Science & Enterprise subscription

Please share Science & Enterprise

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
Twitter
Visit Us
LinkedIn

Affiliations

New Urinary Tract Infection Diagnostic Gains Funding

E. coli

Escherichia coli, or E. coli, bacteria (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

15 May 2018. A company developing a desktop system for diagnosing urinary tract infections in as little as 30 minutes is the recipient of grant funding from a public-private consortium to combat drug-resistant microbial infections. MicrobeDx in Los Angeles is eligible to receive $3.5 million for its diagnostic technology from the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator, or CARB-X, a coalition of government agencies, foundations, and academic institutions in the U.S. and U.K.

MicrobeDx is creating diagnostic tests that analyze RNA molecules in bodily fluids. The company’s first product tests for urinary tract infections, which occur most often in women, and in the bladder and urethra. If left untreated, these infections can spread to the kidneys or beyond with serious consequences. National Kidney Foundation says urinary tract infections are responsible for some 10 million doctor visits a year in the U.S., with at least 1 in 5 women likely to have an infection in her lifetime. Escherichia coli, or E. coli, bacteria are a leading cause of urinary tract infections, with many infections contracted in health care facilities, resulting from drug-resistant bacteria.

Most urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics, but according to MicrobeDx, antibiotic treatments are often prescribed before the infection is diagnosed. The reason, says the company, is the extended time needed, about 72 hours, to identify the bacterium responsible for the infection, and complete antibiotic susceptibility testing that reveals resistance to the likely prescribed drugs. MicrobeDx says its technology can identify the bacterial target in 30 to 45 minutes, with antibiotic susceptibility testing and personalized prescriptions completed in under 3 hours, thus avoiding unnecessary or erroneous prescriptions.

The MicrobeDx technology captures and analyzes RNA in bodily fluids, in this case urine samples. The automated analysis specifically targets ribosomal RNA, the molecules that translate instructions in messenger RNA for synthesizing proteins from amino acids. The company says the captured ribosomal RNA can be analyzed in its natural state, without further amplification. MicrobeDx says its system can analyze 100,00 molecules simultaneously in a cell, but can also work with small samples of microbes to provide specific identification of the suspect bacteria.

CARB-X, in Boston, is providing an initial payment of $900,000 for development of the urinary tract infection, or UTI, diagnostic system, with MicrobeDx eligible for another $2.6 million if all progress milestones are achieved. “MicrobeDx aims to speed the diagnosis and treatment of UTIs,” says Kevin Outterson, executive director of CARB-X in a statement, “taking the guesswork out of treatment decisions in the first critical hours of illness. The world urgently needs new diagnostics and other products to protect us from life-threatening drug-resistant bacteria.”

CARB-X is an initiative of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or NIAID, and the Wellcome Trust, a foundation based in London, that provide the funding or in-kind services. Partnering organizations include Boston University law school where CARB-X is headquartered, as well as the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, California Life Sciences Institute, AMR Centre in the U.K., and RTI International.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Wearable Devices Explored to Detect Emotional States

Rose Faghih

Rose Faghih (University of Houston)

15 May 2018. An engineering lab in Houston, Texas is developing techniques for assessing a person’s mental state by measuring changes in the skin’s chemistry using sensors worn on the wrist. The 2-year project led by University of Houston electrical engineering professor Rose Faghih is funded by a $175,000 grant from National Science Foundation.

Faghih and colleagues are seeking more economical, yet still effective techniques for measuring a person’s mental state and brain dynamics than current technologies, such as electroencephalograms, or EEGs. With EEGs, individuals need to wear electrodes in a cap or attached to the scalp, which can work in a controlled setting like a doctor’s office or lab, but not in day-to-day life. The researchers instead propose indirect measures of a person’s emotional state, with chemical indicators in the skin.

In her computational medicine lab, Faghih studies hormones in the body’s endocrine system that correspond to changes in the nervous system. For example, a threatening encounter can trigger signals from the hypothalamus at the base of the brain to boost release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal glands, located near the kidneys. While occasional fluctuations in these hormone levels are normal, frequent and repeated arousal states can lead to long-term health problems, including sleep loss, anxiety, and depression.

