Nanoparticles can stop antibiotic resistance in patients with respiratory ailments

At Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, a group of scientists have successfully devised an efficient method to treat lethal airway infections. They found that nanoparticles can efficiently transport antibiotics to the target destination. Presently, patients are asked to inhale drugs for treating airway infections. Thus, the passage of these drugs from the body to the pathogens causing lung infections is complicated. In fact, many drugs do not even reach the target destination let alone combating the pathogens causing airway infections.

Antibiotics need to be of a miniscule size in order to penetrate the deeper airways else they naturally bounce back and have no effect on the area infected. Moreover, antibiotics have to move across the thick layer of mucus that is formed due to airway infection. Thereafter, they have to penetrate the bacterial biofilm before reaching the infected airway passage.

Nanoparticles: a vehicle for antibiotics

To overcome the various obstacles encountered by inhaled antibiotics, these researchers developed a novel experiment. Antibiotics like Tobramycin were encapsulated in a polyester polymer. Then, they created a simulated lung situation in the laboratory and tested a nanoparticle that was specifically created for this purpose.

The movement of nanoparticle was tracked both in a static and dynamic positions within the simulated flow. In other words, these researchers developed an innovative simulation system, which exactly resembled a lung chronically infected with cystic fibrosis.

They found that nanoparticles can easily travel through the spongy network of mucus and finally reach the deeper airways to attack the pathogens. They did not encounter any difficulties in attacking the pathogens causing lung infection. Researchers applied an additional coating of polyethylene glycol to make the nanoparticle drug delivery system completely invisible to immune system.

Researchers declared that nanomaterial used in this study was biodegradable, non-toxic, and not toxic to humans. Nevertheless, researchers were clueless about how nanoparticles could fight pathogenic bacteria with so much efficiency. However, they are hopeful of making a breakthrough soon in this regard.

Researchers have presented two possibilities: i) significantly larger amounts of antibiotics are administered to the center of infection using nanoparticles as delivery carrier and ii) nanoparticle destroys the defense mechanism developed by the bacteria against the antibiotic.

This implies that these researchers have made a path-breaking discovery, which can be immensely useful in fighting lethal lung infections. Researchers have been able to tackle drug resistance of pathogenic bacteria, which cause lethal lung infections.

It is important to note that in the lower layers of the biofilm in airways, bacteria transform into persistent pathogens, which are dormant and hardly respond to any conventional drug therapies. Thus, conventional antibiotics are only able to destroy self-dividing bacteria. Using nanoparticles, antibiotics are transported into the inner layer of biofilms to combat these dormant, persistent bacteria.

This group of researchers developed nanoparticles specifically for inhalation. Conventional nanoparticles are 200 nm in size, which is too small to enter into the deeper passage of airways.  In humans, respiratory system normally filters out particles which are too large and too small. Particles of the size of 1 to 5 micrometers are only allowed to enter through airways of humans.

These researchers have pointed out that “coated nanoparticles” can effectively improve the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics against bacterial biofilms.  This group of researchers have found a truly innovative method to tackle antibiotic resistance of pathogenic bacteria which cause lethal respiratory infections. This treatment modality was particularly useful in treating muscoviscidosis patients.

The life expectancy of such patients can be improved manifold with this path-breaking discovery. The impact of antibiotics against the bacterial biofilm certainly improved when they were delivered in “coated nanoparticles.” This discovery seems to have brought cheers to many pulmonologists who treat such patients on a daily basis.

 

 

 

 

A novel gene therapy for treating vision loss receives FDA approval

Luxturna (voretigene neparvovec-rzyl) is a novel gene therapy has been approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week for treating inherited vision loss in both children and adult patients. Inherited vision loss can ultimately lead to blindness if untreated; however, Luxturna has shown promising results in tackling this condition. US FDA has approved for the first time a directly administered gene therapy. Luxturna targets the mutations of a specific gene, which causes inherited vision loss in children and adults.

The field of gene therapy has received a major boost after receiving approval from US FDAthis week. Now, gene therapy can not only be used to treat cancer but also vision loss; this is an important milestone that has expanded the clinical applications of gene therapy. This year has borne fruit for researchers who have spent decades in developing gene therapy solutions for various illnesses as three gene therapies have been approved by US FDA for the treatment of serious and rare diseases.

In the near future, US FDA officials are hopeful of making gene therapy a conventional mode of treatment as it shows bright prospects in curing serious diseases which cannot tackled by present modalities. In fact, US FDA officials are going to develop a specialized framework for approval novel gene therapies in the years to come. They have promised to come up with new clinical measures that can specifically evaluate and review all aspects of novel gene therapies, which seem to be important breakthroughs in tackling life-threatening diseases.

Many research studies have confirmed that mutation of a biallelic RPE65 gene leads to retinal dystrophy, which further progresses to cause inherited vision loss and ultimately blindness in patients. Officials of US FDA have confirmed that Luxturna is quite effective in treating such patients. Mutations in any one of the 220 different genes can lead to inherited vision loss and blindness. In scientific terms, this condition is known as hereditary retinal dystrophies that cause several retinal disorders due to genetic mutations. Visual dysfunction is a progressive disorder that leads to blindness both in children and adults.

