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Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of immune system

Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of immune system | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage -- a major side effect of chemotherapy -- but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal.

 

In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then "flipped a regenerative switch": changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed.

 

The study has major implications for healthier aging, in which immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as we age. By outlining how prolonged fasting cycles -- periods of no food for two to four days at a time over the course of six months -- kill older and damaged immune cells and generate new ones, the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance and for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders.

 

"We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system," said corresponding author Valter Longo, the Edna M. Jones Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and director of the USC Longevity Institute.

 

Read more here: 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605141507.htm

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Intermittent fasting seems to be an area of current research and something much discussed by health enthusiasts http://sco.lt/7tFrKD

 

@PAT NOVAK also scooped a good infographic on intermittent fasting here: http://sco.lt/67F0RF

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A Message From The Curator

A Message From The Curator | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Biotech and Beyond comprises a series of articles on a range of topics which include novel therapies, research and of course, biotechnology.

 

My first degree was BSc. Biotechnology which was awarded by Monash University. However, I have moved on to phytochemistry and food science for my PhD and currently teach chemistry at UCSI University. Nonetheless, I still find biotechnology issues, discoveries and therapies fascinating.

 

Please follow my topic and share my scoops if you found the curated articles interesting, and check out the popular tags listed in the post above. I also welcome suggested scoops related to this topic and give credit where credit is due.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

I teach chemistry at UCSI University, Malaysia and most of my research is centered around phytochemistry.


My research interests can be viewed here:
http://scholar.google.com.my/citations?user=iVv3xbAAAAAJ&hl=en


I manage the Facebook and Google+ pages belonging to the Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University. Curated scoops are shared here:
https://www.facebook.com/Applied.Sciences.UCSI

https://plus.google.com/117901649282247944098/posts

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Concentrate! How to tame a wandering mind

Concentrate! How to tame a wandering mind | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Procrastinate often? Caroline Williams does, so decided to find out if brain training could tackle her wandering mind. What she discovered could help everyone.

 

I’ve come to theBoston Attention and Learning Lab in the US to try and train my brain to focus better. Esterman and fellow cognitive neuroscientist Joe DeGutis have spent nearly seven years working on a training programme to help wandering minds stay “in the zone”.

 

So far, their methods seem to be particularly promising for enhancing focus in US army veterans with attention problems linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and brain injuries, as well as people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But what I want to know is, can the mind-wandering of the average procrastinating person be improved? And if so, can they do it to me? Please?

 

And this is exactly what DeGutis and Esterman have been working on. Their training programme targets the brain’s ‘dorsal attention network’, which links regions of the prefrontal cortex – the bit of the brain above the eyes that helps us make decisions – and the parietal cortex, the ‘switchboard’ for our senses, which is above and slightly behind the ears. The dorsal attention network is the part of the brain that springs into action when we are deliberately focusing on a task, and if it is to work for any length of time, activity in what’s known as the default mode network – responsible for mind-wandering, creativity and thinking about nothing in particular – has to be turned down.

 

Imaging studies have also shown that the right side of the brain’s dorsal attention network does the bulk of the work – people who do badly on the sorts of tests DeGutis and Esterman asked me to perform show more activation across both hemispheres, suggesting they are leaning more heavily on the less efficient left.

 

So as a less-than-expert focuser and an above average mind-wanderer, it could be that my right hemisphere isn’t working as hard as it should be. Or it could be that I struggle to turn down activity in my default mode network, which allows my mind to wander when it should be knuckling down. Now I have a chance to find out which.

 

Caroline Williams  also describe a new app which uses music to increase focus in the original article: 

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141015-concentrate-how-to-focus-better

 

Research by the Boston Attention and Learning Lab can be read here: http://www.bu.edu/ballab/publications.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This is an interesting article which I stumble across after reading a similar one scooped by @Jocelyn Stoller http://sco.lt/5MisZV

 

A similar method to electrically stimulate the brain was also developed by Robert Reinhart, and Geoffrey Woodman, from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee http://sco.lt/5K3RqL

 

Research has shown that multitasking is bad for your brain http://sco.lt/7hUzWz

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The season you were born in can affect your mood

The season you were born in can affect your mood | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Researchers have found that your mood and personality may be influenced by something out of your control - your birthday.

 

A team of scientists from Semmelweis University in Hungary have found that when someone is born can play a role in their chance of developing a particular temperament or mood disorder. They recently presented their findings at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress in Germany. 

 

Previous research has shown that an individual’s dopamine and serotonin levels - neurotransmitters that influence mood - can be affected by their season of birth. "This led us to believe that birth season may have a longer-lasting effect," said Xenia Gonda, psychologist and lead researcher in a press release.

 

In the study, the researchers assessed the correlation between the birth season of participants and their personality traits in adulthood. The results showed that participants born in summer were more likely to have a cyclothymic temperament - rapid and frequent mood swings, than those born in winter. Those born in spring and summer were also more likely to possess a hyperthymic temperament - high levels of energy and positivity. 

 

The findings also revealed that participants born in autumn were less likely to be depressed than those born in winter, and those born in winter were less likely to have an irritable temperament than those born in the other seasons.  

 

Read more here: http://mail.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142110-26367.html

 

Associated research articles can be read here:

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032711000334

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886904001825

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15245791

 

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WHO: What we know about transmission of the Ebola virus among humans

WHO: What we know about transmission of the Ebola virus among humans | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Ebola virus disease is not an airborne infection. Airborne spread among humans implies inhalation of an infectious dose of virus from a suspended cloud of small dried droplets.