The lab’s researchers developed algorithms for interpreting changes in the skin’s electrical conductivity that result from these hormonal changes and relating those changes to an individual’s state of arousal or fatigue. The technology is described in a number of publications, most recently in March 2018.

In the new project, the Houston team plans to develop devices on the wrist with these algorithms for measuring and controlling sharp, unwanted swings in emotional states. The wrist-worn system would detect undesired brain pulses through changes in skin conductivity, then generate electrical stimulation to correct the imbalance. The researchers would also validate the device’s measurements and responses with concurrent data assessing subjects’ emotional states from hormone releases.

“Decoding brain states using wrist-worn wearables will transform how mental-stress-related diseases are diagnosed and treated,” says Faghih in a university statement. “Instead of getting information directly from the brain we can use skin conductance data collected by a smart watch.”

Faghih foresees scenarios where a wearable system like the one being developed could prevent more serious problems by responding immediately, or present practical, easy-to-implement solutions. “With our measurement of cortisol,” notes Faghih, “we could see that a patient is at risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome before it occurs.” And the solution need not be complex or expensive. “For example if the data indicates they need to relax,” she says, “maybe their phone could begin to play relaxing music or the phone automatically calls a loved one for support.”

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Could Your Business Benefit from an Electrical Upgrade?

– Contributed content –

Installed lighting

(Mount Pleasant Granary)

15 May 2018. When you run a busy manufacturing business, energy is important to keep on operating and stay safe. You might have power tools with high energy consumption or an outdated electrical system that no longer serves you. Improving your workers’ safety and working conditions will help you decide whether your workshop could benefit from an electrical upgrade.

Energy consumption

If you are losing energy and keep on paying too much for your electricity, you might need to get an electrical assessment and an energy survey to find out if upgrading would provide you any benefits. An assessment will take into consideration the energy consumption of the different heaters, air conditioners, and power tools, as well as heavy machinery and help you optimize the layout for the best performance. You might need to upgrade some of your machines and devices, but it will pay off long term.

Accidents and safety

It is also important that you prevent accidents in the workplace. A power surge or a damaged cable can cause electrical fire. Your company will be fined, lose business and money, and might face a compensation claim from the employees. It is important that you don’t only get your electrical systems tested, but also the wiring. You might consider heat shrink tubing for your cables for better protection and safety.

Generator

(Moody Air force Base)

Power need

Your old power outlets might not be able to deal with the increased energy demand of your workshop, and this can cause fuse problems in the best case scenario, and power outages in the worst case. If you want to avoid downtime and loss of productivity, you might need to talk to an electrician who can give you recommendations on improvements.

Aesthetics

You want to keep your employees happy and content. If there are wires and cables hanging everywhere, your workplace will always have an industrial feel. At the same time, the better you can hide your equipment and wiring the safer your workplace will be. Make sure that you are properly insulating all the cables and tubes, and make your workshop something your workers can be proud of every time they enter.

Increased value

Upgrading your workshop’s interior and electrical system also makes financial sense. Whether you want to install motion sensor lights to save energy or solar panels so you can save money on your bills, the investment will pay off eventually. You can increase the value of your workplace, and – when you move on or rent it out – get more for your bucks. An efficient, correctly wired and regularly checked electrical system at the workplace can improve the perceived value of your company as well as the real estate.

Sometimes business owners forget about the importance of regularly checking whether or not their electrical system still suits their business needs. Upgrading your current wiring and electrical, heating, air conditioning system can benefit you and your employees alike, saving you money and making your workshop safer, more valuable, and running smoothly for years to come.

*     *     *

Trial Testing Radio Waves to Clear Nasal Blockages

Bradley Otto

Bradley Otto views computer scans of air flow through nasal passages (Ohio State University)

14 May 2018. A small-scale clinical trial is recruiting participants to test radio signals for clearing nasal passages obstructed by deformed soft tissue, instead of drugs or surgery used today in many cases. The study, conducted at Ohio State University, is evaluating a device made by medical device developer and funder of the trial, Aerin Medical Inc. in Sunnyvale, California.