Every year approximately 1000 to 2000 patients in the US are diagnosed with inherited retinal dystrophy, which is caused by mutation of biallelic RPE65 gene. In these patients, both copies of a particular gene (maternal and paternal gene) contain biallelic mutation carriers that cause mutation in the gene. In this case, RPEG5 directs the production of an enzyme that is required for maintaining normal vision. If mutations occur in the gene RPE65, then the activity of RPE65 can be suppressed or stopped completely. Thus, mutations of RPE65 genes can lead to impaired vision and ultimately blindness in patients with retinal dystrophy. Such patients experience progressive loss of vision over a period of time. The sad truth is that loss of vision first hits these patients during puberty or adolescence and ultimately they turn into blind adults.

Luxturna is a novel gene therapy that directly delivers a normal copy of RPE65 gene into retinal cells. A normal protein is then produced by retinal cells with the help of this gene. Due to this protein, light signals are converted into electrical signals in the retina. Thus, patients with inherited vision loss are cured completely as their normal vision gets restored.  Luxturna was prepared from a naturally occurring adenovirus; this virus was modified in the laboratory with the help of DNA techniques. This gene therapy is a vehicle that directly delivers the normal RPE65 gene in human retina and restores the vision of patients with inherited retinal dystrophy. Thus, it prevents many young adolescents and teenagers from turning blind. This has ultimately given hope to thousands of patients who were told that their condition is incurable till date.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an important agency that is affiliated to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. It is a major regulatory body in public health administration in the USA. Its main function is to assess and evaluate the safety, efficacy, and security of drugs, vaccines, biological products, and medical devices used on humans and animals. Apart from this, US FDA also investigates safety standards of processed foods, cosmetics, tobacco products, and dietary supplements.

 

Important scientific breakthroughs in 2017

Stars collision in astronomy

Astronomers announced an important breakthrough on 16th October, 2017. They detected the collision of two neutron stars on this day. This breakthrough was significant enough in the sense that these collisions would not lead to γ-ray bursts along with the creation of heavier elements in the Universe, such as gold and uranium.

Astronomers detected the gravitational waves, which were dissipated as ripples during the collision.  This project was carried out by a team of 70 astronomers at Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) based in the USA. Using sophisticated telescopes, scientists observed these γ-rays and radio-frequency spectrum.

Another important feat of 2017 was advancements in quantum communications. On 15th June, 2017, researchers in China made an important public announcement: they had shot pairs of photons from Micius satellite to two ground stations; the distance of separation between these two stations was 1200 kms. This experiment was a breakthrough event as it broke the record of the distance over which particles are associated with each other in an “entangled” state.  This was a major breakthrough for Chinese researchers who are trying to develop “quantum internet” in the near future.

Breakthroughs in Genetics

In 2017, a sophisticated treatment for cancer received its first approval: CAR-T cell therapy. In this approach, the immune cells of a patient were genetically engineered to destroy tumor cells of the target. Although the scientific community is not yet clear about the safety of this novel approach, the method did receive its approval from US FDA. This method was approved for treating acute leukemia in children and young adults.

Organ transplantation may soon become a reality given the path-breaking breakthrough in January, 2017. In a peer-reviewed report, scientist claimed to have developed fetuses with both pig and human cells. These hybrids would then be used for developing animals with organs, which are compatible with that of humans. Then, these organs could then be transplanted into people.

Assisted reproduction received a major boost in 2017 as gene editing was now approved for clinical use in six peer-reviewed studies. For the first time, a team of scientists announced in August 2017 that they had developed an innovative CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing system that repairs pathogenic (disease-causing) mutation in human embryos. The researchers proved that the method was safe for clinical use as this method did not lead to any unwanted mutations.  Another innovative study was published in September 2017. In this study, scientists fixed the gene associated with recessive blood disease in human embryos, which contained unwanted mutations. These researchers had used human skin cells to clone embryos. Then, they corrected the defects by editing single bases of the DNA.

Another important breakthrough in genetics occurred in July 2017. Genomic data of more than 500, 000 participants was released by the UK Biobank; this genetic data is considered to be one of the largest troves till date. Complete information about the health and traits of 500, 000 participants was provided by UK Biobank to approved scientists. Using this genetic data, a team of scientists carried out a study on 2,000 genomes to understand the inheritance of diseases and traits.

Breakthroughs in space science

 

Cassini spacecraft launched by NASA got burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere on 15th September 2017.  At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, scientists and engineers recorded the dwindling and death of incoming radio signals from Cassini spacecraft. This spacecraft had explored the Saturn planet was almost 13 years, and it crashed out as its fuel supply was exhausted completely; therefore, engineers at NASA steered this spacecraft for a crash and prevented it from bumping into one of the moons of Saturn planet. Cassini spacecraft provided important information about the powerful storms and constantly-changing rings of Saturn planet. Moreover, the spacecraft discovered a mammoth sea of hydrocarbon on Titan, which is the moon of Saturn planet.

In October 2017, astronomers observed a fast-moving asteroid whose orbit was unlike anything seen earlier. This important asteroid was spotted by astronomers in Hawaii. They christened this celestial body as “Oumuamua”; it was 400 meters in length and was believed to have originated from interstellar space. This celestial body zipped back toward the Sun and deep space no sooner it was observed. Such an object was observed for the first time ever in space.

