Asbestos Cancer Melbourne Gala Dinner 2013 Biaggio Signorelli Foundation 1st Annual Melbourne Gala Dinner to raise funds to create awareness, earlier…

Last night in Melbourne I was very honoured to be able to attend this beautiful gala event with my husband Keith and Rod Smith/Karen Banton all representing Bernie Banton Foundation.A black tie event, it was a good excuse to dress up, kick our heels up and enjoy a spectacular night with other like minded people who were there for a good cause – raising much needed funds for mesothelioma research.http://www.oliviaappeal.com/About-Us/Appeal-Committees/Associate-Professor-Paul-Mitchell.aspxAssociate Professor Paul Mitchell, Olivia Newton John Cancer Centre spoke on the aggressive and deadly nature of mesothelioma and how much needed funds are very vital. I spoke to him after his speech and about me being past my use by date as there …

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Twitter and privacy: One-in-five tweets divulge user location

Sep. 3, 2013 — Hashtag #doyouknowwhoswatchingyou? A new study from USC researchers sampled more than 15 million tweets, showing that some Twitter users may be inadvertently revealing their location through updates on the social media channel.The study, which appears in the current issue of the International Journal of Geoinformatics, provides important factual data for a growing national conversation about online privacy and third-party commercial or government use of geo-tagged information.”I’m a pretty private person, and I wish others would be more cautious with the types of information they share,” said lead author Chris Weidemann, a graduate student in the Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) online master’s program at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “There are all sorts of information that can be gleaned from things outside of the tweet itself.”Twitter has approximately 500 million active users who are expected to tweet 72 billion times in 2013. Reports have shown that about six percent of users opt-in to allow the platform to broadcast their location with every tweet.But that’s only part of the footprint Twitter users leave, and even users who have not opted-in for location tagging may be inadvertently revealing where they are, the study shows.To get a fuller sense of what publicly accessible data might reveal about Twitter users, Weidemann developed an application called Twitter2GIS to analyze the metadata collected by Twitter, including details about the user’s hometown, time zone and language.The data, generated by Twitter users and available through Twitter’s application programming interface (API) and Google’s Geocoding API, was then processed by a software program, which mapped and analyzed the data, searching for trends.During the study’s one-week sampling period, roughly 20 percent of the tweets collected showed the user’s location to an accuracy of street level or better.Many Twitter users divulged their physical location directly through active location monitoring or GPS coordinates. But another 2.2 percent of all tweets — equating to about 4.4 million tweets a day — provided so-called “ambient” location data, where the user might not be aware they are divulging their location.”The downside is that mining this kind of information can also provide opportunities for criminal misuse of data,” Weidemann said. “My intent is to educate social media users and inform the public about their privacy.”In addition to being a graduate student at USC, Weidemann works for a company that builds geographic information systems for the federal government. He initially developed Twitter2GIS as part of a capstone project for a course taught by Jennifer Swift, associate teaching professor of spatial sciences at USC.Swift, Weidemann’s thesis adviser, said the project stood out for its thoughtful look at geospatial information.”It will help create an awareness among the general population about the information they divulge,” said Swift, a co-author on the study.Weidemann is a self-described “conservative” Twitter user, using the social media channel infrequently. He has the privacy set to not share any location information about his tweets. Still, in the course of doing this study, he turned Twitter2GIS on his own account and was surprised at the specificity the application was able to find about his location, based on a hashtag he used about an academic conference.”This research has been fun,” Weidemann said. …

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A ‘rocking’ receptor: Crucial brain-signaling molecule requires coordinated motion to turn on

Aug. 7, 2013 — Johns Hopkins biophysicists have discovered that full activation of a protein ensemble essential for communication between nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord requires a lot of organized back-and-forth motion of some of the ensemble’s segments. Their research, they say, may reveal multiple sites within the protein ensemble that could be used as drug targets to normalize its activity in such neurological disorders as epilepsy, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.A summary of the results, published online in the journal Neuron on Aug. 7, shows that full activation of so-called ionotropic glutamate receptors is more complex than previously envisioned. In addition to the expected shape changes that occur when the receptor “receives” and clamps down on glutamate messenger molecules, the four segments of the protein ensemble also rock back and forth in relation to each other when fewer than four glutamates are bound.”We believe that our study is the first to show the molecular architecture and behavior of a prominent neural receptor protein ensemble in a state of partial activation,” says Albert Lau, Ph.D., assistant professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.Glutamate receptors reside in the outer envelope of every nerve cell in the brain and spinal cord, Lau notes, and are responsible for changing chemical information — the release of glutamate molecules from a neighboring nerve cell — into electrical information, the flow of charged particles into the receiving nerve cell. There would be sharply reduced communication between nerve cells in our brains if these receptors were disabled, he added, and thought and normal brain function in general would be severely compromised. Malfunctioning receptors, says Lau, have been linked with numerous neurological disorders and are therefore potential targets for drug therapies.Lau explained that each glutamate receptor is a united group of four protein segments that has a pocket for clamping down on glutamate like a Venus fly trap snaring a bug. Below the glutamate-binding segments are four other segments embedded in the cell’s outer envelope to form a channel for charged particles to flow through. When no glutamates are bound to the receptor, the channel is closed; full activation of the receptor and full opening of the channel occur when four glutamates are bound, each to a difference pocket.Previously, Lau says, investigators thought that the level of receptor activation simply corresponded to the degree to which each glutamate-binding segment changed shape during the glutamate-binding process. Using a combination of computer modeling, biophysical “imaging” of molecular structure, biochemical analysis and electrical monitoring of individual cells, the researchers teased apart some of the steps in between zero activation and full activation. …

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Close-up view of water pores needed in the eye’s lens: Aquaporins could hold clues to cataract

