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NUS researchers target 'undercover' gene that helps cancer cells proliferate

The CSI Singapore team found that depriving cancer cells of an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase may be a possible way to treat the disease. Image courtesy: National University of Singapore.

SINGAPORE.- For decades, scientists and doctors have been searching for a cure for cancer. Now, researchers from the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) at NUS have taken a significant step forward with a new concept that could ultimately result in more effective treatments. Research has so far focused on identifying and targeting the genes that directly cause cancer called “driver genes”. However, non-driver genes can also enlist other genes to assist them in helping cancer cells proliferate. These little-known additional genes are named “onco-requisite factors” by the research team led by Associate Professor Takaomi Sanda from CSI Singapore. The researchers demonstrate, with a leukaemia case study, why it is important to understand these genes. In leukaemia and other cancers, there is a gene that does not directly cause the cancer but is abnormally active in cancer cells. It produces an enzyme called aldehyde ... More

Researchers develop a new test to better assess environmental impact of substances   European Commission approves Supemtek for the prevention of influenza in adults aged 18 years and older   Identifying the structure and function of a brain hub

Researchers propose to test the mutagenicity of environmental chemicals for multicellular organisms using mosquitoes of the species Chironimus riparius. Image courtesy: Markus Pfenninger.

FRANKFURT AM MAIN.- Researchers of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and the LOEWE Centre for Translational Biodiversity Genomics hope to increase the reliability of environmental impact tests of substances. To this end, they developed a test that investigates whether substances can cause inheritable changes in the genome of multicellular organisms such as insects. The scientists use a combination of experimental approaches to breed multiple generations of the insects and bioinformatics methods to analyze the organisms’ full sequenced genome. In the future, the researchers would like this test to become a new additional standard test, as reported in the journal “Environmental Pollution.” Cadmium is used in the production of fertilizers and batteries and currently pops up in a negative way as a water pollutant. Scientists of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and the LOEWE Centre for Tra ... More

European Commission approves Supemtek® (quadrivalent recombinant influenza vaccine) for the prevention of influenza in adults aged 18 years and older.

PARIS.- The European Commission has granted a marketing authorization for Supemtek®, a quadrivalent (four-strain) recombinant influenza vaccine, for the prevention of influenza in adults aged 18 years and older. Supemtek is the first and only recombinant influenza vaccine now approved in the European Union. Supemtek is produced using recombinant technology, which allows an exact match to the key component of the influenza strains recommended by the World Health Organization, avoiding the risk of viral mutations. Supemtek also contains three times more antigen than both egg-based and cell-based standard-dose vaccines. This increased amount of antigen and the use of recombinant technology provide improved protection against influenza, particularly in those aged 50 and older. In comparison with a standard-dose egg-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine, Supemtek reduced the risk of influenza by an additional 30% for adults aged 50 years and older. The authorization is based on clinical data demonst ... More

Postdoc Arghya Mukherjee studies the brain circuits involved in decision-making, and how these circuits go awry in people with psychiatric disorders. Image courtesy: Michael D. Spencer.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Our ability to pay attention, plan, and troubleshoot involve cognitive processing by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The balance of activity among excitatory and inhibitory neurons in the cortex, based on local neural circuits and distant inputs, is key to these cognitive functions. A recent study from the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT shows that excitatory inputs from the thalamus activate a local inhibitory circuit in the prefrontal cortex, revealing new insights into how these cognitive circuits may be controlled. “For the field, systematic identification of these circuits is crucial in understanding behavioral flexibility and interpreting psychiatric disorders in terms of dysfunction of specific microcircuits,” says postdoc Arghya Mukherjee, lead author on the report. The thalamus is located in the center of the brain and is considered a cerebral hu ... More

Arthritis drug effective in treating sickest COVID-19 patients   FDA grants priority review for avalglucosidase alfa, a potential new therapy for Pompe disease   Ancient crocodiles' family tree reveals unexpected twist and turns

Critically ill patients with COVID-19 treated with a drug that reduces inflammation by modifying the immune system have improved outcomes, an international study has found.

MELBOURNE.- Critically ill patients with COVID-19 treated with a drug that reduces inflammation by modifying the immune system have improved outcomes, an international study has found. The early findings, which are yet to be published, come from the REMAP-CAP trial. Monash University is the global coordinating centre for the trial which has been supported by Minderoo Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council. The trial evaluates the effect of treatments on a combination of survival and length of time patients need support in an ICU. The results show that treatment with the immune modulator tocilizumab met this efficacy end-point among critically ill patients with severe COVID-19, compared to patients who did not receive any immune modulation treatment. The relative contribution of survival and reduced length of time needing organ support in ICU has not yet been analysed. Due to the clinical implications for patients, the ... More

Muscle biopsy showing large vacuoles in a case of pompes disease (acid maltase deficiency, HE stain, frozen section). Image courtesy: Jensflorian.

