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The Update

Issue #21, June 2021

The Update is a monthly digest of all that is interesting, exciting and new in the world of medicine and medical science, presented in a curated and convenient package.

1. Newly Discovered Molecule Provides Protection Against Vascular Inflammation

Microscope Imaging Showing Colocalisation of MOCCI (Red) with a Mitochondrial Protein (Green)
  • A multidisciplinary team of researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research Singapore has discovered a new mitochondrial peptide called MOCCI—short for Modulator of Cytochrome C oxidase during Inflammation—that is made only when cells undergo inflammation and infection.
  • They discovered that MOCCI is an unknown component of Complex IV, a part of a series of enzymes in the mitochondria responsible for energy production, called the electron transport chain. During inflammation, MOCCI incorporates into Complex IV to dampen its activity.
  • “Our finding that the composition of the electron transport chain changes in response to inflammation is novel. This dual-pronged strategy is an elegant mechanism that the body has put in place to prevent excessive and potentially tissue-damaging inflammation during infection, such as the cytokine storm seen in COVID-19 infection, and colitis” researchers stated.
  • The researchers say the next step is to explore how to develop targeted pharmacological treatments that can mimic the anti-inflammatory effects of MOCCI and They additionally plan to research the position of MOCCI in frequent continual inflammatory illnesses reminiscent of colitis and psoriasis.
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2. Molecular Compounds Accelerate Muscle Regeneration in Mice

Muscle Atrophy in Old Age
  • Muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60, according to studies. This involuntary loss of muscle mass, strength, and function is a fundamental cause of and contributor to disability in older people.
  • To overcome this loss, Salk Institute scientists are studying ways to accelerate the regeneration of muscle tissue, using a combination of molecular compounds that are commonly used in stem cell research. Their findings are published in Nature Communications, in a paper titled, “In vivo partial reprogramming of myofibers promotes muscle regeneration by remodeling the stem cell niche.”
  • In the myofiber-specific model, they found that adding the Yamanaka factors accelerated muscle regeneration in mice by reducing the levels of a protein called Wnt4 in the niche. In the satellite-cell-specific model, Yamanaka factors did not activate satellite cells and did not improve muscle regeneration, suggesting that Wnt4 plays a critical role in muscle regeneration.
  • “We could potentially use this technology to either directly reduce Wnt4 levels in skeletal muscle or to block the communication between Wnt4 and muscle stem cells,” Belmonte said. Further research is needed before this approach can be applied in humans.
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3. Aiming Cancer Computations at COVID-19

Scientists Use Existing Tools to Turn Bioprocesses into New Weapons
  • With the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 raging around the world, some scientists have used existing tools to turn bioprocesses into new weapons. That is just what they did in pediatric oncologist John Maris’s lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
  • Mark Yarmarkovich, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in biomedical engineering in Maris’s lab, and his colleagues started with the computational tools that they use to develop immunotherapies for cancer. Then, the scientists turned those tools into techniques for finding places to target SARS-CoV-2 and then make the desired molecules.
  • By combining this information, the Maris lab scientists developed vaccines that are being tested in mice that express key elements of the human immune system. “The mice showed a very robust T-cell response from these vaccines,” Yarmarkovich says.
  • The same tools could be used to give scientists a fast start on bioprocessing potential treatments for other infections. As Yarmarkovich notes, “All that we need is the sequence of the virus.”
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4. Self-Organizing, Beating Chambered Human Heart Cardioids Offer New Model for Research

A Developing Cardioid in a 7-Day Time Course
  • Researchers at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) have used human pluripotent stem cells to grow sesame seed-sized heart organoids, called cardioids, that spontaneously self-organize into the beating, heart chamber-like structures, without the need for experimental scaffolds. The scientists suggest their technology has allowed them to create some of the most realistic heart organoids to date,  which may revolutionize research into cardiovascular disorders and congenital heart defects.
  • Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of fatalities globally and are responsible for about 18 million deaths each year. Heart defects are also the most prevalent type of birth defect in children. However, the lack of human physiological models of the heart represents a major bottleneck to our understanding and potential development of regenerative therapies for heart diseases and malformations.
  • “Self-organization is how nature makes snowflake crystals or birds behave in a flock,” he continued. “This is difficult to engineer because there seems to be no plan, but still something very ordered and robust comes out. The self-organization of organs is much more dynamic, and a lot is going on that we do not understand. We think that this ‘hidden magic’ of development, the stuff we do not yet know about, is the reason why currently diseases are not modeled very well.”
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Recent RAKMHSU Publications

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry (FTIR) Analysis of C. sativus L. Petals Extracts. a) Hexane
(SPH), b) Dichloromethane (SPD) c) Ethanol (SPE)
In this original paper, Houda Abou Alchamat, Huda Khaled Hariri, Boshra Khaled Hariri (B.Pharm 2020 Graduates), with the help of Dr. Adil Farooq Wali (Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry), Dr. Godfred Menezes (Department of Microbiology), studied in vitro the antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic and cytotoxic efficacy of different extracts of Crocus sativus L. petals and all extracts were found to have significant antidiabetic activity.
This experimental study was conducted in Ras Al Khaimah Medical and Health Sciences University, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. It was published in the Applied Sciences Journal of MDPI (based in Basel, Switzerland), in February 2020.
Copyright © 2021 RAK Medical & Health Sciences University, All rights reserved.

For comments and corrections, please contact the authors:
Nour Kamal Saba'neh - 
Science & Technology Officer | +971551227108
Ruba Hassan - Member, Committee on Science & Technology
Abdullah Ahmed Tariq - Member, Committee on Science & Technology

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