Aug. 5, 2013 — Researchers have achieved dynamic, atomic-scale views of a protein needed to maintain the transparency of the lens in the human eye. The work, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, could lead to new insights and drugs for treating cataract and a variety of other health conditions.Aquaporin proteins form water channels between cells and are found in many tissues, but aquaporin zero (AQP0) is found only in the mammalian lens, which focuses light onto the retina, at the back of the eye. The lens is primarily made up of unique cells called lens fibers that contain little else besides water and proteins called crystallins. Tight packing of these fibers and of the crystallin proteins within them helps create a uniform medium that allows light to pass through the lens, almost as if it were glass.Abnormal development or age-related changes in the lens can lead to cataract — a clouding of the lens that causes vision loss. Besides age, other risk factors for cataract include smoking, diabetes, and genetic factors. Mutations in the AQP0 gene can cause congenital cataract and may increase the risk of age-related cataract.”The AQP0 channel is believed to play a vital role in maintaining the transparency of the lens and in regulating water volume in the lens fibers, so understanding the molecular details of how water flows through the channel could lead to a better understanding of cataract,” said Dr. Houmam Araj, who oversees programs on lens, cataract and oculomotor systems at NIH’s National Eye Institute (NEI), which helped fund the research.Closing of AQP0 channels is regulated by a calcium-sensitive protein called calmodulin, but the precise mechanism has been unclear. Some models have suggested that calmodulin simply acts as a plug to fill the open channel. The new study, published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, reveals a more nuanced process in which calmodulin essentially grasps the open channel and forces it to close.The research was a collaboration between investigators at the University of California, Irvine and the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Va., a part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). …

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New player is critical to unleashing T cells against disease

June 23, 2013 — A major study from researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology provides new revelations about the intricate pathways involved in turning on T cells, the body’s most important disease-fighting cells, and was published today in the scientific journal Nature.The La Jolla Institute team is the first to prove that a certain type of protein, called septins, play a critical role in activating a calcium channel on the surface of the T cell. The channel is the portal through which calcium enters T cells from the blood stream, an action essential for the T cell’s survival, activation, and ability to fight disease.Patrick Hogan and Anjana Rao, Ph.D.s, are senior authors on the paper and Sonia Sharma and Ariel Quintana, Ph.D.s, are co-first authors. Drs. Sharma, Rao and Hogan are former researchers at Harvard Medical School with high-level genetics expertise who joined the La Jolla Institute in 2010. Dr. Quintana conducted advanced microscopy that was a major aspect of the study.Dr. Hogan describes the discovery as another important step in understanding the overall functioning of T cells — knowledge from which new, more precisely targeted drugs to treat diseases ranging from cancer to viral infections can emerge. “It’s like working on an engine, you have to know what all the parts are doing to repair it,” he says. “We want to understand the basic machinery inside a T cell. This will enable us to target the specific pressure points to turn up a T cell response against a tumor or virus or to turn it down in the case of autoimmune diseases.”The findings were published in a Nature paper entitled “An siRNA screen for NFAT activation identifies septins as coordinators of store-operated Ca2+ entry.””We have found that the septin protein is a very strong regulator of the calcium response, which is essential for activating immune cells,” says Dr. …

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A turbocharger for nerve cells: Key mechanism boosts the signaling function of neurons in brain

June 14, 2013 — Locating a car that’s blowing its horn in heavy traffic, channel-hopping between football and a thriller on TV without losing the plot, and not forgetting the start of a sentence by the time we have read to the end — we consider all of these to be normal everyday functions. They enable us to react to fast-changing circumstances and to carry out even complex activities correctly. For this to work, the neuron circuits in our brain have to be very flexible. Scientists working under the leadership of neurobiologists Nils Brose and Erwin Neher at the Max Planck Institutes of Experimental Medicine and Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen have now discovered an important molecular mechanism that turns neurons into true masters of adaptation.Neurons communicate with each other by means of specialised cell-to-cell contacts called synapses. First, an emitting neuron is excited and discharges chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. These signal molecules then reach the receiving cell and influence its activation state. The transmitter discharge process is highly complex and strongly regulated. Its protagonists are synaptic vesicles, small blisters surrounded by a membrane, which are loaded with neurotransmitters and release them by fusing with the cell membrane. In order to be able to respond to stimulation at any time by releasing transmitters, a neuron must have a certain amount of vesicles ready to go at each of its synapses. Brose has been studying the molecular foundations of this stockpiling for years.The problem is not merely academic. …

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Understanding the heart’s rhythm

June 11, 2013 — The heart’s regular rhythm is crucial to the delivery of oxygenated blood and nutrients to all the organs of the body. It is regulated by a bundle of cells called “the pacemaker,” which use electrical signals to set the pace of the heart. Dysfunction in this mechanism can lead to an irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia, and often necessitates the implantation of an artificial pacemaker.Previously, scientists found that many cases of inherited arrhythmias originating in the pacemaker could be attributed to functional defects in the channels responsible for the flow of sodium and calcium. Now Prof. Bernard Attali of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and his fellow researchers have discovered a previously unidentified potassium channel in the cardiac pacemaker which helps to regulate the heartbeat. He hypothesizes that some cases of unexplained arrhythmia could be traced back to irregularities in this channel.Developing therapies to target this potassium channel could be a significant step towards circumventing artificial pacemakers in favor of biological options, says Prof. Attali. This research has been reported in the journal PNAS.A cellular heart modelTo further investigate the workings of the biological pacemaker, Prof. Attali and his fellow researchers turned to embryonic stem cells isolated from human subjects. Once coaxed into differentiating into cardiac tissue, these cells began to beat automatically, like a small human heart.While observing and recording the cells’ electrical activity, researchers discovered the existence of a new channel in the pacemaker. …

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