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Experiment on Monkeys regarding a New Drug combination Raises Hopes of ‘Functional Cure’ for fatal HIV
CHICAGO, October 15, 2016: A new drug combination helped stave off a monkey version of HIV for nearly two years after stopping all treatments, raising hopes for a functional cure for HIV, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.
The treatment involved standard HIV drugs, known as antiretroviral therapy or ART, plus an experimental antibody that hits the same target as Takeda Pharmaceutical’s Entyvio, a drug approved in more than 50 countries for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
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The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, are promising enough that scientists at the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research, have already begun testing the Takeda drug, known generically as vedolizumab, in people newly infected with HIV.
“The experimental treatment regimen appears to have given the immune systems of the monkeys the necessary boost to put the virus into sustained remission,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, part of the NIH, who co-led the study.
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Sustained remission – known as a “functional cure” – could have sweeping implications for people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, which attacks the immune system.
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Highly effective treatments known as antiretroviral therapy push the virus down to undetectable levels in the blood, but they must be taken every day over a person’s lifetime to remain effective, said Aftab Ansari of Emory University School of Medicine who co-lead the study.
Ansari said the study was based on the understanding that in the early days of infection, HIV attacks a specific class of immune cells that congregate in large quantities in the gut. They theorised that if they could protect these immune cells, they could buy the immune system enough time to mount an effective response.
To do this, the team tested an antibody that blocks a protein called alpha-4/beta-7 integrin that HIV uses to attack immune cells in the gut.
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For the study, they infected 18 monkeys with simian immunodeficiency virus or SIV, the monkey version of HIV. They then treated all of the animals with ART for 90 days, and, as it does in humans, the ART controlled the virus, reducing it to undetectable levels.
Antiretroviral drugs used in this stage of the experiment included Gilead’s tenofovir and emtricitabine, sold in a combination drug for people as Truvada, and a Merck integrase inhibitor known as L-870812.
In 11 monkeys, the scientists then gave infusions of the antibody for 23 weeks, and seven monkeys got a placebo. Three of the 11 monkeys developed a reaction to the treatment and had to stop the therapy.
In the eight monkeys that got the treatment, six initially showed signs that SIV was rebounding, but eventually their immune systems were able to control the virus. In two others, the virus never rebounded. All eight have continued to suppress SIV to undetectable levels for up to 23 months after all treatment stopped. In the control group, SIV rebounded and all seven animals died.
The study did not look at whether the monkeys were still able to transmit the virus, but studies in people have shown that reducing HIV to undetectable levels cuts transmission rates by nearly 100 percent.
Ansari said the study is promising because it could eventually lead to a treatment for HIV in people that would not require a lifetime of ART therapy.
Scientists have recently focused on efforts to cure HIV, reducing the burden of lifelong treatment, but prior efforts have been frustrated by the HIV virus’ ability to form hidden reservoirs that replenish the virus when treatments are halted.
In one dramatic case, Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient,” was cured of HIV after an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007 that involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.
Ansari cautioned that not all treatments that work in monkeys will work in people. He said the findings are still very early, and said many more experiments are needed to understand why the antibody protected the monkeys.
Still, he said Takeda’s antibody vedolizumab is “identical” to the one the team used on the monkeys.
NIH researchers already have begun a study to see if a 30-week course of Takeda’s drug vedolizumab is safe and helps control HIV when patients are temporarily taken off conventional ART treatments. Preliminary results are expected by the end of 2017 with further data becoming available into 2018.
If proven safe, the drug would need to be studied in larger trials to prove it is also effective.
Takeda spokeswoman Elissa Johnsen said the company is “pleased to support the trial and contribute to scientific discovery” but said it was too early to comment on future development plans. (VOA)
NASA will pay up to $1 million to people who can come up with innovative and sustainable food production ideas to feed astronauts in space, as the US space agency prepares to send astronauts further into the cosmos than ever before. Giving future explorers the technology to produce nutritious, tasty, and satisfying meals on long-duration space missions will give them the energy required to uncover the great unknown. In coordination with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA has launched the 'Deep Space Food Challenge' that calls on teams to design, build, and demonstrate prototypes of food production technologies that provide tangible nutritional products -- or food.
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"Feeding astronauts over long periods within the constraints of space travel will require innovative solutions," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. "Pushing the boundaries of food technology will keep future explorers healthy and could even help feed people here at home," he said in a statement. Over time, food loses its nutritional value. That means for a multi-year mission to Mars, bringing along pre-packaged food will not meet all the needs for maintaining astronaut health.
