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Covid update: 17 June 2021

17 Jun 2021

A round up of this week's coronavirus-related news and countermeasures from the photonics industry.

In 2020, Spain's fundraising telethon – the Fundació La Marató de TV3 – focused its efforts on the Covid-19 pandemic to support research to improve the treatment and life expectancy of the people affected by the pandemic.

Researchers from ICFO and research hospital Corporació Sanitària Parc Taulí de Sabadell, both based in Barcelona, have now been awarded a new project through this initiative in which medical photonics will be used to improve the understanding of the route from personalized ICU management to rehabilitation for Covid-19 patients.

ICFO’s Medical Optics group led by ICREA professor Turgut Durduran has been developing photonics-based technologies using near-infrared diffuse light for clinical applications with a large network of clinics in the Barcelona area and abroad.

Throughout the pandemic, ICFO and clinicians at the hospital Consorci Corporació Sanitària Parc Taulí de Sabadell, led by Dr. Jaume Mesquida, have been using diffuse optical monitors to evaluate the microvascular health of Covid-19 patients, to improve their care in the intensive units through two ongoing projects. In the first, are the large international clinical trial Hemocovid-19, and the European Commission-funded project Vascovid, which is developing a new device to be introduced to clinical practice.

When critically ill Covid-19 patients are hospitalized and need to enter the ICU units, in many cases they require mechanical ventilation, sedation and neuromuscular blocking agents. Almost two-thirds of the patients undergoing long ICU stays develop muscle weakness. The syndrome, called ICU-acquired weakness, is caused by both the aggressive therapies and the severity of the disease itself.

In the ICU-acquired weakness syndrome, the resulting muscle atrophy can lead to long-term complications. Studies have shown that in more than half of these patients, these affectations persist even after one year. Patients experience symptoms as limiting fatigue and poor functional status that hinder their return to normal activities and severely affects their quality of life.

The ICFO-Parc Taulí project selected for funding from the TV3 telethon aims to help clinicians in the management and recovery through rehabilitation of those patients. It has been seen that if standard rehabilitation programs start early, when the patients are still in the critical units, they can reduce the impact of the weakness. However, to discern among patients and correctly establish their needs, it is essential to detect those with higher risk or degree of muscle impairment at early stages.

By using optical technologies such as near-infrared spectroscopy and diffuse correlation spectroscopy, they aim for early detection of the patients at higher risk of developing muscle weakness and help clinicians to define personalized rehabilitation strategies.

‘Safer’ 226nm UVC LED effective against Covid virus

Asahi Kasei, Tokyo, Japan, has announced the results of joint research with Nara Medical University, Nara, Japan, regarding the efficacy of 226 nm ultraviolet-C (UVC) LEDs in the deactivation of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), and its effects on animal skin cells. This is the first study in the world conducted with LEDs of this wavelength, and the results confirm that the 226 nm UVC LEDs rapidly deactivates SARS-CoV-2 while having significantly less effect on animal skin cells than 270 nm UVC LEDs.

The deactivation of viruses and other pathogens using UV light rather than chemical disinfectants has drawn greater attention with the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, it has been necessary to prevent light from conventional mercury UV lamps (254 nm) and UVC LEDs (260–280 nm) from directly irradiating human skin due to risk of harmful effects.

In contrast, UV excimer lamps with a wavelength of 222 nm were introduced last year showing negligible effect on the human body. However, LEDs are more compact and allow greater flexibility in design, have less risk of breaking, and have a quicker startup time than traditional lamps, opening up new potential for smaller, safer, and more responsive applications of UVC light.

Crystal IS, an Asahi Kasei company, has commercialized Klaran UVC LEDs in the 260–270 nm wavelength range, and is now supporting the advanced research by Asahi Kasei to reach shorter wavelengths. Recently, Asahi Kasei’s Corporate Research & Development was able to create 226 nm UVC LED prototypes, and tests were conducted for these LEDs regarding their efficacy for inactivating SARS-CoV-2 as well as their effects on animal skin cells.

The results indicate that 226 nm UVC LEDs can quickly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 while having significantly less effect on animal skin cells compared to the current generation of 270 nm UVC LEDs for disinfection. This suggests the possibility that 226 nm UVC LEDs may be safely used to disinfect hands or objects where there are people nearby.

