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Discovery Alert | Aspen Xchange

Discovery Alert

Global greenhouse gas emissions over the last century have made southern China a hotspot for bat-borne coronaviruses, by driving growth of forest habitat favoured by bats. A new study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment provides the first evidence of a mechanism by which climate change could have played a direct role in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic. The study has revealed large-scale changes in the type of vegetation in the southern Chinese Yunnan province, and adjacent regions in Myanmar and Laos, over the last century. Climatic changes including increases in temperature, sunlight, and atmospheric carbon dioxide have changed natural habitats from tropical shrubland to tropical savannah and deciduous woodland. This created a suitable environment for many bat species that predominantly live in forests.
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In a recurring pattern of evolution, SARS-CoV-2 evades immune responses by selectively deleting small bits of its genetic sequence, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Since these deletions happen in a part of the sequence that encodes for the shape of the spike protein, the formerly neutralizing antibody can't grab hold of the virus, the researchers report today in Science. And because the molecular "proofreader" that usually catches errors during SARS-CoV-2 replication is "blind" to fixing deletions, they become cemented into the variant's genetic material.
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An experimental single-dose, intranasal influenza vaccine was safe and produced a durable immune response when tested in a Phase 1 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The investigational vaccine, called Ad4-H5-VTN, is a recombinant, replicating adenovirus vaccine designed to spur antibodies to hemagglutinin, a protein found on the surface of influenza viruses that attaches to human cells. The investigational vaccine was developed by Emergent Biosolutions. It was administered intranasally (28 study participants), as an oral capsule (10 participants) and via a tonsillar swab (25 participants) to healthy men and non-pregnant women ages 18 to 49 years. The vaccine platform could be highly adaptable for use against other viruses including HIV and SARS-CoV-2, according to the authors.
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University of Queensland researchers have discovered a new 'seeding' process in brain cells that could be a cause of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. UQ's Queensland Brain Institute dementia researcher Professor Jürgen Götz said the study revealed that tangled neurons, a hallmark sign of dementia, form in part by a cellular process that has gone astray and allows a toxic protein, tau, to leak into healthy brain cells. "These leaks create a damaging seeding process that causes tau tangles and ultimately lead to memory loss and other impairments," Professor Götz said. Professor Götz said until now researchers did not understand how tau seeds were able to escape after their uptake into healthy cells.
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Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas have developed and demonstrated a new approach for designing photonic devices. The advance allows them to control the direction and polarization of light from thin-film LEDs, paving the way for a new generation of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies. In practical terms, an approach that allows for directional control of light using thin-film LEDs makes it possible to develop VR and AR headsets that are substantially lighter and less bulky. And the improved efficiency of the devices means that you get more photons out of the display unit for every electron that you put in.
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A new study published in the journal eLife by biologists at the University of California San Diego has revealed insights on the intricate, adaptive mechanisms of a protective system employed by the cells of mammalian immune systems. Through a multidisciplinary approach that combined bioinformatics, biochemistry and virology, Biological Sciences graduate students Brian Tsu, Chris Beierschmitt and Andy Ryan, Assistant Professor Matt Daugherty and their collaborators at UC Berkeley found surprising defensive functions coordinated by a protein called NLRP1, which serves as a sensor for invasive pathogens. The study revealed that NLRP1 has recently evolved to "sense" viral proteases through a type of trap that sets off an immune response in reaction to being cut by the viral proteases. 
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Many molecules in our bodies help our immune system keep us healthy without overreacting so much that our immune cells cause problems, such as autoimmune diseases. One molecule, called AIM2, is part of our innate immunity -- a defense system established since birth -- to fight pathogens and keep us healthy. But little was known about AIM2's contribution to T cell adaptive immunity -- defenses developed in response to particular pathogens and health problems we develop over the course of our lives. Now, UNC School of Medicine scientists have discovered that AIM2 is important for the proper function of regulatory T cells, or Treg cells, and plays a key role in mitigating autoimmune disease. Their research is published in the latest edition of Nature.
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Researchers have used single-molecule imaging to compare the genome-editing tools CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN. Their experiments revealed that TALEN is up to five times more efficient than CRISPR-Cas9 in parts of the genome, called heterochromatin, that are densely packed. Fragile X syndrome, sickle cell anemia, beta-thalassemia and other diseases are the result of genetic defects in the heterochromatin. The researchers report their findings in the journal Nature Communications. The study adds to the evidence that a broader selection of genome-editing tools is needed to target all parts of the genome, said Huimin Zhao, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who led the new research.
