Tag Archives: Research

SCIENCE & MEDICINE: STORY BEHIND THE MRNA VACCINES

As mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines are deployed to protect hundreds of millions of people across the world from the deadly global pandemic, the University of Pennsylvania scientists whose research breakthroughs laid the foundation for swift vaccine development have been awarded the 2021 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Here, mRNA vaccine pioneers Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, and Katalin Karikó, PhD, share the story behind their development of this groundbreaking technology, and what it means for the future of medicine.

DR. C’S JOURNAL: STEM CELLS

The ultimate stem cell is the fertilized egg from which we came. This omnipotent stem cell divides countless times, “differentiates”, and forms more and more specialized tissues, and our body is the eventual result. All of our tissues contain some stem cells, which grow increasingly rare as we age.

Regenerative medicine takes advantage of stem cells derived from diverse sources. An embryo, an umbilical  cord, or your bone marrow contains stem cells. Even one of your mature connective tissue cells that has been dedifferentiated, or sent back along the pathway that originated from the single cell from which you came, can be induced to form a stem cell (iSC).

If the stem cell originates from your own tissues, it is  accepted by your body, as one of its own.

I have an wealthy acquaintance whose Parkinson’s disease is being treated by one of his own cells induced to form a dopamine containing neuronal stem cell.

The article posted previously regarding rotator cuff surgery apparently used stem cells to shorten the recovery time.

I have heard about the use of stem cells in heart failure, osteoarthritis, and other joint problems, and I’m sure we will hear about this increasingly as time passes. However, there are hurdles to be overcome, moral, legal and medical. The possibility (small) of induced stem cells to evolve into cancer is one medical hurdle, and if the Stem Sell originates from another individual, immunosuppressive treatment must be used in the recipient to allow the stem cells to work. Also, the use of the other individual’s stem cells may involve some moral, legal and possibly religious objections.

Please refer to the following Mayo clinic article for more information.

–Dr. C

DR. C’S JOURNAL: PROTEIN-BASED MEDICATIONS

Proteins, the very structure of life itself, are currently being understood with increasing precision. This will undoubtedly lead to a new generation of medications useful in treating a wide variety of diseases. Such proteins could be coded by DNA or RNA, and churned out by veritable protein factories, yeasts.

This could drastically lower the cost of such medications, which are more stable than RNA, allowing easier distribution and storage. DNA and RNA advances are currently getting all the press, with CRSPR  advances in manipulating their structure. Indeed, the RNA vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer have been a rapidly deployed life saver with the COVID-19 epidemic. Correction of genetic disease is also possible in rare instances, if only one gene causes the disease.

PROTEINS, the result of DNA and RNA activity, form the basis of a vast array of signaling molecules, offering many possible treatments of disease.

The reason why advances in protein chemistry has been slow, is that protein is a very large molecule that exercises its effects by its three dimensional structure.This is formed by the loops,foldings, twists, and bunchings of its amino acid string. A molecule’s three-dimensional structure is very expensive to determine at the present time,

Encouraging scientists to attempt predicting  the structure by knowing  the  electric charges and other sticky characteristics of different parts of that amino acid string. Recently, artificial intelligence has come to the rescue, and the field is advancing rapidly.

Novel vaccines are being developed, using small protein pieces of the COVID-19 antibody combining site. Pieces of proteins are being designed that can stick to that antibody combining side and prevent it from attaching. Novel signaling blockers, or even agonists,  are looking increasingly possible.

I thought you would like to know about this little island of optimism in the midst of all the gloom. My interest in PROTEINOMICS was fueled by an excellent article in the Scientific American July 2021 issue, by science journalist Rowan Jacobson, who presents the story in a very interesting fashion. I would very much recommend the reading of this article.

–Dr. C

Read Scientific American article

ATHEROSCLEROSIS: STRESS, LACK OF SLEEP & EXERCISE AND POOR DIET RAISE RISKS

Swirski acknowledged that “there is no question” that genetics play a role in cardiovascular health, but in the last several years, four risk factors — stress, sleep interruption or fragmentation, diet, and sedentary lifestyle — have been clearly identified as contributing to atherosclerosis, commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries, which can lead to a variety of complications, including death.

HARVARD: ‘NANOBODIES’ EVOLVED FROM SYNTHETIC ANTIBODY FRAGMENTS

A new approach developed by Harvard Medical School researchers uses yeast to rapidly evolve synthetic antibody fragments called nanobodies with the aim to find variants that are effective at binding to selected antigens, including SARS-CoV-2. The antibodies are intended for use in diagnostic tests and disease treatments. Read the full story: https://hms.harvard.edu/news/antibody…SHOW LESS

PROTEIN VACCINE: NOVAVAX PRIMES IMMUNE SYSTEM TO MAKE ANTIBODIES (VIDEO)

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MEDICINE: NEW ‘SMART CELL’ THERAPIES TO TREAT CANCER

Finding medicines that can kill cancer cells while leaving normal tissue unscathed is a Holy Grail of oncology research. In two new papers, scientists at UC San Francisco and Princeton University present complementary strategies to crack this problem with “smart” cell therapies—living medicines that remain inert unless triggered by combinations of proteins that only ever appear together in cancer cells.

Biological aspects of this general approach have been explored for several years in the laboratory of Wendell Lim, PhD, and colleagues in the UCSF Cell Design Initiative and National Cancer Institute– sponsored Center for Synthetic Immunology. But the new work adds a powerful new dimension to this work by combining cutting-edge therapeutic cell engineering with advanced computational methods.

For one paper, published September 23, 2020 in Cell Systems, members of Lim’s lab joined forces with the research group of computer scientist Olga G. Troyanskaya, PhD, of Princeton’s Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute. Using a machine learning approach, the team analyzed massive databases of thousands of proteins found in both cancer and normal cells. They then combed through millions of possible protein combinations to assemble a catalog of combinations that could be used to precisely target only cancer cells while leaving normal ones alone.

In another paper, published in Science on November 27, 2020, Lim and colleagues then showed how this computationally derived protein data could be put to use to drive the design of effective and highly selective cell therapies for cancer. “Currently, most cancer treatments, including CAR T cells, are told ‘block this,’ or ‘kill this,’” said Lim, also professor and chair of cellular and molecular pharmacology and a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We want to increase the nuance and sophistication of the decisions that a therapeutic cell makes.” Over the past decade, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have been in the spotlight as a powerful way to treat cancer.

In CAR T cell therapy, immune system cells are taken from a patient’s blood, and manipulated in the laboratory to express a specific receptor that will recognize a very particular marker, or antigen, on cancer cells. While scientists have shown that CAR T cells can be quite effective, and sometimes curative, in blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, so far the method hasn’t worked well in solid tumors, such as cancers of the breast, lung, or liver.

Cells in these solid cancers often share antigens with normal cells found in other tissues, which poses the risk that CAR T cells could have off-target effects by targeting healthy organs. Also, solid tumors also often create suppressive microenvironments that limit the efficacy of CAR T cells. For Lim, cells are akin to molecular computers that can sense their environment and then integrate that information to make decisions. Since solid tumors are more complex than blood cancers, “you have to make a more complex product” to fight them, he said.