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A pandemic that must shake us into action – Nepali times

§ April 5th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine § Tagged Comments Off on A pandemic that must shake us into action – Nepali times

The real question is: with all our expertise in epidemiology and genetics why did scientists not foresee this one coming? Partly, it is because technological advances and the budgets to fund research into Artificial Intelligence and even viral research is skewed in favour of military applications. The remaining resources go to space exploration. Finding vaccines and cures for diseases that afflict poorer countries, like malaria and tuberculosis, are neglected.

Pandemic pangs, Nepali Times

Before this pandemic arose, governments of rich countries felt it was a Chinese problem that could not threaten their shores. There was a failure of the political leadership in rich countries engrossed with endless growth, geopolitical rivalry, and weapons research to take it seriously. Just as populist leaders denied climate change, they also ignored scientists warning about the potential of this deadly virus to spread.

The neglect is now most tragically seen in the acute shortage of medical equipment from the very basic N95 masks to personal protective equipment and ventilators. Countries that were once considered to have the best healthcare systems have been most vulnerable to treat and contain the scourge.

COVID-19 has also exposed that nation states operate in the self-interest, ignoring international cooperation, first try to protect their borders and compete for scarce medical supplies. The pandemic should teach us the lesson that that is not a one-off crisis we ignore nature at our own peril. The virus has learnt to use human hosts networked with global air travel to spread across the planet, it does not respect national boundaries.

No doubt, the spread of the virus will proceed towards a gradual decline in the total global case load. There is a danger that we will forget the lessons from it as things return to normal, the global economy springs back, and air travel resumes.

Climate, COVID-19 and China, Rastraraj Bhandari

The world must converge towards rapid, efficient advancement of technology services through a sound healthcare system and distribution at the community level. Convergence in healthcare means bringing together advances in IT, AI, bio-medical sciences and genetic studies, and using digital platforms to link citizens remotely to medical institutions. Epidemiological tools like HealthMap, VivaLNK, and platforms like WeChat, Alipay, and QQ have been used in containing the coronavirus, but they need to be spread more extensively.

A potent chain of command and decentralisation of health authorities is integral in responding to such outbreaks, but the way the current pandemic is being dealt with at the local, national and global level have left many of our generation skeptical. We cannot pin our hopes on the present health system, and our futures are uncertain.

This inability to rely on governments during such a dangerous pandemic leads us to conclude that enhancing individual immunity of the body, and thinking globally about the response to future outbreaks is the only way.

For Nepal, this means strengthening self-resilience at the national level, having preparedness plans in place, enhancing the healing power of nature, and ensuring that medical care is more equitable.

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What You Should Know Before You Need a Ventilator – The New York Times

§ April 5th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine § Tagged Comments Off on What You Should Know Before You Need a Ventilator – The New York Times

Even before Covid-19, for those lucky enough to leave the hospital alive after suffering acute respiratory distress syndrome, recovery can take months or years. The amount of sedation needed for Covid 19 patients can cause profound complications, damaging muscles and nerves, making it hard for those who survive to walk, move or even think as well as they did before they became ill. Many spend most of their recovery time in a rehabilitation center, and older patients often never go home. They live out their days bed bound, at higher risk of recurrent infections, bed sores and trips back to the hospital.

All this does not mean we shouldnt use ventilators to try to save people. It just means we have to ask ourselves some serious questions: What do I value about my life? If I will die if I am not put in a medical coma and placed on a ventilator, do I want that life support? If I do choose to be placed on a ventilator, how far do I want to go? Do I want to continue on the machine if my kidneys shut down? Do I want tubes feeding me so I can stay on the ventilator for weeks?

Right now, all over the country, patients and their families are being asked to make these difficult decisions at a moments notice, while they are on the verge of dying, breathless and terrified.

If patients get worse after being put on a ventilator, critical care doctors are having to ask their family members what they want done. Covid-19 is too contagious to have these conversations in person, so they are being done over the phone. It is yet another heartbreaking reality of dying during a pandemic. Patients cannot tell us what they want. Family members arent able to be with patients and may not know what they would want.

No one can make these choices for us, and no one will know what choices we would make unless we tell them. If you dont want to be put in a coma and placed on life support, please let your family know. Appoint the person you want to make decisions for you and let your doctor know your wishes. The truth is we are facing a disaster. Lets not use up precious resources on someone who doesnt want them. We will still care for you to the end, but we wont put you on a machine if you dont want to be on it.

If the person you love is on a ventilator right now, find out exactly how bad his or her lungs are. The doctors will tell you the truth. And the truth, no matter how painful, eases fear. The understanding that comes with it helps us make the best choices for the ones we love.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. Wed like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And heres our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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Creatures in this underwater forest could save your life one day – Chicago Tribune

§ April 5th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine § Tagged Comments Off on Creatures in this underwater forest could save your life one day – Chicago Tribune

Our ship disappeared into the mist, and by 7:30 the crew, a team of biologists, chemists and microbiologists, reached its destination. The sun lounged on obsidian water, masking a secret world where land and sea swap places, and past, present and future collide. This is the underwater forest. Its unusual residents, shipworms and related marine organisms, could serve as incubators of unexpected medicines, churning out new lifesaving formulas and compounds that may not be found anywhere else on the planet. But first the group of scientists had to manage to dive 60 feet beneath the oceans surface to recover their unusual subjects, a task made more challenging by three days of uncooperative weather.

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How coronavirus travels through the air: risk of droplets and aerosols – Business Insider

§ April 5th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine § Tagged Comments Off on How coronavirus travels through the air: risk of droplets and aerosols – Business Insider

As researchers race to study the coronavirus, an important question remains hotly debated: Can it spread through the air?

Scientists agree that the virus, which has infected more than 950,000 people worldwide, is primarily transmitted through droplets particles larger than 5 micrometers when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

Those droplets fly through the air before landing on another person. But scientists still aren't sure to which degree a cloud of tiny viral particles known as aerosols (these are smaller than droplets) could linger in the air and infect the next person who walks through the same space. This is known as airborne transmission, and the measles virus is known to spread that way it lives for up to two hours in an airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed.

But the World Health Organization says that's not the case for the coronavirus.

"FACT: #COVID19 is NOT airborne," WHO tweeted on March 28.

However, several recent studies have identified live coronavirus particles in the air. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says certain hospital procedures, like intubating a patient, "could generate infectious aerosols."

The main difference between droplets and aerosols is that the former are heavy and large, so they can't stay aloft for long. The latter, called droplet nuclei by WHO, are smaller than 5 micrometers.

But some researchers are calling for the semantics to be swept aside to avoid confusion and better inform public-health responses to the pandemic.

"I think the WHO is being irresponsible in giving out that information. This misinformation is dangerous," Donald Milton, an infectious-disease aerobiologist at the University of Maryland, told NPR.

He added: "The epidemiologists say if it's 'close contact,' then it's not airborne. That's baloney."

Staff of Food and Friends practice social distancing on March 16. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Some research shows the coronavirus can travel farther than 6 feet, the distance cited by the CDC as adequate social distancing.

"Vigorous coughing or sneezing, during which a patient gives their exhalation more energy, can send their microscopic particles beyond the 2-foot to 6-foot range," William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, told Business Insider.

A study published March 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association said a cloud of virus emitted by someone coughing or sneezing could travel much farther than 6 feet: "The gas cloud and its payload of pathogen-bearing droplets of all sizes can travel 23 to 27 feet."

Dr. Anthony Fauci. Alex Brandon/AP

During a recent interview on "The Daily Show," host Trevor Noah asked Dr. Anthony Fauci the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases whether the coronavirus stays in the air.

"If you walk in to an elevator after somebody else, can coronavirus still be there?" Noah said.

Fauci replied that ill people sneezing and coughing could spread the virus by droplets and aerosols.

An aerosolized form of the virus "means the drop doesn't go down right away; it hangs around for a bit," Fauci said. "So you could come into a room thinking everything's all right and then you inhale it."

But he said aerosol transmission was likely not the primary way the coronavirus spreads and reiterated that social distancing of 6 feet was sufficient to protect yourself.

Schaffner agreed with Fauci about Noah's elevator example. "In such a tightly enclosed space without vigorous air movement for a short period of time, I'm afraid you might be exposed," he said.

But that's a different situation than, say, a supermarket, which is fairly large and has air moving freely.

"The kinds of transient encounters walking up and down the aisle picking up peaches, not really hazardous," Schaffner said.

A recent study from the National Institutes of Health looked at how long the new coronavirus could live on common surfaces and said it could live in the air as an aerosol for up to three hours. But those researchers used a high-powered laboratory machine to produce the coronavirus aerosols, so they likely weren't identical to those produced by human coughs.

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Linsey Marr, an expert on aerosol transmission at Virginia Tech, told The New York Times that an aerosol released at a height of about 6 feet should fall to the ground after 34 minutes. The amount of the virus that lingers in the air as an aerosol is also likely too small to infect someone, she said.

"It sounds scary," she said. "But unless you're close to someone, the amount you've been exposed to is very low."

Because healthcare workers are exposed to higher concentrations of the virus, they face more risk of catching it from both droplets and aerosols.

When coronavirus patients need ventilators, doctors insert a tube into their airway, and that procedure inevitably generates infectious aerosols.

Hospital clinicians get into protective equipment before testing patients for the coronavirus at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts, on March 18. Joseph Prezioso/Contributor/Getty Images

One study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, examined two Chinese hospitals and found low levels of the coronavirus in the air in patients' rooms. Higher airborne concentrations were recorded in medical-staff areas, particularly in places where doctors removed protective gear. The authors wrote that virus-laden aerosols were probably deposited on protective gear like masks and gowns while the doctors worked, then sent back into the air when the staff shook those items as they stripped down.

"Surface sanitization of the apparel before they are taken off may also help reduce the infection risk for medical staff," the authors wrote.

Scientists also detected the virus in the air outside patients' rooms at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Staff at an N95 mask production workshop of the Naton Medical Group in Beijing on March 11. Xinhua/Ren Chao/Getty Images

"If you think you're doing aerosolizing procedures in a healthcare setting, don't use your surgical mask. Use an N95," Schaffner said.

N95 masks filter out airborne particles smaller 0.3 microns. If the coronavirus weren't airborne, those masks wouldn't be as essential.

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Researchers test drug that stops early stages of COVID-19 – Open Access Government

§ April 4th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Researchers test drug that stops early stages of COVID-19 – Open Access Government

This research was partly funded by the Federal Canadian government, to support the development, testing and implementation of ways to manage the pandemic. Rumours have been circulating social media platforms at the speed of light, discussing the imminence or the impossibility of a real cure. Here, we discuss the ongoing research of a trial drug that is biologically capable of preventing fatalities from Coronavirus.

The answer is by closing the door that COVID-19 uses to enter the cells of your body.The door is the ACE2 protein on the surface of the cell membrane.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19, which is commonly known as Coronavirus. During the last major outbreak of SARS, a similar viral respiratory illness that caused global devastation in 2003, it was Dr. Penninger and his colleagues who discovered that the ACE2 protein was the key receptor for SARS. In further research, he discovered that this protein was linked to a resultant cardiovascular disease and lung failure.

The ACE2 protein is where the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 enters the human cell, like a door being broken down. The world is looking for a cure but there is no clinically proven antiviral treatment right now, or any treatment focusing on protecting the ACE2 receptor. This means that late-stage COVID-19 can be a fatal situation for those who are already experiencing other immune or lung issues.

