Discovery Alert

Simon Fraser University professors Paul Tupper and Caroline Colijn have found that physical distancing is universally effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19, while social bubbles and masks are more situation-dependent. The researchers developed a model to test the effectiveness of measures such as physical distancing, masks or social bubbles when used in various settings. Their paper was published on November 19th in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
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Researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) have demonstrated that the CRISPR/Cas9 system is very effective in treating metastatic cancers, a significant step on the way to finding a cure for cancer. The researchers developed a novel lipid nanoparticle-based delivery system that specifically targets cancer cells and destroys them by genetic manipulation. The system, called CRISPR-LNPs, carries a genetic messenger (messenger RNA), which encodes for the CRISPR enzyme Cas9 that acts as molecular scissors that cut the cells' DNA. The results of the groundbreaking study were published in November 2020 in Science Advances.
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Researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center working with colleagues at the University of New Mexico have identified three drugs, already approved for other uses in humans, as possible therapeutics for COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Based on virtual and in vitro antiviral screening that began in the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers led at UTHSC by Colleen Jonsson, PhD, identified zuclopenthixol, nebivolol, and amodiaquine as promising therapeutics for the virus in its early stages. In a paper published in ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science, the researchers propose the drugs as possible candidates for testing in future clinical trials to improve immune response to the virus.
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More than half of all in-hospital deaths due to COVID-19 during the first six months of 2020 were among Black and Hispanic patients, according to a new study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Duke University. The researchers did not find any racial or ethnic differences in mortality rates among people hospitalized with the disease. Yet a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic people became sick enough to require hospitalization, and they made up 53% of inpatient deaths. Fatima Rodriguez, MD, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford, is the lead author of the study, which was published this week in Circulation.
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Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have successfully used molecules made up of small strands of RNA to shut down the production of destructive proteins generated by the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, the researchers are working to aerosolize the RNA molecules so that they could be incorporated in an inhalable drug that would mitigate viral chaos. A key to the research effort was the use of either microRNA (miRNA) or silencing RNA (siRNA, both of which are RNA molecules. These molecules can guide the ultimate expression of how protein production occurs in a virus. The finding appears online this week in Gene Therapy.
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Eggs in the package

Scrambled, poached or boiled, eggs are a popular breakfast food the world over. Yet the health benefits of the humble egg might not be all they're cracked up to be as new research from the University of South Australia shows that excess egg consumption can increase your risk of diabetes. Conducted in partnership with the China Medical University, and Qatar University, the longitudinal study (1991 to 2009) is the first to assess egg consumption in a large sample of Chinese adults. It found that people who regularly consumed one or more eggs per day (equivalent to 50 grams) increased their risk of diabetes by 60 per cent.
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Bacteria are considered to be true experts in survival. Their rapid adaptive response to changing environmental conditions is based, among other things, on two competing signaling molecules. As the "Yin and Yang" of metabolic control they decide on the lifestyle of bacteria, as reported by researchers from the University of Basel. The new findings also play a role in the context of bacterial infections. This may prove to be of key importance: Both ppGpp and c-di-GMP influence bacterial virulence and persistence as well as antibiotic resistance in different ways, thus influencing the course of many infections. Learn More

A clinical trial at the University of Arizona Health Sciences designed to study the safety and effectiveness of a personalized cancer vaccine in combination with the immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab will expand its cohort after promising preliminary data was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer. The preliminary response rate of 50% is notable when compared to patients in clinical trials that receive Pembrolizumab immunotherapy alone without the personalized cancer vaccine. In those studies, the reported response rate is approximately 15%. Learn More

Measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) such as mask wearing, and social distancing are a key tool in combatting the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. These actions also have greatly reduced incidence of many other diseases, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Current reductions in these common respiratory infections, however, may merely postpone the incidence of future outbreaks, according to a study by Princeton University researchers published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Learn More

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that their mRNA-based vaccine candidate has demonstrated evidence of efficacy against COVID-19 in participants without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90%, at 7 days after the second dose. This means that protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, which consists of a 2-dose schedule. As the study continues, the final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary. The Data Monitoring Committee has not reported any serious safety concerns and recommends that the study continue to collect additional safety and efficacy data as planned. Learn More

A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study sheds light on a protein key to controlling how cells grow, proliferate and function and long implicated in tumor development. The findings, published this week in the journal Genes and Development, could lead not only to new therapies for hard-to-treat cancers, but also inform novel treatments for neurological diseases and rare developmental disorders, the authors say. For decades, scientists have known that the protein Cyclin Dependent Kinase 7 (CDK7) plays an instrumental role in helping all cell types transcribe, or decode, the genetic instructions provided by their DNA. Learn More

A research team led by Professor Hongzhe SUN, in collaboration with Dr Pak-Leung HO, at the University of Hong Kong have discovered that by repurposing an antirheumatic gold drug, auranofin (AUR), "last-resort" antibiotics can be resensitized for treatment of infections caused by multidrug-resistant superbugs including bloodstream infections, pneumonia and wound infections. The findings provide insights into development of inorganic pharmaceutics and new therapeutic approach for superbug infections. The ground-breaking findings on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are now published in a leading multidisciplinary science journal, Nature Communications and a related patent has been filed in the US. Learn More

Again and again, experts have pleaded that we need more and faster testing to control the coronavirus pandemic—and many have suggested that artificial intelligence (AI) can help. Numerous COVID-19 diagnostics in development use AI to quickly analyze X-ray or CT scans, but these techniques require a chest scan at a medical facility. Since the spring, research teams have been working toward anytime, anywhere apps that could detect coronavirus in the bark of a cough. In June, a team at the University of Oklahoma showed it was possible to distinguish a COVID-19 cough from coughs due to other infections, and now a paper out of MIT, using the largest cough dataset yet, identifies asymptomatic people with a remarkable 100 percent detection rate. Learn More

