Vaccine for melanoma?

Today we will talk about a possible vaccine to treat melanoma. How has it developed? What is it based on?
And before I tell you how and why, I want you to understand what melanoma is. Melanoma is a type of cancer that originates in melanocytes, hence its name. But what are melanocytes? They are cells that are in the epidermis (a part of the skin), and that are responsible for producing melanin. Melanin may sound more to you, since it is the pigment that gives color to our skin and protects us from the sun’s rays (more melanin, darker our skin, less we burn).

Ok, and now yes, melanoma develops from one of these cells, which begins to multiply uncontrollably and turns into a tumor that will (normally) have a mole shape on our skin. What is the biggest problem with this type of cancer? It easily metastasizes, that is, cancer cells pass into the bloodstream, distributing themselves to other organs of the body and generating other much more lethal tumors.

And now let’s get to the point, two teams of researchers: one formed by the Dana Farber Cancer Hospital in Boston and the Harvard Medical School (USA), and the other by the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz (Germany) have arrived to develop similar vaccines to treat this type of cancer.

And what does this vaccine consist of?
This vaccine is formulated based on neoantigens from the specific tumor of each patient. Here I have to make another parenthesis, yes, sorry. Cancer or tumor cells, as you already know, have undergone mutations in their genes that cause them to multiply “like crazy”. Well, these mutations cause proteins to be produced that are not manufactured by normal cell types. These proteins, exclusive to each cancer, to each patient, are called neoantigens. These neoantigens are attacked by the immune system of the patients, since they are recognized as something strange.

What if you could help the immune system recognize these neoantigens from the tumor and therefore destroy it?
Well, this is exactly what the two research groups thought, which determined which neoantigens 19 patients with melanoma had, developing a specific vaccine for each of them. The results were that in 15 of the 19 patients the cancer disappeared completely.

A summary, to see if it has become clear to us: Analyzing what the neoantigens of each tumor were, a personalized vaccine was developed with them that aroused the immune system, which would not only attack the vaccine’s neoantigens but also those of the tumor and cancer cells killing cancer.

Despite the great success of this project, all the patients who participated had previously undergone surgery in order to remove the tumor. For this reason it is not yet clear which of these patients healed due to the vaccine and which to the operation. It remains only to wait for larger-scale trials to conclude whether the vaccine is an option, and to pray that the cost of developing a personalized vaccine does not prevent many from taking advantage of the treatment, if it turns out to be effective.

And I invite you to visit my section on cancer and even some related entry if you have not finished clarifying any concept. Also, you can always write to me and comment on your opinion. THANK YOU!

The flu virus

This week I bring you a topic that is always in fashion: the flu virus. As you will have heard on TV some time ago, in most of Spain, the epidemic level of this disease is occasionally reached. Today I want you to understand perfectly what is, without a doubt, one of the most common viruses in our society…
First of all, what does epidemic mean?

An epidemic is a sudden and temporary increase in the frequency of a disease above the expected level in a geographically limited population.

And a pandemic? Does this word sound familiar to you?
It is also an increase in the frequency of a disease, with the difference that it applies to a large population in a geographically large region. An example? The pandemic caused by the influenza A virus (also called then avian influenza) that took place between 2009 and 2010. This virus traveled the world for 14 months, leaving 19,000 fatalities along the way.

But what is a virus?
Those of you who frequent my blog will know exactly what it is about, but for the newer ones: Viruses are very, very small agents that need to infect a cell to multiply. One thing must be very clear, and that is that a virus is not a living being like a bacterium, an algae or a dog. Why? Because it is not capable of performing the main vital functions: nutrition, relationship and reproduction.

And what is a virus made of? Of a nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) in which all the genetic information of the virus is collected and an envelope that protects it. In addition, depending on the type of virus, other additional and less important components can be added.

And now yes, the flu, that disease that we all know and that is a respiratory infection with moderate fever, general malaise, myalgia, pharyngitis and non-productive cough, is caused by viruses corresponding to the Ortomixoviridae family (families of viruses end with –viridae).

Within this family we have 5 genera, 3 of them, called Influenza A, Influenza B and Influenza C, are the causes, respectively, of influenza A, B and C. Despite the fact that we call the 3 diseases the same, only A is the real flu, and the one we’ll focus on from now on.

The influenza virus is characterized by having in its envelope two very important proteins with very rare names: hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Hemagglutinin has the ability to bind to a protein on the surface of cells that it will infect. Neuraminidase, in turn, has the ability to break down sialic acid. And you will wonder, what does this acid have to do with all this fuss?

The mucus that covers the entire external surface of our respiratory system is rich in sialoproteins, that is, proteins conjugated with sialic acid. The mucus is, precisely, a defense mechanism of the organism since it agglutinates the viruses preventing its dissemination. The mission of the virus’s neuraminidase is to break this mucus to allow it to spread through as many cells as possible.

And now that we know this we can understand why we should be vaccinated every season of the flu virus. The reason is quite simple: these two virus proteins change from season to season by different mechanisms. The consequence? The virus is totally different. To give you an idea: from the first protein there are, for the moment, up to 15 variants, and from the second 9. The result? The existence of a lot of types of influenza viruses.

When you get vaccinated for this disease, you do it for one of these specific types of flu viruses. In this way, the body responds by generating specific antibodies against this virus. If the same virus infects you, your immune system will be prepared and will respond by killing it.

