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Small molecule, big potential for treating prostate cancer

A drug-like small molecule selectively binds to CDK9, a major player in cell cycle regulation. CDK9 modulates and alters the half-life of various downstream proteins such as the androgen receptor, which regulates gene expression. Image courtesy: André Richters, Brice Curtin, and Angela Koehler.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Prostate cancer growth is often driven by male sex hormones called androgens. Hormone therapy is commonly administered to lower the level of androgens in the body, but relapse is common when the cancer cells develop resistance to these therapies. A multidisciplinary team of cancer researchers led by Angela Koehler, the Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Professor in Applied Biology and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, has identified a small molecule that can selectively target a key protein involved in the stabilization of androgen receptor molecules. Patients with advanced forms of prostate cancer are most commonly treated with androgen deprivation therapy, which lowers the level of male hormones such as testosterone through surgery or medication. However, patients invariably relapse from these therapies and develop castration-resistant pr ... More

COVID-19 patients survive in-hospital cardiac arrest at pre-pandemic rates   Decoding the way catalysts work   UK asks regulator to study Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Resuscitation and survival rates are much higher than earlier reports of near-zero; variation at the individual hospital level may have affected overall numbers. Image courtesy: University of Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- It isn’t a death sentence if a COVID-19 patient suffers a cardiac arrest while getting treatment for the virus in the hospital, according to new research that contradicts reports from early on in the pandemic. The new insight from a researcher in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania still shows that such events remain deadly, but can be survived at a rate likely near what it was among other hospital inpatients before the pandemic broke out. This analysis was presented during the American Heart Association’s annual scientific meeting this month. “Early studies showed extremely low rates of COVID-19 patients who were resuscitated successfully and went on to survive after suffering from cardiac arrest. The first study from Wuhan demonstrated just a 2.9 percent 30-day survival rate and a second small cohort from New York City showed absolutely no survival,” said Oscar Mitchell, MD, a fello ... More

Oxygen bubbles produced on an electrocatalyst during water splitting. Image courtesy: ETH Zurich / Matthias Frei.

ZURICH.- Hydrogen is a key element for achieving sustainable mobility in the future, especially “green” hydrogen produced by splitting water using renewable power. In fuel cells, hydrogen can be used in chemical reactions to generate electrical energy, which in turn can power electric motors. It is also used in the production of synthetic liquid fuels. The process of using electricity to split water (electrolysis) involves two reactions that cannot take place independently: the formation of hydrogen at one electrode and oxygen at the other. Chemists call these two partial reactions hydrogen evolution and oxygen evolution. To make the whole process more energy-​efficient, scientists are researching the use of new materials that act as catalysts and thus facilitate these partial reactions. “By far the biggest challenge in developing catalysts for these two partial reactions is the oxygen evolution reaction,” says Javier Pérez-​Ramírez, Professor of Catalysis Engine ... More

A woman walks by Pfizer's New York headquarters as New York City tries to contain a spike in COVID-19 cases on November 16, 2020 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP.

LONDON (AFP).- The British government on Friday said it has asked its independent medicines regulator to study Pfizer/BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine with a view to an imminent roll-out. The announcement came after the pharma giant and its German partner said they will ask US regulators for emergency use authorisation for the vaccine in what would be a major step towards fighting back against the global pandemic. In another potential boost, a UK study indicated individuals infected with coronavirus are unlikely to catch the illness again for at least six months. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government had formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for its suitability. If approval was given, the vaccine would be free "at the point of delivery" across the UK from the country's state-run National Health Service (NHS). The service would be ready to start a mass vaccination programme next month if the MHRA gave its agreement on the ... More

Coronavirus treatments: some progress, no panacea   A biochemical random number   CUHK researchers hope to boost immunity for SARS-CoV-2

A pedestrian wearing a face mask looks at her smartphone in central Moscow on November 20, 2020, amidst the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic. Alexander Nemenov / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- The current pandemic has seen unprecedented global efforts to discover a safe and effective treatment, either by developing new medicines to target the novel coronavirus or repurposing existing drugs. But very few of the drugs tested and administered so far have proven effective, a conclusion reinforced by updated treatment advice issued by the World Health Organization on Friday. The only treatment proven to reduce coronavirus mortality, the steroid dexamethasome, has shown promise in early trials among hospitalised patients requiring oxygen. It has been endorsed as a Covid-19 treatment by both the WHO and the European Medicines Agency. But it remains something of a drug of last resort -- early evidence suggests it is only effective among the most serious cases. More recent research has suggested that other steroids may also play a role in reducing mortality among patients requiring hospital care. An antiviral originally developed to treat Ebola, remdesivir was found to reduce the len ... More

DNA synthesis can be used to generate true random numbers. Illustration courtesy: Isabelle Benz.