One of the pressing questions about COVID-19 remains: How long does immunity last? One key indicator of immunity is the presence of virus-specific antibodies. Previous studies have provided conflicting accounts about whether people who have recovered from infection can sustain potentially protective antibodies or not. A new study led by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital examined blood samples and cells from patients who had recovered from mild to moderate COVID-19 and found that while antibodies against the virus declined in most individuals after disease resolution, a subset of patients sustained anti-virus antibody production several months following infection. Results are published in Cell. Learn More

The link between weather and COVID-19 is complicated. Weather influences the environment in which the coronavirus must survive before infecting a new host. But it also influences human behavior, which moves the virus from one host to another. Research led by The University of Texas at Austin is adding some clarity on weather's role in COVID-19 infection, with a new study finding that temperature and humidity do not play a significant role in coronavirus spread. That means whether it's hot or cold outside, the transmission of COVID-19 from one person to the next depends almost entirely on human behavior. The research was published on October 26th in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Learn More

A team of researchers have tested everything from t-shirts and socks to jeans and vacuum bags to determine what type of mask material is most effective at trapping the ultrafine particles which may contain viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. Previous studies have only looked at a small selection of fabrics when the wearer is breathing normally, when particles are expelled at lower speed. Studying more fabrics and testing them at higher speeds provides a more robust evidence base for the effectiveness of fabric masks. The results, reported in the journal BMJ Open, show that most of the fabrics commonly used for non-clinical face masks are effective at filtering ultrafine particles. Learn More

New research from an international team co-led by George Hajishengallis of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine suggests that the innate immune system, which responds more generally to bodily invaders, may be an important yet overlooked component of immunotherapy's success. Their work, published in the journal Cell, found that "training" the innate immune system with β-glucan, a compound derived from fungus, inspired the production of innate immune cells, specifically neutrophils, that were primed to prevent or attack tumors in an animal model. Learn More

People recovering from COVID-19 may suffer significant brain function impacts, with the worst cases of the infection linked to mental decline equivalent to the brain ageing by 10 years, researchers warn. A non-peer-reviewed study of more than 84,000 people, led by Adam Hampshire, a doctor at Imperial College London, found that in some severe cases, coronavirus infection is linked to substantial cognitive deficits for months. "Our analyses ... align with the view that there are chronic cognitive consequences of having COVID-19," the researchers wrote in a report of their findings. "People who had recovered, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits." Learn More

Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle have shown that a potent antibody from a COVID-19 survivor interferes with a key feature on the surface of the coronavirus's distinctive spikes and induces critical pieces of those spikes to break off in the process. The team led by Drs. Leo Stamatatos, Andrew McGuire and Marie Pancera previously reported that, among dozens of different antibodies generated naturally by the patient, this one -- dubbed CV30 -- was 530 times more potent than any of its competitors. Their results are published in the journal Nature Communications. Learn More

Only 4 percent of all cancer therapeutic drugs under development earn final approval by the U.S. FDA. "That's because right now we can't match the right combination of drugs to the right patients in a smart way," said Trey Ideker, PhD, professor at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center. " In a paper published on October 20th, 2020 in Cancer Cell, Ideker and Brent Kuenzi, PhD, and Jisoo Park, PhD, postdoctoral researchers in his lab, describe DrugCell, a new artificial intelligence (AI) system they created that not only matches tumors to the best drug combinations, but does so in a way that makes sense to humans. Learn More

When Dr. Stephen Smith of Seattle Children's Research Institute came down with muscle aches, gastrointestinal distress and a sudden loss of smell in late February, he suspected he had COVID-19. The testing criteria had yet to be expanded to include individuals with Smith's symptoms and so he did what many scientists with his expertise would do: he developed a way to test himself. The fruits of his curiosity, now published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, offer a reliable way to quantify whether an individual has neutralizing antibodies that could prevent the novel coronavirus from infecting cells using a method that is more broadly applicable than those currently available. Learn More

Every cell in our body constantly divides to form new cells. This happens without us even thinking about it. However, every single time a cell divides, a complicated process has to unfold just the right way for our cells to avoid sickness and death. The most essential step in this process is DNA replication, where the DNA in a mother cell is copied into its two daughter cells. Here, many molecules have to work together in order to assemble two new, identical DNA strings. Writing for the journal Nature, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered how MCM proteins ensure that DNA replication proceeds at the right pace and thus avoids unnecessary molecular collisions, which could damage their genomes. Learn More

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University scanned the brains of more than three dozen politically left- and right-leaning adults as they viewed short videos involving hot-button immigration policies, such as the building of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, and the granting of protections for undocumented immigrants under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Their findings, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that liberals and conservatives respond differently to the same videos, especially when the content being viewed contains vocabulary that frequently pops up in political campaign messaging. Learn More

A preclinical study by neuroscientists indicates that an antigen-presenting dendritic vaccine with a specific antibody response to oligomeric A-beta may be safer and offer clinical benefit in treating Alzheimer's disease. The vaccine uses immune cells known as dendritic cells loaded with a modified A beta peptide as the antigen. The Alzheimer's mouse model study of this new investigational vaccine was published early online October 13th in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Learn More

