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Apt analogies help veteran convey his HIV research

Monday, April 19, 2021

Jeffrey Beard, a biomedical engineering PhD candidate in the research lab of Benjamin Miller and the winner of this year's virtual Three Minute Thesis Competition at the University, is developing a more affordable way to monitor the condition of 25 million people living with HIV in resource-limited countries. Two combat tours in Iraq brought Beard face to face with "reproachful disparities" between the United States and developing countries.

Case Study: A Single Drug for Multiple Allergies

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

People who have atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema that causes red, itchy skin, often have other allergic diseases. It can be tricky to treat all of these diseases at once -- in part because drugs are tested against a single disease at a time. A recent case study published by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that a single drug -- dupilumab -- may be effective in treating multiple allergic diseases at once.

Dupilumab, a monoclonal antibody that can be delivered in a shot like a vaccine, is already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat atopic dermatitis, asthma and chronic inflammation of the sinuses and nose - but only separately. Little was known about how dupilumab would fare against multiple allergic diseases until a case study led by URMC Dermatology Professor Lisa Beck, M.D., was published in JAAD Case Reports, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The study followed a nine-year-old boy who sought treatment for an uncontrolled case of atopic dermatitis. With constant itching, the boy frequently lost sleep, missed school, had difficulty concentrating and his self-esteem suffered as well.

On top of atopic dermatitis, the boy also had asthma, food and environmental allergies and a few other allergic diseases, including eosinophilic esophagitis, which is chronic inflammation of the esophagus that can cause difficulty swallowing.

Through a clinical trial, the boy was treated with dupilumab, which drastically improved not only his atopic dermatitis, but several of this other allergic diseases. After 32 weeks in the trial, he was able to stop using his asthma inhaler and esophagitis medications and greatly reduced the use of his other allergy medications. His quality of life also greatly improved with less itching, uninterrupted sleep 95 percent of the time, and improved concentration and confidence.

"Prior to receiving dupilumab, our patient was suffering; he was constantly itchy, unable to concentrate or sleep well, and even missed days of school because of eczema flares," said Fatima Bawany, a URMC medical student who conducted this study while in the UR CTSI's Academic Research Track program. "After receiving dupilumab, not only did these eczema symptoms improve, but surprisingly, the other chronic allergic diseases that he had for years also improved. As a medical student, this was incredible to see, as it showed me the exciting frontiers that lie ahead for research on dupilumab and similar therapies."

When the boy aged out of the clinical trial at 12 years old, he was continued on dupilumab and his allergic conditions continued to be held at bay.

Though the case report only tells the story of a single patient, it suggests dupilumab may be a good treatment choice for patients with multiple concurrent allergic conditions. Because it is safe, well-tolerated and easy to administer, study authors believe dupilumab could offer effective, long-term relief for these hard-to-treat patients.

Read the full JAAD Case Reports study.

You can also learn more about sleep disturbances caused by atopic dermatitis as well as how to prevent this inflammatory disease in two recent reviews published by Bawany.

Read More: Case Study: A Single Drug for Multiple Allergies

Chip on a card would detect COVID-19 antibodies in a minute

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Rochester researchers are developing an optical chip on a disposable card that can detect exposure to multiple viruses—including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19—within a minute and from a single drop of blood. (Courtesy of the Miller Lab)

Researchers in Rochester are developing an optical chip on a disposable card that can detect exposure to multiple viruses within a minute—including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19--from a single drop of blood.

Led by University of RochesterMedical Center researcher Benjamin Miller, the $1.7 million project is funded by the US Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program using CARES Act funds through a contract with AIM Photonics. The collaboration also involves Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, which develops and manufactures innovative laboratory testing and blood-typing solutions at its Global Center for R&D Excellence in Rochester; Syntec Optics, a maker of polymer optics in Rochester; researchers at the NY CREATES 300mm microelectronics research facility in Albany, New York, and at the University of California at Santa Barbara; and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.

"This is a completely new diagnostic platform," says Miller, the Dean's Professor of Dermatology and a professor of biomedical engineering, optics, and biochemistry and biophysics. "We think this is going to be valuable in very broad applications for clinical diagnostics, not just COVID-19."

Key to the technology is an optical chip, no larger than a grain of rice. Proteins associated with eight different viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, are contained in separate sensor areas of the chip. If someone has been exposed to any of the viruses, antibodies to those viruses in the blood sample will be drawn to the proteins and detected.

Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to fight off specific bacteria and viruses. They remain in the immune system even after a patient recovers from an infection.

"It is exciting to see the sensors work developed by AIM Photonics, over the past five years, now play a part in more effective testing for COVID-19 and future diseases," says Michael Cumbo, CEO of AIM Photonics. "The industry, academic, and government partnership is a fundamental piece of this institute. Together, we foster successful technology developments such as this optical chip, which in turn enables a very innovative diagnostic platform."

Read More: Chip on a card would detect COVID-19 antibodies in a minute