Puerto Rico Related Medical Product Shortages

 

According to FDA, while Puerto Rico is making progress in its effort to recover from the devastation left by the hurricanes, it remains a long process and there’s a lot of work left to do. At the FDA, is remaining vigilant about helping address the challenges that remain. Power is being restored across the island and, importantly, some major medical product manufacturing facilities are coming back online and stabilizing their production. However, until the grid is reliably restored, many firms will continue to run on generator power or require generators as a backup and production levels will not return to their baseline levels.

 

Over the last few weeks, FDA has been addressing the IV saline products shortage, which was exacerbated by Hurricane Maria. FDA has been closely working with one supplier, Baxter, to help them restore production operations in their Puerto Rico facilities. FDA also approved IV solution products from Fresenius Kabi and Laboratorios Grifols to mitigate the shortage, and both of those companies have been working to increase production of saline products. Thanks to steps like these, FDA now believes that the shortage situation related to IV saline products will improve by the end of 2017. While FDA has made progress on this front, unfortunately there continue to be drug shortage issues that are of serious concern to the agency. In addition to FDA’s ongoing concerns related to IV saline products, FDA is also are particularly focused on the shortage of amino acids for injection. This product is of critical need for patients, including children and infants, who are not able to eat and need to receive their nutrition intravenously. Like with saline, an ongoing amino acid short supply situation was worsened by Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rican drug manufacturing facilities that manufacture this product.

 

Most notably, the hurricane disrupted Baxter’s amino acids production facilities in Puerto Rico; Baxter is one of the largest manufacturers of this product serving the U.S. market. In order to help mitigate this shortage, the FDA has worked with Baxter to facilitate the temporary importation of amino acids for pediatric and adult formulations of IV amino acids from Baxter facilities in the United Kingdom and Italy. FDA is also working with other manufacturers of amino acids to increase supplies to address the shortage, including ICU Medical and B. Braun. ICU Medical had experienced manufacturing delays, but now plans to return to the market soon, which will further help address the shortage. FDA continues to work closely with federal and Puerto Rican authorities to address the needs of manufacturers on the island for power and other resources. These efforts have been focused on the needs of patients — to prevent potential shortages of medically important products where possible, and help ensure that any shortages that do occur are mitigated as quickly as possible. FDA does understand the burden and stress drug shortages have on patients, health care providers and hospitals. FDA is monitoring approximately 90 medical products manufactured on Puerto Rico (which includes biologics, devices and drugs) that are important to patients. Mitigating medical product shortages will require a sustained effort by industry, the agency and other partners as we work with manufacturers to return to production levels that adequately meet the needs of patients.

 

Filed Under News, Regulatory | Leave a Comment 

Turkey Biscuits Presented in Various Ways

Warm Turkey Biscuit served over a delicious parsnip puree, topped with hot gravy and sprinkled with white sesame seeds. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Before I share a new recipe, it goes through many iterations; however, this was delicious the first time I experimented with the ingredients. This recipe is quick and easy, which is just what you want, after all your effort to make Thanksgiving work well. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Turkey Biscuits served over a medley of rice, mushrooms and green peas, hot gravy and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Same dish as above, after half the turkey biscuit has been eaten, revealing a soft moist center. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Plain hot Turkey Biscuits on their way to the table. MMmmm, they smell so-o good. Can’t want to sink our teeth into one of these. Served with roasted asparagus, a crunchy garden salad and chilled white wine. Btw, these yummy biscuits make a great finger food. I know this, because Jules keeps grabbing them out of the fridge to snack on. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Ingredients 

2 or 3 cups left-over turkey

1 pinch sea salt

1 pinch black pepper

1 teaspoon curry

1 jalapeno, seeds removed, then very well chopped

2 Tablespoons Kraft mayonnaise

2 teaspoons left-over gravy from bottom of turkey roast pan

6 fresh garlic cloves, sliced

One 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled then grated

6 scallions, thinly sliced (use the white part only)

Juice of 1/2 fresh lime

1 Tablespoon chickpea flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg, plus 1 egg white, slightly beaten in a small cup

Extra virgin olive oil for cooking

Use left-over gravy or make a new batch.

 

You need a food processor for this recipe and a large skillet.

Turkey Biscuits are the perfect meal for left-over roast turkey or chicken. Plus, they don’t have the same flavor as your turkey dinner. This is a quick, easy and delicious recipe; really hope you’ll try it. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

  

Directions

1. Get all your slicing, egg-separating, chopping, grating, done first.

 

Preparing the lime and jalapeno. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Grating the ginger. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

2. Get out your food processor, and a large skillet

3. All the ingredients are going to end up in your food processor, so it hardly matters, which goes in first, except, do this: add all of the dry ingredients last.

