https://newatlas.com/medical/nanoparticle-artificial-retina-injection-restore-vision-blind-rats/

Injection of nanoparticle-based retina restores vision to blind rats

By Rich HaridyJuly 07, 2020

Nanoparticles restored vision to rats for at least eight months in a new study

Nanoparticles restored vision to rats for at least eight months in a new studylaura2517/DepositphotosVIEW 1 IMAGES

Impressive new work from an international team of scientists has demonstrated a potential way to restore vision in those suffering from degenerative diseases of the retina. A single injection of nanoparticles was found to create a working artificial retina, restoring vision to blind rodents.

Degenerative age-related vision loss is so common it would be easy to think it simply an unavoidable consequence of getting older. However, a number of innovative research projects have found ways to prevent, or at least slow, this seemingly inevitable process.



A great deal of age-related vision loss is related to a degradation of the retina, so many researchers have worked to develop different kinds of artificial retinas, using electrodes and sensors to replicate retinal functions. However, these prosthetic solutions are not ideal, requiring wiring, cameras and invasive surgery.

Another option to restore retinal function is by using specifically engineered nanoparticles to serve as light-sensitive conduits to retinal neurons. In a newly published study, researchers have demonstrated how conjugated polymer nanoparticles (P3HT-NP) can potentially spread broadly across the sub-retinal space and restore lost vision.

To test the efficacy and safety of these nanoparticles, the researchers looked to a rodent model of retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition causing gradual vision loss. Following just one sub-retinal injection of the experimental nanoparticles the researchers saw visual cortex activity and visual acuity return to levels similar to animals with healthy vision.

“In the model we studied, the nanoparticles stimulated the light-dependent activation of the intact internal retinal neurons, recovering visual responses with no inflammation of the retina,” says Mattia Bramini, a researcher working on the project. “Given that they achieved light sensitivity following a single injection, and with the potential for high spatial resolution, nanoparticles provide a new way forward in retinal prostheses, with potential applications not only in the case of retinitis pigmentosa but also in age-related macular degeneration.”

Bramini notes the way the nanoparticles disperse across the retina suggests the technology can restore a wide field of vision. This level of spatial resolution should be significantly greater than any currently available implant. Plus, a simple, and relatively non-invasive, surgical procedure means it would be easier to broadly deploy compared to other artificial retina technologies.

It is unclear how far from human testing the technology is, but the signs from these animal experiments are promising. At this stage the nanoparticles were shown to be safe and effective at restoring all signs of vision for at least eight months.

“This simplest of surgical operations with regard to retinal prosthesis implantation and broad retinal coverage, which potentially restores the entire visual field, opens up a whole new avenue for the clinical application of P3HT polymer nanoparticles in cases of degenerative blindness,” says Bramini.

The new study was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Source: University of Granada

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Rich Haridy

Rich HaridyWith interests in film, new media, and the new wave of psychedelic science, Rich has written for a number of online and print publications over the last decade and was Chair of the Australian Film Critics Association from 2013-2015. Since joining New Atlas Rich’s interests have broadened to encompass the era-defining effects of new technology on culture and life in the 21st century.0 COMMENTSSign in to post a comment.
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https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hearing-test-opens-a-window-into-hivs-effects-on-the-brain

‘Hearing test’ opens a window into HIV’s effects on the brain

Scientists have discovered a way to track changes in sound processing in the brains of people with HIV. Their test provides a simple technique for studying how HIV affects the central nervous system.

Scalp electrodes to monitor brain activity
By measuring brain signals, researchers have observed the impact of HIV on the central nervous system.

Due to advances in antiretroviral drug treatment over the past 20 years, most people with HIV can now expect to live long, healthy lives.

However, even if treatment successfully brings the virus under control, people can experience cognitive issues as a result of HIV causing damage to their central nervous system.

Up to 45% of people with HIV may develop these difficulties, which are known collectively as HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND).

Although the cause of HAND remains unknown, scientists have several theories. They speculate, for example, that it may be the result of chronic inflammation, lingering damage from the initial infection, or a toxic effect of antiretroviral drugs.

Alternatively, low levels of the virus may persist in the brain as a result of the blood-brain barrier limiting the passage of antiretroviral drugs into the brain.

The signs and symptoms of HAND can be subtle, which makes it challenging for doctors to diagnose early and monitor.

Understanding speech

One of the problems that people with HIV sometimes report is difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise.

Researchers at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH, led a team that studied the hearing of a group of people with HIV in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

They collaborated with scientists from the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam and neuroscientists from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

“Initially, we thought we’d find that HIV affects the ear, but what seems to be affected is the brain’s ability to process sound,” says study co-leader Dr. Jay Buckey Jr., a professor of medicine at Geisel.

To test this idea, they used scalp electrodes to monitor the brain waves of 68 people with HIV and 59 people without as they listened to sounds.

Specifically, they recorded a brain response known as the speech-evoked frequency-following response (FFR).

Certain features of brain waves, such as their timing and amplitude, reveal how faithfully the brain encodes an auditory stimulus. The FFR has proven particularly useful for investigating how the brain processes information in highly complex sounds, such as music and speech.

