What we're talking about Frontiers in Viral Medicine Monday, May 25, 2015

Frontiers in Viral Medicine

One of my favorite stories is the tale of a GMO virus deployed to treat Hemophilia B: Gene therapy for Hemophilia B … Hemophilia B is a disease in males caused by point mutations/deletions/etc in the clotting Factor IX gene. If you dont make Factor IX, you wont clot properly, and will have all of…

You all might have heard about ‘delta32′ or ‘delta-CCR5′ people in association with HIV infection. People who naturally, by chance, have deletions and mutations in the CCR5 gene of their DNA dont make functional CCR5 proteins. It doesnt appear to be ‘a big deal’, and people who have this particular mutation seem to live normal…

You all know me. There are two things I really love: Studying HIV Using viruses for gene therapy One would think I would be over-the-moon about the FDA approving human trials for a gene therapy to stop HIV. HIV! Gene therapy! YAY!! With HIV Cure as the Goal, Gene Therapy Research Expands When this line…

Five kids in the first trial. Then eleven. Now thirty (ultimately 39): Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells for Sustained Remissions in Leukemia Slowly but surely, HIV genetically modified to genetically modify relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients T-cells are prolonging (saving?) kids lives. Ive written about this treatment a couple times before: ‘Dismal prognosis’ with…

On ERV, Abbie Smith provides an update on a pioneering treatment for hemophilia that uses viruses to insert missing genes in a patient's DNA. Hemophilia results from from the mutation or deletion of a gene that makes a blood clotting agent called Factor IX; without it, hemophiliacs are at risk for uncontrolled bleeding. While Factor IX can be delivered pharmaceutically, utilizing viruses to modify patients' DNA yields long-term improvements in natural Factor IX production. Abbie writes, "the amount of therapeutic Factor IX these patients needed (on average) dropped from 2613 IU/kg to 206. The people who got the ‘high’ dose of virus dropped that down to 92 IU/kg. They went from 15-16 ‘bleeding episodes’ a year, to one." They also saved $2.5 million.

Next, Abbie revisits research on treating HIV by removing CCR5 receptors that the virus uses to enter white blood cells. Much excitement was generated in 2008 when the "Berlin Patient" was declared to be functionally cured of HIV after receiving bone marrow from a donor with a mutation that preludes manufacture of the CCR5 protein. Now scientists are considering using gene therapy to disable CCR5 production in HIV patients, but there's a catch: some HIV quasispecies utilize other receptor proteins, and even a small population of such viruses can take over when a patient is not producing CCR5. For this reason, Abbie writes that this therapy may hold more promise as a vaccine for HIV than as a cure. Meanwhile, HIV itself has been genetically modified to help some sufferers of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by training cytotoxic T cells to target cancerous B cells. Abbie writes, "for all the time HIV has stolen from people, from families, its nice to see it giving some time back."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

By carrying that coconut, octopuses of this sort made a change in their legal status necessary. The extent of octopus intelligence is debated, at least among vertebrates, but there is evidence of pretty complex behavior, including possible tool use. See, e.g., J.K. Finn, T. Tregenza, and M.D. Norman, “Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus,”…

Dr. Vivek Jayaraman and colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus discovered that the ellipsoid body located in the middle of a fly’s brain acts like a compass to help navigate flight even in darkness. By placing the flies into a small virtual reality arena and having the flies walk on a…

This town in Australia got some unusual precipitation: millions of spiders that proceeded to blanket the entire town with cobwebs.

Physical Science

“I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found.” –John Forbes Nash, Jr. Yet logic and reason — when applied correctly — can get us incredibly far. Have a listen…

In less happy news, there is this: John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie “A Beautiful Mind,” has died along with his wife in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 86. Nash and Alicia Nash, 82, of Princeton Township, were killed…

As the Hugo nomination debacle unfolded, one of the few bright spots was the replacement of Marko Kloos’s novel with The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, who is apparently a Big Name in SF in China. This got a good deal of buzz when it was released in the US, and I’ve sorta-kinda been meaning…

Environment

So gushes Mother Jones, adding the enticing word “exclusive” to the story. But – weirdly enough, for a confection of spying and science reporting, both of which are normally so reliable – this appears to be a bit garbled. Firstly, the “climate research programme” looks to be more like the CIA had allowed civilian scientists…

OSHA gave DuPont a 50 percent discount on a repeat violation that contributed to the death in November 2014 of four workers at the company’s LaPorte, TX plant. Instead of a $70,000 penalty, the company got off cheap with an even cheaper $35,000 one.

A large portion of the glacial mass in Antarctic, previously thought to be relatively stable, is now understood to be destablizing. This is new research just out in Science. The abstract is pretty clear: Growing evidence has demonstrated the importance of ice shelf buttressing on the inland grounded ice, especially if it is resting on…

Humanities

As the Hugo nomination debacle unfolded, one of the few bright spots was the replacement of Marko Kloos’s novel with The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, who is apparently a Big Name in SF in China. This got a good deal of buzz when it was released in the US, and I’ve sorta-kinda been meaning…

The fatal work-related injuries that killed Milton “Tito” Rafael Barreto Hernandez, 22, could have been prevented had his employer followed worker safety regulations.

Recent pieces address the American Chemistry Council and flame retardants; the avian flu that’s hitting Midwestern poultry farms; what the next labor fight will tackle; and more.

