“Neuroprosthesis” Restores Words to Man with Paralysis; Technology Could Lead to More Natural Communication for People Who Have Suffered Speech Loss

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have have successfully developed a “speech neuroprosthesis” that has enabled a man with severe paralysis to communicate in sentences, translating signals from his brain to the vocal tract directly into words that appear as text on a screen. The achievement, which was developed in collaboration with the first participant of a clinical research trial, builds on more than a decade of effort by UCSF neurosurgeon Edward Chang, MD, to develop a technology that allows people with paralysis to communicate even if they are unable to speak on their own. The study was published in the July 15. 2021 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The article is titled “Neuroprosthesis for Decoding Speech in a Paralyzed Person with Anarthria.” “To our knowledge, this is the first successful demonstration of direct decoding of full words from the brain activity of someone who is paralyzed and cannot speak,” said Dr. Chang, the Joan and Sanford Weill Chair of Neurological Surgery at UCSF, Jeanne Robertson Distinguished Professor, and senior author on the study. “It shows strong promise to restore communication by tapping into the brain’s natural speech machinery.”

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Minimally Invasive Exosome Spray Helps Repair Heart After Heart Attack in Animal Model

Heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Although modern surgical techniques, diagnostics, and medications have greatly improved early survival from these events, many patients struggle with the long-term effects of permanently damaged tissue, and the 5-year mortality rate remains high. Now, researchers from Suzhou Dushu Lake Hospital, Suzhou , China, and North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, reporting online on June 21, 2021 in ACS Nano describe developing a minimally invasive exosome spray that helped repair rat hearts after myocardial infarction. Scientists have explored using stem cell therapy as a way to regrow tissue after a heart attack. But introducing stem cells directly to the heart can be risky because they could trigger an immune response or grow uncontrollably, resulting in a tumor. Therefore, researchers have tried injecting exosomes –– sub-cellular, membrane-bound sacs containing proteins, lipids and nucleic acids secreted by stem cells (and by all other cells examined)–into the heart, but the exosomes often break down before they can have therapeutic effects. Others have developed cardiac patches, or scaffolds that help implanted exosomes last longer, but they usually must be placed on the heart during open-chest surgery. Dr. Yafeng Zhou (Suzhou Dushu Lake Hospital) and colleagues wanted to develop an exosome solution that could be sprayed onto the heart through a tiny incision, avoiding major surgery.

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Scientists ID Small Molecule Inhibitor That Reduces Growth of Uveal Melanoma, a Rare and Deadly Cancer of the Eye

Uveal melanoma (UM) is a rare and deadly cancer of the eye, and the mortality rate has remained unimproved for 40 years. Half of the melanomas spread to other organs of the body, causing death in less than a year, so new treatments to preserve vision and prevent death are an urgent need. Now a preclinical study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and Emory University, Atlanta, offers hope–a small molecule inhibitor has been identified that dampens the potent drivers of this tumor. In mouse models, the inhibitor, KCN1 (3,4-dimethoxy-N-[(2,2-dimethyl-2H-chromen-6-yl) methyl]-N-phenylbenzenesulfonamide), strongly limited primary disease in the eye and metastatic tumor dissemination to the liver, and animals survived longer, without overt side effects. Thus, this class of inhibitory compounds shows promise, though the co-leaders of the research — Erwin Van Meir, PhD, Professor of Neurosurgery at UAB, and Hans Grossniklaus, MD, MBA, Professor of Ophthalmic Pathology at Emory–say the drug needs further optimization before clinical use.

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Flow-Sensing Protein (TRPM7) Appears to Prevent Tumor Cells from Spreading Via Blood Vessels

Researchers have identified a specialized protein that appears to help prevent tumor cells from entering the bloodstream and spreading to other parts of the body. “We have discovered that this protein, TRPM7 (transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M member 7), senses the pressure of fluid flowing in the circulation and stops the cells from spreading through the vascular system,” said Kaustav Bera, a Johns Hopkins University PhD candidate in chemical and biomolecular engineering and a lead author of the study, which was done with colleagues at the University of Alberta and Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain). “We found that metastatic tumor cells have markedly reduced levels of this sensor protein, and that is why they efficiently enter into the circulation rather than turning away from fluid flow,” said Bera. The findings, published in the July 9, 2021 issue of Science Advances, help shed light on a little-understood part of metastasis called intravasation, when cancer cells that have separated from a primary tumor enter the circulation in order to travel to other parts of the body and establish colonies. The open-access article is titled “The Fluid Shear Stress Sensor TRPM7 Regulates Tumor Cell Intravasation.”

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Naturally Abundant Venom Peptide from Ants Can Activate a Pseudo-Allergic Pathway Unraveling a Novel Immunomodulatory Pathway of MRGPRX2

Ants are omnipresent, and we often get blisters after an ant bite. But do you know the molecular mechanism behind this reaction? A research team led by Professor Billy K.C. Chow from the Research Division for Molecular and Cell Biology, Faculty of Science, the University of Hong Kong (HKU), in collaboration with Dr. Jerome Leprince from The Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) and Professor Michel Treilhou from the Institut National Universitaire Champollion in France, have identified and demonstrated a novel small peptide isolated from ant venom can initiate an immune pathway via a pseudo-allergic receptor MRGPRX2. The study was published online on June 6, 2021 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The open-access article is titled “P17 Induces Chemotaxis and Differentiation of Monocytes via MRGPRX2-Mediated Mast Cell–Line Activation.”

