Discovery Alert

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

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing the global COVID-19 pandemic, uses a protein called polymerase to replicate its genome inside infected human cells. Terminating the polymerase reaction will stop the growth of the coronavirus, leading to its eradication by the human host's immune system. Researchers at Columbia Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have identified a library of molecules that shut down the SARS-CoV-2 polymerase reaction, a key step that establishes the potential of these molecules as lead compounds to be further modified for the development of COVID-19 therapeutics. The new study was recently published in Antiviral Research. Learn More

Changes in blood platelets triggered by COVID-19 could contribute to the onset of heart attacks, strokes, and other serious complications in some patients who have the disease, according to University of Utah Health scientists. The researchers found that inflammatory proteins produced during infection significantly alter the function of platelets, making them "hyperactive" and more prone to form dangerous and potentially deadly blood clots. Their report appears in Blood, an American Society of Hematology journal. Learn More

Staring at a deep red light for three minutes a day can significantly improve declining eyesight, finds a new UCL-led study, the first of its kind in humans. Scientists believe the discovery, published in the Journals of Gerontology, could signal the dawn of new affordable home-based eye therapies, helping the millions of people globally with naturally declining vision. Professor Jeffery said: "Our study shows that it is possible to significantly improve vision that has declined in aged individuals using simple brief exposures to light wavelengths that recharge the energy system that has declined in the retina cells, rather like re-charging a battery." Learn More

Chemically engineered peptides, designed and developed by a team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, could prove valuable in the battle against some of the most persistent human health challenges. The team's findings, recently published in Nature Scientific Reports, demonstrate how researchers can engineer peptides capable of selectively and specifically binding to polysialic acid (PSA) -- a carbohydrate that is present in many human cells and plays a key role in various physiological and pathological processes, including neurological development and disease progression. Learn More

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that a single treatment to inhibit a gene called PTB in mice converts native astrocytes, brain support cells, into neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. As a result, the mice's Parkinson's disease symptoms disappear. The treatment works like this: The researchers developed a noninfectious virus that carries an antisense oligonucleotide sequence -- an artificial piece of DNA designed to specifically bind the RNA coding for PTB, thus degrading it, preventing it from being translated into a functional protein and stimulating neuron development. The study is published this week in Nature. Learn More

More than 99.9% of seasonal coronaviruses present in airborne droplets were killed when exposed to a particular wavelength of ultraviolet light that is safe to use around humans, a new study at Columbia University Irving Medical Center has found. "Based on our results, continuous airborne disinfection with far-UVC light at the current regulatory limit could greatly reduce the level of airborne virus in indoor environments occupied by people," says the study's lead author David Brenner, PhD. The research was published today in Scientific Reports. The researchers had previously shown that far-UVC light can safely kill airborne influenza viruses. Learn More

Some common strains of influenza have the potential to mutate to evade broad-acting antibodies that could be elicited by a universal flu vaccine, according to a study led by scientists at Scripps Research. The findings highlight the challenges involved in designing such a vaccine, and should be useful in guiding its development. In the study, published in Science, the researchers found evidence that one of the most common flu subtypes, H3N2, can mutate relatively easily to escape two antibodies that were thought to block nearly all flu strains. Yet they found that it is much more difficult for another common subtype, H1N1, to escape from the same broadly neutralizing antibodies. Learn More

Many epidemiologists believe that the initial COVID-19 infection rate was undercounted due to testing issues, asymptomatic and alternatively symptomatic individuals, and a failure to identify early cases. Now, a new study from Penn State estimates that the number of early COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may have been more than 80 times greater and doubled nearly twice as fast as originally believed. In a paper published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers estimated the detection rate of symptomatic COVID-19 cases using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's influenza-like illnesses (ILI) surveillance data over a three week period in March 2020. Learn More

Treating a rare type of malignant lung cancer could improve, thanks to near-infrared irradiation and a cancer-targeting compound. Nagoya University oncologist Kazuhide Sato and colleagues tested the treatment and published their findings in the journal Cells. Sato and colleagues investigated the effectiveness of near-infrared photoimmunotherapy (NIR-PIT) as a treatment strategy for MPM. NIR-PIT has been fast-tracked for approval by the US FDA for treatment of a type of malignant head and neck tumor. For NIR-PIT to work, a cancer-targeting compound must first be injected. The compound is made of an antibody, which targets a specific structure on the cancer cells, and a photoabsorber, called IR700. Learn More

In the first study to look at objective measures of sedentary behavior and cancer mortality, researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found that greater inactivity was independently associated with a higher risk of dying from cancer. The most sedentary individuals had an 82% higher risk of cancer mortality compared to the least sedentary individuals. Researchers also found that replacing 30 minutes of sedentary time with physical activity was associated with a 31% lower risk of cancer death for moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling, and an 8% lower risk of cancer death for light-intensity activity, such as walking. Learn More

In a series of experiments using human cancer cell lines, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say they have successfully used light as a trigger to make precise cuts in genomic material rapidly, using a molecular scalpel known as CRISPR, and observe how specialized cell proteins repair the exact spot where the gene was cut. Results of the experiments, published in Science, not only reveal new details about the DNA repair process, but also are likely, the researchers say, to speed up and aid understanding of the DNA activity that typically causes aging and many cancers. Learn More

Like finding that needle in the haystack every time, your T cells manage what seems like an improbable task: quickly finding a few invaders among the many imposters in your body to trigger its immune response. T cells have to react fast and do so nearly perfectly to protect people from diseases. But first, they need a little "me" time. Rice University researchers suggest that has to do with how T cells "relax" in the process of binding to ligands -- short, functional molecules -- that are either attached to the invaders or just resemble them. The researchers' study appears in the Biophysical Journal. Learn More

