Newsletter #152

Genetics is one of the reason why Covid-19 affect some people critically!

Pandemic outbreaks have been a part of human history, with several examples of SARS, MERS, EBOLA, and recent Covid-19. One of the perplexing features that caused panic and confusion is that it affected different people differently. Older individuals were more prone to the disease, which is attributed to a slowing immune system. (It is a well-known fact that young children and older individuals have slow immune responses compared to adults 20s to early 50s).

Why do different people react differently?

Even in the younger adult population, some individuals got critically ill, requiring critical care and hospitalization, whereas others were miraculously ‘spared’. Therefore, one of the critical questions scientists have been asking is - the scientific reason behind this difference in the level of sickness. Is there a biological reason that makes specific individuals more prone to covid-19 infection and leads them to the path of complications?

Genome-Wide Association Study (GWAS)

Population-based GWAS - is an approach used in genetics research to associate specific genetic variations with particular diseases. The method involves scanning the entire DNA(genomes) from many different people. By comparing 2 large groups of sick and healthy individuals and looking for genetic changes that can be used to predict the presence of a disease.

Recent Studies Revealed

One such study is GenOMICC(Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care) which enabled the comparison of genomes from critically ill cases and healthy individuals from the population to find the underlying reason/mechanism of the diseases. For this Covid-19 study, scientists compared approximately 8000 sick patient DNA data with many healthy people’s DNA (48,000 healthy adults). By such comparison, scientists identified 23 regions in the DNA with role in immune cell development, signaling and blood type antigens. All these genetic differences can make people more prone to life-threatening diseases due to the failure to control viral replication, enhanced tendency for lung inflammation, and coagulation inside vital organs.

Read more Nature

Injectable Heart electrodes could prevent deadly heart diseases

What is Arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. In other words - either the heart is beating too quickly or too slowly or with an irregular pattern. These problems occur when the electrical signals that coordinate the heart’s beats do not work correctly. Further problems with heart attacks and strokes are also associated with electrical misfiring and signal transduction problems.

What are Pacemaker cells

The cells that create these rhythmic impulses, setting the pace for blood pumping, are called pacemaker cells that directly control the heart rate. After a heart attack or other injury, scar tissue in cardiac muscle can prevent the needed electrical signals from propagating efficiently. The result is often arrhythmias that can either cause the heart to flutter quickly or beat too slowly, leading to a stroke or heart attack.

Arrhythmia treatment- medications, surgery or other procedures based on the specific type of arrhythmia are recommended.

What are Implantable defibrillator

These devices can be put into the heart via surgery if there is a high risk of developing dangerously fast or irregular heartbeat in the lower heart chambers, these devices are battery-powered and its implanted under the skin near the collarbone(just like the real pacemaker of the heart)

Liquid Wire

Now, researchers have created a “liquid wire” that can guide the organs to a normal rhythm when injected into pig hearts. Cardiologists would love to use an electrode that delivers a milder and potentially less painful pulse to the top of the heart and the lower chambers. One option is to thread a thin metal electrode through a coronary vein on the outside of the heart to reach the middle regions of the heart, where it can stimulate the heart’s lower chambers. But the coronary veins of many patients are too narrow or have partial occlusions, making that impossible.

Read More

Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy

City of Hope's Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy gives curious and hardworking students the opportunity to learn about science by actually doing science work. Summer program participants also receive a stipend of $4,000 for their work. Workshops covered topics such as creating posters for research talks, biomedical ethics and other important subjects.

Apply here

Coriell Institute of Medical research

Coriell is recognized as a pioneer in genomic discovery, an authority in the field of stem cell research, and the world's leading Biobank. The 4-week Summer Experience program offers students an exclusive glimpse into this world of cutting­edge science, as they complete rotations in the lnstitute's laboratories and receive individualized instruction and direction from a group of expert mentors. The students also learn to operate and work closely with Coriell's state-of-the-art equipment and technology.

Apply Here

Stay tuned for more updates and opportunities.