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Archive - Mar 16, 2017

Atlantic Cancer Research Institute Signs Non-Exclusive License Agreement with BioVendor for Liquid Biopsy Enabling Technology Based on Vn96 Capture of Extracellular Vesicles (EVs)

On March 15, 2017, the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute (ACRI) announced an agreement with BioVendor – Laboratorní medicína a.s. to license its patented intellectual property for the use of the Vn96 synthetic peptide in liquid biopsy applications. The agreement gives BioVendor non-exclusive rights to use the Vn96 peptide for the isolation of extracellular vesicles (EVs) for the diagnosis of diseases, such as cancer. EVs, which include exosomes, are small, cell-derived particles that are present within body fluids such as plasma and urine. EVs can contain a sample of the DNA, RNA, protein, lipids, and metabolites found within the cells from which they are derived and therefore are a valuable source of biomarkers that reflect the real-time state of both healthy and diseased cells. The Vn96 synthetic peptide, developed by ACRI and New England Peptide Inc. (Gardner, Massachusetts), is recognized as one of the leading technologies that enables EV capture from body fluids. Liquid biopsy is a precision medicine technology that offers physicians and health professionals the ability to test a patient in real time to obtain multi-parametric biomarker information and guide therapeutic choices. The Vn96 peptide enables liquid biopsy by providing a fast and reproducible method for the isolation of EVs, and the information that they contain, which is clinically amenable and requires minimal specialized equipment. BioVendor - Laboratorni medicina a.s. was established in the Czech Republic in 1992 as a distributor of clinical chemistry and life science laboratory products. The BioVendor Research and Diagnostic Products Division is an innovative biotechnology company focused on the development and manufacture of in vitro diagnostics and for-research-use immunoassays, recombinant proteins, and antibodies.

Deficiency of SPRED2 Protein May Be a Cause of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Some people have an extreme fear of dirt or bacteria. As a result, they may develop a habit of compulsive washing and repeatedly cleaning their hands or body. They are trapped in a vicious circle, as the fear of new contamination returns quickly after washing. Sufferers see no way out. They are even incapable of changing their behavior when the excessive washing has led to skin irritation or damage. Approximately two percent of the general population suffer from some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) at least once in their life. The disorder is characterized by persistent intrusive thoughts which the sufferers try to compensate for by repetitive ritualized behavior. Like depression, eating disorders, and other mental diseases, OCD is treated with antidepressants. However, the drugs are non-specific, that is they are not tailored to the respective disease. Therefore, scientists have been looking for new and better targeted therapies that have fewer side-effects. Professor Kai Schuh from the Institute of Physiology at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg (Germany) and his team have explored the underlying causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder in collaboration with the JMU's Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology. "We were able to show in mouse models that the absence of the protein SPRED2 alone can trigger an excessive grooming behavior," Dr. Schuh says. He believes that this finding is crucial as no clear trigger for this type of disorder has been identified until now. Previous research pointed to multiple factors being responsible for developing OCD. Occurring in all cells of the body, the protein SPRED2 is found in particularly high concentrations in regions of the brain, namely in the basal ganglia and the amygdala.

New Plant Research Solves Colorful Mystery

Research led by scientists at the John Innes Centre has solved a long-standing mystery by deducing how and why strange yet colorful structures called “anthocyanic vacuolar inclusions” (AVIs) occur in some plants. Pansy petals, blueberries, and autumn leaves all have something in common - their characteristic purple, blue, and orange-red colors are all caused by the accumulation of pigment molecules called anthocyanins. As well as contributing to a wide range of plant colors, the patterns and shading caused by anthocyanins can help to guide pollinators towards flowers, or animals towards fruits for seed dispersal. Anthocyanins also help to protect plants against the destructive photo-oxidative damage that can be caused by various stresses including high levels of ultraviolet light. It has been known for some time that anthocyanins accumulate in the vacuoles of plant cells and, being soluble, they are usually uniformly distributed throughout the vacuole. However, previous research has also noted that, in some plants, distinct, densely colored clusters of anthocyanins can form within vacuoles. Until now, it was not known how these unusual AVIs formed - or indeed why. However, a study led by the John Innes Centre's Professor Cathie Martin and published online on March 16, 2017 in the journal Current Biology, reveals new understanding of the molecular mechanisms underpinning the formation of AVIs. The open-access article is titled “'Aromatic Decoration Determines the Formation of Anthocyanic Vacuolar Inclusions.” Several other John Innes Centre researchers were also involved in the research, along with international collaborators from China, New Zealand, and Norway.

Anti-Wolbachia Drug Regimen Using Rifampicin Could Reduce Treatment Times for Elephantiasis & River Blindness to 1-2 Weeks

On March 16, 2017, scientists from the A·WOL Consortium based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine published online an open-access paper entitled “Short-Course, High-Dose Rifampicin Achieves Wolbachia Depletion Predictive of Curative Outcomes in Preclinical Models of Lymphatic Filariasis and Onchocerciasis” in Scientific Reports. The study explored the development of a shorter treatment regimen, resulting in adult filarial worm death (macrofilaricidal), by using the antibiotic drug rifampicin to target Wolbachia. Unlike doxycycline, this regimen could be safely administered to pregnant women and children. Professor Mark Taylor, corresponding author on the paper, said: "The anti-Wolbachia strategy has proved to be a paradigm-changing therapeutic approach to the treatment of onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). The data in this paper shows that a clinically safe dose of rifampicin can elicit the same result as the standard 4-6-week doxycycline therapy when administered over just 1-2 weeks. What's more, the fact that it is also safe for children and during pregnancy means that interventions are more likely to benefit the community as a whole, taking us one step closer to the WHO's ambition to control and eliminate these terrible diseases." Previously published findings by the authors have shown that a 4-week course of the tetracycline antibiotic, doxycycline, depletes Wolbachia populations in onchocerciasis and leads to long-term sterilization and a macrofilaricidal effect, whereas a 3-week course of doxycycline delivers sub-optimal effects. This treatment regimen would be compatible for use in children and during pregnancy and, because of the shortened duration of administration required, would be more readily deliverable by health care systems in resource-poor community settings.

How Do Ebola Virus Proteins Released in Exosomes Affect the Immune System?

Cells infected by the deadly Ebola virus may release viral proteins such as VP40 packaged in exosomes, which, as new research indicates, can affect immune cells throughout the body impairing their ability to combat the infection and to seek out and destroy hidden virus. The potential for exosomal VP40 to have a substantial impact on Ebola virus disease is examined in a review article published online on February 6, 2017 in DNA and Cell Biology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers. The article is available free on the DNA and Cell Biology website until April 13, 2017 (http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/dna.2017.3639). In the article, entitled "The Role of Exosomal VP40 in Ebola Virus Disease," Michelle Pleet, Catherine DeMarino, and Fatha Kashanchi, of George Mason University, Benjamin Lepene, of Ceres Nanosciences, Manassas, Virginia, and M. Javad Aman, Integrated BioTherapeutics, Gaithersburg, Maryland, discuss the latest research on the effects of the Ebola VP40 matrix protein on the immune system. The authors suggest that in addition to VP40, additional viral proteins may also be packaged in the membrane-bound exosomal vesicles, intensifying the damaging effects on immune cells. "Starting in December 2013, Ebola re-emerged in Western Africa and devastated the population of three countries, prompting an international response of physicians and of basic and translational scientists. This epidemic led to the development of new vaccines, therapeutics, and insights into disease pathogenesis and epidemiology," says Carol Shoshkes Reiss, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of DNA and Cell Biology and Professor, Departments of Biology and Neural Science, and Global Public Health at New York University, NY.