PARIS.- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted for priority review the Biologics License Application (BLA) for avalglucosidase alfa for long-term enzyme replacement therapy for the treatment of patients with Pompe disease (acid α-glucosidase deficiency). The target action date for the FDA decision is May 18, 2021. Avalglucosidase alfa is an investigational enzyme replacement therapy designed to improve the delivery of acid alpha-glucosidase (GAA) enzyme to muscle cells, and if approved, would offer a potential new standard of care for patients with Pompe disease. In October, the European Medicines Agency accepted for review the Marketing Authorization Application for avalglucosidase alfa for long-term enzyme replacement therapy for the treatment of patients with Pompe disease. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in the UK has granted Promising Innovative Medicine designation for avalglucosidase alfa. “The hallmarks of Pompe disease are the relent ... More

Life restoration of Sarcosuchus imperator. Scientists probing a prehistoric crocodile group’s shadowy past have discovered a timeless truth – pore over anyone’s family tree long enough, and something surprising will emerge. Image courtesy: Rhunevild.

EDINBURGH.- Despite 300 years of research, and a recent renaissance in the study of their biological make-up, the mysterious, marauding teleosauroids have remained enduringly elusive. Scientific understanding of this distant cousin of present day long snouted gharials has been hampered by a poor grasp of their evolutionary journey – until now. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have identified one previously unknown species of teleosauroid and seven of its close relatives – part of a group that dominated Jurassic coastlines 190 to 120 million years ago. Their analysis offers tantalising glimpses of how teleosauroids adapted to the momentous changes that occurred during the Jurassic period, as the earth’s seas experienced many changes in temperature. "Our study just scratches the surface of teleosauroid evolution but the findings are remarkable, raising interesting questions about their behaviour and adaptability. These cr ... More

A neural network learns when it should not be trusted   Alternative gene control mechanism based on organization of DNA within nucleus   A pressure sensor at your fingertips

MIT researchers have developed a way for deep learning neural networks to rapidly estimate confidence levels in their output. The advance could enhance safety and efficiency in AI-assisted decision making. Image: Uriel SC, Unsplash.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Increasingly, artificial intelligence systems known as deep learning neural networks are used to inform decisions vital to human health and safety, such as in autonomous driving or medical diagnosis. These networks are good at recognizing patterns in large, complex datasets to aid in decision-making. But how do we know they’re correct? Alexander Amini and his colleagues at MIT and Harvard University wanted to find out. They’ve developed a quick way for a neural network to crunch data, and output not just a prediction but also the model’s confidence level based on the quality of the available data. The advance might save lives, as deep learning is already being deployed in the real world today. A network’s level of certainty can be the difference between an autonomous vehicle determining that “it’s all clear to proceed through the intersection” and “it’s p ... More

Fluorescent confocal microscopy images of 8-day-old Arabidopsis thaliana roots. Image courtesy: © Yuki Sakamoto.

TOKYO.- Researchers at the University of Tokyo have identified how the architecture of the cell nucleus can change gene activity in plants. This discovery reveals fundamental knowledge about genome regulation and points towards future methods for potentially manipulating the expression of many genes simultaneously. The long strands of DNA and the protein machinery needed to turn gene expression on or off are contained, floating within the nuclei of cells. The nucleus is essentially a sack made of a flexible, double-membrane envelope that is supported by an inner, fine-mesh frame of proteins called the nuclear lamina. “DNA does not drift aimlessly within the nucleus. We expect that there is nonrandom spatial positioning of genes around the nuclear lamina,” said Professor Sachihiro Matsunaga who led the research project from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, recently published in Nature Co ... More

Robust fingertip sensor. The polyurethane and gold sensor can resist shear forces and rubbing. Image courtesy: © 2020 Someya et al.

TOKYO.- Researchers have developed an ultrathin pressure sensor that can be attached directly to the skin. It can measure how fingers interact with objects to produce useful data for medical and technological applications. The sensor has minimal effect on the users’ sensitivity and ability to grip objects, and it is resistant to disruption from rubbing. The team also hopes their sensor can be used for the novel task of digitally archiving the skills of craft workers. There are many reasons why researchers wish to record motion and other physical details associated with hands and fingers. Our hands are our primary tools for directly interacting with, and manipulating, materials and our immediate environments. By recording the way in which hands perform various tasks, it could help researchers in fields such as sports and medical science, as well as neuroengineering and more. But capturing this data is not easy. “Our fingertips are extremely sensitive, so sensitive in fact that a super ... More

Rilzabrutinib granted FDA Fast Track Designation for treatment of immune thrombocytopenia   Satellite to track rising seas as climate warms   World's smallest atom-memory unit created

Phase 3 trial initiated to evaluate rilzabrutinib, the potential first BTK inhibitor (Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor) for the treatment of immune thrombocytopenia.

