First US Ebola case diagnosed

Nature Newsblog - 5 hours 9 min ago

A man has been diagnosed with Ebola virus disease in Dallas, Texas.

The man diagnosed with the illness on 30 September is the first in the United States, and the first person ever diagnosed outside Africa with the Zaire species of Ebola virus, which has killed more than 3,000 people in Africa in the current outbreak. A handful of Ebola patients have been treated in the United States during the current outbreak after being diagnosed with the disease in Africa.

The patient traveled from Liberia to the United States on a flight that landed on 20 September, began experiencing symptoms on 24 September, sought care on 26 September and was admitted to an isolation ward at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on 28 September. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and a state health department lab in Austin, Texas, both diagnosed Ebola in samples from the patient.

CDC director Thomas Frieden said that the patient was in the United States visiting family and did not appear to be involved in the Ebola outbreak response in Africa.

Frieden said that public health officials began tracing the contacts of the individual today, and do not think that passengers who were on his flight are at risk of infection with Ebola. Frieden said that officials have identified “several family members and one or two community members” who had contact with the patient after he became sick and so therefore may have been exposed to the virus. Officials will monitor them for 21 days, the period of time in which they will show symptoms if they have been infected with Ebola.

“Ebola doesn’t spread until someone gets sick, and he didn’t get sick until four days after he got off the airplane, so we do not believe there was any risk to anyone who was on the flight,” Frieden said.

“I have no doubt that we will control this importation, or case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country,” Frieden said. “It does reflect the ongoing spread of Ebola in Liberia and West Africa where there are a large number of cases.”

Frieden said further that doctors were considering providing experimental treatments to the patient such as injections of blood or serum from other Ebola survivors.

“That’s being discussed with the hospital and family now and if appropriate, they would be provided to the extent available,” Frieden said.

Few other details about the patient were provided, though officials did say that he is “ill and in intensive care.”


Categories: General, News

NIH awards $46 million for brain-research tools

Nature Newsblog - 8 hours 44 min ago

Just 18 months after the White House announced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the US National Institutes of Health has awarded its first US$46 million in grants for the programme.

“We have referred to this as a moonshot,” said NIH director Francis Collins at a 30 September press conference. ”To me, as someone who had the privilege of leading the Human Genome Project, this sort of has the same feel as October 1990, when the first genome centres were announced.”

The 58 NIH grants, which range in size from about $300,000 to $1.9 million, will support more than 100 researchers. According to Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH received more than 300 grant applications, and ended up spending $6 million more than it had anticipated in order to fund as many of these grants as possible. 

The awards address research priorities included in the NIH’s 10-year plan for the BRAIN Initiative; most will support the development of new tools to monitor the brain, such as a wearable positron emission tomography (PET) scanner that could monitor a person’s brain activity as she goes about her day. Some of these tools could eventually be used for studying and treating human disorders, including grants for imaging neurotransmitters such as dopamine in real time in a living brain, which Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, says will be extremely useful for studying disorders such as depression. Other tools will be useful primarily for basic research, including many potential improvements on optogenetics – using light to control neuronal firing in animals.

“It’s a new era of exploration, an exploration of inner space instead of outer space,” says Cornelia Bargmann, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University in New York . “We feel a little like Galileo looking at the sky through his telescope for the first time.”

The NIH’s master plan calls for $4.5 billion for BRAIN Initiative research over the next 10 years, a goal that will require support from Congress to increase the agency’s overall budget. To allay concerns that BRAIN initiative will detract from other NIH-funded research, Collins noted that the BRAIN funding request is dwarfed by the $5.5 billion the agency spends on neuroscience research annually.

The NIH is the last of the three agencies involved in BRAIN to announce its awards. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, which received $50 million this year, has announced several multimillion dollar grants for therapeutic applications such as brain stimulation to improve memory and prosthetic limbs controlled by brain activity. The National Science Foundation received $30 million and, in August, announced 36 small awards for basic research in topics such as brain evolution and ways to store data collected from brains.

Meanwhile, two additional federal agencies — the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) — are set to join the effort, the White House announced on 30 September.

The FDA will be working with the other agencies to enable the development of medical and research devices that could be used in humans. IARPA will be joining BRAIN with several of its own ongoing research programmes, including an effort to develop new artificial intelligence systems based on the brain’s network patterns and a study on the use of brain stimulation to increase human problem-solving ability. According to the White House, the total investment in BRAIN Initiative research this year by government and private funding sources, such as the Kavli Foundation, totals more than $300 million.

Categories: General, News

Proposed EU research commissioner answers to Parliament

Nature Newsblog - 16 hours 7 min ago

Carlos Moedas fielded some 50 questions from members of the European Parliament regarding his nomination to research commissioner.

© European Union 2014 – European Parliament

Carlos Moedas, the man designated to be the European Union’s next research commissioner, got his three-hour hearing by the European Parliament today, giving the continent’s scientists their first opportunity to learn about him.

The parliament is this week interrogating all 27 members of the new Commission proposed by its president Jean-Claude Juncker earlier this month. Hearings focus on nominees’ skills and qualifications for their posts, as well as on their commitment to the European Union and personal integrity. The Commission is due to take office next month, but the European Parliament has the right to reject the line-up if the hearings go badly.

