Day 8 of chemotherapy should see me starting to feel better. Yesterday was the day of feeling like death warmed up! Back ache, bile and metalic taste, nausea, anxiousness, fatigue and unable to sleep longer than a couple of hours at a time. Today after taking medication to fend off most of the above symptoms I am hoping to come good and enjoy the sunshine that has appeared outside! Expected temperature will be 16 degrees celcius and sunny – a perfect Winter day!Monday brought a wonderful surprise for me – my daughter Jo invited me to a high tea at the beautiful Windsor Hotel, Melbourne. I caught the bus that has replaced all trains for 2 weeks while school holidays are on and so that VLine can work on the rail …Read more
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that tropical grassy areas, which play a critical role in the world’s ecology, are under threat as a result of ineffective management.According to research, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, they are often misclassified and this leads to degradation of the land which has a detrimental effect on the plants and animals that are indigenous to these areas.Greater area than tropical rain forestsTropical grassy areas cover a greater area than tropical rain forests, support about one fifth of the world’s population and are critically important to global carbon and energy cycles, and yet do not attract the interest levels that tropical rainforests do.They are characterised by a continuous grass understorey, widespread shade-intolerant plants and the prevalence of fire, which all generate a unique and complex set of ecological processes and interactions not found in other habitats.Dr Kate Parr, from the School of Environmental Sciences, said: “The distinctive evolutionary histories and biodiversity values of these areas needs to be recognised by conservation managers and policy makers.”Whilst it is generally assumed that ‘more trees are better’ in tropical rainforest this is not necessarily the case for tropical grassy ecosystems and so the outcomes of global carbon and conservation initiatives, which include the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and its Reducing Emissions and Deforestation Forest Degradation schemes, need to be better considered when they are applied to tropical grasslands.”Any changes to the balance between human livelihoods and ecosystem function would have an impact on the use of land, the availability of resources and would affect the way the land functions including its climate.”The vast extent of tropical grasslands and the reliance of human welfare on them means that they deserve far more research and conservation attention than they currently receive.”Grazing, fuel and foodApproximately 20% of the world’s population depend on these areas of land for their livelihoods including their use for grazing, fuel and food. They also store about 15% of the world’s carbon.Tropical grassy ecosystems are associated with savannas and upland grasslands in Africa and savanna-type grasslands in India, Australia, and South America, representing diverse lands from open grassland through to densely canopied savanna.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Read more
July 3, 2013 — Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shown that young people who show impulsive tendencies are more prone to drinking heavily at an early age.The research suggests that targeting personality traits, such as impulsivity, could potentially be a successful intervention in preventing adolescent drinking from developing into problems with alcohol in later life.Studies in the UK show that approximately 24% of 12 year olds have reported at least one episode of alcohol consumption, rising to 77% of 15 year olds.Impulsive behaviour linked to adolescent drinkingPrevious research has suggested that impulsive behaviour is linked with adolescent drinking, but it is unclear whether young people who are impulsive tend to drink more, or whether drinking whilst the brain is still developing is particularly harmful and can lead to the progression of impulsive behaviours.The team used computer tests that measured inhibitory control, the ability to delay gratification, and risk-taking. More than 280 young people who were aged 12 or 13 at the beginning of the study took part in the study. The participants repeated the computer tests every six months over the two years of the study.Results showed that those participants who were more impulsive in the tests went on to drink more heavily or have problems with alcohol at a later time.The study did not, however, show that alcohol consumption led to increased impulsive behaviour on the computer tests. This suggests that there is a link between impulsivity and adolescent drinking, but that alcohol may not necessarily lead to increased impulsive behaviour in the short-term.Professor Matt Field, from the University’s Institute of Psychology Health and Society, explains: “Young people in the UK are starting to drink alcohol at a younger age than in the past, and much of this reflects broad social trends. There are, however, significant differences in the age at which teenagers start to experiment with alcohol and the age at which they start drinking regularly.”It is important to identify the psychological characteristics of adolescents who are likely to go on to drink heavily, because this can help us target alcohol prevention more effectively. In addition, we need to identify the consequences of heavy drinking during adolescence for health in general, and brain development in particular.Prevention interventions”Our results show that more impulsive individuals are more likely to start drinking heavily in the future compared to less impulsive individuals. The next steps are to take these results and apply them to prevention interventions that are tailored to individual characteristics, such as impulsivity.”We also need to conduct studies where we follow-up young people for longer than the two years that we did in the present study. This will help us to understand whether heavy drinking over a longer period during adolescence has an impact on impulsive behaviour.”The research, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), is published in the journal Addiction.Read more
