Tag Archives: research

Could the cure for cancer be a simple master switch solution by a Massachusetts based company?

Yes, blocking of a few master genetic switches associated with “super enhancers” might be a simple cure for cancer, says Dr. Richard Young, of Whitehead research institute, MA, senior author in two papers in the prestigious, peer – reviewed paper, Cell, and founder of a start-up company, Syros Pharmaceuticals, with the goal to cure cancer. The company has raised 30 million dollars to support its goal to cure cancer by finding and switching off the master switches in each type of cancer. You may click here to read the Cell paper led by Dr. Jakob Loven, for “Selective inhibition of tumor oncogenes by disruption of super enhancers”, and here to read the Cell paper led by Dr. Warren A. Whyte, for “Master transcription factors and mediator establish super enhancers at key cell identity genes.  Both the papers have a single, master illustration explaining the main concept. It is must see to understand how simple the hypothesized solution is. images-1

Dr Young’s team says a normal cell regulation is remarkably less complex, with core genes controlled by only a few hundred super enhancers. With this hypothesis, cancer research focus is forever changed since April 2013, and gives remarkable insight to how a single fertilized egg from a father and mother can develop into a unique individual, with two-thirds of his/her diseases having a genetic determination. Loss of old super enhancers and assembling a cluster of new enhancers drives cell identity as a human grows develops.

For years cancer scientists have been reporting their discoveries of the mediators responsible for over expression of cancer genes. What makes Dr Young’s work more unique is that it suggests that a few master switches might control this gene at super enhancer regions. There are thousands of cancer gene transcription factors in the literature. One example is the study of pancreatic cancer, the fourth commenest cause of cancer related deaths in the western hemisphere. Several key genes have been shown to play a role in pancreatic cancer, including the oncogene K-RAS and several tumor suppresor genes including some from the TGFbeta signalling pathway. The researchers discovered that the Fibroblast growth factor receptor gene 4 (FGFR4) was overexpressed in almost two-thirds of pancreatic cancers. They found a research outside this gene called intron 1, was greatly extended in pancreatic cancer cells. Two sites binding transcripton factors and two sites binding mediators were identified, and additionally, the team discovered which mediator was essential for over expression of FGFR4 to cause pancreatic cancer. You may read about this pancreatic cancer work led by Dr. Helen C Hurst of London by clicking here. Might this deadly pancreatic cancer too be controlled by inhibiting one or more of the several hundred master switches?

Do you prefer a non scientific explanation of the above solution? A very simple explanation of the complex work done by Dr. Richard Young and his team of enthusiastic young scientists is given by Amy Maxmen in the respected weekly journal, Nature and you might read it by clicking here. She appropriately titles it “Super-powered switches may decide cell fate”. Different cells in the body have the same genes swithced on at different times. When such cells are switched on by a super enhancer complex due to unknown factors (as yet), then the cell becomes cancerous. You might say that cancer cells are “fueled” by “super enhancers”, and might suggest inhibiting such a fueling source to cure cancer and you might be correct to be hopeful, albeit with a heavy dose of patience. Last year it was discovered there are a million enhancers in the human genome. Dr Young speculates that some of these enhancers act together in large clusters and function as a unit. How are cancer cells able to employ such super enhancers to produce more of their harmful factors that lead to aggressive tumorsimages

Dr. Richard Young and his team of enthusiastic young scientists deserve to know if you support their goal. Do write to them if you do to encourage them. Scientists work long hours tied to a laboratory bench. Although they love their job to solve mighty goals, receiving your notes of encouragement will inspire them further. Do keep in mind that discovery through clinical trials with FDA approval to doctors office may take a decade or longer and might cost a billion dollars for each drug in research over that period. So 30 million dollars will not take them too far without your support and creative solutions to funding.
Email: Dr Richard A. Young and his team at young@wi.mit.edu
Snail mail: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA

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Yoga can reduce blood pressure but know your body’s injury potential

A clinical study led by holistic researchers in Florida Atlantic University,Boca Raton,studied the effects of yoga on hypertensive patients in Thailand. You may click here to read the 2005 article published in the journal, Holistic Nurse Practice in 2005. The researchers, Ruth McCaffrey, Pratum Ruknui, Urai Hatthakit, Payao Kasetsomboon, studied a group of hypertensive patients in Thailand, both male and female, to determine the effectiveness of a yoga program on hypertensiion and stress. They concluded that the experimental group showed significantly decreased mean stress scores and blood pressure, heart rate, and body mass index levels compared with the control group.