Aerin Medical is the maker of Vivaer nasal airway remodeling system to treat obstructions in in the nasal valve area, the narrowest part of nasal passage. Obstruction of nasal passages is a common condition, and one of the more frequent disorders treated by ear, nose, and throat specialists. Nasal passages can become blocked due to allergies or dust irritation, but also by deformities in the septum, the cartilage structure in the nose separating the nostrils. These structural problems sometimes require surgery to correct, with some 600,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the company.

The Vivaer system, says Aerin Medical, uses radio-frequency waves to reshape deformed nasal  passage tissue. The company says its algorithms determine the optimum concentrated electronic signals, without high temperatures or destroying or removing the tissue. The treatments are delivered with a stylus inserted in the nose to shrink soft tissue below the mucous layers, including cartilage blocking the nasal passages. Vivaer therapies, says Aerin, are designed for administration in a doctor’s office with a local anesthetic in about 15 minutes.

The clinical trial is enrolling 15 adults who say they experienced nasal obstructions for at least a year. Participants for the study are also those who experienced temporary relief with nasal dilator strips or stents, or who can open their nasal passages by gently pulling on either side of the nose. All individuals receive Vivaer treatments; there is no comparison or placebo group. All participants are rated before and 90 days after the treatments with a self-evaluated nasal obstruction symptom evaluation, or NOSE, scale and a visual scale of nasal obstruction. Individuals will also be evaluated with CT scans and other measures.

Bradley Otto, a professor of otolaryngology — ear, nose, and throat medicine — at Ohio State is leading the study. “What this technology does,” says Otto in a university statement, “is reshape the internal nasal valve region, which is a region where cartilage on the side of your nose meets your septum. Basically what it causes the cartilage to do is barely denature and change its shape just a little bit in order to open up that valve and improve airflow to that region.”

In the following video, Otto and a patient with nasal obstructions tell more about the treatments.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Genetic Repair Company Starts-Up, Gains $87 Million

David Liu

David Liu (Harvard University)

14 May 2018. A company is getting underway to develop therapies that extend genome editing to repair genetic disruptions, not just remove them from DNA. Beam Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts is licensing its technology from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the company Editas Medicines, and is raising $87 million in its first venture funding round.

The technology behind Beam Therapeutics focuses on pairs of nucleic acids called base-pairs that make up DNA. Humans have about 3 billion pairs of nucleic acids — adenine (A) with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) with guanine (G) — with the sequence of these nucleic acid pairs comprising a person’s DNA or genetic code. When mutations or errors occur in the these nucleic acids, the errors are transcribed into faulty instructions provided to cells with RNA and the proteins that result from those instructions.

One type of DNA error is called a point mutation, where a single base-pair is replaced by another base-pair. Point mutations make up at least half of DNA errors associated with disease, including neurodegenerative, metabolic, and blood disorders, as well as some types of hearing and vision loss. Beam Therapeutics says its technology is designed to correct those base-pair errors, with advances in the genome editing technique known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or Crispr.

Beam Therapeutics’ technology is based on research by chemistry professor David Liu at Harvard University and Broad Institute, a biomedical research center affiliated with Harvard and MIT, who discovered ways of improving the precision of Crispr edits. On its own, Crispr acts as a scissors to cleave DNA at designated positions, guided to the target by RNA. But cutting DNA alone is not enough to fix base-pair mutations, and in some cases the cuts can cause unwanted errors when the DNA rejoins after the splice. “Instead of precisely fixing a disease-driving mutation in a specific gene,” says Liu in a Harvard University statement, “cutting a target site more often disrupts the gene or creates a mixture of mutated variants of the gene.”

Liu and colleagues describe their techniques for fixing point mutations in a series of research papers, most recently in the journal Nature, in November 2017 and April 2018. Their process employs an engineered protein that modifies the Cas9 enzyme often used with Crispr. The engineered protein opens up a single DNA strand without cutting it, enabling edits on the targeted base-pair. At the same time, the engineered Cas9 protein makes a small benign cut in the unedited DNA strand, prompting the cell to mend the strand with a complementary base-pair. The process results in converting an A-T pair mutation into a healthy C-G form.