The precision and accuracy of the FFR can improve as a result of experience, such as in trained musicians, or worsen as a result of illness or damage, such as concussion.

“There are many acoustic ingredients in speech, such as pitch, timing, harmonics, and phrase,” says study co-leader Nina Kraus, Ph.D., a professor of communication sciences and neurobiology at Northwestern.

“The FFR enables us to play speech sounds into the ear of study participants and figure out how good a job the brain is doing processing these different acoustic ingredients.”

Common speech sounds

The researchers recorded the FFR while the study participants listened to common speech sounds, such as “ba,” “da,” and “ga.”

They looked at how well the signal encoded two acoustic features of speech, known as the harmonics corresponding to the first formant and fundamental frequency.

The harmonics corresponding to the first formant identify the units of sound, or “phonemes,” that differentiate one word from another, whereas the fundamental frequency reflects the frequency at which the vocal cords vibrate, which helps identify the speaker.

The brains of people with HIV had similar responses to the brains of people without HIV at processing the fundamental frequency.

They also performed well on standard tests of hearing, but the FFR revealed that the brains of people with HIV were worse at encoding the first formant.

In other words, they had normal hearing thresholds, but their brains could not distinguish between the sounds of different words as accurately.

“When the brain processes sound, it’s not like a volume knob where all of the acoustic ingredients are either processed well or poorly,” Kraus explains. “With the FFR, we’re able to see which aspects of auditory processing are affected or diminished and ask, ‘[I]s there a specific neural signature that aligns itself with HIV?’”

The researchers have published their study in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology.MEDICAL NEWS TODAY NEWSLETTERStay in the know. Get our free daily newsletter

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Early aging

The researchers note that as people get older, even if their hearing remains normal, their brains get worse at processing the same speech features that the brains of people with HIV seem to struggle with.

They write that HIV-associated cognitive problems may therefore be akin to early aging.

In the future, they hope that other scientists will use the FFR not only to study brain dysfunction associated with HIV, but also other conditions, such as concussion and Alzheimer’s disease.

Standard tests of cognitive function involve giving people tasks, such as solving math problems or remembering a list of words. However, these are dependent on the language people speak and their culture.

“What’s significant about our results is that the test doesn’t require any actions on the [subject’s] part. It’s recorded passively — subjects can even sleep or watch a movie,” says Dr. Buckey. “We think the FFR holds a lot of promise as a way to assess the brain easily and objectively.”

In their paper, the researchers note that the test could prove particularly useful in parts of the world with the most HIV infections and limited healthcare resources.

They write, “While previous neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies have shown differences between HIV+ and HIV- individuals, these approaches are difficult to transport to resource-limited settings such as sub-Saharan Africa, where >70% of the world’s HIV+ population lives and where there is some evidence that neurocognitive symptoms are more severe.”

“Thus, the FFR holds promise as a research tool to further study [central nervous system] health, particularly in resource-limited settings.”

The study authors acknowledge that research projects involving more participants will be necessary to confirm their results. They say that it would also be interesting to track changes in the FFR from the early stages of infection onward.

Finally, in light of evidence suggesting that different strains of the virus may have differing neurological effects, they would like to see studies that compare FFR tests in different populations around the world.

https://phys.org/news/2020-07-owner-behavior-affects-effort-accuracy.html

Owner behavior affects effort and accuracy in dogs’ communications

by Max Planck Society

Owner behavior affects effort and accuracy in dogs' communications
Owners influence how well dogs show where a toy is hidden. Credit: Theresa Epperlein

Human communication has evolved mechanisms that can be observed across all cultures and languages, including the use of communication history and the principle of least effort. These two factors enable us to use shared information about the past and present and to conserve energy, making communications as effective and efficient as possible. Given the remarkable sensitivity of dogs to human vocalizations, gestures and gazes, researchers have suggested that 30,000 years of domestication and co-evolution with humans may have caused dogs to develop similar principles of communication—a theory known as the domestication hypothesis.

On this basis, researchers designed an experiment that would examine the factors influencing the form, effort and success of dog-human interactions in a hidden-object task. Using 30 dog-owner pairs, researchers focused on a communicative behavior called showing, in which dogs gather the attention of a communicative partner and direct it to an external source.

While the owner waited in another room, an experimenter in view of a participating dog hid the dogs’ favorite toy in one of four boxes. When the owner entered the room, the dog had to show its owner where the toy had been hidden. If the owner successfully located the toy, the pair were allowed to play as a reward. Participants were tested in two conditions: a close setup which required more precise showing and a distant setup which allowed for showing in a general direction.

The researchers found no evidence to suggest that dogs adhere to the principal of least effort, as they used as much energy in the easier far setup as they did in the more difficult close setup. However, this might have been a result of the owners influence on their dogs’ effort. Secondly, dogs were not affected by different communication histories, as they performed similarly and used similar amounts of energy in both setups regardless of which condition they began with. Despite putting in similar amounts of effort, dogs adapted their showing strategies to be more or less precise, depending on the conditions.Play01:0601:27MuteSettingsPIPEnter fullscreenPlayProcedure of the study. Credit: Melanie Henschel

The findings indicate that a crucial factor influencing the effort and accuracy of dogs’ showing is the behavior of the dog’s owner. Owners who encouraged their dog to show where the toy was hidden increased their dog’s showing effort but generally decreased their showing accuracy.

