The Snippet: Cord Blood makes brains of elderly mice young again

A protein found in umbilical cord blood may help restore its youthful vigor. Researchers have previously found that blood from human teenagers can rejuvenate memory and cognition in elderly mice, probably due to factors present in the plasma – the liquid portion of the blood. Now, blood harvested from babies’ umbilical cords has been found to have even stronger anti-ageing effects. Joseph Castellano at Stanford University in California and his colleagues discovered this by collecting blood from people at three different life stages – babies, young people around the age of 22, and older people around the age of 66 – and injecting the plasma component into mice that were the equivalent of around 50 years old in human years. The most dramatic effects occurred when these mice received babies’ cord plasma. They became faster learners and were better at remembering their way through a maze. This corresponded with enhanced activity in their hippocampi – the brain regions responsible for learning and memory.

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The Snippet: Targeting metabolism in Renal Cell Carcinoma

Loss of VHL and elevated expression of HIF transcription factors leads to reprogramming of tumour cell metabolism, enabling renal cell carcinoma (RCC) cells to use carbons from glutamine-derived aspartate to drive pyrimidine biosynthesis. Now, researchers show that inhibition of glutamine availability decreases aspartate availability, leading to growth inhibition of RCC cells. Moreover, glutaminase 1 (GLS1) inhibition increases oxidative stress, leading to DNA replication stress and growth arrest. “These findings led us to combine a GLS1 inhibitor with an inhibitor of DNA repair enzymes — in this case, a poly(ADPribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor — to achieve therapeutic synergism,” explains Othon Iliopoulos. “In other words, we discovered how targeting a metabolic pathway renders VHL-deficient cancer cells sensitive to DNA repair mechanisms.” Iliopoulos hopes to take their findings directly to a clinical trial. “We now plan to treat patients with renal and other HIF-expressing cancers with this novel combination of GLS1 and PARP inhibitors,” he explains.

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Whitepaper: Impact of Brexit on Pharma Space

BREXIT shook the whole world when United Kingdom voted in favour of leaving the EU. After the vote, the country has been wrought in uncertainty related to political, regulatory and economic scenario. Brexit has led to deliberations regarding modified supply chain requirements, uncertain regulatory scenario, revised intellectual property laws, and depreciating currency. The research and development wing of the pharmaceutical industry, however, hopes to get a boost in terms of clinical trials as the UK will now have to look for economical collaborators, considering the lack of funding from the Union. The position of UK at this point teeters on the edge, and it is directly related to the direction Brexit takes the country. The whitepaper on the same topic discusses what transpired, and what is happening in the UK, and how it can change the course of Pharma industry of the country.

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The Snippet: CRISPR finds faults in previous researches

Jason Sheltzer, a cancer biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, was on the hunt for genes involved in tumour growth. He and his colleagues planned to disable the MELK gene using the popular gene-editing tool CRISPR–Cas9, then look for changes that reduced the rate at which cancer cells multiply. There were multiple research findings that suggest involvement of MELK gene in cancer-cell proliferation, however, disabling the gene using CRISPR–Cas9 yielded no effect. With this result, Sheltzer and his team joined an expanding club of laboratories that have been forced to re-evaluate and repeat experiments, as the spread of CRISPR–Cas9 uncovers potential errors in data collected using older techniques. Conflicts have cropped up in other researches. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the use of CRISPR–Cas9 showed that a protein previously thought to mediate the effects of the plant hormone auxin does not have that function3. In fruit flies and human cells, large screening studies have turned up widespread discrepancies between results obtained using RNA interference (RNAi) — a technique that reduces gene expression — and those from genetic mutants. In the case of MELK, the CRISPR–Cas9 results are particularly concerning because they could undermine the scientific foundation for a clinical trial.

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The Snippet: A Probiotic drink from the gut microbiome of an elite athlete- Are you up for it?

Lightweight sneakers, energy bars, high protein cereals, electrolyte cocktails- all of these promise the performance of a star athlete but rarely do the customers get even close to the peak level performance of those athletes. Even though billions are spent in sales, there is no satisfying example of performance through these sales. However, a professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School may have a solution that these products fail to provide. The answer is in the gut of these athletes. The bacteria in our gut affect all our key organ functions, and the microbiome plays a role in health, development, and wellness, including endurance, recovery and mental aptitude. The Genetics professor has thought to tap into this gut bacteria of elite athletes to produce customized probiotics ― which might just provide the performance everyone promises, but fail to deliver. George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard & MIT, and founding core member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, The Wyss team have identified unique differences in the microbiome between elite athletes and non-athletes, as well as bacteria that change before, during, and after athletic events. They are looking to sign up 100 elite athletes across the globe to develop an exclusive bank of bacterial samples and related data. They Wyss team will leverage their expertise in genome sequencing technology and microbiology to continue to identify and isolate promising bacterial species. Ultimately they will purify these novel probiotics and commercialize them as ingredients in ingestible products.