Beam Therapeutics is licensing the intellectual property for this technology from Harvard, along with supporting discoveries from the lab of Feng Zhang at Broad Institute, scientific founder of the company Editas Medicine. Zhang’s group at Broad Institute developed techniques for extending Crispr to edit RNA, using an enzyme called Cas13a. As reported in the journal Science and Science & Enterprise in April 2017, the technique was originally designed to adapt Crispr for diagnostics, but Beam Therapeutics plans to extend the process further for therapies.

Beam Therapeutics is also licensing other base-editing technologies from Editas Medicine, with Editas taking an equity stake in the company. Zhang and geneticist J. Keith Joung at Harvard Medical School, along with Liu are scientific founders of the company. Beam Therapeutics is raising $87 million in its first venture financing, led by life science and technology investors F-Prime Capital Partners and ARCH Venture Partners. No other investors are disclosed.

Liu tells more about base-pair editing technology in the following video.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

You Call That a Drug Pricing Policy?

– Commentary –

Pills on money

(TBIT, Pixabay)

12 May 2018. During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump assailed pharmaceutical companies for their drug pricing practices, using terms like “getting away with murder.” Thus his speech yesterday (11 May) was highly anticipated for signs of bold new plans for addressing the problem.

Although he called it, “the most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people,” the plan was anything but that. By most accounts, the speech fell flat. The plan has a few good steps like negotiating prices under Medicare part D that covers prescription drug benefits, and apparently cracking down on game-playing by brand-name drug companies to keep generics off the market.

But what didn’t fall flat were pharma and health care stock prices. At the closing bell yesterday, according to Reuters, the S&P 500 health care index jumped 1.5 percent, the largest single-day gain in a month. And as noted by the New York Times, the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index rose 2.7 percent. The sense of relief that Trump didn’t mess with anything important to the pharma industry was palpable.

Some day Congress or the president or both will get serious about escalating prescription drug prices which are rapidly getting out of reach for a large portion of the American public. So here’s a guide, with links to recent Science & Enterprise stories, to help judge if any new drug pricing policy has prospects for success.

Does the solution include participation by pharmaceutical companies?

Drug companies are every politician’s favorite piñata, but unless drug makers have a stake in the outcome of any pricing reform proposals, the companies will fight them to the end. The pharma industry wants to provide solid returns for shareholders, but they wouldn’t be in this business if they didn’t care about helping people get or stay well. Make the companies a partner in the outcome and you vastly increase your chances of success.

Does the plan address the high costs and risks for developing drugs?

Most proposals for bringing down drug prices talk about reducing the prices of drugs after they’re on the market, and rarely if ever deal with the high costs and risks of failure faced by drug companies when they bring new products to market. Those costs and risks are real. One can argue over the ways the numbers are calculated, but conducting clinical trials — tests of experimental drugs with human subjects which make up a large chunk of development costs — are a complex exercise involving many highly skilled, well-paid people over a long period of time.

Yet many other aspects of developing drugs, such as discovering new therapy candidates and preclinical safety testing, can be automated and simulated with advanced technological tools, such as organs on chips and algorithms using artificial intelligence. The industry needs to take a hard, serious look at its processes for developing new drugs and find ways of sharply lowering their costs across the board. This is another reason for involving the pharma industry in the solution. There’s no way this can be forced from the outside.

Is the entire drug development process covered?

In his speech yesterday, Trump railed against “middlemen” such as distributors and pharmacy benefit managers, but the more important supply chain for drug makers is the intellectual property generated by academic labs and biotechnology companies. Science & Enterprise reports often on lucrative licensing deals and acquisitions between drug makers and biotech companies reaching billions of dollars, which at some point get passed on the consumers in prices for prescription drugs. While academic scientists and biotech companies deserve to get rich for their genius and hard work, mechanisms are needed to keep those rewards from getting out of hand and forcing up prices for the products that result.

How are prices determined for precision medicine treatments?

