Worse than EbolaBy now, the top false-color micrograph should be frighteningly familiar. It’s the Ebola virus, fear of which spreads faster than the actual pathogen. Below is something far more deadly – and even more familiar: the flu virus. While there is not yet a vaccine for Ebola, there is one for the flu – a simple, single shot that almost everyone should get. There’s even a nasal spray version for those afraid of needles.But millions of Americans each year do not get vaccinated. One reason is lethargy. Another is ignorance. Many myths surround the flu vaccine. National Public Radio recently cited 32.Here’s myth No. 1: You should fear Ebola more than the flu.Fact: The flu kills more people in a year in the United States than Ebola has killed in the history of the world.Go get vaccinated.

Worse than Ebola

By now, the top false-color micrograph should be frighteningly familiar. It’s the Ebola virus, fear of which spreads faster than the actual pathogen. Below is something far more deadly – and even more familiar: the flu virus.

While there is not yet a vaccine for Ebola, there is one for the flu – a simple, single shot that almost everyone should get. There’s even a nasal spray version for those afraid of needles.

But millions of Americans each year do not get vaccinated. One reason is lethargy. Another is ignorance. Many myths surround the flu vaccine. National Public Radio recently cited 32.

Here’s myth No. 1: You should fear Ebola more than the flu.

Fact: The flu kills more people in a year in the United States than Ebola has killed in the history of the world.

Go get vaccinated.

Promise Put to the TestWith three first-in-human trials, therapeutic stem cell science takes a bold step at UC San Diego 
A 26-year-old woman paralyzed after a motor vehicle accident a year ago has successfully undergone a first-in-human experimental procedure to test whether neural stem cells injected at the site of a spinal cord injury is safe and could be an effective treatment.
The procedure, conducted on Sept. 30 under the auspices of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego Health System and in collaboration with Neuralstem, Inc., a Maryland-based biotechnology firm, is the first of four in the Phase I clinical trial. Post safety testing, it’s hoped that the transplanted neural stem cells will develop into new neurons that bridge the gap created by the injury, replace severed or lost nerve connections and restore at least some motor and sensory function.
The patient, whose identity remains confidential for privacy reasons, has been discharged and is recovering without complication or adverse effects at home, said Joseph Ciacci, MD, principal investigator and neurosurgeon at UC San Diego Health System.
The spinal cord injury trial is one of three recent ground-breaking stem cell efforts at UC San Diego, supported by the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center, to make the significant leap from laboratory to first-in-human clinical trials.
Last month, researchers at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center launched a novel Phase I trial to assess the safety of a monoclonal antibody treatment that targets cancer stem cells in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the most common form of blood cancer.
And later this month, the first patient is scheduled to receive an unprecedented stem cell-based therapy designed to treat type 1diabetes in another Phase I clinical trial at UC San Diego. 
“What we are seeing after years of work is the rubber hitting the road,” said Lawrence Goldstein, PhD, director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell program and Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego Health System. “These are three very ambitious and innovative trials. Each followed a different development path; each addresses a very different disease or condition. It speaks to the maturation of stem cell science that we’ve gotten to the point of testing these very real medical applications in people.”
To be sure, Goldstein said, the number of patients involved in these first trials is small. The initial focus is upon treatment with low doses to assess safety, but also with hope of patient benefit. As these trials progress – and additional trials are launched – Goldstein predicts greater numbers of patients will be enrolled at UC San Diego and the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center and elsewhere.
“Clinical trials are the safest way to pursue potential therapies. You want to prove that a new therapy will work for more than just a single, random patient.”
While stem cell-based trials are beginning to emerge around the country, Goldstein noted that San Diego continues to assert itself as a stem cell research hub and a leading force for translating basic discoveries into medical applications, now and in the future.
“These innovative trials are the result of some truly rare features you find at UC San Diego and in the region,” he said. “There is a unique sense of collaboration and communication here among scientists in academia, clinical medicine and the biotechnology industry. An enterprise like the Sanford Center can promote and accelerate the very complex processes of research, development and testing so that the right people make the right connections and the right ideas and trials get fast-tracked, but in a way that ensures fundamentally the safety of patients while striving for benefit.” 
Read more about these three trials here
Pictured: Endocrine cells develop in human islet-like structures following transplantation in an animal model. These cells produce insulin in response to glucose, effectively replacing the insulin that is lost in people with Type 1 diabetes. Insulin is depicted in blue; somatostatin in red, glucagon in green. The stem cell-based therapy has entered human Phase I clinical trials. Image courtesy of Kuniko Kadoya, Viacyte, Inc. and CIRM.