“We’ve seen in previous studies that if we keep eye contact with the dog or talk in a high-pitched voice, we seem to prompt a ‘ready-to-obey attitude’ which makes dogs very excited to follow our commands. So when owners asked their dogs ‘Is the toy here?’ and pointed at the boxes, they might have caused dogs to just show any box,” says Melanie Henschel, main author of the study.

Although the researchers found no effects of communication history or the principal of least effort, the current study indicates for the first time that owners can influence their dog’s showing accuracy and success.

“We were surprised that encouragement increased mistakes in dogs` showing accuracy. This could have impacts on the training of dogs and handlers in fields where dogs are working professionals. Future studies should focus on the complex effects of the owner’s influence and the best strategies for handlers communicating with a dog.” adds Juliane Bräuer, senior author and head of the DogStudies Lab at MPI-SHH in Jena.


Explore furtherHuman encouragement might influence how dogs solve problems


More information: Melanie Henschel et al, Effect of shared information and owner behavior on showing in dogs (Canis familiaris), Animal Cognition (2020). DOI: 10.1007/s10071-020-01409-9Journal information:Animal CognitionProvided by Max Planck Society

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200706113929.htm

Owner behavior affects effort and accuracy in dogs’ communications

Date:July 6, 2020Source:Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human HistorySummary:Researchers have found that dogs adapt their communicative strategies to their environment and that owner behavior influences communicative effort and success. Experimental results found no evidence that dogs rely on communication history or follow the principle of least effort and suggest that owner behavior has a bigger impact on canine communication than previously thought.

Human communication has evolved mechanisms that can be observed across all cultures and languages, including the use of communication history and the principle of least effort. These two factors enable us to use shared information about the past and present and to conserve energy, making communications as effective and efficient as possible. Given the remarkable sensitivity of dogs to human vocalizations, gestures and gazes, researchers have suggested that 30.000 years of domestication and co-evolution with humans may have caused dogs to develop similar principles of communication — a theory known as the domestication hypothesis.

On this basis, researchers designed an experiment that would examine the factors influencing the form, effort and success of dog-human interactions in a hidden-object task. Using 30 dog-owner pairs, researchers focused on a communicative behavior called showing, in which dogs gather the attention of a communicative partner and direct it to an external source.

While the owner waited in another room, an experimenter in view of a participating dog hid the dogs` favourite toy in one of four boxes. When the owner entered the room, the dog had to show its owner where the toy had been hidden. If the owner successfully located the toy, the pair were allowed to play as a reward. Participants were tested in two conditions: a close setup which required more precise showing and a distant setup which allowed for showing in a general direction.

The researchers found no evidence to suggest that dogs adhere to the principal of least effort, as they used as much energy in the easier far setup as they did in the more difficult close setup. However, this might have been a result of the owners influence on their dogs’ effort. Secondly, dogs were not affected by different communication histories, as they performed similarly and used similar amounts of energy in both setups regardless of which condition they began with. Despite putting in similar amounts of effort, dogs adapted their showing strategies to be more or less precise, depending on the conditions.

The findings indicate that a crucial factor influencing the effort and accuracy of dogs’ showing is the behaviour of the dog’s owner. Owners who encouraged their dog to show where the toy was hidden increased their dog’s showing effort but generally decreased their showing accuracy.

“We’ve seen in previous studies that if we keep eye contact with the dog or talk in a high-pitched voice, we seem to prompt a ‘ready-to-obey attitude’ which makes dogs very excited to follow our commands. So when owners asked their dogs ‘Is the toy here?’ and pointed at the boxes, they might have caused dogs to just show any box,” says Melanie Henschel, main author of the study.

Although the researchers found no effects of communication history or the principal of least effort, the current study indicates for the first time that owners can influence their dog’s showing accuracy and success.

“We were surprised that encouragement increased mistakes in dogs` showing accuracy. This could have impacts on the training of dogs and handlers in fields where dogs are working professionals. Future studies should focus on the complex effects of the owner’s influence and the best strategies for handlers communicating with a dog.” adds Juliane Bräuer, senior author and head of the DogStudies Lab at MPI-SHH in Jena.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human HistoryNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Melanie Henschel, James Winters, Thomas F. Müller, Juliane Bräuer. Effect of shared information and owner behavior on showing in dogs (Canis familiaris)Animal Cognition, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s10071-020-01409-9

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. “Owner behavior affects effort and accuracy in dogs’ communications.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 July 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200706113929.htm>.

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https://phys.org/news/2020-07-protein-movement.html

A new understanding of protein movement

by Abraham Lenhoff, University of Delaware

A new understanding of protein movement
A team of engineers has shown that surface diffusion in protein transport into ion-exchange beads depends on adsorption affinity — a measure of attraction between the two materials. Credit: University of Delaware

Many of the most promising medicines under development are proteins, often antibodies, to help patients fight disease. These proteins must be purified as part of the manufacturing process—a task that can be tricky and result in costly waste.