ZURICH.- True random numbers are required in fields as diverse as slot machines and data encryption. These numbers need to be truly random, such that they cannot even be predicted by people with detailed knowledge of the method used to generate them. As a rule, they are generated using physical methods. For instance, thanks to the tiniest high-​frequency electron movements, the electrical resistance of a wire is not constant but instead fluctuates slightly in an unpredictable way. That means measurements of this background noise can be used to generate true random numbers. Now, for the first time, a research team led by Robert Grass, Professor at the Institute of Chemical and Bioengineering, has described a non-​physical method of generating such numbers: one that uses biochemical signals and actually works in practice. In the past, the ideas put forward by other scientists for generating random numbers by chemical means tended to be largely theoretical. For this new approach, the < ... More

Professor Francis CHAN states that the imbalance of gut microbiota is common among Hong Kong people, indicating that many are suffering from impaired immunity. Image courtesy: The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

HONG KONG.- Gut microbiota plays an important role in regulating immunity against infections. People who suffer from imbalance in gut microbiota (dysbiosis) are more susceptible to viral infection and other complications. An earlier study by the Faculty of Medicine of The Chinese University of Hong Kong has highlighted that severe gut dysbiosis exists in COVID-19 patients. A recent study by CU Medicine revealed a worrying fact that 40% of Hong Kong people appeared to have significant gut dysbiosis comparable to that of COVID-19 patients, suggesting they have potentially impaired immunity. CU Medicine has developed a microbiome immunity formula that targets gut dysbiosis. Compared with patients who had standard care, the research team found that more COVID-19 patients who received the microbiome immunity formula achieved complete symptom resolution, showed significantly reduced proinflammatory markers in their blood, had incr ... More

New Chinese submersible reaches Earth's deepest ocean trench   Potential cellular target for eliminating bone breakdown in osteoporosis found   Success of COVID-19 vaccination program depends on its implementation

The "Fendouzhe", or "Striver", descended more than 10,000 metres (about 33,000 feet) into the submarine trench in the western Pacific Ocean with three researchers on board, state broadcaster CCTV said.

BEIJING (AFP).- China livestreamed footage of its new manned submersible parked at the bottom of the Mariana Trench on Friday, part of a historic mission into the deepest underwater valley on the planet. The "Fendouzhe", or "Striver", descended more than 10,000 metres (about 33,000 feet) into the submarine trench in the western Pacific Ocean with three researchers on board, state broadcaster CCTV said. Only a handful of people have ever visited the bottom of the Mariana Trench, a crescent-shaped depression in the Earth's crust that is deeper than Mount Everest is high and more than 2,550 kilometres (1,600 miles) long. The first explorers visited the trench in 1960 on a brief expedition, after which there had been no missions until Hollywood director James Cameron made the first solo trip to the bottom in 2012. Cameron described a "desolate" and "alien" environment. Video footage shot and relayed by a deep-sea camera this week showed the green-and-white Chinese submersible moving through dark water sur ... More

By disabling a function of a set of cells in mice, researchers appear to have halted the process that breaks down bone. Image courtesy: University of Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- New research has discovered a cell type that governs the way bones form and maintain themselves, opening up a potential target for future therapies for bone disorders like osteoporosis. Led by faculty from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, a rodent study showed that bone marrow adipogenic lineage precursors (MALPs) play a distinct role in the way bones remodel themselves. Defects in this process are the key issue at play in osteoporosis, so a therapy using these MALP cells to better regulate bone remodeling could result in better treatments. This research was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. “Discovering new cellular and molecular mechanisms to control bone turnover will enable fine-tuning of existing therapies or design of novel therapeutics,” said the study’s senior author, Ling Qin, PhD, an associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. “For example, with the adv ... More

An illustration picture taken on November 19, 2020, shows a vial with Covid-19 Vaccine sticker, a syringe and an earth globe. Joel Saget / AFP.

