Archive for November, 2015

“Plant cell pack” workshop

23 November, 2015

As molecular farmers, we were much impressed last year by a technology developed by the folk at the Fraunhofer IME in Aachen: this is “METHOD FOR THE GENERATION AND CULTIVATION OF A PLANT CELL PACK“, with Thomas Rademacher as sole inventor on the patent application.  Basically, this involves

  • making a “cookie” or cell pack with cultured plant cells, by suction of a suspension onto a membrane
  • drizzling recombinant Agrobacterium tumefaciens onto the cookie, then sucking away excess fluid
  • incubating the cell cookie in a humid environment for a few days, until the desired level of protein expression has been reached

There are all sorts of things one could dream up for the application of this technology, given that one can make cookies of all sorts of depths and widths, in everything from spin columns to multiwell plates – and high-throughput screening of expression constructs comes to mind immediately.

Now fortunately, Inga Hitzeroth of our Biopharming Research Unit here at UCT (the BRU) has a National Research Foundation-administered bilateral grant with the folk at the Fraunhofer IME, which has meant we have money for joint workshops and the like – so we are having a hands-on Workshop on “Plant Cell Packs for Transient Expression: Innovating the Field of Molecular Biopharming” affiliated to our “Virology Africa 2015” conference next week.  We plan to develop an illustrated manual along with a full suite of technical tips after the Workshop.

And as part of which, one has of course to feed and entertain the participants – hence our expedition to The Spice Route wine farm complex yesterday.  Hard work, this science…B-)

The BRU-IME Cookie Workshop team: from left; Romana Yanez (BRU), Tanja Holland, Susanne Bethke, Markus Sack, Juergen Drossard, Gueven Edgu all IME), Ed Rybicki (BRU)

The BRU-IME Cookie Workshop team: from left; Romana Yanez (BRU), Tanja Holland, Susanne Bethke, Markus Sack, Juergen Drossard, Gueven Edgu (all IME), Ed Rybicki (BRU)

 

 

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Toward Eliminating Poliovirus In the Lab

18 November, 2015

As the world inches closer to polio eradication, laboratories studying the virus will have to bolster biosafety standards. Eventually, most will need to stop working with the pathogen entirely.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.the-scientist.com

EVENTUALLY.  I note smallpox is still in freezers; so too is rinderpest – we have vaccines against both of them…oh, wait – we have vaccines against polio too!

Nice thing about rinderpest and polio – not so sure about smallpox – is that they COULD be recreated as needed from synthesised cDNA.

However, we really need to do that ONLY after there’s been significant sequencing of all known variants, just in case we missed something.

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Rounding Up The Last Of A Deadly Cattle Virus

16 November, 2015

Rinderpest, or cattle plague, was declared eradicated in 2011. But many research institutes still have samples of the rinderpest virus in storage. Disease experts want those samples destroyed.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.npr.org

I have written a lot about rinderpest, and covered it in my book on virus history, as well as covering the debate on whether or not smallpox virus stocks should be eliminated.

And if they haven’t yet, despite years of debate, why should rinderpest virus stocks?

Consider: we have an effective vaccine(s); we still have the related peste des petits ruminants virus knocking around, with vaccines to it – so why shouldn’t stocks of the live virus strains be preserved?

How many viruses have in fact made it out of fridges, and back into the world?  Well, there was that purported 1977 H1N1 release in Russia/Mongolia…but can anyone think of another well-documented one?  Just one?

The fact is that it is FAR easier to deliberately spread endemic viruses around – like foot-and-mouth disease virus – than it would be to reactivate and spread something from a lab freezer.

Rather let us conduct an inventory of who has what, consolidate it like they did with smallpox, and forget about the unknowable, which is obscure freezers in far-flung rural centres where no-one remembers what is there – and where powercuts have probably thawed the samples more than once.

See on Scoop.itVirology News

Engineered bat virus stirs debate over risky research 

13 November, 2015

An experiment that created a hybrid version of a bat coronavirus — one related to the virus that causes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) — has triggered renewed debate over whether engineering lab variants of viruses with possible pandemic potential is worth the risks.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.nature.com

You know something?  I reiterate my stance on engineered flu viruses.  Which is that it is NOT known that these coronaviruses will have pandemic potential; that they ARE being worked with under stringent containment, and no other similar NATURAL virus has escaped in recent memory; they DO provide valuable information on what is needed for such viruses to infect humans.

Which is all good, right?!

See on Scoop.itVirology News

“Set your phages to stun”

3 November, 2015

Engineered phage viruses show promise as targeted assassins – genetic manipulation might make it easier for them to gain regulatory approval

Many phage infect and replicate inside bacteria, killing them. This makes phages a possible alternative to antibiotics as resistance to these drugs grows. What’s more, most phages infect only one species or even a few strains within a species; antibiotics aren’t so selective.

But that specificity is a problem: it might not be clear which pathogenic bacterial strain is present in an infection, so a cocktail of several phages might be needed to guarantee effective treatment. Each may have to pass regulatory approval separately.

Timothy Lu and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology aim to get round this by making a single phage modifiable with bacteria-attacking machinery from other phages. In theory, that could reduce regulatory hold-ups.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.newscientist.com

Couldn’t resist that byline – it’s part of the article – so that I could get some mileage out of something mildly upsetting.

It’s just that someone else has yet AGAIN had my good idea before I did.

There I was, reading about and blogging on bacteria co-opting phage tail assemblies as weapons against other phages, and dreaming up ways of using them creatively – and someone else had gone and done it.

That is, used an engineered phage genome and presumably head structure with a variety of tail assemblies (which determine the binding specificity) in order to target as many bacterial types as possible.

Very clever!  It’s what may make phage therapy into a science instead of an art.

See on Scoop.itVirology News