The NHS defines antiviral treatment as: a type of medication used specifically for treating viral infections. They act by killing or preventing the growth of viruses.

The researchers here are not proposing a treatment that could kill the virus they are exploring the potential of highly calculated self-defence, on a microscopic level. What if those cellular doors were never broken down by the invading COVID-19 forces, because they were hidden or protected?

Dr. Josef Penninger, the UBC scientist leading this study, said:

There is hope for this horrible pandemic.

The study found that in cell cultures, hrsACE2 inhibited the early stages of COVID-19 load by a factor of 1000-5000. The researchers grew organs of blood vessels and kidneys from stem cells, to quickly test their ideas on a functioning human being.

Nria Montserrat, ICREA professor at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia in Spain, said:

In these moments in which time is short, human organoids save the time that we would spend to test a new drug in the human setting.

The researchers showed that in these organs, the virus can directly infect and duplicate itself in the tissues of the blood vessel and kidney. This gave them valuable insight into how COVID-19 cases that are severe present with multi-organ failure, with evidence of cardiovascular damage.

It was found that clinical grade hrsACE2 reduced the infection in these engineered organs.

Dr. Art Slutsky, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michaels Hospital and professor at the University of Toronto, said:

Our new study provides very much needed direct evidence that a drug called APN01 (human recombinant soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 hrsACE2) soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19.

Apeiron Biologics write that they are currently planning a clinical pilot study in China with COVID-19 infected patients, whilst evaluating options for further clinical development. APN01 was previously being used for Acute Lung Injury and Pulmonal Arterial Hypertension, for which the company currently have APN01 in Phase-2 clinical development. It is possible, given the existing Phase-2 level of development, that the next clinical trial for COVID-19 could automatically go to Phase-3. The length of Phase-3 clinical trials in Canada are usually one to three years, which involves around 1000-3000 patients. After that, the regulatory review can take anything between six months to two years.

However, given the global urgency, funding from Canadian government and clinical trials being held in China, it is highly likely that development of APN01 will be fast-tracked. We reached out for comment to the biotech company about possible timelines but have received no response at the time of publishing.

Penninger, professor in UBCs faculty of medicine, director of the Life Sciences Institute and the Canada 150 Research Chair in Functional Genetics at UBC said:

This work stems from an amazing collaboration among academic researchers and companies, including Dr. Ryan Conders gastrointestinal group at STEMCELL Technologies in Vancouver, Nuria Montserrat in Spain, Drs. Haibo Zhang and Art Slutsky from Toronto and especially Ali Mirazimis infectious biology team in Sweden, who have been working tirelessly day and night for weeks to better understand the pathology of this disease and to provide breakthrough therapeutic options.

The virus causing COVID-19 is a close sibling to the first SARS virus.

Our previous work has helped to rapidly identify ACE2 as the entry gate for SARS-CoV-2, which explains a lot about the disease. Now we know that a soluble form of ACE2 that catches the virus away, could be indeed a very rational therapy that specifically targets the gate the virus must take to infect us. There is hope for this horrible pandemic.

The findings of the study have been published in Cell.

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Study Reveals Nanoparticle Therapy Delivery in Breast Cancer – Pharmacy Times

§ April 4th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Study Reveals Nanoparticle Therapy Delivery in Breast Cancer – Pharmacy Times

Researchers in the cancer nanomedicine community debate whether use of nanoparticles can best deliver drug therapy to tumors passively by adding a targeted anti-cancer molecule to bind to specific cancer cell receptor and, in theory, keep the nanoparticle in the tumor longer.

According to a study published in Science Advances, new research on tumors by investigators at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center suggest that the question is more complicated. Laboratory testing of 5 human cancer cell lines with 3 variants of the immune system found that nanoparticles coated with trastuzumab, a drug that targets human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer cells, were better retained in the tumors than plain nanoparticles, even in tumors that did not express the pro-growth HER2 protein.

However, immune cells of the host exposed to nanoparticles induced an anti-cancer immune response by activating T cells that invaded and slowed tumor growth.

Its been known for a long time that nanoparticles, when injected into the bloodstream, are picked up a scavenger-like macrophages and other immune system cells, said senior study author Robert Ikov, PhD, MSc. Many researchers in the field have been focused on trying to reduce interaction with immune cells, because they have been trying to increase the circulation time of the nanoparticles and their retention in tumor cells. But our study demonstrates that the immune cells in the tumor collect and react to the particles in such a way to stimulate an anti-cancer response. This may hold potential for advancing beyond drug delivery toward developing cancer immunotherapies.

The researchers conducted in vitro experiments by applying some plain starch-coated iron oxide nanoparticles and others coated with trastuzumab to 5 human breast cancer cell lines. They found that the amount of binding between the trastuzumab-coated nanoparticles and cells depended on how much the cancer cells expressed the oncogene HER2. In patients, HER-positive breast cancers are among the most resistant to standard chemotherapy. Trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech) targets HER2-postive tumor cells and triggers the immune system as well.

Researchers had previously suspected that animals immune systems were interacting strongly with the nanoparticles and playing a role in determining retention of the particles in the tumor, whether or not a drug was added. Experiments revealed that tumor-associated immune cells were responsible for collecting the nanoparticles and that cell lines with an intact immune system retained more of the trastuzumab-coated nanoparticles than those without.

In addition, inflammatory immune cells in the tumors immediate surroundings seized more of the coated nanoparticles than the plain ones, according to the study. Finally, in a series of 30-day experiments, the researchers found that exposure to nanoparticles inhibited tumor growth 3 to 5 times more than controls, and increased CD8-positive cancer-killing T cells in the tumors.

The anti-cancer immune activating response was equally effective with exposure to either plain or trastuzumab-coated nanoparticles. The investigators said that this demonstrated that systemic exposure to nanoparticles can cause a systemic host immune response that leads to anti-cancer immune stimulation and does not require nanoparticles to be inside the tumors.

The work suggests that complex interdependencies exist between the host and tumor immune responses to nanoparticle exposure. These results offer possibilities for exploring nanoparticle targeting of the tumor immune microenvironment and demonstrate exciting new potential to develop nanoparticles as platforms for cancer immune therapies, according to the study.

The investigators next plan to study whether the same types of immune responses can be generated for noncancer conditions, such as infectious diseases.

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Gazi Yaargil: Top brain surgeon of the century – Daily Sabah

§ April 3rd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Gazi Yaargil: Top brain surgeon of the century – Daily Sabah

Modern medicine in Turkey began with the opening of the first military school of medicine, namely Tbhane-i Amire (Official Medical School) on March 14, 1827, during the reign of Mahmud II as a part of the modernization of the Ottoman army. The students of the medical madrasah at Sleymaniye were transferred to the new school and joined others selected from young military students. They learned French and Italian in order to have a better understanding of the latest medical knowledge produced in European countries.

The first surgeons were also taught at the new Tbhane-i Amire. They received education in a separate class, which was called Cerrahhane (School of Surgery). In a few years, the Cerrahhane moved to separate premises at the Glhane hospital. Meanwhile, the first alumni of the school of medicine, 63 students, were selected to serve in the army sections.

However, doctors and surgeons mostly served the Turkish military until the university reformation in 1933, when the medical schools began to teach more students and became the personnel resource of the newly established civil hospitals. The Turkish Republic also sent many students abroad, especially to Germany, to receive medical education. Among them, Gazi Yaargil is perhaps the best example of a surgeon who made huge contributions to neurosurgery and has a worldwide reputation.

Yaargil is one of the most innovative physicians in the history of modern medicine. Unsatisfied with the existing microsurgical techniques and encouraged by great professors such as Raymond M. P. Donaghy M.D at the University of Vermont and his mentor, professor Hugo Krayenbhl, Yaargil took advantage of and improved emerging technologies such as angiography to develop microsurgery. His contributions to microsurgical techniques include his creation of innovative instrumentation, such as the floating microscope, the self-retaining adjustable retractor, microsurgical instruments and ergonomic aneurysm clips and appliers. His genius in developing microsurgical techniques for use in cerebrovascular neurosurgery has transformed the outcomes of patients with conditions that were previously inoperable.

Early life

Yaargil was born Mahmut Gazi on July 6, 1925, in Lice town of Diyarbakr province in the southeastern region of Turkey, where his father was the governor. His family was kidnapped by the Kurdish rebels fighting against the government, when his mother was pregnant with him. After a few weeks on the mountains of Lice, the Turkish military rescued them. His father gave his son the name Gazi because of that incident, gazi being the title given to the survivors of war. Gazi was only 3 months old when his family moved to the capital Ankara. His ancestors belonged to the Turkish tribe, the Kayhans, initially resided in Beypazar, Ankara, then moved to Istanbul upon the request of Mehmed II, aka Mahmed the Conqueror.

Yaargil graduated from Atatrk High School and attended the School of Medicine at Ankara University. In 1944, he moved to Germany to continue his medical studies at the Friedrich Schiller University at Jena. However, his studies at Jena were interrupted by World War II in 1945. He transferred to a school in Basel, Switzerland, where he graduated at the end of 1949.

After his residency in neurology-psychiatry at Mnsingen and internal medicine and general surgery in Interlaken, both in the Bern-Mitteland canton of Switzerland, Yaargil began to study with Krayenbhl in neurological surgery, which gave him an opportunity to innovate in the profession, in 1953. The two worked on angiography for a decade. Angiography allowed the surgeon to examine and identify vessels and precisely locate anomalies and tumors. After working for 12 years in Zurich, he became an assistant professor in 1965.

Microsurgery and beyond

Yaargil worked together with Donaghy at the neurosurgery department of Vermont University in the U.S. between 1965 and 1967. They worked at the microvascular laboratory in Burlington, Vermont, and developed microsurgery by experimenting with many new techniques and devices.

Yaargil returned to Zurich where he carried out his first brain by-pass operation using microscopic techniques in 1967. He published prominent manuscripts with Krayenbhl and became one of the most distinguished brain surgeons of his time. Yaargil-Krayenbhl's publications put Zurich at the center of the neurosurgery circles of the world. Yaargil founded the neurosurgery laboratory at the University of Zurich, which taught thousands of brain surgeons between 1968 and 1993.

In 1973, Yaargil became a full professor and chaired the neurosurgery department of the University of Zurich. He married Diane Bader-Gibson, a nurse assisting him in operations in Zurich. He retired in 1993 and moved to Arkansas to teach and carry out neurosurgery operations at the University of Arkansas, where he retired in 2013. He continued to teach at the Yeditepe University in Istanbul after his retirement.

Yaargil has been hailed as one of the two most significant brain surgeons of the 20th century with Harvey Cushing, who discovered Cushing syndrome and is renowned as the founding father of modern neurosurgery. The American Association of Brain Surgeons named Yaargil as the Top Brain Surgeon of Century.

Yaargil has been granted countless awards and honors. Several neurosurgery laboratories in Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S., Oxford, U.K., and Beijing, China, have been named after him. The university hospital in Diyarbakr, his birthplace, carries his name, too.

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8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Port St. Joe Star

§ April 3rd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on 8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Port St. Joe Star

Hidden in the virus's unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain. So far, mostcases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strainfirst identified in Washington state

SAN FRANCISCO At least eight strains of the coronavirus are making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientistsare tracking by their genetic footprints.

