Why do Covid fatalities remain low when infection numbers are rising?

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While some scientists believe the virus has become less deadly, others look at the factors that suggest otherwise

Are Covid-19 death rates decreasing?

Most statistics indicate that although cases of Covid-19 are rising in many parts of Europe and the United States, the number of deaths and cases of severe complications remain relatively low. For example, patients on ventilators have dropped from 3,000 at the epidemic’s peak in Britain to 70. At the same time, the number of cases in the UK have begun to rise in many areas.

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Getting old needs a new look

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The pandemic has exacerbated issues like social isolation in U.S. nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. But problems with the living situations of older Americans long predate the coronavirus.

Covid-19 has exposed the lethal vulnerabilities of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Can better design make aging safer?

In at least one way, the United States’s tragic response to the coronavirus hasn’t been an outlier: Just like in the rest of the world, the consequences of the pandemic were amplified inside living facilities for older adults.

As of August 13, at least 68,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus, according to New York Times research, a number that comprises more than 40% of the nation’s total. That percentage that’s been matched or exceeded by other countries across the globe. In Europe, half of all Covid-19 deaths happened in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to the World Health Organization. In Canada, which has been far more effective at containing the disease, 82 percent of the country’s deaths have been concentrated among these facilities.

The vulnerability of nursing homes was clear from the earliest stage of outbreak in the U.S., when the disease swept through the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington in February, claiming dozens of deaths. At Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts, at least 74 residents — a third of the facility’s population — died of Covid-19 in April. The summer resurgence of infections has found its way into care facilities in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, bringing the number of cases in nursing homes nationwide above its previous peak in May.

For the entire multibillion-dollar ecosystem of senior living in the U.S. — including the more than 15,000 nursing homes, nearly 29,000 residential care communities, and about the same number of assisted-living facilities — the pandemic is exposing a deadly dilemma at a challenging time. “We weren’t prepared for Covid,” says Dr. Robyn Stone, co-director of LeadingAge LTSS Center at University of Massachusetts Boston. “Nobody was, including the nursing homes.”

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Unraveling the initial molecular events of respiration

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Respiration is a fundamental process of all living things, allowing them to produce energy, stay healthy, and survive. In cells, respiration involves what are known as “respiratory proteins,” e.g. hemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in muscles.

Respiratory proteins work by binding and releasing small molecules like oxygen, carbon monoxide etc., called ligands. They do this through their “active center,” which in many respiratory proteins is a chemical structure called heme porphyrin.

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Has the Summit Supercomputer cracked COVID’s code?

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A supercomputer-powered genetic study of COVID-19 patients has spawned a possible breakthrough into how the novel coronavirus causes disease—and points toward new potential therapies to treat its worst symptoms.

The genetic data mining research uncovered a common pattern of gene activity in the lungs of symptomatic COVID-19 patients, which when compared to gene activity in healthy control populations revealed a mechanism that appears to be a key weapon in the coronavirus’s arsenal.

The good news is there are already drugs—a few of which are already FDA-approved—aimed at some of these very same pathologies.

“We think we have a core mechanism that explains a lot of the symptoms where the virus ends up residing,” said Daniel Jacobson, chief scientist for computational systems biology at Oak Ridge National Labs in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

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Old human cells rejuvenated with stem cell technology, research finds

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Old human cells return to a more youthful and vigorous state after being induced to briefly express a panel of proteins involved in embryonic development, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The researchers also found that elderly mice regained youthful strength after their existing muscle stem cells were subjected to the rejuvenating protein treatment and transplanted back into their bodies.

The proteins, known as Yamanaka factors, are commonly used to transform an adult cell into what are known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells can become nearly any type of cell in the body, regardless of the cell from which they originated. They’ve become important in regenerative medicine and drug discovery.

The study found that inducing old human cells in a lab dish to briefly express these proteins rewinds many of the molecular hallmarks of aging and renders the treated cells nearly indistinguishable from their younger counterparts.

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World-first gene therapy reverses Alzheimer’s memory loss in mice

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Research into Alzheimer’s-related memory loss has uncovered an exciting new breakthrough in the form of a world-first gene therapy

Scientists in Australia have made an exciting breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research, demonstrating what they describe as the first gene-therapy-based approach for treating advanced forms of the disease. Through experiments in mice, the team was able to show how activating a key enzyme in the brain can prevent the kind of memory loss associated with advanced forms of Alzheimer’s, and even reverse it.