 

Adding wet ingredients to food processor (garlic, onion, lime, jalapeno, scallions). ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Egg, all seasonings, gravy, turkey, mayo; all wet ingredients are now in food processor, ready to be pulsed. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

4. Add the dry ingredients to the food processor, last. Then, pulse until all ingredients have been completely and thoroughly combined. It’s important to do this right.

 

After pulsing all wet ingredients, the dry ingredients were added, then pulsed. I’m going to pulse it just a little bit longer before removing from food processor. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

5. Next, with a narrow spatula, scrape all the contents from your food processor, into a medium bowl. Get it all out, so it all goes into the Turkey Biscuits.

 

Batter is now ready to be hand molded into Turkey Biscuits for cooking. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

6. Put oil in your large skillet and plan to cook no more than 3 or 4 Turkey Biscuits at a time. Use a medium high flame and heat before cooking.

7. Rub some flour together, on your hands, then with a Tablespoon, scoop out of the bowl, some of the mixture, and with your other hand, form an oval shape while mixture is still in the Tablespoon, and plop it into the hot skillet, using fingers to get all of the mixture out of the Tablespoon. There is no need to have each Turkey Biscuit look exactly the same.

8. Cook 1 to 2 minutes on each side. After flipping over the first time, you may see that this side needs to be cooked a little longer. Simply wait until the other side has cooked and browned, then flip back and cook a little longer, if needed. Both sides should be a golden brown; but not overcooked, or will be ruined.

 

First Turkey Biscuit to go into pan. Have some paper towel next to pan to drain the biscuits when cooked. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Here’s that first Turkey Biscuit after being flipped. This is just the right color to aim for, a lovely golden brown. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

9. Have a serving platter ready, so that when cooked, you can arrange the Turkey Biscuits and serve immediately with hot gravy and a few sesame seeds (black or white) sprinkled over the Biscuits.

 

Turkey Biscuit cut in half, showing the yummy moist texture. Served with lots of hot gravy. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Turkey Biscuits are good as a quick snack; above served plain with green beans and almonds. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

Turkey Biscuits served with cranberry sauce and gravy, over sauteed mushrooms and sweet peas. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

We had several white wines during our testing of my new recipe for Turkey Biscuits. You can’t go wrong with some of our old standbys like the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, above or a Pino Grigio or another favorite, Pouilly-Fuisse, not to mention Prosecco, a Rose, Blanc de Blancs or Champagne and plenty more. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

 

We went to Lincoln Center this weekend to hear Verdi’s Requium, a magnificent choral piece conducted by James Levine, whose health is better now, hence the maestro is back in the pit. Very enjoyable time!

 

Have a great week everyone!

 

From Our Table to Yours

Bon Appetit!

 

Filed Under News, Target Healthy Eating (recipes) | Leave a Comment 

Date:
November 30, 2017

Source:
University of Bristol

Summary:
New research has resolved evolutionary biology’s most-heated debate, revealing it is the morphologically simple sponges, rather than the anatomically complex comb jellies, which represent the oldest lineage of living animals.

 

Sea sponge.
Credit: © mychadre77 / Fotolia

 

 

New research led by the University of Bristol has resolved evolutionary biology’s most-heated debate, revealing it is the morphologically simple sponges, rather than the anatomically complex comb jellies, which represent the oldest lineage of living animals.

Recent genomic analyses have “flip-flopped” between whether sponges or comb jellies are our deepest ancestors, leading experts to suggest available data might not have the power to resolve this specific problem.

However, new research led by the University of Bristol has identified the cause of this “flip-flop” effect, and in doing so, has revealed sponges are the most ancient lineage.

Professor Davide Pisani of Bristol’s Schools of Biological and Earth Sciences led the study, published today in Current Biology, with colleagues from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech — USA), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), Munich (Germany), and other institutes around the world, which analysed all key genomic datasets released between 2015 and 2017.

Commenting on the breakthrough research, Professor Pisani said:

“The fact is, hypotheses about whether sponges or comb jellies came first suggest entirely different evolutionary histories for key animal organ systems like the nervous and the digestive systems. Therefore, knowing the correct branching order at the root of the animal tree is fundamental to understanding our own evolution, and the origin of key features of the animal anatomy.”

In the new study, Professor Pisani and colleagues used cutting edge statistical techniques (Posterior Predictive Analyses) to test whether the evolutionary models routinely used in phylogenetics can adequately describe the genomic datasets used to study early animal evolution. They found that, for the same dataset, models that can better describe the data favour sponges at the root of the animal tree, while models that drastically fail to describe the data favour the comb jellies.

Dr Feuda from Caltech continued: “Our results offer a simple explanation to the ‘flip-flop effect’ cogently discussed by Professor David Hillis in a recent interview in Nature.”

Dr Dohrmann from LMU added: “Our results rationalise this effect and illustrate how you can draw robust conclusions from flip-flopping datasets.”

Professor Gert Wörheide of LMU said: “Indeed, a flip-flopping dataset is a dataset that supports different evolutionary histories or phylogenetic trees, when analysed using different evolutionary models.