While much is unknown, hidden in the virus's unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others are dying out thanksto quarantine measures.

Huddled in once bustling and now almost empty labs, researchers who oversaw dozens of projects are instead focused on one goal:tracking the currentstrains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause the illness COVID-19.

Labs around the world are turning their sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task ofrapidly sequencing the genomes of virus samples taken frompeople sick with COVID-19.The information is uploaded to a website called NextStrain.org that shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into similarbut new subtypes.

While researcherscaution they'reonly seeing the tip of the iceberg, the tiny differences between the virus strains suggest shelter-in-place orders are working in some areas and thatno one strain of the virus ismore deadly than another. They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as theyevolve.

The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other, said Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

The SARS-CoV-2 virusfirst began causing illness in China sometimebetween mid-November and mid-December. Its genome is made up of about 30,000 base pairs. Humans, by comparison, have more than 3 billion. So fareven in the virus's most divergent strainsscientists have found only 11 base pair changes.

That makes iteasy to spot new lineages as they evolve, said Chiu.

The outbreaks are trackable. We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating, he said.

So far, mostcases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strainfirst identified in Washington state. It may have come from a man who had been in Wuhan, China, the virus epicenter, and returned home on Jan. 15. It is only three mutations away from the original Wuhan strain, according to work done early in the outbreakby Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, a medical research center in Seattle.

On the East Coast there are several strains, including the one from Washington and others that appear to have made their way from China to Europe and then to New York and beyond, Chiu said.

Beware pretty phylogenetictrees

This isnt the first time scientists have scrambled to do genetic analysis of a virus in the midst of an epidemic. They did it with Ebola, Zika and West Nile, but nobodyoutside the scientific community paid much attention.

This is the first time phylogenetic trees have been all over Twitter, said Kristian Andersen, a professor at Scripps Research, a nonprofit biomedical science research facility in La Jolla, California, speaking of the diagrams that show the evolutionary relationships between different strains of an organism.

The maps are available on NextStrain, an online resource for scientists that uses data from academic, independent and government laboratories all over the world to visually track the genomics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It currently represents genetic sequences of strains from 36 countries on six continents.

While the maps are fun, they can also be little dangerous said Andersen. The trees showing the evolution of the virus are complex and its difficult even for experts to draw conclusions from them.

Remember, were seeing a very small glimpse into the much larger pandemic. We have half a million described cases right now but maybe 1,000 genomes sequenced. So there are a lot of lineages were missing, hesaid.

Different symptoms, same strains

COVID-19 hitspeople differently, with some feeling only slightly under the weather for a day, others flat on their backs sick for two weeks and about 15% hospitalized. Currently, an estimated1% of those infected die. The rate varies greatly by country and experts say it is likely tied to testing rates rather than actual mortality.

Chiu says it appears unlikely the differences are related to people being infected withdifferent strains of the virus.

The current virus strains are still fundamentally very similar to each other, he said.

The COVID-19 virus does not mutate very fast. It does so eightto 10 times more slowly than the influenza virus, said Anderson, making its evolution rate similar to other coronaviruses such asSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Its also not expected tospontaneously evolve into a form more deadly than it already is to humans. The SARS-CoV-2 is so good at transmitting itself between human hosts,said Andersen,it is under no evolutionary pressure to evolve.

Shelter in place working in California

Chius analysis shows Californias strict shelter in place efforts appear to beworking.

Over half of the 50 SARS-CoV-2 virus genomes his San Francisco-based lab sequenced in the past two weeks are associated with travel from outside the state. Another 30% are associated with health care workers and families of people who have the virus.

Only 20% are coming from within the community. Its not circulating widely, he said.

Thats fantastic news, he said, indicating the virus has not been able to gain aserious foothold because of social distancing.

It's like a wildfire, Chiu said. A few sparks might fly off the fire and land in the grass and start new fires. But if the main fire is doused and itsembers stomped out, you can kill offan entire strain.In California, Chiu sees a lot of sparks hitting the ground, most coming from Washington,but they're quickly being put out.

An example wasa small cluster of cases in Solano County, northeast of San Francisco. Chius team did a genetic analysis of the virus that infected patients there and found it was most closely related to a strain from China.

At the same time, his lab was sequencing a small cluster of cases in the city of Santa Clara in Silicon Valley. They discovered the patients there had the same strain as those in Solano County. Chiu believes someone in that cluster had contact with a traveler who recently returned from Asia.

This is probably an example of a spark that began in Santa Clara, may have gone to Solano County but then was halted, he said.

The virus, he said, can be stopped.

China is an unknown

So far researchers dont have a lot of information about the genomics of the virus inside China beyond the fact that it first appeared in the city of Wuhan sometime between mid-November and mid-December.

The viruss initial sequence was published on Jan. 10 by professor Yong-Zhen Zhang at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center. But Chiu says scientists dont know if there was justone strain circulating in China or more.

It may be that they havent sequenced many cases or it may be for political reasons they havent been made available, said Chiu. Its difficult to interpret the data because were missing all these early strains.

Researchers in the United Kingdom who sequenced the genomes of viruses found in travelers from Guangdong in south China found those patients strains spanned the gamut of strains circulating worldwide.

That could mean several of the strains were seeing outside of China first evolved there from the original strain, or that there are multiple lines of infection. Its very hard to know, said Chiu.

The virus did not come from a lab

While there remain many questions about the trajectory of the COVID-19 disease outbreak, one thing is broadly accepted in the scientific community: Thevirus was not created in a lab but naturally evolved in an animal host.

SARS-CoV-2s genomic molecular structure thinkthe backbone of the virus is closest to a coronavirus found in bats. Parts of its structure also resemble a virus found in scaly anteaters, according to a paper published earlier this month in the journal Nature Medicine.

Someone manufacturing a virus targetingpeople would have started with one that attacked humans, wrote National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collinsin an editorial that accompanied the paper.

Andersen was lead author on the paper. He said it could have been a one-time occurrence.

Its possible it was a single event, from a single animal to a single human, and spread from there.

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Toxoplasma gondii infection rewires the brain: Researchers – Outbreak News Today

§ April 3rd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Toxoplasma gondii infection rewires the brain: Researchers – Outbreak News Today

Think about traffic flow in a city there are stop signs, one-way streets, and traffic lights to organize movement across a widespread network. Now, imagine what would happen if you removed some of the traffic signals.

Among your brains 86 billion neurons are the brains own version of stop signals: inhibitory neurons that emit chemicals to help regulate the flow of ions traveling down one cells axon to the next neuron. Just as a city without traffic signals would experience a spike in vehicle accidents, when the brains inhibitory signals are weakened, activity can become unchecked, leading to a variety of disorders.

In a new studypublished inGLIAon March 11, Virginia Tech neuroscientists at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC describe how the common Toxoplasma gondii parasite prompts the loss of inhibitory signaling in the brain by altering the behavior of nearby cells called microglia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 40 million Americans have varying levels of Toxoplasma infection, although most cases are asymptomatic. Commonly passed to humans via exposure to farm animals, infected cat litter, or undercooked meat, the parasitic infection causes unnoticeable or mild, to flu-like symptoms in most healthy people. But for a small number of patients, these microscopic parasites hunker down inside of neurons, causing signaling errors that can result in seizures, personality and mood disorders, vision changes, and even schizophrenia.

After the initial infection, humans will enter a phase of chronic infection. We wanted to examine how the brain circuitry changes in these later stages of parasitic cyst infection, said Michael Fox, a professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the studys lead author.

The parasite forms microscopic cysts tucked inside of individual neurons.

The theory is that neurons are a great place to hide because they fail to produce some molecules that could attract cells of the immune system, said Fox, who is also director of the research institutes Center for Neurobiology Research.

Parasites 101 on YouTube

Fox and his collaborator, Ira Blader, recently reported that long-term Toxoplasma infections redistribute levels of a key enzyme needed in inhibitory neurons to generate GABA, a neurotransmitter released at the specialized connection between two neurons, called a synapse.

Building on that discovery, the scientists revealed that persistent parasitic infection causes a loss of inhibitory synapses, and they also observed that cell bodies of neurons became ensheathed by other brain cells, microglia. These microglia appear to prevent inhibitory interneurons from signaling to the ensheathed neurons.

In neuropsychiatric disorders, similar patterns of inhibitory synapse loss have been reported, therefore these results could explain why some people develop these disorders post-infection, Fox said.

Fox said the inspiration for this study started years ago when he met Blader, a collaborating author and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, after he delivered a seminar at Virginia Tech. Blader studied Toxoplasma gondii and wanted to understand how specific strands of the parasite impacted the retina in mouse models.

Working together, the two labs found that while the retina showed no remarkable changes, inhibitory interneurons in the brain were clearly impacted by the infection. Mice similar to humans exhibit unusual behavioral changes after Toxoplasma infection. One hallmark symptom in infected mice is their tendency to approach known predators, such as cats, displaying a lack of fear, survival instincts, or situational processing.

Even though a lot of neuroscientists study Toxoplasma infection as a model for immune response in the brain, we want to understand what this parasite does to rewire the brain, leading to these dramatic shifts in behavior, Fox said.

Future studies will focus on further describing how microglia are involved in the brains response to the parasite.

Among the research collaborators is Gabriela Carrillo, the studys first author and a graduate student in the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health Program. Previously trained as an architect before pursuing a career in science, Carrillo chose this topic for her doctorate dissertation because it involves an interdisciplinary approach.

By combining multiple tools to study infectious disease and neuroscience, were able to approach this complex mechanistic response from multiple perspectives to ask entirely new questions, Carrillo said. This research is fascinating to me because we are exposing activated microglial response and fundamental aspects of brain biology through a microbiological lens.

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Scientists look for signs of air transmission of COVID-19 – The Globe and Mail

§ April 3rd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Scientists look for signs of air transmission of COVID-19 – The Globe and Mail

A man wears ski goggles, gloves and clothing while taking the subway during the global outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Toronto on March 31, 2020.

CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

Anyone who lives in Canada should have an intuitive sense of why the battle to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is so dependent on everyone keeping their distance from each other.

Just picture a group of people standing at a bus stop on a typical winter morning, every breath forming a puff of fog in the frigid air. Now move the scene indoors and imagine those same overlapping puffs made visible as people exhale and speak in close proximity. For a respiratory virus, the situation presents a golden opportunity to jump from one host to the next.

Because you breathe all the time ... the amount of virus that gets in the air is overwhelmingly greater from you breathing than from coughing or sneezing," said Allison McGeer, an infectious disease researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

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This reality is why the U.S. is now reportedly considering a recommendation that people cover their mouths with masks, scarves or bandanas when they enter stores and other settings where they may be in close proximity with others. The point of the covering is not to keep the virus out, but to help keep it in, or at least keep it close. (The effectiveness of the strategy may vary greatly depending on the situation.)

What Dr. McGeer and her colleagues would like to know is how long that exhaled virus survives in the air and how easily it can infect others.

Growing evidence that people who are not even aware they are infected can transmit the virus highlights the importance of the two-metre rule for physical distance. The wide berth eliminates the possibility of making direct contact with someone who is infected. It is also out of range of liquid droplets that fly outward like tiny virus-containing cannonballs when someone coughs, sneezes or expels saliva in the act of speaking.

