Boston University Researcher Awarded $1.2 Million from NIH To Study Wound Healing

Dr. Daniel Roh

Daniel Roh, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, has received the Paul B. Beeson Emerging Leaders Career Development Award in Aging (K76) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Aging (NIA). The award supports talented new investigators who have begun to establish research programs and through this award will be ready to assume leadership roles in their field of expertise and be well poised to change theory, practice, and health outcomes related to the health of older individuals. As part of this honor, Roh has been awarded a five-year, $1.2M NIA grant for his project, “Targeting Senescence to Improve Wound Healing in Aging.” The award will be utilized to study how cellular senescence (a state where a cell undergoes permanent growth arrest, stops dividing and experiences functional changes) plays a role in normal wound healing but fails to occur during aging, leading to delayed wound healing.

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New Bottlenose Dolphin Sense Discovered: They Feel Electricity; Sense Could Help Them Navigate the Globe

Born tail first, bottlenose dolphin calves emerge equipped with two slender rows of whiskers along their beak-like snouts – much like the touch-sensitive whiskers of seals. But the whiskers fall out soon after birth, leaving the youngster with a series of dimples, known as vibrissal pits. Recently Tim Hüttner and Guido Dehnhardt from the University of Rostock, Germany, began to suspect that the dimples may be more than just a relic. Could they allow adult bottlenose dolphins to sense weak electric fields? Taking an initial close look, they realized that the remnant pits resemble the structures that allow sharks to detect electric fields, and when they checked whether captive bottlenose dolphins could sense an electric field in water, all of the animals felt the field. “It was very impressive to see,” says Dehnhardt, who, with colleagues, published the extraordinary discovery and how the animals could use their electric sense on November 30, 2023 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The open-access article is titled “Passive Electroreception in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): Implication for Micro- and Large-Scale Orientation.”

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New Antifungal Molecule Kills Fungi Without Toxicity in Human Cells, Mice

The mechanism for a critical but highly toxic antifungal is revealed in high resolution. Self-assembled Amphotericin B sponges (depicted in light blue) rapidly extract sterols (depicted in orange and white) from cells. This atomic level understanding yielded a novel kidney-sparing antifungal agent.
(Image by Jose Vazquez.)
A new antifungal molecule, devised by tweaking the structure of the prominent antifungal drug amphotericin B, has the potential to harness the drug’s power against fungal infections while doing away with its toxicity, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported on November 8, 2023 in Nature. The article is titled “Tuning Sterol Extraction Kinetics Yields a Renal-Sparing Polyene Antifungal.”

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Pathogens Use Force to Breach Immune Defenses, Study Finds

Toxoplasma gondii
Similar to a burglar breaking a window to get into a house, Indiana University researchers have discovered a previously unknown process by which pathogens enter a cell with physical force, breaching the body’s immune defenses that prevent infection. The work, published on November 30, 2023 in PNAS, introduces a potential game-changer in the fight against intracellular pathogens responsible for causing devastating infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, malaria and chlamydia. These diseases are notoriously difficult to treat because the pathogens are protected inside host cells. The article is titled “Propulsive Cell Entry Diverts Pathogens from Immune Degradation by Remodeling the Phagocytic Synapse.”

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Researchers Discover Deep Structural Biology Connections That Help Improve CAR Therapy

Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) have opened up an exciting newfield of therapeutic advancements for rare and difficult-to-treat cancers, as they have the ability to deliver targeted therapies that can kill tumor cells. Peptide-centric CARs (PC-CARs) rely on specific peptide “barcodes,” which are derived from proteins within the cell created by potentially cancer-causing oncogenes, are designed to find and target cancer cells. These “barcodes” are displayed by human leukocyte antigens (HLAs), which help the immune system distinguish its own proteins from foreign invaders, like viruses.

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Physics Meets Biology: Prion Protein Orchestrates Liquid-Liquid Phase Separation with Copper; New Study Reveals That Prion Protein and Copper Form Sticky Droplets Under Oxidative Stress, a Marker of Neurodegeneration

Prion protein
In a ground-breaking study published on November 3, 2023 in Science Advances, researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE-Berlin) shed light on the intricate dance between the prion protein and copper ions in the physiopathology of live cells. The research paves the way for potential treatments addressing copper-bound prion protein clusters to prevent abnormal solid formation and mitigate neurodegenerative outcomes. The open-access article is titled “Copper Drives Prion Protein Phase Separation and Modulates Aggregation.”

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Harnessing the Power of a Parasite (Leishmania) That Can Stop Pain; Study Reveals Pain-Relief Pathways in Disfiguring Skin Disease; Work on Skin Test for Immunity Also Reported

Leishmania mexicana

For the first time, scientists have begun to figure out why the disfiguring skin lesions caused by cutaneous leishmaniasis don’t hurt. Researchers analyzed leishmaniasis lesions on mouse skin to detect metabolic signaling pathways that differed from uninfected mice. Results suggested the parasites that cause the disease change pain perception – presumably as a way to delay treatment and promote their own survival. “No one knows why these lesions are painless – but it has been thought that the parasite somehow manipulates the host physiological system,” said Abhay Satoskar, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and Professor of Pathology in The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Based on our data, something the parasites do triggers pathways that suppress pain. How they do that, we’re still investigating.”

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Researchers Work to Illuminate Essential Role of Carbohydrates in Human Health and Disease

Dr. Laura Kiessling

In the narrowest sense, glycobiology is the study of the structure, biology, and evolution of glycans, the carbohydrates and sugar-coated molecules found in every living organism. As a recent symposium at MIT made clear, the field is in the midst of a renaissance that could reshape scientists’ understanding of the building blocks of life. Originally coined in the 1980s to describe the merging of traditional research in carbohydrate chemistry and biochemistry, glycobiology has come to encompass a much broader and multidisciplinary set of ideas. “Glycoscience” may actually be a more appropriate name for the rapidly growing field, reflecting its broad application not just to biology and chemistry but also to bioengineering, medicine, materials science, and more. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that these glycans have a very important role to play in health and disease,” says Laura Kiessling, PhD, the Novartis Professor of Chemistry at MIT. “It may seem daunting initially, but devising new tools and identifying new kinds of interactions requires exactly the sort of creative problem-solving skills that people have at MIT.”

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Aging Modulates Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) of Epidermal Keratinocytes

Artistic representation of exosome, a type of EV.

On November 30, 2023, a new research paper was published as the cover story of Aging [listed by MEDLINE/PubMed as “Aging (Albany NY)” and “Aging-US” by Web of Science] Volume 15, Issue 22, entitled, “Chronological Aging Impacts Abundance, Function, and MicroRNA Content of Extracellular Vesicles Produced by Human Epidermal Keratinocytes.” “In this article, we describe for the first time the impact of chronological aging on EV production by human keratinocytes,” the authors said.

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Hope for Autoimmune Skin Disorder Sufferers with New Immunotherapy Strategy

Researchers, led by University of Melbourne’s Professor Laura Mackay, a Laboratory Head and Immunology Theme Leader at the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), discovered distinct mechanisms controlling different types of immune cells, and found that, by precisely targeting these mechanisms, they could selectively eliminate “problematic cells” and reshape the skin’s immune landscape. Our skin is packed with specialized immune cells that protect against infections and cancer, and promote healing. These cells, called tissue-resident memory T cells or TRM cells, stay in place to fight infections and cancerous cells in the skin. However, when not controlled properly, some of these skin TRM cells can contribute to autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis and vitiligo.

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