#MIT; #AI; #MITTechnologyReview; #KellgrenLawrenceGrade; #NIH
New York/Canadian-Media: A new study shows how training deep-learning models on patient outcomes could help reveal gaps in existing medical knowledge, Karen Hao, the senior AI reporter at MIT Technology Review reported.
Image: Measuring pain scale. Image credit: MIT Technology
In the last few years, research has shown that deep learning can match expert-level performance in medical imaging tasks like early cancer detection and eye disease diagnosis. But there’s also cause for caution. Other research has shown that deep learning has a tendency to perpetuate discrimination. With a health-care system already riddled with disparities, sloppy applications of deep learning could make that worse.
Now a new paper published in Nature Medicine is proposing a way to develop medical algorithms that might help reverse, rather than exacerbate, existing inequality. The key, says Ziad Obermeyer, an associate professor at UC Berkeley who oversaw the research, is to stop training algorithms to match human expert performance.
The paper looks at a specific clinical example of the disparities that exist in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, an ailment which causes chronic pain. Assessing the severity of that pain helps doctors prescribe the right treatment, including physical therapy, medication, or surgery. This is traditionally done by a radiologist reviewing an x-ray of the knee and scoring the patient’s pain on the Kellgren–Lawrence grade (KLG), which calculates pain levels based on the presence of different radiographic features, like the degree of missing cartilage or structural damage.
But data collected by the National Institute of Health found that doctors using this method systematically score Black patients’ pain as far as far less severe than what they say they’re experiencing. Patients self-report their pain levels using a survey that asks how much it hurts to do various things, such as fully straightening their knee. But these self-reported pain levels are ignored in favor of the radiologist’s KLG score when prescribing treatment. In other words, Black patients who show the same amount of missing cartilage as white patients self-report higher levels of pain.
This has consistently miffed medical experts. One hypothesis is that Black patients could be reporting higher levels of pain in order to get doctors to treat them more seriously. But there’s an alternative explanation. The KLG methodology itself could be biased. It was developed several decades ago with white British populations. Some medical experts argue that the list of radiographic markers it tells clinicians to look for may not include all the possible physical sources of pain within a more diverse population. Put another way, there may be radiographic indicators of pain that appear more commonly in Black people that simply aren’t part of the KLG rubric.
#NewYork; #CUNYResearchCentre; #UniquePropertiesOfWater
New York, Nov 19 (Canadian-Media): Water is a ubiquitous liquid with many highly unique properties. The way it responds to changes in pressure and temperature can be completely different from other liquids, and these properties are essential to many practical applications and particularly to life as we know it, CUNY Research Centre reports said.
Image: Water. Image Credit: CC0 Public Domain
What causes these anomalies has long been a source of scientific exploration, but now, an international team of researchers that includes Nicolas Giovambattista, a professor at CUNY, has proved that water can exist in two different liquid states—a finding that can explain many of water's anomalous properties. Their research appears in a paper published in the November 20 issue of the journal Science.
"The possibility that water could exist in two different liquid states was proposed approximately 30 years ago, based on results obtained from computer simulations," Giovambattista said. "This counterintuitive hypothesis has been one of the most important questions in the chemistry and physics of water, and a controversial scenario since its beginnings. This is because experiments that can access the two liquid states in water have been very challenging due to the apparently unavoidable ice formation at the conditions where the two liquids should exist."
The usual "liquid" state of water that we are all familiar with corresponds to liquid water at normal temperatures (approximately 25 degrees C). However, the paper shows that water at low temperatures (approximately -63 degrees C) exists in two different liquid states, a low-density liquid at low pressures and a high-density liquid at high pressures. These two liquids have noticeably different properties and differ by 20% in density. The results imply that at appropriate conditions, water should exist as two immiscible liquids separated by a thin interface similar to the coexistence of oil and water.
Because water is one of the most important substances on Earth—the solvent of life as we know it—its phase behavior plays a fundamental role in different fields, including biochemistry, climate, cryopreservation, cryobiology, material science, and in many industrial processes where water acts as a solvent, product, reactant, or impurity. It follows that unusual characteristics in the phase behavior of water, such as the presence of two liquid states, can affect numerous scientific and engineering applications.
"It remains an open question how the presence of two liquids may affect the behavior of aqueous solutions in general, and in particular, how the two liquids may affect biomolecules in aqueous environments," Giovambattista said. "This motivates further studies in the search for potential applications."
Giovambattista is a member of the Physics and degrees Chemistry Ph.D. programs at CUNY.
The international team, led by Anders Nilsson, professor of chemical physics at Stockholm University, used complex experiments and computer simulations to prove this theory. The experiments, described as "science-fiction-like" by Giovambattista, were performed by colleagues at Stockholm University in Sweden, POSTECH University in Korea, PAL-XFEL in Korea, and SLAC national accelerator laboratory in degrees California. The computer simulations were performed by Giovambattista and Peter H. Poole, professor at St. Francis Xavier University in degrees Canada. The computer simulations played an important role in the interpretation of the experiments since these experiments are extremely complex and some observables are not accessible during the experiments.
#Europe; #ChangeInFloodPattern; #MostFloodRichPeriods; #MoreFloodsInSummer
Vienna (Austria), Jul 25 (Canadian-Media): The change in the flood pattern for the first time was found over the last decades in Europe compared to past centuries, according to an international research project coordinated by the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), with participation from researchers of the University of Barcelona, Spain. The study, published in the journal Nature, concludes we are in one of the most flood-rich periods in Europe from the last five hundred years.
