A new study has found that sugars in mother’s’ milk do not just provide nutrition for babies but also help protect them from bacterial infections, making them a new class of antimicrobial agent.
Treatment of tuberculosis involves a combination of several drugs, sometimes including drugs from a class known as fluoroquinolones. Using computer simulations, scientists have shown that the fluoroquinolone known as moxifloxacin may be superior to two other commonly used fluoroquinolones.
Closthioamide, discovered in 2010, might eventually offer an alternative for current drugs that are becoming less effective against gonorrhoea, report investigators.
Dear E. Jean: I’ve recently been offered a job as a figure model for an art class. But even before I begin to stress about how my naked body will look on paper, I’m aware that this will not be okay with my boyfriend.
I was asked to be part of a comedy sketch on a network show (on account of my “great butt”), and it was quite humorous and well paying. But my boyfriend protested and said (sweetly!) he didn’t want other people ogling me. So I turned down the network. I quit my corporate job because I was overworked and unhappy. I’ve been looking for something less demanding, and this would pay the bills and be a part-time gig. But I feel guilty for even being interested in it and, worse, being interested enough to think of doing it without his knowledge. Am I wrong? Or is he? What would you do?—Art Girl
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Art Girl: Bah! Take the job. Let us articulate the reasons:
The Frida Kahlo. Art Girls don’t require a man’s permission.
The Artemisia Gentileschi. Art Girls scoff at this pure male bullshit about “ogling” and recognize it for what it is: dudes’ insecurity, stupidity, fear, and the oldest way to lash women into submission. (And Artemisia Gentileschi knew from male drivel. She was tortured—with thumbscrews!—when she brought a claim of rape in 1612 against a fellow painter, Agostino Tassi. She kept her thumbs and won her case; Tassi has gone down in history not as a great artist, but as the rapist of the sublime painter Artemisia.)
The Georgia O’Keeffe. Art Girls know that being a model has nothing to do with them “personally” (as O’Keeffe, who posed nude for hundreds of photos by Alfred Stieglitz, put it). It’s about shadows, lines, light, color. It’s less sexual than an IRS audit.
The Duchess of Alba. Art Girls know that if they are painted by an important artist, they will live on after their deaths. I can’t prove it, but my theory is Doña María del Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva-Álvarez de Toledo y Silva, 13th Duchess of Alba and the richest woman in Spain, paid Francisco de Goya to paint her naked form. She now hangs in the Prado.
Ninety-nine percent of boyfriends are not gonna like the live modeling, but 99 percent of boyfriends don’t realize that you’re ogled a thousand times more often when walking down the street than when you’re posing for students in a class. You caved on the comedy sketch, and with it, the opportunity to meet captivating people, enjoy a hilarious experience, and create more network ops. Don’t make the same mistake again.
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.
Older adults who consume alcohol moderately on a regular basis are more likely to live to the age of 85 without dementia or other cognitive impairments than non-drinkers, according to a new study.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists has demonstrated optical and electronic evidence of semiconductor-to-metallic phase transition when exposed to airborne chemical vapors, and how the behavior can be used to create an entirely new class of chemical vapor sensors.
A ground-breaking new class of oral drugs for treating breast cancer, known as cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors, are generally well-tolerated, with a manageable toxicity profile for most patients. This is the conclusion of a comprehensive review of toxicities and drug interactions related to this class of drugs.
Beta blockers are commonly used world-wide to treat a variety of cardiovascular conditions, such as arrhythmias and heart failure. Scientists have known for decades that the medications work by slowing the heart rate and reducing the force of contraction — lessening the burden of work carried out by the heart. However, new research out of York University has now shown that these drugs also reverse a number of potentially detrimental genetic changes associated with heart disease.
Using an experimental model of heart failure and next generation sequencing to get a snapshot of all of the RNA in the heart cells, the researchers identified the global gene expression changes that occur in heart failure. Then they explored what happened to this pattern of gene expression when beta blocker treatment was implemented, and what they found not only surprised them, but could have important ramifications for future treatments of heart disease.
“We discovered that beta blockers largely reverse the pathological pattern of gene expression observed in heart failure,” said Faculty of Science Professor John McDermott, who led the research, along with York U collaborators Professor Gary Sweeney and Professor Jorg Grigull. “This could mean that the reversal or suppression of pathological gene expression by beta blockers is somehow protective against heart failure, but it’s something we would need to look into further to understand how individual genes function in the heart.”