A team led by Scripps Research has discovered antibodies in the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients that provide powerful protection against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease, when tested in animals and human cell cultures. The research, published this week in Science, offers a paradigm of swift reaction to an emergent and deadly viral pandemic, and sets the stage for clinical trials and additional tests of the antibodies, which are now being produced as potential treatments and preventives for COVID-19. Learn More

A study by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor has found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person's chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus. Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and the Harold J. Haynes Chair in the College of Geosciences, and colleagues from the University of Texas, the University of California-San Diego and the California Institute of Technology have had their work published in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Learn More

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in everything from higher cognitive functions to motor control, motivation, arousal, reinforcement, and sexual gratification, the receptors it acts on have been a longstanding target for treating disorders like Parkinson's disease, which is caused by the degeneration of dopamine-using neurons that control movement. The problem is that for at least two decades, no-one has been able to "see" what a dopamine receptor looks like when it is activated by dopamine -- at least not in high enough resolution to offer avenues for designing drugs that can target the receptors effectively. In a major collaborative study published in Nature, scientists from the lab of Patrick Barth at EPFL, with colleagues at UTSW and UCSD have now worked out the high-resolution structure of an activated form of a dopamine receptor in a native lipid membrane environment. Learn More

A good vitamin D status is beneficial both in cancer prevention and in the prognosis of several cancers, according to a new research review. The anti-cancer effects of vitamin D are especially pronounced in the prevention and treatment of colon cancer and blood cancers. In addition, high vitamin D responsiveness can be linked to a smaller cancer risk. Vitamin D responsiveness varies between individuals, affecting their need for vitamin D supplementation. The review article is published in Seminars in Cancer Biology. Learn More

Virus DNA left on a hospital bed rail was found in nearly half of all sites sampled across a ward within 10 hours and persisted for at least five days, according to a new study by UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). The study, published as a letter in the Journal of Hospital Infection, aimed to safely simulate how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, may spread across surfaces in a hospital. Instead of using the SARS-CoV-2 virus, researchers artificially replicated a section of DNA from plant-infecting virus, which cannot infect humans, and added it to a millilitre of water at a similar concentration to SARS-CoV-2 copies found in infected patients' respiratory samples. Learn More

Computer scientists have developed a way to measure staff comfort and concentration in flexible working spaces using artificial intelligence. While hot desking and activity-based working allow cost savings and greater flexibility -- and are said to increase staff collaboration and satisfaction -- studies also show the noise and lack of privacy can be distracting. With coronavirus restrictions beginning to ease in some parts of the world and employers planning the return to office-based work, a new sensor-based system developed by RMIT and Arup can offer insights on how to get the best out of these flexible working spaces. Learn More

Young patients with no risk factors for stroke may have an increased risk if they have contracted COVID-19, whether or not they are showing symptoms of the disease. Surgeons at Thomas Jefferson University and collaborators analyzed patients presenting with stroke from March 20th until April 10th at their institutions. The strokes they observed were unlike what they usually see. "We were seeing patients in their 30s, 40s and 50s with massive strokes, the kind that we typically see in patients in their 70s and 80s," says Pascal Jabbour, MD, Chief of the Division of Neurovascular Surgery and Endovascular Surgery. The study is published in the journal Neurosurgery. Learn More

Scientists have tried to develop synthetic red blood cells that mimic the favorable properties of natural ones, such as flexibility, oxygen transport and long circulation times. But so far, most artificial red blood cells have had one or a few, but not all, key features of the natural versions. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Nano have made synthetic red blood cells that have all of the cells' natural abilities, plus a few new ones. The researchers made the synthetic cells by first coating donated human RBCs with a thin layer of silica. They layered positively and negatively charged polymers over the silica-RBCs, and then etched away the silica, producing flexible replicas. Finally, the team coated the surface of the replicas with natural RBC membranes. Learn More

Researchers at Tulane University School of Medicine identified a gene that causes an aggressive form of breast cancer to rapidly grow. More importantly, they have also discovered a way to "turn it off" and inhibit cancer from occurring. The animal study results have been so compelling that the team is now working on FDA approval to begin clinical trials and has published details in the journal Scientific Reports. The team led by Dr. Reza Izadpanah examined the role two genes, including one whose involvement in cancer was discovered by Tulane researchers, play in causing triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). TNBC is considered to be the most aggressive of breast cancers, with a much poorer prognosis for treatment and survival. Learn More

It is well known that rates of transmission of some respiratory viruses, including influenza, tend to fall during the summer months. As COVID-19 has spread across the globe, questions have been raised about whether warming temperatures, humidity and UV index might slow, or even halt, the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. To answer these questions, researchers at Mount Auburn Hospital looked at the impact of temperature, precipitation, and UV index on COVID-19 case rates in the United States during the spring months of 2020. Published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, the findings reveal that while the rate of COVID-19 incidence does decrease with warmer temperatures up until 52 degrees F, further warmer temperatures do not decrease disease transmission significantly. Learn More

A team of scientists studying the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has caused the COVID-19 pandemic, found that it was especially well-suited to jump from animals to humans by shapeshifting as it gained the ability to infect human cells. Conducting a genetic analysis, researchers from Duke University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of Texas at El Paso and New York University confirmed that the closest relative of the virus was a coronavirus that infects bats. But that virus's ability to infect humans was gained through exchanging a critical gene fragment from a coronavirus that infects a scaly mammal called a pangolin, which made it possible for the virus to infect humans. Learn More

