Scientists are already working to develop treatments that can be tailored to an individual’s genetics, but what about tailoring treatments based on the genetics of the trillions of microbes that live in a person’s gut?The idea might not be as far-fetched as it sounds, said Peter Turnbaugh, a Bauer Fellow at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Center for Systems Biology.In a recent paper in Cell, Turnbaugh and co-authors Corinne Ferrier Maurice and Henry Joseph Haiser, both postdoctoral fellows at the Center for Systems Biology, show that, as drugs are administered, the activity of human gut microbes can change dramatically. Understanding how those changes affect drugs could one day help researchers to design drugs that work more effectively and antibiotics that more specifically target pathogens.“The big question is: To what extent do the benefits and side effects of different types of drugs depend on the microbes in our gut?” Turnbaugh said. “For decades, we have known they can play some role. The microbes inhabiting our gut are able to change the structure of drugs in ways that can contribute to toxicity, or to activate or inactivate compounds. In almost all cases, however, we don’t know the particular microbes that are responsible, the genes they may be using, or the factors that promote or inhibit these activities.”Previously, Maurice and Haiser could examine how the microbes in the gut reacted to various treatments. However, they wanted to know exactly which microbes were there, and whether all were equally active.To get at that question, they turned to a technique borrowed from aquatic microbial ecology.They first marked cells with a series of three stains designed to highlight whether and how severely cells were damaged, and how active the cells were, based on the amount of DNA and RNA they contained. Using a flow cytometer, a device that uses lasers to count and sort cells precisely, they were able to determine how many of each type of cell were present in the samples.“Our initial view suggests that the gut microbiota is quite active relative to other environments, and there’s also a substantial percentage — around 30 percent — of damaged cells,” Turnbaugh said. “We also found that both the active and damaged groups were primarily made up of Firmicutes, one of the two major groups of bacteria in the gut. That suggests that the Firmicutes may be more highly active than other members of our gut microbial community.”Armed with that data, researchers used next-generation sequencing to study how the gene expression of the bacteria changed as six drugs and eight antibiotics were administered.“We know that at least some members of the community are able to change these drugs. Our hope was that finding changes in gene expression would give us a clue as to who is responsible and what genes they might be using,” Turnbaugh said. “We were able to identify a variety of changes in gene expression, many of them consistent with the known biochemical changes to each compound, providing a starting point for more mechanistic studies.”For the various antibiotics they tested, Turnbaugh said, colleagues were surprised to see different responses between individuals and for each individual on different days.“The main goal of antibiotics is to eliminate pathogenic bacteria, but we’re learning that there are many side effects that these drugs have on the microbes that are normally found in the gut, which may have negative consequences,” he said. “There has been a great deal of emphasis on personalized medicine in recent years, and the standard way of thinking about that is understanding the human genome and trying to predict how a given drug will react inside your body. I think this paper emphasizes that it may be equally important to think about how your particular gut microbiota will interact with a given drug.”
The pecan, a Georgia crop staple, packs a much higher antioxidant punch than its nut-cousin the almond. But what the little-known nut is high in is overshadowed by what it’s low in—research, marketing and consumer data.With a four-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Georgia food scientist Ron Pegg and his team now have the funding to transform the pecan’s image from holiday baking ingredient to year-round powerhouse. Their goal is to give consumers more information on the nutrient-packed nut and provide pecan growers with long-term profitability by improving their production efficiency and productivity.UGA will lead grantWith UGA as the lead, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant also involves collaborators from Texas A&M and New Mexico State universities.Pegg’s research on pecans started with peanuts. As a food scientist in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, his specialty is looking at the nutrients and bioactives—like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering components—that certain foods possess. From 2007 to 2009, Pegg worked with Ron Eitenmiller, an emeritus food science professor at UGA, on a nutritional study that examined the health potentials of new peanut varieties. During that time, they were approached by pecan producer Jon Robison of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association to see if more could be learned about the pecan’s nutritional and health benefits. That led to a meeting with Hilton Segler, who was GPGA president at the time, and Duke Lane Jr. and Buddy Leger of the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Pecans. Past research led to grant awardFunding from the commission helped Pegg generate the preliminary data on pecan bioactives, which led to the USDA award and four years to work on pecan improvement. “In looking at pecans versus other tree nuts, pecans are the highest in antioxidant activity,” Pegg said. “We’re extending our research looking at antioxidant activity, and we’re finding higher values than those listed in the USDA oxygen radical absorbance capacity database.”Antioxidants may assist the body’s natural defense mechanisms as they keep in check the potentially harmful effects of free radicals, which, according to Pegg, are reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that the body produces from normal metabolism. Free radicals are also encountered in the environment.Pecans may help prevent metabolic syndromeA 2011 clinical study from Loma Linda University found that pecans could help reduce biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease and possibly metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the tendency of several conditions to occur together, including obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes or pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and high levels of fat in the blood. A qualified health claim from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also says “scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts [such as pecans], as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease,” which equates to between 18 and 20 pecan halves.