High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is usually higher than it should be. It is also called hypertension.. If your blood pressure is not lowered, there is risk for damage to your eyes, brain, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. Talk to your doctor. Ask if you are at risk for having high blood pressure.

This study is easy to test on yourself.
Borrow or buy a blood pressure monitor. They are very small and portable. Make two charts. On one write no yoga. On the other write with yoga. On both write headings for the following columns:
1) Activity
2) Food or drink
3) Stressful event
4) Exciting or sad event
5) Date
6) Time
7) Blood pressure Diastolic
8) Blood pressure Systolic
9) Pulse

Now, simply measue your own blood pressure every two hours. Note, if you exercised or walked the dog or cooked or shopped. Especially important to note if you met friends, colleagues or aquaintances
Note under food if you had a meal or a coffee (which has caffeine) or tea (herbal or regular) or water or salty or sugary snacks or fruit/ vegetable snack
Note all the other self explanatory columns

Next day, follow a supervised hypertension yoga program. Measure your own blood pressure at the same times as on the day with no yoga. Try to follow the same routine and eat the same meals and drink the same drinks. For people with diabetes or kidney disease, blood pressure lower than 130/80 is good. Lower than 120/80 is ideal. For the average individual blood pressure lower than or equal to 120/80 is ideal.

Compare the results of your own two charts; one with yoga and one after just a single supervised hypertension yoga program. Make your own conclusions for your own body.

Keep in mind that no two people are alike.
You are a unique individual. Read how to avoid sports related injuries by clicking here. Yoga was never meant to be a sport. It is a reverant, spiritual, slow breathing, stretching, restfull, practically no impact routine. Poorly trained, irresponsible, irreverant individuals who call themselves yoga teachers with little knowledge of yoga and the purpose it serves, are hurting yoga enthusiasts. Avoid them. Find the right yoga teacher. What works for you may not necessarily work for your neighbor or best friend or a relative. Your genes are your own unique signature and dictate how you respond to stress and being around people you like or dislike. If you enjoy shopping for groceries while your friend finds vacuuming relaxing which stresses you out, then the two activity charts will record different results for such people.

Invest in research on effectiveness of yoga on your own hypertension
Yoga may easily serve one level of stress. However, to conclude if yoga will reduce the levels of daily stress in your personal routine, invest in the research on the effectiveness of yoga on your own hypertension. You deserve it. Go on. Take the step. Also, you might need two yoga routines a day instead of doing it all at one time. Discuss with your yoga supervisor. If your research shows that you are hypertensive at 2 pm daily, then enquire if is there a short routine that you could personally follow that might ease your stress levels. It might do you wonders by keeping an extra yoga mat in your office. Simply lay it down and do a routine for 5 minutes. Measure your blood pressure with or without yoga at same time in the office over two days at the time when the stressful event occurs daily. Perhaps, your boss walks in at the same time everyday to chat with you. If that stresses you out daily at the same time, measure your blood pressure one day right after the boss leaves. Next day, lay down the yoga mat and do a short yoga routine discussed with your yoga supervisor. Measure your blood pressure. Did the yoga help you?

Can yoga cause injuries?
There have been several recent reports on yoga related injuries. Listen to your body. Go to three different teachers before choosing one. The following articles cover yoga related injuries very well. Read them well before trusting any yoga teacher. The first one is the most important.
1) Top 10 Sports – Related injuries and yoga poses to avoid them
A must read
2)How yoga can wreck your body by NY Times
3)Practising safe yoga – 5 tips to avoid injuries by Huffington Post

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Coenzyme-Q: Consider it but use caution – it may lower blood pressure

Are there any safety concerns? I would certainly say, yes!
1) If you always had low blood pressure and now have high blood pressure, monitor your blood pressure regularly. Coenzyme-Q might lower your blood pressure, perhaps below your previous normal. So, monitoring is highly advisable. You might want to read the paragraph under “Safety concerns” by clicking here for the Medline Plus list of safety concerns. Medline Plus is an advice site for the public by the National Institutes of Health, USA.
2) While it helps with preclampsia during certain pregnancies, this Medline site also strongly cautions against taking drugs without supervision during pregnancy. Several drugs considered quite safe have resulted in deformed babies. So, this cautionary advice is not to be taken lightly.

