Researchers from North Carolina State University have confirmed that blood vessel-like structures found in an 80 million-year-old hadrosaur fossil are original to the animal, and not biofilm or other contaminants. Their findings add to the growing body of evidence that structures like blood vessels and cells can persist over millions of years, and the data not only confirm earlier reports of protein sequences in dinosaurs, they represent a significant advance in methodology.
Molecular paleontologist Tim Cleland, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, began the work while a graduate student at NC State. He demineralized a piece of leg bone from a Brachylophosaurus canadensis, a 30-foot-long hadrosaur that roamed what is now Montana around 80 million years ago. Cleland analyzed the demineralized bone with high resolution mass spectroscopy and found several distinct proteins from the cellular components of the blood vessels. One of these proteins, myosin, is found in the smooth muscles associated with the walls of blood vessels.
The researchers confirmed their results by performing the same process with bones from modern archosaurs, such as chicken and ostrich, which are living relatives of the dinosaurs. In both the modern and ancient samples, peptide sequences matched those found in blood vessels. Their methodology also allowed the researchers to validate previously reported sequences and recover additional sequences because only the vessels were extracted, which increased the observance of cellular proteins.
“This study is the first direct analysis of blood vessels from an extinct organism, and provides us with an opportunity to understand what kinds of proteins and tissues can persist and how they change during fossilization,” Cleland says. “This will provide new avenues for pursuing questions regarding the evolutionary relationships of extinct organisms, and will identify significant protein modifications and when they might have arisen in these lineages.”
Elena Schroeter, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State, is a co-author who worked on the analysis of the mass spectrometry data. “Paleoproteomics is a challenging pursuit. It requires us to think about how to support our conclusions from different angles,” says Schroeter. “This project is significant because it shows the power of using multiple experimental methods—as well as multiple ways to analyze the results of those methods—to address a scientific question.”
“Part of the value of this research is that it gives us insight into how proteins can modify and change over 80 million years,” says Mary Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at NC State and co-author of the paper describing the research. “It tells us not only about how tissues preserve over time, but gives us the possibility of looking at how these animals adapted to their environment while they were alive.”
An open letter from 150 scientists, campaigners and health experts is calling for a worldwide ban on genetic editing ahead of a summit in Washington
Genetically editing embryos could allow inequality and discrimination to be written into the human genome, scientists warn
British scientists are among 150 experts calling for a worldwide ban on the genetic editing of embryos claiming the practice would ‘irrevocably alter the human species.’
Hundreds of geneticists are meeting in Washington this week to discuss whether there should be a global moratorium on engineering the DNA of humans if it means that genetic changes would be passed on to future generations.
Experts from Kings College London, Newcastle University and the University of London have joined with lawyers, sociologists and campaigners to call for an urgent ban on the practice warning it will lead to ‘designer babies’ and ‘GM humans.’
“I think there needs to be less haste and more research and an agreement that we don’t do it on humans for now until we get a better idea of the outcome”
Darren Griffin, Professor of Genetics at the University of Kent
However other scientists claim that prohibiting research will only drive the practice underground to ‘black markets and uncontrolled medical tourism.’
In April China was ordered to ‘rein in’ scientists who altered the DNA of embryos to modify the gene responsible for the fatal blood disorder thalassaemia. The Francis Crick Institute in London is also currently seeking permission from theHuman Fertilisation and Embyrology Authority (HFEA) to carry out similar experiments in Britain although the embryos will not be implanted in humans.
In an open letter, scientists said there was ‘no justification’ for genetically modifying humans and claimed it could lead to a world where inequality and discrimination were ‘inscribed onto the human genome.’
Among them are Dr Michael Antoniou, Head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at Kings College London and Professor Donna Dickinson, emeritus professor of medical ethics at the University of London.
Gentically altering embryos could damage the human race, scientists have warned
“Permitting germline intervention for any intended purpose would open the door to an era of high-tech consumer eugenics in which affluent parents seek to choose socially preferred qualities for their children,” they write.