“Some consumers are very unaware of the nut’s benefit,” Pegg said. “There is a lot that they don’t know about pecans.”What consumers do know is that they like them. Pecan exports to China have skyrocketed since 2004, from 5,455 tons when the nut was first introduced to 40,273 tons (about 80.5 million pounds) in 2009, according to the Texas Pecan Growers Association. Chinese eat pecans in many ways like Americans eat peanuts—street vendors soak them in flavoring solutions, roast them, crack them and sell them by the bagful, Pegg said. And now India is also showing interest in importing the nut.Georgia is no. 1Georgia is the highest pecan-producing state in the U.S., producing 75 million pounds in 2010, an off year of production for this alternate-bearing tree. Texas and New Mexico followed with 70 million pounds and 66 million pounds, respectively.Pecan trees typically have a two-year cycle. They produce more nuts in odd years in Georgia than they do during even years. That, too, is something Pegg hopes his team can change through the project’s horticultural initiatives. A more consistent supply could lead to higher profits and more stable prices.Pegg’s UGA grant collaborators include M. Lenny Wells, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulture pecan specialist on the UGA Tifton campus. Wells and faculty at Texas A&M and New Mexico State universities will be running horticultural studies and developing outreach materials. Pegg and Philip Greenspan, an associate professor of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences in the UGA College of Pharmacy, will be conducting pecan analytical and biological studies. John McKissick, an agricultural economist and professor emeritus in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Sharon Kane, a food business development specialist with the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, will be examining both the production and marketing economics of pecans. When USDA Assistant Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Pegg had received the grant, he was in Gdansk, Poland, as an invited guest lecturer at the Gdansk University of Technology. During his two weeks of lectures on functional foods, nutraceuticals and foods for health, he fit in a little pecan promotion.“I mentioned that pecans have the highest antioxidant levels of tree nuts, and one of the students asked me ‘what is a pecan?’” he said. “In Europe, they’re very familiar with hazelnuts and walnuts, but they haven’t heard of pecans.”
GIPEX 2018 summit…underscores importance to emerging oil and gas sectorsBy Samuel SukhnandanFormer Presidential Adviser on the Environment, Shyam Nokta, speaking at the panel “How can oil and gas support the Model Green State” at GIPEX 2018, indicated that, since 2010, Guyana had started the process towards a green economy through the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which was supported by the Kingdom of Norway.He emphasised that the model was built on innovation, where, for the first time, forest climate services were monetised and a mechanism for payments was developed and implemented, and this had seen Guyana receiving close to US$200 million as payment for forest climate services.Nokta pointed out that the innovation showed by Guyana and Norway and the lessons learned have been valuable in helping other forest countries which are pursuing reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and shaping elements of the Paris Agreement.He indicated that Guyana needed to build on the LCDS and to continue the Norway partnership, even as the country looks forward to an oil and gas industry.Nokta, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Environmental Management Consultants, pointed out that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but rather could be mutually supportive.In this regard, he emphasised that the sustainability of a green economy would hinge on a diversified economy and energy mix, and oil and gas revenue can serve as a catalyst.He further emphasised that there is urgent need for the national development framework to be put in place to facilitate this, and he highlighted the critical important of national participation and involvement of all stakeholders.The panel was chaired by former Presidential Adviser Rear Admiral (retd) Gary Best; and included Dr. David Singh, Director of Conservation International Guyana, Ndibi Schwiers, Head of the Department of Environment in the Ministry of the Presidency, and James Ellsmor, CEO of Solar Head of State, a US-based energy company.Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, told the National Assembly last year that the innovative forest conservation for money Norway-Guyana deal is “well and alive”, but will be redirected to a number of different viable projects.Harmon announced that the Kingdom of Norway had agreed to release US$14 million for a sustainable land development and management project. In addition to that, to that, some US$17 million would be released for several Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects, while funding for the Amerindian Fund and Amerindian Land Titling project is ongoing.According to Harmon, Norway has also extended to December 2021 the Guyana REDD+ Investment Fund (GRIF) Trustee Account that ended in December 2016. He said 285 grants and 120 loans have been approved under the Micro and Small Enterprise Project, as against the previous two-year figures.The release of these funds forms part of the US$80 million which were earmarked for the Amaila Falls Hydro Project. However, the Government has made its intention known that it does not wish to proceed with Amaila. Instead, the funds will now be channelled to a number of different ‘clean energy’ initiatives.The LCDS has been the brainchild of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, who introduced the revolutionary strategy in 2009, the updated version of which was confirmed in 2013.Government recently announced plans to launch the Green State Development Strategy, which is expected to replace the LCDS.
