Pfizer Blocks the Use of Its Drugs in Executions
According to the NY Times, Pfizer has announced that it has imposed sweeping controls on the distribution of its products to ensure that none are used in lethal injections, a step that closes off the last remaining open-market source of drugs used in executions. More than 20 American and European drug companies have already adopted such restrictions, citing either moral or business reasons.
Pfizer’s decision follows its acquisition last year of Hospira, a company that has made seven drugs used in executions including barbiturates, sedatives and agents that cause paralysis or heart failure. Hospira had long tried to prevent diversion of its products to state prisons but had not succeeded; its products were used in a prolonged, apparently agonizing execution in Ohio in 2014, and are stockpiled by Arkansas, according to documents obtained by reporters.
According to Pfizer: Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve and strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment. Pfizer said it would restrict the sale to selected wholesalers of seven products that could be used in executions. The distributors must certify that they will not resell the drugs to corrections departments and will be closely monitored.
FDA Regulations of Tobacco Stricter
For decades, the federal government and the public health community have fought to protect people from the dangers of tobacco use. Since the first Surgeon General’s report on Smoking and Health in 1964, which warned Americans about the risks associated with smoking, significant progress has been made to reduce smoking rates among Americans. In fact, tobacco prevention and control efforts have saved at least 8 million lives in the last 50 years, according to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking. In 2009, Congress took a historic step in the fight for public health by passing the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) giving the FDA authority to regulate the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of tobacco products to protect the public health.
The FDA has finalized a rule extending its authority to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco, among others. This historic rule helps implement the bipartisan Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 and allows the FDA to improve public health and protect future generations from the dangers of tobacco use through a variety of steps, including restricting the sale of these tobacco products to minors nationwide.
Tobacco use is a significant public health threat. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States and responsible for 480,000 deaths per year. While there has been a significant decline in the use of traditional cigarettes among youth over the past decade, their use of other tobacco products continues to climb. A recent survey supported by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows current e-cigarette use among high school students has skyrocketed from 1.5% in 2011 to 16% in 2015 and hookah smoking, in which a single or multi-stemmed instrument is used for vaporizing and smoking flavored tobacco, has risen significantly. In 2015, 3 million middle and high school students were current e-cigarette users, and data showed high school boys smoked cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes. Additionally, a joint study by the FDA and the National Institutes of Health shows that in 2013-2014, nearly 80% of current youth tobacco users reported using a flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days – with the availability of appealing flavors consistently cited as a reason for use.
Before now, there was no federal law prohibiting retailers from selling e-cigarettes, hookah tobacco or cigars to people under age 18. Today’s rule changes that with provisions aimed at restricting youth access, which go into effect in 90 days, including:
1. Not allowing products to be sold to persons under 18 (both in person and online);
2. Requiring age verification by photo ID;
3. No selling of covered tobacco products in vending machines (unless in an adult-only facility);
4. Not allowing the distribution of free samples.
The actions taken will help the FDA prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers, valuate the ingredients of tobacco products and how they are made, as well as communicate their potential risks. Today’s rule also requires manufacturers of all newly-regulated products, to show that the products meet the applicable public health standard set forth in the law and receive marketing authorization from the FDA, unless the product was on the market as of Feb. 15, 2007. The tobacco product review process gives the agency the ability to evaluate important factors such as ingredients, product design and health risks, as well as their appeal to youth and non-users. Under staggered timelines, the FDA expects that manufacturers will continue selling their products for up to two years while they submit – and an additional year while the FDA reviews – a new tobacco product application. The FDA will issue an order granting marketing authorization where appropriate; otherwise, the product will face FDA enforcement.
The new ruling will subject all manufacturers, importers and/or retailers of newly- regulated tobacco products to any applicable provisions, bringing them in line with other tobacco products the FDA has regulated under the TCA since 2009. These requirements include:
1. Registering manufacturing establishments and providing product listings to the FDA;
2. Reporting ingredients, and harmful and potentially harmful constituents;
3. Requiring premarket review and authorization of new tobacco products by the FDA;
4. Placing health warnings on product packages and advertisements; and
5. Not selling modified risk tobacco products (including those described as light, low, or mild) unless authorized by the FDA.
Two Heads Are Better Than One Kale Salad
This kale salad has such a delicious robust flavor, it’s good with red or chilled white, as well as a nice cool glass of our famous NY tap water, or (all the way from Adobe Springs, CA) Noah’s Sparkling Spring Water. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
So delicious and healthy, you can’t go wrong. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
3 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
4 fresh garlic cloves
Pinch Kosher salt
1 large egg yolk (boil egg for 1 minute and not longer)
Zest of 1/2 fresh lemon
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more (to your taste)
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons excellent olive oil
2 Tablespoons canola oil
6 Tablespoons finely grated FRESH Parmesan +
Pinch black pepper
Worchester sauce (one drop)
1 cup torn 1″ (bite-size) pieces old bread, with crusts
1 Garlic clove, squeezed
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 heads of fresh kale, rinsed twice, dried, leaves separated; then well chopped on a cutting board
Even though the plastic bag may say, pre-washed, I always rinse any leafy veggie under cold water, anyway. Here the kale is draining. Beautiful green, fresh and crispy; just what you want. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Cut the kale in small pieces. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
The reason you boil the egg for one minute, is to be sure there’s no salmonella. You never want to use a totally raw egg in anything. Boiling it for only one minute will not take away the rawness, or the flavor, that you want in this (or any other recipe calling for a raw egg), but you will kill any possibility for salmonella. Take the egg out of the fridge way before you use it. Let it get to room temperature, before you place it in the boiling water, or it will crack. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
1 cup FRESHLY GRATED Parmesan, grate it yourself & leave extra on the dining table, so more can be added after serving. Although, you can buy pre-grated parmesan, it’s quite bland compared with the cheese you grate yourself, freshly grated for each recipe.
