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Archive - Nov 15, 2015

Hopkins Physicians Successfully Treat 2-Year-Old with Highly Virulent, Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB); Case Highlights Serious Challenges of Monitoring and Treating Pediatric TB

Johns Hopkins Children's Center medical specialists report they have successfully treated and put in remission a 2-year-old girl, now age 5, with a highly virulent form of tuberculosis known as extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR TB). The case, researchers say, provides the first detailed account of a young child in the United States diagnosed and treated for XDR TB. The mycobacterium pathogen’s resistance to most known TB drugs render it particularly challenging to treat in anyone, but even more so in children, the Johns Hopkins team says, with only a handful of cases of children younger than 5 described in the medical literature worldwide. Despite the successful outcome, the Johns Hopkins experts say the child's case underscores the shape-shifting nature of a mycobacterium increasingly resistant to drugs, and the serious challenges of monitoring and treating pediatric TB. "We are thrilled that our patient is doing so well," says Johns Hopkins Children's Center pediatrician and TB expert Sanjay Jain, M.D. "But at the same time, this is a wake-up call to the realities of TB." In an account of the case, published online on November 16, 2015 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the Johns Hopkins team describes the hurdles they faced throughout the child's treatment along with several "pearls" of clinical wisdom gleaned from it. The article is titled “Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in a Young Child After Travel to India.” Note that the article abstract (link below) includes a video related to this report. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the mycobacterium responsible for TB, is estimated to cause almost 10 million new cases of TB disease worldwide each year, with strains impervious to drug therapies rapidly spreading.

“Non-Invasive Cancer Diagnostics Market, 2015-2030”--Comprehensive Report Now Available; Liquid Biopsy Via Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs), Circulating Tumor DNA (ctDNA), and Exosomes a Major Focus

On November 9, 2015, the availability of a comprehensive new report “Non-Invasive Cancer Diagnostics Market, 2015-2030” was announced. Primarily driven by liquid biopsy, the report states, the non-invasive cancer diagnostics market is anticipated to grow aggressively at a healthy annual growth rate of 44% between 2015 and 2030. Prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and lung cancer are likely to be the key indications which will drive the market; combined, these are expected to account for over 70% of the total liquid biopsy market in 2030. Cancer is an extremely complex disease and medical science is still struggling to figure out the factors influencing the disease origin, propagation, spread (metastasis), and relapse. In addition to satisfying the unmet market need for advanced and efficient treatment interventions, cancer prevention, early detection, and management are extremely important. The high cancer mortality rate is primarily due to delay in detection of the disease. Early diagnosis and screening makes it possible to cure the disease completely and/or increase survival rates. Over the years, various technological advances have helped medical professionals understand cancer better. Recent research in cancer biology has led to significant innovation in the development of a number of new diagnostic tools. These modern diagnostic techniques can help detect and classify cancer with increased accuracy and sensitivity. It is also important to highlight that the cost of management and treatment of cancer is a growing concern considering its generally highly progressive and often fatal nature.

Single-Molecule DNA Sequencing Enables ID of Putative Coffee Rust Mycoparasites; Coffee Rust Fungus Is Ravaging Latin America Coffee Plantations; Mycoparasites of Coffee Rust May Aid Biocontrol

Coffee rust has ravaged Latin American plantations for several years, leading to reductions in annual coffee production of up to 30 percent in some countries and threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers in the region. A new study by University of Michigan (U-M) researchers suggests that the coffee plants themselves may hold biological weapons that might someday be harnessed in the fight against the coffee rust fungal pathogen. Those potential weapons are themselves also fungi, a surprisingly diverse community of more than 300 species of them--including 15 likely fungal parasites--living on coffee leaves, within or alongside the yellow blotches (image) that mark coffee rust lesions. Using an old-fashioned handheld paper punch, U-M researchers collected leaf samples from both infected and uninfected coffee leaves at coffee farms in Chiapas, Mexico, and in Puerto Rico. They found up to 69 fungal species living on a single quarter-inch-diameter leaf disc from uninfected leaves and up to 62 species on rust-infected leaf discs, according to Timothy James, Ph.D., a U-M mycologist and lead author of a paper published online on November 13, 2015 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The paper is titled “Identification of Putative Coffee Rust Mycoparasites Using Single Molecule DNA Sequencing of Infected Pustules." "Latin America is experiencing unprecedented epidemics of coffee rust, so identification of its natural enemies could aid in developing management strategies or in pinpointing species that could be used for biocontrol," said Dr. James, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) at U-M.