Four South African innovations have made it on to this year’s list of 10 nominees for the Innovation Prize for Africa. Its aim is to encourage local solutions to challenges and inspire continued growth on the continent. The winner will be announced in a ceremony in June in Botswana. This year’s Innovation Prize for Africa takes place in June in Botswana. Four South Africans are in the running. (Image: African Press Organisation)• Girls in space! Africa’s first private satellite – designed by schoolgirls• How can digital technology boost growth in Africa?• Busting the myth that Africa doesn’t produce scientific innovators• African scientists make headway in grasping persistent TB bacteria• Robotic gliders boost for ocean research• Meet the global leaders heading WEF Africa 2016 Priya PitamberFour South Africans have been included in the list of 10 nominees announced for the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). Run by the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) and now in its fifth year, this year’s theme is “Made in Africa”. The aim is to create home-grown solutions for Africa to spur growth and prosperity on the continent.“As Africans, we have the talent, potential and clout to solve our own problems with ingenuity too, and IPA is testimony of this,” said IAP director Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl. “In the past five years, I’ve seen innovation grow from a mere buzzword to a sturdy path for African growth in multidisciplinary industries across the continent.”There has been tremendous growth in applications and keen interest from innovators and innovation enablers since the inception of the awards. “IPA 2016 attracted a record 3 600-plus innovators and received 985 successful submissions from 46 African countries,” it said in a statement. To date, it has attracted more than 6 000 innovators from 50 African countries.The nominees and their inventionsThis year, the nominees include breakthrough innovations in malaria and other public health burdens, smart solutions for farmers and dynamic energy initiatives.Tackling malaria and other public health concernsDr Eddy Agbo, Nigeria: Urine Test for MalariaUrine Test for Malaria (UMT) is a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device that is able diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes. Africa is still in the process of eradicating malaria. Diagnosis of the disease can take a long time, and if the patient is not treated quickly enough, it can lead to kidney failure, lung fluid build-up, and even death.The technology in the UMT detects malaria parasite proteins in the patient’s urine. The UMT is simple and affordable, and a potential game changer in managing malaria across Africa.Valentin Agon, Benin: Api-PaluApi-Palu is an anti-malaria drug treatment developed out of natural plant extract. It is significantly cheaper than available anti-malarial drugs, and has great inhibitory effects on 3D7 strains of plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria.The drug is available in tablets, capsules or syrup. It has been approved in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Central Africa Republic because of its therapeutic and non-toxic effects.Dr Imogen Wright, South Africa: ExatypeExatype is a software solution that enables health care workers to determine the responsiveness of HIV-positive patients to antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment. A growing number of people are increasingly resistant to ARVs. Exatype processes the highly complex data produced by advanced “next-generation” DNA sequencing of the HIV DNA in a patient’s blood. Through a simple report, it detects drugs that are resistant to the patient, then highlights the need to avoid these to ensure successful treatment.It has the potential to contribute towards effectively managing HIV/Aids in Africa, and also holds promise in helping to detect drug resistance for other diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria.Dr Kit Vaughan, South Africa: AcesoAceso improves breast cancer detection by using imaging technology that is capable of performing full-field digital mammography and automated breast ultrasound at the same time.If diagnosed early enough, the cancer can be treated successfully. However, because 40% of women have dense tissue, their cancers cannot be seen on X-ray. Furthermore, a false negative finding can