Artificial Intelligence Allows the Selection Of 30 Million Possible Drugs Against SARS-CoV-2 (Medicine)

Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators used computer simulation and artificial intelligence (AI) to select 30 million potential drugs that block the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. In the work published in Biomolecules , researchers accelerated drug discovery to better identify and study the most promising targets, as they are interested in discovering new treatments for COVID-19 .

“A multi-drug platform was used to select the ones that might work. The analysis was done with drugs clinically tested and licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration, as well as other novel compounds. Thanks to the computational power of advanced technology, it was possible to determine the best drug from a composite library for further investigation, ”says Dr. Thomas Caulfield , a molecular neuroscientist at Mayo Clinic and an expert author on the paper.

The studies were carried out using a computer simulation called silicon detection (which means on the computer) and validated through biological experiments with live viruses. This type of research uses digital databases and mathematical concepts to identify potentially useful drug compounds. Other types of research are carried out in cell lines, which is known as in vitro , or they are carried out in living organisms such as mice or humans and is known as in vivo.

The researchers started with 30 million drug compounds. Virtual assessment tools predicted the behavior of various drug compounds and showed the pattern of how they would interact with particulate biological targets of SARS-CoV-2. Selection with silicon reduced the compounds to 25. Then, for further analysis and laboratory testing, the researchers conducted a pilot study of all 25 compounds against infectious SARS-CoV-2 in human cell cultures, and then they tested for a common problem with drugs, which is toxicity.

Because one of the liver’s tasks is to clean the blood, including the drug components, the team created a model of the human liver on a honeycomb-shaped surface that was no larger than the size of a pencil eraser. The researchers were able to predict that all of those 25 compounds would be safe for the human liver.

‘The goal is to deactivate the infection and restore the cells to health. What we want is to aggressively target the SARS-CoV-2 duplication cycle from several fronts to inhibit entry and spread of the virus, ”says Dr. Caulfield.

The researchers hope that a combination of drugs, similar to a drug cocktail used in the treatment of HIV, will complement the vaccination against COVID-19. Dr. Caufield says the next step is to move forward on the basis of the new discoveries. The researchers plan to test the combination of drugs to obtain pairs that act in synergy and are more powerful against the virus than a single compound.

“This discovery opens the way for the future creation of drugs and clinical trials to accelerate the administration of possible drugs,” concludes the doctor.

Dr. Caulfield led the drug selection team, which included colleagues from Mayo Clinic in Florida and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, as well as researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (affiliated with Harvard Medical School) and the University of California at Riverside. Funding for this study came from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Center for Personalized Medicine at Mayo Clinic. For a full list of authors, funding information, and conflict of interest statements, see the article in Biomolecules .

This article and others regarding more studies are in the Mayo Clinic research publication Discovery’s Edge .


Reference: Coban, M.A.; Morrison, J.; Maharjan, S.; Hernandez Medina, D.H.; Li, W.; Zhang, Y.S.; Freeman, W.D.; Radisky, E.S.; Le Roch, K.G.; Weisend, C.M.; Ebihara, H.; Caulfield, T.R. Attacking COVID-19 Progression Using Multi-Drug Therapy for Synergetic Target Engagement. Biomolecules 2021, 11, 787. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom11060787


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Tracking Brain Function During Surgery Using A New Tool (Neuroscience)

Mayo Clinic uses innovative technology to map patients’ cognitive functions during awake brain surgeries. When surgery is performed to remove a tumor, different techniques are used to help surgeons map out the brain so they can avoid the locations of important functions, such as movement, language and speech. The latest tool is NeuroMapper, a tablet-based testing platform developed by David Sabsevitz, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist.

Watch: Tracking brain function during surgery using a new tool.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (1:24) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: “Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

“We wake up some of our patients during surgery, and we use different techniques to try to map out the brain and figure out where important functions are,” says Dr. Sabsevitz.

Through his experience in brain mapping during awake brain surgeries, Dr. Sabsevitz realized there were limitations in how he could interact with and test patients in the operating room.

“I remember coming down from a surgery and thinking: ‘Wow, you know, we can do so much better. We need to innovate. We need to push forward.’ And that’s where the idea of developing NeuroMapper came from.”

The NeuroMapper tablet contains tests that look at language, memory, high-level problem-solving, attention and concentration.