The Croutons, certainly, can be made the day before. Otherwise, make them first, before you make the dressing. Can you buy packaged croutons? Of course, but try to make them yourself. The flavor is so much better. If you’re going to make a good salad, you might as well make great tasting croutons. There is simply no comparison! Once you taste the richness of your own croutons, you’ll never buy them again. They’re not a peripheral ingredient, they make the salad better. That’s why they’re in the recipe.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, add the 2 teaspoons olive oil and the squeezed juice of one fresh garlic clove. Stir
Tear or cut any left-over bread, you have, into (1 inch) bite size pieces, enough for 1 cup (press the bread down a bit, in the measuring cup). Then put the pieces of bread, into the bowl with oil/garlic. My favorite bread for croutons is day old (or older) sour dough bread.
Now, toss the bread pieces or cubes and be sure that the bread cubes are all covered (as much as possible) with the oil mixture. Let them sit for a while to absorb the oil, like 30 to 60 minutes. Stir them around every once in a while
Arrange croutons on a baking sheet or large pan and bake, tossing occasionally, until golden, 10-15 minutes. Watch them carefully. Just a little too long in the oven, and they will burn and won’t be useable for the salad. When golden, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Croutons are about to go into the oven. You can see that some pieces have more oil than others. Doesn’t matter. Once added to the salad, dressing will rub onto the croutons and they’ll be delicious. The size of the croutons is up to you. In my photo above, they’re fairly large. Feel free to make them smaller. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Use a large salad bowl, wood is nice, but any salad bowl will do.
Boil one large egg for one minute and remove from heat after 1 minute. Immediately run the egg under cold water. Then carefully crack it open, so as not to break the yolk. You have to separate the yolk from the egg white and use only the yolk in this recipe. Separate and put the yolk into a small container, ready to use in the dressing. This is a precaution worth taking, to prevent salmonella. Never use a completely raw egg. Save the egg white for another recipe, like adding to an omelet or frittata, you plan to make over the weekend.
Now, mash all the garlic, right in the wood salad bowl, with a fork. Get it all evenly mashed.
Starting to mash the garlic in our wooden salad bowl ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Next, add the anchovy fillets (to the wood salad bowl) and mash them into the garlic, with the same consistency as the garlic, so you get a paste.
Now, with a small whisk, add the egg yolk and whisk it into the garlic/anchovy paste
Next, add the lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and whisk; then add the mustard and 1 drop of Worchester sauce, whisk again
Now, add the extra virgin olive oil and whisk it into the dressing.
Add the canola oil drop by drop, while you whisk it into the dressing.
Finally, add the freshly grated parmesan and black pepper (to your taste). Taste to see if the dressing needs more of anything (to your taste). With the anchovies, you may decide not to use any salt. You might want more lemon juice. This is the time to taste and decide.
Freshly grated parmesan means doing it yourself. There’s no substitute. Buying a container that reads freshly grated simply is NOT. After a while, you’ll see, there’s something satisfying about doing it yourself. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Whisk the dressing so it’s thick and glossy.
If you want, you can make the dressing 1 day ahead; however, I think serving right after making the dressing is the very best way to make this kale salad.
Just before serving, add the croutons and toss. Then add additional freshly grated parmesan and serve.
I always add to the table, a dish with extra, freshly grated parmesan, just in case I didn’t use enough in the dressing. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Just added the chopped kale to the dressing in the salad bowl. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Added croutons, and about to toss. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Tossing the salad. Just about to serve it. Will add more parmesan in a minute. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
The proof is in the eating. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
I bought a case of Noah’s sparkling water, because its magnesium content is the highest of any water, bottled or otherwise, that I know about; plus there’s calcium present, which is needed in order for our bodies to absorb the magnesium. Most Americans are deficient in magnesium and I’m trying to compensate for this, in our daily diet. Btw, there’s a good amount of magnesium in this kale salad recipe. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
We’re trying a super-Tuscan wine, Tignanello – which is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, from the highly regarded Antinori Estate of fine wines. Scroll down to read more about the history of this wine, worth trying, if you haven’t already. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
We started our meal with glasses of full bodied Tignanello, a blend with complex aromas and a long finish, worth paying attention to. Then the Kale salad, which if made correctly, makes a bold statement to your taste buds. We thought that a white wine, would not push back enough and that this red would be the best to accompany the kale. This particular recipe is so-o good, that I made it my whole meal with seconds and thirds. Jules likes more than one dish at dinner, so I created another meatless recipe, spinach and mushroom patties; served with a nice chewy twisted pasta called, Gemelli. I would say that New Yorkers (following the lead of California) are now trending toward more and more meatless meals.
I was pretty sure that the richness of the fresh mushrooms (in the patties) would combine well with the Tignanello wine, and the two were made for each other. This whole meal was simple but beyond delicious. Call us OCDers, but for the thousandth time, we had our yummy lo-cal jello cake for dessert, slathered with cool whip.
