Video: How Does Sunscreen Work? Can it Really Prevent Wrinkles and Cancer?

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Dutch Company Received Funding to Scale Up Cell Cultured Leather

Biotech company Qorium has raised €2.6 million in a funding round led by Brightlands Venture Partners. The funding will allow it to scale up its technology for producing cell cultured leather.

Founded in 2014, Qorium recently succeeded in developing proof of concept of its product. The cell cultured leather takes 99% less water and 66% less energy to produce than conventional leather.

It also eliminates the need for the first two phases of the tanning process, which are notoriously polluting. And since only a few bovine skin cells are required to produce the leather, the methane emissions produced by livestock could be vastly reduced.

“We look forward to providing real high-quality leather made in a dramatically more sustainable way than conventional leather,” said Stef Kranendijk, co-CEO and co-founder at Qorium. “This will be a game-changing, revolutionary transformation of the current leather market.”

Demand for leather alternatives is growing rapidly, with companies seeking to replace conventional leather in everything from car interiors to watch straps. By 2025, it’s estimated that the market will be worth $89.6 billion. But to date, most alt-leather companies have focused on plant-derived materials such as pineapple leaves and cactus skins.

“More and more users of leather, particularly the premium high-end brands in the leather fashion, footwear and automotive industry, want all the properties of real leather without the tremendously high negative impact on the environment that comes with livestock rearing,” said Rutger Ploem, co-CEO and co-founder at Qorium. “Qorium provides exactly that.”

Source: Vegconomist

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Dating First Cases of COVID-19

David L. Roberts, Jeremy S. Rossman, Ivan Jarić wrote . . . . . . . . .


Questions persist as to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence is building that its origin as a zoonotic spillover occurred prior to the officially accepted timing of early December, 2019. Here we provide novel methods to date the origin of COVID-19 cases. We show that six countries had exceptionally early cases, unlikely to represent part of their main case series. The model suggests a likely timing of the first case of COVID-19 in China as November 17 (95% CI October 4). Origination dates are discussed for the first five countries outside China and each continent. Results infer that SARS-CoV-2 emerged in China in early October to mid-November, and by January, had spread globally. This suggests an earlier and more rapid timeline of spread. Our study provides new approaches for estimating dates of the arrival of infectious diseases based on small samples that can be applied to many epidemiological situations.

Author summary

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, questions still persist as to its origins. Evidence is building that its origin as a zoonotic spillover occurred before the officially accepted timing of early December, 2019. We date the origin of COVID-19 cases from 203 countries and territories using a model from conservation science. We use a method that was originally developed to date the timing of extinction, and turn it to date the timing of origination using case dates rather than sighting events. Our results suggest that the virus emerged in China in early October to mid-November, 2019 (the most likely date being November 17), and by January, 2020, had spread globally. This suggests a much earlier and more rapid spread than is evident from confirmed cases. In addition, our study provides a new approach for estimating dates of the arrival of infectious diseases in new areas that can be applied to many different situations in the future.


Uncertainty still persists around the origin of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the resulting COVID-19 disease. While an origin as a zoonotic spillover in the Huanan Seafood Market, Wuhan, sometime during early December, 2019, has been proposed [1], this has been called into question [2–4]. This uncertainty arises due to both the presence of earlier potential COVID-19 cases, and the fact that most phylogenetic analyses put the most recent ancestor at between mid-November and early December, 2019 [5].

Uncertainty around origination dates extends beyond the suggested zoonotic overspill in China to all countries where SARS-CoV-2 has spread. For example, in France the first case of COVID-19 was recorded as January 25, 2020, however a recent retrospective review of medical records from patients in intensive care unit (ICU) with both influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms and pulmonary ground-glass opacity admitted between December 2, 2019, and January 16, 2020, (14 patients of 58) identified one patient as having COVID-19 who had been presented to the emergency ward on December 27 [6]. In the United States, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected through retrospective RT-PCR testing of a woman who had become ill on January 31, 2020, and died on the February 6, 2020, over 3 weeks before the first recognised case on February 26 [7].

Here we repurpose extinction models from conservation science to estimate the potential for earlier cases than has been reported of COVID-19 in 203 countries and territories. Further, we examine exceptionally early cases to determine the likelihood that these cases contributed to the country’s current infection or if they were isolated outbreaks that did not lead to the current lineage of cases. As such we specifically date the origin of cases that resulted in the virus taking hold in each country.

Within the discipline of conservation science, a number of models have been developed to infer or date extinction events based on a series of sightings of a species. Interest lies in determining whether a species still persists, having not been sighted for a period of time. If it is assumed the species is extinct, interest then lies in determining when extinction occurred. The application of these models has been proposed in a number of areas beyond extinction modelling to determine end points, particularly the Optimal Linear Estimation (OLE) method developed by Roberts and Solow [8], including geological stratigraphy [9], archaeology [10], phenological studies [11], and phylogenetics [12]. Based on a series of COVID-19 cases, interest lies in dating the original case. Such a knowledge is critical for our understanding of the spread of this disease.