“We can deliver these different tests to a patient during surgery as we’re mapping (the brain), and the platform will keep track of how well the patient’s doing,” says Dr. Sabsevitz. “The platform will also measure very precise things, such as how long it takes a patient to respond to an item, so if we see the patient slowing down or making more errors, that’s important clinical information.”

And that’s information that couldn’t be captured prior to NeuroMapper.

“What I found through doing hundreds of cases is that we map a lot more efficiently (using NeuroMapper). We can test different functions quicker and reduce the overall time of the surgeries,” says Dr. Sabsevitz. “What the surgeons have told me is, as they’re getting constant feedback throughout the surgery, they can push their surgical borders more aggressively because they know the patient’s doing well.”

NeuroMapper has been used in more than 200 surgeries at Mayo Clinic in Florida.


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Demystifying Healing Potential of Stem Cells (Medicine)

Mayo Clinic research has discovered proteins secreted by human stem cells that act as a “magic potion” to drive healing after a heart attack. The research uncovered that these cell-released regenerative particles harbor a pattern of functions mirrored in repair of the diseased heart, linking stem cell-transmitted information to the beneficial response of the recipient heart.

This proof-of-concept study on how cardiopoietic cells function is published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D. © Mayo Clinic

“The study results indicate that the protein set that the cells export, known as their secretome, is responsible for providing restorative benefits,” says Andre Terzic, M.D., Ph.D., director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Regenerative Medicine and senior author on the study. “Mapping the secretome may streamline the process of manufacturing regenerative therapeutics, rendering easier scalability and standardization, ultimately ensuring broader accessibility for patients.”

Hearts damaged by a heart attack have limited means for self-repair, often leading to failure with poor prognosis. Cardiopoietic cells, which are in phase III clinical trials, are a regenerative technology developed at Mayo Clinic showing signs of therapeutic benefit for heart failure patients. This latest research contributes to the understanding of how cardiopoietic stem cell therapy works.

D. Kent Arrell, Ph.D. © Mayo Clinic

“The discovery that the cardiopoietic cell secretome harbors restorative properties may be exploited to assess reparative potential prior to patient delivery. This approach could be extended to evaluate other cell types and their respective therapeutic capacity,” says D. Kent Arrell, Ph.D., first author on the study. “Bringing this new knowledge to the patient and broader clinical care is an ongoing endeavor.”

The research

The research team used state-of-the-art methodology to decode the identity, regulators and functionality of proteins secreted by human cardiopoietic stem cells. By comparing cells derived from responding versus nonresponding heart failure patients, researchers could distinguish between proteins that triggered healing versus those that didn’t. The functional imprint of this set of reparative proteins was echoed in the healing response of damaged hearts.

The functional imprint of this set of reparative proteins was echoed in the healing response of damaged hearts. © Mayo Clinic

Long-term vision

Preparation of stem cell therapies requires a lot of time and resources, with scalability and standardization recognized as major hurdles to clinical-grade supply. Researchers envision the newest discovery to contribute in advancing cell-free biotherapeutics that achieve healing properties in a cost-effective manner, offering ready-to-use solutions at point of care. A priority for the Center for Regenerative Medicine is to accelerate advanced biomanufacturing of innovative regenerative solutions.

Additional research is ongoing building on these findings. The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the Mayo Clinic Van Cleve Cardiac Regenerative Medicine Program and National Institutes of Health (R01 HL134664) provided the primary funding for this research. Dr. Terzic is the Michael S. and Mary Sue Shannon Director, Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine, and the Marriott Family Professor of Cardiovascular Research.


Reference: Arrell, DK, Crespo-Diaz, RJ, Yamada, S, et al. Secretome signature of cardiopoietic cells echoed in rescued infarcted heart proteome. STEM CELLS Transl Med. 2021; 1– 9. https://doi.org/10.1002/sctm.20-0509


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A Brooklyn Breakthrough: Robotic Diagnosis & Surgery for Lung Cancer in a Single Day (Medicine)

At NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, a Tag-Team Approach to Evaluating & Removing Nodules

Maria Rodriguez, 62, has been a pack-a-day smoker since she was a teenager, so her primary care physician orders an annual lung cancer screening. This year, the low-dose CT scan revealed a small nodule. Normally, the finding would lead to further imaging tests or a needle biopsy. Instead, Rodriguez, who lives in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, skipped these steps thanks to a novel tag-team robotic approach being pioneered by NYU Langone Health’s Lung Cancer Center, part of Perlmutter Cancer Center.

