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Category Archives: Gene Medicine

Obesity in mice prevented by disabling gene – Medical News Today

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 2:48 pm

A study has found that disabling a gene in the myeloid cells of mice prevents them from developing obesity.

New research has found that inhibiting an immune cell gene in mice prevented them from developing obesity, even when they consumed a diet high in fat.

The studys findings, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, may one day help scientists develop therapies that can help people with obesity burn calories more easily.

Obesity is a major health issue, and in the United States, rates of the condition have risen over the past 40 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that between 2017 and 2018, 42.4% of people in the country had obesity. Between 1999 and 2000, that figure was 30.5%.

Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

The CDC say that lifestyle changes, including eating a more healthful diet and getting more regular exercise, are key to reducing obesity.

One issue, however, involves obesitys effects on metabolism previous research in mice lead to the suggestion that a person with obesity burns fewer calories than a person who does not have obesity.

Better understanding how and why this might happen, and what scientists and clinicians can do about it, may help with reducing obesity.

In the present study, the researchers inhibited a gene in immune cells in mice. They did this because of an association between obesity and increased inflammation, and immune cells play a key role in controlling inflammation.

The researchers had wanted to find out what part the immune cells play in the metabolic complications of obesity. To their surprise, they found that the cells have a central role in regulating obesity and weight gain.

To study the effects of inhibiting the immune cell gene, the researchers conducted two experiments. In the first, they deleted the gene Asxl2, and in the second, they injected regular mice with nanoparticles that interfered with the function of the gene.

Once the researchers had inhibited this gene in the immune cells, they found that the mice did not develop obesity when fed a high fat diet, and that this was likely due to increased energy expenditure.

Compared with a control group of mice who had obesity but none of the gene inhibition, the mice with the inhibition burned 45% more calories, despite eating high fat diets.

For the studys principal investigator, Prof. Steven L. Teitelbaum, of the Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, MO, Weve developed a proof of concept, here, that you can regulate weight gain by modulating the activity of these inflammatory cells.

It might work in a number of ways, but we believe it may be possible to control obesity and the complications of obesity by better regulating inflammation.

The team is not yet sure why inhibiting the gene in the mices immune cells resulted in them not gaining weight while on a high fat diet. The researchers suspect that the answer may involve encouraging white fat cells to burn fat rather than store it, as brown fat cells do.

While this is only preliminary research, the findings may eventually help people with obesity burn calories at a higher rate, supporting them as they make broader lifestyle changes that involve the diet and exercise.

According to Prof. Teitelbaum, A large percentage of Americans now have fatty livers, and one reason is that their fat depots cannot take up the fat they eat, so it has to go someplace else.

These mice consumed high fat diets, but they didnt get fatty livers. They dont get type 2 diabetes. It seems that limiting the inflammatory effects of their macrophages allows them to burn more fat, which keeps them leaner and healthier.

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COVID-19 study looks at genetics of healthy people who develop severe illness – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

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Researchers seek answers to viruss mysteries, clues to possible treatments

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of more than 30 genome sequencing hubs worldwide participating in a study to sequence the DNA of young, healthy adults and children who develop severe COVID-19 despite having no underlying medical problems. The researchers also will study people who never become infected despite repeated exposures to coronavirus. Knowledge gained from understanding COVID-19s extremes could lead to new therapeutic strategies for the illness.

To help unravel the mysteries of COVID-19, scientists are sequencing the DNA of young, healthy adults and children who develop severe illness despite having no underlying medical problems. The researchers are looking for genetic defects that could put certain individuals at high risk of becoming severely ill from the novel coronavirus.

The McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of more than 30 genome sequencing hubs worldwide participating in the study. Rheumatologist Megan A. Cooper, MD, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics, is leading the research at Washington University. Called the COVID Human Genetic Effort, the international project is co-led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Rockefeller University.

The researchers also plan to study people who never become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, despite repeated exposures. Such individuals may have genetic variations that protect against infection. For example, certain rare genetic variants are known to thwart some types of viral infections, including HIV and norovirus. Knowledge gained from understanding COVID-19s extremes unusual susceptibility and resistance could lead to new therapeutic strategies for the illness.

The first focus of our study will be patients with severe responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection severe enough to require intensive care who appear otherwise healthy and are younger than 50, said Cooper, who also leads the clinical immunology program and the Jeffrey Modell Diagnostic and Research Center for Primary Immunodeficiencies at St. Louis Childrens Hospital.

These patients dont have uncontrolled diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease or any other condition that we know increases the risk of severe complications from COVID-19, she said. For example, we sometimes see stories about, say, a marathon runner or a generally fit, healthy person who nevertheless got very sick from this virus, or the few healthy children who are getting very sick with COVID-19. These are the kinds of patients were interested in for this study. A small proportion of hospitalized patients will fit this category, likely less than 10%.

Cooper studies primary immunodeficiencies in children. Primary immunodeficiencies are a group of more than 450 genetic disorders of the immune system. They often are caused by mutations in single genes that affect different aspects of immunity.

With this pandemic, we can use our skills in gene hunting to search for genes that might be associated with severe COVID-19 in children and younger adults, she said. We can foresee a future ability to do a genetic sequencing test for individual patients hospitalized with SARS-CoV-2 and get an idea of whether they are likely to need more intensive care. In the meantime, we will be able to learn a great deal about how the immune system responds to this virus and what it needs to be able to respond effectively and in an appropriate manner.