“The implementation of heritable human genetic modification could irrevocably alter the nature of the human species and society.
“Experiments could lead to miscarriage, maternal injury and stillbirth. Genetically modified children who seem healthy at bird could develop serious problems later in life. We must not engineer the genes we pass on to our descendants.”
Gene therapy has been available since the 1970s but it is only recently that scientists have developed technology which can snip out parts of genetic code.
While the technique could permanently remove harmful mutations which lead to inherited diseases like Huntingdon’s, cystic fibrosis and haemophilia, critics say it could have unexpected side effects any may damage healthy strands of DNA.
However many scientists have resisted calls for an outright ban because they fear it will drive the practice underground.
“To think that there is not already a cadre of IVF clinicians poised to engage in such practices, perhaps even supported by governments, is to ignore, for example, the history of doping in sport,” he told the journal Nature Communications.
British scientists also argued that a global moratorium would do more harm than good, and said that tough regulation and transparency were the best methods of preventing unethical experimentation.
Scientists in Britain have already taken a step towards altering the germline with the three-parent baby technique
Shirley Hodgson, Emeritus professor of Cancer Genetics, St George’s University of London said: “I think a worldwide ban on gene editing is not possible, since the horse has bolted.
“It would not be a good idea to impose a moratorium on this technique, since it is a really important and useful new technique with many possibilities for improving many aspects of medical practice such as cancer treatments.
“A ban would either prevent important research in this area or drive it underground.”
Darren Griffin, Professor of Genetics at the University of Kent added: “I think there needs to be less haste and more research and an agreement that we don’t do it on humans for now until we get a better idea of the outcome.
“But if make a worldwide ban then you really do risk driving the whole thing underground. We need a set of guidelines which say, ‘let’s not do it on the human germline, but let’s do some regulated research. That will also give the social scientists an lawyers time to catch up.”
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act banned germline editing in 1990 but since then parliament has given the go ahead for babies to be created from the DNA of three people, to repair genetic faults. The first ‘three parent babies’ are likely to be born next year and the changes in their DNA will be passed on to their own children, placing germline editing in a legal grey area.
Alastair Kent, Director of the Genetic Alliance said gene editing was a ‘powerful tool’ that needed to be developed in a ‘transparent’ and ‘publically acceptable’ way.
“Banning would simply drive it to those parts of the world where science is already poorly regulated,” he said.
“I don’t think a worldwide ban is either desirable or practical.”
Bruce Whitelaw, Professor of Animal Biotechnology at The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh called for extensive debate before editing the human germline was allowed.
“Such use must be regulated and such projects be scrutinised before progressing,” he said “However I am not convinced a moratorium is the best way forward as this would stifle the opportunity to use this powerful molecular tool to investigate the early molecular events of human embryo development. I am also not convinced such a moratorium would be practical.”
Out of a ‘haystack’ of 40,000 genes from three different organisms, scientists have found genes that are involved in physical aging. If you influence only one of these genes, the healthy lifespan of laboratory animals is extended — and possibly that of humans, too.
DNA strand .
Driven by the quest for eternal youth, humankind has spent centuries obsessed with the question of how it is exactly that we age. With advancements in molecular genetic methods in recent decades, the search for the genes involved in the ageing process has greatly accelerated.
Driven by the quest for eternal youth, humankind has spent centuries obsessed with the question of how it is exactly that we age. With advancements in molecular genetic methods in recent decades, the search for the genes involved in the aging process has greatly accelerated.
Until now, this was mostly limited to genes of individual model organisms such as the C. elegans nematode, which revealed that around one percent of its genes could influence life expectancy. However, researchers have long assumed that such genes arose in the course of evolution and in all living beings whose cells have a preserved a nucleus — from yeast to humans.
