The Post-Election Blues

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The presidential and vice presidential candidates have been the objects of a national obsession.(Doug Mills/The New York Times and Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

The New York Times, November 5, 2008 — For months, the presidential election has been a national obsession. News junkies have scoured political Web sites and woven political references into every conversation. Saturday nights have been devoted to Tina Fey, and even our dreams have been invaded by Gov. Sarah Palin. A friend of mine became so engrossed in political coverage that she once forgot to pick up her son at school.

But now what? The election is over, and the media has begun to weigh in on the post-election letdown that many Americans will no doubt experience in the next few days.

“A lot of people, especially a number of my colleagues and friends, have been describing themselves as political junkies; they’re always going to blogs and cable news networks,” said Jefferson Singer, who teaches psychology at Connecticut College, as quoted in the Hartford Courant. “Like any junkie, I think they’re going to go through withdrawal.”

In The Morning News, psychologists are predicting that legions of people all across America “will find a hole in their lives and time on their hands.”

“We are all absolutely obsessed with Sarah Palin,” said Dr. Sheenah Hankin, Manhattan psychotherapist and author of “Complete Confidence: A Handbook.” “I’ve never seen this before. Even my patients want to talk about her all the time. After Election Day, even if we are relieved [by the results], we can expect to feel a huge sense of loss.”

The San Francisco Chronicle compared the post-election blues to the day after Christmas.

For everyone from pollsters to pundits to a public that’s been immersed in a historic and closely monitored campaign for nearly two years, election day also represents the end of a long and exhausting story line. Is the country in for an emotional and psychological letdown now that the climax finally has arrived?

“This year more than in a very long time, come the day after the election, it’s going to feel like the entire nation has woken up in a collective political equivalent of Dec. 26,” predicts Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “The presents look more promising before they’re opened. The tree is starting to look a little funky. Reality sets in.”

From The San Jose Mercury News:

“This is a campaign in which virtually everyone is engaged and following it in some form,” says Chris Lehane, press secretary to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. “The day after, there’s always an enormous emotional letdown. And I think the whole country is going to go through it this time.”

The online magazine Slate offers advice for those struggling to fill their time in the aftermath of Nov. 4. “Now that the election’s over, I’ve got several spare hours a day,” writes Farhad Manjoo. “What’ll I do?” One suggestion: develop a new obsession about the financial crisis. “The economy looks sure to provide months of daily excitement.”

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Phagocytosis is the process by which a macrophage type white blood cell engulfs a bacterium in a membrane-bound shell called a phagosome. The phagosome fuses with a lysosome which carries digestive enzymes that destroy the bacterium. (Image by Flavio Robles, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs-CSO)

BERKELEY, CA, November 6, 2008 — A link between the immune system and the self-cleaning system by which biological cells rid themselves of obsolete or toxic parts may one day yield new weapons in the fight against tuberculosis and other deadly infectious diseases. Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered proteins residing in both systems that point to “cross-talk” between them.

In a collaboration between the research groups of Carolyn Bertozzi, director of Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry nanoscience center, and Jay Keasling, director of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, profiles were obtained for 546 different types of proteins in the membrane of a phagosome, an organelle of macrophages (a type of white blood cell) that essentially “eats” and destroys invading organisms (a process called phagocytosis). This represents the most comprehensive proteomic analysis of a phagosomal membrane to date.

“We were able to identify many new proteins that were not previously known to reside in the phagosome,” said Wenqing Shui, a member of both the Bertozzi and Keasling research groups, and a proteomics specialist who was the lead author on a paper reporting these results in the /Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences./

“One of the new proteins exclusively found in our study, LC3-II, is considered a marker of autophagy, the process that enables cells to clean up their own cytoplasm,” Shui said. “Not only was LC3-II present in the phagosome, its level was increased upon the induction of autophagy in macrophages, and reduced when autophagy was suppressed. This indicates cross-talking between autophagy and phagocytosis that may play an important role in the response of the immune system.”

