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Ebola vaccine abandoned in 2008 after showing promise in trials

Health officials blame budget cuts for lack of pharmaceutical shield against virus

The pitch was intriguing: U.S. health officials wanted to fast-track trials for an Ebola vaccine and sounded the call for volunteers.

Charles Sullivan called up the hotline on a whim, figuring the National Institutes of Health already had filled its queue and wouldn’t need him. But he was accepted for three rounds of shots of a deactivated virus, a year’s worth of blood analysis and a $900 check for his trouble. The clinical trial went well, and the vaccine seemed promising.

A decade later, the country is still waiting for a vaccine amid a worldwide Ebola outbreak, and Mr. Sullivan is wondering what happened to the research conducted on him and 27 other test subjects in 2003.

“It seems like they’re fast-tracking the same thing they were fast-tracking a decade ago,” said Mr. Sullivan, a 51-year-old resident of Rockville, Maryland.

The latest outbreak has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa, infected Americans on U.S. soil for the first time, and left political leaders and health officials clamoring for a vaccine.

Treatment options for those who are infected are also limited. An experimental drug, ZMapp, was given to Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, American aid workers who contracted Ebola in West Africa. Yet supplies of the drug, derived from tobacco plants, have been exhausted and must be rebuilt.

Paralyzed Man Walks Again After Nose Cells Are Placed in Spine

Bloomberg

A man paralyzed from the chest down in a knife attack is walking again after undergoing surgery using cells from his own nose, marking a breakthrough in the search for treatments for severe spinal injuries.

Darek Fidyka, 38, received the cells after failing to recover from a stabbing in the back in 2010, according to University College London, whose doctors developed the procedure. The technique involves using olfactory ensheathing cells from the nose and placing them in the spinal cord.

The study gives hope to the thousands of people each year who suffer a severe spinal cord injury and must live the rest of their lives with permanently damaged body functions. Such injuries typically occur during sports or automobile crashes and there is no approved treatment to repair them.

“We have now opened the door to a treatment of spinal cord injury that will get patients out of wheelchairs,” said Geoff Raisman, chairman of neural regeneration at the UCL Institute of Neurology and leader of the U.K. research team. “Our goal now is to develop this first procedure to a point where it can be rolled out as a worldwide general approach.”

The nose cells used were discovered by Raisman in 1985 and were shown to work in treating spinal injuries in rats in 1997. They allow nerve cells that give people their sense of smell to grow back when they are damaged. The procedure on Fidyka was performed by surgeons at Wroclaw University Hospital in Poland.

Vegetarians have much lower sperm counts

Eat more meat…

Vegetarians and vegans may be harming their chance of having children after a study found that men who do not eat meat have significantly reduced sperm counts.

Although a diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables can protect against many illnesses and can prolong life, it appears that it may also harm fertility.

Researchers at Loma Linda University Medical School, in southern California, embarked on a four-year project to find out how diets affect sperm.

The region has a high population of Seventh-Day Adventist Christians who believe that meat is impure and so are strict vegetarians.

Seventh-day Adventists live an average of 10 years longer than the American life expectancy of about 79 years and the researchers wanted to find out if their astonishing longevity might be linked to sperm quality.

However they found the opposite. Vegetarians and vegans had significantly lower sperm counts compared with meat eaters, 50 million sperm per ml compared with 70 million per ml.

They also had lower average sperm motility – the number of sperm which are active. Only one third of sperm were active for vegetarians and vegans compared with nearly 60 per cent for meat eaters.

The team believes that vitamin deficiencies may be to blame but also believe that replacing meat with soy could be responsible.

Patients have only themselves to blame for heart attacks

DeseretNews

Many traits are genetic, but researchers at Intermountain Medical Center have discovered that a propensity for heart attacks isn’t something that is passed through the generations.

Using the Intermountain Genealogy Registry, which contains the information of 23 million individuals within extended family pedigrees, Intermountain Heart Institute’s director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology Benjamin Horne found that heart attacks don’t have a strong genetic link in families, but are more commonly a result of lifestyle choices and environmental factors.

“Heart attacks are not necessarily clustering in families. They can hit anybody with coronary disease,” Horne said. “There are behaviors and choices that people can make to reduce that risk.”