Is Coenzyme-Q beneficial? I would say, yes!
Most people prescribed statins can benefit from its regular use. It may have increased the lifespan of this generation by a healthier decade perhaps. However, a percentage of people have an adverse reaction to statins. Not all, simply a percentage. This may be particularly severe for a cohort and prompted the Pharmaceutical giant, Bayer, to recall its statin. This cohort may have had a genetic factor that predisposed them to a severe reaction to statins. Others had a favorable response. For those who have had a serioius adverse reaction to statins and need a statin alternative, Coenzyme-Q might be the answer, but again, under a physician’s supervision. You may click here to read where to access the full article by Texas medical scientists on “Treatment of statin adverse effects with supplemental Coenzyme Q10 and statin drug discontinuation”.You may email their chief scientist to encourage further research but also with questions you might have regarding replacing statins with Coenzyme-Q.
Email: Dr. Langsjoen langsjoen@compuserve.com
Briefly, his teams observations are summarized below:
-50 patients were evaluated for adverse statin effects (myalgia, fatigue, dyspnea, memory loss, and peripheral neuropathy)
-Began supplemental CoQ(10) at an average of 240 mg/day
– follow-up demonstrated a decrease in fatigue from 84% to 16%, myalgia from 64% to 6%, dyspnea from 58% to 12%, memory loss from 8% to 4% and peripheral neuropathy from 10% to 2%.

Want to learn more about Coenzyme-Q? The best site that I found for the public was the one by the New York University’s Langone Medical Center, which you might access by clicking here. I love the way it tells you the history of Coenzyme-Q and how it works and who benefits most from using it. For example, I enjoyed learning that the Japanese discovered it and use it regularly and are it’s primary manufacturers.

Who should take statins? I would strongly recommend reading this wonderfully detailed, well-balanced February 2012 article by Alice Parks in the Times magazine’s Health and family section by clicking here. It covers the FDA warnings and recent updates. It also clarifies hysteria versus rationale in “FDA Warns Statin Users of Memory Loss and Diabetes Risks”. Read more.

Does eating red beets help? Coenzyme-Q is manufactured by fermenting red beets. That makes a good case for introducing red beet regularly in your diet. Who knows how the body processes red beets internally and maybe eating more red beets may assist those who want to avoid medication.

Now, I have given you a wonderful set of well-researched articles to read and decide for yourself whether you should eat red beets, and add Coenzyme-Q to your vitamin shelf.

If you had a unique experience with Coenzyme-Q, do alert our readers, who are a special brand of people who are unafraid of a healthy dose of science in any explanation.

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2012 NAIAD Report on Status of Vaccine Research and Development

THE JORDAN REPORT, periodically reviews the progress in vaccine development and is published by NAIAD (USA). In recent years, there has been a growing, negative opinion towards vaccination. However, when one looks back 30 years one finds that life expentancy of the human being has been extended far more in the last century than in the several preceding thousands of years of human existence.

In 1981, the program of Accelerated Development of Vaccines was established by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to build on the success of the past triumphs against important infectious diseases as diphtheria, measles, pertussis, poliomyelitis, tetanus, yellow fever, and others. In 1961, it was not unusual to see children crippled by polio. Today, that is rare. Clearly, vaccinations have contributed to a society which is healthier and preserves human life.  The new program was ably directed for 6 critical early years by William S. (Bill) Jordan (1917–2008). Hence, the periodical reviews are named after him. You may click here to read the 2012 review. It takes time to load, since it is large, and you may want to allow time for that.

Addressing Adverse Effect Concerns: Parents claim that their child showed the first signs of autism after a series of childhood vaccinations. While vaccine researchers do not find clinical support for this statement, they have removed mercury from their vaccines and also have preservative-free vaccines. The search for the causal factors for Autism Spectrum Disorder is ongoing.How is a decision maker to move forward facing such challenges?