Scientists have struggled to directly measure the movement of proteins, known as protein diffusion, in materials that include both solid and liquid components. They have also disagreed on how movement at the surface of the material contributes to protein movement when using ion-exchange chromatography, a laboratory and manufacturing method for separating materials based on their charge. Proteins can creep into the pores of resin beads used to perform ion-exchange chromatography and bind on the walls, based on charge.

Now, a team of engineers from the University of Delaware, with a collaborator from pharmaceutical company Amgen, has shown that surface diffusion in protein transport into ion-exchange beads depends on adsorption affinity—a measure of attraction between the two materials. By exploiting this relationship, the team developed a procedure to purify a monoclonal antibody—a type of molecule that mediates immunity—with productivity 43% higher than usual.

The team’s results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March. The paper’s authors include Ohnmar Khanal, a doctoral student in chemical engineering; Vijesh Kumar, postdoctoral fellow in chemical engineering; Fabrice Schlegel, a principal engineer at Amgen; and Abraham Lenhoff, Allan P. Colburn Professor of Chemical Engineering.

“We present a very strong case for the significance of surface diffusion, and we use multiple approaches to corroborate its importance through a simple technique that can be implemented right away,” said Khanal.

The team used chromatography, mechanistic modeling, confocal microscopy and small-angle neutron scattering. The latter was performed at the National Center for Neutron Research at the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

By understanding and exploiting protein surface diffusion in ion-exchange chromatography, researchers can build upon this work and develop methods to reduce waste during the expensive drug manufacturing process.

“Ion-exchange chromatography of proteins is an absolutely key operation in biopharmaceutical manufacturing,” said Lenhoff.

Kumar and Lenhoff are now working on a separate project funded by the National Institute for Innovation in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing, based at the University of Delaware, to develop mathematical models of chromatography, which could enable more efficient ways of designing and developing manufacturing processes.

Researchers can also build upon this new fundamental understanding of protein diffusion and perhaps apply it to other problems. Protein diffusion on surfaces is an important phenomenon inside the body, too. Movement and fibrillation of amyloid-ß in the brain has been associated with neurogenerative diseases, for example, and protein surface diffusion can affect the performance of biosensors.

“This is an example of how fundamental research can lead to practical applications and significant improvements in those practical applications,” said Lenhoff.

And it all started with a brainstorm, where Khanal suggested more in-depth investigation of surface diffusion‘s relationship to binding affinity on the charged surfaces using complementary tools.

“When we started this, we never thought we would go this far,” said Kumar. “It started as a very small idea.”


Explore furtherHitchhikers hinder medication shelf life


More information: Ohnmar Khanal et al. Estimating and leveraging protein diffusion on ion-exchange resin surfaces, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2020). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1921499117Journal information:Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesProvided by University of Delaware

https://scitechdaily.com/chipscope-a-completely-new-strategy-towards-optical-microscopy/

ChipScope – A Completely New Strategy Towards Optical Microscopy

TOPICS:CORDISImagingOptics

By CORDIS JULY 7, 2020

Credit: © ChipScope

For half a millennium, people have tried to enhance human vision by technical means. While the human eye is capable of recognizing features over a wide range of size, it reaches its limits when peering at objects over giant distances or in the micro- and nanoworld. Researchers of the EU funded project ChipScope are now developing a completely new strategy towards optical microscopy.

The conventional light microscope, still standard equipment in laboratories, underlies the fundamental laws of optics. Thus, resolution is limited by diffraction to the so-called ‘Abbe limit’ – structural features smaller than a minimum of 200 nm cannot be resolved by this kind of microscope.

So far, all technologies for going beyond the Abbe limit rely on complex setups, with bulky components and advanced laboratory infrastructure. Even a conventional light microscope, in most configurations, is not suitable as a mobile gadget to do research out in the field or in remote areas. In the ChipScope project funded by the EU, a completely new strategy towards optical microscopy is explored. In classical optical microscopy the analyzed sample area is illuminated simultaneously, collecting the light which is scattered from each point with an area-selective detector, e.g. the human eye or the sensor of a camera. In the ChipScope idea instead, a structured light source with tiny, individually addressable elements is utilized. As depicted in the figure, the specimen is located on top of this light source, in close vicinity. Whenever single emitters are activated, the light propagation depends on the spatial structure of the sample, very similar to what is known as shadow imaging in the macroscopic world. To obtain an image, the overall amount of light that is transmitted through the sample region is sensed by a detector, activating one light element at a time and thereby scanning across the sample space. If the light elements have sizes in the nanometer regime and the sample is in close contact to them, the optical near field is of relevance and super resolution imaging may become possible with a chip-based setup.

To realize this alternative idea, a bunch of innovative technology is required. The structured light source is realized by tiny light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are developed at the University of Technology in Braunschweig, Germany. Due to their superior characteristics in comparison to other lighting systems, e.g. the classical light bulb or Halogen-based emitters, LEDs have conquered the market for general lighting applications in the past decades. However, to the present point, no structured LED arrays with individually addressable pixels down to the sub-µm regime are commercially available. This task belongs to the responsibility of TU Braunschweig within the frame of the ChipScope project. First LED arrays with pixel sizes down to 1 µm have already been demonstrated by the researchers, as depicted in the figure. They are based on gallium nitride (GaN), a semiconductor material that is commonly used for blue and white LEDs. Controlled structuring of such LEDs down to the sub-µm regime is extremely challenging. It is conducted by photo- and electron beam lithography, where structures in the semiconductor are defined with high precision by optical shadow masks or focused electron beams.

