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  • Researchers have shown that the microbial populations in corals undergo changes during their winter “hibernation”


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    Astrangia poculata coral from Ft Wetherill, Rhode Island demonstrating facultative symbiosis. By RRotjan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84640526

    Many creatures, from bears and squirrels to parasitic wasps and even a few fortunate humans, prepare to catch a break as winter approaches. This is also the time of year when the northern star coral (Astrangia poculata) goes into its dormant or quiescent phase. But as it sleeps, what happens to its microbiome?

    Researchers at the University of California, Davis, lead by Assistant Professor Anya Brown, discovered that the coral benefits from a periodic reset as its microbial populations undergo a transition during its dormant period. Coral in warmer seas, which are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other environmental threats, may benefit from this research.

    Dormancy, at its most fundamental, is a reaction to an environmental stressor—in this case, cold stress, as explained by Brown of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in the Department of Evolution and Ecology. Knowing more about this recovery phase might help the researchers identify the bacteria responsible for the regeneration of coral in warmer tropical settings.

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    Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Roger Williams University conducted the first study to link a persistent change in the marine organism’s microbial population to its state of dormancy. The findings were published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

    WHOI associate scientist and research co-author Amy Apprill remarked that the study reveals that microorganisms respond to stress and recover in a predictable fashion.  This information is crucial for the future development of probiotics or other microbial therapeutics for tropical corals suffering from stress.

    In order to harvest 10 individual colonies of the coral A. poculata from a wharf in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, researchers plunged 60 feet down into chilly, almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit water from October 2020 to March 2021. In the Atlantic Ocean, you may find this coral everywhere from the Gulf of Mexico to Massachusetts. Cooler water temperatures cause the coral to retract its tentacles, cease feeding and reacting to touch, and enter a dormant state.

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    Before, during, and after dormancy, the researchers characterized the microbiomes of the wild coral. They discovered that while the coral is in its “resting” phase, its microbiome rids itself of microorganisms that thrive on nutrients and microbes linked with pathogens, while simultaneously growing microbes that may give nitrogen. They observed that this reorganization aids the corals in keeping their microbial community structure stable.

    The researchers have long theorized that Astrangia’s seasonal dormancy permits the coral microbiome to reset and reorganize, acording to Koty Sharp, an associate professor at Roger Williams University and co-author on the study. Their  findings suggest a reorganization takes place during this time of inactivity, which might lead to the discovery of microbial partners critical to coral health and recovery after disturbance.

    This work adds the coral A. poculata to the list of creatures known to undergo changes to their microbiomes during their inactive periods, which already includes bears, squirrels, insects, and others. The gut microbiota of the ground squirrel, for instance, is crucial to the recycling of nitrogen while the squirrel is fasting during hibernation.

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    The researchers said that it raises several questions.  Among the most important is this: What causes the coral to “wake up” in the early spring? This research adds to the growing body of evidence that certain microbial communities play a crucial role in the emergence from or initiation of dormancy in this coral, as well as in the management of its microbiome.

    Sources:

    Anya L. Brown et al. (2022). Reshuffling of the Coral Microbiome during Dormancy, Applied and Environmental MicrobiologyDOI: 10.1128/aem.01391-22

    https://phys.org/news/2022-12-microbial-communities-shift-coral-winter.html


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  • Fluid from ant pupae is used as “milk” to nourish developing ants


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    close up photo of ant
    Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

    Insects living in a colony are more like cells in tissue rather than separate species just sharing a room together; their interactions with one another create a beautiful symphony. Researchers have recently uncovered a social connection amongst ants of all developmental stages, adults, larvae, and pupae (an immobile stage similar to a butterfly’s chrysalis during which ants change from larvae to adults).

    According to the study published in Nature, the pupae produce an undiscovered fluid that is quickly consumed by adults and larvae. The colony’s well-being appears to depend on the prompt consumption of this nutrient-packed fluid, since the larvae require it for growth, and the pupae die from fungal diseases as the fluid accumulates around them if neither the adults nor the larvae consume it.

    According to Daniel Kronauer, the Stanley S. and Sydney R. Shuman Associate Professor at The Rockefeller University, the way the ants utilize this fluid generates a dependence across distinct developmental phases. It just goes to illustrate how well-maintained an ant colony can be.

