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Friday, November 27, 2020

Here’s Why COVID-19 Vaccines Like Pfizer’s Need to Be Kept So Cold

Posted By on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 at 10:49 AM

PFIZER
  • Pfizer
Pfizer is racing to get approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, applying for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on November 20. But the pharmaceutical giant faces a huge challenge in distributing its vaccine, which has to be kept an ultrafrosty –70° Celsius, requiring special storage freezers and shipping containers.

It “has some unique storage requirements,” says Kurt Seetoo, the immunization program manager at the Maryland Department of Public Health in Baltimore. “We don’t normally store vaccines at that temperature, so that definitely is a challenge.”

That means that even though the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is likely to be the first vaccine to reach the finish line in the United States, its adoption may ultimately be limited. The FDA’s committee overseeing vaccines will meet on December 10 to discuss the emergency use request. That meeting will be streamed live on the agency’s web site and YouTube, Facebook and Twitter channels.

The companies are also seeking authorization to distribute the vaccine in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, making its deep-freeze problem a global challenge.

A similar vaccine developed by Moderna and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also requires freezing. But it survives at a balmier –20° C, so can be kept in a standard freezer, and can even be stored at refrigerator temperatures for up to a month.. Most vaccines don’t require freezing at all, but both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are a new type of vaccine for which the low temperatures are necessary to keep the vaccines from breaking down and becoming useless.

Both vaccines are based on messenger RNA, or mRNA, which carries instructions for building copies of the coronavirus’ spike protein. Human cells read those instructions and produce copies of the protein, which, in turn prime the immune system to attack the coronavirus should it come calling.

So why does Pfizer’s vaccine need to be frozen at sub-Antarctica temperatures and Moderna’s does not?

Answering that question requires some speculation. The companies aren’t likely to reveal all the tricks and commercial secrets they used to make the vaccines, says Sanjay Mishra, a protein chemist and data scientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

But there are at least four things that may determine how fragile an mRNA vaccine is and how deeply it needs to be frozen to keep it fresh and effective. How the companies addressed those four challenges is likely the key to how cold the vaccines need to be, Mishra says.

The cold requirement conundrum starts with the difference in chemistry between RNA and its cousin, DNA.

One reason RNA is much less stable than DNA is due to an important difference in the sugars that make up the molecules’ backbones. RNA’s spine is a sugar called ribose, while DNA’s is deoxyribose. The difference: DNA is missing an oxygen molecule. As a result, “DNA can survive for generations,” Mishra says, but RNA is much more transient. “And for biology, that’s a good thing.”

When cells have a job to do, they usually need to call proteins into service. But like most manufacturers, cells don’t have a stockpile of proteins. They have to make new batches each time. The recipe for making proteins is stored in DNA.

Rather than risk damaging DNA recipes by putting them on the molecular kitchen counter while cooking up a batch of proteins, cells instead make RNA copies of the recipe. Those copies are read by cellular machinery and used to produce proteins.

Like a Mission Impossible message that self-destructs once it has been played, many RNAs are quickly degraded once read. Quickly disposing of RNA is one way to control how much of a particular protein is made. There are a host of enzymes dedicated to RNA’s destruction floating around inside cells and nearly everywhere else. Sticking RNA-based vaccines in the blast freezer prevents such enzymes from tearing apart the RNA and rendering the vaccine inert.

Another way the molecules’ stability differs lies in their architecture. DNA’s dual strands twine into a graceful double helix. But RNA goes it alone in a single strand that pairs with itself in some spots, creating fantastical shapes reminiscent of lollipops, hair pins and traffic circles. Those “secondary structures” can make some RNAs more fragile than others.

Yet another place that DNA’s and RNA’s chemical differences make things hard on RNA is the part of the molecules that spell out the instructions and ingredients of the recipe. The information-carry subunits of the molecules are known as nucleotides. DNA’s nucleotides are often represented by the letters A, T, C and G for adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine. RNA uses the same A, C and G, but in place of thymine it has a different letter: uracil, or U.

“Uracil is a problem because it juts out,” Mishra says. Those jutting Us are like a flag waving to special immune system proteins called Toll-like receptors. Those proteins help detect RNAs from viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and slate the invaders for destruction.

