In severe cases of COVID-19, Emory researchers have been observing an exuberant activation of B cells, resembling acute flares in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease.
The findings point towards tests that could separate some COVID-19 patients who need immune-calming therapies from others who may not. It also may begin to explain why some people infected with SARS-CoV-2 produce abundant antibodies against the virus, yet experience poor outcomes.
The results were published online on Oct. Read more
Earlier today, weÂ posted a notice on Eurekalert for a Sunday, December 13 presentation by graduate student Jessica Konen at theÂ American Society for Cell Biology meeting in San Diego.
Her research, performed with Adam Marcus at Winship Cancer Institute, was the topic of a video that recently won first prize in a contest sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges. ThisÂ was our video team’s first use of theÂ “fast hand on whiteboard” effect, and a lot of fun to make. The video’s strength growsÂ out of the footageÂ Konen and Marcus have of cancer cells migrating in culture. Check it out, if you haven’t already.
PosterÂ presentations at the 2015 ASCB meeting can be found by searching this PDF. A few Emory-centric highlights:
In Americaâ€™s battle against obesity, there is some good news. According to a study conducted by Emory researchers, Americans consumed nearly a quarter less added sugars in 2008 than they did 10 years earlier.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in July 2011, found that the consumption of added sugars, such as those found in sodas, sports drinks, juices and sweetened dairy products, decreased among all age groups over a decade. The largest decrease came in the consumption of sodas, traditionally the largest contributor to added sugar consumption, according to Jean Welsh, MPH, PhD, RN, study author and post-doctoral fellow in pediatric nutrition at Emory University School of Medicine.
â€œWhile we were hopeful this would be the case, we were surprised when our research showed such a substantial reduction in the amount of added sugar Americans are consuming,â€ said Welsh. â€œWeâ€™re hopeful this trend will continue.â€
So, why the change? One of Welshâ€™s partners in the study, Miriam Vos, MD, MSPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Emory University School of Medicine, and a physician on staff at Childrenâ€™s Healthcare of Atlanta, attributes much of the shift to public education.
â€œOver the past decade, there has been a lot of public health awareness about obesity and nutrition, and I think people are starting to get the message about sugar,â€ says Vos. â€œWeâ€™re not trying to send a message that sugar is inherently bad. Itâ€™s more that the large amounts of sugar we consume are having negative effects on our health, including increasing our risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.â€
The study interpreted data of 40,000 peopleâ€™s diets collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over 10 years.Â From the surveys, researchers were able to calculate how much added sugar â€“ that is sugar that is not originally part of a food â€“ that Americans are consuming. In 1999-2000, the typical personâ€™s daily diet included approximately 100 grams of added sugar, a number that had dropped to 77 grams by 2007 and 2008.
While the study shows that the amount of added sugar Americans are consuming is lower, it doesnâ€™t mean the amount is low enough.
â€œThe American Heart Association recommends that we get about five percent of our calories from added sugars,â€ says Vos. â€œIn 1999 to 2000, people were consuming about 18 percent of their calories from added sugars. Over 10 years, that amount decreased to 14.5 percent of our daily calories, which is much better. But, clearly, 14.5 percent is still three times more than what is considered a healthy amount. Weâ€™re on the right track, but we still have room for improvement.â€
The results were published in the Feb. 24 issue of Nature.
The hormone, called PACAP (pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide), is known to act throughout the body and the brain, modulating central nervous system activity, metabolism, blood pressure, pain sensitivity and immune function. The identification of PACAP as an indicator of PTSD may lead to new diagnostic tools and eventually, to new treatments for anxiety disorders.
â€œFew biological markers have been available for PTSD or for psychiatric diseases in general,â€ says first author Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and a researcher at Yerkes National Primate Research Center. â€œThese results give us a new window into the biology of PTSD.â€
The ACL is one of the four major ligaments in the knee, somewhat like a rubber band, attached at two points to keep the knee stable. In order to replace a damaged ligament, surgeons create a tunnel in the upper and lower knee bones (femur and tibia), slide the new ACL between those two tunnels and attach it both ends.
Traditional treatment for ACL injuries in children has been a combination of rehabilitation, wearing a brace and staying out of athletics until the child stops growing – usually in the mid-teens – and ACL reconstruction surgery can safely be performed.Â Surgery has not been an option with children for fear of damage to the growth plate that would cause serious problems later on.
Xerogeanes explains that prior to using the 3-D MRI technology, ACL operations were conducted with extensive use of X-Rays in the operating room, and left too much to chance when working around growth plates.
Preparation with the new 3-D MRI technology allows surgery to be completed in less time than the traditional surgery using X-Rays, and with complete confidence that the growth plates in young patients will not be damaged.