Photograph of the Almanzora River in the town of Huércal-Overa (Almería) in the bridge of Santa Bárbara during the floods between October 18 and 19 in 1973. Photo provided by the Town Hall of Cuevas del Almanzora. Figure: structures still preserved from the bridge of Santa Bárbara built during the 19th century eighties. Image credit: Lothar Schulte/UB
The last three decades within the last half of the millennium, the study said, are among the most important periods regarding the frequency and magnitude of floods in Europe, the distribution of the floods, as well as the temperature of the air and flood seasonality have changed, with a higher percentage of floods in summer.
Whereas from 1500 to 1900, floods used to take place with higher frequency during cold climate phases, while after 1990, floods increased within the context of global warming.
Nine periods of floods that were more abundant and the associated regions were identified after analysis of the data., the most notable periods being 1560-1580 (western and central Europe), 1760-1800 (most part of Europe), 1840-1870 (western and southern Europe), and 1990-2016 (western and central Europe).
The analysis also highlighted that the current phase is the third most severe regarding floods.
Now, floods cause annual damages accounting for more than 100,000 million euros, and the general tendency of abundant floods is increasing.
Historical data from half a millennium
The international study, coordinated by Günter Blöschl, director of the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management in TU Wien with participation of thirty-four research groups from all over Europe, among which are also researchers of the National Museum of Natural Sciences (CSIC Madrid) and the University of Almería (UAL).
In the study, thousands of historical documents with direct and contemporary information on flood episodes in Europe from 1500 to 2016 were analysed by the researchers.
Historical data from Spain and a part of the series in Switzerland was provided by the research teams of the University of Barcelona, CSIC and the University of Almería, which possess detailed records in the European context.
"The special challenge of this study was to compare sources and texts that were very different from others from other centuries and cultural regions", said Mariano Barriendos, researcher at the Department of History and Archaeology of the UB, together with Andrea Kiss (TU Wien).
Those texts were studied in their historical context with deep attention to details and a cross-check between episodes of different kinds of documents, places and basins. For instance, the case of data in the Spanish Mediterranean watershed, this check included 4,500 flood cases.
Differences in current river floods
The result of the comparison with air temperature reconstructions in all Europe which verified that the most notable historical flood periods were colder than intermediate phases seemed to contradict the observation which states that in some areas, such as northern-eastern Europe, the recent warm weather is aligned with severe floods.
"The co-variability of temperatures and rainfall, and their modifications, as well as the intensification or weakness due to atmospheric dynamics, can be key aspects to understand those processes", said Fernando Sánchez Rodrigo, physicist at the University of Almería.
The seasonality of floods within the year has changed as well. Previously, the 41% of floods in central Europe took place in summer, compared to the nowadays' 55%. These shifts are related to changes in rainfall, evaporation and snowmelt, and are an important indicator to distinguish between the role of climate change and other control factors such as deforestation and river management.
These results have been obtained from a new database compiled by the authors of the study, which includes the exact dating of almost all flood episodes recorded in documentary and bibliographical sources.
Gerardo Benito, research professor of Earth Sciences of the CSIC, notes that this database provides direct proof of the level of floods during periods of climate crisis, with a high potential for risk studies.
The new study is the first to assess historical periods of floods for a whole continent with such detail during the last five hundred years.
Better data, better forecasts
Due to the change in flood generating mechanisms, use of tools, was advocated by Günter Blöschl, to study the risk of floods that capture the physical processes involved as well as management strategies to incorporate recent changes in the risk analysis.
It is highlighted by the team of authors that the adaptation of the management of floods should be done by keeping in mind new realities of the effects of this phenomenon during the coming decades.
#UN; #UNIDO; #WorldEconomy; #KielInstitute; #EconomicRecovery
VIENNA, 30 June 2020 – The manufacturing sector is facing its most significant challenge yet in the form of COVID-19 disruptions to both supply and demand side, UNIDO reports said.
Image credit: UNIDO
As governments and business are trying to react and mitigate the short-term impact of the pandemic, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has taken a look at the potential long-term changes to industry.
An online event, organized by UNIDO, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), and the Kiel Centre for Globalization (KCG), addressed the challenges and opportunities of industrializing for developing countries in these unprecedented times. The webinar brought together over 300 participants from over 80 countries, and it marked the first event in a series on the Future of industrialization in a post-pandemic world, led by UNIDO’s Policy Research and Statistics Department.
UNIDO’s Deputy to the Director General, Hiroshi Kuniyoshi, introduced the series and remarked on the impact of the pandemic, which “has been immediate and ubiquitous, leaving people, businesses and entire economies struggling to deal with the fallout.” He reinforced UNIDO’s commitment to continuing the close collaboration with its Member States and partners, “We must respond with equal speed, moved by a sense of joint purpose.”
Kuniyoshi also set the scene for the series, posing the question that both governments and companies need to answer now: “What will a path to an inclusive and sustainable economic recovery look like?”
The true problem of our time is “the erosion of trust between nations”, remarked the President of the Kiel Institute, Gabriel Felbermayr, which he said is the “indispensable lubricant of global production chains.” Felbermayr noted that “the crisis will profoundly affect the global economy even if production and demand bounce back quickly. The crisis is likely change the structure and patterns of the global division of labour and in particular to affect the global production networks.”
Will the pandemic usher the end of globalization as we know it?
