Pulse 157: Dexamethasone Improves Survival in COVID-19

23 June 2020
Giulio Prisco

Dexamethasone

The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, COVID-19. This is according to UK experts, as reported by BBC News.

The drug is part of a trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. Dexamethasone cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

"This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly,” said Oxford University’s Prof. Peter Horby. “It's a major breakthrough."

“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19,” added Horby in a press release issued by Oxford University. “This is an extremely welcome result.”

“The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

Light-Activated CRISPR Rapidly Repairs Genes

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine have used light as a trigger to rapidly make precise CRISPR cuts in genomic material.

The research results were obtained in a series of experiments using human cancer cell lines and published in Science. They show that specialized cell proteins repaired the exact spot where genes were cut.

The scientists modified the CRISPR-Cas9 complex by engineering a light-sensitive RNA molecule. It allows the CRISPR complex to cut genomic DNA in living cells only when exposed to a particular wavelength of light.

Repairing Old Blood Could Achieve Rejuvenation

Researchers at UC Berkeley have found that replacing half of the blood plasma with a mixture of saline and albumin reverses signs of aging in old mice. It also rejuvenates muscle, brain, and liver tissue.

A study published in Aging indicates that the new technique has the same or stronger rejuvenation effects than replacing old blood with new blood.

This suggests that rejuvenation could be achieved by removing harmful factors in old blood. The researchers are finalizing clinical trials to determine if a modified plasma exchange in humans could be used to treat age-associated diseases and improve the overall health of older people.

Nanoneedles Could Improve Skin Cancer Treatment

Purdue University scientists have created a wearable patch to provide an improved treatment experience for people with melanoma.

The patch is described in a research paper published in ACS Nano. It uses fully miniaturized “nanoneedles” to enable unobtrusive drug delivery through the skin for the management of skin cancers.

The surface of the nanoneedles is configured with nanoscale pores. They provide a large drug loading capacity comparable to those using conventional microneedles.

The nanoneedles could deliver the chemotherapeutic drugs to target melanoma sites in a sustainable manner.

Small Molecules Suppress Cancer Growth

City of Hope scientists have identified two potent small molecules that appear to suppress tumor growth in multiple cancers. They work even when other treatments cease to work, possibly due to the development of drug resistance.

Called CS1 and CS2, these cancer inhibitor compounds are part of a protein known as ''fat mass and obesity-associated protein'' (FTO).

A study published in Cancer Cell shows that FTO plays a critical role in cancer development and progression. This is primarily because it regulates cancer stem cells and immune evasion.

Biohybrid Artificial Synapses for BCIs

Researchers at Stanford University, Italian Institute of Technology, and Eindhoven University of Technology, have created an artificial synapse that can integrate and interact with neuron-like cells.

A paper published in Nature Materials reports that the researchers have tested the first biohybrid version of a previously developed artificial synapse. And they demonstrated that it can communicate with living cells.

Future technologies stemming from this device could function by responding directly to chemical signals from the brain. And they may find use in brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).

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