In February 2017, astronomers discovered that seven planets (these plants were of the size of Earth) were orbiting around a star named TRAPPIST-1; this star was about 41 light years away from the Sun. This system was peculiar in terms of the number of small planets; all these planets were rotating in temperate orbits. This is an important breakthrough that paves the way for interplanetary visits.

 

 

 

General instructions for manuscript writing

Although different journals have different guidelines for submission, science papers need to written in a simple and lucid manner. Some of the most important tips for writing a scientific manuscript are as follows: the paper must be written in a manner that is clear and concise. Consistency should be maintained in terms of quality of content. Authors need to do away with redundant content. Vague statements must be avoided at all costs. In case of abbreviations, they should be spelt out at the first instance. Unless stated otherwise, numerals from zero to nine must be spelt out. Numerals from 10 onwards must be written for all numbers.

If the paper has to be translated into English, then special attention needs to be paid for scientific terminology. In English, a decimal point separates numbers and not a comma. Construct relatively simple sentences such that the verb is close to the subject.  Although the use of personal pronouns is encouraged, it should not be done indiscriminately. For example, “In our study, we performed….” Avoid using personal pronouns in Methods section or Figure legends. It is preferable to write in active voice and not passive voice. A semi-colon must be used to separate items if the lists are long and complicated. The Abstract, Methods, and Results must be written in past tense. On the other hand, Introduction and Discussion sections are primarily written in present tense. Please note that British and American English is vastly different in terms of spellings, so maintain language consistency as per journal requirements.

General manuscript layout:

An experimental study is generally segregated into four sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. A manuscript must include consecutive page numbers, right from the title page. The title page is the first page of the manuscript and it should contain the following information: article title, authors(s), and sources of support. Article title should be concise and clear to many scientific readers. It must clearly indicate the purpose of the study, including keywords. This would help in electronically retrieving the article. Include the names and institutional affiliation of author(s) in the paper. Mailing address, telephone numbers, and email address must also be included in case of Author(s). Grants and equipment used in the study must be presented as Sources of support.

Abstract

This follows the title page. A clear and precise abstract must be not more than 250 to 300 words. An abstract generally consists of the study’s objective, background, procedures, findings, and conclusion. Only new findings must be presented in this section. Abbreviations must be spelt out in this section.

Introduction

This section is included in the main body of the manuscript. In most journals, this section is presented after the Abstract page. The introduction section must develop the context and background of the experimental study. For this purpose, findings of previous studies related to the objective of the current study must be presented. Statistical data and results of previous studies must not be presented in this section. The objective or aim of the current study must be presented at the end of the Introduction section. Most sentences in this section must be written in present tense.

Materials and Methods

In most journals, this section follows the Introduction section. In this section, authors must describe “why they conducted the experiment” and “how they conducted the experiment”. All reagents, equipment, and chemicals used in the experiment must be mentioned along manufacturer’s information. The information should be presented in past tense and passive. Authors should not write sentences “In our study, we perform…………”

The information presented in this section must be such that a knowledgeable expert can perform the experiment simply by reading this section. New methods must be explained in detail whereas well-known methods must be referenced. Unless stated otherwise in the journal, abbreviations should be spelt out at the first instance; however, there may be some standard abbreviations that do not need to be spelt out. These standard abbreviations are stated in the journal.

Results

This section must be written in past tense, and it should present the most important findings.  Authors should describe prominent observations of the experiment in this section. Supplementary information can be presented in the appendix. Authors should present numerical results in terms of absolute numbers and their derivatives, i.e. percentages. In this section, statistical terms such as “normal” “significant difference” and “random” must not be used for non-technical purposes. These terms should be strictly used to present “Statistical Analyses” in the Results section.

Discussion

This section must be presented after Results section. Novel findings of the current study must be presented in correlation with related studies. The sentence structure must be preferably in the present tense. Conclusions of the current study must be presented in the final paragraph of Discussion section. Data presented in previous sections should not be presented in this section. Limitations of this study must be presented in Conclusion section. Implications must be presented in Discussion section. Authors should not include statements that cannot be backed up with conclusive evidences.

 

 

What is real research impact: downloads or citations

The world of scientific publishing has undergone a metamorphosis, with most scientific articles being published online.  To measure the impact of scientific data, many concerted efforts have been made to develop new tools. Rather than waiting for publication of citations in the print media, these tools help us to decipher the impact of tools in the online medium.

One of the most prominent journal metric is the “download impact factor.” It is defined as the rate at which articles are downloaded from a journal. This tool is similar to the “journal impact factor.”  Another prominent tool for this usage is the Journal Usage Factor, which is calculated on the basis of mean and not median. Although there are many social network metrics, the download networks estimate the information through clicks and not download logs.

To determine the measure of journal impact, both citations and download data log have been defined. A single indicator cannot be used to measure the impact of scientific journals. Most researchers now believe that indicators measuring the download data have greater impact today given the firm grasp of online media.

The download frequency of a journal would not be affected by the impact factor. In terms of absolute value, there is a strong correlation between citation and frequency of download for a journal. Furthermore, there is moderate correlation between download number and journal impact factor.

Scopus is a very useful tool to measure citation data. On the other hand, ScienceDirect is a tool to measure the number of downloads. Both these tools are used to comprehend the relationship between download and citations. Thus, the influence on publication output is measured.  Scopus is an impact tool that does not include conference papers and abstracts. ScienceDirect is a measuring tool that includes the impact of all kinds of papers.