As a further component, highly sensitive light detectors are required for the microscope prototype. Here, Professor A. Dieguez’ group at the University of Barcelona develops so called single-photon avalanche detectors (SPADs) which can detect very low light intensities down to single photons. First tests with those detectors integrated into a prototype of the ChipScope microscope have already been conducted and have shown promising results. Moreover, a way to bring specimens into close vicinity of the structured light source is vital for proper microscope operation. An established technology to realize this utilizes microfluidic channels, where a fine system of channels is structured into a polymer matrix. Using high-precision pumps, a micro-volume liquid is driven through this system and carries the specimen along to the target position. This part of the microscope assembly is contributed by the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT. Further partners: Medical Univ. of Vienna, Univ. Tor Vergata Roma, LMU Munich and FSRM, Switzerland.

https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/cbd-sexual-wellness-products-foria/

3 Tips for Working in Your Bedroom Without Ruining Your Sleep

Jennan Alani Elatta

Jennan Alani Elatta・July 7, 2020

Thumbnail for 3 Tips for Working in Your Bedroom Without Ruining Your Sleep
Photo: Getty Image/Klaus Vedfelt

Staying at home and taking appropriate precautions to fight the spread of COVID-19 has led many of us to change a number of daily routines. Maybe for you that means an at-home yoga practice now kicks off your day; or, perhaps you perfected that sourdough recipe; or, maybe you’ve transitioned from the office life to the home-office life. If so, Zoom calls may have replaced your shuffle into real-life meeting rooms, and Slack check-ins have replaced water-cooler small-talk. But aside from dealing with those shifted social aspects of the workday, you may also be contending with compromised sleep if you’re working in your bedroom all day long.

We already know that the pandemic is affecting our sleep in any number of ways, whether with insomnianightmares, or difficulty waking up in the morning. In fact, according to an April survey of 2,700 people in the United Kingdom, nearly half (43 percent) report that they find it harder to fall asleep under pandemic conditions. And while you may assume that a close proximity to your bed after a long day of working from home would improve a rough relationship with dozing off (world’s easiest commute!), if your workspace is your bed, such really isn’t the case.

“I’m not a huge fan of lingering in bed overall, since spending more time in bed can actually worsen insomnia for some people,” Shelby Harris, PsyD, sleep-health expert and author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia previously told Well+Good. “The bed is for sleep and sex.” But what if working in your bedroom is the best choice you have?

Maybe you live in a studio apartment, where your bedroom is your only room. Or maybe you’re sharing a small space with a roommate or partner, and working in your bedroom is sometimes your only option. Or perhaps you have young children at home and you find yourself working in your bedroom because it’s the only quiet space you have for conducting meetings and focusing. In these situations, should you just expect your quality of sleep to go down the drain? Well, not necessarily.

“Most of us are feeling more anxious than normal given the current COVID-19 situation, so it’s key you strengthen the mental association between the bed and sleeping. That means avoiding taking work to bed and any worries,” says UK-based sleep advisor Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of the Sleep Charity, a United Kingdom-based organization to promote sleep health for children and parents. But if you find your mind buzzing with work worries at bedtime because you’ve had no choice but to use your bedroom as your boardroom, Artis has some tips to help you snag the zzz’s you need.


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Working from your bedroom? Here are 3 tips to make sure it doesn’t ruin your sleeping situation.

1. Grab that vacuum cleaner

“A messy, cluttered bedroom can affect you more than you might think, especially when it comes to bedtime. In fact, a study conducted by St. Lawrence University in New York revealed that a messy bedroom can lead to a poor night’s sleep and increased anxiety,” Artis says. Coming home after a long day and finding a mess is stressful enough, but living among clutter all day long during an already stressful time really doesn’t do you or your stress responses any favors.

“If your bedroom is crammed with junk, tidy it or reorganize. Sort the laundry, clear the piles of books away, and hide toys away.” —sleep advisor Lisa Artis

“If your bedroom is crammed with junk, tidy it or reorganize. Sort the laundry, clear the piles of books away, and hide toys away. A bedroom is designed as a place to rest and relax. While you sleep with your eyes closed, and therefore can’t see the clutter when asleep, it is the last thing you look at before you catch some zzz’s, which may influence any anxious or worrying thoughts.”

2. Put your devices to sleep, too

As much as you may like to scroll before bed, consider whether doing so is worth opening yourself up to the serious consequences your phone can have on your sleep. “The blue light that is emitted from these devices suppresses melatonin levels, affecting the time it takes for us to fall asleep. Plus, the content we are consuming may also make us more alert and stimulated,” Artis says.

The best way to combat this is to put your phone in another room while you sleep or charge it further from your bed. You could also make putting your phone away part of your nighttime routine and do something else (non-work based), like read, instead. Setting a bedtime alarm might help you accomplish this.

