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News Around the World

Diabetes cured in Dogs

The first successful application of Gene therapy has eliminated type 1 diabetes in dogs, the first time this treatment has worked to treat the disease in a large animal.

Spanish researchers induced diabetes in beagles between 6 months and 1 year old. The dogs’ skeletal muscles were then injected with viruses carrying genes for insulin and glucokinase, an enzyme involved in processing glucose. Following treatment, the genes had been incorporated into the dogs DNA which allowed them to regulate their own blood sugar levels without medical intervention. Furthermore, it was established that the synergistic action between the genes is needed to regulate blood sugar levels as Dogs injected with viruses carrying only the gene for insulin or only the gene for glucokinase continued to have symptoms of diabetes. During exercise the Dogs showed no sign of episodes of hypoglycemia.

This study has been an incredible discovery for potential therapeutic treatment of diabetes type 1 but caution must be taken in applying this directly to humans as the dogs’ diabetes was induced by chemically by destroying pancreas cells that produce insulin. In naturally occurring type 1 diabetes the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells. Nevertheless, this study provides the first proof-of-concept in a large animal model for a gene transfer approach to treat diabetes.

David Callejas et al, 2013. Treatment of Diabetes and Long-term Survival Following Insulin and Glucokinase Gene Therapy Diabetes published ahead of print February 1, 2013. Click Here

The “God Particle” has been found!

Scientists at the Cern research centre in Switzerland reveal they have found a new subatomic particle that could be the Higgs boson. The finding marks a breakthrough in understanding of the fundamental laws that govern the universe.

Professor Peter Higgs, 83, the retired British physicist from the Edinburgh University, hit on the concept of the eponymous mechanism in 1964. Prof Higgs gave his name to the elusive "God particle" that scientists believe they have found. The Higgs boson gives matter mass and holds the physical fabric of the universe together. Observations so far show the discovery looks and acts like the long-sought particle that has eluded scientists for 50 years. Finding the Higgs boson is vital to the Standard Model, the theory that describes the web of particles, forces and interactions which make up the universe.

There has been development over the years of the technology of building machines at higher and higher energy, and the Large Hadron Collider is the one which has been energetic enough and also intense enough in terms of the particle beams to do it.

The discovery has been described as "momentous" and "a milestone". But the results are preliminary and more work is needed before scientists can be sure about what they have captured.

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DNA Methylation Linked to Memory Loss

Scientists find that declining DNA methylation in mouse neurons may cause age-related memory deficits.

There is an increase in research connecting changes in epigenetic regulation of gene expression to the aging process. Many studies demonstrate that DNA methylation declines with age but now the expression of a specific DNA methyltransferase has been linked to memory formation.

Researchers have shown that levels of an enzyme that attaches methyl groups to cytosine nucleotides throughout the genome is linked to cognitive decline, and that its overexpression can restore performance of aging mice on memory-related tasks.

Researchers at the Department of Neurobiology, University of Heidelberg Germany monitored Dnmt3a2 expression in 3-month-old and 18-month-old mice, and found lower levels of Dnmt3a2 in the older mice. Furthermore, learning tasks designed to stimulate hippocampus neurons failed to upregulate Dnmt3a2 expression in old mice as robustly as in young mice.

Boosting Dnmt3a2 expression enhanced both brain methylation in the older mice, and their ability to learn. Conversely, when the researchers used short hairpin RNA to knockdown Dnmt3a2 expression in young mice, their performance on learning and memory tests worsened.

Previous studies have suggested a connection between loss of DNA methylation and Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that if researchers could restore methyltransferase activity and cure or delay dementia, it could make a potential model for developing drugs to tackle age-related cognitive diseases.

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Patent Rights to Prenatal Tests

Four companies who have developed noninvasive genetic prenatal tests are fighting over who has the patent rights to the revolutionary techniques.