Opening the panel, Beata Javorcik, Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, warned of the "danger that the world will sleepwalk into protectionism.” She also stressed that “we need international commitment to free trade (…) The restructuring of global production networks should be providing opportunities for less popular investment destinations and for export of services in countries with inexpensive skilled labour."
How is the transition towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution impacted by COVID-19?
Three trends in the adoption of 4IR technologies as a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis were outlined by Svenja Falk, Managing Director at Accenture Research: acceleration of platformization and ecosystem governance, the continued diversification of the supply chain, and digital infrastructure at the core of the changes. Falk remarked we are at a tipping point for the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies, however “we will see that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing at the same time,” and it is too early to talk about winners or losers.
What can we learn from past crisis to increase resilience of global production networks?
Drawing on lessons learned from past crisis, Izumi Ohno, Director of JICA Ogata Research Institute, talked about the implications for developing countries’ participation in global production networks in the aftermath of COVID-19. “We must find a way to co-exist with the virus. A “new normal” world urges our behavioural change, beyond efficiency.” Ohno reinforced the urgent need to increase the resilience of global production networks, as this will contribute towards a resilient society.
What do the early lessons from the COVID-19 crisis mean for the future of industrialization?
"Developing countries will need to become more active in managing foreign direct investment to seize opportunities in the aftermath of COVID-19,” said Ha-Joon Chang, Director of the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge. Chang also talked about developing countries’ needs, citing the necessity to “identify strategic sectors, target firms and take into account sectoral needs in building infrastructure."
Panelists agreed that while the current crisis is fueling uncertainty about the future, it also provides an opportunity to closer align our recovery to the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, taking policy action with long-term inclusive and sustainable results at its core. New production models might pave the way forward, but we must ensure inclusiveness, as well as account for societal and environmental factors, not only the economic.
#Sweden; #Covid19Pandemic; #SchoolClosure
Sweden, May 25 (Canadian-Media): There’s nearly universal agreement that widespread, long-lasting school closures harm children. Not only do children fall behind in learning, but isolation harms their mental health and leaves some vulnerable to abuse and neglect. www.sciencemag.org/news reports said.
In Sweden, they have had a rare opportunity to understand [school] transmission chains better. But you can’t find what you don’t look for.
Anita Cicero, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Image credit: Facebook Page
But during this pandemic, does that harm outweigh the risk—to children, school staff, families, and the community at large—of keeping schools open and giving the coronavirus more chances to spread?
The one country that could have definitively answered that question has apparently failed to collect any data. Bucking a global trend, Sweden has kept day care centers and schools through ninth grade open since COVID-19 emerged, without any major adjustments to class size, lunch policies, or recess rules. That made the country a perfect natural experiment about schools’ role in viral spread that many others could have learned from as they reopen schools or ponder when to do so. Yet Swedish officials have not tracked infections among school children—even when large outbreaks led to the closure of individual schools or staff members died of the disease.
“It’s really frustrating that we haven’t been able to answer some relatively basic questions on transmission and the role of different interventions,” says Carina King, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute (KI), Sweden’s flagship medical research center. King says she and several colleagues have developed a protocol to study school outbreaks, “but the lack of funding, time, and previous experience of conducting this sort of research in Sweden has hampered our progress.”
“We are trying to mobilize, but realistically with the school year ending in a few weeks, it seems unlikely we will be able to get what we want up and running,” says King, who adds that her queries to public health authorities about other efforts have come up empty. “There is some data collection happening in children, but it’s not focused around schools or, as far as I know, will not answer questions around transmission.”
Because children rarely suffer severe symptoms of COVID-19, pediatricians in several countries have called for schools to reopen. But a key question remains: Because people with mild symptoms can be extremely infectious and frequently spark large clusters of infections, could schools also be a source of COVID-19 outbreaks, possibly driven by children who feel fine but can pass the virus to each other, their teachers, and their families?
Health officials and researchers around the world are scrambling to answer that question. Key to that effort is tracing whether infected children spread the virus to people they’ve been in contact with. “I’m concerned that there may be a rush to judgment that asymptomatic school children aren’t spreading COVID-19 to adults,” says Anita Cicero, an expert in pandemic response policy at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “In Sweden, they have had a rare opportunity to understand [school] transmission chains better. But you can’t find what you don’t look for. The U.S. and other countries with closed schools would certainly benefit from that research.”
Emma Frans, a clinical epidemiologist at KI who also writes a regular newspaper column on science and health, says Sweden’s overall goal during the pandemic has not been to eliminate transmission completely, but to prevent the health system from becoming overburdened and to protect the elderly. (It has succeeded at the former but not the latter: Sweden has suffered very high mortality among nursing home residents.) Regarding schools, Frans says, “Most people in Sweden are quite happy with [them] being open.” She acknowledges the lack of data is a missed opportunity. With Sweden’s centralized health system and extensive records, “it would have been possible” to track cases fairly easily had there been more testing.
But KI pediatrician and clinical epidemiologist Jonas Ludvigsson, who has published two review articles about COVID-19 in children, thinks tracing infected people’s contacts is of little use at this point in the epidemic. “The virus is so widespread in society that responsible people do not think it is a good idea to trace individuals. We only test symptomatic individuals. I agree with that,” he wrote in response to Science asking whether researchers were tracking school outbreaks.
