Psilocybin for depression, fluorescent silk tags and Zika

Psilocybin treatment for depression increases brain connectivity

According to a new study published in natural medicine.

Brain scans of 59 patients showed that psilocybin therapy produced a rapid, substantial, and sustained antidepressant effect. Psilocybin works by increasing connectivity between functional networks in the brain, an effect that was not seen in patients who received the conventional antidepressant escitalopram.

However, the neuroscientists warn that their results were obtained in a controlled environment and say that patients with depression should not attempt to self-medicate.

Magic mushrooms and psilocybin molecule, computer illustration. Credit: KATERYNA KON/SCIENTIFIC PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

Edible and fluorescent silk tags can detect fake drugs

The proliferation of online pharmacies in recent years has made it easier for counterfeiters to profit from counterfeit or adulterated drugs.

Now, biomedical engineers have created edible labels using fluorescent silk proteins, which could be placed directly on pills or in liquid medicine. The codes in the labels can be read by a smartphone app to verify the source and quality of these pharmaceuticals.

The team genetically modified silkworms to produce silk fibroins – edible proteins that give silk fibers their strength – with a cyan, green or red fluorescent protein attached.

They dissolved the fluorescent silk cocoons to create fluorescent polymer solutions, which they applied to a thin film of white silk 9 mm wide in a seven-by-seven grid. Blue violet, blue and green light shining on the grid revealed the cyan, green, and red 3D square patterns, respectively.

Using optical filters on the phone’s camera, an app can then scan the fluorescent pattern, decoding the scanned key using a deep learning algorithm and opening a web page.

The study was published in AEC Core Sciences.

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Silkworms can produce edible, fluorescent silk cocoons (left side of left image); cocoon proteins can be used in codes (right) to verify the authenticity of drugs. Credit: adapted from ACS Central Science 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.1c01233

A miniature wide-angle camera with flat metal lenses

Chinese engineers have designed a new compact camera that takes high-quality wide-angle images using an array of metallic lenses – nano-patterned flat surfaces used to manipulate light.

The camera is only 3mm thick and can produce clear images of a scene with a viewing angle of over 120 degrees. They used a range of metal lenses that are each carefully designed to focus a different range of lighting angles, allowing each lens to clearly image a portion of a wide-angle object or scene.

The brightest parts of each image can then be computationally stitched together to create the final image.

By eliminating the bulky and heavy lenses typically required for this type of imaging, the new approach could enable wide-angle cameras to be integrated into smartphones and portable imaging devices for vehicles such as cars or drones.

The research was published in the journal Optical.

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Researchers have designed a new compact camera that acquires high-quality wide-angle images using an array of metallic lenses. Their new planar camera (MIWC) produced clearer images of images projected onto a curved screen compared to a camera based on a traditional single metal lens. Credit: Tao Li, Nanjing University.

New variant of Zika virus could potentially break down pre-existing immunity

According to a new study published in Cell reports.

A team of virologists recreated cycles of infection that repeatedly went back and forth between mosquito cells (which transmit the virus) and mice (the host) to study the rapid evolution of Zika.

They discovered that it is relatively easy for the Zika virus to acquire a mutation that results in a single amino acid change and allows the virus to make more copies of itself, helping infections take hold easier. This mutation (called the NS2B I39V/I39T mutation) enhances the ability of the virus to replicate in mice, mosquitoes and human cells.

“The Zika variant we identified had evolved to the point where the cross-protective immunity afforded by previous dengue infection was no longer effective in mice,” says Sujan Shresta, a professor at the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine. Research from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, USA.

“Unfortunately for us, if this variant becomes widespread, we could have the same problems in real life.”

Sunlight Could Help Cure Green Sea Turtles With Tumors

Researchers shed light on how sunlight can help improve the health of endangered green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) prone to a condition called fibropapillomatosis.

Affecting around 60% of sea turtles in certain subpopulations, juveniles are most susceptible to this disease which causes the growth of large, debilitating tumors on the skin, eyes and shell. Some turtles are treated in rehabilitation centers where the tumors are removed; however, their enclosures generally limit exposure to natural ultraviolet (UV) light.

But sea turtles with fibropapillomatosis show reduced levels of vitamin D anyway, so a new solution to help this population could be as simple as increasing their exposure to sunlight.

In fact, turtles kept in sunbeds experienced less tumor regrowth — and higher vitamin D blood levels — compared to those exposed to low UV light conditions, according to a recent study published in the journal. Animals.

A green sea turtle with fibropapillomatosis.  Credit Victoria e.  Garefino 1
A green sea turtle with fibropapillomatosis. Credit: Victoria E. Garefino




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