Drug companies bought their way onto FDA advisory panels.


It is now an undeniable fact that the pharmaceutical industry weaseled its way onto key U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panels, which were instrumental in shaping the way drugs are safety tested and approved. According to The Washington Post (WP), a recent public records request has revealed that drug companies purchased special access onto these panels, where they were given the keys to the kingdom in swaying decision-makers about official drug policy.

Based on critical information gathered from hundreds of leaked emails, pharmaceutical companies have doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to attend private meetings with the FDA, many of which were geared towards the regulation and approval of painkiller drugs. Drug companies would reportedly shell out upwards of $25,000 or more per meeting to have their voices heard, a small price to pay for direct access to the $9 billion American painkiller market.

According to the WP, officials from both the FDA and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) would regularly meet with pharmaceutical representatives in private to discuss regulatory protocols, co-write scientific papers and collaborate on various ways to help streamline the drug approval process. And the only parties who actually paid to attend such meetings were the drug companies, a fact that one official from the NIH expressed serious concerns about in an email, referring to the whole scheme as a “pay to play process.”

Others who have since reviewed the emails agree, noting that, while the FDA did not necessarily benefit financially from these private meetings, many FDA officials went on to work as pharmaceutical consultants. In other words, FDA staff who agreed to grease the palms of the drug industry during these private meetings were later rewarded with high-paying positions in the drug industry. This is just one glaring example of how the line between the regulator (FDA) and the regulated (pharmaceutical companies) has been blurred beyond recognition.

“These e-mails help explain the disastrous decisions the FDA’s analgesic division has made over the last 10 years,” said Craig Mayton, the Columbus, Ohio, attorney who made the public records request to the University of Washington, to the WP. “Instead of protecting the public health, the FDA has been allowing the drug companies to pay for a seat at a small table where all the rules were written.”

Big Pharma, FDA corruption runs deep

It is no longer a conspiracy theory, then, that the drug industry owns the FDA. In this particular case, it was two academics by the names of Robert Dworkin, from the University of Rochester, and Dennis Turk, from the University of Washington, who allegedly orchestrated the painkiller plot. But there have been many other plots with the same ultimate end, a fact that NaturalNews and many others in the so-called “alternative” media have been shouting from the rooftops for years, but that the mainstream media has ignored, until now.

“Shame on the FDA and NIH for sending representatives to this panel, cooked up by two unethical professors and their drug company cronies,” wrote one WP commenter about the scandal. It should be noted that FDA officials actively participated in the painkiller scheme, all the while knowing full well that the private meetings they attended were hatched by Big Pharma. “Congress should come down hard on both agencies for participating in what was clearly pay-to-play, with awful consequences for the health of many suffering Americans.”

Such consequences include a flood of dangerous analgesic drugs to the market that were approved based on questionable or flawed safety studies. According to MedpageToday.com, the drug industry was successful during these meetings in convincing the FDA to adopt an “enriched enrollment” guidance for safety trials that eliminated patients who experienced adverse reactions. These and other modifications made it much easier for drugs to be declared safe and effective, and thus gain rapid approval.

Source: NaturalNews.com

         

Gut Microbes Can Split a Species.


Here’s how to create a new species. Put animals—say finches—from the same species on separate islands and let them do their thing for many, many generations. Over time, each group will adapt to its new environment, and the genomes of the two populations will become so different that if you reintroduce the animals to the same habitat, they can no longer breed successfully. Voilà, one species has become two. But a new study suggests that DNA isn’t the only thing that separates species: Some populations diverge because of the microbes in their guts.

 

The paper is “important and potentially groundbreaking,” says John Werren, a biologist at the University of Rochester in New York. “Scientists have studied speciation … for many years, and this opens up a whole new aspect to it.”