Promise Put to the Test
With three first-in-human trials, therapeutic stem cell science takes a bold step at UC San Diego

A 26-year-old woman paralyzed after a motor vehicle accident a year ago has successfully undergone a first-in-human experimental procedure to test whether neural stem cells injected at the site of a spinal cord injury is safe and could be an effective treatment.

The procedure, conducted on Sept. 30 under the auspices of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego Health System and in collaboration with Neuralstem, Inc., a Maryland-based biotechnology firm, is the first of four in the Phase I clinical trial. Post safety testing, it’s hoped that the transplanted neural stem cells will develop into new neurons that bridge the gap created by the injury, replace severed or lost nerve connections and restore at least some motor and sensory function.

The patient, whose identity remains confidential for privacy reasons, has been discharged and is recovering without complication or adverse effects at home, said Joseph Ciacci, MD, principal investigator and neurosurgeon at UC San Diego Health System.

The spinal cord injury trial is one of three recent ground-breaking stem cell efforts at UC San Diego, supported by the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center, to make the significant leap from laboratory to first-in-human clinical trials.

Last month, researchers at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center launched a novel Phase I trial to assess the safety of a monoclonal antibody treatment that targets cancer stem cells in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the most common form of blood cancer.

And later this month, the first patient is scheduled to receive an unprecedented stem cell-based therapy designed to treat type 1diabetes in another Phase I clinical trial at UC San Diego. 

“What we are seeing after years of work is the rubber hitting the road,” said Lawrence Goldstein, PhD, director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell program and Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego Health System. “These are three very ambitious and innovative trials. Each followed a different development path; each addresses a very different disease or condition. It speaks to the maturation of stem cell science that we’ve gotten to the point of testing these very real medical applications in people.”

To be sure, Goldstein said, the number of patients involved in these first trials is small. The initial focus is upon treatment with low doses to assess safety, but also with hope of patient benefit. As these trials progress – and additional trials are launched – Goldstein predicts greater numbers of patients will be enrolled at UC San Diego and the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center and elsewhere.

“Clinical trials are the safest way to pursue potential therapies. You want to prove that a new therapy will work for more than just a single, random patient.”

While stem cell-based trials are beginning to emerge around the country, Goldstein noted that San Diego continues to assert itself as a stem cell research hub and a leading force for translating basic discoveries into medical applications, now and in the future.

“These innovative trials are the result of some truly rare features you find at UC San Diego and in the region,” he said. “There is a unique sense of collaboration and communication here among scientists in academia, clinical medicine and the biotechnology industry. An enterprise like the Sanford Center can promote and accelerate the very complex processes of research, development and testing so that the right people make the right connections and the right ideas and trials get fast-tracked, but in a way that ensures fundamentally the safety of patients while striving for benefit.” 

Read more about these three trials here

Pictured: Endocrine cells develop in human islet-like structures following transplantation in an animal model. These cells produce insulin in response to glucose, effectively replacing the insulin that is lost in people with Type 1 diabetes. Insulin is depicted in blue; somatostatin in red, glucagon in green. The stem cell-based therapy has entered human Phase I clinical trials. Image courtesy of Kuniko Kadoya, Viacyte, Inc. and CIRM.

Ebola Up Close
At this point, there’s not much that hasn’t been said or written about the Ebola virus, though if you want a good history and general background, check out the World Health Organization’s fact sheet.
The image above, produced by Heinz Feldmann, Peter Jahrling, Elizabeth Fischer and Anita Mora of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, depicts the stringy virus emerging from an infected cell in search of new cells to infect.

Ebola Up Close

At this point, there’s not much that hasn’t been said or written about the Ebola virus, though if you want a good history and general background, check out the World Health Organization’s fact sheet.

The image above, produced by Heinz Feldmann, Peter Jahrling, Elizabeth Fischer and Anita Mora of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, depicts the stringy virus emerging from an infected cell in search of new cells to infect.

What Lurks Beyond
While the Ebola virus remains largely constrained to west Africa (at least for now), news, information and more than a little fear-mongering about the viral epidemic has run rampant.  But Ebola is just one microbe menacing human health – and it’s arguably not the worst, at least in terms of human lives threatened. In a newly published paper in Clinical Microbiology Review, lead author Tim Mackey, MAS, PhD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and global public health in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Global Health Policy Institute, and colleagues describe the emerging and re-emerging challenges of a host of neglected tropical diseases, from dengue and rabies to taeniasis and Human African Trypanosomiasis, also known as “sleeping sickness.”These diseases afflict great swaths of the world, most often the poorest nations and peoples. They are a major barrier to improving lives and human health on a global scale. They are not well-understood, if they are understood at all.
That may be the scariest fact of all.Pictured:  A false-colored scanning electron micrograph of an African trypanosome – the parasite that causes sleeping sickness.