This mode of transmission has not been observed during extensive studies of the Ebola virus over several decades.

Common sense and observation tell us that spread of the virus via coughing or sneezing is rare, if it happens at all. Epidemiological data emerging from the outbreak are not consistent with the pattern of spread seen with airborne viruses, like those that cause measles and chickenpox, or the airborne bacterium that causes tuberculosis.

Theoretically, wet and bigger droplets from a heavily infected individual, who has respiratory symptoms caused by other conditions or who vomits violently, could transmit the virus – over a short distance – to another nearby person.

This could happen when virus-laden heavy droplets are directly propelled, by coughing or sneezing (which does not mean airborne transmission) onto the mucus membranes or skin with cuts or abrasions of another person.

WHO is not aware of any studies that actually document this mode of transmission. On the contrary, good quality studies from previous Ebola outbreaks show that all cases were infected by direct close contact with symptomatic patients.

 

The Ebola virus is transmitted among humans through close and direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, feces and vomit.

 

The Ebola virus has also been detected in breast milk, urine and semen. In a convalescent male, the virus can persist in semen for at least 70 days; one study suggests persistence for more than 90 days.

 

Saliva and tears may also carry some risk. However, the studies implicating these additional bodily fluids were extremely limited in sample size and the science is inconclusive. In studies of saliva, the virus was found most frequently in patients at a severe stage of illness. The whole live virus has never been isolated from sweat.

 

The Ebola virus can also be transmitted indirectly, by contact with previously contaminated surfaces and objects. The risk of transmission from these surfaces is low and can be reduced even further by appropriate cleaning and disinfection procedures.

 

Ebola situation assessments
http://who.int/entity/mediacentre/news/ebola/en/index.html

 

Frequently asked questions on Ebola virus disease
http://who.int/entity/csr/disease/ebola/faq-ebola/en/index.html

 

Fact sheet on Ebola
http://who.int/entity/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/index.html


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

These are some really good facts about the current Ebola outbreak.

 

Local authorities in affected countries are making creative use of ICT to help fight Ebola http://sco.lt/5OkxUn

 

More scoops on Ebola can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Ebola

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Our genes determine how well we do in school

Our genes determine how well we do in school | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

We all know someone who seemed to coast through high school and university, barely studying and still getting amazing grades. Turns out they probably weren’t just smart - new research has suggested that genetic factors are also at play in how well an individual does at school. 

 

A new study by researchers at King’s College London has examined if genetic factors were involved in the academic success of 11,000 pairs of identical and nonidentical twins born in the UK between 1994 and 1996. While previous research has looked into how a person’s IQ affects their performance in school, this study looked at the effects of 83 different genetically influenced 'traits' on a person's academic success. These traits were identified in the twins at the age of 16 by their parents.

 

The traits covered a wide range of factors that influence how a student will fair at school, such as their overall health and happiness, how motivated and confident they were, how hard they worked, and how much they enjoyed being in class. The researchers then collected the twins' results from the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) exam, which is the final exam for high school students in the UK, just like the HSC for Australian students. 

 

"The team found nine general groups of traits that were all highly hereditary - the identical twins were more likely to share the traits than nonidentical twins - and also correlated with performance on the GCSE,” says Sarah C. P. Williams at Science. "Not only were traits other than intelligence correlated with GCSE scores, but these other traits also explained more than half of the total genetic basis for the test scores.”

 

The results, which have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that around 62 percent of the participants’ academic achievement related to their GCSE scores could be attributed to genetic factors. The associated research article can be read here: 

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/10/02/1408777111

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20140710-26295.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Twin studies are extremely useful for studying the effect of genes on complex traits such as IQ, personality and academic performance. However, it is important to remember that doing well in school does not necessarily indicate a high hereditary intelligence.

 

Personality plays a very direct role as well. Students who do well in school tend to be conscientious, agreeable and extraverted http://sco.lt/8unS5p. Divergent thinkers are often sidelined http://sco.lt/7tKynJ

 

Furthermore, studies have shown that personality is to a certain extent hereditary. Personality traits and disorders are often shared by close family members http://sco.lt/5OSAZl

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Scientists have pinpointed where HIV originated

Scientists have pinpointed where HIV originated | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
New research suggests HIV emerged from the Democratic Republic of the Congo's capital in the 1920s.

 

A team of scientists led by Oxford University in the UK and the University of Leuven in Belgium has reconstructed the genetic history of the HIV-1 group M pandemic, which is the strain that affects the world today.

 

The research has revealed that the common ancestor of the group M strain originated in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, between 1909 and 1930, and also explained some of the circumstances that led to it becoming the pandemic that’s now infected almost 75 million people to date.

 

“For the first time we have analysed all the available evidence using the latest phylogeographic techniques, which enable us to statistically estimate where a virus comes from. This means we can say with a high degree of certainty where and when the HIV pandemic originated.”

 

But importantly, the scientists also found out what caused the virus to become a pandemic. HIV actually transferred from monkeys and apes into humans at least 13 times that scientists are aware of of, but only one of these events led to the human pandemic.

 

Previous theories have suggested that perhaps the HIV-1 group M was genetically different to other HIV strains, or that demographic growth may have played a role in its spread.  But the researchers found that there was in fact a “perfect storm” of factors that led to this particular event triggering the global pandemic we now face - these factors include urban growth, strong railway links across the Democratic Republic of the Congo during Belgium’s rule, public health initiatives that led to the unsafe use of needles and changes to the sex trade.