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    The busy environment in which ant colonies function makes it impossible for scientists to see the multitude of interactions among ants that are essential to the colony’s regular functioning. Orli Snir, a postdoc in Kronauer’s lab and the study’s first author said that these interactions lay at the very center of understanding insect communities, but, because of the intrinsic obstacles, they haven’t been examined extensively.

    Snir decided to take a head-on approach to this issue by studying ant colonies in order to deduce the underlying principles of social relationships. She did this by isolating ants at various ages from the rest of the colony to see how they would react.

    Her initial observations were the accumulation of fluid surrounding the isolated pupae. Pupae seldom, if ever, produce fluid, and this was previously unknown in ants. Pupae soaked in this solution often succumbed to fungal diseases. The pupae only made it to maturity when Snir physically removed the fluid. The ant colony was obviously preventing a buildup of pupal fluid.

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    Kronauer, Snir, and coworkers used dye tracing studies to determine the fluid’s path, and after they learned that both adults and larvae were consuming the fluid, they began investigating the fluid’s chemical makeup and the effects on ants that refrained from drinking it.

    The researchers traced the fluid back to a process called molting, which is universal across insects and involves the removal of the cuticle so that new skin may develop. In order to preserve resources, non-social insects recycle their molting fluid, whereas ant pupae provide it to their nestmates.

    Psychoactive chemicals, hormones, and components of royal jelly, which honeybees save for developing queen bees were also discovered in the fluid. Not only do ants of all ages appear to love the fluid, but young ant larvae require it; without it, growth is hindered and many die within the first four days of life.

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    According to Kronauer, the larvae depend on the fluid almost like a baby relies on milk in the first few days after hatching. The adults consume it in large quantities, and its effects on their metabolism and physiology are unknown but likely significant.

    Kronauer believes the approach of reusing molting fluid into a nourishing signaling fluid is extremely conserved, since his team identified the same basic phenomena across each of the five major ant subfamilies after doing the original investigation with clonal raider ants. It’s possible that it developed just once, well back before ants ever existed.

    The ant colony has been compared to a superorganism due to the coordinated efforts of its many individual members. Like cells in a living tissue, ants exchange chemical signals to pass along information. Both pheromones, which communicate information in the immediate, and social fluids, which can influence metabolic and behavioral changes over longer periods of time, fall under this category. This concept of ant colonies as interconnected superorganisms is enriched by the discovery of the pupal social fluid and its role in linking adults, pupae, and larvae.

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    Snir explains that pupal social fluid is the driving force behind a crucial and unrecognized interaction network in ant communities. There was previously unknown interdependence between the larval and pupal stages.

    The team plans to investigate the implications of this molting fluid on the colony’s functioning in future research. Kronauer is especially curious about whether or not molting fluid influences adult behavior, and whether or not it plays a role in determining which caste ant larvae will become.

    Snir argues that the study just gives a look into the complex social networks of insect society. The researchers’  ultimate objective is to learn all they can about the neurological and molecular mechanisms behind social organization and their evolutionary roots.

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    Sources:

    Daniel Kronauer. (2022). The pupal molting fluid has evolved social functions in ants, NatureDOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05480-9www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-05480-9

    https://phys.org/news/2022-11-anatomy-superorganism-ant-pupae-secrete.html


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  • The CRISPR gene editing mechanism was discovered in thousands of different bacteriophage


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    By Guido4 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63789040

    Evidence of thousands of phages with DNA strands that should allow them to conduct gene editing on other viruses or bacteria has been discovered by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles, in collaboration with a colleague from Vilnius University. Their work may be seen in the online edition of Cell.

    Some members of this team found in 2012 that RNA may be used to instruct CRISPR-Cas9 to alter specific sections of DNA in other animals. Finding that many different kinds of bacteria employ CRISPR-Cas systems to fight off viral infections inspired their investigation. Bacteria can protect themselves from future infections from a specific strain of virus by using this technique to cut and remove DNA strands from the virus and store them in their own genomes.

    Researchers have now discovered that certain viruses have comparable machinery, although until recently, this had been thought to be extremely unusual. This fresh effort was made by the academics to find out how common something really is.

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    A large amount of time was spent examining the genetic material of thousands of phages (bacteria-infecting viruses) for clues to the existence of a CRISPR system. More than 6,000 were located by the researchers, demonstrating that they are not exceedingly unusual.