While the world waits eagerly for a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infections from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers also are focusing on better understanding how SARS-CoV-2 attacks the body in the search for other means of stopping its devastating impact. The key to one possibility - blocking a protein that enables the virus to turn the immune system against healthy cells - has been identified in a recent study by a team of Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers. Based on their findings, the researchers believe that inhibiting the protein, known as factor D, also will curtail the potentially deadly inflammatory reactions that many patients have to the virus. The study was published recently in the journal Blood. Learn More

We know that the coronavirus behind the COVID-19 crisis lived harmlessly in bats and other wildlife before it jumped the species barrier and spilled over to humans. Now, researchers at Duke University have identified a number of "silent" mutations in the roughly 30,000 letters of the virus's genetic code that helped it thrive once it made the leap -- and possibly helped set the stage for the global pandemic. The subtle changes involved how the virus folded its RNA molecules within human cells. For the study, published October 16th in the journal PeerJ, the researchers used statistical methods they developed to identify adaptive changes that arose in the SARS-CoV-2 genome in humans, but not in closely related coronaviruses found in bats and pangolins. Learn More

A new article by Columbia Mailman School researchers Jeffrey Shaman and Marta Galanti explores the potential for the COVID-19 virus to become endemic, a regular feature producing recurring outbreaks in humans. They identify crucial contributing factors, including the risk for reinfection, vaccine availability and efficacy, as well as potential seasonality and interactions with other viral infections that may modulate the transmission of the virus. The article appears in the journal Science. Learn More

New studies published this week in Blood Advances suggest people with blood type O may have a lower risk of COVID-19 infection and reduced likelihood of severe outcomes, including organ complications, if they do get sick. The study results suggest that people with blood types A, B, or AB may be more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than people with type O. The researchers did not find any significant difference in rate of infection between A, B, and AB types. Since blood group distributions vary among ethnic subgroups, the researchers also controlled for ethnicity and maintained that fewer people with blood type O tested positive for the virus. Learn More

A bacterial toxin promoting tissue healing has been discovered. The compound, found in Staphylococcus aureus, does not just damage cells, but also stimulates tissue regeneration. As the research team reports in the current issue of the specialist journal Cell Reports, the toxic cocktail with which Staphylococcus aureus damages cells and tissues also has positive effects: specific immune cells are stimulated by the bacterial toxin to produce specialized messenger substances that help to reduce inflammation and to promote tissue healing. Prof. Werz expects this hitherto unknown mechanism to be significant for future treatments of skin inflammation and chronic wounds. Learn More

Virtual reality software which allows researchers to 'walk' inside and analyze individual cells could be used to understand fundamental problems in biology and develop new treatments for disease. The software, called vLUME, was created by scientists at the University of Cambridge and 3D image analysis software company Lume VR Ltd. It allows super-resolution microscopy data to be visualized and analyzed in virtual reality, and can be used to study everything from individual proteins to entire cells. Details are published in the journal Nature Methods. Learn More

Virologists from the KU Leuven Rega Institute in Belgium have shown that a treatment with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine does not limit SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus replication in hamsters. A high dose of the anti-flu drug favipiravir, by contrast, has an antiviral effect in the hamsters. The team published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The researchers are cautiously optimistic about favipiravir. "Because we administered the drug shortly before exposing the hamsters to the virus, we could establish that the medicine can also be used prophylactically, so in prevention," Suzanne Kaptein notes. Learn More

In plants, many proteins are found at only one end of a cell, giving them a polarity like heads and tails on a coin. Often, cells next to each other have these proteins at the same end, like a stack of coins with heads all facing up. This protein patterning is critical for how plant cells orient and coordinate themselves to produce the leaves, flowers, stems and roots that adorn our gardens and provide us with all our food and the oxygen we breathe. Previously it's been unclear how this head-to-tail protein patterning is produced: can it arise within each cell, or does it depend on a collective effort of many cells working together? A new paper, published in Current Biology has found that even cells in isolation can become polarized to create the head to tail pattern, and that this polarity can orient how the cell grows. Learn More

It's CRISPR. Two scientists who pioneered the revolutionary gene-editing technology are the winners of this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The Nobel Committee's selection of Emmanuelle Charpentier, now at the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, and Jennifer Doudna, at the University of California, Berkeley, puts an end to years of speculation about who would be recognized for their work developing the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tools. The technology allows precise edits to the genome and has swept through laboratories worldwide since its inception in the 2010s. Learn More

Being previously infected with a coronaviruses that cause the "common cold" may decrease the severity of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infections, according to results of a new study. Led by researchers at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, the study also demonstrates that the immunity built up from previous non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections does not prevent individuals from getting COVID-19. Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the findings provide important insight into the immune response against SARS-CoV-2, which could have significant implications on COVID-19 vaccine development. LEARN MORE

This year's Nobel Prize is awarded to three scientists who have made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world. Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice made seminal discoveries that led to the identification of a novel virus, Hepatitis C virus. Prior to their work, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained. The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives. Learn More

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have identified a protein in the brain that is important both for the function of the mood-regulating substance serotonin and for the release of stress hormones, at least in mice. The findings, which are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, may have implications for the development of new drugs for depression and anxiety. After experiencing trauma or severe stress, some people develop an abnormal stress response or chronic stress. This increases the risk of developing other diseases such as depression and anxiety, but it remains unknown what mechanisms are behind it or how the stress response is regulated. Learn More

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted many of our interactions online, with Zoom video calls replacing in-person classes, work meetings, conferences and other events. Will all that screen time damage our vision? Maybe not. It turns out that our visual perception is highly adaptable, according to research from Psychology Professor and Cognitive and Brain Sciences Coordinator Peter Gerhardstein's lab at Binghamton University. These findings, "Mind-Craft: Exploring the Effect of Digital Visual Experience on Changes in Orientation Sensitivity in Visual Contour Perception," will be published in an upcoming issue of the academic journal Perception. Learn More

