Study Reveals Link Between Brain Cell Development and Risk of Schizophrenia and Other Psychiatric Disorders

Scientists from Cardiff University in Wales have discovered new links between the breakdown in brain cell development and the risk of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. Genetic risk factors are known to disrupt brain development in a number of these disorders, but little is known about which aspects of this process are affected. This research is the first time that genetic disruption of specific cell processes crucial to brain development has been linked to disease risk in a wide range of psychiatric disorders. The findings were published on January 14, 2022 in the journal Nature Communications. The open-access article is titled “Transcriptional Programs Regulating Neuronal Differentiation Are Disrupted in DLG2 Knockout Human Embryonic Stem Cells and Enriched for Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Risk Variants.”

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Breakthrough in Peripheral Nerve Repair Therapy

On January 17, 2022, researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) University of Medicine and Health Sciences, AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI ) Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, along with leading global medical technology company Integra LifeSciences, announced a new breakthrough for nerve repair therapies based on the body’s own processes. The work was published online on January 13, 2022 in Matrix Biology. The open-access article is titled “Multi-Factorial Nerve Guidance Conduit Engineering Improves Outcomes in Inflammation, Angiogenesis and Large Defect Nerve Repair.”

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WHO Makes New Recommendations for Two Drugs (Baricitinib & IL-6 Inhibitors) to Treat Patients with Severe COVID-19; Conditional Recommendations Made for Two Monoclonal Antibodies

The drug baricitinib (a type of drug known as a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor, also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis) is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical covid-19 in combination with corticosteroids, said a WHO Guideline Development Group of international experts publishing in the British Medical Journal on Janauary 13, 2022. Their strong recommendation is based on moderate certainty evidence that the drug improves survival and reduces the need for ventilation, with no observed increase in adverse effects. The title of the recommendations is “Rapid Recommendations: A Living WHO Guideline on Drugs for COVID-19.”

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Innovative Approach Yields Novel Compound (Macolacin) That Might Defeat Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria Common in Hospitals

For years, public-health experts have been sounding the alarm about the next phase in humanity’s co-existence with bacteria—a dark future where emerging strains have rendered once-powerful antibiotics useless. The United Nations recently projected that, unless new drugs are developed, multidrug-resistant infections will force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty within the next decade and cause 10 million annual deaths by 2050. Scientists are especially apprehensive about a broad group of bacteria that circulate in hospitals and can dodge not only blockbuster drugs like penicillin and tetracycline, but even colistin, an antibiotic long used as a crucial last option. When colistin fails, there are often no effective antibiotics for patients with multidrug-resistant infections. Now, Rockefeller University scientists report on their discovery of a compound that could potentially outmaneuver colistin resistance. In animal experiments, this prospective antibiotic was highly potent against dangerous opportunistic pathogens like Acinetobacter baumannii, the most common cause of infections in healthcare settings. Published on Janaury 5, 2022, in Nature, the findings could make it possible to develop a new class of antibiotics to combat strains responding to no other treatments. The article is titled “A Naturally Inspired Antibiotic to Target Multidrug-Resistant Pathogens.”

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Researchers Identify Set of Cellular Receptors in Humans and Other Species for Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus & Other Members of the Alphavirus Family

A new study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS) has identified a set of cellular receptors for at least three related alphaviruses shared across mosquitoes, humans, and animals that host the virus. Going a step further, the researchers tested a “decoy” molecule that successfully prevented infection and slowed disease progression in a series of experiments in cells and animal models, an important first step toward developing preventive and curative medicines against these highly pathogenic viruses with pandemic potential. The results were published online on December 20, 2022 in Nature. The article is titled “VLDLR and ApoER2 are receptors for multiple alphaviruses.”