    The DNA fragments identified by the researchers were hypothesized to have been snatched from bacteria and to have been utilized in a process similar to that of conventional antibiotics in the defense against other phages and bacteria. They need to do further investigation to back up their assumptions. Meanwhile, by inspecting specific gene fragments in greater detail, scientists learned that not all systems were the same, with some appearing to be more compact and energy-efficient than others. Scientists who are already employing such systems to modify cells for human reasons may benefit from the discovery. It may also spark the development of novel applications of biotechnology, such as the use of phage-based systems for gene editing in situations where conventional methods are impractical due to their bulk.

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    Sources:

    Basem Al-Shayeb et al. (2022). Diverse virus-encoded CRISPR-Cas systems include streamlined genome editors, CellDOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.10.020

    https://phys.org/news/2022-11-thousands-phages-crispr-gene.html


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  • Leukemia-associated rogue immune cells identified as a major factor in the development of autoimmune disorders


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    Credit: NIH Image Gallery

    According to recent research from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, “rogue” immune cells that cause autoimmune illnesses can be produced by gene variations linked to leukemia.

    There was a correlation between leukemia and autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and aplastic anemia, which had been noted by scientists before. Killer T cells, an immune cell type responsible for eliminating dangerous cells and infections, were shown to play a significant role in studies investigating this connection.

    The function of killer T cells in leukemia and autoimmune diseases is explained by these novel findings. According to the study’s findings, killer T cells can be become aggressive due to mutations in genes responsible for producing a protein that regulates their expansion.

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    The researchers demonstrated that the autoimmune response is being driven by rogue killer T cells. Indeed, they may be one of the cells most responsible for autoimmune disorders according to a researcher at the Immunogenomics and Genomic Medicine Labs at Garvan University, Dr. Etienne Masle-Farquhar.

    To aid in future treatment, the research also narrows down a few pathways that could be beneficial in targeting these cells.

    The study’s results were just published in Immunity.

    When the immune system fails to recognize and eliminate tumor cells, cancer can progress. As the name implies, autoimmune disorders manifest when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy bodily tissue.

    The researchers already knew that persons with autoimmune illnesses tend to create rogue killer T cells over time, and that inflammation might lead to immune cell proliferation and abnormalities. They aimed to learn if rogue T cells were primary or correlative of these autoimmune disorders according to Masle-Farquhar.

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    Researchers examined blood samples from children with uncommon hereditary autoimmune illnesses using cutting-edge high-resolution screening techniques.

    Next, they employed CRISPR/Cas9, a genome editing technology, to study the effects of STAT3 gene editing in animal models.

    STAT3 is ubiquitous and essential for many cell activities, including regulation of immune system B cells and T cells.

    Researchers discovered that tampering with these proteins leads to the uncontrolled expansion of killer T cells, which then assault the body’s own cells because they are too large to be stopped by the immune system.

    Furthermore, autoimmune illness can be caused by as little as 1%-2% of T cells in the body turning wild.

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    There has been much debate about whether the mutated STAT3 protein is the true cause of autoimmune illness, or whether leukaemic cells simply acquire this mutation during cell division.

    The researchers add this finding gives some very excellent cracks in the coalface of where they may do better in preventing these potentially fatal infections.

    Possible future uses include using the existence of these mutations to more precisely target medicine, such as JAK inhibitors that have previously been authorized by the TGA. Res  that the researchers know where to search, they can begin identifying T cells with STAT3 mutations. That’s quite helpful in pinpointing the villain, they added.

    The research also uncovered two distinct receptor systems, or cellular communication pathways, that are associated with stress.

    The stress-sensing pathways may play a role in the proliferation of these rogue cells into killer T cells. Stress, injury, and the ensuing effects of old age all have strong ties to one another. Now that the link to autoimmunity has been established.

    The findings of the researchers have the potential to aid in the development of screening technologies that physicians may use to sequence the whole genome of every cell in a blood sample, in order to determine which cells are more likely to become cancerous or otherwise malignant.

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    It is unclear if rogue killer T cells play a role in all autoimmune disorders or what percentage of persons with rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune ailments have rogue cells and STAT3 mutations, but this is an area that needs more research.