In proteins, amino acids are held together by amide bonds. These bonds are long-lived and are robust against changes in temperature, acidity or alkalinity. Certain medicines make use of reactions involving amide bonds, but the bonds are so strong they actually slow down reactions, impeding the effectiveness of the medicines. Researchers have now devised a way to modify amide bonds with a twist to their chemical structure that speeds up reactions by 14 times. This could be of great benefit to various medical researchers in the fields of drug development and more. Learn More

Research from Karolinska Institutet published this week in Nature shows that an RNA molecule involved in preventing tumour formation can change its structure and thereby control protein production in the cell. The finding can have important clinical implications as it opens for new strategies to treat different types of cancer. The researchers studied a microRNA known as miR-34a, which plays an important role in cancer by indirectly regulating the activity of the p53 protein, known as the guardian of the genome for its ability to prevent cancer formation. Changes in the function of p53 are very common in human cancers. Learn More

In a new study, the researchers discovered how the protein PP2A works at the molecular level, and how it inhibits the development of tumours in mice. The new results have been published in the scientific journal, the EMBO Journal. According to the researchers, there is a great deal of interest from both the academic research community and from the pharmaceutical industry for the protein PP2A because it is well-known that PP2A is a so-called tumour suppressor that suppresses tumours. But precisely which proteins PP2A regulates in order to inhibit cancer have so far not been known. Now, the researchers have gained detailed insight into this. Learn More

Scientists from the UK, Europe and the USA, including experts from the University of Birmingham, have published a vitamin D consensus paper warning against high doses of vitamin D supplementation. According to the study, there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to show vitamin D can be beneficial in preventing or treating Covid-19. Its authors advise that the population adhere to Public Health England guidance on supplementation. Following unverified reports that high doses of vitamin D could reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 and be used to successfully treat the virus, the new report published in the journal BMJ, Nutrition, Prevention and Health, investigated the current scientific evidence base on the vitamin and its use in treating infections. Learn More

Healthcare workers in Britain and Thailand have started taking part in a trial to determine whether two anti-malarial drugs can prevent COVID-19. The study, involving more than 40,000 healthcare workers across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, seeks to determine whether chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could play a role in the fight against the novel coronavirus. The lead investigators in Thailand and Britain said their 'COPCOV' trial, in the works for several months, would cut through the heated and unhelpful debate. Learn More

Scientists have collected plenty of evidence linking exercise to brain health, with some research suggesting fitness may even improve memory. But what happens during exercise to trigger these benefits? New UT Southwestern research that mapped brain changes after one year of aerobic workouts has uncovered a potentially critical process: Exercise boosts blood flow into two key regions of the brain associated with memory. Notably, the study showed this blood flow can help even older people with memory issues improve cognition, a finding that scientists say could guide future Alzheimer's disease research. The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Learn More

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans a nationwide study of up to 325,000 people to track how the new coronavirus is spreading across the country into next year and beyond. The CDC study, to be formally announced this week, is expected to launch in June or July, and will test samples from blood donors in 25 metropolitan areas for antibodies created when the immune system fights the coronavirus. To gain insights into how antibodies evolve over time, this study will remain in the field for over 18 months said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. Learn More

When bacteria such as Salmonella or Yersinia cause fever, diarrhea or abdominal pain, tiny "injection needles" are at work: their type 3 secretion system, or T3SS for short, shoots bacterial virulence proteins directly into the eukaryotic host cells. Researchers have thought of using bacterial injection devices to introduce proteins into eukaryotic cells. A Max Planck research team has now succeeded in controlling the injection system optogenetically, i.e. with light. In the future this will enable to use the system in biotechnological or medical applications. Learn More

Sorrento Therapeutics has announced that an antibody it is developing has shown an ability to block coronavirus infection of healthy cells in the laboratory. STI-1499 is one of about a dozen antibody candidates the company says has demonstrated the ability to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection of human cells. Sorrento Therapeutics said STI-1499 "completely neutralized the virus infectivity at a very low antibody dose, making it a prime candidate for further testing and development." The announcement came one week after the company said it was collaborating with Mount Sinai Health System to develop an "antibody cocktail" called COVI-SHIELD to potentially treat COVID-19. Learn More

Fatty food may feel like a friend during these troubled times, but new research suggests that eating just one meal high in saturated fat can hinder our ability to concentrate -- not great news for people whose diets have gone south while they're working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study compared how 51 women performed on a test of their attention after they ate either a meal high in saturated fat or the same meal made with sunflower oil, which is high in unsaturated fat. The loss of focus after a single meal was eye-opening for the researchers. Learn More

Masks, gowns, and other PPE are essential for protecting healthcare workers. However, the textiles and materials used in such items can absorb and carry viruses and bacteria, inadvertently spreading the disease the wearer sought to contain. When the coronavirus spread amongst healthcare professionals and left PPE in short supply, finding a way to provide better protection while allowing for the safe reuse of these items became paramount. Research from the LAMP Lab at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering may have a solution. The lab has created a textile coating that can not only repel liquids like blood and saliva but can also prevent viruses from adhering to the surface. Learn More

The goal of a vaccine is to trigger a response that safely protects against an infection and/or the burden of disease. While this is true for all vaccines, the steps leading to a safe and effective product can be different for each infection. In the case of COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have found that vaccine design can face specific challenges and that vaccine development approaches require an understanding of how the immune system naturally responds to a specific infection as well as how vaccines might trigger specific protective responses. Learn More