Scopus is a measure of the time taken for a paper to be cited, whereas downloads is the tool that measures the innovative value of papers.  In each subject area, “excellent” papers were those that had a large number of “mean downloads.”

In both English and non-English journals, there was a strong correlation between downloads and citations. There were journals whose papers were downloaded in great numbers but these downloads did not really result in citations.

For individual papers, correlations are weaker than that of journals; however, they are markedly more significant than sample size.  The number of downloads depends on the how well circulation is the journal. It does not really depend on novelty. Quality of paper is reflected in terms of citations today. Journals that have wide circulation and diffusion would have many downloads, but that does not really correspond with citations.

Papers published in journals with low impact would have less number of downloads, regardless of whether these papers receive many citations later. This implies that download data cannot be considered as a predictor of citation, especially when the journal has lower significance in its early years.

In English journals, the number of downloads is slightly less than citation for papers. In non-English journals, the number of downloads is slightly more than the number of citations. In non-English journals, the correlation between citations and downloads seems to be much lesser.

 

 

Latin American markets show robust growth for pharmaceutical industries

The growth in pharmaceutical sales was forecasted at just 3% in the developed world for 2017: North America, Europe, and Japan. Emerging markets were far more promising in driving robust pharmaceutical sales. In general, growth was robust in Latin America and Asia. They have witnessed a growth of 14% on an average from the period extending from 2008–2012.  For emerging markets, research analysts believe that the growth in pharmaceutical sales would be sustained at 12% in 2017.

Latin America: A major emerging market with sustainable growth in sales for the pharmaceutical industry

People in Latin America today consider healthcare beyond the basic essentials. This is because income levels have increased proportionately due to the following reasons: rapid urbanization, improved education levels, and higher women workforce in the organized sector.

Latin America is far more promising than Asia given the growth of middle class from 2002 to 2009. During this period, the middle class population increased by 60 million and 49 million in Latin America and Asia, respectively.

Factors that will ensure robust pharmaceutical sales in Latin America

1) Generics: Given the rapid urbanization and increased income growth of middle class, consumption patterns is something to watch out for: the demand for generics has increased consistently in this region. This is because Latin American governments have made concerted efforts to provide healthcare medications with economical pricing. Consequently, the access to healthcare facilities has increased.

Regardless of the penetration of multinational companies, the popularity of generic drugs produced by local manufacturing companies is increasing with each passing day. This is perhaps the biggest factor driving robust sales of pharmaceutical industry in Latin America. These local companies produce both branded and private labels, which are then dispersed through pharmacy outlets. In terms of pricing, generics are sold at 70% lesser costs as compared to patented medications. Therefore, local manufacturing units are witnessing a stupendous growth of 28% annually.

2) Pharmacy distribution pattern: There has been an overhaul in the distribution of drugs through pharmacies. Quite a few pharmacies have consolidated into groups, and medications are also available today in retail/supermarkets throughout Latin America. Independent pharmacies have become less in number.

Thanks to consolidation, there are fewer distributors today in the retail segment of pharmaceuticals. Nevertheless, they are making whopping gross revenue, at least by dispending prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medications. For the local manufacturing industry, the sales process has now been smoother and dependency for growth has now been restricted to fewer retailers. Consequences of these trends are as follows:

  • Product suppliers seemed to have lost their longstanding practices of monopolization. Erstwhile, the marketplace contained many individual pharmacies and so the price-cap was soared artificially due to middle-men trading. Today, the negotiations occur directly between retailers and manufacturers; therefore, the prospect of suppliers is declining continuously following consolidation trends.
  • Wholesale market of drugs is shrinking thanks to the proliferation of pharmacy chains throughout Latin America. Given the clout of pharmacy retailers, the price-cap has reduced and the wholesale to retail market transition has almost vanished.

3) Private healthcare: With higher purchasing power, Latin America is poised to show promising growth in private healthcare system. Not only has the number of private health insurance providers boomed but also the number of private hospitals and clinics.

The growing middle class prefers these facilities over government ones. Consequently, the demand for medical devices and surgical equipment has been increasing continuously. In other words, sales growth for medical device manufacturers has witnessed an upward trend.

Market summary of Latin American countries

Although the growth of pharmaceuticals is promising throughout the Latin American region, robustness differs: Brazil is the country that spends maximum in the healthcare sector. In fact, almost 43% of sales in the Latin American market hail from Brazil for the period ranging from 2013 to 2017.

Most market analysts believed that Brazil was the fifth largest market for pharmaceutical sales in 2016. Mexico is another country with robust pharmaceutical growth following Brazil. Although Colombia and Peru have witnessed high growth in pharmaceutical industry, small base in this country limits the total revenue when compared to Brazil. In totality, Chile is the country whose pharmaceutical sector is more organized and well-established than Peru and Colombia.

Chile has also witnessed a stable growth over the past few years. On the other hand, Argentina and Venezuela are countries facing economic instability and soaring inflation. This has impacted the growth of pharmaceutical sales in these countries and the picture is grimmer in these countries.

Conclusion: In the Latin American market, Brazil and Mexico are the key players with strong pharmaceutical growth and development. Results are also promising from Colombia and Peru, where pharmaceutical expansion is driving growth.

 

South Korean Scientists propagate basic science to the government following political overhaul

In South Korea, 10th March 2017 was a remarkable day for justice. President Park Geun-hye was impeached from power after being convicted in million dollar frauds. Science policymakers rejoiced along with many people on the street.