These patients genetics could reveal the important immune pathways that the body needs to fight the virus. That knowledge could lead to therapies that also could help other patients who dont have a genetic susceptibility to the virus but perhaps have high-risk conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

Our immune systems have never seen this virus before, Cooper said. Were seeing severe COVID-19 complications play out across the world right now. It is going to take a global effort to investigate the genetic factors and the immune system factors that really control this infection.

Research related to COVID-19, including collecting and distributing of patient samples, is managed through Washington Universitys Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS), led by William G. Powderly, MD, who is also the Larry J. Shapiro Director of the Institute for Public Health, the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine and co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

This research is supported by funding from the St. Louis Childrens Hospital Foundation and the Jeffrey Modell Foundation.

Washington University School of Medicines 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Childrens hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Childrens hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

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UBC scientist identifies a gene that controls thinness – UBC Faculty of Medicine – UBC Faculty of Medicine

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Why can some people eat as much as they want, and still stay thin?

In a study published today in the journal Cell, Life Sciences Institute Director Dr. Josef Penninger and a team of international colleagues report their discovery that a gene called ALK (Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase) plays a role in resisting weight gain.

We all know these people, who can eat whatever they want, they dont exercise, but they just dont gain weight. They make up around one per cent of the population, says senior author Penninger, professor in the Faculty of Medicines department of medical genetics and a Canada 150 research chair.

Dr. Josef Penninger

We wanted to understand why, adds Penninger. Most researchers study obesity and the genetics of obesity. We just turned it around and studied thinness, thereby starting a new field of research.

Using biobank data from Estonia, Penningers team, including researchers from Switzerland, Austria, and Australia, compared the genetic makeup and clinical profiles of 47,102 healthy thin, and normal-weight individuals aged 20-44. Among the genetic variations the team discovered in the thin group was a mutation in the ALK gene.

ALKs role in human physiology has been largely unclear. The gene is known to mutate frequently in several types of cancer, and has been identified as a driver of tumour development.

Our work reveals that ALK acts in the brain, where it regulates metabolism by integrating and controlling energy expenditure, says Michael Orthofer, the studys lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Vienna.

When Penningers team deleted the ALK gene in flies and mice, both were resistant to diet-induced obesity. Despite consuming the same diet and having the same activity level, mice without ALK weighed less and had less body fat.

As ALK is highly expressed in the brain, its potential role in weight gain resistance make it an attractive mark for scientists developing therapeutics for obesity.

The team will next focus on understanding how neurons that express ALK regulate the brain at a molecular level, and determining how ALK balances metabolism to promote thinness. Validating the results in additional, more diverse human population studies will also be important.

Its possible that we could reduce ALK function to see if we did stay skinny, says Penninger. ALK inhibitors are used in cancer treatments already, so we know that ALK can be targeted therapeutically.

The study was supported by the Estonian Research Council, the European Union Horizon 2020 fund, and European Regional Development Fund, the von Zastrow Foundation, and the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program.

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IU team pursuing breathtaking advancements in regenerative medicine – The Republic

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INDIANAPOLIS A dime-size nanochip developed by a world-renowned researcher who recently relocated to Indianapolis could help transform the practice of medicine. It could also turn Indianapolis into a manufacturing and research hub for radically new disease and trauma treatment techniques.

It all began in August 2018, when Chandan Sen, one of the worlds leading experts in the nascent field of regenerative medicine, moved his lab from Ohio State University to the Indiana University School of Medicine. He brought along a team of about 30 researchers and $10 million in research grants, and now serves, among a myriad of other positions, as director of the newly formed Indiana Center for Regenerative Medicine and Engineering, to which IU pledged $20 million over its first five years.

IU recruited Sen away from Ohio State in part because of its desire not just to promote academic research in his field but also to help develop practical, commercial products and uses for his breakthroughs.

A scientist prefers to be in the lab and keep on making more discoveries, said Sen, 53.

Story continues below gallery

But I thought that, unless we participate in the workforce development process and the commercialization process, I dont think that the business people would be ready to do it all by themselves. Because its such a nascent field.

Its definitely new and its potential sounds like the stuff of science fiction.

Regenerative medicine, as its name hints, seeks to develop methods for replacing or reinvigorating damaged human organs, cells and tissues.

For instance, instead of giving a diabetic a lifetimes worth of insulin injections, some of his skin cells could be altered to produce insulin, curing him. Such techniques might also be used for everything from creating lab-grown replacement organs to, someday, regenerating severed limbs.

Regenerative medicine offers a form of medicine that is neither a pill nor a device, Sen said.

It is a completely new platform, where you dont necessarily depend on any given drug, but are instead modifying bodily functions.

A big, tiny breakthrough

Sen and his teams signal contribution to the field is a technique theyve dubbed tissue nanotransfection, or TNT. Put simply, it uses a nanotechnology-based chip infused with a special biological cargo that, when applied to the skin and given a brief electrical charge, can convert run-of-the-mill skin cells into other cell types. Potentially, the technique could be used for everything from regrowing blood vessels in burn-damaged tissue to creating insulin-secreting cells that could cure diabetics.

Obviously, such applications are still down the road a ways. But the technology is far enough along that some products are already making it to marketand investors, entrepreneurs and established companies are sniffing around for opportunities. According to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, more than 1,000 clinical trials worldwide are using regenerative medicine technologies.