PARIS.- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Fast Track Designation (FTD) to the oral investigational Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor, rilzabrutinib, which has the potential to be the first BTK inhibitor for the treatment of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). In addition, following positive Phase 1/2 study results, a Phase 3 study evaluating rilzabrutinib for ITP has been initiated. Rilzabrutinib received orphan drug designation from the FDA for the treatment of ITP in October 2018. "By awarding Fast Track Designation to rilzabrutinib, an investigational candidate for the treatment of ITP, the FDA has recognized rilzabrutinib's potential to meaningfully improve outcomes for patients with this debilitating disease. This is an excellent acknowledgement as we initiate our Phase 3 study,” said Dolca Thomas, Chief Medical Officer of Principia, a Sanofi company. “FTD is designed to facilitate the development ... More

Image: Kees Streefkerk, Unsplash.

by Marlowe Hood

PARIS (AFP).- An Earth-observation satellite developed by European and US space agencies set to lift off Saturday will measure sea level rise, tracking changes threatening to disrupt tens of millions of lives within a generation. If all goes according to plan, the payload will be hoisted into a low-Earth 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) orbit by a Space X Falcon 9 rocket, with lift-off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 17:17 GMT. Sentinel-6a will be the first of two identical satellites -- the second to be launched in five years -- that will provide measurements of unprecedented precision until at least 2030. Each Sentinel-6 probe carries a radar altimeter, which measures the time it takes for radar pulses to travel to Earth’s surface and back again. The satellites will circle the planet in the same orbit as earlier missions that supplied sea-surface height data over the last three decades, mapping 95 percent of Earth’s ice-free ocean every ten days. Accelerating sea level rise is ... More

The race to make smaller chips and components is all about power and convenience. With smaller processors, you can make more compact computers and phones. Image courtesy: The University of Texas at Austin.

AUSTIN, TX.- Faster, smaller, smarter and more energy-efficient chips for everything from consumer electronics to big data to brain-inspired computing could soon be on the way after engineers at The University of Texas at Austin created the smallest memory device yet. And in the process, they figured out the physics dynamic that unlocks dense memory storage capabilities for these tiny devices. The research published recently in Nature Nanotechnology builds on a discovery from two years ago, when the researchers created what was then the thinnest memory storage device. In this new work, the researchers reduced the size even further, shrinking the cross section area down to just a single square nanometer. Getting a handle on the physics that pack dense memory storage capability into these devices enabled the ability to make them much smaller. Defects, or holes in the material, provide the key to unlocking the high-density memory storage capability ... More

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Versatile building blocks make structures with surprising mechanical properties
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Researchers at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms have created tiny building blocks that exhibit a variety of unique mechanical properties, such as the ability to produce a twisting motion when squeezed. These subunits could potentially be assembled by tiny robots into a nearly limitless variety of objects with built-in functionality, including vehicles, large industrial parts, or specialized robots that can be repeatedly reassembled in different forms. The researchers created four different types of these subunits, called voxels (a 3D variation on the pixels of a 2D image). Each voxel type exhibits special properties not found in typical natural materials, and in combination they can be used to make devices that respond to environmental stimuli in predictable ways. Examples might ... More

Dieting and weight worries on rise among teens
EDINBURGH.- Young people born from 1997 onwards are also more likely to overestimate their own weight compared with previous generations, the study reveals. Researchers found too that girls who are trying to lose weight are more likely to experience depressive symptoms than in previous years. A paper published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that in 2015, 42 per cent of 14-year-old girls and boys said they had been trying to lose weight, compared with 30 per cent in 2005. Researchers say their findings show that how we talk about weight, health and appearance can have profound impacts on young people’s mental health. The study by University College London and the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool warns that efforts to tackle rising obesity rates may have unintended consequences ... More

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Fires can kindle biodiversity, sparking new approaches to conservation

On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Louis Néel was born
November 22, 1904. Louis Eugène Félix Néel (22 November 1904 - 17 November 2000) was a French physicist born in Lyon. Néel studied at the Lycée du Parc in Lyon and was accepted at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. He obtained the degree of Doctor of Science at the University of Strasbourg. He was corecipient (with the Swedish astrophysicist Hannes Alfvén) of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1970 for his pioneering studies of the magnetic properties of solids. His contributions to solid state physics have found numerous useful applications, particularly in the development of improved computer memory units. About 1930 he suggested that a new form of magnetic behavior might exist; called antiferromagnetism, as opposed to ferromagnetism. Above a certain temperature (the Néel temperature) this behaviour stops. Néel pointed out (1948) that materials could also exist showing ferrimagnetism. Néel has also given an explanation of the weak magnetism of certain rocks, making possible the study of the history of Earth's magnetic field.


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