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An in vitro study conducted by scientists from Northwestern University and Utah State University concluded that components found within the Xlear nasal spray, particularly grapefruit seed extract and xylitol, were successful in statistically reducing the amount of SARS-CoV-2 in a patient. After a single blast, the researchers saw the nasal spray reduced virus from 4.2 to 1.7 log10 CCID50 per 0.1 mL, a statistically significant reduction of 2.5 log10 CCID50.” News of the study was announced by Xlear and the company said this is only the latest research that reaches a conclusion the over-the-counter spray is effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Xlear is currently sold as a nasal irrigant for cleansing and moisturizing the nasal cavities.
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A study conducted by researchers from the GIGA CRC In vivo Imaging laboratory at ULiège demonstrates, for the first time in humans, how the first deposits of tau proteins in the brainstem are associated with neurophysiological processes specific to the early stages of Alzheimer's disease development. During the study researchers investigated whether the first deposits of tau and beta-amyloid proteins in the brains of healthy individuals aged between 50 and 70 years old could be linked to a higher level of cortical excitability. To do this, they combined different neuroimaging methodologies (magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography) in order to characterize the quantity of tau and beta-amyloid proteins.
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Oftentimes, doctors use blood samples to check for biomarkers of disease: antibodies that signal a viral or bacterial infection, such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19; or cytokines indicative of inflammation seen in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and sepsis. These biomarkers aren't just in blood, though. They can also be found in the dense liquid medium that surrounds our cells, but in a low abundance that makes it difficult to be detected. However, Engineers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a microneedle patch that can be applied to the skin, capture a biomarker of interest and, thanks to its unprecedented sensitivity, allow clinicians to detect its presence. The research is publsihed in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
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As the number of people who have fought off SARS-CoV-2 climbs ever higher, a critical question has grown in importance: How long will their immunity to the novel coronavirus last? A new Rockefeller study offers an encouraging answer, suggesting that those who recover from COVID-19 are protected against the virus for at least six months, and likely much longer. The findings, published in Nature, provide the strongest evidence yet that the immune system "remembers" the virus and, remarkably, continues to improve the quality of antibodies even after the infection has waned. Antibodies produced months after the infection showed increased ability to block SARS-CoV-2, as well as its mutated versions such as the South African variant.
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A new study shows that intense immunosuppression followed by a hematopoietic stem cell transplant may prevent disability associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) from getting worse in 71% of people with relapsing-remitting MS for up to 10 years after the treatment. The research is published in the January 20, 2021, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study also found that in some people their disability improved over 10 years after treatment. Additionally, more than half of the people with the secondary progressive form of MS experienced no worsening of their symptoms 10 years after a transplant.
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New high-resolution structures of the bacterial ribosome determined by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago show that a single water molecule may be the cause -- and possible solution -- of antibiotic resistance. The water molecule, the researchers found, acts as a bridge between the ribosome and antibiotic. When resistant bacteria change the chemical makeup of their ribosomes, this bridge between the ribosome and the drug cannot be built. While the scientific community has long guessed that differences in the structures of the sensitive and resistant ribosomes were important -- why these changes prevent drug action was previously unknown. The findings of the new UIC study are published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
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To date, paralysis resulting from spinal cord damage has been irreparable. With a new therapeutic approach, scientists have succeeded for the first time in getting paralyzed mice to walk again. The keys to this are the protein hyper-interleukin-6, which stimulates nerve cells to regenerate, and the way it is supplied to the animals. The research team is now investigating to what extent this or similar approaches can be combined with other measures to optimize the administration of hyper-Interleukin-6 further and achieve additional functional improvements. They are also exploring whether hyper-interleukin-6 still has positive effects in mice, even if the injury occurred several weeks previously.
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One reason it's so difficult to produce effective vaccines against some viruses, including influenza and HIV, is that these viruses mutate very rapidly. This allows them to evade the antibodies generated by a particular vaccine, through a process known as "viral escape." MIT researchers have now devised a new way to computationally model viral escape, based on models that were originally developed to analyze language. The model can predict which sections of viral surface proteins are more likely to mutate in a way that enables viral escape, and it can also identify sections that are less likely to mutate, making them good targets for new vaccines. The study is published in the current edition Science. 