3. Set boundaries between work and sleep

Claim control over your time and set clear lines—mentally and physically—between your personal and professional life by silencing email notifications, and not responding outside of office hours. Remember, self care isn’t selfish.

“If you don’t have a spare room, then try to set up a designated office area in the bedroom. This could be a corner of a room with a pull-out desk,” says Artis. “Do your hours and avoid letting work creep into personal time. You can also cover your laptop or computer with a throw blanket so you can’t see it when you get into bed; make your bed first thing [when you wake up], so there’s no temptation to get back in and work there; change out of your PJs and put on work clothes when you wake up, because putting on PJs can be a cue for bedtime; and make sure you take a lunch break away from the bedroom.”EXPERTS REFERENCEDShelby Harris, PsyDclinical psychologist and sleep specialist

https://www.wired.com/story/this-company-wants-to-rewrite-the-future-of-genetic-disease/

This Company Wants to Rewrite the Future of Genetic Disease

Tessera Therapeutics is developing a new class of gene editors capable of precisely plugging in long stretches of DNA—something that Crispr can’t do.

illustration of RNA
Two of the largest hurdles in genetic medicine have long been how to deliver a DNA-altering tool to the right cells, and altering enough of them that it works.ILLUSTRATION: MICROVERSE STUDIOS

CRISPR’S POTENTIAL FOR curing inherited disease has made headlines, including at WIRED, for years. ( Hereherehere, and here.) Finally, at least for one family, the gene-editing technology is turning out to deliver more hope than hype. A year after 34-year-old Victoria Gray received an infusion of billions of Crispr’d cells, NPR reported last week that those cells were still alive and alleviating the complications of her sickle cell disease. Researchers say it’s still too soon to call it a cure. But as the first person with a genetic disorder to be successfully treated with Crispr in the US, it’s a huge milestone. And with dozens more clinical trials currently in progress, Crispr is just getting started.

Yet for all its DNA-snipping precision, Crispr is best at breaking DNA. In Gray’s case, the gene editor built by Crispr Therapeutics intentionally crippled a regulatory gene in her bone marrow cells, boosting production of a dormant, fetal form of hemoglobin, and overcoming a mutation that leads to poor production of the adult form of the oxygen-carrying molecule. It’s a clever way around Crispr’s limitations. But it won’t work for a lot of other inherited conditions. If you want to replace a faulty gene with a healthy one, you need a different tool. And if you need to insert a lot of DNA, well, you’re kind of out of luck.

Not anymore, says Geoffrey von Maltzahn, the CEO of a new startup called Tessera Therapeutics. The company, founded in 2018 by Boston-based biotech investing powerhouse Flagship Pioneering, where von Maltzahn is a general partner, emerged from stealth on Tuesday with $50 million in initial financing. Tessera has spent the past two years developing a new class of molecular manipulators capable of doing lots of things Crispr can do—and some that it can’t, including precisely plugging in long stretches of DNA. It’s not gene editing, says von Maltzahn. It’s “gene writing.”

“Simplistically, we think of it as a new category,” says von Maltzahn. “Gene writing is able to make either perfect deletions or simple base pair changes, but its wheelhouse is in the full spectrum, and in particular the ability to make large alterations to the genome.”

To get beyond simplistics, to understand how gene writing works, you have to take a deep dive into the history of an ancient, invisible battle that’s been raging for billions of years.

For nearly as long as there have been bacteria, there have been viruses trying to attack them. These viruses, called phages, are like strings of malicious computer code trying to hack into a bacterial genome to trick it into making more phages. Every day, phages invade and blast apart huge quantities of the world’s bacteria (up to 40 percent of the bacterial population in the oceans alone). To avoid the unrelenting slaughter, bacteria have had to constantly evolve defense systems. Crispr is one of them. It’s a way for bacteria to steal a bit of a phage’s code—its DNA or RNA—and store it in a memory bank, like a primordial immune system. It’s the longest-running arms race in the history of Earth, says Joe Peters, a microbiologist at Cornell University: “That level of evolutionary pressure has driven an incredible amount of novelty in molecular mechanisms for manipulating DNA and RNA.”

But bacteria haven’t just had to contend with foreign viral invaders. Their genomes are also under perpetual assault from within. Through the millennia, as bacteria have been swapping bits of DNA with each other, trying to stay ahead of the next wave of phage attacks, some of those genes evolved the ability to move around and even replicate independently of the rest of their original genome. These so-called “mobile genetic elements,” or MGEs, carry self-contained code for the machinery to either cut and paste or copy and paste themselves into a new locality, either within their host or into nearby bacteria.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlMost Popular

That can spell real trouble for the bacteria on the receiving end of this gene shuffle. If those MGEs insert themselves into critical gene regions, it’s bye-bye bacteria. “You can think about MGEs the same way you can think about mutations,” says Peters. “We wouldn’t have evolved without them, but 99.99999 percent of them are bad. Bacteria are trying at any cost to stop MGEs from destabilizing their genome.”