    Sources:

    Christopher C. Goodnow, STAT3 gain-of-function mutations connect leukemia with autoimmune disease by pathological dysregulation and accumulation of NKG2Dhi CD8+ T cells, Immunity (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2022.11.001

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-rogue-immune-cells-linked-leukemia.html


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  • A potential vaccination against the microorganisms that can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs)


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    White blood cells seen under a microscope from a urine sample.
    By Bobjgalindo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5652287

    In order to combat uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC), the bacteria responsible for most cases of urinary tract infections (UTIs), a team of scientists from Duke University have created a vaccine. The team explains the development of their vaccine and the results of tests on mice and rabbits in a study published in Science Advances.

    Urinary tract infections affect primarily females and cause excruciating discomfort when urinating, as well as additional problems that, if left untreated, can be fatal. Typically, antibiotics are used to treat such illnesses. Some women get persistent infections, resulting in repeated UTI episodes each year.

    When this happens, it’s problematic to keep giving out antibiotics, as they wipe out the good bacteria in the gut and can lead to a host of other gastrointestinal issues. The researchers in this study took a novel strategy to treating UTIs by avoiding broad-spectrum antibiotics in favor of a medication that kills only the culprit bacteria.

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    Medical professionals have struggled for years to develop an effective vaccine against urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to the cellular mucosa that lines the oral and urinary tracts. Researchers attempted multiple strategies, including the modification of medicines with enhanced mucosal penetration, to address this issue.

    By exposing the immune system to three peptides found on the surface of UPEC, they were able to create a type of peptide nanofiber that could not only enter the mucosa but also teach the immune system to recognize and attack UPEC. Due to the similarity between the mucous membranes lining the mouth and the urine tract, it was discovered that the vaccine administration strategy induced an immune response in the urinary tract. The team’s pills dissolve in the mouth and are taken underneath the tongue.

    The researchers found that their vaccination was equally effective as standard antibiotics and that repeated administration did not cause intestinal discomfort when tested on mice and rabbits. Antibiotic resistance could be slowed if the vaccination is shown to be effective in humans. This would significantly reduce the quantity of antibiotics used to treat infections.

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    Sources:

    Sean H. Kelly et al. (2022). A sublingual nanofiber vaccine to prevent urinary tract infections, Science AdvancesDOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abq4120

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-vaccine-bacteria-utis.html


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  • Five new black coral species were discovered by researchers a few thousand feet below the surface near the Great Barrier Reef


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    underwater photography of fish
    Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

    With the use of a remote-controlled submarine, researchers have found five new species of black corals in the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, situated off the coast of Australia.

    Some species of black coral can live for almost 4,000 years, and they can be found growing in seas as shallow as a few feet deep and as deep as over 25,000 feet. Some of these corals are straight as a sword, while others have many branches and resemble feathers, fans, or shrubs. Black corals are filter feeders, meaning they consume the plentiful zooplankton found in deep waters, as opposed to their colorful, shallow-water relatives, which rely on the light and photosynthesis for energy.

    In 2019 and 2020, a researcher explored the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea with a team of Australian scientists using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) submarine from the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Their  mission was to gather coral samples from depths of 130 feet to 6,000 feet (40 meters to 1,800 meters) in order to better understand the diversity of coral species found in these seas. Dredging and trawling were once common practices for extracting corals from the region’s depths, but they often resulted in the corals’ destruction.

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    To see and securely harvest deep sea corals in their natural habitats, these researchers were the first to send a robot to these specific deep-water ecosystems during their two missions. The researchers  logged 31 dives and brought back 60 pieces of black coral. Using the rover’s robotic claws, they had carefully pry the corals from the sand on the floor or the wall of the reef, deposit them in a pressurized, temperature-controlled storage box, and then transport the box to the surface. After that, the researchers did things like sequence the corals’ DNA and look at their morphological characteristics.

    Five new species were discovered among the many fascinating specimens, including one growing on the shell of a nautilus more than 2,500 feet (760 meters) below the ocean’s surface.

    Black corals, like the colorful reefs they inspire at shallower waters, provide crucial habitats for fish and invertebrates by providing food and a place to hide from predators in an otherwise lifeless environment. For instance, in 2005, off the coast of California, researchers gathered a single black coral colony that was home to 2,554 different species of invertebrates.

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    The deep water may be home to many more species than was previously believed, according to new research. Only about 300 species of black corals have been described so far, so the team’s discovery of five new species in a relatively small area was both unexpected and thrilling. Illegal collection of black corals for the jewelry trade threatens many populations. Researchers need to know what species reside at these depths and the ranges of specific species in order to undertake wise conservation of these fascinating and hard-to-reach ecosystems.