 

This caused the virus to spread extremely quickly across the Democratic Republic of Congo - a country the size of Western Europe - and allowed it to spread to other continents.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140310-26279.html

 

Read the research article published in Science here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/346/6205/56.abstract

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Patient zero of the current Ebola outbreak has also been identified http://sco.lt/5PtlK5

 

The challenge now would be preventing it from becoming a pandemic like HIV.

 

More scoops on HIV research can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=HIV

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Woman found functioning without a cerebellum in her brain

Woman found functioning without a cerebellum in her brain | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Doctors have discovered that somehow, a woman living in China has reached the age of 24 while missing a large part of her brain. They say this is evidence of how incredibly adaptable our brains can be.

 

When a woman checked herself into the PLA General Hospital in China's Shandong Province, she reported symptoms of dizziness and nausea. She’d had a shaky walk for most of her life, and unlike most people, who learn to walk when they’re very young infants, she was only able to master this skill at seven years old. She was also only able to speak properly from the age of six.

 

According to Helen Thomson at New Scientist, once the doctors performed a CAT scan - which combines information from several X-rays to produce a comprehensive image of structures inside the brain - the source problem was immediately made clear. The woman’s entirecerebellum was missing, and in its place was nothing but cerebrospinal fluid, which is a special substance that protects the brain from damaging knocks and disease.

 

The cerebellum makes up 10 percent of the brain’s total volume, but contains 50 percent of its neurons. It sits beneath the brain’s two hemispheres, and is made up of a unique combination of small and compact tissue folds. It plays a crucial role in motor control and speech, and there’s evidence to suggest that it’s involved in cognitive functions such as attention and language, and perhaps even in mitigating feelings of fear and pleasure. 

 

While this woman is not the first person born without a cerebellum, she is just one of nine people known to have survived to adulthood without it. "A detailed description of how the disorder affects a living adult is almost non-existent, say doctors from the Chinese hospital, because most people with the condition die at a young age and the problem is only discovered on autopsy,” says Thomson at New Scientist.

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141209-26167.html

 

The associated research article can be read here: 

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pmidlookup?view=long&pmid=25149410

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

This lady was born without a cerebellum but Miracle Mike, a chicken, survived without a head and only its cerebellum and brain stem intact http://sco.lt/7GGdIv

 

More scoops on the human brain can be read here: http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Brain

 

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Our brains can make decisions while we're sleeping

Our brains can make decisions while we're sleeping | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Your brain doesn’t shut down when you go to sleep, in fact, a recent study has shown that it remains quietly active, and can process information to help you make decisions, just like when you're awake.

 

A new study led by senior research scientist Sid Kouider and PhD student Thomas Andrillon at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris in France has investigated how active our brains are when we’re asleep, and the results could have implications for the Holy Grail of humanity's quest to become ever-smarter - learning in our sleep.

 

Previous studies have shown that rather than switching off from our environment when we sleep, our brains ‘keep one eye open’, so they can catch important information that's relevent to us. This means we’re more likely to wake up when we hear someone say our names, or when our alarms go off in the morning, than to the less-pressing sounds of an ally cat scratching around the bins outside, cars driving past, or the periodic chime of a cuckoo clock. 

 

Kouider and Andrillon wanted to take this finding a step further and found that complex stimuli from our environment can not only be processed by our brains when we sleep, but can actually be used to make decisions. It's just like what's going on in your brain when you're driving your car home every day - you have to process so much information all at once and very quickly in order to safely operate your vehicle, but you’re so used to it, you barely even notice it happening. The same concept appears to apply to our decision-making processes when we're asleep.

 

Of course, the parts in our brain associated with paying attention to and following instructions are shut down when we sleep, so we can’t start performing a new task, but what Kouider and Andrillon wanted to find out is if a task was implemented right before sleep, would the brain continue working on it even after the participant dozed off?

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20141909-26203.html

 

The associated research article In published in Current Biology can be read here: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)00994-4

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

An interesting piece of research. Other researchers have studied the potential of using dreams to come up with solutions to cognitive tasks as described here: http://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/IJoDR/article/view/6167

 

Read more scoops on the human brain here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Brain

 

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The Secret to a Perfect Body: Genetics

This Infomercial Parody Is the Perfect Answer to Every Weight Loss Ad 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A humorous parody featuring nature vs nurture. A more sciency video on talent vs training scooped here: http://sco.lt/9JBRRZ ;

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Research explains why you can’t remember being a baby

Research explains why you can’t remember being a baby | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Scientists have found the first evidence of a physical mechanism that may stop us from remembering our early childhood.

 

Researchers have long puzzled over why we can form memories when we’re babies, but then go on to have no recollection of those years - a phenomenon known as infantile amnesia. Now recent research in rodents may have found the answer. It turns out all the new cells that are constantly being formed in young brains may actually be messing with our memories.

 

Mammals generate new brain cells all the time, but when we’re babies the rate of this process, known as neurogenesis, is at its highest. Because of all the new things we experience as infants, there’s a lot of early-life action in the hippocampus in particular - the region of the brain that is associated with memories and learning.

 

Usually this type of hippocampus activity is associated with improved memory, as Susannah Locke writes for Vox. But a study led by scientists from the University of Toronto in Canada has found that in babies, the extremely high rates of neurogenesis is actually having the opposite effect and increasing forgetfulness.