Gemelli pasta (Wikipedia Commons)
More about Tuscan wines from the Antinori Estate:
Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners in 1385, beginning an oenological legacy that has lasted over 26 generations. Throughout the company’s history, it has remained family-owned and operated. Today, Marchese Piero Antinori directs the long-lived family vision, and his three daughters participate in various activities with the firm. Famed wine consultant Giacomo Tachis began his celebrated tenure with Antinori in 1961, a year that witnessed the inception of new vinification techniques (controlled temperatures, aging in bottle, and barrels comprising a range of types and styles) and the beginning of a revisionist period in the concept of Chianti (which was later actualized in various methods utilized to maximize extraction and aroma). This dynamic period of experimentation continued over the course of several years, with some of the pivotal initiatives including the use of maloactic fermentation for red wines, aging in barrique, and planting of several non-indigenous varietals. The most tangible and compelling evocation of these progressive efforts, of course, is captured in Antinori’s extensive portfolio, which features some of Italy’s most revered and sought-after bottlings. Piero Antinori desired not to recreate a Bordeaux-style claret, but rather, to convey the versatility and finesse of the noble Sangiovese. Drawing upon the consummate skill of Giacomo Tachis, Antinori realized his conception in the form of the second official Super-Tuscan – Tignanello – debuting in 1971 as a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. While second in the Super-Tuscan timeline, its conception entailed several inaugural efforts: It was the first modern wine of Chianti to contain a nontraditional grape – Cabernet Sauvignon – while omitting white grapes, and the premiere wine to be aged in small barrels.
Tastes good too. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.
Gabriel Byrne did some very fine acting, but Jules, Alex and I came away from this play feeling that it has become a bit dated and is now a museum piece, worth seeing, if you keep this in mind.
Alex liked the acting of (up and coming young actor,) Michael Shannon, who plays one of the sons (no doubt, Eugene O’Neil himself). The play is autobiographical, and Eugene O’Neil was certainly affected by his dysfunctional family, but when you compare this play to Fun House, another (Broadway play) autobiographical play where r son, Alex, we saw Eugene O’Neil’s great (too long) play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. the playwright comes from a dysfunctional family, I would recommend the latter over the O’Neil play.
We had dinner at Candle79, which is a wonderfully creative vegan restaurant, that we go to frequently. Waiters are knowledgeable and very friendly. A dessert called Mexican chocolate is out of this world!
From Our Table to Yours !
How magnetic reconnection takes place, a critical step in understanding space weather
May 12, 2016
University of Maryland
Physicists have now provided the first major results of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, including an unprecedented look at the interaction between the magnetic fields of Earth and the sun. The article describes the first direct and detailed observation of a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection, which occurs when two opposing magnetic field lines break and reconnect with each other, releasing massive amounts of energy.
Most people do not give much thought to the Earth’s magnetic field, yet it is every bit as essential to life as air, water and sunlight. The magnetic field provides an invisible, but crucial, barrier that protects Earth from the sun’s magnetic field, which drives a stream of charged particles known as the solar wind outward from the sun’s outer layers. The interaction between these two magnetic fields can cause explosive storms in the space near Earth, which can knock out satellites and cause problems here on Earth’s surface, despite the protection offered by Earth’s magnetic field.
A new study co-authored by University of Maryland physicists provides the first major results of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, including an unprecedented look at the interaction between the magnetic fields of Earth and the sun. The paper describes the first direct and detailed observation of a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection, which occurs when two opposing magnetic field lines break and reconnect with each other, releasing massive amounts of energy.
The discovery is a major milestone in understanding magnetism and space weather. The research paper appears in the May 13, 2016, issue of the journal Science.
“Imagine two trains traveling toward each other on separate tracks, but the trains are switched to the same track at the last minute,” said James Drake, a professor of physics at UMD and a co-author on the Science study. “Each track represents a magnetic field line from one of the two interacting magnetic fields, while the track switch represents a reconnection event. The resulting crash sends energy out from the reconnection point like a slingshot.”
Evidence suggests that reconnection is a major driving force behind events such as solar flares, coronal mass ejections, magnetic storms, and the auroras observed at both the North and South poles of Earth. Although researchers have tried to study reconnection in the lab and in space for nearly half a century, the MMS mission is the first to directly observe how reconnection happens.
The MMS mission provided more precise observations than ever before. Flying in a pyramid formation at the edge of Earth’s magnetic field with as little as 10 kilometers’ distance between four identical spacecraft, MMS images electrons within the pyramid once every 30 milliseconds. In contrast, MMS’ predecessor, the European Space Agency and NASA’s Cluster II mission, takes measurements once every three seconds–enough time for MMS to make 100 measurements.
“Just looking at the data from MMS is extraordinary. The level of detail allows us to see things that were previously a blur,” explained Drake, who served on the MMS science team and also advised the engineering team on the requirements for MMS instrumentation. “With a time interval of three seconds, seeing reconnection with Cluster II was impossible. But the quality of the MMS data is absolutely inspiring. It’s not clear that there will ever be another mission quite like this one.”
Simply observing reconnection in detail is an important milestone. But a major goal of the MMS mission is to determine how magnetic field lines briefly break, enabling reconnection and energy release to happen. Measuring the behavior of electrons in a reconnection event will enable a more accurate description of how reconnection works; in particular, whether it occurs in a neat and orderly process, or in a turbulent, stormlike swirl of energy and particles.
A clearer picture of the physics of reconnection will also bring us one step closer to understanding space weather–including whether solar flares and magnetic storms follow any sort of predictable pattern like weather here on Earth. Reconnection can also help scientists understand other, more energetic astrophysical phenomena such as magnetars, which are neutron stars with an unusually strong magnetic field.