In March, Rodriguez was wheeled into an operating room (OR) at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn and sedated. There, Jorge M. Mercado, MD, associate section chief of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine, inserted a first-of-its-kind robotic scope called the Monarch through her mouth and airways. Using a handheld controller, Dr. Mercado maneuvered the long, flexible camera deep into her lungs. The scope’s robotic features, which afford unprecedented control, allowed Dr. Mercado to safely travel further into the fragile airways, where he identified and biopsied the suspicious mass. Deepthi Hoskoppal, MD, clinical assistant professor of pathology, meanwhile, evaluated the sample in the OR rather than transporting it to the pathology lab. Within minutes, Dr. Hoskoppal identified the cancerous cells, and Dr. Mercado injected a contrast marker to aid in locating the cancer during surgery. The team then exchanged the robotic scope for a robotic surgical system. Thoracic surgeon Travis C. Geraci, MD, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery, identified the area with the cancer and removed a small segment of the lung. Rodriguez was discharged two days later, effectively cured of her stage I malignancy. “I was relieved they caught it and that I don’t require further treatment,” she says.

Diagnosing and treating early-stage lung cancer in one day is a first—for Brooklyn and for Perlmutter Cancer Center. The same-day approach spares patients weeks of worry between appointments. More important, it saves precious time. “Removing lung cancer as early as possible is critical to prevent it from spreading,” says Dr. Mercado.

Brooklyn patients like Rodriguez who require lung cancer surgery are in expert hands. Dr. Geraci was trained by two of the most accomplished robotic surgeons in the country, Robert J. Cerfolio, MD, MBA, director of clinical thoracic surgery and chief of hospital operations at NYU Langone, and Michael Zervos, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at NYU Langone’s Manhattan campus. Together, they have completed more than 3,500 robotic thoracic surgeries. “They’ve been at the forefront of robotic surgery for years and were a big reason why I came to NYU Langone,” says Dr. Geraci.

The robotic surgical system Dr. Geraci uses, like those at other NYU Langone locations, offers a minimally invasive approach for removing lung cancers. With a 3D camera providing visual guidance for the surgeon, who operates from a nearby console, tiny surgical instruments mounted on robotic arms permit precise movements. In addition to reduced scarring and a shorter recovery time compared with conventional surgery, “the robotic method has clear advantages for removing a small segment rather than an entire lobe,” says Dr. Geraci.

Robotic diagnostic and surgical procedures are only half the story of Perlmutter Cancer Center’s heightened emphasis on treating lung cancer in Brooklyn. “Our mission is to provide access to underserved, underrepresented communities,” says Abraham Chachoua, MD, the Jay and Isabel Fine Professor of Oncology and medical director of the Lung Cancer Center.

With that in mind, the Lung Cancer Center launched a screening initiative at the Sunset Park Family Health Center at NYU Langone—Second Avenue last August. The program leverages Epic, NYU Langone’s electronic health record system, to identify patients who should be scanned annually based on their smoking history and additional risk factors, including a family history of lung cancer and exposure to asbestos. The initiative has expanded to other Family Health Centers at NYU Langone in Brooklyn and NYU Langone Levit Medical in Midwood, with plans to add additional practices in Brooklyn, as well as in Queens, Manhattan, and Long Island.

Early detection is vital for robotic surgery, generally a viable option only for stage I and stage II tumors. It boosts the effectiveness of other lung cancer treatments as well. At Perlmutter Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute–designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, these treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and clinical trials for patients whose mutations are likely to respond to investigational therapies. Brooklyn patients have access to all of these services through Perlmutter Cancer Center—Sunset Park, an airy, 25,000-square-foot facility that opened two blocks from NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn in 2019. “We are offering comprehensive lung cancer care and giving more patients access to it,” says Dr. Chachoua. “No other hospital in Brooklyn has a robust screening program like the one we’re building,” he notes.

