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What we're talking about Frontiers in Viral Medicine Tuesday, April 21, 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 sufferers of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 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

This leafhopper is a myrmecomorph – it has sprouted lumpy dark extensions of its carapace that resemble an ant. It spends its whole life living in a costume!

Unless you are living in a chicken coop, you have probably heard about the Turkey Crisis in Minnesota and surrounding upper plains/midwestern states. Every few days we hear more news: Millions of farmed turkeys are being put down in one turkey farm after another, because the farm’s turkeys are infested with the H5N2 bird flu.…

They know how to use gadgets!

Physical Science

Back when we went to London for Worldcon (and then I went to Sweden for a workshop), I bought a smartphone in Heathrow thinking I could sell it back when I left. That turned out not to work the way we thought, but it’s served me well ever since as an e-reader. It can’t connect…

“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” -Carl Sagan The Universe is filled with a wide variety of stars, planets, galaxies and other optical phenomenon. Despite the fact…

A new study seems to provide a better way to categorize El Nino climate events, and offers an explanation for how different kinds of El Nino events emerge. El Nino is part of a large scale, very important climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, generally referred to as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Over…

Environment

What is H5N2 Avian Influenza? H5N2 is a bird influenza virus that is making news. This mainly affects domestic fowl, and in this sense is not a topic central to 10,000 Birds. But, wild birds are part of the story, and the virus itself has changed and has been known to make wild birds ill.…

A new study seems to provide a better way to categorize El Nino climate events, and offers an explanation for how different kinds of El Nino events emerge. El Nino is part of a large scale, very important climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, generally referred to as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Over…

The AFL-CIO joins a growing list of organizations which have raised serious concerns—or outright oppose—the Vitter/Udall bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Humanities

Back when we went to London for Worldcon (and then I went to Sweden for a workshop), I bought a smartphone in Heathrow thinking I could sell it back when I left. That turned out not to work the way we thought, but it’s served me well ever since as an e-reader. It can’t connect…

There has been a lot of stuff written in response to the Hugo award nomination mess, most of it stupid. Some of it is stupid to such an impressive degree that it actually makes me feel sympathetic toward people who I know are wrong about everything. One of the few exceptions is the long essay…

In just one year, you can attend the largest celebration of STEM for FREE! On April 16-17, 2016, the 4th USA Science & Engineering Festival returns to the nation’s capital along with some of your favorite performers and hands-on exhibits! Next April, Sneak Peek Friday, open to schools, homeschoolers and military families, returns on April…

Education

John Cook, of the University of Queensland, and his colleagues, have created a MOOC … Massive Open Online Course … called “Making Sense of Climate Science Denial.” Why does this matter? How does it work? What can you do? All of these questions are answered here: University offering free online course to demolish climate denial.…

In the wake of the Willie Soon scandal, scientists are taking a hard look at the Smithsonian and other institutions at the forefront of research and public outreach. Should these organizations really be supported by industrialists who deny that industrial emissions continue to warm the planet, disrupt the climate, amplify extreme weather, and threaten to…

The American Biology Teacher has hosted a guest editorial by Glenn Branch and Minda Berbeco of the NCSE. The editorial points out that climate science is under a similar sort of anti-science attack as evolution has been for years, though generally with different (less religious) motivations. Also noted is the problem of fitting climate change…

Politics

Last week, President Obama signed long-awaited legislation that will put an end to periodic panic at the prospect of massive, sudden cuts to Medicare physician payments.

The AFL-CIO joins a growing list of organizations which have raised serious concerns—or outright oppose—the Vitter/Udall bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Low income and poor health tend to go hand in hand — that’s not a particularly surprising or new statement. However, according to family medicine doctor Steven Woolf, we have yet to truly grasp the extent to which income shapes a person’s health and opportunity to live a long life. And if we don’t confront the widening income inequality gap, he says things will only get worse.

Medicine

It would appear that some people got the impression that, just because I questioned whether a recent publicity stunt in which ten doctors and researchers, led by a well-known pro-GMO activist working for the Hoover Institution, Dr. Henry Miller, sent a letter to the dean at Columbia University in essence asking him to fire Oz…

Unless you are living in a chicken coop, you have probably heard about the Turkey Crisis in Minnesota and surrounding upper plains/midwestern states. Every few days we hear more news: Millions of farmed turkeys are being put down in one turkey farm after another, because the farm’s turkeys are infested with the H5N2 bird flu.…

I didn’t think I would be writing about this, but, then again, I seem to say that fairly frequently. Be that as it may, on Friday I wrote about a letter sent to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining about Dr. Mehmet Oz’s promotion…

Brain & Behavior

In just a year, electronic cigarette use has tripled among American teens. And considering that no one really knows what the related health impacts are and any regulatory framework is lagging far behind the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, public health advocates say it’s time for action.

This Nifty Fifty Podcast features Dr. Frederic Bertley speaking to high school children about the availability of STEM jobs, how much science affects our lives, the promising future of transportation, drinking water, medicine, and genomic science, and some of the living scientists making an impact on our work.   Listen to the podcast and read…

Thanks to the federal School Breakfast Program, millions of low-income children have the opportunity to start the school day with a healthy meal. But does the program impact the brain as well as the belly? A new study finds that it does, with students at participating schools scoring higher in math, reading and science.

Technology

So, I get a lot of comment spam here, probably a couple of orders of magnitude more than I get real comments (sigh). The vast majority of this gets blocked by built-in filters, so none of the stuff pitching medically implausible treatments for whatever makes it to a point where I have to see it.…

Update 10 April: It pays to report problems like the one described below to Google’s customer support. Seven weeks ago I discovered the problem. One week ago I reported it. Today the problem was suddenly gone, probably because Google updated the two ebooks involved and pushed new versions of the files to my phone. I…

I mentioned last week that I’m giving a talk at Vanderbilt tomorrow, but as they went to the trouble of writing a press release, the least I can do is share it: It’s clear that this year’s Forman lecturer at Vanderbilt University, Chad Orzel, will talk about physics to almost anyone. After all, two of…

Information Science

So, I get a lot of comment spam here, probably a couple of orders of magnitude more than I get real comments (sigh). The vast majority of this gets blocked by built-in filters, so none of the stuff pitching medically implausible treatments for whatever makes it to a point where I have to see it.…

Colin Adams’s Zombies & Calculus is one of the coolest, funniest, most creative science books I’ve read in a very long time. What’s interesting about that statement is that we’re not talking a non-fiction book here. We’re talking a novel. Yes, a novel. Zombies & Calculus is pure fiction. Fortunately. Now I’m a big fan…

As long-time readers of this blog with know, I’m a huge supporter of science books. One of my definite soft spots is the annual Lane Anderson Award for the best Canadian science book in both adult and young adult categories. As such I’ll point out that the submission deadline for the 2014 award is fast…

Jobs

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the US. This one occurred on April 13, in Weber County, UT.

More than two decades have passed since OSHA promised to issue a rule to protect construction workers from confined space hazards. What did OSHA do during that time to fulfill that promise?

Low income and poor health tend to go hand in hand — that’s not a particularly surprising or new statement. However, according to family medicine doctor Steven Woolf, we have yet to truly grasp the extent to which income shapes a person’s health and opportunity to live a long life. And if we don’t confront the widening income inequality gap, he says things will only get worse.