The PNAS paper is entitled: “Membrane proteomics of phagosomes suggests a connection to autophagy.” Co-authoring this paper in addition to Shui, Bertozzi and Keasling were Leslie Sheu, Jun Liuc, Brian Smart, Christopher Petzold, Tsung-yen Hsieh and Austin Pitcher. Bertozzi and Keasling are also professors at the University of California at Berkeley. In addition, Bertozzi is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Keasling is director of the Joint BioEnergy Institute.

When bacteria or other foreign particles invade the body, the first line of defense are the macrophages, which engulf and contain the invaders within the membrane-bound shells of their phagosomes. Once safely contained, the invaders can be killed with digestive enzymes from another cell organelle, called a lysosome, which fuses with the phagosome. Macrophages, like other kinds of cells, also use lysosomal enzymes for internal housekeeping. However, until now there has been no direct biochemical evidence of a link between phagocytosis and autophagy.

Working with latex bead-containing phagosomes isolated in cell lines from mice, Shui and her colleagues performed a detailed analysis of the protein contents of the phagosomal membrane. Unlike earlier proteomic studies, which profiled the entire organelle and focused on abundant water-soluble protein species, the study by the Bertozzi-Keasling groups was membrane-specific and included hydrophobic protein species that are present in the membrane in relatively low amounts.

“We were able to demonstrate the endogenous level of LC3-II in macrophage phagosomes through the combination of sensitive proteomic techniques and biochemical assays,” said Shui. “This is an excellent show-case of how a non-biased high-throughput proteomic study can shed new light on the diverse functions and pathways an organelle may engage in.”

The LC3-II protein is a critical component of the autophagy machinery and the discovery that the level of its presence in phagosomes is modulated by autophagic activity (along with several other newly identified phagosome proteins not previously associated with autophagy), points to autophagy playing a heretofore unknown role in immune response, particularly against intracellular pathogens such as mycobacterium tuberculosis.

As Shui explained, “After mycobacterium tuberculosis are phagocytosed into the macrophage cell, they are able to subvert various host defense mechanisms, including the killing of bacilli in the phagosome, and survive well inside the cell. Given that induced autophagy activity appears to enhance mycobacterial killing in the phagosome (from a study by the University of New Mexico’s Vojo Deretic and his research group), we speculate that mycobacteria may produce specific factors to counteract the bactericidal effect of autophagy activation.”

The Bertozzi and Keasling research groups are now examining whether certain mycobacterial products can modulate macrophage autophagy activity. They are also looking for proteins that could specifically mediate the autophagy as well as the phagosome maturation process.

Said Shui, “We might be able to open new avenues for pharmacologic intervention of tuberculosis as well as other infectious diseases.”

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Wenqing Shui, a member of both the Carolyn Bertozzi and Jay Keasling research groups, was the lead author of a paper reporting the most comprehensive proteomic analysis to date of a phagosomal membrane. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs-CSO)

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy’s

Genomics:GTL program.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov/

Mr. Lynn Yarris

Acting Communications Department Head/science writer

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

FORBES.COM — Almost everyone has used music at one time or another to relax or perhaps to get energized. But the discipline of music therapy takes the use of music much further, from battling depression to combating cancer.

“Music therapy is an evidence-based practice that can affect changes in physical, psychological, social and cognitive domains through music experiences and the relationship that develops between the client and the therapist,” said Cheryl Dileo, a professor of music therapy and director of the Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Just turning up the radio to your favorite tune to erase a blue mood doesn’t qualify as music therapy, Dileo explained. “Self-help through music is not music therapy, although many people do use music for themselves, for example for relaxation to improve their moods, or to accompany exercise.”

Music therapy, on the other hand, “involves an interpersonal process through which a trained therapist uses his or her knowledge and skills to address the client’s assessed needs and issues,” she said. “Although many people understand intuitively how to use music for themselves, when it is used within a music-therapy process by a trained therapist, it can be a powerful means to achieving positive physical, psychological, cognitive and social outcomes.”

The uses of music therapy are myriad, according to Dileo. Music therapy can be used to reduce the anxiety of hospital patients undergoing difficult medical procedures. It can help lessen pain and improve mood, she said. Music therapy can also help depressed patients express their feelings.