The Nobel Prize-winning botanist Barbara McClintock discovered the first known class of MGEs, called transposons, or “jumping genes,” in maize in 1931. Her technique for staining the plant’s chromosomes allowed her to see when chunks from one would jump to another. But for many decades, the purpose of all these repeated sections of self-rearranging DNA eluded scientists. Some went so far as to dub the MGE-heavy sections of the human genome “junk DNA.” It was hard to get funding to study it. But little by little, researchers like Peters discovered that MGEs in bacteria were actually highly-evolved systems for recognizing DNA, writing it, and moving it around. In fact, Crispr itself appears to have evolved from a self-synthesizing transposon, as NIH researchers Eugene Koonin and Kira Makarova described in 2017. (Crispr codes for a protein that cuts specific, recognizable pieces of DNA stored in its genetic memory bank. The transposons allowed Crispr to start amassing that memory bank in the first place.)

Earlier that year, Peters and Koonin published a paper describing how this evolution can sometimes come full circle. They found one type of transposon that had stolen some Crispr genes to help it move between bacterial hosts. They realized that these molecular tools for cutting, copying, and pasting were constantly being shuttled between MGEs, phages, and bacteria to be used alternately as a means of offense or defense. At the end of that paper, Peters and Koonin wrote that these systems could “potentially be harnessed for genome-engineering applications.”

Not long after, Peters says, he started getting calls from commercial interests. One of them was from Jake Rubens, Tessera’s Chief Innovation Officer and co-founder. In 2019, the company began a sponsored research collaboration with Peters’ Cornell lab around the discovery of new MGEs with genome engineering potential. (Tessera also has other research partnerships, but company officials have not yet disclosed them.)

MGE’s come in a few flavors. There are transposons, which can cut themselves out of the genome and hop into a different neighborhood. Retrantransposons make a copy and shuttle that replica to its new home, expanding the size of the genome with each duplication. They both work by having special sequences on either end that define their boundaries. In between are genes for making proteins that recognize those boundaries and either excise them out in the case of transposons, leaving a gap. Or in the case of retrotransposons, copy them, via an RNA-intermediate, into new locations. There are other classes, too, but these are the two that Tessera executives are interested in. That’s because you can add a new string of code between those sequences—say a healthy, non-mutated version of a disease-causing gene—and let the MGE’s machinery do the work to move that therapeutic DNA into a patient’s chromosomes.

For the past two years, the company’s team of bioinformaticians have been mining public databases that house the genome sequences of hundreds of thousands of bacterial species that scientists have collected from all over the world. In those reams of genetic data, they’ve been prospecting for MGEs that might be best suited for making these kinds of therapeutic DNA changes.

Now, scientists have been making animals artificially glow for decades. What’s different about Tessera’s method is that company’s scientists only need to inject a bit of RNA to make it happen. That little package of RNA has all the information it needs to recruit the necessary enzymes to make a new molecule of DNA that codes for the green fluorescent protein and then insert it into the mouse’s chromosomes.

That’s a big deal because two of the largest hurdles in genetic medicine have long been how to deliver a DNA-altering tool to the right cells, and altering enough of them that it works. Traditional gene therapy relies on ferrying the healthy gene in hollowed-out viruses that can’t fit big pieces of DNA. These treatments can only be given once, because people’s bodies develop immune responses to the viral shell. Scientists using Crispr have run into these same issues. This is why the first successes have been with disorders in which you can edit cells outside the body and then infuse them back in, like with sickle cell disease, and cancer. Outside the body, scientists can inject Crispr’s component parts directly into cells instead of relying on a viral vector.

But being able to integrate new DNA into the genome of a living animal from just a direct shot of RNA has never been done before. “As far as we know, that’s the first time anyone has ever shown it’s possible to do that with something that big—not just in genetic medicine, but it’s a first for molecular biology,” says Rubens.

The ability to inject just a piece of RNA, similar to the approach taken by one of the leading Covid-19 vaccinemakers, Moderna, could make it easier for researchers to go after genetic conditions in which the treatment involves adding big chunks of reparative genetic code. “This is a really interesting approach and it absolutely deserves pursuit,” says Fyodor Urnov, a gene editing expert and scientific director of UC Berkeley’s Innovative Genomics Institute. (In recent months, Urnov has helped transform IGI into a full-time Covid-19 testing operation; he says Tessera officials approached him recently about joining their board but that he lacked the bandwidth to participate, despite his excitement.)

Still, he says it’s too early to tell if gene writing will wind up being superior to Crispr or its more precise next-generation cousin prime editing, or any other of the new gene editing technologies currently in development. “What I’ve learned from three decades in this field is that only the clinic can tell you what tech will ultimately be the best way forward for a given disease,” he says.

For Tessera, any such human trials are likely still at least a year away. The company is just starting to build out an early manufacturing team. And so far, its officials have been tight-lipped about what diseases they plan to go after first, saying only that they will likely be rare genetic conditions. “We want to direct our attention right now to a bake-off of as many variations and engineered constructs as we can create,” says von Maltzahn. The company’s internally-developed RNA writers are the furthest along, he says. But their goal is to arrive at a suite of molecular machines capable of addressing many human diseases before moving into the clinic. “We think with almost virtual certainty that genetic medicine will be one of the most extraordinary new categories of medicine for the next couple of decades,” says von Maltzahn.

