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Past News Items - August 2022

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Coronavirus Jumped to Humans at Least Twice at Market in Wuhan, China

Get Ready for Back-to-School Season with Kyowa Hakko's Cognizin® Citicoline

New Method Detects Gut Microbes That Activate Immune Cells

Released: August 2022


Alzheimer's disease blood biomarkers (BBMs) may revolutionize the diagnosis of Alzheimer's in the future, but are not yet ready for widespread use, according to a newly-published article by leading international clinicians and researchers convened by the Alzheimer's Association®. At the same time, they are important and valuable for current research trials and cautious initial use in specialized memory clinics.

"Blood-based markers show promise for improving, and possibly even redefining, the diagnostic work-up for Alzheimer's," said Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association chief science officer and a co-author of the article. "Remarkable progress has been made, but additional data are needed before BBMs can be used as a stand-alone test for diagnosis, and before considering broad use in primary care settings."

"In this article, the expert workgroup clearly defines both short- and long-term research priorities needed to fill significant knowledge gaps that still exist, such as how well these blood-based markers work in diverse communities and in those living with multiple health conditions," Carrillo added. "Also included are consensus appropriate use recommendations for use of BBMs in the clinic and in research trials."

"The Alzheimer's Association Appropriate Use Recommendations for Blood Biomarkers in Alzheimer's Disease," by Oskar Hansson, M.D., Ph.D., et al, is published online today by Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. The recommendations will be reported today and tomorrow at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference® (AAIC®) 2022 in San Diego and online.

"Blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer's are already improving the design of clinical trials, and they are very likely to revolutionize the diagnosis of Alzheimer's in the future," said Oskar Hansson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at Lund University and Skane University Hospital, Malmo, Sweden, and first author on the newly published article. "That said, the implementation of such markers in trials and practice must be done in a careful and controlled way so as not to accidentally cause more harm than good. Much more research is needed before widespread clinical use of BBMs."

According to the article, BBMs show "great promise" — especially markers for Alzheimer's-related brain changes related to nerve cell damage/death, and tau and beta amyloid accumulation — for "future use in both clinical practice and trials. However, few prospective studies have investigated the implementation of such BBMs in more heterogeneous populations."

Not ready for "prime time"

The workgroup points out that no studies have extensively evaluated BBMs for neurodegenerative diseases in primary care, and calls for "well-performed BBM studies in diverse primary care populations." Such studies should also evaluate the impact of BBMs on diagnostic accuracy and change in patient management.

In addition, use of BBMs for general population risk screening and as direct-to-consumer risk tests are not recommended.

The workgroup also says that BBMs should not yet be used as primary endpoints in pivotal treatment trials. However, this does not preclude the use of certain BBMs for decision making in clinical trials with adaptive design, where they could be used to inform decisions on continuing a trial or not.

Many current uses

There are current uses for Alzheimer's BBMs, according to the workgroup. For example, they "recommend use of BBMs as (pre-)screeners to identify individuals likely to have Alzheimer's pathological changes for inclusion in trials evaluating disease-modifying therapies, provided Alzheimer's status is confirmed with positron emission tomography (PET) or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) testing."

BBMs can be used as exploratory outcomes in most clinical trials in Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative dementias. In non-Alzheimer's trials, BBMs can be used to identify patients who likely have Alzheimer's-related brain changes, if that is a condition of exclusion from the study.

"We also recommend cautiously starting use of BBMs in specialized memory clinics as part of the diagnostic work-up of patients already experiencing cognitive symptoms, as long as the results are confirmed whenever possible with CSF or PET, which are the current reference standards," said Charlotte E. Teunissen, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Neurochemistry Laboratory at Amsterdam University Medical Centers, the Netherlands and senior author on the article.

"The implementation of BBMs in primary care will likely take a much longer time because there are very few relevant and high-quality research studies on Alzheimer's-related BBMs conducted in this setting, but more prospective studies are expected to launch in the coming years," Teunissen added.

Establishing the path for BBMs in research

The appropriate use recommendations (AURs) provide specific guidance for current use of, and research needed on, the four most advanced types of Alzheimer's plasma biomarkers: plasma amyloid-beta 42/ amyloid-beta 40 (Aβ42/Aβ40), phospho-tau (p-tau), neurofilament light (NfL), and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), as well as potential combinations of markers. For example, the need for:

  • Real-world studies on the robustness of plasma Aβ42/Aβ40 as a diagnostic test for cerebral Aβ pathology.
  • Head-to-head studies comparing the performance of different forms of p-tau in different clinical contexts and across disease stages.