The new work involves three different species of parasitic jewel wasps, tiny insects that drill into the pupas of flies and lay their eggs, letting the offspring feed on the host. Two of the species, Nasonia giraulti and N. longicornis, are closely related, whereas the third species, N. vitripennis, diverged from the other two about 1 million years ago. When N. giraultiand N. longicornis mate in the lab, most of their offspring survive, but when either mates with N. vitripennis, almost all male larvae in the second generation die.

Seth Bordenstein and Robert Brucker, biologists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, wondered if the reason for this mortality went beyond incompatible DNA. They knew that the gut microbes in N. vitripennis differed from those in the other two species, and they suspected that these microbes could play a role in the offspring deaths. Indeed, when they raised all three species of Nasonia without gut microbes—by rearing them on sterile food—almost all the second generation offspring of matings between N. vitripennis and N. giraulti wasps survived. Andwhen the scientists reintroduced bacteria into the germ-free wasps, most of their second-generation offspring died, the duo report online today in Science.

Werren says that the work introduces a whole new way to look at what sets species apart. Instead of just thinking about genes of the parents not meshing in hybrids, he says, biologists could now think about how the parents’ genes are incompatible with the offspring’s microorganisms. Some parental genes could enable the immune system to keep certain gut bacteria in check, for instance, and without them the gut microbes might sicken the animal and kill it.

Bordenstein goes one step further. The genes of microbes harbored by an organism are just as important for evolution as the genes in its own cells, he says, calling both together a “hologenome.” Werren disagrees. Microbes in the gut interact with the bigger organism, just like other organisms in nature interact, for instance predator and prey, Werren says. “They are not co-evolving as a single unit, so why would we call them a single genome?”

Axel Meyer, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany, is skeptical about whether gut microbes have a big effect on speciation. The paper is “exciting,” he says, “but there might be huge biological differences between species in how the microbiome [the community of microbes in an organism] is established.” As a result, he says, it is an open question whether there will be many more examples of gut microbes separating species. Werren thinks there will be. “No pun intended,” he says, “but my gut tells me that this is going to be common.”

Source: sciencemag.org

Intelligence linked to ability to ignore distractions.


_67775358_intelligence_image-spl

People with higher IQs are slow to detect large background movements because their brains filter out non-essential information, say US researchers.

Instead, they are good at detecting small moving objects.

The findings come in a study of 53 people given a simple, visual test inCurrent Biology.

The results could help scientists understand what makes a brain more efficient and more intelligent.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

We expected that all participants would be worse at detecting the movement of large images, but high IQ individuals were much, much worse…”

Michael MelnickUniversity of Rochester

In the study, individuals watched short video clips of black and white bars moving across a computer screen. Some clips were small and filled only the centre of the screen, while others filled the whole screen.

The participants’ sole task was to identify in which direction the bars were drifting – to the right or to the left.

Participants also took a standardised intelligence test.

The results showed that people with higher IQ scores were faster at noticing the movement of the bars when observing the smallest image – but they were slower at detecting movement in the larger images.

Michael Melnick of the University of Rochester, who was part of the research team said the results were very clear.

“From previous research, we expected that all participants would be worse at detecting the movement of large images, but high IQ individuals were much, much worse.

The authors explain that in most scenarios, background movement is less important than small moving objects in the foreground, for example driving a car, walking down a hall or moving your eyes across the room.

People with higher IQs appear to be able to concentrate better

As a person’s IQ increases, so too does his or her ability to filter out distracting background motion and concentrate on the foreground.

In an initial study on 12 people, there was a 64% correlation between motion suppression and IQ scores. In this larger study on 53 people, a 71% correlation was found.

In contrast, previous research on the link between intelligence and reaction times, colour discrimination and sensitivity to pitch found only a 20-40% correlation.

But the ability to ignore background movements is not the only indicator of intelligence.

“Because intelligence is such a broad construct, you can’t really track it back to one part of the brain,” says Duje Tadin, who also worked on the study.

“But since this task is so simple and so closely linked to IQ, it may give us clues about what makes a brain more efficient, and, consequently, more intelligent.