Coronary artery disease, however, can be inherited, he said, but it is now known that having it doesn’t mean heart attacks are inevitable.

The discovery may also help guide physicians and researchers to look at risk factors for heart attacks that result from a person’s choices rather than genetics.

Scientists Want To Try Electrical Stimulation In More Paralyzed Patients

PopSci

More than 30 people who have been paralyzed by spinal-cord injuries could soon get an experimental treatment that involves sending electric currents to their spines. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation is raising funds to add volunteers to an ongoing study of the treatment.

The treatment took a strong step forward recently, when the study’s scientists published a paper showing that electrically stimulating the spinal cord, alongside intense physical therapy, helped four completely paralyzed young men to move again. Whenever the men visited the lab and had their electrode implants turned on, they were able to move their legs, knees, ankles, and toes on their own. The men also reported they had improved bladder and sexual function after starting the electrical stimulation therapy — important components to their quality of life.

Researchers are now seeking to expand the study to 36 additional volunteers, whom they’ll follow for five years. The scientists “need to test more patients that will be a little more diverse to get a better idea of who will be responsive,” lead researcher Reggie Edgerton of UCLA wrote to Popular Science in an email. The current participants are active men in their early 30s or younger. Edgerton and his team want to test study participants who are older, as well as women. The team remains focused on people who have a complete paralysis diagnosis and have been paralyzed for a year or more.

The study has no trouble recruiting participants. “There are more volunteers than we can accommodate,” Edgerton says.

What’s happening now is that the Reeve Foundation is seeking donations for the research at its website, ReeveBigIdea.org. Matthew Reeve, actor Christopher Reeve’s son, visited New York City Comic Con last week to talk about his famous father and about the foundation’s work. Christopher Reeve became paralyzed after a horse riding accident in 1995 and died 10 years ago on October 10.

“My father used to say that nothing of consequence happens unless people get behind an idea and they share that idea with others and eventually it becomes a movement,” Matthew Reeve told Popular Science in a phone call before Comic Con. “We want to rally everyone in the community and beyond.”

Where has the family values agenda gone?

DeseretNews

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said, “The health of the family is indivisible from our destiny as a nation.” His speech framed the challenges facing America within the context of their impact on individual families. He insisted that “America’s moms and dads” are “exactly the people whose equal opportunity and pursuit of happiness we should protect the most.” He rightly lauded the family as the essential economic engine of the country, citing statistics that indicate the family is “an incubator for human flourish, for personal and economic success and, ultimately, societal success.”

Ironically, when Dan Quayle was lambasted for referencing the importance of fathers, the culture at-large wasn’t as hostile to traditional values as it is today. In 1992, overwhelming majorities opposed the concept of same-sex marriage, and 30.1 percent of all children were born out-of-wedlock. Twenty years later, dozens of laws against same-sex marriage have been overturned, and the rate of out-of-wedlock births in America had risen to 40.7 percent.

Quayle’s speech has proven prophetic, as the erosion of the traditional family has had undeniably negative consequences for both the nation and the world.

Yet for the most part, this reality is largely absent from the speeches and campaigns of those seeking federal office in the upcoming midterm elections. As candidates talk about the economy and the other pressing issues of the day, they largely steer clear of any language that would stigmatize anyone who has chosen to forego conventional family structures. Political correctness is far more strident now than it was during Quayle’s time in office, and certainly many officials fear the kind of derision that the former vice president faced two decades ago.

Thankfully, Lee has no such fear. He said “remembering America’s values and especially America’s forgotten families is the path to restoring the greatness of our great nation.”

Obama admin. to allow thousands of Haitians into U.S. without visas

WashingtonTimes

The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee took the Obama administration to task Friday for its “irresponsible” plan to allow as many as 100,000 Haitians to immigrate to the U.S. without a visa.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said the administration’s Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program — which will allow thousands of Haitians awaiting a U.S. visa to enter the country and legally apply for work permits — is “an irresponsible overreach of the executive branch’s authority.”