The field is certainly accelerating; Gene therapy took decades of research before the first human trials. It took Crispr 7 years. For gene writing, we may not have that long to wait.

https://www.slashgear.com/microdosing-thc-confirmed-effective-for-pain-relief-at-minuscule-doses-06627834/

Microdosing THC confirmed effective for pain relief at minuscule doses

Brittany A. Roston – Jul 6, 2020, 2:56 pm CDT1

Microdosing THC confirmed effective for pain relief at minuscule doses

The practice of taking very small, sub-perceptual doses of a compound — microdosing — is almost exclusively associated with psychedelics. Some medical marijuana users, however, have claimed that microdosing THC has its own benefits, something a new study substantiates. The research comes from Israeli medical technology company Syqe Medical, which reports that microdosing THC may have a profound impact on chronic pain.

Some compounds most commonly known for their recreational use may also have some medical benefits, including things like psilocybin to treat cluster headaches and ketamine for treatment-resistant depression. Cannabis (“marijuana”) is one such compound with potential medical uses, including THC, the med-tech company reports.

The study found that 500 micrograms of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, can offer pain relief without the associated ‘high’ caused by the plant. Patients in the study would inhale the THC, taking three to four puffs per day of up to 500 micrograms — this is considerably less than the estimated 150,000 micrograms that typical medical cannabis patients use daily.

How does one take such small doses of THC? The researchers used the Syqe Selective-Dose Inhaler, a tool offering a very high degree of dosing precision. This is the first time a study has demonstrated that THC microdosing does, in fact, have some sort of notable impact on the patients who take it.

The THC microdoses weren’t found to have any significant side effects, such as the kind that may occur with taking high doses of the substance. Syqe Medical CEO Perry Davidson said:

This study is the first to show that human sensitivity to THC is significantly greater than previously assumed, indicating that if we can treat patients with much higher precision, lower quantities of drug will be needed, resulting in fewer side effects and an overall more effective treatment. The Syqe drug delivery technology is also applicable to opioids and other compounds that, while potentially effective, are notoriously associated with dangerous side effects. The introduction of a tool to prescribe medications at such low doses with such high resolution may allow us to achieve treatment outcomes that previously were not possible.

https://www.citynews1130.com/2020/07/07/ubc-coronavirus-airborne-debate/

Coronavirus airborne debate reminder to stay vigilant: UBC epidemiologist

BY LIZA YUZDA

Posted Jul 7, 2020 1:05 pm PDT

Last Updated Jul 7, 2020 at 1:35 pm PDTFILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Friday, May 29, 2020, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting that coronavirus has an HIV protein that proves it was genetically modified. Experts say the coronavirus has no HIV sequences in it’s genetic makeup. Since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, social media posts have tried to cast doubt on its origins. (NIAID-RML via AP)SUMMARY

An international doctor debate over how COVID-19 droplets travel raises an important concern: UBC epidemiologist

Stephen Hoption Cann says given the unknowns about the coronavirus, it’s best to be vigilant

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry doesn’t believe droplets will become airborne, linger like measles

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As the debate continues over whether the novel coronavirus can be airborne or not, a UBC epidemiologist says there are still many unknowns, so being vigilant is vital.

RELATED: Is coronavirus airborne or not? B.C.’s Dr. Henry lays out the science of COVID-19

Epidemiologist Stephen Hoption Cann says the debate over the virus won’t change the cautious approach B.C. has taken to stem the spread, but it should serve as a reminder that as places ease restrictions, they can’t let up on precautions.

“It’s good to keep in mind this new information so that your relaxation of restrictions not allowing the infection rate to increase again,” he tells NEWS 1130.

He points to Australia as an example of how quickly a country can go from a flattened curve to a spike in cases.

“I think it’s a lot of this relaxation and not realizing fully what are some key ways that this thing spreads that allow this thing to take off again,” he says.

Given some amount of uncertainty, Hoption Cann says he is still concerned enough that he wouldn’t consider going to an indoor space like a gym, and would think twice about a restaurant.

“One of the key things is you know in a setting when you are with other people for a prolonged time, the two meters is not as helpful.”

An open letter from 239 scientists around the world has asked the World Health Organization to change its recommendations on the airborne transmission of the virus. It also points to evidence suggesting there is “significant potential for inhalation exposure” through microdroplets that can travel several metres through the air, or within a room, to infect people.

RELATED: Physical distance of two metres likely not enough to prevent spread of coronavirus, experts suggest

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the letter Monday, and says the scientific consensus at this point is the virus has larger droplets that don’t linger for long durations or travel long distances.

“And the ones that we most commonly associated with that type of transmission are viruses like measles, smallpox was one that would be transmitted through the air, as well as bacterial infections like tuberculosis,” she adds.

Henry says when talking about viruses like COVID-19 and influenza, they’re primarily in larger droplets that are spread by close contact with an infected person and don’t tend to survive in small particles.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says it will review input from scientists regarding airborne transmission from the virus.

“We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19,” says Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove. “As well as droplets, foamites, we look at fecal to oral, mother to child, we look at animal to human, of course.”