NEW HAVEN, CT.- Factors related to manufacturing, distribution, public acceptance, and the severity of the pandemic will contribute more to the success of a potential COVID-19 vaccination program than the efficacy of the vaccine itself, finds a new study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health. The research, published Nov. 19 in Health Affairs, comes as the global effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is poised to produce one or more candidates approved for large-scale distribution. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is grappling to define the evidence it will require to authorize COVID-19 vaccines in the months ahead. For instance, would a vaccine that has a limited impact on transmission but significantly reduces progression to severe disease be acceptable? Alternatively, how might such a vaccine be compared to one that lowers susceptibility to infection but has no impact on disease progression? Once vaccination be ... More

Student team develops noninvasive endometriosis test   Researchers peer inside deadly pathogen's burglary kit   Banking on patient samples to advance COVID-19 research

Nello Gu ’21 works on the collapsable UV sterilizer design, part of the project to develop a noninvasive, inexpensive test to diagnose endometriosis. Image courtesy: University of Rochester photo / Meghan Martin.

ROCHESTER, NY.- When Meghan Martin ’21, a biochemistry and American Sign Language double major, was a sophomore in high school, she began experiencing intense, chronic pain. An avid runner and soccer player, she was crippled by cramps, nausea, and back spasms that left her unable to participate in the sports she loved. “I’ve always been really active, but I would go to practice, and then I would come home and have to lay down because my back would be spasming so badly,” Martin says. “I would start throwing up because I was so nauseous and in so much pain.” Initially when she sought help, her doctor told her it was just period cramps and that she should take aspirin and get additional rest. Her mother, however, sensed there was something more going on. After some online research, she found that her daughter was exhibiting symptoms characteristic of endometriosis, a chronic disease in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outs ... More

The three-dimensional structure of a protein called the stringent starvation protein A, a member of a multi-protein complex that Francisella tularensis uses to infect macrophage cells. Image courtesy: Schumacher Lab, Duke.

DURHAM, NC.- The bacterium that causes the tick-borne disease tularemia is a lean, mean infecting machine. It carries a relatively small genome, and a unique set of infectious tools, including a collection of chromosomal genes called ‘the pathogenicity island.’ A team of researchers from Duke University, Harvard, University of Rhode Island and the National Institutes of Health has now unpacked the bacterium’s toolbox and built an understanding of the shapes and interactions of all its parts, using an imaging technique called cryo-electron microscopy. Their insights, which appear Nov. 19 in Molecular Cell, point to a way in which the bacterium’s unique infectious machinery might be blocked. The bacterium Francisella tularensis can infect more than 200 kinds of animals including humans, dogs, cats, fish and rodents. As few as ten bacteria, usually from an animal or insect bite, are sufficient to be an infectious dose. Tularemia attac ... More

Aisha Mergaert, a graduate student in Miriam Shelef’s lab, is among several students who worked this summer to process samples for the COVID Convalescent BioBank. Image courtesy: Miriam Shelef.

MADISON, WI.- In the spring of 2020, when instruction moved online and most research became remote, efforts picked up at the UW Carbone Cancer Center Translational Science Biocore BioBank. Researchers across campus began pivoting their studies to address the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. To do their research, they needed samples from patients. They could find those samples at the TSB BioBank. UW School of Medicine and Public Health immunologist Miriam Shelef, who focuses on better understanding rheumatoid arthritis to inform clinical care and treatments, was one of those researchers. “When coronavirus COVID-19 came to the United States, and particularly Madison, people were shutting down their research labs. We had inadequate testing. We didn’t know if people were making antibodies or if treating people with convalescent plasma could be useful,” Shelef recalls. “There were many questions and ... More

More News
New green materials could power smart devices using ambient light
CAMBRIDGE.- We are increasingly using more smart devices like smartphones, smart speakers, and wearable health and wellness sensors in our homes, offices, and public buildings. However, the batteries they use can deplete quickly and contain toxic and rare environmentally damaging chemicals, so researchers are looking for better ways to power the devices. One way to power them is by converting indoor light from ordinary bulbs into energy, in a similar way to how solar panels harvest energy from sunlight, known as solar photovoltaics. However, due to the different properties of the light sources, the materials used for solar panels are not suitable for harvesting indoor light. Now, researchers from the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and Soochow University in China have discovered that new green materials currently being developed for next-generation solar panels could be useful for indoor light harvesting. They report their findi ... More