Ludvigsson added that Swedish privacy laws allow health care personnel and school officials to notify parents and school staff about an infection only “if a person’s life is at risk.” Because severe complications from the new coronavirus are so rare in children, that does not apply to cases of COVID-19, he says. “Consider if your own child … had COVID-19,” he wrote. “None of the kids will want to play with a child who has COVID-19, even if most kids will have no symptoms or only ‘some fever and a cough.’”
In a review paper published 19 May in Acta Paediatrica, Ludvigsson concluded that children are “unlikely to be the main drivers” of COVID-19 spread. He cited case studies from France and Australia but wrote that, “So far there have been no reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in Swedish schools,” citing “personal communication” from Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, on 12 May. “This supports the argument that asymptomatic children attending schools are unlikely to spread the disease,” Ludvigsson wrote.
However, a scan of Swedish newspapers makes clear that school outbreaks have occurred. In the town of Skellefteå, a teacher died and 18 of 76 staff tested positive at a school with about 500 students in preschool through ninth grade. The school closed for 2 weeks because so many staff were sick, but students were not tested for the virus. In Uppsala, staff protested when school officials, citing patient privacy rules, declined to notify families or staff that a teacher had tested positive. No contact tracing was done at the school. At least two staff members at other schools have died, but those schools remained open and no one attempted to trace the spread of the disease there. When asked about these cases, Ludvigsson said he was unaware of them. He did not respond to a query about whether he would amend the review article to include them.
An indirect clue about schools’ role in spread might come from antibody studies. On 19 May, the Swedish Public Health Agency announced preliminary results from antibody surveys of 1100 people from nine regions. They reported that antibody prevalence in children and teenagers was 4.7%, compared with 6.7% in adults age 20 to 64 and 2.7% in 65- to 70-year-olds. The relatively high rate in children suggests there may have been significant spread in schools. The agency did not provide more specific data to distinguish between younger children and those in high schools and universities, which have switched to remote teaching.
The missed opportunity in Sweden is a wake-up call, King says: “We need ready-to-implement protocols for basic epidemiology during these situations.” Studies now underway in other European countries may soon provide more clues. And Cicero and colleagues issued a call last week to “fill in the blanks” in the understanding of U.S. schools’ role in the pandemic. “We need a national mandate to prioritize and quickly fund research to answer these scientific questions,” they wrote. “As schools reopen, [computer] models are not sufficient to determine the actual risk to school-aged children and the teachers and caregivers in their lives.”
#Canada; #JustinTrudeau; #CanadaInvestment; #Vancouver; #BC; #AbCelleraBiologicsInc.; #Covid19Research
Ottawa, May 4 (Canadian-Media): An investment of $175 million was announced by Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his daily news conference in Ottawa Sunday, to support Vancouver-based AbCellera Biologics Inc's research on COVID-19 pandemic, media reports said.
Justin Trudeau. Image credit: pm.gc.ca
Promising signs of progress was revealed by AbCellera Biologics Inc.'s identification of antibodies that could be used to create a treatment for COVID-19, said Trudeau.
“Each and every one of us is affected, and our teams stand together, galvanized to fight this outbreak,” said Carl Hansen, Ph.D., CEO of AbCellera. “We are proud to have the support of the Government of Canada to quickly find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
AbCellera, a privately held Canadian biotech with a drug discovery platform engaged in search of antibodies that can be used to prevent and treat diseases, is also receiving support from the City of Vancouver.
“The City of Vancouver is fully committed to ensuring AbCellera has the infrastructure needed as they accelerate finding a treatment for COVID-19,” said City of Vancouver's Mayor Kennedy Stewart on May 3. “We couldn’t be more proud to be on the front lines of this global effort thanks to the innovation and leadership of AbCellera.”
Federal government is also investing $240 million to boost access to online health services, including virtual access to doctors for primary care, and mental-health support.
#Covid19Treatment; #HowCovid19AttacksHumanBody; #GlobalResearch; #cytokines
New York, Apr 18 (Canadian-Media): Development of an effective treatment or vaccine to stop the global pandemic for COVID-19 pandemic is dependent on full understanding of how COVID-19 attacks human body, and the response of humanbody, media reports said.
Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter handle
In an attempt to fully understand the virus, researchers around the world are compiling and sharing their early observations of COVID-19 patients.
These findings, though preliminary, are pointers to research in the right directions.
Researchers have observed that in severe cases, COVID-19 our respiratory cells are attacked triggering an immune system response targeting those infected cells.
This occurrence leads to the destruction of lung tissues, clogs our airways and cuts off oxygen supply, and ultimately in organs failure.
The organs most at risk of damage were found to be kidney heart.
It is yet to be researched by them if the organs or being shut down of in a new way or it is similar other infections that cause such common complications.
The deadliness of the virus can be determined by how our body responds to fight the virus when the body is infected by it.
Cytokines, released by the immune system, to co-ordinates an immune response against an infection or injury, but sometimes the infection causes the overproduction of these rampage through the bloodstream and severely damage the body.
Dr. Douglas Fraser, an ICU doctor at London Health Sciences Centre and a researcher at Western University in London, Ont., said there are different types of cytokines released in the body at unusual times in all of the very sick patients: requiring the ICU admissions, and those having difficulty breathing and those that are ultimately dying.
The researchers said after understanding of what's going on, therapies and vaccines can be developed.
#ColumbiaUniversity; #NewYork; #Schizophrenia;
New York, Apr 16 (Canadian-Media): For the first time in decades, researchers may have a new way to tweak brain signals to treat psychosis and other symptoms of schizophrenia, https://www.sciencemag.org/news.