“Understanding reconnection is relevant to a whole range of scientific questions in solar physics and astrophysics,” said Marc Swisdak, an associate research scientist in UMD’s Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics. Swisdak is not a co-author on the Science paper, but he is actively collaborating with Drake and others on subsequent analyses of the MMS data.
“Reconnection in Earth’s magnetic field is relatively low energy, but we can get a good sense of what is happening if we extrapolate to more energetic systems,” Swisdak added. “The edge of Earth’s magnetic field is an excellent test lab, as it’s just about the only place where we can fly a spacecraft directly through a region where reconnection occurs.”
To date, MMS has focused only on the sun-facing side of Earth’s magnetic field. In the future, the mission is slated to fly to the opposite side to investigate the teardrop-shaped tail of the magnetic field that faces away from the sun.
- James Burch et al. Electron-Scale Measurements of Magnetic Reconnection in Space. Science, May 13, 2016 DOI:10.1126/science.aaf2939
Source: University of Maryland. “Space mission first to observe key interaction between magnetic fields of Earth and sun: How magnetic reconnection takes place, a critical step in understanding space weather.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160512145509.htm>.
May 11, 2016
University of Washington
Researchers have created ways to give a piece of paper sensing capabilities that allows it to respond to gesture commands and connect to the digital world.
A piece of paper is one of the most common, versatile daily items. Children use it to draw their favorite animals and practice writing the A-B-Cs, and adults print reports or scribble a hasty grocery list.
Now, connecting real-world items such as a paper airplane or a classroom survey form to the larger Internet of Things environment is possible using off-the-shelf technology and a pen, sticker or stencil pattern.
Researchers from the University of Washington, Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University have created ways to give a piece of paper sensing capabilities that allows it to respond to gesture commands and connect to the digital world. The method relies on small radio frequency (RFID) tags that are stuck on, printed or drawn onto the paper to create interactive, lightweight interfaces that can do anything from controlling music using a paper baton, to live polling in a classroom.
“Paper is our inspiration for this technology,” said lead author Hanchuan Li, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering. “A piece of paper is still by far one of the most ubiquitous mediums. If RFID tags can make interfaces as simple, flexible and cheap as paper, it makes good sense to deploy those tags anywhere.”
The researchers will present their work May 12 at Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, California.
The technology — PaperID — leverages inexpensive, off-the-shelf RFID tags, which function without batteries but can be detected through a reader device placed in the same room as the tags. Each tag has a unique identification, so a reader’s antenna can pick out an individual among many. These tags only cost about 10 cents each and can be stuck onto paper. Alternatively, the simple pattern of a tag’s antenna can also be drawn on paper with conductive ink.
When a person’s hand waves, touches, swipes or covers a tag, the hand disturbs the signal path between an individual tag and its reader. Algorithms can recognize the specific movements, then classify a signal interruption as a specific command. For example, swiping a hand over a tag placed on a pop-up book might cause the book to play a specific, programmed sound.
“These little tags, by applying our signal processing and machine learning algorithms, can be turned into a multi-gesture sensor,” Li said. “Our research is pushing the boundaries of using commodity hardware to do something it wasn’t able to do before.”
The researchers developed different interaction methods to adapt RFID tags depending on the type of interaction that the user wants to achieve. For example, a simple sticker tag works well for an on/off button command, while multiple tags drawn side-by-side on paper in an array or circle can serve as sliders and knobs.
“The interesting aspect of PaperID is that it leverages commodity RFID technology thereby expanding the use cases for RFID in general and allowing researchers to prototype these kind of interactive systems without having to build custom hardware,” said Shwetak Patel, the Washington Research Foundation Entrepreneurship Endowed Professor in Computer Science & Engineering and Electrical Engineering.
They also can track the velocity of objects in movement, such as following the motion of a tagged paper conductor’s wand and adjusting the pace of the music based on the tempo of the wand in mid-air.
This technique can be used on other mediums besides paper to enable gesture-based sensing capabilities. The researchers chose to demonstrate on paper in part because it’s ubiquitous, flexible and recyclable, fitting the intended goal of creating simple, cost-effective interfaces that can be made quickly on demand for small tasks.
“Ultimately, these techniques can be extended beyond paper to a wide range of materials and usage scenarios,” said Alanson Sample, research scientist at Disney Research. “What’s exciting is that PaperID provides a new way to link the real and virtual worlds through low cost and ubiquitous gesture interfaces.”
- Hanchuan Li, Eric Brockmeyer, Elizabeth J. Carter, Josh Fromm, Scott E. Hudson, Shwetak N. Patel, Alanson Sample. PaperID. Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, May 2016 DOI: 10.1145/2858036.2858249
Source: University of Washington. “Paper gets ‘smart’ with drawn-on, stenciled sensor tags.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160511133154.htm>.
Research could point to new antifungals that stop cell growth in fungi but not in their plant or animal hosts
May 10, 2016
The more than 90,000 known species of fungi may owe their abilities to spread and even cause disease to an ancient virus that hijacked their cell division machinery, researchers report. Over a billion years ago, a viral protein invaded the fungal genome, generating a family of proteins that now play key roles in fungal growth. The research could point to new antifungals that inhibit cell division in fungi but not in their plant or animal hosts.
A new study finds that the more than 90,000 species of mushrooms, molds, yeasts and other fungi found everywhere in the soil, water and air may owe their abilities to grow, spread, and even cause disease to an opportunistic virus they caught more than a billion years ago.
