Image for post
Image for post

Parasitic worms known as helminths have a complicated relationship with the immune systems of the hosts they invade. Termed by experts as “masters of immunomodulation”, worms are able to tinker with inflammatory pathways on a molecular level to keep immune attacks at bay. By putting the molecular mechanisms of worm infections under the microscope, researchers have gained new insights into the nature of an immune regulator known as IL-33.

“The mantra of my lab since its inception has been that parasitic worms manipulate their hosts in very interesting ways to maintain their survival,” said Penn University’s De’Broski Herbert, the lead author of a study published in Science Immunology detailing these newly discovered immune pathways. …


Image for post
Image for post

Researchers have identified a new prognostic biomarker for Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare autoimmune disorder that attacks the nerves and can eventually paralyze the entire body. The biomarker, neurofilament light chain, or NfL, signals the presence of axonal damage. As published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, high circulating levels of NfL in GBS patients were found to be associated with more severe disabilities.

These findings significantly impact the clinical strategies for managing GBS and increase neurologists’ understanding of the physiological processes underlying this devastating disease.

“First, they confirm that residual long-term disability in GBS is clearly associated to the degree of axonal damage that happens at the onset of the disease,” said Luis Querol, senior author of the study. …


Image for post
Image for post

As tumors grow, tiny areas at their cores are found to become stiff prior to metastasis, or the spread of cancer cells to secondary locations in the body. McGill University researchers are building technologies to sense these subtle biophysical changes, allowing them to track the progression of invasive breast cancers. The study was published in Nature Communications.

“Human cells are not static. They grab and pull on the tissue around them, checking out how rigid or soft their surroundings are.”


Image for post
Image for post

Last year, around 1.7 million people became infected with HIV, with around half of these being women. Encouraging results emerging from a clinical trial of an investigational drug is providing hope to these women in the form of a reliable prophylactic therapy. The injectable drug, cabotegravir, was found to be more effective than the once-a-day preventative pill Truvada (Gilead), the current gold standard for pre-exposure prophylaxis.

A group of international collaborators came together as part of the H.I.V. …


Image for post
Image for post

The demand for diagnostic technologies to track COVID-19 infections and control community spread of the disease has only been skyrocketing since the outbreak initiated almost a year ago. Developed by engineers at Stanford University, a new “lab on a chip” COVID test is slated to fill in the gaps left by existing diagnostic protocols.

For one, it’s far more sensitive and accurate. The so-called microlab detects even trace amounts of coronavirus RNA present in nasal swab samples. It uses electric fields to first isolate RNA from the sample before converting it into DNA that is then amplified. …


Image for post
Image for post

Measles is a highly contagious and airborne viral disease. There is no treatment besides supportive care once a person becomes infected with the virus, of which children are the most common victims. Overall, vaccination has slashed measles-related deaths by 80 percent between 2000 and 2017. The measles vaccine, developed in the early 1960s is safe and very effective. So why then has measles come back with a vengeance, causing deaths to skyrocket worldwide?

“These issues tend to cluster in the same communities, exacerbating the total effect and increasing inequity.”


Image for post
Image for post

Some viral infections just don’t go away. The hepatitis C virus, for instance, can result in life-long chronic infection if left untreated, leading to potentially life-threatening symptoms such as liver damage. In the case of such infections, why doesn’t the body’s immune system detect and eliminate such viruses?

Researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found another piece of the puzzle surrounding this question: an enzyme called sphingosine kinase 2, or SphK2, that allows viruses to remain in stealth mode, evading immune clearance. …


Image for post
Image for post

A study published in The BMJ has brought to light that the rapid finger-prick COVID-19 test may not be quite as reliable as previously thought — up to 1 in 5 people test “ false positive “. This inaccuracy refers to a situation where someone who is not infected with SARS-CoV-2 tests positive for it.

The AbC-19™ Rapid Test, manufactured by Abingdon Health, reacts to antibodies against the coronavirus present in a droplet of blood from a finger prick. …


Image for post
Image for post

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance to put the “mask debate” to bed once and for all — wearing a face mask stops the transmission of COVID-19. Covering up the mouth and nose reduces the emission of potentially infectious droplets: the source of over 50 percent of COVID-19 community transmissions.

Results from a new study demonstrate that the face masks of the future could do so much more than simply act as a barrier against aerosols. …


Image for post
Image for post

A team of researchers has improved upon the current diagnostic methodology for COVID-19, making it significantly more accurate and reliable. The new cost-effective test that builds upon the commonly-used Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR protocol incorporates state-of-the-art microfluidic technology. Scientists have shown that this technique is capable of detecting even trace amounts of viral genetic material, thus significantly diminishing the risk of false-negative results.

The accuracy of COVID-19 diagnostics, or lack thereof, has been an ongoing issue since the emergence of the disease almost a year ago. These tests can be wrong in one of two ways: either a false positive or a false negative. False positives (where a person is wrongly classed as being infected) lead to unnecessary quarantining and stress for the patient. False negatives, however, are far more concerning. In these cases, asymptomatic individuals harboring the virus can continue to unwittingly infect others in the course of their daily lives, lulled into a false sense of security as a result of the negative result. …

About

Tara Fernandez

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

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store