have devastating consequences. This world first system is protected by international patents and has been successfully tested in two separate clinical trials with 120 women.IF you could do one innovative thing to show your LOVE for #Africa, what would it be? #MadeinAfrica #IPA2016 pic.twitter.com/DwGVy5EkQS— IPA Prize (@IPAprize) May 3, 2016Design architecture and learning platformsDr Youssef Rashed, Egypt: The Plate PackageThe Plate Package (PLPAK) is a software solution that assesses the architecture of building plans or technical drawings, determining structural integrity of the end design. PLPAK applies the boundary element based method to analyse and view practical design of building foundations and slabs.It enables engineers to represent building slabs over sophisticated foundation models easily, building information modelling techniques and eliminating human error. With the rapid growth of African cities, there is increased demand for infrastructural developments to support the growing population.Godwin Benson, Nigeria: TuteriaTuteria is an innovative peer-to-peer learning online platform that allows people who want to learn any skill, whether formal or informal, to connect with anyone else near them who is offering that skill. For instance, a student needing maths skills can connect online with someone in their vicinity offering remedial classes in mathematics.Tutors and learners form an online community that connects them, and once a fit is established, they meet offline for practical exchange. Both tutors and learners are thoroughly vetted to ensure safety, accountability and a quality learning experience.Smart farming solutionsOlufemi Odeleye, Nigeria: the TryctorThe Tryctor is a mini tractor modelled on the motorcycle. By attaching various farming implements, it can carry out similar operations as a conventional tractor, but on a smaller scale.Through inspired alterations to a motorcycle’s engine, gearing system and chassis, this innovation has made it possible to mechanise agriculture in Africa for small-scale farmers in a way that was previously not possible.Additionally, the Tryctor is easy to use and cheaper to maintain as 60% of its parts and components are locally sourced.Samuel Rigu, Kenya: Safi Sarvi OrganicsSafi Sarvi Organics is a low-cost fertiliser made from purely organic products and waste from farm harvests, designed to improve yields for farmers by up to 30%.Safi Sarvi costs the same as traditional fertilisers, can reverse farmers’ soil degradation and lead to improved yield and income. The product uses biochar-based fertiliser that can counteract soil acidity, retaining nutrients and moisture in the soil.The carbon-rich fertiliser also removes carbon from the atmosphere by at least 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per acre of farm per year. The nominees for this year’s Innovation Prize for come from all over the continent. (Image: IPA, Facebook)Dynamic energy initiativesAndre Nel, South Africa: Green TowerGreen Tower is an off-grid water heating and air conditioning solution based on solar power that uses advanced thermos-dynamics to create up to 90% savings in electricity consumption.The Green Tower improves efficiency of a solar heat pump with solar thermal collectors, low pressure storage tanks and heat exchangers.With Africa’s middle class rapidly growing and demand for energy outstripping supply, this initiative has the potential for large-scale roll out. Green Tower can conserve limited energy resources, diverting them from heating and cooling systems to more productive industries.Johan Theron, South Africa: PowerGuardPowerGuard enables consumers to determine the maximum amount of power supply required for daily operations. Consumers can thus reduce their power demand, especially during peak times, leading to a more efficient power supply, and helping to reduce power cuts.Consumers are able to set their own maximum peak power usage needs. This technology substantially reduces load shedding and power rationing, diverting power to more productive industries.The existence of a smart grid can help to reduce the pressure on existing infrastructure while moving the continent slowly towards renewable energy.The big nightThe winner will be announced at a gala ceremony on 23 June at the Gaborone International Conference Centre in Botswana.Watch this:There is a grand share prize of $150 000 (about R2.3-million).
