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Pulse 183: Ultraviolet LEDs Kill Coronaviruses

22 December 2020
Giulio Prisco

Ultraviolet LEDs

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have found that coronaviruses can be killed efficiently, quickly, and cheaply using ultraviolet (UV) light-emitting diodes (UV-LEDs). The researchers believe that the UV-LED technology will soon be available for private and commercial use.

"The entire world is currently looking for effective solutions to disinfect the coronavirus," said lead researcher Hadas Mamane. "The problem is that in order to disinfect a bus, train, sports hall, or plane by chemical spraying, you need physical manpower, and in order for the spraying to be effective, you have to give the chemical time to act on the surface. Disinfection systems based on LED bulbs, however, can be installed in the ventilation system and air conditioner, for example, and sterilize the air sucked in and then emitted into the room.”

A study is published in Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology. It reports that LED bulbs with a wavelength of 265 nanometers required less than half a minute to destroy more than 99.9 percent of coronaviruses. These bulbs are cheap compared to those for other wavelengths.

This sounds like a final solution to the problem of how to remove coronaviruses from human habitats. It is important to ensure that people are not directly exposed to UV light, which is dangerous. However, UV LED bulbs installed in air conditioning systems would be able to efficiently disinfect large surfaces and spaces.

"We discovered that it is quite simple to kill the coronavirus using LED bulbs that radiate ultraviolet light," said Mamane. "We killed the viruses using cheaper and more readily available LED bulbs, which consume little energy and do not contain mercury like regular bulbs. Our research has commercial and societal implications, given the possibility of using such LED bulbs in all areas of our lives, safely and quickly."

Protein Stops Relapse in Cancer Immunotherapy

Mount Sinai scientists have explained why cancer immunotherapy completely eliminates tumors in many patients. And it works even when not all the cells in tumors have the molecular target that the therapy is aimed at. This is shown in a research paper published in Cancer Discovery.

Cancer immunotherapies target antigens, or proteins, on the surface of tumor cells. But they also kill adjacent tumor cells that lack the targets. This is due to the presence of a protein called fas. Regulating fas may be a route to preventing relapse in cancer immunotherapy patients.

CRISPR Engineers Mice for Vaccine Research

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard University have developed a one-step method to produce mice with genetically engineered human B cell receptors in just a few weeks. B cell receptors are specialized antibodies bound to the B cell membrane. And they are an important component of the immune system.

The method uses CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. And it is described in a paper published in The EMBO Journal. Using the method, researchers could produce genetically engineered mice for pre-clinical vaccine evaluation in dramatically shortened timelines (weeks instead of years).

The researchers are persuaded that the new method may allow scientists studying vaccines and antibody evolution to tremendously speed up their research. And this would enable them to respond much more quickly and flexibly to new developments in the field.

Herbal Compound May Kill Pancreatic Cancer

Researchers at Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, have suggested that a compound derived from thunder god vine is able to kill cancer cells. The herb has been used in China for centuries to treat joint pain, swelling, and fever.

The results of a pre-clinical study are published in Oncogenesis. They indicate that a water-soluble compound, called Minnelide, appears to attack pancreatic cancer. The compound is based on the medicinal plant's key ingredient, triptolide.

According to the researchers, this approach may provide an effective treatment option for pancreatic cancer patients.

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