Subtle Mutation Linked to Lupus

first_imgLupus, an incurable disease that strikes more than 16,000 Americans a year, causes the body’s immune system to turn against itself, creating antibodies that will fight and kill its own cells. In a significant advance, geneticists now say that a tiny change to a single gene contributes to the development of the disease in some people.Symptoms of lupus can range from achy joints, fever, arthritis, skin rashes, and light sensitivity to life-threatening kidney and blood-clotting problems. Although the disease seems to run in families, researchers have yet to identify the gene or genes that cause it. However, studies of mice with lupuslike symptoms suggested that a gene called PDCD1–which is known to help the body recognize foreign cells–may play a role.Geneticist Marta Alarcon-Riquelme of Uppsala University in Sweden led an international team of researchers to find out if PDCD1 is also associated with lupus in humans. The team recruited 2510 people of European-American, Mexican, and African-American descent from families with single or multiple cases of lupus, and families with no known history of the disease. The team decoded each person’s PDCD1 DNA and found a single mutation–a change to one nucleotide letter of the genetic code–associated with lupus in 12% percent of European-Americans and 7% of Mexicans.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Based on the location of the mutation in the DNA code, researchers believe that the mutation prevents a protein called RUNX1 from attaching to the PDCD1 gene. Because RUNX1 is thought to help cells copy DNA, this disconnect could disrupt immune cells’ ability to distinguish the body’s own cells from invading microbes by preventing cells from expressing the right amount of PDCD1, the team argues in the 28 October Nature Genetics. This mutation isn’t the sole cause of lupus, however; it was also found in 5% of European-Americans and 2% of Mexicans who do not have lupus. And the mutation was almost nonexistent in the African-American population.”This is a great lead for researchers to work with and now we have a testable hypothesis to pursue,” says rheumatologist Paul Utz of Stanford University in California. The next step, Utz says, is to determine whether RUNX1 really does play a role in regulating the PDCD1 gene.Related sitesUtz home pageLupus Foundation of Americalast_img read more

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Climate Scientist Mann Partially Absolved by Penn State

first_imgA panel convened by Pennsylvania State University has mostly absolved Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann wrongdoing on allegations stemming from e-mails he sent as part of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia e-mail theft last year, The New York Times reports:In some of the e-mail messages, Dr. Mann refers to his assembly of data from a number of different sources, including ancient tree rings and earth core samples, as a “trick.” Critics pounced on the term and said it was evidence that Dr. Mann and other scientists had manipulated temperature data to support their conclusions.But the Penn State inquiry board said the term “trick” is used by scientists and mathematicians to refer to an insight that solves a problem. “The so-called ‘trick’ was nothing more than a statistical method used to bring two or more different kinds of data sets together in a legitimate fashion by a technique that has been reviewed by a broad array of peers in the field,” the panel said.The e-mail messages also contained suggestions that Dr. Mann had purposely hidden or destroyed e-mail messages and other information relating to a United Nations climate change report to prevent other scientists from reviewing them. Dr. Mann produced the material in question, and the Penn State board cleared him of the charge.There were also questions of whether Dr. Mann misused confidential data and engaged in a conspiracy with like-minded scientists to withhold information from competing scholars. The Penn State board found nothing to support the charge.The detailed findings of the three-member investigative panel are here; three of four charges of misconduct were investigated and dismissed. One remains: whether Mann was involved in “any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research or other scholarly activities.” The panel could not determine the answer to that question and the university has appointed a second, five-person panel to look into it. Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more

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ScienceShot: Express Elevator From Hell

first_imgMolten rock spewing forth in volcanic eruptions may have risen dozens of kilometers through Earth’s crust in a few months rather than over millennia, a new study suggests. When researchers looked at crystals of the mineral olivine (inset) extracted from lavas erupted from Costa Rica’s Irazú volcano during a 2-year eruption that began in 1963, they found that about 15%  contained thin layers with higher-than-normal concentrations of nickel, an element found more commonly in Earth’s mantle than in the overlying crust. The chemical composition of each successive layer represents the environmental conditions that the growing olivine crystals experienced as they rose toward Earth’s surface, and the fact that nickel hadn’t diffused evenly throughout the mineral indicates that crystal-filled magma had risen from the mantle in a short period of time. Indeed, the scientists estimate that those layered crystals had risen through the estimated 35 kilometers of crust below Irazú volcano in as little as 4 months, they report online today in Nature. On average, though, magma migrated upward at about 80 meters per day, or more than 3 meters per hour, the team notes. It’s also in the same range of speeds seen beneath other peaks where networks of seismic instruments have detected deep earthquakes associated with the rapid movement of magma. But alas, deep quakes beneath a volcano may not serve as an infallible sign of an impending blowout (as seen in Italy’s Stromboli volcano, main image), the scientists say: Some peaks with deep quakes didn’t end up erupting, and many that did erupt didn’t show seismic signs of deep magma movement. For now, the signals that betray when and whether a peak will erupt remain elusive.last_img read more