The research was carried out at Macquarie University, where dementia researchers and brothers Lars and Arne Ittner were investigating the role of a key enzyme in the brain called p38gamma. Through previous research, the brothers had shown that by activating this enzyme in mice with advanced dementia, they could modify a protein that prevents the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

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“No one needs to die from Covid any more.”

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Houston medical team credits 96% Covid cure rate to novel “MATH+” protocol: IV steroids, blood thinner, IV vitamins, maybe some Pepcid.

The most widely accepted (and plausible) explanation for the apparent disconnect between coronavirus cases and coronavirus deaths over past weeks, in Texas, Arizona, Florida, California, is a temporal lag; that is, deaths typically show up a month or so after hospital admission is required. A few weeks from now the numbers will catch up with each other, the experts say.

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Super-sticky surgical tape patches up organs and peels off harmlessly

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An MIT team has created surgical tape that can hold strong but also be removed when needed

As helpful as Band-Aids are, ripping them off your skin is never fun – but just imagine having one on your heart or lung. Researchers at MIT have now managed to create surgical tape that can stick to wet surfaces like organs, and more importantly, be removed safely when it’s no longer needed.

Last year, the team developed an impressive new alternative to sutures. Their double-sided tape could be used to patch up incisions or wounds in organs, working within a matter of seconds. It could also be used to attach implantable medical devices to tissues.

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Diluting blood plasma rejuvenates tissue, reverses aging in mice

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Older mice grew significantly more new muscle fibers, shown as pink “donut” shapes, after undergoing a procedure that effectively diluted the proteins in their blood plasma (bottom) than they did before they underwent the procedure

 In 2005, University of California, Berkeley, researchers made the surprising discovery that making conjoined twins out of young and old mice — such that they share blood and organs — can rejuvenate tissues and reverse the signs of aging in the old mice. The finding sparked a flurry of research into whether a youngster’s blood might contain special proteins or molecules that could serve as a “fountain of youth” for mice and humans alike.

But a new study by the same team shows that similar age-reversing effects can be achieved by simply diluting the blood plasma of old mice — no young blood needed.

In the study, the team found that replacing half of the blood plasma of old mice with a mixture of saline and albumin — where the albumin simply replaces protein that was lost when the original blood plasma was removed — has the same or stronger rejuvenation effects on the brain, liver and muscle than pairing with young mice or young blood exchange. Performing the same procedure on young mice had no detrimental effects on their health.

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Study demonstrates feasibility of hologram technology in liver tumor ablation

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Data from one of the first clinical uses of augmented reality guidance with electromagnetically tracked tools shows that the technology may help doctors quickly, safely, and accurately deliver targeted liver cancer treatments, according to a research abstract presented during a virtual session of the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 2020 Annual Scientific Meeting on June 14. The technology provides a three-dimensional holographic view inside a patient’s body, allowing interventional radiologists to accurately burn away tumors while navigating to avoid organs and other critical structures.

“Converting traditional two-dimensional imaging into three-dimensional holograms which we can then utilize for guidance using augmented reality helps us to better view a patient’s internal structures as we navigate our way to the point of treatment,” said Gaurav Gadodia, MD, lead author of the study and radiology resident at Cleveland Clinic. “While conventional imaging like ultrasound and CT is safe, effective, and remains the gold-standard of care, augmented reality potentially improves the visualization of the tumor and surrounding structures, increasing the speed of localization and improving the treating-physician’s confidence.”

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Nuro partners with CVS Pharmacy to deliver medicines using its autonomous vehicle

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Nuro is partnering with CVS Pharmacy to deliver medicines using its autonomous vehicle.

 Starting this month, the “first-of-its-kind partnership” brings Nuro into the health space as the startup utilizes its fleet of autonomous vehicles to deliver prescriptions and essentials across three zip codes in Houston, Texas.

Pharma is the third industry sector in which Nuro will introduce its autonomous vehicles.

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Mini human livers grown from stem cells successfully implanted into rats

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Miniature human livers can be grown from stem cells and implanted into rats – and hopefully, one day humans

 Imagine needing a liver transplant, and instead of waiting for a donor, a new one could be grown from your own skin cells. Scientists have now taken quite a big step towards that future, by successfully transplanting miniature human livers grown from induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) into rats.

Organ transplants save lives, but there are hurdles to overcome. For one, there’s a constant shortage of donors and, even when one is found, the patient’s immune system often rejects the new tissue.

Growing a replacement organ from a patient’s own cells could solve both problems. It can be done on demand when a patient needs one, and the organ won’t be rejected because the immune system recognizes the cells as “self.”

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