Could Ancient Remedies Hold the Answer to the Looming Antibiotics Crisis?

Could Ancient Remedies Hold the Answer to the Looming Antibiotics Crisis?
One researcher thinks the drugs of the future might come from the past: botanical treatments long overlooked by Western medicine.
By FERRIS JABR
Sep 14 2016
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/18/magazine/could-ancient-remedies-hold-the-answer-to-the-looming-antibiotics-crisis.html

On a warm, clear evening in March, with the sun still hanging above the horizon, Cassandra Quave climbed aboard a jalapeño-green 4-by-4 and started to drive across her father’s ranch in Arcadia, Fla. Surveying the landscape, most people would have seen a homogenous mat of pasture and weeds punctuated by the occasional tree. Quave saw something quite different: a vast botanical tapestry, rich as a Persian rug. On a wire fence, a Smilax vine dangled menacingly pointed leaves, like a necklace of shark’s teeth. Beneath it, tiny wild daisies and mint ornamented the grass with pink tassels and purple cornets. Up above, on the sloping branches of oak trees, whiskery bromeliads, Spanish moss and the gray fronds of resurrection fern tangled in a miniature jungle all their own.

Each of these species intrigued Quave enough to merit a pause, a verbal greeting, a photo. An ethnobotanist based at Emory University in Atlanta, Quave, 38, has an unabashed fondness for all citizens of the kingdom plantae. But on this evening, her attention lingered on certain species more than others: those with the power to heal, with the potential to help prevent a looming medical apocalypse.

Quave parked near the edge of a pond crowded with the overlapping parasols of water lilies. Here and there a green stem rose from the water, capped with a round yellow flower bud, like the antenna of some submerged mutant. Alligators had attacked dogs and ducks around here in the past. “But don’t worry,” Quave said, tracing the pond’s perimeter. “If we see one, I’m going to shoot it.” She wore lightweight cargo pants, a black tank top, a paisley bandanna wrapped around her head and a .357 Magnum revolver strapped to her hip.

After Quave gave the all-clear, her colleague Kate Nelson and I pulled on some tall rubber boots and proceeded cautiously into the water. I repeatedly plunged a shovel into the pond’s viscous floor of gray mud, just beneath the tenacious roots of a water lily — species name: Nuphar lutea — working it like a lever to loosen the plant as Nelson tugged on its stems. We seemed to be making good progress, until the roots suddenly snapped and Nelson fell backward with a splash. Thirty minutes later we emerged with boots full of water and several intact specimens. “Beautiful!” Quave said. “Hello, lovely.” The roots, which she had not seen properly until now, were large and pale like daikon, though much gnarlier and bristling with a mess of shaggy tendrils. Before this trip to Florida, while reading an old compendium on plants used by Native Americans, Quave had learned that a decoction of N. lutea’s roots could treat chills and fever, and that a poultice of its leaves could heal inflamed sores.

Ethnobotany is a historically small and obscure offshoot of the social sciences, focused on the myriad ways that indigenous peoples use plants for food, shelter, clothing, art and medicine. Within this already-tiny field, a few groups of researchers are now trying to use this knowledge to derive new medicines, and Quave has become a leader among them. Equally adept with a pipette and a trowel, she unites the collective insights of traditional plant-based healing with the rigor of modern laboratory experiments. Over the past five years, Quave has gathered hundreds of therapeutic shrubs, weeds and herbs and taken them back to Emory for a thorough chemical analysis.

By revealing the elemental secrets of these plants, Quave has discovered promising candidates for a new generation of drugs that might help resolve one of the greatest threats to public health today: the fact that an increasing number of disease-causing bacteria are rapidly evolving immunity to every existing antibiotic. Without effective antibiotics, common bacterial diseases that are curable today will become impossible to treat; childbirth, routine surgeries and even the occasional nick could turn lethal. The widespread emergence of resistant bacteria already claims 700,000 lives a year globally. Experts conservatively predict that by 2050, they will kill 10 million annually — one person every three seconds. “We’re standing on the precipice of a post-antibiotic era,” Quave says. “We just haven’t fallen off yet.”

[snip]

Re: Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth

[Note: This comment comes from friend Steve Schear. DLH]

From: Steven Schear <steven.schear@googlemail.com>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Re: Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth
Date: September 25, 2016 at 11:06:58 AM PDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

Ever wonder why the Government and Politicians lie even when they know they’ll get caught? Asymmetry. It’s a tax on resistance. Its due to their keen understanding of what is now commonly called Brandolini’s Law https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit#Bullshit_asymmetry_principle

The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

Steve

From: janosG <janosg@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth
Date: September 17, 2016 at 4:17:32 PM EDT
To: dewayne@warpspeed.com

Definition from personal experience: “Journalism: A craft practiced between the 18th and 20th centuries, poorly compensated; now no longer a paid activity, but expected to perform miracles.” Yes, I am trying to get free or inexpensive NYTimes/WxPost/etc. coverage myself.

Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth
U.S. journalists have an obligation to call out presidential candidates when they lie.
By Dan Gillmor
Sep 16 2016
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/politicians-war-on-truth/500282/

The Islamic State’s Chemical Attack on U.S. Troops Shouldn’t Be a Surprise

[Note: This item comes from friend Jen Snow. DLH]

The Islamic State’s Chemical Attack on U.S. Troops Shouldn’t Be a Surprise
The Pentagon prepared for this exact event
By KEVIN KNODELL
Sep 24 2016
https://warisboring.com/the-islamic-states-chemical-attack-on-u-s-troops-shouldn-t-be-a-surprise-e127e83b3e0e

The Islamic State fired a mustard gas shell at American troops this week — a rare but not unprecedented tactic on the part of the terror group. “We assess it to be a sulfur-mustard blister agent,” Gen. Joseph Dunford said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 22.

The attack occurred the day at Qayara West air base, which currently hosts hundreds of U.S. troops supporting Kurdish and Iraqi army troops as they prepare for the much anticipated assault on Mosul — the country’s second largest city which has been under Islamic State control for more than two years.

Dunford emphasized that the attack resulted in no injuries.

Nevertheless, the development provoked a small panic on social media, with some frightened by the prospect that chemical weapons used on Americans could signal a new phase in the conflict. But the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq is hardly new.

In fact, Islamic State fighters have already deployed chemical weapons — typically chlorine bombs — during attacks in both Iraq and Syria. The terror group has expanded the use of chemicals in its war on Kurdish civilians and fighters in northern Iraq.

For the Kurds, chemical weapons hold a particularly bitter resonance. The large scale use of chemical weapons by Iraqi forces during the 1988 Anfal campaign killed thousands of Kurdish civilians. The campaign culminated in the Halabja Massacre, the deadliest chemical weapons attack in history.

During those days Saddam Hussein’s armies produced chemical and biological weapons with the blessing and support of Western nations, including the United States. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq to halt Hussein’s supposed production of weapons of mass destruction, coalition forces found no evidence of any active chemical, nuclear or biological program.

They did however find thousands of the old chemical weapons, including mustard gas contained inside rusty artillery shells.

The U.S. government downplayed the presence of those weapons, which served as an embarrassing reminder of America’s complicated history in the region. In October 2014, The New York Times revealed that the U.S. military often neglected to warn soldiers about the presence of old chemical ordinance, and even ordered soldiers not to talk about encounters with them.

The Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons is occurring on a much smaller scale.

During the group’s takeover of Mosul in the summer of 2014, its fighters seized facilities storing the aging munitions. Despite panic by some commentators, most of the old rounds were far too old and unstable for the militants to effectively repurpose.

[snip]

Dog with nearly completely severed spinal cord has spinal cord repaired by team working towards human head transplant

[Note: This item comes from friend Jen Snow. DLH]

Dog with nearly completely severed spinal cord has spinal cord repaired by team working towards human head transplant
Sep 16 2016
http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/09/dog-with-nearly-completely-severed.html

Video footage seen by New Scientist appears to show a dog walking three weeks after its spinal cord was almost completely severed. Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero says the technique used to treat the dog will make a human head transplant possible next year. The idea is that someone paralysed from the neck down, for example, could have their head connected to the body of someone who is brain dead, restoring their ability to move

Papers published today detailing the spinal cord repair technique applied to the dog have prompted other scientists to express concerns over the work. “These papers do not support moving forward in humans,” says Jerry Silver, a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

In a series of three papers, all edited by Canavero for the journal Surgical Neurology International, researchers in South Korea and the US claim that a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, may help reconnect a severed spinal cord.

C-Yoon Kim at Konkuk University in Seoul and his team – who have been working closely with Canavero – severed the spinal cord of 16 mice. They then injected PEG into the gap between the cut ends of the spinal cord in half of the mice, while the rest were injected with saline. After four weeks, they report that five of the eight mice in the PEG group had regained some ability to move, compared with none of the control group. The other three PEG-treated mice died, as did all those in the control group.