 

Their research, published in Science, suggests that the new neurons being formed could be pushing out established memory circuits.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6184/598

 

Read more about how the research was conducted:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140107-25789.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Interesting research which explains why my earliest memories began at around 4 years of age. 

 

More fascinating scoops on the human brain here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Brain

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Obama: Ebola 'Could Be a Serious Danger' If U.S. Doesn't Act

Obama: Ebola 'Could Be a Serious Danger' If U.S. Doesn't Act | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
'We have to make this a national security priority'

 

President Barack Obama said the United States must lead the international community in containing the spread of Ebola in Africa, warning there could be a long-term threat to the homeland if the country doesn’t act.

 

“Americans shouldn’t be concerned about the prospects of contagion here in the United States short term, because it’s not an airborne disease,” Obama said in an interview airing Sunday with NBC’s Meet The Press. But he warned that the U.S. must make the disease a priority. “If we don’t make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa but other parts of the world, there’s the prospect then that the virus mutates,” he said. “It becomes more easily transmittable. And then it could be a serious danger to the United States.”

 

Obama said U.S. troops would likely be needed to help establish isolation units and to protect aid workers. “If we do that it will still be months before it is controllable for much of Africa, but it shouldn’t hit our shores,” he said.

 

“What I’ve said, and I said this two months ago to our National Security Team, is we have to make this a national security priority,” Obama added.

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

US intervention is often not welcomed by most nations. However, this is one of the few instances where the intervention is not tied to geopolitics.

 

Read previous scoops on the current ebola outbreak:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Ebola

 

On the plus side, progress is being made with new HIV therapies:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=HIV

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Australian scientists develop photosynthetic enzyme for producing hydrogen fuel

Australian scientists develop photosynthetic enzyme for producing hydrogen fuel | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Plants use photosynthesis to turn water, carbon dioxide and sunlight into oxygen and the energy they need to power their systems. And for decades scientists have been trying to replicate this reaction in order to create biological systems that can produce cheap, clean hydrogen fuel.

 

Now, for the first time ever, scientists from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, have managed to modify a naturally occurring protein, and use it to capture energy from sunlight, a key step in photosynthesis.

 

Hydrogen has the potential to be a zero-carbon replacement for the petroleum products that we currently rely on. But up until now, we haven’t been able to find a way to create it as safely and efficiently as plants do. To replicate this step in the reaction in plants, the research team took a naturally occurring protein called ferritin, and modified it slightly. 

 

Ferritin is found in almost all living organisms, and it usually stores iron. But the team replaced iron with the common metal manganese, so that it closely resembled the water splitting site in photosynthesis. They also replaced another binding site with a light-sensitive pigment, Zinc Chlorin.

 

One of the most exciting things about this research is that, because this protein is powered by the Sun and does not require batteries or expensive metals, the entire process could be affordable for developing countries. “That carbon-free cycle is essentially indefinitely sustainable. Sunlight is extraordinarily abundant, water is everywhere – the raw materials we need to make the fuel. And at the end of the usage cycle it goes back to water

 

Their results have been published in BBA Bioenergetics.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000527281400557X

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142708-26074.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Other similar systems have been developed to convert sunlight into fuel efficiently. All of them still need to pass the most challenging hurdle i.e. economic viability. Read the scoops below:

http://www.scoop.it/t/world-of-tomorrow/?tag=Energy+Generation

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Scientists have “unexpectedly” found a vaccine that completely blocks HIV infection in monkeys

Scientists have “unexpectedly” found a vaccine that completely blocks HIV infection in monkeys | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Human trials of the surprisingly simple vaccine are now planned.

 

A new oral vaccine has been found to completely stop rhesus macaque monkeys from being infected with SIV, the monkey equivalent of HIV. The vaccine also reduced the number of SIV particles that were present in monkeys who were already infected with SIV.

The international research team, involving scientists from the Paris-Descartes University in France and the University of Chinese Medicine in Guangzhou, China, described the success of the vaccine as “surprising” and “unexpected”, mainly because it's so simple.

The new vaccine works in the opposite way to most vaccines - by suppressing, rather than triggering, an immune response. This is because HIV and SIV actually require immune cells known as CD4 T-cells in order to proliferate and establish an infection in the body.

So one of the goals in HIV prevention has been to develop a vaccine that introduces the body to the virus without causing an immune response. This requires the vaccine to somehow trick the body into thinking HIV is harmless, causing an ‘immune tolerance’ to the virus.

The scientists have now managed to do just that in monkeys, and their results are published inFrontiers in Immunology.
http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fimmu.2014.00297/abstract

 

Read more here:
http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142908-26093.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Exciting news indeed. Previously, an article describing gene therapy for HIV was scooped here: http://sco.lt/7yg3g9

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Treating Ebola: The Hunt for a Drug

Treating Ebola: The Hunt for a Drug | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Although there are currently no drugs or vaccines approved in the United States to treat or prevent Ebola, health officials have used several experimental drugs in the recent epidemic

 

The World Health Organization has said that it is ethical to use unproven drugs in the current epidemic. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has granted expanded access to several experimental drugs for use on Ebola patients. The drugs prevent replication of Ebola virus and the vaccines work by triggering an immune response. The drugs and vaccines listed here are in clinical trials and have received support for further development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


A dozen patients outside West Africa have been treated with experimental drugs. Because the sample size is small and many patients have received multiple treatments, it is difficult to determine whether a particular drug has been effective.