In the May 10 issue of eLife, researchers from Duke University and Stanford University suggest that a viral protein may have invaded the genomes of early fungi and hijacked their cell division control machinery, duping fungi into making more viruses as the fungal cells grew and divided. The viral protein was eventually adopted by its host and incorporated into the fungal genome, generating a family of proteins that are now critical to producing spores, invading host tissues and other fungal characteristics.
“The event could have triggered or facilitated the emergence of the entire fungal kingdom,” said lead author Nicolas Buchler, assistant professor of biology at Duke.
The research could one day help scientists develop new types of antifungal drugs that inhibit cell division in fungi but not in their plant or animal hosts, Buchler said.
The cycle of cell growth and division is under tight control. Without it, living things couldn’t go from a single fertilized egg to an adult, replace worn-out cells or heal from damage. Unchecked, cell division can lead to cancer in humans and other animals.
Studies in recent decades have shown that the molecular machinery plants and animals use to control this process includes some proteins that bear little similarity to their counterparts in fungi.
In plants and animals, a family of proteins called E2F transcription factors control the early stages of cell division, turning genes on and off as needed as one cell prepares to split into two. A different protein called SBF plays the same role in fungi.
Which raises the question: If the cell cycle control proteins in animals and plants are more or less the same, how did a protein that serves the same function in fungi — which are more closely related to animals than either group is to plants — come to be so different?
To find out, Buchler and colleagues scoured the genome sequences of hundreds of eukaryotes, the group of living things that includes all fungi, plants and animals, including humans.
They checked amoebas, algae, and other organisms for cell cycle control proteins similar to the SBF protein found in fungi, but nothing turned up.
The only matches weren’t in plants or animals at all, but in viruses. The results suggest that fungi acquired their SBF protein independently after diverging from animals about a billion years ago, most likely from a virus that infected the fungal ancestor’s cells and infiltrated its genome.
The virus likely commandeered its host’s cell cycle controls for its own benefit, but fungi may have found the protein useful and adopted it through a process known as horizontal gene transfer.
By zeroing in on these virally-derived genes, which now play key roles in fungal growth, scientists may be able to identify new ways to fight fungi that cause disease, the researchers say.
Life-threatening fungal infections such as cryptococcal meningitis and fungal pneumonia kill one and a half million people every year. Such infections can be especially dangerous for people with impaired immune systems, including organ transplant recipients or those with cancer or HIV.
Fungal pathogens aren’t limited to people. Rotting and plant disease in crops, white-nose syndrome in bats and colony collapse disorder in bees are all caused by fungi.
Now the researchers are trying to understand how the cell cycle control machinery of fungi was co-opted without wreaking havoc on the life of the cell.
They are focusing on fungi that branched off early, near the base of the fungal family tree, such as soil-dwelling fungi called chytrids. Cell division in these species is thought to be controlled by both the E2F protein family and the SBF protein unique to fungi. The pattern suggests that fungal evolution went through a transitional state where both cell cycle controllers coexisted in the ancestor of most fungi, and then E2F was lost and replaced by its viral stand-in.
In experiments with the single-celled fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer’s yeast, Buchler and colleagues show that the SBF proteins in yeast can bind to the same snippets of DNA as their E2F counterparts in animals, which supports the idea that SBF was able to take over by activating the same gene targets its predecessor did.
“The fungal cell cycle never stopped, it just went through a period where it had two control switches competing for the same genetic real estate,” Buchler said.
- Edgar M Medina, Jonathan J Turner, Raluca Gordân, Jan M Skotheim, Nicolas E Buchler. Punctuated evolution and transitional hybrid network in an ancestral cell cycle of fungi. eLife, 2016; 5 DOI:10.7554/eLife.09492
Source: Duke University. “Hijacked cell division helped fuel rise of fungi: Research could point to new antifungals that stop cell growth in fungi but not in their plant or animal hosts.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160510124654.htm>.
May 9, 2016
University of Gothenburg
Never make a decision when you are hungry. The hormone ghrelin – that is released before meals and known to increase appetite – has a negative effect on both decision making and impulse control, report scientists.
Never make a decision when you are hungry. The hormone ghrelin — that is released before meals and known to increase appetite — has a negative effect on both decision making and impulse control. Such were the results of a recently conducted study at Sahlgrenska University.
When hungry, the hormone ghrelin is produced in the stomach. In a new study conducted on rats at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, the hormone has been shown to have a negative effect on decision making capabilities and impulse control.
“For the first time, we have been able to show that increasing ghrelin to levels that are seen prior to meals or during fasting, causes the brain to act impulsively and also affects the ability to make rational decisions,” says Karolina Skibicka, docent at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
Impulsivity is complex, but can be broken down into impulsive action (inability to resist a motoric response) and impulsive choice (inability to delay gratification).
Many have experienced the difficulty of resisting getting a sandwich or something else, even if we know that dinner will be served soon, and the same is true for the rats used in the study.
The rats can be trained to be rewarded (with sugar) when they execute an action such as pressing a lever (“go”) — or instead they can be rewarded only when they resist pressing the lever (“no-go”) when an appropriate learned signal is given. They learn this by repeatedly being given a signal, for example, a flash of light or a buzzing sound that tells them which action should be executed for them to receive their reward.
Were given ghrelin
An inability to resist pressing the lever, when the “no-go” signal is given, is a sign of impulsivity. Researchers found that rats given ghrelin directly into the brain, which mimics how the stomach would notify us of a need to eat, were more likely to press the lever instead of waiting, despite it causing them loose their reward.