Even better spinal cord repair treatment with graphene nanoribbons

A team at Rice University in Houston, Texas, has been working to develop a better version of PEG. Hearing about Canavero’s plans to use the solution in a human head transplant, the team believed it could improve it by adding graphene nanoribbons – an electrically conductive material that acts as a scaffold that neurons can grow along.

“My motivation is spinal cord repair. If this works, it’s going to have huge ramifications for spinal injuries,” says James Tour, who is part of the Rice team. “But we thought, if you’re going to be working towards a head transplant, you’re going to need this, so let us help you.”

In a final experiment, the South Korean team tested the original PEG in a dog immediately after it was given a near-complete cervical (neck) spinal lesion. Visual inspection suggested more than 90 per cent of its spinal cord had been severed – similar to what is seen in people who receive stab wounds to the spinal cord.

The following day, the dog was completely paralysed, but after three days, the team reports minimal movement in all four limbs. After two weeks, the dog was able to drag its hind limbs by its torso and forelimbs, and during the third week, it was able to walk. The team claims that the dog began to grab objects, wag its tail and resume a normal life. There was no control in the experiment.

[snip]

Study finds young men are playing video games instead of getting jobs

Study finds young men are playing video games instead of getting jobs
By Ana Swanson
Sep 23 2016
http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-video-games-jobs-emploment-20160923-story.html

Danny Izquierdo, a 22-year-old who lives with his parents in Silver Spring, Md., has found little satisfaction in a series of part-time, low-wage jobs he’s held since graduating from high school. But the video games he plays, including “FIFA 16” and “Rocket League” on PlayStation and Pokemon Go on his smartphone, are a different story.

“When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded,” he said. “With a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.”

Izquierdo represents a group of video-game-loving Americans who, according to new research, may help explain one of the most alarming aspects of the nation’s economic recovery: Even as the unemployment rate has fallen to low levels, an unusually large percentage of able-bodied men, particularly the young and less-educated, are either not working or not working full-time.

Most of the blame for the struggle of male, less-educated workers has been attributed to lingering weakness in the economy, particularly in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing. Yet in the new research, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago say that an additional reason many of these young men — who don’t have college degrees — are rejecting work is that they have a better alternative: living at home and enjoying video games. The decision may not even be completely conscious, but surveys suggest that young men are happier for it.

“Happiness has gone up for this group, despite employment percentages having fallen, and the percentage living with parents going up. And that’s different than for any other group,” says the University of Chicago’s Erik Hurst, an economist at the Booth School of Business who helped lead the research.

While young men might temporarily enjoy a life of leisure, the implications could be troubling for them as well as the economy. The young men aren’t gaining job experience that will better equip them to work in their 30s and 40s. That, in turn, could lead to a lifetime of decreased wages, limited opportunities and challenges such as depression and drug use — problems that the United States is already seeing in areas hit with heavy job losses.

At the same time, if a historically vibrant portion of the population doesn’t feel as much desire to work, this could harm the economy’s future and the ability of government to use policy to create jobs. “That’s a big chunk of labor that could be used for something, and we’re not using it,” said Greg Kaplan, an economist at the University of Chicago who was not involved with the new research.

As of last year, 22 percent of men between the ages of 21 and 30 with less than a bachelor’s degree reported not working at all in the previous year — up from only 9.5 percent in 2000. Overall, only 88 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are working or looking for work, the third-lowest among 34 developed countries, according to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games, according to the study, which is based on the Census Bureau’s time-use surveys. Before the recession, from 2004 to 2007, young, unemployed men without college degrees were spending 3.4 hours per week playing video games. By 2011 to 2014, that time had shot up to 8.6 hours per week on average.

[snip]

Money isn’t enough. Medical research needs a cultural revolution

Money isn’t enough. Medical research needs a cultural revolution
If Zuckerberg and Chan want to get some bang for their buck, they’ll need to break down the structures that hold brilliant young scientists back
By Celine Gounder
Sep 23 2016
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/23/medical-research-money-zuckerberg-chan-foundation

This week, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr Priscilla Chan pledged $3bn to “cure, manage and prevent all diseases” by the end of the century. While $3bn sounds like a lot of money, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends more than 10 times as much on biomedical research per year. Since 2003, the US has spent more than 20 times as much through the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief to end HIV/Aids worldwide. Bill Gates, whose foundation has donated well over $3bn to the fight against HIV alone, recently acknowledged that despite all that’s been done to date, “we have not turned the corner on Aids”. It seems like tremendous hubris for Chan and Zuckerberg to set such a lofty goal.