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New research ship highlight of otherwise flat NSF budget bill in Senate

first_imgSenate appropriators have made a third research vessel their top priority in the 2017 budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF).The full Senate appropriations committee today unanimously approved $7.509 billion for NSF, a $46 million boost over its current budget, as part of a $56 billion bill covering several science agencies and the departments of justice and commerce. Within the amount for NSF, legislators added $53 million to the agency’s large new facilities account to begin building three regional-class research vessels rather than the two NSF had requested. (Earlier this week, a spending subcommittee had approved the bill, but released few details.)NSF’s research and education accounts were held flat, at $6.033 billion and $880 million, respectively, as was the agency’s internal operating budget. President Barack Obama had requested $46 million more for research and $18 million for education. (NSF had also requested an additional $43 million to accommodate its move next year to a new building in northern Virginia.)Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Legislators also rejected the president’s request for a one-time infusion of $400 million for NSF from so-called mandatory revenue sources, money outside the province of the annual appropriations process. But they said they were not retreating from support of basic science. “This bill puts money in the federal checkbook for research and development, because innovation today leads to American jobs and products tomorrow,” noted the panel’s top Democrat, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D–MD).A former chair of the committee, Mikulski is retiring this fall after 30 years in the Senate and a decade in the House of Representatives, and she received a warm tribute from her colleagues before the bill was approved. The House has yet to act on a comparable spending bill.last_img read more

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New icy world with 20,000-year orbit could point to Planet Nine

first_imgPASADENA, CALIFORNIA—The solar system has gained a new extreme object: L91, a small, icy world with one of the longest known orbits, taking more than 20,000 years to go around the sun. Researchers have yet to pin down the object’s size or mass, but they can add it to the growing list of frozen bodies circling well beyond Neptune in strange orbits that imply gravitational disruptions from outside the sun and the known giant planets. In the case of L91, some astronomers say that external disrupter could be a ninth giant planet, as yet undiscovered. However, L91’s discovery team favors a scenario in which the disturbance is more mundane: a passing star, or the Milky Way’s gravity.“It’s right at the limit of what we can detect,” said astrophysicist Michele Bannister of Queen’s University Belfast, who described the result today at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Science meeting here.L91 never comes closer to the sun than 50 astronomical units (AU), or 50 times the Earth-sun distance. From there, it slowly crawls all the way out to 1430 AU. This means it has a more elongated orbit than Sedna, another distant Pluto-sized object, whose closest approach is 76 AU and whose estimated far point reaches 937 AU. L91 was found using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope at Mauna Kea in Hawaii, as part of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Astronomers once thought the solar system was relatively static, with the planets’ current configurations roughly unchanged since their birth in a gigantic cloud of dust and gas more than 4 billion years ago. But during the past decade or so, researchers have realized that planetary history is full of chaotic movements, with gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn drifting inward and outward from the sun. As these gargantuan masses moved, their gravitational influence sent other objects careening around, in some cases getting jettisoned entirely.L91 is thought to be another wanderer, except the ice giant Neptune might be responsible for its movements. Bannister sketched a scenario in which the icy object was born with a more regular elliptical orbit. Back then, its closest and furthest points from the sun would have been roughly similar.Over billions of years, Neptune’s gravitational influence might have given it little kicks that stretched out its orbital far point all the way to the inner part of the Oort cloud—a cluster of frozen bodies thought to start 2000 or more AU from the sun. Then a passing star or gravitational interactions with our Milky Way galaxy could have retracted L91’s orbit down to the less elongated but still extreme shape we see today.“It’s a story that’s not implausible, but I also think it’s not needed,” said planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) here, who wasn’t part of the recent discovery.His preferred explanation is gravitational tugging from Planet Nine, an as-yet-unseen Neptune-sized world that he and Mike Brown, another Caltech astronomer, came up with in January to explain the strange stretched-out orbits of a half-dozen objects, including Sedna. Bannister and her team modeled scenarios in which a Planet Nine–mass world could have provided the gravitational kicks necessary to elongate L91’s orbit but found that that would have tilted L91 into a different orbit. But Batygin says that galactic gravitational tugging is an inefficient process and that the Planet Nine explanation remains a less convoluted way of achieving the same result.last_img read more

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Has a new mutation in the Ebola virus made it deadlier?