Combing through 40,000 genes
Researchers at ETH Zurich and the JenAge consortium from Jena have now systematically gone through the genomes of three different organisms in search of the genes associated with the aging process that are present in all three species — and thus derived from the genes of a common ancestor. Although they are found in different organisms, these so-called orthologous genes are closely related to each other, and they are all found in humans, too.
In order to detect these genes, the researchers examined around 40,000 genes in the nematode C. elegans, zebra fish and mice. By screening them, the scientists wanted to determine which genes are regulated in an identical manner in all three organisms in each comparable aging stage — young, mature and old; i.e. either are they upregulated or downregulated during aging.
As a measure of gene activity, the researchers measured the amount of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules found in the cells of these animals. mRNA is the transcript of a gene and the blueprint of a protein. When there are many copies of an mRNA of a specific gene, it is very active; the gene is upregulated. Fewer mRNA copies, to the contrary, are regarded as a sign of low activity, explains Professor Michael Ristow, coordinating author of the recently published study and Professor of Energy Metabolism at ETH Zurich.
Out of this volume of information, the researchers used statistical models to establish an intersection of genes that were regulated in the same manner in the worms, fish and mice. This showed that the three organisms have only 30 genes in common that significantly influence the aging process.
Reduce gene activity, live longer
By conducting experiments in which the mRNA of the corresponding genes were selectively blocked, the researchers pinpointed their effect on the aging process in nematodes. With a dozen of these genes, blocking them extended the lifespan by at least five percent.
One of these genes proved to be particularly influential: the bcat-1 gene. “When we blocked the effect of this gene, it significantly extended the mean lifespan of the nematode by up to 25 percent,” says Ristow.
The researchers were also able to explain how this gene works: the bcat-1 gene carries the code for the enzyme of the same name, which degrades so-called branched-chain amino acids. Naturally occurring in food protein building blocks, these include the amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine.
When the researchers inhibited the gene activity of bcat-1, the branched-chain amino acids accumulated in the tissue, triggering a molecular signalling cascade that increased longevity in the nematodes. Moreover, the timespan during which the worms remained healthy was extended. As a measure of vitality, the researchers measured the accumulation of aging pigments, the speed at which the creatures moved, and how often the nematodes successfully reproduced. All of these parameters improved when the scientists inhibited the activity of the bcat-1 gene.
The scientists also achieved a life-extending effect when they mixed the three branched-chain amino acids into the nematodes’ food. However, the effect was generally less pronounced because the bcat-1 gene was still active, which meant that the amino acids continued to be degraded and their life-extending effects could not develop as effectively.
Ristow has no doubt that the same mechanism occurs in humans. “We looked only for the genes that are conserved in evolution and therefore exist in all organisms, including humans,” he says.
In the present study, he and his Jena colleagues from the Leibniz Institute on Aging, the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology, the Jena University Hospital and the Friedrich Schiller University purposefully opted not to study the impact on humans. But a follow-up study is already being planned. “However we cannot measure the life expectancy of humans for obvious reasons,” says the ETH professor. Instead, the researchers plan to incorporate various health parameters such as cholesterol or blood sugar levels in their study to obtain indicators on the health status of their subjects.
Health costs could be massively reduced
Ristow says that the multiple branched-chain amino acids are already being used to treat liver damage and are also added to sport nutrition products. “However, the point is not for people to grow even older, but rather to stay healthy for longer,” says the internist. The study will deliver important indicators on how the aging process could be influenced and how age-related diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure could be prevented. In light of unfavourable demographics and steadily increasing life expectancy, it is important to extend the healthy life phase and not to reach an even higher age that is characterised by chronic diseases, argue the researchers. With such preventive measures, an elderly person could greatly improve their quality of life while at the same time cutting their healthcare costs by more than half.
Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad is a teenager from Alexandria, Egypt, and has discovered an inexpensive way to turn plastic waste into useful biofuel. Her ideas have attracted the attention of the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute, which has given her access to a lab and its researchers in order to help refine her trash to fuel formula.
