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January 22nd

Developmental Origins of Eczema & Psoriasis Discovered; Results Provide Completely New Understanding of Inflammatory Diseases, Open Up New Avenues for Research on Other Inflammatory Diseases Such As Rheumatoid Arthritis & Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Scientists have created a highly detailed map of skin, which reveals that cellular processes from development are re-activated in cells from patients with inflammatory skin disease. The researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Newcastle University, and Kings College London, all in the UK, discovered that skin from eczema and psoriasis patients share many of the same molecular pathways as developing skin cells. This offers potential new drug targets for treating these painful skin diseases. Published in the January 22, 2021 issue of Science, the study also provides a completely new understanding of inflammatory disease, opening up new avenues for research on other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The Science article is titled “Developmental Cell Programs Are Co-Opted In Inflammatory Skin Disease.” Part of the global Human Cell Atlas effort ( to map every cell type in the human body, the new comprehensive atlas of developing and adult skin is a valuable resource* for scientists worldwide. It could also provide a template for regenerative medicine, helping researchers grow skin in the laboratory more effectively. Our skin acts as a barrier, protecting us against invading bacteria or viruses, and is vital for health. Inflammatory skin diseases such as atopic eczema and psoriasis are chronic conditions, where the immune system becomes overactive, causing itchy or flaky skin that can be very painful and prone to infection. These conditions can have significant impact on people's lives, but the trigger is unknown and there is no cure, with treatments only helping to relieve the symptoms, not the cause. Skin is a complex tissue made up of many different types of cells.

COVID-19 Risk Reduced Up to 80% by Lilly's Neutralizing Monoclonal Antibody Bamlanivimab (LY-Cov555) at Nursing Homes in BLAZE-2 Phase 3 Trial

Bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555), monoclonal antibody, significantly reduced the risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19 among residents and staff of long-term care facilities, Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) announced in Januart 21, 2021. The Phase 3 BLAZE-2 COVID-19 prevention trial--conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN)--enrolled residents and staff at skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, commonly referred to as nursing homes, across the U.S. The 965 participants who tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus at baseline (299 residents and 666 staff) were included in the analysis of primary and key secondary endpoints for assessing prevention, while the 132 participants (41 residents and 91 staff) who tested positive for the virus at baseline were included in exploratory analyses for assessing treatment, adding to the growing body of evidence for treatment with bamlanivimab. All participants were randomized to receive either 4,200 mg of bamlanivimab or placebo. After all participants reached 8 weeks of follow-up, there was a significantly lower frequency of symptomatic COVID-19 (the primary endpoint) in the bamlanivimab treatment arm versus placebo (odds ratio 0.43, p=0.00021). Results for all key secondary endpoints also reached statistical significance in both the overall and resident populations. For the pre-specified subgroup of nursing home residents, there was also a significantly lower frequency of symptomatic COVID-19 in those treated with bamlanivimab versus placebo in this important population (odds ratio 0.20; p=0.00026).

January 21st

Intoxicating Chemicals in Catnip and Silver Vine Protect Felines from Mosquito Bites; Results May Provide Clues to Mosquito Repellant for Humans

Rubbing against catnip and silver vine transfers plant chemicals that researchers have now shown protect cats from mosquitoes. The results also demonstrate that engaging with nepetalactol, which the study identified as the most potent of the many intoxicating iridoid compounds found in silver vine, activates the opioid reward system in both domesticated felines and big jungle cats. While nepetalactol had been previously identified, these studies directly illuminate its extremely potent effect on cats. And, by revealing the biological significance of well-known feline behaviors, this study opens the door to further inquiry into how nepetalactol's twin effects--pest repellence and intoxication--may have driven the evolution of these behaviors. Catnip and silver vine are known to hold a special place in felines' hearts. When cats encounter these plants, they rub their heads and faces against them and roll around on the ground, displaying undeniable enjoyment. Afterward, the cats lounge around in a state of intoxicated repose. But while pet owners around the world gift their cats toys laced with catnip or silver vine leaves, the biological significance of these plants and the neurophysiological mechanism triggered when cats sniff and rub against them has not been known. To investigate, Reiko Uenoyama (Department of Biological Chemistry and Food Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Iwate University, Japan) and colleagues in Japan and the UK, tested how 25 laboratory cats, 30 feral cats, and several captive big cats, including an Amur leopard, two jaguars, and two Eurasian lynx, responded to filter paper impregnated with nepetalactol, finding that the cats showed a more prolonged response than they did with untreated control filter papers. In contrast, dogs and laboratory mice showed no interest in the nepetalactol-containing papers.

