Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating autoimmune condition that affects millions of people across the globe. The ultimate cause of RA is largely mysterious. While researchers have long suspected that the microbiome influenced the development of the disease, the specific microbe has eluded identification.
Now, in a recent Science Translational Medicine paper, researchers reported a strain of bacteria that may drive RA development. Some people at risk for the disease have antibodies against this bacteria, and activation of T cells was more prevalent in people with RA than in healthy controls. Perhaps even more intriguingly, mice, given this bacterium, developed a condition similar to human RA.
Identifying this bacterium was no simple task. First, the research team, a collaboration between scientists at the University of Colorado, Stanford University, and the Benaroya Research Institute, screened blood donated by people at risk for RA or with early-stage RA for RA-related autoantibodies.
Then researchers tested whether any of these autoantibodies also targeted human intestinal bacteria. They mixed the antibodies with bacteria from stool samples donated by healthy people and people with RA. They then sequenced the bacterial species to which the autoantibodies attached. These RA antibodies cross-reacted with many species of bacteria, largely from Lachnospiraceae or Ruminococcaceae, two closely related families.
To study these species in more detail, researchers cultured bacteria from the stool of an individual who had high levels of these two bacterial families present. Two types of bacteria, which they called isolates 1 and 7, emerged as potential candidates for driving RA development. Compared to isolate 1, isolate 7 was a more potent activator of T cells in blood from RA patients.
To find out if isolate 7 bacteria actually caused disease, scientists fed the bacteria to mice. Kristine Kuhn, a study coauthor and rheumatologist at the University of Colorado, said that she didn’t expect anything to happen when the team gave the mice the bacteria without another agent to disturb the immune system.
While other bacteria have previously been associated with human RA, Subdoligranulum is so far unique in its ability to cause RA-like symptoms in mice without the addition of another immune insult.
The similarities between the mice and human RA patients extended beyond what could be seen with the naked eye. “There were antibodies getting into the joints, much like we see in rheumatoid arthritis,” said Kuhn. “So, we started to profile the antibodies that were in the serum of the mice and we found that a lot of those antibodies targeted the same proteins that are targeted in rheumatoid arthritis.”
Rabi Upadhyay, a medical oncologist who studies the microbiome, immunity, and cancer at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and was not involved in this work, said that while this study convincingly demonstrated that this species could produce an RA-like condition in mice, it may be too soon to pin all the blame on Subdoligranulum alone since the study didn’t necessarily rule out other species.
In keeping with this, the researchers only found this strain in 16.7 percent of people at risk or with early-stage RA, indicating that this strain is likely not the sole driver of disease.
Currently, there are no therapies that can prevent or cure the disease, and immunosuppressant treatments that alleviate symptoms can have dangerous side effects.
The National Football League aims to expand a study that tracks on-field head impacts using sensors embedded in custom mouthguards by adding NCAA players from participating universities.
The college-level program first launched in 2021 with four schools: the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Washington, and the University of Wisconsin. The NFL said it will also work with teams from the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Pittsburgh, and Vanderbilt University. Participation among players is voluntary.
The NFL’s concussion protocols have recently come under higher scrutiny following back-to-back head injuries suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this past September. After being pulled from a game against the Buffalo Bills, Tagovailoa was cleared to play four days later against the Cincinnati Bengals.
During that game, after being sacked and hitting his head, Tagovailoa involuntarily flexed his arms and fingers in what has been described as the body’s fencing response, a sign linked to traumatic brain injury. Tagovailoa later told reporters he did not remember being carried off the field.
The NFL’s research project with college student-athletes will collect data on the forces in play during a head collision. The customizable digital mouthguards will be fit for each player through a partnership with Align Technology, the company behind the Invisalign brand of teeth straighteners.
The league said the research, which includes more than 250 players, could help inform the design of position-specific helmets or future game rules changes. A similar program using tech-enabled mouthguards has also been employed at four NFL professional teams.
The data itself will be anonymized and analyzed by the engineering consultant firm Biocore, as well as the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the NFL said.
Having athletes wear mouthguards with embedded sensors will help understand the specifics of head impacts and the force that may be transmitted to the brain. They will be able to examine what players/positions get the most hits, the amount of force sustained, the direction of that force, and the types of plays that lead to these impacts.
A wearable ultrasound “sticker” that enables high-quality, continuous medical imaging of internal organs and tissues for up to 48 hours has been developed by researchers from MIT. The stickers may lead to improved diagnostic and monitoring technologies for various diseases and provide new insights into developmental biology.
The work was led by Xuanhe Zhao, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at MIT. It was published in Science.
Their sticker, which they call a bioadhesive ultrasound (BAUS) device, overcomes many of these limitations. It consists of a thin and rigid probe that adheres to the skin with a durable, stretchy material that is also soft and comfortable. The device’s adhesive layer is made from two thin layers of elastomer that encapsulate a middle layer of solid hydrogel, a mostly water-based material that easily transmits sound waves. Unlike traditional ultrasound gels, the MIT team’s hydrogel is elastic and stretchy.
The bottom elastomer layer is designed to stick to the skin, while the top layer adheres to a rigid array of transducers that the team also designed and fabricated. The entire ultrasound sticker measures about 2 cm2 across and 3 mm thick.
The researchers tested the devices on volunteers, who wore the stickers on various parts of their bodies, including the neck, chest, abdomen, and arms. The devices produced live, high-resolution images of major blood vessels and deeper organs such as the heart, lungs, and stomach. They maintained strong adhesion and captured changes under various environmental conditions and for different patient movements, including jogging, drinking fluids, and lifting weights.
From the stickers’ images, the team could observe the changing diameter of major blood vessels when seated versus standing. The stickers also captured details of deeper organs, such as how the heart changes shape as it exerts during exercise. The researchers were also able to watch the stomach distend, then shrink back as volunteers drank then later passed juice out of their system. And as some volunteers lifted weights, the team could detect bright patterns in underlying muscles, signaling temporary microdamage.
The current design requires connecting the devices to instruments that translate the reflected sound waves into images. But if the devices can be made to operate wirelessly—a goal the team is currently working toward—they could be made into wearable imaging products that patients could take home from a doctor’s office.
They envision a few patches adhered to different locations on the body, and the patches would communicate with your cellphone. They have opened a new era of wearable imaging: With a few patches on your body, you could see your internal organs.
More than a month after the FDA granted its first approval for an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) drug in five years, several promising ALS candidates are winnowing their way through clinical trials—including an oral drug that has shown the first signs of promise in an early-phase study.
Eco-friendly plug to treat Nosebleeds
Nosebleeds are one of the most frequent ENT emergencies worldwide. It is estimated that 60% of the world’s population will experience a nosebleed at least once in their lifetime, although only 6-10% will seek medical attention. There are several methods for treating a nosebleed, and one of the most popular ones with a high success rate is nasal packing. However, the choice of the most appropriate nasal plug is vital to the outcome of the treatment. The ideal nasal plug should promote hemostasis and be comfortable for the patient, thus reducing damage to the nasal passages.
Dr. Eric L Reese I
Dr. Eric L. Reese is a 25+ year veteran in the life sciences industry focusing primarily on sales, marketing and business development for startup companies with disruptive technologies. Also, Dr. Reese has authored articles and presented globally on the utility of market-driven applications approaches to sales and marketing for the life sciences market space. To date Dr. Reese has spearheaded over 50+ industry collaborations focused on market development and sales growth utilizing his market-driven applications approach for the life sciences market space.