Breaking down plastic and polymers by super-heating them is not a new idea. However, the type of catalyst used is what makes her process inexpensive. According to Mother Nature Network, Faiad said that her catalyst, called aluminosilicate, can break down plastic waste while producing gaseous products like methane, propane and ethane. These gases can then be converted into ethanol, a biofuel. She further calculated that her discovery can generate about 40,000 tons of cracked naphtha and 138,000 tons of hydrocarbon gases per year, which is equivalent to $78 million.
Given that Egypt’s plastic consumption is estimated to be almost a million ton per year, Faiad’s innovative discovery has the potential to transform the country’s economy. In an interview with Sci Dev Net, Farad said, “I will pursue my efforts to get my project patented this year through the Egyptian Patent Office and also to see the idea become a tangible project on the ground”.
We’ve seen everyone from political candidates to movie stars lose their temper from time to time. And while they may suffer some temporary condemnation, depending on the situation, most manage to escape with their reputation intact. But based on new research on anger expression, it would appear that angry women are less likely to emerge unscathed than their male counterparts.
All of us, of course, are subject to evaluation by other people when we lose our temper. You’ve undoubtedly seen angry customers lose it when things don’t go their way. What are your impressions of those irate shoppers? If you’ve been at the receiving end of one of these diatribes, how do you react?
Arguments with your romantic partner, friends, or colleagues can also take an angry turn when disagreements get severe enough. You want to convince your partner to spend the weekend with your favorite relatives, but your other half just wants to have some alone time with you. It makes you angry to think that you’ll miss out on family fun because of what you think is your partner’s selfishness.
Political candidates make their living involved in nothing but arguments, whether on the floor of their legislature or in a televised debate. Emotions can get heated. Most recently, we saw Hillary Clinton defend decisions made after the Benghazi attack as she testified for hours in front of a congressional hearing. She never once expressed anger and even made a few jokes. Donald Trump, on the other hand, regularly goes on angry offensives against opponents and the media. Though it’s not always appreciated, many of his followers say, “Bring it on.”
In a study that won several prizes, Arizona State University psychologist Jessica Salerno, with University of Chicago-Illinois psychologist Liana Peter-Hagene (2015), investigated what happens when women and men become angry during jury deliberations. In these situations, jurors often find themselves needing to sway the opinions of others. The stakes are high: The jury’s decision will decide the fate of another human being, and if they get it wrong, an innocent man or woman may be sentenced, or a guilty party go scot-free. Emotions run high and speeches can be very passionate.
If women and men are perceived differently when they express their anger in impassioned speeches, then their influence on fellow jurors should reflect these impressions. If you’re taken seriously when you get angry, you may persuade others to change their mind; if you’re viewed as a lightweight, you’ll be ignored.
To create a scenario that would reproduce what juries do in a controlled experimental setting, Salerno and Peter-Hagene recruited an ethnically diverse sample of 210 undergraduates (about two-thirds of them female) to participate in a computer simulation of the deliberation process. Participants read transcripts from an actual murder trial, saw photographs of the crime scene, and viewed several other photos that weren’t from the trial but gave the scenario greater credibility. The evidence was sufficiently ambiguous to lead participants in a prior study to vote for conviction only 62% of the time; in the present study, 43% of participants arrived at a guilty verdict.
After deciding on their verdict, participants encountered the simulated jury deliberation. They read scripts from other jurors in which one “holdout” refused to go along with the majority opinion. The holdout was identified by name as either a male or a female, and their arguments contained anger (“Seriously, this just makes me angry”), fear (“It scares me to think about how…”), or no emotion at all.
The fear condition was important because the researchers needed to control for the expression of any emotion. If fear and anger produced the same reaction, then one could argue that the effects were due to emotional arousal rather than the specific effects of anger.
Salerno and Peter-Hagene measured the influence on jurors of being exposed to these conditions by having them rate the confidence they had in their initial verdict both before and after reading the scripts from the holdouts. The key question would be whether the participants became less confident in their verdict after reading what the holdout had to say.