What is less certain is what happens when the virus becomes truly airborne and travels even farther. In that case, a droplet might be small enough for the water it contains to evaporate in mid-air, leaving behind a microscopic residue called an aerosol, which is light enough to be buoyed by air currents.

Last week, researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center posted results that showed they were able to detect airborne traces of COVID-19 genetic material at a distance greater than two metres from the source. However, the work has not been peer reviewed, and the researchers stressed that they have not demonstrated whether the virus can remain viable under such conditions.

A study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that a virus could survive after hitching a ride on an aerosol, but it is not clear how likely this is outside a laboratory setting.

How many coronavirus cases are there in Canada, by province, and worldwide? The latest maps and charts

Coronavirus guide: Updates and essential resources about the COVID-19 pandemic

What are the coronavirus rules in my province? A quick guide to whats allowed and open, or closed and banned

Can I take my kids to the park? And more coronavirus questions answered by Andr Picard

It may happen but its certainly not the main route of infection that the virus will use to spread, said Caroline Duchaine, a professor at Laval University who specializes in biological aerosols.

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The reason, she said, is that as it dries out in the air, the virus can lose its spiky, protective envelope. Its genetic contents may endure, but they are no longer packaged in a form that allows it to infect a cell. She added that if COVID-19 were primarily spread through the air, its infection pattern would more closely resemble measles, a highly contagious virus that is known to survive in aerosol form.

Other researchers say that the jury is still out on how much the new coronavirus can spread through aerosols.

On Wednesday, a German-led research team presented evidence from nine patients who developed mild cases of COVID-19. The patients had upper respiratory infections and shed large quantities of virus during the first week. The study, published in the journal Nature, may help explain why the COVID-19 pandemic is playing out differently than the SARS outbreak of 2003, despite the similarities between the two viruses.

I assume a high potential of this virus to spread via aerosols, said Clemens-Martin Wendtner, a co-author on the study and director of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at Klinikum Schwabing, a hospital in Munich.

We could detect virus in patients rooms," he added. "Right now virus culture experiments are ongoing to prove or disprove that virus is infectious.

In Canada, Dr. Duchaine is teaming up with Dr. McGeer and other collaborators to study how the virus fares in airborne form, particularly in a hospital setting, such as when a patient with a severe case of COVID-19 is being intubated. But the results, which the researchers hope to have in hand within a few weeks, may also shed light on the question of whether masks may be a useful safeguard for reducing transmission after the initial wave of the pandemic peaks.

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Dr. McGeer stressed that because of limited supplies in Canada and the urgent need for protective gear in hospitals, any discussion of mask use (apart from what people may fashion for themselves) should prioritize those working with infected patients.

We just dont have a good projection of whats going to happen in May, she said. It would be really awful if we all used up masks in the community now and didnt have any left for health-care workers."

Christopher Mio and Meghan Hoople found themselves jobless and wanting to help in the wake of COVID-19 isolation in Toronto. After flyering their neighbourhood with a free-of-charge offer, they received an outpouring of support and requests from people in need.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the days essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

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Brown researchers combat COVID-19 in the lab, clinic – The Brown Daily Herald

§ April 3rd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Brown researchers combat COVID-19 in the lab, clinic – The Brown Daily Herald

While researchers across the University had to close their doors and hang up their lab coats for the foreseeable future on March 18, some labs have found ways to keep their doors open for the benefit of the community amid the COVID-19 crisis. Donning personal protective equipment, researchers are reapplying their relevant expertise from other fields and working urgently to seek solutions to the novel coronavirus transmission and infection.

Included in the effort to pursue COVID-19 related projects are labs situated in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine belonging to Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Associate Director of Coagulation and Transfusion Medicine at Lifespan Jeffrey Bailey and Associate Dean for Oncologic Sciences at the Alpert Medical School Wafik El-Deiry, who also directs Browns Cancer Center. At the School of Engineering, Assistant Professor of Engineering Daniel Harris is collaborating with Professor of Engineering Roberto Zenit on a project aimed at curbing the ventilator shortage.

As the United States now has more confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other country, these researchers are working to provide some answers to the many scientific questions posed by COVID-19 and the unprecedented impact it has had on global society.

Jeff Bailey and the Universitys COVID-19 Research Task Force

Operational for just over a week, the University now has a COVID-19 research task force chaired by Bailey.

The task force was started by the Dean of the Medical School, but its operating more broadly to try to bring people together, Bailey said. Its goals are to optimize communication between researchers at Brown working on the virus and to help push current research projects forward.

Bailey was involved in a response to the Ebola outbreak of 2014 when he was an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts. The U.S. is not used to outbreaks. It really requires rapid thinking, rapid response and rapid organization, he said, adding that lessons learned in Africa at the peak of the Ebola crisis could guide scientists and public health officials now.

Bailey is currently working on a project tied to Rhode Island Hospital involving the treatment of COVID-19 with convalescent plasma, a method that involves transferring the component of the blood containing COVID-19 antibodies from a recovered patient to a new one. The FDA just cleared it for what we call compassionate use, Bailey said, meaning it can be given to patients on a case-by-case basis.

According to Bailey, Lifespan is also involved in a multicenter trial that is testing another potential treatment, a drug named Remdesivir. It was developed for Ebola, but it seems to have potential broad effects, at least in the lab, in the context of COVID-19, he said.

Wafik El-Deiry and a BEACON of hope: A link between cancer and coronavirus

El-Deiry, a medical oncologist who had not previously studied coronaviruses, respiratory diseases or pandemics in depth, was inspired to reorient his research to focus on COVID-19, in part because many of its biological mechanisms are reminiscent of the disease he has devoted his lifes work to: cancer.

Realizing he had the knowledge and laboratory resources to make sense of the viruss mode of infection, El Deiry, alongside other scientists from his research group, are volunteering their time to study COVID-19 as members of the Brown Experimentalists Against COVID-19 group, aptly referred to as BEACON.

There (are) some parallels between some of the symptoms and phenomena that patients are experiencing and things we in the world of cancer and cancer research are very familiar with. We use some of the same drugs, we use other drugs to treat side effects, so there is a fund of knowledge that already exists, he said.

El-Deiry only arrived at the University in January 2019, but his research team has focused on better understanding tumor suppressor genes and seeking cures for cancer for over two decades, during which they made pivotal discoveries at the basis of cancer biology and treatment.

When the University started making arrangements to temporarily shutter research labs, we basically stopped doing new experiments, we started freezing our cancer cells that we grow in culture, El-Deiry said.

After spending time in the clinic with his patients, El-Deiry saw that as research had started to scale back, healthcare workers were facing increasingly intense workloads while national PPE shortages threatened their safety.

What about the researchers? he asked. What can we do at a time like this? Should we just sit back and do nothing and wait? He started to consider how his research group could use the methods and knowledge theyd acquired to help combat the crisis, asking himself, How could we mobilize? How could we do things in a safe manner? How could we make important contributions that may matter now?

For El-Deiry and his team, studying COVID-19 was the answer. Without using the actual COVID-19 virus in the lab, the researchers are looking into multiple stages of the COVID-19 infection from the protein that facilitates its movement into a cell, to the inflammatory response that is triggered in the lungs upon infection.

Spike protein, a small projection on the surface of the COVID-19 virus, is the microscopic culprit responsible for the viruss ability to latch onto a human cell. The El-Deiry lab is in line to receive isolated spike protein samples for testing. When a person becomes infected with COVID-19, the virus may travel through the throat to their lungs, where these proteins help the virus bind to ACE2, a receptor in the membrane of human host cells, infiltrating the cell, El-Deiry said.

There are links between the prevalence of these ACE2 receptors and the populations who may be most susceptible to infection, El-Deiry noted. People being treated for high blood pressure are among those shown to have higher ACE2 levels, he said, adding that The elderly are particularly sensitive to (COVID-19), and patients with comorbidities, including, notably, patients with cancer, are at high risk.

El-Deiry and fellow scientists now hope to help those infected by COVID-19 by finding a means of inhibiting the ACE2 receptor or of enhancing the bodys immune response to combat the potentially deadly invaders. The immune system fights COVID-19 similarly to how it responds to cancerous cells. Complications can develop, however, when the protein IL6 triggers a cytokine storm, which is an excessive release of cytokine proteins that cause inflammation.

One antidote to the virus may lie in already existing pharmaceutical drugs. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are examples of drugs that some have proposed as potential treatments for COVID-19, though much of the science behind how they could work remains unknown, El-Deiry said, adding that they have been used in cancer clinical trials.

Tocilizumab is another drug, approved very recently to treat COVID-19 pneumonia, that is known to impede IL-6 and cytokine storms. We can certainly look at how these drugs affect the activity of this innate immune system that we (have studied) in the lab every day for more than two decades, El-Deiry added.

The researchers in El-Deirys lab also plan to analyze the role of killer T-cells another one of the bodys natural defenders. They have designed methods to test these cells, which he hopes will enable them to analyze how various drugs impact the immune systems response to the novel coronavirus. Even though these experiments were originally designed with cancer in mind, we could pivot instantly, El-Deiry said.

Though the timeline of their work remains uncertain, El-Deiry said that one of our strengths is in this area of translational research, the idea of taking discoveries and knowledge from the lab and moving into the clinic as quickly as possible.

The researchers would also love to collaborate if (they) make meaningful progress in the coming weeks, El-Deiry said.

In the current climate, El-Deiry said, basic science is important, and research is important. And it can save lives, and it can bring hope.

Daniel Harris, Roberto Zenit and BRUNO2: Engineering a Solution to the Ventilator Shortage

Harris and Zenit are leading an effort at the University entitled BRUNO2 to design a ventilator a lifesaving device that delivers air to the lungs that could help mitigate the COVID-19 ventilator shortage. The project involves incorporating 3-D printed materials and open-source electronics to design a ventilator that could be practically and cheaply made in areas where ventilators are in high demand.

An invitation to participate in the Code Life Challenge with the same goal sparked the project, and the researchers abilities were well suited to undertaking the task. They have traditionally focused on creating fluid devices, Harris wrote in an email to The Herald.

Researchers put out calls for collaborators on social media and announced the name of the project, BRUNO2, Sunday. The BRUNO2 group currently consists of fifteen Brown Engineering affiliated members, two practicing engineers, three medical doctors and three medical students, according to Harris.

Elizabeth Austin 20, an engineering student, helped design the BRUNO2 logo that was shared across social media platforms.

But this challenge is only the beginning of our efforts, Harris wrote, adding, We have just submitted documentation for our first prototype but have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks to add functionality and fully test the design.

Tuesday, the Harris Lab tweeted a video of the prototype ventilator as it pushed air in and out of a red balloon expanding and compressing the balloon as the ventilator would a persons lungs. The tweet had a short but hopeful caption: Its breathtaking!

On Wednesday, they released another video.

A unified effort with government, healthcare professionals across Rhode Island

In addition to these labs, other Brown researchers have been working closely and continually on several fronts with state government officials and health care professionals to help expand the capacity to test and treat patients, Vice President for Research Jill Pipher wrote in a statement to The Herald.

We do have an obligation to address the important issue at this time, so its great to be within an environment that makes that possible, El-Deiry said. We still want to be very careful with everything we do, but maybe we could make a difference that impacts on the rest of the world from right here where things maybe arent as bad at this time.