Children, teens and young adults are at greater risk for severe complications from COVID-19 than previously thought and those with underlying health conditions are at even greater risk, according to a study coauthored by a Rutgers researcher. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first to describe the characteristics of seriously ill pediatric COVID-19 patients in North America. The study followed 48 children and young adults -- from newborns to 21 years old -- who were admitted to pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) in the United States and Canada for COVID-19 in March and April. Learn More

With a discovery that could rewrite the immunology textbooks, an international group of scientists, including the teams of Bart Lambrecht, Martin Guilliams, Hamida Hammad, and Charlotte Scott (all from the VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) identified a new type of antigen-presenting immune cell. These cells, that are part of an expanding family of dendritic cells, play a crucial role presenting antigens to other immune cells during respiratory virus infections, and could explain how convalescent plasma helps to boost immune responses in virus-infected patients. Learn More

After studying global data from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates. Led by Northwestern University, the research team conducted a statistical analysis of data from hospitals and clinics across China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States. The researchers noted that patients from countries with high COVID-19 mortality rates, such as Italy, Spain and the UK, had lower levels of vitamin D compared to patients in countries that were not as severely affected. The research is available on medRxiv, a preprint server for health sciences. Learn More

By analyzing virus genomes from over 7,500 people infected with Covid-19, a UCL-led research team has characterized patterns of diversity of SARS-CoV-2 virus genome, offering clues to direct drugs and vaccine targets. The study, led by the UCL Genetics Institute, identified close to 200 recurrent genetic mutations in the virus, highlighting how it may be adapting and evolving to its human hosts. Researchers found that a large proportion of the global genetic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 is found in all hardest-hit countries, suggesting extensive global transmission from early on in the epidemic and the absence of single 'Patient Zeroes' in most countries. The findings were published this week in Infection, Genetics and Evolution. Learn More

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, N95 face masks have been in short supply. Health care workers, in particular, desperately need these masks to protect themselves from the respiratory droplets of infected patients. But because of the shortage, many have to wear the same mask repeatedly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended several methods for disinfecting N95 masks, such as heating, ultraviolet (UV) radiation and bleach treatment, but so far they have not been tested extensively, especially for multiple rounds of disinfection. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Nano have tested several methods for disinfecting N95 materials, finding that heating them preserves their filtration efficiency for 50 cycles of disinfection. Learn More

Researchers at Utrecht University, Erasmus Medical Center and Harbor BioMed (HBM) this week reported that they have identified a fully human monoclonal antibody that prevents the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus from infecting cultured cells. The discovery, published online in Nature Communications, is an initial step towards developing a fully human antibody to treat or prevent the respiratory disease COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. "This research builds on the work our groups have done in the past on antibodies targeting the SARS-CoV that emerged in 2002/2003," said Berend-Jan Bosch, Associate Professor, Research leader at Utrecht University, and co-lead author of the Nature Communications study. Learn More

The hunt for an effective treatment for COVID-19 has led one team of researchers to find an improbable ally for their work: a llama named Winter. The team -- from The University of Texas at Austin, the National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium - have linked two copies of a special kind of antibody produced by llamas to create a new antibody that binds tightly to a key protein on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This protein, called the spike protein, allows the virus to break into host cells. Initial tests indicate that the antibody blocks viruses that display this spike protein from infecting cells in culture. Their findings appear this week in the journal Cell. Learn More

The top U.S. spy agency said for the first time this week that the American intelligence community believes the COVID-19 virus that originated in China was not manmade or genetically modified. The Office of Director of National Intelligence statement contradicted conspiracy theories floated by anti-China activists and others suggesting the new coronavirus was developed by Chinese scientists in a government biological weapons laboratory from which it then escaped. It also echoed comments by the World Health Organization (WHO), which on April 21 said all available evidence suggests the coronavirus originated in animals in China late last year and was not manipulated or made in a laboratory. Learn More

Adding to growing evidence that the novel coronavirus can spread through air, scientists have identified genetic markers of the virus in airborne droplets, many with diameters smaller than one-ten-thousandth of an inch. That had been previously demonstrated in laboratory experiments, but now Chinese scientists studying real-world conditions report that they captured tiny droplets containing the genetic markers of the virus from the air in two hospitals in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started. Their findings were published this week in the journal Nature. It remains unknown if the virus in the samples they collected was infectious, but droplets that small can remain aloft and be inhaled by others for a couple of hours. Learn More

In 2009, the biopharma industry experienced one of the most costly viral contamination events in recent history. When Vesivirus 2117 made it into one of Genzyme's bioreactors for producing certain drugs, the fallout was dramatic. The company paid $175 million in fines, before moving to a new manufacturing facility with third-party oversight. Now, in a report published this week in Nature Biotechnology, we learn from a consortium of 20 biopharma's responding anonymously to 166 questions that viral contamination occurs during all stages of product development and through to cGMP manufacturing. We also learn, arguably most importantly, of the prevention, testing and corrective actions taken. Learn More

Scientists at the University of Washington and the University of Idaho have discovered just how readily multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria can emerge. In a paper published this month in Nature Ecology & Evolution, the researchers report that, for a bacterial pathogen already resistant to an antibiotic, prolonged exposure to that antibiotic not only boosted its ability to retain its resistance gene, but also made the pathogen more readily pick up and maintain resistance to a second antibiotic and become a MDR strain. The team's experiments indicate that prolonged exposure to one type of antibiotic essentially "primed" the bacteria. This priming effect made it more likely that the bacteria would acquire resistance to additional antibiotics. Learn More

