News in brief: Proteomic markers may identify aggresive CLL; Haematologist wins AMA award; Heparin mimetics may be next COVID-19 therapy

Thursday, 22 Jul 2021

Proteomic markers may identify aggressive CLL

Proteomic profiles of B cells in the early stage of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) can discriminate progressive from stable disease, according to French researchers.

A team at the Department of Haematology, University Hospital of Brest, also showed that that RNA splicing dysregulation underlies CLL evolution, which they say opens new perspectives in terms of biomarkers and therapy.

Their study showed that RNA splicing events were six times more frequent in the progressive CLL group compared to patients with stable disease .

The main aberrant biologic processes controlled by differentially expressed protein and spliced genes in the progressive group were cytoskeletal organisation, Wnt/β-catenin signaling, and mitochondrial and inositol phosphate metabolism with a downstream impact on CLL B-cell survival and migration.

“The results offer a meaningful biological approach into the protein composition of CLL cells at an early stage of the disease, when the clinical characteristics of patients are similar and the course of the disease is difficult to predict. Our results showed that the protein profile can however predict how the disease will further evolve,” said lead author Cristina Bagacean, PhD,

“This approach could identify putative therapeutic targets in order to prevent CLL progression.”

Haematologist wins AMA award

Canberra haematologist Associate Professor James D’Rozario has been awarded the AMA (ACT) President’s Award for services to medicine. Presenting him with the award, AMA (ACT) president Dr Antonio Di Dio noted that as Director of Haematology Clinical Services at Canberra Hospital, A/Prof D’Rozario “consistently demonstrates leadership, initiative and has been instrumental in developing a spirit of collaboration among the medical staff, management and the hospital as a whole.”

“Associate Professor D’Rozario shows unstinting vision and stewardship of the Department of Haematology in its pursuit of excellence in service delivery, teaching and research. His dedication to medical education has also extended to the National level with leadership roles in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia,” he said.

Heparin mimetics may be next COVID-19 therapy

Queensland researchers say molecules that mimic the 3D structure of heparin with different sulphur chemistry might be potential broad-spectrum antiviral drugs for COVID-19 .

QUT scientist Zachariah Schuurs and colleagues have identified a putative glycosaminoglycan binding site on the glycosylated SARS-CoV-2 spike protein N-terminal domain (NTD) that could be the target of heparin-like drugs.

“Binding of the CoV-2 spike protein to heparan sulphate (HS) on cell surfaces is generally the first step in a cascade of interactions the virus needs to initiate an infection and enter the cell,” he says.

“Therefore, targeting the NTD site with molecules like heparin (or heparin mimetics), a known anti-coagulant drug similar to HS, is a possible strategy to stop the virus binding to cells and infecting them,” he suggested

Most SARS-CoV-2 variants have acquired a positively charged mutation in the spike protein. Molecules like heparin and its mimetics are negatively charged and therefore, these molecules could be used to treat people with severe effects of the virus and any emerging variants, the researchers said.

Their findings are published in the Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal.


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