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Innovations in Gene Therapy, Microbiome, Robotics, Ribozyme & Protein Therapy – 2019 – ResearchAndMarkets.com – Yahoo Finance

§ April 2nd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Innovations in Gene Therapy, Microbiome, Robotics, Ribozyme & Protein Therapy – 2019 – ResearchAndMarkets.com – Yahoo Finance

The "Innovations in Gene Therapy, Microbiome, Robotics, Ribozyme, and Protein Therapy" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering.

This edition of the Life Science, Health & Wellness TechVision Opportunity Engine (TOE) encompasses innovation insights across biosimilars, gene therapy, microbiome, robotics, ribozyme, and protein therapy. The TOE also provides technological analysis for recent developments in animal protein applications, microbiome, and cell cultures.

The Life Science, Health & Wellness TOE will feature disruptive technology advances in the global life sciences industry. The technologies and innovations profiled will encompass developments across genetic engineering, drug discovery and development, biomarkers, tissue engineering, synthetic biology, microbiome, disease management, as well as health and wellness among several other platforms.

The Health & Wellness cluster tracks developments in a myriad of areas including genetic engineering, regenerative medicine, drug discovery and development, nanomedicine, nutrition, cosmetic procedures, pain and disease management and therapies, drug delivery, personalized medicine, and smart healthcare.

Key Topics Covered:

Recent Advancements in the Biotech Industry

Key Industry Contacts

For more information about this report visit https://www.researchandmarkets.com/r/2q5ocu

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200401005525/en/

Contacts

ResearchAndMarkets.comLaura Wood, Senior Press Managerpress@researchandmarkets.com For E.S.T Office Hours Call 1-917-300-0470For U.S./CAN Toll Free Call 1-800-526-8630For GMT Office Hours Call +353-1-416-8900

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8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Wooster Daily Record

§ April 2nd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on 8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Wooster Daily Record

SAN FRANCISCO At least eight strains of the coronavirus are making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientists are tracking by their genetic footprints.

While much is unknown, hidden in the viruss unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others are dying out thanks to quarantine measures.

Huddled in once bustling and now almost empty labs, researchers who oversaw dozens of projects are instead focused on one goal: tracking the current strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause the illness COVID-19.

Labs around the world are turning their sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task of rapidly sequencing the genomes of virus samples taken from people sick with COVID-19. The information is uploaded to a website called NextStrain.org that shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into similar but new subtypes.

While researchers caution theyre only seeing the tip of the iceberg, the tiny differences between the virus strains suggest shelter-in-place orders are working in some areas and that no one strain of the virus is more deadly than another. They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as they evolve.

"The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other," said Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus first began causing illness in China sometime between mid-November and mid-December. Its genome is made up of about 30,000 base pairs. Humans, by comparison, have more than 3 billion. So far even in the viruss most divergent strains scientists have found only 11 base pair changes.

That makes it easy to spot new lineages as they evolve, said Chiu.

"The outbreaks are trackable. We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating," he said.

So far, most cases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strain first identified in Washington state. It may have come from a man who had been in Wuhan, China, the virus epicenter, and returned home on Jan. 15. It is only three mutations away from the original Wuhan strain, according to work done early in the outbreak by Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, a medical research center in Seattle.

On the East Coast there are several strains, including the one from Washington and others that appear to have made their way from China to Europe and then to New York and beyond, Chiu said.

Beware pretty phylogenetic trees

This isnt the first time scientists have scrambled to do genetic analysis of a virus in the midst of an epidemic. They did it with Ebola, Zika and West Nile, but nobody outside the scientific community paid much attention.

"This is the first time phylogenetic trees have been all over Twitter," said Kristian Andersen, a professor at Scripps Research, a nonprofit biomedical science research facility in La Jolla, California, speaking of the diagrams that show the evolutionary relationships between different strains of an organism.

The maps are available on NextStrain, an online resource for scientists that uses data from academic, independent and government laboratories all over the world to visually track the genomics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It currently represents genetic sequences of strains from 36 countries on six continents.

While the maps are fun, they can also be "little dangerous" said Andersen. The trees showing the evolution of the virus are complex and its difficult even for experts to draw conclusions from them.

"Remember, were seeing a very small glimpse into the much larger pandemic. We have half a million described cases right now but maybe 1,000 genomes sequenced. So there are a lot of lineages were missing," he said.

Different symptoms, same strains

COVID-19 hits people differently, with some feeling only slightly under the weather for a day, others flat on their backs sick for two weeks and about 15% hospitalized. Currently, an estimated 1% of those infected die. The rate varies greatly by country and experts say it is likely tied to testing rates rather than actual mortality.

Chiu says it appears unlikely the differences are related to people being infected with different strains of the virus.

"The current virus strains are still fundamentally very similar to each other," he said.

The COVID-19 virus does not mutate very fast. It does so eight to 10 times more slowly than the influenza virus, said Anderson, making its evolution rate similar to other coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Its also not expected to spontaneously evolve into a form more deadly than it already is to humans. The SARS-CoV-2 is so good at transmitting itself between human hosts, said Andersen, it is under no evolutionary pressure to evolve.

Shelter in place working in California

Chius analysis shows Californias strict shelter in place efforts appear to be working.

Over half of the 50 SARS-CoV-2 virus genomes his San Francisco-based lab sequenced in the past two weeks are associated with travel from outside the state. Another 30% are associated with health care workers and families of people who have the virus.

"Only 20% are coming from within the community. Its not circulating widely," he said.

Thats fantastic news, he said, indicating the virus has not been able to gain a serious foothold because of social distancing.

Its like a wildfire, Chiu said. A few sparks might fly off the fire and land in the grass and start new fires. But if the main fire is doused and its embers stomped out, you can kill off an entire strain. In California, Chiu sees a lot of sparks hitting the ground, most coming from Washington, but theyre quickly being put out.

An example was a small cluster of cases in Solano County, northeast of San Francisco. Chius team did a genetic analysis of the virus that infected patients there and found it was most closely related to a strain from China.

At the same time, his lab was sequencing a small cluster of cases in the city of Santa Clara in Silicon Valley. They discovered the patients there had the same strain as those in Solano County. Chiu believes someone in that cluster had contact with a traveler who recently returned from Asia.

"This is probably an example of a spark that began in Santa Clara, may have gone to Solano County but then was halted," he said.

The virus, he said, can be stopped.

China is an unknown

So far researchers dont have a lot of information about the genomics of the virus inside China beyond the fact that it first appeared in the city of Wuhan sometime between mid-November and mid-December.

The viruss initial sequence was published on Jan. 10 by professor Yong-Zhen Zhang at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center. But Chiu says scientists dont know if there was just one strain circulating in China or more.

"It may be that they havent sequenced many cases or it may be for political reasons they havent been made available," said Chiu. "Its difficult to interpret the data because were missing all these early strains."

Researchers in the United Kingdom who sequenced the genomes of viruses found in travelers from Guangdong in south China found those patients strains spanned the gamut of strains circulating worldwide.

"That could mean several of the strains were seeing outside of China first evolved there from the original strain, or that there are multiple lines of infection. Its very hard to know," said Chiu.

The virus did not come from a lab

While there remain many questions about the trajectory of the COVID-19 disease outbreak, one thing is broadly accepted in the scientific community: The virus was not created in a lab but naturally evolved in an animal host.

SARS-CoV-2s genomic molecular structure think the backbone of the virus is closest to a coronavirus found in bats. Parts of its structure also resemble a virus found in scaly anteaters, according to a paper published earlier this month in the journal Nature Medicine.

Someone manufacturing a virus targeting people would have started with one that attacked humans, wrote National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins in an editorial that accompanied the paper.

Andersen was lead author on the paper. He said it could have been a one-time occurrence.

"Its possible it was a single event, from a single animal to a single human," and spread from there.

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CDC Director: 25 Percent of Infected People May Be Asymptomatic – SFist

§ April 2nd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on CDC Director: 25 Percent of Infected People May Be Asymptomatic – SFist

Experts are increasingly acknowledging that the rapid global spread of the coronavirus is due to how easily it's transmitted by those who show no symptoms and that it can be aerosolized and spread through exhaling and face-to-face talking.

Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield just gave an interview to NPR in which he says that as U.S. researchers learn more about the novel coronavirus, they're concluding that it is likely about three times more infectious than the flu.

"One of the [pieces of] information that we have pretty much confirmed now is that a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic," Redfield said. "That may be as many as 25 percent. That's important, because now you have individuals that may not have any symptoms that can contribute to transmission, and we have learned that in fact they do contribute to transmission."

So, while the World Health Organization has claimed the virus is not airborne (aerosolized) in microscopic particles, U.S. experts are starting to contradict that because asymptomatic people who are not coughing or sneezing are not simply spitting in people's faces to transmit the virus. It can as the case of the choir in Washington State strongly suggests be transmitted through exhaling or being in an enclosed space with an asymptomatic but infected person.

Consequently, the CDC is likely soon to announce that more people should be wearing masks of some kind in public spaces, and Redfield says that such guidelines are now being "critically re-reviewed."

As Dr. Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, tells the New York Times today, masks of some kind are probably always advisable in public, and the insistence from the W.H.O that the virus is only spread on droplets is wrong. "The W.H.O. has been saying aerosol transmission doesnt occur, which is... perplexing, he says. Though he cautions people from being overly paranoid about passing someone in a store or on a sidewalk. "If you have a passing contact with an infectious person, you would have a very, very low chance of transmission occurring," Cowling says.

Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease expert at Columbia University, also cautions people in the fluidity of the definition of "asymptomatic." As he tells the Times, "Theres no standard definition for it, and you could say to yourself, Well, thats kind of ridiculous: You either have symptoms or you dont." The problem comes in the variability among people to be sensitive to certain symptoms to notice when they have a passing fever for instance, or when a cough is attributable to seasonal allergies or smoking, or something new. And this virus is so new, it's still difficult to say how many cases being deemed "asymptomatic" are simply mild cases in which the incubation period was especially long.

In the end, Shaman says, what's important to understand is that "there are people out there shedding the virus who dont know that theyre infected."

The CDC is hypothesizing for now that, like other respiratory viruses like the flu, there will be a seasonality to this one and its rate of transmission. Dr. Redfield suggests that this will allow them to do more study in areas of the country where transmission rates remain very low.

As he told NPR:

As Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, writes in an opinion column in USA Today, the Bay Area's early and stringent orders for social distancing appear to be paying off and with so many potentially infectious people with no symptoms, this is the only strategy that can work.

He cites, in particular, the rates of hospitalization and death in both places, which can not be explained simply by saying New York is testing more people and has a far larger population.

Photo: Kora Manheimer/SFist

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Letters to the editor for the week of 4/1/20 – Plumas County Newspapers

§ April 2nd, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Letters to the editor for the week of 4/1/20 – Plumas County Newspapers

Guidelines for letters

All letters must contain an address and phone number. Only one letter per week per person will be published; only one letter per person per month regarding the same topic will be published. Feather Publishing does not print third-party, anonymous or open letters. Letters must not exceed 300 words. Writers responding to previously published letters may not mention the author by name. The deadline is Friday at noon; deadlines may change due to holidays. Letters may be submitted at any of Feather Publishings offices, sent via fax to 283-3952 or emailed to dmoore@plumasnews.com.