The team‘s findings presented clear evidence that men and women have differinginfluence when they express opinions in an angry manner. Participants were more likely to doubt their initial judgments after hearing what an angry male holdout had to say, but were more confident in their own judgments after reading the angry woman’s arguments. Everything in the two conditions was the same—except the holdout’s gender.
As Salerno and Peter-Hegene observed (p. 9), “Expressing anger created a gender gap in influence that did not exist before the holdout started expressing anger or when the holdouts expressed fear or no emotion.” This effect was specific to anger, not fear. Further analyses revealed the reason for this gender gap: Participants regarded an angry woman as more emotional, which made them more confident in their own opinion.
Credibility played an interesting role in this process: Both the credibility and the emotionality of female holdouts influenced how much confidence participants had in their own original verdict. However, when the female holdout expressed anger, credibility no longer played a predictive role. It’s as if the participants discounted an angry woman entirely and instead became more confident in their initial verdict. For men, on the other hand, expressing anger made them seem more credible, which, in turn, led participants to become less confident in their own verdict.
These findings have troubling implications about how seriously women are taken compared to men when they behave in the exact same way. As the authors note:
“Our results lend scientific support to a frequent claim voiced by women, sometimes dismissed as paranoia: that people would have listened to her impassioned argument, had she been a man” (p. 11).
The Hillarys of the world may feel the need to keep stifling their anger when people ask annoying questions, while the Donalds can let their rants go unchecked. And the ordinary woman who wishes to be heard may have to suppress her passion, no matter how strongly she feels about her point of view.
Research such as the ASU study can help shed light on the complex ways our biasesinfluence the way we perceive men and women. We may hope that one day this research will allow people, regardless of gender, to allow us to achieve fulfillment by expressing our true passions.
Parents who are too structured, and too involved in their children’s academic lives are causing more harm than good. That’s what Bill Deresiewicz says, the author of “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.” He writes, ““[For students] haunted their whole lives by a fear of failure—often, in the first instance, by their parents’ fear of failure, the cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential.”
I’ve seen the damage done, and heard the stories. When I was in college, I would speak to other students about their hopes, their dreams, and what they really wanted to do with their lives. The answers I received most commonly were along the lines of, “my parents want me to ______.” These were the children of those parents who planned out everything, who set the bar exceedingly high, and who took away their intellectual and emotional freedom. There they sat, telling me about their outwardly successful situations while coming to terms with the fact that their lives make them miserable.
In 2013 there were numerous news stories regarding the increasing mental health concerns of college students. One survey from the previous year caught the attention of Charlie Gofen, retired chairman of the board at the Latin School of Chicago. Gofen mentioned the statistics found within the survey to a colleague in an email. He asked, “Do you think parents at your school would rather their kid be depressed at Yale or happy at University of Arizona?” His colleague responded, “My guess is 75 percent of the parents would rather see their kids depressed at Yale. They figure that the kid can straighten the emotional stuff out in his/her 20’s, but no one can go back and get the Yale undergrad degree.”
The 2012 survey accounted for more than 4.7 million students on 400 campuses. 95% of the counseling center directors of these campuses said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern on their campus. 70% said that the number of students on their campus with severe psychological problems has increased in the past year, and they reported that 24.5% of their student clients were taking psychotropic drugs.
Another survey was done, in 2013, by the American College Health Association. They surveyed approximately 100,000 college students from 153 different campuses in regards to their health. These students were asked about their personal experiences, and at some stage over a 12 month period:
84.3% felt overwhelmed by workload
60.5% felt very sad
57.0% felt very lonely
51.3% felt overwhelming anxiety
8.0% seriously considered suicide
The surveyed schools included campuses in all 50 states, and varied from small liberal arts colleges, to large Ivy League schools. The mental health issues that are causing concern are not only found at the big name colleges, they are found everywhere. We can see that this is happening to students who end up at hundreds of schools in every tier. It appears that these mental health issues do not stem from the rigorous work of getting into an elite school, but rather from some aspect of childhood itself.
