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Drugs mimicking cigarette smoke may help Covid-19 therapy: Study

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 Researchers have identified two drugs that mimic the effect of chemicals in cigarette smoke and reduce the ability of SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus causing Covid-19, to enter cells.

The two drugs — 6-formylindolo(3,2-b)carbazole (FICZ) and omeprazole (OMP) mimic cigarette smoke’s effects to bind to a receptor in mammalian cells that inhibits production of ACE2 proteins, a process that appears to reduce the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The findings appear in the journal Scientific Reports.

FICZ is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan, while OMP is a medication already widely used in the treatment of acid reflux and peptic ulcers.

Something of a paradox exists with respect to smoking cigarettes and Covid-19. Active smoking is associated with increased severity of disease, but at the same time, many reports have suggested lower numbers of Covid cases amongst smokers than amongst non-smokers.

“We must stress the presence of strong evidence showing that smoking increases the severity of Covid-19,” said Keiji Tanimoto of Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine. “But the mechanism we discovered here is worth further investigation as a potential tool to fight SARS-CoV-2 infections,” Tanimoto added.

It is known that cigarette smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These can bind to and activate aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AHRs).

The researchers wanted to investigate the effect of drugs that activate AHR on expression of the genes that control production of the ACE2 protein — the infamous receptor protein on the surface of many cell types that works like a lock that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to pick. After binding the virus to the ACE2 protein, it can then enter and infect the cell.

The scientists found that those cells originating in the oral cavity, lungs and liver had the highest ACE2 expression. These high-ACE2-expression cells were then subjected to various doses of cigarette-smoke extract for 24 hours.

Further, using RNA sequencing analysis, they found that the cigarette smoke extract and these two drugs — all of which act as activators of AHR — are able to suppress the expression of ACE2 in mammalian cells, and by doing so, reduce the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to enter the cell.

Based on the findings in the lab, the team is now proceeding with pre-clinical and clinical trials on the drugs as a novel anti-Covid-19 therapy.

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Shabana finds ‘lovely’ Emma dreadful at dumb charades

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Shabana Azmi will be seen sharing screen-space with Emma Thompson in the upcoming film ‘What Love Got To Do With It?’. The Hindi film star spilled the beans about how “dreadful” the Oscar winning-actress is at playing a game of dumb charades.

Talking to IANS about working with Thompson, Shabana said: “I absolutely love her and she turned out to be all that and more. I mean somebody who is such a damn good actor. She is so funny and has a very funny part in the film.”

The veteran actress added: “She came and met me at home and it was really nice of her. We had lots of fun together.”

The 70-year-old actress, who has been feted with a Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, also shared a hilarious secret about the Hollywood star.

“And let me, let you into a secret for all the oscar winning performances she has given — Emma Thompson is dreadful at playing dumb charades,” Shabana said with a laugh.

“I used to tell Emma ‘Please I want to take back all your Oscars’. She plays dumb charades so badly because I have a thing of dumb charades, whichever set I am on, I have to play dumb charades and she would do such funny things, I can’t tell you,” she added.

Shabana says she is still in touch with Thompson.

“I absolutely love her and I am in contact with her even now,” Shabana concluded.

The title of their upcoming film seems to ring a bell as “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” is a famous number sung by Tina Turner.

The film is expected to be a cross-cultural rom-com.

‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ is helmed by Shekhar Kapur, who has previously directed Shabana in the 1983 film ‘Masoom’.

The screenplay is written by Jemima Khan, former wife of Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The upcoming film also stars ‘Cinderella’ actress Lily James, Pakistani, English and Scottish descent actor Shazad Latif among many others.

Shabana is currently seen on ‘The Empire’.

Directed by Mitakshara Kumar and produced by Monisha Advani and Madhu Bhojwani, ‘The Empire’ Astreams on Disney+ Hotstar.

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Kiss concert cancelled, Paul Stanley tests Covid positive

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American rock band Kiss’ concert stands cancelled as its lead vocalist Paul Stanley tested positive for Covid-19.

Kiss announced late Thursday night that their concert scheduled just outside Pittsburgh had been cancelled after lead vocalist Paul Stanley tested positive for Covid. While a new date is yet to be announced, the band said the show has been postponed according to Billboard.com.

“Tonight’s #KISS show at The Pavilion at Star Lake in Burgettstown, PA is unfortunately postponed due to Paul Stanley testing positive for COVID,” the band tweeted alongside a full statement. “More information about show dates will be made available ASAP.”

The statement also clarified that “everyone on the entire tour, both band and crew, are fully vaccinated.”

Kiss was formed in New York City in January 1973 by Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss. Well known for its members’ face paint and stage outfits, the group rose to prominence in the mid–late 1970s with its shocking live performances, which featured fire breathing, blood-spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits, and pyrotechnics.

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Delhi government notifies medical oxygen production promotion policy

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The Delhi government on Friday notified the Medical Oxygen Production Promotion Policy 2021 with an aim to increase the production of oxygen in the national capital through either new manufacturing enterprises or by expanding the production capacity of the existing units.

Under this policy, the Delhi government has set a target to establish liquid oxygen manufacturing facilities of minimum 50 MT capacity.

The government has also planned to set up non-captive oxygen generation plants (PSA/air separation unit technology) of minimum 10 MT and and maximum 100 MT capacity, a notification issued by the Delhi government said.

Apart from these, the policy also includes captive oxygen generation plants of maximum 500 LPM capacity at hospitals and nursing homes to cater to their peak demand for medical oxygen.

The policy provides several incentives to the private sector to set up oxygen production units, storage facilities and oxygen tankers.

For installing liquid medical oxygen (LMO) storage tanks in the hospitals, the Delhi government will provide Rs one lakh per MT. The subsidy will be granted only if the storage tanks are procured and commissioned by December 31 this year.

“100 per cent capital subsidy under this policy shall be provided to the approved units within one month of commissioning. In case an unit wishes to avail 50 per cent upfront payment as advance at the stage of proposal sanctioning, the same shall be provided against a bank guarantee for an equivalent amount, extending up to the date of commissioning. The 50 per cent subsidy for liquid oxygen manufacturing plants and non-captive oxygen generation plants shall be provided only after proof of land is submitted,” the notification read.

Along with capital subsidy, the Delhi government will also provide power subsidy to the liquid oxygen generation plants and non-captive oxygen generation plants at Rs 4 per unit consumed in the manufacturing process for the first five years from the date of commencement of commercial production, said a statement released by the Delhi government.

The policy was approved by the Delhi cabinet on August 3.

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