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McMaster develops tool for COVID-19 battle

This article was first published on Brighter World. Read the original article.

McMaster University researchers have developed a tool to share with the international health sciences community which can help determine how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading and whether it is evolving.

Simply put, the tool is a set of molecular ‘fishing hooks’ to isolate the virus, SARS-CoV-2, from biological samples. This allows laboratory researchers to gain insight into the properties of the isolated virus COVID-19 by then using a technology called next-generation sequencing.

The details were published on Preprints.org.

“You wouldn’t use this technology to diagnose the patient, but you could use it to track how the virus evolves over time, how it transmits between people, how well it survives outside the body, and to find answers to other questions,” said principal investigator Andrew McArthur, associate professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences, and a member of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) at McMaster.

“Our tool, partnered with next-generation sequencing, can help scientists understand, for example, if the virus has evolved between patient A and patient B.”

McArthur points out that the standard technique to isolate the virus involves culturing it in cells in contained labs by trained specialists. The McMaster tool gives a faster, safer, easier and less-expensive alternative, he said.

“Not every municipality or country will have specialized labs and researchers, not to mention that culturing a virus is dangerous,” he said.

“This tool removes some of these barriers and allows for more widespread testing and analyses.”

First author Jalees Nasir, a PhD candidate in biochemistry and biomedical sciences at McMaster, has been working with McMaster and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre researchers to develop a bait capture tool that can specifically isolate respiratory viruses. When news recently broke of COVID-19, Nasir knew he could develop a “sequence recipe” to help researchers to isolate the novel virus more easily.

“When you have samples from a patient, for example, it can consist of a combination of virus, bacteria and human material, but you’re really only interested in the virus,” Nasir said. “It’s almost like a fishing expedition. We are designing baits that we can throw into the sample as hooks and pull out the virus from that mixture.”

The decision was made to release the sequences publicly without the normal practice of peer-review or clinical evaluation to ensure this tool was available to all quickly, recognizing the urgency of the situation, said McArthur.

The research team plans to collaborate with Sunnybrook for further testing but also hopes other scientists can quickly perform their own validation.

McArthur added that a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, David Speicher, is currently communicating details of the technology to the international clinical epidemiology community.

“Since we’re dealing with an outbreak, there was no value in us doing a traditional academic study and the experiments,” said McArthur. “We designed this tool and are releasing it for use by others.

“In part, we’re relying on our track record of knowing what we are doing, but we’re also relying on people who have the virus samples in hand being able to do the validation experiment so that it’s reliable.”

The research was funded by the Comprehensive Antibiotic Resistance Database at McMaster.

This article was first published on Brighter World. Read the original article.

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Research

Researchers discover new toxin that impedes bacterial growth

This article was first published on Brighter World. Read the original article.

An international research collaboration has discovered a new bacteria-killing toxin that shows promise of impacting superbug infectious diseases.

The discovery of this growth-inhibiting toxin, which bacteria inject into rival bacteria to gain a competitive advantage, was published today in the journal Nature.

The discovery is the result of teamwork by co-senior authors John Whitney, assistant professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University, and Mike Laub, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Whitney and his PhD student Shehryar Ahmad at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research were studying how bacteria secrete antibacterial molecules when they came across a new toxin. This toxin was an antibacterial enzyme, one the researchers had never seen before.

After determining the molecular structure of this toxin, Whitney and Ahmad realized that it resembles enzymes that synthesize a well-known bacterial signalling molecule called (p)ppGpp. This molecule normally helps bacteria survive under stressful conditions, such as exposure to antibiotics.

“The 3D structure of this toxin was at first puzzling because no known toxins look like enzymes that make (p)ppGpp, and (p)ppGpp itself is not a toxin,” said Ahmad.

Suspecting the toxin might kill bacteria by overproducing harmful quantities of (p)ppGpp, the McMaster team shared their findings with Laub, an investigator of the U.S. Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Boyuan Wang, a postdoctoral researcher in the Laub lab who specializes in (p)ppGpp signaling, examined the activity of the newly discovered enzyme. He soon realized that rather than making (p)ppGpp, this enzyme instead produced a poorly understood but related molecule called (p)ppApp. Somehow, the production of (p)ppApp was harmful to bacteria.