Music therapy has been used to keep Alzheimer’s patients calm and help them improve their memories at the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at the Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York City.

At Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, board-certified music therapist Elizabeth Pociask uses music therapy to help new parents calm their infants.

“Music is a natural source of distraction. When a child is visibly upset, the introduction of a novel stimulus (turning on some music) will at least temporarily divert their attention away from what is upsetting them,” she explained. “The parent’s singing voice accomplishes the same thing and adds the element of familiarity — the most comforting sound for an infant will nearly always be a parent’s voice. When used regularly, music and/or singing can become a calming ritual, and the infant then learns to associate the music with relaxation or sleep.”

Dileo said that music therapists should be board-certified, which means they’ve attended at least a four-year college program, as well as completed a supervised internship and have passed a national exam.

However, less formal music programs can be helpful as well. Katherine Puckett, national director of mind-body medicine at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, said that while they don’t have board-certified music therapists on staff, the centers do use music as a means to help their patients.

“Music can activate the relaxation response, which helps promote deep breathing, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, ease muscle tension and create less stress. That can help cancer patients sleep better, and difficulty sleeping is a common problem for cancer patients,” Puckett said.

“Relaxing the body can also help relieve physical pain, and people may need less pain medication,” she added.

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America keep a library of music available for patients to use, and they have special events, such as drumming circles, that help provide an emotional release for their patients, Puckett said. “Some people can release their emotions through talking, but sometimes people need a non-verbal release. We’ve had people moved to tears in our special events,” she said.

“People respond to music — you don’t have to be sick to respond to music. It’s relaxing, comforting and soothing,” Puckett added.

More information

To learn more about music therapy, visit the American Music Therapy Association.

FORBES.COM– Medicinal marijuana helps relieve neuropathic pain in people with HIV, says a University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine study.

It included 28 HIV patients with neuropathic pain that wasn’t adequately controlled by opiates or other pain relievers. The researchers found that 46 percent of patients who smoked medicinal marijuana reported clinically meaningful pain relief, compared with 18 percent of those who smoked a placebo.

The study, published online Aug. 6 in Neuropsychopharmacology, was sponsored by the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR).

“Neuropathy is a chronic and significant problem in HIV patients as there are few existing treatments that offer adequate pain management to sufferers,” study leader Dr. Ronald J. Ellis, an associate professor of neurosciences, said in an UCSD news release. “We found that smoked cannabis was generally well-tolerated and effective when added to the patient’s existing pain medication, resulting in increased pain relief.”

The findings are consistent with and extend other recent CMCR-sponsored research supporting the short-term effectiveness of medicinal marijuana in treating neuropathic pain.

“This study adds to a growing body of evidence that indicates that cannabis is effective, in the short-term at least, in the management of neuropathic pain,” Dr. Igor Grant, a professor of psychiatry and director of the CMCR, said in the UCSD news release.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about medical marijuana.

Genetic Engineering & Biotech News, November 3, 2008 — Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are investigating a range of structural and biochemical abnormalities in the brain that could serve as drug targets for potential new therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), reports Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). The etiologic origin for the amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles characteristic of AD remains unclear and, at present, therapeutic interventions aimed at slowing disease progression and the resulting cognitive impairment and dementia have been unremarkable, according to the November 1 issue of GEN.

“It’s been estimated that about 18 million people around the globe have Alzheimer’s,” says John Sterling, Editor in Chief, GEN. “With that number projected to almost double to 34 million by 2025, it’s critical that new drugs be developed as quickly as possible to treat and ameliorate the terrible suffering of Alzheimer’s patients and their families.”

Numerous targets for small molecule drug development, in particular, are being explored. Recent news has included findings from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine that detailed how a small molecule—4,5-dianilinophthalimide (DAPH)—can selectively dismantle abnormally folded protein fibers, including the amyloid fibers associated with neurodegenerative disease. Building on studies initiated at MIT, researchers have shown that DAPH blocks the growth of these fibers by wedging itself into the crevices between fiber subunits. By remodeling fiber architecture, DAPH can reduce amyloid-beta (Abeta) toxicity.

