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Synthesising camel and alpaca antibodies

Camels, llamas and alpacas are camelids and, just like every other mammal, possess an immune system which functions upon the basis of antibody reactions. But unlike other animals, camelids possess a secondary set of antibodies making them particularly prized among researchers.

These secondary antibodies, smaller in size, possess nanobodies which allow them to bind to more types of proteins over the primary antibodies. Put simply, camelid antibodies hold a key for researchers to both understand pathogens better and improve the development of new medications.

The process of obtaining and utilising camelid antibodies had been very costly and time consuming, making them an impractical approach. That is until a group of researchers from the United States published a study, introducing a new way of formulating a synthetic antibody library using only yeast cells. This effectively removed the need for camelids to synthesise their unique antibodies.

The best part is, the entire antibody library is free, and its creators have already sent samples to 40 other laboratories. The future of antibody research largely clings upon synthetic antibodies both in terms of practical and financial viability. While synthetic antibody libraries are available, this is the first ever freely distributed library.

Asian lung cancers tougher to treat

The team used genome sequencing to analyse lung tumours of Asian patients, and published the study in scientific journal Nature Communications on 15 January. Photo credit: Kelvin Chng/The Straits Times
The team used genome sequencing to analyse lung tumours of Asian patients, and published the study in scientific journal Nature Communications on 15 January. Photo credit: Kelvin Chng/The Straits Times

A study by the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the National Cancer Centre Singapore, has found that Asian lung cancers are tougher to treat owing to a more complex genetic composition. The study, which commenced in 2013, found that Asian lung cancers have more varied genetic mutation compared to the Caucasian variants.

These added mutations make Asian lung cancers tougher to treat. As explained by Dr Tam Wai Leong, principal investigator at GIS, "additional genetic mutations can make Asian lung tumours harder to treat, as they tend to adapt and resist the drugs that are administered."

"We can now focus on multi-agent treatment rather than single-agent ones, as the cancer may not be driven by a single mutation," said Dr Choo Bok Ai, Senior Consultant at the National University Cancer Institute, underlying the importance of the study’s results.

Mouse footprints – helping to optimise pain treatment

According to neurobiologist David Roberson, “Our hypothesis is that if we look at mice and rats from a viewpoint that a predator would never see and in a dark, small place – which is their natural place of refuge – that they’ll behave more naturally and we’ll be able to see potential side effects.” Photo credit: Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Children’s Hospital/STAT
According to neurobiologist David Roberson, “Our hypothesis is that if we look at mice and rats from a viewpoint that a predator would never see and in a dark, small place – which is their natural place of refuge – that they’ll behave more naturally and we’ll be able to see potential side effects.” Photo credit: Katherine C. Cohen/Boston Children’s Hospital/STAT

In the current clinical setting, a patient’s pain is often rated on a scale of one to ten by the patient. While the scale is simple and crudely effective, it also leaves a lot of room for interpretation especially since pain is largely subjective.

Enter David Roberson, neurobiologist at the Boston Children’s Hospital, who has devised a new way of measuring pain by studying the footprints of lab mice. The system, dubbed PalmReader, uses an infrared camera to study the movements of an injured mouse in a dark environment. The recorded movements are then analysed by an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm which breaks down the interaction between pain medication and the mouse’s movement.

The more effective the pain medication, the more active the mouse is likely to be while exerting a greater amount of pressure on its paws when moving about. Free from outside stressors – which would otherwise dull the pain – the mouse’s response to the medication aims to emulate the human experience of pain while recovering.

PalmReader is currently in its early phases. Roberson and his team are keen to explore the system from other angles.

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Broccoli and bacteria cocktail can keep the colon cancer at bay

The research team that found that the combination of broccoli and bacteria can help prevent colon cancer, making for an effective deterrent. Photo credit: Ng Sor Luan/The Straits Times
The research team that found that the combination of broccoli and bacteria can help prevent colon cancer, making for an effective deterrent. Photo credit: Ng Sor Luan/The Straits Times

Moving forward from their earlier research findings with broccoli, the team at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have reaffirmed the benefits of a E. coli Nissle and broccoli cocktail in helping to prevent colon cancer.

The mixture was able to eradicate 95% of colon cancer cells cultivated in the laboratory. The next step is to test the mixture on actual colon cancer cells. Early tests in mice have shown that 75% of cancer cells were killed.

"The day may come when a weekly dose of the engineered probiotic drink with a healthy diet of cruciferous vegetables would suffice to prevent colorectal cancer or reduce recurrence after surgery," said lead researcher of the study, Ho Chun Loong, a research fellow from Department of Biochemistry, NUS.

If successful, the broccoli cocktail will be targeted as a cost-effective way of preventing colon cancer in high risk individuals.

Screen on skin

An ultrathin display acting as a second skin which can convey everything – from simple text messages to important health data. Photo credit: New Straits Times
An ultrathin display acting as a second skin which can convey everything – from simple text messages to important health data. Photo credit: New Straits Times

A team at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed an ultra-thin, elastic electronic display, which can act as a second skin once applied. The display measures up to 6cm x 10cm and relays information via the use of micro light emitting diodes (LEDs) embedded across the millimetre-thick sheet.

Due to its elastic and breathable nature, the display does not cause discomfort to its wearer and can be worn for over a week – without causing skin inflammation. The second skin display has a myriad of proposed functionalities ranging from a simple display of text to health monitoring information. Plans to roll out the second skin are currently underway. MIMS



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Sources:
https://www.statnews.com/2018/02/12/camels-alpacas-antibodies-yeast/
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41594-018-0028-6
https://www.statnews.com/2018/02/09/mouse-footprints-pain-drugs/
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/asian-lung-cancer-tumours-may-be-tougher-to-treat-study-0
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/cocktail-of-bacteria-and-broccoli-may-keep-cancer-at-bay
https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/bots/2018/02/336565/palmreaders-japan-team-builds-second-skin-message-display
https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180219_03/