Thousands of patients are already benefiting from early commercial products, and we expect that number will grow exponentially over the next few years, said Janet Lambert, the alliances CEO.

Lambert predicts that the number of approved gene therapies will double in the next one to two years. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration predicted it would be approving 10 to 20 cell and gene therapies each year by 2025.

These new techniques could do more than just revolutionize medicine. They could also upend the medical industry as we know it. And the IU School of Medicineand Indianapoliscould lead the way.

There are really only two or three places in the country that did the kind of comprehensive work that Dr. Sens group was doing, said Anantha Shekhar, executive associate dean for research at IU School of Medicine. And they were doing it from the lab all the way to the clinic, where they were already applying those technologies in patients.

So it was very attractive to think of starting with a bang bringing a comprehensive group here and creating a new center.

Ambitious goals

Instead of merely treating chronic conditions, regenerative medicine could end them, once and for all.

For instance, consider a car with an oil leak. The traditional medical approach might be to live with the chronic condition by pouring in a fresh quart of oil every few days. The regenerative medicine approach would fix the leak. Its good for the car, good for the cars owner but not necessarily good for the guy who was selling all those quarts of oil.

Which is why these new techniques, if they catch on, could cause turmoil in the medical industry.

Because regenerative medicine has the potential to durably treat the underlying cause of disease, rather than merely ameliorating the symptoms, this technology has the potential of being extremely disruptive to the current practice of medicine, Lambert said.

This has the potential to be hugely disruptive, Sen added, because so much of medicine today relies on huge industrial infrastructures to manage, not cure, chronic diseases and disabilities.

If such disruption comes to pass, the leaders of 16 Tech, a 50-acre innovation district northwest of downtown that aspires to house dozens of medical-related startups and established firms, would love to be its epicenter.

The Center for Regenerative Medicine will be one of the tenants of 16 Techs first building, a $30 million, 120,000-square-foot research and office building scheduled to open in June.

Regenerative medicine is probably one of the next major waves of medical innovation in the world, 16 Tech CEO Bob Coy said. To have him here doing this work gives Indianapolis and Indiana an opportunity to develop an industrial cluster in regenerative medicine.

Coy believes the most momentous early step on that road was the recent establishment by Sen of masters and doctoral programs in regenerative medicine at the IU School of Medicine. Its the first degree of its type in the country, earning IU and Indianapolis the enviable status of first mover.

I think, for example, of [Pittsburghs] Carnegie Mellon University, which, back in the late 1960s, created the first college of computer science in the country, Coy said. And now you know Carnegie Mellons reputation in computer science.

What isnt in place yet is a state or city program to promote development of a regenerative medicine hub.

We need to start doing that, Coy said. That means putting a lot of the infrastructure in place to support startups that are based on this technology, as well as recruiting companies that want to collaborate with Dr. Sen.

In spite of the lack of a coherent recruitment program, Coys phone has started to ring, thanks largely to Sens presence.

There have been a few meetings Ive had with people who already have relationships with him, who, when they come to town, have reached out to meet and talk about what were doing at 16 Tech, he said.

Fueling entrepreneurship

One of the first 16 Tech startups with designs on the regenerative medicine niche is Sexton Biotechnologies.

The company was groomed by Cook Regentec, a division of Bloomington-based Cook Group charged with incubating and accelerating technologies for regenerative medicine and the related field of cell gene therapy.

Any products that show promise are either folded into the company, turned into their own divisions or, as in Sextons case, spun off as an independent entity with Cook retaining a financial stake.

Its a measure of the newness of this field that Sextons 17 employees arent working on new medicines, but rather marketing basic tools needed to conduct research. The companys offerings include a vial for storing cell and gene products in liquid nitrogen, and a cell culture growth medium.

Theres a ready market for such tailor-made gear, because, for years, researchers in the regenerative medicine field had to make do with jury-rigged equipment.

What most of those companies did was repurpose things like tools from the blood banking industry, or tools from bio pharma, said Sean Werner, Sextons president.

So thats why a lot of newer companies are starting to build tools explicitly for the industry, as opposed to everybody just having to cobble together stuff that was already out there.

Werner said investors recognize the momentous opportunity in regenerative medicine and are flocking to the field.

Its not something you have to explain, he said. Companies and VC groups are trying to get a piece of it.

What has investors and medical researchers charged up is the almost unlimited range of potential applications, from healing burns to, perhaps someday, regenerating limbs.

I think it would be a huge revolution if were able to, for example, regenerate insulin-secreting cells in children who have become juvenile diabetics or have for whatever reason lost their pancreas, Shekhar said. Those are the kinds of things that will start to change the way we see certain diseases.

Lambert predicted that, as the science advances, so will the business case.

While early programs focused primarily on rare genetic diseases and blood cancers, were already seeing the field expand into more common age-related neurological disorders, such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers, she said.

I expect this trend to continue in the coming years, greatly increasing the number of patients poised to benefit from these therapies.

Werner said regenerative medicine also is seeking advancements in manufacturing technologies that will lower the cost of product development.

It all adds up to a huge opportunity the state is well-positioned to seize, Werner believes.

Indiana is a perfect place for this kind of thing to really ramp up, he said. Theres no reason we cant lead the field.

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Complement genes add to sex-based vulnerability in lupus and schizophrenia – UAB News

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The complement system is part of the bodys immune system to fight pathogens and remove cell debris. Its role in two autoimmune diseases and a mental disorder is a surprise.

