[Vol 21] Medi-Scene: Your Weekly Health News Update

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MediScene Magazine Vol 21

1. Coronavirus Update: Cases in India inch closer to 2.5L mark

On June 7th, India saw the highest peak of 9,971 cases in a day as the country inched closer to the 2.5L mark as per the details shared by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). With fresh cases pouring in unrelenting, Maharashtra remains the worst hit state in the country. It has reported 82,968 cases so far, out of which the active cases are 42,609. 37,390 people have been cured or discharged while 2,969 people have died. Tamil Nadu reported 1,515 more COVID-19 cases and the total number of cases in the state now stands at 31,667. Delhi has reported 27,654 cases of COVID-19 so far. In Gujarat, the numbers of cases so far stand at 19,592. Total number of cases in Madhya Pradesh are 9,228. Karnataka recently recorded 239 new cases and the total number now stands at 5,452. As on June 11th, the number of recovered cases (1,41,1190) surpassed the number of active cases (1,38,430).

 2. Antibody therapies: What they are and who is developing them?

While researchers and scientists are investigating on coming up with a vaccine against coronavirus, some scientists believe antibody-based therapies hold great pledge for treating people that are already infected with the disease. So how exactly do antibody therapies work? These therapies use antibodies created by infected humans or animals to fight off the disease in patients. They date back to the late 19th century, when researchers used a serum obtained from the blood of infected animals to treat diphtheria. For Covid-19 treatment, scientists are studying the use of recuperate plasma and other treatments made with blood from recently recovered patients.

3. New method can help identify genes responsible for brain tumor development

In a recent study published in Genome Biology, scientists at Uppsala University have come up with a procedure for recognizing functional mutations and their effect on genes relevant to the development of malignant brain tumor.  When the body goes through uncontrolled cell division, it is known as mutations that lead to development of cancer. Glioblastoma is one such aggressive cancer, a kind of brain tumor with a weak prospect. To shed light on this information gap, researchers at Uppsala University have performed whole-genome sequencing of DNA in tumour tissues from patients with glioblastoma and analysed the identified mutations. Professor Karin Forsberg-Nilsson at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, Uppsala University in an interview said, “One of our key tasks was to identify functional mutations associated with regulatory elements and potential relevance to the development of cancer cells, and to distinguish them from all random variations without presumed significance. We studied how mutations in non-coding regions affect SEMA3C’s function and activity. Our results show that a specific, evolutionarily conserved, mutation in the vicinity of SEMA3C disrupts the binding of certain proteins whose task is to bind genes and regulate their activity. Our results confirm the importance of the association between genetic alterations in non-coding regions, their biological function and disease pathology.” 

4. Fat cell’s immune response makes obesity worse: Study

In a recent study led by scientists from Cincinnati Children’s and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine discovered that when a person is obese the fat cells set off a complex inflammatory chain reaction which can disturb metabolism and diminish immune response, which can have adverse affects. The team detailed that a class of substance constructed by immune cells known as type 1 interferons also are produced by fat cells called adipocytes. This type of fat that expands around our thighs, arms, and bellies. Dr Senad Divanovic, PhD, corresponding author and a researcher in the Division of Immunobiology at Cincinnati Children’s in an interview said, “Our novel study reveals how Type I Interferon sensing by adipocytes uncovers their dormant inflammatory potential and exacerbates obesity-associated metabolic arrangements. Further, our findings highlight a previously underappreciated role for adipocytes as a contributor to the overall inflammation in obesity.” This inflammation can drive a surge of obesity-related disease like type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Dr Senad Divanovic further commented on the study saying, “Our observations suggest that the type I Interferon axis can alter adipocyte core inflammatory programming to converge them closer to that of an inflammatory immune cell. Additionally, type I Interferons modify the metabolic circuit of adipocytes, which to our knowledge is the first depiction of immune-mediated modulation of adipocyte core metabolism. These findings directly impact an extensive number of patients, both adult and pediatric.”

5. To detect COVID-19 faster, IIT Madras startup to come up with wearable tracker

An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras-incubated startup Muse Wearables is developing a wrist-based tracker with skin temperature, heart rate and SpO2 (blood oxygen saturation) sensing which can continuously monitor these body vitals remotely that will help in early diagnosis of coronavirus symptoms.The Bluetooth-enabled tracker can be connected to the mobile phone via an app called the ‘Muse Health App’. Dr Tamaswati Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer, IIT Madras Incubation Cell, said, “They have quickly mobilised and repurposed their offerings in response to the situation and are striving to make a positive contribution to the nation’s antivirus efforts.” The main objective of this wearable tracker is to sanction remote observation of COVID-19 patients by providing a low-cost solution that is accessible to everyone. There is an Emergency Alert (SOS) when the body temperature is higher than the threshold. It is also raised when SpO2 levels are too low or when the user is entering into a COVID containment area.

6. There are more than one ways to fix cat allergies

There’s a ray of hope for cat lovers who are allergic to cats, as the researchers are working on eliminating the Fel d 1 protein, the primary allergen, from the cat, using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology. Previously, the way to reduce allergen included feeding cats a specially formulated food that reduces Fel d 1 in the saliva, so it doesn’t end up in danger when they lick themselves. Dr Nicole Brackett, PhD, from Indoor Biotechnologies and the lead researcher in an interview said, “One of the benefits of CRISPR, compared to other methods of tackling this problem, is that you can permanently remove Fel d 1, compared with other techniques that only reduce the allergen. We hope to get to a point where we can offer an injection, or a series of injections, you would get at the vet, which would make the cat allergen-free.” Dean Mitchell, MD, an allergist and immunologist from Mitchell Medical Group in New York City told a medical journal in an interview said, “This research is interesting, but when you’re using this kind of technology, you are taking on a tremendous amount of responsibility. It’s really an exciting technology, but I think it’s scary, altering genes.”

Reference links:

  1. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/with-9971-new-cases-indias-covid-19-count-inches-closer-to-2-50-lakh-mark/76251815
  2. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/covid-19-what-are-antibody-therapies-and-who-is-developing-them/76284551
  3. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/diagnostics/new-method-to-identify-genes-that-can-drive-development-of-brain-tumours/76284336
  4. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/study-explains-how-a-fat-cells-immune-response-makes-obesity-worse/76178777
  5. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/medical-devices/iit-madras-startup-developing-wearable-tracker-to-fast-detect-covid-19/75806532
  6. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/931975

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