Advice from a professional science writer

Talking about science is incredibly important, yet sometimes risky business. Take the Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo (1564–1642), for example. In 1633, Galileo was put on trial for publishing an idea that, at the time, was considered highly controversial: The Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo’s writing ticked off the Catholic Church, who clung to their belief that the Earth lay at the center of the universe. Galileo was charged with heresy, sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest, and had his publications banned from the public.

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Science can be…


It uses CRISPR to diagnose infection four times faster than a PCR

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The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a wave of new technologies for rapid viral diagnostics, given just how critical such innovations are in managing infectious disease outbreaks. Now, researchers have developed the RApid DIgital Crispr Approach, or RADICA, a molecular testing platform four times faster than the conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method. The study was published in the journal Biomaterials.

The PCR test is among the most accurate and reliable means of detecting genetic material from a pathogenic organism to diagnose infections. …


Scientists find new ways of triaging and potentially treating COVID patients

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Researchers at King’s College London have discovered a new antiviral target to combat COVID-19: the galectin-3-binding protein, or LGALS3BP.

Analysis of around 500 blood samples from COVID-19 patients admitted to the intensive care unit revealed that during infection, LGALS3BP levels in the lungs were significantly elevated. The scientists found that the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and LGALS3BP may be a novel therapeutic target to help alleviate the life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19.

Additionally, the researchers found that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the blood of COVID-19 patients…


The orientation of how it binds to pathogens matters

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T cells form a major part of our immune defenses, protecting us against the constant barrage of potentially pathogenic pathogens in our environment. Now, immunologists from Monash University reveal new insights on the intricacies surrounding T cell activation upon encountering such pathogenic threats.

In a study published in the journal Science, a team led by Nicole La Gruta found that to generate a robust activating signal, T cells need to latch on to pathogens such as viruses in a specific orientation. T cell receptors on the surface of these immune cells…


A biomarker in the blood serves as a red flag for neurodegenerative disease

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Scientists at King’s College London have identified a single biomarker that can be used to diagnose a range of neurodegenerative conditions with a simple blood test. The amount of circulating neurofilament light chain protein or NfL in the blood can point to patients with diseases such as dementia or motor neuron disease (ALS), even when their clinical symptoms may be ambiguous.

‘For the first time we have shown across a number of disorders that a single biomarker can indicate the presence of underlying neurodegeneration with excellent accuracy,”…


Subtle changes in their immune systems point towards a high risk of T1D

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In type 1 diabetes, or T1D, the body’s own immune system mistakenly launches an aggressive attack on insulin-producing islet β cells in the pancreas. While the causes and triggers of this autoimmune condition are still being pieced together, researchers have now identified a means of detecting the early warning signs of T1D months or even years before the disease is typically diagnosed. This opens up the possibility of intervening sooner to slow or even halt the progression of T1D in children.

Researchers at the University of South…


We now know how they crawl into tight spaces

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Circulating immune cells are constantly on the lookout for the presence of any pathogenic intruders in the body. Once a threat is sensed in a specific tissue, immune cells need to squeeze and migrate in and alert other immune cells before launching a full-blown attack. However, the mechanics of this movement, which involves a series of repeated contractions and expansions, has mystified scientists.

“As simple as it sounds, cell migration is a highly regulated and complex process,” said the first author of a new study on immune cell motility, Takeshi Nakatani.


Machine learning tools can help identify patients with an impending diagnosis

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In 2021, over 60,000 individuals in the U.S. alone will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Researchers are turning to machine learning (ML) to help identify those most at risk of developing the disease, such that they can access early interventions.

In the study, published in PLOS ONE, researchers describe how they analyzed health records from over 1,000 patients in the UK, up to two years before their pancreatic cancer diagnosis. They used this data to train an ML algorithm to distinguish patients at risk.

The ML system found 41…


Liposarcoma is notoriously difficult to spot in patients

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Scientists have created a gene panel test to quickly and more precisely diagnose common forms of liposarcoma. This breakthrough development leverages advances in genetic analyses, bioinformatics, and machine learning with the goal of enhancing patient outcomes.

“Liposarcomas are a type of malignant cancer that is difficult to diagnose because, even under a microscope, it is hard to differentiate liposarcomas from benign tumors or other types of cancer that need different treatments,” said lead investigator Torsten Owen Nielsen, who added that many liposarcomas can not be easily differentiated from their benign counterparts, tissue…


Results could help design more potent cancer immunotherapies

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There’s a group of “killers” protecting your body against infections and eliminating potentially cancerous tissues-natural killers, or NK cells, are first responders of the innate immune system.

“There’s a lot of interest right now in NK cells as a potential target of immunotherapy,” says Joseph Sun, an NK cell expert leading studies into the complex physiology of these immune fighters. “The more we can understand what drives these cells, the better we can program them to fight disease.”

Sun and colleagues were interested in NK metabolism, specifically whether these cells rely on…

Tara Fernandez

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

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