Contents of the 2012 Jordan Report: 

Below is the Table of Contents covered in the 2012 Jordan Review. You may find a vaccine within your interests. To read more about each vaccine study, you will want to click here. Of particular interest to a worldwide audience might be Malaria, West Nile Virus, Chlamydia, Neglected tropical diseases like viral Dengue and a new emerging viral disease like Chikungunya.

Table of Contents
Foreword by Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. ………………………………….. 3 Tribute by Carole A. Heilman, Ph.D. ………………………………….. 5
Vaccinomics and Personalized Vaccinology
Gregory A. Poland, M.D., Inna G. Ovsyannikova, Ph.D. and Robert M. Jacobson, M.D. …………………………………………………….11
Sex Differences in Immune Responses to Vaccines
Col. Renata J. M. Engler, M.D. and Mary M. Klote, M.D. ……. 19 Immunization and Pregnancy
Flor M. Munoz, M.D. ………………………………………………………… 27
Second-Generation Malaria Vaccines: A Definitive End
to Malaria-Related Deaths?
Vasee S. Moorthy, MRCP, Ph.D. ………………………………………….. 34
Structural Biology and Other Resolution-Enhancing Technologies in the Design of an Effective HIV–1 Vaccine Peter D. Kwong, Ph.D., John R. Mascola, M.D. and
Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D. ………………………………………………….. 40
New Methods for Analyzing Vaccine Responses
Mark M. Davis, Ph.D. and John D. Altman, Ph.D……………….. 46
Developing Vaccines for the Neglected Tropical Diseases
David J. Diemert, M.D., FRCP(C) and
Saman Moazami, B.A…………………………………………………………. 53
The Public Health Need for a Staphylococcus aureus Vaccine Scott K. Fridkin, M.D. and John A. Jernigan, M.D., M.S. …….. 66
Adjuvants—Past, Present, and Future
Nicholas I. Obiri, Ph.D. and
Nathalie Garçon, Pharm.D., Ph.D. ……………………………………….74
Progress, Promises, and Perceptions: The National Vaccine Plan—A Path Forward for the Coming Decade
Bruce G. Gellin, M.D., M.P.H. and Sarah R. Landry, M.A…… 85
M. Cristina Cassetti, Ph.D. …………………………………………………. 95
Vaccine Against Chikungunya Virus in Development
Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D. and Ken Pekoc ……………………. 97
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
Frederick J. Cassels, Ph.D. …………………………………………………… 98
Vaccine Delivery Technologies
Martin H. Crumrine, Ph.D………………………………………….. 105 West Nile Virus
Patricia M. Repik, Ph.D…………………………………………………….. 106
Henipaviruses (Nipah Virus and Hendra Virus)
M. Cristina Cassetti, Ph.D…………………………………………… 109
Group B Streptococcus
Xin-Xing Gu, M.D., Linda C. Lambert, Ph.D. and
Carol Baker, M.D………………………………………………………………..110
CMV Vaccine Shows Promise
Walla Dempsey, Ph.D., M. Cristina Cassetti, Ph.D.
and Mason Booth………………………………………………………….114
Rona L. Siskind, M.H.S……………………………………………………….115
Herpevac Trial for Women Concludes
Amanda Schleif, M.P.H……………………………………………….. 120
Chlamydia Vaccine Being Tested in
Nonhuman Primates
Harlan D. Caldwell, Ph.D. and Ken Pekoc …………………… 122
Promising HIV Vaccine Trial Results: RV144,
the Thai HIV Vaccine Trial
Rona L. Siskind, M.H.S. ………………………………………………. 126
Linda C. Lambert, Ph.D. and Frederick J. Cassels, Ph.D. …… 127
NIAID Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research
and Surveillance
Sarah E. Miers, J.D………………………………………………………. 132
Peter D. Crompton, M.D., M.P.H. and Steven R. Rosenthal, M.D., M.P.H. …………………………………………………………………….. 133
The International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research
Malla R. Rao, Dr.P.H., M.Eng. …………………………………….. 134
Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Sonnie Kim, M.S. ………………………………………………………………. 139
Impact of Regulatory Science on Influenza
Vaccine Development
David S. Cho, Ph.D., M.P.H…………………………………………. 139
Christine F. Sizemore, Ph.D. ……………………………………………… 144
Hepatitis C Virus: Prospects for Vaccine Development
Sarah E. Miers, J.D. and Rajen Koshy, Ph.D. ……………….. 147 Rotavirus
Diana S. Berard ………………………………………………………………… 149 APPENDIXES
Appendix A: Status of Vaccine Research and
Development, 2012……………………………………………………………. 153
Appendix B: NIAID-Supported HIV Vaccine Candidates in Preclinical Development…………………………………………………… 179
Appendix C: Ongoing Clinical Trials of HIV Vaccine Candidates in HIV-Uninfected Adults……………………………… 180

