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Exposure to high heat neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 in less than one second

Texas A&M research shows exposure to high temperatures can neutralize the virus, preventing it from infecting another human hostCredit: Texas

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Texas A&M research shows exposure to high temperatures can neutralize the virus, preventing it from infecting another human host

Arum Han, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, and his collaborators have designed an experimental system that shows exposure of SARS-CoV-2 to a very high temperature, even if applied for less than a second, can be sufficient to neutralize the virus so that it can no longer infect another human host.

Applying heat to neutralize COVID-19 has been demonstrated before, but in previous studies temperatures were applied from anywhere from one to 20 minutes. This length of time is not a practical solution, as applying heat for a long period of time is both difficult and costly. Han and his team have now demonstrated that heat treatment for less than a second completely inactivates the coronavirus — providing a possible solution to mitigating the ongoing spread of COVID-19, particularly through long-range airborne transmission.

The Medistar Corporation approached leadership and researchers from the College of Engineering in the spring of 2020 to collaborate and explore the possibility of applying heat for a short amount of time to kill COVID-19. Soon after, Han and his team got to work, and built a system to investigate the feasibility of such a procedure.

Their process works by heating one section of a stainless-steel tube, through which the coronavirus-containing solution is run, to a high temperature and then cooling the section immediately afterward. This experimental setup allows the coronavirus running through the tube to be heated only for a very short period of time. Through this rapid thermal process, the team found the virus to be completely neutralized in a significantly shorter time than previously thought possible. Their initial results were released within two months of proof-of-concept experiments.

Han said if the solution is heated to nearly 72 degrees Celsius for about half a second, it can reduce the virus titer, or quantity of the virus in the solution, by 100,000 times which is sufficient to neutralize the virus and prevent transmission.

“The potential impact is huge,” Han said. “I was curious of how high of temperatures we can apply in how short of a time frame and to see whether we can indeed heat-inactivate the coronavirus with only a very short time. And, whether such a temperature-based coronavirus neutralization strategy would work or not from a practical standpoint. The biggest driver was, ‘Can we do something that can mitigate the situation with the coronavirus?’”

Their research was featured on the cover of the May issue of the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering.

Not only is this sub-second heat treatment a more efficient and practical solution to stopping the spread of COVID-19 through the air, but it also allows for the implementation of this method in existing systems, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

It also can lead to potential applications with other viruses, such as the influenza virus, that are also spread through the air. Han and his collaborators expect that this heat-inactivation method can be broadly applied and have a true global impact.

“Influenza is less dangerous but still proves deadly each year, so if this can lead to the development of an air purification system, that would be a huge deal, not just with the coronavirus, but for other airborne viruses in general,” Han said.

In their future work, the investigators will build a microfluidic-scale testing chip that will allow them to heat-treat viruses for much shorter periods of time, for example, tens of milliseconds, with the hope of identifying a temperature that will allow the virus to be inactivated even with such a short exposure time.

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The lead authors of the work are electrical engineering postdoctoral researchers, Yuqian Jiang and Han Zhang. Other collaborators on this project are Professor Julian L. Leibowitz, and Associate Professor Paul de Figueiredo from the College of Medicine; biomedical postdoctoral researcher Jose A. Wippold; Jyotsana Gupta, associate research scientist in microbial pathogenesis and immunology; and Jing Dai, electrical engineering assistant research scientist.

This work has been supported by grants from Medistar Corporation. Several research personnel on the project team were also supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

YouTube video link: https://youtu.be/noke1baewDs

YouTube video caption: Sub-second heat treatment of coronavirus

Video credit: Texas A&M University College of Engineering

Journal link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/10970290/2021/118/5

https://today.tamu.edu/2021/04/26/exposure-to-high-heat-neutralizes-sars-cov-2-in-less-than-one-second/

Their process works by heating one section of a stainless-steel tube, through which the coronavirus-containing solution is run, to a high temperature and then cooling the section immediately afterward. This experimental setup allows the coronavirus running through the tube to be heated only for a very short period of time. Through this rapid thermal process, the team found the virus to be completely neutralized in a significantly shorter time than previously thought possible. Their initial results were released within two months of proof-of-concept experiments.