The researchers determined that the rapid production of (p)ppApp by this enzyme toxin depletes cells of a molecule called ATP. ATP is often referred to as the ‘energy currency of the cell’ so when the supply of ATP is exhausted, essential cellular processes are compromised and the bacteria die.

“I find it absolutely fascinating that evolution has essentially “repurposed” an enzyme that normally helps bacteria survive antibiotic treatment and, instead, has deployed it for use as an antibacterial weapon,” said Whitney.

The research conducted at McMaster University was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and is affiliated with the CIHR Institute for Infection and Immunity (CIHR-III) hosted at McMaster University with additional funding from the David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery. The research at MIT was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

“This is an important discovery with potential implications for developing alternatives to antibiotics, a global priority in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. It is heartening to see that young Canadian researchers like Dr. Whitney are thriving and emerging as leaders in this area,” said Charu Kaushic, scientific director of the CIHR-III and a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster.

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Research

eHealth against antimicrobial resistance

This article was first published on Brighter World. Read the original article.

A forward-looking McMaster donor is investing $7 million in a new research centre dedicated specifically to tackle the growing global threat of antimicrobial resistance.

David Braley, whose gifts to the university include a $50-million investment in McMaster teaching, learning and health-care research and delivery, has allocated $7 million from that 2007 gift towards the new David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery.

The centre will operate from the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, whose labs and offices are located on campus in the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery.

Researchers associated with the new David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery. Photo by Georgia Kirkos.

“This is a very timely investment,” says Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice- president, Faculty of Health Sciences. “This provides fresh resources to a team of researchers who are among the world’s leaders in their field. Creating this centre gives them the chance to do their best work at a time in history when it’s needed most.”

The funding comes from a portion of Braley’s 2007 gift that had been designated for emerging health-care research priorities.

The David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery will be home to McMaster’s leading researchers in the field of antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. The new resources will allow the team to concentrate more specific effort on that problem.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a slow-moving catastrophe, but make no mistake: within the next 30 years, it will kill millions, strangle our health-care systems and significantly alter life as we know it unless we develop new ways to attack the problem,” says Gerry Wright, who heads both the David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery and the Institute for Infectious Disease Research.  “The opportunity to open this centre is a hopeful sign, and we are grateful for Mr. Braley’s vision and his vote of confidence. This problem must be solved, and it can be solved.”

Dr. Gerry Wright standing at a podium in a hallway in front of a black curtain at the opening of the David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery
Gerry Wright, director of the Institute for Infectious Disease Research and the new David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery, addresses the crowd at the opening of the new research centre. Photo by Georgia Kirkos.

The waning effectiveness of traditional antibiotics gives urgency to the search for new forms of antibiotics and other ways to boost the effectiveness of existing drugs.

Widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture and medicine has accelerated resistance to penicillin and its related medicines, as bacteria evolve to meet the threat.

Infection control and treatment without antibiotics could cast the world back to the early 1900s, when infectious diseases routinely killed people, Wright says.

Today, at least 700,000 people around the world – including 2,000 in Canada ­­– die each year as a result of drug-resistant diseases. The global total is expected to rise to 10 million deaths per year by 2050 if no new solutions are found.

The medical costs associated with AMR are predicted to reach $100 trillion within that same time frame.

Close-up of a lab coat that reads "David Braley Centre for Antibiotic Discovery."
Photo by Georgia Kirkos.

This year, the United Nations published a report projecting that without immediate global action, AMR could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty by the year 2030.

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Research Resources

McMaster’s start-up incubator to receive $1.2 million from FedDev Ontario

This article was first published on Daily News. Read the original article.

The Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, is providing McMaster with $1.2 million to expand The Forge, a collaborative makerspace where entrepreneurs can access advanced equipment to design and build innovative new products.

 

Forge

The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Seniors and Member of Parliament for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, made the announcement today on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and minister responsible for FedDev Ontario.