    Scientists continue to find new creatures in the deep water with each expedition they undertake. The best thing scientists can do to learn more about the species that reside there and their distribution is to simply explore more.

    Since few deep-sea black coral specimens have been found and so many undescribed species are probably still out there, there is also a lot to learn about the evolutionary tree of corals. The more species that are discovered by scientists, the more we will learn about their evolutionary history, including how they have survived at least four great extinction catastrophes.

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    Next, the researchers continue their exploration of the ocean floor. Most of the black coral species known to science have not yet had their DNA collected. Scientists  hope to better understand and conserve the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reef ecosystems in the Coral Sea by visiting other deep reefs on future expeditions.

    Sources:

    JEREMY HOROWITZ et al. (2022). Five new species of black coral (Anthozoa; Antipatharia) from the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, Australia, ZootaxaDOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.5213.1.1

    https://phys.org/news/2022-11-scientists-species-black-corals-thousands.html


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  • Spinal cord injuries have better outcomes when treated with stem cell transplants and regenerative therapy together


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    Spinal cord injuries have better outcomes when treated with stem cell transplants
    By Pdevesap – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45324227

    Spinal cord injuries have better outcomes when treated with stem cell transplants and regenerative therapy together

    Recently, researchers have made significant progress in utilizing animal models to implant neural stem cells or grafts to enhance tissue regeneration in spinal cord injuries (SCI). Various studies have demonstrated that extensive physical rehabilitation can enhance function after SCI by encouraging expanded or alternative functions for surviving cells and neural networks.

    In a new publication published in the journal JCI Insight on August 22, 2022, researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine investigate the hypothesis that the addition of pro-regenerative therapies like stem cell grafting to rehabilitation improves functional outcomes.

    Scientists used a rat model to study how a cervical lesion affected the animal’s ability to grasp with its upper limbs. Animals were split into four groups: those that only underwent the lesion, those that underwent the lesion and a subsequent grafting of neural stem cells designed to grow and connect to existing nerves, those that underwent rehabilitation only, and those that underwent both stem cell therapy and rehabilitation.

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    Some of the animals began their rehabilitation therapy one month after their injuries occurred, which is roughly when people with SCI are admitted to rehabilitation facilities. Animals were rewarded with food pellets every day as part of their rehabilitation, which involved a series of regular tasks designed to improve their gripping abilities.

    Researchers showed that rehabilitation accelerated the recovery of forelimb grasping ability when applied one month after damage, and that grafting helped injured corticospinal axons regenerate at the lesion location.

    First author Paul Lu, PhD, associate adjunct professor of neuroscience at UC San San Diego School of Medicine and research health science specialist at the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System commented that these new findings demonstrate that rehabilitation plays a crucial role in enhancing functional recovery when coupled with a pro-regenerative treatment, such as a neural stem cell transplant.

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    When compared to the current standard of care for persons with SCI, the researchers identified a remarkably powerful advantage of intense physical therapy when administered as a daily routine.

    UC San Diego School of Medicine professor of neurosciences and head of the Translational Neuroscience Institute Mark H. Tuszynski, MD, PhD, and colleagues have been working for a long time to solve the complicated issues of treating SCIs and restoring function.

    Example: in 2020, researchers reported on the beneficial effects of neural stem cell transplants in rats, while in 2019 they presented 3D-printed implantable scaffolding that would encourage nerve cell proliferation.

    The medical community has yet to fully address the issue of spinal cord injury. Approximately 18,000 people in the United States sustain SCIs annually, and another 294,000 people are living with a SCI, most often resulting in permanent paralysis or decreased physical function such as loss of bladder control or difficulties in breathing.

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    After spinal cord injury, there is a significant unmet need to better regenerative therapy.  In the next two years, researchers plan to conduct human clinical trials using the findings from this study in the hopes that they would pave the way for a new treatment method including the combination of neural stem cell grafts and rehabilitation.