Found: a genetic link to molecular events that precede symptoms in Alzheimer's disease
BOSTON, MASS.- Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine have discovered a molecular mechanism that causes a “traffic jam” of enzymes traveling up and down neuronal axons, leading to the accumulation of amyloid beta – a key feature and cause of Alzheimer’s disease. The enzyme, BACE1, gets backed up, causing the axons to clog and swell because of the increased production of the toxic amyloid protein. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, reports that a human mutation more prevalent in African American patients with late onset Alzheimer’s triggers a traffic jam of BACE1 in axons. Identifying this mutation is a key step in understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of the disease and provides a possible strategy for early diagnosis and targeted treatments. “In individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the onset of symptoms happens about 20 years after the first changes start to deve ... More

Stanford researchers explore potential for kelp to relieve ocean acidification
STANFORD, CA.- Ethereal, swaying pillars of brown kelp along California’s coasts grow up through the water column, culminating in a dense surface canopy of thick fronds that provide homes and refuge for numerous marine creatures. There’s speculation that these giant algae may protect coastal ecosystems by helping alleviate acidification caused by too much atmospheric carbon being absorbed by the seas. A new on-site, interdisciplinary analysis of giant kelp in Monterey Bay off the coast of California sought to further investigate kelp’s acidification mitigation potential. “We talk about kelp forests protecting the coastal environment from ocean acidification, but under what circumstances is that true and to what extent?” said study team member Heidi Hirsh, a PhD student at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “These kinds of questions are important to investigate before trying to implem ... More

Applying environmental genomics to coral conservation
LAUSANNE.- Oceans are a bellwether for the planet’s health, absorbing over 90% of the sun’s energy. They demonstrate the extent to which rising temperatures are threatening coral reefs and other vital ecosystems that support biodiversity. In 2016 and 2017, an abrupt rise in surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean caused mass bleaching on an unprecedented scale. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was especially hard-hit. Bleaching occurs when heat stress disrupts the symbiotic relationship between corals and the tiny algae that live inside them, providing a source of nutrients for coral and giving them their color. Persistent bleaching can lead to coral death. In the past two decades, abnormal heatwaves caused entire sections of reef off the coast of Australia – measuring several kilometers in length – to turn white. Scientists have already found that some reefs are better equipped to cope with recurring heat stress than others. For his thesis research, Oliver Selmoni, a doc ... More

Baby panda born in Netherlands makes public debut
RHENEN (AFP).- Chewing on his paw and falling asleep on his face, the first giant panda born in the Netherlands made his debut in public on Friday at the age of almost seven months. The young male, named Fan Xing, went on show at the Ouwehands zoo in the central town of Rhenen after it reopened following a coronavirus shutdown. "I think he looks fine... Mum is around, he feels safe so that's nice," Jose Kok, the zoological manager at Ouwehands, told AFP. "It's very special because it's the first cub born here in the Netherlands but I'm also very proud because it was a cub that was a result of a natural mating," said Kok. "He started in the maternity den for some months and then gradually came out, started to walk and now he's there, climbing, falling." Fan Xing was born on May 1 to two giant pandas -- female Wu Wen and male Xing Ya -- who were loaned to the Netherlands by China in 2017 for 15 years. His name, revealed in October, is a mixture of "Fan", a reference to Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, ... More

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3D-printed, lifelike heart models could help train tomorrow's surgeons - Headline Science

On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate C. V. Raman died
November 21, 1970. Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (7 November 1888 - 21 November 1970) was an Indian physicist who made groundbreaking works in the field of light scattering. With his student K. S. Krishnan, they discovered that when light traverses a transparent material, some of the deflected light changes wavelength and amplitude. This phenomenon was a new type of scattering of light and was subsequently known as the Raman effect (Raman scattering). Raman won the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physics and was the first Asian person to receive a Nobel Prize in any branch of science. One of Raman's interests was understanding the physics of musical sounds. He was inspired by Hermann von Helmholtz’s The Sensations of Tone, the book he came across when he joined IACS.


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