Shyama Ghosh, PhD

Update on the first preclinical Zika virus infections

Due to a recently observed association between Zika infected mothers giving birth to infants with undersize heads and other neurologic effects, it is important to understand Zika virus immunity in mothers infected prior to/during pregnancy, to determine whether a vaccine or other intervention may be able to prevent adverse fetal outcomes. However, in the absence of specific data regarding how long the Zika virus stays in the blood, how long it can be excreted in urine and semen, and what really is the clinical syndrome seen with Zika, a Zika challenge model may be useful not only for vaccine development, but also to learn more about the Zika virus itself. Currently, information is coming in from two major U.S. groups on such preclinical experiments in a research setting.

The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison is providing the data from their Zika Virus project in real time. On the February 15, 3 rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) of Indian origin were inoculated with varying doses of a Zika virus that was isolated in 2013 from an infected individual in French Polynesia. All 3 macaques were successfully infected with the Zika virus. Plasma viremia peaked at more than 1 million viral RNA copies/mL in two of the 3 animals, but thereafter resolved by approximately 10 days post-infection. Viral RNA was detected in urine, blood and in saliva. The Human Vaccine Institute and Department of Pediatrics, Duke University Medical Center, in Durham, N.C., reported that white blood cells (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) were isolated at 4 timepoints post-infection (days 3, 7, 11, 14) to study the kinetics of the primary antibody responses during acute infection. The HLA-DR+/CD80+ marker expression was studied, as this marker is expressed on macaque plasmablasts and their human counterparts. This population contains antibody-secreting cells, so the frequency of these cells observed by flow cytometry may be an overestimate of the circulating plasmablast population. The primate administered with the highest dose (10E6 PFU) of Zika virus, had the highest frequency of circulating plasmablasts at day 7, whereas the primate that received the lowest dose (10E4) presented with its highest frequency of circulating plasmablasts at day 11. These preliminary findings may pave the way for vaccine development, since early plasmablast response may elicit protective antibodies against emerging strains of Zika virus. As of day 28 post infection, the animals are being rested for approximately 6 weeks before being re-challenged with 10E6 PFU of French Polynesian Zika virus. (Zika experimental science team (2016) ZIKV-001: Infection of three rhesus macaques with French Polynesian Zika virus. Available: Accessed March 11, 2016). The University of California (UC; Berkeley) Zika Virus Project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists at UC Davis and UC San Fransisco, who are also providing real-time updates on their study progress. The UC team is working closely with groups at other National Primate Research Centers and universities. On March 16, 2 adult female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) were infected with 100,000 PFU of the Brazilian Zika virus isolate. This team is the first to use the Brazilian virus, amid speculations that the Brazilian strain may have different neural consequences compared to other strains.

Armor to manage neuropsychological test automated battery

U.K. company Cambridge Cognition, a science and technology company, has chosen Armor, a company from Richardson, Texas, that makes active cyber defense products, to manage the security of the Cambridge neuropsychological test automated battery (Cantab) technology, used in research institutions, clinical drug trials and health care to assess cognitive health. Cambridge Cognition makes cognitive assessment software focused on pharmaceutical clinical trials and improving the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of cognitive disorders. The organization's Cantab products, are neuropsychological tests that assess an individual's cognitive function. Given the sensitivity and criticality of the data produced in Cantab products, Cambridge Cognition said it selected Armor Complete for its military-grade secure cloud environment recognized for providing organizations with a proven HIPAA-compliant platform.

Robert Wood Johnson in N.J. purchases first Renaissance system

Mazor Robotics Ltd., a maker of guidance systems and complementary products based in Caesarea, Israel, said that Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an academic center in New Jersey, purchased its first Renaissance system. The system, which also includes the brain module, will be installed in New Brunswick, at the principal hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. "This purchase order from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital reflects the continuing success of Mazor's overall market penetration strategy – deployment of the Renaissance in academic institutions and expanding presence in major metropolitan areas," said Ori Hadomi, Mazor CEO. "This represents the third system in the New York City metropolitan area. Each is a leading academic center, so we are addressing one of the largest markets for spine procedures as well as training the next generation of orthopedic surgeons." Mazor's Renaissance guidance system enables surgeons to conduct spine and brain procedures.

Ketamine study cold relieve depression, but still considered controversial

Physicians are busy enough while practicing medicine, so they tend to choose spare time studying journal studies with care. A study on Ketamine infusion therapy, the controversial treatment for depression, has been resisted by many physicians due to concerns about short-lived benefits, risks of addiction, and the lack of large scale studies. In contrast, this retrospective study of over three years of clinical experience, shows lasting benefits for many patients, with no apparent risk of addiction. Through a handful of ketamine infusions directed by Theodore Henderson, of Denver, refractory depression symptoms can be relieved significantly and persistently. Evidence points to the regeneration of brain cells as a critical mechanism for the relief of depression, as published in the February 2016 journal Neural Regeneration Research. While controversial in academic settings, Henderson said his direct experience supports a different strategy for multiple-infusion treatment regimens and his clinical experience shows ketamine can invoke long-lasting effects often with less than six infusions. Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic in use since 1970's. Intravenous administration over a prolonged period of time is key to its persistent antidepressant benefit.