Source: https://bioengineer.org/exposure-to-high-heat-neutralizes-sars-cov-2-in-less-than-one-second/

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Scientists demonstrate promising new approach for treating cystic fibrosis

Scientists led by UNC School of Medicine researchers Silvia Kreda, Ph.D., and Rudolph Juliano, Ph.D., created an improved oligonucleotide therapy

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Scientists led by UNC School of Medicine researchers Silvia Kreda, Ph.D., and Rudolph Juliano, Ph.D., created an improved oligonucleotide therapy strategy with the potential for treating other pulmonary diseases, such as COPD and asthma

CHAPEL HILL, NC – UNC School of Medicine scientists led a collaboration of researchers to demonstrate a potentially powerful new strategy for treating cystic fibrosis (CF) and potentially a wide range of other diseases. It involves small, nucleic acid molecules called oligonucleotides that can correct some of the gene defects that underlie CF but are not addressed by existing modulator therapies. The researchers used a new delivery method that overcomes traditional obstacles of getting oligonucleotides into lung cells.

As the scientists reported in the journal Nucleic Acids Research, they demonstrated the striking effectiveness of their approach in cells derived from a CF patient and in mice.

“With our oligonucleotide delivery platform, we were able to restore the activity of the protein that does not work normally in CF, and we saw a prolonged effect with just one modest dose, so we’re really excited about the potential of this strategy,” said study senior author Silvia Kreda, PhD, an associate professor in the UNC Department of Medicine and the UNC Department Biochemistry & Biophysics, and a member of the Marsico Lung Institute at the UNC School of Medicine.

Kreda and her lab collaborated on the study with a team headed by Rudolph Juliano, PhD, Boshamer Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the UNC Department of Pharmacology, and co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of the biotech startup Initos Pharmaceuticals.

About 30,000 people in the United States have CF, an inherited disorder in which gene mutations cause the functional absence of an important protein called CFTR. Absent CFTR, the mucus lining the lungs and upper airways becomes dehydrated and highly susceptible to bacterial infections, which occur frequently and lead to progressive lung damage.

Treatments for CF now include CFTR modulator drugs, which effectively restore partial CFTR function in many cases. However, CFTR modulators cannot help roughly ten percent of CF patients, often because the underlying gene defect is of the type known as a splicing defect.

CF and splicing defects

Splicing is a process that occurs when genes are copied out – or transcribed – into temporary strands of RNA. A complex of enzymes and other molecules then chops up the RNA strand and re-assembles them, typically after deleting certain unwanted segments. Splicing occurs for most human genes, and cells can re-assemble the RNA segments in different ways so different versions of a protein can be made from a single gene. However, defects in splicing can lead to many diseases – including CF when CFTR’s gene transcript is mis-spliced.

In principle, properly designed oligonucleotides can correct some kinds of splicing defects. In recent years the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two “splice switching oligonucleotide” therapies for inherited muscular diseases.

In practice, though, getting oligonucleotides into cells, and to the locations within cells where they can correct RNA splicing defects, has been extremely challenging for some organs.

“It has been especially difficult to get significant concentrations of oligonucleotides into the lungs to target pulmonary diseases,” Kreda said.

Therapeutic oligonucleotides, when injected into the blood, have to run a long gauntlet of biological systems that are designed to keep the body safe from viruses and other unwanted molecules. Even when oligonucleotides get into cells, the most usually are trapped within vesicles called endosomes, and are sent back outside the cell or degraded by enzymes before they can ever do their work.

A new delivery strategy

The strategy developed by Kreda, Juliano, and their colleagues overcomes these obstacles by adding two new features to splice switching oligonucleotides: Firstly, the oligonucleotides are connected to short, protein-like molecules called peptides that are designed to help them to distribute in the body and get into cells. Secondly, there is a separate treatment with small molecules called OECs, developed by Juliano and Initos, which help the therapeutic oligonucleotides escape their entrapment within endosomes.

The researchers demonstrated this combined approach in cultured airway cells from a human CF patient with a common splicing-defect mutation.