The problem of the influenza virus is this great variability that it presents. If the type varies from season to season, the antibodies you have generated will not be able to recognize the new virus and therefore, you will be able to get it again despite being vaccinated.

In fact, the influenza virus is assigned a specific name depending on the type of neuraminidase and hemagglutinin it has. For example, if you have type 3 hemagglutinin and type 1 neuraminidase it will be called the H3N1 influenza virus.

And to put the icing on the cake, epidemics and pandemics, which I told you about at the beginning, are associated, precisely, with the change of these proteins on the surface of the virus. A change in the virus will mean that a large part of the population does not have antibodies against it despite being vaccinated and, therefore, is not capable of generating an effective immune response.

While the slightest changes in these proteins cause epidemics, the most drastic changes cause pandemics. It is easy to understand: the rarer the change, the less likely it is that there will be people immune to it and therefore the greater the contagion.

As curiosity and to finish? The reservoir, that is, the place where this virus accumulates naturally, is birds. Through these animals the virus can spread to pigs. And it will be precisely in them that the changes in the famous two proteins will take place. From pigs, the virus will spread to humans. This explains, precisely, why the areas in which new influenza pandemics arise are areas in which the population maintains close contact with pigs.

Alcohol damages DNA and can cause cancer

Today’s post comes to confirm how truly harmful alcohol can be for our body. An article published in the journal Nature shows that a by-product of the breakdown of alcohol damages our DNA …

When we ingest any type of substance, it reaches our blood after having passed through the entire digestive tract, that is: from the mouth to the intestine. It will be here, in the intestine, where, in this case alcohol, is absorbed and passes into our blood.

The circulation will lead you, first of all, to the liver, and after having passed through it, the blood will transport it to all the organs of the body. For this reason, this organ is usually compared to a kind of “detoxifier”, which tries to eliminate or detoxify any substance that may be harmful to us.

In our case, in the liver, alcohol (which is specifically ethanol, a type of alcohol) would become another substance: Acetaldehyde, thanks to the action of an enzyme, Alcohol deihydrogenase. And in case there is someone around here who still doesn’t know what an enzyme is, I remind you: An enzyme is a protein that catalyzes a reaction, and when we talk about catalyzing we mean helping the reaction to occur, speeding up the process .

What happens then with Acetaldehyde? Well, mainly, what happens is that it is even more toxic than ethanol, and that when it is produced in the liver it will travel through the blood throughout our body. When the circulation takes the Acetaldehyde back to the liver (our circulatory system is a closed circuit) it will be when it is completely detoxified when it becomes acetic acid, thanks to the enzyme Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. This substance is no longer toxic to us as it can be used as an energy source.

So what is the problem?
Acetaldehyde, the metabolite derived from the breakdown of alcohol, is what causes DNA damage. Although we have commented that this was broken down into another substance that was no longer toxic to us. The problem is generated when so much accumulates in the body that the body is not able to eliminate everything at once. High levels of acetaldehyde in the blood are responsible for damaging the DNA of hematopoietic stem cells.

Hematopoietic stem cells are those cells that are responsible for generating the different types of blood cells: platelets, white blood cells, red blood cells … High concentrations of acetaldehyde cause breaks in your DNA. Like any other cell type, these cells have a machinery in charge of repairing these damages, although they can make mistakes that generate mutations. The accumulation of these mutations are the cause of the appearance of cancer cells and the subsequent development of a tumor.

An added problem? More than 500 million people worldwide (mainly in Asia) suffer a mutation in the gene that produces the protein Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2). This mutation causes the enzyme to not work properly and the levels of acetaldehyde in the blood to accumulate to a greater extent. What does it mean? That these people are more likely to develop tumors because they are not able to eliminate the toxic metabolite so easily.

The conclusion? Responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages.

COVID-19 SARS-CoV2 Detection Kit

One Step RT-qPCR kit for SARSCoV-2 (COVID-19) detections

This kit is used for the detection of SARS-COV2 or COVID-19 by RT-qPCR ( Real-Time quantitative Polymerase Chaine Reaction.

This kit is used to detect the coronavirus SARS-COV2 in specimens like sputum, nasopharyngeal, oropharyngeal aspirates, washes or swabs and tracheal aspirates.

Size:

  • 100 reactions (20 µl rxn vol)
  • 500 reactions (20 µl rxn vol)

Kit Content:

  • RT-qPCR 2x master mix
  • Primers/probes:
  • One step RTqPCR 2x master mix contains Reverse Transcriptase
  •  Taq DNA polymerase
  • RNase inhibitor, MgCl2
  • dNTPs
  • COVID-19 positive control (PTC)

Use:

This kit is for research use only.

This Kit is compatible with all RT-PCR Instruments.

This Kit is very efficient and with improved specificity and sensitivity.

Storage:

Store this kit at -20°C

2019-nCoV NGS Products

CodeName
RK20301Strabded mRNA-seq Lib Prep Kit for Illumina
RK20302mRNA-seq Lib Kit for illumina
RK20303Whole RNA seq Lib Prep Kit for Illumina
RK20304Fast RNA seq Lib Prep Module for Illumina
RK20340Poly(A) mRNA Capture Module
RK20341Poly(A) mRNA Purification Module
RK20348rRNA Depetion module (H/M/R)
RK20200Rapid DNA Lib Prep Kit for Illumina
RK20208Rapid Plus DNA Lib Prep Kit for Illumina
RK20217Rapid Max DNA Lib Prep Kit for Illumina