The complement system is part of the bodys immune system to fight pathogens and remove cell debris. Its role in two autoimmune diseases and a mental disorder is a surprise.Variants in a gene of the human immune system cause men and women to have different vulnerabilities to the autoimmune diseases lupus and Sjgrens syndrome, according to findings published today in the journal Nature. This extends recent work that showed the gene variants could increase risk for schizophrenia.

The gene variants are a member of the complement system, a cascade of proteins that help antibodies and phagocytic cells remove damaged cells of a persons own body, as well as an infection defense that promotes inflammation and attacks pathogens. Normally the complement system keeps a person healthy in the face of pathogens; it also helps cart away the debris of damaged human cells before the body can mount an autoimmune attack. Now complement gene variants apparently play a contributing role in the diseases systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjgrens syndrome and schizophrenia.

It had been known that all three illnesses had common genetic associations with a section of the human chromosome called the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC. This region on chromosome 6 includes many genes that regulate the immune system. However, making an association with a specific gene or with the mutational variants of a specific gene that are called alleles has been difficult, partly because the MHC on human chromosome 6 spans three million base-pairs of DNA.

The Nature paper is a collaboration of 22 authors at 10 institutions in the United States and one in England, along with many members of a schizophrenia working group. Robert Kimberly, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and director of the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science, is a co-author of the research, which was led by corresponding author Steven McCarroll, Ph.D., assistant professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School.

The identified alleles are complement component 4A and 4B, known as C4A and C4B.

The research showed that different combinations of C4A and C4B copy numbers generate a sevenfold variation in risk for lupus and 16-fold variation in risk for Sjgrens syndrome among people with common C4 genotypes. Paradoxically, the same C4 alleles that previously were shown to increase risk for schizophrenia had a different impact for lupus and Sjgrens syndrome they greatly reduced risk in those diseases. In all three illnesses, the C4 alleles acted more strongly in men than in women.

For the complement proteins that are encoded by the genes for C4 and for complement component 3, or C3, both C4 protein and its effector C3 protein were present at greater levels in men than in women in cerebrospinal fluid and blood plasma among adults ages 20-50. Intriguingly, that is the age range when the three diseases differentially affect men and women for unknown reasons. Lupus and Sjgrens syndrome affect women of childbearing age nine times more than they do men of similar age. In contrast, in schizophrenia, women exhibit less severe symptoms, more frequent remission of symptoms, lower relapse rates and lower overall incidence than men, who are affected more frequently and more severely.

Both men and women have an age-dependent elevation of C4 and C3 protein levels in blood plasma. In men, this occurs early in adulthood, ages 20-30. In women, the elevation is closer to menopause, ages 40-50. Thus, differences in complement protein levels in men and women occur mostly during the reproductive years, ages 20-50.

The researchers say sex differences in complement protein levels may help explain the larger effects of C4 alleles in men, the greater risk of women for lupus and Sjgrens, and the greater vulnerability of men for schizophrenia.

Robert Kimberly, M.D.The ages of pronounced sex differences in complement levels correspond to the ages when men and women differ in disease incidence. In schizophrenia cases, men outnumber women in early adulthood; but that disparity of onset lessens after age 40. In lupus, female cases greatly outnumber male cases during childbearing years; but that difference is much less for disease onset after age 50 or during childhood. In Sjgrens syndrome, women are more vulnerable than are men before age 50.

The researchers say the differing effect of C4 alleles in schizophrenia versus lupus and Sjgrens syndrome will be important to consider in any therapeutic effort to engage the complement system. They also said, Why and how biology has come to create this sexual dimorphism in the complement system in humans presents interesting questions for immune and evolutionary biology.

Co-authors with McCarroll and Kimberly for the paper, Complement genes contribute sex-biased vulnerability in diverse illnesses, are Nolan Kamitaki, Aswin Sekar, Heather de Rivera, Katherine Tooley and Christine Seidman, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts; Robert Handsaker and Christopher Whelan, Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; David Morris, Philip Tombleson and Timothy Vyse, Kings College London, London, United Kingdom; Kimberly Taylor and Lindsey Criswell, University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine; Loes Olde Loohuis and Roel Ophoff, University of California-Los Angeles; Michael Boehnke, University of Michigan; Kenneth Kaufman and John Harley, Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center, Ohio; Carl Langefeld, Wake Forest School of Medicine, North Carolina; Michele Pato and Carlos Pato, State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center; and Robert Graham, Genentech Inc., South San Francisco, California.

Support came from National Institutes of Health grants HG006855, MH112491, MH105641 and MH105653; and from the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research.

At UAB, Kimberly holds the Howard L. Holley Research Chair in Rheumatology.

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COVID-19-Related Genes Have Higher Expression in Certain Patients With Asthma – Pulmonology Advisor

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In patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), higher sputum cell expression of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) was observed in certain patients with asthma while lower expression was found in patients who used inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), according to study results published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

COVID-19, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), may be more severe in patients with chronic lung disease, including patients with asthma, and it appears that demographic or biological factors influence susceptibility to the infection or severity of disease. Because ACE2 and TMPRSS2 mediate viral infection of host cells, researchers reasoned that differences in ACE2 or TMPRSS2 gene expression in sputum cells in patients with asthma may identify subgroups at risk for COVID-19 morbidity.

