enter . Pathogens that utilize furin in their  include HIV, influenza, dengue fever and SARS-CoV-2.

When SARS-CoV-2 infects a human cell, it is in its active state, having already “cleaved” its , a key protein that binds to ACE2 receptors to gain entry. But when the virus is being synthesized within the host cell—when it is replicating—the  is in an inactive state. The virus needs to use the host cell’s furin to cut the spike protein into two parts, S1 and S2, which makes the spike active on the viral particles for efficient transmissibility upon release.

The virus exploits the host’s furin to transmit from one cell to another and another. This added activation step is what makes the virus highly transmissible,” said Tanmoy Mondal, the first author for the study and a post-doctoral researcher at UC Davis Health. But inhibiting furin to limit the SARS-CoV-2 chain of infection cycle is not a straightforward mechanism. “Furin is found throughout the  and is needed for the normal functioning of many biological processes. Stopping furin from doing its job causes high body toxicity. That is why the standard furin inhibitor drugs are not a clinically feasible option,” Tushir-Singh said.

Instead, he and his team engineered a conjugated antibody targeting the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The design is similar to therapeutic monoclonal (IgG) antibodies but includes an added featureFc-extended peptide—that specifically interferes with the host furin. The researchers named this approach FuG1.

A study evaluating the efficacy of the engineered antibody was published in Microbiology Spectrum.

Source: https://phys.org/

 

Ravaged Landscape of COVID-19 Lungs

A revolutionary tool designed to broaden our understanding of human anatomy has for the first time provided scientists with a cellular-level look at lungs damaged by COVID-19. In healthy lungs, the blood vessel system that oxygenates the blood is separate from the system that feeds the lung tissue itself. But in some severe respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, pressures caused by the infection can lead blood vessels in the heart and lungs to expand and grow, sometimes cutting through the body and forming channels between parts of the pulmonary system that shouldn’t be connected. Similarly, COVID-19 infections can create the same types of abnormal channels. The channels give unoxygenated blood coming into the lungs an alternate exit ramp, allowing it to essentially skip the line and shoot back into the body without picking up any oxygen molecules first. Scientists believed that this could be a cause of the low blood oxygen levels sometimes experienced by COVID-19 patients, a condition known as hypoxemia.

Blood vessel growth is a very controlled process,” said Claire Walsh, a medical engineer at University College London and the first author of the imaging study, published in the journal Nature Methods. “It should be in this lovely tree-like branching structure. And you look at the COVID lungs, and you can just see it’s in these big clumps of really dense vessels all over the place, so that it just looks … wrong.

Walsh’s team, which included clinicians from Germany and France, has procured sharper-than-ever images of these warped structures, thanks to an imaging technique known as HiP-CT, or Hierarchical Phase-Contrast Tomography, which allows them to zoom in on any body part with 100 times the resolution of a traditional CT scan. Although the technique can only be used to capture images of samples removed from a body and preserved in a way that minimizes interference (rather than of organs that are still part of a living person), in pairing it with the world’s brightest X-rays at the European Synchrotron particle accelerator, the researchers hope to build a visual database of not only lungs infected with COVID-19, but other, healthy organs throughout the body.

Source: https://www.insidescience.org/

British Data Suggests Lower Hospitalisation Rate for Omicron Covid-19 Variant

Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation. The preliminary studies — one paper from Scotland and the other from England — were cautiously welcomed by experts, who nonetheless stressed that any advantage in milder outcomes could still be negated by the new strain’s heightened infectiousness, which may still lead to more overall severe cases.

We’re saying that this is qualified good news — qualified because these are early observations, they are statistically significant, and we are showing a reduced risk of hospitalisations,” Jim McMenamin, a co-author of the Scottish research, told reporters on a call.

The Scottish paper examined Covid cases recorded in November and December, and grouped them by cases caused by Delta against those caused by Omicron. It found that “Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta,” while also showing that a booster vaccine offered substantial additional protection against symptomatic infection.

https://www.france24.com/

New copper surface eliminates bacteria in just two minutes

A new surface that kills bacteria more than 100 times faster and more effectively than standard copper could help combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The new copper product is the result of a collaborative research project with RMIT University and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, with findings just published in Biomaterials. Copper has long been used to fight different strains of bacteria, including the commonly found golden staph, because the ions released from the metal’s surface are toxic to bacterial cells. But this process is slow when standard copper is used, as RMIT University’s Distinguished Professor Ma Qian explained, and significant efforts are underway by researchers worldwide to speed it up.