“Which countries are next on President Obama’s list?” Mr. Grassley said. “Will there by medical screenings before entry? Will work permits be granted automatically? How will this affect American workers?”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that handles immigration benefits cases, announced Friday the program to unite Haitians already living in the U.S. with family members abroad will ramp up in 2015.

At that time the State Department’s National Visa Center will begin notifying families who may be eligible to take part in the program. Those immigrants will allowed to apply for work permits while waiting for issuance of their permanent visas.

The agency said the program will expedite “safe, legal and orderly migration.”

Catholic bishops scrap welcome to gays in sign of split

WashingtonTimes

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gays Saturday, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.

The bishops failed to approve even a watered-down section on ministering to homosexuals that stripped away the welcoming tone of acceptance contained in a draft document earlier in the week.

The revised paragraph had said “people with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy.” But the paragraph failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

Two other paragraphs concerning the other hot-button issue at the synod — whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion — also failed to pass.

It wasn’t clear, though, if the 118-62 vote on the gay section was more a protest by progressive bishops who refused to back the watered-down wording. The revised paragraph had deleted the words of acceptance of gays’ sexual orientation and acknowledgement that gay unions can provide “precious support” to partners that had been contained in the draft.

Francis insisted in the name of transparency that the full document — including the paragraphs that failed to pass — be published along with the voting tally. The document will serve as the basis for future debate leading up to another meeting of bishops next October.

5 Year Old Who Drew A Gun In Crayon Forced To Sign No-Suicide Contract With School

TechDirt

When I was in middle-school, Mortal Kombat was released on home video game consoles. Because my friends and I loved the game so much, we used to draw pictures of the characters doing seriously horrible things to one another. As in, rectal-based spine-retrieval type of stuff. It was fun and it was funny…and if we did that today, I have to assume we all would have ended up arrested and in some kind of psychiatric facility.

It’s the only conclusion I can draw as America begins to build a tradition of penalizing, and in some cases further traumatizing, children for playing make believe in any way that includes a gun or a bomb. But to really get into a situation where stupid adults take some innocuous creativity by a child and use it as a springboard to absolutely mess with that child’s state of mind, we must go to Alabama.

A Mobile, Ala., mom says school officials forced her daughter to sign a contract promising not to commit suicide or harm others after the kindergartner “drew something that resembled a gun,” then pointed a crayon at another kid and said “pew, pew!” 5-year-old Elizabeth was sent home after school officials made her take a questionnaire to evaluating [sic] her for suicidal thoughts, then had her sign the safety contract promising to contact an adult if she was thinking of suicide or homicide. This all happened while her mom waited in the lobby to pick her up, the upset parent told WPMI.

Okay, everyone stop what you’re doing right now and seriously think about this for a moment. A public elementary school in the United States, an agent for the public good, coerced a five year old into signing a contract promising not to goddamn off herself because she “pew-pewed” with a crayon. You know, that same thing most of us did as children? The thing where you take some object and point it like a gun and make a cartoon noise? Yeah, a five year old was confronted with the concept of suicide by the school over that.

According to her mom, Elizabeth didn’t know most of the words on the contract she signed. “Suicide,” in particular, was a new one for her.

“Mommy, daddy, what is suicide?” Elizabeth’s mother says she asked.

Holy hell, to foist that upon a child so young is insane.

Adding another layer of bureaucracy to a volatile situation…

‘Zero Confidence’ in Ebola Czar

The selection of Democratic political operative Ron Klain as Ebola czar is the latest example of President Obama “surround[ing] himself with loyalists” rather than qualified officials to deal with the nation’s crises, says Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.).

“One would think, faced with the prospect of an epidemic, the president would task an expert in epidemiology not an expert in political spin,” Sessions said in a statement on Friday. “The American people can have zero confidence in Ron Klain’s competence to carry out this critical role.”

Klain’s Democratic ties run deep: He previously served as chief of staff to vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, Gore’s general counsel on his recount committee in the 2000 election, and chief counsel during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s contentious confirmation hearings for conservative Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas.

Sessions said the “danger” of Ebola spreading is “profound,” and called for a ban on travel from Ebola-stricken countries, as well as increased security on the Mexico–U.S. border if the disease breaks out in Latin American.

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