This year has seen the arrival of three revolutionary, noninvasive tests for analyzing the DNA of a fetus, and a fourth expected to become available in the next few months. These new tests can detect genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome and other common trisomies as early as 10 weeks into the pregnancy, representing a potential market of more than $1 billion. With such high financial stakes, the four companies that have made these tests available are currently involved in a legal battle over who can patent the underlying technique, which involves scanning maternal blood for fetal DNA.

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Doggy bugs may prevent Asthma

Mice become immune to a virus associated with childhood asthma when exposed to dust from homes that have dogs.

The dust from homes with dogs appears to confer an advantage to the youngest members of the household. Mice who were fed dog-home dust before being exposed to a common infant infection called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is associated with a high risk of developing asthma, appear to be immune to the virus compared to mice fed on normal house dust.

The team from the University of California announced its findings at the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting in June and revealed that the immune mice also had “a distinct gastrointestinal bacterial composition”. This study suggests that dogs carry certain microbes which may take residence in the gastrointestinal tract of the mice and play a role in modulating the immune response to RSV. Further research could potentially pave the way for new vaccines for respiratory viruses.

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The wandering mind.

There is growing evidence to support the notion that a wandering mind is a more creative mind. Numerous studies have shown that anxiety leads to the exact opposite of the freewheeling mindset you need to create something original, Instead of focing yourself to concentrate the best approach when a deadline looms may be to take a quick break, By monitoring Alpha brainwaves associate with a relaxed mindset, sciebtists found that people in a relaxed mood were more likely to find creative solutions to word puzzles. Even listening to jokes helps.

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Analytic thinking challenges religious belief.

There are many people with religious convictions who feel their faith is concrete. However, a new study found that prompting people to engage in analytical thinking caused their religious beliefs to waver, even if only a little. Researchers say the findings have potentially significant implications for understanding the cognitive underpinnings of religion.

Psychologists often carve thinking into two broad categories: intuitive thinking, which is fast and effortless and analytic thinking, which is slower and more deliberate. Both kinds of thinking have their strengths and weaknesses. More recently there has been a greater consensus among scientists that many religious beliefs are grounded in intuitive processes.

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The MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS REPORT 2012 Major Accomplishments and Shortfalls.

The MDG Report 2012 was launched in New York by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 2, 2012. Several MDG targets have been met well ahead of the 2015 target date. The report states that meeting remaining targets remains possible if Governments keep their commitments made over a decade ago. Obviously this includes both recipient and donor nations.

Highlights of the Report:

Extreme poverty is falling in every region including Sub- Saharan Africa.

The poverty reduction target was met: the global poverty rate at $1.25 a day fell in 2010 to less than half the 1990 rate. If confirmed, the first target of the MDGs— cutting extreme poverty to half its 1990 level—will have been achieved at the global level well ahead of 2015.

The world has met the target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water: the proportion of people using an improved water source rising from 76 per cent in 1990 to 89 per cent in 2010.

Improvements in the lives of 200 million slum dwellers exceeded the slum target: The share of urban residents in the developing world living in slums declined from 39 per cent in 2000 to 33 per cent in 2012. This achievement exceeds the target of significantly improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, well ahead of the 2020 deadline.

The world has achieved parity in primary education between girls and boys: Many more children are enrolled in primary school, especially since 2000. Girls benefited the most. The gender parity index value of 97 falls within the margin of error for 100.

Many countries facing the greatest challenges have made significant progress towards universal primary education. Enrolment rates of primary school age children increased markedly in sub-Saharan Africa, from 58 to 76 per cent between 1999 and 2010.

Child survival progress is gaining momentum. Despite population growth, the number of under-five deaths worldwide fell from more than 12.0 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010.

Access to treatment for people living with HIV increased in all regions. At the end of 2010, 6.5 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV or AIDS in developing regions. This total constitutes an increase of over 1.4 million people from December 2009, the largest one-year increase ever. The 2010 target of universal access, however, was not reached.

The world is on track to achieve the target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of tuberculosis. Globally, tuberculosis incidence rates have been falling since 2002, and current projections suggest that the 1990 death rate from the disease will be halved by 2015.