Innovative food production technology that produces safe, acceptable, palatable, nutritious food products. |UnsplashUnsplash
In October 2021, Phase 1 of the challenge culminated as NASA awarded 18 teams a total of $450,000 for their concepts for innovative food production technology that produces safe, acceptable, palatable, nutritious food products. NASA now invites both new and existing teams to enter Phase 2 for a prize purse up to $1 million. "Everything needed to store, prepare and deliver food to the crew, including production, processing, transport, consumption, and disposal of waste should be considered," said NASA. Proposed technologies such as plant growth systems, manufactured food products, and ready-to-eat solutions combined could provide the future crews with a variety of options that would provide the needed daily nutrition, it added. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : NASA, innovative, food, healthy, idea, astronaut, USA, tasty, technology, space, travel, explorer, health, nutrition, prize, solution, variety.)
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People suffering from depression are more likely to believe vaccine-related misinformation, according to a new study. The study found that people with moderate or greater symptoms of depression were more likely to believe at least 1 of 4 false statements about Covid-19 vaccines.
Those who believed the statements to be true were half as likely to be vaccinated, the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated. 'It is clear the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the mental health of Americans, especially young people," said researcher Katherine Ognyanova from Rutgers University, the US.
People suffering from depression are more likely to believe vaccine-related misinformation. | Unsplash
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately one-quarter of adults in the US have consistently reported moderate or greater depressive symptoms during the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings suggest that people suffering from depression may be at a higher risk of Covid-19, highlighting the need to address mental health disorders.
For the study, the team used data from the research group The Covid States Project, which conducted surveys approximately once every six weeks since April 2020. The researchers analysed data from 15,464 adults in the US and the participants were asked to rate vaccine-related misinformation as accurate (statement is true), inaccurate (statement is not true) or not sure.
Approximately one-quarter of adults in US reported moderate or greater depressive symptoms during the Covid-19 pandemic. | Unsplash
The four statements of misinformation included "The Covid-19 vaccines will alter people's DNA", "The vaccines contain microchips that could track people", "The vaccines contain the lung tissue of aborted fetuses", and "The -19 vaccines can cause infertility, making it more difficult to get pregnant". The survey participants completed a health questionnaire to measure major depressive symptoms over two weeks. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: depression, vaccine, misinformation, patients, health questionnaire, study)
The space economy is on track to be valued at a trillion dollars by the end of 2030, but assets such as navigation, weather and communication satellites that serve our society daily are threatened by space debris, an Indian-American professor has stressed. According to NASA, it is estimated that millions of pieces of space debris orbit around Earth. A major portion of these objects as well as active satellites reside in the low-Earth orbit region, at altitudes between 200 km and 1,000 km. In November last year, Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile, creating thousands of pieces of debris that passed through the International Space Station (ISS).
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The astronauts and cosmonauts had to take shelter in their Soyuz and Dragon vehicles docked at the space station, as the orbital lab continued to pass through a debris field every 90 minutes. The US identified more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris from the event, and many thousands of smaller ones couldn't be traced. According to Piyush Mehta, Assistant Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at West Virginia University, the US, in low-Earth orbit, our ability to safeguard these space assets depends on modelling of the aerodynamic forces acting on the satellites, specifically satellite drag.
The astronauts and cosmonauts had to take shelter in their Soyuz and Dragon vehicles. |Unsplash
"The drag force acting on a satellite is affected by various physical parameters, however, the most crucial and uncertain are the drag coefficient and mass density," said Mehta, who leads a collaborative effort on satellite drag coefficient modelling under the International Space Weather Action Teams (ISWAT) initiative. Mehta explained that because of the interconnectedness of the two parameters, one of them is held constant, typically the drag coefficient, while the other is investigated.
However, he added that this causes inconsistencies or inaccuracies in our understanding of the mass density variability in the upper atmosphere or thermosphere. Jason Gross, Interim Chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Statler College, West Virginia University, said: "With the continued rapid increase of manmade satellites in low-Earth orbit, his (Mehta's) work towards improved orbital decay prediction becomes more important for the future of space environment sustainability with each passing day. His lab is at the forefront of this important field." (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : dollar, space, economy, debris, satellite, navigation, weather, orbit, astronaut, cosmonaut, inconsistency, aerospace, collaborative.)
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