Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick Wed-nesday (Oct. 3) called on those attending the second day of a Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI)-sponsored Stem Cell Summit to support his proposed $1 billion life sciences initiative “so we can get partnering with you.”While Massachusetts has a unique concentration of researchers, academic institutions, biotech companies, and investment in the life sciences, “we can’t just rest on our laurels,” Patrick said. “I ask you to make your voices heard,” the governor continued. “Make your interests known. When the bill comes out for hearings — show up.”This year’s summit, a two-day (Oct. 2-3) gathering of about 500 of the world’s leading stem cell researchers, patient advocates, pharmaceutical and biotech executives, and people from the venture capital world, marked a maturation point for both HSCI and the stem cell field as a whole.“The goal is insight; the path is clear; the potential of stem cell research must be realized,” wheelchair-bound College (2000) and Kennedy School of Government (2004) grad Brooke Ellison told the meeting attendees in her keynote speech.Ellison, who was paralyzed from the neck down as the result of an auto accident on the first day of her seventh-grade year, has written an autobiography, had her life featured in a movie directed by the late actor and stem cell advocate Christopher Reeve, run for New York state Senate, and started a nonprofit organization to advocate for stem cell research.“I have been driven by the belief that there is no vision too big, or vision too lofty,” said Ellison, who received a standing ovation at the end of her address. “It takes only one single instant to have your life changed completely,” she said, noting that she has learned from her experience that “all of our lives are inherently fragile. Every single one of us will have our resilience questioned,” she added, but we can “have our resilience strengthened by the hope that stem cell research provides.”Leading scientists were optimistic — and at the same time cautious — in predicting what the field might produce in the next 12 months.Doug Melton, co-director of HSCI and co-chairman of Harvard’s new interschool Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, answered the question about what’s likely to be announced by saying, “I think it’s possible we will see the first disease-specific stem cell.” Lawrence Goldstein, director of the Stem Cell Program at the University of California, San Diego, went a bit further, saying that “I would hope that we will actually see stem cells of some sort used responsibly in a novel kind of setting,” referring to patient therapy.At the same time, however, Goldstein told those attending the session on “How Stem Cell Research Will Transform Medicine in the 21st Century” that he’d “like to see enhanced public understanding” of stem cells and what they’ll do. There has been too much hype about alleged stem cell therapies in other nations, Goldstein said, with absolutely no proof that they’ll work.Melton said that he personally sees two avenues of stem cell science as the most exciting and promising — and neither involves actually using stem cells themselves as treatments. “The first way,” he said, “is rather obvious, to use stem cells … to understand” normal and abnormal development.Diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, cancer, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, “are just plain difficult problems,” said Melton, with multiple causes, both genetic and environmental. “We’re working to create disease-specific cells so we can watch the pathology of disease develop not in a patient, but in a Petri dish. The development of disease-specific stem cells” can enormously increase insight into the natural development of diseases. “I predict that what will happen by studying that process is we’ll be able to harness those processes,” Melton said. The second major use of disease-specific stem cells, he said, would be as “targets” for drug development.Last year’s first summit, co-sponsored by HSCI and Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Regenerative Medicine, was a relatively sedate, largely local affair, a gathering of about 150 people at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge.In stark contrast, this year the co-sponsors were HSCI, the Genetics Policy Institute — a patient advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. — and Burrill Life Sciences Media Group, a venture capital, media, boutique investment banking company. Participants this year included Ian Wilmut, “father” of Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal; John D. Gearhart, director of the Stem Cell Program at Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Cell Engineering; Goldstein; Susan Solomon, CEO of the New York Stem Cell Foundation; and leaders from the venture capital, biotech, and hospital arenas.During a Wednesday morning session titled “The Hospital Perspective — An HSCI Case Study,” Massachusetts General Hospital President Peter Slavin said that federal opposition to stem cell research has drawn the Harvard-affiliated hospitals together in a common cause, just as California’s $3 billion stem cell initiative has been “a missile across our bows.”Working together, through the collaborative that is the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, “we’ve been able to recruit people we never would have been able to attract,” said Slavin, and potential donors’ “sights have been raised” as a result of this collaboration. “It’s still a work in pro-gress,” he said, but “it is working very well” from his perspective.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has started posting weekly situation updates on outbreaks of Zika virus and possible complications from the disease, and it also has issued an interim case definition for the illness.Both reports were posted Feb 12, capping a busy week of new developments with the virus, including studies that strengthened the association between maternal Zika virus infection and microcephaly in babies. In other developments, Brazil updated its microcephaly investigation totals and refuted an environmental group’s claim that a larvicide used in drinking water may be causing the birth defect.WHO sets 6-month tasks, prioritiesThe WHO said in its situation update that it and partners have established a strategic response framework that sets tasks and priorities for the next 6 months, covering surveillance, community development, vector control, child and maternal health, and research and development. It added that it is finalizing an overview of urgent needs