Capricor Therapeutics Announces Third Quarter 2015 Financial Results; Heart Disease Programs on Cardiosphere-Derived Cells (CAP-1002), Natriuretic Peptide Receptor Agonist (Cenderitide), & Exosomes Described; CMO Appointed

On November 12, 2015, Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: CAPR), a biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of first-in-class therapeutics, announced its business and financial update for the third quarter ended September 30, 2015. Operational highlights included presentation of the company’s positive six-month DYNAMIC (Dilated cardiomyopathy Intervention with Allogeneic MyocardIally-Regenerative Cells) clinical trial results of its cardiosphere derived cell (CDC) therapy, CAP-1002, for the treatment of advanced heart failure. In addition, the company appointed Deborah Ascheim, M.D., as its Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Ascheim is a heart failure cardiologist with significant experience directing national and international clinical trials. "We have made significant advances for the CAP-1002 clinical development program this quarter," said Linda Marban (photo), Ph.D., the President, CEO, and Dirctor of Capricor. "Data from the DYNAMIC clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions earlier this week confirmed the bioactivity of our CDC therapy as seen in earlier clinical trials. In addition, the multi-vessel intracoronary infusion technique used in the DYNAMIC trial was safe and well tolerated and will be used in our HOPE-Duchenne clinical trial, which is now open for enrollment. We are encouraged by the concordance of the clinical data with the physiologic outcomes in the previous CDC clinical trials, CADUCEUS, ALLSTAR and now DYNAMIC, and are hopeful that the reduction of scarring in damaged hearts will also translate into positive outcomes for DMD-related cardiomyopathy patients in the HOPE-Duchenne clinical trial." In its announcement, Capricor also gave an update of its Clinical Development Program.

Small, Fast-Reproducing Fish Are Virtually Only Fish After End-Devonian Mass Extinction; Body Size Declined for 40 Million Years; No Association Seen Between Body Size and Oxygen Levels or Temperature; Ecological Factors Deemed Critical

When times are good, it pays to be the big fish in the sea; in the aftermath of disaster, however, smaller is better. According to new research led by the University of Pennsylvania's (Penn’s) Lauren Sallan, Ph.D., a mass extinction 359 million years ago known as the Hangenberg event (End-Devonian mass extinction) triggered a drastic and lasting transformation of Earth's vertebrate community. Beforehand, large creatures were the norm, but, for at least 40 million years following the die-off, the oceans were dominated by markedly smaller fish. "Rather than having this thriving ecosystem of large things, you may have one gigantic relic, but otherwise, everything is the size of a sardine," said Dr. Sallan, an Assistant Professor in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science in the School of Arts & Sciences. The finding, which suggests that small, fast-reproducing fish possessed an evolutionary advantage over larger animals in the disturbed, post-extinction environment, may have implications for trends we see in modern species today, such as in fish populations, many of which are crashing due to overfishing. The research was reported in the Novemeber 13, 2015 issue of Science. The article is titled “Body-Size Reduction in Vertebrates Following the End-Devonian Mass Extinction.” This article is accompanied by a Perspective piece (link below) in the same issue of Science. That piece is titled “One Era You Are In—The Next You Are Out.” Paleontologists and evolutionary biologists have long debated the reasons behind changes in animal body sizes. One of the main theories is known as Cope's rule, which states that the body size of a particular group of species tends to increase over time because of the evolutionary advantages of being larger, which include avoiding predation and being better able to catch prey.

New-Design, Re-Usable Biosensor with Graphene-Oxide Linking Layer Increases SPR Sensitivity >10X; Expected to “Revolutionize Pharmaceutical BioDetection"--DNA Hybridization Studies Described; Patent Filed by Moscow Scientists

Graphene is the first truly two-dimensional crystal, which was obtained experimentally and investigated regarding its unique chemical and physical properties. In 2010, two alimni of the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology MIPT), Dr. Andre Geim and Dr. Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for ground-breaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene." There has now been a considerable increase in the number of research studies aimed at finding commercial applications for graphene and other two-dimensional materials. One of the most promising applications for graphene is thought to be biomedical technologies, which is what researchers from the Laboratory of Nanooptics and Plasmonics at the MIPT's Center of Excellence for Nanoscale Optoelectronics are currently investigating. Label-free biosensors are relatively new in biochemical and pharmaceutical laboratories, and have made work much easier. The sensors enable researchers to detect low concentrations of biologically significant molecular substances (RNA, DNA, proteins, including antibodies and antigens, viruses, and bacteria) and study their chemical properties. Unlike other biochemical methods, fluorescent or radioactive labels are not needed for these biosensors, which makes it easier to conduct an experiment, and also reduces the likelihood of erroneous data due to the effects that labels have on biochemical reactions. The main applications of this technology are in pharmaceutical and scientific research, medical diagnostics, food quality control, and the detection of toxins. Label-free biosensors have already proven themselves as a method of obtaining the most reliable data on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs in pre-clinical studies.