Allon Therapeutics completed a pharmacokinetic study showing that its drug, AL-108, now entering a Phase IIb trial in patients with AD, is able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier in quantities sufficient to have a therapeutic effect. AL-108 is derived from activity-dependent neurotrophic factor, a naturally occurring protein secreted by the brain in response to injury. It interacts with neuronal tubulin to repair the damage to microtubular networks caused by neurodegenerative disease. This may help re-establish the structural integrity of the neurons, aid in restoring axonal transport within neurons, and enhance chemical transmission between nerve cells.

by Taesik Yoon, Forbes Growth Investor – FORBES.COM, November 1, 2008 — The high level of economic growth China has enjoyed over the past several years has led to greater demand for stock of companies that operate in the region. This has resulted in sharp share price gains and rich valuations, particularly for those companies whose growth is expected to remain high for the foreseeable future. To average investors, this has made it tough to find a stock that will allow them to participate in the region’s current expansion.

Fortunately, the quantitative model employed by the Forbes Growth Investor has found one in American Oriental Bioengineering (nyse: AOB – news – people ). With top line growth expected to exceed 50% in 2008, an earnings multiple of about 14 and favorable demographic trends, the stock offers great growth potential at a bargain basement price. AOB is a China-based pharmaceutical company. Unlike Western drug makers such as Pfizer (nyse: PFE – news – people ), Bristol Myers Squibb (nyse: BMY – news – people ), GlxoSmihKline (nyse: GSK – news – people ), Novartis (nyse: NVS – news – people ) and Merck (nyse: MRK – news – people ), the company specializes in manufacturing and marketing plant-based traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) in China.

Products fall into two categories. Plant-based pharmaceuticals, which generated 82% of first-quarter sales, are medicinal compounds derived from the leaves and roots of plants. These products, approved by the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration, are used to treat various illnesses. They are sold over the counter and by prescription. Examples include Shuanghuanglian Lyophilized injection powder, an antiviral product that is effective against respiratory disease; and Cease-enuresis soft gel and patch, which treats bedwetting and incontinence.

Plant-based nutraceuticals generated 18% of first-quarter sales. These are dietary supplements designed to prevent illness rather than treat it. PBNs are also believed to promote health and wellness. AOB sells tablets, powders and an instant coffee containing soy peptides. It also sells nutritional drinks derived from honey products, marine plants and natural herbs that are rich in amino acids and vitamins.

The Chinese pharmaceutical market has enjoyed significant growth over the past several years due to several favorable trends. A booming economy has led to greater amounts of disposable incomes and raised living standards. Demand has risen for pharmaceutical products as Chinese people moved up the economic ladder. These trends have been accompanied by greater participation in the State Basic Medical Insurance System and increased government spending on health care. AOB has benefited from a general preference in China for TCMs over synthetically manufactured alternatives. Complementary acquisitions have also contributed to the company’s growth.

Total revenues and net income over the past three years climbed fivefold to $160 million and $43.3 million in 2007, respectively. Net revenues in the first quarter of 2008 jumped 50.7% from a year ago to $38.8 million. Strong over-the-counter sales more than offset slower growth in the prescription business and falling PBN sales.

The gross profit margin contracted 101 basis points last quarter to 67.82% due to a shift in the sales mix and higher expenses associated with the integration of an acquisition. However, the operating profit margin improved 12 basis points to 30.89%, and net income jumped 46.2% to $9.4 million.

Investment risks include the planned issuance of $115 million of convertible bonds, which could dilute future earnings, and the sometimes capricious nature of Chinese laws and regulations. However, we are focused more on potential growth. Organic sales should rise 30% in 2008. Total sales growth should exceed 50%. Net income is expected to climb at least 43%.

Taesik Yoon is senior equity analyst and associate editor with the Forbes Investors Advisory Institute, publisher of Forbes Growth Investor and Forbes Special Situation Survey.