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What are the fungi that are causing the meningitis outbreak in USA?

Aspergillus fumigatus

75 clinics in 23 states in USA are monitoring their patients who received a spinal steroid injection for pain. They may be infected with a rare meningitis caused by a fungus. The name of the steroid is methylprednisolone acetate. The Calgary Herald’s Malcolm Ritter  discusses the fact that there were (on October 8, 2012), at least two fungi linked to this unusual meningitis outbreak and they are Aspergillus and Exserohilum. Therapy is limited by the fact that very few anti-fungals penetrate the blood-brain barrier and researchers are working on more effective antifungals (see scientists below).

The causal fungi were contaminating the vials of the steroid produced and packed only by the New England Compounding Center in Massachussetts. Dr.John Jernigan, an epideomologist at the CDC, is leading the charge against these fungi. He has been quoted by various news sources stressing the fact that unlike bacterial meningitis, this is a very rare type of meningitis with little clinical research (PBS – a video recording, NY Times, Wall Street Journal). According to Huffington Post’s Amanda Chen, patients in Tennessee, Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia have developed Meningitis. Dr. William Schaffner, President of the National Foundation of Infectious Disease said that the causal fungus is commonly found all around us, normally does not make people sick, but does cause an illness in some immunocompromised people like those with AIDS, and is not contagious.

Meningitis may be caused by fungi, bacteria or virus. To get this disease from a tainted vial is highly unusual. Needless to say, this steroid has been recalled immediately. By October 7, 2012 there were 18 confirmed deaths from fungal meningitis linked to tainted steroid back pain spinal injections says the local Detroit CBS news. Only those patients who sought relief for back pain with a steroid spinal injection July to September 2012 should be concerned.  Senator Richard Blumenthal has called for extending the FDA’s monitoring authority, if necessary (Wall Street Journal)

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) USA, assures that fungal meningitis is not contagious. You may click here to reach the CDC site to learn about typical Fungal Meningitis. It talks about:
TREATMENT – usually IV medication and usually patients are immunocompromised already.

The Tennessean has done such a wonderful job explaining this disease that you should probably click here to learn more about their explanations on:
What is meningitis and how many types are there?
What is Aspergillus Meningitis?
How is it diagnosed?
Should I go to the doctor for Aspergillus Meningitis?
Should I pursue other pain management options until this has been cleared?

Do email these scientists and encourage them to continue their research. Send them dolloar bills if you must, but mostly tell them you appreciate their contribution.
ASPERGILLUS FUMIGATUS – involved in the tainted steroid outbreak

CRYPTOCOCCUS NEOFORMANS – not involved in this 2012 outbreak

EXSEROHILUM – involved in the tainted steroid outbreak (Old research click on 1 & 2; and 3 for Six newer citations)

Associate Professor William Steinbach
The source of the featured photo in this article

The Duke University’s mycology group studies several fungi that cause diseases of humans including Aspergillus. One of their researchers in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases is Associate Professor William Steinbach. He is interested specifically in Aspergillus fumigatus because it is the leading killer of immunocompromised patients with cancer or following transplantation. You may write to him at: 427 Jones Bldg
Research Drive, Durham, N.C. 27710 or email him at bill.steinbach@duke.edu.

