Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles say this work could be helpful in developing a vaccine
As cities across the United States are opening back up, the country is still a long way from ending the global pandemic with the development of a vaccine for COVID-19. However, in order to develop an effective vaccine, researchers need to understand how the immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Most of the vaccines in development for SARS CoV-2 are using part of the virus to provoke the immune system to produce proteins called antibodies that neutralize the virus. An alternative approach is to create protection against the virus by activating the T cells of the immune system. This is where immunotherapy researchers and UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research members Dr. Gay Crooks and Dr. Christopher Seet come in.
For years, they have been perfecting an innovative technology that uses blood-forming stem cells — which can give rise to all types of blood and immune cells — to produce a rare and powerful subset of immune cells called type 1 dendritic cells. Type 1 dendritic cells play an essential role in the immune response by devouring foreign proteins, termed antigens, from virus-infected cells and then chopping them into fragments. Dendritic cells then use these protein fragments to trigger T cells to mount an immune response.
Using this technology, Crooks and Seet are working to pinpoint which specific parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus provoke the strongest T-cell responses.
“Limiting viral shedding… would reduce transmission to family members and others, which is crucial to controlling epidemic disease spread.” – Stanford University researchers
Scientists at Stanford Medicine are investigating whether a molecule called interferon-lambda can help people with mild cases of COVID-19 feel better and reduce their transmission of the disease-causing virus.
A clinical trial is underway at Stanford Medicine to determine whether a drug can keep people who’ve just tested positive for the coronavirus out of the hospital, help them recover faster and make them safer to be around in the meantime.
The researchers also want to know whether the drug stems viral shedding, which would reduce transmission to family members and the community.The drug being looked at, interferon-lambda, is a manufactured form of a naturally occurring protein that’s been given in previous clinical trials to more than 3,000 people infected with hepatitis viruses.
Scripps Research expands international effort to rapidly repurpose existing drugs against COVID-19
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread across the globe, Scripps Research has quickly established an international network of collaborating scientific laboratories to leverage ReFRAME, the world’s leading drug repurposing collection, to find antiviral compounds against the novel coronavirus.
“This is a critical issue with profound implications for vaccine development, public health strategies, antibody-based therapeutics, and epidemiologic modeling of herd immunity.” –Harvard University researchers
In all the excitement over the potential for a quick vaccine to prevent COVID-19, one burning question has emerged: Are the antibodies that form in response to the virus adequate for fending of future infections? Scientists led by Harvard University have published two studies that they believe begin to answer that question.
In one study, nine macaques that were infected with SARS CoV-2 and then recovered were protected against the disease when they were exposed to it again 35 days later. The team showed the animals had developed neutralizing antibodies, which prevent the virus from infecting healthy cells. In separate research, 35 macaques received DNA vaccines developed at Harvard and showed similar immune responses as the animals involved in the first study did. The papers were published in the journal Science.
People who recover from many viruses typically form antibodies that protect them against future infections—but not always, the Harvard team pointed out in one of the studies. And COVID-19 is so new that no one knows to what degree people who have antibodies against the disease are protected.
A structural loop in the spike protein may be the key to why the virus is so contagious, researchers at the Cornell University report
A Cornell study of the structure of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, reveals a unique feature that could explain why it is so transmissible between people. The Cornell group also notes that – aside from primates – cats, ferrets and mink are the animal species apparently most susceptible to the human virus.
The study identifies a structural loop in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the area of the virus that facilitates entry into a cell, and a sequence of four amino acids in this loop that is different from other known human coronaviruses in this viral lineage. This loop has an unusual combination of being both highly transmissible and highly lethal.
Researchers are focused on further study of this structural loop and the sequence of four amino acids. “The prediction is that that loop is very important to transmissibility or stability, or both,” says senior author, Gary Whittaker, professor of virology in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute create 3D roadmap of novel coronavirus that can be used “to streamline the search for new antivirals and vaccines”
In the peer-reviewed paper, Dmitry Korkin, associate professor of computer science at WPI and director of the university’s bioinformatics and computational biology program, describes how he and his research team of graduate students used bioinformatics and molecular modeling to reconstruct the 3D structure of major viral proteins and their interactions with human proteins.
Specifically, the team found three Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) isolates—or specimens—that were similar to COVID-19, a new disease caused by a novel coronavirus that has not been seen before in humans. SARS, a virus identified in 2003, also caused worldwide infection and a significant number of deaths.
Korkin and his team reached three preliminary conclusions that could play a part in modeling the virus and aiding scientists with future drug discovery.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine examine the ability of antibodies made by alpacas to protect humans from infection by the coronavirus
University of Kentucky College of Medicine researchers are using the special antibodies made by alpacas, called nanobodies, to help understand the novel coronavirus and potentially develop a treatment that could protect people from being infected.
“The idea is that nanobodies are small enough to access small pockets on SARS-CoV-2’s spike proteins, which is the part of the virus that attaches to host cells. A nanobody that could block the binding of the spike protein to its cellular receptor could be an effective treatment for COVID-19,” said Sidney Whiteheart, who is co-leading the study with Lou Hersh, both professors in the Department of Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry.
Alpacas Big Boy, Blue Eyes and Emperor may hold the key to combating COVID-19. Their antibodies could offer a defense against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.
Smith College Team from Massachusetts Wins CoVent-19 Challenge to Design New Ventilator for Developing World
On April 1, a dozen anesthesiology resident physicians from Massachusetts General Hospital kicked off an audacious public challenge to design a rapidly deployable, minimum viable ventilator that could address shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in developing countries. Just three months and more than 200 submissions later, a team of engineering alumnae, staff and faculty from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., had taken a winning design from concept through working prototype. The next step could be a final product for regulatory approval in Nigeria, just one of the countries that have been talking with the CoVent-19 Challenge organizers.
“In two months we went from knowing nothing to having a functional prototype,” said team co-leader Susannah Howe, director of Smith’s Engineering Design Clinic. “To see that trajectory in such a short period of time, with people who are volunteering their time on top of their other jobs is amazing and heartwarming and so rewarding.”
Dr. Linda Thompson with Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) is leading a study to learn the effects of the coronavirus on the human body.
“One of the main questions is, “Why do some people get really sick with COVID-19 and other people have mild disease? So we know there are some risk factors like older age and underlying health conditions like hypertension and diabetes and obesity, but there is clearly more to it than that,” said Dr. Linda Thompson, OMRF member and Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research Adjunct Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
In particular, this study will examine the impact on native Americans. “We’re just trying to understand what is the course of disease for them and are there ways that we can intervene and make it better for them? So, Oklahoma has one of the largest proportions of native American populations, so we are the ideal state to do this kind of research. We have a long history of collaboration with the native Americans, so we are set up to do this.”
Yale University and NBA partner to study efficacy of an alternative to swab testing
Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health have partnered with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to study the efficacy of a saliva-based method that quickly determines if someone is infected with the novel coronavirus.
The new test is called SalivaDirect. Doctors Nathan Grubaugh and Anne Wyllie of Yale University are leading the team of researchers who will begin testing select players, coaches, and staff from the NBA teams who have volunteered to participate in the study.
“In talking to our partners at the NBA, we heard that in addition to finding less-invasive testing solutions for players and staff, there is a strong desire on their part to give back to the public and especially help low-income communities, so it became immediately clear that our interests were aligned,” said Grubaugh, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health.