Alright, but is over-parenting the cause for this rise in mental health problems? Well, there are currently no studies to prove causation, but there are a number that exhibit correlation.
Psychology professor Neil Montgomery of Keene State College conducted a survey in 2010 of 300 college freshman across the United States. He found that students with “helicopter parents” were the ones who struggled the most with mental issues. “We have a person who is dependent, who is vulnerable, who is self-conscious, who is anxious, who is impulsive, not open to new actions or ideas; is that going to make a successful college student?” Montgomery said. “No not exactly, it’s really a horrible story at the end of the day.”
Montgomery added that those students who were not constantly monitored by over-involved parenting, or “free-rangers”, exhibited fewer of those traits.
A 2011 study by Terri LeMoyne and Tom Buchanan at the University of Tennessee discovered that students with helicopter parents are more likely to be medicated for anxiety, depression, or both.
A study in 2012 of 438 college students published in the Journal of Adolescence discovered, “initial evidence for this form of intrusive parenting being linked to problematic development in emerging adulthood … by limiting opportunities for emerging adults to practice and develop important skills needed for becoming self-reliant adults.”
What the emerging data shows is confirmation of harm to our children’s mental health by asking so little of them regarding life skills, yet so much of them when it comes to sticking to the academic plans we’ve set.
Psychologist and author of The Price of Privilege, Madeline Levine, believes there are 3 ways that over-parenting can unknowingly cause psychological harm:
1) When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves;
2) When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves; and
3) When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own egos.
Now, I’m not saying that you should never be there for your kid, nor am I saying that they have to figure everything out for themselves. I know you love your children, and I know you want the best for them. The thing is, you can’t protect them from everything and you can’t live their life for them. Learning life-skills is a part of growing up, and if you take that away from them, they never have the experience of becoming an adult. They will always be there for you to pick up the pieces, and when you tell them to “be an adult,” well, they may be a little late to the party. The research shows that figuring out things for themselves is a critical part of people’s mental health.
India, China and Pakistan are among the 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific that account for 98 per cent of youngsters aged 10 to 19 living with HIV, according to a UN report which said the region is facing a “hidden epidemic” of HIV among adolescents.
The report ‘Adolescents: Under the Radar in the Asia-Pacific AIDS Response’, published by the Asia-Pacific Inter-Agency Task Team on Young Key Populations, which includes UNICEF and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS warned that the AIDS epidemic cannot be ended as a public health threat by 2030 without tackling the issue of adolescents.
In 2014, 220,000 adolescents aged 10-19 were estimated to be living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific.
India is among the 10 countries in the region accounting for 98 per cent of those aged 10 to 19 living with HIV.
The other countries are Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Prevalence is particularly high in large cities like Mumbai, Hanoi, Jakarta, Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other urban areas.
The 2014 figure accounts for almost 15 per cent of all new cases in the region.
Although new infections are falling overall, they are rising among adolescents, coinciding with an increase in risky behaviour, such as multiple sexual partners and inconsistent condom use.
The report, released ahead of World AIDS Day today, added that in hotspot urban areas, HIV prevalence can be many times the national prevalence.
In general, female sex workers in Asia and the Pacific are 29 times more likely to be living with HIV compared with all women of reproductive age, according to a global systematic review in low and middle-income countries.
“The Asia-Pacific region is facing a hidden epidemic of HIV among adolescents, with an estimated 50,000 new infections in 2014 among those aged 15 to 19,” the report said calling on governments to develop specifically targeted prevention strategies.
Those at highest risk include gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, injecting drug users, and people who buy and sell sex.
In India, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is 3.5 per cent for those younger than 25 years while it is 4.9 per cent for men older than 25.