Texas A&M University has biologists who have recently discovered that ZOLOFT, a medication already FDA approved for and most commonly prescribed for depression, and can cross the blood-brain barrier, can pack quite the punch against Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that may cause meningitis. The two chief scientists who are working to discover anti-fungals against C. neoformans are Professor Mathew Sachs and Assistant Professor Xiaorong Lin and published in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Antimicrobial agents and Chemotherapy, where they discuss how there are a limited number of anti-fungals today. Also, the fact that antifungals available today do not penetrate the blood-brain barrier thus complicating anti-fungal therapy. Their research so far is only in the lab but is promising. Sertraline or ZOLOFT acs by not allowing the fungi to synthesize proteins for their own use, thus destroying them. Address correspondence to Xiaorong Lin, xlin@bio.tamu.edu, or Matthew S. Sachs, msachs@bio.tamu.edu or you may write at Department of Biology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.

Professor Mathew Sachs

Assistant Professor Xiarong Lin

A meningitis causing fungus, Cryptococcus

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Natural products: Anti-fungal agents derived from plants

Tasleem Arif, T. K. Mandal and Rajesh Dabur, scientists at 

National Research Institue of Basic Ayurvedic Sciences Nehru Garden, Kothrud, Pune-411038, India published in 

Opportunity, Challenge and Scope of Natural Products in Medicinal Chemistry, 2011: 283-311 ISBN: 978-81-308-0448-4 

Abstract. As new spectrums of human fungal infections are increasing due to increased cancer and AIDS patients. The increased use of antifungal agents also resulted in the development of resistance to these drugs. It makes necessary to discover new classes of antifungal compounds to treat fungal infections. The research on natural products and natural products derived compounds has accelerated in recent years due to their importance in drug discovery. Plants are rich source of bioactive secondary metabolites of wide variety such as tannins, terpenoids, alkaloids, and flavonoids, reported to have in vitro antifungal properties. A series of molecules with antifungal activity against different strains of fungus have been found in plants, which are of great importance to humans and plants. These molecules may be used directly or considered as a model for developing better molecules. This review attempts to summarize the current status of reported antifungal compounds from plants. 

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September 27, 2012 · 4:03 pm

World’s largest collection of frozen Autism brains ruined in freezer malfunction

Harvard University’s brain bank at McLean Hospital in Belmont,Massachusetts, had frozen 147 brains for research purposes. They were damaged in late May 2012 for three to four days, in a freezer malfunction. The distressing fact is that 53 or one-third of those brains had been derived from rare, diseased autistic persons. This will certainly slow Autism research in particular, since the rise in Autism cases has been observed only in recent decades and the reason for this spike is not understood. About 1 in 100 children born today in the developed world may be diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder with the percentage observed to be higher in boys than girls. These frozen autistic brains may have held a clue. They may have provided a direction for future autism research direction. They may have helped autism researchers suggest current, preventive measures faster, and sooner so that as a society we can help prevent any child in the future to be burdened with this “mind fogging, communication disabling” brain condition.

The loss of these brains to the researchers is a major step back for the public health of a developed country like USA or Sweden. Somali immigrants from Somalia, Africa to USA and Sweden have noticed that autism has been diagnosed only in the Somali children born in USA or Sweden but not in Somalia. They insist it has never been observed in the Somali children born in Somalia (Read here). Recently, researchers have begun to look at what environmental or exogenous conditions, in addition to perhaps a genetic predisposition could cause a child to develop the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Such research teams are being led by CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden and the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Dr. Susan Hyman, the chair of the Autism Subcommittee of the American Academy of Pediatrics. To better understand what they do not know, to identify the risk factors, to pinpoint why boys are five times more likely than girls and to better prevent Autism are some of the goals of the researchers (Read here May 29, 2012 interview by pbs.org).

The NICHD Brain and Tissue Bank for Developmental Disorders at the University of Maryland and the Harvard center at McLean are the only repositories in the US that distribute autism brain tissue to researchers around the world. Autism brain donors are in short supply.

Walk Now For Autism Research say Thomas, who has an amazing lightening-fast brain; and his mom, Dagny Power, a member of “Libertyville district 70” team

To read the scientific explanation and implication of the loss of the frozen brains click on this link for the premier blog by nature.com on June 11, 2012. What is perplexing is that both the main alarm and the back up alarm to monitor the temperature of the freezer failed. This article discusses in detail the human and technological errors that may have caused such a major loss. Apparently, all the frozen brains had been transferred to a single freezer instead of the normal 24 freezers because of a special visit by the Autism tissue program in preparation for distribution to brain sample requests by autism researchers.