Experimental schizophrenia drug could reduce long-neglected symptoms. Image credit: science.org
Results from a 245-person clinical trial hint that a compound called SEP-363856, which seems to act on neural receptors involved in dopamine signaling, might address a broader range of schizophrenia symptoms than currently available drugs do—and with fewer side effects.
“If these results are confirmed, this will be big, big news,” says Jeffrey Lieberman, a psychiatrist at Columbia University. The drug’s developer, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., identified it through an unusual screening process not guided by the brain circuits and receptors already implicated in the disease, Lieberman says. “It was a big gamble on their part. This study suggests that it may pay off.”
The biological basis of schizophrenia remains a puzzle, but researchers have linked patients’ hallucinations and delusions to an excess of the chemical messenger dopamine. To inhibit dopamine signaling, existing antipsychotic drugs bind to a type of dopamine receptor on neurons called D2. These drugs help control abnormal perceptions and thoughts—the “positive” symptoms of schizophrenia. But they don’t do much to address either cognitive impairments or the “negative” symptoms, including lack of motivation, dulled emotion, and social withdrawal. “Those negative symptoms are often the most devastating,” says Diana Perkins, a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “A person can become, at the most extreme, robotlike.”
The first generation of antipsychotic drugs that emerged in the 1950s sometimes actually worsened these negative symptoms, Perkins says. And tamping down on dopamine signaling can lead to side effects including tremors and other involuntary movements. A second generation of D2-targeting drugs has reduced the risk of some of these side effects, but many cause weight gain and other metabolic problems.
Sunovion started its drug search wanting to avoid D2 receptors. “It was a bit of an antitarget approach,” says Kenneth Koblan, the company’s chief scientific officer. “If [a compound] worked through the D2 system, we didn’t want to work on it.” The researchers relied on a drug screening method, developed by PsychoGenics Inc., that used artificial intelligence to analyze the behavior of mice exposed to hundreds of candidate compounds. The researchers looked for a compound that mimicked the effects of D2-targeting drugs. One stage of the testing involved trying to reverse the effects phencyclidine, better known as PCP, which causes hyperactivity and other schizophrenialike behaviors.
SEP-363856 rose to the top of the heap. This compound didn’t touch D2 receptors, the researchers found, but it activated two other types of neural receptors—known as TAAR1 and 5-HT1A—that help regulate the synthesis and release of dopamine. The mechanisms of the drug aren’t fully clear, but the researchers suspect they’ve hit on a new way to tweak dopamine signaling.
The clinical trial tested SEP-363856’s effects in people who were still early in the course of schizophrenia—none had been hospitalized for acute psychotic symptoms more than twice. During a flare-up of these symptoms, the participants, who ranged from 18 to 40 years old, spent 4 weeks in the hospital taking either SEP-363856 or an identical-looking placebo pill once a day. Clinicians then evaluated a broad set of schizophrenia symptoms using a measure called the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS), which gives scores ranging from 30 to 210, with a higher score representing worse symptoms. On average, participants scored roughly 100 on entering the study; after 4 weeks, the average score in the drug group had dropped by 17.2 points, versus 9.7 in the placebo group, the researchers report today in The New England Journal of Medicine.
“This is great news,” says Romina Mizrahi, a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto. The trial didn’t directly compare SEP-363856 to other drugs, but she notes that the reduction in PANSS scores is similar to results from some trials of now-approved antipsychotic drugs.
The group taking SEP-363856 also had a larger drop than the placebo group on another scale, one meant to measure negative symptoms like lack of pleasure and motivation. Though the study wasn’t statistically designed to draw conclusions using this secondary measure, this early indication “is a big deal, and it’s potentially a game changer,” Perkins says. “If it’s confirmed … that would mean a lot for many patients and their families.”
Rates of side effects, including movement disorders, nausea, agitation, and drowsiness, were low in both groups. And although SEP-363856’s long-term effects on metabolism aren’t clear, the compound didn’t cause major weight gain in either the 4-week trial or a 26-week extension that included 156 of the participants, all of whom got the experimental drug.
Sunovion isn’t the only company looking to sidestep D2 receptors in treating schizophrenia. Karuna Therapeutics is studying xanomeline, a compound with a different neural target, which Eli Lilly developed in the 1990s and later abandoned after finding that many patients experienced side effects that include nausea and dizziness. (Karuna aims to reduce those effects by combining xanomeline with another drug.) The company announced positive results from a study involving 182 patients last year.
In September 2019, Sunovion launched a larger, phase III trial that will include more than 1000 people, designed to prove the drug’s efficacy and win regulatory approval. Koblan says he can’t estimate when the trial might yield results, citing COVID-19. “I would be very comfortable answering that question if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic,” he says.
#Covid19PandemicVaccine; #Research; #RedTape; #ScietificEvidence; Ethics; #ClinicalTrials
New York, Apr 16 (Canadian-Media): In an effort to end the humanity's lockdown globally, accelerated efforts are being made by at least 70 research teams, including some in Canada, to develop a potential pandemic vaccines within a year by bypassing some of the usual red tape that slows down the vaccine approval process, media reports said.
Pandemic Vaccine Research. Image credit: Facebook page
Scientists said the goal of the vaccine is to expose our immune system to part of the virus so our antibody fighters can prepare to attack the virus that causes COVID-19, since in a pandemic, no one has immunity to the virus because it is new.