Doses of ZMapp were sent to Monrovia, Liberia, in August to treat three doctors who contracted Ebola. One doctor died. Currently, there are no doses of ZMapp available, and even a few months from now, there may only be a few hundred doses.

Because of the peril of the situation, W.H.O. officials agreed to prioritize convalescent blood and plasma therapies for treatment. Convalescent therapy, which injects blood from recovered patients into sick patients, has had promising results. But there are major questions about its safety and efficacy in countries with inefficient health systems and a shortage of medical staff.

 

There are currently four drugs and one vaccine which have been approved. Read more here: 

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/23/world/africa/ebola-drugs.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

After months of pain, suffering and death, treatment for Ebola may be at hand.

 

Read more scoops on the current Ebola outbreak and other novel therapies here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Novel+Therapies

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Ebola

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Largest study on resuscitated patients hints at consciousness after death

Largest study on resuscitated patients hints at consciousness after death | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
The largest medical study ever performed on near-death experiences has led researchers to suggest that consciousness can last up to three minutes after a person’s heart and brain have shut down.

 

The idea that consciousness can continue on after your heart stops beating and your brain stops functioning is a pretty wild one, and naturally courts a lot of scepticism. But the more scientists study the supposed phenomenon, the more certain trends are reinforced, giving us a glimpse into what actually might occur when we die. 


A team of scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK has just finished a four-year study of 2,060 people who experienced cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals across the UK, the US, and Austria. Having conducted interviews with each of the 330 people who survived about their memories of the event, the researchers found that 40 percent of them felt ‘aware’ for the period of time that they were declared clinically dead. The medical staff at the hospitals successfully restarted their hearts so they could live to tell the tale. 

 

According to The National Post, one man participating in the study described the feeling that he was watching his treatment from the corner of the room, while a female participant was able to recount exactly the actions of the nursing staff that resurrected her over a three-minute period. She could even very accurately describe the sound of the machines that surrounded her ‘dead’ body.


“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating, but in this case conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds after the heart has stopped,” Sam Parnia, the study leader and a former assistant professor of medicine at Southampton University, told The National Post. He’s now based at the State University of New York in the US. 

 

“Estimates have suggested that millions of people have had vivid experiences in relation to death, but the scientific evidence has been ambiguous at best,” Parnia told The National Post. “Many people have assumed that these were hallucinations or illusions, but they do seem to correspond to actual events. These experiences warrant further investigation.”

 

Of course, any research into what actually goes on after death will always be controversial, due to the enormous difficulties in gathering enough evidence to support much of anything that’s scientifically sound, but studies like this are at least an intriguing starting point. 

 

The study was published in the journal Resuscitation.

http://www.resuscitationjournal.com/article/S0300-9572(14)00765-5/abstract


Read more here:

http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20140810-26301.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Death and what comes after has fascinated mankind since the dawn of religion. Unfortunately the existence of an afterlife is very difficult to prove or disprove and the lack of disproving evidence is often taken as reinforcement of the eternal soul.

 

Another series of scientific studies have also showed that the month you were born in could influence your mood and personality. A very good read for those interested in astrology http://sco.lt/71ch4j

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Ebola by the numbers: The size, spread and cost of an outbreak [Infographic]

Ebola by the numbers: The size, spread and cost of an outbreak [Infographic] | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
As the virus continues to rampage in West Africa, Nature’s graphic offers a guide to the figures that matter.

 

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to rage, with the number of people infected roughly doubling every 3–4 weeks. More than 8,000 people are thought to have contracted the disease, and almost half of those have died, according to the World Health Organization. Although these estimates are already staggering, the situation on the ground means that not all cases and deaths are being reported, so the true extent is likely to be much greater.


Outside of Africa, a health-care worker in Texas has become infected while treating a patient who was hospitalized in Dallas after travelling from Liberia and who has now died. And a nurse in Madrid has contracted the virus after caring for a missionary who had become infected while caring for patients in West Africa. Health-care workers remain one of the groups at highest risk of exposure: by 8 October, 416 had become infected and 233 had died.


 Meanwhile, the estimated cost of fighting the disease is spiralling upward. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon warned on 9 October that “at least a 20-fold surge in assistance” was needed to confront the outbreak. But “things will get worse before they get better", he warned. Just how much worse will depend on the international community — which has been widely criticized for its belated response, and its slow translation of pledges into concrete action.


The spread beyond the epicentre of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone remains limited. Apart from the people in Dallas and Spain, only two other exported cases are known: one in Nigeria and one in Senegal. A man who travelled to Lagos from Liberia sparked a further 19 cases in Nigeria, but that outbreak was curtailed by the swift actions of the authorities in tracing and monitoring those who had contact with the infected man. Similar public-health measures stopped further cases in Senegal after an infected man travelled from Guinea to Dakar.

 

 Within the epicentre, authorities have made some progress in slowing transmission — but the disease is resurgent in places where it had seemed under control, such as in Conakry, Guinea’s capital.

 

Check out more infographics here:

http://www.nature.com/news/ebola-by-the-numbers-the-size-spread-and-cost-of-an-outbreak-1.16144

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

That the spread is mostly limited to one to two persons per infected individual is rather reassuring. However, the cost of fighting the disease is increasing at an alarming rate!

 

More scoops covering the current Ebola outbreak can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Ebola

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Meet Miracle Mike, the Colorado Chicken who lived for 18 months without his head

Meet Miracle Mike, the Colorado Chicken who lived for 18 months without his head | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Mike meet everyone, everyone meet Mike. No, no, don’t wave. He can’t see, you’re just making this awkward.

