You’re as likely to get struck by lightning.

A poll of different segments of the U.S. population revealed that some people may be more afraid of the COVID vaccine than the virus itself. 35 percent of Black adults said they definitely or probably would not get the vaccine. Also in this group were 33 percent of essential workers and 36 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 49. For those that voted no, the source of the anxiety likely stems from the possibility of developing an adverse reaction to the vaccine.

Allergy experts believe such fears to be completely unfounded. NYU Langone Health’s Purvi Parikh, M.D., who specializes in infectious disease allergy and immunology, says true allergic reactions to vaccines are exceedingly rare. …


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Calculating an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer isn’t easy. There’s a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors-family history, getting older, and drinking alcohol are among a long list of risk factors.

Given that risk estimation isn’t always black and white, how do individuals know if they need to seek preemptive clinical interventions? Irish cancer experts may now have the answer to this by teasing out specific genetic markers that are strong predictors of breast cancer development. The study was published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Their genomic study of over 113,000 breast cancer patients and healthy controls has revealed a panel of nine specific gene variants that influence cancer susceptibility: ATM, BRCA1, BRCA2, CHEK2, PALB2, BARD1, RAD51C, RAD51D, and TP53. These nine genes could be used in health screens to help physicians identify which of their patients have elevated chances of developing malignancies. …


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Bacteria armed with poison arrows and excruciating abdominal pains caused by raging inflammation in the gut. While the cause and effect of pathogenic Clostridioides difficile infections are well known, the molecular mechanisms that govern these processes are still a matter of debate. Until now, scientists have had one key piece of the puzzle: C. difficile ‘s toxin A triggers an innate immune response. Now, researchers at UCLA and Harvard University have unraveled just how the toxin does this, shedding more light on the inner workings of this potentially deadly infection.

Published in the journal Gastroenterology, the team, led by Ciarán P. Kelly, took a closer look at the molecular structure of Toxin A using analytical tools powered by machine learning as well as synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering. They were able to zero in on the precise segment of Toxin A that crosses over the cell membrane and attaches to endosomes, cellular organelles that regulate the trafficking of proteins and lipids. …


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Image credit: https://www.pexels.com,

Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish-these foods top the most unwanted list for the tens of millions of people in the U.S. living with food allergies. Data shows that sensitivities to these and other food-based allergens are on the rise. A report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention indicates that from 1997 to 2011, the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by a whopping 50 percent.

“Huge numbers of people suffer from food allergies, amounting to billions of dollars in annual health care costs,” explained André Nel, nanotechnology expert and author of a recent publication outlining the potential for nanomedicines as countermeasures against food allergies. …


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Researchers at Washington State University have uncovered a genetic link between fathers and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study by Michael Skinner and colleagues revealed a panel of epigenetic markers in the sperm samples that were able to determine whether or not the men fathered children on the spectrum with 90 percent accuracy.

“We can now potentially use this to assess whether a man is going to pass autism on to his children,” said Skinner, whose research was published in Clinical Epigenetics. “It is also a major step toward identifying what factors might promote autism.”

ASD is a developmental disorder, generally appearing within the first two or three years of life, which largely affects an individual’s ability to communicate and interact in social situations. Children with ASD find it challenging to connect with their family and friends, display repetitive behaviors, and often have restricted interests, which can take a toll on their quality of life. …


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Critically ill COVID patients in the U.K. may receive an arthritis drug after a study showed that treatment lowered mortality rates and accelerated recovery times in intensive care.

The drug tocilizumab (Actemra) is an approved biologic medication for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The drug works by blocking the inflammatory protein interleukin-6, or IL-6, to calm arthritis-induced joint swelling, pain, and other symptoms caused by inflammation.

Researchers at the Imperial College London found that tocilizumab was also able to help COVID patients, reducing the mortality rate in critically ill individuals by around 10 percent and, on average, shortening their hospital stays by a week. …


Missing that summer feeling? So is your immune system.

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Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s synthesized in the skin after exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. A recent study showed that vitamin D could lower the risk of severe illness and even death due to COVID-19 infections. With global cases surpassing 90 million, researchers continue hunting for ways to lower the pandemic’s death toll.

The role of vitamin D in promoting calcium absorption for bone health has been well established. Interestingly, vitamin D receptors are also expressed on a variety of immune cell types: B cells, T cells, and antigen-presenting cells. …


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Only 10 percent of icebergs are visible on the water’s surface; the remaining 90 percent remains submerged. Similarly, UCLA researchers have found that there could be more to prostate tumors than what is visible in diagnostic images. A study published in the Journal of Urology highlights how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), commonly used to visualize prostate tumors, often does not paint an accurate picture of tumor size. This disconnect in information can lead to inadequate cancer interventions.

MRI uses powerful magnetic forces and radiofrequency waves to construct incredibly detailed 3-dimensional visual representations of internal body structures such as organs, bones, and tissues. …


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Tumors use ingenious approaches to stay just out of reach of immune cells on patrol and avoid detection. For instance, cancer cells at the periphery of the tumor have been shown to secrete a cocktail of chemicals that creates an impenetrable barrier to immune cells. By suppressing the immune system, these tumor factors interfere with antigen-presenting cells such as macrophages and block the production of tumor-specific T lymphocytes. Beyond the reach of the immune patrol, tumor cells continue to multiply uncontrollably.

“Clinical trials with anti-OX40 antibodies have shown that the body can tolerate these drugs but unfortunately have also shown disappointing clinical responses.” …


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A medical device used to survey lung sounds to monitor for signs of respiratory distress has received FDA clearance. RESP, a technology developed by Philadelphia-based Strados Labs, attaches to a patient’s chest and collects and analyzes acoustic data based on the sound of them breathing.

“This wearable technology will allow us to follow our patients in healthcare settings more effectively, by providing regular interval listening between clinician visits, by archiving the patient’s lung sounds for future comparisons and by reducing the variability in auscultatory documentation that presents a major problem both in patient care and in clinical trials,” explained Mitchell Glass, the Chief Medical Officer of Strados Labs. …

About

Tara Fernandez

Cat person, PhD-qualified Cell Biologist & Science Writer. Interested in trends and emerging technologies in the biopharma industry.

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