Most important and enlightening are the recommendations repeated by the authors throughout the AURs or those they say apply across the biomarkers, including:

  • Perform prospective studies in primary care settings, including representative and diverse populations with cognitive symptoms. Evaluate the causes of false positives and negatives; the reference standard must be of high quality and preferably include CSF or PET.
  • Study whether BBMs outperform what is already available today in primary care, and if they also improve diagnosis and management, including treatment decisions.
  • [Gain] better understanding of biological and disease-associated variability and potential impact of medical comorbidities and concomitant medications.
  • [Learn whether] certain BBM-based algorithms can be used alone to support an Alzheimer's diagnosis, or should they only be used as a gatekeeper to CSF/PET.
  • Eventually (a) perform head-to-head comparisons of different plasma biomarker assays, and (b) establish the most optimal combinations of easily accessible biomarkers.

Defining the need

According to the workgroup, about 25-30% of patients with a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia are misdiagnosed when assessed at specialized dementia clinics, and the accuracy of clinical diagnosis is similar or even lower for other dementias, including frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and vascular dementia. In fact, in most countries, most patients with cognitive or behavioral symptoms are managed in primary care where the misdiagnosis is even higher. The problem is especially acute in the earliest stages of the disease.

"There is a great global need for accurate BBM-based diagnostic and prognostic algorithms that can substantially improve the accuracy of a diagnostic work-up of Alzheimer's, particularly in the early stages of the disease," said Reisa Sperling, M.D., professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, and a co-author of the article.

The established CSF and PET measures have excellent diagnostic properties, but are less useful outside very specialized clinics due to limited accessibility, invasiveness (e.g., CSF measures require a lumbar puncture, and PET requires infusion of stable isotopes and exposure to radiation) and high costs. This precludes use of CSF and PET biomarkers in most primary and secondary care settings worldwide.

"A major benefit of the use of blood-based biomarkers is that the collection of blood is less invasive and likely less costly than CSF or neuroimaging markers, and more feasible for primary care practitioners," said Adam Boxer, M.D., Ph.D., Endowed Professor in Memory in Aging at the Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco and a co-author of the article. "This may enable earlier and more equitable referral of individuals to dementia specialists and participation in clinical trials of potential new therapies."

For full disclosures from all authors, please see the published article.  https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/15525279

SOURCE Alzheimer’s Association

Released: August 2022

Coronavirus Jumped to Humans at Least Twice at Market in Wuhan, China

In a pair of related studies, published July 26, 2022 online via First Release in Science, researchers at University of California San Diego, with colleagues on four continents, show that the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 was at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, and resulted from at least two instances of the SARS-CoV-2 virus jumping from live animal hosts to humans working or shopping there.

The findings, first reported in February after the papers were posted online as preprints awaiting peer review, garnered international attention, primarily focusing on identifying the market as the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization estimates that there have been more than 566 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 6.3 million deaths since the pandemic was declared in early 2020.

“It’s vital that we know as much about the origin of COVID-19 as possible because only by understanding how pandemics get started can we hope to prevent them in the future,” said Joel O. Wertheim, PhD, associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and a co-author on both papers.

But elemental to understanding pandemic origins is pinpointing not just where, but how, a pathogen successfully jumps from a non-human animal host to human, known as a zoonotic event.

“I think there’s been consensus that this virus did in fact come from the Huanan Market, but a strong case for multiple introductions hasn’t been made by anyone else yet,” said Wertheim, senior author of the study that posits the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, jumped from animals to humans at least twice and perhaps as many as two dozen times.

According to researchers, two evolutionary branches of the virus were present early in the pandemic, differentiated only by two differences in nucleotides — the basic building blocks of DNA and RNA.

Lineage B, which included samples from people who worked at and visited the market, became globally dominant. Lineage A spread within China, and included samples from people pinpointed only to the vicinity the market. If the viruses in lineage A evolved from those in lineage B, or vice versa, Wertheim said this would suggest SARS-CoV-2 jumped only once from animals to humans.

But work by Wertheim and collaborators found that the earliest SARS-CoV-2 genomes were inconsistent with a single zoonotic jump into humans. Rather, the first zoonotic transmission likely occurred with lineage B viruses in late-November 2019 while the introduction of lineage A into humans likely occurred within weeks of the first event. Both strains were present at the market simultaneously.

Researchers arrived at this conclusion by deciphering the evolutionary rate of viral genomes to deduce whether or not the two lineages diverged from a single common ancestor in humans. They used a technique called molecular clock analysis and an epidemic simulation tool called FAVITES, invented by Wertheim team member Niema Moshiri, PhD, an assistant professor of computer science at Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and study co-author.

“None of this could have been done without FAVITES,” said Wertheim.


In February 2022, researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention published a long-delayed analysis of genetic traces of the earliest environmental samples collected at the market two years earlier.

The samples were obtained after the first reports of a new, mysterious illness and after the market had already been shut down. The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan is a so-called “wet market” where live animals are often slaughtered and sold for human consumption, including in some cases, wildlife.