The scientists who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme 'cocktail' which can digest plastic up to six times faster. A second enzyme, found in the same rubbish dwelling bacterium that lives on a diet of plastic bottles, has been combined with PETase to speed up the breakdown of plastic. PETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change. PET is the most common thermoplastic, taking hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but PETase can shorten this time to days. Learn More

Ventilation systems in many modern office buildings, which are designed to keep temperatures comfortable and increase energy efficiency, may increase the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, particularly during the coming winter, according to research published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics. A team from the University of Cambridge found that widely used 'mixing ventilation' systems, which are designed to keep conditions uniform in all parts of the room, disperse airborne contaminants evenly throughout the space. These contaminants may include droplets and aerosols, potentially containing viruses. Learn More

One of the biggest challenges to the development of medical treatments for cancer is the fact that there is no single kind of cancer. Cancers derive from many kinds of cells and tissues, and each have their own characteristics, behaviors, and susceptibilities to anti-cancer drugs. A treatment that works on colon cancer might have little to no effect on lung cancer, for example. So, to create effective treatments for a cancer, scientists seek insight into what make its cells tick. In a new paper appearing in Nature Communications, Caltech researchers show that a framework they developed, using a specialized type of microscopy, allows them to probe the metabolic processes inside cancer cells. Learn More

People infected by the novel coronavirus can have symptoms that range from mild to deadly. Now, two new analyses suggest that some life-threatening cases can be traced to weak spots in patients' immune systems. At least 3.5 percent of study patients with severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have mutations in genes involved in antiviral defense. And at least 10 percent of patients with severe disease create "auto-antibodies" that attack the immune system, instead of fighting the virus. The results, reported in two papers in the journal Science on September 24th, 2020, identify some root causes of life-threatening COVID-19. Learn More

Researchers at the University of Alberta have discovered a novel, second mechanism of action by the antiviral drug remdesivir against SARS-CoV-2, according to findings published this week in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The newly identified mechanism performs much like a roadblock says Matthias Götte, the chair of medical microbiology and immunology. The research team previously demonstrated how remdesivir inhibits the COVID-19 virus's polymerase or replication machinery in a test tube. "Remdesivir stops or heavily delays replication of the virus, which in turn reduces propagation and spread." Learn More

Scientists in Houston this week released a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus's continual accumulation of mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. The new report, however, did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes. All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say. But every mutation is a roll of the dice, and with transmission so widespread in the United States the virus has had abundant opportunities to change, potentially with troublesome consequences, said study author James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital. Learn More

While disease activity improves over time for most rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, long-term outcomes only improve in RA patients with autoantibodies, according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Xanthe Matthijssen of Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands, and colleagues. "The disconnection between improvement in disease activity and subsequent improvement in long-term outcomes in RA without autoantibodies suggests that the underlying pathogenesis of RA with and without autoantibodies is different," the authors say. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that RA with and without autoantibodies are two distinct conditions. Learn More

A study conducted by Hiroshima University researchers found that using Ultraviolet C light with a wavelength of 222 nanometers which is safer to use around humans effectively kills SARS-CoV-2 -- the first research in the world to prove its efficacy against the virus that causes COVID-19. Other studies involving 222 nm UVC, also known as Far-UVC, have so far only looked at its potency in eradicating seasonal coronaviruses that are structurally similar to the SARS-CoV-2 but not on the COVID-19-causing virus itself. A nanometer is equivalent to one billionth of a meter. The study is published in the American Journal of Infection Control. Learn More

In the 2019 Boeing 737 Max crash, the recovered black box from the aftermath hinted that a failed pressure sensor may have caused the ill-fated aircraft to nose dive. This incident and others have fueled a larger debate on sensor selection, number and placement to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragedies. Texas A&M University researchers have now developed a comprehensive mathematical framework that can help engineers make informed decisions about which sensors to use and where they must be positioned in aircraft and other machines. The researchers detailed their mathematical framework in the June issue of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Control System Letters. Learn More

Pity the glycan. These complex sugar molecules are attached to 80% of the proteins in the human body, making them an essential ingredient of life. But this process, known as glycosylation, has been somewhat overshadowed by flashier biomolecular processes such as transcription and translation. Now, researchers at Cornell University led by Matthew DeLisa have introduced new tools to serve this understudied field and advance it forward. The group's paper, "Engineering Orthogonal Human O-linked Glycoprotein Biosynthesis in Bacteria," was recently published in Nature Chemical Biology. Learn More

Researchers have developed an advanced spectrometer that can acquire data with exceptionally high speed. The new spectrometer could be useful for a variety of applications including remote sensing, real-time biological imaging and machine vision. Spectrometers measure the color of light absorbed or emitted from a substance. However, using such systems for complex and detailed measurement typically requires long data acquisition times. In The Optical Society (OSA) journal Optics Express, lead author David R. Carlson and colleagues Daniel D. Hickstein and Papp report the first dual-comb spectrometer with a pulse repetition rate of 10 gigahertz. Learn More

An international team of astronomers today announced the discovery of a rare molecule -- phosphine -- in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is only made industrially or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments. Astronomers have speculated for decades that high clouds on Venus could offer a home for microbes -- floating free of the scorching surface but needing to tolerate very high acidity. The detection of phosphine could point to such extra-terrestrial 'aerial' life. While the discovery of phosphine in Venus's clouds came as a surprise, the researchers are confident in their detection. The study is published in Nature Astronomy. Learn More