By analyzing gene expression for ACE2 and TMPRSS2 as well as intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) in sputum cells from 330 participants and 79 healthy control individuals, researchers found that gene expression of ACE2 was lower than TMPRSS2, and that expression levels of both genes were similar in patients with asthma and healthy individuals. In patients with asthma, however, men, African Americans, and people with diabetes had higher expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2. In patients with asthma, ICAM-1 expression increased and there were fewer consistent differences related to sex, race, and ICS use. Use of ICS was associated with lower expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2, while treatment with triamcinolone acetonide did not decrease expression of either gene or ICAM-1.

Higher expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in males, African Americans, and patients with diabetes mellitus provides rationale for monitoring these asthma subgroups for poor COVID-19 outcomes, the study authors wrote. The lower expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 with ICS use warrants prospective study of ICS use as a predictor of decreased susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection and decreased COVID-19 morbidity.


Peters MC, Sajuthi S, Deford P, et al; for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Severe Asthma Research Program-3 Investigators. COVID-19 related genes in sputum cells in asthma: Relationship to demographic features and corticosteroids [published online April 29, 2020]. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. doi:10.1164/rccm.202003-0821OC

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Precision Medicine Informs Cost-Effective Heart Disease Treatments –

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May 18, 2020 -Using precision medicine approaches to tailor heart disease therapies could lead to more cost-effective treatments and improved patient outcomes, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Patients who experience a heart attack have sharply reduced blood flow in coronary arteries, as well as a high risk of heart failure or death. Coronary angioplasty, a procedure to open narrowed or blocked arteries in the heart, and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) can restore blood flow to minimize heart damage. These procedures reduce the risk of subsequent major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE), which include heart attacks, strokes, or death.

After these procedures, providers have to make a treatment decision. After PCI, all patients receive two antiplatelet agents for up to one year. The most commonly used antiplatelet combination after PCI is aspirin and clopidogrel. Clopidogrel is converted to its active form by an enzyme called CYP2C19, but patients respond to this treatment differently depending on their genetic makeup.

Over 30 percent of people have loss-of-function variants in the CYP2C19 gene that decreases the effectiveness of clopidogrel. These patients may not get the full benefit of clopidogrel, which would increase their risk of MACE. The FDA recommends that providers consider different treatments for these individuals, such as prasugrel or ticagrelor, to replace clopidogrel.

In 2018, UAB and researchers at nine universities across the US showed that patients with loss-of-function variants who were treated with clopidogrel had elevated risks. The study revealed that there was a twofold risk of MACE in PCI patients, and a threefold risk for MACE among patients with acute coronary syndrome who received PCI, as compared to patients prescribed prasugrel or ticagrelor instead of clopidogrel.

While prasugrel and ticagrelor are not influenced by loss-of-function variants and can substitute for clopidogrel, these drugs are much more costly and can bring a higher risk of bleeding.

Using this real-world data, the research team set out to conduct an economic analysis of the best treatments for heart disease patients. The study compared three main strategies: treating all patients with clopidogrel, treating all patients with ticagrelor, and genotyping all patients and using ticagrelor in those with loss-of-function variants.

The group considered differences in event rates for heart attacks and stent thrombosis in patients receiving clopidogrel versus ticagrelor versus genotype-guided therapy, during the one-year period following PCI. They also considered medical costs from events like admissions, procedures, medications, clinical visits, and genetic testing. The study used an economic measure known as the quality-adjusted life year (QALY).

First, we looked at which strategy provided the highest QALY, Limdi said. The QALY is the gold standard for measuring benefit of an intervention in our case, genotype-guided treatment compared to treatment without genotyping. Universal ticagrelor and genotype-guided antiplatelet therapy had higher QALYs than universal clopidogrel so those are the best for the patient.

Researchers then analyzed whether those interventions that have higher QALYs were also reasonable from a cost perspective, which includes a payers or patients willingness to pay.

In our case, the payor would recognize that ticagrelor is more expensive than clopidogrel $360 per month vs. $10 per month and there is a $100 cost for each genetic test, Limdi said. So, from the payor perspective, the more effective strategy (one with a higher QALY) if more expensive (higher cost) would have to lower the risks of bad outcomes like heart attacks and strokes for the gains in QALY that are at, or below, the willingness-to-pay threshold.

A measure called incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) assesses the incremental cost of the benefit, or improvement in QALY. In the US, a treatment is considered cost-effective if its associated ICER is at or below the willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000 per QALY.

In our assessment, the two strategies with the highest QALY had very different ICERs, Limdi said. The genotype-guided strategy was cost-effective at $42,365 per QALY. Universal ticagrelor was not; it had an ICER of $227,044 per QALY.

The study results demonstrate the effectiveness of genotyping and precision medicine strategies for tailoring treatments and improving patient outcomes.

We showed that tailoring antiplatelet selection based on genotype is a cost-effective strategy, said Nita Limdi, PharmD, PhD. Support is now growing to change the clinical guidelines, which currently do not recommend genotyping in all cases. Evidence like this is needed to advance the field of precision medicine.

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Here’s Why Editas Could Beat Intellia to a CRISPR Therapy – Motley Fool

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Breakthrough genome editing companies includingEditas (NASDAQ:EDIT) and Intellia Therapeutics (NASDAQ:NTLA) have been in a tailspin since late 2019, and the latest earnings reports from both of those companies show that their revenue from collaborations and partnerships has started to dry up despite positive revenue growth overall.

