NEWS

An important new finding has emerged from work done on frozen human hearts at the molecular level. Researchers at the Heart Research Institute have worked out why male and female hearts fail in different ways. The Institute is in the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney where there is a heart bank housing heart samples placed in liquid-nitrogen cyropreservation. (A previous novel finding from this centre was that hearts can grow new cells.) The new finding will lead to new detection methods for heart problems especially in women and potentially to new treatments.

For a comment on the value of human-relevant methods over animal tests in relation to the present pandemic see Samantha Saunders, ‘Animal Testing and the coronavirus crisis’ The Ecologist, 16th April, 2020.

Some human-centred research on the coronavirus:

Three-dimensional reconstructed human respiratory tissue models, such as those from Epithelix (https://www.epithelix.com/) Sari and MatTek Life Sciences (https://www.mattek.com/) can be used to study COVID-19 infection and screen for potential treatments.

Scientists at Gauhati University, India use advanced computer simulation methods to work out which parts of the virus are best suited to triggering an immune response in humans. This work could aid the design of safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19.

Researchers at the University of Bristol are growing the virus in cells to gain a better understanding of the way it spreads and causes sickness. Using this technique, they can find out whether it mutates under certain conditions. This work provides crucial information about how the virus causes disease.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US are using Summit - a supercomputer - to identify existing drugs that could be effective in treating COVID-19 in humans. Based on the physical properties of the virus and of each drug, the computer predicts how the two might interact. The effectiveness of promising drugs can then be measured by testing them on cells infected with the virus.

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