In the second week of September, we bring news of leading drug developers coming together to pledge to uphold safety standards amidst the rush to develop a vaccine to end the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also predictions from experts on future liver cirrhosis patient demographics, the use of CRISPR to improve viral vectors for gene therapy, and research updates on HIV, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
US and EU Drugmakers Pledge to Make Safety the Main Focus in COVID-19 Vaccine Development
Nine leading US and European vaccine developers have pledged to uphold the scientific standards that their experimental immunizations will be held against, amid a hurried global race to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Antibiotic Molecule Enables Immune System to Kill HIV Infected Cells
Since the early 1980’s researchers have been searching for ways to cure HIV. Thanks to anti-retroviral therapy, people living with HIV can now live a relatively normal life - as long as they take their medications daily. A true cure for HIV would rely on waking the latent virus and eliminating it before it has a chance to again take hold of the body’s cells. Researchers from the University of Michigan set out to find a weapon to kill HIV by inhibiting a protein called Nef – the protein responsible for allowing the virus to proliferate.
Fatty Liver in Millennial Age Group Predicted to Account for Large Proportion of Cirrhosis Diagnoses By 2040
By 2040, researchers predict 75% of cirrhosis cases in North America will be due to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease with a nearly 350% increase in women born after 1980, according to a presenter at the Digital International Liver Conference.
Conversion to Type 2 Diabetes Declining
The number of people with pre-diabetes who go on to develop type 2 diabetes has been reducing over the past two decades, according to a study led by University of Manchester epidemiologists. However, the changes are likely to be attributed to changes in the definition of pre-diabetes and recording practices, but also preventative efforts by health systems.
ALS Milestone Reached by Researchers
An experimental medication shows promise in slowing the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to recently released results from a clinical trial run by Harvard Medical School. The compound, sodium phenylbutyrate–taurursodiol, resulted in slower functional decline than placebo as measured by the ALSFRS-R score over a period of 24 weeks. Longer and larger trials are now necessary to evaluate efficacy and safety; however, the findings offer hope that a treatment may one day be available for patients with ALS - a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no cure.
Alzheimer’s Immune Response Interactions Revealed
For many years’ researchers have investigated the role of accumulation of toxic proteins like beta-amyloid and tau in the brain and seek to understand the role they play in Alzheimer’s disease and its progression. Recent studies have found that beta-amyloid has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, suggesting a potential link between the immune response against infections and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Now researchers at Sloan Kettering Institute have uncovered clues to this potential link by identifying a protein called IFITM3. The protein which is involved in the immune response to pathogens has been discovered to play a key role in the accumulation of beta-amyloid in plaques.
Using CRISPR to Improve Viral Vectors for Gene Therapy
Adenovirus vectors have become a popular delivery platform for gene therapy and vaccines. However, many people have preexisting immunity against adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), which could significantly reduce vector uptake and therefore render the therapeutic cargo they carry ineffective. Even in individuals that lack preexisting immunity, the first inoculation of a vector could induce immune responses that can thwart repeat administration. To overcome that obstacle, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh created a CRISPR-based system that they say could effectively prevent immunity to the viral vector.