Hexbyte Glen Cove Understanding SARS-COV-2 proteins is key to improve therapeutic options for COVID-19 thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Understanding SARS-COV-2 proteins is key to improve therapeutic options for COVID-19

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles isolated from a patient. Credit: NIAID

COVID-19 has had a significant impact since the pandemic was declared by WHO in 2020, with over 3 million deaths and counting, Researchers and medical teams have been hard at work at developing strategies to control the spread of the infection, caused by SARS-COV-2 virus and treat affected patients. Of special interest to the global population is the developments of vaccines to boost human immunity against SARS-COV-2, which are based on our understanding of how the viral proteins work during the infection in host cells. Two vaccines, namely the Pfizer/BioINtech and Oxford/AZ vaccine rely on the use of delivering the gene that encodes the viral spike protein either as an mRNA or through an adenovirus vector to promote the production of relevant antibodies. The use of monoclonal antibodies has also been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

It is very clear that provide interesting and potentially effective targets for neutralizing viruses, and SARS-COV-2 is no exception. A recent review published in Current Molecular Medicine presents a summary of SARS-COV-2 proteins. The review, authored by M. E. A. Mohammed (King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia) presents tabular information about 3 major types of SARS-COV-2 proteins: functional proteins (which represent enzymes responsible for , receptor binding, viral invasion and virion assembly and release), (which are associated with the viral protein coat), and accessory proteins (which help in viral replication and virus-host interactions). In addition to informative tables, the review also provides current information about individual proteins in detail in terms of structure and molecular function.

The author points out that SARS-COV-2 proteome consists of proteins that have an increased number of amino acids (nsp3 and spike protein), deleted proteins (orf3b and orf9b) and inserted proteins (orf10). The list of proteins has been compared with variants in SARS-COV and another bat coronavirus species (RATG13). A number of structural and nonstructural proteins of SARS-COV-2 are conserved among the coronavirus species. The list of proteins provides a good starting point for researchers to search for possible pharmaceutical targets for combatting SARS-COV-2 infections.

More information:
Mohammed Elimam Ahamed Mohammed, SARS-CoV-2 proteins: Are they useful as targets for COVID-19 drugs and vaccines?, Current Molecular Medicine (2021). DOI: 10.2174/1566524021666210223143243

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Understanding SARS-COV-2 proteins is key to improve therapeutic options for COVID-19 (2021, May 11)
retrieved 12 May 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-05-sars-cov-proteins-key-therapeutic-options.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove An easy way to reduce socioeconomic disparities thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove An easy way to reduce socioeconomic disparities

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Researchers from Columbia University and Temple University published a new paper in the Journal of Marketing that examines how choice architecture can reduce socioeconomic disparities.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Do Nudges Reduce Disparities? Choice Architecture Compensates for Low Consumer Knowledge” and is authored by Kellen Mrkva, Nathaniel Posner, Crystal Reeck, and Eric Johnson.

As Mrkva explains, “Our research demonstrates that people with (SES), low numerical ability, and low knowledge are most impacted by nudges. As a result, ‘good nudges,’ designed to encourage selection of options that are in people’s best interests, reduce SES disparities, helping low-SES people more than high-SES people.” On the other hand, nudges that encourage selection of inferior options exacerbate disparities relative to “good nudges” because low-SES consumers are more likely to retain inferior default options. In other words, nudges are a double-edged sword that can either reduce disparities or make matters worse because they impact low-SES people most. The research team generalized its findings across three different types of nudges, several different consumer contexts, and real retirement decisions.

This research has major implications, including for the COVID vaccination process. Across the country, millions of people are now eligible to get a COVID vaccine. However, the signup process is often unnecessarily complex. New York’s nycHealthy sign-up portal, for example, includes as many as 51 questions and requests that you upload your insurance card. As a result, many people, especially the elderly, poor, and less digitally literate, have struggled or failed to make an appointment. As Johnson explains, “Our research suggests that making beneficial behaviors like vaccination simpler has a crucial and underappreciated advantage—it reduces socioeconomic disparities. On the other hand, when these behaviors are unnecessarily complex, it is typically low-SES consumers who are harmed the most.”

In five experiments as well as data from real retirement decisions, the researchers show that people who are lower in SES, domain knowledge, and numeracy are impacted more by a variety of nudges. As a result, “good nudges” that facilitate selection of welfare-enhancing options reduce disparities by helping low-SES, low-knowledge, and low-numeracy consumers most.

In Study 1, participants made five consumer financial decisions. For each decision, they were randomly assigned to a “no default,” “good default,” or “bad default” condition (the latter two pre-selected correct or incorrect options, respectively). After they made these five decisions, participants completed common measures of the three hypothesized moderators—financial literacy, numeracy, and socioeconomic status. As predicted, there was a large default effect. There were also interactions between the default condition and the three moderators; participants lower in these moderators were more impacted by defaults. These effects remained significant when adding survey engagement, comprehension, need for cognition, agreeableness, decision time, and their interactions with condition to the model as covariates.

Study 2 examines whether these effects generalized across three different types of nudges and three decision contexts. It replicated the SES and financial literacy effects of Study 1 across all nudges and contexts. Unlike Study 1 and all subsequent studies, the x numeracy interaction was not significant. The key effects remained significant when controlling for a measure of fluid intelligence.

Study 3 uses syndicated data from stratified random samples of American households about their retirement investment decisions to examine a sample of people who work for companies that use defaults to automatically enroll employees into retirement contributions. Respondents reported whether they retained or opted out of the default contribution amount and default investment allocation. Evidence supports that lower-SES and less financially literate people are more impacted by nudges and thus less likely to opt out of these retirement defaults: Lower-SES participants were less likely to opt out as were participants with lower financial literacy.