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Researchers have discovered remarkable molecular properties of an antimicrobial peptide from the skin of the Australian toadlet. The discovery could inspire the development of novel synthetic drugs to combat bacterial infections. The researchers solved the 3D molecular structure of an antibacterial peptide named uperin 3.5, which is secreted on the skin of the Australian toadlet (Uperoleia mjobergii) as part of its immune system. They found that the peptide self-assembles into a unique fibrous structure, which via a sophisticated structural adaptation mechanism can change its form in the presence of bacteria to protect the toadlet from infections.
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The combined effectiveness of three COVID-prevention strategies on college campuses -- mask-wearing, social distancing, and routine testing -- are as effective in preventing coronavirus infections as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved by the U.S. FDA, according to a new study co-authored by a Case Western Reserve University researcher. The research, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, has immediate significance as college semesters are poised to start again -- and as the distribution of approved vaccines lags behind goals. The study found that a combination of just two common measures -- distancing and mandatory masks -- prevents 87% of campus COVID-19 infections and costs only $170 per infection prevented.
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In a new study, researchers at The John Innes Center used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to make a strain which produces ten times more super-bug targeting formicamycins antibiotics on agar plates and even more in liquid cultures. Discovered within the last ten years, formicamycins have great potential because, under laboratory conditions, superbugs like MRSA do not become resistant to them. However, Streptomyces formicae only produce the antibiotics in small quantities. This has made it difficult to scale up purification for further study and is an obstacle to the molecules being taken forward for clinical trials.
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Bacteria or viruses like influenza that cause pneumonia can spread across large regions of the lung over the course of hours. In the modern intensive care unit, these bacteria or viruses are usually controlled either by antibiotics or by the body's immune system within the first few days of the illness. But in a study published in Nature on January 11th, investigators at Northwestern Medicine show COVID-19 pneumonia is different. Instead of rapidly infecting large regions of the lung, the virus causing COVID-19 sets up shop in multiple small areas of the lung. The severe complications of COVID-19 compared with other pneumonias might be related to the long course of disease rather than more severe disease, the study authors said.
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Across the world, health care workers and high-risk groups are beginning to receive COVID-19 vaccines, offering hope for a return to normalcy amidst the pandemic. However, the vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S. require two doses to be effective, which can create problems with logistics and compliance. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have developed a nanoparticle vaccine that elicits a virus-neutralizing antibody response in mice after only a single dose. Although these results must be confirmed in human clinical trials, they suggest that the spike/ferritin nanoparticles may be a viable strategy for single-dose vaccination against COVID-19, the researchers say.
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Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine researchers have found a way to mimic conditions in intestines, giving them a mechanical model for the real-time growth of bacterial infections. In a new study, they demonstrate a lab tool that simplifies simulations of the human intestine, making it more practical to find treatments for diseases like infectious diarrhea. The team led by bioengineer Jane Grande-Allen of Rice's Brown School of Engineering developed transparent milli-fluidic perfusion cassettes (mPCs) that are easy to fabricate and operate and compatible with common microscopic and biochemical analysis. The study appears in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
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Getting control of COVID-19 will take more than widespread vaccination; it will also require better understanding of why the disease causes no apparent symptoms in some people but leads to rapid multi-organ failure and death in others, as well as better insight into what treatments work best and for which patients. To meet this unprecedented challenge, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, in collaboration with other investigators, have created a mathematical model based on biology that incorporates information about the known infectious machinery of the virus that causes COVID-19. The model and its important clinical applications are described in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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A chemotherapy medication originally developed to treat cancer could potentially be repurposed to inhibit the replication of the novel coronavirus and treat Covid-19, according to a study based on computer simulations and lab experiments. The research, published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, combined multiple computational techniques that simulate drug-virus interactions from different, complimentary perspectives. Using this hybrid approach, scientists from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology in China, screened 1,906 existing drugs for their potential ability to inhibit replication of the coronavirus by targeting a viral protein called RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP).
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Scientists have long been aware of the dangerous overuse of antibiotics and the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant microbes that have resulted. While over-prescription of antibiotics for medicinal use has unsettling implications for human health, so too does the increasing presence of antibiotics in the natural environment. The latter may stem from the improper disposal of medicines, but also from the biotechnology field, which has depended on antibiotics as a selection device in the lab. Now, research conducted at University of California Santa Barbara and published in the journal Nature Communications describes a simple method to address both the overuse of antibiotics, as well as containment of GMOs. It calls for replacing antibiotics in the lab with fluoride.