Pandemic's surprise environmental benefits

Carbon dioxide emissions in Los Angeles fell 33% in April of 2020 compared with previous years, as roads emptied and economic activity slowed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study, published last week in Geophysical Research Letters. In the Washington, D.C./Baltimore region, emissions of carbon dioxide, or CO2, dropped by 34% during the same period.

The study was led by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Notre Dame. While the emissions reductions are significant, the method that scientists used to measure them may have the greater long-term impact.

In both locations, scientists had previously installed networks of sensors on rooftops and towers to monitor the concentration of CO2 in the air. They used the data from those sensor networks to estimate the drop in emissions. This new study demonstrates that “top-down” methods, based on measuring the concentration of CO2 in the air, can produce reliable emissions estimates. Scientists were able to test those methods when emissions suddenly dropped due to Covid-19.

“This was a completely unanticipated experiment, and one we don’t ever want to do again,” said lead author and JPL data scientist Vineet Yadav. “But our results show that we were able to detect the onset of emissions reductions to within a few days.”

NIST’s Greenhouse Gas Measurements Program develops advanced tools for accurately measuring emissions so industries and governments will have the information they need to manage emissions effectively. Scientists have been developing top-down methods for measuring CO2 emissions for several years.

Lighting company Amerlux has launched an innovative, UV-free lighting solution that kills viruses, bacteria and other microbes on surfaces while providing “comfortable white illumination” and meeting international standards for continual and unrestricted usage around people.

ActiveClean combines Amerlux's commercial-grade LED lighting engineering with the UV-free, antimicrobial lighting technologies of Vyv, a health technology company that recently reported independent testing that demonstrates its 405 nm lighting capabilities are effective against non-enveloped viruses, which are the most difficult to kill.

Utilizing a spectrum composed of visible light, ActiveClean combats microorganisms by inhibiting their growth and ultimately destroying these microbes. The proprietary technology is ideal for high-traffic public areas where people congregate, such as bathrooms, conference rooms, collaboration spaces, kitchenettes, classrooms and doctor's exam rooms.

Most recently, a third-party study demonstrated efficacy results using ranges of light in the 400-420nm range on inactivating enveloped viruses such as influenza A and SARS-CoV-2. Currently available in Amerlux's Linea and Grüv LED family of luminaires, ActiveClean offers two modes for providing robust, antimicrobial cleaning around the clock:

  • Single mode, which utilizes White Antimicrobial+Light to provide continuous antimicrobial activity and crisp, comfortable white task and ambient lighting in 3000K or 4000K with 80 CRI during standard working hours.
  • Dual mode, which pairs White Antimicrobial+Light with violet Enhanced Antimicrobial Light, the latter of which combines a unique blend of precisely tuned colors to deliver extra antimicrobial dosage in a single LED light diode for enhanced cleaning when spaces are vacant. Dual mode is only available in fixtures with an aperture size of 2.5in or greater.

Leica Microsystems has launched the Leica Nano workflow: a new live-cell correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) workflow solution designed to increase experimental success rates, improve reproducibility, and simplify light and electron microscopy (EM) integration.

The Leica Nano workflow combines high-contrast live cell imaging with EM sample preparation to provide a streamlined all-in-one workflow to answer a wide range of biological questions.

Understanding the basic building blocks of cells and tissue is a fundamental step in gaining better insights into the underlying mechanism and potential treatments of fighting diseases like cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and viral infections such as Covid-19.

The Leica Nano workflow uses an intuitive, semi-automated three-step system to minimize the time between functional live-cell imaging and cryo fixation of the sample. A sample transfer between the light microscopy and the high-pressure freezer takes only a few seconds and results in a cryo fixed specimen. The time-specific sample transfer and fixation enables the investigation of dynamic events and link these to the nanometer resolution of the EM without compromising the health and integrity of the specimen.

Markus Lusser, President of Leica Microsystems, said, “Accelerating the pace of drug discovery and development to bring vital therapies to patients faster is one of our industry’s number one priorities as we look to the world beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Everyone from the biggest biopharma companies to new biotech startups are striving to speed up science and are looking to innovative new technologies to provide the solution.

HÜBNER PhotonicsSPECTROGON ABLASEROPTIK GmbHAlluxaOptikos Corporation CHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation
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