Maria Rodriguez is a shining example of the difference stepped-up early detection and treatment can make. Two decades ago, she lost her older sister, also a smoker, at age 42 to lung cancer, just a month after diagnosis. “She didn’t get screenings, and by the time they found the cancer, she was at stage IV,” recalls Rodriguez. By contrast, Rodriguez’s scan revealed a suspicious lesion early on, and a team of doctors at NYU Langone was able to remove it quickly. “I’m grateful to Dr. Geraci and Dr. Mercado,” says Rodriguez. “This procedure saves patients time, and it will save lives.”

Featured image: Thoracic surgeon Dr. Travis Geraci and pulmonologist Dr. Jorge Mercado meet with their patient, Maria Rodriguez, after using a novel same-day robotic approach to diagnose and remove her early-stage lung cancer. PHOTO: NYU LANGONE STAFF


Provided by NYU Langone

A New Treatment For Curved Spines Mark A Big Leap In Care (Medicine)

Jenna Moriello tried her best to draw attention away from the dramatic curve in her spine, but the malformation was hard to hide in a dancer’s skintight bodysuit. By her freshman year at the Union County Academy for Performing Arts high school in Linden, New Jersey, her condition, called scoliosis, was worsening, causing far more than emotional distress; the chronic back pain forced her to continually compensate for her misalignment. An X-ray in November 2019 revealed a curvature of nearly 70 degrees; anything over 50 degrees is considered severe. “My spine was shaped like an S,” says Jenna, now 16. “I started to look for it in photographs and videos of me dancing. It didn’t help that I was in a leotard in front of a mirror every day. That made me insecure.”

The corrective back brace Jenna wore at night, a remedy that prevents the condition from progressing in many of the 6 to 9 million Americans with the condition, primarily girls and women, wasn’t working. With Jenna hiding her body in oversized clothes, and with the risk that her curvature could ultimately impede her lung function, her mother, Danielle, knew that surgery couldn’t wait much longer. However, she was afraid of the standard procedure, fusing two or more vertebrae together to straighten the spine, because it limits a patient’s flexibility. “I worried about the impact of such a surgery on a 14-year-old, especially a dancer,” Danielle says.

While she weighed the pros and cons, Danielle heard through a Facebook group about a surgical alternative recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, called vertebral body tethering, or VBT. The novel approach restrains one side of the spine with a flexible polymer cord threaded through screws attached to the side of affected vertebrae, allowing the opposing side to straighten naturally as a child grows. Unlike a fusion rod, the tether doesn’t reduce mobility. Finding no local providers who offered it, Danielle reached out to one of leading practitioners of the technique, Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Olaverri, MD, PhD, at the Centro Médico Teknon in Barcelona, Spain. As chance had it, Dr. Rodriguez-Olaverri, renowned for treating adolescent athletes with spinal deformities, had just accepted a position at NYU Langone Health as director of early onset scoliosis.

The pandemic delayed Dr. Rodriguez-Olaverri’s arrival, but he met the Moriellos in the spring of 2020, reviewed Jenna’s case, and recommended the procedure. “Fusion surgery would have stopped Jenna’s dancing career,” says Dr. Rodriguez-Olaverri. “If I can give her four more years of doing what she loves, that’s wonderful.”

A pioneer in his field, Dr. Rodriguez-Olaverri tested many versions of VBT. Despite design improvements, there remains a one-in-five chance that the cord, pulled taut, will tear within two years. To reduce that risk, he uses two sets, side-by-side, reducing the breakage rate to less than 5 percent. He is one of only two surgeons globally to use CT imaging to facilitate placement of the titanium screws during the six-hour procedure.

When Jenna left Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone in June 2020, 5 days after surgery, her curvature measured a negligible 20 degrees. She spent the summer adjusting to her new alignment. In September, she returned to dancing without restrictions. “I felt surprisingly normal,” she says.

By this spring, Jenna had grown an inch—helping to straighten her spine further—and Dr. Rodriguez-Olaverri had completed 50 VBT surgeries at NYU Langone, a great majority for children and teenagers who traveled from other states or nations to see him. He delights in the postprocedure videos they share: figure skaters able to resume jumps, gymnasts doing flips, and baseball players back on the field in as little as four to six weeks. “We’re helping these patients continue to be competitive athletes,” he says. “You can always do fusion later on.”