Interestingly, the study also found that some genes associated with the immune system were dysregulated in heart failure, supporting recent research that has suggested the immune system and inflammation are involved in heart disease.
About 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure, and the disease is expected to rise as more people survive heart attacks and other heart conditions and continue to live longer.
McDermott and his team have identified genes that will be further explored for their potential use in diagnosis and treatment in heart failure.
The study, “Heart Failure and MEF2 Transcriptome Dynamics in Response to B-Blockers,” was published today in Nature Scientific Reports.
Materials provided by York University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Schools that provide prevention education, insecticide-treated nets and antimalarial treatment, in regions where malaria is highly seasonal, could reduce the risk of schoolchildren developing anaemia and improve their cognitive performance, according to new research published in BMJ Global Health.
The randomised study involved nearly 2,000 schoolchildren in Mali and was conducted by Save the Children in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the National Institute for Public Health Research in Mali.
It found schoolchildren who received a malaria control package delivered by teachers were more than 95%¹ less likely to be infected with malaria parasites than a control group (25/897 intervention schools, 737/951 control schools), and 44%² less likely to be anaemic (321/931 intervention schools, 418/930 control schools), with the benefits lasting until the end of the school year. The schoolchildren’s ability to pay attention for longer was also improved. There was no evidence of impact on other performance measures.
With governments increasingly recognising the importance of child health for educational achievement³, these findings support growing evidence that malaria control strategies in Africa should be formally introduced for schoolchildren, as well as the under five age group.
Malaria kills thousands of young children in Africa every year and there is growing evidence that the disease can also impair the development and educational performance of schoolchildren. Malaria infection is often more common in older children yet they are rarely targeted by malaria control methods. This is because by the time they start school they are likely to have acquired immunity through repeated infection with the malaria parasite, making them less likely to die.
However, many schoolchildren continue to harbour malaria parasites without displaying any symptoms of the disease. These asymptomatic infections frequently go unrecognised and untreated leading to anaemia, which may cause tiredness and decreased attention in class, potentially affecting school performance.
Children aged 6-14 years in 80 schools in southern Mali took part in the randomised study — the first to evaluate a malaria control package combining prevention methods and intermittent parasite clearance delivered by schools (IPCs) in an area where the disease is highly seasonal.
Prior to the start of the malaria transmission season, half the schools provided long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) and taught children how to use them effectively. At the end of the transmission season they were then given one round of the antimalarial drug combination artesunate and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. The control schools just received LLINs as part of Mali’s national universal net distribution programme. Both groups were tested for Plasmodium malaria infection and anaemia, and a sample of older children aged 9-12 years undertook a series of cognitive tests.
Lead researcher Dr Sian Clarke from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: “Malaria transmission in the sub-Sahel is highly seasonal with new infections concentrated within a few months each year. Interventions delivered during this period will have maximum impact, however little evidence exists on the best malaria control strategies for schoolchildren, and how these might vary between different malaria transmission settings.
“This low-cost three-pronged approach delivered through schools had significant health benefits and could potentially improve educational performance through boosting a child’s ability to pay attention in class. Crucially, these benefits lasted until the beginning of the next transmission season, suggesting that a single annual dose of antimalarial drugs could help protect children in the sub-Sahel from anaemia throughout the entire school year. We also found schoolchildren who received education in malaria prevention used their nets more often and for longer. This will help protect them from acquiring new infections during the rainy season when schools are closed.”
The approach may have an additional role in overall malaria control by cutting infections in schoolchildren, an age group that makes-up a sizeable proportion of the African population.
Dr Clarke said: “Reducing the number of malaria parasites in schoolchildren also decreases the risk of infection for other people who live in the same community. Malaria control strategies should be an integral component of education and school health plans in countries where malaria is endemic.”
The study was conducted in primary schools in the Sikasso region, south-eastern Mali as part of Save the Children’s school health and nutrition programme which aims to address key health problems that prevent children from participating and learning in school. Since the study was completed, Save the Children, in partnership with the National Malaria Control Programme in Mali, has expanded the programme to reach over 400 schools in Sikasso region.