 

Also known as Miracle Mike, Mike the Headless Chicken was a plump, five-year-old cockerel when he was unceremoniously beheaded on 10 September 1945. Farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita in Colorado did the deed because his wife Clara was having her mother over for dinner that night, and Olsen knew she’d always enjoyed a bit of roast chicken neck. With that in mind, Olsen tried to save most of Mike’s neck as he lopped his head off, but in doing so, he accidentally made his axe miss Mike’s jugular vein, plus one ear and most of his brain stem, and to his surprise, Mike didn’t die.

 

In fact, Mike stuck around for a good 18 months without his head. Immediately after it happened, Mike reeled around like any headless chicken would, but soon settled down. He even started pecking at the ground for food with his newly minted stump, and made preening motions. His crows had become throaty gurglings. Olsen, bewildered, left him to it. The next morning, when Olsen found Mike asleep in the barn, having attempted to tuck his head under his wing as he always had, the farmer took it upon himself to figure out how to feed this unwitting monstrosity. Mike had earned that much.

 

All Olsen had to do was deposit food and water into Mike’s exposed oesophagus via a little eyedropper. He even got small grains of corn sometimes as a treat.

 

Mike’s unlikely survival has everything to do with how his skeleton was shaped, Wayne J. Kuenzel, a poultry physiologist and neurobiologist at the University of Arkansas, told Rebecca Katzman at Modern Farmer. Because a chicken’s skull includes two huge holes for holding its eyes in place, its brain fits snuggly into the remaining space at a 45-degree angle. This means you could slice the top bit of the brain off while still leaving a good portion – with the cerebellum and the brain stem – behind. “Because the brain is at that angle,” Kuenzel told Katzman, “you still have the functional part that’s so critical for survival intact.”

 

Unfortunately, because he could not chew, Mike eventually choked to death but not before making his owner a lot of money.

 

Read more here: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/2014/09/26/meet-miracle-mike-the-colorado-chicken-who-lived-for-18-months-without-his-head/

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Mike survived with mostly his cerebellum and the brain stem intact. However, a lady from China was found to be born without a cerebellum http://sco.lt/5yVB69

 

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This needle-coated capsule could replace injections

This needle-coated capsule could replace injections | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Scientists have successfully invented a pill coated with tiny needles that could eliminate the need for injections. 

 

Many drugs cannot be taken orally as they get broken down in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract by enzymes before they're absorbed. Until now, these drugs have had to be delivered via injection, which can be painful, and previous attempts to ‘encapsulate’ them have been expensive, impractical and ultimately unsuccessful.  

 

But there may be a better solution. Published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have collaborated with the Massachusetts General Hospital to design an acrylic capsule that's covered with tiny stainless steel needles.

 

The capsule can be swallowed, and once it reaches the GI tract, the pH-sensitive coating dissolves, uncovering the small micro-needles. The drug is then released into these needles, which slowly inject it directly into the stomach lining. Thankfully, as there are no pain receptors in the GI tract, this process is painless.

 

“The kinetics are much better, and much faster-onset, than those seen with traditional under-the-skin administration,” said Giovanni Traverso, one of the lead researchers of the study.

 

This new method of drug delivery can potentially redefine the face of immunisation and other needle-administered practises. The real question is, will people feel more comfortable with many small needles inside of them, as opposed to one large one outside of them?

 

Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140410-26284.html

 

Read the associated research article here: 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jps.24182/abstract

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

In addition to administering intravenous drugs, the technique may also be used to make oral drug more bioavailable i.e. more readily assimilated by the intestines.

 

Read more scoops on novel therapies here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Novel+Therapies

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IDH inhibitors for when citric acid causes cancer

IDH inhibitors for when citric acid causes cancer | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
When one single mutation strikes, citric acid changes from a metabolic chemical to a carcinogen. New drugs from Agios Pharmaceuticals will reverse this.

 

Citric acid is a molecule central to human life. Most people know it as the reason why citrus fruits have a sour, tarty taste. Scientists know it as as the molecule at the central node of human metabolism. Because of its central role, biology can go haywire when citric acid is mishandled by its enzyme, Isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH1/2).

 

This enzyme is normally responsible for catalyzing the conversion of citric acid to α-ketoglutarate, a metabolic chemical. When a simple mutation in the enzyme occurs, the citric acid is instead converted to 2-hydroxyglutarate, a carcinogenic chemical. 2-hydroxyglutarate is able to alter DNA like many other carcinogenic compounds. In doing so, it will often turn off a cell’s safeguards against cancer.


This is where the drugs developed by Agios Pharmaceuticals become relevant. Two drugs, AG-221 and AG-120,  were invented that had profound effects on reversing brain cancer or CML in preclinical trials. Meanwhile, neither drug affects normal citrate metabolism, a necessity for success in clinical trials.

 

Since these initial studies, both drugs have entered into phase I clinical trials, where safety profiles and preliminary effectiveness of the drugs are gauged. Preliminary data showed that 60% of patients responded to AG-221 therapy, while results from the trial of AG-120 are set to be announced at the AACR’s late breaking drug presentation on November 19th.

 

Read more about the clinical trials of the two IDH inhibitors here: http://www.breakingbio.org/citric-acid-causes-cancer-agios-pharmaceuticals-idh-inhibitors/

 

The associated research articles published in Science can be read here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6132/622.abstract

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6132/626.abstract

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

An interesting method of treating cancer, which does not involve killing cancer cells directly nor inhibiting cellular division. Thanks @Breaking Bio for suggesting this scoop.

