New molecules could be used to treat autoimmune diseases in the future

by Barry Fitzgerald , Eindhoven University of Technology

When something is awry with your immune system, your digestion or your endocrine systems, nuclear receptors, as they are called, may well be involved. If need be, the operation of these regulator proteins can be altered with medicinal drugs, but this carries the very real risk of unpleasant side effects. Doctoral candidate Femke Meijer looked for—and found—molecules that might well be used as medications for autoimmune diseases, but with fewer side effects. Meijer defends her thesis at the department of Biomedical Engineering on June 23.

Our body has exactly 48 types of nuclear receptor. These are proteins that float about in our cells and can be activated by all sorts of signal molecules such as hormones. When this happens, the nuclear receptor in question issues an instruction in the cell nucleus to produce other particular proteins. Shutting down or conversely activating these nuclear receptors is the mechanism by which one in six medicines achieves its intended effect. The best-known example is most probably the contraceptive pill. “This acts on the estrogen and progesterone receptors,” says doctoral candidate Femke Meijer.

As part of her research, Meijer studied another nuclear receptor, RORỿt, which regulates the production of cytokines and as such plays a role in the genesis of inflammatory reactions. Certain drugs for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatism, psoriasis, asthma, and Crohn’s disease, turn this function to their advantage and aim to shut down this nuclear receptor. “They do this by blocking what’s known as its binding site with a molecule, so that this particular nuclear receptor, RORỿt, is deactivated,” explains Meijer.

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Injectable microspheres to repair failing hearts

Stem cells grown over the surface of the microspheres. Credit: University College London

by Mark Greaves , University College London

Biodegradable microspheres can be used to deliver heart cells generated from stem cells to repair damaged hearts after a heart attack, according to new findings by UCL researchers. This type of cell therapy could one day cure debilitating heart failure, which affects an estimated 920,000 people in the UK and continues to rise as more people are surviving a heart attack than ever before.

Scientists have been trying to use stem cells to repair damaged hearts for a number of years. However, these cells often don’t remain in the heart in a healthy state for long enough to provide a sustained benefit.

Now, a UCL team, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), has grown human stem cell-derived heart cells on tiny microspheres, each only a quarter of a millimeter wide, engineered from biological material. The cells attach to and grow on the microspheres, make connections with each other and are able to beat for up to 40 days in a dish. The small size of the microspheres means they can be easily injected into the heart muscle using a needle.

The researchers have also taken this one step further by developing state-of-the-art technology to visualize the injected microspheres and confirm they remain in place. Barium sulfate (BaSO4), which shines bright on X-rays and CT scans, was added to the microspheres and injected into rat hearts. Whole body CT scans confirmed that the microspheres remained in place for up to six days after injection.

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Bio-Inspired Scaffolds Help Promote Muscle Growth

Aligned myotubes formed on electrospun extracellular matrix scaffolds produced at Rice University. The staining with fluorescent tags shows cells’ expression of myogenic marker desmin (green), actin (red) and nuclei (blue) after seven days of growth. Credit: Mikos

Original story from Rice University

Rice University bioengineers are fabricating and testing tunable electrospun scaffolds completely derived from decellularized skeletal muscle to promote the regeneration of injured skeletal muscle.

Their paper in Science Advances shows how natural extracellular matrix can be made to mimic native skeletal muscle and direct the alignment, growth and differentiation of myotubes, one of the building blocks of skeletal muscle. The bioactive scaffolds are made in the lab via electrospinning, a high-throughput process that can produce single micron-scale fibers.

The research could ease the burden of performing an estimated 4.5 million reconstructive surgeries per year to repair injuries suffered by civilians and military personnel.

Current methods of electrospinning decellularized muscle require a copolymer to aid in scaffold fabrication. The Rice process does not.

“The major innovation is the ability to prepare scaffolds that are 100% extracellular matrix,” said Rice bioengineer and principal investigator Antonios Mikos. “That’s very important because the matrix includes all the signaling motifs that are important for the formation of the particular tissue.”