New Treatment for Central Nervous System Tumors, Such As Glioblastoma, Enters Phase I Clinical Trials; Peptide Immune Checkpoint Ligand from OX2 Therapeutics Is First-of-Its Kind Cancer Treatment

On January 12, 2021, OX2 Therapeutics, Inc. (, a privately held Minneapolis company, announced that it had treated its first patient in a phase one human trial of a new treatment developed to combat recurrent high-grade brain tumors. “This is a first-of-its kind immunotherapy that works to treat one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers today,” said Christopher Moertel, MD, OX2 Therapeutics, Inc. “Central nervous system cancers are the number one cause of cancer-related mortality in children, and a major cause of morbidity and mortality in adults.” OX2 Therapeutics developed the first immune checkpoint peptide platform targeting the immune system to attack solid tumors. Focusing on high-grade gliomas, OX2 Therapeutics has been treating dogs diagnosed with spontaneous high-grade glioma in a canine clinical trial at the University of Minnesota, Veterinary Hospital. “This is the first therapy Dr. Olin and I have used to significantly extend the life of dogs with high-grade gliomas with no adverse events,” said G. Elisabeth Pluhar, DVM, PhD, Director of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Canine Brain Tumor Program ( The OX2 peptide, known as CD200AR-L, is a single peptide that has the potential to replace the toxic antibody therapies that are currently used to block immune checkpoints,” stated Michael Olin (photo), PhD, OX2 Therapeutics, Inc.

First High-Resolution, Quantitative Tracking of Bacterial Membrane Vesicles (MVs) in Response to Antibiotic Treatment; Results “Will Undoubtedly Open a New Avenue of Research on This Fascinating and Currently Hot Topic"

Once regarded as merely cast-off waste products of cellular life, bacterial membrane vesicles (MVs) have since become an exciting new avenue of research, due to the wealth of biological information they carry to other bacteria, as well as other cell types. These tiny particles, produced by most bacteria, can bud off from outer cellular membranes, traveling along cell surfaces and occasionally migrating into intercellular spaces. Luis Cisneros (, PhD, is a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Biocomputing, Security and Society (, and the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science (, both at Arizona State University (ASU). In a new study, Dr. Cisneros and his colleagues describe the effects of antibiotics on MVs, demonstrating that such drugs actively modify the properties of vesicle transport. Under the influence of antibiotics, MVs were produced and released by bacteria in greater abundance and traveled faster and farther from their origin. The researchers suggest that the altered behaviors of MVs may represent a stress response to the presence of antibiotics and, further, that MVs liberated from the cell membrane may transmit urgent warning signals to neighboring cells and perhaps foster antibiotic resistance. "It's long been believed that membrane vesicles are involved in the cell-cell signaling process leading to changes in the collective behavior of living cells, like the coordination of survival responses due to antibiotic stress," Dr. Cisneros says. "But many details in the dynamics of this process are not yet well understood.

January 20th

Butterfly Wing Clap Explains Mystery of Their Fluttery, Apparently Inefficient Flight; Expelled Air from Pocket Between Cupped Wings Acts Like Expelled Air from Jet Engine, Enabling Highly Efficient Flight

The fluttery flight of butterflies has so far been something of a mystery to researchers, given their unusually large and broad wings relative to their body size. Now researchers at Lund University in Sweden have studied the aerodynamics of butterflies in a wind tunnel. The results suggest that butterflies use a highly effective clap technique, therefore making use of their unique wings. This helps them rapidly take off when escaping predators. The study explains the benefits of both the wing shape and the flexibility of their wings. The Lund researchers studied the wingbeats of freely flying butterflies during take-off in a wind tunnel. During the upward stroke, the wings cup, creating an air-filled pocket between them. When the wings then collide, the air is forced out, resulting in a backward jet that propels the butterflies forward. The downward wingbeat has another function: the butterflies stay in the air and do not fall to the ground. The wings colliding was described by researchers almost 50 years ago, but it is only in this new study that the theory has been tested on real butterflies in free flight. Until now, the common perception has been that butterfly wings are aerodynamically inefficient, however, the researchers suggest that the opposite is actually true. The new study was published online on January 20, 2021 in the Journal of the Royal Society. The open access article is titled “Butterflies Fly Using Efficient Propulsive Clap Mechanism Owing to Flexible Wings.” (Links to videos are provided below.) “That the wings are cupped when butterflies clap them together, makes the wing stroke much more effective. It is an elegant mechanism that is far more advanced than we imagined, and it is fascinating.