 

More scoop on cancer therapies can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Cancer

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Susan Walker-Meere's curator insight, October 7, 11:50 AM

Without researching the similarities between the acid (citric) used in the study and our own bodily acidity due to stress, foods/drinks, etc., I wonder at the correlation between the purposeful de-acidification - alkalizing of the body by ingesting alkalizing foods, and other modalities known to decrease acidity in urine and blood samples, and the regression of cancers in individuals who have use this method.

Rescooped by Eric Chan Wei Chiang from Social Neuroscience Advances
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The Memory Fades, The Emotion Remains

The Memory Fades, The Emotion Remains | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

People with Alzheimer’s disease can experience severe memory impairments.However, according to a new study, the emotions associated with events can persist long after the events themselves have been forgotten.

 

In their paper, the researchers, University of Iowa neurologists Edmarie Guzman-Velez and colleagues, showed volunteers a series of emotional video clips, chosen to be either very sad or very happy.

The eight sad clips, for example, included an excerpt from the movie Sophie’s Choice (1982) in which ‘a woman is forced to choose which of her children to keep at a Nazi concentration camp’. The happy videos, by contrast, featured such classics as ‘a collage of funny scenes with babies’ from America’s Funniest Home Videos.

 

Half of the participants had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while half were healthy controls, matched for age and gender. Memory tests showed that the Alzheimer’s patients could recall few details of the sad film clips, even just minutes after watching them. Four of the patients couldn’t recall any facts about the movies, and one didn’t remember watching any video clips at all.

 

Despite this:  The patients with Alzheimer’s reported feeling elevated levels of sadness that lasted for up to 30 minutes after the films, despite having little or no recollection of the content… Across all participants, the correlation between memory performance and sadness during the final rating was significant, but in a negative direction (r = 0.37, n = 34). This paradoxical effect actually suggests that the less the patients remembered about the films, the longer their sadness lasted.


Despite their severe memory impairment, all 4 patients who could not recollect any details about the films reported sustained feelings of sadness after the memory test, and 3 reported feeling sad even 30 minutes later.

 

Read more here:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2014/09/27/memory-fades-emotion-remains/

 

The associated research article can be read here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25237742

 


Via Jocelyn Stoller
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Be kind to the elderly, their mind may not be what it once was but their feelings are still as vivid as ever. 

 

This research validates what leadership gurus have been propagating, people remember how you made them feel even if they forget what you did http://sco.lt/4sagID

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Cane toad poison kills prostate cancer cells

Cane toad poison kills prostate cancer cells | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Researchers find cane toad poison kills off prostate cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

 

Cane toads were deliberately introduced to Queensland in 1935 but multiplied quickly and became a pest. They arrived in the Northern Territory in 1984, and in 2001 moved into Kakadu National Park where they have caused major environmental damage. The toads are poisonous to many native animals and have also crossed into Western Australia and northern New South Wales.

 

Dr Harendra Parekh from the University of Queensland said a student had discovered Australia's toad to be similar to the Asiatic toad which has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. "We have what we believe is a selectively toxic agent which can kill tumour cells but spare healthy cells," he said.

 

In China medicine made from toad poison is called chan su and is used to treat heart failure, sore throats, skin conditions and other ailments. During her studies PhD student Dr Jing Jing was able to show that the poison from cane toads was very effective at killing cancer cells, and in particular prostate cancer cells, Dr Parekh said.

 

But while the drug has been used for a long time in Asia it can be dangerous in its raw form, and Dr Parekh and his team had been trying to make the drug more soluble. "Once we determine that the toxicity has been sustained, even after increasing solubility, the next stage will involve packaging it in innovative drug delivery systems, sent to cancer tissue," he said.

 

Read more here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-17/cane-toad-venom-attacks-cancer-cells/5750114

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Interesting how a traditional remedy can be developed into a potential therapy.

 

Read more scoops on novel therapies here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Novel+Therapies

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How Your Brain Works: Jumping to Conclusions

Ever wonder how your brain processes information? These brain tricks and illusions help to demonstrate the two main systems of Fast and Slow Thinking in your brain. 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Really cool video illustrating why we often jump to conclusions. 

 

More science trivia scooped here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Trivia

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Bacteria found in bees show potential as an alternative to antibiotics

Bacteria found in bees show potential as an alternative to antibiotics | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it
Scientists have shown that a unique group of bacteria found in the stomach of bees can fight antibiotic-resistant superbugs in the lab.

 

Antibiotic resistance is an increasingly serious problem in the western world, and in April this year, the World Health Organisation declared it a major threat to public health. For centuries, people have used raw honey to help fight infections, but scientists have struggled to figure out what gives it its antimicrobial properties.

 

Now a team of researchers from Lund University in Sweden has identified a unique group of 13 lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that come from the honey stomach of bees, and are found in fresh honey, that have an impressive ability to fight pathogens. The honey stomach is one of two stomachs found in bees, and it stores nectar, which worker bees later suck out and store in the hive.

 

Together, these live bacteria produce a number of active microbial compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide, fatty acids and anaesthetics, that can kill other harmful bacteria - it’s believed that this is the formula that protects the bee colony against collapse. Unfortunately, these LAB are processed out of the honey we buy in shops, but the researchers now believe they could be used to help treat anitibiotic resistance.