Global malaria deaths have declined. The estimated incidence of malaria has decreased globally, by 17 per cent since 2000. Over the same period, malaria-specific mortality rates have decreased by 25 per cent. Reported malaria cases fell by more than 50 per cent between 2000 and 2010 in 43 of 99 countries with ongoing malaria transmission.

These accomplishments notwithstanding, there remain major shortfalls:

Inequality detracts from these gains, and advances have slowed: Achievements are unequally distributed across and within regions and countries. Moreover, progress has slowed for some MDGs after the 2008-9 economic crisis and related consequences.

Vulnerable employment has decreased only marginally over twenty years. Defined as share of unpaid family workers and own-account workers in total employment, this fell to 58 per cent from 67 per cent two decades earlier. Women and youth remain the most vulnerable.

Decreases in maternal mortality are far from the 2015 target. Despite improvements, progress is still slow. Reductions in adolescent childbearing and expansion of contraceptive use have continued, but at a slower pace since 2000 than over the decade before.

Use of improved sources of water remains lower in rural areas. While 19 per cent of the rural population used unimproved sources of water in 2010, the rate in urban areas was only 4 per cent. Nearly half of the population in developing regions still lack access to improved sanitation.

Hunger remains a global challenge. 850 million people lived in hunger in the 2006-8 period, 15.5 per cent of the world population. This continuing high level reflects lack of progress on hunger in several regions, even as income poverty decreased. Progress is slow in reducing child undernutrition. Close to one third of children in Southern Asia were underweight in 2010.

The number of people living in slums continues to grow. Despite a reduction in the proportion of urban populations living in slums, the absolute number continues to grow from a 1990 baseline of 650 million. An estimated 863 million people now live in slum conditions.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment remain key challenges. Gender inequality persists and women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets, and participation in government. Violence against women continues to undermine efforts to reach all goals.


United Nations. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012. New York 2012.

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Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) receives $1.6 billion Shot in the Arm

The Global Fund (GFATM) expects to have an additional $1.6 billion to fund projects in 2012-2014, its new General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo announced on May 9, a turnaround from a funding freeze last year. The money includes funds from new donors, from traditional donors who are advancing their payments or increasing contributions and from some donors, such as China, that have offered to support projects in their own country to free up cash for more pressing needs elsewhere.

Last November a lack of donor funds prompted the Global Fund to scrap new grants until 2014, triggering a crisis for agencies working to tackle AIDS around the world. Donor governments were strapped for cash after the financial crisis, but some also balked at reports that funds were being misused in four countries that received grants from the Global Fund and temporarily suspended their contributions.

By December 2011, the Fund had approved funding of $22.6 billion for more than 1,000 programs in 150 countries, providing AIDS treatment for 3.3 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 8.6 million people and 230 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria.

Reforms will prioritize 20 "high impact" countries that account for 70 percent of the global burden of the three diseases and receive 70 percent of the Fund's grants. The first $616 million of the new money will be put to work as soon as the grant requests have been reviewed by the Fund's Technical Review Panel and approved by the board. The Fund said it would consult countries and its partners on how to use the remaining $1 billion most effectively.

Source: Tom Miles; Editing by Michael Roddy; Reuters May 9, 2012.
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Global Drinking Water Goal Met Five Years Ahead of Target

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) drinking water target, which calls for halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015, was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.

However, the job is far from finished. Many still lack safe drinking water, and the world is unlikely to meet the MDG sanitation target. Continued efforts are needed to reduce urban-rural disparities and inequities associated with poverty; to dramatically increase coverage in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania; to promote global monitoring of drinking water quality; to bring sanitation ‘on track’; and to look… towards universal coverage.