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Nanotherapeutic Containing Micro-RNA 122 Wards Off Metastasis to Liver in Mouse Model

Physician researchers from the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center have developed an innovative nanotherapeutic drug that prevents cancer from spreading to the liver in mice. The new liver-specific microRNA drug, developed by a team led by Andrew Wang, MD, is a promising candidate for drug companies that developed messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for COVID-19, because of similarities in these RNA agents. “This might be one ray of hope that comes out of the pandemic,” said Dr. Wang, Professor, Radiation Oncology, and senior author of a rodent-based study published in the January 2022 issue of Cancer Research. The article is titledNanoparticle Delivery of miR-122 Inhibits Colorectal Cancer Liver Metastasis.”

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Epstein-Barr Virus May Be Cause of Multiple Sclerosis, Harvard Study Suggests

Multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive disease that affects 2.8 million people worldwide and for which there is no definitive cure, is likely caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers. Their findings were published online in Science on January 13, 2022. The article is titled ““Longitudinal Analysis Reveals High Prevalence of Epstein-Barr Virus Associated with Multiple Sclerosis.” “The hypothesis that EBV causes MS has been investigated by our group and others for several years, but this is the first study providing compelling evidence of causality,” said Alberto Ascherio, MD, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “This is a big step because it suggests that most MS cases could be prevented by stopping EBV infection, and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS.”

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Research Shows That Human Immune System Uses Ancient Family of Cell Death Proteins (Gasdermins) Also Found in Bacteria; Study Illustrates Conservation of Immune System’s Cell Death Mechanisms Originating Billions of Years Ago in Single-Celled Organisms

The human immune system, that marvel of complexity, subtlety, and sophistication, includes a billion-year-old family of proteins used by bacteria to defend themselves against viruses, scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard, and in Israel have discovered. The findings, published online on January 13, 2022 in Science, are the latest in a growing body of evidence that components of our immune system–as advanced a shield against disease as exists on the planet–evolved early in ancient forms of life. The study shows that the immune system absorbed already existing elements and, over eons of evolution, put them to use in novel ways to meet the requirements of creatures as biologically complicated as human beings. The Science article is titled “Bacterial Gasdermins Reveal an Ancient Mechanism of Cell Death.”

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Method for Delivering Immune System-Stimulating Drugs May Enhance Cancer Immunotherapy; Targeted Approach Eliminated Tumors In Mice, With Minimal Side Effects

Stimulating the body’s immune system to attack tumors is a promising way to treat cancer. Scientists are working on two complementary strategies to achieve that: taking off the brakes that tumors put on the immune system; and “stepping on the gas,” or delivering molecules that jumpstart immune cells. However, when jump-starting the immune system, researchers have to be careful not to overstimulate it, which can cause severe and potentially fatal side effects. A team of MIT researchers has now developed a new way to deliver a stimulatory molecule called interleukin 12 (IL-12) directly to tumors, avoiding the toxic effects that can occur when immunostimulatory drugs are given throughout the body. In a study of mice, this new treatment eliminated many tumors when delivered along with an FDA-approved drug that takes the brakes off the immune system.

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OncoHost Announces Interim Results from PROPHETIC Trial, Multicenter Assessment of NSCLC Patient Response to Immunotherapy; Proteomic & AI Analysis of One Blood Test Can Predict Response to Treatment for NSCLC

On January 12,2022, OncoHost, a global leader in next-generation precision oncology for improved personalized cancer therapy, announced results from its ongoing multicenter clinical trial, PROPHETIC. These interim results confirm that through proteomic and AI analysis of just one blood test before treatment, OncoHost’s AI platform, PROphet®, can predict response to cancer treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with remarkably high accuracy at three months, six months, and one year. These results are statistically and clinically significant, giving us great hope for the future of precision oncology. The value that this validation will provide, both to cancer patients and their clinicians, is insurmountable,” said Ofer Sharon, MD, MBA, CEO of OncoHost. “With just one blood test pre-treatment, we will now be empowered with a level of knowledge that is currently non-existent. Understanding the response probability trajectory for a full twelve months before treatment initiation, combined with insights on resistance associated pathways and proteins, has the potential to allow physicians to make critical clinical decisions earlier, all based on personalized patient data.”  

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