Both companies aim to produce gene therapies utilizing CRISPR-based genetic editing in living patients, though their methods of delivering that therapy differ substantially. Neither company has a product on the market, though Editas beat Intellia to clinical trialsin April when it began testing EDIT-101 for Leber congenital amaurosis, a type of congenital blindness. Nonetheless, Editas is many years away from its first therapy being approved for sale, assuming that EDIT-101 proceeds past phase 1.

Investors considering either of these two companies should be aware that both are risky choices with no guarantee of a payoff over any term. There is one significant difference that wise investors will weigh carefully, however: Editas's partnerships and strategic collaborations appear positioned to be far more fruitful for the company than Intellia's.

Image source: Getty Images.

Intellia is a slightly smaller company than Editas, but its pipeline is comparable in breadth. The companies are of similar age, with Editas having been founded in 2013 and Intellia in 2014. However, Intellia's network of collaborations and research partnerships is far less lucrative, and its pipeline projects may soon require new funding to move forward.

Intellia's partners include pharma giantNovartis (NYSE:NVS) and biotechRegeneron (NASDAQ:REGN). Novartis made a substantial equity investment in Intellia as part of that partnership, and Novartis also retained exclusive rights to develop any engineered CAR-T cancer therapies produced by the collaboration. Intellia also agreed to give Regeneron the exclusive right to develop CRISPR-based therapies targeted at any of 10 different genes in the liver.

The terms of these collaborations make Intellia unable to capitalize on major successes beyond extending the depth of integration with its partners. Thus, in the long view, the company's path forward would still require moving its wholly owned therapy candidates to market, even if its approach is proven by a collaborator's success.

Editas's partnerships, on the other hand, are substantially more equitable. Editas's major drug development collaborations include Allergan (now part of AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV) and biopharma giantBristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY). The expectation with these collaborations is that the more mature partner companies will be responsible for clinical-stage development, with Editas providing trial-ready therapy candidates and a technology platform to develop similar therapies according to the partners' needs.

Should these candidates show promise in phase 2 clinical trials investigating preliminary efficacy, the company's collaborators would likely respond by initiating new collaborations to capitalize on Editas's platform before its output is replicated by a competitor like Intellia. But Editas isn't in the same position as Intellia with regard to its major collaborations because it has a chance to capture the upside of collaborators' successes as well.

Editas's collaboration with Allergan specifies that both parties have optionality to co-develop any successful programs, and that Editas will share the revenue and losses of those programs equally with Allergan.And Editas's previous collaborations with companies like Celgene demonstrate that companies collaborating with Editas do so to access its gene-editing platform as customers as much as partners.

Editas also has partnerships with research-stage small preclinical companies such as Sandhill Therapeutics. Sandhill's therapeutic platform could benefit immensely from integrating Editas' genetic editing technologies. A similar research-stage pact with BlueRock Therapeutics initiated in 2019 has already advanced to clinical pipeline collaborations for Editas, proving that working with external peers is one of the company's organizational strengths.

It's important to remember that Editas's collaboration advantage is far from the only ingredient the company needs to survive in the medium term. Reliable revenue remains absent, and collaborations are vulnerable to amendment if the company can't deliver what its collaborators need to move products through the clinical trial process.

Data by YCharts

For the moment, neither Editas nor Intellia warrants a definite buy, and present holders of Intellia may want to consider selling. If Intellia cancels any of its preclinical programs, consider it a strong sign that the company's health is deteriorating. Look at Editas's performance in the second and third quarters to see if they're on the right track for a buy early next year, but understand that waiting until next year to reevaluate the company's situation is probably the wisest path.

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FDA Approves Genentech’s Tecentriq as a First-Line Monotherapy for Certain People With Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer – Business Wire

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SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Genentech, a member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Tecentriq (atezolizumab) as a first-line (initial) treatment for adults with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumors have high PD-L1 expression (PD-L1 stained 50% of tumor cells [TC 50%] or PD-L1 stained tumor-infiltrating [IC] covering 10% of the tumor area [IC 10%]), as determined by an FDA-approved test, with no EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations.

We are pleased to offer people with certain types of lung cancer a new chemotherapy-free option that can help prolong their lives and be administered on a flexible dosing schedule, including an option for once-a-month Tecentriq infusions, said Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. Today marks the fifth approval of Tecentriq in lung cancer, as we remain committed to providing an effective and tailored treatment option for every person diagnosed with this disease.

This approval is based on an interim analysis from the Phase III IMpower110 study, which showed Tecentriq monotherapy improved overall survival (OS) by 7.1 months compared with chemotherapy (median OS=20.2 versus 13.1 months; hazard ratio [HR]=0.59, 95% CI: 0.400.89; p=0.0106) in people with high PD-L1 expression (TC3/IC3-wild-type [WT]). Safety for Tecentriq appeared to be consistent with its known safety profile, and no new safety signals were identified. Grade 34 treatment-related adverse events (AEs) were reported in 12.9% of people receiving Tecentriq compared with 44.1% of people receiving chemotherapy.

Tecentriq is the first and only single-agent cancer immunotherapy with three dosing options, allowing administration every two, three or four weeks. The supplemental Biologics License Application for the Tecentriq monotherapy was granted Priority Review, a designation given to medicines the FDA has determined to have the potential to provide significant improvements in the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of a disease.