The copper magnified 500,000 times under a scanning electron microscope shows the tiny nano-scale pores in the structure

A standard copper surface will kill about 97% of golden staph within four hours,” Qian said. “Incredibly, when we placed golden staph bacteria on our specially-designed copper surface, it destroyed more than 99.99% of the cells in just two minutes.” “So not only is it more effective, it’s 120 times faster.” Importantly, said Qian, these results were achieved without the assistance of any drug. “Our copper structure has shown itself to be remarkably potent for such a common material,” he said.

The team believes there could be a huge range of applications for the new material once further developed, including antimicrobial doorhandles and other touch surfaces in schools, hospitals, homes and public transport, as well as filters in antimicrobial respirators or air ventilation systems, and in face masks. The team is now looking to investigate the enhanced copper’s effectiveness against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including assessing 3D-printed samples. Other studies suggest copper may be highly effective against the virus, leading the US Environmental Protection Agency to officially approve copper surfaces for antiviral uses earlier this year.

Source: https://www.rmit.edu.au/news/

Pfizer CEO: “Very High Level of Confidence” that the Covid Treatment Pill Is Effective Against the Omicron Variant

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said he expects the company’s Covid-19 treatment pill to be effective against the omicron variant of the virus causes Covid-19.

The good news when it comes to our treatment, it was designed with that in mind, it was designed with the fact that most mutations are coming in the spikes,” Bourla explained.  “So that gives me very high level of confidence that the treatment will not be affected, our oral treatment will not be affected by this virus.”

Pfizer submitted its application earlier this month to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize the pill, Paxlovid, for emergency use. In a clinical trial of people age 18 and over, Pfizer found the pill reduces hospitalization and death by 89% when taken with a widely used HIV drug within three days of the start of symptoms. The pill blocks an enzyme the virus needs to replicate. It is used in combination with HIV drug ritonavir, which slows the human metabolism to allow the Paxlovid to remain active in the body longer at a higher concentration to combat the virus.

https://www.cnbc.com/

Covid: Pfizer Says Antiviral Pill 89% Effective in High-Risk Cases

An experimental pill to treat Covid developed by the US company Pfizer cuts the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89% in vulnerable adults, clinical trial results suggest. The drugPaxlovid – is intended for use soon after symptoms develop in people at high risk of severe diseaseIt comes a day after the UK medicines regulator approved a similar treatment from Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD).

Pfizer says it stopped trials early as the initial results were so positiveThe UK has already ordered 250,000 courses of the new Pfizer treatment, along with another 480,000 courses of MSD‘s molnupiravir pillHealth and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid called the results “incredible”, and said the UK’s medicines regulator would now assess its safety and effectiveness.

If approved, this could be another significant weapon in our armoury to fight the virus alongside our vaccines and other treatments,” he said.

The Pfizer drug, known as a protease inhibitor, is designed to block an enzyme the virus needs in order to multiply. When taken alongside a low dose of another antiviral pill called ritonavir, it stays in the body for longer.

Three pills are taken twice a day for five days.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/

New Vaccine is Targeting All Coronaviruses

Army scientists working on a vaccine to target all coronaviruses, including mutations of the one causing COVID-19 and others that may emerge in the future, are finding data from early human trials promising and expect to publish the results by year-end.

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research have been working since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on a pan-coronavirus vaccine and are currently analyzing data from the Phase I clinical trial, which began in April with dozens of volunteers. They are following up with participants to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the new vaccine one month after each received their last dose.

Everything that we have been seeing from early stages of design of our vaccine and testing, in all different animal species, has really just been consistent and predictive of a very good response,” Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch, said in an interview. “Indications are that we are on that same pathway.”

The Walter Reed vaccine — called SpFN — may eventually be used by people who have already received other COVID-19 vaccines “as a bridge towards providing individuals continued, broad, long-term immunity for SARS-like viruses, whether they be variants that emerge in the future or new species of SARS viruses,” Modjarrad said.

The SpFN vaccine deploys a soccer ball-shaped protein that can target the spikes of multiple coronavirus strains on its different faces.

Source: https://www.bradenton.com/