However, no live wild mammals were left at the market after it was shut down. Instead, Chinese researchers swabbed walls, floors and other surfaces, tested meat still in freezers, sampled sewers and caught mice and stray cats and dogs around the market.

Their findings confirmed the not-yet-published predictions of Wertheim’s team that Lineage A was also at the market.

“We felt validated, but what we felt more was immense pressure because they beat our preprint to the punch by about 12 hours, and we could only discuss their findings in light of ours,” Wertheim said. “We were also shocked that they had been sitting on evidence for lineage A at the market for over a year without realizing its importance.”

The newly published data, said study authors, are powerful evidence that the two viral lineages evolved separately and that multiple spillover events occurred. The Wuhan market reportedly contained a robust live wild animal business, with snakes, badgers, muskrats, birds and raccoon dogs (a canid indigenous to Asia) and other species sold for food. Wertheim said he believes there were likely many viral introductions. At least two successfully made the animal-human leap; other viral strains went extinct.

“While I'm hesitant to call it proof, what we presented is the most comprehensive explanation for the SARS-CoV-2 genomic diversity at the outset of the pandemic,” Wertheim said. “There are really no other good explanations for both of these strains being at the market except for multiple jumps into humans.”

(The findings undercut a circulating and persistent theory that the SARS-CoV-2 virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located a few miles from the market.)

Jonathan E. Pekar, a doctoral student in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology who co-led the project with Wertheim and is lead author, said the pandemic was likely looming for years, awaiting only for the opportunity when humans would come into contact with an animal host capable of transmitting the virus.

“Everything complicated happened before that introduction,” Pekar said. “The last step is just extended contact and transmission from hosts to humans. At that point, it would actually be unusual to only have one introduction. We've seen this before with MERS-CoV (a similar zoonotic virus). We’ve seen it with humans giving SARS-CoV-2 to minks on farms and then minks giving it back to humans.

“This has happened before, and it's going to keep happening. Nature is a better lab than humans will ever be.”

The latest study continues a series of published papers by Wertheim and colleagues investigating and chronicling the origin and spread of COVID-19.

In September 2020, they published data explaining how the first, few cases of novel coronavirus in North America and Europe quickly spread due to insufficient testing and contact tracing. In March 2021, Wertheim, Pekar and colleagues characterized the brief time-period during which SARS-CoV-2 could have circulated undetected before the first human cases in Wuhan.

Co-authors of “The molecular epidemiology of multiple zoonotic origins of SARS-CoV-2” include: Andrew Magee, Karthik Gangavarapu and Marc A. Suchard, all at UCLA; Edyth Parker, Nathaniel L. Matteson, Mark Zeller, Joshua I. Levy and Kristian G. Andersen, all at The Scripps Research Institute; Katherine Izhikevich, Jennifer L. Havens and Tetyana I.Vasylyeva, all at UC San Diego; Lorena Mariana Malpica Serrano and Michael Worobey, both at University of Arizona; Alexander Crits-Christoph, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Jade C. Wang and Scott Hughes, both at New York City Department of Health; Jungmin Lee, Heedo Park, Man-Seong Park, Korea University; Katherine Ching Zi Yan and Raymond Tzer Pin Lin, all at National Centre for Infectious Diseases, Singapore; Mohd Noor Mat Isa and Yusuf Muhammad Noor, both at Malaysia Genome and Vaccine Institute; Robert F. Garry, Tulane University; Edward C. Holmes, University of Sydney, Australia; and Andrew Rambaut, University of Edinburgh.

Funding for this research came, in part, from the National Institutes of Health (grants T15LM011271, 5T32AI007244-38, R01AI135992, R01AI136056, R01AI132223, R01AI132244, U19AI142790, U54CA260581, U54HG007480, OT2HL158260, R01AI153044, U19AI135995, U01AI151812 and UL1TR002550), the National Science Foundation (NSF-2028040), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, the Wellcome Trust Foundation, Gilead Sciences, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership Programme, the European Research Council, the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship, the National Research Foundation of Korea, the Branco Weiss Fellowship, the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) for Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (6NU50CK000517-01-07).

Released: August 2022

Get Ready for Back-to-School Season with Kyowa Hakko's Cognizin® Citicoline

With, Back-to-School season right around the corner, leading international health ingredient manufacturer Kyowa Hakko makers of Cognizin® Citicoline an innovative, pure, high-quality form of citicoline that is clinically studied to support brain health, mental energy, focus, and attention* is running informational TV "Newsbreaks", starting August 1st, in key markets including NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and Dallas. Three of over 200 products containing Cognizin® are featured: Centrum's Focus & Clarity, Solaray's SharpMind Focus, and Nature's Bounty Active Mind.

"Supporting our customers with consumer educational and informational initiatives is a key component of our continuing marketing efforts," commented Karen Todd, MBA, RD, Vice President Global Brand Marketing, Kyowa Hakko USA, Inc., adding, "we partner with our customers from product development though to consumer awareness, it's a win, win for everyone.