“Adding it just once to these cells, at a relatively low concentration, essentially corrected CFTR to a normal level of functioning, with no evidence of toxicity to the cells,” Kreda said.

The results were much better with than without OECs, and improved with OEC dose.

There is no mouse model for splicing-defect CF, but the researchers successfully tested their general approach using a different oligonucleotide in a mouse model of a splicing defect affecting a reporter gene. In these experiments, the researchers observed that the correction of the splicing defect in the mouse lungs lasted for at least three weeks after a single treatment – hinting that patients taking such therapies might need only sporadic dosing.

The researchers now plan further preclinical studies of their potential CF treatment in preparation for possible clinical trials.

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Yan Dang, Catharina van Heusden, Veronica Nickerson, Felicity Chung, Yang Wang, Nancy Quinney, Martina Gentzsch, and Scott Randell were other contributors to this study from the Marsico Lung Institute; Ryszard Kole a co-author from the UNC Department of Pharmacology.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the National Institutes of Health supported this work.

https://news.unchealthcare.org/2021/06/scientists-demonstrate-promising-new-approach-for-treating-cystic-fibrosis/

Source: https://bioengineer.org/scientists-demonstrate-promising-new-approach-for-treating-cystic-fibrosis/

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Bruisable artificial skin could help prosthetics, robots sense injuries

Credit: Adapted from ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c04911 When someone bumps their elbow against a wall, they

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Credit: Adapted from ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c04911

When someone bumps their elbow against a wall, they not only feel pain but also might experience bruising. Robots and prosthetic limbs don’t have these warning signs, which could lead to further injury. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces have developed an artificial skin that senses force through ionic signals and also changes color from yellow to a bruise-like purple, providing a visual cue that damage has occurred.

Scientists have developed many different types of electronic skins, or e-skins, that can sense stimuli through electron transmission. However, these electrical conductors are not always biocompatible, which could limit their use in some types of prosthetics. In contrast, ionic skins, or I-skins, use ions as charge carriers, similar to human skin. These ionically conductive hydrogels have superior transparency, stretchability and biocompatibility compared with e-skins. Qi Zhang, Shiping Zhu and colleagues wanted to develop an I-skin that, in addition to registering changes in electrical signal with an applied force, could also change color to mimic human bruising.

The researchers made an ionic organohydrogel that contained a molecule, called spiropyran, that changes color from pale yellow to bluish-purple under mechanical stress. In testing, the gel showed changes in color and electrical conductivity when stretched or compressed, and the purple color remained for 2-5 hours before fading back to yellow. Then, the team taped the I-skin to different body parts of volunteers, such as the finger, hand and knee. Bending or stretching caused a change in the electrical signal but not bruising, just like human skin. However, forceful and repeated pressing, hitting and pinching produced a color change. The I-skin, which responds like human skin in terms of electrical and optical signaling, opens up new opportunities for detecting damage in prosthetic devices and robotics, the researchers say.

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The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Program for Guangdong Introducing Innovative and Entrepreneurial Teams, Shenzhen Science and Technology Program, 2019 Special Program for Central Government Guiding Local Science and Technology Development: Environmental Purification Functional Materials Research Platform, Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Advanced Materials Product Engineering and the CUHK-Shenzhen Presidential Fund.

The abstract that accompanies this paper is available here.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people. The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Source: https://bioengineer.org/bruisable-artificial-skin-could-help-prosthetics-robots-sense-injuries/

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Computers predict people’s tastes in art

New study offers insight into how people make aesthetic judgmentsCredit: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Schillinger Do

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Credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Schillinger

Do you like the thick brush strokes and soft color palettes of an impressionist painting such as those by Claude Monet? Or do you prefer the bold colors and abstract shapes of a Rothko? Individual art tastes have a certain mystique to them, but now a new Caltech study shows that a simple computer program can accurately predict which paintings a person will like.

The new study, appearing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, utilized Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk to enlist more than 1,500 volunteers to rate paintings in the genres of impressionism, cubism, abstract, and color field. The volunteers’ answers were fed into a computer program and then, after this training period, the computer could predict the volunteers’ art preferences much better than would happen by chance.