Discriminating between alternative hypotheses in the face of a flip-flopping dataset requires clarifying how good the models are that support alternative phylogenetic trees. Posterior Predictive Analyses allow us to do exactly that. We found that models which describe the data poorly invariably identify the comb jellies at the root of the tree. Models that better describe the data invariably find the sponges in that position.”

Professor Pisani concluded: “Phylogenomics, the use of genomic data in phylogenetics, is a relatively new science. Evidence for comb jellies as the earliest branching animal lineage first emerged in 2008, a decade ago, in the first, large-scale, phylogenomic analysis of the animal phyla. We have now better analytical tools and data and this study seriously challenges the accepted status quo.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of BristolNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Roberto Feuda, Martin Dohrmann, Walker Pett, Hervé Philippe, Omar Rota-Stabelli, Nicolas Lartillot, Gert Wörheide, Davide Pisani. Improved Modeling of Compositional Heterogeneity Supports Sponges as Sister to All Other AnimalsCurrent Biology, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.11.008

 

Source: University of Bristol. “Humble sponges are our deepest ancestors: Dispute in evolutionary biology solved.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171130122904.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

Quantum simulator could be used to probe material properties, new phases of matter and solve optimization problems

Date:
November 29, 2017

Source:
Harvard University

Summary:
Researchers have developed a specialized quantum computer, known as a quantum simulator, which could be used to shed new light on a host of complex quantum processes, from the connection between quantum mechanics and material properties to investigating new phases of matter and solving complex real-world optimization problems.

 

Physicists at MIT and Harvard University have demonstrated a new way to manipulate quantum bits of matter. The researchers report using a system of finely tuned lasers to first trap and then tweak the interactions of 51 individual atoms, or quantum bits. Physicists at MIT and Harvard University have demonstrated a new way to manipulate quantum bits of matter. The researchers report using a system of finely tuned lasers to first trap and then tweak the interactions of 51 individual atoms, or quantum bits.
Credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT

 

 

Harvard researchers have developed a specialized quantum computer, known as a quantum simulator, which could be used to shed new light on a host of complex quantum processes, from the connection between quantum mechanics and material properties to investigating new phases of matter and solving complex real-world optimization problems.

Typically, programming a computer is a fairly arduous process, involving hours of coding work, not to mention the laborious work of debugging, testing and documentation to make sure it works properly.

But for a team of physicists from Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms and California Institute of Technology things are actually much tougher.

Working in a Harvard Physics Department lab, a team of researchers led by Harvard Professors Mikhail Lukin and Markus Greiner and MIT Professor Vladan Vuletic has developed a special type of quantum computer, known as a quantum simulator, which is programmed by capturing super-cooled rubidium atoms with lasers and arranging them in a specific order, then allowing quantum mechanics to do the necessary calculations.

The system could be used to shed new light on a host of complex quantum processes, from the connection between quantum mechanics and material properties to investigating new phases of matter and solving complex real-world optimization problems. The system is described in a November 30 paper published in Nature.

The combination of the system’s large size and high degree of quantum coherence make it a particularly important achievement, researchers say. With over 50 coherent qubits, this is one of the largest quantum systems ever created with individual assembly and measurement.

In the same issue of Nature, a team from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland describes a similarly sized system of cold charged ions, also controlled with lasers. Taken together, these complementary advances constitute a major step towards realization of large-scale quantum machines.

“Everything happens in a small vacuum chamber where we have a very dilute vapor of atoms which are cooled close to absolute zero,” Lukin said. “When we focus about one hundred laser beams through this cloud, each of them acts like a trap. The beams are so tightly focused, they can either grab one atom or zero, they can’t grab two. And that’s when the fun starts.”

Using a microscope, researchers can image the captured atoms in real time, and then arrange them into arbitrary patterns to make up the system’s input.

“We assemble them in a way that’s very controlled,” said Ahmed Omran, a post-doctoral fellow working in Lukin’s lab and a co-author of the paper. “Starting with a random pattern we decide which trap needs to go where to arrange them into desired clusters.”

As researchers begin feeding energy into the system, the atoms begin to interact with each other, and it’s those interactions, Lukin said, that give the system its quantum nature.

“We make the atoms interact, and that’s really what’s performing the computation,” Omran said. “In essence, as we excite the system with laser light, it self-organizes. It’s not that we say this atom has to be a one or a zero — we could do that easily just by throwing light on the atoms — but what we do is allow the atoms to perform the computation for us and then we measure the results.”

Those results, Lukin and colleagues said, could shed light on complex quantum mechanical phenomena that are all but impossible to model using conventional computers.

“If you have an abstract model where a certain number of particles are interacting with each other in a certain way, the question is why don’t we just sit down at a computer and simulate it that way?” asked Ph.D. student Alexander Keesling, another co-author of the study. “The reason is because these interactions are quantum mechanical in nature. If you try to simulate these systems on a computer, you’re restricted to very small system sizes, and the number of parameters are limited.