“We know from prior research which parts of the brain are involved in visual suppression of background motion.

“This new link to intelligence provides a good target for looking at what is different about the neural processing, what’s different about the neurochemistry, what’s different about the neurotransmitters of people with different IQs.”

Source: BBC

William P. Van Wagenen (1897–1961): pupil, mentor, and neurosurgical pioneer.


vwflyer 

William Perrine (“Van”) Van Wagenen (1897–1961) was the first Chief of Neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), serving from 1928 to 1954, and was a leading figure in 20th-century neurosurgery. He was a devoted pupil of Dr. Harvey Cushing and helped to found the Harvey Cushing Society (now the AANS) in honor of his mentor and was elected as its first President in 1932. He served as the 27th President of the Society of Neurological Surgeons in 1952. Upon his death in 1961 he bequeathed an endowment for the Van Wagenen Fellowship, which has advanced the education of many leaders in American neurosurgery. His legacy of operative skill, his commitment to resident education and research in neurological disease, his inspiration for the foundation of the Cushing Brain Tumor registry, and his contributions to organized neurosurgery form the foundation of the legacy of neurosurgery at URMC.

Source: JNS

 

NASA-Funded Asteroid Tracking Sensor Passes Key Test .


nasa

An infrared sensor that could improve NASA’s future detecting and tracking of asteroids and comets has passed a critical design test.
The test assessed performance of the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) in an environment that mimicked the temperatures and pressures of deep space. NEOCam is the cornerstone instrument for a proposed new space-based asteroid-hunting telescope. Details of the sensor’s design and capabilities are published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Optical Engineering.

The sensor could be a vital component to inform plans for the agency’s recently announced initiative to develop the first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid closer to Earth for future exploration by astronauts.

“This sensor represents one of many investments made by NASA’s Discovery Program and its Astrophysics Research and Analysis Program in innovative technologies to significantly improve future missions designed to protect Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office in Washington.

Near-Earth objects are asteroids and comets with orbits that come within 28 million miles of Earth’s path around the sun. Asteroids do not emit visible light, they reflect it. Depending on how reflective an object is, a small, light-colored space rock can look the same as a big, dark one. As a result, data collected with optical telescopes using visible light can be deceiving.

“Infrared sensors are a powerful tool for discovering, cataloging and understanding the asteroid population,” said Amy Mainzer, a co-author of the paper and principal investigator for NASA’s NEOWISE mission at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. NEOWISE stands for Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer. “When you observe a space rock with infrared, you are seeing its thermal emissions, which can better define the asteroid’s size, as well as tell you something about composition.”

The NEOCam sensor is designed to be more reliable and significantly lighter in weight for launching aboard space-based telescopes. Once launched, the proposed telescope would be located about four times the distance between Earth and the moon where NEOCam could observe the comings and goings of NEOs every day without the impediments of cloud cover and daylight.

The sensor is the culmination of almost 10 years of scientific collaboration between JPL; the University of Rochester, which facilitated the test; and Teledyne Imaging Sensors of Camarillo, Calif., which developed the sensor.

“We were delighted to see in this generation of detectors a vast improvement in sensitivity compared with previous generations,” said the paper’s lead author, Craig McMurtry of the University of Rochester.

NASA’s NEOWISE is an enhancement of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, mission that launched in December 2009. WISE scanned the entire celestial sky in infrared light twice. It captured more than 2.7 million images of objects in space, ranging from faraway galaxies to asteroids and comets close to Earth.

NEOWISE completed its survey of small bodies, asteroids and comets, in our solar system. The mission’s discoveries of previously unknown objects include 21 comets, more than 34,000 asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter, and134 near-NEOs.

JPL manages the NEOCam sensor program for NASA’s Discovery Program office at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington manages the Discovery Program office. The Astrophysics Research and Analysis Program at NASA Headquarters also provided funding for the sensor.

Source: NASA