The ability to delay gratification in order to get a greater reward later is a comparable measure of impulsive choice (decision). It can be illustrated by options such as those between getting a single cookie now or several cookies if you wait a few minutes, or overeating high-calorie foods for immediate feeling of pleasure while disregarding the long term benefits of eating less or eating healthy.
The person who chooses immediate gratification even though waiting provides a greater reward, is characterized as being more impulsive and that implies a poorer ability to make rational decisions.
Reduced the impulsive behavior
Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy found that higher levels of ghrelin prevented the rats from being able to wait for the greater reward. They further evaluated where in the brain ghrelin acts to affect impulsivity.
“Our results showed that restricting ghrelin effects to the ventral tegmental area, the part of the brain that is a crucial component of the reward system, was sufficient to make the rats more impulsive. Importantly, when we blocked ghrelin, the impulsive behavior was greatly reduced,” says Karolina Skibicka. Even a short period of fasting, a more natural way of increasing the release of ghrelin, increased impulsive behavior.
Impulsivity is a distinctive feature of many neuropsychiatric disorders and behavior disorders such as ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), drug abuse and eating disorders.
The study also showed that increased levels of ghrelin even caused long-term genetic changes in the brain circuits that are linked to impulsivity and decision making. A ghrelin injection into the brain that resulted in impulsive behavior in rats, caused the same type of changes in dopamine related genes and enzymes as can be seen in ADHD and OCD.
“Our results indicate that the ghrelin receptors in the brain can be a possible target for future treatment of psychiatric disorders that are characterized by problems with impulsivity and even eating disorders,” says Karolina Skibicka.
- Rozita H Anderberg, Caroline Hansson, Maya Fenander, Jennifer E Richard, Suzanne L Dickson, Hans Nissbrandt, Filip Bergquist, Karolina P Skibicka. The Stomach-Derived Hormone Ghrelin Increases Impulsive Behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015; 41 (5): 1199 DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.297
Source: University of Gothenburg. “Hormones that are released during hunger affect decision making.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160509085807.htm>.
May 9, 2016
Freie Universitaet Berlin
Scientists have succeeded in creating a model simulating the formation of mysterious structures on the surface of the Mars volcano, Olympus Mons. The research project is based on image data of the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) that is installed on the European Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the red planet since December 2003. Using the camera images, the scientists in the Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing group generated a mosaic and a terrain model of the Olympus Mons volcano. The image data show that the volcano shield is shaped in the form of arched terraces and the foot of the otherwise very flat volcano drops steeply. The origin of the terraces and the steep slope of Olympus Mons were discussed heatedly in previous publications.
Scientists from the Division of Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing in the Institute of Geological Sciences at Freie Universität Berlin have succeeded in creating a model simulating the formation of mysterious structures on the surface of the Mars volcano, Olympus Mons. The study was conducted in collaboration with the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam and Arizona State University. The findings were published in the latest issue of the international scientific journal, Journal of Geophysical Research — Planets.
The research project is based on image data of the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) that is installed on the European Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the red planet since December 2003. Using the camera images, the scientists in the Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing group generated a mosaic and a terrain model of the Olympus Mons volcano. The image data show that the volcano shield is shaped in the form of arched terraces and the foot of the otherwise very flat volcano drops steeply. The origin of the terraces and the steep slope of Olympus Mons were discussed heatedly in previous publications. This study indicates that the observed deformations of the volcano are due to gravity, which on Mars is about 40 percent of the Earth’s gravity, and to low frictional resistance in the volcano subsurface.
The new investigations of the interactions between the Martian volcano and the ground underneath it were done in cooperation with the planetary scientists at Freie Universität Berlin, the Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam ( Physics of Earthquakes and Volcanoes section), and Arizona State University (School of Earth and Space Exploration) in Tempe, Arizona, USA. The computer simulation prepared by the Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing team demonstrates for the first time the formation of terraces during the volcanic growth phase.
The Olympus Mons volcano on Mars with a height of 22 km is nearly two and a half times as high as Mount Everest. Its diameter is 600 km, which is about the distance between Berlin and Munich. Olympus Mons is thus the largest volcano in our solar system. The latest findings about this supervolcano will also help to give scientists a better understanding of volcanoes on Earth.
- S. Musiol, E. P. Holohan, B. Cailleau, T. Platz, A. Dumke, T. R. Walter, D. A. Williams, S. van Gasselt. Lithospheric flexure and gravity spreading of Olympus Mons volcano, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 2016; 121 (3): 255 DOI: 10.1002/2015JE004896
May 5, 2016
University of Texas at Austin
New research indicates that slow-motion earthquakes or ‘slow-slip events’ can rupture the shallow portion of a fault that also moves in large, tsunami-generating earthquakes. The finding has important implications for assessing tsunami hazards. The discovery was made by conducting the first-ever detailed investigation of centimeter-level seafloor movement at an offshore subduction zone.
Research published in the May 6 edition of Science indicates that slow-motion earthquakes or “slow-slip events” can rupture the shallow portion of a fault that also moves in large, tsunami-generating earthquakes. The finding has important implications for assessing tsunami hazards. The discovery was made by conducting the first-ever detailed investigation of centimeter-level seafloor movement at an offshore subduction zone.
“These data have revealed the true extent of slow-motion earthquakes at an offshore subduction zone for the first time,” said Laura Wallace, a research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics who led the study.
