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Vaccines for SARS, MERS viruses closer to reality

Researchers have figured out how to disable a part of the SARS virus responsible for hiding it from the immune system; a critical step in developing a vaccine against the deadly disease.

Andrew Mesecar, Purdue’s Walther Professor of Cancer Structural Biology and professor of biological sciences and chemistry, said this also could serve as a molecular roadmap for performing similar studies on other coronaviruses, like MERS, because this enzyme appears to be common to all viruses within this family.

Because MERS and SARS are related, insight into one could provide a shortcut to finding a treatment or developing a vaccine for the other.

Mesecar and his team captured the molecular structure of a key SARS enzyme, papain-like protease, and revealed how it strips a host cell of the proteins ubiquitin and ISG15, which are involved in triggering an immune response. He said with most viruses, when a cell is infected it sends out an alarm triggering an immune response that fights the infection, but successful viruses are able to trick the immune system. Masecar said that by clipping off these two proteins, SARS short circuits the host cell’s signaling pathways and prevents it from alerting the immune system to its presence and by removing these proteins, the enzyme serves as a biological cloaking system for the SARS virus that allows it to live and replicate undetected.

The disruption in its natural signaling pathways also causes an infected cell to miscommunicate with the cells around it, which leads to a response that eventually kills those cells, he said.

Physically fit kids have ‘superior language skills’

Researchers have claimed that kids who are physically fit have faster and more robust neuro-electrical brain responses during reading than their less-fit peers.

According to the researchers, new findings do not prove that higher fitness directly influences the changes seen in the electrical activity of the brain but offer a potential mechanism to explain why fitness correlates so closely with better cognitive performance on a variety of tasks.

University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman, who led the research with graduate student Mark Scudder and psychology professor Kara Federmeier, said all they know is there is something different about higher and lower fit kids. He said that now whether that difference is caused by fitness or maybe some third variable that (affects) both fitness and language processing, they don’t know yet. The researchers used electroencephalography (EEG), placing an electrode cap on the scalp to capture some of the electrical impulses associated with brain activity. The squiggly readouts from the electrodes look like seismic readings captured during an earthquake, and characteristic wave patterns are associated with different tasks. These patterns are called “event-related potentials” (ERPs), and vary according to the person being evaluated and the nature of the stimulus, Scudder said. The researchers found that children who were more fit (as measured by oxygen uptake during exercise) had higher amplitude N400 and P600 waves than their less-fit peers when reading normal or nonsensical sentences. 

The N400 also had shorter latency in children who were more fit, suggesting that they processed the same information more quickly than their peers.

‘Night owls’ likelier to sit more and exercise less

A new study has revealed that people who sleep late at night tend to spend more time sitting and are less motivated to continue an exercise schedule.

Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD said that even among healthy individuals sleep timing and circadian preference are related to activity patterns and attitudes toward physical activity so waking up late or being an evening person were related to more time spent sitting and with difficulty making time to exercise. 

However, adults need to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and participate in muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.

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