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National Institutes of Health researchers have isolated a set of promising, tiny antibodies, or "nanobodies," against SARS-CoV-2 that were produced by a llama named Cormac. Preliminary results published in Scientific Reports suggest that at least one of these nanobodies, called NIH-CoVnb-112, could prevent infections and detect virus particles by grabbing hold of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. In addition, the nanobody appeared to work equally well in either liquid or aerosol form, suggesting it could remain effective after inhalation. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.
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Results of a unique test developed by a world-renowned expert, which targets three viral genes to increase reliability and could cut COVID-19 detection time to 20 minutes, have been peer reviewed and published in the journal Scientific Reports. Stephen Bustin, Professor of Molecular Medicine at ARU and a leading expert in quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), which is widely used to detect infectious SARS-CoV-2 in cells, has developed the assay, called Cov2-ID, with colleagues at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. The test detects three viral targets, making it more reliable than other current tests to identify the virus which target one or two, and was 100% accurate in almost 30 patient samples taken.
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Natural variations in ultraviolet radiation influence the spread of COVID-19, but the influence is modest compared to preventive measures such as physical distancing, mask wearing, and quarantine, according to new research from Harvard University. Analyzing daily COVID-19 and weather data from over 3,000 administrative regions in more than 170 countries, researchers at Harvard University, the University of California Santa Barbara and the École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay, found that the spread of COVID-19 through a population tended to be lower in the weeks following higher UV exposure. Findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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A drug that boosts the removal of cellular debris in immune cells may increase the protective effects of vaccines in older adults, a study published today in eLife shows. The results may lead to new approaches to protect older individuals from viruses such as the one causing the current COVID-19 pandemic and influenza. "Older adults are at high risk of being severely affected by infectious diseases, but unfortunately most vaccines in this age group are less efficient than in younger adults," explains lead author Ghada Alsaleh, a postdoctoral researcher at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford, UK.
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Scientists at the University of Bath have developed a quick and easy approach for capturing 360° VR photography without using expensive specialist cameras. The system uses a commercially available 360° camera on a rotating selfie stick to capture video footage and create an immersive VR experience. Conventional 360° photography stitches together thousands of shots as you move around one spot. However, it doesn't retain depth perception, so the scene is distorted, and the images look flat. While state-of-the-art VR photography, which includes depth perception, is available to professional photographers, it requires expensive equipment, as well as time to process the thousands of photos needed to create a fully immersive VR environment.
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Thanks to cutting-edge 'Nanopore' genome sequencing technology, researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney have developed the most rapid coronavirus genome sequencing strategy in Australia to date. The technological advance has the potential to provide critical, timely clues on how cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection are linked. The researchers today published an analytical validation and best practice guidelines for Nanopore sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 in Nature Communications, which they hope will enable a greater uptake of the fast sequencing technology for health initiatives in Australia and overseas.
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Compared to chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary cousins, humans are particularly prone to developing advanced carcinomas -- the type of tumors that include prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers -- even in the absence of known risk factors, such as genetic predisposition or tobacco use. A recent study led by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center helps explain why. The study, published this week in FASEB BioAdvances, suggests that an evolutionary genetic mutation unique to humans may be at least partly to blame.
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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, two human factors are battling it out: awareness of the virus's severe consequences and fatigue from nine months of pandemic precautions. The results of that battle can be seen in the oddly shaped case, hospitalization, and fatality-count graphs, a new study suggests. A paper describing the connection between human behavior and viral spread was published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was authored by researchers at Georgia Tech, McMaster University, Princeton University, and Texas A&M.
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Researchers at ETH Zurich have identified a self-regulating mechanism in European deciduous trees that limits their growing-season length: Trees that photosynthesize more in spring and summer lose their leaves earlier in autumn. Leaves of temperate deciduous trees glow in all their yellow and red glory just before falling, signaling that autumn has come. This process, called leaf senescence, allows trees to prepare for the coming winter by suspending their growth and extracting nutrients from the foliage. In the trees' phenological cycle, leaf senescence marks the end of the productive period during which they absorb CO2 through photosynthesis. This study is published in the journal Science.
