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COVID-19 Risk Factor Biomarker and Prophylactic

Prof. Declan McCole and colleagues from the University of California, Riverside have identified a loss of function PTPN2 variant biomarker that may identify patients who are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. These patients have increased expression of ACE2, the receptor for SARS-CoV-2. Increased ACE2 has been tied with increased susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. By identifying patients who are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, healthcare workers may reduce these patients’ risk of infection by prophylactically administering JAK inhibitors. Currently there is a debate in the medical community on whether or not patients should discontinue their JAK inhibitor therapies.  Clinicians believe that JAK inhibitors could decrease a patient’s immune response to fight COVID.  However these new findings suggest that ACE2 expression is decreased in individuals on a JAK inhibitor therapy. The findings detailed in this section suggests that patients can maintain their JAK inhibitor treatment since it can reduce expression of the receptor required by SARS-CoV-2 to cause infection. Fig 1: Lung epithelial cell line with PTPN2 knockdown (KD) facilitates entry of virus like particles (VLP) expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike S protein. "(S)" is the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with no additional protein. "(G)" is the positive control with the rhabdovirus vesicular stomatitis virus. ‘Ctr’ is the control lung epithelial cell.

One-Step Synthesis of Aligned Nanoparticles With High Purity

Profs. Michael Zachariah, Reza Abbaschian and colleagues from the University of California, Riverside and the University of Maryland have developed an electromagnetic levitation technique to generate metal nanoparticles and tune their aggregate structure and morphology. This technique uses magnetic fields to levitate and inductively heat metal pieces, that result in metal evaporation and formation of nanoparticles in the gas phase. This state-of-the-art method is only a single step, is continuous, avoids use of hazardous solvents, and generates high purity metal nanoparticles that are ligand or surfactant free. This technology allows for faster production of aligned nanoparticles at an efficient cost. Fig 1: Nanoparticle aggregates produced using the UCR method.  

Novel PET Plastic Degrading Enzyme

Prof. Adam Godzik and colleagues from the University of California, Riverside have developed an enzyme with the potential of high PET degrading ability. Based on computer modeling experiments, this enzyme has the potential of high PET degrading ability. This enzyme may be useful because it may have higher PET degrading activity than existing enzymes and could provide a less expensive and more efficient means of recycling PET plastic. Fig 1: Predicted structure of the UCR PET degrading enzyme.

A Gene Therapy for treating Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)

Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a predominantly genetic-based heart disease characterized by right but also recently left ventricular dysfunction, fibrofatty replacement of the myocardium leading to fatal/severe ventricular arrhythmias leading to sudden cardiac death in young people and athletes. ARVC is responsible for 10% of sudden cardiac deaths in people ≥65 years of age and 24% in people ≤30 years of age. ARVC is thought to be a rare disease as it occurs in 1 in 1000-5000 people, although the prevalence may be higher as some patients are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to poor diagnostic markers. Growing evidence also reveals earlier onset since pediatric populations ranging from infants to children in their teens are also particularly vulnerable to ARVC, highlighting the critical need to identify and treat patients at an earlier stage of the disease. At present there are no effective treatments for ARVC nor has there been any randomized clinical trials conducted to examine treatment modalities, screening regimens, or medications specific for ARVC. As a result, treatment strategies for ARVC patients are directed at symptomatic relief of electrophysiological defects, based on clinical expertise, results of retrospective registry-based studies, and the results of studies on model systems. The current standard of care is the use of anti-arrhythmic drugs (sotalol, amniodarone and beta-blockers) that transition into more invasive actions, which include implantable cardioverter defibrillators and cardiac catheter ablation, if the patient becomes unresponsive or intolerant to anti-arrhythmic therapies. However, current therapeutic modalities have limited effectiveness in managing the disease, 40% of ARVC patients (a young heart disease) die within 10-11 years after initial diagnosis, highlighting the need for development of more effective therapies for patients with ARVC.

Treatment Of Inherited Retinal Disease

Researchers at UCI have developed a method of treating inherited retinal diseases, such as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and retinitis pigmentosa, by gene therapy of the RPE65 nonsense mutation. This method uses base editor-mediated genome-editing by viral delivery and lead to improved patient treatment through enhanced editing of single base pairs and reduced off-target genomic editing.

Seamless Ceramics for Biomedical Applications

Prof. Guillermo Aguilar-Mendoza and his colleagues from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and Prof. Javier Garay and his colleagues from the University of California, San Diego have developed an all ceramic, biocompatible, hermetically sealed package for encapsulating electronics. This technology uses disparate transparent polycrystalline ceramics and is sealed by laser.  The laser directly joins the disparate surfaces, protecting the electronic device from damage while ensuring a high-quality seal. This state-of-the-art technology provides  superior packaging for biomedical implant devices that has long-term biocompatibility. It also provides safe and leak-proof seals. Fig 1: Picture of transparent ceramics fabricated at UCR.