In the U.S., Tecentriq has received four approvals across NSCLC, including as a single agent or in combination with targeted therapies and/or chemotherapies. It is also approved in combination with carboplatin and etoposide (chemotherapy) for the first-line treatment of adults with extensive-stage small cell lung cancer.

Genentech has an extensive development program for Tecentriq, including multiple ongoing and planned Phase III studies across lung, genitourinary, skin, breast, gastrointestinal, gynecological and head and neck cancers. This includes studies evaluating Tecentriq both alone and in combination with other medicines.

About the IMpower110 study

IMpower110 is a Phase III, randomized, open-label study evaluating the efficacy and safety of Tecentriq monotherapy compared with cisplatin or carboplatin and pemetrexed or gemcitabine (chemotherapy) in PD-L1-selected, chemotherapy-nave participants with stage IV non-squamous or squamous NSCLC. The study enrolled 572 people, of whom 554 were in the intention-to-treat WT population, which excluded people with EGFR or ALK genomic tumor aberrations, and were randomized 1:1 to receive:

The primary efficacy endpoint was OS by PD-L1 subgroup (TC3/IC3-WT; TC2/3/IC2/3-WT; and TC1,2,3/IC1,2,3-WT), as determined by the SP142 assay test. Key secondary endpoints included investigator-assessed progression-free survival (PFS), objective response rate (ORR) and duration of response (DoR).

About lung cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that more than 228,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020, and NSCLC accounts for 80-85% of all lung cancers. It is estimated that approximately 85% of lung cancer diagnoses in the United States are made when the disease is in the advanced stages.

About Tecentriq (atezolizumab)

Tecentriq is a monoclonal antibody designed to bind with a protein called PD-L1. Tecentriq is designed to bind to PD-L1 expressed on tumor cells and tumor-infiltrating immune cells, blocking its interactions with both PD-1 and B7.1 receptors. By inhibiting PD-L1, Tecentriq may enable the re-activation of T cells. Tecentriq may also affect normal cells.

Tecentriq U.S. Indications

Tecentriq is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with:

A type of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

A type of lung cancer called small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

It is not known if Tecentriq is safe and effective in children.

Important Safety Information

What is the most important information about Tecentriq?

Tecentriq can cause the immune system to attack normal organs and tissues and can affect the way they work. These problems can sometimes become serious or life threatening and can lead to death.

Patients should call or see their healthcare provider right away if they get any symptoms of the following problems or these symptoms get worse.

Tecentriq can cause serious side effects, including:

Getting medical treatment right away may help keep these problems from becoming more serious. A healthcare provider may treat patients with corticosteroid or hormone replacement medicines. A healthcare provider may delay or completely stop treatment with Tecentriq if patients have severe side effects.

Before receiving Tecentriq, patients should tell their healthcare provider about all of their medical conditions, including if they:

Patients should tell their healthcare provider about all the medicines they take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

The most common side effects of Tecentriq when used alone include:

The most common side effects of Tecentriq when used in lung cancer with other anti-cancer medicines include:

Tecentriq may cause fertility problems in females, which may affect the ability to have children. Patients should talk to their healthcare provider if they have concerns about fertility.

These are not all the possible side effects of Tecentriq. Patients should ask their healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information. Patients should call their doctor for medical advice about side effects.

Report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or

Report side effects to Genentech at 1-888-835-2555.

Please see for full Prescribing Information and additional Important Safety Information.

About Genentech in cancer immunotherapy

Genentech has been developing medicines to redefine treatment in oncology for more than 35 years, and today, realizing the full potential of cancer immunotherapy is a major area of focus. With more than 20 immunotherapy molecules in development, Genentech is investigating the potential benefits of immunotherapy alone, and in combination with various chemotherapies, targeted therapies and other immunotherapies with the goal of providing each person with a treatment tailored to harness their own unique immune system.

In addition to Genentechs approved PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor, the companys broad cancer immunotherapy pipeline includes other checkpoint inhibitors, individualized neoantigen therapies and T cell bispecific antibodies. For more information visit

About Genentech in lung cancer

Lung cancer is a major area of focus and investment for Genentech, and we are committed to developing new approaches, medicines and tests that can help people with this deadly disease. Our goal is to provide an effective treatment option for every person diagnosed with lung cancer. We currently have five approved medicines to treat certain kinds of lung cancer and more than 10 medicines being developed to target the most common genetic drivers of lung cancer or to boost the immune system to combat the disease.

About Genentech

Founded more than 40 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious and life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For additional information about the company, please visit

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Doctors race to understand rare inflammatory condition associated with coronavirus in young people – Science Magazine

Posted: at 2:48 pm

A girl in New Delhi gets a nasal swab to test for the new coronavirus. A rare Kawasaki diseaselike illness linked to the virus is sickening young people.

By Jennifer Couzin-FrankelMay. 21, 2020 , 4:10 PM

Sciences COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Three children at one London hospital in mid-April, followed the next day by three at anotherfor Elizabeth Whittaker, a pediatric infectious disease doctor at Imperial College London, those first cases raised an alarm. The youngsters had fevers, rashes, stomach pain, and, in some cases, heart problems, along with blood markers that characterize COVID-19 in adults, including one associated with clotting. But in most, nasal swabs failed to reveal any virus.