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Read more at PLOS Pathogens . . . . .

Scientists Develop Simple Blood Test for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease

An international research team led by HKUST has developed a simple but robust blood test from Chinese patient data for early detection and screening of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) for the first time, with an accuracy level of over 96%.

Now, a team led by Prof. Nancy IP, Vice-President for Research and Development at HKUST, has identified 19 out of the 429 plasma proteins associated with AD to form a biomarker panel representative of an “AD signature” in the blood. Based on this panel, the team has developed a scoring system that distinguishes AD patients from healthy people with more than 96% accuracy. This system can also differentiate among the early, intermediate, and late stages of AD, and can be used to monitor the progression of the disease over time. These exciting findings have led to the development of a high-performance, blood-based test for AD, and may also pave the way to novel therapeutic treatments for the disease.

“With the advancement of ultrasensitive blood-based protein detection technology, we have developed a simple, noninvasive, and accurate diagnostic solution for AD, which will greatly facilitate population-scale screening and staging of the disease,” said Prof. Nancy Ip, Morningside Professor of Life Science and the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at HKUST.

The work was conducted in collaboration with researchers at University College London and clinicians in local hospitals including the Prince of Wales Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The discovery was made using the proximity extension assay (PEA) – a cutting-edge ultrasensitive and high-throughput protein measurement technology, to examine the levels of over 1,000 proteins in the plasma of AD patients in Hong Kong.

As the most comprehensive study of blood proteins in AD patients to date, the work has recently been published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, and has also been featured and actively discussed on different scholarly exchange platforms on AD research such as Alzforum.

AD, which affects over 50 million people worldwide, involves the dysfunction and loss of brain cells. Its symptoms include progressive memory loss as well as impaired movement, reasoning, and judgment. While patients often only seek medical attention and are diagnosed when they have memory problems, AD affects the brain at least 10-20 years before symptoms appear.

Source : The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Graphene Can be Used to Detect COVID-19 Quickly, Accurately

Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have successfully used graphene — one of the strongest, thinnest known materials — to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in laboratory experiments. The researchers say the discovery could be a breakthrough in coronavirus detection, with potential applications in the fight against COVID-19 and its variants.

In experiments, researchers combined sheets of graphene, which are more than 1,000 times thinner than a postage stamp, with an antibody designed to target the infamous spike protein on the coronavirus. They then measured the atomic-level vibrations of these graphene sheets when exposed to COVID-positive and COVID-negative samples in artificial saliva. These sheets were also tested in the presence of other coronaviruses, like Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS-CoV.

The UIC researchers found that the vibrations of the antibody-coupled graphene sheet changed when treated with a COVID-positive sample, but not when treated with a COVID-negative sample or with other coronaviruses. Vibrational changes, measured with a device called a Raman spectrometer, were evident in under five minutes.

Their findings are published in the journal ACS Nano.

“We have been developing graphene sensors for many years. In the past, we have built detectors for cancer cells and ALS. It is hard to imagine a more pressing application than to help stem the spread of the current pandemic,” said Vikas Berry, professor and head of chemical engineering at the UIC College of Engineering and senior author of the paper. “There is a clear need in society for better ways to quickly and accurately detect COVID and its variants, and this research has the potential to make a real difference. The modified sensor is highly sensitive and selective for COVID, and it is fast and inexpensive.”

“This project has been an amazingly novel response to the need and demand for detection of viruses, quickly and accurately,” said study co-author Garrett Lindemann, a researcher with Carbon Advanced Materials and Products, or CAMP. “The development of this technology as a clinical testing device has many advantages over the currently deployed and used tests.”

Berry says that graphene — which has been called a “wonder material” — has unique properties that make it highly versatile, making this type of sensor possible.

Graphene is a single-atom-thick material made up of carbon. Carbon atoms are bound by chemical bonds whose elasticity and movement can produce resonant vibrations, also known as phonons, which can be very accurately measured. When a molecule like a SARS-CoV-2 molecule interacts with graphene, it changes these resonant vibrations in a very specific and quantifiable way.

“Graphene is just one atom thick, so a molecule on its surface is relatively enormous and can produce a specific change in its electronic energy,” Berry said. “In this experiment, we modified graphene with an antibody and, in essence, calibrated it to react only with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Using this method, graphene could similarly be used to detect COVID-19 variants.”

The researchers say the potential applications for a graphene atomic-level sensor — from detecting COVID to ALS to cancer — continue to expand.

A provisional patent has been submitted based on this work.

Source: University of Illinois Chicago