Good neighbor

I was out taking a walk on a beautiful Sunday and noticed one of my neighbors, Tony DeMartini, out shoveling the snow berm from around a fire hydrant to clear it. I casually thanked him and he told me that he only just retired from the Quincy Fire Department. I looked him up and discovered that he was Quincys Firefighter of the year. So I looked up the article you did on him and was glad that I stopped to talk for a few minutes. I did take his picture, but my camera doesnt like the snow for some reason and it didnt come out. Thanks neighbor!

Sara VanPetten

Quincy

Great service

I was in a desperate need to repair my broken laptop as I am working remotely from my home. When I called Plumas PC, James informed me that the office is closed. He must have heard my desperate voice the need to repair my laptop, so he made a special effort to come that day to his office at 5:30 to help me out. James helped me resolve my issue and helped me install all my hardware and software on my new laptop, so I can work remotely.

My heartfelt thank you, James, for being such an excellent businessman. I so highly recommend him to everyone.

Arella Sedgwick

Quincy

Thanks

While I will miss my friends for morning breakfasts, we too shall return when it is safe. Thanks to the paper for keeping us updated on what is open in our area of Eastern Plumas. Thanks to those few restaurants that fed us at their doors.

Just a suggestion, after this virus is totally past perhaps a big summer BBQ at the city park? We could celebrate our community, our health care workers and our road crews for snow removal. It might help bring us back home sooner.

Trent Saxton

Lake Davis

Nesting boxes from Audubon

On behalf of Plumas Audubon Society, I would like to thank several community supporters for making our recent bird and bat box building effort a success. FRC welcomed us as a Community Classroom weekend workshop, Quincy Junior-Senior High School made its wood shop available for the construction, and Sierra Pacific Industries generously donated the lumber without which we would not have been able to produce finished products to distribute without cost to Plumas County residents.

We were able to complete 80 units and about 65 are still available. Interested individuals may acquire one by simply contacting us, agreeing to mount it for use this year, and cleaning it out yearly.

The following are available: nesting boxes for wrens, nuthatches, tree swallows and bluebirds; nesting platforms for robins, doves, and barn swallows; and bat boxes. Basic placement and care instructions will be included with each unit.

If you are interested, contact me at piersandfaith

@gmail.com or 283-2604. Please know that PAS will observe state guidelines for citizen interaction in this time of Covid-19, which may delay the actual dispersal somewhat.

Thanks again to everyone who made it possible for us to be able to make this offering.

Piers Strailey

Plumas Audubon Society

Similar action?

I read the article regarding Dr. Satterfields recommendation that anyone who has traveled out of county, and in particular second-home owners who come here, self-quarantine. As a Graeagle resident I can vouch for the influx of second-home owners moving back in a lot earlier than usual. Under normal circumstances I understand their actions in this, they own their homes and are free to come and go as they please. However these are not normal circumstances.

I also understand if they want to escape the craziness of the Bay Area or Reno right now and isolate themselves in a less congested environment. But when I see them come in with their snow toys, coming and going out of their houses as if they are in an immune environment I wonder how seriously they are taking this and if they realize by coming here they are bringing in a larger germ pool to possibly affect those of us who are taking the precaution orders seriously. Down the road this could put a huge strain on our local medical resources.

The article notes that Trinity County has already enacted a two-week quarantine for a similar situation. At this point I wonder if it would really do any good for Plumas County to consider a similar action, in light of the fact that many of the returnees have been here for at least two weeks already, and if they are not taking it seriously in the first place, will it make any difference to them now.

Scott Lawson

Graeagle

Stay home

Dr. Kouba explains why Covid-19 is a bigger deal than seasonal flu. It has to do with RNA sequencing i.e. genetics. Seasonal flu is an all human virus. The DNA/RNA chains that make up the virus are recognized by the human immune system. This means that your body has some immunity to it before it comes around each year you get immunity two ways through exposure to a virus or by getting a flu shot.

Novel viruses, come from animals the WHO tracks novel viruses in animals,

(sometimes for years watching for mutations). Usually these viruses only transfer from animal to animal (pigs in the case of H1N1) (birds in the case of the Spanish flu). But once, one of these animal viruses mutates and starts to transfer from animal to humans then it is a problem. Why? Because we have no natural immunity The RNA sequencing of the genes inside the virus isnt human and the human immune system doesnt recognize it so, we cant fight it oft.

Now sometimes, the mutation only allows transfer from animal to human, for years its only transmission is from an infected animal to human before it finally mutates so that it can now transfer human to human once that happens we have a new contagion phase. And depending on the fashion of this new mutation, thats what decides how contagious or how deadly its gonna be.

H1 N1 was deadly but it did not mutate in a way that was deadly as the Spanish flu. Its RNA was slower to mutate and it attacked its host differently, too.

Fast forward now, here comes this coronavirus. It existed in animals only, for nobody how long but one day, at an animal market, in Wuhan China, in December 2019, it mutated and made the jump from animal to people. At first, only animals could give it to a person But here is the scary part in just two weeks it mutated again and gained the ability to jump from human-to- human. Scientist call this ability, slippery.

This Coronavirus, not being in any form a human virus (whereas we would all have some natural or acquired immunity). Took off like a rocket. And this was because, humans have no known immunity doctors have no known medicine for it. And it just so happens that this particular mutated animal virus, changed itself in such a way that it causes great damage to human lungs.

Thats why coronavirus is different from seasonal flu, or H1N1 or any other type of influenza this is one slippery AF. And its a lung eater And, its already mutated again, so that we now have two strains to deal with, strain S and strain L, which makes it twice as hard to develop a vaccine.

We really have no tools in our shed, with this. History has shown that fast and immediate closing of public places has helped in the past pandemics. Philadelphia and Baltimore were reluctant to close events in 1918 and they were the hardest hit in the U.S. during the Spanish Flu flatten the curve. Stay home.

Duane Vander Veen

Graeagle

Truly incompetent

Wow Lucky me. President Donald Trump just wrote to me with his Cornavirus Guidelines For America. I received this card on March 26 the same day that the nation reached 1000 deaths from this scourge. Whoops, no, now it is 1100 deaths. Worldwide, also today, the confirmed coronavirus caseload has reached one half million. Also, just today the United States reached the most COVID-19 cases of any country in the world We are Number One!

Today is two days after I watched the President say he wanted churches full on Easter Sunday. It is weeks after he said that an unspecified miracle would make the coronavirus go away.Today is 15 days since the World Health Organization declared this coronavirus a worldwide emergency pandemic. And it is less than four weeks since President Trump called this virus a hoax and a Democratic plot. But in his card today he thankfully asked me to cover my cough.Oh, and wash my hands.

With Congressional inability to act, our thanks to the mayors and governors who step into leadership when it is needed. It has been clear for years that the President is incompetent and that his main interests are making money and high ratings not the welfare of the American people. Owing to the number of deaths that we will see due to his biological ignorance and administrative bungling, he should be excoriated and banished.

Don Gasser

Quincy

An organism

Has He got your attention yet?

If someone had told you in December that t microscopic organism could bring the world to a stop you would not have believed. Well, scientists have been warning our leaders for years about this possibility.

Christians have inadvertently been asking for these events every time they parrot the words to the Lords Prayer, Let your kingdom come to earth as it is in Heaven. Think about it, a righteous kingdom cant rule until the present governments are done away with.

I suggest everyone check out the last section of your owners manual

Frank Kortangian

Graeagle

On real depressions

In 1929, my dad had completed three years at Stanfords engineering school. He had alternated a year of work with each year of school. My mother, brought up in a congregational parsonage, was an accomplished pianist. In 1930, she weighed only 90 pounds and was in perfect health. Then came the crash. Dad never did make his fourth year. Instead, with family to support, he took any job he could find, at $0.25 an hour. Years later, I learned that my folks had lived for six months on nothing but corn meal. I expect that caused some of the damage to her thyroid. Her first heart attack came in 1960, probably the same year her identical twin died. The next twenty years held an in-and-out series of strokes and convalescent homes.

I have total respect for both of my parents. Despite the physical and emotional pain they suffered, they never complained about its cause. By 1939, dad was a project engineer at the old San Francisco airport, at $0.85 an hour. The journeymen on his work crews (electricians, carpenters, plumbers) earned $0.45 to $0.65 an hour. I acquired my perspective on real depressions during those years. My perspective on todays rejuvenated robber barons, its self-oriented Internet addicts, its ignorant politicians and its greed ridden corporate executives is undoubtedly tainted by my knowledge of the great depression. It seems odd that in a country that offers everything a society might want, or need, we are unable to accept that offer. We seem to be incapable of placing our nations health and integrity ahead of our own ultraconformity, greed, ignorance and insecurity. We prefer fantasy and wishful thinking to reality and progress. Perhaps its always been that way. But, should it be?

Wallace B. Eshleman

Quincy

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8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Crestview News Bulletin

§ March 31st, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on 8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Crestview News Bulletin

Hidden in the virus's unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain. So far, mostcases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strainfirst identified in Washington state

SAN FRANCISCO At least eight strains of the coronavirus are making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientistsare tracking by their genetic footprints.

While much is unknown, hidden in the virus's unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others are dying out thanksto quarantine measures.

Huddled in once bustling and now almost empty labs, researchers who oversaw dozens of projects are instead focused on one goal:tracking the currentstrains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause the illness COVID-19.

Labs around the world are turning their sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task ofrapidly sequencing the genomes of virus samples taken frompeople sick with COVID-19.The information is uploaded to a website called NextStrain.org that shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into similarbut new subtypes.

While researcherscaution they'reonly seeing the tip of the iceberg, the tiny differences between the virus strains suggest shelter-in-place orders are working in some areas and thatno one strain of the virus ismore deadly than another. They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as theyevolve.

The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other, said Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

The SARS-CoV-2 virusfirst began causing illness in China sometimebetween mid-November and mid-December. Its genome is made up of about 30,000 base pairs. Humans, by comparison, have more than 3 billion. So fareven in the virus's most divergent strainsscientists have found only 11 base pair changes.

That makes iteasy to spot new lineages as they evolve, said Chiu.

The outbreaks are trackable. We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating, he said.

So far, mostcases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strainfirst identified in Washington state. It may have come from a man who had been in Wuhan, China, the virus epicenter, and returned home on Jan. 15. It is only three mutations away from the original Wuhan strain, according to work done early in the outbreakby Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, a medical research center in Seattle.

On the East Coast there are several strains, including the one from Washington and others that appear to have made their way from China to Europe and then to New York and beyond, Chiu said.

Beware pretty phylogenetictrees

This isnt the first time scientists have scrambled to do genetic analysis of a virus in the midst of an epidemic. They did it with Ebola, Zika and West Nile, but nobodyoutside the scientific community paid much attention.

This is the first time phylogenetic trees have been all over Twitter, said Kristian Andersen, a professor at Scripps Research, a nonprofit biomedical science research facility in La Jolla, California, speaking of the diagrams that show the evolutionary relationships between different strains of an organism.

The maps are available on NextStrain, an online resource for scientists that uses data from academic, independent and government laboratories all over the world to visually track the genomics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It currently represents genetic sequences of strains from 36 countries on six continents.

While the maps are fun, they can also be little dangerous said Andersen. The trees showing the evolution of the virus are complex and its difficult even for experts to draw conclusions from them.