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Researchers Find That Special Type of Brain Training Based on Principle of “Neurofeedback” Enables People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to Improve Their Ability To Concentrate

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects approximately 7% of children, with a two out of three chance of persisting into adulthood. This neurodevelopmental disorder is characterized by concentration difficulties, increased distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Today, ADHD is treated with pharmaceutical drugs that may have unwanted side-effects. This is why scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG), Switzerland, explored a new technique called “neurofeedback,” which enables ADHD patients to train their attention, based on instant feedback from the level of their brain activity. The team of neuroscientists found that not only did the training have a positive effect on patients’ concentration abilities, but also that the attention improvement was closely linked to an enhanced response from the brain–the P3 wave–which is known to reflect integration of information in the brain, with higher P3 amplitudes indicating greater attention towards detected targets. The findings have been published in the August 2021 issue of Clinical Neurophysiology. The open-access article is titled “Electrophysiological Correlates of Improved Executive Function Following EEG Neurofeedback in Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”

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AI Used to Predict Unknown Links Between Viruses and Mammals

A new University of Liverpool (UK) study could help scientists mitigate the future spread of zoonotic and livestock diseases caused by viruses. Researchers have used a form of artificial intelligence (AI) called machine-learning to predict more than 20,000 unknown associations between known viruses and susceptible mammalian species. The findings, which were published online on June 25, 2021 Nature Communications, could be used to help target disease surveillance programs. The open-access article is titled “Divide-and-Conquer: Machine-Learning Integrates Mammalian and Viral Traits with Network Features to Predict Virus-Mammal Associations.” Thousands of viruses are known to affect mammals, with recent estimates indicating that less than 1% of mammalian viral diversity has been discovered to date. Some of these viruses such as human and feline immunodeficiency viruses have a very narrow host range, whereas others such as rabies and West Nile viruses have very wide host ranges.

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ILIAS Biologics Demonstrates Therapeutic Effect of Anti-Inflammatory Exosomes for Ischemia-Reperfusion-Induced Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)

Anti-inflammatory exosomes could have a place in treating acute kidney injury (AKI) caused by ischemia repercussion injury (IRI), according to a study done by ILIAS Biologics, Inc., in collaboration with Yonsei University of Seoul, South Korea. The ILIAS research team and the Yonsei University research team, led by Professor of Internal Medicine Tae-Hyun Yoo, MD, and Professor of Oral Pathology Jong In Yook, DDS, published the study result online on May 26, 2021 in the official journal of the International Society of Nephrology, Kidney International. ILIAS Biologics, Inc., secured its third proof-of-concept (POC), demonstrating the therapeutic efficacy of their anti-inflammatory exosomes with this successful result in IRI-AKI. This study result comes just after ILIAS Biologics’ second POC in the field of pre-term birth, published in Science Advances in January 2021. With its platform technology EXPLOR® (Exosomes engineering for Protein Loading via Optically Reversible protein-protein interaction), ILIAS has demonstrated the therapeutic applicability of its anti-inflammatory exosomes in multiple inflammation-related therapeutic areas, including sepsis, pre-term birth, and now IRI-AKI.

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SMART/MIT Researchers Develop Method for Rapid, Accurate Virus Detection Four Times Faster Than Conventional PCR Methods; New RADICA Approach Is Highly Specific, Sensitive, and Resistant To Inhibitors

Researchers from Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalized-Medicine (CAMP), an interdisciplinary research group at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, have developed a new method for rapid and accurate detection of viral nucleic acids–a breakthrough that can be easily adapted to detect different DNA/RNA targets in viruses like the coronavirus. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of rapid diagnostics and improved methods to detect viruses, especially as the world seeks to be prepared for future pandemics or the next dangerous pathogen. Particularly, the biomanufacturing industry, with the unique challenges of using cells as cell therapy products, is looking for innovations in rapid methods to detect virus contamination as part of their quality control processes and in release testing. While the reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is considered a gold standard for viral detection, there are limitations and they can often produce variable results.

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Mammalian Stem Cells Can Use Same Method (Cutting Up Viral RNA) As Plants and Insects to Protect Against RNA Viruses

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute (UK) have found a vital mechanism, previously thought to have disappeared as mammals evolved, that helps protect mammalian stem cells from RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 and Zika virus. The scientists suggest this could one day be exploited in the development of new antiviral treatments. On infecting a host, a virus enters cells in order to replicate. For most cells in mammals, the first line of protection are proteins, called interferons. Stem cells, however, lack the ability to trigger an interferon response and there has been uncertainty about how they protect themselves. In their study, published in the July 9, 2021 issue of Science, the Crick scientists analyzed genetic material from mouse stem cells and found it contains instructions to build a protein, named antiviral Dicer (aviD), which cuts up viral RNA and so prevents RNA viruses from replicating. This form of protection is called RNA interference, which is the method also used by cells in plants and invertebrates.  The article is titled “An Isoform of Dicer Protects Mammalian Stem Cells Against Multiple RNA Viruses.”

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