Intense Immunosuppression Followed by Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant May Provide Long-Term Benefit for People with Multiple Sclerosis

A new study shows that intense immunosuppression followed by a hematopoietic stem cell transplant may prevent disability associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) from getting worse in 71% of people with relapsing-remitting MS for up to 10 years after the treatment. The research was published online on January 20, 2021 in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The article is titled “Long-Term Clinical Outcomes of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Multiple Sclerosis.” The study also found that in some people their disability improved over 10 years after treatment. Additionally, more than half of the people with the secondary progressive form of MS experienced no worsening of their symptoms 10 years after a transplant. While most people with MS are first diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, marked by symptom flare-ups followed by periods of remission, many people with relapsing-remitting MS eventually transition to secondary progressive MS, which does not have wide swings in symptoms, but instead, a slow, steady worsening of the disease. The study involved autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplants, which use healthy blood stem cells from the participant's own body to replace diseased cells. "So far, conventional treatments have prevented people with MS from experiencing more attacks and worsening symptoms, but not in the long term," said study author Matilde Inglese (photo), MD, PhD, of the University of Genoa in Italy and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "Previous research shows more than half of the people with MS who take medication for their disease still get worse over a 10-year period.

Exosomes & EVs in Infectious Diseases--Virtual Conference Jan 25-28; Registration Ends Jan 25

The International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) "Infectious Diseases and Extracellular Vesicles" Virtual Meeting will take place from Monday, January 25 to Thursday, January 28, 2021 starting at 11:00 am Eastern Standard Time each day. The meeting will feature invited talks, selected abstract talks, live Q&A, and panel discussions. In lieu of a second showing, a recorded version of the broadcast will be sent via a private YouTube link each day to the attendees to watch, if you are unable to watch for the 11:00 am broadcast. You may view the complete program at this link ( Registration closes January 25, so please register quickly if you wish to attend. If you are an ISEV member and would like to take advantage of the member rate, be sure that you are logged in as an ISEV member. You can register by clicking here ( Additional registration and program information can be found here (

[Registration] [Program] [Additional Information]

January 19th

Intranasally Administered Small Peptide That Blocks COVID-19 Spike Protein Interaction with ACE-2 Shows Success in COVID-19 Therapy in Mouse Model

In a study published online on January 11, 2021 in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, mouse models with COVID-19 showed positive results when a small peptide was introduced nasally. The peptide proved effective in reducing fever, protecting the lungs, improving heart function, and reversing “cytokine storm”--a condition in which an infection triggers the immune system to flood the bloodstream with inflammatory proteins. The researchers also report success in preventing the disease from progression. The open-access article is titled “ACE-2-interacting Domain of SARS-CoV-2 (AIDS) Peptide Suppresses Inflammation to Reduce Fever and Protect Lungs and Heart in Mice: Implications for COVID-19 Therapy.” "This could be a new approach to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and protect COVID-19 patients from breathing problems and cardiac issues," said Kalipada Pahan, PhD, the Floyd A. Davis Professor of Neurology at Rush University Medical Center and a Research Career Scientist at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, both in Chicago, understanding the mechanism is proving important to developing effective therapies for COVID-19." Many COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) suffer from cytokine storm that affects lungs, heart, and other organs. Although anti-inflammatory therapies such as steroids are available, very often these treatments cause immunosuppression. "Because SARS-CoV-2 binds to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) for entering into the cells, we have designed a hexapeptide corresponding to the ACE2-interacting domain of SARS-CoV-2 (AIDS) to inhibit the binding of virus with ACE-2," Dr. Pahan said. "AIDS peptide inhibits cytokines produced by only SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, not other inflammatory stimuli, indicating that AIDS peptide would not cause immunosuppression.

Mental Health Research Funder “1907 Research” Announces Three Recipients of Its Inaugural 1907 Trailblazer Award; $120,000 Two-Year Grants to Support Pioneering, Early-Career Mental Health Researchers: Benjamin Bartelle, Laura Lewis, & Katherine Scangos

On January 5, 2021, the mental health research funder 1907* Research, Inc., announced the recipients of its first annual 1907 Trailblazer Awards. The two-year grants, valued at over $120,000 each, were awarded to three promising scientists to pursue groundbreaking mental health research proposals. The awards went to: Dr. Benjamin Bartelle (photo bottom), from Arizona State University, for his proposal "Accessing Neuroimmunity with a Domesticated Zika Virus." Dr. Bartelle's fellowship is generously sponsored by the Kissick Family Foundation; Dr. Laura Lewis (photo bottom), from Boston University, for her proposal "Linking Sleep, Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow, and Inflammation, in Depression;” and Dr. Katherine Scangos (photo bottom), from the University of California, San Francisco, for her proposal "Using Direct Cortical and Subcortical Neural Recordings to Uncover Principles of Network Dynamics Underlying Depression Symptom Severity in Major Depression." "The three early-career researchers we have chosen to support are truly exceptional in their ambition and innovation. Tackling psychiatric disease and mental illness through neuroscience needs new thinking, and this is exactly what our incoming Fellows are bringing," says Dr. Anil Seth, Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex (UK) and member of the 1907 Research Advisory Board which selected the inaugural 1907 Trailblazer Award Fellows.