HIV prevalence among sex workers under 25 years of age in India was 1.7 per cent for the 2007-2014 period.
HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs was 7.7 per cent among those older than 25 years and was 5.3 per cent for those younger than 25 in the country during the 2011-2014 period.
The report called on governments to provide access to adolescent-sensitive HIV testing and treatment and develop better data and adolescent-specific laws and policies, including comprehensive sex education in schools and through social media, information on where to get an HIV test, and condom use.
“It is vital for adolescents to know their HIV status, and get treatment if they need it, but in many countries they are turned away from HIV testing centres,” it stressed.
“In Asia and the Pacific – as worldwide – adolescents have been largely neglected as a distinct group in focused efforts to prevent HIV transmission and prolong the life of people living with the virus,” Toole and UNAIDS Regional Director Steven J Kraus wrote in a joint foreword to the report.
“The result is rising infections among 10-19 year-olds at risk of HIV, and an increase in the number of AIDS-related deaths. These are preventable deaths. As parents, teachers and leaders – as societies – we ask that children in their second decade of life assume ever-growing responsibilities as they approach adulthood.
“More than half of the world’s 1. 2 billion adolescents live in Asia and the Pacific and just four countries in the region – India, China, Indonesia and Pakistan – have a combined adolescent population of 500 million.”
Survey data from Asia and the Pacific reveal that a high percentage of women who sell sex do so for the first time as adolescents, with many beginning in their early teens.
In India, 40 per cent of the estimated three million females in the sex industry are under 18.
The report further said that adult access to Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has massively expanded in Asia and the Pacific.
Around 1.8 million people in the region were receiving ART at the end of 2014 (up from 70,000 in 2003) – a coverage rate of 36 per cent.
“For those who stick to their regime, ART can lead to a healthy and fulfilling life. Progress has been especially robust in China, India, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam, while Cambodia and Thailand have consolidated their already high ART coverage,” it said.
It might seem like we’re getting a better handle on HIV/AIDS, with patients now able to live long, happy lives with the disease – as long as they keep taking their antiretrovirals. But despite the incredible amount of research being performed around the world to better prevent, treat, and understand it, HIV/AIDS infections have killed around 39 million people over the years, and right now, there are 35 million patients living with the disease. So how close are we to finding a cure?
First off, for you to contract HIV, the virus needs to enter the bloodstream somehow. The easiest and most common modes of transmission are via infected bodily fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluids, blood, or breast milk. Once inside, the virus affects a range of different cells, but it’s the body’s T-cells – a type of white blood cell – that are most heavily affected.
As the boys from AsapSCIENCE explain, the outer envelope of HIV is covered in glycoproteins, which have the ability to mutate rapidly in the bloodstream. This means the T-cells don’t recognise HIV as a threat, and the virus is free to fuse with these immune cells, break through their outer membrane, and release two viral RNA strands and three essential replication enzymes inside.
HIV is known as a retrovirus because its RNA is transcribed into its DNA, which is then integrated into the host T-cell’s genome. Because our immune cells can’t tell the difference between their own DNA and the HIV DNA, they treat the viral genes as their own and proceed to make more copies of the virus. These then go off into the bloodstream in search of more unsuspecting T-cells to merge with.
It’s devastatingly effective, which makes it so hard for doctors to combat. The replication process can create more than 10 billion new virions every single day.
This replication stage – known as the latency period – can last for up to eight years, and the infected person might not even show any symptoms at all. But if not treated, the HIV eventually kills off the specific T-cells it infects, says the video above, and when they fall below 200 cells per cubic millilitre of blood, the patient will be diagnosed with AIDS.
So how close are we to preventing the spread of HIV in the first place? I’ll let AsapSCIENCE explain that in their latest video, but it has to do with a small group of people who are naturally immune to HIV thanks to a particular mutation linked to their T-cells. It’s enough to be hopeful about what scientists are going to find in the not-so-distant future.