One of the major concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been the burden that cases will place on the health care system. A new study published on April 23rd in the journal Health Affairs found that the spread of the virus could cost hundreds of billions of dollars in direct medical expenses alone and require resources such as hospital beds and ventilators that may exceed what is currently available. The findings demonstrate how these costs and resources can be cut substantially if the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus can be reduced to different degrees. Learn More

Two specific cell types in the nose have been identified as likely initial infection points for COVID-19 coronavirus. Scientists discovered that goblet and ciliated cells in the nose have high levels of the entry proteins that the COVID-19 virus uses to get into our cells. The identification of these cells by researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, University Medical Centre Groningen, University Cote d'Azur and CNRS, Nice and their collaborators, as part of the Human Cell Atlas Lung Biological Network, could help explain the high transmission rate of COVID-19. These findings appear this week in Nature Medicine. Learn More

Researchers at MIT; the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard; and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; along with colleagues from around the world have identified specific types of cells that appear to be targets of the coronavirus that is causing the Covid-19 pandemic. Using existing data on the RNA found in different types of cells, the researchers were able to search for cells that express the two proteins that help the SARS-CoV-2 virus enter human cells. They found subsets of cells in the lung, the nasal passages, and the intestine that express RNA for both of these proteins much more than other cells. Learn More

Experts at the University of Tokyo have identified a new protein in the pathway that leads to Alzheimer's disease. Researchers used the "molecular scissors" of CRISPR/Cas9 to search for new genes related to the neurodegenerative disease. "We believe this is the first time anyone has used this CRISPR/Cas9 genetic screening technique to look for changes in amyloid beta production," said Yukiko Hori, a co-first author on the research paper published in FASEB Journal and lecturer at the University of Tokyo. Researchers tested a total of 19,150 individual genes for their effect on amyloid beta levels and ruled out all but one: calcium and integrin-binding protein 1 (CIB1). Learn More

A team of scientists led by the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center has identified the binding site where drug compounds could activate a key braking mechanism against the runaway growth of many types of cancer. The discovery marks a critical step toward developing a potential new class of anti-cancer drugs that enhance the activity of a prevalent family of tumor suppressor proteins, the authors say. The findings, which appear in the leading life sciences journal Cell, are less a story of what than how. Learn More

Engineering researchers have developed a next-generation miniature lab device that uses magnetic nano-beads to isolate minute bacterial particles that cause diseases. Using this new technology improves how clinicians isolate drug-resistant strains of bacterial infections and difficult-to-detect micro-particles such as those making up Ebola and coronaviruses. Ke Du and Blanca Lapizco-Encinas, both faculty-researchers in Rochester Institute of Technology's Kate Gleason College of Engineering, worked with an international team to collaborate on the design of the new system -- a microfluidic device, essentially a lab-on-a-chip. Learn More

In a controlled laboratory test, Eagle Pharmaceuticals' malignant hyperthermia treatment Ryanodex inhibited the growth of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the company hopes to launch a clinical trial testing the efficacy of the drug in patients. In the in vitro tests, Ryanodex demonstrated antiviral activity and a lack of cytotoxicity. Two days after dosing, the in vitro results showed an absence of cytopathic effects in the infected cells. This week Eagle Pharmaceutical submitted its Investigational New Drug Application to the U.S. FDA to launch a Phase II trial in partnership with Hackensack University Medical Center to evaluate the efficacy of Ryanodex in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. Learn More

New research from an eight-year collaboration between scientists at the University of Leeds and the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has resulted in a technique that allows fragments of antibodies to be screened for susceptibility to aggregation caused by structure disruption much earlier in the drug discovery process. The approach is described in the journal Nature Communications, published this week. Dr David Brockwell, Associate Professor in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds, led the research. He said: "Antibody therapeutics have revolutionized medicine. They can be designed to bind to almost any target and are highly specific." Learn More

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara's Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center (SSLEEC) and member companies are developing ultraviolet LEDs that have the ability to decontaminate surfaces -- and potentially air and water -- that have come in contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In a promising sign, member company Seoul Semiconductor earlier this month reported a "99.9% sterilization of coronavirus (COVID-19) in 30 seconds" with their UV LED products. While their technology is currently being adopted for automotive use, a likely new focus of said technology will be the disinfection of personal protective equipment, surfaces, floors and the like. Learn More

Loss of smell and taste has been anecdotally linked to COVID-19 infections. In a study published this week in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, researchers at UC San Diego Health report the first empirical findings that strongly associate sensory loss with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. "Based on our study, if you have smell and taste loss, you are more than 10 times more likely to have COVID-19 infection than other causes of infection. The most common first sign of a COVID-19 infection remains fever, but fatigue and loss of smell and taste follow as other very common initial symptoms." Learn More

Purdue University engineers have created a laser treatment method that could potentially turn any metal surface into a rapid bacteria killer -- just by giving the metal's surface a different texture. In a study published in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces, the researchers demonstrated that this technique allows the surface of copper to immediately kill off superbugs such as MRSA. Since publishing this work, however, Rahimi's team has begun testing this technology on the surfaces of other metals and polymers that are used to reduce risks of bacterial growth and biofilm formation. Learn More