A National Institutes of Health-funded study found that people with substance use disorders (SUDs) are more susceptible to COVID-19 and its complications. The research, published this week in Molecular Psychiatry, was co-authored by Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The findings suggest that health care providers should closely monitor patients with SUDs and develop action plans to help shield them from infection and severe outcomes. The study population consisted of over 73 million patients, of which over 7.5 million had been diagnosed with an SUD at some point in their lives. Learn More

An antibody test for the virus that causes COVID-19, developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Houston Methodist and other institutions, is more accurate and can handle a much larger number of donor samples at lower overall cost than standard antibody tests currently in use. In the near term, the test can be used to accurately identify the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy and measure how well candidate vaccines and other therapies elicit an immune response. The work was published this week in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Learn More

Using public transportation, visiting a place of worship, or otherwise traveling from the home is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of testing positive with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, while practicing strict social distancing is associated with a markedly lower likelihood, suggests a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study is believed to be among the first large-scale evaluations of COVID-19-relevant behaviors that is based on individual-level survey data, as opposed to aggregated data from sources such as cellphone apps. The results were recently published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Learn More

Researchers from the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington School of Medicine have used computers to originate new proteins that bind tightly to SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein and obstruct it from infecting cells. Coronaviruses are studded with so-called Spike proteins. These latch onto human cells to enable the virus to break in and infect them. The findings are reported this week in Science. In the experiments, the lead antiviral candidate, named LCB1, rivaled the best-known SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in its protective actions. The development of drugs that interfere with this entry mechanism could lead to treatment of or even prevention of infection. Learn More

Salk scientists have used skin cells called fibroblasts from young and old patients to successfully create blood vessels cells that retain their molecular markers of age. The team's approach, described in the journal eLife this week, revealed clues as to why blood vessels tend to become leaky and hardened with aging, and lets researchers identify new molecular targets to potentially slow aging in vascular cells. The team is planning future studies to probe the exact molecular mechanisms by which some of the genes they found to change with age control the changes seen in the vasculature. Learn More

As the flu season approaches, a strained public health system may have a surprising ally -- the common cold virus. Rhinovirus, the most frequent cause of common colds, can prevent the flu virus from infecting airways by jumpstarting the body's antiviral defenses, Yale researchers reported on September 4th in the journal The Lancet Microbe. The findings help answer a mystery surrounding the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic: An expected surge in swine flu cases never materialized in Europe during the fall, a period when the common cold becomes widespread. Learn More

When effective COVID-19 vaccines are developed, their supply will inevitably be scarce. The WHO, global leaders, and vaccine producers are already facing the question of how to appropriately allocate them across countries. And while there is vocal commitment to "fair and equitable" distribution, what exactly does "fair and equitable" look like in practice? Now, nineteen global health experts from around the world have proposed a new, three-phase plan for vaccine distribution -- called the Fair Priority Model -- which aims to reduce premature deaths and other irreversible health consequences from COVID-19. It has been published this week in Science. Learn More

A bioengineering technique to boost production of specific proteins could be the basis of an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, new research suggests. Scientists manipulated a natural cellular process to ramp up levels of two proteins used by the virus to infect other cells, packaged the protein-boosting instructions in nanoparticles and injected them into mice. Within a month, the mice had developed antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The technique involves altering specific sequences of messenger RNA, molecules that translate genetic information into functional proteins. The study is published this week in the journal Advanced Materials. Learn More

A weak immune response isn't the cause of dangerous lung failure in severe Covid-19 infections. Such infections seem, on the contrary, to be caused by an overreaction of the immune system. This is the conclusion made by a research team from Marien Hospital and the department of Virology of Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) as well as the Clinic for Infectious Diseases, the Clinic of Anesthesiology and the Institute for Virology of University Medicine Essen which studied specific antibodies and T cells occurring in recovered, seriously ill and deceased Covid-19 patients. The researchers identified comparable immune reactions in clinical follow up. They report their findings in the journal Cell Reports Medicine. Learn More

The evidence is in: Nice guys and gals don't finish last and being a selfish jerk doesn't get you ahead. That's the clear conclusion from research that tracked disagreeable people from college or graduate school to where they landed in their careers about 14 years later. "I was surprised by the consistency of the findings. No matter the individual or the context, disagreeableness did not give people an advantage in the competition for power -- even in more cutthroat, 'dog-eat-dog' organizational cultures," said Berkeley Haas Prof. Cameron Anderson, who co-authored the study. The paper was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Learn More

A new type of breast cancer drug developed by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago can help halt progression of disease and is not toxic, according to phase 1 clinical trials. The drug is specifically designed for women whose cancer has stopped responding to hormone therapy. The results are published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Learn More

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown way that some bacteria produce the chemical ethylene -- a finding that could lead to new ways to produce plastics without using fossil fuels. The study, published this week in the journal Science, showed that the bacteria created ethylene gas as a byproduct of metabolizing sulfur, which they need to survive. But the process that the bacteria use to do that could make it very valuable in manufacturing, said Justin North, lead author of the study and a research scientist in microbiology at The Ohio State University. Researchers from Ohio State worked on the study with colleagues from Colorado State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Learn More

Humans are not the only species facing a potential threat from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis. An international team of scientists used genomic analysis to compare the main cellular receptor for the virus in humans -- angiotensin converting enzyme-2, or ACE2 -- in 410 different species of vertebrates, including birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. About 40 percent of the species potentially susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 are classified as "threatened" and may be especially vulnerable to human-to-animal transmission. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Learn More

