Pulse 153: Encouraging Results from COVID-19 Vaccine

25 May 2020
Giulio Prisco

Vaccine

The first COVID-19 vaccine to reach phase 1 clinical trial has been found to be safe, well-tolerated, and able to generate an immune response against SARS-CoV-2 in humans, according to a study by Chinese researchers published in The Lancet. The open-label trial in 108 healthy adults demonstrates promising results after 28 days. The final results will be evaluated in six months. Further trials are needed to tell whether the immune response it elicits effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The new COVID-19 vaccine evaluated in this trial is the first to be tested in humans. It uses adenovirus type 5, a weakened common cold virus that infects human cells readily but is incapable of causing disease, to deliver genetic material that encourages cells to produce coronavirus-related proteins. These proteins are recognized by the immune system, which will then produce antibodies.

“These results represent an important milestone. The trial demonstrates that a single dose of the new adenovirus type 5 vectored COVID-19 (Ad5-nCoV) vaccine produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 14 days, making it a potential candidate for further investigation", says Professor Wei Chen from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in Beijing.

Legal Cannabis Reduces Pain in Mice

Researchers at The University of New Mexico (UNM) have shown that legal cannabis hemp oil reduced mechanical pain sensitivity 10-fold for several hours in mice.

A study published in Life describes how the researchers induced chronic post-operative neuropathic pain in laboratory mice and found that, for several hours after cannabis consumption, the mice demonstrated effective pain relief.

Exercise Improves Memory

Scientists at UT Southwestern have found that exercise boosts blood flow into two key regions of the brain associated with memory.

A study published in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease indicates that this blood flow can help even older people with memory issues improve cognition. Scientists say this finding could guide future Alzheimer's disease research.

Aging from Decline in Mitochondrial Signals

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute have suggested that decreased levels of energy, mobility, and activity in older people may be due in part to a decline in mitochondria. They are tiny powerhouses inside of our cells that provide energy and regulate metabolism.

A research paper published in Nature Metabolism suggests that communication between mitochondria and other parts of the cell plays a key role in how mitochondrial function is diminished with age.

The scientists are hopeful that these research results could help find factors that prevent this aging process.

Optogenetics Connect the Artificial to the Biological

Researchers led by University of Tokio have found a way for artificial neural networks to communicate with biological neural networks. The new system converts artificial electrical spiking signals to a visual pattern that is then used to entrain biological neurons via optogenetic stimulation.

Optogenetics is a technology that permits using light to stimulate biological neurons that have been modified with light-sensitive proteins.

This advance is described in a paper published in Scientific Reports. It could be important for future neuroprosthetic devices that replace damaged neurons with artificial neural circuitry.

Cheap GPS-like Tracking for Robots in the Body

Roboticists at UC San Diego have developed an affordable and easy to use GPS-like system to track the location of flexible surgical robots inside the human body. The researchers used standard localization methods, which work very much like GPS, to develop a computer model that predicts the robot's location.

The system, described in a paper published in IEEE Robotics and Automation, performs as well as current state of the art methods, but is much less expensive. Many current methods also require exposure to radiation, while this system does not.

Enzyme Could Repair Age-Related DNA Damage

MIT neuroscientists have discovered that an enzyme called HDAC1 is critical for repairing age-related DNA damage to genes involved in memory and other cognitive functions.

The results of a study with laboratory mice were published in Nature Communications. They indicate that, when HDAC1 is lost, a specific type of DNA damage builds up as the mice age.

The neuroscientists also showed that they could reverse this damage and improve cognitive function with a drug that activates HDAC1.

HDAC1 is often diminished in both Alzheimer's patients and in normally aging adults. And the study suggests restoring it could have positive benefits for both groups.

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