As COVID-19 testing becomes more widely available, it's vital that health care providers and public health officials understand its limits and the impact false results can have on efforts to curb the pandemic. A special article published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings calls attention to the risk posed by overreliance on COVID-19 testing to make clinical and public health decisions. The sensitivity of reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing and overall test performance characteristics have not been reported clearly or consistently in medical literature, the article says. As a result, health care officials should expect a "less visible second wave of infection from people with false-negative test results," says Priya Sampathkumar, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic and a study co-author. Learn More

A new study provides some of the earliest pieces of evidence that the COVID-19 outbreak affected people mentally as well as physically. The preliminary results reveal adults in locations more affected by COVID-19 had distress, and lower physical and mental health, and life satisfaction. Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Tongji University and University of Sydney surveyed 369 adults living in 64 cities in China after they had lived under one-month of confinement measures in February this year. Led by Dr Stephen Zhang from the University of Adelaide, the study identifies adults with existing health conditions and those who stopped working as most at risk of worse mental and physical health. Learn More

Of the seven coronaviruses known to infect people, four cause common respiratory infections that are sharply seasonal and appear to transmit similarly to influenza, according to a new study by University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers. The study authors say it is not possible to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 disease, will behave likewise. But they hope their findings will help investigators better prepare for what's to come during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their study appears in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Learn More

The number of confirmed cases for the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 officially issued by countries and widely commented on by national and international media outlets dramatically understates the true number of infections, a recent report from the University of Göttingen suggests. Dr Christian Bommer and Professor Sebastian Vollmer from Göttingen University have used estimates of COVID-19 mortality and time until death from a recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases to test the quality of official case records. Their data shows that countries have only discovered on average about 6% of coronavirus infections and the true number of infected people worldwide may already have reached several tens of millions. Learn More

In the future, treating a concussion could be as simple as cooling the brain. That's according to research conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers, whose findings support the treatment approach at the cellular level. "There are currently no effective medical treatments for concussions and other types of traumatic brain injuries," says Christian Franck, the UW-Madison associate professor of mechanical engineering who led the study. "We're very excited about our findings because they could potentially pave the way for treatments we can offer patients." The researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE. Learn More

An international team led by University of British Columbia researcher Dr. Josef Penninger has found a trial drug that effectively blocks the cellular door SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect its hosts. "Our new study provides very much needed direct evidence that a drug -- called APN01 -- hrsACE2 -- soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19," says Dr. Art Slutsky, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael's Hospital and professor at the University of Toronto who is a collaborator on the study. The findings are published this week in Cell. Learn More

From health care to education to media, social distancing across the globe due to coronavirus (COVID-19) has created the need to conduct business "virtually" using Skype, web conferencing, FaceTime and any other means available. With this expansive use of mobile and video devices, now more than ever, it is important to understand how the use of these technologies may impact communication. But are all forms of online communication alike? In a first-of-its-kind study, neuroscientists from Florida Atlantic University demonstrate that a person's gaze is altered during tele-communication if they think that the person on the other end of the conversation can see them. Learn More

Being in isolation without access to gyms and sports clubs should not mean people stop exercising, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bath. Keeping up regular, daily exercise at a time when much of the world is going into isolation will play an important role in helping to maintain a healthy immune system. The analysis, published in the international journal Exercise Immunology Review, involving leading physiologists Dr James Turner and Dr John Campbell from the University of Bath's Department for Health, considers the effect of exercise on our immune function. Learn More

In a study involving thousands of participants, a new blood test detected more than 50 types of cancer as well as their location within the body with a high degree of accuracy, according to an international team of researchers led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic. The results, published online this week in the Annals of Oncology, indicate that the test -- which identified some particularly dangerous cancers that lack standard approaches to screening -- can play a key role in early detection of cancer. Early detection can often be critical to successful treatment. Learn More

In a new study, researchers found that half of the patients they treated for mild COVID-19 infection still had coronavirus for up to eight days after symptoms disappeared. The research letter was published online in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In "Time Kinetics of Viral Clearance and Resolution of Symptoms in Novel Coronavirus Infection," Lixin Xie, MD, Lokesh Sharma, PhD, and co-authors report on a study of 16 patients with COVID-19, who were treated and released from the Treatment Center of PLA General Hospital in Beijing between January 28 and Feb. 9, 2020. Patients studied had a median age of 35.5 years. Learn More

How the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 made the leap from animals to humans is a puzzle that scientists are trying to solve as humanity comes to grip with the deadly pandemic sweeping the globe. At the frontline of this scientific work is Professor Edward Holmes, an evolutionary virologist who holds a joint position with the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney. He has been working closely with scientists in China and around the world to unlock the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, to understand its origins and assist in the race other scientists are engaged in to find an effective vaccine. Learn More

Vir Biotechnology has announced that laboratory testing showed two of its antibody drugs appeared to neutralize the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and that it would pursue testing them in people. The company said that human tests of the drugs could begin in three to five months, putting it roughly in line with two other efforts to produce anti-coronavirus antibodies. Regeneron has said that its antibodies could enter trials by early summer - and that its treatment, if it proves effective, could be available for some uses in the fall. Eli Lilly, which is developing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies with AbCellera has said it hopes to begin human tests in four months. Learn More

A new modeling study conducted in a simulated Singapore setting has estimated that a combined approach of physical distancing interventions, comprising quarantine (for infected individuals and their families), school closure, and workplace distancing, is most effective at reducing the number of SARS-CoV-2 cases compared with other intervention scenarios included in the study. While less effective than the combined approach, quarantine plus workplace measures presented the next best option for reducing SARS-CoV-2 cases, followed by quarantine plus school closure, and then quarantine only. All intervention scenarios were more effective at reducing cases than no intervention. The study is published in The Lancet. Learn More