All these ways mRNA can fall apart or get waylaid by the immune system create an obstacle course for vaccine makers. The companies need to ensure that the RNA stays intact long enough to get into cells and bake up batches of spike protein. Both Moderna and Pfizer probably tinkered with the RNA’s chemistry to make a vaccine that could get the job done: Both have reported that their vaccines are about 95 percent effective at preventing illness in clinical trials (SN: 11/16/20; SN: 11/18/20).

While the details of each company’s approach aren’t known, they both probably fiddled slightly with the chemical letters of the mRNAs in order to make it easier for human cellular machinery to read the instructions. The companies also need to add additional RNA — a cap and tail — flanking the spike protein instructions to make the molecule stable and readable in human cells. That tampering may have disrupted or created secondary structures that could affect the RNA’s stability, Mishra says.

The uracil problem can be dealt with by adding a modified version of the nucleotide, which Toll-like receptors overlook, sparing the RNA from an initial immune system attack so that the vaccine has a better chance of making the protein that will build immune defenses against the virus. Exactly which modified version of uracil the companies may have introduced into the vaccine could also affect RNA stability, and thus the temperature at which each vaccine needs to be stored.

Finally, by itself, an RNA molecule is beneath a cell’s notice because it’s just too small, Mishra says. So the companies coat the mRNA with an emulsion of lipids, creating little bubbles known as lipid nanoparticles. Those nanoparticles need to big enough that cells will grab them, bring them inside and break open the particle to release the RNA.

Some types of lipids stand up to heat better than others. It’s “like regular oil versus fat. You know how lard is solid at room temperature” while oil is liquid, Mishra says. For nanoparticles, “what they’re made of makes a giant difference in how stable they will be in general to [maintain] the things inside.” The lipids the companies used could make a big difference in the vaccine’s ability to stand heat.

The need for ultracold storage might ultimately limit how many people end up getting vaccinated with Pfizer’s vaccine. “We anticipate that this Pfizer vaccine is pretty much only going to be used in this early phase,” Seetoo says.

The first wave of immunizations is expected to go to health care workers and other essential employees, such as firefighters and police, and to people who are at high risk of becoming severely ill or dying of COVID-19 should they contract it such as elderly people living in nursing facilities.

Pfizer has told health officials that the vaccine can be stored in special shipping containers that are recharged with dry ice for 15 days and stay refrigerated for another five days after thawing, Seetoo says. That gives health officials 20 days to get the vaccine into people’s arms once it’s delivered. But Moderna’s vaccine and a host of others that are still in testing seem to last longer at warmer temperatures. If those vaccines are as effective as Pfizer’s, they may be more attractive candidates in the long run because they don’t need such extreme special handling.

Originally published by Science News. Republished here with permission.

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Graeter's Introduces New Line of Vegan Ice Creams

Posted By on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 at 9:23 AM

GRAETER'S
  • Graeter's


Whether you're vegan for health reasons, personal choice or simply preference, one of Ohio's favorite ice cream chains will soon be offering a sweet treat just for you.

Graeter's has partnered with California-based food technology company Perfect Day to introduce a brand new line of ice creams, "Perfect Indulgence," using animal-free dairy protein.

The vegan series of ice creams will feature traditional favorites like cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, black cherry chocolate chip, chocolate, Oregon strawberry and chocolate chip — with plans to eventually roll out additional flavors such as Madagascar vanilla bean.

It should be noted that their most popular flavor, black raspberry chocolate chip, is not on this list. Perhaps it falls into the category of "flavors to come."

On the creamery's website, they note that the vegan treat does contain certain milk allergens and that folks with sensitivity to "other dairy" should read through the panel of ingredients.

“The taste of Perfect Indulgence is exactly what our customers have come to expect after 150 years of bringing them irresistibly indulgent ice cream,” said Richard Graeter, fourth-generation family member and president and CEO of Graeter’s Ice Cream in a press release.

“We are excited to finally be able to serve authentic Graeter’s indulgence to guests who choose to eat vegan or cannot enjoy our regular ice cream due to a lactose intolerance. Until now, we couldn’t put our name on a vegan product because it simply did not live up to our standards. But now, with Perfect Day, we can.”

But how does it compare to the decadent dairy delight we've grown to love over the past 150 years? The Graeter's folks say it's "virtually indistinguishable" from their typical cream-based offerings, by incorporating "animal-free protein from microflora rather than cows, which makes for a kinder, greener and more sustainable future," the press release reads.

