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Archive - Sep 16, 2019

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Acute Chikungunya Infection Studied at Molecular Level in Brazilian Patients; Using Systems Biology Approach, Researchers Identify Several Genes That Can Be Explored As Therapeutic Targets and As Biomarkers of Predispositiont to Chronic Joint Pain

Computational tools applied to biology are revolutionizing the study of what happens inside cells during an infection, helping scientists to understand disease mechanisms and contributing to the identification of potential therapeutic targets. An example is a study published online on June 18, 2019 in PLOS Pathogens describing how Brazilian researchers analyzed blood cells from patients infected with chikungunya virus (image). With the aid of techniques such as complex network analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, the group identified gene signatures associated with the disease - sets of genes whose expression is altered by interaction with the virus. They then investigated the role played in cells by the involved genes and determined the importance of these genes to efforts to combat the virus. The open-access article is titled “Systems Analysis of Subjects Acutely Infected with the Chikungunya Virus.” Conducted in Brazil, the research was supported by São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). The principal investigator was Helder Nakaya, PhD, a professor at the University of São Paulo's School of Pharmaceutical Sciences (FCF-USP). Researchers at the same university's Biomedical Science Institute (ICB-USP) and its Ribeirão Preto Medical School (FMRP-USP), as well as colleagues at Butantan Institute and the Public Health Central Laboratory of Sergipe, among others, also contributed. "We also identified a set of genes that show during the acute phase whether the patient is likely to develop chronic arthralgia [joint pain and inflammation], a relatively common condition in people infected with chikungunya. However, this finding has yet to be confirmed by future research based on a larger number of samples," Dr. Nakaya said.

Multiple Disease Agents Present in Many Ticks

In a study published online in mBio, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology, Jorge Benach, PhD, and Rafal Tokarz, PhD, and their co-authors at Stony Brook University and Columbia University respectivly, reported on the prevalence of multiple agents capable of causing human disease that are present in three species of ticks in Long Island, New York. The open-acess article is titled “ Polymicrobial Nature of Tick-Borne Diseases.” Tick-borne diseases have become a worldwide threat to public health. In the United States, cases more than doubled, from 22,000 in 2004 to more than 48,000 in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Tick-borne diseases range from subclinical to fatal infections with disproportionate incidence in children or the elderly. Moreover, some infections can also be transmitted by blood transfusions and cause severe disease in patients with underlying disorders. While public attention has focused on Lyme disease, in recent years, scientists have uncovered evidence that ticks can carry several different pathogens capable of several different tick-borne diseases, sometimes in a single tick. In the new study, researchers collected ticks from multiple locations throughout Suffolk county in the central and eastern part of Long Island, where seven diseases caused by microbes transmitted by ticks are present. In total, they scientists examined 1,633 individual ticks for 12 separate microbes. They found that more than half of the Ixodes (deer ticks) (image) were infected with the Lyme disease agent, followed by infections with the agents of babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Importantly, nearly one-quarter of these ticks are infected with more than one agent, resulting in the possibility of simultaneous transmission from a single tick bite.

Vitamin E Found to Prevent Muscle Damage After Heart Attack

Heart attack is a leading cause of death worldwide and new treatment strategies are highly sought after. Unfortunately, lasting damage to the heart muscle is not uncommon following such an event. Published in the September 2019 issue of Redox Biology, a pre-clinical study sheds new light on the potential of the acute therapy with α-TOH (vitamin E) in patients presenting with heart attack, and may ultimately offer an effective low-cost treatment. "One of the most effective anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agents is vitamin E and its derivatives," said Professor Karlheinz Peter, the Baker Institute's (Melbourne, Australia) Deputy Director, Basic and Translational Science and senior author of the study. The open-access article is titled “α-Tocopherol Preserves Cardiac Function by Reducing Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury "Our treatment regimen reflects clinical conditions, where patients could receive their first application of vitamin E in the ambulance or upon their arrival in the emergency department, before reopening and stenting the blocked vessel and the following days in hospital before discharge. Our next step is to test an already approved formulation of Vitamin E in patients admitted with a heart attack," said Professor Peter. "We plan to prove that heart function is preserved using sensitive magnetic resonance imaging. Thereby, we hope to establish an inexpensive and effective therapy for patients with heart attack. "Nutritional scientist and vitamin specialist from Jena University in Germany, Dr.