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May 6, 2021

Wrap up: The latest in technology...

By SHIVNI PATEL | February 27, 2020

Researchers derive new antibiotic compound using artificial intelligence

           Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) used artificial intelligence to create a novel antibiotic compound capable of killing many strains of bacteria, including several that are antibiotic-resistant. Using a computer model, the researchers generated the formulas of millions of chemical compounds and used a machine-learning algorithm to pick the most effective compounds to kill bacteria. After analyzing the results from the algorithm, the researchers chose to test one compound in murine models and found it to work as an antibiotic of E. Coli and various other strains of bacteria, including treatment-resistant strains like Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The researchers note that many novel antibiotics manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry today build upon the mechanisms of existing drugs. The novel antibiotic developed by MIT researchers is capable of treating a greater range of infections because it uses a different mechanism than existing antibiotics. In an statement released by MIT News, James Collins, Professor of Medical Engineering and Science at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and one of the researchers in the study, explained that the researchers wanted to make a platform that would allow them to use the benefits of artificial intelligence for drug discovery. 

Researchers map the first cell atlas of the thymus gland, growing potential for new immune therapies

           A study conducted by researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Ghent University and Newcastle University may grow the possibilities for new immune therapies to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer. The researchers singled out the thymus gland for analysis due to its role in causing defects in T-cell production, which could leave individuals susceptible to infections and autoimmune diseases. The researchers mapped the tissue of the thymus gland throughout the human lifespan to understand its development and the process it uses to make the key fighter cells of the immune system known as T cells. They isolated and analyzed approximately 200,000 cells from the developing thymus, analyzed cellular signals and identified genes that needed to be switched on in order to produce T cells.

           Professor Muzlifah Haniffa, the study’s senior author notes that the research poses exciting prospects for the field. “This is really exciting as in the future, this atlas could be used as a reference map to engineer T cells outside the body with exactly the right properties to attach and kill a specific cancer—creating tailored treatments for tumors,” she said in a press release by Newcastle University.

Astronomers identify a planet whose year lasts 18 hours, and find that it is on the brink of being destroyed

Researchers at the University of Warwick have identified a Jupiter-like planet located 1,000 light-years away from Earth whose year lasts just 18 hours. Astronomers noted that the short length of the planet’s year can be explained by its extremely close proximity to its star. The “hot Jupiter,” formally known as Planet NGTS-10b, is 27 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the sun. The researchers who discovered this planet note that it is also “tidally locked,” meaning one face of the planet is permanently facing its star. This position leads to extremely high surface temperatures on the planet, which astronomers estimate to be greater than 1,000 degrees Celsius.

           Though no definitive answer exists yet, the researchers believe that the planet came to be so close to its star because it formed in the outer reach of the solar system and eventually migrated inward. Regarding Planet NGTS-10b, co-author University of Warwick Professor Daniel Bayliss explained that the future of the planet is not very bright, as the astronomers believe that it will soon be consumed by its star. “Over the next ten years, it might be possible to see this planet spiraling in,” Bayliss said in a statement released by the University of Warwick.

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