Source: UNICEF & WHO. Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2010 Update. Released 2012.
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World Malaria Status Improves

World Malaria Status reveals impressive gains in intervention coverage and reductions in malaria morbidity and mortality. WHO estimates that the number of malaria cases has fallen by more than 50% in 43 countries over the past decade. Eleven countries in Africa have shown a reduction of more than 50% in either confirmed malaria cases or malaria admissions and deaths in recent years. In Asia, four countries saw a decrease in the number of malaria cases of more than 50% since 2000.

Source: HLSP Institute. Health and Development Global Update. July 2011. Click Here

Discovery – DNA scars in Children.</ strong>

Researchers show Childhood stress (including violence, bullying and physical abuse) can leave scars at the DNA level! The team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina used data collected from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study to provide support for a mechanism linking cumulative childhood stress to telomere maintenance (P=0.015).
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The Big Bioinformatics Boom!

Job prospects within computational biology, also known as bioinformatics are growing as pharmaceutical and biotech industries start to think big with bigger datasets. The availability of enormous genomics data to explore links between specific genotypes and diseases and then screening drug data to identify therapeutic candidates has attracted attention in California's Silicon Valley area (US). Russ Altman, a professor of bioengineering, genetics, and medicine and director of the biomedical informatics training program at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Said “It's not big pharmaceutical companies driving the demand there, he says, but small biotech companies who've realized they can capitalize on the enormous amount of publicly available health and genomics data” (Price, M; Science Careers, April 2012).
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THINK TWICE</ strong>

THINK TWICE before using Cocaine or lose twice the brain volume each year as non-drug users. A new study by neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom shows those addicted to Cocaine lose twice the brain volume each year as non-drug users. "We are an aging society as it is," says Karen Ersche, behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, "If our young people are aging prematurely due to drug abuse, the public health implications could be huge."
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GET OUT! </ strong>

Ming (Frances) Kuo, an associate professor of natural resources and environmental sciences, directs the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ming Kuo has been studying attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) and found that children’s A.D.H.D. symptoms were systematically better after spending time in green places. In fact, the peak effect of a dose of nature can be as much as the peak effect of stimulants. In the Netherlands, medical records show that the rates of disease are lower for people who have more green space within a quarter mile or so of their home (adjusting for socio-economic factors). People in greener places are healthier; out of 24 major categories of disease (including heart disease, asthma, anxiety disorders and clinical depression) 18 were more rare in greener areas and no categories were more prevalent in greener areas. Kuo recommends, “Go outside! Your brain, your immune system and your body will thank you.”
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Another big step towards winning the battle with Cancer.</ strong>

CD47 a new, validated target for cancer therapies could be the answer to shrinking or curing human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors. The continuing efforts of biologist Irving Weissman and team of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California have shown that treatment using an antibody (anti-CD47) obstructs a "do not eat me" signal normally displayed on tumor cells, enabling the immune system to destroy the cancer cells. The anti-CD47 anitbody therapy initiated in mice inhibited tumour growth and prevented or treated metastasis (Willingham SB, et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012)
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Music improves health</ strong>

A scientific study by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital has found that music can improve our health. Patients who listened to live music needed less drugs and recovered more quickly than those who didn’t. Dr Rosalia Staricoff, who was involved in the study, says: "The physiological benefits have been measured. Music reduces blood pressure, the heart rate, and hormones related to stress."
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The Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA)</ strong>

The Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) wants to build an association of those involved in health and health-related activities to promote greater equity in health in South Africa. PHASA advocates equitable access to the basic conditions necessary to achieve health for all South African as well as equitable access to effective health care. PHASA will work with other public health associations and related organizations and advocate on national and international issues that impact on the conditions for a healthy society.

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Epidemiological News for professionals

Epidemiological news for professionals only, publishes information on the epidemiology sector. The objective of "Epidemiological News" is to facilitate the dissemination of information within the network dedicated to the epidemiology. The epidemiologist’s network is composed of a variety of qualified professionals such as researcher, research technician, statisticians, scientific staff, vigilance responsible, toxicologist, study manager, doctor, hygienist, veterinary, pharmacist, student in public health. Network members are located all over the world. For more information, Click Here