Featured image: After Jenna Moriello’s surgery in June 2020, her curvature was reduced from nearly 70 degrees to a negligible 20 degrees. By September, she was able to return to dancing without restrictions. PHOTO: DSM PRODUCTIONS


Provided by NYU Langone Health

Physicists Discover Simple Propulsion Mechanism For Bodies in Dense Fluids (Physics)

A team of researchers from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), the University of Liège and the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nürnberg for Renewable Energy have developed a microswimmer that appears to defy the laws of fluid dynamics: their model, consisting of two beads that are connected by a linear spring, is propelled by completely symmetrical oscillations. The Scallop theorem states that this cannot be achieved in fluid microsystems. The findings have now been published in the academic journal ‘Physical Review Letters’.

Scallops can swim in water by quickly clapping their shells together. They are large enough to still be able to move forwards through the moment of inertia while the scallop is opening its shell for the next stroke. However, the Scallop theorem applies more or less depending on the density and viscosity of the fluid: A swimmer that makes symmetrical or reciprocal forward or backward motions similar to the opening and closing of the scallop shell will not move an inch. ‘Swimming through water is as tough for microscopic organisms as swimming through tar would be for humans,’ says Dr. Maxime Hubert. ‘This is why single-cell organisms have comparatively complex means of propulsion such as vibrating hairs or rotating flagella.’

Swimming at the mesoscale

Dr. Hubert is a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Dr. Ana-Suncana Smith’s group at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at FAU. Together with researchers at the University of Liège and the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nürnberg for Renewable Energy, the FAU team has developed a swimmer which does not seem to be limited by the Scallop theorem: The simple model consists of a linear spring that connects two beads of different sizes. Although the spring expands and contracts symmetrically under time reversal, the microswimmer is still able to move through the fluid.ü

‘We originally tested this principle using computer simulations,’ says Maxime Hubert. ‘We then built a functioning model’. In the practical experiment, the scientists placed two steel beads measuring just a few hundred micrometres in diameter on the surface of water contained in a Petri dish. The surface tension of the water represented the contraction of the spring and expansion in the opposite direction was achieved with a magnetic field which caused the microbeads to periodically repel other.

Vision: Swimming robots for transporting drugs

The swimmer is able to propel itself because the beads are of different sizes. Maxime Hubert says, ‘The smaller bead reacts much faster to the spring force than the larger bead. This causes asymmetrical motion and the larger bead is pulled along with the smaller bead. We are therefore using the principle of inertia, with the difference that here we are concerned with the interaction between the bodies rather than the interaction between the bodies and water.’

Although the system won’t win any prizes for speed – it moves forwards about a thousandth of its body length during each oscillation cycle – the sheer simplicity of its construction and mechanism is an important development. ‘The principle that we have discovered could help us to construct tiny swimming robots,’ says Maxime Hubert. ‘One day they might be used to transport drugs through the blood to a precise location.’

Featured image: Asymmetric swimming dumbbell. The model assumes two spheres of density ρs with radii a1 and a2 at a distance L connected by a linear spring with constant k. The device is submerged in a fluid of viscosity η and driven by sinusoidal forces of the same amplitude F and frequency ω acting in opposite directions © Hubert et al.


Further information

M. Hubert, O. Trosman, Y. Collard, A. Sukhov, J. Harting, N. Vandewalle, and A.-S. Smith, “Scallop Theorem and Swimming at the Mesoscale”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 126, 224501 – Published 2 June 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.126.224501


Provided by FAU

Jets Remain A Mystery (Cosmology)

FAU involved in DFG research group focusing on plasma rays from black holes.

A new DFG research group led by Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) is investigating ultra-high energy jets. Two astrophysicists from FAU are also involved. The research group will be funded with a total of 3.6 million euros over the next four years.

Black holes can be found in the centre of nearly all galaxies. They have an unimaginably large mass and attract material, gas and even light as a result. Just recently, astronomical images showing the accumulation of material on a super-massive black hole caused a stir among the general public.

Black holes like this can release immense energy out into their surroundings, energy which was originally stored in their rotation or the potential energy of collected material. Energy is released in jets. Jets are bundles of plasma rays which accelerate particles to tremendous energies before propelling them from the centre of the galaxy at speeds nearing the speed of light. Such jets can reach several hundred thousand light years into space and radiate bright radio, gamma and X-rays.