An international team of researchers from the U.S., Japan and New Zealand collaborated on the research. The Institute for Geophysics is a research unit of The University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences.
The world’s most devastating tsunamis are generated by earthquakes that occur near the trenches of subduction zones, places where one tectonic plate begins to dive or “subduct” beneath another. Using a network of highly sensitive seafloor pressure recorders, the team detected a slow-slip event in September 2014 off the east coast of New Zealand. The study was undertaken at the Hikurangi subduction zone, where the Pacific Plate subducts beneath New Zealand’s North Island.
The slow-slip event lasted two weeks, resulting in 15-20 centimeters of movement along the fault that lies between New Zealand and the Pacific Plate, a distance equivalent to three to four years of background plate motion. If the movement had occurred suddenly, rather than slowly, it would have resulted in a magnitude 6.8 earthquake. The seafloor sensors recorded up to 5.5 centimeters of upward movement of the seafloor during the event.
Slow-slip events are similar to earthquakes, but instead of releasing strain between two tectonic plates in seconds, they do it over days to weeks, creating quiet, centimeter-sized shifts in the landscape. In a few cases, these small shifts have been associated with setting off destructive earthquakes, such as the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan in 2011 and generated a tsunami that caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.
The slow-slip event that the team studied occurred in the same location as a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in 1947 that generated a large tsunami. The finding increases the understanding of the relationship between slow slip and normal earthquakes by showing that the two types of seismic events can occur on the same part of a plate boundary.
The link has been difficult to document in the past because most slow-slip monitoring networks are land-based and are located far from the trenches that host tsunami-generating earthquakes, Wallace said. The data for this study was recorded by HOBITSS, a temporary underwater network that monitored slow-slip events by recording vertical movement of the seafloor. HOBITSS stands for “Hikurangi Ocean Bottom Investigation of Tremor and Slow Slip.”
“Our results clearly show that shallow, slow-slip event source areas are also capable of hosting seismic rupture and generating tsunamis,” said Yoshihiro Ito, a professor at Kyoto University and study co-author. “This increases the need to continuously monitor shallow, offshore slow-slip events at subduction zones, using permanent monitoring networks similar to those that have been established offshore of Japan.”
Professor Spahr Webb, a co-author from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory agreed.
“Our New Zealand experiment results demonstrate the great potential for using offshore monitoring systems at subduction zones in the Pacific Northwest for tsunami and earthquake early warning,” said Webb.
Earthquakes are unpredictable events, Wallace said, but the linkage between slow-slip events and earthquakes could eventually help in forecasting the likelihood of damaging earthquakes.
“To do that we will have to understand the links between slow-slip events and earthquakes much better than we currently do,” Wallace said.
The research team installed the HOBITSS network in May 2014, which consisted of 24 seafloor pressure gauges, and 15 ocean bottom seismometers. The team collected the devices and data in June 2015.
“The project findings add to critical information for anticipating potentially life-threatening earthquakes and tsunamis,” said Maurice Tivey, program director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences.
Additional participants included scientists from the University of Tokyo, Tohoku University, GNS Science, the University of California at Santa Cruz and the University of Colorado Boulder.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation; the Japan Society for Promotion of Science; Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; and grants from participating universities and research institutions.
- Laura M. Wallace, Spahr C. Webb, Yoshihiro Ito, Kimihiro Mochizuki, Ryota Hino, Stuart Henrys, Susan Y. Schwartz, Anne F. Sheehan. Slow slip near the trench at the Hikurangi subduction zone, New Zealand. Science, 2016 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2349
Source: University of Texas at Austin. “Tsunami risk: World’s shallowest slow-motion earthquakes detected offshore of New Zealand.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160505144723.htm>.
Candida infections also more common among those with memory loss
May 4, 2016
Johns Hopkins Medicine
In a study prompted in part by suggestions from people with mental illness, researchers found that a history of Candida yeast infections was more common in a group of men with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder than in those without these disorders, and that women with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who tested positive for Candida performed worse on a standard memory test than women with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who had no evidence of past infection.
In a study prompted in part by suggestions from people with mental illness, Johns Hopkins researchers found that a history of Candida yeast infections was more common in a group of men with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder than in those without these disorders, and that women with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who tested positive forCandida performed worse on a standard memory test than women with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who had no evidence of past infection.
The researchers caution that their findings, described online on May 4 in npj Schizophrenia — a new publication from Nature Publishing Group — do not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between mental illness and yeast infections but may support a more detailed examination into the role of lifestyle, immune system weaknesses and gut-brain connections as contributing factors to the risk of psychiatric disorders and memory impairment.
“It’s far too early to single out Candida infection as a cause of mental illness or vice versa,” says Emily Severance, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and member of the Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “However, most Candidainfections can be treated in their early stages, and clinicians should make it a point to look out for these infections in their patients with mental illness.” She adds that Candida infections can also be prevented by decreased sugar intake and other dietary modifications, avoidance of unnecessary antibiotics, and improvement of hygiene.
Candidaalbicans is a yeastlike fungus naturally found in small amounts in human digestive tracts, but its overgrowth in warm, moist environments causes burning, itching symptoms, thrush (rashes in the throat or mouth) in infants and those with weakened immune systems, and sexually transmittable genital yeast infections in men and women. In its more serious forms, it can enter the bloodstream. In most people, the body’s own healthy bacteria and functioning immune system prevent its overgrowth.
