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Singapore: Digital Innovations in Virology Research

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Food virologists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have employed the capabilities of digital technology to reshape the landscape of human norovirus (HuNoV) research. Spearheaded by Assistant Professor Li Dan from the NUS Department of Food Science and Technology, in conjunction with Professor Gong Zhiyuan from the NUS Department of Biological Sciences, the research team has disclosed a state-of-the-art method for cultivating HuNoV using zebrafish embryos.

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This breakthrough not only provides a valuable platform for studying HuNoV but also has implications for virus inactivation strategies in water treatment and the food industry. HuNoV stands as a global health concern, causing an estimated 684 million cases of acute gastroenteritis and 212,000 fatalities annually.

Traditional obstacles in HuNoV research, such as the scarcity of human biopsy specimens and the resource-intensive maintenance of cells, have impeded progress in understanding and combating this prevalent virus.

Enter the zebrafish embryo model—an unexpected yet highly efficient solution. The NUS research team, leveraging digital technology, uncovered the zebrafish embryo’s potential as a robust host for cultivating HuNoV.

This model not only marks a significant increase over the baseline but also allows for the continuous passaging of HuNoV in a laboratory setting. The digital breakthrough enables researchers to delve deeper into the virus’s behaviour, replication patterns, and other properties.

Assistant Professor Li Dan emphasised the transformative impact of the zebrafish embryo model on HuNoV cultivation. Its high efficiency and robustness open avenues for broader and more in-depth research.

Beyond academic exploration, this tool holds immense value for developing crucial HuNoV inactivation parameters necessary for water treatment and food industries. The collaborative efforts and digital advancements empower the research team to explore new frontiers in epidemiological research and enhance strategies for preventing virus spread.

Looking ahead, the research team envisions leveraging the zebrafish embryo model to investigate inactivation methods for HuNoVs in food products. Detecting infectious HuNoV in food remains a formidable challenge, but the ongoing refinement and optimisation efforts fueled by digital technology promise breakthroughs in tackling this complex task.

The NUS team’s dedication to advancing HuNoV research reflects a commitment to leveraging digital tools to address global health challenges and drive innovation in the realm of virology.

At the forefront of healthcare integration with digital technology, Singapore pioneers advancements to elevate medical services and patient care. The synergy between digital technology and health tech in the country creates an innovative and efficient ecosystem across diverse healthcare domains.

Within the intricate landscape of human health, the immune system serves as a paramount defence against pathogens. Among its defence mechanisms, cell-mediated cytotoxicity plays a pivotal role, engaging immune cells in combatting foreign entities.

Introducing PAINTKiller (proximity affinity intracellular transfer identification of killer cells), this groundbreaking method signifies a paradigm shift. It revolutionises the identification of immune cells responsible for eliminating target cells, replacing conventional, less precise techniques.

PAINTKiller’s methodology involves ‘painting’ the surface of killer cells involved in cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Using the intracellular staining dye CFSE, foreign cells are labelled, and upon cell lysis, the released dye is captured by modified immune cells, facilitating killer cell identification.

PAINTKiller’s impact goes beyond identification, as validated through experiments. The method demonstrates the potential to sort and cultivate various killer cell subtypes, showcasing heightened killing efficiency and durability over time. These findings hint at the possibilities for advanced cell-based immunotherapies.


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