Dr. Scott Halperin, of the Canadian Immunization Research Network, stressed the importance to have multiple versions of the vaccine that achieve the same purpose but work in different ways.
He said with the first phase of clinical trials focused on safety, with about 30 to 50 volunteers testing out different doses of shots, next step of Phase 2 trials is critical as it involves larger number of people and takes about from seven to 10 years normally for the vaccine to go from the lab to the arms of patients.
"What's mainly being accelerated are the various administrative steps, not the safety steps," he said and added Canadian researchers hope to have some potential vaccines in clinical trials within the next four to six weeks.
However, Jonathan Kimmelman, a biomedical ethics professor at McGill University in Montreal, who watches both scientific and ethical standards are followed was concerned that in a hurry to develop a vaccine, we may be tempted to tolerate less than optimal science and said,
"That to me seems unacceptable. The stakes are just as high right now in a pandemic as they are in non-pandemic settings."
To show how long the process can take, Kimmelman points to the example of the ongoing search for an effective HIV vaccine that began in the 1990s
In the meantime second phase of testing a vaccin, adapted from the company's Ebola research is being started by China's CanSino Biologics, according to China's Ministry of Science and Technology. Still another vaccine candidate is in Phase 1.
In the U.S., Pennsylvania-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals began last week a Phase 1 trial of its vaccine candidate that uses the DNA sequence extracted from the key spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the first person received a second dose of another potential U.S. vaccine from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna Inc.
#U.S.; #Johnson&Johnson; #JansenDivision; #DevelopmentOfVaccine; #Coronavirus
New York, Apr 1 (Canadian-Media): A commitment of $456 million has been made by the U.S. government, through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus with Johnson & Johnson (J&J)'s commitment to match roughly an equal amount by its Janssen division effort in development of the vaccine, media reports said.
Johnson & Johnson. Image credit: Twitter handle
Built around an engineered version of adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Janssen’s vaccine, which normally causes common colds has been disabled to replicate.
Same Ad26 platform has been tested against Ebola, HIV, respiratory syncytial virus, and Zika. J&J last year had $42 billion in pharmaceutical sales.
Company scientists stich into this Ad26 “vector” a gene for the surface protein from the new coronavirus spreading around the world.
Although skepticism about its advantage over pharmaceutical companies was raised by Florian Krammer, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who has co-authored a status report in Immunity about the COVID-19 vaccine, Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer and a veteran HIV drug developer said the effort will be nonprofit and the vaccine will be accessible to all through some global mechanism still to be determined.
J&J also said that staffed by 50,000 people, it can make 300 million vaccines, in a 2000-liter vessel, on an annual basis and that testing on animals is being done with criteria to neutralizing antibodies.
With 4000 people in clinical research all over the world, J&J hopes to launch its large phase II study in six weeks and by early winter the vaccine could ready for that large trial at Northern Hemisphere in the temperate regions.
#WildlifeMarkets; #WetMarkets; #InfectedBat; #COVID19Pandemic; #Wuhan, #China
New York, Mar 27 (Canadian-Media): Scientists believe that the emergence of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 is from one of the wildlife markets, also known as "wet markets" in the Chinese city of Wuhan through an infected bat, media reports said.
Wildlife market. Image credit: npr.org
Bats are just one of the animals, sold at these markets, including domestic livestock and pigs, chickens, civet cats, bamboo rats and porcupines.
The main concern with these markets is a spill over event causing the transfer of viruses from one species to another and then cross over to humans, said Kerry Bowman, an assistant professor and bioethicist at the University of Toronto.
"If we do not deal with this, there is nothing to say that we could not in eighteen months' time have another outbreak, and it could be worse," Bowman said.
Humans will transmit that virus from one person to another, On very rare occasions, which is what occurred with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and is happening with COVID-19.
It was also suggested by scientists that continued existence of wildlife markets would result in the world hit with another deadly pandemic.
Wildlife markets are "a perfect opportunity for the mixing of bacteria and viruses, as well as transmission to other groups," said Jason Stull, assistant professor at the University of Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Veterinary College.
The weakening of immune system of animals due to stress and malnutrition increases the likelihood of an animal to shed higher amounts of virus under duress, said Stull and added,
"All of these things likely can contribute to movement back and forth of diseases."
William Karesh, executive vice president for health and policy at New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, that conducts scientific research on emerging infectious diseases, said about three-fourths of all such diseases are somehow linked to wildlife.
Karesh said that the two possible ways which caused the current coronavirus outbreak was either through an infected wild animal being sold in the market, or an infected vendor in the market which infected customers.
Karesh warned that unless international community comes to grips with the growing and unsustainable use of wildlife, we will "continue to see pandemics."
"There are three to five emerging diseases every year, and only by luck and the grace of God ... they don't turn into pandemics each time."
Bowman emphasized that besides China, wildlife markets are found in the Far East, and extends into Vietnam, a lot of Southeast Asia, Indonesia.
However, shutting down such markets may prove extremely challenging, said Bowman due to thousands of years of these cultural practices and have become part of a multibillion-dollar global industry pegged at somewhere between $7 billion to $23 billion US a year, Bowman said.
#NatureExperiences; #Happiness; #AI
Singapore, Mar 11 (Canadian-Media): An AI analysis of photographs posted on social media revealed a positive association between nature and happiness globally, sciencedaily.com/releases reported.
Image credit: Twitter
Analysis of 31,500 photographs across 185 countries showed that images of fun activities and vacations are more likely to contain elements of nature.