“If you make systems larger and larger, very quickly you will run out of memory and computing power to simulate it on a classical computer,” he continued. “The way around that is to actually build the problem with particles that follow the same rules as the system you’re simulating — that’s why we call this a quantum simulator.”

Though it’s possible to use classical computers to model small quantum systems, the simulator developed by Lukin and colleagues uses 51 qubits, making it virtually impossible to replicate using conventional computing techniques.

“It is important that we can start by simulating small systems using our machine,” he said. “So we are able to show those results are correct…until we get to the larger systems, because there is no simple comparison we can make.”

“When we start off, all the atoms are in a classical state, and when we read out at the end, we obtain a string of classical bits, zeros and ones,” added Hannes Bernien, a post-doctoral fellow in Lukin’s lab, and a co-author of the study. “But in order to get from the start to the end, they have to go through the complex quantum mechanical state. If you have a substantial error rate, the quantum mechanical state will collapse.”

It’s that coherent quantum state, Bernien said, that allows the system to work as a simulator, and also makes the machine a potentially valuable tool for gaining new insight into complex quantum phenomena and eventually performing useful calculations. The system already allows researchers to obtain unique insights into transformations between different types of quantum phases, called quantum phase transitions. It may also help shed light on new and exotic forms of matter, Lukin said.

“Normally, when you talk about phases of matter, you talk about matter being in equilibrium,” he said. “But some very interesting new states of matter may occur far away from equilibrium…and there are many possibilities for that in the quantum domain. This is a completely new frontier.”

Already, Lukin said, the researchers have seen evidence of such states — in one of the first experiments conducted with the new system, the team discovered a new coherent non-equilibrium state that remained stable for a surprisingly long time.

“Quantum computers will be used to realize and study such non-equilibrium states of matter in the coming years,” he said. “Another intriguing direction involves solving complex optimization problems. It turns out one can encode some very complicated problems by programming atom locations and interactions between them. In such systems, some proposed quantum algorithms could potentially outperform classical machines. It’s not yet clear whether they will or not, because we just can’t test them classically. But we are on the verge of entering the regime where we can test them on the fully quantum machines containing over hundred controlled qubits. Scientifically, this is really exciting.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Harvard UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hannes Bernien, Sylvain Schwartz, Alexander Keesling, Harry Levine, Ahmed Omran, Hannes Pichler, Soonwon Choi, Alexander S. Zibrov, Manuel Endres, Markus Greiner, Vladan Vuletić, Mikhail D. Lukin. Probing many-body dynamics on a 51-atom quantum simulatorNature, 2017; 551 (7682): 579 DOI: 10.1038/nature24622

 

Source: Harvard University. “Big step forward for quantum computing: Quantum simulator could be used to probe material properties, new phases of matter and solve optimization problems.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171129131423.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

Date:
November 28, 2017

Source:
Northwell Health

Summary:
Investigators have discovered dozens of new genetic variations associated with a person’s general cognitive ability. While profiling cognitive ability, researchers also discovered a genetic overlap with longevity.

 

Researchers found when examining an individual’s family that a genetic predisposition towards higher cognitive ability was associated with longer lifespan.
Credit: © aeyaey / Fotolia

 

 

Investigators at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research discovered dozens of new genetic variations associated with a person’s general cognitive ability. The findings, which were published online today in Cell Reports, have the potential to help researchers develop more targeted treatment for cognitive and memory disorders.

“For the first time, we were able to use genetic information to point us towards specific drugs that might aid in cognitive disorders of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” said Todd Lencz, PhD, senior author of the study and professor at the Feinstein Institute and the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

In the largest peer-reviewed study of its kind, an international team of 65 scientists, led by Dr. Lencz, studied the genomes of more than 100,000 individuals who had their brain function measured by neuropsychological tests. These data were then combined with genomes from 300,000 people measured for the highest level of education achieved, which serves as an estimate for cognitive ability, or how the brain acquires knowledge.

While profiling cognitive ability, researchers also discovered a genetic overlap with longevity. They found when examining an individual’s family that a genetic predisposition towards higher cognitive ability was associated with longer lifespan. A new genetic overlap between cognitive ability and risk for autoimmune disease was also identified.

This study appears less than a year after Dr. Lencz and his colleagues published a similar, smaller study that was only able to identify a few key genes associated with cognitive ability.