    Sources:

    University of California – San Diego. (2022, October 28). Stem cell grafts and rehabilitation combined boost spinal cord injury results. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221028121015.htm

    Paul Lu, Camila M. Freria, Lori Graham, Amanda N. Tran, Ashley Villarta, Dena Yassin, J. Russell Huie, Adam R. Ferguson, Mark H. Tuszynski. Rehabilitation combined with neural progenitor cell grafts enables functional recovery in chronic spinal cord injury. JCI Insight, 2022; 7 (16) DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.158000


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    Research Summary: Differential Gene Expression in the EphA4 Knockout Spinal Cord and Analysis of the Inflammatory Response Following Spinal Cord Injury

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  • Understanding the role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella populations


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    role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella
    By NIAID: These high-resolution (300 dpi) images may be downloaded directly from this site., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=450281

    Understanding the role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella populations

    It has been discovered by researchers at the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia how resistance has facilitated the spread of virulent Salmonella variants. Some bacteria and viruses have developed resistance to antibiotics and bacteriophages, which might provide them a temporary survival advantage.

    New strategies to tackle disease-causing germs are being sought as antibiotic resistance rises.

    Researchers are exploring viruses as a potential source of information to fight bacteria. Some viruses can only multiply by attaching to bacteria, and there are more of them on Earth than there are stars in the galaxy. Because they are effective at eliminating their bacterial hosts, bacteriophages might become one of the new tools in the battle against bacterial illnesses.

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    Salmonella bacteria play an important factor in the spread of illness over the world. Salmonella entericaserovar Typhimurium (S. Typhimurium) is a member of the Salmonella genus that causes sickness in humans and animals and is responsible for 78 million annual cases of illness worldwide.

    The ability of Salmonella Typhimurium to undergo genetic changes and hence overcome resistance is largely responsible for the bacteria’s widespread success. As a result, related strains come and go in waves, dominating for about a decade before being replaced by others. It’s like attempting to strike a moving target to create new treatments to combat these strains, as they may be more resistant to previous attempts of controlling them.

    Researchers led by Professor Rob Kingsley of the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia have been investigating the genome of Salmonella to learn more about the bacteria’s resilience and how mutations in the genetic code have given certain strains an advantage. For instance, research from 2021 showed how Salmonella finds its niche in the pig industry.

    Now, in a new study published in Microbial Genomics, researchers have examined the impact of bacteriophage resistance on Salmonella populations in the wild and how this predator-prey relationship has co-evolved through time.

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    In addition to preying on bacteria, bacteriophages may also aid in the transfer of genetic material across different bacterial species, making the interaction between them rather complicated. The reason for this is because phages can play a role in a process known as phage-mediated transduction, which facilitates the spread of genetic variety and the transmission of resistance genes across bacterial populations.

    Like antibiotics, the clue to understanding the possible development of resistance to phage therapy is in how resistance develops in nature. The researchers said that there is a resurging interest in the use of phages as a substitute or as an accompaniment to antibiotic treatment for bacterial infections.

    Researchers analyzed entire genome sequences of strains acquired from human and animal illnesses over the past few decades in collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA).

    They discovered that Salmonella strains that are particularly well-adapted to life in animals are also the kinds most likely to cause sickness in people. This bacterium’s phage-resistance seems to have aided its ability to colonize novel ecosystems.

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    Current dominant strain ST34 is not only resistant to numerous medications, but also displays increased resistance to bacteriophage infection compared to its predecessors. This is likely attributable to the organism having acquired phage genetic material into its genome, a move that conferred upon it a higher level of resistance to bacteriophage attack.

    However, this creates a fascinating paradox since bacteria that have developed resistance to phages are less likely to acquire new genetic material via phage-mediated transduction, which might include resistance genes. Could the temporary benefit of phage resistance result in the permanent loss of adaptability, rendering bacteria vulnerable to social interventions and perhaps novel antimicrobial treatments? Data from surveillance reveals this might pave the way for the formation of a new clone that would eventually replace the existing one.

    Genomic monitoring of these bacteria and their bacteriophages is essential to detect and respond to any new dangers, no matter what the circumstances. The researchers have a greater chance of mitigating the risks posed to human health by these bacteria if we understand how they co-evolve.