Study 4 replicated these effects in the context of COVID-19 health decisions (e.g., deciding whether to wear a mask). Additionally, domain-specific health knowledge moderated default effects whereas other-domain knowledge did not. Studies 5-6 replicated the predicted moderators from Study 1 with incentives. Mediation models suggest that people with lower SES, domain knowledge, and numeracy were more impacted by nudges partly because they experience higher uncertainty and decision anxiety when making decisions.

Across the six studies, nudges influenced choice disparities across people. Posner summarizes the study by saying “Our results suggest that nudges that make behaviors such as retail purchases, vaccine sign-up, and retirement contributions more automatic can reduce socioeconomic inequities.”

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Hexbyte Glen Cove The search for life beyond Earth thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove The search for life beyond Earth

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Perseverance is tasked with searching for telltale signs that microbial life may have lived on Mars billions of years ago

Mars may now be considered a barren, icy desert but did Earth’s nearest neighbour once harbour life?

It is a question that has preoccupied scientists for centuries and fired up sci-fi imaginings.

After seven months in space, NASA’s Perseverance rover is due to land on Mars on Thursday, in search of clues.

Why Mars?

Other planets or moons, could also harbour forms of life, so why pick Mars?

NASA says Mars is not just one of the more accessible places in the and a potential future destination for humans, but exploring the planet could also help to answer “origin and evolution of life questions”.

“Mars is unique across the entire solar system in that it is a terrestrial planet with an atmosphere and climate, its geology is known to be very diverse and complex (like Earth), and it appears that the climate of Mars has changed over its history (like Earth),” it adds on its Mars programme website.

Scientists believe that four billion years ago the two both had the potential to nurture life—but much of Mars’ intervening history is an enigma.

Mars exploration is not to find Martian life—scientists believe nothing would survive there now—but to search for possible traces of past lifeforms.

Perseverance is tasked with searching for telltale signs that microbial life may have lived on Mars billions of years ago.

Ingredients for life

For life you need .

A planet in what is known as the “” around a star is an area in which water has the potential to be liquid.

If it is too close to the star the water would evaporate, too far away it would freeze (some call this the “Goldilocks principle”).

But water alone is not enough.

Scientists also look for the essential chemical ingredients, including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur.

Europa is one of Jupiter’s four moons

And to stir it all up, they also look for a source of energy, said Michel Viso, an astrobiologist at CNES, the French space agency.

This could come from the Sun, if the planet is close enough, or from chemical reactions.

Martian fascination

Scientific enquiry of the red planet began in earnest in the 17th Century.

In 1609 Italian Galileo Galilei observed Mars with a primitive telescope and in doing so became the first person to use the new technology for astronomical purposes.

Mars—compared to the “desolate, empty” moon—has long seemed promising for potential inhabitability by microorganisms, wrote astrophysicist Francis Rocard in his recent essay “Latest News from Mars”.

But the 20th century presented setbacks.

In the 1960s, as the race to put a man on the moon was accelerating, Dian Hitchcock and James Lovelock analysed the atmosphere on Mars looking for a chemical imbalance, gases reacting with each other, which would hint at life.

There was no reaction.

A decade later the Viking landers took atmospheric and soil samples that showed the planet was no longer inhabitable and interest in Mars crumbled.

But in 2000 scientists made a game-changing discovery: they found that water had once flowed over its surface.

This rekindled interest in Mars exploration and scientists pored over images of gullies, ravines, scouring the Martian surface for evidence of liquid water.

More than 10 years later, in 2011, they definitively found it.

Scientists now think Mars may once have been warm and wet and possibly have supported .

“As the Sun did not always have the same mass, the same energy, Mars could very well have been also in this habitable zone early in its existence,” said astrophysicist Athena Coustenis, of the Paris-PSL Observatory.

If life did exist on Mars, why did it disappear?

And perhaps more profoundly if life never existed, then why not?

A view of Saturn and Titan from Cassini in 2012

Further frontiers

There are always other areas to explore.

Jupiter’s moon Europa, spotted by Galileo four centuries ago, may have a saltwater ocean hidden beneath its icy surface that is thought to contain about twice as much water as Earth’s global ocean.

NASA says it “may be the most promising place in our solar system to find present-day environments suitable for some form of life beyond Earth”.

Its tidal energy might also cause chemical reactions between water and rock on the seafloor, creating energy.

Future missions include NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper and the European probe JUICE.

Saturn’s frozen ocean moon Enceladus is also considered a promising contender.

The American Cassini probe, orbiting the planet from 2004 to 2017, discovered the existence of water vapour geysers on Enceladus.

In 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovered geysers of icy water particles and gas gushing from the moon’s surface at approximately 800 miles (1,290 kilometers)per hour.

The eruptions generate fine ice dust around Enceladus, which supplies material to Saturn’s ring.

No mission is currently scheduled to Enceladus.

Another of Saturn’s moons Titan—the only moon in the solar system known to have a substantial atmosphere—is also of interest.

The Cassini mission found it has clouds, rain, rivers, lakes and seas, but of liquid hydrocarbons like methane and ethane.

NASA, whose Dragonfly mission will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034, says Titan could be lifeless or harbour “life as we don’t yet know it”.

© 2021 AFP

The search for life beyond Earth (2021, February 18)
retrieved 19 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-life-earth-1.html

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