News Clippings 20200121

Tuesday, 21 January, 2020

Some News Clippings on 20200121:

20200121, Guardian, Coronavirus: Chinese hospitals not testing patients, say relatives – Number of cases, and deaths, could be much higher than those cited in official reports if claims are true

//On 12 January Huang got news his healthy 65-year-old mother had been checked into a hospital in the central Chinese city of Wuhan with a fever and a cough. […]

The hospital pressured the family to immediately cremate Huang’s mother, but they refused, asking for more information. A few days later, they relented and workers from a funeral home, also in protective clothing, retrieved, cremated and buried her within a few hours, leaving the family no time to say goodbye. Afterwards, the staff disinfected the van they had travelled in and threw away their hamzat suits.

“My mother’s death was dealt with without any dignity,” said Huang, 40, who did not want to give his or his mother’s full name. “She wasn’t even counted as a number on the government’s list,” he said, referring to the six people authorities say have been killed by the virus.//

20200121, BBC News, (with vide of HKU Med), New China virus: Warning against cover-up as number of cases jumps

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News Clippings 20200120

Monday, 20 January, 2020

I’ll try to add to my collection of News Clippings regularly if I can. Here are a few added on 20200120:

20200120 Guardian, (part 1 of 2) #HumanToHumanTransmission Very sad to learn [14] medical staff had been infected! “China confirms human-to-human transmission of coronavirus

//China’s National Health Commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission of a mysterious Sars-like virus that has spread across the country and fuelled anxiety about the prospect of a major outbreak as millions begin travelling for lunar new year celebrations.

Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the health commission team investigating the outbreak, confirmed that two cases of infection in China’s Guangdong province had been caused by human-to-human transmission and medical staff had been infected, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.//

20200120 China CCTV, “新型冠状病毒如何防控?会否重复SARS疫情?钟南山:呈现人传人特点

(part 2 of 2) #HumanToHumanTransmission Very sad to learn 14 medical staff had been infected! Via Chinese source: //Pulmonologist ZHONG Nanshan, leads an expert group to investigate the #WuhanPneumonia, said human-to-human transmission is confirmed. Also 14 medics have been infected by the novel coronavirus, reports state media CCTV.//

//疫情发展到什么阶段?
钟南山 [国家卫健委高级别专家组组长钟南山院士]:呈现人传人特点 有14个医护人员感染 […]

武汉减少输出是非常重要的一个方面,武汉会有很严格的筛查检测措施,特别是体温检测,体温高的不建议离开武汉。预防和控制最有效的方法是早发现早治疗,确诊病例的隔离治疗非常重要,这个冠状病毒没有特效药,但是现在正在进行一些动物试验观察,科学研究要跟上。春节期间,估计得病的人数还会有增加,要防止传播,防止出现超级传播者。//

[HT @chiangst]

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Clinical study: Single blood test from U Calgary could offer rapid breast cancer diagnosis

Friday, 15 March, 2019

Hope the two year clinical study will prove to be successful, time will tell. Good luck and best wishes to Dr. Kristina (Tina) Rinker and her Early Cancer Detection Initiative team!  #fuckCancer

2019 March 14th, CBC News, “Calgary-made blood test aims to improve breast cancer detection – Clinical study now underway at University of Calgary on test that could reduce wait times, patient stress

//The clinical study, which began in May 2018, will involve more than 800 women from Calgary and Edmonton, and roughly 600 women in Manchester, U.K.

Participants are given a simple blood test along with their regular mammogram.

“The earlier you can identify the breast cancer at a point that it’s treatable, the better the outcomes,” said Kristina Rinker, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Calgary.

According to Rinker, a computer algorithm allows scientists to identify a molecular marker for active breast cancer in the blood at an early stage. She says 800 samples — already collected — show the test has an accuracy rate of about 90 per cent.

“Finding it early, finding it at stage one, getting the treatment as fast as possible, that’s going to save lives,” she said.

Rinker hopes the blood test will eventually be used along with mammography to help identify cancer in women who have dense breast tissue — which makes cancer more difficult to detect — or those who have inconclusive mammogram results.//

Further reading, U of Calgary, 14 March, 2019 “Single blood test could offer rapid breast cancer diagnosis – Two-year clinical program seeking participants for study” which has a link to the ‘Identification of Breast Cancer from a Blood Sample (IDBC)’ study for “Women interested in participating in the IDBC clinical program can find more information” which has additional links for people to read through the IDBC Consent Form, IDBC Questionnaire or IDBC Brochure.