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DNA typos to blame for most Cancer Mutations

Nearly two-thirds of the mutations that drive cancers are caused by errors that occur when cells copy DNA. The findings, published in Science are the latest argument in a long-running debate over how much the environment or intrinsic factors contribute to cancer. They also suggest that many cancer mutations are not inherited and could not have been prevented by, for example, making different lifestyle choices. It’s a finding that could change how researchers wage the “war on cancer”, says study co-author Bert Vogelstein, a geneticist at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Researchers have tended to emphasize the role of environmental factors in generating cancer mutations, he says. “If we think of the mutations as the enemies, and all the enemies are outside of our border, it’s obvious how to keep them from getting inside,” Vogelstein explains. “But if a lot of the enemies — in this case close to two-thirds — are actually inside our borders, it means we need a completely different strategy.” That strategy would emphasize early detection and treatment, in addition to prevention.

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The Snippet: South Korea’s scientists seek change amid political chaos

When South Korea’s Constitutional Court removed scandal-ridden President Park Geun-Hye from office on 10 March, citizens rejoiced in the streets — and many scientists breathed a sigh of relief. Her downfall has inspired a public appetite for broad governmental reforms, including changes in how the country supports scientific research. Many in the research community hope to end South Korea’s decades-long focus on applied research and shift more resources to basic science. It is unclear whether, or how, the next administration will change the status quo, but scientists are seizing this opportunity to speak up. There is a growing sense that the current focus on applied research is inadequate if the nation is to keep up with scientific advances in the rest of the world. This feeling was reinforced last March when AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Google’s DeepMind in London, beat Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol at the game of Go. Many argued that taking technologies developed elsewhere and improving on them would not be enough to keep South Korean science competitive.

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The Snippet: New biomarkers improve standard screening in Pancreatic Cancer

Data from three cohorts of patients with early stage pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) indicate that a two-protein biomarker panel, consisting of plasma tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) and tenascin-C (TNC-FN-III-C), as measured in plasma samples using an ELISA improves the prognostic value of CA 19-9. This biomarker panel enabled accurate discrimination between patients with, and those without early stage PDAC, and was also effective in discriminating between patients with diabetes or pancreatitis and those with PDAC. These findings improve upon the prognostic effectiveness of CA 19-9, the previous gold-standard biomarker.

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The Snippet – What Trump’s new travel ban means for science?

US President Donald Trump has signed a revised version of his controversial travel ban. The policy, issued on 6 March, exempts citizens of Iraq and people who were issued US visas before 27 January — including those with green cards. Like the first order, which Trump signed on 27 January, the revised policy bars citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US for 90 days. Many scientists affected by the first policy have struggled to understand whether it is safe for them to leave the United States to visit family, attend scientific conferences or conduct research. The revised policy might not offer these people much comfort. There are many scientists whose movements will still be restricted under the new ban, which takes effect on 16 March. Among them are researchers who need to renew their visas, or those who are working or studying in the United States on a single-entry visa.

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Hepatitis C drugs re-energize global fight over patents

The liver disease hepatitis C is the new battleground for lawsuits intended to slash the cost of life-saving medicines. In February alone, five suits were filed in India and Argentina claiming that the latest class of antiviral drugs does not warrant the 20-year patent monopoly that manufacturers have sought in those countries. Roughly 177.5 million adults worldwide are infected with the hepatitis C virus, which can cause liver cancer and cirrhosis if left untreated — but the latest antiviral medications have revolutionized care. The first to reach the market was sofosbuvir, sold under the name Sovaldi by Gilead Sciences of Foster City, California; clinical trials of the drug in combination with other medications have shown a cure rate of 95% or more. Four of the lawsuits filed in February target Indian patents on sofosbuvir and two related drugs, Gilead’s velpatasvir (sold in combination with sofosbuvir under the name Epclusa) and Daklinza (daclatasvir) from Bristol-Myers Squibb in New York City. The fifth challenges Gilead’s application to patent sofosbuvir in Argentina. Some of the suits argue that sofosbuvir, velpatasvir and daclatasvir are not sufficiently inventive to warrant a patent. Others challenge Gilead’s attempts to obtain additional patents on sofosbuvir by modifying it slightly, to extend the company’s intellectual-property rights — a practice called evergreening.

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