East London, Friday, 30 August 2013 – Brand South Africa will host its inaugural South African Competitiveness Forum later this year. As part of reaching out to civil society as partners in building South Africa as a competitive, winning nation, Brand South Africa today hosted an interaction with civil society stakeholders in East London.Representatives of local government, business, civil society and the media interacted with Brand South Africa’s Head of Research, Dr Petrus de Kock, on where the country is currently positioned on global competitiveness indices.The National Development Plan will play a key role in driving the country’s competitiveness as South Africa develops economically and socially. To achieve this successfully, it is important that all stakeholders grapple with the internal challenges, as well as the external conditions, that impact on the country’s growth. It is with this in mind that Brand South Africa will bring together leaders in government, business and civil society in one key platform.The Competitiveness Forum will explore the following themes:Education, skills & labour;Products and services;Governance and leadership;Infrastructure; andFDI competitivenessStakeholders based in the Eastern Cape shared their expert sector-specific contributions during the interaction. The outcomes of these dialogues will assist Brand South Africa profile relevant issues at the Competitiveness Forum that will add meaningfully to the national dialogue on South Africa’s competitiveness and international profile.Speaking on conclusion of the stakeholder engagement in East London, Dr de Kock said, “one thing that comes through for me is the importance of provinces and especially infrastructure. If we are talking national competitiveness issues, we really have to understand what the existing base is, provincially. Where do we need to improve, for example, the provincial infrastructure base, that will add on to the bigger picture of national competitiveness?”Preparations for the SA Competitiveness Forum take into consideration long-term objectives identified in the National Development Plan. In the 21st century rapid changes to technology and global economic circumstances necessitate in-depth consideration of both domestic and international factors that impact on South Africa’s competitiveness and global reputation as a trade partner and investment destination.Similar consultations, which will be held around the country, are intended to mobilise and encourage stakeholders in all spheres of South African society to be part of the national conversation about the future of the country and the role that they can play.About Brand South AfricaBrand South Africa is the official marketing agency of South Africa, with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation, in order to improve its global competitiveness abroad. Its aim is also to build pride and patriotism among South Africans, in order to contribute to social cohesion and nation brand ambassadorship. For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:Nadia Samie-JacobsPublic Relations DomesticTel: +27 11 712 5007 Mobile: +27 (0)72 777 9399Email: [email protected]: www.brandsouthafrica.comEnds
LATEST STORIES 1 dead in Cavite blast, fire Heart Evangelista admits she’s pregnant… with chicken World’s 50 Best Restaurants launches new drinking and dining guide WATCH: Firefighters rescue baby seal found in parking garage Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’ Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games Former Ateneo stalwart Amy Ahomiro gets to play in the coming Premier Volleyball League Open Conference after all.This after the PVL amended its rule about permanent residents, allowing the Perlas spiker to see action in the Open which kicks off this Saturday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.ADVERTISEMENT Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Smith or Myers? TNT has until noon to decide What ‘missteps’? MOST READ The development is welcome news for Perlas which lost Dzi Gervacio, who will study in the US for two months.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Cayetano to unmask people behind ‘smear campaign’ vs him, SEA Games According to a statement by PVL president Ricky Palou, the organizing Sports Vision will now allow players with Alien Certificate of Residence to play provided they have been residing in the Philippines for at least 10 years.Ahomiro, born in New Zealand, has been in the country for more than 10 years. She finished high school at Brent before playing for the Lady Eagles.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“We will allow foreign nationals who are residents of the Philippines and holders of ACRs to play,” the statement read. “However, we have restrictions.”The league has also barred Thai Pacharee Sangmuang, who has been living in the country for three years, to play. View comments
WWE Divas Alicia Fox and Natalya will visit refugee camps in Rwanda this week as part of their alliance with the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to help raise awareness and funds to fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.WWE’s Divas will help distribute life-saving bed nets to help protect refugee families, who are fleeing conflict in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, from malaria. They will also meet with officials from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to learn about the humanitarian situation there.“Refugees already face unimaginable hardships,” said Chris Helfrich, Director of Nothing But Nets. “A simple bed net can stop mothers and children from worrying about a deadly mosquito bite. We’re proud to show the WWE Divas — and WWE fans everywhere — how malaria prevention tools like bed nets keep families safe. With more than 140 million social media fans, WWE and its Divas have an incredible opportunity to spread the buzz about stopping malaria.”Nothing But Nets has partnered with UNHCR since 2008, working together to provide vulnerable refugee families fleeing conflict or natural disasters with insecticide-treated mosquito nets that can keep them safe from malaria. The partners have provided more than 1 million bed nets to refugees living in camps across Africa; as a result, malaria dropped from the leading killer of refugees to the number five cause of death.“WWE is proud to partner with Nothing But Nets to raise awareness and funds to protect families from deadly malaria,” said Stephanie McMahon, WWE Executive Vice President, Creative. “Through our partnership, WWE will continue to reach out to our passionate fan base to spread the message about preventing this disease. It is our hope that when WWE fans learn that a child dies from malaria every 60 seconds, they will be inspired to send a net and save a life.” WWE aims to send 20,000 bed nets to refugees.The trip is part of Nothing But Nets’ alliance with WWE, announced at the 2012 Social Good Summit. There, UN Foundation Resident Entrepreneur Elizabeth Gore appeared with McMahon and WWE Divas Layla and Alicia Fox, who urged their fans to support Nothing But Nets online and offline.Since 2006, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $45 million from hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters, and sent more than 7 million bed nets to families across Africa. Anyone — from students to CEOs — can help protect families in Africa from malaria. To learn more and to donate, visit www.NothingButNets.net.