While hearing about "Back-to-School" may prompt delightful images of a fresh pack of crayons or an array of colorful folders, for many parents and teachers, it also brings a long list of tasks that have firm deadlines during August and September. Aside from collecting school supplies, parents have to coordinate updated paperwork, take the kids for a long-delayed haircut and get a replacement wardrobe for all the clothes that no longer fit. Not to mention the tedious task of labeling everything.

Jamie Hess, Wellness Mentor, and mom, speaks from firsthand experience saying that, "When you are trying to juggle a million things at once, supporting your focus, mental energy and attention can make a big difference."

Danielle Citrolo, Pharm.D., Registered Pharmacist, Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Kyowa Hakko U.S.A., Inc. agrees that, "Focus and mental energy can play a big part in your productivity. Cognizin® Citicoline increases an important substance in the brain called phosphatidylcholine that supports healthy brain function."

This science-backed solution works through supplying your brain with the energy it needs. "Essentially," Danielle comments, "Cognizin® helps the neurons in your brain communicate better."

Staying on top of the extensive preparation that comes with sending your child back to school can be an exhausting challenge. Cognizin® can fuel mental processes so you can stay in the zone instead of zoning out.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

About Cognizin® Citicoline

Cognizin® Citicoline, manufactured by Kyowa Hakko Bio Co., Ltd., is a clinically studied and branded form of Citicoline, a natural substance made endogenously in the body and especially vital to brain health.* Citicoline is a potent brain-health nutrient. A proprietary form of citicoline, Cognizin® has been clinically studied to support mental energy, focus, attention, and memory. Cognizin® is manufactured through a fermentation process to yield high quality and high purity. Cognizin® is also highly stable, GRAS, pure and allergen-free. For more information on Cognizin®, visit Cognizin.com.

About Kyowa Hakko USA:

Kyowa Hakko USA is the North & South American office for Kyowa Hakko Bio Co. Ltd., an international health ingredients manufacturer and world leader in the development, manufacturing, and marketing of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and food products. For more information visit Kyowa-USA.com.

Released: August 2022

New Method Detects Gut Microbes That Activate Immune Cells

Cedars-Sinai investigators have developed a method to help identify which human gut microbes are most likely to contribute to a slew of inflammatory diseases like obesity, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and some neurological diseases.

The technique, described in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine, uses a protein found in blood that detects the gut microbes that have crossed the gut barrier and activated immune cells throughout the body—a development that could lead to new treatments that target inflammatory gut microbes.

“Microbes crossing the gut barrier usually causes inflammation and activation of the immune system, which are key features of many inflammatory diseases,” said Ivan Vujkovic-Cvijin, PhD, an assistant professor in the Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Gastroenterology at Cedars-Sinai and corresponding author of the study. “By understanding which specific microbes are crossing the gut and causing inflammation in a disease, we then can devise methods to get rid of those microbes to stop the disease.”

While the gut microbiome is thought to play an important role in diseases that are driven by immune over-activation, many of these diseases involve organs beyond the gut. Currently, there are limited tools to identify which gut microbes have crossed the gut barrier and activated immune cells outside of the gastrointestinal tract.

To devise a more accurate method, investigators at Cedars-Sinai and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases used human serum, the fluid found in blood that contains all the antibodies of an individual, to quantify immune responses against gut microbes. 

Using human serum allows researchers to understand the total body immune responses to all gut microbes, which helps give researchers a better understanding whether specific microbes are eliciting immune activation in these diseases.

The team used high throughput sequencing to calculate an IgG score, which is used to measure how much antibody there is against each gut microbe.

“Bacteria can migrate out of the gut into other tissues with pleiotropic effects we have yet to fully understand,” said Suzanne Devkota, PhD, an associate professor in the Cedars-Sinai Division of Gastroenterology and co-author of the study. “Therefore, we need new ways to assess translocation non-invasively.”

When applying this technique to inflammatory bowel disease, researchers found several bacteria that were targeted by the immune system when compared to healthy controls. This included several gut bacteria in the Collinsella, Bifidobacterium, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae.

“Many of the bacteria we identified haven’t been thought of as potential causative drivers of this disease,” said Vujkovic-Cvijin, who is also a member of the Cedars-Sinai F. Widjaja Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute. “This microbial activity is likely relevant to disease progression and may represent a viable therapeutic target.”

The team plans to continue to follow up on the observations from the study to learn more about the mechanisms of the specific gut bacteria that were identified as potential targets.

Funding: The research was funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health Director’s Challenge Innovation Award Program, Cancer Research Institute Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Institutes of Health Intramural AIDS Research Fellowship, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundational Career Development Award and the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research.

See original study:  https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/scitranslmed.abl3927
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