Precision medicine — personalized therapies based on a patient’s molecular make-up, as shown in genomic sequencing — offers a whole new way of treating disease. And as a result, precision medicine offers an opportunity to come up with fair and transparent pricing models designed for individual patients. NIH’s All of Us initiative, a precision medicine program that began this month enrolling 1 million participants, offers a good opportunity to address the prices people will pay for this new type of medicine.

Watch for new treatment technologies other than conventional drugs.

Science & Enterprise often covers new ways of treating disease, such as electronic nerve stimulation and therapies using microbes to harness new signaling pathways to tissue and organs in the body. These therapies not only offer different ways of treating disease, they often involve very different technologies and could provide alternatives to conventional pharmaceuticals, both scientifically and economically.

In addition, the increasing use of mobile and wearable devices, along with cloud computing and big data analytics, are creating new relationships between patients and health care providers, as well as different economic models reflecting those new relationships. These emerging new models are what Silicon Valley likes to call disruption, and if there’s an industry that’s ripe for disruption right now, it’s pharmaceuticals.

More from Science & Enterprise:

Disclosure: The author owns shares in Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson

*     *     *

Is Your Business Covered When It Comes To Security?

– Contributed content –


Infographic Design By get cyber security training

12 May 2018. In business, there are always going to be certain things that we prioritize. More often than not, you’re going to be focusing on your customers, making sales, and growing the business. But when your mind is only really plugged into these areas, your business may be at risk. This is why you need to make sure that you cover off your business security too. So let’s see what you need to do to make that happen.

Having a plan in place

First, you need to create a plan. You need to do a risk assessment to work out where you may be at risk when it comes to your cyber security. Even if you feel like a small business that won’t be at risk, you could be just for that reason. So figure out where you need to protect yourself.

Hiring the right people

Then, you need to hire the right people to make this happen. As you can see from the infographic below, this can be hard. But with the right training, you can ensure that your company is protected.

Staying consistent

And finally, are you going to want to make sure that you are doing what you can to ensure that you are consistently keeping on to of your security. It’s never really enough to come up with a plan, put steps in place, and then just leave it there. You need to ensure that you have system and the right software to keep your business covered.

*     *     *

Mobile App Helps Screen for Substance Abuse

SBIRT tablet app

SBIRT tablet app (PRNewsfoto/Northwell Health)

11 May 2018. A mobile app written for computer tablets was designed by a New York medical center to help clinicians screen patients for signs of addiction or substance abuse, and refer individuals for treatment. The app known as SBIRT for Health Professionals is a product of the Center on Addiction at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York.

Alcohol and drug abuse continues to be serious public health problem in the U.S. The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports 20.1 million people in the U.S., age 12 and above, have a substance use disorder. That number includes 2.1 million with opioid addictions, both from prescription pain killers and heroin. In addition, more than 65 million Americans report binge alcohol use in the previous month during 2016, as well as more than 16 million individuals who call themselves heavy drinkers, defined as binge drinking in 5 of the previous 30 days.

SBIRT — short for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment — is a diagnostic process for physicians and other health care providers who are often the first clinicians to encounter individuals needing help with addictions, not just an acronym for a mobile app. Public health authorities encourage clinicians at primary care centers, hospital emergency rooms, trauma centers, and other community settings to engage at-risk patients to assess the severity of their substance abuse, identify appropriate treatment options, and refer the individual for more extensive treatment if needed.

The problem, says Sandeep Kapoor, Northwell Health’s director of SBIRT and a faculty member at Hostra University medical school affiliated with Northwell, is most clinicians have little training in this process when they encounter at-risk patients. “On average,” says Kapoor in a Northwell statement, “doctors in the U.S. have had less than two hours of dedicated training on the topic of substance use, and less than that on substance use disorder.”

Kapoor adds, “Clinical team members have to be able to comfortably start the conversation with their patients, and this app will empower them to do that.” The SBIRT app presents a standardized set of questions for health care professionals designed to identify problematic drug or alcohol use. The interactive program enables clinicians to guide the discussion into readiness of the individual to change lifestyles and chart a new direction, if previous responses indicate moderate to high risk of health or social problems from substance abuse. And if appropriate, the app can provide referrals for substance abuse treatments.

