The Ott Lab publishes novel research on SARS-CoV-2 variants Read More

Ott Lab News

Inside long COVID’s war on the body: Researchers are trying to find out whether the virus has the potential to cause cancer

Long COVID is no stranger to either patients or those immersed in studies of its effects. In the U.S., one in 7 adults–about 14% of the adult population–has experienced symptoms that lasted three months or longer after first contracting the virus. The worldwide estimate for long COVID is 65 million people.

What is less clear–because it’s still so early in the process–is the impact of some of SARS-CoV-2’s most dangerous characteristics on those hit by long COVID. But some researchers are warily watching for the worst: a potential connection to cancer.

No such connection has been established, and the process of learning whether there is one–and to what extent–will rightfully take years. The experts who spoke with me cautioned that most of what they are considering is hypothetical, and the National Cancer Institute did not respond to multiple interview requests.

How Zika virus prevents normal brain development once neural progenitor cells are infected

When Zika virus crosses the placenta to infect a foetus in a pregnant woman, it attacks life before it’s had a chance to establish itself, like squashing a seed before planting it. In particular, the virus infects starter cells for the nervous system, neural progenitor cells, thus causing wide-reaching developmental problems down the line. To investigate how these impacts take hold, researchers examined these cells in the lab, and focused on a protein called UPF1, which manages mRNA – transcripts of genes being expressed. Infected cells have less UPF1 and the researchers saw that as a result, transcripts (red) become stuck in the cell nucleus (blue) in cells infected with Zika (green, right), compared to uninfected (left). This reduces the production of proteins from those transcripts, such as one called FREM2, required to maintain and determine the identity of neural progenitor cells, and so hinders healthy development from the start.

Fall’s COVID Shots May Be Different in One Key Way

This year’s might include XBB.1 and … perhaps no other strain.

This fall, millions of Americans might be lining up for yet another kind of COVID vaccine: their first-ever dose that lacks the strain that ignited the pandemic more than three and a half years ago. Unlike the current, bivalent vaccine, which guards against two variants at once, the next one could, like the first version of the shot, have only one main ingredient—the spike protein of the XBB.1 lineage of the Omicron variant, the globe’s current dominant clade.

That plan isn’t yet set. The FDA still has to convene a panel of experts, then is expected to make a final call on autumn’s recipe next month. But several experts told me they hope the agency follows the recent recommendation of a World Health Organization advisory group and focuses the next vaccine only on the strains now circulating.

InvisiShield Technologies Collaborates with Gladstone Institutes to Accelerate Development of Intranasal Preventatives against SARS-CoV-2, Influenza, and RSV

InvisiShield Technologies Ltd., a pre-clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing intranasal preventives for major disease-causing respiratory viruses, today announced a collaboration with Gladstone Institutes to develop intranasal preventatives against airborne infection, including SARS-CoV-2, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Gladstone Institutes, a non-profit biomedical research organization that uses visionary science and technology to overcome disease, will leverage its expertise in immunology and virology to support the collaboration. Gladstone has made significant contributions to better understanding and developing new therapies for a range of viral diseases, including HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.

The collaboration aims to develop intranasal preventatives that can protect individuals from viral infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as influenza and RSV. Intranasal preventatives have the potential to serve as an immediate line of defense against viral infections, irrespective of an individual’s vaccination or immune system status, by targeting the nose and upper respiratory tract where most infections originate.

Medical Milestones are Underway at San Francisco’s Gladstone Institutes

When California shut down in March 2020 and many San Franciscans stayed at home, obsessively ordering hand sanitizer, a group of local scientists pivoted from the projects they were working on and poured all their energy into COVID-19. Jennifer Doudna, PhD, and Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, developed a new testing device, using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, that’s as accurate as a PCR test but can provide rapid results at home (it should hit the market next year). And Leor Weinberger, PhD, developed a nasal spray that people can use after they’ve been exposed to COVID, to disrupt the virus’s ability to spread in the body (clinical trials could begin next year).

Researchers find SARS-CoV-2 antibodies less effective against Omicron

Researchers at UC Berkeley, the Gladstone Institutes and the Innovative Genomics Institute discovered that the antibodies generated against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants are less effective against the omicron variant.

The omicron variant was first detected in South Africa in late 2021, according to Abdullah Syed, the first author and a postdoctoral fellow at campus professor Jennifer Doudna’s lab. Although COVID-19 has generated many variants since 2020, Syed said the omicron variant is “different” because it had the most mutations and spread more rapidly than other variants.

Scientists find new evidence against using BET inhibitors to treat COVID-19

A while ago, some researchers had suggested that blocking a set of proteins, known as bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) proteins, might be a way to fight COVID-19. However, in a surprising study, scientists at Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco (UCSF) discovered that BET proteins are actually crucial for the body to fight infection. In fact, the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself blocks the proteins to try to gain an advantage and continue to spread.

Omicron Infections, Without Vaccinations, Provide Little Immunity

This past winter, the Omicron variant surged through the country, causing a wave of COVID-19 cases. Now, several months later, those affected are left with a nagging question: how protected am I from future variants? This question is particularly germane as another variant, BA.2.12.1, is causing a recent spike in cases. Now, a team of researchers may have an answer.

It’s happening again: COVID-19 cases are back on the rise. There are 3 main reasons why.

COVID-19 infections continue to rise, driven by new and more infectious omicron subvariants, waning immunity from both vaccines and previous infections and fewer people masking up, health officials said at a White House briefing Wednesday.

About a third of Americans now live in an area with medium or high COVID-19 rates, with reported cases up 26% from last week, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control an Prevention.