“The field of genomics is growing by leaps and bounds,” Dr. Lencz said. “Because the number of genes we can discover is a direct function of the sample size available, further research with additional samples is likely to provide even more insight into how our genes play a role in cognitive ability.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Northwell HealthNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Max Lam et al. Large-Scale Cognitive GWAS Meta-Analysis Reveals Tissue-Specific Neural Expression and Potential Nootropic Drug TargetsCell Reports, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.11.028

 

Source: Northwell Health. “New genetic variations linked to educational attainment: Genetic overlap between cognitive ability and longevity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171128123356.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

Date:
November 24, 2017

Source:
Yale University

Summary:
The most dramatic divergence between humans and other primates can be found in the brain, the primary organ that gives our species its identity. However, all regions of the human brain have molecular signatures very similar to those of our primate relatives, yet some regions contain distinctly human patterns of gene activity that mark the brain’s evolution and may contribute to our cognitive abilities, a new study has found.

 

Chimpanzee.
Credit: © EBFoto / Fotolia

 

 

The most dramatic divergence between humans and other primates can be found in the brain, the primary organ that gives our species its identity.

However, all regions of the human brain have molecular signatures very similar to those of our primate relatives, yet some regions contain distinctly human patterns of gene activity that mark the brain’s evolution and may contribute to our cognitive abilities, a new Yale-led study has found.

The massive analysis of human, chimpanzee, and monkey tissue published Nov. 23 in the journal Science shows that the human brain is not only a larger version of the ancestral primate brain but also one filled with distinct and surprising differences.

“Our brains are three times larger, have many more cells and therefore more processing power than chimpanzee or monkey,” said Andre M.M. Sousa, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of neuroscientist Nenad Sestan and co-lead author of the study. “Yet there are also distinct small differences between the species in how individual cells function and form connections.”

Despite differences in brain size, the researchers found striking similarities between primate species of gene expression in 16 regions of the brain — even in the prefrontal cortex, the seat of higher order learning that most distinguishes humans from other apes. However, the study showed the one area of the brain with the most human-specific gene expression is the striatum, a region most commonly associated with movement.

Distinct differences were also found within regions of the brain, even in the cerebellum, one of the evolutionarily most ancient regions of the brain, and therefore most likely to share similarities across species. Researchers found one gene, ZP2, was active in only human cerebellum — a surprise, said the researchers, because the same gene had been linked to sperm selection by human ova.

“We have no idea what it is doing there,” said Ying Zhu, a postdoctoral researcher in Sestan’s lab and co-lead author of the paper.

Zhu and Sousa also focused on one gene, TH, which is involved in the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter crucial to higher-order function and depleted in people living with Parkinson’s disease. They found that TH was highly expressed in human neocortex and striatum but absent from the neocortex of chimpanzees.

“The neocortical expression of this gene was most likely lost in a common ancestor and reappeared in the human lineage,” Sousa said.

Researchers also found higher levels of expression of the gene MET, which is linked to autism spectrum disorder, in the human prefrontal cortex compared to the other primates tested.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Yale University. Original written by Bill Hathaway. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. André M. M. Sousa, Ying Zhu, Mary Ann Raghanti, Robert R. Kitchen, Marco Onorati, Andrew T. N. Tebbenkamp, Bernardo Stutz, Kyle A. Meyer, Mingfeng Li, Yuka Imamura Kawasawa, Fuchen Liu, Raquel Garcia Perez, Marta Mele, Tiago Carvalho, Mario Skarica, Forrest O. Gulden, Mihovil Pletikos, Akemi Shibata, Alexa R. Stephenson, Melissa K. Edler, John J. Ely, John D. Elsworth, Tamas L. Horvath, Patrick R. Hof, Thomas M. Hyde, Joel E. Kleinman, Daniel R. Weinberger, Mark Reimers, Richard P. Lifton, Shrikant M. Mane, James P. Noonan, Matthew W. State, Ed S. Lein, James A. Knowles, Tomas Marques-Bonet, Chet C. Sherwood, Mark B. Gerstein, Nenad Sestan. Molecular and cellular reorganization of neural circuits in the human lineageScience, 2017; 358 (6366): 1027 DOI: 10.1126/science.aan3456

 

Source: Yale University. “Small but distinct differences among species mark evolution of human brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171124084336.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

Odors that carry social cues seem to affect volunteers on the autism spectrum differently

Date:
November 27, 2017

Source:
Weizmann Institute of Science

Summary:
Autism typically involves the inability to read social cues. We most often associate this with visual difficulty in interpreting facial expression, but new research suggests that the sense of smell may also play a central role in autism.

 

Skydivers provided the smell of fear for investigating how autistic men react to odors. (Stock image)
Credit: © Joggie Botma / Fotolia

 

 

Autism typically involves the inability to read social cues. We most often associate this with visual difficulty in interpreting facial expression, but new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests that the sense of smell may also play a central role in autism. As reported in Nature Neuroscience, Weizmann Institute of Science researchers show that people on the autism spectrum have different — and even opposite — reactions to odors produced by the human body. These odors are ones that we are unaware of smelling, but which are, nonetheless, a part of the nonverbal communication that takes place between people, and which have been shown to affect our moods and behavior. Their findings may provide a unique window on autism, including, possibly, on the underlying developmental malfunctions in the disorder.