The economic and ecological impact of nature on humans have long been established with prevalent environmental issues such as climate change and over-exploitation of natural resources being the first to cross one's mind. On the other hand, much less attention has been paid to the cultural and social values nature brings to humans.
Even though natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Swiss Alps have been named some of the top holiday destinations, the intangible benefits people gain from experiencing nature are still difficult to quantify, and such studies typically require resource-intensive surveys and interviews.
In order to evaluate the benefits of nature experiences more efficiently and effectively, a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) turned to social media and artificial intelligence (AI) in a study published in Scientific Reports on 5 March 2020.
Led by Associate Professor Roman Carrasco and Dr Chang Chia-chen from the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science, the research team analysed over 31,500 photographs across 185 countries on social media with the help of an automated image recognition technology.
"Integrating social media data and AI opens up a unique opportunity for us to carry out unprecedented large-scale global studies such as this to better understand our interactions with nature in our daily lives," said Dr Chang, Research Fellow at the Department of Biological Sciences at NUS Faculty of Science and first author of the study.
The team's analysis of the photographs uploaded on social media revealed that photographs tagged as #fun, #vacations and #honeymoons are more likely to contain elements of nature such as plants, water and natural landscape as compared to photographs tagged #daily or #routines. This finding, which is consistent across different countries, provides global evidence of biophilia hypothesis -- human's innate tendency to seek connection with nature -- and implies a positive association between nature and fond memories in memorable events like honeymoons.
The team also found that the amount of nature experiences in a country is linked to the life satisfaction of its residents. Countries which have more elements of nature in photographs tagged as #fun such as Costa Rica and Finland, for instance, possess higher llfe national satisfaction scores according to scores reported in the World Happiness Report 2019.
Collectively, the findings suggest the importance of nature in contributing to emotional happiness, relaxation and life satisfaction in communities worldwide.
Assoc Prof Carrasco said, "Our study brings to light the cultural and social values that nature brings to humans. It further emphasises the importance of preserving our natural environment for the loss of nature may mean more than losing quantifiable economic and ecological benefits; it could also mean losing the background to our fondest memories."
"Our next step is therefore to establish how nature experiences may benefit human well-being such as how it improves our satisfaction in life, hence enabling the development of constructive solutions to better environmental conservation," he added.
#UniversityOfPortsmoth; #AgriculturalWaste; #LaundryDetergentAddtive; #Biotechnology
New York, Feb 26 (Canadian-Media): An international team of researchers has developed an enzyme produced from agricultural waste that could be used as an important additive in laundry detergents, phys.org/news reports said.
Dr Pattanathu Rahman. Image Credit: University of Portsmouth
By using an enzyme produced from a by-product of mustard seeds, they hope to develop a low-cost naturally derived version of lipase, the second largest commercially produced enzyme, which is used in various industries for the production of fine chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and biodiesel including detergents.
Thousands of tons of lipase are used annually for the production of laundry detergents as an additive or to replace the chemical detergents because of its advantage of being eco-friendly and better ability to remove oil stains without harming the texture of the cloth.
Lipase is one of the most rapidly growing industrial enzymes in the market and is worth $590.5million. However, the cost of biotechnologically produced lipases has always been a challenge, mainly due to the high cost of feedstocks.
In this collaborative project, Dr. Pattanathu Rahman, a microbial biotechnologist from the Centre for Enzyme Innovation at the University of Portsmouth worked with Professor Subudhi and scientists from the Centre for Biotechnology at Siksha O Anusandhan University in Odisha, India, where Dr. Rahman is also a visiting Professor.
They examined a lipase produced from mustard oil cakes, which are the by-products of oil extraction from the mustard seeds. Oil cakes are a very good resource for growth of microbes to produce enzymes. They fermented the oil cakes with the bacteria Anoxybacillus sp. ARS-1, living in a tropical hot spring Taptapani, Odisha, India to produce the lipase enzyme.
Mustard are the third most produced oilseed crops in the world after soybean and palm oil seed. These seeds are produced in tropical countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and Northern India. The mustard oil extracted from the seeds are used as cooking oils. Oil cakes that are the by-products of oil extraction contain relatively high amounts of protein with small amounts of anti-nutritional compounds like glucosinolates and their breakdown products, phenolics and phytates.
Dr. Rahman said: "We further investigated suitability of the lipase enzyme in detergent formulations. Anoxybacillus sp. ARS-1 produced lipase was found to be stable and resist almost all chemical detergents as well as common laundry detergent such as Ezee, Surf, Ariel and Ghadhi, proving it to be a prospective additive for incorporation in the new detergent formulations."
The study 'Parameter optimization for thermostable lipase production and performance evaluation as prospective detergent additive' is published in the journal Preparative Biochemistry & Biotechnology.
#California, #FossilFuels, #Diamond;
California (United States), Feb 25 (Canadian-Media): A new study from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory reveals how, with careful tuning of heat and pressure, that recipe can produce diamonds from a type of hydrogen and carbon molecule found in crude oil and natural gas, phy.org/news reports said.
Yu Lin shows models of diamondoids with one, two and three cages, which can transform into the intricate, pure-carbon lattice of diamond – seen in the larger, blue model at right – when subjected to extreme heat and pressure. Image Credit: Andrew Brodhead
It sounds like alchemy: take a clump of white dust, squeeze it in a diamond-studded pressure chamber, then blast it with a laser. Open the chamber and find a new microscopic speck of pure diamond inside.
