Benjamin Thompson, Noah Baker, and Amy Maxmen discuss Trump withholding funds from the WHO, and how COVID-19 kills. We also hear about controlling misinformation while communicating risk.
In this episode:
01:15 Understanding bottlenecks
After listening to last week’s episode of Coronapod, researchers in the USA were inspired to start collecting data about the challenges facing labs carrying out testing. After more than 4,000 responses to their online survey, we discuss their goals.
03:08 A hole in the WHO’s funding
US President Donald Trump has announced plans to withhold funding for the WHO, pending a review of the organization’s handling of the pandemic. We discuss the decision and ask what it means for the global response to COVID-19.
05:55 Responding to the immune system
We investigate the role of the immune system in the death of COVID-19 patients and what this could mean for treatments. Could some therapeutics actually be undermining the body’s ability to fight the virus?
13:54 One good thing this week
Our hosts pick out things that have made them smile in the last 7 days, including seasonal memories from Sierra Leone, a trip to the supermarket, and the 99-year old war veteran who has raised millions for charity.
18:33 Communicating complex data
Clearly communicating risks and evidence is key for governments and other organisations if they are to best inform the public during the pandemic. But what is the best way to do it? We hear the methods that communications experts and behavioural scientists recommend to keep the public informed, and keep misinformation at bay.
On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Jessica Lancaster, a Mayo Clinic immunologist, discusses aging and the immune system. Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 because of their age or underlying health conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Adults 60 and older and those with an underlying health condition or a compromised immune system appear to develop serious illness more often than others. This interview was recorded March 19, 2020.
Learn more about immune system research at Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayo.edu/research/centers…
\This video from Harvard Medical School’s HMX Fundamentals Immunology online course offers a high-level overview of the immune system at work in the context of daily life.
From BMJ Journal “Gut” study (February 17, 2020):
We observed that increased adherence to the MedDiet modulates specific components of the gut microbiota that were associated with a reduction in risk of frailty, improved cognitive function and reduced inflammatory status.
Objective Ageing is accompanied by deterioration of multiple bodily functions and inflammation, which collectively contribute to frailty. We and others have shown that frailty co-varies with alterations in the gut microbiota in a manner accelerated by consumption of a restricted diversity diet. The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is associated with health. In the NU-AGE project, we investigated if a 1-year MedDiet intervention could alter the gut microbiota and reduce frailty.
Design We profiled the gut microbiota in 612 non-frail or pre-frail subjects across five European countries (UK, France, Netherlands, Italy and Poland) before and after the administration of a 12-month long MedDiet intervention tailored to elderly subjects (NU-AGE diet).
Results Adherence to the diet was associated with specific microbiome alterations. Taxa enriched by adherence to the diet were positively associated with several markers of lower frailty and improved cognitive function, and negatively associated with inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein and interleukin-17. Analysis of the inferred microbial metabolite profiles indicated that the diet-modulated microbiome change was associated with an increase in short/branch chained fatty acid production and lower production of secondary bile acids, p-cresols, ethanol and carbon dioxide. Microbiome ecosystem network analysis showed that the bacterial taxa that responded positively to the MedDiet intervention occupy keystone interaction positions, whereas frailty-associated taxa are peripheral in the networks.
Conclusion Collectively, our findings support the feasibility of improving the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier ageing.
The emergent corona virus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak in China is fast changing, just this week reported cases of the disease covid-19 jumped as new data became available. In this video Wendy Burns, and Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London explain what we know about the basic structure of the virus, it’s mode of transmission, the symptoms and pathogenesis of the diease, what we currently know about treatment, and how the virus may adapt in the future.
To read more about corona virus, all The BMJ’s resources are being made freely available at https://www.bmj.com/coronavirus
Most of us received routine vaccinations when we were young. But how exactly do vaccines work? In this video, I explain the fascinating science behind how vaccines prevent millions of deaths each year.
From a CalTech news article (February 4, 2020):
The hope, Lee says, is that ultrasound will kill cancer cells in a specific way that will also engage the immune system and arouse it to attack any cancer cells remaining after the treatment.
A new technique could offer a targeted approach to fighting cancer: low-intensity pulses of ultrasound have been shown to selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.
Ultrasound waves—sound waves with frequencies higher than humans can hear—have been used as a cancer treatment before, albeit in a broad-brush approach: high-intensity bursts of ultrasound can heat up tissue, killing cancer and normal cells in a target area. Now, scientists and engineers are exploring the use of low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) in an effort to create a more selective treatment.
A study describing the effectiveness of the new approach in cell models was published in Applied Physics Letters on January 7. The researchers behind the work caution that it is still preliminary—it still has not been tested in a live animal let alone in a human, and there remain several key challenges to address—but the results so far are promising.
From a New Atlas online article:
Scientists have just discovered a new mechanism that can be key in regulating these immune attacks, raising new hopes of drugs that can protect against joint inflammation and the ailments it can bring.
Through the use of the CRISPR gene-editing tool, the Karolinska Institutet scientists have now shed further light on the role they play in inflammation. The technology enabled the team to make adjustments to a set of hand-picked immune cell genes as a way of learning how those tweaks can impact the behavior of the cells.
“The results we obtained using CRISPR were key to quickly understanding how the system under study is regulated,” says Dr Wermeling. “I have high hopes that the experimental use of CRISPR will be hugely important to our understanding of how immune-cell behavior is regulated, and that this can guide us in the development of new efficacious drugs.”