What Lurks Beyond

While the Ebola virus remains largely constrained to west Africa (at least for now), news, information and more than a little fear-mongering about the viral epidemic has run rampant. 

But Ebola is just one microbe menacing human health – and it’s arguably not the worst, at least in terms of human lives threatened. In a newly published paper in Clinical Microbiology Review, lead author Tim Mackey, MAS, PhD, an assistant professor of anesthesiology and global public health in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the Global Health Policy Institute, and colleagues describe the emerging and re-emerging challenges of a host of neglected tropical diseases, from dengue and rabies to taeniasis and Human African Trypanosomiasis, also known as “sleeping sickness.”

These diseases afflict great swaths of the world, most often the poorest nations and peoples. They are a major barrier to improving lives and human health on a global scale. They are not well-understood, if they are understood at all.

That may be the scariest fact of all.

Pictured:  A false-colored scanning electron micrograph of an African trypanosome – the parasite that causes sleeping sickness.

Big Data Sharing for Better Health
Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have been awarded a $9.2 million grant to help modernize and transform how researchers share, use, find and cite biomedical datasets.
The 3-year project, in collaboration with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, is part of a federal initiative to increase the utility of biomedical research data, launched this week by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program.
The agency plans to invest nearly $656 million through 2020 to encourage biomedical data sharing and re-use, accelerating the pace of new medical discoveries at lower cost to U.S. citizens who fund basic research.
“Data creation in today’s research is exponentially more rapid than anything we anticipated even a decade ago,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “Mammoth data sets are emerging at an accelerated pace in today’s biomedical research and these funds will help us overcome the obstacles to maximizing their utility. The potential of these data, when used effectively, is quite astounding.” 
Data sharing and the ability to include multiple “big data” datasets in research studies could help scientists find patterns among diseases, genes and lifestyle that might easily go unnoticed in smaller datasets. These patterns could have virtually endless applications in advancing health, for example, by helping to identify those at higher risk for breast cancer, heart attack or other diseases and conditions. Researchers might also more rapidly identify rare side effects of certain medications or the benefits of new drugs to small subsets of individuals.
As part of this vision, the UC San Diego-led team will develop a strategy for cataloging and indexing biomedical datasets, coined “big data” because of the volume, variety and speed at which information – anything from whole genome sequencing to social media tweets – are being collected in the digital era.
Dataset indexing is considered a vital step toward being able to build a searchable online digital library, much like the highly successful online PubMed directory, but for health-related datasets.
“You can’t go online right now and search for datasets on, say, a particular type of brain tumor,” said Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and lead investigator on the Biomedical and healthCAre Data Discovery and Indexing Ecosystem (BioCADDIE). “These specialized search engines don’t exist. We are starting almost from scratch. I think this might surprise people.”
Read more here
Image courtesy of The Times Higher Education

Big Data Sharing for Better Health

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have been awarded a $9.2 million grant to help modernize and transform how researchers share, use, find and cite biomedical datasets.

The 3-year project, in collaboration with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, is part of a federal initiative to increase the utility of biomedical research data, launched this week by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program.

The agency plans to invest nearly $656 million through 2020 to encourage biomedical data sharing and re-use, accelerating the pace of new medical discoveries at lower cost to U.S. citizens who fund basic research.

“Data creation in today’s research is exponentially more rapid than anything we anticipated even a decade ago,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “Mammoth data sets are emerging at an accelerated pace in today’s biomedical research and these funds will help us overcome the obstacles to maximizing their utility. The potential of these data, when used effectively, is quite astounding.” 

Data sharing and the ability to include multiple “big data” datasets in research studies could help scientists find patterns among diseases, genes and lifestyle that might easily go unnoticed in smaller datasets. These patterns could have virtually endless applications in advancing health, for example, by helping to identify those at higher risk for breast cancer, heart attack or other diseases and conditions. Researchers might also more rapidly identify rare side effects of certain medications or the benefits of new drugs to small subsets of individuals.

As part of this vision, the UC San Diego-led team will develop a strategy for cataloging and indexing biomedical datasets, coined “big data” because of the volume, variety and speed at which information – anything from whole genome sequencing to social media tweets – are being collected in the digital era.

Dataset indexing is considered a vital step toward being able to build a searchable online digital library, much like the highly successful online PubMed directory, but for health-related datasets.

“You can’t go online right now and search for datasets on, say, a particular type of brain tumor,” said Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and lead investigator on the Biomedical and healthCAre Data Discovery and Indexing Ecosystem (BioCADDIE). “These specialized search engines don’t exist. We are starting almost from scratch. I think this might surprise people.”

Read more here

Image courtesy of The Times Higher Education

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