A number of mysteries remain

However, these jets still baffle researchers. What are they made of? How are they launched from the direct vicinity of supermassive black holes? Which processes are responsible for their high-energy radiation and how do they interact with the mother galaxy? These are the questions the new DFG research group ‘Relativistic Jets in Active Galaxies’ hopes to answer.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project with 3.6 million euros over the next four years, with the option to continue into a second phase of funding lasting another four years. The speaker of the group is the astrophysicist Professor Dr. Matthias Kadler from JMU. Dr. Thomas Dauser and Prof. Dr. Jörn Wilms from Dr. Karl Remeis observatory, the Astronomical Institute at FAU, are also involved. Further projects are located at the universities of Hamburg and Heidelberg, the Leibnitz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam and the Max Planck Institutes for Astronomy and Radio Astronomy in Heidelberg and Bonn.

Improving the combination of observations and modelling

The researchers have set themselves the ambitious goal of designing a model of the jets that can explain the physics behind the phenomenon and that fits in with all observations. In order to do so, they plan to overcome the traditional split between various scientific approaches to the problem, for example by coordinating observations and theoretical modelling to a much greater extent than is currently the case.

‘Impressive breakthroughs in observational astronomy and astroparticle physics in recent years have shifted the focus of modern research onto jets even more than before,’ explains Prof. Dr. Matthias Kadler. ‘At the same time, theoretical and numerical modelling have made enormous advances.’ Our research group is the first to combine these approaches in this way and to such an extent.’

Dr. Thomas Dauser explains, ‘In the FAU sub-project we will combine measurements in the X-ray range with satellites and measurements in the radio range in order to study the structure of the region directly around the black hole, in which jets are created.’

Prof. Wilms emphasises: ‘In this project, the research group effectively combines the existing expertise of the universities in Erlangen-Nuremberg and Würzburg when it comes to investigating black holes and their jets in the entire electromagnetic spectrum.’

Funding focused on supporting young researchers

DFG research groups are intended to enable researchers to focus on current and current questions in their field of research and to establish innovative areas of research. The funds provided by DFG ought to be largely used to create project positions for young researchers.

Featured image: Visualisation of the holistic approach taken by the research group: Observations (right) and theoretical modelling (left) of jets are combined at the smallest and largest scales. (Source: Matthias Kadler (JMU); based on individual images by C. Fromm (JMU), A. Baczko (MPIfR), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF))


Provided by FAU

Researchers Discovered Enzymatic Approach For Targeted Treatment Of Intestinal Inflammation (Medicine)

FAU research team investigates blocking inflammatory substance

When the immune system attacks a person’s own intestines, this leads to chronic inflammation and considerable pain and discomfort for patients suffering from the disease. Together with researchers from the US and France, a team of researchers at FAU has discovered a potential new approach to treatment. The results have been published in the journal Gastroenterology.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease which leads to diarrhoea, intestinal bleeding and cramps. It is generally triggered by an excessive immune reaction. Within the context of the collaborative research centre (CRC) 1181 Switching points for resolving inflammation, researchers from FAU led by Dr. Markus Neurath, Chair of Internal Medicine I and director of Department of Medicine 1– Gastroenterology, Pneumology and Endocrinology and PD Dr. Dr. Benno Weigmann have now discovered that the production of inflammatory cytokines by T-cells can be prevented and the inflammatory reaction stopped by specifically blocking the enzyme ITK in cases of ulcerative colitis. ‘Our experimental analyses of enzyme ITK demonstrated that blocking this specific enzyme using inhibitors or siRNA was effective in treating murine chronic intestinal inflammation, plausibly making it an attractive treatment option for humans in future,’ explains Kristina Lechner, doctoral candidate in Dr. Weigmann’s working group.

In the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1181 ‘Checkpoints for resolution of inflammation’ at FAU, researchers from various areas of medicine and biology are investigating the basic mechanisms underlying the resolution of inflammatory responses and their clinical relevance.

More information on SFB 1181: http://www.sfb1181.forschung.fau.de

Original publication: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34224738/

‘Targeting of the Tec kinase ITK drives resolution of T cell-mediated colitis and emerges as potential therapeutic option in ulcerative colitis’

Featured image credit: colourbox


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What Are the Effects Of La Doping On The Properties of MnCoGe Heusler Alloys? (Material Science)

Yifei Bi and colleagues carried out study on the effects of La Doping on the crystal structure and magnetic properties of Ni2In phase MnCoGe1-xLax (x = 0, 0.01, 0.03) alloys. They showed that the doping of La results in decreased Curie temperature, unchanged magnetic entropy and slightly decreased refrigeration capacities. Their study recently appeared in the Journal Materials.