Researchers in the lab of Prof. Noam Sobel in the Institute’s Neurobiology Department investigate, among other things, the smells that announce such emotions as happiness, fear or aggression to others. Although this sense is not our primary sense, as it is in many other mammals, we still subliminally read and react to certain odors. For example “smelling fear,” even if we cannot consciously detect its odor, is something we may do without thinking. Since this is a form of social communication, Sobel and members of his lab wondered whether it might be disrupted in a social disorder like autism.

To conduct their experiments, Sobel and lab members Yaara Endevelt-Shapira and Ofer Perl, together with other members of his lab, devised a series of experiments with a group of participants on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum who volunteered for the study. To begin with, the researchers tested the ability of both autistic and control volunteers to identify smells that can be consciously detected, including human smells like sweat. There was no significant difference between the groups at this stage, meaning the sense of smell in the autistic participants was not significantly different from that of controls.

Two groups were then exposed to either to the “smell of fear” or to a control odor. The smell of fear was sweat collected from people taking skydiving classes, and control odor was sweat from the same people, only this time it had been collected when they were just exercising — without feeling fear.

This is where differences emerged: Although neither group reported detecting dissimilarities between the two smells, their bodies reacted to each in a different way. In the control group, smelling the fear-induced sweat produced measurable increases in the fear response, for example in skin conductivity, while the everyday sweat did not. In the autistic men, fear-induced sweat lowered their fear responses, while the odor of “calm sweat” did the opposite: It raised their measurable anxiety levels.

Next, the group created talking robotic mannequins that emitted different odors through their nostrils. These mannequins gave the volunteers, who were unaware of the olfactory aspect of the experiment, different tasks to conduct. Using mannequins enabled the researchers to have complete control over the social cues — odor-based or other — that the subjects received. The tasks were designed to evaluate the level of trust that the volunteers placed in the mannequins — and here, too, the behavior of autistic volunteers was the opposite of the control group: They displayed more trust in the mannequin that emitted the fear-induced odor and less in the one that smelled “calmer.”

In continuing experiments, the researchers asked whether other subliminal “social odors” have a different impact in autism than in control groups. In one, the volunteers were exposed to sudden loud noises during their sessions while at the same time they were also exposed to a potentially calming component of body-odor named hexadecanal. Another automatic fear response — blinking — was recorded using electrodes above the muscles of the eye. Indeed, the blink response in the control group was weaker when they were exposed to hexadecanal, while for those in the autistic group this response was stronger with hexadecanal.

In other words, the autistic volunteers in the experiment did not display an inability to read the olfactory social cues in smell, but rather they misread them. Sobel and his group think that this unconscious difference may point to a deeper connection between our sense of smell and early development. Research in recent years has turned up smell receptors like those in our nasal passages in all sorts of other places in our bodies — from our brains to our uteri. It has been suggested that these play a role in development, among other things. In other words, it is possible that the sensing of subtle chemical signals may go awry at crucial stages in the brain’s development in autism. “We are still speculating, at this point,” says Sobel, “but we are hoping that further research in our lab and others will clarify both the function of these unconscious olfactory social cues and their roots in such social disorders as autism.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Weizmann Institute of ScienceNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yaara Endevelt-Shapira, Ofer Perl, Aharon Ravia, Daniel Amir, Ami Eisen, Vered Bezalel, Liron Rozenkrantz, Eva Mishor, Liron Pinchover, Timna Soroka, Danielle Honigstein, Noam Sobel. Altered responses to social chemosignals in autism spectrum disorderNature Neuroscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41593-017-0024-x

 

Source: Weizmann Institute of Science. “Autism and the smell of fear: Odors that carry social cues seem to affect volunteers on the autism spectrum differently.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171127124717.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

Date:
November 22, 2017

Source:
Radboud University Nijmegen

Summary:
Due to climate change, including rising temperatures, more and more methane is bubbling up from lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands throughout the world. The release of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — leads to a further increase in temperature, thus creating a positive feedback loop (also known as a ‘vicious circle’).

 

Bubbles filled with methane gas develop in the sediment at the bottom of shallow lakes.
Credit: © Olha Rohulya / Fotolia

 

 

Never before have such unequivocal, strong relationships between temperature and emissions of methane bubbles been shown on such a wide, continent-spanning scale.,” says biologist Sarian Kosten of Radboud University.

The study focused on shallow lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands. These aquatic environments are relevant in the context of climate change because they are responsible for much of global greenhouse gas emissions. An important part of these emissions is caused by bubbles filled with methane gas that develop in the sediment at the bottom of these water bodies. When the bubbles reach the surface, the gas enters the atmosphere.