Following her impeachment, South Korea government is now implementing many reforms in its policies so as to include people’s viewpoint in science policy framework. The focus is now slowly shifting from applied sciences to basic sciences, and researchers are glad about this change in science policy.

Although the current administration has not yet rolled out an official change in science policy, researchers are making concerted efforts in putting across their views. At the Institute of Basic Science (IBS), the President stated that government would increase resource allocation to basic sciences.

South Korea scientists have strongly propagated that basic science should be encouraged to be at par with other scientifically advanced nations. To substantiate their viewpoint, they have cited a recent scientific event: Google’s DeepMind developed AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence program in London; this program superseded world-famous grandmaster Lee Sedol at an exhibition match of Go, the ancient board game.

With this shocking loss, South Koreans became wary of technological progress made by other countries in artificial intelligence and machine learning.  These innovative “smart” technologies are going drive the fourth industrial revolution in the world.

At this juncture, erstwhile President Park announced that it would launch an ambitious project on artificial intelligence worth 860 million USD in partnership with other Korean conglomerates: Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and Naver (The Korean internet giant). However, many scientists were of the view that this would not be beneficial for innovation incubation in South Korea as the government merely proposed to further develop a technology that originated elsewhere.

According to the President of the Institute of Basic Science, the fourth industrial would be driven by basic science: mathematics, algorithms, and computer science.

In terms of science resources, South Korea is among the top countries of the world as the government allocates about 4% of its GDP for research and development. However, the science policy framework supports applied research to a large extent since 1960s.

In other words, federal grants are easily available to research institutes that have industrial partners. At the same time, institutes of basic science were given second class treatment and received a humble pie of the total funds.

Sang-Mook Lee, a noted geophysicist worked at Seoul National University and regularly criticized the erstwhile government headed by Park Geun-hye for its corrupt practices in science expenditure.

Lee gave testimony in 2014 to the parliament and stated that research ships manufactured by South Korea should be used for basic science and not for digging minerals from deep sea. Lee exhorted the erstwhile Park government to recall the promises they made to the public of Korea on science and technology.

The lady President had promised to increase the government’s resource allocation to basic science from the 35.2% in 2012 to 40% in 2017. Moreover, she had promised to create a separate science department for nurturing start-ups and technological innovation. However, the government only paid lip service to basic science and invested all resources in applied research.

Without depending much on government funding, South Korean scientists are now trying to engage resources on their own for basic sciences. For example, a crowdfunding project launched in South Korea was able to garner 15 million won (13,300 USD); this main objective of this project was to understand health issues of transgender community in South Korea. This project received much more than required, almost double the amount. This is a trend in itself given that projects with minimal economic viability do not really get sufficient funding.

The funding platform was launched by ESL (Engineers and Scientists for Change).  Crowdfunding is launched by this organization for projects aimed at social progress and sustainability. This group has planned channels to gain funding in such a way that they are bound to powerful corporates or political parties.

.

South Korea: world’s only country that invests big time into scientific research

South Korea is an advanced country that invests heavily into scientific research studies, with the hope of bagging Nobel Prize some day for their work. The results are already showing as South Korea overtakes China and USA in terms of GDP spend on scientific research: Concerted efforts have been made by industry experts into thriving basic scientific research. More than 4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on Scientific Research. This indicates that it spends double the amount spent by China and European Union. Thus, it is the country that spent the most on scientific research.

Although there have been many successful ventures between the government and industry in South Korea, about 75% of grants for R & D are attributed to industry while the remaining 23% is provided by the government. About 2% of grants are obtained from other sources. The experimental research industry is worth 38.4 billion USD, whereas resources allocated to basic and applied research is almost similar at 10.6 billion USD and 11.5 billion USD, respectively.

How is the experimental industry functioning in South Korea?

In an ordinary building in Daejeon, one would never imagine a sophisticated lab conducting an advanced experiment, but that is the true picture of science in South Korea. Although the first floor of this building is still being renovated and developed into a lab space, there is a secret pit into the basement. In the basement, a sophisticated lab is developed for research experiments. What catches my attention is a cylindrical apparatus made from precious metals, copper and gold.

Young researchers are building a prototype to understand axion-the particle believed to be a principle component of dark matter. The main objective of these researchers is to solve the mystery of Universe and how human life originated on Earth. In South Korea’s leading university of science and technology, physicists are offered 7.6 million USD per year as federal grant. The university is none other than KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). What’s out-of-box here is the risk aspect of the project, because the existence of axions has not been proved yet, let alone its association with dark matter.

At a time when “March for Science” has been carried out in the United States, the encouragement received by the South Korean Government is truly appreciative. To encourage advanced research experiments in basic sciences, President Park Geun-Hye announced that it would increase funding for basic science by 36% in 2018. In the year 2017, South Korean government made concerted efforts, making its expenditure on science equivalent to 5% of GDP.

South Korea is making immense in achieving its ambitions in scientific and technology

Although many science policy makers and some renowned scientists say that it won’t be possible to sustain such generous spending on science amid a looming economic crisis, optimistic results are not too far away—Only 11 Korean students stayed back in the USA after receiving their PhD degrees in science and technology in 2008 from an American university; this data was released by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2014.