Education

Dr. Vivek Jayaraman and colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus discovered that the ellipsoid body located in the middle of a fly’s brain acts like a compass to help navigate flight even in darkness. By placing the flies into a small virtual reality arena and having the flies walk on a…

… because it is Paleo! Paleo data, models, expectations, observations, about the past and to some extent the future. The Little Ice Age. The Hockey Stick. And, what people get wrong about it all. Denial101x Making Sense of Climate Science Denial goes paleo (and Medieval) this week. Here is a sample video, Andy Skuce on…

One of the points I make repeatedly in teaching introductory mechanics (as I’m doing this term) is that absolutely every problem students encounter can, in principle, be solved using just Newton’s Laws or, in the terminology used by Matter and Interactions, the Momentum Principle. You don’t strictly need any of the other stuff we talk…

Politics

A large majority of voters have approved gay marriage: Ireland’s citizens have voted in a landslide to legalize gay marriage, electoral officials announced Saturday–a stunningly lopsided result that illustrates what Catholic leaders and rights activists alike called a “social revolution.” Friday’s referendum saw 62.1 percent of Irish voters say “yes” to changing the nation’s constitution…

It is a fiction that the right wing, and the Republican party, and their primary philosophical guru (Rush Limbaugh) and mouthpiece (FOX News) are more American, more security-savvy, and more patriotic than Liberals, Progressives, and Democrats. This fiction is part of a common bully tactic you already know about because you were either bothered by…

Do food assistance programs deliver more than food and nutrition? Can relieving the stress of food insecurity provide positive psychological benefits as well? A new study says yes it can.

Medicine

Antivaccine activism endangers children. Of that there is no longer any doubt. As vaccination rates fall, the risk of outbreaks of dangerous vaccine-preventable infectious diseases among children rise. In the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak earlier this year, several states introduced measures to restrict nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine requirements. The record in passing…

A new paper is just out in The Lancet that examines the mortality risk of high and low ambient temperatures. The basic idea is that if it is either to hot or too cold, mortality may increase, possibly with the weather being a factor to augment the effects of other health problems, or as a…

Epigenetics. As I’ve described before, to alternative medicine practitioners, epigenetics seems to mean something akin to what the word “quantum” means: Magic. I’ve covered, for example, the woo-filled stylings of Deepak Chopra invoking things like “quantum consciousness,” and seemingly for quite a few years the best way to slap a patina of “sciencey”-sounding credibility on…

Brain & Behavior

Dr. Vivek Jayaraman and colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus discovered that the ellipsoid body located in the middle of a fly’s brain acts like a compass to help navigate flight even in darkness. By placing the flies into a small virtual reality arena and having the flies walk on a…

Do food assistance programs deliver more than food and nutrition? Can relieving the stress of food insecurity provide positive psychological benefits as well? A new study says yes it can.

Many species of ants are known for being rather clean by disposing of their dead outside of the nest and placing other wastes, like bits of food, in refuse chambers. Dr. Tomer J. Czaczkes (University of Regensburg) was surprised therefore to see “dark patches” build up in plaster nests that housed black garden ants (Lasius niger).…

Technology

Dr. Vivek Jayaraman and colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus discovered that the ellipsoid body located in the middle of a fly’s brain acts like a compass to help navigate flight even in darkness. By placing the flies into a small virtual reality arena and having the flies walk on a…

Bounty hunter Jahdo Kyn intends to start a new life, but in order to leave his troubled past behind he has to buy himself a new future. He has a plan, but as his plan develops he discovers a dilemma, one that requires him to make choices he is not well-prepared to make. This is…

What is digital governance in the first place? Digital governance is a discipline that focuses on establishing clear accountability for digital strategy, policy, and standards. A digital governance framework, when effectively designed and implemented, helps to streamline digital development and dampen debates around digital channel “ownership.” — From the Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design…

Information Science

I consider myself a fairly technically adept person, even at the advanced age of 52. But yesterday I was listening to an album on my laptop using iTunes — something I actually fairly rarely do, as I mostly only use iTunes on shuffle on my phone — and after I tried to figure out how…

Elsevier has released a new scholarly article sharing policy which is definitely more disappointing than really any cause for cheer. Basically the crux is that the only place that authors are allowed to have the final publication version of an article in a non-open access Elsevier publication is on the Elsevier website itself. Of course,…

A bit unusually for me, I’m reviewing a novel as part of my Reading Diary series. Usually the closest I’ll get to a novel is a fictionalized science graphic novel of some sort, kind of like the Survive! series or Lauren Ispsum. But no, this ain’t one of those. It’s a good old fashioned novel.…

Jobs

OSHA gave DuPont a 50 percent discount on a repeat violation that contributed to the death in November 2014 of four workers at the company’s LaPorte, TX plant. Instead of a $70,000 penalty, the company got off cheap with an even cheaper $35,000 one.

Injured workers testify before Illinois lawmakers on preserving the workers’ comp system; OSHA fines DuPont for failing to prevent the deaths of four workers; journalists arrested in Qatar while trying to investigate migrant working conditions; and a new report finds that service members who report sexual assault are likely to face retaliation.

A few things about the academic job market have caught my eye recently, but don’t really add up to a big coherent argument. I’ll note them here, though, to marginally increase the chance that I’ll be able to find them later. — First, this piece at the Guardian got a lot of play, thanks in…