P.S. Here is a UC link to Dr. Rinker’s peer-reviewed article. and her profile at the Creative Destruction Lab.


Queen’s University PhD student Caitlin Miron makes groundbreaking discovery that may prevent spread of cancer (with brief technical details)

Tuesday, 21 November, 2017
20171121 CTV News interview of Caitlin Miron

Caitlin Miron, a PhD student in the chemistry department at Queen’s University, interviewed on CTV News. Image credit: CTV News, image composite from screen captures.

Congrats to Ms. Caitlin Miron, Ph.D. Candidate, Queen’s University for making a groundbreaking discovery that may have the potential to prevent cancer cells from spreading. Have a watch and read of the CTV news report, “(with video) PhD student makes groundbreaking discovery that may prevent spread of cancer“. According to Miron’s interview with CTV news, “85% of cancers” may benefit from this discovery and while it is too early to talk about the time frame of a commercially available drug, about 5-8 years was mentioned.

Here is an excerpt (with emphasis and links added) from the CTV report,

Studying at the European Institute of Chemistry and Biology in Bordeaux, France, Miron was able to use advanced screening technology to examine a number of compounds from the Petitjean lab at Queen’s University. During her internship, she was able to discover one compound that binds well to four-stranded DNA structure, or guanine quadruplex [G4], which has been linked to the development of cancer and other diseases.

She explained her discovery by comparing a single-stranded DNA to a necklace with beads that move along it until they hit a knot. The beads are the cell machinery that move along the necklace processing the DNA, she said.

“You can go in and untangle that knot, but in this case someone has gone in there first and they’ve used superglue to hold it together,” Miron said. “What we’ve discovered in that case is that glue.”

By binding the newly discovered compound or “superglue” to the quadruplex to secure the “knot” in the chain, scientists may be able to prevent the cell machinery from reaching a particular section of DNA to process it, which would, in turn, prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells, Miron said.

Scientists have been researching quadruplex binders as a possible treatment for cancer for approximately 20 to 30 years, the PhD student explained. However, many of the known binders haven’t yielded results as promising as the one Miron has identified.

“It’s really exciting. It’s exciting to be on the forefront of this field,” she said. “There are other quadruplex binders out there, but what we’re seeing is that ours is very high-performing.”

P.S. Here are some additional references.

Ref 1: Miron is scheduled to have an upcoming Queen’s University Grad Chat “November 28th, 2017 – Caitlin Miron (Chemistry)” that I’m very much looking forward to listen to.

Ref 2: Here is an excerpt from Queen’s University 2017, November 21st, “Caitlin Miron – Recipient of the 2017 Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation (PhD)“, (emphasis and links added)

Caitlin Miron is the recipient of the 2017 Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation. This award is given to a PhD student who has made a significant achievement in research and development innovation during Mitacs-funded research. Last year, Caitlin received a Mitacs Globalink Research Award which funded a collaboration with Dr. Jean-Louis Mergny at the Institut Européen de Chimie et Biologue in Bordeaux, France. This collaboration was the second of two with Dr. Jean-Louis Mergny, and collectively, these collaborations have not only propelled Caitlin’s PhD thesis forward but also merited the receipt of the Mitacs Outstanding Innovation award. […]

 Caitlin’s doctoral dissertation is titled: Dynamic recognition of unusual nucleic acid architectures by cation-responsive switches and other metallo-organic platforms. In sum, DNA has been found to adopt unusual architectures. One type of architecture, called a guanine quadruplex, has been shown to form in the promoter regions of oncogenes (cancer genes), and is implicated in cancer. Caitlin’s research involves finding molecules that stabilize quadruplexes, thereby blocking the expression of these oncogenes, in the hopes that these molecules can be used as anticancer therapeutic agents, either alone or in combination with other treatments. In her first internship in Dr. Mergny’s lab, Caitlin tested a library of potential binders originating from the Petitjean lab and identified a compound that shows some of the best stabilization of quadruplexes that has been seen over the past 30 years. During her second internship (funded by the Mitacs Globalink program), Caitlin explored the effects that small modifications of the lead compound’s structure might have on guanine quadruplex recognition. By taking these compounds from expert to expert, she was able to identify suitable biophysical techniques that she has since brought back to her lab at Queen’s to further her research. Since then, preliminary results suggest that these compounds inhibit cell growth in several human cancer cell lines, and earlier this month, a patent was filed on the novel compounds Caitlin first investigated in France. These results serve as but a case example of rewards made possible by the financial support of funding agencies such as Mitacs.