Revealing yet another super-power in the skillful squid, scientists have discovered that squid massively edit their own genetic instructions not only within the nucleus of their neurons, but also within the axon -- the long, slender neural projections that transmit electrical impulses to other neurons. This is the first time that edits to genetic information have been observed outside of the nucleus of an animal cell. The discovery provides another jolt to the "central dogma" of molecular biology, which states that genetic information is passed faithfully from DNA to messenger RNA to the synthesis of proteins. The study is published this week in Nucleic Acids Research. Learn More

Common assumption has long held that Ritalin, Adderall and similar drugs work by helping people focus. Yet a new study from a team led in part by Brown University researchers shows that these medications -- usually prescribed to individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but often used by otherwise healthy people as a "study aid" -- actually work by directing the brain to fix its attention on the benefits, rather than the costs, of completing difficult tasks. The study, published in the journal Science, marks the first time that scientists have examined precisely how stimulants such as Ritalin alter cognitive function. Learn More

Role models are important for aspiring scientists, but new research suggests that scientists who are known for their hard work -- like Thomas Edison -- are more motivating than scientists who are viewed as naturally brilliant, like Albert Einstein. In a series of studies, researchers found that young people were more motivated by scientists whose success was associated with effort than those whose success was attributed to innate, exceptional intelligence, even if that scientist was Albert Einstein. The findings were recently published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology. Learn More

The novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, last year and has since caused a large scale COVID-19 epidemic and spread to more than 70 other countries is the product of natural evolution, according to findings published today in the journal Nature Medicine. The analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered. "By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes," said Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research and corresponding author on the paper. Learn More

The virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces, according to a new study from National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine. The scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The results provide key information about the stability of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. Learn More

Infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas at Austin studying the novel coronavirus were able to identify how quickly the virus can spread, a factor that may help public health officials in their efforts at containment. They found that time between cases in a chain of transmission is less than a week and that more than 10% of patients are infected by somebody who has the virus but does not yet have symptoms. In the paper in press with the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, a team of scientists from the United States, France, China and Hong Kong were able to calculate what's called the serial interval of the virus. Learn More

Several coronaviruses circulate worldwide and constantly infect humans, which normally caused only mild respiratory disease. Currently, however, we are witnessing a worldwide spread of a new coronavirus with more than 90,000 confirmed cases and over 3,000 deaths. The new virus has been named SARS coronavirus-2 and has been transmitted from animals to humans. It causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19 that may take a severe course. The SARS coronavirus-2 has been spreading since December 2019 and is closely related to the SARS coronavirus that caused the SARS pandemic in 2002/2003. No vaccines or drugs are currently available to combat these viruses. Learn More

How individuals respond to government advice on preventing the spread of COVID-19 will be at least as important, if not more important, than government action, according to a new commentary from researchers at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London in the UK, and Utrecht University and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands. As the UK moves into the "delay" phase of dealing with a possible COVID-19 epidemic, a new commentary, published in The Lancet, looks at what we know so far about the new virus. The researchers, led by Professor Sir Roy Anderson at Imperial College and Professor Deirdre Hollingsworth at the University of Oxford's Big Data Institute, also suggest what can be done to minimize its spread and its impact. Learn More

When scientists try to predict the spread of something across populations -- anything from a coronavirus to misinformation -- they use complex mathematical models to do so. Typically, they'll study the first few steps in which the subject spreads and use that rate to project how far and wide the spread will go. But what happens if a pathogen mutates, or information becomes modified, changing the speed at which it spreads? In a new study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers show for the first time how important these considerations are. Learn More

Plastics are a victim of their own success, so inexpensive, easy to use and versatile that the world is awash in plastic waste. Now researchers from the University of Houston have reported a new method of producing polyolefins -- made from hydrocarbons and the most common building block of plastics -- structured to address one of the biggest stumbling blocks to plastics recycling. The process also would allow plastics to be produced from food oils and other natural substances. Eva Harth, director of the Welch-UH Center for Excellence in Polymer Chemistry, said the process addresses a long-standing need for industrial plastics producers, without requiring a new catalyst or expensive additives. "It's a very simple process," she said. Learn More

Caffeine increases the ability to focus and problem solve, but a new study by a University of Arkansas researcher indicates it doesn't stimulate creativity. "In Western cultures, caffeine is stereotypically associated with creative occupations and lifestyles, from writers and their coffee to programmers and their energy drinks, and there's more than a kernel of truth to these stereotypes," wrote Darya Zabelina, assistant professor of psychology and first author of the study recently published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. While the cognitive benefits of caffeine -- increased alertness, improved vigilance, enhanced focus and improved motor performance -- are well established, she said. Learn More

Scientists say they have used the gene editing tool CRISPR inside someone's body for the first time, a new frontier for efforts to operate on DNA, the chemical code of life, to treat diseases. A patient recently had it done at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland for an inherited form of blindness, the companies that make the treatment announced this week. They would not give details on the patient or when the surgery occurred. It may take up to a month to see if it worked to restore vision. If the first few attempts seem safe, doctors plan to test it on 18 children and adults. Learn More

One of the hallmarks of cancer is cell immortality. A Northwestern University organic chemist and his team now have developed a promising molecular tool that targets and inhibits one of cell immortality's underlying gears: the enzyme telomerase. This enzyme is found overexpressed in approximately 90% of human cancer cells and has become an important subject of study for cancer researchers. Normal cells have the gene for telomerase, but it typically is not expressed. The study was published last week by the journal ACS Chemical Biology. Learn More