Fortunately, the DNA in these brains will probably be intact into the infinite future. However, the RNA and protein matter by nature is very fragile and was destroyed, and lost to researchers. It is a public loss.

Related Articles
G proteins – the connector proteins that try to prevent Autism Spectrum Disorder
List of Autism events in USA – walk or speak for Autism
Preclinical studies: Autism compound KM-391 significantly decreased plasticity of brains and increased serotoninlevels
Half of each brain preserved in formaldehyde available for research purposes by Martina’s blog
Call for more oversight to Freezer safety and attention by Jeff Evans of Clinical Neurology News
Brain samples from people who had died and who had had conditions such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or schizophrenia by Lifescience Log


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Is it time to revamp intellectual property world rights and how they are implemented?

The internet has a way of democratizing knowledge.  It has allowed free access to knowledge anywhere in the world by anybody who has a computer. When Napstar, an upstart music sharing software program allowed unprecedented music download and sharing, it forever changed the way copyrights were viewed and protected. Initially, intellectual property rights were created by industries to protect their rights to research, develop and sell with a monopoly for a certain number of years a product developed with the intellectual property rights giving them protection for a few years to recoup investment.

Now, the little guy can access that knowledge and dispense it freely. What is the direction of international intellectual property protection policy to be adopted? Should policy work towards an environment encouraging more innovation which comes only from uninhibited sharing of world – wide knowledge freely? Or should it restrict sharing of content at prohibitive costs, and discouraging free sharing of knowledge? Should policy protect the investments towards research and development which has greatly increased the life span of mankind this century, and allowed automobiles to connect mankind to ends of the earth? While this has ensured large profits for the industrialized, developed world, it has benefited many. Or has it? What about the developing country’s Shamans that freely shared their ancient medicinal knowledge with the industrial developers to isolate the active chemical compound from? Did the large company ever “take care” or continue to compensate for the life of the patent the barefoot shaman in an an impoverished country who with a toothless smile shared his timeless knowledge, perhaps for free or perhaps even offering their hospitality?

Such questions were asked in the past but the answers shrugged away. However, this recent 2009 -2012 world-wide recession has brought the world together through the internet with forums discussing international needs and internation humanitarian conditions and world-wide travel and space travel and border rights and free music and hollistic medicine and mixed marriages and mixed gene pools and air rights and water rights and more. Everywhere there are youngsters understanding the international language of computers in a way their educated, elders could not imagine even today.

What is this world of the future? Who are to make the new rules? How do we continue to serve the interests of innovation and progress with world-wide dissemination of knowledge best? Should knowledge be free?

There is this wonderful article by scholars of intellectual property at Duke University of USA, that asks these questions which you can read by clicking here. Here is an excerpt:

In fact, it is remarkable to consider that the areas where the Internet has succeeded most readily – for example as a giant distributed database of facts on any subject under the sun – are traditionally those in which there are little or no intellectual property rights. The software on which the Internet runs is largely open source, another Internet-enabled method of innovation to which policy makers have been slow to adapt. The Internet offers us remarkable opportunities to achieve the real goals that intellectual property policy ought to serve: encouraging innovation and facilitating the dissemination of cultural and educational materials. Yet policy making has focused almost entirely on the Internet’s potential for illicit copying. An example demonstrates the point.
• Copyright term limits are now absurdly long. The most recent retrospective extensions, to a term which already offered 99% of the value of a perpetual copyright, had the practical effect of helping a tiny number of works that are still in print, or in circulation. Estimates are between 1% and 4%. Yet in order to confer this monopoly benefit on a handful of works, works that the public had already “paid for” with a copyright term that must have been acceptable to the original author and publisher, they deny the public access to the remaining 96% of copyrighted works that otherwise would be passing into the public domain. Before the Internet, this loss – though real – would for most works have been largely a theoretical one. The cost of reprinting an out-of-print book or copying and screening a public domain film was often prohibitive. But once one adds the Internet to the equation, it becomes possible to imagine digitizing substantial parts of the national heritage as it emerges into the public domain, and making it available to the world. Now this is truly fulfilling the goals of copyright: encouraging creativity, and encouraging access.