June 17, 2013 — Mayo Clinic and other researchers have shown that a vaccine given to newborns is at least 60 percent effective against rotavirus in Ghana. Rotavirus causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea, which in infants can cause severe dehydration. In developed nations, the condition often results in an emergency room visit or an occasional hospitalization, but is rarely fatal. In developing countries, however, rotavirus-related illness causes approximately 500,000 deaths per year. The findings appear this week in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.Currently, there is no neonatal rotavirus vaccine available and infants do not receive their first dose of a rotavirus vaccine until they are approximately 2 months old, leaving younger infants at serious risk of rotavirus infection. In the study, the first of two doses was administered within the first 29 days of life (neonatal dosing), and the second dose before 60 days of age.”For the first time in a large-scale study, we have demonstrated that protection against rotavirus gastroenteritis can be achieved earlier in life,” says co-author and pediatrician Robert M. Jacobson, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. “The next step should be additional studies in neonates to provide earlier protection against life-threatening rotavirus diarrhea. The rotavirus vaccines used in America and Europe are administered later — when babies are 2 to 4 months old — but younger infants also contract the virus in the first two months of life.”Two vaccines serve as standard protection in developed countries, but are not especially effective in African or Asian countries, says Dr. Jacobson. …Read more
Apr. 17, 2013 — A key building block in the Schmallenberg virus could be targeted by anti-viral drugs, according to a new study led from the University of Leeds.
The disease, which causes birth defects and stillbirths in sheep, goats and cattle, was first discovered in Germany in late 2011 and has already spread to more than 5,000 farms across Europe, and 1,500 farms in the UK alone.
There is currently no way of treating infected animals, but a study published in Nucleic Acids Research reports that the Schmallenberg virus nucleocapsid protein, which protects its genetic material, could be its Achilles’ heel.
A University of Leeds-led team of virologists and structural biologists used X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy to decipher the three-dimensional shape of the nucleocapsid protein and also show how it builds the inner workings of the virus itself.
Dr John Barr, of the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences and co-leader of the study, said: “The protein forms a chain a bit like a necklace that wraps around and protects the RNA, the genetic material of the virus. This chain also recruits other proteins that are vital to the virus’ ability to multiply and cause disease. We have developed a very finely detailed picture of the shape of the protein and all the nooks and crannies that it needs to present to other molecules to be able to function.”
The nucleocapsid proteins bind together in a ring-like structure of four identical protein units, and the ring is held together by contacts between the protein units, a bit like people holding hands in a circle.
Co-lead Dr Tom Edwards, also from Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences, said: “The shape of the nucleocapsid protein has shown us important details of how the individual proteins in these rings are interacting. This not only tells us how the virus works, but importantly we think we can block that interaction and disrupt the process of making the ring. That could be the chink in its armour. It would stop the protein wrapping up the RNA, and would essentially kill the virus. We are now designing small molecules that could block ring formation and could therefore be an effective antiviral drug.”
The Schmallenberg virus appears to be spread by midges. It causes a relatively mild illness in adult animals but is responsible for stillbirths and birth defects in cattle, sheep and goats.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) believes the disease was probably brought into the UK from infected midges blown across the Channel. It has since spread rapidly, causing severe losses on many holdings across the entire UK. There is new evidence that the Schmallenberg virus can also spread to wild animal populations such as deer and wild boar, raising the possibility that a reservoir of the disease could develop outside the control of farmers and cause problems for many years to come.
Developing a vaccine for the Schmallenberg virus is a possibility. One already exists for the similar Akabane virus, but the discovery by the Leeds-led team is the first step toward developing a treatment that could be used after an animal is infected.
The research was funded by The Wellcome Trust and involved researchers from The University of Leeds, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of St Andrews, The Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and the University of Liverpool.Read more