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Genetic Linkage

‘Humanized mice’: Chimeras fuel quest to treat chronic diseases, cancer and even COVID-19

Some medical conditions can't be ethically investigated in humans, so researchers are finding interesting ways to grow people parts in the bodies of other types of animals. Jian Feng and colleagues at the University at Buffalo recently engineered prenatal mice that have human cells in key parts of their anatomy. Their report appears in Science Advances.

 

The humanized mice may one day incubate human cells needed for treatments of chronic diseases like kidney failure and diabetes, and provide new and improved models of how the human body succumbs to various conditions, from cancer to degenerative conditions to COVID-19.

 

To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

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Protests and the Pandemic: Will COVID-19 Resurge?

Events have collided in a way that even the most imaginative fiction writer couldn't have conjured up: a global assault by an enemy that no one can see, and a nearly-9-minute-long murder of a black man by a white police officer captured on video for the world to see.

 

At the protests that the killing of George Floyd triggered, responses as global as COVID-19, many people are wearing masks and distancing themselves as they march, kneel, or lie down chanting "I can't breathe." But some are not following public health recommendations. And many are shouting, as police hurl chemicals that make people cough. What will the consequences of the massive and necessary Black Lives Matter protests be on public health?

 

The mathematical models used to predict the next stages of the pandemic may factor in the expected – Memorial Day celebrations and phased reopenings. But they couldn't have foreseen the events of the past two and a half weeks. How can people in close proximity for extended periods of time, moving and outdoors but hollering and crying, even if masked, affect transmissibility of the coronavirus? That seems like too many variables to model, but some recent technical articles might provide some insight.

 

Mask Math

 

 

To continue reading, go to my blog DNA Science, where this post first appeared.

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Dr. Fauci Optimistic About COVID-19 Vaccine Progress

 

On June 2, JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) held a Q+A for the media with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, accessible here. JAMA Editor Dr. Howard Bauchner frequently interviews leaders in the quest to understand and combat COVID-19. The webinar series has been a huge help to the science journalism community.

 

Dr. Fauci was considerably more upbeat in early June than he was on a JAMA webinar March 23, soon after he was present for a White House press briefing at which more than 10 unmasked people standing close to each other addressed more than 10 journalists on matters of public health and the pandemic.

 

At that JAMA webinar, Dr. Fauci explained the vaccine timetable based on how things were done in the past, and predicted we'd have one in 12 to 18 months. He said, then, that there's "no vaccine in the immediate future, which tells us we need to rely on public health measures."

 

To continue reading, go to my blog DNA Science.

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The Fallacy of the “Make It So” Mentality to Rush a COVID-19 Vaccine

Taking a meatloaf out of the oven too soon is an inconvenience, easily corrected by shoving it back in until it's ready.

 

Marketing a vaccine for COVID-19 too soon could be a disaster, with massive, far-reaching consequences. But that's what the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed might make happen, with the goal of having a vaccine ready for distribution by year's end.

 

The problem is that vaccines aren't "found" or "discovered," like pretty shells on a beach, and if you just look enough, you'll find one. Vaccines are invented, developed, and tested, tested, tested, and that takes time. Biological factors could even make a vaccine impossible.

 

Measures are already in place to speed things along.

 

The FDA is collapsing protocols normally conducted in tandem into overlapping or parallel designs. They're allowing clinical trials to begin sooner following preclinical (non-human animal and cell-based) studies, expediting formation of institutional review boards to speed set-up of clinical trials, shifting reviewers from non-COVID projects to COVID ones, and enrolling thousands of people into clinical trials rather than the typical hundreds.

 

But will these measures be enough to roll out a vaccine six months from now? I don't think so.

 

To continue reading, go to my blog, DNA Science, at Public Library of Science. 

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