Natalie Roschnik, Senior Nutrition Advisor at Save the Children and a co-author of the study, said: “Save the Children has been implementing a school health and nutrition programme in Sikasso, Mali for nearly 20 years. Malaria and anaemia have been ongoing problems that we were unable to address until this study was conducted. Children were regularly dying of malaria, and anaemia rates remained at 50%, even after children were given iron supplements. We didn’t expect that just one malaria treatment a year, delivered by teachers with malaria prevention education, could have such a dramatic impact on children.
“The treatment therefore supports the goals of three sectors all at once; malaria, nutrition and education. Preventing anaemia in schoolgirls is particularly important in Mali because teenage marriage and pregnancy is so common. A girl who is anaemic when pregnant is more likely to have a low birth weight child with developmental delays and is at greater risk of dying too. This is a highly cost-effective intervention that we hope will be taken to scale by the government soon.”
The authors acknowledge limitations of the study including that they could not separate the effects of each component of the intervention.
The billion-year-old primordial system by which early life forms protected themselves against viral infection can still be found in human cells, despite the presence of the much more sophisticated and powerful defense system that humans overwhelmingly depend on, say researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. That ancient system, as simple as it is, might form the basis of the next era of precision medicine, if scientists can design beneficial viruses to use it to deliver a drug or therapy directly to diseased tissue, the researchers said.
In the study, published online on June 28 in the journal Nature, the team of researchers led by Benjamin R. tenOever, PhD, Fishberg Professor of Medicine and Director of the Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR) at the Icahn School of Medicine, traced the evolution of three generations of antiviral defense systems they say goes back to the first prokaryotes — simple organisms consisting of a single cell without a nucleus or mitochondria.
They say it appears possible to design self-replicating RNAs that take advantage of this ancient system originally designed for defending cells against viruses so that a therapeutic can be delivered to diseased tissue. By exploiting this primordial system, RNA can be engineered to have the desired properties of a virus without engaging our more modern and, in this case, unwelcomed immune response.
“This discovery reveals how life evolved and the influence pathogens can have on shaping the trajectory of this evolution. Our ancient cellular ancestors had to evolve ways to fight off viruses. As viruses evolved, so too did these systems,” says Dr. tenOever.
“We can now take advantage of the existence of this ancient antiviral system — a genetic fossil — to build therapeutic vectors or RNAs that can achieve new therapeutic goals with greater precision than ever before. That includes delivering or editing genes, proteins, or other therapeutic molecules directly to a target or tissue in need.”
To get to this point, Dr. tenOever and his team, which includes researchers from the Universities of Maryland and Pennsylvania and from France’s Institut Pasteur, had to trace back the evolution of three generations of antiviral defense systems they say may go back to the first prokaryotes.
They say the first defense system arose in cells that were infected by only one type of virus that was made of DNA. In these cells, some of the basic building blocks for life involved trimming special RNAs for a myriad of essential cellular processes. That tool was essentially a family of protein scissors called RNase III nucleases. They were used for many cellular functions but were adapted as an antiviral defense machine when eukaryotes — cells of a more modern type, with nuclei and mitochondria — and RNA viruses came onto the scene, says Dr. tenOever.
The war between pathogens and humans, among other life forms, then intensified and antiviral defenses evolved rapidly, quickly rendering this simple RNase III-based system ineffective. In its place, multiple other defense systems have developed, ultimately resulting in something called the interferon system now in use. “The interferon system, unlike the RNase III defense, is a protein-based effort, instead of RNA-based, and it makes hundreds of thousands of different components that all try to fight a virus in different ways, but there is still a direct evolutionary connection between these systems. All the major players in these pathways are related to each other, and a little bit of the early RNase III version still exists in our cells,” says Dr. tenOever. “Life in general never invents new things but just repurposes the old.”
The platform he is studying now uses engineered viruses or simple self-replicating RNAs that are extremely susceptible to this RNase III nuclease defense system. The scientists believe they can control the susceptibility of RNA or artificial viruses to this defense so that they have enough time to deliver a desired payload, whether it involves gene editing or therapeutic delivery of a biologic treatment.
Dr. tenOever and his collaborators had observed through experimentation many things that related to this ancient defense system, but they had had a difficult time explaining the underlying cause for what was being observed. Those initial discoveries, and the technologies that were enabled as a result, led to a $1 million 2012 Presidential Award to Dr. tenOever to give him the resources to put it all together and trace the evolutionary history of anti-viral defense systems, which he has done in this Nature paper.