“I used to think the evaluation of art was personal and subjective, so I was surprised by this result,” says lead author Kiyohito Iigaya, a postdoctoral scholar who works in the laboratory of Caltech professor of psychology John O’Doherty.

The findings not only demonstrated that computers can make these predictions but also led to a new understanding about how people judge art.

“The main point is that we are gaining an insight into the mechanism that people use to make aesthetic judgments,” says O’Doherty. “That is, that people appear to use elementary image features and combine over them. That’s a first step to understanding how the process works.”

In the study, the team programmed the computer to break a painting’s visual attributes down into what they called low-level features–traits like contrast, saturation, and hue–as well as high-level features, which require human judgment and include traits such as whether the painting is dynamic or still.

“The computer program then estimates how much a specific feature is taken into account when making a decision about how much to like a particular piece of art,” explains Iigaya. “Both the low- and high-level features are combined together when making these decisions. Once the computer has estimated that, then it can successfully predict a person’s liking for another previously unseen piece of art.”

The researchers also discovered that the volunteers tended to cluster into three general categories: those who like paintings with real-life objects, such as an impressionist painting; those who like colorful abstract paintings, such as a Rothko; and those who like complex paintings, such as Picasso’s cubist portraits. The majority of people fell into the first “real-life object” category. “Many people liked the impressionism paintings,” says Iigaya.

What is more, the researchers found that they could also train a deep convolutional neural network (DCNN) to learn to predict the volunteer’s art preferences with a similar level of accuracy. A DCNN is a type of machine-learning program, in which a computer is fed a series of training images so that it can learn to classify objects, such as cats versus dogs. These neural networks have units that are connected to each other like neurons in a brain. By changing the strength of the connection of one unit to another, the network can “learn.”

In this case, the deep-learning approach did not include any of the selected low- or high-level visual features used in the first part of the study, so the computer had to “decide” what features to analyze on its own.

“In deep-neural-network models, we do not actually know exactly how the network is solving a particular task because the models learn by themselves much like real brains do,” explains Iigaya. “It can be very mysterious, but when we looked inside the neural network, we were able to tell that it was constructing the same feature categories we selected ourselves.” These results hint at the possibility that features used for determining aesthetic preference might emerge naturally in a brain-like architecture.

“We are now actively looking at whether this is indeed the case by looking at people’s brains while they make these same types of decisions,” says O’Doherty.

In another part of the study, the researchers also demonstrated that their simple computer program, which had already been trained on art preferences, could accurately predict which photos volunteers would like. They showed the volunteers photographs of swimming pools, food, and other scenes, and saw similar results to those involving paintings. Additionally, the researchers showed that reversing the order also worked: after first training volunteers on photos, they could use the program to accurately predict the subjects’ art preferences.

While the computer program was successful at predicting the volunteers’ art preferences, the researchers say there is still more to learn about the nuances that go into any one individual’s taste.

“There are aspects of preferences unique for a given individual that we have not succeeded in explaining using this method,” says O’Doherty. “This more idiosyncratic component may relate to semantic features, or the meaning of a painting, past experiences, and other individual personal traits that might influence valuation. It still may be possible to identify and learn about those features in a computer model, but to do so will involve a more detailed study of each individual’s preferences in a way that may not generalize across individuals as we found here.”

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The study, titled, “Aesthetic preference for art can be predicted from a mixture of low- and high-level visual features,” was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (through Caltech’s Conte Center for the Neurobiology of Social Decision Making), the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Japan Society for Promotion of Science, the Swartz Foundation, the Suntory Foundation, and the William H. and Helen Lang Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Other Caltech authors include Sanghyun Yi, Iman A. Wahle (BS ’20), and Koranis Tanwisuth, who is now a graduate student at UC Berkeley.

“I used to think the evaluation of art was personal and subjective, so I was surprised by this result,” says lead author Kiyohito Iigaya, a postdoctoral scholar who works in the laboratory of Caltech professor of psychology John O’Doherty.

Source: https://bioengineer.org/computers-predict-peoples-tastes-in-art/

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