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    Sources:

    Oliver J. Charity et al. (2022). Increased phage resistance through lysogenic conversion accompanying emergence of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium ST34 pandemic strain, Microbial GenomicsDOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000897

    https://phys.org/news/2022-11-bacteriophage-resistance-salmonella-populations.html


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    Understanding the role of bacteriophage resistance in shaping Salmonella populations

    It has been discovered by researchers at the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia how resistance has facilitated the spread of virulent Salmonella variants. Some bacteria and viruses have developed resistance to antibiotics and bacteriophages, which might provide them a temporary survival advantage. New strategies to tackle disease-causing germs are being sought as … Continue reading

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    Abstract Across all kingdoms of biological life, protein-coding genes exhibit unequal usage of synonymous codons. Although alternative theories abound, translational selection has been accepted as an important mechanism that shapes the patterns of codon usage in prokaryotes and simple eukaryotes. Here we analyze patterns of codon usage across 74 diverse bacteriophages that infect E. coli, … Continue reading

  • Stem cells were sent into space by the Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California, San Diego


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    stem cells sent to space earth planet
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    Stem cells were sent into space by the Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California, San Diego

    After spending a year aboard the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Scott Kelly underwent a series of tests upon his return to Earth that found abnormalities in his blood cells consistent with pre-leukemic conditions. Before, these kinds of cellular abnormalities have been seen in blood, but only after years of human aging had passed.

    There is mounting evidence that the weightless environment of space can imitate and accelerate the aging process in human stem cells, especially those that are responsible for the production of blood cells. However, not only the knowledge of this process helpful for preserving the health of astronauts, but it also has the potential to teach us how to delay the consequences of aging here on Earth.

    The Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California, San Diego conducted the world’s first space launch of hematopoietic (blood) stem cells on November 22, 2022. As part of UC San Diego’s Integrated Space Stem Cell Orbital Research (ISSCOR) Center, which was founded with support from the JM Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, stem cells have been sent aboard the ISS for the third time.

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    According to Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, director of the Sanford Stem Cell Institute and Koman Family Presidential Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at UC San Diego School of Medicine, ISSCOR is teaching them a lot about how space and aging may affect stem cell biology. However, if they can’t reproduce the results, they don’t have a scientific advance.  The researchers sent stem cells into space for the third time, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that this will be a successful mission.

    The researchers aim for this launch is to bring rigor and repeatability to these studies, said Jessica Pham, manager of the ISSCOR Center. They are utilizing gravity to generate gravitas.

    Jamieson’s and his colleagues’ research has shown that stem cells age differently in different people; however, scientists are still trying to determine how much of this variation can be attributed to hardwired genetic factors and how much can be attributed to the unique microenvironment that exists within each person’s body.

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    For instance, research has shown that when the environment of the bone marrow gets inflamed, this can impose stress on blood stem cells that are in the process of growing and damage their DNA. This can eventually lead to pre-leukemic blood diseases.

    It is increasingly clear that the way stem cells age depends on what they are exposed to, and the more the researchers understand this process, the more precisely they can intercept the development of cancer and turn back the clock on human aging. In other words, stem cells age differently depending on what they are exposed to.

    Researchers at the Sanford Stem Cell Institute went to utilize space as a kind of “aging accelerator.” First, they are going to make sure that the weightless environment precisely simulates human aging, and then they are going to use that information to further deconstruct the aging process. Without having to rely on time-consuming and costly clinical studies tracking earthbound individuals as they age, the project will provide scientists and doctors with crucial information that will further their understanding of stem cell aging.

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    The trials mark the beginning of an expanding scientific activity in space, which, thanks to the regulated conditions and rapid speed, has the potential to make steps forward in a variety of subdisciplines of the health sciences. In further missions, researchers plan to investigate not just partial aspects of stem cell biology but also the aging process in several different types of tissues, including the liver and the brain.

    Sources:

    https://today.ucsd.edu/story/uc-san-diego-sanford-stem-cell-institute-launches-stem-cells-into-space


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    ABSTRACT The cellular ontogeny of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) remains poorly understood because their isolation from and their identification in early developing small embryos are difficult. We attempted to dissect early developmental stages of HSCs using an in vitro mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation system combined with inducible HOXB4 expression. Here we report the … Continue reading

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    Introduction to stem cells and regenerative medicine. Kolios G, Moodley Y.

  • Why and how fungus produce dangerous poisons that might contaminate food


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    shallow focus photography of orange and white mushrooms during daytime
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    Why and how fungus produce dangerous poisons that might contaminate food

    The consumption of food that has been contaminated with fungus can, at best, be an annoyance, and at worst, it can be fatal. However, recent study has shown that eliminating only one protein might leave certain fungal toxins powerless, which could be considered to be positive news for the safety of food.