In April 2018, the web site iMedicalApps.com cited SBIRT for Health Professionals as its best new app for that week. The app is available only in iOS for Apple tablets, and can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store. Northwell says Android and laptop versions of the app are planned.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *

Improving Your Business’ Warehouse Operations In 2018

– Contributed content –

Warehouse garage

(alexanderbeck, Pixabay)

11 May 2018. Whether your business uses a warehouse to manufacture products or to simply package and ship off goods, your operations in this facility are integral to the success of your company as a whole. It’s important to regularly review your warehouse to ensure that you’re operating at an optimal level of efficiency. After all, the needs of the market are always changing, and there are new technological solutions in the industry with every passing year. We’ll discuss points such as these in this article. Here’s some advice to improve your business’ warehouse operations in 2018.

Use technology for efficiency.

The best way to improve your business’ warehouse operations this year is to utilize the latest and greatest technological solutions on the market. You should be using any form of technology that can optimize processes in your warehouse. The cost of investing in new technology will be balanced out by the cost saved on inefficient and time-consuming processes that are currently taking place. Autonomous forklift trucks are being developed, and those could provide a great solution for your business. You’ll avoid human error (and accidents that could injure your employees). That’ll create more efficient warehouse operations and keep your workers safe.

Of course, some simpler technological solutions could massively improve your warehouse operations too. While robotic forklift machinery might not be available on the mainstream market yet, you can still use technology to automate as many processes as possible. Administrative tasks such as generating invoices or entering data are examples of things that shouldn’t be taking up the valuable time of your warehouse workforce. You should use software to automatically handle those tasks so that your team can focus their time and energy on the important manual work demanded of them in the facility. Use technology to create a more efficient warehouse this year.

Adopt responsible solutions.

When running a warehouse, you face a continuous cycle of production processes and other tasks that need careful management and organization in order for your manufacturing or packaging processes to run smoothly. We’ve already talked about using technology to create a more efficient operation, but you also need to think about your company’s sense of responsibility and duty when managing such an operation. First of all, you have a responsibility to your employees to keep them safe. Make sure you train your workers in warehouse safety so as to ensure that they keep themselves and their colleagues safe. You also need to make sure that the tools and machinery they’re using has been tested and double-tested to ensure it’s safe for use.

Additionally, you need to adopt responsible solutions in terms of the waste produced by your company’s manufacturing or packaging processes. In fact, this goes for your company’s office too. You most likely generate a lot of waste every year (e.g. paper, plastic, etc), so it’s your business’ responsibility to dispose of that waste in a cost-effective and environmentally-conscious manner. You should even think about the waste running through your pipelines. Perhaps you could look into industrial strainers to ensure that solids are removed safely and efficiently from liquid systems. This is important both for the sake of your warehouse operations and the responsible management of your company’s waste. Don’t forget that it’ll impress your customers too. People love brands that care about more than their own profit margins and make responsible decisions.

Tighten up inventory management.

Another way in which you could improve your warehouse operations this year is to tighten up your inventory management. You most likely deal with rapidly-fluctuating inventory levels on a continuous basis. A varying amount of stock enters the warehouse every day, and a varying amount of stock leaves the warehouse every day. It can be hard to accurately keep track of your inventory levels when those levels change so rapidly. But inaccuracy will cost your business money, so you need to manage your inventory effectively. You could use cycle counting to keep continuous track of your inventory. This involves partial counts of the inventory every day until you eventually cycle through everything. It’s a never-ending process, but it’s less disruptive to warehouse operations than counting the entire inventory every day.

Construction worker

(Yuri Kim, Pexels)

Incentivize your team to work harder.

We’ve already talked about utilizing technology to help your team work more effectively against the clock, but we haven’t talked about ways in which you could directly increase worker productivity. If you want to see a big improvement in your company’s warehouse operations then you need to focus on the employees who keep it running. Make it your goal this year to incentivize your team to work harder. You could increase the management presence in the warehouse, for starters. Employees will be less likely to slack on the job if they know that their bosses are watching them.