Researchers from the group of Hans Clevers at the Hubrecht Institute have developed a new genetic tool to label specific genes in human organoids, or mini organs. They used this new method, called CRISPR-HOT, to investigate how hepatocytes divide and how abnormal cells with too much DNA appear. By disabling the cancer gene TP53, they showed that unstructured divisions of abnormal hepatocytes were more frequent, which may contribute to cancer development. Their results were described and published in the scientific journal Nature Cell Biology. Learn More

The sights and sounds of winning on a slot machine may increase your desire to play -- and your memories of winning big, according to new research by University of Alberta scientists. The study, led by Professor Marcia Spetch in the Department of Psychology, shows that people prefer to play on virtual slot machines that provide casino-related cues, such as the sound of coins dropping or symbols of dollar signs. The researchers also found that people preferred to play on machines with these cues no matter how risky the machine was, and regardless of when the sound or visual effects appeared. Learn More

Neurodegenerative diseases, like Huntington's disease and myotonic dystrophy, are often referred to as DNA repeat diseases, named because of long repeated sequences in the DNA of patients. Increasing repeat expansion length in the affected tissues contribute to earlier age of disease onset and worsen the progression and severity of the disease over time. In an international study published in the February 14th online edition of Nature Genetics, scientists from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Canada, along with research teams from Osaka University, Japan, reveal the ability to reverse this repeat mutation length in the brains of a mouse model with Huntington's disease. Learn More

University of California San Diego researchers have created the first-ever map of all the molecules in every organ of a mouse and the ways in which they are modified by microbes. In one surprising example, they discovered that microbes control the structure of bile acids in both mice and people. The study, published February 26, 2020 in Nature, was led by Pieter Dorrestein, PhD, professor and director of the Collaborative Mass Spectrometry Innovation Center in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego, and Robert Quinn, PhD, assistant professor at Michigan State University. Learn More

In search of new ways to sequence human genomes and read critical alterations in DNA, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine say they have successfully used the gene cutting tool CRISPR to make cuts in DNA around lengthy tumor genes, which can be used to collect sequence information. The researchers say that pairing CRISPR with tools that sequence the DNA components of human cancer tissue is a technique that could, one day, enable fast, relatively cheap sequencing of patients' tumors, streamlining the selection and use of treatments that target highly specific and personal genetic alterations. Learn More

UT Southwestern researchers have uncovered how cells in general modulate their energy consumption based on their surroundings and, furthermore, how cancer cells override those cues to maximize energy use. The findings, published this week in Nature, extend a report from last year in which the same group discovered that the cell's skeleton can promote cancer cell growth in metastasis or when under chemotherapy assault. According to the researchers, the mechanics of the microenvironment of the cell impact cell functions but it has never been studied how cells might change their energy use based on their microenvironment. Learn More

A Cornell-led team took a novel, interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the behavior of breast tumor cells by employing a statistical modeling technique more commonly used in physics and economics. The team was able to demonstrate how the diversity, or heterogeneity, of cancer cells can be influenced by their chemical environment -- namely, by interactions with a specific protein, which leads to tumor growth. The researchers' paper, "Lymphoidal Chemokine CCL19 Promoted the Heterogeneity of the Breast Tumor Cell Motility Within a 3D Microenvironment Revealed by a Lévy Distribution Analysis," published Feb. 14 in Integrative Biology. Learn More

A Ludwig Cancer Research study has identified a mechanism by which regulatory T cells, which suppress immune responses, adapt their metabolism to thrive in the harsh microenvironment of the tumor. This mechanism, the study finds, is exclusively engaged by regulatory T cells (Tregs) that reside in tumors and could be disrupted to selectively target such Tregs and boost the effects of cancer immunotherapy. Learn More

Feedback is regarded as a crucial component of a successful business culture. Used correctly, it can enhance performance and teamwork. But how do different types of feedback impact interactions among employees? In a recent study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the IESE Business School in Barcelona investigated which types of feedback tend to lead to cooperative behaviors and which to competitive behaviors. To this end, 112 students of different disciplines and 28 managers, all of whom had at least seven years of professional experience, were invited to participate in a laboratory experiment. The results have been published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Learn More

The field of synthetic biology does not only observe and describe processes of life but also mimics them. A key characteristic of life is the ability to ability for replication, which means the maintenance of a chemical system. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried generated a system, which is able to regenerate parts of its own DNA and protein building blocks. The scientists assembled the artificial genomes from up to eleven ring-shaped pieces of DNA. This modular structure enables them to insert or remove certain DNA segments easily. Learn More

Experts have been unable to explain why cells from bacteria to humans leak essential chemicals necessary for growth into their environment. Previously, biologists could only say that leaking is an inherent property of cell membranes caused by fundamental rules of chemistry. However, researchers used dynamical-system modeling, in combination with computer simulations, to determine that leaking one essential upstream chemical component of the pathway allows the end product to be produced more efficiently. Thus, leaking is something cells do to selfishly enhance their own growth. Learn More

The New England Journal of Medicine has published an article raising questions about the use of observational real-world evidence (RWE), and how part of this drive toward using nonrandomized studies to assess the effects of treatments is due to the expensive and complex way that randomized clinical trials are being conducted. The timing of the article coincides with the US FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn recently pointing to the importance of RWE, saying, "I believe there is great promise in the effective use and integration of patient-level data or real-world evidence such as electronic health records, clinical trials, medical studies, and patient registries." Learn More