Opening a New Front Against Pancreatic Cancer

A new type of investigational therapeutic in development for pancreatic cancer has shown unprecedented tumor-fighting abilities in preclinical models of the disease, suggesting it has the potential to offer novel treatment options for nearly all pancreatic tumors, a comprehensive study has found. The inhibitors in this new class of oral medications, being developed by Revolution Medicines Inc., target the oncogenic or active cancer-causing form of RAS proteins (such as KRAS, NRAS, and HRAS). These RAS “oncoproteins” drive up to a third of all human cancers. The research findings—conducted by a consortium of academic researchers led by Columbia scientists and the scientific team at Revolution Medicines—were published in a paper appearing on April 8, 2024 in Nature. The article is titled “Tumor-Selective Activity of RAS-GTP Inhibition in Pancreatic Cancer.”

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Pradeep Sharma Wins PNAS Cozzarelli Prize for Paper on Musical Perception

Selected from thousands, Sharma’s manuscript on music is chosen winner in Engineering and Applied Sciences Category; hair cells of inner ear appear key

When Pradeep Sharma, PhD, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Interim Dean of the Cullen College of Engineering, at the University of Houston, won the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2023 Cozzarelli Prize, it was music to his ears on different octaves. First, his paper is the only winner in the Engineering and Applied Sciences category chosen from more than 3,000 research articles that appeared last year in PNAS. Another key for Sharma’s concerto of cheer is because the paper examines the complex phenomenon of musical perception and begins to answer the incredibly complex question, ‘Why do some people hear music better than others?’ 

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New Study Focuses on Placenta for Clues to Development of Gestational Diabetes

Marie-France Hivert, MD

A new study led by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute has identified that a deficit in the placental expression of the gene insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGFBP1) and low IGFBP1 circulating levels are associated with insulin resistance during pregnancy, highlighting a potential risk factor for the development of gestational diabetes. The study, “Placental IGFBP1 Levels During Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Insulin Resistance and Gestational Diabetes,” appears in the April 16, 2024 edition of Nature Medicine. The open-access article is titled “Placental IGFBP1 Levels During Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Insulin Resistance and Gestational Diabetes.”

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Stanford Medicine-Led Study Identifies Novel Target (Part of Hippocamus) for Epilepsy Treatment

Hippocampus

Removing part of the brain’s temporal lobe is the only treatment available to the millions of people with a form of epilepsy that medications often don’t alleviate. But even that approach fails a third of the time. A new study from Stanford Medicine researchers and their colleagues offers an explanation and suggests a more effective approach to treatment. They found that a previously overlooked region of the hippocampus, the fasciola cinereum, appears to be involved in instigating and propagating seizures. Removing or inhibiting the fasciola cinereum may help those patients who don’t find relief after surgery.

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Exosomes: A Promising Biomarker for Cellular Rejection After Organ Transplant Is Identified in Yale-Led Study

Depiction of Exosome

Today, patients who receive an organ transplant need repeated surgical biopsies to test for acute cellular rejection (ACR) throughout their lifetimes. But a blood test for ACR could be on the horizon following the discovery of a promising biomarker. ACR occurs when a patient’s immune cells, known as T cells, begin attacking the transplanted organ. However, when looking at T cells in blood samples, researchers have not been able to identify any notable differences that arise during organ rejection. Now, a Yale-led team has found that exosomes from T cells are significantly altered during ACR. Exosomes are extracellular vesicles released by cells that allow them to communicate with each other. The researchers published their findings in the March 2024 issue of the American Journal of Transplantation. The article is titledCirculating T Cell Specific Extracellular Vesicle Profiles in Cardiac Allograft Acute Cellular Rejection.” “We’ve developed a novel biomarker platform that shows promise to reliably detect rejection through a blood sample,” says Prashanth Vallabhajosyula, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Surgery (Cardiac), Yale University School of Medicine, and the study’s principal investigator. “As we continue to do more studies in the clinical setting, we hope this biomarker platform will eventually replace surgical biopsy.”

