Monthly Archives: October 2013

A cheap and simple pathogen detector?

Here’s an interesting idea. The threat from viral pathogens such as bird flu, hepatitis B and HIV, represents a clear and present danger. So cheap and simple tools for detecting these viruses are much needed, particularly in thVirus sensore developing world where the threat is acute but money scarce.

Step forward Jaeoh Shin and pals at the University of Potsdam in Germany who say that it is possible to create just such a virus detector using little more than a few strands of DNA mixed into a lump of hydrogel. This ‘intelligent’ blob would shrink when the virus in question was around giving a clear visible signal that precautions need to be taken.  REST

Imec and Johns Hopkins University team to expand healthcare applications for silicon nanotech

Leuven (Belgium) October 24, 2013 – Researchers and physicians at Johns Hopkins University will collaborate with the nanoelectronics R&D center imec to advance silicon applications in healthcare, beginning with development of a device to enable a broad range of clinical tests. The corresponding tests will be performed outside the laboratory. The collaboration, announced today, will combine the Johns Hopkins clinical and research expertise with imec’s nanoelectronics capabilities. The two organizations plan to forge strategic ties with additional collaborators in the healthcare and technology sectors.

“Johns Hopkins has always prioritized innovative and transformative research opportunities,” said Landon King, MD, the David Marine Professor of Medicine and executive vice dean of the school of medicine. “Our new collaboration with imec is such an opportunity, and we very much look forward to leveraging our respective strengths across the university in biomedical and nanotechnology research to improve patient diagnosis and care throughout the world.”

Imec and Johns Hopkins University hope to develop the next generation of “lab on a chip” concepts based on imec technology. The idea is that such a disposable chip could be loaded with a sample of blood, saliva or urine and then quickly analyzed using a smartphone, tablet or computer, making diagnostic testing faster and easier for applications such as disease monitoring and management, disease surveillance, rural health care and clinical trials. Compared with the current system of sending samples to a laboratory for testing, such an advance would be “the healthcare equivalent of transforming a rotary telephone into the iPhone,” said Drew Pardoll, MD, PhD, the Martin Abeloff Professor of Oncology. Pardoll leads the advisory board for the Johns Hopkins-imec collaboration, which will work to extend new applications of silicon nanotechnology into multiple areas of medicine.

“This relationship with Johns Hopkins is an important step toward creating a powerful cross-disciplinary ecosystem with consumer electronics and mobile companies, medical device manufacturers, research centers and the broader bio-pharma and semiconductor industries, to create the combined expertise required to address huge healthcare challenges that lie ahead,” stated Luc Van den hove, CEO at imec. “Only through close collaboration will we be able to develop technology solutions for more accurate, reliable and low-cost diagnostics that pave the way to better, predictive and preventive home-based personal health care.”  REST

Thomson Reuters Life Sciences and Orion Bionetworks collaborate

Thomson Reuters Life Sciences and Orion Bionetworks collaborate to advance the development of new therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS) by generating predictive models of patient stratification and drug targets.  From yesterday’s press release:

“Thomson Reuters Life Sciences Professional Services researchers use MetaBase, the company’s flagship, manually curated database of protein interactions, biological pathways, disease biomarkers and medicinal chemistry, along with its unique collection of MS specific pathway maps and biomarkers, to construct predictive models that identify molecular subtypes, biomarkers, associated mechanisms and novel drug targets.

Thomson Reuters will provide Orion Bionetworks with the results of the modeling through access to the new MetaBase MS pathways and networks via the Thomson Reuters MetaCore platform, an integrated software suite for functional data analysis. The models will also be made available to the Alliance through tranSMART, an open source data sharing and analytics platform.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with Orion Bionetworks on this initiative and providing both our research expertise and the most authoritative content on biological pathways and molecular interactions,” said Joe Donahue, senior vice president, Thomson Reuters Life Sciences. “Their cooperative research model brings together academic groups, non-profit institutions and commercial companies to focus on specific diseases, with the promise of developing new therapies faster.”

BioNano scale research in Nobel Prize for Medicine

Three Americans won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Monday for discovering the machinery that regulates how cells transport major molecules in a cargo system that delivers them to the right place at the right time in cells. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm announced the winners: James E. Rothman of Yale University; Randy W. Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley; and Dr. Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University. The molecules are moved around cells in small packages called vesicles, and each scientist discovered different facets that are needed to ensure that the right cargo is shipped to the correct destination at precisely the right time.  Rest of NYTimes article

FWIW commentary: many of the “vesicles” that are the subject of the research for the above Nobel winner and that play such an important role in moving major molecules around in cells are approximately 50-100 nanometers in diameter.

Imaging antibiotic mechanisms of action – Biotechniques

Several strategies are currently available for investigating mechanisms of action during antibiotic drug discovery. The macromolecular synthesis assay—which uses radioactive labeling to determine whether a compound blocks RNA, DNA, lipid, or cell wall synthesis—is a common starting point, but it falls short in

Schematic diagram of bacterial cytological profiling

terms of accuracy and throughput. Other ways to determine a drug’s mechanism are to isolate either resistant or sensitized mutants or to use transcriptional profiling. Each of these strategies has its own strengths and drawbacks, not the least of which is that they require users to generate large amounts of the compound of interest.

Now, a new, one-step imaging technique that analyzes bacterial cell shape could enable researchers to more rapidly identify the mechanisms by which compounds kill bacteria. The approach, described online September 17 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will allow industry and academic scientists to pick out new drug candidates based on the pathways they target or uncover new mechanisms of action to pursue in antibiotic development as bacteria develop resistance to existing treatments.  Rest of article