One of the defining features of Covid-19 is the excessive immune response that can occur in severe cases. This burst of immune overreaction, also called a cytokine storm, damages the lungs and can be fatal.
A team of MIT researchers has developed specialized proteins, similar in structure to antibodies, that they believe could soak up these excess cytokines.
“The idea is that they can be injected into the body and bind to the excessive cytokines as generated by the cytokine storm, removing the excessive cytokines and alleviating the symptoms from the infection,” says Rui Qing, an MIT research scientist who is one of the senior authors of the study… Continue reading.
About 30 percent of the proteins encoded by the human genome are membrane proteins — proteins that span the cell membrane so they can facilitate communication between cells and their environment. These molecules are critical for learning, seeing, and sensing odors, among many other functions.
Despite the prevalence of these proteins, scientists have had difficulty studying their structures and functions because the membrane-bound portions are very hydrophobic, so they cannot be dissolved in water. This makes it much harder to do structural analyses, such as X-ray crystallography.
In an advance that could make it easier to perform this type of structural study, MIT researchers have developed a way to make these proteins water-soluble by swapping some of their hydrophobic amino acids for hydrophilic ones. The technique is based on a code that is much simpler than previously developed methods for making these proteins soluble, which rely on computer algorithms that have to be adapted to each protein on a case-by-case basis… Continue reading.
New process could lead to production of hydrogen using bioengineered microorganisms.
Many kinds of algae and cyanobacteria, common water-dwelling microorganisms, are capable of using energy from sunlight to split water molecules and release hydrogen, which holds promise as a clean and carbon-free fuel for the future. One reason this approach hasn’t yet been harnessed for fuel production is that under ordinary circumstances, hydrogen production takes a back seat to the production of compounds that the organisms use to support their own growth.
But Shuguang Zhang, associate director of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, and postdocs Iftach Yacoby and Sergii Pochekailov, together with colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, have found a way to use bioengineered proteins to flip this preference, allowing more hydrogen to be produced.
Shuguang Zhang, associate director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering, was inducted as a foreign member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences on May 19 in Vienna.
Zhang is one of 13 foreign members elected this year to the academy, which was founded in 1847.