Tag Archives: Rutgers University
Rutgers University researchers have received U.S. government clearance for the first saliva test to help diagnose COVID-19, a new approach that could help expand testing options and reduce risks of infection for health care workers.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the test under its emergency powers to quickly clear new tests and therapies to fight the outbreak, the New Jersey university said Monday. The test initially will be available through hospitals and clinics affiliated with the school. The announcement comes as communities across the U.S. continue to struggle with testing to help track and contain the coronavirus.
The current approach to screening for COVID-19 requires health care workers to take a swab from a patient’s nose or throat. To lessen infection risks, many hospitals and clinics instruct staff to discard gloves and masks after close contact with anyone who may have the virus. And many institutions are struggling with shortages of basic medical supplies, including gloves, masks and swabs.
With the new saliva-based test, patients are given a plastic tube into which they spit several times. They then hand the tube back to the health care worker for laboratory processing.
“This prevents health care professionals from having to actually be in the face of somebody that is symptomatic,” said Andrew Brooks, who directs the Rutgers lab that developed the test.
An infectious disease expert not involved with the new test said it would help overcome some of the patient discomfort and difficulties in taking swab samples.
William Wagner, the director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, a 250-strong team focused on organ and tissue failure, is at the center of possibly one of the most exciting projects in biomedical research today: can you use 3D printers to create new organs for people in space?
The ability to create new organs using stem cells is an exciting area of research that could help save lives, ending the scourge of donor shortages. Studying the concept further in microgravity could teach the team more about how these cells act, while enabling them to build more complex organs that could inform research on Earth. Early findings also suggest that these studies could reveal more about certain diseases. This vision came a bit closer to reality this week, when Wagner’s institute announced a multi-year research alliance with the International Space Station’s United States National Laboratory to explore the area further. The institute will develop facilities on Earth while working with the lab on flight opportunities to study experiments in the orbiting lab.
“There’s been a lot of neat discovery science done on the space station,” Wagner says. “Let’s see what happens when we put stem cells in space. Oh, gosh, they stay more stem-like and they divide better! Okay, well, now what?”
Slowly but surely, organ printing is developing. At a 2016 conference, CELLINK detailed a future where organ shortages were a thing of the past. A team in May 2017 succesfully implanted artificial ovaries in mice. A Rutgers University group of researchers created a 3D-printable water gel that could one day help researchers print organs.
SpaceX’s CRS-18 resupply mission, which launched July 21 carrying Nickelodeon slime, also carried a Techshot biofabrication utility designed for exploring this area further: Wagner’s team is focused on using stem cells to fabricate new organs. These cells, which can further split into specialized cells, are also being used in the nascent area of lab-grown meat. Wagner explains that both areas involve similar problems of growing cells in a certain manner and rate. But while lab-based burgers could hit plates as early as 2021, printed livers and the like are nowhere near ready. “I can tell you from my perspective, organ printing’s got a long, long, long way to go,” Wagner says. “There’s a lot of barriers. At the same time, it’s exciting. There’s a lot of hope there if we can overcome any of these barriers.”
Rutgers scientists have created a tiny, biodegradable scaffold to transplant stem cells and deliver drugs, which may help treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, aging brain degeneration, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Stem cell transplantation, which shows promise as a treatment for central nervous system diseases, has been hampered by low cell survival rates, incomplete differentiation of cells and limited growth of neural connections.
So, Rutgers scientists designed bio-scaffolds that mimic natural tissue and got good results in test tubes and mice. These nano-size scaffolds hold promise for advanced stem cell transplantation and neural tissue engineering. Stem cell therapy leads to stem cells becoming neurons and can restore neural circuits.
“It’s been a major challenge to develop a reliable therapeutic method for treating central nervous system diseases and injuries,” said study senior author KiBum Lee, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Our enhanced stem cell transplantation approach is an innovative potential solution.”
The researchers, in cooperation with neuroscientists and clinicians, plan to test the nano-scaffolds in larger animals and eventually move to clinical trials for treating spinal cord injury. The scaffold-based technology also shows promise for regenerative medicine.
The study included researchers from Rutgers and Kyung Hee University in South Korea. The results have been published in Nature Communications.