Biomedical Laboratory Science

Friday, August 19, 2016

Streamlining the E.coli Genetic Code

Scientists design a bacterial genome with only 57 codons.

The genetic code normally contains 64 codons, but researchers from Harvard University and their colleagues have designed an Escherichia coli genome with only 57 codons, replacing the others wholesale. In a paper published today (August 18) in Science, the team describes the computer-generated genome and reports on the first phases of its synthesis in the lab.

“We create something that really pushes the limit of genomes,” study coauthor Nili Ostrov, a postdoc in George Church’s lab at Harvard, told The Scientist. “The idea is that this is completely new, and we’re trying to see if it’s viable.”

In the planned 57-codon E. coli genome, each of the seven deleted codons is exchanged for a synonymous one.

Source: the-scientist

Theranos – Scientific Breakthrough or Epic Hoax?

A company on the brink of a scientific and medical breakthrough, or a hoax on an epic scale? Russ Swan considers the story of Theranos.

What follows is a tale of laboratory technology, a technological revolution, a precocious main protagonist, and billions of dollars. It is a riches-to-rags tale with elements of the Emperor’s new clothes, more than a bit of hubris, and a tragic twist involving a British scientist.

The story of Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is still playing out. This is what we know so far, and it is truly jaw dropping. It begins with a first year chemical engineering student at Stanford, spending a summer placement in Singapore assisting in the development of a protein microarray for a diagnostics test for Sars. On returning to California, Holmes (for it was she) quickly dropped out of college to set up her own firm to work on similar technologies.

Source: labnews

Monday, August 15, 2016

Diagnosis of Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia

Diagnosis of Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PCP) is conventionally based on direct staining and visualization. Challenges in obtaining alveolar samples have stimulated interest in techniques for detection of Pneumocystis DNA in non-invasive samples, which can give good sensitivity and specificity. Robust diagnosis is key to ensuring appropriate therapy.

Pneumocystis jirovecii (previously Pneumocystis carinii) is a pathogen capable of causing life threatening Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) in the immunocompromised with case fatality rates among those hospitalized of around 10%. PCP typically occurs in individuals with hematological malignancies on chemotherapy or with other causes of acquired cellular immunodeficiency or, most frequently, in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals with CD4 T-cell counts <200 cells/┬ÁL or <14% of total white cell count. First-line treatment is co-trimoxazole, a combination of the antibiotics sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim, at high dose for 3 weeks, which has the clinically significant potential side effects of bone marrow suppression, rash and bronchial hypersensitivity.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Blood Vessel-Forming Protein Could Offer Alternative to Heart Bypass Surgery

For patients with severe coronary artery disease, heart bypass surgery can reduce the risk of heart attack and improve overall quality of life. Now, researchers report the possibility of a new treatment that may be even more beneficial, without the surgery.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease in the United States, responsible for more than 370,000 deaths in the country every year.

The condition arises when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, partially or fully blocking the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. This blockage can cause heart attack, angina - severe chest pain - and, over time, heart failure.

While lifestyle changes - such as adopting a healthy diet and regular physical activity - are considered key to improving CAD, some patients may require heart bypass surgery, which can help restore blood flow to the heart.

But, as with all surgery, it has its risks. These include chest wound infection, bleeding, stroke, heart attack, and kidney or lung failure.

Researchers say the protein AGGF1 could be a promising treatment for coronary heart disease and
heart attack.

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Smoking

The process your body goes through after stopping smoking - in the 20 minutes to 15 years after your last cigarette - has been revealed by CVS health.

Around 10 million people in the UK smoke, and about two thirds of them want to stop, according to research from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

About half of all regular smokers will die from their addiction, which amounts to about 100,000 people a year.

The infographic from CVS Health (click to enlarge) revealed that 20-30 minutes after smoking cessation blood pressure and pulse have already started to drop, and the carbon monoxide in the blood will begin to drop after just eight hours.

A year after you stop smoking, your risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker

HIV: Newly Discovered Component Could Lead to More Effective Drugs

Scientists from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and University College London - both in the United Kingdom - have uncovered key components of HIV, which they believe could lead to new approaches for drugs to fight the infection.

HIV weakens a person's immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. Only certain body fluids - blood, semen, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk - from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. Although there is no cure for HIV infection, improved treatments allow people living with HIV to slow the virus' progression and stay relatively healthy for several years.

HIV is a part of a subtype of viruses called retroviruses, which means that the virus is composed of RNA - instead of normal DNA - and has the unique property of transcribing RNA into DNA after entering a cell.

Findings from the research could lead to future drugs that can enter human cells and block the pores
from within.

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