 

The team tested the bee bacteria in the lab against pathogen strains that cause serious infections in humans, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which can lead to fatal staph infections. The LAB was added to these superbugs and, impressively, it counteracted all of them.

 

The results are published in the International Wound Journal.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/iwj.12345/full

 

Read more here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20141009-26155.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

A fairly interesting study given the rise of antibiotic resistance. Scoops on other alternatives to antibiotics can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Post-Antibiotic

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Alzheimer’s to be treated with the blood of those under-30

Alzheimer’s to be treated with the blood of those under-30 | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Alzheimer’s patients in the US will be given transfusions of young people's blood as part of a promising new treatment that’s nowhere near as crazy as it sounds.

 

This October, people with mild to moderate levels of Alzheimer’s disease will receive a transfusion of blood plasma from donors aged under 30.  The trial, run by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine in the US, follows their revolutionary study involving lab mice, where the blood plasma of young mice was injected into old mice, resulting in a marked improvement in their physical endurance and cognitive function. Completed earlier this year, their research, combined with independent studies by a handful of research teams around the world, pin-pointed a plasma-borne protein called growth differentiation factor 11 - or GDF11 - as a key factor in the young blood’s powers of rejuvenation.


"We saw these astounding effects,” lead researcher and professor of neurology at Stanford, Tony Wyss-Coray, told Helen Thomson at New Scientist. "The human blood had beneficial effects on every organ we've studied so far."

 

Getting approval for their October trial has been fairly straightforward, he said, because blood transfusion therapy has such a long history of safe use in medical procedures, but the team will still keep a very careful eye on how the patients are progressing once they’ve received the young blood. "We will assess cognitive function immediately before and for several days after the transfusion, as well as tracking each person for a few months to see if any of their family or carers report any positive effects," he told Thomson at New Scientist. "The effects might be transient, but even if it's just for a day it is a proof of concept that is worth pursuing.”

 

Read more here:

http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20142108-26046.html


Research article published in Nature Medicine can be read here:

http://www.nature.com/nm/journal/v20/n6/full/nm.3569.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Weird but true, the findings sound almost like the premise for a science fiction film. 

 

Read more scoops on novel therapies here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Novel+Therapies

 

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Brain regeneration: Crayfish turn blood into neurons

Brain regeneration: Crayfish turn blood into neurons | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

Think crayfish and you probably think supper, perhaps with mayo on the side. You probably don’t think of their brains. Admittedly, crayfish aren’t known for their grey matter, but that might be about to change: they can grow new brain cells from blood.

 

Humans can make new neurons, but only from specialised stem cells. Crayfish, meanwhile, can convert blood to neurons that resupply their eyestalks and smell circuits. Although it’s a long way from crayfish to humans, the discovery may one day help us to regenerate our own brain cells.

 

Olfactory nerves are continuously exposed to damage and so naturally regenerate in many animals, from flies to humans, and crustaceans too. It makes sense that crayfish have a way to replenish these nerves. To do so, they utilise what amounts to a “nursery” for baby neurons, a little clump at the base of the brain called the niche.

 

In crayfish, blood cells are attracted to the niche. On any given day, there are a hundred or so cells in this area. Each cell will split into two daughter cells, precursors to full neurons, both of which migrate out of the niche. Those that are destined to be part of the olfactory system head to two clumps of nerves in the brain called clusters 9 and 10. It’s there that the final stage of producing new smell neurons is completed.

 

Read more here:

https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/brain-regeneration-crayfish-turn-blood-into-neurons/

 

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

More scoops on science trivia can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Trivia

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Riots in Liberia and recovery of both US Ebola patients

Riots in Liberia and recovery of both US Ebola patients | Biotech and Beyond | Scoop.it

One of the US aid workers who recovered from an Ebola infection is "thrilled to be alive" as he and another patient are discharged from hospital. Dr Kent Brantly, 33, thanked supporters for their prayers at a news conference in Atlanta. Nancy Writebol, 59, was discharged on Tuesday.

 

Meanwhile, South Africa on Thursday said non-citizens arriving from Ebola-affected areas of West Africa - the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - would not be allowed into the country.

And police in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, fired live rounds and tear gas during protests after a quarantine was imposed to contain the spread of the deadly virus. 

 

The attack on the quarantine centre in Liberia, in Monrovia's densely populated West Point township, took place on Saturday evening. There are conflicting reports over what sparked the riot, in which medical supplies were stolen.

 

While scientists are rushing to develop a drug that combats or prevents an Ebola infection, there is currently no cure on the market. It is one of the deadliest diseases in the world, and during this outbreak - which has killed 1,300 people in West Africa alone - the fatality rate has been between 50 and 60 percent. If left untreated, the rate skyrockets to around 90 percent.

 

But both Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol received an experimental treatment known as ZMapp. The drug, which has only been made in extremely limited quantities, had never been tested on humans and it remains unclear if it is responsible for their recovery. ZMapp was also given to a Spanish priest, who died, and three Liberian health workers, who are showing signs of improvement.

 

Read more about Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol's recovery as well as the riots in Liberia below:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-28885753

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28841040

http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20142208-26053.html

Eric Chan Wei Chiang's insight:

Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol were the first two patients who recovered after receiving ZMapp treatment. With so little evidence, it would not be prudent to assume that the drug produced in limited quantities would be able to curb the outbreak.

 

Nonetheless, the treatment offer hope and there is need of hope as given the fear, desperation and anguish taking hold of West Point, Liberia.

 

Read more scoops on the recent Ebola outbreak here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Ebola

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