With over 170,000 COVID-19 deaths to date, and 1,000 more each day, America's life expectancy may appear to be plummeting. But in estimating the magnitude of the pandemic, University of California, Berkeley, demographers have found that COVID-19 is likely to shorten the average U.S. lifespan in 2020 by only about a year. Their findings, published online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conclude that 1 million deaths in 2020 would cut three years off the average U.S. life expectancy, while 250,000 deaths would reduce lifespans by about a year. Learn More

Many diseases caused by bacterial infections -- such as pneumonia, meningitis or septicaemia -- are successfully treated with antibiotics. However, bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics which then leaves doctors struggling to find effective treatments. Particularly problematic are pathogens which develop multi-drug resistance and are unaffected by most antibiotics. Scientists all over the world are therefore engaged in the search for new antibiotics. Researchers at the University of Göttingen and the Max Planck Institute have announced a promising new approach involving "antivitamins" to develop new classes of antibiotics. The results were published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. Learn More

Researchers may have come one step closer toward understanding how the immune system contributes to severe COVID-19. In a study published in Science Immunology, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden show that so-called natural killer (NK) cells were strongly activated early after SARS-CoV-2 infection but that the type of activation differed in patients with moderate and severe COVID-19. The discovery contributes to our understanding of development of hyperinflammation in some patients. Learn More

The release of massive amounts of proteins called cytokines can lead to some of the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. When large numbers of immune cells release cytokines, this increases inflammation and creates a feedback loop in which more immune cells are activated and this is sometimes called a cytokine storm. An August 19th study in the journal Cell now suggests that high levels of some cytokines may also prevent people who are infected from developing long-term immunity as affected patients were observed to make very few of the type of B cells needed to develop a durable immune response. Learn More

A robust, low-cost imaging platform utilizing lab-on-a-chip technology created by University of California, Irvine scientists may be available for rapid coronavirus diagnostic and antibody testing throughout the nation by the end of the year. The UCI system can go a long way toward the deployment of a vaccine for COVID-19 and toward reopening the economy, as both require widespread testing for the virus and its antibodies. So far, antibody testing in the U.S. has been too inaccurate or expensive to reach the necessary numbers. Their discovery appears in the journal Lab on a Chip, which is published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Learn More

Many people beat the summer heat by cranking the air conditioning. However, air conditioners guzzle power and spew out millions of tons of carbon dioxide daily. They're also not always good for your health -- constant exposure to central A/C can increase risks of recirculating germs and causing breathing problems. There's a better alternative, say a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia, Princeton University, the University of California, Berkeley and the Singapore-ETH Centre. They call it the Cold Tube, and they have shown it works. Learn More

A Rutgers-led team may have found the key to treating inflammatory diseases like asthma, allergies, chronic fibrosis and COPD. In a study published in the journal Nature Immunology, researchers discovered that neuromedin B (NMB), a protein produced by the nervous system, was responsible for preventing overactive immune responses and damaging inflammation. An immune response refers to the body's ability to recognize and defend itself against harmful substances. Although beneficial to help clear infections, an immune response can also promote damaging inflammation if not properly restricted. Learn More

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have identified a set of modifiable factors from a field of over 100 that could represent valuable targets for preventing depression in adults. In a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the team named social connection as the strongest protective factor for depression and suggested that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching, and daytime napping could also help lower the risk of depression. The study demonstrates an important new approach for evaluating a wide range of modifiable factors and using this evidence to prioritize targets for preventive interventions for depression. Learn More

Researchers at the University of Delaware, using supercomputing resources and collaborating with scientists at Indiana University, have gained new understanding of the virus that causes hepatitis B and the "spiky ball" that encloses the virus's genetic blueprint. The research, which has been published online, ahead of print, by the American Chemical Association journal ACS Chemical Biology, provides insights into how the capsid -- a protein shell that protects the blueprint and also drives the delivery of it to infect a host cell -- assembles itself. Learn More

Inspired by a unique kind of infection-fighting antibody found in llamas, a research team at the UCSF has synthesized a molecule that they say is among the most potent anti-coronavirus compounds tested in a lab to date. Called nanobodies because they are about a quarter of the size of antibodies found in people and most other animals, these molecules can nestle into the nooks and crannies of proteins to block viruses from attaching to and infecting cells. The lab-made one created by the UCSF team is so stable it can be converted into a dry powder and aerosolized, meaning it would be much easier to administer than Covid-19 treatments being developed using human monoclonal antibodies. Learn More

In a proof-of-concept study, researchers at Duke University report that a simple, low-cost technique provided visual proof that face masks are effective in reducing droplet emissions during normal wear. They found that the best face coverings were N95 masks without valves -- the hospital-grade coverings that are used by front-line health care workers. Surgical or polypropylene masks also performed well. Hand-made cotton face coverings provided good coverage, eliminating a substantial amount of the spray from normal speech. But bandanas and neck fleeces such as balaclavas didn't block the droplets much at all. Learn More

Sars-Cov-2 viruses can be inactivated using certain commercially available mouthwashes. This was demonstrated in cell culture experiments by virologists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum together with colleagues from Jena, Ulm, Duisburg-Essen, Nuremberg and Bremen. High viral loads can be detected in the oral cavity and throat of some Covid-19 patients. The use of mouthwashes that are effective against Sars-Cov-2 could thus help to reduce the viral load and possibly the risk of coronavirus transmission over the short term. This could be useful, for example, prior to dental treatments. However, mouth rinses are not suitable for treating Covid-19 infections or protecting yourself against catching the virus. Learn More