However, there are positive ways to incentivize your team to work harder too. You could increase the wages of the entire warehouse staff so that you add value to their work; an increased salary can have a drastic impact on a worker’s drive to work hard. Of course, you won’t be able to increase your team’s salaries every week, so you need to think about long-term solutions to keep your team incentivized. You could use smaller rewards to motivate the warehouse workers to increase their productivity levels. For example, the employee of the month could receive a small bonus. You could even promise an early finish to the work day if your team completes their workload before a certain time (given that the work is still completed to a high standard).

Maximize the available workspace.

Much like rearranging the layout of your household so that it feels more spacious and comfortable, taking a new approach to the layout of your warehouse could create a more spacious and efficient environment in which to work. You should stack vertically instead of horizontally, for starters. You can store your goods much more effectively if they’re piled up to the ceiling rather than taking up excessive floor space. Plus, you might find that you have more room for additional items of stock than you realize. Better layout management could give you the chance to expand your operations without having to buy a bigger warehouse. Just make sure that the warehouse is neat and spacious so that it’s easy for your workers to navigate their way around the workspace.

*     *     *

Crispr Deployed to Correct Inherited Vision Disorder

Editing DNA

(LaCasadeGoethe, Pixabay)

11 May 2018. Researchers at Columbia University developed and tested in lab mice a technique using the genome editing technology Crispr with gene replacement therapy to correct the inherited eye disease retinitis pigmentosa. The technique and test results are described in yesterday’s issue of the journal Ophthalmology (paid subscription required), published by American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The team led by Stephen Tsang, professor of ophthalmology, cell biology, and pathology at Columbia’s medical school, is seeking a more reliable genetic therapy for retinitis pigmentosa, a disorder affecting the retinas in some 100,000 people in the U.S., or about 1 in 2,700 individuals. The retina is a layer on the back of the eye with light-sensitive cells that convert light into neural signals, carried into the brain by the optic nerve. Retinitis pigmentosa is an eye disease caused by genetic defects that damages cells in the retina affecting night vision, and sometimes peripheral and central vision, leading to blindness.

Crispr — short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — is receiving more attention as a potential therapeutic technique. It’s a genome-editing process based on bacterial defense mechanisms that use RNA to identify and monitor precise locations in DNA. The actual editing of genomes with Crispr employs enzymes that cleave DNA strands at the desired points, with Crispr-associated protein 9, or Cas9, being the enzyme used for the longest period.

To treat retinitis pigmentosa, however, Tsang and colleagues discovered Crispr needs careful targeting and by itself is not sufficient. The disease results in about 30 percent of cases from a defect in the RHO gene that gives instructions for the protein rhodopsin needed for proper functioning of light receptor cells in the retina providing vision in low light. Plus, retinitis pigmentosa is an autosomal dominant disorder, where one only mutated copy of the gene from parents in each cell is needed to cause the disease. As a result, Crispr editing needs to cut out the mutated copy of the RHO gene, but leave the healthy copy intact.

The meet this requirement, the researchers deployed a strategy with 2 RNA molecules guiding the Crispr editing process. The editing enzymes are delivered with adeno-associated virusesbenign, naturally occurring microbes that can infect cells, but do not integrate with the cell’s genome or cause disease, and may generate a mild immune response. In this process, RNA also guides the viruses to deliver a healthy RHO gene to the retinas.

The team tested the process they call ablate-and-replace in lab mice bred with defective RHO genes. Tests of eyes in the mice used  electroretinography that measures electrical responses of light-sensitive cells in the retina. The results show more retinal cells in mice receiving the full ablate-and-replace treatments were functioning than comparable mice receiving gene therapy alone. Moreover, after 3 months following treatment, the outer layers of retinas in mice receiving ablate-and-replace therapy were 17 to 36 percent thicker than mice receiving only gene therapy.

While the Columbia researchers designed the tests to prove the ablate-and-replace concept for retinitis pigmentosa, they believe the strategy can be applied to other autosomal dominant disorders in in ophthalmology and other fields. Tsang tells American Academy of Ophthalmology clinical trials of the technique could begin in 3 years.

More from Science & Enterprise:

*     *     *