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New blood filtering system claims to use magnetic nanoparticles to remove pathogens

by: Virgilio Marin 

(Natural News) Researchers designed a new blood filtration system that uses magnetic nanoparticles to remove pathogens and cancer cells from the blood. Called MediSieve, the system works by connecting a patient to the same machine used for hemodialysis. As blood passes through the machine, magnetic particles selectively bind to harmful molecules present in the blood.

The researchers are currently testing the technology on malaria, a life-threatening disease caused by a parasite. But the technology can also be used to treat other conditions, such as sepsis, leukemia, drug overdose and COVID-19.

“In theory, you can go after almost anything. Poisons, pathogens, viruses, bacteria, anything that we can specifically bind to we can remove. So, it’s a very powerful potential tool,” said George Frodsham, a British engineer and the CEO of MediSieve, the company he founded in London to develop and market the technology.

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Researchers Develop A Technique To Produce Transplantable Livers In The Laboratory

Researchers at the Human Genome and Stem Cell Research Center (HUG-CELL), hosted by the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Biosciences (IB-USP) in Brazil, have developed a technique to reconstruct and produce livers in the laboratory.

The proof-of-concept study was conducted with rat livers. In the next stage of their research, the scientists will adapt the technique for the production of human livers in order in future to increase the supply of these organs for transplantation.

The study was supported by FAPESP and is reported in an article published in Materials Science and Engineering: C. “The plan is to produce human livers in the laboratory to scale. This will avoid having to wait a long time for a compatible donor and reduce the risk of rejection of the transplanted organ,” Luiz Carlos de Caires-Júnior, first author of the article, told Agência FAPESP. He is a postdoctoral fellow of HUG-CELL, one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) funded by FAPESP.

The methodology is based on decellularization and recellularization, tissue bioengineering techniques developed in recent years to produce organs for transplantation. An organ from a deceased donor, in this case the liver, is treated with various solutions containing detergents or enzymes to remove all the cells from the tissue, leaving only the extracellular matrix with the organ’s original structure and shape. The extracellular matrix is then seeded with cells taken from the patient. The technique avoids immune system reactions and the risk of rejection in the long term.

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Scientists Create First Human-Monkey Embryos That Could Potentially Produce Organs for Transplants

The part-human, part-monkey embryos were kept alive for 20 days, giving researchers enough time to learn about how animal and human cells communicate

By  Georgia Slater

Scientists have successfully created the first embryos containing both human and monkey cells, an important step in helping researchers find ways to produce organs for transplants.

The results of the groundbreaking experiment, published Thursday in the journal Cell, describe the first mixed-species embryos known as chimeras.

The research team in China was led by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who has previously experimented with human and pig embryos. The team injected 25 human stem cells into the embryos of macaque monkeys.

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Next-generation sutures can deliver drugs, prevent infections and monitor wounds

Scanning electron microscope image of the cross-section of TGS suture. Credit: Zhenwei Ma, McGill University

by McGill University

Sutures are used to close wounds and speed up the natural healing process, but they can also complicate matters by causing damage to soft tissues with their stiff fibers. To remedy the problem, researchers from Montreal have developed innovative tough gel sheathed (TGS) sutures inspired by the human tendon.

These next-generation sutures contain a slippery, yet tough gel envelop, imitating the structure of soft connective tissues. In putting the TGS sutures to the test, the researchers found that the nearly frictionless gel surface mitigated the damage typically caused by traditional sutures.

Conventional sutures have been around for centuries and are used to hold wounds together until the healing process is complete. But they are far from ideal for tissue repair. The rough fibers can slice and damage already fragile tissues, leading to discomfort and post-surgery complications.

Part of the problem lies in the mismatch between our soft tissues and the rigid sutures that rub against contacting tissue, say the researchers from McGill University and the INRS Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre.