Discovering antiviral and anticancer drugs will soon be faster and cheaper thanks to new research from Simon Fraser University chemist Robert Britton and his international team. For the past 50 years, scientists have used humanmade, synthetic and nucleoside analogues to create drug therapies for diseases that involve the cellular division and/or the viral reproduction of infected cells. These diseases include hepatitis, herpes simplex, HIV and cancer. But, says Britton, "That process has been intensive and challenging, limiting and preventing the discovery of new drug therapies." Now, using the new process, scientists can create new nucleoside analogues months earlier than with the previous method, paving the way for quicker drug discoveries. A paper on this research was recently published in the journal Science. Learn More

Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction -- rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition. Experts from the Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the University of Bonn, the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research and the German Center for Infection Research, along with colleagues from a nationwide research network, present these findings in the scientific journal Cell. Learn More

Global changes in land use are disrupting the balance of wild animal communities in our environment, and species that carry diseases known to infect humans appear to be benefiting, finds a new UCL-led study. The findings, published in Nature, may have implications for future spillovers of diseases originating in animal hosts. The research team, led by the UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, studied evidence from 6,801 ecological communities from six continents, and found that animals known to carry pathogens that can infect humans were more common in landscapes intensively used by people. The researchers say we may need to alter how we use land across the world to reduce the risk of future spillovers of infectious diseases. Learn More

One of the immune system's oldest branches, called complement, may be influencing the severity of COVID disease, according to a new study from researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Among other findings linking complement to COVID, the researchers found that people with age-related macular degeneration -- a disorder caused by overactive complement -- are at greater risk of developing severe complications and dying from COVID. The connection with complement suggests that existing drugs that inhibit the complement system could help treat patients with severe disease. The study was published this week in Nature Medicine. Learn More

Virologists in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University have published a study showing a possible therapeutic treatment for COVID-19. The study, "3C-like protease inhibitors block coronavirus replication in vitro and improve survival in MERS-CoV-infected mice," appears in this week's issue of the medical journal Science Translational Medicine. It reveals how small molecule protease inhibitors show potency against human coronaviruses. These coronavirus 3C-like proteases, known as 3CLpro, are strong therapeutic targets because they play vital roles in coronavirus replication. Learn More

A research collaboration involving Monash University has made an exciting discovery that may eventually lead to targeted treatments to combat drug-resistant bacterial infections, one of the greatest threats to global health. The study, led by Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute's Associate Professor Fasséli Coulibaly and Professor Trevor Lithgow is published in Nature Communications. It outlines the use of high-resolution imaging to uncover how viruses known as phages can attack and kill Salmonella Typhi, the causative agent of typhoid, providing scientists with a new understanding of how they can be used in the ongoing fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Learn More

An experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson protected monkeys from infection in a new study. It is the second vaccine candidate to show promising results in monkeys this week. The company recently began a clinical trial in Europe and the United States to test its vaccine in people. It is one of more than 30 human trials for coronavirus vaccines underway across the world. But until these trials are complete - which will probably take several months - the monkey data offers the best clues to whether the vaccines will work. Unlike other vaccines in development that require two injections, the J&J candidate shielded the monkeys with just one dose. The study is published in this week's Nature. Learn More

In research that aims to illuminate the causes of human developmental disorders, Salk scientists have generated 168 new maps of chemical marks on strands of DNA, called methylation, in developing mice. The data, published this week in a special edition of Nature devoted to the ENCODE Project, can help narrow down regions of the human genome that play roles in diseases such as schizophrenia and Rett Syndrome. In the new work, researchers used experimental technologies and computational algorithms that they previously developed to study the DNA methylation patterns of cells in samples of a dozen types of tissues from mice over eight developmental stages. Learn More

Hokkaido University researchers have found a soft and wet material that can memorize, retrieve, and forget information, much like the human brain. They report their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In this study, the researchers placed a thin hydrogel between two plastic plates; the top plate had a shape or letters cut out, leaving only that area of the hydrogel exposed. For example, patterns included an airplane and the word "GEL." They initially placed the gel in a cold water bath to establish equilibrium. Then they moved the gel to a hot bath. The gel absorbed water into its structure causing a swell, but only in the exposed area. Learn More

With advances in genome sequencing, cancer treatments have increasingly sought to leverage the idea of "synthetic lethality," exploiting cancer-specific genetic defects to identify targets that are uniquely essential to the survival of cancer cells. Synthetic lethality results when non-lethal mutations in different genes become deadly when combined in cells. In a new paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that inhibiting a key enzyme caused human cancer cells associated with two major types of breast and ovarian cancer to die and in mouse studies reduced tumor growth. Learn More

Temporary loss of smell, or anosmia, is the main neurological symptom and one of the earliest and most commonly reported indicators of COVID-19. Studies suggest it better predicts the disease than other well-known symptoms such as fever and cough, but the underlying mechanisms for loss of smell in patients with COVID-19 have been unclear. Now, an international team of researchers led by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School has identified the olfactory cell types most vulnerable to infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Their findings can be found in the July 24th, 2020 edition of Science Advances. Learn More

Some supposedly inert ingredients in common drugs -- such as dyes and preservatives -- may potentially be biologically active and could lead to unanticipated side effects, according to a preliminary new study by researchers from the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). As reported in their new study, published this week online in Science, the researchers have now systematically screened 3296 excipients contained in the inactive ingredient database, and identified 38 excipient molecules that interact with 134 important human enzymes and receptors. Learn More

Airborne and potentially deadly, the virus that causes COVID-19 can only be studied safely under high-level biosafety conditions. While necessary to protect laboratory workers, these safety precautions slow down efforts to find drugs and vaccines for COVID-19 since many scientists lack access to the required biosafety facilities. To help remedy that, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a hybrid virus by swapping one of its genes for one from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The resulting hybrid virus infects cells and is recognized by antibodies just like SARS-CoV-2 but can be handled under ordinary laboratory safety conditions. Learn More