Heusler alloy is an intermetallic compound characterized by a highly ordered arrangement of atoms. It can be divided into full Heusler alloy and half-Heusler alloy, which provides the material with rich physical properties and application functions. Heusler alloy has not only the properties of a metal alloy but also significant magnetic properties. MM’X alloy is a kind of Heusler alloy, of which the MM’X alloy MnCoGe (half-Heusler) has attracted wide attention. The MnCoGe Heusler alloy can be applied to refrigeration equipment and zero-expansion materials due to its unique magnetic refrigeration, magnetocaloric and negative thermal expansion effects. It has huge development potential. However, most of the samples currently studied are not single-phase, and most of the research samples are two-phase. There are few studies on the doping of high-temperature Ni2In-phase MnCoGe single-phase samples, and the doping of rare earth La atoms in high-temperature Ni2Inphase MnCoGe alloy has not previously been studied. As such, the study of the magnetic properties of La-doped high-temperature Ni2In phase MnCoGe alloy is meaningful for its potential application.

Thus, Yifei Bi and colleagues carried out study on the effects of La Doping on the crystal structure and magnetic properties of Ni2In phase MnCoGe1-xLax (x = 0, 0.01, 0.03) alloys.

Figure 1. XRD pattern of MnCoGe11xLax alloy at room temperature © Yifei Bi et al.

They performed a experiment for which they prepared a series of MnCoGe1−xLax (x = 0, 0.01, 0.03) alloy samples using a vacuum arc melting method. Later, they investigated the crystal structure and magnetic properties of alloys using X-ray diffraction (XRD), Rietveld method, physical property measurement system (PPMS), and vibrating sample magnetometer (VSM) analyses.

Figure 2. Rietveld refinement results for MnCoGe11xLax.: (a) MnCoGe; (b) MnCoGe0.99La0.01; (c) MnCoGe0.97La0.03 © Yifei Bi et al.

Their results showed that all samples were of high-temperature Ni2 In-type phases, belonging to space group P63/mmc (194) after 1373 K annealing. In MnCoGe1−xLax, the lattice constant gradually increases and the unit cell volume becomes larger with an increase in doped La content.

They also found that MnCoGe1−xLax is ferromagnetic at low temperatures and paramagnetic at room temperature. With an increase in doped content, the Curie temperature decreased and the Curie temperature of the MnCoGe_1−xLa_x (x = 0, 0.01, 0.03) series alloys were 294, 281, and 278 K, respectively.

In addition, it has been found that, with an increase in doped La content, the saturation magnetization at 80 K decreased slightly; being 88.75 emu/g for MnCoG, 87.55 emu/g for MnCoGe_0.99La_0.01, and 80.91 emu/g for MnCoGe_0.97La_0.03 at 5K.

Moreover, the maximum magnetic entropy changes in MnCoGe_1−xLa_x series alloys at 1.5T were 1.64, 1.52, and 1.56 J·kg¯1 ·K¯1, respectively, and the refrigeration capacities (RC) were 60.68, 59.28, and 57.72 J·kg¯1, respectively, with a slight decrease along the series.

“These changes can be observed in our study, the findings of which can serve as a reference for future research into the application of rare earth element-doped MnCoGe series alloys in magnetic refrigeration.”

— they concluded.

The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from: The Institution of National Nature Science Foundations of China (51861003).

Featured image: MnCoGe0.97La0.03 crystal structure: (a) the crystal structure of the MnCoGe0.97La0.03; (b) the atomic environments of Mn; (c) Co and (d) M2 © Yifei Bi et al.


Reference: Bi, Y.; He, W.; Yang, T.; Wu, W.; Wen, J.; Yu, X.; Chen, F., “The Effects of La Doping on the Crystal Structure and Magnetic Properties of Ni2In-Type MnCoGe11xLax (x = 0, 0.01, 0.03) Alloys. Materials 2021, 14, 3998. https://doi.org/10.3390/ma14143998


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