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A new experimental treatment could someday give people a way to grow missing teeth, if early research on lab animals holds up.

Scientists at Japan’s Kyoto University and the University of Fukui developed a monoclonal antibody treatment that seems to trigger the body to grow new teeth, according to research published last month in the journal Science Advances. If upcoming experiments continue to work, it could eventually give us a way to regrow teeth lost in adulthood or those that were missing since childhood due to congenital conditions.

It’s a tricky challenge. The genes that influence tooth growth have far-reaching impacts on development throughout the body, and some of the first iterations of the treatment actually caused more birth defects in the lab mice before the research team got all the kinks ironed out, according to a press release on the study.

But eventually the team found that blocking a gene called USAG-1 led to increased activity of Bone Morphogenic Protein (BMP), a molecule that determines how many teeth will grow in the first place, and allowed adult mice to regrow any that they were missing.


First lab-grown mini-thyroids use patients’ own tissue

Human thyroid organoid displaying functionality through thyroglobulin (green) production and proliferative capacity by Ki67 (red).

by International Society for Stem Cell Research

Hormones produced by the thyroid gland are essential regulators of organ function. The absence of these hormones either through thyroid dysfunction due to, for example, irradiation, thyroid cancer or autoimmune disease or thyroidectomy leads to symptoms like fatigue, feeling cold, constipation, and weight gain.

Hypothyroidism is estimated to affect up to 11% of the global population. Although hypothyroidism can be treated by hormone replacement therapy, some patients have persistent symptoms and/or experience side effects. To investigate potential alternative treatment strategies for these patients, researchers have now for the first time succeeded in generating thyroid mini-organs in the lab.

In a new study published in Stem Cell Reports, Robert Coppes and colleagues from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, used healthy thyroid tissue from patients undergoing surgical removal of the thyroid to grow mini-thyroid organs in a lab which resembled thyroid glands in their structure and protein content.

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By Deborah Bach

One day in mid-December, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bruno Gobbato walked into an operating room in Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil, put on a HoloLens 2 mixed-reality headset and prepared for surgery.

Joining him remotely were fellow surgeons Professor Thomas Gregory, who was tuning in from Paris, and Dr. John Erickson, who is based in New Jersey. Gobbato’s patient had a collarbone fracture that hadn’t healed properly, so Gobbato needed to reposition the bone and perform a shoulder arthroscopy, which involved inserting a small camera into the joint to try to determine what was causing the man’s shoulder pain.

Gregory and Erickson were linked to Gobbato’s headset via the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist app and shared his field of view on their computer screens through Microsoft Teams. They could see the patient and the holographic images Gobbato generated from a CT scan, one showing the patient’s damaged clavicle and another replicating his healthy clavicle. The three surgeons on three continents discussed how to approach the procedure, conferring on each step and sharing their respective approaches.


New realm of personalized medicine with brain stimulation

Research represents a major step forward in achieving new therapies for a whole host of neurological and mental disorders. Credit: Cornelia LI

Millions of patients suffering from neurological and mental disorders such as depression, addiction, and chronic pain are treatment-resistant. In fact, about 30% of all major depression patients do not respond at all to any medication or psychotherapy. Simply put, many traditional forms of treatment for these disorders may have reached their limit. Where do we go from here?

Research to be published in Nature Biomedical Engineering led by Maryam Shanechi, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Early Career Chair in electrical and computer engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, paves the way for a promising alternative: personalized deep brain stimulation. The work represents a major step forward in achieving new therapies for a whole host of neurological and mental disorders.

Until now, the challenge of personalized deep brain stimulation has been the human brain itself. Mental disorders can manifest differently in each patient’s brain. Similarly, whether and how each patient’s brain activity and their symptoms will respond to stimulation can be very different. This makes it difficult to know the effect of stimulation in a given patient or how to change the dose of stimulation—that is, its amplitude or frequency—over time to tailor it to a patient’s needs.

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