Zuckerberg made his first major foray into philanthropy in 2010, when he gave $100m to help reform failing schools in Newark, NJ, hoping this would become a model for the nation. But because he didn’t understand the challenges posed by the regulatory environment and culture of the city’s public schools, his gift as well as an additional $100m in matching funds didn’t have the desired impact. But Zuckerberg says he’s learned from some of his initial mistakes. More recently, he invested another $120m in schools in his own backyard where he’s better able to engage with the community and understand the urban education crisis.

I hope Zuckerberg and Chan have learned from their Newark experience, because it’s precisely by changing the culture of biomedical research that they could make good on their pledge.

Success rates for NIH grant applications are at the lowest they’ve been going as far back as the 1970s. When the money for science is this tight, researchers don’t take big risks. Instead of making innovative leaps in science, researchers early in their careers are typically among the most risk averse, taking on bits of studies designed by their senior mentors. Writing a successful grant application often requires preliminary data – in other words, you need to have already done a chunk of the research you’re proposing to do. Even then, about 20-25% of academic biomedical researchers’ time (in my experience) is spent applying for grants to support their projects. Much of their mental effort goes into grantsmanship, which is not at all the same thing as creativity.

Academic researchers are promoted on the basis of “achievement” – grants won and papers published. Volume is what matters here, not necessarily impact. According to Adam Grant, a professor of organizational psychology at the Wharton School of Business, “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most.” But biomedical researchers can’t afford to have failed experiments because they’re not publishable. Furthermore, they need to take as much of the credit as possible for that “productivity” to count towards their advancement, so there’s an incentive against working with too many other people. Biomedical research is highly siloed in parallel with the grants funding it. An added challenge is that the gold standard for medical research – the randomized clinical trial, ideally conducted in multiple sites and settings – is very expensive.

With their $3bn commitment, Chan and Zuckerberg could bring about a cross-cutting revolution in the tools used to conduct biomedical research. Of this funding $600m will support the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub in San Francisco, which will encourage collaboration among biomedical researchers, computer scientists and engineers at UCSF, UC Berkeley and Stanford University.

[snip]

Denied Area Internet (DAI) Innovative Idea Quest

[Note: This item comes from friend Jen Snow. DLH]

From: Jen Snow <jensnow47@gmail.com>
Subject: Please share
Date: September 24, 2016 at 5:44:52 PM PDT
To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne@warpspeed.com>

Dewayne,

Would you mind sharing the below event out on your list? Hoping to find some folks who might be able to help with this. The SOFWerX team hasn’t really found anyone yet except one guy in Southeast Asia but that’s it. Unfortunately, I realized Friday that right now it’s just me and one other geek there, everyone else is retired military. So no geek friends to network with. If someone has an idea and they would like to demo it, I now have a travel and per diem budget to cover their costs so they can come to Tampa and showcase it to interested organizations with funding.

http://www.sofwerx.org/event/denied-area-internet-dai-innovative-idea-quest/

Thanks much dear friend!

Very Best,
Jen

Denied Area Internet (DAI) Innovative Idea Quest

1. EVENT PURPOSE
SOFWERX is sponsoring a Denied Area Internet Innovative Idea Quest to generate concepts that provide internet connectivity in areas where the communications infrastructure has been rendered unusable.

The Problem: How would you create a solution to provide internet connectivity in an area with no consistent, reliable communications infrastructure?

(T) Threshold: As a threshold, your solution must provide 5Mbps of bandwidth for 12 hours a day for a geographic area approximately 100 square miles in size for 100 end-user devices in which the existing communications infrastructure may or may not function. Scalable solutions that include aggregating a number of smaller internet coverage areas (bubbles) to meet the threshold requirement are acceptable. Your solution should have an inherent ability to capitalize on existing infrastructure when that infrastructure is functioning properly but also have an independent ability to connect to the internet in the absence of a functioning communications infrastructure. Outside of the confines of the area receiving the targeted internet service you are providing, the security situation is unpredictable and therefore mandates having transportable infrastructure to allow for recurring relocation to service other areas and to allude security threats, should your solution require some type of physical presence outside of the targeted area. The geographic distance from the targeted area to an internet back-haul facility in a safe location is up to 125 miles and the land between these two locations is not safe.

(O) Objective: The objective capability will provide 800 Mbps of bandwidth for 24 hours a day to a 200 square mile geographic expanse with 70,000 end-user devices. Outside of this area you enjoy generally unfettered movement and have the ability to establish fixed sites. Within the targeted area the security environment is as indicated above. There are pockets of safe areas but generally the area is not secure. Leveraging the threshold solution to meet the objective requirement is encouraged but not mandated.

[snip]