"We’re honored to partner with Graeter’s Ice Cream, a venerable brand beloved across generations for its great taste and uncompromising quality," says Perfect Day. "This is just the beginning of what we see as a tremendous opportunity to share delicious, animal-free dairy with people in a mainstream capacity.”

The vegan line of ice creams will be available online beginning Nov. 27, and will be ready for scoopin' at stores starting Dec. 1.

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Ohio Ranks No. 14 Most Overweight and Obese State in America

Posted By on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 at 6:56 AM

PEXELS
  • pexels

It's no secret that Americans struggle with obesity. In fact, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over 70% of American adults age 20 and older are either obese or overweight.

Personal finance website WalletHub recently produced a study that evaluates which states throughout the U.S. are the most overweight and obese based on a number of key metrics.

The study took into consideration 31 key metrics across 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Key metrics included obesity and the prevalence of those who are overweight in each state. The data was broken into categories including:

  • Share of overweight or obese adults, share of obese children and the projected obesity rate in 2030;
  • health consequences, which included the amount of adults with type 2 diabetes, heart disease rates and obesity-related death rates;
  • and food and fitness, which included fast food restaurants per capita, health-food access and the share of middle and high schools offering salad bars.
  • Based on the assessments, Ohio was ranked the No. 14 most overweight and obese state in America, decreasing four spots from last year's No. 10. We ranked No. 16 for obesity and overweight prevalence, No. 14 for health consequences and No. 15 for food and fitness.

West Virginia came in at No. 1 as the most overweight and obese state in America, while Utah once again ranked the least at No. 51.

According to the study, Ohio's most popular comfort food is buckeyes — a sweet peanut butter and chocolate treat that resembles the nut from a buckeye tree and is also the mascot for The Ohio State University. A typical serving of buckeyes is 362 calories.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Facing Eviction, Owner of Moriarty's Pub Downtown Seeks Financial Assistance to Relocate Storied Bar

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 1:58 PM

GOFUNDME
  • GoFundMe
We’ve already lost so much this year that the thought of losing anything else seems too heavy a burden to bear. But if you thought this year was done slinging misery, just wait until hear what Morgan Cavanaugh has to share. Cavanaugh is the owner of Moriarty’s Pub on East 6th near Short Vincent, a whiskey-soaked watering hole with approximately 100 years of Cleveland history under its belt. On top of the usual pain and suffering dealt to bars and bar owners at the hand of the coronavirus, Moriarty’s (1912 E. 6th St.) is being threatened with eviction by the new owners of the building.

“It has been a rough year for all of us,” Cavanaugh writes of his predicament. “Here at the pub we were not spared. On top of all the chaos and loss, the Baker Building (where Moriarty’s is located) sold this year to out of town buyers. The new landlords are telling all the tenants to vacate around the end of the year.”

Rather than simply vanish, thus erasing all those great (albeit fuzzy) memories, Cavanaugh hopes to relocate his bar and all the fixtures to a new spot. But he needs some help doing so, so he launched a GoFundMe page to solicit contributions.

“I am on my own here,” he writes. “The cost of the move is all on my shoulders. Morts is priceless to me and I want to keep it going down the road. Unfortunately I am not as liquid as I would hope to be.”

If you’ve ever enjoyed a drink at this legendary downtown dive – or if you haven’t and you hope to one day rectify that wrong – here’s the link to his page.

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Local Actor LeJon Woods Stars in New Lifetime Christmas Special

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 1:09 PM

COURTESY OF LEJON WOODS
  • Courtesy of LeJon Woods
After graduating from Shaw University in North Carolina, Cleveland native LeJon Woods returned home and took a job working for the city. While he liked the steady income, he had an epiphany one day while sitting in his cubicle.

“I was looking at the four walls around me, and I said that the 9-to-5 life wasn’t for me,” says Woods, an accomplished actor who appears in the new Lifetime show The Christmas Listing, in a recent phone interview. It airs at 8 p.m. on Monday. “It was a blessing, and I was grateful for it, but it wasn’t me. I asked, ‘What is it that I could do that I generally love doing?’ I realized being in front of a camera is home.”

As a result, Woods reached out to Cleveland State University to see if any student directors needed actors for their films. It turned out that they did.

“I did a few films, and it kept snowballing,” says Wood. “This was around the time that the state had the tax credits for movies. There was a movie that at the time was called Boot Tracks. It became Tomorrow You’re Gone. It starred Stephen Dorff and Michael Monaghan and Willem Dafoe. I auditioned and got a role. I was speaking opposite Stephen Dorff.”