for the Zika virus response.At WHO headquarters and at its Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), incident management systems have been activated, with the two groups coordinating responses with national governments, United Nations agencies, and nongovernmental organizations.The report provides a big-picture view Zika virus activity, which according to estimates has sickened 1.5 million so far in Brazil, followed by 25,000 suspected cases in Colombia, the next worst hit country. Columbia has confirmed 1,331 cases since October. The WHO added that Cape Verde has reported more than 7,000 suspected Zika virus cases.So far, Brazil and French Polynesia are the only affected countries reporting congenital abnormality levels that are well above average, though isolated microcephaly cases—one in Hawaii and one in Slovenia—have been reported in women who visited or recently lived in Zika-hit countries. Colombia hasn’t reported any microcephaly cases, but health officials there are closely watching for any unusual increases.Five countries have reported rises in Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS): Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Suriname, and Venezuela. However, the possible association with Zika seems less clear cut. The WHO said none of the GBS cases in Colombia or El Salvador involved lab-confirmed Zika infection, and it added that the cause is unknown, especially since dengue, chikungunya, and Zika virus have all been circulating at the same time in the Americas. “Investigations to determine the cause of infection are ongoing in countries with increased incidence of GBS,” the agency said.In Brazil, the outbreak’s epicenter, public health officials have visited 20 million households to look for mosquito breeding grounds, and 500,000 people are working on vector control and public health messaging activities, according to the WHO report. Brazil has no plans to cancel its hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The August timing of the event comes during winter, when mosquitoes are least active.Interim case definition to help with surveillanceThe WHO also on Feb 12 issued an interim case definition of Zika virus infection to help standardize classification and reporting.A suspected case is defined as person with a rash and/or fever with at least one of the following: arthralgia, arthritis, or conjunctivitis. The WHO defines a probable case as a suspected case with IgM antibody against Zika virus and an epidemiologic link, such as contact with a confirmed case or residence in or travel to an area with local Zika transmission.A confirmed case is defined as a person with a recent Zika infection as confirmed by detection of viral RNA or antigen in serum or other samples or detection of IgM antibody against Zika and a 90% plaque-reduction neutralization test at certain cutoffs compared with other flaviviruses, with exclusion of such viruses.Brazil updates microcephaly count, rejects larvicide suspicionMeanwhile, Brazil’s health ministry said Feb 12 that it had received reports of 296 more suspected cases of microcephaly. However, it ruled out 765 earlier suspected ones, according to an official statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news blog.Brazilian authorities are still investigating 3,862 suspected microcephaly cases, with 462 of them now confirmed and 765 ruled out as of Feb 2. The cumulative number of suspected cases is now at 5,079.Brazil’s 462 confirmed microcephaly cases span 175 cities in 13 states, an increase from 156 cities in 9 states reported in the ministry’s report the week before.The health ministry said that despite the possible relationship with Zika virus, microcephaly can be caused by other conditions such as syphilis, toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes virus.In other developments, the health ministry on Feb 13 issued a statement countering an Argentine environmental group’s charge that the larvicide pyriproxifen, used in some drinking water supplies, is a more likely microcephaly culprit than Zika virus, according to statements translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary.The charges led one of Brazil’s southern states, Rio Grande Do Sul, to temporarily suspend use of the larvicide in drinking water. However, Brazil’s health ministry quickly posted a clarification on the use of pyriproxifen, noting that the product had been cleared by the WHO’s pesticide evaluation process and had also been certified by Brazilian safety officials.It added that there is no scientific basis for a link between the use of pyriproxifen and microcephaly and that some cities that haven’t used it have also reported microcephaly cases.NAS workshop to air Zika priorities tomorrowThe National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are hosting a public workshop tomorrow to discuss research priorities, given the emergence of Zika virus in the United States. The meeting was requested by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR).According to the meeting announcement, stakeholders will discuss steps to reduce the likelihood of local Zika virus transmission in the United States, identify knowledge gaps, pin down the most important research questions, such as the link between Zika virus and microcephaly, and assess communication needs regarding the risks and mitigation strategies.The meeting will take place at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington, DC, starting at 8:30 am Eastern time, but it will also be Web-streamed live.A document summing up the presentations will be prepared at the end of the session, but no consensus findings or recommendations.See also:Feb 12 WHO Zika virus situation reportFeb 12 WHO Zika infection interim case definitionsFeb 12 Avian Flu Diary postFeb 13 Avian Flu Diary post on larvicide controversyNAS Zika workshop meeting background
#*#*Show Fullscreen*#*#zoom inzoom outCHINA: The opening of two extensions to the Beijing metro on December 28 has taken the total network length to 699·3 km with 405 stations, including 62 interchanges, overtaking Shanghai to become the world’s largest metro network.#*#*Show Fullscreen*#*#zoom inzoom outThe 16·6 km eastern extension of Line 7 runs from Jiaohuachang to Huazhuang and Huanqiu Dujiaqu, which serves the Universal Studios Resort, adding nine stations. This route is operated by eight-car Type B trainsets.#*#*Show Fullscreen*#*#zoom inzoom outThe last two stations are also served by the Batong Line, which has been extended 4·5 km south from Tuqiao to at Huanqiu Dujiaqu; at its northern end this orbital suburban line provides a connection with metro Line 1 at Sihui.