In a paper recently published in Journal of Neuroscience, a team led by cell biologist Gary Bassell shows that PI3 kinase inhibitors could restore normal appearance and levels of protein production at the synapses of hippocampal neurons from fragile X model mice. The next steps, studies in animals, are underway.
â€œThis is an important first step toward having a new therapeutic strategy for fragile X syndrome that treats the underlying molecular defect, and it may be more broadly applicable to other forms of autism,â€ he says.
Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing faculty and students traveled to Moultrie, Ga., June 13-25 to provide valuable health care services to migrant farm workers and their families. Nursing faculty and students make the trip annually to the rural, agricultural community three hours south of Atlanta as part of the Farm Worker Family Health Program.
There are more than 100,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers in Georgia. Migrant farm workers face more complex health issues than the general population because of the physical demands of their jobs, pesticide exposure, poor access to health care services, and substandard housing conditions.
â€œOur clinics may be the only health care they get during the year,â€ says Judith Wold, a visiting professor in Emoryâ€™s School of Nursing and director of the Farm Worker Family Health Program. â€œThe farm workers are very hardworking people and they are so appreciative of the health care we give them.â€
By day, the students worked at Cox Elementary School with farm worker children. Each evening, they set up mobile clinics to treat adult farm workers. The students worked alongside other Georgia allied health students in physical therapy, psychology, pharmacy and dental hygiene.
Wold, who has participated in the project since its launch in 1994, estimates that the program has treated more than 14,000 farm workers over the course of its 16-year history.
Last year, when the H1N1 flu epidemic was a major public health concern, a relatively low proportion of individuals getting sick were elderly, compared to previous flu epidemics. To explain this, scientists hypothesized that flu strains that circulated decades ago were similar enough to the novel swine-origin H1N1 strain toÂ provide some immune protection.
A universal flu vaccine would eliminate the guesswork associated with the yearly flu shot
Now, researchers at Emory’s Influenza Pathogenesis & Immunology Research Center have directly tested that hypothesis in mice, and it holds up. Exposure of mice to flu strains that circulated in 1947 or 1934 induced “robust cross-protective immune responses” and can protect them against a lethal challenge with 2009 H1N1 virus, they report in Journal of Immunology.
Ioanna Skountzou and Dimitrios Koutsananos are co-first authors of the paper.
The Emory team, led by Joshy Jacob, also reports that antibodies produced in response to the 2009 H1N1 flu strain exhibit broad cross-reactivity — they react with other H1N1 strains as well as against H3N2 flu strains. They write:
The fact that the 2009 H1N1 virus can induce such cross-reactive Abs raises the intriguing possibility that viruses such as A/California/04/2009 can be used for vaccines to induce broadly cross-reactive humoral immune responses against influenza viruses. Identifying the mechanism behind this broad reactivity may enable us to design broadly cross-reactive universal influenza vaccines.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Tony Fauci, when he was at Emory for the H1N1 flu conference in April, discussed the idea of a universal flu vaccine:
Residents and relief workers along the oil-ravaged Gulf of Mexico could experience a host of short- and long-term health problems, including respiratory ailments, neurological symptoms, heat exhaustion and mental stress.
Emory University environmental health expert Linda McCauley, RN, PhD, is one of more than a dozen national scientists participating in a two-day Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshop in New Orleans exploring some of the potential health risks that people in the Gulf could face.
Short term, McCauley says, there could be reports of respiratory problems from people whoâ€™ve inhaled gas fumes as well as neurological issues such as dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting. In addition, exposure to oil may cause eye and skin irritation.
â€œOn some of the days itâ€™s been so hot theyâ€™ve only allowed workers to work 12 minutes out of the hour,â€ she says. â€œA lot of new workers are being brought in [to clean up the oil]. These are workers who donâ€™t do this for a living and may never have been exposed to this type of heat before and thatâ€™s a serious issue.â€
B cells are workhorses of the immune system. Their main function is to produce antibodies against bacteria or viruses when they encounter something that they recognize.Â But recently researchers have been getting hints that certain kinds of B cells can also have a calming effect on the immune system. This property could come in handy with hard-to-treat conditions such as graft-vs-host disease, multiple sclerosis, or Crohn’s disease.
Hematologist Jacques Galipeau has found that B cells treated with an artificial hybrid molecule called GIFT15 turn into “peacemakers”. These specially treated B cells can tamp down the immune system in an experimental animal model of multiple sclerosis, suggesting that they could accomplish a similar task with the human disease.
Galipeau’s paper inÂ Nature Medicine from August 2009 says succinctly: “We propose that autologous GIFT15 B regulatory cells may serve as a new treatment for autoimmune ailments.”Â Galipeau, a recent arrival to Emory from McGill University in Montreal, explains this tactic and other aspects of personalized cell therapy in the video above. Read more