Woods got an even bigger role in 2014’s romance Old Fashioned.

“It did very well in theaters, and that’s the first time I could see myself on the big screen and ever since then, I’ve been trying to do it full-time,” says Woods, who does both comedy and drama.

For Christmas Listing, Woods plays Doug, a realator vying to purchase a hot property in Isanti, MN.

“I spent a week and a half working on it in Isanti,” he says. “Man, it was cold. The great thing about this film is that a lot of these films are sometimes shot on production sets, and it’s just not the same. It was January and February, and we had the real stuff. It really snowed. The character I play is fighting for this location and is a family man. He doesn’t want to be away from his family, but he wants to give it a shot to get this property, and he’s in the midst of the battle.”

Woods has also wrapped work on Asteroid, a potential Netflix movie which he describes as his first doomsday film.

“The director is Dylan Avery, and it was an amazing experience,” he says of Asteroid, which filmed in upstate New York.

Woods, who lives in Newburgh Heights, also cohosts a podcast that’ll launch next month and has been busy starring in commercials for Chevy and Pepsi, one of which found him working with former Detroit Lions star Barry Sanders.

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Blaine Griffin to Chair City Council Safety Committee after Matt Zone Departure

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 1:08 PM

CITY OF CLEVELAND
  • City of Cleveland
Ward 6 Cleveland City Councilman Blaine Griffin has been appointed to chair the legislative body's safety committee. Griffin fills the vacancy left by chair Matt Zone, who resigned to take a leadership role at the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a nonprofit which city council funds annually for environmental consulting, this month.

Griffin, who was appointed to fill Mamie Mitchell's council seat in 2017 and was elected to a full term shortly thereafter, had been chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. In that role, he oversaw the passage of prominent citywide legislation including marijuana decriminalization and a lead-safe ordinance, (spurred by the organizing efforts of CLASH). He was also a leading voice in the city's declaration of racism as a public health crisis.

City Council President Kevin Kelley, who appointed Griffin to fill Zone's seat, cited Griffin's experience as the director of Cleveland's community relations board. Kelley said that experience would serve Griffin well.

Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack will become the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, and Ward 2's Kevin Bishop will join the finance committee to fill Zone's vacancy there.

Last week, Zone's replacement in Ward 15, Jenny Spencer, was formally introduced via Zoom after council voted to accept Zone's recommendation. Spencer had been the managing director of the Detroit-Shoreway Community Development Organization.

Alongside the lack of public comments at meetings, council's appointment tradition, where outgoing members hand-select their heirs, is one of its anti-democratic conventions that has been most thoroughly decried in recent years.

Spencer is a natural successor to Zone, and becomes only the third woman on the 17-member body. But she joins recent appointees Kerry McCormack, Blaine Griffin, Brian Kazy, Charles Slife and Brian Mooney as members who were initially installed without public participation. 

***
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TikToker Fired by Sherwin-Williams Over Viral Paint-Mixing Videos Lands a New Job in Florida

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 at 1:03 PM

PHOTO VIA TONESTERPAINTS/INSTAGRAM
  • PHOTO VIA TONESTERPAINTS/INSTAGRAM
A 22-year old TikToker who became famous for his viral paint-mixing videos just landed a job in Florida.

Ohio University student Tony Piloseno has amassed 1.4 million followers and 24.2 million likes on TikTok for his aesthetically pleasing paint videos. On Nov. 11, though, he released a video detailing how he was fired by Sherwin-Williams as a result of his account gaining traction.

According to Buzzfeed News, Piloseno received job offers from major paint companies like Benjamin Moore and Behr, but announced in a video released on Nov. 24 he had agreed to a full-time position with the Orlando-based Florida Paints. While building his @tonesterpaints account, Piloseno’s main passion was mixing paints in an actual store, which he’ll be doing as a sales associate for Florida Paints.

"I talked to a bunch of people from a bunch of companies, but Don Strube, the co-owner of Florida Paints, he really connected with me when he called me and talked about his passion for paint," Piloseno said to Buzzfeed News. "I found that very special."

He’s arranged to finish his degree at Ohio University online while working in Florida. He’s also using funds from a GoFundMe originally intended for paint supplies to help with the move.

Originally published by our sister paper in Tampa.

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