Higher methane emissions

For the current research, an international team of scientists studied existing literature and conducted a large experiment in close collaboration with the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). First, existing research into methane bubbles was collected from various locations, ranging from a fishing pond in Malden (a town near Nijmegen) to postglacial lakes in northern Sweden and forest ponds in Canada. “Next, we simulated methane bubble production in 1000-litre ‘mini-lakes’ at the NIOO, where we could accurately control temperature and other conditions,” explains Ralf Aben, biologist at Radboud University. “In this way we excluded causes other than the rise in temperature.”

In open tanks filled with water and sediment, the researchers were able to mimic an annual cycle. Four tanks had a ‘normal’ Dutch climate, and in four other tanks the average temperature was 4 degrees Celsius higher. That led to 50percent higher emission of methane bubbles. The biologists predict that a temperature rise of 1 degree Celsius leads to 6-20 percent higher emission of methane bubbles, which in turn leads to additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to an additional temperature increase.

What is next?

Nutrient-rich sediments produce more methane than nutrient-poor sediments. One possibility for reducing methane production is therefore to make sure that sediments have fewer nutrients, which means using less fertiliser!

The global rise in temperature will be difficult to reverse, but not impossible. “Every tonne of greenhouse gas that we emit leads to additional emissions from natural sources such as methane bubbles,” says Kosten. “Luckily, the opposite is also true: if we emit less greenhouse gas and the temperature drops, we gain a bonus in the form of less methane production. This bonus from nature should be our motivation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Radboud University NijmegenNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ralf C. H. Aben, Nathan Barros, Ellen van Donk, Thijs Frenken, Sabine Hilt, Garabet Kazanjian, Leon P. M. Lamers, Edwin T. H. M. Peeters, Jan G. M. Roelofs, Lisette N. de Senerpont Domis, Susanne Stephan, Mandy Velthuis, Dedmer B. Van de Waal, Martin Wik, Brett F. Thornton, Jeremy Wilkinson, Tonya DelSontro, Sarian Kosten. Cross continental increase in methane ebullition under climate changeNature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01535-y

 

Source: Radboud University Nijmegen. “Worldwide increase in methane bubbles due to climate change.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171122093100.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

Date:
November 22, 2017

Source:
University of Montreal

Summary:
Scientists have design better molecules that make it harder for plasmids to move between bacteria.

 

Ultimately, reducing the transfer of antibiotic-resistance plasmids could help preserve the potency of antibiotics. (stock image)
Credit: © Leigh Prather / Fotolia

 

 

Antibiotics are commonly used around the world to cure diseases caused by bacteria. But as the World Health Organization and other international bodies have pointed out, the global increase of antibiotic resistance is a rapidly worsening problem. And since antibiotics are also an essential part of modern medicine, as prophylactic treatment during surgeries and cancer therapy, rising resistance of bacteria presents even more of a danger.

That’s why researchers are busy devising strategies to address this threat to human health — and Université de Montréal is at the forefront of the fight.

One of the ways antibiotic resistance genes spread in hospitals and in the environment is that the genes are coded on plasmids that transfer between bacteria. A plasmid is a DNA fragment found in bacteria or yeasts. It carries genes useful for bacteria, especially when these genes encode proteins that can make bacteria resistant to antibiotics.Now a team of scientists at UdeM’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine has come up with a novel approach to block the transfer of resistance genes. The study by Bastien Casu, Tarun Arya, Benoit Bessette and Christian Baron was published in early November in Scientific Reports.

A library of molecules

The researchers screened a library of small chemical molecules for those that bind to the TraE protein, an essential component of the plasmid transfer machinery. Analysis by X-ray crystallography revealed the exact binding site of these molecules on TraE. Having precise information on the binding site enabled the researchers to design more potent binding molecules that, in the end, reduced the transfer of antibiotic-resistant, gene-carrying plasmids.

Baron hopes the strategy can be used to discover more inhibitors of the transfer of resistant genes.

“You want to be able to find the ‘soft spot’ on a protein, and target it and poke it so that the protein cannot function,” said Baron, the Faculty of Medicine’s vice-dean of research and development. “Other plasmids have similar proteins, some have different proteins, but I think the value of our study on TraE is that by knowing the molecular structure of these proteins we can devise methods to inhibit their function.”

Working with IRIC

Building on their encouraging new data, Baron and his colleagues are now working with the medicinal chemists at UdeM’s IRIC (Institut de recherche en immunologie et cancérologie) to develop the new molecules into powerful inhibitors of antibiotic resistance gene transfer. Such molecules could one day be applied in clinics in hospitals that are hotbeds of resistance, Baron hopes.

Ultimately, reducing the transfer of antibiotic-resistance plasmids could help preserve the potency of antibiotics, contributing to an overall strategy to help improve human health, he added.

“The beauty of what we are working on here is that the proteins are very similar to proteins that bacteria use to cause disease. So from what we learned about the TraE protein and about finding its ‘soft spot,’ we can actually apply this approach to other bacteria that cause diseases. One of those is Helicobacter pylori, which is a gastric pathogen that causes ulcers and stomach cancers. We’re working on that one specifically now, but there are many others.”

