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Pfizer reports coronavirus vaccine with more than 90% efficacy

In what could prove to be a turning point in the fight against COVID-19, U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech announced yesterday that one of their coronavirus vaccines is more than 90% effective at preventing the viral disease, according to new data from its Phase III trial. They are predicting that they will have the requisite safety data for an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA before the end of the month.

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Chronic jet lag deregulates cancer cell microenvironment

Mounting evidence suggests that good sleep is critical to many aspects of our health. Circadian rhythms regulate the sleep-wake cycle in everything from mammals to fruit flies to plants, and keeps them synced up to the 24-hour cycle of the Earth’s rotation. In humans, circadian rhythms can be disrupted by chronic jet lag and shift work. New research indicates that disrupting these rhythms has negative consequences for both tumor size and microenvironment in mice.

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Tiny bovine antibody fragments show big potential

In the world of monoclonal antibodies, being small is a big deal. Smaller antibodies and antibody fragments can penetrate solid tumors that would be inaccessible to larger antibodies, and some can even make it across the blood-brain barrier. That’s why it’s exciting that researchers at the University of Bath and UCB (a Belgian biotech company) have designed extra-small antibody fragments from cows.

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Maternal microbiome affects brain development in mice

Researchers led by UCLA’s Helen E. Vuong have determined that the presence of specific bacteria in the gut of pregnant mice can lead to long-term behavioral changes in the mice’s offspring. The group’s work contributes to the growing understanding of the relationship between gut bacteria and brain development.

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Microgels protect transplanted islet cells from immune system

People with type I diabetes are unable to make the insulin needed to regulate their blood sugar, which is why they must take exogenous insulin every day. Another treatment option is pancreatic islet transplantation, wherein healthy donor islets (tiny structures which contain insulin-producing beta cells) are transplanted into the diabetic patient.

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A New Affinity Tag for Protein Purification

Researchers at Pohang University of Science & Technology have developed a novel technique to affinity tag and purify recombinant proteins.  Their method does not rely on protein-based affinity ligands, but rather utilizes cucurbiturils, a family of macrocyclic molecules named after their resemblance to pumpkins (family Cucurbitaceae).

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Coronavirus vaccines moving forward

Development of COVID-19 vaccines is moving forward at an unprecedented pace, and the public interest and press coverage are huge. And yet it is not easy for lay person or scientist to keep track of the multitude of vaccine candidates.

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Break-through in mitochondrial gene editing

Mitochondria, the organelles that produce most of a cell’s energy, are distinguished from other organelles by having their own genetic information which is independent of the nucleus. The mitochondrial genome encodes for only 13 proteins, but these proteins are not only very important for energy generation; mutations in these genes are known to be responsible for a number of inherited diseases and they have been implicated in metabolic diseases, aging and neurodegeneration.

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