When I asked Caitlin what skills have helped her during her PhD, she listed good communication, time management and perseverance. “Research doesn’t always go smoothly, so you need to be able to sit back and figure out how to fix things.” Caitlin also recommends ensuring you select a supervisor that will support you throughout the process of graduate school, and pursing opportunities that meet your needs – for example, Caitlin didn’t focus on maximizing her opportunity to teach in the undergraduate course setting during her PhD because she knew she did not want to pursue an academic career. […]

As a final note, Caitlin recommends getting into labs with big names in their respective fields, if possible. Dr. Mergny is one of the top researchers in Caitlin’s field. For Caitlin, conducting research in Dr. Mergny’s lab and having access to experts has enabled her to develop a better understanding of her work and accelerate her research.

After completing her PhD, Caitlin is looking to complete an industrial post-doctoral research position in order to bridge her experience between academia and industry. Caitlin’s long-term goal is to pursue an industrial research career, one slanted towards health applications or perhaps the development of pharmaceuticals. Given Caitlin’s positive attitude and astounding success thus far, I have no doubt she will continue to make great contributions to health-care oriented research in the future.

Ref 3: From Dr. Jean-Louis Mergny’s IECB “Unusual nucleic acid structures” team page,

G-quadruplexes: Friends or foes?
Comparison of sequencing data with theoretical sequence distributions suggests that there is a selection against G-quadruplex prone sequences in the genome, probably as they pose real problems during replication or transcription and generate genomic instability (see below). Nevertheless, “G4-hot spots” have been found in certain regions of the genome: in telomeres, in repetitive sequences such as mini and microsatellite DNAs, in promoter regions, and in first exons of mRNAs. There might be a specific positive role for these sequences that compensates for the general selection against G4 forming sequences. Our goals are to understand the factors that modulate these effects. A number of proteins that interact with these unusual structures have been identified, including DNA binding proteins, helicases, and nucleases. We are currently developing a fluorescent-based assay to follow the activity of helicases in real time (Mendoza, Nucleic Acids Res. 2015).

G-quadruplex ligands: Treats or tricks?
One may achieve structure-specific rather than sequence-specific recognition of DNA. Because of their particular geometric configuration and electrostatic potential, G-quadruplexes may indeed specifically accommodate small artificial ligands, such as planar molecules, and an impressive number of candidates have been evaluated. Together with chemists we successfully identified a variety of G4 ligands and we wish to improve and functionalize these compounds, analyse their biological effects, and ultimately find new classes of anti-proliferative agents with anticancer properties.

Ref 4: Miron’s 2016 Mitacs project, “Building on an Innovative Platform: Tuning Guanine Quadruplex Recognition for Anticancer Applications


Jann Arden: My mom ‘will forget me at some point’ because of Alzheimer’s

Monday, 20 November, 2017

I watched Jann Arden‘s interview on CBC National last night and was very touched and found it informative. From CBC Tweet, ““She will forget me at some point.” Singer-songwriter @jannarden sat down with @adriearsenault and opened up about caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s.

This Q&A at timecode 7:37 was especially moving.

“Q: You asked her [your mom] at one point if she thought she would forget you?

Jann: “She said, ‘My mind might but my heart won’t.‘”

Full interview: Jann Arden: My mom ‘will forget me’ because of Alzheimer’s

Over the years, the following three movies dealing with Alzheimer’s/Dementia have informed & touched me deeply about the challenges faced by those affected and their families and friends.
1) The Notebook (2004) [K: I LOVE this movie so much in so many ways!]
2) Away from Her (2006) [K: This is a less well known film starring  Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent that I really like and enjoy. It was expertly directed by star turned director Sarah Polley.]
3) Still Alice (2014) [K:  Julianne Moore won an Academy Award as best actress for this film and Julianne really did an amazing job.]