Severance says she and her team focused on a possible association betweenCandida susceptibility and mental illness in the wake of new evidence suggesting that schizophrenia may be related to problems with the immune system, and because some people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to fungal infections.
Also, she says, patients and parents of patients had shared personal stories and testimonials with the researchers about their experience with yeast infections, and these discussions prompted the investigation into possible links between mental illness and the microbiome — the body’s natural collection of bacteria. The researchers, she adds, chose to focus on Candidabecause it is one of the most common types of yeast in the body.
For the study, colleagues from the Sheppard Pratt Health System took blood samples from a group of 808 people between the ages of 18 and 65. This group was composed of 277 controls without a history of mental disorder, 261 individuals with schizophrenia and 270 people with bipolar disorder. The researchers used the blood samples to quantify the amount of IgG class antibodies to Candida, which indicates a past infection with the yeast. After accounting for factors like age, race, medications and socioeconomic status, which could skew the results, they looked for patterns that suggested links between mental illness and infection rates.
Significantly, the team says, it found no connection between the presence ofCandida antibodies and mental illness overall in the total group. But when the investigators looked only at men, they found 26 percent of those with schizophrenia had Candida antibodies, compared to 14 percent of the control males. There wasn’t any difference found in infection rate between women with schizophrenia (31.3 percent) and controls (29.4 percent). The higher infection rate percentages in women over men likely reflects an increased susceptibility for this type of infection in all women.
Men with bipolar disorder had clear increases in Candida as well, with a 26.4 percent infection rate, compared to only 14 percent in male controls. But, after accounting for additional variables related to lifestyle, the researchers found that the association between men with bipolar disorder and Candidainfection could likely be attributed to homelessness. However, the link between men with schizophrenia and Candida infection persisted and could not be explained by homelessness or other environmental factors. Many people who are homeless are subjected to unpredictable changes in stress, sanitation and diet, which can lead to infections like those caused byCandida.
Severance says the data add support to the idea that environmental exposures related to lifestyle and immune system factors may be linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and that those factors may be different for each illness. Similarly, specific mental illnesses and related symptoms may be very different in men versus women.
This Johns Hopkins research group, led by Robert Yolken, M.D., director of the Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology, had previously shown that toxoplasmosis infection could trigger schizophrenia, and this could lead to neurocognitive problems. The organism that causes toxoplasmosis is a parasite that uses cats as its primary host, but it can also infect humans and other mammals.
To determine whether infection with Candida affected any neurological responses, all participants in the new study took a 30-minute assessment of cognitive tasks to measure immediate memory, delayed memory, attention skills, use of language and visual-spatial skills.
Each of the five skills tests are scored based on an adjusted 100-point system. Results showed that control men and women with and without priorCandida infection had no measureable differences in scores in the five neurological responses. However, the researchers noticed that women with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder who had a history of Candida infection had lower scores on the memory portions of this test compared to those women with no prior infection. For example, women with schizophrenia and the highest Candida antibody levels scored about an average of 11 points lower on the test for immediate memory than the controls, from a score of 68.5 without infection to 57.4 with infection. And the women with schizophrenia and the highest Candida antibody levels scored almost 15 points lower on the test for delayed memory, from a score of 71.4 without infection to 56.2 with infection. The effect of Candida infection in women with bipolar disorder on memory test scores was smaller than that seen in women with schizophrenia but was still measureable.
“Although we cannot demonstrate a direct link between Candida infection and physiological brain processes, our data show that some factor associated withCandida infection, and possibly the organism itself, plays a role in affecting the memory of women with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and this is an avenue that needs to be further explored,” says Severance. “BecauseCandida is a natural component of the human body microbiome, yeast overgrowth or infection in the digestive tract, for example, may disrupt the gut-brain axis. This disruption in conjunction with an abnormally functioning immune system could collectively disturb those brain processes that are important for memory.”
Severance says they plan to take their studies of the gut-brain connection into mouse models to test for a cause-and effect-relationship with Candidaand memory deficits.
The researchers emphasized that the current study design had limitations. For example, they were unable to tell where in the body the infection was located and whether or not participants had a current or past infection ofCandida. The researchers were also not able to account for every possible lifestyle variable that might contribute to these results.
The researchers in the Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology are investigating whether pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses, may contribute or trigger certain mental disorders.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 percent of people in the U.S. have schizophrenia and about 2 percent have bipolar disorder. Although these diseases have a genetic component, there is evidence that they may also be triggered by environmental factors and stress.
Additional authors on the study include Kristin Gressitt of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Catherine Stallings, Emily Katsafanas, Lucy Schweinfurth, Christina Savage, Maria Adamos, Kevin Sweeney, Andrea Origoni, Sunil Khushalani and Faith Dickerson of Sheppard Pratt Health System; and F. Markus Leweke of Heidelberg University.
The study was supported by a research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH-94268) and a grant from the Stanley Medical Research Institute.
The authors also thank the individuals with psychiatric disorders and their families who originally suggested this line of research.
- Emily G Severance, Kristin L Gressitt, Catherine R Stallings, Emily Katsafanas, Lucy A Schweinfurth, Christina L Savage, Maria B Adamos, Kevin M Sweeney, Andrea E Origoni, Sunil Khushalani, F Markus Leweke, Faith B Dickerson, Robert H Yolken. Candida albicans exposures, sex specificity and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. npj Schizophrenia, 2016; 2: 16018 DOI:10.1038/npjschz.2016.18
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Yeast infection linked to mental illness: Candida infections also more common among those with memory loss.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160504121327.htm>.