++ Beyond Corona ++

25 October

Baker TB, Piper ME, Smith SS, et al. Effects of Combined Varenicline With Nicotine Patch and of Extended Treatment Duration on Smoking Cessation – A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA October 19 2021;326(15):1485-1493. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2785264?resultClick=1

Talking about smoking (cessation): This huge RCTs shows that combined varenicline plus nicotine patch or doubling the duration of varenicline are not better, compared to standard varenicline monotherapy of 12-weeks.


6 October

Ravuri S, Lenc K, Willson M, et al. Skilful precipitation nowcasting using deep generative models of radar. Nature. 2021 Sep;597(7878):672-677. PubMed: https://pubmed.gov/34588668. Full text: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03854-z

The authors present a deep-learning tool called DGMR that produces rainfall predictions over regions up to 1536 km × 1280 km and with lead times from 5-90 min ahead (“nowcasting”).


5 October

Tandon PS, Zhou C, Johnson AM, Gonzalez ES, Kroshus E. Association of Children’s Physical Activity and Screen Time With Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Oct 1;4(10):e2127892. PubMed: https://pubmed.gov/34596669. Full text: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.27892

Everyone knows that screens are bad, but watch this! In this cross-sectional survey that included 1000 school-aged children in the US, those who engaged in more physical activity and less screen time had better mental health outcomes.


20 September

Pappalardo L, Rossi A, Natilli M, et al. Explaining the difference between men’s and women’s football. PLOS, August 4, 2021. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0255407

We almost overlooked this important contribution. Bottom line: Men’s and women’s football have similar play intensity. Whereas women do fewer fouls, there are some technical gaps between men and women. Nicely said: According to the authors, the “results are open to various interpretations”.


27 July

Tunyasuvunakool K, Adler J, Wu Z, et al. Highly accurate protein structure prediction for the human proteome. Nature. 2021 Jul 22. PubMed: https://pubmed.gov/34293799. Full-text: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03828-1

Baek M, DiMaio F, Anishchenko I, et al. Accurate prediction of protein structures and interactions using a three-track neural network. Science. 2021 Jul 15:eabj8754. PubMed: https://pubmed.gov/34282049. Full-text: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abj8754

Artificial intelligence programs can determine the three-dimensional structure of human proteins from amino acid sequences. Importantly, the authors of the first paper above are making their predictions freely available to the community via a public database (hosted by the European Bioinformatics Institute at https://alphafold.ebi.ac.uk/). A major advance in life sciences! See also Service RF. New public database of AI-predicted protein structures could transform biology. Science 2021, published 22 July. Full text: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/07/new-public-database-ai-predicted-protein-structures-could-transform-biology


29 March

Boyoglu-Barnum S, Ellis D, Gillespie RA, et al. Quadrivalent influenza nanoparticle vaccines induce broad protection. Nature (2021). Full text: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03365-x

A supra-seasonal flu vaccine? Computationally designed, two-component nanoparticle immunogens induced potently neutralizing and broadly protective antibody responses against a wide variety of influenza viruses. Unlike current influenza vaccines, the nanoparticle vaccines also protected against diverse viruses NOT in the vaccine formulation (including distant avian viruses like H5N1 and H7N9). This ‘mosaic’ vaccine is now being manufactured for a Phase I clinical trial through the Vaccine Research Center at the NIH.


28 March

Gray GE, Bekker LG, Laher F, et al. Vaccine Efficacy of ALVAC-HIV and Bivalent Subtype C gp120–MF59 in Adults. N Engl J Med 2021, publishd 25 March. Full text: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa2031499

Most of the 75.7 million persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection worldwide are in sub-Saharan Africa, where subtype C of HIV type 1 (HIV-1) is prevalent. The ALVAC–gp120 regimen did not prevent HIV-1 infection among participants in South Africa despite previous evidence of immunogenicity.


27 March

Kirtane AR, Verma M, Karandikar P, et al. Nanotechnology approaches for global infectious diseases. Nat. Nanotechnol. 2021, published 22 March. Full-text: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-021-00866-8

The formulation of new and existing drugs into nano-sized carriers promises to overcome several challenges associated with the treatment of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV infection, including low on-target bioavailability, sub-therapeutic drug accumulation in microbial sanctuaries and reservoirs, and low patient adherence due to drug-related toxicities and extended therapeutic regimens.


13 February

Sapoznik E, Chang BJ, Huh J, et al. A versatile oblique plane microscope for large-scale and high-resolution imaging of subcellular dynamics. Elife. 2020 Nov 12;9:e57681. PubMed: https://pubmed.gov/33179596. Full-text: https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.57681

Using an oblique plane microscope (OPM), the authors image biological phenomena such as cell migration through confined spaces within a microfluidic device, subcellular photoactivation of Rac1, and large field of view imaging of neurons, developing embryos, and centimeter-scale tissue sections.

10 February

Milman O. ‘Invisible killer’: fossil fuels caused 8.7m deaths globally in 2018, research finds. The Guardian 2021, published 9 February. Full-text: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/09/fossil-fuels-pollution-deaths-research

Air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil was responsible for 8,7M deaths globally in 2018, a staggering one in five of all people who died that year, new research has found.


6 December

Mitchell MJ, Billingsley MM, Haley RM, et al. , M.J., Billingsley, M.M., Haley, R.M. et al. Engineering precision nanoparticles for drug delivery. Nat Rev Drug Discov (2020). Full-text: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41573-020-0090-8

In recent years, nanoparticles have been developed to navigate biological barriers — systemic, microenvironmental and cellular — that are heterogeneous across patient populations and diseases. In this 294-citation review, Robert Langer, Michael Mitchell and colleagues discuss advances in nanoparticle design. Optimized drug delivery in a personalized manner might ultimately have an impact on patient outcome.