The Chinese scientist behind the world’s biggest cloning factory has technology advanced enough to replicate humans, he told AFP, and is only holding off for fear of the public reaction.
Boyalife Group and its partners are building the giant plant in the northern Chinese port of Tianjin, where it is due to go into production within the next seven months and aims for an output of one million cloned cows a year by 2020.
But cattle are only the beginning of chief executive Xu Xiaochun’s ambitions.
In the factory pipeline are also thoroughbred racehorses, as well as pet and police dogs, specialised in searching and sniffing.
Boyalife is already working with its South Korean partner Sooam and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to improve primate cloning capacity to create better test animals for disease research.
And it is a short biological step from monkeys to humans—potentially raising a host of moral and ethical controversies.
“The technology is already there,” Xu said. “If this is allowed, I don’t think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology.”
The firm does not currently engage in human cloning activities, Xu said, adding that it has to be “self-restrained” because of possible adverse reaction.
But social values can change, he pointed out, citing changing views of homosexuality and suggesting that in time humans could have more choices about their own reproduction.
“Unfortunately, currently, the only way to have a child is to have it be half its mum, half its dad,” he said.
“Maybe in the future you have three choices instead of one,” he went on. “You either have fifty-fifty, or you have a choice of having the genetics 100 percent from Daddy or 100 percent from Mummy. This is only a choice.”
Xu, 44, went to university in Canada and the US, and has previously worked for US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, and in drug development.
Snuppy the cloned dog
Presenting cloning as a safeguard of biodiversity, the Tianjin facility will house a gene bank capable of holding up to approximately five million cell samples frozen in liquid nitrogen—a catalogue of the world’s endangered species for future regeneration.
Boyalife’s South Korean partner Sooam is already working on a project to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction by cloning cells preserved for thousands of years in the Siberian permafrost.
Sooam also serves a niche market recreating customers’ dead pet dogs, reportedly for $100,000 a time.
Sooam founder Hwang Woo-Suk was a national hero with his own postage stamp before being embroiled in controversy a decade ago after his claims to be the first in the world to clone a human embryo were discredited.
Hwang, who created Snuppy, the world’s first cloned dog, in 2005, lost his university position, had two major papers retracted, and was accused of crimes ranging from violation of bioethics laws to embezzling research funds.
Earlier this year he was quoted in South Korea’s Dong-A Ilbo newspaper saying that his firm was planning a cloning joint venture in China “because of South Korea’s bioethics law that prohibits the use of human eggs”.
“We have decided to locate the facilities in China in case we enter the phase of applying the technology to human bodies,” he was quoted as saying.
For now, Xu seeks to become the world’s first purveyor of “cloned” beef, breeding genetically identical super-cattle that he promises will taste like Kobe and allow butchers to “slaughter less and produce more” to meet the demands of China’s booming middle class.
Cloning differs from genetic modification, but its application to animals would enable the firm to homogenise its output.
“Everything in the supermarket looks good—it’s almost all shiny, good-looking, and uniformly shaped. For animals, we weren’t able to do that in the past. But with our cloning factory, we choose to do so now,” Xu said.
“Remember, this is a food. We want it to be uniform, very consistent, very premium quality,” he added.
There is controversy over whether cloned beef is safe for human consumption—research by the US Food and Drug Adminstration says that it is, but the European parliament has backed a ban on cloned animals and products in the food chain.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has yet to review the issue.
Han Lanzhi, a GMO safety specialist at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said Boyalife’s claims about the safety, scope and timeline of their operations were alarming—and implausible.
“To get approval for the safety of cloned animals would be a very drawn-out process, so when I heard this news, I felt very surprised,” she said.
“There must be strong regulation because as a company pursuing its own interests, they could very easily do other things in the future,” she added.
Xu sought to be reassuring, telling AFP: “We want the public to see that cloning is really not that crazy, that scientists aren’t weird, dressed in lab coats, hiding behind a sealed door doing weird experiments.”