Tool monitors flu mutations in real time

Tool monitors flu mutations in real time

A new tool can monitor influenza A virus mutations in real time, researchers report.

The tool could help virologists learn how to stop viruses from replicating, according to the new study.

The gold nanoparticle-based probe measures viral RNA in live influenza A cells. It is the first time in virology that experts have used imaging tools with gold nanoparticles to monitor mutations in influenza, with unparalleled sensitivity.

“Our probe will provide important insight on the cellular features that lead a cell to produce abnormally high numbers of viral offspring and on possible conditions that favor stopping viral replication,” says senior author Laura Fabris, an associate professor in the materials science and engineering department in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Viral infections are a leading cause of illness and deaths. The new coronavirus, for example, has led to more than 24,000 confirmed cases globally, including more than 3,200 severe ones and nearly 500 deaths as of February 5, according to a World Health Organization report.

Influenza A, a highly contagious virus that arises every year, is concerning due to the unpredictable effectiveness of its vaccine. Influenza A mutates rapidly, growing resistant to drugs and vaccines as it replicates.

The new study highlights a promising new tool for virologists to study the behavior of influenza A, as well as any other RNA viruses, in host cells and to identify the external conditions or cell properties affecting them.

Until now, studying mutations in cells has required destroying them to extract their contents. The new tool enables analysis without killing cells, allowing researchers to get snapshots of viral replication as it occurs.

Next steps include studying multiple segments of viral RNA and monitoring the influenza A virus in animals.

Additional researchers from Rutgers and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign contributed to the study, which appears in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.

Source: Rutgers University

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Source: Tool monitors flu mutations in real time

Regenerative medicine companies raised $4.8B in first half of 2019

Regenerative medicine companies raised $4.8B in first half of 2019

Photo: Natali_Mis, Getty Images

Two new approvals, more than 1,000 clinical trials underway and nearly $5 billion raised.

Those are just some of the highlights from the second quarter of 2019, according to the latest quarterly report from the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, which the organization released Thursday. The data were compiled from 932 companies involved in gene therapy, cell therapy, tissue engineering and other areas of regenerative medicine.

Companies involved in gene and cell therapies and other regenerative medicine areas raised $4.8 billion during the first half of the year, including $2.6 billion in the second quarter. However, that was down from the more than $4.1 billion that they raised in the second quarter of 2018, which itself represented a 164 percent increase from the same period in 2017. However, companies in Europe and Israel saw an increase in fundraising, with this $1.3 billion figure for the first half of 2019 representing a 17 percent increase over the same period last year.

For comparison, a report that the Silicon Valley Bank released earlier this month, which looked at healthcare and biopharma more broadly, found that venture capital fundraising by biopharma startups this year would likely fall behind the figure for 2018, while remaining ahead of 2017. Healthcare companies generally have raised $5.8 billion so far this year, compared with $9.6 billion for all of 2018 and $9.1 billion in 2017.

Still, the ARM report showed a significant increase in the number of regenerative medicine clinical trials happening this year, with 1,069 underway in Phase I, Phase II and Phase III – compared with 977 in the second quarter of last year. Phase III studies include 30 in gene therapy, 16 in gene-modified cell therapy, 32 in cell therapy and 16 in tissue engineering.

Meanwhile, two new gene therapies received regulatory approval, in the U.S. as well as in Europe.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration approved Novartis’ Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi) for spinal muscular atrophy in children younger than 2. Although the company turned heads when Novartis gave it a list price of more than $2 million, the non-profit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review deemed it cost-effective given that it is a potentially curative therapy.

And in March, the European Medicines Agency approved bluebird bio’s Zynteglo (autologous CD34-positive cells encoding beta-AT87Q-globin gene) for the treatment of the blood disorder beta-thalassemia.

Source: Regenerative medicine companies raised $4.8B in first half of 2019