Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine. -Nikola Tesla
An important discovery for sure.
A “game changing” new antibiotic which is capable of killing superbugs has been successfully synthesised and used to treat an infection for the first time — and could lead to the first new class of antibiotic drug in 30 years.
The breakthrough is another major step forward on the journey to develop a commercially viable drug version based on teixobactin — a natural antibiotic discovered by US scientists in soil samples in 2015 which has been heralded as a “gamechanger” in the battle against antibiotic resistant pathogens such as MRSA and VRE.
Scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, have now successfully created a simplified, synthesised form of teixobactin which has been used to treat a bacterial infection in mice, demonstrating the first proof that such simplified versions of its real form could be used to treat real bacterial infection as the basis of a new drug.
As well as clearing the infection, the synthesised teixobactin also minimised the infection’s severity, which was not the case for the clinically-used antibiotic, moxifloxacin, used as a control study. The findings are published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
It has been predicted that by 2050 an additional 10 million people will succumb to drug resistant infections each year. The development of new antibiotics which can be used as a last resort when other drugs are ineffective is therefore a crucial area of study for healthcare researchers around the world.
Dr Ishwar Singh, a specialist in novel drug design and development from the University of Lincoln’s School of Pharmacy, said: “Translating our success with these simplified synthetic versions from test tubes to real cases is a quantum jump in the development of new antibiotics, and brings us closer to realising the therapeutic potential of simplified teixobactins.
“When teixobactin was discovered it was groundbreaking in itself as a new antibiotic which kills bacteria without detectable resistance including superbugs such as MRSA, but natural teixobactin was not created for human use.
“A significant amount of work remains in the development of teixobactin as a therapeutic antibiotic for human use — we are probably around six to ten years off a drug that doctors can prescribe to patients — but this is a real step in the right direction and now opens the door for improving our in vivo analogues.”
Dr Lakshminarayanan Rajamani from SERI added: “We need sophisticated armour to combat antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Drugs that target the fundamental mechanism of bacterial survival, and also reduce the host’s inflammatory responses are the need of the hour. Our preliminary studies suggest that the modified peptide decreases the bacterial burden as well as disease severity, thus potentially enhancing the therapeutic utility.”
Iran isn’t a totally defenseless country like Afghanistan and the other countries the United States has invaded in recent years — Iran actually has a decently competent military defense system capable of fighting back. If the U.S. goes to war with Iran, it will be a disaster that will result in significantly damaging blowback for the U.S. and quite possibly other parts of the world.
President Trump has tapped John Bolton to become his next national security adviser, replacing H.R. McMaster. Bolton is known for his ultra-hawkish views. He has openly backed war against Iran and North Korea, and was a prominent supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Just three weeks ago, Bolton wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” In 2015, while the Obama administration was negotiating the Iran nuclear deal, Bolton wrote a piece titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.”
Another article on this, linked to here because of the potential danger around this issue.
“You ran against Iran. And if you want to hire me, that’s what I’m going to produce for you.”
That is what newly appointed national security adviser John Bolton reportedly told President Donald Trump as he was being considered to replace H.R. McMaster in the White House’s most influential foreign policy position—a remark that appears to confirm the worst fears of foreign policy experts, who argued after Bolton was officially selected Thursday night that Trump “may have just effectively declared war on Iran.”
Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has not been silent about his desire for America to attack Iran, a country he has asserted is partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks—adopting a fringe conspiracy theory without a shred of supporting evidence.
“Bolton’s first order of business will be to convince Trump to exit the Iran nuclear deal and lay the groundwork for the war he has urged over the past decade.”
—Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council
Quite cool, and being nature-based is a plus, but it remains to be seen how soon this research (knowing the corrupted U.S. medical system) will actually help people who need it.
Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed new wound dressings that dramatically accelerate healing and improve tissue regeneration. The two different types of nanofiber dressings, described in separate papers, use naturally-occurring proteins in plants and animals to promote healing and regrow tissue.
“Our fiber manufacturing system was developed specifically for the purpose of developing therapeutics for the wounds of war,” said Kit Parker, the Tarr Family Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at SEAS and senior author of the research. “As a soldier in Afghanistan, I witnessed horrible wounds and, at times, the healing process for those wounds was a horror unto itself. This research is a years-long effort by many people on my team to help with these problems.”
The researchers made fibrous fibronectin using a fiber manufacturing platform called Rotary Jet-Spinning (RJS), developed by Parker’s Disease Biophysics Group. RJS works likes a cotton candy machine — a liquid polymer solution, in this case globular fibronectin dissolved in a solvent, is loaded into a reservoir and pushed out through a tiny opening by centrifugal force as the device spins. As the solution leaves the reservoir, the solvent evaporates and the polymers solidify. The centrifugal force unfolds the globular protein into small, thin fibers. These fibers — less than one micrometer in diameter — can be collected to form a large-scale wound dressing or bandage.
“The dressing integrates into the wound and acts like an instructive scaffold, recruiting different stem cells that are relevant for regeneration and assisting in the healing process before being absorbed into the body,” said Christophe Chantre, a graduate student in the Disease Biophysics Group and first author of the paper.