Moedas, a 44-year old economist and politician who began his career studying engineering, is a little-known name outside his native Portugal. Neatly turned out at his hearing, he was courteous and proved competent and well-prepared — in addition to switching fluently between English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Responding to 50 or so questions, he showed himself knowledgeable on issues ranging from shale gas, to genetically-modified organisms, to antibiotic resistance. He declared himself a strong believer in the value of basic research in driving innovation.

Moedas ticked all the politically correct boxes. He spoke in favour of the sharing of scientific data and intellectual property, and decried the gender gap in research, which he described as a waste of resources.

He cast himself as a dedicated European – the only question he claimed not to be able to answer had been put by a Eurosceptic MEP — and as a consensus-building, goal-oriented team player. He also professed his dedication to implementing the EU’s €80 billion, seven-year Horizon 2020 research programme.

If the parliament approves the Commission line-up, Moedas’s challenge will be to make his mild and rational – and decidedly non-charismatic – approach an effective one.


Categories: General, News

Organ donation: Do we opt-in or opt-out?

Biology News - Wed, 2014-09-24 19:26

Researchers say there should be an international database containing the very latest information about organ donations and transplants, so policy makers can make informed decisions on whether to adopt an opt-out or opt-in system.

Categories: Biology News, General

Insect genomes' analysis challenges universality of essential cell division proteins

Biology News - Wed, 2014-09-24 19:26

Cell division, the process that ensures equal transmission of genetic information to daughter cells, has been fundamentally conserved for over a billion years of evolution. Considering its ubiquity and essentiality, it is expected that proteins that carry out cell division would also be highly conserved. Challenging this assumption, scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that one of the foundational proteins in cell division, previously shown to be essential in organisms as diverse as yeast, flies and humans, has been surprisingly lost on multiple occasions during insect evolution.

Categories: Biology News, General

Eyeless Mexican cavefish eliminate circadian rhythm to save energy

Biology News - Wed, 2014-09-24 19:26

Eyeless Mexican cavefish show no metabolic circadian rhythm in either light and dark or constant dark conditions, according to a study published September 24, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Damian Moran from Lund University, Sweden, and colleagues.

Categories: Biology News, General

New book list, September 24, 2014

Ernst Mayr Library Blog - Wed, 2014-09-24 10:05

An alphataxonomic revision of extinct and extant razorbills (Aves, Alcidae): a combined morphometric and phylogenetic approach.
By N. Adam Smith and Julia A. Clarke. Washington, D.C.: American Ornithologists’ Union, 2011. HOLLIS# 014169118
QL696.C42 S65 2011

The Crustacea: revised and updated from the Traité de Zoologie. Volume 4, pt. B.
Edited by J. Forest and J.C. von Vaupel Klein; advisory editor, F.R. Schram. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2004- . HOLLIS# 009471158
QL435.C77 2004 v. 4, pt. B

Dinosaurs of Utah.
By Frank DeCourten. Second Edition. Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, [2013]. HOLLIS# 014159037
QE862.D2 D42 2013

The evolution of plants.
By K.J. Willis (Biodiversity Institute, University of Oxford), J.C. McElwain (School of Biology & Environmental Science, University College Dublin). Second edition. Oxford, United Kingdom; New York: Oxford University Press, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014159038
QK980.W56 2014

Freshwater fishes of North America. Volume 1: Petromyzontidae to Catostomidae.
Edited by Melvin L. Warren, Jr., and Brooks M. Burr; illustrated by Joseph R. Tomelleri. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014- . HOLLIS# 014151438
QL625.F74 2014 v. 1

HBW and BirdLife International illustrated checklist of the birds of the world. Volume 1. Non-passerines.
By Josep del Hoyo, Nigel J. Collar; with David A. Christie, Andrew Elliott, Lincoln D.C. Fishpool; colour plates by Richard Allen [and 27 others]. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, [2014]- . HOLLIS# 014161900
QL677.H78 2014

In the light of evolution. Volume 7. The human mental machinery.
John C. Avise and Francisco J. Ayala, editors. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, c2007-. HOLLIS# 011964899
QH359.I55 2007 v. 7

Moths of Europe. Vol. 4, Pyralids 2.
By Patrice Leraut ; foreword by Gaëtan du Chatenet ; translation by Nicholas Flay. [Verrières le Buisson]: N.A.P. Editions, 2006- . HOLLIS# 012194271
QL555.A1 L36 2006 v. 4

Organizing exhibitions: a handbook for museums, libraries and archives.
By Freda Matassa. London: Facet Publishing, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014019994
AM151.M345 2014

Suisun Marsh: ecological history and possible futures.
Edited by Peter B. Moyle, Amber D. Manfree, and Peggy L. Fiedler. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, [2014]. HOLLIS# 014122184
QH105.C2 S874 2014

Tadpoles of Africa: the biology and identification of all known tadpoles in sub-Saharan Africa.
By Alan Channing, Mark-Oliver Rödel, Jenny Channing. Frankfurt am Main: Edition Chimaira, 2012. HOLLIS# 014151390
QL668.E2 C426 2012

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