South Korean government’s policy makers are trying to drive hard basic science amidst its stupendous progress in industrial applications involving science and technology: South Korea is world leader in the manufacture of smartphones and semiconductors; their quality standards are high and they offer products at an economical value. Thanks to South Korean conglomerates LG and SamSung, the country has filed 4590.92 patent applications in 2014; this figure far exceeds Japan, the closest contender with 3659.39 patent applications. The US stands a distant fourth at 1611.20.

In terms of proportion of researchers, South Korea is just slightly less than the Scandinavian countries (Finland, Denmark, Sweden). As per employment statistics in 2013, there are 12.84 researchers per 1000 people in South Korea. Its closest contender Japan stands at 12.84, while USA is far behind at 8.81 researchers per 1000 people. Since 2005, its publication output has more than doubled and today it is has overtaken Spain in terms of volume; however, Japan still leads the race in terms of publication output. Most South Korean scientists publish papers in chemistry, physics, engineering, and life sciences.

Final verdict for success: partnerships between industry and academia

In Research & Development industry, South Korea has received maximum funding from its corporate giants: Samsung, LG, and Hyundai. As per the latest data released by the government, 63.7 trillion won (South Korean currency) was spent on R & D. More than 2/3rd of these resources were provided by industry, with estimated funding being as high as 49.2 trillion won. Although there is a steady rise of partnership between industry and academia for R & D ventures, most research facilities set up by industries are clandestine. That’s why the secretive, yet sophisticated laboratory in the basement of ordinary building seems a normal scene in South Korea.

 

 

 

Guidelines for writing an abstract with brevity

Abstract: It summarizes the entire manuscript in 250 words. It stands independently and most researchers refer the abstract for referencing the manuscript. A well-written abstract increases the chances of publication and boosts the impact factor.

Regardless of the manuscript type, an abstract has the following four sections

  • Study objective or Background
  • Study design and methods
  • Primary results
  • Principal Conclusions

Guidelines for Writing Abstracts of Original Data Manuscripts: Randomized Controlled Trial, Cross Over Trial, Cohort Study, Case-Control Study, Case Series, and Cross Sectional Study

Study objective and Background

  1. Context (Background): It summarizes the rationale of the study, providing the clinical reason for the study question (hypothesis). Just a sentence or two is sufficient
  2. Objective: The precise objective must be stated. If more than 1 objective is addressed, clearly mention the main objective; the secondary objectives need only a mention.

Example: The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of centamab combined with dinplatin/daxine as a first-line treatment in patients with unresectable/metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma.

Methods:

Study design is the first component of methods section: Name the study design and the duration of follow-up period

  • Intervention studies: randomized control trial; nonrandomized controlled trial; double-blind; placebo controlled; crossover trial; before-after trial
  • Studies involving screening and diagnostic tests: criterion standard is a widely accepted standard with which a new or alternative test is being compared, so it is called as the gold standard. This must be mentioned clearly. There may be studies with blinded or masked comparison.
  • For studies of prognosis: inception cohort (subjects assembled at a similar or early time in the course of disorder and followed thereafter); cohort (subjects observed forward in time, but not necessarily from a common starting point); validation cohort or validation sample if the study involves the modeling of clinical predictions
  • For studies of causation: randomized control trial; cohort; case-control; survey that is also known as cross-sectional study
  • For description of the clinical features of medical disorders: survey; case-series
  • For studies that involve formal economical evaluation: cost-effective analysis; cost-utility analysis; cost-benefit analysis

For new analyses of existing data sets, the data set should be named and the basic study design should be disclosed.

Example: Female patients with intestinal bowel syndrome and diarrhea were enrolled in a randomized, open-label study to evaluate the healthcare resource use, quality of life, and productivity following treatment with honctomycin versus traditional therapy for 24 weeks.

  1. Setting is the second component of Methods section: Study setting must be mentioned. Some of the commonly used study settings are as follows: general community, a primary care or referral center, private or institutional practice, or ambulatory or hospitalized care.
  2. Patients or Other Participants: It is the third component of the Methods Section–The clinical disorders, important eligibility criteria, and key sociodemographic features of patients must be stated.
  • Mention the number of participants
  • The criteria used to select the participants
  • Eligible subjects who refused to participate must also be mentioned
  • To do matching for group comparison (experimental and control group characteristics)

Matching characteristics must be specified

For the follow-up studies

Mention the proportion of patients completing the follow-up period.

For intervention studies

Mention the patients who withdrew due to adverse reaction

Selection procedure terms that are commonly used are as follows: random sample, population-based sample, referred sample, consecutive sample, volunteer sample, convenience sample.

Selection procedure terms indicate the generalizability of study

Intervention: Mention the method and duration of administration. Common clinical name and common synonyms must be mentioned. In case of a drug, the brand name may also be provided.

Example: We randomly assigned 525 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee to receive azumumab (administered at a dose of 10, 25, 50, 100, or 200 µg per kilogram of body weight) or placebo on days 1 and 56.

Main outcome Measures: The primary study outcome measurement(s) should be indicated; these were decided before collecting study data. In case of studies that do not emphasize on planned study outcomes, we need to mention this observation and the associated reason. In case the hypothesis is formulated during or after data collection, then this piece of information must be clearly mentioned.