In in vivo testing, the researchers found that wounds treated with the fibronectin dressing showed 84 percent tissue restoration within 20 days, compared to 55.6 percent restoration in wounds treated with a standard dressing.
The researchers also demonstrated that wounds treated with the fibronectin dressing have close to normal epidermal thickness and dermal architecture, and even regrew hair follicles — often considered one of the biggest challenges in the field of wound healing.
“This is an important step forward,” said Chantre. “Most work done on skin regeneration to date involves complex treatments combining scaffolds, cells and even growth factors. Here we were able to demonstrate tissue repair and hair follicle regeneration using an entirely material approach. This has clear advantages for clinical translation.”
In a similar way to fibronectin fibers, the research team used RJS to spin ultra-thin soy fibers into wound dressings. In experiments, the soy and cellulose-based dressing demonstrated a 72-percent increase in healing over wounds with no dressing and a 21-percent increase in healing over wounds dressed without soy protein.
“These findings show the great promise of soy-based nanofibers for wound healing,” said Seungkuk Ahn, a graduate student in the Disease Biophysics Group and first author of the paper. “These one-step, cost-effective scaffolds could be the next generation of regenerative dressings and push the envelope of nanofiber technology and the wound care market.”
At the end of the article it says that Harvard has “protected the intellectual property relating to these projects and is exploring commercialization opportunities,” meaning that it shouldn’t be much of a surprise if the consumer products based on this research take too long to go to market and/or are too expensive.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a bill that attempts to “curb pain” emanating from the corrupted for-profit healthcare system of the United States. Among other things, the bill’s provisions would implement helpful but admittedly inadequate measures, such as making it illegal for insurance companies to revoke a patient’s plan during their course of treatment. There could of course be many reminders about the more critical flaws of U.S. healthcare made in relation to this.
For one, the U.S. spends about twice as much on healthcare compared to other wealthy countries such as Canada, Britain, and Germany. If that spending — which is annually $3.4 trillion ( about 18 percent of annual U.S. GDP) — was reduced by around half, it would be an enormous savings that (all else unchanged) would actually have the U.S. running substantial budget surpluses.
That isn’t to say that budget surpluses are necessarily good (budget deficits can be helpful and natural), but it’s to point out that subtracting the almost $700 billion ($5550 per U.S. household) in budget deficit totals that the U.S. ran in fiscal year 2017 from a $1.7 trillion in healthcare savings would still be about a trillion dollars of budget surplus. It’s strange how rarely this simple point enters the mainstream press, what with the irrational and even harmful attention corporate media such as the Washington Post has given to budget deficits. More importantly though, it’s over a trillion dollars that could be spent productively elsewhere in the economy instead of harmfully allowing health insurance corporations receive it.
Interestingly enough, Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, and JP Morgan Chase announced plans earlier this year to jointly form a healthcare company for their employees that’s “intended to be free from profit-making incentives.” This is another revealing insight into why a for-profit healthcare system is too flawed to function well — building a healthcare system around corporate profits simply raises the costs too much. The executives at those three corporations aren’t the only parts of the business community to understand this as they seek to reduce their own expenses.
Businessman Warren Buffett has even admitted that single-payer is “probably the best” healthcare system for the U.S. He has made a comparison between U.S. healthcare in 1960 and in 2017 — in 1960, U.S. healthcare spending was only five percent of annual GDP, and almost 60 years later there’s been almost a four fold GDP-based increase in healthcare spending. This reveals again that the amount of resources being devoted to the overall mediocre U.S. healthcare system is excessive.
The for-profit element of the system has other consequences outside of direct economic costs though. One of them is unnecessarily lost lives, with strong evidence finding that over 20,000 people die a year in the U.S. due to being unable to afford health insurance. It is simply a major moral disgrace that world history’s wealthiest country suffers from such a problem.
Also disgraceful is the staggering number of medical bankruptcies per year in the United States. The amount of those per year has been estimated at hundreds of thousands in the U.S. alone (far more than other wealthy countries) and medical bills have been a leading cause of Americans filing for bankruptcy for years. All other OECD countries besides Mexico have universal healthcare and have a much more efficient healthcare system to prevent many of those problems to begin with.
For a practical example, Medicare (a predominantly single-payer healthcare service run by the government) has administrative overhead costs of about 1 to 2 percent, which is usefully contrasted to the 12 to 20 percent overhead costs typically run by the for-profit health insurance industry. This is because inefficiently having thousands of different healthcare payer plans necessitates higher bureaucratic costs with too much paperwork.
And another notable part of the high U.S. health costs is due to the ridiculous prices of prescription drugs there. In 2017, the U.S. spent $450 billion (2.4 percent of GDP) on prescription drugs, an amount that could almost certainly be reduced by about $370 billion ($2930 per U.S. household) by having prescription drugs sold without patent monopolies and other unjust protectionist measures. In a time when at least nearly one in five Americans are unable to afford their medications adequately, this proposal for savings should be considered much more.
