Chart of the Day: Ancestry Tree of SARS-CoV-2 Variants

See large image . . . . .

Source: The Economist

Not All “Good” Cholesterol is Healthy

HDL cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) or good cholesterol is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease as it transports cholesterol deposited in the arteries to the liver to be eliminated. This contrasts with the so-called bad cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol), which causes cholesterol to accumulate in the arteries and increases cardiovascular risk. Although drugs that lower bad cholesterol reduce cardiovascular risk, those that raise good cholesterol have not proven effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. This paradox has called into question the relationship between good cholesterol and cardiovascular risk, and researchers are now studying the characteristics of these HDL or good cholesterol particles.

A study led by the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), published in the journal Metabolism, Clinical and Experimental, has now demonstrated that not all good cholesterol is healthy. Researchers from the CIBER on Cardiovascular Diseases (CIBERCV), the CIBER on Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN), and the CIBER on Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), as well as others from Hospital Clínic-IDIBAPS, IDIBELL, the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau Research Institute, and the Hospital Clínico Universitario in Zaragoza also took part in this study.

In the work, the researchers analysed genetic characteristics that determine the size of good cholesterol particles, and then studied their relationship with the risk of myocardial infarction. The conclusion is that genetic characteristics linked to the generation of large good cholesterol particles are directly associated with a higher risk of heart attack, while features linked to small good cholesterol particles are related to a lower risk of heart attack. “There is a positive causal relationship between the size of HDL cholesterol particles and the risk of heart attack, so although we have to increase the levels of good cholesterol in the blood, they must always be small particles”, explains the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Robert Elosua, a researcher at the Hospital del Mar-IMIM, CIBERCV, and the University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC).

The good cholesterol particles are more effective in transferring cholesterol to the liver so that it can be eliminated. “If we need to do something in relation to HDL, it is to increase the number of small particles, which are those that adequately perform the function of eliminating cholesterol, those that really move it to the liver for removal, and do not allow it to accumulate in the arteries and cause cardiovascular disease”, says Dr. Álvaro Hernáez, a IDIBAPS and CIBEROBN researcher.

Currently, there are no drugs that increase good cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. “This study highlights new and potential therapeutic targets in the field of cardiovascular diseases, including several genes related to the qualitative aspects of HDL particles, which may contribute to cardiovascular prevention”, concludes Dr. Albert Prats, a researcher in the Epidemiology and Cardiovascular Genetics Research Group at the Hospital del Mar-IMIM and first author of the study.

Source: EurekAlert!

In Pictures: One-plate Breakfasts

Chip Simplifies COVID-19 Testing, Delivers Results on a Phone

Mike Williams wrote . . . . . . . .

COVID-19 can be diagnosed in 55 minutes or less with the help of programmed magnetic nanobeads and a diagnostic tool that plugs into an off-the-shelf cellphone, according to Rice University engineers.

The Rice lab of mechanical engineer Peter Lillehoj has developed a stamp-sized microfluidic chip that measures the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein in blood serum from a standard finger prick. The nanobeads bind to SARS-CoV-2 N protein, a biomarker for COVID-19, in the chip and transport it to an electrochemical sensor that detects minute amounts of the biomarker.

The researchers argued their process simplifies sample handling compared to swab-based PCR tests that are widely used to diagnose COVID-19 and need to be analyzed in a laboratory.

“What’s great about this device is that doesn’t require a laboratory,” Lillehoj said. “You can perform the entire test and generate the results at the collection site, health clinic or even a pharmacy. The entire system is easily transportable and easy to use.”

The research appears in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Sensors.

Lillehoj and Rice graduate student and lead author Jiran Li took advantage of existing biosensing tools and combined them with their own experience in developing simple diagnostics, like a microneedle patch introduced last year to diagnose malaria.

The new tool relies on a slightly more complex detection scheme but delivers accurate, quantitative results in a short amount of time. To test the device, the lab relied on donated serum samples from people who were healthy and others who were COVID-19-positive.

Lillehoj said a longer incubation yields more accurate results when using whole serum. The lab found that 55 minutes was an optimum amount of time for the microchip to sense SARS-CoV-2 N protein at concentrations as low as 50 picograms (billionths of a gram) per milliliter in whole serum. The microchip could detect N protein in even lower concentrations, at 10 picograms per milliliter, in only 25 minutes by diluting the serum fivefold.

Paired with a Google Pixel 2 phone and a plug-in potentiostat, it was able to deliver a positive diagnosis with a concentration as low as 230 picograms for whole serum.

“There are standard procedures to modify the beads with an antibody that targets a particular biomarker,” Lillehoj said. “When you combine them with a sample containing the biomarker, in this case SARS-CoV-2 N protein, they bond together.”

A capillary tube is used to deliver the sample to the chip, which is then placed on a magnet that pulls the beads toward an electrochemical sensor coated with capture antibodies. The beads bind to the capture antibodies and generate a current proportional to the concentration of biomarker in the sample.

The potentiostat reads that current and sends a signal to its phone app. If there are no COVID-19 biomarkers, the beads do not bind to the sensor and get washed away inside the chip.

Lillehoj said it would not be difficult for industry to manufacture the microfluidic chips or to adapt them to new COVID-19 strains if and when that becomes necessary.

Source: Rice University

Tuscan Beans on Ciabatta Toast with Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
9 oz canned lima beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp torn fresh basil salt and pepper
slices ciabatta bread, toasted, to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan and cook the onion over low heat until soft.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute, then add the lima beans, water, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar, parsley, and basil and stir to combine.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over slices of toasted ciabatta.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: Brunch


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