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, testing remains a key strategy for tracking and containing the virus. Bioengineering graduate student, Maha Alafeef, has co-developed a rapid, ultrasensitive test using a paper-based electrochemical sensor that can detect the presence of the virus in less than five minutes. This platform has far-reaching applications due to its portability and low cost. The sensor, when integrated with microcontrollers and LED screens or with a smartphone via Bluetooth or WIFI, could be used at the point-of-care in a doctor's office or even at home. The team led by professor Dipanjan Pan reported their findings in ACS Nano.
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A new study of airflow patterns inside a car's passenger cabin offers some suggestions for potentially reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission while sharing rides with others. The study, by a team of Brown University researchers, used computer models to simulate the airflow inside a compact car with various combinations of windows open or closed. The simulations showed that opening windows -- the more windows the better -- created airflow patterns that dramatically reduced the concentration of airborne particles exchanged between a driver and a single passenger. Blasting the car's ventilation system didn't circulate air nearly as well as a few open windows, the researchers found. The study is published in the journal Science Advances.
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3D rendering illustration coronavirus x-rays lung show terrifying damage in lungs of Covid-19 analyze first US patient with coronavirus illustration,show terrifying damage in lungs.illustration

Using post-mortem tissue samples, a team of researchers from Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin have studied the mechanisms by which the novel coronavirus can reach the brains of patients with COVID-19, and how the immune system responds to the virus once it does. The results, which show that SARS-CoV-2 enters the brain via nerve cells in the olfactory mucosa, have been published in Nature Neuroscience. For the first time, researchers have been able to produce electron microscope images of intact coronavirus particles inside the olfactory mucosa.
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Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) have the potential to convert into a wide variety of cell types and tissues for drug testing and cell replacement therapies. However, the "recipes" for this conversion are often complicated and difficult to implement. Researchers at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD) at TU Dresden, Harvard University (USA) and the University of Bonn have found a way to systematically extract hundreds of different cells quickly and easily from iPS using transcription factors, including neurons, connective tissue and blood vessel cells. Researchers can use this transcription factor source through the non-profit organization Addgene. The results have now been published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
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The spike protein of the pandemic human corona virus is essential for its entry into human cells. In fact, most neutralizing antibodies against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are directed against the Virus-surface exposed spike protein, making it the antigen of choice for use in vaccines and diagnostic tests. In the current pandemic context, global demand for spike proteins has rapidly increased and could exceed hundreds of grams to kilograms annually. Coronavirus spikes are large heavily glycosylated homo-trimeric complexes, with inherent instability. The poor manufacturability now threatens the availability of these proteins for vaccines and diagnostic tests. Here, we outline scalable, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) compliant, and chemically defined processes for the production of two cell-secreted stabilized forms of the trimeric spike proteins (Wuhan and D614G variant). 
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A computational model of a human lung cell has been used to understand how SARS-CoV-2 draws on human host cell metabolism to reproduce by researchers at the University of Warwick. This study helps understand how the virus uses the host to survive, and enable drug predictions for treating the virus to be made. Their results are published in the paper, 'Inhibiting the reproduction of SARS-CoV-2 through perturbations in human lung cell metabolic network', in the journal Life Science Alliance.
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None of the mutations currently documented in the SARS-CoV-2 virus appear to increase its transmissibility in humans, according to a study led by UCL researchers. The analysis of virus genomes from over 46,000 people with COVID-19 from 99 countries is published this week in Nature Communications. First and corresponding author Dr Lucy van Dorp (UCL Genetics Institute) said: "The number of SARS-CoV-2 genomes being generated for scientific research is staggering. We realised early on in the pandemic that we needed new approaches to analyse enormous amounts of data in close to real time to flag new mutations in the virus that could affect its transmission or symptom severity.
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A new approach to treating cancers and other diseases that uses a mechanically interlocked molecule as a 'magic bullet' has been designed by researchers at the University of Birmingham. Called rotaxanes, the molecules are tiny nanoscale structures that resemble a dumbbell with a ring trapped around the central post. This new design uses a much larger cylindrical-shaped supramolecular 'helicate' molecule -- around 2nm long and 1nm wide -- which have remarkable ability to bind Y-shaped junctions or forks in DNA and RNA. In laboratory tests, the Birmingham researchers have shown that, when they bind to the junctions, the cylinder molecules are able to stop cancer cells, bacteria and viruses from reproducing. The results are published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
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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