first_imgThe sheer size of the Ebola epidemic that began in 2013 and engulfed West Africa is still a bit of a riddle for scientists. Previous Ebola outbreaks had never sickened more than 600 people. But the outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea infected more than 28,000 before it was finally brought under control. Part of the explanation was that the virus had suddenly surfaced in major cities, making it harder to stamp out than in the isolated rural locales where it had struck before. The countries’ poor public health infrastructure and other environmental factors played roles as well.But two papers raise another intriguing possibility. They show that some 3 months after the outbreak took off and became a full-blown epidemic, the virus underwent a mutation that made it better suited for humans than for its presumed natural host, a fruit bat species. “The virus has never had this many human-to-human transmissions before, and there are a lot of mutations happening,” says Harvard University’s Pardis Sabeti, an evolutionary geneticist who co-authored one of the papers.Sabeti stresses that her team only has a “circumstantial” case about the timing of the mutation and the epidemic’s explosion, but her group and an independent team that published the second study have amassed what she calls “compelling evidence” that for the first time links a mutation in the virus to a preference for human cells. The findings “raise the possibility that this mutation contributed directly to greater transmission and thus to the severity of the outbreak,” the team writes. And they found an “association” with increased mortality. “We should neither be alarmist nor complacent,” Sabeti says. “Any possibility that one of the mutations can have a serious impact should be interrogated.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Working with a team led by Jeremy Luban from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Sabeti and co-workers sequenced samples from 1489 West African patients and analyzed them. By March 2014—about the time the epidemic was detected, but some 3 months after the first case actually occurred—the sequences had split into two distinct lineages, one of which was characterized by a single amino acid change in a region of the virus’s surface protein and allows it to bind to cells. The mutant, Luban says, “completely supplanted the ancestral virus.”The big question, of course, is whether the mutation could help the virus spread. The researchers did not have access to a biosafety level (BSL) 4 laboratory necessary to test that with the real Ebola virus, so they engineered harmless “pseudotyped” viruses that contained the gene for the surface protein in both its ancestral and mutated form. The mutant far more easily infected human immune cells than did the ancestral pseudotype, the team reports today in Cell. The researchers also showed that the mutant more easily infects primate cells than cells from rodents or carnivores.The second paper, published today in Cell by a team led by Jonathan Ball at the United Kingdom’s University of Nottingham and Etienne Simon-Loriere of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, independently arrived at a similar conclusion. The team analyzed its own 1610 sequences from the epidemic and also found that they separated into two lineages based on the single mutation in the glycoprotein. The researchers also compared pseudotyped Ebola viruses that matched the ancestor with ones with the same mutation, and found they preferentially infected cells from humans as opposed to the fruit bat species Hypsignathus monstrosus. They also found this mutant’s infectivity was increased by other mutations, which suggests that the virus didn’t undergo just one, but several adaptations allowing it to jump more easily from human to human. That could have complicated attempts to bring the epidemic to an end.But Ball, Simon-Loriere, and colleagues approach this conclusion most cautiously, stressing that epidemiologic factors, such as “increased circulation in urban areas that in turn led to larger chains of transmission,” likely were the most important driver. “Despite the experimental data provided here, it is impossible to clearly establish whether the adaptive mutations observed were in part responsible for the extended duration of the 2013–16 epidemic,” they write in their paper.A study published by Science in March of last year did not find any evidence that the virus evolved to become more transmissible or more virulent. But the first author of that paper, virologist Thomas Hoenen of the Friedrich Loeffler Institute in Riems, Germany, says the two new papers make a powerful case that the glycoprotein mutation benefited the virus. “The question now is, what does this really mean in terms of biological consequences?”Luban stresses that Hoenen’s analysis and others that reached similar conclusions weren’t wrong. But the researchers were analyzing viral sequences to address different questions—such as the viral mutation rate—or only looked at samples isolated in the early days of the outbreak. “You have to do wet experiments sometimes,” Luban says. “All of the algorithm crunching suggested Ebola is Ebola is Ebola. These two experiments say it doesn’t matter what the computers say. The virus is more infectious.”The authors of the new studies agree that to clarify the impact the mutation has on transmissibility and virulence, scientists must do experiments with the real virus and engineered mutants of it, both in cell cultures and animals. But they have had difficulty finding a BSL-4 lab that’s willing to collaborate and funding is a challenge, too. “We need to pay attention to this,” Sabeti says. The rapid adaptation to humans underscores the need to respond quickly to animal to human transmissions of Ebola and other viruses, she adds. “Anytime you see one of these sparks ignite it could turn into full on forest fire.”last_img read more