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Bio-IT World Conference & Expo—Day 3

The Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2024 (April 15-17) concluded in Boston on Wednesday, April 17, and once again featured presentations in ten Bio-IT focused conference tracks: AI for Drug Discovery and Development; AI for Oncology, Precision Medicine, and Health; Bioinformatics; Cloud Computing; Data Management; Data Science and Analytics Technologies; Generative AI; Modern Data Platforms and Storage Infrastructure; Pharmaceutical R&D Informatics; and Software Applications and Services. The theme of this 23rd annual conference is “Building a Global Network for Precision Medicine.” The event has attracted nearly 3,000 attendees (in-person and virtual) from 30-plus countries around the world. A description of the ten conference tracks can be found here and a discussion of certain of Wednesday’s sessions, including awards, is given below.

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Bio-IT World Conference & Expo—Day 2

The Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2024 (April 15-17) continued in Boston on Tuesday, April 16, and featured presentations in ten Bio-IT focused conference tracks: AI for Drug Discovery and Development; AI for Oncology, Precision Medicine, and Health; Bioinformatics; Cloud Computing; Data Management; Data Science and Analytics Technologies; Generative AI; Modern Data Platforms and Storage Infrastructure; Pharmaceutical R&D Informatics; and Software Applications and Services. The theme of this 23rd annual conference is “Building a Global Network for Precision Medicine.” The event has attracted nearly 3,000 attendees (in-person and virtual) from 30-plus countries around the world. A brief description of the ten conference tracks and a discussion of certain of Tuesday’s sessions are below, together with a discussion of the morning plenary session “Unveiling Tomorrow’s Possibilities: Embrace the Power of Digital Twins in Cancer Care and Research.”

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Millions of Gamers Advance Biomedical Research

Largest global citizen science project accelerates knowledge of human microbiome

Leveraging gamers and video game technology can dramatically boost scientific research according to a new study published April 15 in Nature Biotechnology. 4.5 million gamers around the world have advanced medical science by helping to reconstruct microbial evolutionary histories using a minigame included inside the critically and commercially successful video game, Borderlands 3. Their playing has led to a significantly refined estimate of the relationships of microbes in the human gut. The results of this collaboration will both substantially advance our knowledge of the microbiome and improve on the AI programs that will be used to carry out this work in future. The open-access Nature Biotechnology article is titled “Improving Microbial Phylogeny with Citizen Science Within a Mass-Market Video Game.”

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Bio-IT World Conference & Expo—Day 1  

The Bio-IT World Conference & Expo 2024 (April 15-17) opened on Monday, April 15, and featured six full-day deep-dive symposia on the topics of FAIR Data; Knowledge Graphs; Quantum Computing; Automation, Digital Lab, and Robotics; Digital Biopharma; and Digitization of Clinical Development and Clinical Trials. The day also included eight technical workshops. The theme of this 23rd annual conference is “Building a Global Network for Precision Medicine.” The event has attracted nearly 3,000 attendees (in-person and virtual) from 30-plus countries around the world. A discussion of certain of the sessions in the day’s deep-dive symposia is given below, along with a description of the day’s closing plenary keynote address by Daniel Stanzione, Executive Director, Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

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Scientists Discover First Nitrogen-Fixing Organelle within Eukaryotic Cell, Cover Story in April 12 Issue of Science

Modern biology textbooks assert that only bacteria can take nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a form that is usable for life. Plants that fix nitrogen, such as legumes, do so by harboring symbiotic bacteria in root nodules. But a recent discovery upends that rule. In two recent papers, in Cell and Science, an international team of scientists describe the first known nitrogen-fixing organelle within a eukaryotic cell. The organelle is the fourth example in history of primary endosymbiosis — the process by which a prokaryotic cell is engulfed by a eukaryotic cell and evolves beyond symbiosis into an organelle.

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