It should also be noted what happens an extreme amount of undeserved resources are diverted to harmful corporations such as the pharmaceutical ones. Pharmaceutical companies — such as Purdue Pharma — have used their excess profits to manufacture an opioid crisis (to seek even more profits) through flooding economically downtrodden communities with highly addictive opioids. This has resulted in opioids becoming the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and it’s also largely been what’s resulted in a decline in the average U.S. life expectancy rate, a phenomenon that’s probably otherwise unheard of in other wealthy nations in the 21st century.
In all, the U.S. healthcare system suffers from significant problems that will require more than tweaking around the edges to solve. Its system requires a major alteration, and the sooner that happens, the less health-based suffering among its people there can be.
A direct consequence of climate change.
New data show that extreme weather events have become more frequent over the past 36 years, with a significant uptick in floods and other hydrological events compared even with five years ago, according to a new publication, “Extreme weather events in Europe: Preparing for climate change adaptation: an update on EASAC’s 2013 study” by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), a body made up of 27 national science academies in the European Union, Norway, and Switzerland.
Globally, according to the new data, the number of floods and other hydrological events have quadrupled since 1980 and have doubled since 2004, highlighting the urgency of adaptation to climate change. Climatological events, such as extreme temperatures, droughts, and forest fires, have more than doubled since 1980. Meteorological events, such as storms, have doubled since 1980.
These extreme weather events carry substantial economic costs. In the updated data, thunderstorm losses in North America have doubled — from under US$10 billion in 1980 to almost $20 billion in 2015.
The update also reviews evidence on key drivers of extreme events. A major point of debate remains whether the Gulf Stream, or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), will just decline or could ‘switch off’ entirely with substantial implications for Northwest Europe’s climate. Recent monitoring does suggest a significant weakening but debate continues over whether the gulf stream may “switch off” as a result of the increased flows of fresh water from northern latitude rainfall and melting of the Greenland icecap. EASAC notes the importance of continuing to use emerging oceanographic monitoring data to provide a more reliable forecast of impacts of global warming on the AMOC. The update also notes the recent evidence which suggests an association between the rapid rate of Arctic warming and extreme cold events further south (including in Europe and the Eastern USA) due to a weakened and meandering jet stream.
The study here found that obese mice had about 25 percent fewer taste buds than mice of a healthy weight. As some similar effect is likely found in humans, this research should provide an increased motivation (that is, enjoyment of food) for reducing the obesity epidemic, which I have written about at more length before.
Previous studies have indicated that weight gain can reduce one’s sensitivity to the taste of food, and that this effect can be reversed when the weight is lost again, but it’s been unclear as to how this phenomenon arises. Now a study publishing March 20 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Andrew Kaufman, Robin Dando, and colleagues at Cornell University shows that inflammation, driven by obesity, actually reduces the number of taste buds on the tongues of mice.
A taste bud comprises of approximately 50 to 100 cells of three major types, each with different roles in sensing the five primary tastes (salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami). Taste bud cells turn over quickly, with an average lifespan of just 10 days. To explore changes in taste buds in obesity, the authors fed mice either a normal diet made up of 14% fat, or an obesogenic diet containing 58% fat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after 8 weeks, the mice fed the obesogenic diet weigh about one-third more than those receiving normal chow. But strikingly, the obese mice had about 25% fewer taste buds than the lean mice, with no change in the average size or the distribution of the three cell types within individual buds.
New species of fish are being discovered in what’s being referred to as the Rariphotic zone. Deep reef ecosystems could still be explored much more.
It’s always been there, but a layer of the ocean is so distinct from the waters above and below it that it needed its own category.
Scientists have just defined the newly named rariphotic zone, a layer of ocean between depths of 130 and 300 metres (400 and 1,000 feet) – a low-light or “twilight zone” in deeper reef regions.
It sits just below the mesophotic zone, between 40 and 150 metres (131 and 492 feet), where medium light penetrates – the optimal waters for tropical coral reefs. And it’s teeming with previously unknown fish – a whole newly discovered ecosystem.
These fish are closely related to reef fish, which researchers didn’t think could live below the mesophotic.
This has led to a hypothesis that the new rariphotic zone may be a refuge for shallower reef fishes seeking respite from the warming waters and coral deterioration caused by climate change.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the ocean, simply because it’s so difficult for us to access. It was only thanks to advances in submersible technology that marine scientists have been able to explore down below the reef off the coast of Curaçao.
“It’s estimated that 95 percent of the livable space on our planet is in the ocean, yet only a fraction of that space has been explored,” said study lead author Carole Baldwin of the NMNH.
“That’s understandable for areas that are thousands of miles offshore and miles deep. But tropical deep reefs are just below popular, highly studied shallow reefs – essentially our own backyards. And tropical deep reefs are not barren landscapes on the deep ocean floor: they are highly diverse ecosystems that warrant further study. We hope that by naming the deep-reef rariphotic zone, we’ll draw attention to the need to continue to explore deep reefs.”