“FedDev Ontario’s funding is providing invaluable support to the innovation community in Hamilton,” said Tassi. “The government of Canada is proud to support McMaster — one of Canada’s premier research-intensive universities — to expand The Forge’s makerspace and allow more companies to develop and bring new products to market.”

The funding will allow The Forge to expand its makerspace as it moves into a 10,000 square-foot facility shared with partner Innovation Factory. It will also purchase additional 3D printers and other fabricating equipment, and increase support to entrepreneurs through mentoring. As a result, the number of companies supported will almost double from 24 to up to 40 annually, with up to 75 new jobs created as a result.

“This strategic investment from the Government of Canada will strengthen the entrepreneurial capacity of our region by providing McMaster’s students and the wider Hamilton community access to the centralized expertise and infrastructure so essential for creating start-ups and business growth opportunities,” said Karen Mossman, Acting Vice-President of Research at McMaster and chair of the McMaster Innovation Park board of directors.

More than 105 tech companies have graduated from The Forge since its founding in 2014, with more than 300 employees hired and $20 million of private and public investment raised.

The Forge’s expansion further enhances McMaster’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and reputation as a leader in developing innovative manufacturing assets, in particular within the McMaster Innovation Park, which is also home to the McMaster Automotive Research Centre (MARC) and the Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (BEAM).

This article was first published on Daily News. Read the original article.

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Research

LaTex template for eHealth Thesis

eHealth Thesis
Image Credit: delphinmedia @ pixabay.com

I have shared below the latex template for the MSc eHealth thesis (McMaster University). At the outset, let me state the standard disclaimer: This is not an official template, use this at your own risk. If you find any mistakes, fork it on GitHub and improve it.

Latex is a system where “What You Get Is What You Mean“. So you can precisely “program” the typesetting and save lots of time in formatting large documents. However, it may not be ideal for small documents. Though you can install LaTex in you system by following the instructions here, there is an excellent free online service that you can use called http://sharelatex.com. Sharelatex also has the IEEE template available in their library.

Please be aware that your supervisor might ask you to submit revisions in a Word document for tracking changes. So LaTeX formatting is typically done before final submission and not during supervisor readings. You need to collect references in the BibTeX format. Mendeley reference manager has a BibTex export facility. I recommend creating a folder for your thesis references and using Mendeley’s web importer.

Steps to use eHealth Thesis template

1. Download the zip file here. (Please star the repository if you have a GitHub account.)
2. Register at Share latex, Create a ‘New Project’ and ‘Upload project’.
3. Add the details on the preliminaries.tex file
4. replace references.bib with your references. Retain the file name.
5. Cut and paste your thesis content to the respective ‘Chapters’.
6. See ‘Materials and Methods’ file for the correct way of inserting and referencing figures, tables, equations, and citations. Table of contents, the list of figures and tables, etc. would be automatically generated.
7. Compile it and download the pdf.

The template is open-source. Feel free to improve it. Pull-requests to merge your improvements are welcome. Contact me if you are in trouble on our IRC channel ##ehealth

Do you believe in the open-source eHealth culture? Join Us on PRO{DENTS} and contribute to the Wiki Textbook of eHealth.

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Research

Research Project on 3D Food Printing

Students at Humber College are completing a research project on 3D Food Printing. The purpose of this research project is to explore the current knowledge and attitudes millennials possess regarding 3D food printing technology. The study will examine key areas of interest and concern to the participants, as well as assess participant’s potential buying intent.

This research project aims to provide keen insight for potential stakeholders of this revolutionary technology including: (1) the developers, researchers, and investors; (2) the consumer population; and (3) the participants of the study.

Take our quick 5-minute anonymous survey and enter a draw for a chance to win a $50 VISA! We would like to hear from anyone living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) between the ages of 18-35 regarding your opinions on this innovative new technology.

To access the survey, please click here: https://humber.qfimr.com/SU0JVOIV6N4

Once you complete the survey, you will be asked to enter the VISA draw. Your participation is important to us.  We greatly appreciate your help and time!

Thank you,

  • Juhi Agarwal
  • Jason Szymanski
  • Tracey Haefele
  • Anjali Sharma
  • Ankita Singh

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