"What's exciting about this paper is it shows a way of cheating the thermodynamics of what's typically required for diamond formation," said Stanford geologist Rodney Ewing, a co-author on the paper, published Feb. 21 in the journal Science Advances.
Scientists have synthesized diamonds from other materials for more than 60 years, but the transformation typically requires inordinate amounts of energy, time or the addition of a catalyst—often a metal—that tends to diminish the quality of the final product. "We wanted to see just a clean system, in which a single substance transforms into pure diamond—without a catalyst," said the study's lead author, Sulgiye Park, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth).
Understanding the mechanisms for this transformation will be important for applications beyond jewelry. Diamond's physical properties—extreme hardness, optical transparency, chemical stability, high thermal conductivity—make it a valuable material for medicine, industry, quantum computing technologies and biological sensing.
"If you can make even small amounts of this pure diamond, then you can dope it in controlled ways for specific applications," said study senior author Yu Lin, a staff scientist in the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
A natural recipe
Natural diamonds crystallize from carbon hundreds of miles beneath Earth's surface, where temperatures reach thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. Most natural diamonds unearthed to date rocketed upward in volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, carrying ancient minerals from Earth's deep interior with them.
As a result, diamonds can provide insight into the conditions and materials that exist in the planet's interior. "Diamonds are vessels for bringing back samples from the deepest parts of the Earth," said Stanford mineral physicist Wendy Mao, who leads the lab where Park performed most of the study's experiments.
After squeezing diamondoid samples and blasting them with a laser, the researchers used a second, cooler laser beam to help characterize the resulting diamond. Credit: Andrew BrodheadTo synthesize diamonds, the research team began with three types of powder refined from tankers full of petroleum. "It's a tiny amount," said Mao. "We use a needle to pick up a little bit to get it under a microscope for our experiments."
At a glance, the odorless, slightly sticky powders resemble rock salt. But a trained eye peering through a powerful microscope can distinguish atoms arranged in the same spatial pattern as the atoms that make up diamond crystal. It's as if the intricate lattice of diamond had been chopped up into smaller units composed of one, two or three cages.
Unlike diamond, which is pure carbon, the powders—known as diamondoids—also contain hydrogen. "Starting with these building blocks," Mao said, "you can make diamond more quickly and easily, and you can also learn about the process in a more complete, thoughtful way than if you just mimic the high pressure and high temperature found in the part of the Earth where diamond forms naturally."
Diamondoids under pressure
The researchers loaded the diamondoid samples into a plum-sized pressure chamber called a diamond anvil cell, which presses the powder between two polished diamonds. With just a simple hand turn of a screw, the device can create the kind of pressure you might find at the center of the Earth.
Next, they heated the samples with a laser, examined the results with a battery of tests, and ran computer models to help explain how the transformation had unfolded. "A fundamental question we tried to answer is whether the structure or number of cages affects how diamondoids transform into diamond," Lin said. They found that the three-cage diamondoid, called triamantane, can reorganize itself into diamond with surprisingly little energy.
At 900 Kelvin—which is roughly 1160 degrees Fahrenheit, or the temperature of red-hot lava—and 20 gigapascals, a pressure hundreds of thousands of times greater than Earth's atmosphere, triamantane's carbon atoms snap into alignment and its hydrogen scatters or falls away.
The transformation unfolds in the slimmest fractions of a second. It's also direct: the atoms do not pass through another form of carbon, such as graphite, on their way to making diamond.
The minute sample size inside a diamond anvil cell makes this approach impractical for synthesizing much more than the specks of diamond that the Stanford team produced in the lab, Mao said. "But now we know a little bit more about the keys to making pure diamonds."
#ResearchJunctionCollaboation; #UrbanIssues; #SaskatoonWasteWater
Saskatoon (S.K.), Feb 21 (Canadian-Media): New funding of $100,000 was awarded to the five projects through the Research Junction Development Grant program to the new Research Junction collaboration between the City of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan, media reports said.
Research Junction Development Grant program is a jointly funded university-municipal research partnership announced in September of 2019.
One of these five projects would be devoted to the measurement pharmaceuticals in Saskatoon’s wastewater.
Saskatoon Wastewater. Image credit: Twitter
Markus Brinkmann, a researcher from the University of Saskatchewan’s Toxicology Centre and the College of Engineering will work on this project with Mike Sadowski, the operations manager of the City of Saskatoon’s wastewater treatment plant.
These grants would enable researchers to access to the City’s resources, data and expertise through these as well as the city staff to analyses and data resulting from the projects in informed decision-making process.
Projects funded through the initiative also create hands-on learning and research opportunities for USask students and post-doctoral fellows, helping them prepare for future careers.
“It is incredible to see City employees and university researchers come together to solve problems...helps us move forward as a community and shows how we can lead the country through collaboration to create the best results for our community and residents...can create real benefits and build a healthy, strong and sustainable future,” said Mayor Charlie Clark
They will undertake comprehensive measurements of pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, pain killers, beta-blockers, and hormone-like substances in the wastewater treatment plant and downstream in the South Saskatchewan River. The researchers will also work to better understand and stay current with technology and new solutions to treat wastewater.
Projects funded through the initiative also create hands-on learning and research opportunities for University of Saskatchewan students and post-doctoral fellows.
“Through the power of research, these collaborative projects will address some tough challenges in our community,” said University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff. “It is exciting to see from this list of approved projects the first concrete ways in which this strategic partnership will help build a better Saskatoon.”