Example (In a study of neoadjuvant endocrine therapy for breast cancer):The primary endpoint will be clinical response rate, as measured by calipers. Secondary endpoints include pathologic complete response rate, breast conserving rate, change in Ki67 expression, breast density change, and toxicity profile.

Example summarizing 4 , 5, and 6

This randomized-controlled pilot study was conducted at 19 acute stroke and rehabilitation centers. Forty-seven ischemic stroke patients with at least leg motor weakness admitted within 24 hours of onset were randomly assigned to receive continuous intravenous infusions of edavorone (30 mg) twice daily for 3 days (short-term group) or 10-14 days (long term group)

 Results

Mention the main results of the study, including the ones requiring explanation for the expected audience. As the results are meant to be indexed in electronic format, TABLE FORMAT IS NOT USED for presentation.

Blinding of observers included in patient groups must be mentioned for subjective measurements.

A subjective measurement depends on the observers’ perspective therefore the blindness of the study subject is critical for non-biased decision, for example, evaluation or staging of radiological (such as CT or MR) exam results by a pathologist.

Mention the confidence interval and exact level of statistical significance as appropriate. In comparative studies, confidence interval relates to differences among groups. When there are nonsignificant differences in the major study outcome measures, mention the clinically important difference. Moreover, the confidence interval for the difference between the groups must be mentioned.

In case of risk and effect sizes, absolute values must only be reported. The reader can assess the relative value of the finding.

Reporting of relative differences in inappropriate.

In case of screening and diagnostic tests, mention the “sensitivity”, “specificity,” and “likelihood ratio”

If you mention predictive values or accuracy, then you also need to mention prevalence or pretest likelihood.

DO NOT REPORT ANY DATA THAT DOES NOT APPEAR IN THE MAIN MANUSCRIPT.

Example:

The primary efficacy outcome occurred in 26 of 1502 patients (1.8%) in the group receiving huckdamycin and 44 of 1500 patients (3.0%) in the placebo group. The incidence of each component of the primary efficacy outcome was significantly reduced in the huckdamycin group as compared with the placebo group, except for the outcome of death (0.1% in both groups). The rate of pulmonary embolism or deep-vein thrombosis was 85% lower in the huckdamycin group than in the placebo group (0.2% vs 1.3%; 95% CI, 50 to 95; P < 0.001). Similar risk reductions were observed at day 77. Major bleeding occurred in one patient in each group. The incidence of serious adverse events was 0.7% with huckdamycin and 1.1% with placebo.

Conclusions

Mention only those conclusions that have been supported by evidence in the manuscript. Mention their clinical application and also indicate whether additional studies must be conducted before using this information in actual clinical practice.

Both positive and negative findings have to be reported with equal importance.

General: For facilitating electronic search, phrases may be used instead of complete sentence where technical keywords are involved.

For example: Design: Double-blind randomized trial

And NOT

Design: The study was conducted as a double-blinded, randomized trial.

Example

Despite numerous case series and reports of secondary gastrointestinal adenocarcinoma in carcinoid patients, in this retrospective case controlled series, there appears to be no difference in rates of adenomatous polyps, advanced adenomas, or adenocarcinoma in small intestinal and colorectal carcinoid patients compared to a control population. These findings advocate average risk of colorectal cancer in carcinoid patients.

 

 

 

 

The art of writing a good manuscript in biomedical sciences: points to consider

In a peer-reviewed biomedical journal, most papers generally consists of the following sections: Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. In this article, we give you essential tips on writing a biomedical manuscript of high quality.

Abstract

The structure of the abstract should be such that it enables the reader to assess the study hypothesis and methods quickly and easily.

  • The context for research question and the hypothesis (objective) should be clearly stated (For example, To determine whether enalapril reduces left ventricular mass……..)
  • Methods: Mention clearly the study design (randomized control trial, crossover trial, cohort study, etc.), the population (diabetic patients, epileptic patients, asthma patients, etc….), and setting from which the sample was drawn. A basic explanation of statistical analyses ( For example, The screening test was validated using a bootstrap procedure and performance tested using an ROC curve)
  • Mention the main outcome (prognosis) of the study
  • Results: Some explanation of the effect size, if appropriate, with point estimates and confidence intervals to describe the results
  • Conclusion: There should be no over interpretation of the data

Introduction

  • A concise review of the relevant literature to provide the context for the study question and a rationale for the choice of a particular method
  • The study hypothesis must be clearly stated in the last sentence before the methods section
  • No results and conclusions must be presented in this section

Methods

This section should enough information to enable a knowledgeable reader to reproduce the study and verify the results with the reported data. Components should include as many of the following as are possible parameters