    Certain fungi are responsible for the production of poisonous substances known as mycotoxins. These chemicals not only cause food to become spoiled, such as grains, but they may also make people sick. People who are exposed to aflatoxins, which are one of the more harmful forms of mycotoxins, have an increased risk of developing liver cancer as well as other health issues.

    Ozgür Bayram, a researcher who studies fungi at Maynooth University in Ireland, describes mold as a “silent threat” because most people are unaware that food like maize or wheat has gone bad.

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    Researchers have known for many years that some fungi are responsible for the production of these poisons; however, they were unaware of all the specifics. Now, Bayram and his colleagues have isolated a collection of proteins that are accountable for activating the formation of mycotoxins. According to the findings that were published in the edition of Nucleic Acids Research that was dated September 23, genetic engineering the fungus Aspergillus nidulans to delete even just one of the proteins is sufficient to stop the production of the toxins.

    Felicia Wu, a food safety expert at Michigan State University in East Lansing who was not involved in the research, said that there is a long string of genes that is involved with the production of proteins that, in a cascading effect, will result in the production of different mycotoxins. There is a long string of genes that is involved with the production of proteins.

    According to Bayram, the newly discovered proteins function much like the key that is used to start an automobile. The researchers intended to find a way to get rid of the key and stop the beginning signal from being transmitted, which would ensure that no toxins would be produced in the first place.

    The proteins that make up A. nidulans were analyzed by Bayram and his colleagues, and the results showed that the key is composed of four different proteins working together. The scientists modified the genetic make-up of the fungus such that it would eliminate each protein in turn. According to the findings of the research team, mycotoxin ignition is prevented if any one of the four proteins is absent.

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    Deactivating the same group of proteins in the closely related fungus A. flavus, which is capable of producing aflatoxins, stops the generation of those toxins, according to Bayram’s findings from another work that has not yet been published. According to the researchers, this is a huge success since they see that the same protein complex does the same job in at least two fungi.

    According to Wu, building upon a set of study that has been done over decades is what the current research is doing to prevent the contamination of food by fungi. The remediation of such contamination already makes use of a wide variety of strategies. According to Wu’s explanation, one approach for preventing contamination is to sprinkle harmless strains of A. flavus over fields of corn and peanuts. This is possible due to the fact that not all strains of A. flavus generate aflatoxins. These fungi reproduce quickly and have the potential to stop other harmful strains from establishing a foothold in the area.

    Researchers are employing genetic engineering in a variety of different methods to attempt to battle the poisons found in food, and this research is just one of those approaches.  The newly discovered information may one day be put to use by genetically modifying a fungus that produces toxins and then applying it, for example, to agricultural crops or in other contexts. The researchers According to Bayram,we can virtually prevent aflatoxin contamination in food, for example, in the field, even in the warehouses, where a lot of contamination takes place. This statement was made in reference to the food industry.

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    It is believed that fungus and organisms similar to fungi that are known as water molds are responsible for destroying one third of the world’s food crops each year. Bayram predicts that the amount of food that might be saved if the contamination could be stopped would be sufficient to feed 800 million people in the year 2022.

    According to Wu, the newly published research is an encouraging step in the right direction; but, it will continue to be a struggle to attempt to understand how this may be operationalized for agricultural objectives.  According to her, it is not certain how scalable the process is, and it may be difficult to persuade regulatory officials in the United States to accept the use of a genetically modified fungus on important food crops.

    Sources:

    Betim Karahoda, Lakhansing Pardeshi, Mevlut Ulas, Zhiqiang Dong, Niranjan Shirgaonkar, Shuhui Guo, Fang Wang, Kaeling Tan, Özlem Sarikaya-Bayram, Ingo Bauer, Paul Dowling, Alastair B Fleming, Brandon T Pfannenstiel, Dianiris Luciano-Rosario, Harald Berger, Stefan Graessle, Mohamed M Alhussain, Joseph Strauss, Nancy P Keller, Koon Ho Wong, Özgür Bayram, The KdmB-EcoA-RpdA-SntB chromatin complex binds regulatory genes and coordinates fungal development with mycotoxin synthesis, Nucleic Acids Research, Volume 50, Issue 17, 23 September 2022, Pages 9797–9813, https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkac744


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    Ecology and Evolution of Insect-Fungus Mutualisms. Biedermann PHW, Vega FE.