Remember, were seeing a very small glimpse into the much larger pandemic. We have half a million described cases right now but maybe 1,000 genomes sequenced. So there are a lot of lineages were missing, hesaid.

Different symptoms, same strains

COVID-19 hitspeople differently, with some feeling only slightly under the weather for a day, others flat on their backs sick for two weeks and about 15% hospitalized. Currently, an estimated1% of those infected die. The rate varies greatly by country and experts say it is likely tied to testing rates rather than actual mortality.

Chiu says it appears unlikely the differences are related to people being infected withdifferent strains of the virus.

The current virus strains are still fundamentally very similar to each other, he said.

The COVID-19 virus does not mutate very fast. It does so eightto 10 times more slowly than the influenza virus, said Anderson, making its evolution rate similar to other coronaviruses such asSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Its also not expected tospontaneously evolve into a form more deadly than it already is to humans. The SARS-CoV-2 is so good at transmitting itself between human hosts,said Andersen,it is under no evolutionary pressure to evolve.

Shelter in place working in California

Chius analysis shows Californias strict shelter in place efforts appear to beworking.

Over half of the 50 SARS-CoV-2 virus genomes his San Francisco-based lab sequenced in the past two weeks are associated with travel from outside the state. Another 30% are associated with health care workers and families of people who have the virus.

Only 20% are coming from within the community. Its not circulating widely, he said.

Thats fantastic news, he said, indicating the virus has not been able to gain aserious foothold because of social distancing.

It's like a wildfire, Chiu said. A few sparks might fly off the fire and land in the grass and start new fires. But if the main fire is doused and itsembers stomped out, you can kill offan entire strain.In California, Chiu sees a lot of sparks hitting the ground, most coming from Washington,but they're quickly being put out.

An example wasa small cluster of cases in Solano County, northeast of San Francisco. Chius team did a genetic analysis of the virus that infected patients there and found it was most closely related to a strain from China.

At the same time, his lab was sequencing a small cluster of cases in the city of Santa Clara in Silicon Valley. They discovered the patients there had the same strain as those in Solano County. Chiu believes someone in that cluster had contact with a traveler who recently returned from Asia.

This is probably an example of a spark that began in Santa Clara, may have gone to Solano County but then was halted, he said.

The virus, he said, can be stopped.

China is an unknown

So far researchers dont have a lot of information about the genomics of the virus inside China beyond the fact that it first appeared in the city of Wuhan sometime between mid-November and mid-December.

The viruss initial sequence was published on Jan. 10 by professor Yong-Zhen Zhang at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center. But Chiu says scientists dont know if there was justone strain circulating in China or more.

It may be that they havent sequenced many cases or it may be for political reasons they havent been made available, said Chiu. Its difficult to interpret the data because were missing all these early strains.

Researchers in the United Kingdom who sequenced the genomes of viruses found in travelers from Guangdong in south China found those patients strains spanned the gamut of strains circulating worldwide.

That could mean several of the strains were seeing outside of China first evolved there from the original strain, or that there are multiple lines of infection. Its very hard to know, said Chiu.

The virus did not come from a lab

While there remain many questions about the trajectory of the COVID-19 disease outbreak, one thing is broadly accepted in the scientific community: Thevirus was not created in a lab but naturally evolved in an animal host.

SARS-CoV-2s genomic molecular structure thinkthe backbone of the virus is closest to a coronavirus found in bats. Parts of its structure also resemble a virus found in scaly anteaters, according to a paper published earlier this month in the journal Nature Medicine.

Someone manufacturing a virus targetingpeople would have started with one that attacked humans, wrote National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collinsin an editorial that accompanied the paper.

Andersen was lead author on the paper. He said it could have been a one-time occurrence.

Its possible it was a single event, from a single animal to a single human, and spread from there.

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Ohios Dr. Amy Acton looks forward to new CDC coronavirus guidelines that could call for face coverings in pu – cleveland.com

§ March 31st, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Ohios Dr. Amy Acton looks forward to new CDC coronavirus guidelines that could call for face coverings in pu – cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Homemade masks, sewn from cloth or old T-shirts, dont look high tech or as professional as those used by health care workers.

Yet, they could be useful in preventing people who wear them from spreading the coronavirus, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said Tuesday.

Right now, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesnt recommend that people always cover their faces when out in public. However, the CDC, in consultation with President Donald Trumps administration, is considering recommending face coverings.

Acton said she looks forward to new guidance that could come out of Washington. Many people could be carrying the virus and not know it because theyre asymptomatic, Actor has said.

"Again, Ive been saying this all long: Assume you have it. Assume each other has it, she said.

Masks could be another tool in the arsenal people have to control the diseases spread -- which also includes social distancing, thorough hand washing and coughing and sneezing into elbows, said Acton, a licensed preventive medicine physician.

So masks can help in not spreading those respiratory big droplets, she said. I dont know a pleasant way to say it -- spewing stuff out into the air. And obviously its microscopic, so even breathing close to someone, its getting out there.

In the Czech Republic, people are required to wear masks out in public during the pandemic, even if theyre homemade. And the countrys public health officials credit its relatively low infection rate to the mask policy.

The science is not definitive yet that masks can be instrumental in stopping the spread of coronavirus. However, the idea is gaining momentum, the Washington Post reports, since many people are asymptomatic but could be spreading the disease.

To be sure, homemade masks are not as effective as N95 masks in protecting the wearer. They do a better job at filtering to keep a microscopic virus from the mouth or nose of the wearer. But increasingly, even so-called DIY face coverings are being viewed as effective in preventing infected people who wear them from spreading the virus.

In other countries, whenever you have any cold people wear a mask because its seen as polite, and it stops the spread of disease, and youre sort of looked at funny if youre out and coughing without one, Acton said. But if youre using a surgical mask, keep a couple for yourself, and please immediately give the rest of them to your local nursing home or your local health department.

The respirator masks -- the N95s -- absolutely have got to go to our health care workers, or nursing home workers, Acton said. We have nursing homes that are dangerously short of even the surgical masks, even the cloth masks.

Acton advises people who have surgical masks at home, to keep one to three. Donate the rest of them to health care workers, who on Tuesday made up 20% of Ohios 2,199 confirmed infections.

Meanwhile, the cloth mask is a great alternative, and the CDC has always had guidance on using bandannas or scarves, or any kind of cloth, she said. Im anxiously awaiting this guidance.

Other coronavirus coverage:

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Ohio increase to 2,199 and 55 deaths: Ohio Department of Health, Tuesday March 31 update

Gov. Mike DeWine gives Tuesdays coronavirus update: Watch Live

Columbus-based Battelle is at the forefront of battling the coronavirus: 5 facts about the nonprofit firm

Boards of health in Summit, Lorain and Medina counties refusing to follow Cuyahoga County and release zip code data on coronavirus cases

Coping with coronavirus: Guide aims to ease fear of pandemic disease

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Impacts of the Microscope on Science | Sciencing

§ March 30th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on Impacts of the Microscope on Science | Sciencing

The microscope is a device that magnifies objects or organisms that are too small to see with the naked eye. A milestone in the science world, the microscope has had enormous influence on the development of modern medical, forensics and environmental science. The invention of the microscope has revolutionized the science industry while developing other fields.

The microscope has had a major impact in the medical field. Doctors use microscopes to spot abnormal cells and to identify the different types of cells. This helps in identifying and treating diseases such as sickle cell caused by abnormal cells that have a sickle like shape.

The microscope is used to study the health of an ecosystem. Field biologists use the microscope to observe a specific environment, such as marine, by identifying the types and number of organism sustained in samples from the ecosystem. This helps scientists in defining the ecosystem, detecting threats to an ecosystem and determining the relationship of the organisms with their environments.

The microscope has greatly affected the field of forensic science. Forensics is a field of science used to gather and analyze evidence to establish facts that are used in a legal scenario. The microscope is used to examine evidence collected in a crime scene that may have information not visible to the human eye.

Histologists use the microscope to analyze tissues and cells. The microscope with other tools is used to detect abnormal tissues in the body. The study has helped in identifying cancerous tissues in a patient.

The invention of the powerful atomic force microscope has enabled scientists to study cells at an atomic level. This enables scientists to scrutinize viruses at their atomic level and influence them for delivery of innovative treatments. The atomic force microscope also enables scientists to study and understand the types of viruses and understand how they infect the body. Through this microscope, scientists examine the process by which non-envelope viruses use protein to fuse with the host cells.

The microscope has greatly impacted the study of genetics. Scientist uses the microscope to observe specific genetic compositions. This also allows scientists to determine genetic abnormality, regeneration and tissue death. The study of genetics is utilized to observe infected tissue. Through this study, histologists are able to conduct research on future cures and preventive medicines.

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Impacts of the Microscope on Science | Sciencing

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US fashion brands making masks expose a failure of the health system – Quartz

§ March 30th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on US fashion brands making masks expose a failure of the health system – Quartz

Across the US, clothing companies and legions of home sewers are churning out face masks as fast as they can to meet the critical shortage of masks available to American medical workers. Its a heartening and admirable effort by both companies and individuals to assist in a moment of national need.

Theres just one problem: Many of these masks are apparently being made from regular cloth textiles such as cotton, which research says offers little protection against infectious diseases such as the new coronavirus.

The situation isnt the fault of those trying to help. Rather, its a sign of how unprepared the US health system was for an outbreak like Covid-19, both in the number of masks it had available and its ability to make more in an emergency.

Manufacturers of medical masks use specialized materials (pdf) made of a synthetic fiberoften polypropyleneformed into a web of fine filaments using whats called melt-blown or spunbond technology. This non-woven polypropylene is capable of filtering out microscopic particles, which is why its preferred for medical-grade masks, such as N95 respirators, that form a seal around the nose and mouth. Its also used for looser-fitting surgical masks, which are more for keeping the wearer from spreading disease and protecting them from sprays of liquid.

But making it is a complex process and not all textile producers, such as the kind that commonly supply clothing fabrics to fashion companies, have the industrial machines to do it. Manufacturers that do are currently unable to meet the overwhelming demand.

Many clothing companies and home sewers are improvising. Fanatics, a sports merchandising company, has said its making masks from the same fabric it uses for baseball jerseys. Smaller fashion companies and home sewers are using whatever materials they have on hand. Fabric and crafts retailer JoAnn has partnered with Neiman Marcus to produce masks.

In California, the Los Angeles mayors office, in partnership with fashion retailer Reformation and under guidance from healthcare company Kaiser Permanente, is asking local manufacturers (pdf) to make masks from latex-free cotton or cotton-blend materials of specific weights. Gap Inc. is connecting California hospitals directly with vendors in its supply chain that it knows have personal protective equipment (PPE) available. A Gap spokesperson said in an email the company is also working with its manufacturing partners to explore producing fabric masks and other protective gear, though its still working out details such as materials it will use.

These mask makers generally say theyre following guidance from federal or local health authorities and are clear in specifying the masks theyre producing are not medical-grade. Their hope is to free up the more effective N95 respirators and surgical masks for the workers who need them most. Cloth masks, which could at least be laundered and reused, are a last resort for nurses and doctors in need. Making them is also a way for clothing companies and anyone with a sewing machine to feel like they are helping.

But while there is some evidence that any face mask, even a homemade one, is better than nothing, cloth masks arguably dont offer sufficient protection for workers on the front lines. The World Health Organization, for instance, states in its guidance (pdf), Cloth (e.g. cotton or gauze) masks are not recommended under any circumstance.