  • Study Design (Refer Types of Study Design)
  • Year(s) and (month if appropriate) in which the study was conducted
  • Disease or condition to be studied–how was it defined?
  • Setting in which subjects were studied (community based, referral population, primary care clinic, volunteers)
  • Subjects studied–who was eligible; inclusion and exclusion criteria. If all the subjects were not included in the analysis, reasons for exclusion; information consent and institutional review board approval when appropriate. If results for any of the subjects have been previously described, provide citations for all reports or ensure that different reports of the same study can readily be identified (eg, by using a unique study name)
  • Intervention, including the length of intervention and enough information to allow a knowledgeable reader to reproduce the intervention, or define the exposure adequately to allow comparison of different studies.
  • Outcomes and how they were measured, including reliability of measures and whether investigators determining outcomes were blinded to which groups received the intervention or underwent the exposure.
  • Independent variables and how they were measured–for example, demographic variables and risk factors for the disease.
  • Preliminary analysis: if the current study is a preliminary analysis of an ongoing study, then the reason for publishing data before the end of study should be clearly stated along with information about when the study is to be completed.
  • Source to obtain original or additional data if somewhere other than from the authors. For example, data tapes are often used from the US government; the source should be stated. The National Auxiliary Publications Service (NAPS) and the World Wide Web can be used to store or display data or information that could not be included in the manuscript. The source may also listed in the acknowledgment.
  • Statistical methods, including which procedures were used for which analyses, what level was considered acceptable, power of the study (if calculated before the study was conducted), assumptions made, any data transformation, multiple comparison procedures performed, steps used for developing a model in multivariate analysis, and pertinent references for statistical tests and types of software used. Results should be presented in terms of confidence intervals wherever possible.
  • If the study has been registered in a central trial registry, the name of the registry and the trial number should be provided.

Power:  ability to detect a significant difference with the use of a given sample size and variance; determined by frequency of the condition under study, magnitude of the effect, study design, and sample size. Power should be calculated before a study is begun. If the sample is too small to have a reasonable chance (usually 80% or 90%) of rejecting the null hypothesis for a true difference, then a negative result may indicate a type II error rather than a true acceptance of the null hypothesis.

Power calculations are important to perform when designing a study; a statement providing the power of the study should be included in the methods section of all randomized controlled trials and it is appropriate for many types of studies.

A power statement is especially important if the study results are negative to demonstrate that a type II error was not the reason for the negative result. Performing a post hoc power analysis is controversial, especially if it is based on the study results, but if included, it should be placed in the discussion section and the fact that it was performed post hoc must be stated clearly.

Example: We determined that a sample size of 800 patients would have 80% power to detect the clinically important difference of 10% at   = 0.05

Multiple comparison procedures: any of several tests used to determine which groups differ significantly after another. A number of general tests has identified that a significant difference exists but not between which groups. These tests are tended to avoid the problem of type I error caused by sequentially applying tests as the t test not intended for repeated use.

Some test result in more conservative estimates (less likely to be significant) than others. More conservative tests include the Tukey test and the Bonferroni adjustment; the Duncan-multiple range test is less conservative. Other tests include the Scheffe test, the Newman-Keuls test, and the Gabriel test.

Type 1 error: data demonstrating a statistically significant result, although no true association or difference exists in the population. The  level is the size of a type I error that will be permitted, usually. .05

A frequent cause of a type I error is performing multiple comparisons, which increase the likelihood that a significant result will be found by chance. To avoid a type I error, one of several multiple comparisons procedures can be used.

Bonferroni adjustment: statistical adjustment applied when multiple comparisons are made. The  level (usually 0.05) is divided by the number of comparisons to determine the  level that will be considered statistically significant. Thus, if 10 comparisons are made, and  of 0.05 would become  = 0.005 for the study. Alternatively, the P value may be multiplied by the number of comparisons, while retaining the  of 0.05. For example, a P value of 0.02 obtained for 1 to 10 comparisons would be multiplied by 10 to get the final results of P = 0.20, a nonsignficant result.

The Bonferroni test is a conservative adjustment for large numbers of comparisons (i.e. less likely than other methods to give a significant result) but is simple and used frequently.

Duncan-multiple range test: modified form of the Neuman-Keuls test for multiple comparison

Newman-Keuls test: type of multiple comparisons procedure used to compare more than 2 groups; the first thing is to compare the 2 groups that have the highest and lowest means. Then, we sequentially compare the next most extreme groups, and stop when a comparison is not significant.

Multivariate analysis: Any statistical test that deals with 1 dependent variable and at least 2 independent variables.  It may include nominal or continuous variables, but ordinal data must be converted to a nominal scale for analysis.

Compared to bivariate analysis, the multivariate analysis has three advantages:

  • It allows for investigation of the relationship between independent and dependent variables while controlling for the effects of other independent variables.
  • It allows several comparisons to be made statistically without increasing the likelihood of type I error
  • It can be used to compare how well several independent variables individually can estimate the values of the dependent variable.

Some examples of multivariate analysis are as follows: Analysis of variance, multiple (logistic or linear) regression, analysis of covariance, etc.

Results

This section must include the following

  • Number of subjects in the study at its inception
  • Statistics describing the study population
  • The Number of subjects excluded, dropped out, lost to follow-up
  • Discussion of prognosis (primary and secondary outcomes)
  • Discussion of post hoc analyses, but the content should clearly mention this analyses: it is used to generate hypothesis, NOT for testing hypothesis.
  • If one statistical test is used through the study, then mention it in the Methods Section. If more than one statistical test has been used, then they must be discussed in the Methods Section and the specific tests used must be reported along with their results in the Results Section

 

Discussion (Comment)

This section would elaborate the following

  • Whether the hypothesis was supported or refuted by the results must be elaborated
  • Study results must be interpreted in the context of published literature
  • Discuss the limitations of the study, including possible sources of bias that affect the generalization of results; they would create issues with conclusions
  • Evidence to support or refute the problems introduced by limitations
  • Implications of clinical practice
  • Specific directions for future studies
  • Conclusion should not be beyond data; it must be based on the study results and population.