Four years of work

It took the UdeM team four years to arrive at the findings being published now — enough time for antibiotic resistance to grow into an ever-more worrisome global problem.

UdeM pediatric physician Joanne Liu, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, has called it “a tsunami,” and Baron believes she’s not exaggerating. “It’s a very good image to use, because we all know it’s coming. It’s not like a splash in your face every single day, but we all see the tide is rising.

“They say that by 2050, 50 million people will die from antibiotic resistant infections,” said the Toronto-born, German-raised researcher. “The day when we can’t treat infections with antibiotics is coming. Nevertheless, people should have hope. Science will bring new ideas and new solutions to this problem. There’s a big mobilization now going on in the world on this issue. I wouldn’t say I feel safe, but it’s clear we’re making progress.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of MontrealNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bastien Casu, Tarun Arya, Benoit Bessette, Christian Baron. Fragment-based screening identifies novel targets for inhibitors of conjugative transfer of antimicrobial resistance by plasmid pKM101Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14953-1

 

Source: University of Montreal. “Antibiotics resistance: Researchers succeed to block genes of resistance.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171122093030.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

Date:
November 21, 2017

Source:
European Geosciences Union

Summary:
From Trump to Heinz, some of America’s most famous family names and brands trace their origins back to Germans who emigrated to the country in the 19th century. Researchers have now found that climate was a major factor in driving migration from Southwest Germany to North America during the 19th century.

 

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, Upper New York Bay.
Credit: © littleny / Fotolia

 

 

In the 19th century, over 5 million Germans moved to North America. It was not only a century of poverty, war and revolutions in what is now Germany, but also of variable climate. Starting at the tail end of the cold period known as the Little Ice Age, the century saw glacier advances in the Alps, and a number of chilly winters and cool summers, as well as other extreme weather events such as droughts and floods.

“Overall, we found that climate indirectly explains up to 20-30% of migration from Southwest Germany to North America in the 19th century,” says Rüdiger Glaser, a professor at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and lead-author of the Climate of the Paststudy.

The researchers could see a climate signature in most major migration waves from Southwest Germany during the 19th century. “The chain of effects is clearly visible: poor climate conditions lead to low crop yields, rising cereal prices and finally emigration,” says Glaser. “But it is only one piece of the puzzle.”

“Our results show that the influence of climate was marked differently during the different migration waves,” adds Iso Himmelsbach, another of the researchers at the University of Freiburg who took part in the study.

The team studied official migration statistics and population data from the 19th century, as well as weather data, harvest figures and cereal-price records. They focused on the region that is now the Baden-Württemberg state, where many of the migrants — such as Charles Pfizer of pharmaceutical fame — originated from. They started by identifying the major migration waves and then investigated to what extent climate played a role in driving people to North America during each of them.

The first wave followed the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1815. The volcanic ash and gases spewed into the atmosphere caused temperatures to drop around the world for a few years after the eruption. The ‘year without summer’, 1816, was wet and cold causing widespread crop failures, famine and emigration.

“Another peak-migration year, 1846, had an extremely hot and dry summer leading to bad harvests and high food prices,” says Annette Bösmeier, a researcher at the University of Freiburg who also involved in the study. “These two years of high migration numbers appear to be quite strongly influenced by climate changes, while for other migration waves other circumstances appeared to be more important,” she adds.

Climate was a less significant factor in driving the largest emigration wave, from 1850 to 1855, the researchers found. While unfavourable weather affected crops resulting in low harvests during this time, other factors also drove up food prices. During the Crimean War (1853-1856), for example, France banned food exports, putting pressure on the German grain markets. At the time, the authorities of Baden also paid the poorest people to leave the country in an attempt to prevent uprisings and save on welfare. This, too, drove up emigration numbers.

“Migration in the 19th century was a complex process influenced by multiple factors. Lack of economic perspectives, social pressure, population development, religious and political disputes, warfare, family ties and the promotion of emigration from different sides influenced people’s decision to leave their home country,” concludes Glaser. “Nevertheless, we see clearly that climate was a major factor.”

In the past few years, climate has taken a central stage in migration discussions since future climate change is expected to lead to mass migration (‘climate refugees’), as sea levels rise and extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts and hurricanes, become more frequent. The team hope their study can shed some light on the various factors influencing migration and how important climate can be in triggering mass movements of people.

Story Source:

Materials provided by European Geosciences UnionNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rüdiger Glaser, Iso Himmelsbach, Annette Bösmeier. Climate of migration? How climate triggered migration from southwest Germany to North America during the 19th centuryClimate of the Past, 2017; 13 (11): 1573 DOI: 10.5194/cp-13-1573-2017

 

Source: European Geosciences Union. “Climate changes triggered immigration to America in the 19th century, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171121095201.htm>.

Filed Under News | Leave a Comment 

← Previous PageNext Page →