Intellectual property firms are collapsing in 2012. The old model is no longer apparently working with a botique IP firm serving the needs of many. Firms are finding it cheaper to bring in their inhouse teams instead. Is the very model of protection being questioned? Recently Darby and Darby, a 100 year old IP firm in New York closed. Read here. Several law firms are merging to survive claiming they can survive the international clients better by being larger and offering diverse services. Read here.

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Do Anorexics and Autism Spectrum Disorder share any common characteristics?

Yes, say scientists in the journal, European Eating Disorder Review, published in 2011. Read the article by clicking here. They speculate if anorexia nervosa (AN) a version of autism spectrum disorders (ASD)?

Quote: ….

There are reports of disturbed processing of oxytocin (Odent, 2010) and dysdiadochokinesis (a neurological soft sign associated with developmental disorders) in both AN and ASD (Råstam, 1992; Råstam, Gillberg, & Wentz, 2003; Tchanturia, Morris, Anderluh, Collier, Nikolaou, & Treasure, 2004). Furthermore, AN and ASD appear to co-exist within families (Gillberg, 1985; Comings & Comings, 1991; Steffenburg, 1991) indicating that these observed similarities may reflect a direct genetic link.


Based on the proposed similarities between the cognitive profiles of the disorders, it was hypothesised that ASD and AN groups would not perform differently across tasks.


Read the article by clicking here.

What were the authors results?
Cognitive profiles of the groups were statistically similar, except for differences in the relative patterns of empathy scores. Interestingly, the scientists note that the triad of behavioural impairments (social impairment, communication impairments and restrictive and repetitive behaviours) are noted to cluster together and co-occur above chance expectations, even outside of a diagnosis of autism (Happé & Ronald, 2008; Wing & Gould, 1979). Yet, this clustering of all three cognitive features within a disorder appears fairly specific to Anorexics(AN) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The scientists add: There are, in fact, significant differences between the disorders. Whilst AN has more recently been described as a developmental disorder (Connan, Campbell, Katzman, Lightman, & Treasure, 2003), there are differences in age, gender and developmental stage of onset and there can be an association of low IQ and learning difficulties with ASD that is absent in AN.

Limitations The scientists list several limitations to this study.

Read more

What is Anorexia?

A severely Anorexic young woman

For those of you who do not know the current crisis of the eating disorder of young women and recently, young men, you might find this review very informative. I must warn you that some of the photos are quite disturbing. It includes a historical narrative of the changing image of the female body and shows the modern ‘anorexic’ women photos, some of whom have crossed the extreme and are dying. Now, it is happening to young men. I have no photos of young men here since it is a newer trend, probably. To see the photos and read the article on anorexia click here.

What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
An autism spectrum disorder (ASD), also called a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). The Massachussetts General Hospital says ASD is a biological brain disorder that significantly affects an individual’s ability to understand people, interpret events, communicate, and interact with others. These disorders are described as occurring on a spectrum because of the wide variability of impact they may have on everyday functioning. The scope, variety, and severity of symptoms differ in each individual, but in general, autism spectrum disorders are characterized by:

Difficulty with communication
Impairments in social skills and understanding of how to engage and interact with others
Unusual behaviors and interests (such as attachments to unusual objects or speaking in cartoon or movie scripts)
Read more.


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Filed under Health, Research, Science

New mutations in coding region of genes, Age of parents, and unknown factors in 70% of ASD patients

The three genetic research papers on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2012, with links below, summarize that no single gene or gene complex candidate has yet been discovered to be the cause.

1) Dr Sanders and others showing the new mutations that are associated with Autism but not causal.
2) Dr Brian O’Roak and others show that for 70% of ASD cases with no previous cases in the family there is no known genetic cause. Researching the coding regions of genes they find that:
a) Parental age contributes to new mutations – risk of older father;
b) 39% of disruptive genes affect the beta-catenin/chromatin protein network resulting in the most severe autism;
c) CHD8 and NTNG1 were recurrent protein altering genes with new mutations.
3) Dr Benjamin Neale and others sequenced the coding region of the genes of ASD patients and their parents to show that new mutations in a polygenic model that affect a complex of protein pathways such as CHD8 and KATNAL2 are genuine risk factors for ASD.

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