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Meet the three people who hope to lead WHO in the Trump era

first_imgNow the race is really on. Only three candidates remain for the highest post at the World Health Organization (WHO), widely seen as one of the toughest jobs in global health. Chronically underfunded, WHO is a complex bureaucracy that has come under heavy fire for its handling of the Ebola catastrophe in West Africa. And its new boss arrives just as the United States, WHO’s most important financial contributor, has chosen a president who has little appreciation for international organizations and who reportedly wants to slash U.S. contributions to the United Nations, of which WHO is part.The three who say they’re up to that challenge are former Ethiopian Health Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, U.K. physician and United Nations official David Nabarro, and Pakistani cardiologist and former science minister Sania Nishtar.Today, the candidates introduced themselves during consecutive press conferences in Geneva, Switzerland. From now until the election in May, they and their countries will campaign in the media and lobby furiously behind the scenes to get as many of WHO’s 194 member states as possible on their side.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) The outcome will depend in part on what happens on the international stage in the months ahead, says Ilona Kickbusch, an independent global health consultant based in Brienz, Switzerland. What influence will Brexit negotiations have on European support for U.K. candidate Nabarro? If U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May draws closer to U.S. President Donald Trump, will that hurt Nabarro’s chances? Which candidate will be able to convince member states to give WHO more money, not less? “This is the first time that world politics will play such a big role” in WHO’s election, Kickbusch says.Yesterday, media stories reported that the Trump administration may cut contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations by as much as 40%. Although they didn’t specifically mention WHO, some worry that the United States’s $400 million contribution to WHO’s $2.4 billion annual budget may be at risk as well. (Trump has also reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy banning foreign aid to organizations that discuss abortion, a move almost universally decried in global health circles.)Nishtar is considered by many to be the outsider in the race. But Pakistan’s first female cardiologist convinced many countries with her professionalism and technical knowledge, Kickbusch says. “I think she was underestimated in the beginning.” Being the only female candidate might also turn out to be an advantage—although perhaps less so after 10 years of Margaret Chan at the helm. (She was WHO’s second female director-general; Gro Harlem Brundtland from Norway led the agency from 1998 until 2003.)Nishtar has been working hard. After her candidacy was announced, she stepped down from all positions to focus on the election. “I had bilateral meetings with more than 185 member states and I will continue to make sure that I meet all of them now that I have been nominated,” she told the press conference today. Nishtar said she wants to focus on transparency and value for money at WHO, eliminating inefficiencies and duplication. She suggested she would not shy away from making hard choices, saying, “I realize that every attempt at priority setting in the past has only come up with a longer wish list.”I think to be director-general of WHO is a job I have been training for the whole of my life.David Nabarro, United NationsNabarro is widely seen as the candidate with the most technical experience. He started out working in developing countries for nongovernmental organizations and the U.K. government and in 1999 joined WHO, where he led the Roll Back Malaria Partnership. He has also held several positions at the United Nations and is currently leading that organization’s response to Haiti’s cholera outbreak, which was inadvertently set off by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal. “I think to be director-general of WHO is a job I have been training for the whole of my life,” he said this morning. With WHO in rocky waters, many countries are looking for an old hand to steer the organization, says Kickbusch, which may bode well for Nabarro. The fact that another European, António Guterres from Portugal, recently bagged the job of U.N. secretary-general may work against him.Asked about the reports about potential cuts by the Trump administration, Nabarro said he had read a lot about Trump and talked to people coming into the administration and members of Congress. What they want is “that the purpose for which international bodies are working is absolutely clear and is in line with their national objectives,” he said. “I’m not sitting here thinking that the noises that are coming from a number of people in the legislature are going to lead to terminal problems for WHO.”Tedros has the support of the 54-country African Union, and many observers argue that it is time for the first African leader of WHO. Tedros served as Ethiopia’s foreign minister the past 4 years and was health minister between 2005 and 2012. “I believe I am the best candidate because I have a mix of national and international experience,” he told the press conference, highlighting Ethiopia’s strides in combatting HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis and in overhauling the health system. “If I could get a chance to lead this organization, I can help countries to implement reform in a comprehensive way, because I have the hands-on experience.” But some say international criticism of Ethiopia’s human rights record may work against Tedros.“Now that there are three candidates there will be more opportunity to see who provides the replies the governments want to hear,” says David Heymann, head of the Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House in London. “The horse trading that is going to happen is probably quite substantial,” predicts Ashish Jha, a global health expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.Background and experience matter, but so does character. “The organization needs a really strong personality,” Kickbusch syas. “There will be a lot of conflicts to weather, with staff, with member states, and with other actors like the sugar industry, for instance.” But Jha says it’s not the most important issue. “Over the next 4 months we have to make sure it is not about personality,” he says. “I want to hear from them what their priorities are. And priorities also means: Which important things are you not going to do?”last_img read more

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