The University of Oxford's possible COVID-19 vaccine could be rolled out by the end of the year but there is no certainty, the lead developer of the vaccine said this week. The experimental vaccine, which has been licensed to AstraZeneca, produced an immune response in early-stage clinical trials, data shows, preserving hopes it could be in use by the end of 2020. "The end of the year target for getting vaccine roll-out, it's a possibility but there's absolutely no certainty about that because we need three things to happen," says a spokesperson. Learn More

Respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze travel farther and last longer in humid, cold climates than in hot, dry ones, according to a study on droplet physics by an international team of engineers. The researchers incorporated this understanding of the impact of environmental factors on droplet spread into a new mathematical model that can be used to predict the early spread of respiratory viruses including COVID-19, and the role of respiratory droplets in that spread. The team developed this new model to better understand the role that droplet clouds play in the spread of respiratory viruses. Their model is the first to be based on a fundamental approach taken to study chemical reactions called collision rate theory. Learn More

In a discovery that could advance the worldwide effort to limit the community spread of COVID-19 through robust contact tracing, researchers were able to identify recent COVID-19 cases using 25 microlitres of plasma from blood samples. The research team, led by BioPRIA and Monash University's Chemical Engineering Department, including researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent BioNano Science and Technology (CBNS),developed a simple agglutination assay - an analysis to determine the presence and amount of a substance in blood - to detect the presence of antibodies raised in response to the SARS-CoV-2 infection. Learn More

Phase I data from the COVID-19 vaccine under development by AstraZeneca and Oxford University's Jenner Institute is showing a robust defense against the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 13 million people across the globe. This week, U.K. media began to report hints of data from the early-stage study of the vaccine candidate that was provided by an unnamed "senior source." The Telegraph reported the vaccine candidate is producing both antibodies and Killer T cells in healthy patients who received the medication. That double defense could be critical, particularly as some reports suggest that antibodies developed in recovered COVID-19 patients may not be lasting. Learn More

Biomolecular engineers at Rice University have found a C-worthy technique that dramatically enhances the accuracy of gene editing. The Rice lab of biomolecular engineer Xue Sherry Gao has introduced a set of tools that increase the accuracy of CRISPR-based edits in disease sequence models up to 6,000-fold compared with a current base editor, BE4max, that is considered state-of-the-art. The work appears in the open-access journal Science Advances. Learn More

An investigational vaccine, mRNA-1273, designed to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), was generally well tolerated and prompted neutralizing antibody activity in healthy adults, according to interim results published online this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. The ongoing Phase 1 trial is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. The experimental vaccine is being co-developed by researchers at NIAID and at Moderna, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Learn More

One day, people could monitor their own health conditions by simply picking up a pencil and drawing a bioelectronic device on their skin. In a new study, University of Missouri engineers demonstrated that the simple combination of pencils and paper could be used to create devices that might be used to monitor personal health. Their findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Learn More

BioNTech Chief Executive Officer Ugur Sahin predicts the company's vaccine for COVID-19, which is it co-developing with Pfizer, could be ready for regulatory approval by the end of the year, with hundreds of millions of doses available for immediate distribution.In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Sahin talked about the progress the companies have made on their vaccine candidate and said their manufacturing capabilities could provide about one billion doses of the preventative drug by the end of 2021. The vaccine candidate is expected to initiate Phase III studies by the end of this month with about 30,000 patients. Learn More

The CRISPR system is a powerful tool for the targeted editing of genomes, with significant therapeutic potential, but runs the risk of inappropriately editing "off-target" sites. However, a new study publishing July 9, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Feng Gu of Wenzhou Medical University, China, and colleagues, shows that mutating the enzyme at the heart of the CRISPR gene editing system can improve its fidelity. The results may provide a therapeutically safer strategy for gene editing than using the unmodified enzyme system. Learn More

With N95 masks in short supply, a team of bioengineers and clinical experts from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been developing a new, sustainable solution for health care workers to provide protection during the pandemic. Made from sterilizable materials and known as the Injection Molded Autoclavable, Scalable, Conformable (iMASC) system, the team's N95 mask alternative is still in its prototyping stage. But early results from modeling and a feasibility study for fit testing suggest that the iMASC system could fit faces of different sizes and shapes and be sterilized for reuse. Preliminary findings are published in the British Medical Journal Open. Learn More

Frailty and immune decline are two main features of old age. Researchers from the University of Bern and the University Hospital Bern now demonstrate in an animal model that these two age-related impairments can be halted and even partially reversed using a novel cell-based therapeutic approach. The findings of this study have been published in the scientific journal Nature Metabolism and were further highlighted by a News and Views editorial article. Learn More

In a forthcoming paper, "It is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of COVID-19," 239 scientists from more than 30 countries are pushing the WHO to pay more attention to the possible airborne spread of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. At this time, the WHO and other public health organizations' guidelines refer to primary spread of the virus on droplets expelled when people with the disease sneeze, cough, or potentially speak loudly or sing. These are on "large respiratory droplets," and once they are expelled, they quickly fall to the ground. However, the researchers believe that airborne transmission via aerosolized particles, much smaller particles that can hang in the air, is more common than originally believed. Learn More

Research recently published in the journal Cell shows that a specific change in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus virus genome, previously associated with increased viral transmission and the spread of COVID-19, is more infectious in cell culture. The variant in question, D614G, makes a small but effective change in the virus's 'Spike' protein, which the virus uses to enter human cells. Two independent lines of experimental evidence that support these initial results are included in the paper. These additional experiments showed that the D614G change increases the virus's infectivity in the laboratory. Learn More