Canadians will be able to identify sex as ‘X’ on their passports beginning Aug 31

Friday, 25 August, 2017

Good move by the Canadian government in announcing the news to implementing the change, “Canadians will soon be able to identify sex as ‘X’ on their passports Transgender travellers and those who do not identify as male or female, can check off an ‘X’ box“.

It is time for Canada to catch up with up-to-date science. Similar to what some other countries (Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Nepal, Denmark, India and Pakistan (Ref The Economist video)) have ALREADY been doing!

Too many people commenting on this news on CBC Facebook page need to update their science knowledge from decades old invalidated science. Quoting World Health Organization, United Nation re “Gender and Genetics”:

Most women are 46XX and most men are 46XY. […] In addition, some males are born 46XX due to the translocation of a tiny section of the sex determining region of the Y chromosome. Similarly some females are also born 46XY due to mutations in the Y chromosome.

P.S. Don’t choose to remain ignorant in face of science from reputable source like World Health Organization, United Nation.

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 10.44.37 AM - Canadians can choose gender as X

Reference: (The Economist, July 11, 2017) Which countries allow an option other than male or female on passports?


U of Toronto engineering researchers mend broken hearts with expanding tissue bandage

Friday, 25 August, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 9.56.43 AM - New biomaterial developed by U of T engineering researchers could be delivered through minimally invasive surgery

Very cool news. Excerpts from University of Toronto news “New biomaterial developed by U of T engineering researchers could be delivered through minimally invasive surgery” (emphasis, extra note & links added) (for an in-depth look, see technical article, Nature Materials “Flexible shape-memory scaffold for minimally invasive delivery of functional tissues” ),

A team of U of T engineering researchers is mending broken hearts with an expanding tissue bandage a little smaller than a postage stamp.

Repairing heart tissue destroyed by a heart attack or medical condition with regenerative cells or tissues usually requires invasive open-heart surgery. But now biomedical engineering Professor Milica Radisic [K’s note: including links to PubMed listed articles] and her colleagues have developed a technique that lets them use a small needle to inject a repair patch, without the need to open up the chest cavity.

Radisic’s team are experts in using polymer scaffolds to grow realistic 3D slices of human tissue in the lab. One of their creations, AngioChip, is a tiny patch of heart tissue with its own blood vessels – the heart cells even beat with a regular rhythm. Another one of their innovations snaps together like sheets of Velcro™.

Such lab-grown tissues are already being used to test potential drug candidates for side-effects, but the long-term goal is to implant them back into the body to repair damage.

“If an implant requires open-heart surgery, it’s not going to be widely available to patients,” says Radisic.

She says that after a myocardial infarction – a heart attack – the heart’s function is reduced so much that invasive procedures like open-heart surgery usually pose more risks than potential benefits.

“It’s just too dangerous,” she says.

Miles Montgomery, a PhD candidate in Radisic’s lab, has spent nearly three years developing a patch that could be injected, rather than implanted. [K’s note: more news on Miles]

“At the beginning, it was a real challenge,” he says. “There was no template to base my design on, and nothing I tried was working. But I took these failures as an indication that I was working on a problem worth solving.”

After dozens of attempts, Montgomery found a design that matched the mechanical properties of the target tissue and had the required shape-memory behaviour: as it emerges from the needle, the patch unfolds itself into a bandage-like shape.

[…]

The scaffold is built out of the same biocompatible, biodegradable polymer used in the team’s previous creations. Over time, the scaffold will naturally break down, leaving behind the new tissue.

The team also showed that injecting the patch into rat hearts can improve cardiac function after a heart attack: damaged ventricles pumped more blood than they did without the patch.

“It can’t restore the heart back to full health, but if it could be done in a human, we think it would significantly improve quality of life,” says Radisic.

There is still a long way to go before the material is ready for clinical trials. Radisic and her team are collaborating with researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children to assess the long-term stability of the patches, as well as whether the improved cardiac function can be maintained.

They have also applied for patents on the invention and are exploring the use of the patch in other organs, such as the liver.

“You could customize this platform, adding growth factors or other drugs that would encourage tissue regeneration,” says Radisic. “I think this is one of the coolest things we’ve done.”

Injectable tissue patch could help repair damaged organs – U of T Engineering


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