I dont understandthey look like they have coronavirus, Whittaker recalls thinking. Doctors nonetheless suspected a link. Within days, a survey turned up 19 additional cases across England, and an alert on 27 April asked doctors to be on the lookout for such symptoms in children. Soon after, dozens more cases surfaced in New York along with smaller clusters elsewhere, bolstering a connection to the pandemic. Reports of children on life support and some deaths put parents on edgeand were especially disheartening after earlier signs that COVID-19 largely spares children from serious illness.

It is another surprise from a virus that hasproffered many, and projects worldwide are gearing up to study it. They are combing the blood and sequencing the genomes of patientsand the virus, if it can be isolated from themto search for clues to what makes some children susceptible and how to head off the worst symptoms. Theres hope that whats learned from young patients might help the many adults in whom COVID-19 also triggers a grievous overreaction of the immune system.

In some respects, Its absolutely not shocking to see this, says Rae Yeung, a rheumatologist and immunologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, whose center treated 20 children over the past 3 weeks with similar symptoms.Many pathogens occasionally trigger a similar hyperactive immune response in children, known as Kawasaki disease. Its symptoms vary but include rash, fever, and inflammation in medium-size blood vessels. Children can suffer heart problems. In rare cases, blood pressure plummets and shock sets in.

Doctors disagree on whether the variant linked to COVID-19 is Kawasaki disease or something new, with some experts calling it multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. But as with Kawasaki disease, most recover with treatment, including steroids and immunoglobulins, which calm the immune system.

In linking the inflammatory syndrome to COVID-19,Were going on more than just a hunch, says Jesse Papenburg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Montreal Childrens Hospital, in a city thats seen about 25 children with the condition. Kawasaki disease is rare, ordinarily affecting just one to three in every 10,000 children in Western countries, though its more common in children with Asian ancestry. The spikes recorded so far, in COVID-19 hot spots like northern Italy and New York City, track the novel coronavirus march around the world. And although a minority of these children test positive for SARS-CoV-2, a studypublished inThe Lancetby a team in Bergamo, Italy, reported that eight of 10 children with the Kawasaki-like illness had antibodies to the virus, indicating they had been infected. Positive antibody tests have been reported in sick children elsewhere, too.

It was obvious that there was a link, says Lorenzo DAntiga, a pediatrician at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital who led the study. The new coronavirus can elicit a powerful immune response, which he thinks may explain why shock and a massive immune reaction called a cytokine storm are more common in the COVID-19linked cases than in textbook Kawasaki disease. And a time lag between infection and the Kawasaki-like illness could explain why many of the affected children show no evidence of the virus. The immune systems overreaction may unfold over weeks, though virus could also be hiding somewhere in the body.

Theres clearly some underlying genetic component that puts a small number of children at risk, says Tom Maniatis, founding director of Columbia Universitys Precision Medicine Initiative. New York state is investigating 157 cases, and Maniatis is also CEO of the New York Genome Center, which is pursuing whole-genome sequencing of affected children and their parents, as well as sequencing the virus found in children, with family consent. Finding genes that heighten risk of the illness or of developing a severe case could point to better treatments or help identify children who may take a sudden turn for the worse.

Genetics may also help explain a puzzle: why the illness hasnt been reported in Asian countries, even though Kawasaki disease is far more common in children with Asian ancestry. The virus own genetics may be important; an analysis last month indicatedthe predominant viral variant in New York was brought by travelers from Europe. Its also possible that the Kawasaki-like illness is so rare that it only shows up in COVID-19 hotbeds. The areas that have been hardest hit by coronavirus are the areas reporting this syndrome now, says Alan Schroeder, a critical care physician at Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital at Stanford University, which has seen one potentially affected child, a6-month-old baby, who healed quickly.

Yeung is pursuing ways to flag children with COVID-19 who are at risk of this complication. She co-leads an international consortium thats banking blood from affected children both before and after treatment and screening for various markers, including the cytokine molecules that indicate a revved-up immune system. They are also searching for gene variants known to predict poor outcomes in Kawasaki disease. Theres also core COVID stuff that needs to be measured, Yeung says, such as markers of heart function and levels of D-dimer, a protein fragment in the blood that indicates a tendency toward clotting and that surges in many sick adults.

Another project, called DIAMONDSand originally designed to improve diagnostics of pathogens based on patterns of immune response in children with fevers,is recruiting children across Europe with the Kawasaki-like complication, along with those who have run of the mill COVID-19 symptoms. Scientists will study blood for pathogensnot just SARS-CoV-2and the behavior of immune cells such as T cells and B cells.

We have to do a deep dive into the immunology of those patients, says Elie Haddad, a pediatric immunologist and scientist at the St. Justine University Hospital Center in Montreal who,with Yeung and Susanne Benseler at Alberta Childrens Hospital, is leading Canadian research efforts on the new syndrome. These deep dives may also clarify the immune system chaos seen in many sick adults. Children are cleaner, Haddad points outtheyre less likely to have other health burdens, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, that can make it harder to tease out the virus impact on the immune system.

Its possible, too, that the illness affects adults as well but is harder to tease out from their other symptoms. A global effort studying COVID-19 in adults, called the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium, will look at adults clinical data and blood samples,Whittaker says, to see, is this a uniquely pediatric problem?

Eager as they are to understand this new face of the pandemic, doctors want to avoid overstating the hazards. We need to identify early and we need to intervene early in treating these children, Yeung says. But she also urges calm. The kids were seeing so far, she stresses, they respond to the treatments were giving.

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