A 2015 study (pdf) of roughly 1,600 workers at hospitals in Vietnam found nearly 97% of particles penetrated the cloth masks, versus 44% for medical masks. Workers who wore cloth masks also had higher rates of infection than those wearing surgical masks or those in an unmasked control group, perhaps in part because the cloth masks retained moisture.

I think health workers using cloth masks are not adequately protected, and there is a work health and safety issue in telling them to work in a bandana or t-shirt mask, Raina MacIntyre, lead author of the study and an expert on infectious diseases at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, said in an email. But what do we do? Let patients die or force our health workers into a high risk situation where they too may die? We need more acknowledgment of this question.

MacIntyre recently wrote a post for UNSW about the lack of proper protective equipment medical workers have had to contend with during the coronavirus crisis. She said the study she led is still the only randomized clinical trial to be conducted on cloth masks, and the conclusion was clear: The most important point is that the paper does not say do not wear a maskthe message was that hospitals and governments should plan and stockpile proper disposable products such as surgical masks instead of cloth masks, to protect their workers, she wrote.

Its conceivable there would have been a shortage of medical masks in the US regardless of any precautions just because of the unforeseeable extent of the coronavirus outbreak. But it likely didnt have to be as acute as it currently is.

The US had developed a strategic stockpile of protective medical gear, now maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but used much of it during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. The public health system prioritized spending its inadequate budget on medicines and equipment for disasters and other disease scenarios, according to the Washington Post, and to keep costs down, skipped stockpiling masks in favor of relying on private companies with quick supply chains to react in an emergency.

But while the country could produce enough N95 respirators and surgical masks to meet demand under normal conditions, a 2017 analysis of its supply chain for personal protective equipment concluded it would have minimal ability to rapidly increase production in a crisis. Most protective masks are now made offshore, it said, and might be unavailable to the US in an emergency. Indeed, after the coronavirus crisis in China, which produces most of the worlds medical masks, the country was slow to resume exporting masks.

The US now finds itself with a fraction of the medical-grade masks it needs as its number of coronavirus cases spikes. Everyone is rushing to fill the gap as best as possible. Companies such as 3M and Honeywell that make N95 and surgical masks have quickly ramped up manufacturing. And even companies not in the business of making medical materials are finding ways to contribute more than plain cloth masks when they can.

Outdoor company Eddie Bauer saidit had shifted production to making protective medical equipment at vendors that usually make its technical outerwear and have the capability. Nordstrom, which calls itself the largest employer of tailors in North America, is working with Kaas Tailored, a clothing manufacturer in Washington state, to sew masks made by cutting up and restitching surgical wrap provided by Providence, a healthcare organization asking for help making masks.

Possibly the biggest mask-making effort among apparel companies in the US is a coalition enlisted by the US government that includes Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and several smaller firms. Once fully ramped up in four to five weeks, the companies expect to produce up to 10 million face masks per week in the United States and in Central America, the National Council of Textile Organizations said in a release.

The coalition has been coordinating directly with the HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Parkdale Mills, a large manufacturer of spun yarns, is supplying raw material while Hanes worked with the agencies to develop the fabric according to their specifications. Batches of the material and other components are already being sent to all the clothing makers to sew into masks, which are then sent back to FEMA to be distributed.

The material for the masks is made from three-ply, 100% cotton coated in an antimicrobial finish, according to Parkdale Mills. Its unclear how it compares with other materials in protecting medical workers from infectious diseases, though experts have have previously proposed integrating antimicrobials such as copper or sodium chloride into masks as sterilization agents. The government agencies Quartz contacted directed the inquiry to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA did not reply to a request for comment by the time of publication. We will update this story with any reply.

Everybodys put their own businesses far to the side trying to get this thing up and going, said Bayard Winthrop, founder of American Giant, one of the clothing companies thats part of the coalition. He calls the work of all the companies to meet the demand for masks humbling and inspiring.

Winthrop is among those who say the current predicament should be a wake-up call for government officials and for industries that have outsourced manufacturing of critical items to other countries because costs are cheaper and regulations less stringent.

This is exposing how vulnerable and how fragile that system is, and what happens when suddenly were in a situation where we need stuff, like medicine and medical masks and hospital beds and ventilators, and were no longer able to make it in this country anymore, he said. The country has gotten to a place where we have lost our ability to make the things we need. The fact that weve got 10 companies turning themselves upside down that make underwear and t-shirts to fix the medical-mask problem is crazy.

Meanwhile, medical staff caring for sick patients continue to put themselves at risk. Recently a nurse manager at a Manhattan hospital died after contracting Covid-19. On social media, some colleagues blamed a lack of protective equipment such as masks.

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US fashion brands making masks expose a failure of the health system - Quartz

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8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Canton Repository

§ March 30th, 2020 § Filed under Nano Medicine Comments Off on 8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists – Canton Repository

Hidden in the virus's unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain. So far, mostcases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strainfirst identified in Washington state

SAN FRANCISCO At least eight strains of the coronavirus are making their way around the globe, creating a trail of death and disease that scientistsare tracking by their genetic footprints.

While much is unknown, hidden in the virus's unique microscopic fragments are clues to the origins of its original strain, how it behaves as it mutates and which strains are turning into conflagrations while others are dying out thanksto quarantine measures.

Huddled in once bustling and now almost empty labs, researchers who oversaw dozens of projects are instead focused on one goal:tracking the currentstrains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that cause the illness COVID-19.

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Labs around the world are turning their sequencing machines, most about the size of a desktop printer, to the task ofrapidly sequencing the genomes of virus samples taken frompeople sick with COVID-19.The information is uploaded to a website called NextStrain.org that shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into similarbut new subtypes.

While researcherscaution they'reonly seeing the tip of the iceberg, the tiny differences between the virus strains suggest shelter-in-place orders are working in some areas and thatno one strain of the virus ismore deadly than another. They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as theyevolve.

"The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other," said Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

The SARS-CoV-2 virusfirst began causing illness in China sometimebetween mid-November and mid-December. Its genome is made up of about 30,000 base pairs. Humans, by comparison, have more than 3 billion. So fareven in the virus's most divergent strainsscientists have found only 11 base pair changes.

That makes iteasy to spot new lineages as they evolve, said Chiu.

"The outbreaks are trackable. We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating," he said.

So far, mostcases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strainfirst identified in Washington state. It may have come from a man who had been in Wuhan, China, the virus epicenter, and returned home on Jan. 15. It is only three mutations away from the original Wuhan strain, according to work done early in the outbreakby Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, a medical research center in Seattle.

On the East Coast there are several strains, including the one from Washington and others that appear to have made their way from China to Europe and then to New York and beyond, Chiu said.

Beware pretty phylogenetictrees

This isnt the first time scientists have scrambled to do genetic analysis of a virus in the midst of an epidemic. They did it with Ebola, Zika and West Nile, but nobodyoutside the scientific community paid much attention.

"This is the first time phylogenetic trees have been all over Twitter," said Kristian Andersen, a professor at Scripps Research, a nonprofit biomedical science research facility in La Jolla, California, speaking of the diagrams that show the evolutionary relationships between different strains of an organism.

The maps are available on NextStrain, an online resource for scientists that uses data from academic, independent and government laboratories all over the world to visually track the genomics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It currently represents genetic sequences of strains from 36 countries on six continents.

While the maps are fun, they can also be "little dangerous" said Andersen. The trees showing the evolution of the virus are complex and its difficult even for experts to draw conclusions from them.

"Remember, were seeing a very small glimpse into the much larger pandemic. We have half a million described cases right now but maybe 1,000 genomes sequenced. So there are a lot of lineages were missing," hesaid.

Different symptoms, same strains

COVID-19 hitspeople differently, with some feeling only slightly under the weather for a day, others flat on their backs sick for two weeks and about 15% hospitalized. Currently, an estimated1% of those infected die. The rate varies greatly by country and experts say it is likely tied to testing rates rather than actual mortality.

Chiu says it appears unlikely the differences are related to people being infected withdifferent strains of the virus.

"The current virus strains are still fundamentally very similar to each other," he said.

The COVID-19 virus does not mutate very fast. It does so eightto 10 times more slowly than the influenza virus, said Anderson, making its evolution rate similar to other coronaviruses such asSevere Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Its also not expected tospontaneously evolve into a form more deadly than it already is to humans. The SARS-CoV-2 is so good at transmitting itself between human hosts,said Andersen,it is under no evolutionary pressure to evolve.

Shelter in place working in California

Chius analysis shows Californias strict shelter in place efforts appear to beworking.

Over half of the 50 SARS-CoV-2 virus genomes his San Francisco-based lab sequenced in the past two weeks are associated with travel from outside the state. Another 30% are associated with health care workers and families of people who have the virus.

"Only 20% are coming from within the community. Its not circulating widely," he said.

Thats fantastic news, he said, indicating the virus has not been able to gain aserious foothold because of social distancing.

It's like a wildfire, Chiu said. A few sparks might fly off the fire and land in the grass and start new fires. But if the main fire is doused and itsembers stomped out, you can kill offan entire strain.In California, Chiu sees a lot of sparks hitting the ground, most coming from Washington,but they're quickly being put out.

An example wasa small cluster of cases in Solano County, northeast of San Francisco. Chius team did a genetic analysis of the virus that infected patients there and found it was most closely related to a strain from China.

At the same time, his lab was sequencing a small cluster of cases in the city of Santa Clara in Silicon Valley. They discovered the patients there had the same strain as those in Solano County. Chiu believes someone in that cluster had contact with a traveler who recently returned from Asia.

"This is probably an example of a spark that began in Santa Clara, may have gone to Solano County but then was halted," he said.

The virus, he said, can be stopped.

China is an unknown

So far researchers dont have a lot of information about the genomics of the virus inside China beyond the fact that it first appeared in the city of Wuhan sometime between mid-November and mid-December.

The viruss initial sequence was published on Jan. 10 by professor Yong-Zhen Zhang at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center. But Chiu says scientists dont know if there was justone strain circulating in China or more.

"It may be that they havent sequenced many cases or it may be for political reasons they havent been made available," said Chiu. "Its difficult to interpret the data because were missing all these early strains."

Researchers in the United Kingdom who sequenced the genomes of viruses found in travelers from Guangdong in south China found those patients strains spanned the gamut of strains circulating worldwide.

"That could mean several of the strains were seeing outside of China first evolved there from the original strain, or that there are multiple lines of infection. Its very hard to know," said Chiu.

The virus did not come from a lab

While there remain many questions about the trajectory of the COVID-19 disease outbreak, one thing is broadly accepted in the scientific community: Thevirus was not created in a lab but naturally evolved in an animal host.

SARS-CoV-2s genomic molecular structure thinkthe backbone of the virus is closest to a coronavirus found in bats. Parts of its structure also resemble a virus found in scaly anteaters, according to a paper published earlier this month in the journal Nature Medicine.

Someone manufacturing a virus targetingpeople would have started with one that attacked humans, wrote National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collinsin an editorial that accompanied the paper.

Andersen was lead author on the paper. He said it could have been a one-time occurrence.

"Its possible it was a single event, from a single animal to a single human," and spread from there.

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8 strains of coronavirus are circling the globe; heres the clues theyre giving scientists - Canton Repository

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